My wife and I sailed for the first time on Glory on the first cruise out of Norfolk in May of 2013. So this is a review with no pre-conceived notions and nothing to compare against.
We're a couple of 60-somethings and cruised with my wife's sister and her husband, and their son and his wife. I read many of the reviews here and am a bit taken back by some of the negativity.
GETTING ON BOARD: Since we live in the area, the 6 of us took a taxi to the port. After checking in around 11:15, we were getting ready to sit down and wait for our boarding group to be called when one of the Carnival employees noticed my wife was walking with a cane. We hadn't registered her as having a mobility problem, yet the lady insisted on moving us to the head of the line and getting us on board with no waiting. After the obligatory getting on board photo, we worked our way onto the ship, had our sail-and-sign ID photo taken and we were ready to go. We were having lunch in the buffet by noon for a 5 p.m. sailing. Check-in was easy: Drop bags with porters outside, take the elevator up and go through airplane-style screening, then check in with one of what seemed to be 35 or 40 agents.
STATEROOM: Because the ship had repositioned from Miami the night before, there were no passengers getting off. So as we were checking in, the announcement was made that staterooms were already ready. We were in 7304, an inside cabin. For any first-timers, there is plenty of closet space and our suitcases fit under the bed. Even though the rooms were small, we had enough space (not that we were spending much time in the room). OUr room stewards were on the ball. When we left in the morning for breakfast and any morning activities, we hung the Cruisin' sign on the door and our room was taken care quickly. The only problem was one day when the card got shifted around and the Snoozin' sign on the other side was displayed. But when we told our steward, he insisted on taking care of the room immediately.
FOOD: We ate from the buffet for breakfast, either from the buffet or the burrito bar for lunch, and in the dining room at night. I've read reviews where people complained about the buffet lines. We didn't experience anything like that, not that there were no lines, but we never felt they were too long. After all, there are 3,000 people on board. Perhaps the highlight was the wait staff in the Platinum dining room. Our three-man team (Ricardo, Sami and Markus) were personable and attentive. With three of them to cover five tables, we never waited for anything. As for the food, it's not gourmet, but it's darn good. I never liked cold soups until this cruise, but I'm sold on them, especially the cucumber, strawberry and pumpkin soups. For first-time cruisers: one side of the menu includes the every-night appetizers and entrees, while the other side has the same for that night only. Then the deserts .... bottom line, if you go hungry on this ship, it is your problem. And I want one of those soft-serve machines in my house.
THINGS TO DO: One thing is obvious, you can be as social as you want or you can keep to yourself as much as you want. We balanced the on-board activities with quiet time, and came away from the cruise totally relaxed. For us, the majority of the activities were trivia contests, the casino, sitting in the sun, watching the two young ones in karaoke and exploring the various nighttime activities. We did see one show, the Motown-themed show. The complaint there is the shortness of the show. It started at 8:15 and was over before 9. I realize now how the show sort of continued down in the Atrium Lobby, but by the time we got to the railing overlooking the lobby, it was full. Some people have complained about not having a live band ... not a big deal. The video board behind the show was fascinating. One tip: After breakfast the first morning, I went up to the Serenity deck to read, but that area filled up fairly quickly. So did the deck chairs on the Lido Deck. But on our last sea day, I happend to be in the Atrium Lobby and went outside out onto the deck there (Deck 3). There was a long row of deck chairs out there, with nobody in any of them. I read and watched the sea for at least a half-hour before anyone else came out there.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: In Nassau, the six of us signed up to ride Segways. Easily that was the most fun thing on the whole cruise. We were taken to a beachfront area, given about a half-hour of instructions on riding the things, then we rode down the beach and around the area for an hour and a half. Cost was $80 per person plus tip. In Freeport, we hired a taxi driver to give us a tour of the area. This was totally unscripted because when we drove past a brewery that offered tours, we changed course on the spot and got a tour. Total cost: $30 per person for the taxi tour plus tip, then $5 per person for the tour plus tip.
PICTURES: Yep, photographers are all over the place. We had decided before we left that the only pictures we were interested in were from the Cruise Elegant night. So we had photos taken other times, but only paid attention to the formal photos.
CRUISE ELEGANT NIGHT: It was the second night, the night before our shore day in Nassau. By my rough count, most of the guys did dress up in some ways, from the father/10-year-old son in matching tuxedos to guys wearing slacks and a collard dress shirt. I would prefer to go casual 24/7, but in deference to the boss, I dressed up, too, and the pictures turned out very well.
THE STAFF: Unfailingly attentive. We dealt mostly with our dining room servers and the room staff, but the others we can in contact with had smiles on their faces. On the first morning out, I was at an elevator trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. One of the staff saw me studying the ship diagram and stopped what he was doing to show me how to get where I needed to go.
DISEMBARKATION: We were in group 15, so we knew we would have a bit of a wait. We ate breakfast for the first time in the Platinum dining room, then found a lounge that was open and waited for our number to be called. It didn't take long to get our luggage and go through customs, and we were home shortly afternoon.
CONCLUSION: We're ready to go again. I drove past the terminal a couple of week later when the Glory was getting ready to go out on its last cruise from Norfolk in May. It took all of my willpower not to walk up to the ship, knock on a door and ask if I could come along!