This was the second cruise my wife and I enjoyed. The previous was 3 years ago on the Norwegian Gem from Venice on the Eastern Med Route. Again we booked a stateroom with balcony and would always recommend anybody to spend the extra money for the relative luxury of watching the views from your room as you leave a port or travel along the coast.
On arrival at Barcelona airport on Friday morning, we had no trouble in jumping into a taxi. Having done some homework, I realised it was much cheaper than using Carnival's transfer. I was also expecting a charge of under €30 even allowing for carrying 3 bags. I was shocked when the driver said it would be between 35 and 37, depending on the meter.. He kept emphasising the meter. On arrival at the terminal he added on three extra charges bringing the total to 37.75 on the meter. The first two of over €4 each were for the port and airport. When I queried the 3rd charge of €9, he lost all ability to speak English. I insisted on a receipt and he wrote one from a basic receipt book. I kept arguing and demanded his licence and taxi number. He eventually gave me an official receipt from his machine but had removed the €9 euro charge.
I paid him the reduced amount in a hurry. Beware of this scam. By the way, there were lots of Carnival workers close by. So at no time did I feel intimidated.
The reason I paid him in a hurry was that the carnival staff were so efficient, that they had already removed our bags from the taxi and sent them down the conveyor into the terminal. I quickly had to retrieve my hand luggage. While waiting in the terminal I learned that you can bring one bottle each onboard. So we purchased a litre of rum and a prosecco which we enjoyed in our room. We were on board in less than a half hour. Well done Carnival.
We knew the room or luggage would not be ready until the afternoon, so no problem. We made use of the time.
The room and room service was excellent throughout.
The holiday was hectic because of all the interesting ports and only one sea day. We are not used to rising early when on holiday, but some tours started before 8.00 am. This meant that we had to curtail our drinking at night. We got good value on our tours by using an onshore excursion company for the 8 hour tours and Carnival for the shorter ones. The highlight of the tours was a 5 hour tour to Mt. Etna. This was made so special by the tour guide Salvatore, who entertained us with his wit throughout. Unfortunately you don't
get to chose your guide. One criticism of the excursions to the cities is that there is never enough time to see all, and you mostly get an appreciation only of the major attractions. For instance, on the Rome trip,it was either entry into the collisium or the Sistene Chapel, but not both.. Ditto Florence. But maybe that was due to the tours we picked. Either way we were culture drunk by the end of the cruise and probably would not have been able to cope with more intensive tours.
The food choice was good for dinners. One criticism already mentioned by other critics is their inability to serve meals piping hot. On three occasions in the Sunrise dining room, the dinner was lukewarm (but not cold enough to return). We sampled the JiJi special on 2 occasions and couldn't find fault.
For breakfast,I found the omelette to be far more appetising than the scrambled egg, which looked revolting. The bacon also left a lot to be desired. Otherwise there were lots of decent choices.
We sampled Guys burger and found it to be heavy and greasy and wondered why everybody was raving about them.
We were never notified until onboard that there would be an extra 10% tax on all purchases including drink. This was due to the fact that Barcelona was our port of embarkation.
We found the entertainment did not compare favourably with our previous experience on the Norwegian Gem but having read other criticisms we were not expecting much.
We finished the cruise by going on an 8 hour tour of Barcelona. This helped to bridge the gap until our flight which was not leaving for Ireland until 22.35. The subsequent wait in the airport was the lowlight of the holiday.
Overall we found the cruise to be great value, the weather fantastic, the ports interesting, the staff helpful, embarkation, tours and disembarkation all run very efficiently.