This is probably the 5th Carnival cruise I have taken, and I don't know that I'll take another. The selection of food at the buffets is smaller, and unlike on other cruises, did not vary much day to day. In the formal dining room, we were disappointed that they could not accommodate all 12 of us traveling together at one table, as we've had in the past-in fact, we couldn't get more than a table that would seat 6. On other Carnival cruises, the elegant dining rooms always had 4 or 5 star food; however, this time, the selections were not as impressive and the size of the portions was smaller-some of the appetizers were no more than 2 or 3 bites. Service was excellent. The welcome aboard show was obviously designed to entertain people who had been charging up their bar bills-consisted mostly of interviewing 2 teams of 5 passengers each extensively and without much humor, and then pitting them against each other in a stupid game. It consisted of a spoon tied to a string which must be passed down the neck of passenger A's garments and out the bottom, then up passenger B's bottom garment & out the neck of their upper garment,and so on, until the spoon was inside the clothes of each team. Then of course, it had to be pulled out. The first team to finish won. Well, to someone who was completely sober, it was not very funny-just stupid. The next night's show was not that much better with a loud jazz band. Two of the shows that featured dancing and singing were much better.
I was with a group who love to dance-real couples dancing-some call Ballroom dancing. On other Carnival cruises, there was always at least one truly talented band which played all kinds of music, on a nice dance floor, every night. We had a blast dancing to every decade of music from the Big Band Era to current music, all played just like the original artists. This time, they had the huge brass jazz band which was set up on the actual dance floor by the dining room, leaving no place to dance but the busy corridor on the way to the elevators and dining room. Most of their music was not danceable anyway, and being raucous, discordant, LOUD jazz, really wasn't listening music, either. In the atrium, every other night was a man who sang to a synthesizer who was very good-but it was only every other night, and the atrium dance floor was constantly traversed by people crossing to the other side, making it challenging not to run into them. The alternating nights had a ballad singer who knew only how to strum his guitar-with the same monotonous pattern no matter what the song-at a volume which did not make up for his lack of skill-better to play quietly when you are not so good! And, it was not dance music either. Finally, we found a good band on the last night in one of the side bars that was talented. However, they played at a volume of about 120 decibles, so loud it was actually painful. In order to talk to someone you had to be within 18 " and YELL at them. We complained, and were told by customer service that the reason for the change in entertainment was that Carnival did market research, and found that they make most of their money on the drinkers-the BIG drinkers-you know, the ones you see puking in the halls and having to be helped off the tenders?!! So, they don't provide much dancing anymore, 'cuz the drinkers are too drunk to dance anyway-and probably too drunk to tell if it's actually music-so why waste money on good musicians?!!!
(Carnival, I hope you are paying attention!) The cruise director came in and asked the band to turn it down, which they did, about 2 decibles. Music that is so loud that it hurts causes permanent damage to your hearing-they are really flirting with class action lawsuits.
Then, we went to one those educational seminars on helping your back-and we purchased some shoe inserts, based upon the assurance that if they did not help we could bring them back at the end of the cruise-which we did. They took them back, but not without an argument, and very ungraciously...but we still have not received a credit for them.
When we arrived at our first stop, they had us get numbers for the tenders, and the theory was, we waited until our number was called, and this would cut down on the lines. It was mass confusion and a huge mess-the line wrapped through cabin halls, up stair ways, and across elevator halls. It took us over 30 minutes to get off. So many complained that the next day, it was just go as you please-which worked out a lot better-just a line of dozen people or more.
Another thing we learned-take your luggage on board yourself, and then disembarkation is much quicker-no searching for your bags through thousands of others, you don't have to have them all packed and outside the night before, so no worries about an overnight case for essentials. . Since the government was shut down, there was no customs to go through! We just walked right off with no worries, no lines!