Summary: We had an enjoyable and relaxing cruise at a bargain price having only booked one week before departure. We only paid $454.22 ($399 plus taxes) each for our inside cabin. This was our fourth Carnival cruise since 2001 and left us with the feeling that we don't like Carnival as much now having experienced Celebrity, Holland America and Princess.
Plus Points: Spacious ship - 85,920 tons for 2,351 passengers on our cruise vs. 2,124 if only double occupancy Spacious comfortable cabin with an amazing amount of closet space Good dinner menus offering lots of choices and huge lobsters. The production shows and individual artists were OK though we have seen better
Negative Points: Interior décor in the public rooms too dark and bizarre for our tastes Too many intrusive announcements. Far more than on previous Carnival cruises Lido Buffet choices at breakfast display lots of niggling cost cutting: Many items only available some days e.g. pancakes and french toast No individual portions of syrup or jams, only communal jugs Very little fresh fruit at breakfast. Lounge entertainment had few soft music or ballroom dancing options The only show on the final night was the guest talent show - another cost cutting move? Despite 4 rainy days in port the Magrodome cover over the main swimming pool was never closed The rear pool deck had no non-smoking area in either the covered eating area or the sun lounger area. The ship has a beautiful promenade deck but no seats or sun loungers. When we inquired why at the front desk they said it was because this is the embarkation area for the lifeboats. We suggested that this could not be a valid reason because many Carnival Corporation ships in the Holland America and Princess fleets have seating on their promenade decks but the desk stuck by their party line. It more likely comes down to a lack of revenue making opportunities if people are there!
Cabin, etc. We had inside cabin 1173 on Riviera Deck, which was kept in good shape by our steward Melvin from the Philippines. We suffered a lot of noise in the cabin from 5am on the first night that seemed to come from the crew area behind the cabin. After complaining to the front desk it didn't wake us up again but we could still occasionally hear it. We could also occasionally hear noise from above in the casino late at night. We recommend avoiding cabins in this area on Riviera Deck. We were on the 5.45pm early sitting dinner on table 372 on the upper level of the dining room right by the stern window overlooking the ship's wake. We had requested a large table and had four other very enjoyable dinner companions. Our waiter Ryan and his assistant Adrian, both from Jamaica, looked after us in an enthusiastic but not very polished manner, but seemed very rushed when all 22 people were present on their three tables, as happened on all but one night.
Ports: We had been to all four ports before but that was no problem as our aim was to have a relaxing week. We only planned to saunter ashore as we enjoy spending time on the ship, which is so much quieter when most passengers have gone ashore. Our first port was Grand Cayman and it was our best day weather wise as it only rained briefly in the afternoon. We also had to tender the next day in Cozumel because the piers were all destroyed by last year's hurricanes and have not yet been rebuilt. It rained all day apart from a brief gap in the late morning and again in early afternoon when we went ashore to see the damage to the International Pier area. We also awoke to rain in Belize but it cleared later in the morning so we went ashore to see how the tourist village had grown since our last visit 4 years ago. The answer is dramatically! Costa Maya was our last port and the only one where we didn't have to tender. Sadly it rained all day so we stayed on the ship.
Shows: The shows included The Welcome Aboard Show with comedian Thomas Brown, the two production shows Generations and Ticket to Ride, comedians Michael Macy and Percy Crews, balancing act Lubo and sword swallower Dai Andrews.
Man Overboard: On the last day at sea a passenger reported hearing someone call Man Overboard. As a result at 10.15am all passengers were asked to return to their cabins for a count. Stewards checked each cabin and asked passengers to sign against their name on a list. The passenger count was completed at 11.15am but the crew count took another 20 minutes. It established that everyone was accounted for, so as originally suspected it turned out to be a hoax. The Captain had maintained course so he had assumed it was probably a hoax, but the count was necessary to prove it.
Embarkation and Disembarkation at Tampa was no problem. We were on board at Tampa having lunch within an hour of dropping off our luggage and going to park the car. Cabins were not available until 1.30pm. Back at Tampa a week later we had disembarked, got our car from the garage and on our way home by 10am.