An 8-day cruise that does Carnival proud. Carnival takes it newest vessel on a unique itinerary that fosters a diverse bit of options for the cruise customer. As a frequent customer with Carnival, my first impression of the ship was a positive one. The decor is among the best of the Carnival fleet. Carnival does miss the mark on a few elements for those adult only travelers, but overall, the cruise was a pleasant voyage through the Caribbean.
We have been out of Miami many times before. This was the first time we stayed at South Beach prior to the cruise. We took a cab to the hotel for about $32. We stayed at Winter Haven hotel which is on 14th and Ocean. It is on the northern end of South Beach. I definitely recommended this hotel. It is a Marriott partner hotel. Smaller rooms, but the AC worked really well.
At the hotel, we were right across the street from the beach. We had easy access to restaurants and places to go. We took a cab and ate at Joe's Stone Crab, which is a wonderful seafood restaurant that is very famous. It only cost $7 for the cab. It is a decent walk from the hotel. I was worried that it would be a tourist trap, but instead, it was a great meal. We did not have the long wait that was feared. If you want to cut your wait, I was told a nice tip to the front desk host would allow you to skip ahead an hour. They do not take reservations.
We took a cab from the hotel to the Miami Cruise terminal. The cost was approximately $26.00. As many people know, the Miami terminal at time can seem very chaotic. Be prepared to tip the guys a few bucks per bag. The stacks of bags may seem overwhelming, but they clearly know what they are doing. They are one of the most efficient ports.
Many people choose to be at the port early. I have gotten away from this. Show up after noon to reduce the hurry up and wait. Most of the time, you can not get access to your room until 1-2 pm anyway. We did arrive prior to 1pm, and since we are Platinum, they told us we could go ahead and go to our room. Having a Platinum/suite or higher status can really make some nice short cuts in the process. We were on the ship in a matter of 15 minutes. Again, Miami does pretty good with this. Just fYI, the best embarkation we have been part of is Allure of the Seas due to the custom made port for these two sister ships. They are efficient!
We were in cabin 8477. It is an Aft room with the extended balcony. Carnival has made the look of the rooms more contemporary. I believe these are the best rooms on the fleet. As most people know, Carnival has larger cabins than the competitors. This cabin is no exception. I definitely recommend cabin 8475 or the mirror on the other side. The balcony is even bigger. Either way, these cabins are great. One 230 volt and two 120 volts at the vanity. Flat screen TV. Not only is the balcony larger, but the interior floor plan is bigger. As Will Ferrell stated in Step Brothers, "so many activities."
After we booked the cruise, we heard about "smells" in the back cabins. We did experience these same issues. Apparently, the ship has some process that creates a bi-product of a sulphur-like smell. It occurred during two of the seven nights. It was annoying. We also smelled BBQ on the nights prior to the sea day BBQ cookouts. Not bad. We noticed periodically that soot from the smokestacks would create some black specks to cover the outside furniture. Make sure you wipe the outside furniture to avoid messing up clothes. When the seas are not really smooth, you will feel a rocking vibration the entire time. The view though is a huge plus. I have not had these problems with RCCL. I had cabin vibrations on other Carnival Aft cabins though. Would I book this cabin again? No, not for the price. I would rather have a mid level deck 7 or 8 balcony cabin. Back to a good note, the back of the ship has very little hallway noise. No kids running or people talking outside to bother you.
Since this is a new ship, you can enjoy the new feel still. No more gaudy neon. The Carnival 2.0 was built on when the ship was created. Hints of classic cruising mixed with a contemporary Caribbean resort feel. Lots of walking space outside of the ship. The walk around lower promenade is a step back to the old cruising days. Nice touch.
A big areas of caution.... The lido deck floors are dangerously slippery. A lawsuit waiting to happen. I addressed this with senior staff, and they are fully aware of it. They told me that when the ship was delivered in Europe, the weather was not humid. They noticed no problems until coming to the humid Caribbean. The floors are slick, even when not wet. Tennis shoes... No matter what you wear, use caution.
Some of the common areas are narrow, such as the halls in the Lido deck. This is overshadowed by the beautiful themed areas. Deck five promenade is open and well designed. It can get crowded in front of the restaurants and comedy club at times, but that is normal for most ships.
No covered spas or adults only solarium. Huge miss for Carnival. They expanded the kids area and sports deck, that is fine, but you took the adults only pool. Why? The kids will love the new slides. Actually, adults will too. They are fast and fun. Great ship for families.
Lido deck has a great choices daily. The best options I have seen on any of the Carnival ships. There are several lunch lines which provided for a more efficient dining experience. The Blue Iguana and Guy's hamburger place are wonderful additions to the Carnival fleet. Way to go Carnival! The staff does a better job than most of the fleet on keeping tables clean and available. Still lacking the bar/soda service that other lines master. The hot chocolate machine is wonderful! Disney and RCCL Allure and Oasis are better with this.
