I should mention this is my first Carnival cruise, we usually cruise with Royal Caribbean. But we wanted to leave from New Orleans and this itinerary was perfect.
Arrived in Nawlins a couple of days prior to cruise, stayed at Westin Canal Place ($14 cab ride from port) and had a great time. If you've never been to New Orleans, I highly recommend padding your trip to see the town if using this port.
Booked a grand suite, so embarkation was a snap using the VIP line, maybe 15-20 minutes from cab to lobby of ship. Room was nice and very spacious by cruise standards. It had tons of closet space and separate makeup room and toilet. The toilet was huge and nice with a bidet, whirlpool tub, shower and two sinks. Cabin steward was excellent and seemed psychic sometimes in his timing. Only complaint with the accommodations was the shower was never any hotter than just lukewarm. We heard this complaint from other passengers as well. This might be ok in summer, but by the time we returned after the cruise we were both really craving a long hot shower.
The ship was just refurbished with "funship 2.0" two months earlier. Despite this, the ship still felt dated. Little things contributed to this including the decor, but there were also things I wouldn't expect such as the distracting busted lights in the matrix on the dive in movie screen. The water slide also didn't really work, there's not enough angle. Everyone who tried it would get stuck at multiple points and kinda have to scooch along. Another thing is all of the windows and clear panels on viewing decks were either filthy or so hopelessly stained and worn that they should've been replaced.
We did anytime dining, the Renoir dining room was consistently good. Service was sometimes a tad slow, but it met expectations. The boat has one alternative dining venue, The Point Steakhouse. Food here was excellent, but they have this huge space on deck 10 but apparently are only staffed enough to service maybe 10 tables. Consequently reservations were tough and you would be turned away for walk up even though you could see empty tables everywhere. What a waste. Cut it in half and add a second venue or something.
The buffet was rather unimpressive compared to what I've seen on Royal. What was there was decent, but a big lack of variety. The burger joint by the pool was consistently slammed, and it was a good greasy hit. It should be open later. In fact, that's the thing, most of the venues stop serving way early. I didn't even get a chance to try the cantina. Why not have these open during the dive in movies since they are right there? The pizza joint and deli were both good but only had like 4 options each. Likewise the midnight buffet had only like 4 things to choose from. I really missed Sorrentos and Johnny Rockets from Royal for late night snacking.
Funship 2.0 primarily seemed to add bars. The two by the pool, Blue Iguana (tequila) and Red Frog (rum) were good and were big hits. The Alchemy Bar is basically a martini bar and was also good, though it seemed to open late and close early. Although not hard to find a place to get a drink, I was disappointed at how dead most of the lounge venues were. I don't think I ever saw Alfreds or the Piano Bar open other than for things like the art auction.
Pools were small and child infested. Why is there no adults only area? Even the hot tubs were like a kiddie pool.
We usually hit the spa, but although during the tour the staff seemed friendly and knowledgeable, the facilities were just uninviting. My companion did attempt to try the sauna and found it to be "scary" and rushed back tot he cabin. That's not a G-rated story, use your imagination. Some etiquette lessons were clearly needed.
In fact, activities and entertainment were sorely lacking, we ended up in the room watching a movie by 9PM on multiple evenings. That NEVER happened on Royal. The main lounge show rotated between three musical reviews for british invasion, motown and "divas" music. We made it through most of one, our feet were asleep. They tried hard, but how about something for folks who may not have ever even seen a hippie?
The other entertainment was again limited to a handful of rotating performers who seemed to like to play a lot of 60's and 70's ballads and maybe occasionally butcher something accoustic from the 90's. I hate to disrespect any "artist", but I felt like Bluto on the stairs when the guy was playing guitar in that scene from Animal House a couple of times. The DJ's played club mixes and unfortunately ran the same routine over and over. I had the sequence of songs from the sailaway party memorized by day 4 as i had heard it 3 times by then. This all smells of way too much cost cutting.
Now if you like playing games with the cruise director's staff that will make you feel like a 12 year old at camp, you'll probably be entertained. There was always something like that going on. Again, not my cup of tea, I'm not there for your entertainment, you should entertain me for what I paid.
Speaking of the cruise director, and crew and captain. Ports of call and disembarking were a major issue. And these were entirely preventable, so this is where I really have issue. I adjust my expectations for an older smaller ship, but these are things that can be controlled.
First port, we 20+ minutes late getting docked. Keep in mind many excursions were scheduled to start 5 minutes before the crew has the boat tied to the dock. Meanwhile, on the boat, there's no signage to direct you where to go. There were no crew members to direct you. There were no ropes to form lines. So what you have is now a mob in every lobby and the stairs....an impatient mob at that.
We were in what started out as a line to get off at 8:45, we stepped foot onto the gangway at 10:00 for our 9:15 excursion. And then I got mad. Why? After all these delays, the photo vultures were getting people to stop and pose on the gangway further slowing the disembarkation to try to make a few bucks on a photo. Absolutely uncalled for and infuriating. The excursions waited. But for those that would've normally been all day and back 30 minutes before departure, they were late getting back. The boat is good to it's guarantee of they wont leave you if on a Carnival excursion, but that meant we were an hour late leaving first port. And yes, that meant we got to repeat this chaos two more times.
Overall, I would say we missed out on 4+ hours of precsious shore excursion time simply based on lack of organization of disembarkation. Cozumel was particularly annoying as we were there with 6 other boats, all of which managed to get people off in front of us of course. So that means all of the rental cars were pretty much gone. People missed reservation times, so instead of a shiny new jeep, we were styling in a Geo Tracker with 150,000 miles on it and a broken seat belt pretensioner. Good times!
I wanted to provide a lot of detail, sorry for being long winded. But I think I've been on my first and last Carnival cruise. I hope it's just this ship, but it really left a bad taste in my mouth. It would take one heck of a good deal and a much newer larger ship to make me even think about it again. Meanwhile, I'll be booking Royal and Celebrity here on out.