Let me start by saying we had a passenger with a medical emergency and they had to divert for awhile to get them help. That was going to make us very late to Grand Turk. Carnival could have skipped Grand Turk as a result and we really couldn't have complained if they did. However, to my surprise, they flipped the itinerary (Nassau first, Grand Turk last) so that we were able to enjoy the same ports with the same amount of time in each port! Of course, those who had excursions booked on their own had problems, but I give Carnival kudos because it certainly created a lot of logistical problems for them!
Got to the ship at about 12:30, but the embarkation process took over 2 hours. Our fourth cruise and I've never experienced anything like this. We waited in line for security, probably 45 minutes (expected that). Then waited another 30 minutes for our key cards (expected this). Then we were assigned a zone and told to sit down and wait for our zone to be called. We were zone 28 and they were calling 13. In the past we've picked up our key cards and headed for the ship so we were not expecting this! 40 minutes later our zone was called. Then we waited another 15 minutes in line to get our ID photo taken. Take the ID photos when we pick up our sail and sign card and let us board!!
Our Cabin #1431 was small but you get what you pay for and we chose the cheapest cabin on the ship. Bunk beds. We did this once before and had portholes and it wasn't bad. 1431 doesn't even have a couch, just a small sitting chair and the bunk beds seemed even tighter than before. Located on the other side of the elevator we expected a lot of noise. Actually, it was a noisy cabin but only the sound of the engines. This was not a problem for us as we sleep with a fan for noise and it was fairly consistent (except when docking). Weedodo our steward was awesome!
Dining left us frustrated. We were spoiled on our first two cruises by Norwegian. My wife and I cruise as a couple and we want a semi private dining experience. My time dining worked pretty well on our last cruise with Carnival, but was unavailable this time. We were assigned late dining. Late dining was scheduled for 8:15 but was 10 to 20 minutes late each of the first 3 nights. We were seated in a booth for 4 which was nice when the other couple assigned our table didn't show. But the second night it was EXTREMELY AWKWARD when we showed up to find them there. We're not talking about an open booth on one side and a chair on the other. We're talking about a typical restaurant booth closed on one end where the couple on the inside has to ask to get out!! I'm sure some Carnival apologist will call me stupid and defend them (never ceases to amaze me what they'll defend), but hear me when I say that no one would be comfortable sharing a booth like this with strangers! As proof, go to McDonalds sometime and ask a couple in a booth to scoot over so you can share and see their response! :) They ended up reassigning the other couple to another table. The same 10 tables were open every night so I have no explanation for the "pack them like sardines" scheduling. We had a similar experience where we went to the main dining room for lunch and they packed 10 of us in a small corner of an empty upstairs restaurant (apologists don't even try to defend this as this was at the end of the lunch rush). We were denied the opportunity to move, so we left.
We complained to guest services about the embarkation and dining room experience and it initially appeared that they didn't care, but then we received a phone call, chocolate covered strawberries to our room, a visit to our table that evening from the Maitre d' and Food Services Manager. So kudos to the ship staff! Our evening dining room staff was very friendly and attentive. Service was slow and one night we didn't have our main course when they were dancing on tables (thankfully our staff didn't participate that night). We missed a show or two and ended up eating at Lido a couple times to make the comedy shows.
Food in the dining rooms was good, not great. The Lido deck didn't have the variety we've seen on other ships and the food pretty consistently warm, almost cold.
Entertainment was somewhat disappointing. The shows lacked a theme, the singing was mediocre and didn't get the audience involved. The costumes were rated PG but most families who take their kids to PG movies don't expect to find dancing women dressed in thongs! Why not save this for the late show and keep the early show family friendly? Family friendly comedy did live up to it's name and was very funny at times (especially Carl Faulkenberry). The juggler/comedian was AWESOME! Saw a magician doing card tricks at dinner, but no real show.
We had been to Nassau before, so we just walked to some of the shops and Junkanoo beach. Junkanoo is an easy walk from the ship, but it's not the cleanest beach. Lots of rocks in the water and glass on the beach. I knew that going in and set my expectations accordingly. Not bad, not great. We used the WiFi at McDonalds to call home via Skype. Struggled at first to get enough bandwidth but eventually it worked.
Half Moon Cay is beautiful! Paradise! We hung out in a hammock in the shade (most people don't know these are free). The water and beach are pristine! We found 1 rock and 1 shell on our walk along the beach! It's so pristine, it felt like we were in a huge, uncrowded swimming pool! Water wasn't even that salty! We both wished we could live there! Lunch was kind of chaotic and food wasn't great, but it was free!!
Grand Turk was great and we probably would have enjoyed it more if we hadn't just left Half Moon! Shade was important because we already had enough sun and it was about 85 degrees. We moved to a pine tree at the end of the beach which was quiet until a loud guest told all of her stories to anyone who would listen! :) That drove me into the water where I discovered the bottom was not so much sand as it was smooth rock covered by some sort of tan algae. Not bad, just not Half Moon. Swam out to the ropes with my goggles and found some neat fish! Later we moved past the Carnival area and found a smooth sand bottom where you could stir up many sand dollars. WiFi was only really usable at the smoothie place and it was very busy. Waited until it was time to board to use it. Margaritaville had WiFi, but it never worked well enough to do anything. My wife found it a little loud on the beach due to Margaritaville and we considered going to the other side of the dock, but it didn't look like the beach was kept up as well. We probably should have moved as it looked much more private.
Some complained about the other guests being rude. We had a lot of French Canadians on the ship and I thought it was funny when I heard someone say "They say us New Yorkers are rude, but these French Canadians are worse!" It wasn't really a problem as we kind of kept to ourselves.
We had 4 days at sea which was probably a day or two too much, but we really enjoyed the ports and NYC has plenty to see and do.