For background, I sailed with my husband and 6 1/2 year old daughter. This was our 4th cruise, 2nd on Carnival.
Last time we cruised on Carnival we had great food and really enjoyed the experience so we were looking forward to trying them again. Our last cruise on Norwegian Jewel was okay, not great.
Embarkation: What everyone before has said is true, the embarkation process in Seattle is very smoothe. We stayed in Seattle for 3 days to explore, but we actually stayed in a hotel near the airport and used Shuttle Express for our transportation to the pier. They were really great to work with. We arrived at the port around 11 and we only had to wait a short time after going through security before we could board the ship. We went up to the enclosed pool area and had lunch at the outdoor grill which had the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. It was actually pretty good food. They had said rooms would be ready around 1. We were waiting to hear an announcement that the rooms were ready but we never did so we just went down and were able to access our room. It was ready and our luggage arrived shortly after, as well as the birthday cake I had ordered for my husband.
Room: We had an extended balcony room on the 8th deck. The room was nice, no complaints there. We found it to be very clean and well-attended to the entire time. Our room attendant, Sofyan, was excellent. I asked if we could get some extra clothes hangers on the first day and when we returned to our room he had left us a bunch of plastic hangers, more than we needed, so it was great! We also had trouble with our room safe and asked for help and I couldn't believe how quickly someone responded and got it straightened out.
Shows/entertainment: I liked the cruise director, Troy, and the assistant, Lewis. I usually participate in the trivia and other games around the ship if nothing else is going on. These were typical and they were fun, and there were some hosts who had fun with it. The girl who usually did the trivias was nice enough but seemed like she wanted to be anywhere but there and had zero personality. One day she asked a question and instead of FAA she said FFA. One of the guests asked if she meant FAA and she snapped back "I've been working since 8:00 this morning!" and it was only 5:00 PM. I get that they probably deal with some pain in the butt guests, but that is their job! There was another young woman who also hosted some of the game shows and she was awesome, complete opposite. She was really having fun with her job and interacted well with the guests.
They had 3 major shows which were worth seeing, and the Beatles show was really good, I think it was the best I have seen on a ship. The comedians were good too. The comedy shows in Mad Hatter are always packed so you need to be sure you are there early enough to get a good seat. Other highlights were the beanbag toss tournaments in the lobby and the Music Unlimited band which often played in Frankie and Johnny's lounge.
Public areas: I really liked the decor on this ship. The atrium is beautiful and the Mad Hatter's Ball and Frankenstein's Lab were really cute. Frankie and Johnny's was very well-decorated as well and a nice place to sit for a drink. Gatsby's Garden is a great place to sit and get away from the crowds if you want some quiet time.
One thing I noticed is that they have no garbage cans anywhere in the public areas of this ship. It was all kept very clean so I think they expect people to leave their trash and they will pick it up, but I always felt bad doing this.
Camp Carnival:***if you have kids please read this** My daughter has participated in the kid's clubs on the previous two Norwegian ships that we have been on and she always had a great time so she was eager to go to this one. We went up on the first day to check it out and she really liked the space. They provided us with a copy of the schedule for the week and it all looked really fun. The security is great in that area, with a locked gate that is equipped with an alarm that goes off when it is open, as well as cameras throughout the area which project onto a tv screen in the hall, so parents can always see their kids on there. I felt very secure leaving my child there. The counselors also seemed very nice. My daughter went at least a couple hours most days when we were not on shore excursions or in the pool.
On the schedule for the week that they gave us it stated there would be a kids talent show in Mad Hatter on the last day for parents to come watch. On Norwegian they always organize some type of little show for the kids to be in and on the last one it was a kids circus and they gave each kid some little task to do and worked on it all week. That was the highlight of my daughter's week on that ship. So when I saw this listed I thought it was the same thing. My daughter kept telling me that she was practicing a dance with another little girl that they were going to do in the talent show and she was very excited about it. So that Monday they had a lot of activities for the kids that morning in Frankenstein's Lab. I took my daughter in to sign her in and I asked the counselor about the time of the talent show just to be sure i have it right and she said "well, they have to have a real talent to participate, like if they are going to sing they have to be able to sing the whole song"...apparently they needed to "try out" and be approved before being able to participate. My daughter said "but I'm doing my dance?" and the counselor said "oh yeah, I know she has been practicing with (other child's name) but it's not up to par for the talent show"....my daughter burst into tears. She was so upset. I tried to calm her by explaining that we could go watch but she kept saying "but I've been practicing". I was so upset and was about to cry myself looking at her sad little face. I just looked at the counselor and said "forget it, she's not staying". I was very upset about this because it was not communicated at all. They presented it like it was a typical kids production. Perhaps if you have sailed with kids on Carnival before then you would know this, but having been only involved with kids clubs on Norwegian I was not aware, and my child was practicing every day thinking she would be in this show. I'm so not one of those parents who thinks every kid should get a trophy, I'm quite the opposite usually, but I think this needs to be communicated better at the beginning of the week to prevent any upset. I assured her that if we cruise Carnival again I will make sure she has a dance routine all ready. But really, it's vacation and little kids....give them something to do that they can all participate in!
