My wife and love to cruise and do it several times a year. Several years ago we went along on a Carnival 7 day family cruise and have never been back, until now. My wife spotted this on the internet about a year ago and the price was to good to be true so we booked it and brought our children and their families with us. I figured the little ones would enjoy Carnival so whatever.
After spending 2+ hours in lines awaiting embarkation in Long Beach we were brought aboard the ship and made our way to the room making our way through the jammed passageways. Our room was nice and pretty much along the lines of an upgraded Motel 6. Nothing special but better than I had expected. With the exception of some organic matter all over the sheer drapes the room was clean.
So, it was time for to try to grab a bit to eat after being in line at embarkation since 1:00. It was 3:30 when we arrived to our room, but alias, it was time for the lifeboat drill and all the food was shutting down. Oh, we had 5 children with us under 5 years old that had nothing to eat since 10 AM so you can only imagine how that looked.
Last year we sailed on Oceania, Princess and RCCL; the time typically from arrival to the pier to our staterooms would be 30 minutes or less. With our last Oceania trans-atlantic we were checked in and in our room in 10 minutes. Something is missing here.
The ship's buffets and various "fast food" outlets on the Lido deck were grossly understaffed. Typically the lines were LONG with waits up to 40 minutes to reach the plates in the buffet. My wife decided to try the Wok section as the line was not going around the corner and out of site. She was 6 people from the plates when she got in line. From there she was 40 minutes to get her food. My daughter waited over 30 minutes for a dried out sandwich from the Deli sandwich station. We sat with some of our group one afternoon on the second deck overlooking the pool in the Lido area. I began to notice people having to clear and use their napkins to wipe of the tables. Sitting there over 2 hours I never saw 1 bus person clear a table. I was so amazed at this I began to take pictures of the mess. There was a long table in the aisle literally stacked a foot high with dirty plates and napkins. I saw various deck officers come by without so much as a glance and of course the bar waiter were endless.
The dining service people were very friendly and Sasha, the assistant maitre d was great! I had dietary restrictions and she was always very helpful. The food quality was fine but once, part of the meal was still a bit frozen inside. Service was extremely slow. Never, ever did I have my coffee refilled without asking. My wife asked for tea, they brought her the tea bag but we had to ask for a cup and hot water (15 minutes later). Bread would usually be served within 5 or 10 minutes of being seated but rarely were we offered more. Having 5 hungry little ones we learned to take extra when it was offered. It was generally 30 to 40 minutes from there to receive our first course for some at the table with the others being served the same course 10 or 15 minutes later. Our main courses showed up in shifts. I was done with my entree one night before my wife's arrived.
We went to the Punchline Breakfast Brunch one morning. When I told the waiter that mine needed to be dairy free, the waiter scolded me for not preordering and it would be over an hour before he would be able to get it. Sasha came by to say hi and I mentioned it to her. She had my meal out before anyone else's at the table. It was actually the best meal I had on the ship.
My children and grandchildren had a good time in spite of the long lines, poor service and rude staff. We all enjoyed our 3 days in Puerto Vallarta as the weather was perfect!
All this to say- would I go on another Carnival cruise? Well, if it was priced as cheep as this one was and my entire family would be joining us- probably not. I think it would be worth it to pay a bit more and go RCL or Princess. It was great being with the family all that time, in spite of Carnival. You pay for what you get.