My 27th cruise and the 6th on a Carnival ship: My group comprised 7 adults: 3 married couples (55-62 yrs) and an active single 60+ lady. I selected this ship because I loved the itinerary and it was a trip I have always wanted to do. Embarkation: I was boarding (in Valparaiso) on the second leg of a 40+ day voyage so it was not the normal mass confusion -- even with the computers down, processing moved quickly. Now the UGLY: once you finish the check-in, you board a bus to take you to the ship - the bus had NO A/C and it was hot. Once we arrived at the ship pier, the lines were very long due to both embarkation and returning ship passengers, and we were standing in the hot sun. Carnival had one security machine going which made the boarding of passengers a snail's pace; what I could not understand is why we went through a security check before boarding the bus and then repeated the security check boarding the ship. Cabins: Booked an inside cabin and was happy with the space. The room was nicely decorated and through the TV you can order pay per view TV movies, check your ship charges, view different dining menus, plus order room service. The bathroom had nice soap and shampoo stocked dispensers as well as some nice complimentary toiletries.
Dining/Food: Superb; I am not a big breakfast person so I used room service, stopped at the Lido buffet and went to the dining room for a brunch. All were good but it now gets better: I am not crazy about buffet lunch but the Lido offerings for lunch were nice; besides the usual normal fare there is an Indian buffet station that was yummy and an excellent made to order sandwich (corned beef/specialties) station on the opposite side. These two stations were my hangouts. The pizza station was also good but it even gets better. I was sailing on a 13Night cruise and was planning on eating at the steakhouse a few nights, but I saved my money - dinner in the main dining room was superb! Every night it featured a different menu (one side is the daily fare), and the choices were excellent to superb; I think I was only disappointed on one occasion. The appetizers were yummy to include 3 nights of different escargot offerings; in addition, our service was outstanding. I chose "Anytime Dining" and it worked well but could use a few improvements.
Public Rooms: Very nicely done! The ship features a lot of pink but is not overdone, the 4th and 5th decks serve as the main hub of activity; i.e. with shops, casino, lounges, photo, and library -- main traffic area. A HUGE TV screen is on deck #10 overlooking the pool. This screen displayed various scenes of aquatic life during the day, but evening showings included movies with popcorn if you could eat another bite. Entertainment: You will find music playing at several locations throughout the ship. There is a piano bar, variety music in the lounges, and Karaoke is featured nightly. The Atrium features music (different bands on the ship rotate) and plays till midnight. During the afternoon the Atrium is alive with live music and I noticed many folks dancing away in the afternoon. The disco played a good selection but was empty on most evenings and the casino Texas Holdem table always had a wait list. I was disappointed in the shows offered which consisted mainly of dancing. A fun night was the final "Legends Night" where some 'wannabee' Karaoke passengers performed and had a ball. There were numerous comedy shows which I did not attend.
Ports/Excursions: My biggest issue with this sailing: the ship was late at every port even though we arrived at least an hour prior to scheduled time. We were late in clearing or something; didn't always know what but this impacted all the excursion times. In addition, at both tender ports there were not enough tenders which caused more delays and impacted two of my excursions. I could rant and rave but Carnival needs to take a hard look at its procedures and how it communicates to its passengers. I did my own adventurous excursions that are not for everyone.
Activities: The variety of usual ship activities (trivia, bean bag toss, etc.) are offered, but not much in terms of athletic activities except for the daily ping pong tournament. Bingo is promoted at different times so there is more than enough to occupy you, and you can always attend the art auction and drink free champagne or window shop in the mall/shops area.
Disembarkation: A disaster. You get a number to place on your bags which indicates what time you can disembark; however as per norm on this ship by now, disembarkation started late, and to make matters worse, passengers needed to board buses to another terminal which was too small to handle the numbers of passengers, and it got worse - enough said!
Overall: Very nice ship, terrific itinerary, great service, and wonderful staff - what more can be said. Carnival seems to be working hard trying to come up with new and innovative ideas; had it not been for the above mentioned issues, it would have been a perfect cruise. I was told that the average age on the ship was 70+ so I think there was less than the normal Carnival energy level; however, the cruise staff was superb and did everything possible to keep passengers happy. Cruising the Straits was a once in a lifetime experience; I think everybody needs to consider this ship and its itinerary. On a final note I met many people on this cruise who could do nothing else but complain what a shame!