We flew into New York City, only arriving at noon so we booked the Carnival shuttle to the ship as we were worried about our flight arriving late or getting stuck in traffic in a taxi and the shuttle seemed the safest bet. I really recommend arriving at the embarkation port a day ahead. This was stressful! It took about 40 minutes from LGA to the pier and since we were not early we had no difficulties with embarkation plus our room was ready. We had some panic though when we discovered I had set down my husband's camera case along with our carry-on bags when the porter was taking our large bags. Someone gestured to us that the elevator to the next level was waiting for us and we grabbed our bags, got in the elevator and went through security before I realized we did not have the camera. I backtracked a bit but did not know at that time where I had lost it. Carnival employees were very helpful, taking our name and cabin number but we did not expect to see the camera again. What a wonderful surprise to find the camera bag attached to my husband's large suitcase. outside our cabin door later that day! You see, there are honest people out there and it astounded us that they actually matched it up to our luggage because the camera bag did not have our name on it.
We really recommend the deli on Lido where they make the greatest sandwiches.
Muster drill at 3:30. We were all dressed in our winter coats luckily as it was very cold.
We had dinner at Nick & Nora's the first night because of the free bottle of wine. Second time for us to try a Carnival steakhouse. Second time I've ordered the Lobster Bisque. Second time I've stressed that I like my soup very hot or I won't eat it. Second time it came lukewarm and was returned. Second time the chef came out and apologized. I don't know how to explain more clearly that I want it HOT. If I didn't ask ahead of time that would be my fault, but I did emphasize it ahead. Other than that we recommend the steakhouse.
The ship had to sail south and one mother of a snowstorm was going on to the south of New York so we were into it almost immediately after sailaway. The waves were hitting the ship broadside the first night, second day and into the 2nd night. Lots of barf bags around. The captain was very communicative about the bad weather but it certainly wasn't his fault and he tried to give some relief by turning the ship toward shore a few times to avoid the broadside waves. The dining room was turmoil with dishes crashing to the floor every few minutes. The waiter would come out with a tray full of our dinner dishes, the ship would tilt and over it would go!
We had, for the first time, an aft-extended balcony. On retrospect I would not book this again, especially for a cruise from New York in cold weather. There were several days it was too cold to sit on the balcony & several days in the Caribbean when we were docked and it was in the sun and too hot to sit on the balcony. But I'm probably in the minority on this. For sure, watching the wake and listening to the sound was very soothing.
We have joined cruise critic roll calls before but the one for this cruise was the best ever. First sea day we all met for a poker crawl/cabin crawl and I had volunteered our cabin for one of the stops. My husband was reluctant to participate but this activity turned out to be the greatest fun with the nicest people ever and he was so glad we had joined in. At dinner the 2nd night we found ourselves sitting at a table for 6 with no-one else even assigned to the table. Another cruise critic couple we had met on the poker crawl invited us to sit with them as they had extra seats and before we knew it two others we had met through cruise critic joined us as well and we had the best dinner times! We did two slot pulls with our cruise critic buddies as well and sat with a few of them on the Lido at lunch and breakfast. I highly recommend getting involved with your group ahead of time.
Second sea day I was playing a one cent machine, Cleopatra, in the casino when I hit the bonus and then a jackpot of over $2,000. Never won anything like this before and I was so excited. We paid for our cruise with this win. And, being Canadian, I didn't have to give a good portion of it to taxes! Because of the win we confirmed our participation in the Chef's table and I booked an appointment at the spa.
Chef's Table was awesome. $70pp seems like a lot but do it once if you can.
We visited Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. I'll put details under port reviews. Grand Turk: try renting a golf cart from Nathan and see the whole island. St. Thomas: a cruise critic member organized a trip to Sapphire Beach.
The entertainment on board was pretty good. Ticket to Ride was the best but we also enjoyed the Big Bands show, the juggler and the illusionist. I am a big bingo fan but do not recommend it on the ship. Too expensive for what they pay out.
An interesting thing to look for on your ship bill...We were docked in San Juan from noon to midnight. When I looked at my bill there was a charge of $1.93 for wine in the dining room that night. I asked Guest Services what that would be for, very curious because I bought the wine package from Bon Voyage before the cruise. They had no idea what it was for & told me the Bon Voyage rep would see me at dinner. No one showed so I asked in the dining room. Even the maitre'd had no idea what could be that price. They did finally nail it down to the fact that we had one of our bottles of wine at dinner and since we were still in port they charged us tax on wine we had paid for previously. I said "Take it off." and they did. I realize $1.93 on the whole bill is nothing but who gets that money? If $1.93 was added to every bill where a customer ordered a bottle of wine that was previously paid for, that adds up to a fair amount of money going somewhere.
Punchliner Brunch: Lots of complaints about this maybe because we had 5 sea days out of 10 days and the brunch has one menu. A comedian comes out and introduces himself on the hour and tells when his evening shows are and his time is up (5-6 minutes at best). It is not a fun time. We couldn't even see where he was standing. I ordered an item one day and my husband ordered the same item another day and on comparing they were nothing alike. There were enough complaints that they announced at dinner the night before our last sea day that the last sea day would be breakfast and lunch, not brunch. Everyone cheered. Hope Carnival listens to their customers but they probably have some kind of contract for this which goes for years to come.
We did go to the Serenity, adult only, deck a couple of times. Guess we were lucky because we did not find it busy either time. But although we tried all the different loungers/hammocks/chairs etc. we did not feel really comfortable in any so we didn't go back a third time.