This was a my 18th cruise. It was a short (4 night) family cruise to the Bahamas, with stops in Nassau and Half Moon Cay (private island). I'll say up front that I did not choose the cruise. That being said, this is the worst ship I have cruised on (I have been on a newer Carnival ship, and that was much better). There were a few good features, but my review addresses the minuses first. Definitely do not do anything more than a very short cruise on this ship.
We arrived on Thursday evening from California for a Friday departure. We flew into Orlando, rented a car with Budget, and drove to the Radisson Resort at the Port. The cost of the car was only slightly more than a shuttle for 2 people would have cost, and we wanted the flexibility of doing some personal shopping before the cruise. The room was great --relatively small, but had wonderful beds/bedding, a 6 cft fridge, and a microwave. The hotel pool was wonderful, and the breakfast buffet was good as well. Across the street is a great Sushi restaurant (Thai Thai, and yes, they also do Thai food, but we liked the sushi better -- so much so that we came back for take-out on the way home). Budget was just a minute or two up the street (there is a gas station right near-by as well), and they provide on-going shuttle service to the Port, which made returning the car and getting to the ship a breeze. The distance to the Port is less than 10 minutes. I would definitely do this combination of hotel and rental car service again. Other rental car locations are a little further away, but also provide shuttle service. The Radisson also provides shuttle service (we saw them provide four large shuttles at one time for a large group). Both the hotel and the rental car companies provide pick-up service as well. There was also a liquor store a couple of blocks from Budget, and an "everything-for-the-beach store a block or so from the hotel.
The cabin was very small; with the 2-twin bed configuration, there was only room for one night stand between the beds; the other one ended up under the (also very small) desk/vanity area. The only seating options were 1 chair and the stool for the desk/vanity. Storage was very limited in both the bathroom and the cabin, and there was no mini-bar or hair dryer (my first cruise ever without those). The non-shower part of the bathroom was designed to drain to a corner drain, but the floor had subsided enough that when the floor got wet (towels/hand laundry), the water just pooled in the middle. The bathroom did not have a fan. There was also a lack of information -- no guide to tell you how to work the phone to call other cabins, operate the air conditioning (a knob in the fan in the ceiling) provide an overview of the restaurants, or even a card with the cabin steward's name and hours. I scheduled a wake-up call from the room phone on three separate occasions, following the instructions each time and getting confirmation each time, yet I never receive a wake-up call.
The water on the ship had by far the worst taste/smell I have ever encountered. In our cabin, it alternated between extremely heavily chlorinated and a sulfur odor. In the Lido and Wind Song and Wind Star dining rooms you had to add juice or something to your ice water to cover up the extreme chlorine flavor. I had brought a lot of bottled water on board with me, and I was very glad I did so.
My sister had an inside cabin, and it stank (mold/sewage combination). The staff tried to get rid of the odor using the ozone machine, but it made very little difference.
While the major public areas are attractive and well-kept, the ship is old and it shows. There is worn and/or flaking paint everywhere in the cabin and "hidden" public areas (e.g., public bathrooms), and also a fair amount of corrosion. I attribute the odor in my sister's room and the taste of the water to the age of the ship as well. There were constant repairs going on -- I know that maintenance is an on-going activity, but it was much more obtrusively the case on this ship.
There is only one pool location, and on the sea day it was basically a sardine can.
The food was merely adequate. There were usually one or two really good items, but overall it was uninspired/basic -- very limited selection, especially at breakfast, and uninteresting enough at dinner that I defaulted to the "always-on-the-menu" flank steak one night, and skipped dinner entirely another night (out of 4 nights!). Lobster on 'elegant night' was very good. The Mongolian grill was really best option at lunch, and sometimes the geographically-themed food at lunch was good as well. I was unimpressed with the food on Carnival on my last cruise with them (2007), and it was definitely not any better this time around.
In addition to the staff, there were a few positive notes with regard to the ship, etc.:
1. Embarcation was a breeze. We got there around noon, and were on the ship in less than 20 minutes. The gentleman doing our paperwork was terrific: competent and very friendly.
2. Waterpark area: This was a great area for kids, and my 6-year-old nephew loved it. There were a fair number of adults having fun as well, and it's a great place to hang out during port days (like other areas, it gets pretty crowded on sea days). I enjoyed the waterslides and other water features, too. We stayed here in preference to the pool.
3. Stripes Nightclub: I appreciated that the music started pretty early (10 pm), and the space is laid out very well -- plenty of seating and dance space, and good access to the bar. It just flows. The DJ did a great job getting and keeping people dancing.
4. Our cabin (M198) was right by the aft elevator, but was still quiet.
The best part of the cruise was the staff. With only two minor exceptions, everyone was very friendly and helpful, and really did their best to make the cruise a great experience. In particular, we worked with the dining room staff to figure out a way to accommodate a group of 14 at one table (they created a slightly crowded table for nominally 12 people, by adding a table for 2 to a table for 10). The matre d' and waiters really made it work. Waiters in the pool area were present/helpful but not obnoxious. The shore excursion staff and guest services were also helpful and friendly. I wish for all of them that they could have a ship that is as good as they are.
We had scheduled a shore excursion, a 10 a.m. snorkel at Half Moon Cay, and were not informed that it had been cancelled (due to choppy seas) till we got to Half Moon Cay. Because the trip was scheduled as soon as feasible after the ship arrived, we had to get up early to get tender tickets -- in other words, we had to get up around 8 to get tender tickets for an excursion that didn't happen. At the very least, they should have informed us about the cancellation when we went to get our tender tickets. We could have gone back to sleep then.
Half Moon Cay is enjoyable even without a shore excursion -- it has absolutely amazingly soft sand and crystal clear water, and renting one of the shade structures was totally worth it -- it was HOT. Consider bringing your own cheap floats if you are traveling with children, rather than renting them there at high price.
We did not schedule a shore excursion in Nassau, just ended up going ashore for a bit of shopping late in the day. It was also a very overcast day, but luckily it did not rain. We had a great day in the waterpark area instead (see above). Shopping near the port in Nassau is very easy, and you get a full range from the relatively cheap Straw Market to the very high end stores. Shops are within a few blocks of the port.
My nephew had fun in the children's program, but it was pretty disorganized.
Overall, for the price, I did not feel that I go my money's worth. This cruise, in spite of the wonderful staff, cemented my decision to avoid cruising with Carnival in the future.
Disembarcation went relatively well, although there was a fairly long wait to get through passport control. We also rented a car with Budget after the cruise, because our return flight was not till the evening. It took about 30 minutes for the shuttle to arrive (they do constant round-trips), which was longer than we had expected. You could also take a cab to the rental car location for about $15; I'll do that next time. At the recommendation of the car rental staff we went to Lori Wilson State Park (a beach park) -- it has outdoor showers and restrooms, although the restrooms are definitely not suitable for changing. Getting some sun and playing the surf was a nice way to end our trip; for party-types, there are also sections of beach with bars, etc. That was not what we were looking for.