This was our second sailing with Carnival, the prior was a ten-day Mexican coast cruise on the Spirit two years ago. My wife and I have sailed five times with Princess, five with Holland American and once with RCL.
In my opinion Carnival is a "good value for your money" cruise line for the most part. For some aspects of the cruises I've done with them I would rate them equal with other lines, but there are areas of the cruise experience where I'd rank them lower. That shouldn't be taken as a dismissal however, because a direct comparison would be unfair when the cruise rates are in different price categories.
Based on my experiece with the lines mentioned I place Carnival on the bottom of the scale for food interest and appeal, but again, you're not paying the higher rates the other lines typically charge for similar cruises. That said, I've always been able to find something I was willing to eat for every meal, and in all cases I've always been able to find something that was at least as good if not better than what I might eat if I were dining at home. For many meals on Carnival I've been able to find some very good food items that I was quite pleased with, though that's not something that occured every meal.
I'm not sure what to make out the fact that the ran out of pinapples, bananas and tomatos on this cruise. There may have been other items, but I've named the ones I know about. It's not a big thing, but it was a little disappointing as I've always looked forward to the pineapple especially at meals.
The two Carnival ships I've been on were quite nice in appearance, and I wasn't put off by their decor as some folks seem to be. I might not choose to have such scheme in my home surroundings, but I find the ship's art, colors and decor interesting and consider it to be a positive part of the "get away from home" experience. That said, between the Spirit and the Miracle I much preferred the decor of the Miracle.
Another person has done a revewi here of this cruise and itemized the port stops so I won't repeat them here. This was my fifth Hawaii cruise from the mainland. I did one other from Vancouver and have done three round trips out of California, split between San Diego and Long Beach. The Hawaii ports are always similiar stops and one's experiences there really depend on what you chose to do with your time there. In brief, I purchased the all-day trolly pass in Honolulu to tour the city and rented cars for Maui and Kauaii so had considerable mobility.
This cruise served to illustrate how similiar experiences can be perceived in different ways by people. We experienced cool weather and windy conditions at times on this cruise, notably the first few days out of Vancouver and again as we neared California. Outer and upper decks were marked as closed during periods of strong winds but the Lido deck was always open including the uncovered areas around the pool and I didn't think anything of the deck restrictions overall. The boat did rock a little at times, but nothing I considered excessive. At its worst there was enough movement to the ship that you were certainly aware of it, but not enough that it bothersome unless you were attempting to dance.
The folks in the stateroom next to me apparently had a different cruise experience however. I heard them out on their balcony making cell calls as we approached our first port in Hawaii and again as we approached our destination. According to the story they were telling on the phone, it was a "horrible cruise." They said "everything was shut down and you couldn't get out of your room and do anything." The narration included details of how the ship was rocking violently most of the cruise and that they stayed in bed much of the day for fear of falling. I saw these folks a few times, they looked to be in their 40's and in good physical condition, so I don't know if they were first-time cruisers or just seeking sympathy from those they called.
We were overall pleased with our experience on this cruise, but Carnival did let us down in one sigificant area, and that was disembarkation. In our past experiences with other cruises ending in Long Beach we used the cruise line airport transportation services and we were typically off the ship at at the airport (LAX) in a very quick and comfortable manner and always well before 10:30 AM. Based on prior experiences we booked a noon flight out of LAX. Unfortunately we were delivered us to the airport a half-hour after our plane had departed.
Carnival knew when our flight departed and yet they put us in group 20 for disembarkation and luggage pickup. I asked about that the day before the cruise ended and was assured that disembarkation would proceed quickly and smoothly. As it turns out, that was not the case. I can only assume that many of our fellow passengers had prior experience with Carnival's slow disembarkation because a great many of them chose the "self-assist" disembarkation, keeping their luggage with them and walking it off themselves.
We waited what seemed like quite a while before our group was finally called and once off the ship and in the terminal, found that our luggage wasn't yet available so we stood in a line about 20 minutes waiting on it to be released. Once we had it in hand, we proceeded outside to find there were no buses waiting but there was a long line of people wanting to get to LAX. We stood in that line well over an hour before a bus showed up and then it took quite a while for the fellow that was driving it to get all the luggage stowed. I don't fault him, he was working alone for the most part and there were a lot heavy items to load.
Since we'd missed our scheduled flight we had to wait an additional six hours for another that we could get on, and the airline wouldn't check our bags until four hours before the flight so we spent the first two hours sitting by the luggage check-in area of LAX terminal 6 and there wasn't even a food or beverage service area available. I finally walked down to the International terminal (between 3 and 4) to get some bottled water and soda.
Looking back on the disembarkation, I'm not sure just what the problem was. It appeared that Carnival wasn't very well organized, certainly they didn't have enough buses available and there wasn't much their ground staff could do other than ask people to be patient. I know others missed flights. In my opinion it was fortunate that Carnival seems to have a younger crowd in contrast to lines such as Princess and Holland America, because I imagine some of the older folks might find it difficult to spend the better part of two hours standing (between waiting on luggage and then buses) without a place to sit. All I can say for sure is that I'm confident that had we choosen "self-assist" we would have made it to the airport with plently of time to spare.
At this point my wife says "never again" for Carnival. I'm not going to join her in such a strong declaration, but will say that we'll be on other cruise lines before I consider Carnival again. Had it not been for the poor finish this would have been a good cruise experience.