My husband & I booked the cruise several months back during a sale where we received an OBC, upgrades, and a good rate. We’ve never been on a Carnival ship, having been on Royal & NCL. We booked based on price, the Grand Turk port of call, and the fact that we could easily drive to the port. We drove down to Charleston on Saturday, checking into the Hampton Inn at Patriots Point around 3 PM. The hotel was in a good section of Mount Pleasant, right after the bridge. People were friendly, the room was clean and quiet. There was a Harris Teeter nearby to get wine & beer.
We had breakfast at the hotel and drove to our friends’ house, where they nicely volunteered to take us to the port. It was a very busy Sunday morning in downtown Charleston but found a great parking space. We walked through the market and through sections of downtown. Around noon, we went back to the car and took our bags to the port entrance. As people have pointed out, the port is lacking. It’s too small and is in dire need of renovation. They took our checked bags, and we wheeled a carry on (two bottles of wine included) and a beach bag to the bus, where we waited for around 10 minutes before they drove us to the terminal. We got off and stood in line for a while before going through security, then getting our sign and sail cards. We made our way up the ramp to the ship where we made our way to lunch. It took around 45 mins from the time we arrived at the port entrance to the time we got on the ship. We were able to put our bags in our room after 1:30. I asked our steward for wine glasses, and he was able to locate some before dinner when I reminded him again. We asked bartenders a few times for glasses during the course of the week, thinking that it would be easier, but they looked at us oddly before finally understanding. You would think people carry on wine and this wouldn’t be an odd request.
The food was decent, and we weren’t expecting a lot. The omelets I thought were quite good. The standouts for lunch were the deli and the stir-fry. Don’t waste your time on the desserts in the buffet, just go with the ice cream or frozen yogurt. Dinners seemed to get better as they went along. The offerings on the first two nights were so-so, but then I had great jerked pork loin, smoked duck appetizer, tom ka-gai, and lamb. The spicier the dish, the better it was. I wasn’t crazy about the chilled soups like other cruisers have been. The desserts were good, especially the chocolate melting cake & bitter and blanc.
As for public areas & activities, the Lido deck was way too loud for our tastes, so we sat on the Serenity Deck for the majority of the time to relax, nap, and read. The key is getting there earlier in the morning to find a good spot. The pool, as others have noted, is far too small. The hot tubs were very hot, but felt good at night. As others have mentioned, it would have been nice to have bands to listen to on the Lido instead of the DJs. Let’s be honest, the décor is tacky. The bars & casino in the via atrium area were far too smoky for us, so we didn’t stay in that area for long. The gym was big enough and had good equipment. We saw one comedian’s adult show (Dean Gaines) that was pretty funny. It was too windy for mini-golf every time we tried it. One of the best things we did was sign up for a roll call happy hour, where we met other cruisers. It’s a small ship, but the layout is easy to navigate. If you are into a lot of activities, I’m afraid you won’t find a wide variety on this ship.
Our service was fine. We always had fresh towels in our stateroom, and our steward always greeted us with a smile and acknowledgement in the hallways. The service in the main dining room was more prompt on some nights than others. The formal night was really slow, but that was to be expected. We opted for any time dining, so always had a different wait staff. The only time I had an issue with service was on Half Moon Cay, where I ordered a couple of beers and asked for an ice bucket. The bartender said they were only for buckets of beer. I said I had to walk back down the beach and didn’t want them to warm up. I think that being how hot it was & how much you pay for the beverages, they should have honored my request.
The ship was worn in spots, but we constantly saw staff cleaning and doing maintenance. Our cabin on deck M was fine, but could have used a bit more dusting when we first arrived. Unfortunately, we consistently heard a lot of noise from next door in our cabin, either the walls are paper thin or the kids were just loud.
It took a while to get on and off the ship in ports, the lines were usually long. The photographers were always pausing people, right at the end of the gangway, which was highly annoying. For Nassau we did our own walk around town. On Half Moon Cay, we walked way down the beach away from most people and spent a few hours before going to the island BBQ. The BBQ was so-so, they started to put up the food right after we got ours, and it wasn’t near 1:30PM (the closing time). And the food wasn’t that good. They closed the drink machines too after we got a refill. It was odd. The island, however, is beautiful. On Grand Turk, we got off the ship and walked to Jack’s Shack, which was the highlight of our trip. Free chairs, umbrellas for $10, free wi-fi, perfect beach for swimming, cold beer and strong drinks. I wanted to stay right there.
For disembarkation, we set our bags out the night before and had breakfast before leaving. Lines when we got off the ship were long, it took us an hour to leave. The luggage pick-up appeared to be the bottleneck in the terminal. Customs was quick, and we took our luggage way down to the entrance (again, the port structure needs work) to hail a taxi back to our friends’ house.
I don’t think I would take this cruise again, but I would probably try another Carnival cruise with a good itinerary and newer ship.