This review is probably not for everyone, but I wanted it to be for those who were like us and wondered if they were going on the right cruise. My wife and I are working professionals with 3 kids (who stayed at home) who cruise every 3-4 years. We like nice things, but we don't demand them and certainly don't feel entitled to them. I get many nice perks from my job but I'm much more cautious when it comes to my own money. This was our first Carnival cruise but we have cruised Royal Caribbean 3 times. We try to live life balanced and not overdo most things which obviously requires restraint on a cruise.
First off, this was overall a great time. The only complaints we had were about the patrons, not the cruise staff or ship. And to tell you the truth, most of the cruisers were well behaved and fun to be around, more so than we anticipated considering Carnival has the reputation as a party boat.
We had a Spa Balcony room and anytime dining. I will break this review down into the Great, Good and Not-so-good categories:
ROOM- nice decor, so much storage, unbelievable...
BEDS - We slept so comfortably, we are seriously going to buy the same mattress, sheets and pillows.
FOOD - Blue iguana...awesome. Guys Burgers...awesome. Italian Restaurant - Awesome, Pizza - Awesome, Mongolian Wok...awesome. I have to say though, if you are expecting meaty hamburgers or thick pizza, you will be disappointed. But they were exactly down our alley, not too big, more thin but not cheaply skimpy either. (see comment above about balance and not overdoing it)
DECOR - Really cool Caribbean beach feel
STAFF - Never saw a frown or bad attitude. Staff was so nice.
PIANO BAR - The guy was hilarious. We loved getting a couple of drinks and laughing our guts out...and listening to some good music. One of our favorite places on the whole ship. Kind of cheesy, but fun, fun, fun.
SEATING - We almost always found a seat on the deck or serenity lounge when we wanted it. Some chair hogging going on, but shouldn't be enough to ruin anyone's time.
LINES - Not bad at all, surprisingly few of them. Much better than we expected. There were some lines, no doubt, but unless you wanted that particular item at the worst possible time, then they shouldn't bother you. They didn't bother us.
LIVE MUSIC - Everywhere on the ship. Really good talent too....from Jazz to piano, to mellow guitar. We love live music and it seemed to be around every corner of the ship.
ANYTIME DINING - Great concept. We always had the same waiter - Jose, who was awesome. We came at different times every night - sometimes early, sometimes late - and rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes.
EMBARKATION - Perfect, easy to get on and off the boat. Well organized.
MAIN DINING ROOM - Service was awesome, so no complaints there. However, the food was mediocre. Some was very good, some wasn't. Overall I would say a 6 out of 10.
ENTERTAINMENT - Hit and miss. We thought the production shows were pretty darn fun. Divas, Brits and Motown - all entertaining. The other shows...not so much. There was an incredibly annoying bingo game happening right before the shows with a cringe worthy screeching host named Brittney. This is a very bad move by Carnival. Its what I would call a "buzz kill" - coming into the theater all fired up to be entertained and then hit with the bingo crap like a bucket of cold water. Hasbro show was OK, we thought they should use real families though.
SERENITY DECK - This was surprisingly poorly designed. I was really looking forward to it. We just couldn't relax there. Music from the main pool was always felt (more than heard)no matter where we went. Also, it had very little shade and no pool. I liked the adults-only place on Royal Caribbean MUCH better. It was just more peaceful and relaxing. However, the chairs were comfortable and we loved the clam shells. The Jacuzzis were the best on the ship with great views and perfect temp.
SHIP DESIGN - I don't know why, but it took us a while to figure this out. I still can't figure out how we kept going aft when we wanted to go forward and vice versa. Also, the piano bar would occasionally battle with the disco because it was more of an open area than an enclosed bar.
COMEDIANS - I just did not find them that funny. Not bad, but very standard toilet jokes. Their humor focused on sex, cursing and bodily functions. I believe real humor is so much more than that. There was no cleverness. I'm more of a Sienfeld guy than a Def Comedy Jam guy. But I know there are many who loved the comedians and would strongly disagree with me.
SPA - I don't get it. We got upgraded for a very small fee so we took advantage of the perk. However, we rarely went in it. Way too expensive for services and just didn't find value in the items that were free. The Spa Balcony room was awesome with a great location though.
ROPES COURSE - Actually, this was a blast. Not as fun as the wave rider or rock wall on the RC, but fun nevertheless. Don't miss it.
NOT SO MUCH
BEEF IN THE DINING ROOM - Don't order it. No matter what the cut, it is terrible. However, the NY steak in the Italian restaurant was great.
LOBSTER - Terrible. I love lobster and this was almost inedible. Rubbery and bland. Trust me, if you want to do the specialty restaurant, this is the night to do it.
PATRONS - I could go on and on about this. Too many people seemed to live the cruise in a constant drunken state, annoying everyone around them. In the piano bar, at least one knucklehead a night would think they were the star of the room by either standing in front of everyone or talking to the piano player like they were the only ones in the room. Also, don't get me started on the tattoos. I just don't get how someone wants a tat that says "Since there is no beer in heaven lets all drink here and go to hell." Tatoos by themselves aren't neccesarily bad, just the attitude that seemed to go along with most of the people who had them. Also, the overindulgence was just annoying, from the heavy drinking to overeating. One time we were in line for pizza late at night. The two people in front of us took 5-6 slices of pizza each and piled them on their plate. Really? Don't they see the line behind them? Piggy... But we met a number of really good, fun people too. In the end, we thought the crowd was overall pretty good, and didn't spoil our time whatsoever.
One last hint about Grand Turk...the tour we booked through Carnival was cancelled for lack of participation. We got off the boat and walked down the beach to the left. There are a number of vendors there offering the same thing as Carnival. We booked a snorkeling tour for $30 less a person and had only one other couple on a private boat. The Carnival boats were cattle carts and were ridiculously crowded.