We've been avid Royal Carribean cruisers for many years and we thought that we would try something new. We'd heard about this new vessel and decided to try this line for once to see if they lived up to the hype of being a "Fun ship".
Our first impression was actually very good! Beautiful vessel on the outside (certainly impressive) and the fact that it was still new, made it even more appealing somehow. Check in was incredibly fast! Better than other cruises that we've been on before.
We booked 2 adjoining rooms (which turned out to be a great idea) and they were beautiful, clean with lots of storage rooms and very comfortable (great beds!). No complaints at all here.
Where we booked on the ship though turned out to be an issue. We were located directly underneath the lido deck (at beach pool) where not only did we have to contend with the scraping of deck chairs (cleaning staff should realise that there are people sleeping between 12-6 AM), but even worse was the (2) theme nights that went on directly above our heads with loud "boom-boom" music keeping us up till very late (we did not sleep particularly well on those 2 nights). We complained to hotel management and they were kind enough to give us room credit but to anyone booking... Avoid being under the lido and book far from nightlife action.
Speaking of "boom-boom" music, the "beach pool" constantly blared music to deafening levels which made it difficult to stay too long here. At least if the DJ's could have varied the music (different styles), it would have been more pleasant (they constantly played the same crap (pardon my french)). Pool is nice, clean but VERY small. You could basically wade but not swim on hot days. Carnival tells you in their advertising that you cannot reserve chairs and that they will remove effects from chairs that have been sitting idle for 40 minutes. This is completely false. We saw blatant abuses by other passengers who left their effects for most of the day without having them removed at all.
Hot tubs were good and plentiful. Loved the ones on the side of the ship on deck 5. Definitely a plus.
Restaurants at beach pool were pretty good! Guy's burger Joint was fast and the burgers were excellent! Same note on the Blue Iguana (which serves breakfast and lunch burritos). VERY good!!! Bars were equally good on the deck!
The waterslides are great! Your kids (and adults) will love it! Very safe and we were never concerned for safety of our kids.
The other aft pool "Tides" was a quieter pool with hot tubs. Better option and they serve Indian food and Pizza. Again, decent fair! The pizza guys are the hardest workers on the ship. They were machines.
The Lido marketplace suffered from too many passengers, not enough people to serve. On Royal Carribean, they actually serve you basic drinks. Not here. Very little actual service from anyone is available. I understand that it is buffet, but other cruise lines serve drinks at buffets (not enough staff to do this here). Food is fairly standard. Desserts are rather bland though. This is something that could definitely be improved upon.
The diner rooms are beautiful and elegant. The service however could be improved upon. What surprised me the most was the lack of proper etiquette from waiters. Proper formal etiquette requires the ladies to be served first. This almost never happened during our evenings. The blame here goes on the Matre D' who was absent during our entire cruise (you should check before you get charged automatically for tips to this individual as they should surface at least a few times during the whole cruise). Service was also very uneven during the cruise (served slowly, dirty plates left on table very long time). The meals themselves were fair to good. The issue is that there are so few waiters serving large sections that you do not get personel attention like on other cruise lines. This resulted often in lukewarm food.
Tried only one theme restaurant, La Cuccina del Capitan.. DON'T BOTHER. They'll charge you for same type of food and the service stunk!
Entertainment in the Ovation theater was poor to fair. The regular song and dance troup seems very tired and were second rate (sorry guys). Would've enjoyed more variety here (very formulaic and sometimes boring). There was a juggling comedian which was second rate at best. The last night's "special treat" to the "Carnival family" was a basic band doing Motown. We left (after many other guests left). Basic show should not be a headliner.
B-I-N-G-O was B-O-R-I-N-G, from long winded hostess with very little payoff (for 30$ for less than 2 games... Go to it, you'll understand what I mean). I felt personally ripped off. Try your luck at the casino, you'll have much more fun there.
Hasbro the gameshow... Best intertainment on the cruise (that and Thrill Theater). These were definitely worth it! Bravo!
The comedy acts were fairly good at the Limelight club. There is a family edition which is where we went and comedians did a good job with their material that was perfect for all spectators.
Finally the "friendly aspect". I've never in my life seen such surly officers. Most cruise lines have friendly officers who will actually say "hello" the guests (those who are paying their salaries). Terrible!!! No captain's cocktail (and no more than 1 cold announcement from the Captain saying absolutely nothing). If I were Carnival management, I would change this as they made ALL feel like we were beneath them. Awful!!
However, most of the rest of the staff (service) were friendly and courteous. The cruise director Butch was perhaps the friendliest on the ship. Thanks Butch for making up for those surly officers.
Overall, main issues are Carnival trying to make the most money (for as little investment as possible). She is a fine ship, but it needs more personel, imagination and friendlier officers (whom without we lowly passengers, have no jobs).