We cruised the week of December 16 through 23, and I have a number of observations that I'd like to share. Rather than a blow by blow review, I thought I'd address many of the controversial topics being discussed here on Cruise Critic.
This was my 9th cruise, with previous cruises on Holland America, Carnival, Commodore, MSC, and Royal Olympia. My most recent cruises have been on Freestyle NCL, so comparisons will be mostly with Norwegian.
Although the MDR fare is less gourmet that was previously experienced on Carnival back in 2002, we were pleasantly surprised by the overall flavor and temperature of our food. It is my feeling that many will enjoy the more approachable menu now featured. In no way is the MDR food comparable to Applebees or any other mass-market chain back on land, nor is it comparable to higher-end establishments. It fits somewhere in the middle.
We did not enjoy breakfast in Red Sail (Lido buffet area), as the offerings were cold and didn't seem as fresh as they could have been. We also did not care for the processed eggs that were offered.
Guys Burgers, the burrito offerings, fish and chips station and the pizza were all excellent, although we have some gripes about availability and wait times. Carnival has replaced MDR breakfast and lunch on sea days with a brunch, and we found no MDR lunches available while in port. This resulted in long lines in the buffet and other alternative dining establishments, especially when passengers return from shore looking for lunch or an afternoon snack. Carnival should better coordinate the availability of food venues with the times passengers return from ports of call to avoid excessive crowding.
This is where Carnival shines, in my opinion. Most of the staff were smiling, greeting customers and seemed happy with their jobs. Service was both fast and efficient and at a level not experienced on 8 other cruises. Carnival gets 5 stars, in my book, for excellent service!
We very much enjoyed the new food and drink venues, especially the Alchemy Bar. The creative cocktail concoctions are very well made with high quality ingredients. Drink prices around $9.00 are quite a bargain for upscale and robust cocktails and are a better value than those found on land.
Activities and Music
There seemed to be activities and live music at all times on the ship; it was a high-energy cruise, and everyone seemed to be having fun. We didn't find a lack of music or entertainment, especially in the evenings. While in Grand Turk, I had the opportunity to view the Sapphire Princess which was pulled up along the other side of the dock, and I was astounded by the lack of anything going on aboard that ship. It was really crickets on the Princess Ledo deck, as compared to the party going on aboard the Glory.
Faster to the Fun
This worked out great for us. Upon arrival at the terminal and clearing security, we were ushered to the front of the line, thereby avoiding a long queue of at least 100 people. We then waited for about 10 minutes before VIPs were allowed on-board, and we boarded approximately 5 minutes later. Having priority at guest services is also a big plus, especially the last night of the cruise.
So, this was the first cruise on the Glory offering the Cheers program, and we signed up immediately. While we enjoyed the care-free aspects of this program, I can't say that I would sign up for it again. Mixed drinks on carnival average around $9.00, so we figure we'd have to enjoy at least 5 per day to break even. We soon realized that the Carnival's cocktails are stronger that those found in land-based bars, so we didn't always need or want to reach the 5 drink mark. In hindsight, perhaps sticking with bon voyage liquor plus one or two alcoholic drinks around the ship would have worked better for us.
Carnival vs. NCL
Although the service on Carnival was outstanding, I really missed the Freestyle cruising to which I have become accustomed on NCL. There are simply more dining options with fewer lines and hassle on Norwegian. I really HATED having to wait until 8:15 for dinner, as we were often hungry much earlier, and we didn't want to wait in line at the buffet. Freestyle is less regimented, more predictable and makes for a more relaxing experience, in my opinion.
Scary Reviews on CC
Based on my recent Glory experience, many of the extremely negative Carnival reviews are utter nonsense. Did we enjoy all aspects or our cruise? No, but we also managed to have a good time, and we feel we received a great value on Carnival. My advise to CC readers is to take all reviews with a gran of salt, then form your own impressions. Don't be held hostage by some of the outlandish opinions of others. Go and have fun!
Overall, we had a great cruise, and we would certainly recommend the Carnival Glory to others. That said, we are still exploring options on other lines including NCL and possibly Celebrity. The new Celebrity Reflection looks absolutely stunning, so perhaps we'll giver he a go next time.