Ports: Tracy Arm Fjord = unbelievable! Loved this, it was spectacular. You couldn't take your eyes away! Even though we had a balcony room we viewed most of this from up on deck 10 by the mini golf on the front of the ship.
Skagway: We did the Yukon Jeep Excursion which goes into the Yukon/Northwest Territory in Canada. This was so much fun! The views were breathtaking and then before we headed back to the US they took us off-roading to this Jeep course that they have set up. It was a total blast! Our guide was very good and had some really interesting info about the area. We got back with plenty of time to eat and shop. We had lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company and it was okay, but not that great. I was kind of wishing we would have tried the Red Onion. Then we shopped and had some candy at Alaska Fudge Company. It's such a cute town!
Juneau: My husband did the Fly Fishing excursion here. They flew him out about 15 minutes away in a float plane and he loved it! He has experience fly-fishing. He said it was like a carpet of salmon and his wrist was hurting from casting and reeling. It was catch and release and he caught about 30 salmon. He was wishing he could have stayed there all week! I took my daughter and went into town to shop, which we were docked right in the town so it's really not much of a walk. They have a lot of shops here, typically touristy, but fun to look around and we bought a few things.
Ketchikan: So as tacky as it sounds the first thing we did was hop on one of the shuttle vans they have that go to Walmart. The only reason we did this was because the Walmart in this town happens to be on Don King Road and that is my husband's name so we wanted the photo op :-) After that we shopped. This is probably the best place for souvenirs, really good prices. It would have been great to spend more time there, but we had fun anyway.
Victoria, B.C.: Getting off the boat for this port was a nightmare! Not all Carnival's fault, but never-the-less, they could definitely have organized it better. They set it all up in the lobby and people congregated there even though they told them not to. I was over to the side watching this and I couldn't believe they didn't do anything to try and control the mob. After a while people started forming an actual line and then it calmed down, and then the assistant cruise director announced that the line would actually be in the casino so all of these people had to move. It didn't matter that much to me but it sure did make a lot of the other people angry! A guy who was next to me in the line was telling "Crazy Chris", one of the cruise personalities, about how unfair it was and all Chris said was "well you should have just cut in line like everyone else did". I actually liked Chris, and I didn't think it was all their fault, I'm sure they were frustrated with the passengers. After we got off the boat, I thought this was a beautiful place and would love to visit again for more time. We had dinner at a great restaurant on the water called Milestones. After that we took a bicycle taxi back to the ship and the guy took us through some different sections of town and had a lot of stories and history for us. It was a great way to end the week!
Food: Let's start with the good, which was very little. The pizza is good, the grill outside is not bad, and the breakfast in the dining room is pretty good, as well as the one day with the punchliners comedy brunch. That is where it ends, in our opinion anyway, and we are not picky eaters!
We don't do the buffet at all, we never do, because having all of those people around the food totally grosses me out. But we usually will go through there a couple of times to see what they have. First, this buffet is very sparse, it didn't seem like a lot of options, but I will defer to people who actually ate there because I'm only stating what I observed from walking around.
The service in the dining room was good, very nice wait staff, however, the food was terrible. The bread and butter were good, that is where it stopped. They served Maine lobster one night, and maybe it's because we live in Maine that we're used to fresh lobster, but it was dried out and it tasted really weird. The shrimp cocktail looked like shrimp that you would buy on a ring at the grocery store. Everything was very bland, no seasoning. One night my husband got split roast chicken and it wasn't bad. That was the best thing that either of us ordered the entire time. But all that aside, I can deal with it if the sweets are good. Unfortunately that was not the case. The dessert was the absolute worst! The cheesecake was not even real cheesecake. We ordered New York Cheesecake from room service one day and I'm not sure if mine was spoiled or if it was supposed to taste that way, but either way it was non-edible. You can't go wrong with the ice cream. Also, the Fountainhead cafe makes wonderful milkshakes for $3.95 and they also sell carrot cake and chocolate cake which I didn't try but they always sold out fast.
Debarkation: Smoothest I've ever had. We checked our bags and were off the boat by 9. They are really good and organized with this.
That's it. We had a really great time overall and the bad food didn't bother us because we just had a big breakfast and we ate off the ship when we could. The most upsetting thing to me the entire time was the whole snafu with the Kid's show, but between the arcade and the enclosed pool she had a great time too!