This was my 7 cruise and 4th on Carnival. It was 7 of us (4 adults and 3 teens) just looking for an end-of-summer vacation. Of our party, two had never cruised before and I'm not sure they found it that enjoyable.
Food seemed to be an issue as they are extremely picky and don't like things with fancy sauces. Also, they aren't all that into vacationing in general. So, I will make this strictly from my point of view.
We flew directly to Ft. Lauderdale and immediately saw the Carnival reps. We waited about 20 minutes or so before being escorted to the buses for the trip to Port of Miami. After another 20 minutes or so, we were on our way. Upon arrival at POM, there was absolutely no problem checking in. It was very quick. I believe we were on board the ship at 11:45am. Not so quick, however, was our baggage, which didn't arrive at our cabin until 6:30pm. Oh well, no big deal since we had late dining.
The ship was in decent shape, but definitely showing its age. I think it's time for a major refurbishment, i.e. new cabin furniture and carpet, new carpets and artwork in public areas. Dining room somewhat on the dark side, but otherwise fine.
One complaint is that the dining room service could have been better. Our waiter and asst. waiter were very sweet and kind, but the service was disjointed. There were the 7 of us at the table and, most of the time, we did not get our meals at the same time, including appetizers and salads. Some of us got ours while others had to wait. Yet the waiter tried his very best to please us, so I don't want to be that critical. The dining room food was, for the most part, good, though I was on the Triumph this past Feb. and the food (as well as the service) was absolutely superb.
Another complain (again, minor) was that our cabin steward kept forgetting which dining seating we had, and often made up our room too early. We actually had turndown service at 5pm!
Now I never understand why, in general, people like to complain about breakfast offerings. I've seen this in way too many reviews. I feel that the breakfasts are perfectly fine. There's always plenty to choose from, e.g. cereals, fruit, pancakes, bagels, pastries, juices, eggs, omelettes, French toast, bacon, sausage, hash browns. Isn't this more than sufficient? What fancy choices must there be for breakfast? So, for me, breakfast was just fine.
I've also read complaints about lunch. Again, I don't understand what people are looking for. There was always plenty to choose from and no reason not to find something you'd like.
For me (and most of my traveling companions) it's the dinners aboard cruise ships that are the big deal.
Ports: Due to bad weather, we had to skip Half Moon Cay, which was too bad (but not a big deal) b/c I've heard the beach there is wonderful. So we had our first full day at sea, which was fine. Weather cooperative.
Next day was Grand Turk and that whole Margaritaville set-up. The beach there is terrible (very rocky and full of seaweed, and not especially scenic either). The pool was nice, though. My daughter got a Margaritaville t-shirt, but that was the amount of our shopping. Didn't see any other part of Grand Turk, which was our own fault. Maybe next time.
Next up was San Juan. I'd go there again. Too much to see and do and not enough time. B/c we were reentering the United States, Immigration came aboard the ship and we all had to show proof of citizenship again before we were allowed off, so no time to do a little exploration of Old S.J. before our very long excursion to El Yunque. Was excited to do this trip, but found it boring (all 7 of us did).
El Yunque is better seen and done if you're staying in P.R. and can rent a car and do it on your own. This trip took up the bulk of the day. It's a long ride there (especially when there's traffic, as there was in both directions) and back. But we did get a little time to explore Old S.J. Nice shopping, though would like to have been able to meander about more (had to head back to the ship for dinner) and also see the forts. Definitely next time.
St. Thomas: really liked it there. Did not take a shore excursion thru Carnival. Just got into one of the ready-and-waiting open air cabs and went to Magen's Bay. Nice beach, though not as nice as some I've been to in Hawaii (ok, so I'm a bit jaded). But could have spent all day there. Cab driver came back for us and took us to Charlotte Amalie (C.A.) for shopping. After about an hour, my husband, daughter and I had had enough.
While it's quite nice not to have the shopkeepers preying on you like vultures (as they do on many other islands), all the shops were the same: liquor, jewelry or perfume. Our friends stayed longer, but we headed back to the ship. If I need to shop in St. Thomas, I'll just stick with the outdoor mall area at Havensight (where the ship docks), which was quite nice and had many of the same stores as were in C.A. I would have liked to have taken the sky ride up to Mountain Top for both the ride and the great views. And also would have liked to have gone over to St. John. I hear Trunk Bay is fabulous. Would definitely go to St. Thomas again, either on a land vacation or another cruise.
B/c we missed Half Moon Cay, the captain wanted to give us a 4th port call, as per our original itinerary. Don't know why we could go to H.M.C. on the way back to Miami, but we did go to Nassau. Six of us opted to do the Dolphin Encounter. It's $109 p/p. Pricey (as I do know for a fact that if you're staying at a hotel in Nassau it's only $85, but I guess Carnival wants to make a few bucks) and we knew it would be, but enjoyed our encounter with our dolphin "Goombay". I recommend this program, but think that booking it with Carnival can be bypassed.
Shows: found the production shows to be hokey (always have). Yes, they can sing and dance, but the themes are a bit silly. Thoroughly enjoyed the comedian and the juggler (who also happened to be a very good comedian as well). Also enjoyed the Motown singer. Did not go to the passenger talent show b/c it always makes me cringe.
Stage shows/games by the main pool: reggae band was good but overly loud. "Survivor" was a hoot. Good laughs. "Olympics" and this whole Red team vs. Blue team thing is ridiculous (there's absolutely no point to it other than to kill time I guess). Purposely missed the usual hairy chest contest (my husband got volunteered for one years ago so we shun that one now). On sea days, prefer to find a more quiet lounge chair in the sun (back of the ship).
An oddity of sorts: we were most definitely in the minority on this cruise. I'd have to say that it was about 70-75% Black/Hispanic vs. 25-30% Caucasian. This is not meant, in any way, to be a racist statement. It is merely a comment. There were, in fact, many large groups on board (church, family reunion, wedding, birthday, even salsa dancing), but they happened to be largely Black and Hispanic. I believe many also were visiting relatives in Puerto Rico. Can't blame them. Why not have a vacation and visit family too? This didn't have any bearing on the enjoyability of the cruise for us, but since I've taken a number of cruises (I mentioned that this was my 4th Carnival), I just found it odd that there wasn't more of a cross-section of people represented as there always have been on my other cruises.
This wasn't my favorite cruise, but definitely far from my worst. I wish the service (although friendly) was a little better and wish the dining room dinner selections a little more tasty, as they were on the Triumph. That cruise, I'd give a 9, this one a 6-1/2.