This was only our second cruise with Carnival, the first being 10 years ago on a 4-nt. Fascination cruise. We've sailed many times on most of the other lines - HAL, RCCL, Princess, Celebrity - and were a bit apprehensive of this cruise based on some of the negative publicity of Carnival recently.
Well, now we know why it's labeled "The Fun Ship"! We loved this trip, even though the crossing over and back was about as rough as anything we've ever encountered. Not the ship's fault that horrendous storms were bashing Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, sending 58 mph winds our way, even though we were 300 miles south of the storm. Out of 9 sea days, only 3 were really nice days up on the decks. Most of the time, the decks were closed off due to the high winds. And STILL we had a great time. Says something about this ship and crew.
Pros: (1) loved the Vegas Caesar's Palace theme, the vibrant colors throughout, the details, the faux artwork - always something to look at, never boring (the Solstice was boring beige). I know some find it gaudy, but we found it fun and exciting. The ship looked sparkling clean with very little wear.
(2) The crew was fantastic, down to the last man (and woman). I've never seen a lido buffet staffed as well as this, with someone cleaning away your plate the second you'd finished. No dirty plates on empty tables found here - this staff was just exceptional. The cruise director, Troy, and his assistant, Lewis, were terrific - fun, funny, and energetic, but not too "in your face." The Captain, Vito, was great about keeping everyone informed of the weather situations and was seen talking to people throughout the ship during the day. Main dining room staff were exceptional - loved the little "shows" they did each night too. Our room steward was like an invisible stalker - seemed somehow to know exactly when we were out of our room and it was ALWAYS perfectly made up when we returned.
(3)We really liked the food, both in the lido and the main dining room. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the lido, all dinners in the Bacchus dining room. We had anytime dining, there were 4 of us, and the longest wait we ever had was 15 minutes. Most of the time we were seated right away, and we usually went there between 6:30 and 7:00. There were so many beef dishes that I actually chose mahi over prime rib the last night! Our food was nearly always hot, and service was prompt.
(4)Entertainment was excellent and varied. I don't understand the complaints about the lack of live music. We had a big show band that was terrific, a great 4-piece band, Music Unlimited, that played at Frankie and Johnnie's (extremely talented), a Hawaiian singer with a ukelele who performed in the Atrium and the casino, and a singer/guitarist also in the same venues. And don't forget Justin at the piano bar. I loved that Carnival brought on a performing group the night we were in Maui for a Hawaiian Spectacular - it was nearly as good as what we saw at a luau in Honolulu - very talented performers, beautiful costumes, overall a great show that lasted close to an hour. LOVED the big revue shows, especially "Ticket to Ride" - outstanding! Most of the headliners were also terrific - comic jugglers, ventriloquist, comic magician, etc.
(5) The itinerary was wonderful - just wish we could have stayed longer in Kauai. There was a naturalist onboard on the way over who gave daily talks about Hawaii and its history, and one day there were hula lessons in the atrium.
Cons: (1) I really didn't like the heavy balcony doors in the cabins - they took up too much space when they were opened, and you couldn't prop them open, making it impossible to hear if someone had come to the door or if the phone was ringing. Sliders would have made much more sense.
(2) The Serenity area was anything but - crowded, noisy, difficult to find a place to sit unless you got there at the crack of dawn. I felt like it was people on top of people and much preferred the open decks on 10 where you could have some peace.
(3)The ship felt crowded - many times we couldn't find anyplace for the 4 of us to sit and play a game of cards. Some of this may have been due to the bad weather forcing people inside, but it became a game of hunt and grab a chair.
(4) Not any fault at all of Carnival's, but the number of really grossly, morbidly obese people on scooters on this sailing was unbelievable. It was really sad to see the number of young people who were in this shape - I've really never seen anything like it.
(5) Comedians in the Comedy Club were mostly awful, just lame and not funny at all. We've had much funnier stewards on Southwest Airlines!
(5) Debarkation in Long Beach was bad - we docked over an hour early (before 8) and we still didn't get off the ship until nearly 11 AM. Some said it was due to the high number of Platinum and Diamond cruisers on this sailing (who got off first). I don't know if the mess was caused by Carnival or the pier itself, but it wasn't good.
But overall, it was simply a terrific cruise that I'd do again without hesitation and kudos to Carnival for providing such wonderful value for the money spent. The little things that we didn't like were far outweighed by the many things that we did like. I think I've just become a Carnival cheerleader!