Main dining rooms are pretty standard for Carnival. Thank you to Carnival for expanding its standard menu that they offer daily. The food options are pretty much the same as in past years. Formal night seems to bring bigger crowds which can slow the process and hurt some of the food quality. I.e. undercooked lobster. Any concerns we had were met well by the senior staff. One thing you learn about Carnival is to never count on the lower level folks to resolve the issue. Go directly to the department head, and they do a better job of resolving issues. For example, we had an AC problem in the back of the dining room. We told the waiter, and the said they would check into it. Nothing happened. At the end of the meal, we met the Head Waiter for the section we told him. The next day, same thing. I went to the assistant Matre'd. He said he would make a call. He called someone and said they would check into it. I knew this was not going to work. I told the Matre'd and he immediately got on the phone and showed urgency. With in five minutes, the Matre'd was at our table with one of the ship maintenance folks measuring the temperature. They noticed the problem and it was fixed by the next meal. Carnival needs to learn from their sister company Holland America about taking ownership of concerns at any level. Carnival still needs to improve their drink service. Very slow and inconsistent.
Cucina de Capitano is pretty good. It is free to eat at during lunch. They have a pasta bar where they will serve you your custom pasta order. Not bad. The Alfredo was not very good. The other pastas were much better. Lots of bouncing from the basketball court above it during lunch. Assume dinner would be quieter. It is only 12$ if I remember right for dinner here. Lots of people took advantage of it.
Fahrenheit 555 steak house is the traditional steakhouse on all of the Carnival ships. Excellent service and even better steaks and lobster. This will book up fast. Book online prior to going. We ate their twice and enjoyed both times. Amazing fillets.
I am not a Sushi fan, but the Sushi bar was very well decorated and lots of people took advantage of it. There seemed to be lots of choices.
Overall, dining is nice as expected. The definite pluses include Guy's and the improved lido deck.
The entertainment staff did pretty good. They all get involved in the ship activities. "Butch" did a good job as Cruise Director. They do not have a live orchestra on this ship. All of the stage music is canned. They do have a band and a few soloist acts for the bars/clubs. The new 30 minute productions are attempts to do something different. I personally was disappointed with this approach. The production shows in the past with the live band is much more entertaining. Every show on this ship reminded me of the first American Idol songs during the last weeks where the ensemble gets together to sing a cheesy song. You have six to eight decent singers signing together with different styles. It sounds really bad. Painful at times. The shows are a nice attempt to do something different, but fail in my mind. 30 minute show is very short.
When the singers break up into solos outside of the Ovation Theater, they seem to stand out better.
No more "looking good.... Feeling good"....
Casino was nice. Still wish we could get the smoking out of there. Since it is a more open deck plan, it is not as smoky as you get on other cruise ships.
Bingo is really underplayed compared to other ships.
The shopping is standard. The "Cherry on Top" candy store is a wonderful plus. Nice job Carnival.
Lots of family and sporting activities around the ship. The kids will love the water slides and play area.
Carnival does a great job with the comedy shows. You will need to be there early to get a seat. The shows fill up!
We did not take advantage of the Spa, but the two level concept looked beautiful. The inside spa pool seemed to be a nice treat for those accessing the Spa. I think the Spa cabins had access to it also.
Ben, the piano guy, was the best piano bar player we have ever seen. He was interactive and fun. He made each performance fun for the audience. He involved kids during his early shows. He could of taken up even more room because of his popularity. My folks, "the pirates," were there every night before dinner.
The whole reason we booked this cruise is to see the wide range of stops for a cruise. Each stop has a wide variety of standard excursions. Lots of options. Here are a few comments in regards to the stops.
This small island is great for all cruisers. One can simply get off the ship and hangout in the pools of Margaritaville. They offer some nice food options, and even better, excellent drinks. You can also spend some time on the nice sandy shores of the beach right next to the ship. You can spend money buying an excursion, but I would recommend saving money for the other islands.
This stop is very limiting for those who want to just get off the ship. You can take a bus in town, but you are not going to find the Caribbean feel shopping you get on the other islands. I recommend staying on the ship or taking one of the excursions. Some nice history and caverns on this very large shared island.
Simply beautiful. If you want to walk off and explore, it is safe to do so. If you want to take a nice excursion, there are some great options here. The swing bridge is really cool. Beautiful sea side restaurants in this port.
Another great stop with great options. Just like Curaçao. Snorkeling or diving at the old German ship wreck is really cool. It can get crowded. The surf can be a little tough. A great opportunity to see some sunken history.
Be sure to check out the BBQ on the outside of deck five. Nice treat for "c- days." The ship offers plenty of activities. The Hasbro game show is actually a great idea. Very fun! Excellent "dive-in movies" with popcorn! Yes, free popcorn! Red Frog Pub needed to serve food. The 4-d movie had a cost of $7.95.
Debarkation was organized and was a "breeze." There was very little hurry up and wait. Many people chose to walk off self assisted. No issues there. We were in group 2 due to our Platinum status. The have baggage folks to help you with bags. Customs was quick. They have dogs checking bags as you walk off the ship, so don't be naughty. We had a 12:40 flight, and we got to the airport via $25 taxi at 8:02 am. Don't worry early flight folks. Early flight folks have priority on debarkation too.
This was not the most memorable trip for us, but it has a great unique mix of the Caribbean. The ship is classy and offers lots of options. A great ship for families. If an adults only trip, I would not completely recommend this ship. I recommend the itinerary. The missing adults only pool and solarium area was something we really missed on this cruise.