Our cruise was a 2 night cruise to nowhere out of Norfolk, Virginia. Travelers were my 12 year old daughter and I.
It took us just about 2 hours from the time we arrived at the port until we were actually on the ship. We arrived at the port, and were directed to parking- which was a drive away (close to 2 miles away), and parking was $15/day. We finally found it, following the instructions we had been given, then we took our bag, and walked over to the bus (we got the back of the parking lot, so it was a pretty decent haul to the bus). Bags were loaded, and we hopped onto a motor coach to head over the cruise ship. So far so good- honeymooners on the bus, lots of happy people.
We got off the bus, then they showed us where to go- we had to go get in line with everyone else- up the stairs, and across a bridge, (there were elevators available), and wait to get through security. We waited on the bridge about an hour and 30 minutes. Wind whipping through us, and cold. We got up to security, finally, and there were exactly 4 sets of metal detectors and scanners going. Since we all carried our bags onto the ship, this was the cause of the bottleneck. There was space for several more scanners, and frankly had they changed their setup a little bit, they could have gotten as many as 15-20 scanners in there, to eliminate the security line. I'm not sure what the "ideal" waiting time is, but frankly 1.5 hours is too much. They need to work some operations management, and get this fixed. Telling me that those people don't work for the cruise line, is a cop out I'm not likely to accept. Note to Carnival- Fix your embarkation process.
I got up to the scanner, and they saw that I had a hole punch in my bag (which I carry to put a hole into my room key so I can wear it on a lanyard around my neck, and I can do the same for the kids with me).. They searched through every bit of my bags, and eventually took the hole punch. Apparently they take away all tools, since they could somehow be a hazard on duty. Uh- frankly, I could have done more damage with other things they already give me on board- can you say steak knife? Or broken glass? Or any of dozens of other items, so this just seemed, asinine, and petty. And frankly stupid. They kept it in safe keeping until the morning of embarkation until we were getting ready to get off, but still on board the ship. Uh- okay.. If it's so dangerous, do you think I should have this "dangerous" thing on me at any point during the cruise? And guys- it's a _hole_punch_. Color me really confused.
So, note to self, next time I get on a carnival ship (which will be with a party of 15 people), take them all by guest services to get our key cards punched, because we need them punched to keep from losing them.. Yeah. That'll be swell.
Lines- There were lines, especially for the breakfast buffet on Saturday morning. We didn't actually attempt to get into line, since it wrapped half way around the deck, and made do with rolls, cold cut meats, and cheese. Frankly they NEED to fix the lines at the buffets. Make the actual buffet lines shorter, and separate sections. Don't put every single thing on one buffet line, just the "basic" stuff. If I want an omelette, i'll go to a separate station. This is another area where they need to get their acts in gear and work with some operations management folks.
The ship felt crowded, probably due to the fact that the weather was chilly and no-one was up at the pool deck.
The stores were a mess. There was jumbled merchandise, pinch points in the flow of the stores, counters where there was no merchandise, just stuff stacked in the corner.
The cabin- was very nice. I like that the bathrooms are fairly spacious. and that the door opens out into the room, so I don't have to play a game of twister to get into the bathroom area. The area is a single module, which contains shower, next to toilet, next to sink. It is very economical in space, but very usable, and doesn't feel cramped.
I like the lay-out of the balcony stateroom we were in. The room is a peach/white/beige color scheme with peach/dark red in the carpet on the floor. There is a couch, chair, stool, and table. The bed was on the firm side. The couch was cushier. The beds are on the back half of the room, with the "living area" in the front half, next to the bathrooms. Closet space is ample, and closet doors are open-close, and very functional. I had enough space to set my bag on the desk for the 2 night cruise. our cabin steward was AMAZING. We'd go to breakfast, or to dinner, and come back to the room being made up 100% of the time.
Food- overall was quite good. We had dinner in the Platinum dining room at 6:00 PM both nights. Aside from the buffet lines, all of the food was quite good. We ordered room service a couple of times (once for a snack, and once for breakfast on debarkation morning), and that came promptly both times. The first night I couldn't get through on the phone due to being on hold the entire time, despite repeated attempts.
We were unable to dine at the steak house, as reservations were not available for anything before 9 PM once we got onboard.
The spa was good. They layout is unusual in that the treatment rooms are directly off the salon, and there can be noise from the salon or other locations coming into the staterooms. I had a manicure, pedicure, facial, and massage done at a couple of different trips up there. They were all quite good.
Circle C- My daughter found the program for the 12-14 year olds to be wanting, both in terms of the quality of programming, and the amount of programming available. It was better than Royal Caribbean's Oasis (from December), but worse than Disney's Wonder (in April).
Debarkation- was very smooth. Since it was a closed loop cruise to nowhere, we didn't have to go through immigration, or customs. They were calling cabins by floor, but fairly quickly, people were just getting off the ship. The line never did get very long, and just kept moving quickly.