First the good points.
The cabin was very comfortable and spacious. The bathroom was well appointed and very clean, well stocked with towels and other necessities.
The staff were very helpful, chatty and friendly. The lady hostesses on deck 3 of Truffles Restaurant were invariably happy, smiling and very positive. The cabin steward was equally so. Our cabin was kept very clean and tidy.
The shows in the theater were also of high quality and reflected high professional standards. There were three shows by the resident staff which would have drawn audiences in London's West End - particularly the magic show on the final night. The other entertainers were varied and professional with a good range of different talents.
Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled professionally efficiently and cleanly - it was expected that everyone would be off the ship by 8.30 am.
So what was not to like?
The weather for the first part of the cruise was particularly bad but that of course was not under Carnival's control. However, the itinerary was completely redrafted on the first day because of, it was explained, the prospect of severe weather conditions in the North Sea particularly around Norway. All ports were rearranged in a different order except for Le Havre which remained the final port on the last full sea day. Belfast was dropped completely from the schedule. Instead the ship went to Liverpool. Liverpool is a nice city with lots to offer but it is not Belfast and it was clear that a lot of passengers had things booked in Belfast - including myself - which needed to be cancelled at short notice. That was a major disappointment. We were given no real explanation as to why Belfast was dropped. It was clear in talking to other passengers that we were not alone in failing to understand why it was possible to visit Liverpool and not Belfast given the short distance between the two.
Carnival's clientele is predominantly North American and the menu in the main restaurant tends to reflect the American palette. Thus as a Brit some things were unfamiliar to me and the waiters were not always well versed on the nature and make up of individual dishes. Additionally, most main meals were overcooked even according to US standards. To be different one night we chose not to eat in the restaurant but, instead, went upstairs to the Lido Cafe. It was quickly clear that the Lido was not seen as an alternative to the restaurant there was very little on offer, mainly some salad items, a pizza and that was about it. In the morning and at lunchtime the Lido had a full range of items but not so in the evening.
All excursions were very expensive. To give one simple example; the ship docked at Queensferry for Edinburgh. The cost of a shuttle bus booked through the ship to go into Edinburgh was $59.99 (40.00). However, a private bus company freely available on the quay was offering a return ticket on a coach for 10.00 a discount of 300%. Equally, the return train fare from Greenock to Glasgow was 7.50 each the ship cost of transport was again $59.99 (40.00)the station was about a fifteen minute walk from the ship. We were not advised of the existence of any of these alternative facilities at any of the ports which we visited.
Whilst the entertainment in the theater was very good the same was not true around the rest of the ship. That is not to say that the people who were performing were poor, the problem was with the locations in which they were required to perform which often appeared inappropriate. Thus one group performed fifties/sixties music and people wanted to dance but the location was also the direct access to the restaurant and the front of the ship, a constant procession of other passengers made dancing very difficult. Additionally, after about 11.00 pm there was virtually nothing available around the ship apart from the casino - which did a roaring trade both day and night - we did go to the disco a few times but there were few others (perhaps a dozen in total) in attendance.
Finally, I and my wife found the humor of the cruise director decidedly unfunny and sometimes even bizarre. I understand he has a considerable following but after meeting him in person I fail to understand why. There was one incident in which one North American passenger was encouraged to engage in a caricature of the Scots which I thought was decidedly in bad taste.
Would I cruise with carnival again? I think not. I have tried to make this a balanced review; we met some very nice people with interesting tales to tell and it has to be recognized that humor and food are often very personal. The cruise had some very positive aspects but the poor was decidedly very poor and coloured the whole experience; so, no, I would not travel with Carnival again.
Dublin is a very lively place packed with interesting history and people. The main attraction is the night live in the various pubs however for that we would need an overnight stay which we did not have. Again the hop on hop off bus service was very good and reasonably priced.
There is a hop on hop off bus service in Liverpool with a live commentary (not a recording with earphones) and our guide was very funny. However, there is not a lot to do or see in Liverpool unless you are a Beatles fan and even then it is limited. Retail shopping is the main attraction. It rained for most of the day.