As passengers eagerly awaited the daylight sailing down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico we were advised by the Cruise Director at 3:45 p.m. that it was time to purchase a sail away special drink for the 4 p.m. departure. We did not sail until 6:30! No explanation was given as time passed and no apology was offered even though we missed two and one half hours of daylight sailing time. The silence was deafening.
The chaos upon arrival back at the New Orleans terminal was much worse. Because of an unexpected Immigration Dept. enhanced inspection of all arriving passengers the debarkation, which started at 7 a.m., was not completed until 1 p.m. Even though Carnival was not aware ahead of time of the "drill" as they called it, they were very much aware of the chaos once passengers started to stack up leaving the ship. No announcement was made to the remaining on-board passengers of the circumstances that meant a multi-hour delay. From the time we left the ship and arrived at the inspection counter one hour and forty five minutes had passed. There are no restrooms between the ship and the inspection counters as this is normally a 15-30 minute process. Carnival could have, at the very least, advised us of the situation with the recommendation that we use the ship's facilities before disembarking. The arrogance of no communication in both the departure and arrival situations is stunning, particularly after the criticism following the Triumph ship fire debacle. Again, no apology was offered. But, there was continuous communications about jewelry sales, art auctions and drink specials. Interesting priorities.
Now to the cruise itself. On the first day at sea we headed to the enhanced adult Serenity Deck. There is none, just a big deck with a few chairs and tables. Though Carnival spent millions on the dry docking of the Conquest that included the addition of more bars and food outlets they did not add a Serenity Deck, now a standard on their other ships. For the first time in all our years of cruising we were unable to find a deck chair anywhere. Why? One of the largest open decks had huge, empty open deck space with no chairs; they were all strapped in stacks. The reason given was it was too windy. There was the typical at- sea breeze. On the last sea day the chairs were all on deck in the very same breezy conditions. Unfair as it is to others, chair holding and hogging was rampant.
The stern deck pool, which is usually designated the quieter "adults only" option, was frequently full of small children and toddlers. So, with the lack of the Serenity Deck there was no quiet adult area on-deck. And, many of the college age males, traveling in groups, were rude to staff, loud and foul mouthed from too much alcohol, and were cannon balling into the pool, etc. Nothing like an unwanted large splash in your face to add to the relaxing cruise experience. No one from Carnival said a word to them. Why? Because they represent a very profitable segment with the large bar tabs. We get it.
Carnival's cost cutting initiatives were everywhere. No longer is there a wonderful live band at the stage shows and the few shows themselves are repeated several times during the cruise. The on-deck late night Fiesta party no longer includes the popular Mexican themed buffet. The cocktail hour sushi bar is gone replaced by a sampling bar. Never heard Caribbean or calypso music once, but lots of rap and hip hop.
The ship itself was beautiful, with the decor having been converted from wild neon colors to traditional dark wood and brass. Very classy. The dining rooms were lovely with very friendly, attentive service. We opted for Anytime Dining and it was seamless. However, many of our fellow passengers elected to ruin the dining experience for others by showing up in totally inappropriate ( and banned) attire, including on Formal Night. The hostesses said nothing. One passenger was seen often in the buffet restaurant and lounges wearing basketball shorts and no shirt. He was never asked by any crew to follow the ship's rules. The many slobs do have a negative effect on the cruise experience. We had some issues with Carnival on earlier cruises but we wanted to try again, adding the Mississippi River bonus. Even though we are gold level members this was our last time with Carnival for the reasons noted.