FOOD We were pleasantly surprised by the food in both the main dining room and the buffet. We've cruised Royal Caribbean lately and found Carnival's eats much better, especially the meat quality. There are always a few exceptions and it continues to be a challenge for cruise ships to get hot food to the guest consistently "still hot", but other than that, we were very pleased.
Many guests seem to miss the "Rotisserie" in between the Mongolian Wok and the burger grill. Every day they carved hot meat such as ham, beef or even lamb and every time we tried it, we liked it. The rotisserie chicken was moist and tasty. If you're an omelet fan, the fresh made-to-order ones were good, as were the Wok made-to-order dishes with beef, chicken and your choices of veggies. The Wok line can be long, so plan on a wait.
We skipped the late-nite Mexican buffet (not our thing) but liked the early afternoon chocolate buffet. Throughout the cruise, many elaborate layered cakes and tortes were a treat, some moreso than others. At the buffet, you can sample small pieces to avoid calorie overload. More Sugar-free options would have been nice, and the ones they had were sometimes a bit drier and had less taste. In the main dining room, plenty of fresh fruit options are offered both as your starter or as dessert.
We had "my time" dining for the first time and must say we loved it. We met more people this way and because the number of guests wasn't as huge as on bigger ships, we usually ran into those folks again later. Plus the flexibility of changing the time you eat dinner is so nice, as you can gear it around your day's activities and the p.m. show schedule.
On the last morning, the cruise director said the forward elevators would be shut down so take the midship or aft ones to breakfast in Celebration. Well, when we did that the "back entry" Celebration sign said to go around to the "front" so we had to sneak through the curtain and approach the waiter stand from behind. They should correct this.
SHOWS While they're not great, we'd still say to take in both major shows -- The Brits (60s-80s music out of England) & Motor City (Motown). The performers are talented as dancers, although the choreographer could have "changed it up" a bit more, especially in The Brits. The Motor City show cried out for some true Motown dancing by 5 guys in a row! Strong impressive singing voices were sadly lacking in both shows. But we admired the high-energy, colorful costuming and A for effort. We thought both comedians were so-so but we'd recommend going anyway; the female repeated most of her jokes when she did a 2nd show that we were told would be different. But at least both kept it clean for the family shows, which we appreciate.
The new Hasbro show is worth a look-see; it gets a bit too drawn out with all the hype and applause but Hasbro has come up with huge versions of popular games with a twist - at least Carnival has tried something new. Bingo and the newlywed type game and others are coming across as overused. The talent show done by guests did not really have that many performers & on our cruise nobody wowed - it too was drawn out with hype and the emcee's pleas for applause/yelling.
ACTIVITIES AND OTHER COMMENTS: Yes, the one pool is small and yes, the lounge chairs around it -as well as the 2 hot tubs -- get filled up by late morning/early afternoon. However, get up a bit earlier (you can always take an afternoon nap!) and you will be sharing the entire area with 25 people or less - lovely! This worked for us 2-3 days.
We're in our early 60s and many we spoke to in our age group would love it if Carnival would turn down the music volume a bit on the Lido deck - and perhaps play a bit more variety to accommodate the fact that you really ARE carrying guests of varying ages and tastes. It's really not fair that we feel we have to put up with it just to watch the ice sculptor or find a spot to escape to - we paid for this cruise too.
A hint for a fun day in Nassau: you can take a City Bus # 10 to the Sheraton Resort for $1.25 each and pay the resort $30/day per person to use their great complex of pools, nice beach and the use of float mats, kayaks, standup paddle boards, peddleboats and snorkel gear. You have to walk a few blocks from the cruise dock to catch the bus (and then back again later) but it was worth it. Ask locals where to stand to get the bus. Even with a mid-day 2-hour heavy rain, we still had fun and felt it was a good deal. (This is not through Carnival).
Your port of Charleston has many things to see, especially if you enjoy history and a variety of architecture and English gardens. It's big on Southern charm. Take the Grayline air conditioned van tour of the city for $20 each from the Visitor Center for a good overview. Then ride the free trolleys which also leave from the Visitor Center. One can take you easily to their famous Marketplace. You can even swim at Isle of Palms or Sullivan parks nearby. Parking at the port was indoors for $17 a day and worked out well.