This was our first trip on Carnival Cruise lines. We have previously sailed with Princess (3 times), Norwegian (1 time) and Royal Caribbean (1 time). This vacation was me (29), my husband (33) and one of our sons (7).
First the Hits:
1. Camp Carnival.
My son loved it! They have age appropriate activities available for free from 10am to 10pm on sea day and from 7:15am to 10pm on port days. They do "close" from 2:45pm - 5pm on sea days, but that only means you cant drop your kids off alone - they schedule family activities during that time, so parents are their with their children. For example, one day my son and I did a scavenger hunt around the ship. They close completely from 5pm - 6pm to prepare for dinner. After 10pm through 3am there is a $6.75/child/hr fee plus 15% gratuity for activities. Our son is only 7 so we only left him past 10pm once - when they were having the "glow party". At the beginning of the cruise they give you a booklet with every activity they have scheduled, including the times and places. Each morning we would go through that days events and my son would pick out which ones he wants to go to, and we would drop him off for them. It is very secure, we also felt safe dropping him off, and he always had a great time.
2. Cabin and Cabin Stewards
We had an Ocean Suite. It was great. Having an actual bathtub and shower instead of the usual tiny standing shower was wonderful! Although the ocean suite is 275ft' versus a standard balcony at 185ft', it honestly didn't feel any bigger. I think most of that extra 90ft' is spend in the bathroom and extra "fitting room" they have in the room. The balcony is nice though, it's great having a Chaise and chairs. Our cabin steward (Darvin) was wonderful. He knew our names the very first day, always greeted us by name in the hallways, and was always very friendly! In fact, every steward we passed in the hallways always had a smile and friendly greeting!
3. Food at Nick & Nora's, Main Dining Room, and Buffet (this section is in the "misses" too!)
The appetizer I had at Nick & Nora's Steakhouse (portobello mushrooms) was hands down the best appetizer I have ever had. The prime rib my husband received was exquisite. The main dining room always had a nice selection. I particularly liked their cold soups. They also served lobster on the last night. The buffet was hit or miss. The breakfast eggs were very good, and often the meals being served in the main dining room were also available at the buffet.
4. Phantom Theater
Each night there was an original show. While I didn't enjoy the main female singers voice, I loved that the shows weren't repeats. On other ships they often have 3 shows that they rotate, so some nights there is no show to see. The last night the show involved actual cruise patrons. It was our favorite show, hands down!
My husband likes poker, so he entered the Poker Tournament they had. $150 entrance fee, which I thought was too high, but he won the tournament, so I can't really complain! There were 6 players though, each paying $150 to enter, and my husband only won $550 (really $400 after deducting his $150 entrance fee). Second place didn't receive any money (although my husband is so nice that he gave him his entry fee back). I don't think the casino earned the $350 they took from the players, but I guess that's what casinos do. My husband had a lot of fun, though.
6. New Years Celebration
The last night was New Years. They gave out hats and noise makers at dinner, the waiters sang and danced during dinner, and there was free champagne during the new Years party in the Atrium. It was wonderful.
7. Embarkation and Debarkation
We had Priority Embarkation because of our suite, it was fast and efficient. We also carried our luggage off the ship ourselves so we were off very quickly, to our car in less than 10 minutes and on our way back home!
Now the Misses:
1. Food at Nick & Nora's and Buffet
The entree I got at Nick & Nora's (lobster) was terrible. The lobster I ate in the main dinning room was better. It was also served with a ridiculous hot potato salad (?!). The Caesar salad, while made fresh in front of us, was beyond bland. We definitely didn't feel like we got our $'s worth. The desserts in the buffet were mostly inedible. The lines were very long, even at 'off' eating hours (how many people wait to eat lunch until 2pm?!). On the last day of the cruise there was a chocolate fountain buffet station. It seemed as though everyone on the ship was at the buffet at one time to get the chocolate. It was almost disgusting. There were literally people with plates MOUNDED up with chocolate covered desserts waiting in line at the other dessert station too! It was the epitome of American gluttony. The self-serve juices at the buffet we so concentrated that we had to water them down with a 50% water ratio in order to drink them.
The Serenity Adults Only area of the ship is a wonderful concept. By why on Earth would they put it immediately in front of the water slide?! (Although, it was so cold the majority of the trip that barely any children went on the water slide.?)
3. Punchliners Brunch
How is a guy standing up for 2 minutes saying two, LITERALLY TWO, cheesy jokes a "comedy brunch"?! The food was fairly decent, but they should just call it brunch and skip the 'comedian'.
4. Bar service
Except for dinner and during the Adults Only comedy shows we were basically never asked if we wanted drinks. That is fine with me since I don't drink alcohol, but we did want to buy things like soda for my husband and juice for our son. My husband ordered a glass of red wine during our dinner at Nick & Nora's to compliment his prime rib. The waiter asked if he wanted a glass or a bottle. He asked for only a glass. When the bill arrived, we had been charged for the entire bottle. Ok, mistakes happen, I guess he'll be drinking red wine with dinner for the rest of the week, right?! Except no, the next night when we went to the main dinning room and asked for the bottle to be brought down, we were told we didn't have a bottle of wine waiting for us. When our waiter asked the manager at Nick & Nora's to look into it for us, he did, but only to also say that we didn't have any wine waiting for us. We though that was very shady.
5. The ship
The decor of that ship is downright appalling. I've been to Barcelona, Spain and being in the main dining room was like staring at Gaudi's work all over again, but not in a good way! The main halls are filled with Renaissance paintings, which is fine, but we would have preferred our 7 year old not seeing so many naked women and children on the way to dinner. The ship is clearly old, although it was supposedly recently overhauled? Only one pool was usable during the trip (the one under the retractable roof) and we were told the other main pool was 'broken', but it was miraculously fixed when we got to the Bahamas, and then immediately broken again on the way back to New York. Just say you don't run the pool because it's too cold! Or put heaters in it! But don't lie!
6. Laundry facilities
There are only 4 facilities, one on 4 different floors. Each room has two washers and 4 dryers. The problem here is that each costs $3. Of course cruise lines nickel and dime you, but seriously?! Who would think to bring that much change? Luckily I had packed extra clothes and brought an entire roll of quarters, because I only brought enough quarters to do one load of laundry!
We had a good time on our vacation, but I don't think we will sail Carnival again. We have had better experiences on all 3 of the other brands we have sailed.