...However, I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of the cruise. First of all, this was my first time embarking from NYC. We were fortunate to have a gorgeous day for sailing, and the sights that we passed, particularly the Statue of Liberty, were awesome.
My sister and I treated our 90 year young Mom for her birthday, which was embarkation day. I must admit that check in went rather smoothly. We arrived at 12 noon, and did not stand in line for long. We had booked a balcony spa cabin for 3 people. We should have gone through a travel agent, but instead we booked directly with the cruise line. That was the biggest mistake we made, for we had no one to negotiate reimbursements, upgrades, or on board credit for us. While I read that others had received hundreds of dollars in on board credit for booking the early saver rate, we received nothing because we had a category (for 3 people) that only had 2 cabins, and both were full. This was one of 2 complaints of the cruise.
Although the cabin was small, we made the best of it. I ended up on the sofa bed, which was rather comfortable. The balcony was larger than the balcony I had on the Carnival Sensation last October. Because it was a Spa Balcony, there was no smoking allowed. This made all the difference in the world... to be able to sit on the balcony without being overcome by some one's nasty cigarette smoke.
When we booked the cabin, we did not realize that the Spa access was for the first 2 passengers only. Remaining passengers had to purchase the pass. This was my 2nd complaint...all passengers should have received the passes. My sister and I didn't know whether to purchase a pass for our Mom or not. However, after seeing the roughness of the Thallo pool, and experiencing the extremely intense steam rooms, we decided it would be a waste of money. Mom found plenty of other things to do on the ship, so did not mind not using the Spa services. I, on the other hand, loved it. I enjoyed going to the 12th floor where the lemon and orange flavored ice water is, and lounging on one of the beds. This is a waiting area for persons signing up for any of the Spa treatments, so it can get a little noisy with people talking and such. I also discovered the "Serenity" deck right outside. No children or smoking allowed. Ahhh, peace!
I read complaints of the ship being too pink. I intentionally looked around for this horrid Pepto Bismol pink color, but did not find it. Yes, there was a subtle "pinkish" tone around the ship, but absolutely nothing to complain about.
The food was first class. I've had horrible food on other Carnival ships, but the food here was fantastic. I couldn't believe the choices in the MDR. We had the early seating which is what Mom wanted. My sister and I would have preferred ATD. Often, I wasn't hungry at 6pm, particularly if you load up at one of the fantastic lunch buffets. My favorite was the Indian Tandoor meals...very flavorful and spicy. I tried the Mongolian Wok once, however the line was always long. We did not experience the Punchliner Brunch in the Black Pearl Restaurant until the last day, and were sorry we not gone before then. The food was delicious...I had a tender steak with eggs and potatoes.
Back to the MDR, this was first class dining with choices of Oysters Rockefeller, Escargot, Frogs Legs, Shrimp, Lobster, Lamb chops, Steaks, cream soups, and fabulous desserts. The only complaint I had here was that I often was not hungry to fully appreciate the meals.
Luckily, the gym was just one floor above me, and I was either there every morning on the treadmill, or on the jogging track up on the 12th floor. However, it was extremely windy up there. I attended a yoga class that was part of the Spa package deal, and I went to the 7am morning stretch once during the end of the cruise. I was the only one in the class. Towards the end of the cruise, the gym was looking rather scarce.
There was much entertainment on board. I really enjoyed the comedians during the Family-friendly shows as well as the adult comedy. Unfortunately, there was always a long line for the adult shows, and you will end up standing if you don't arrive early to wait in line.
The ports of call were OK. My sister and I couldn't plan anything too thrilling with our Mom. In San Juan, we took a horse and carriage ride. It was just OK. I wouldn't do it again. Since the boat docked at 3pm, we were not going to rush back on board to dine at 6pm, so we had a nice authentic PR dinner at a restaurant across the street from the ship. This place had the best Mojitos made with barcardi rum. They were 2 for the price of one and you get to keep both decorated glasses. I had the raspberry flavor amongst the many flavors offered. In St Thomas, we took a taxi to Sapphire beach, and in Gran Turk, we just lined up on the beach chairs with everyone else, trying to get the few shady areas under palm trees. The pool at Margaritaville was just a short walk, and was so relaxing. I did not use the pools on the ship, other than the Spa.
The staff we encountered were friendly and helpful. I have a whole new respect for Carnival, at least with this sailing. Although disembarkation was a nightmare, it did not spoil my enjoyment of the cruise. Well done Carnival.