I live 11 miles from the port but never had the urge to travel on Carnival
until DW and friend did the 7 day cruise in May 13. They came home with RAVE reviews, and believe me , they can be "picky". When DW was going to be away from 2-12 Sept, I decided to see what was available for a B2B SOLO cruiser in an inside cabin on lowest deck. I was determined to do my own booking. At first try there were NO solo rates for that time frame but I kept trying and one morning there it was; single rate with military OBC for the first 5 days in the lowest category and single rate in nice double room ,king size bed on main deck for the 2nd 5 days. I qualify for FLA resident,Military ret, over 55, and previous cruiser discounts. I also own over 100 shares of Carnival stock so got $50 OBC for each 5 days. Then I applied for a Carnival MasterCharge credit card and got another $50 discount for that. ANYWAY my total cost was less than $700. for the 10 day cruise.
Luggage consisted of a suit bag and medium sized Duffle for everything else ,
no checked luggage to worry about. Neighbor gave me ride to port. Got there at 10am. TOO early, had to wait almost 15 min (LOL) before they let me in to check in (already had pre check in paperwork done) Security and checkin personnel were ALL very nice and they seated me up front just behind the VIP's
so I was aboard at 11AM and room was ready so I dumped bags and began to explore the ship.
First negative.. Although the ship is clean and nice looking, the builder and ship designer must have been on drugs. I like the size of the ship but it's layout is a mess. The atrium is pleasant to look at as are the ladies at the Guest Relations desk. but most accesses are confusing and deck plans that they handout don't help. Maybe because I'm used to Aircraft Carriers where everything is straight forward, and HAL ships of this size are easy to navigate with the exception of the "over or under" detour to get around the Kitchens deck.
Back to POSITIVE, Crew members are stationed at the elevators and staircases dressed in bright RED t shirts with "JUST ASK" printed on them during the entire boarding hours. Very helpful to newbies.
The LIDO lunch lines were open promptly at 1130 and food was not bad but coffee was terrible. Other beverages were very good and the ICE CREAM machines were doing their job well. Must say...best soft ice cream I've had on a cruise ship. You must walk around and look or you will miss some of the options in the LIDO. The supervisors are there and will assist you. Plenty of seafood and other options to choose from. PIZZA AND sandwich deli ARE IN THE BACK (aft) BY THE WINDOWS. Pool is open but Hot Tubs are usually drained and cleaned thoroughly on change over day so will open later in the day.
DO NOT TRY TO SKIP the safety meeting! It's boring but necessary for your safety and it's the LAW. The ship leaves on time and the trip down the river and under the bridge is a "must see" Passing the Naval Base at Mayport at the mouth of the river is interesting but unfortunately if you have assigned searing at 6PM you will miss it.
They are pretty liberal on the dress code the first night but They will enforce it on the other nights. The Maitre de is always at the front door and willing to accommodate special requests if possible. Not everyone can have a window seat. Both dining rooms are the same Good food and service. I found it to be better than HAL. Caution; The Caesar salad and meatloaf are a disappointment that should be avoided. Lobster was excellent and properly cooked and served, want seconds just ask. Wait staff was super good. I was at different table with different staff for second 5 days
BY CHOICE just to be sure it was as good all over IT WAS.
Entertainment YUK The comedian is probably still waiting for a laugh.
The musicians were OK but not my style.
The CASINO was one of the best managed I've been in (A LOT) my cruising days They are well staffed with 40 dealers/tecks etc. Crap odds are double but there is the GREEDY electronic poker table which drags 15% up to $7. a pot. After an hour of play the only winner is the table. This is not the fault of ALEX, the manager. It is determined at headquarters. Slots and tables are the same as elsewhere.
Gratuities may be adjusted at front desk on THIRD day with no hassle.
Liquor prices in ships store are scandalous. Only ONE real bargain, it was a 2fer sail on Crown royal.
DISEMBARKION was very good went exactly as scheduled beginning at 8:30 for for people carrying their own baggage.
WORST THING.. The TAXI union, it cost me $40. to go the 11.3 miles home.
only one company and each driver must pay port $5. each thime they pick up a passenger.
0VERALL, a great 10 days and have booked 3 more cruises with DW. Will still do the loooong cruises on HAL