This was my 4th time taking pretty much this same cruise on the Carnival Glory. They finally upgraded the ship, which was really great. I had gotten bored with the ship and had kept hoping they would dock a different one at the Norfolk port because of that. But, though I ended up on the same ship I've been on multiple times before, the upgrades made it much better this time around.
Before I go into that though, I want to voice a major complaint in hopes that Carnival reads these reviews. We are very, very unhappy about Carnival pulling out of the port of Norfolk, Virginia. We've been cruising Carnival out of this port about once every year and a half and Carnival leaving this port means that we will probably take very few cruises in the future. The airfare cost to other ports makes them too expensive - expensive enough that I'd rather do something else instead of cruise, or end up cruising on another line, which I know Carnival doesn't want. That said, Carnival, please, please, please come back to the Norfolk port!!!
Okay, now back to the rest of the review. On the upgrades: First, they put in Guy's Burger Joint. The burgers on the ship used to be so-so at best. These are significantly better. They're a little more along the lines of 5 Guys Burgers and Fries. Yummy.
They also upgraded/changed/added a few bars. The most memorable for us were the Red Frog Rum Bar and the Alchemy Bar. They also had a new tequila bar. I just don't drink tequila, so that wasn't my thing, but the menu did look good. Going back to the others though: The Red Frog Rum bar had some great choices. One of my favorites was the Caribbean Colada. It was the best colada I've ever had and great for days out on the deck. The Alchemy Bar is right next to the piano bar and, during previous cruises, that bar had very little business. Now, with this upgrade and becoming the Alchemy Bar, it was really busy every night. The drink concoctions were great. This bar had the best drink menu I've ever seen and we tried almost everything on the menu. We weren't the only ones either. The bar also turned out to be a great place to meet people, a lot because there were so many conversations that started out with, "Ooh, what's that you're drinking? Really, mine's a ???" and so on. The 3 girls that worked behind the bar every night were fantastic as well.
Speaking of drinking, we splurged for the Cheers program. It's Carnival's new program where you pay roughly $50 per day per person and can drink up to 15 drinks a day, both alcoholic and non. If we didn't get the program, we would have had a lot less to drink because we would have been far more cognizant of the money we were spending. The program allowed us to not think about that and just enjoy what we wanted, so it worked out for us. I'd do it again just for that care-free feeling. But, at $100 a day for 2 people, it really would depend how long the trip was. I don't think I'd spend that much per day for a much longer cruise as I wouldn't want to drink a lot on a daily basis for much more than a few days anyway. The thing that convinced us to go with the program this time though was the fact that we didn't have to get it until the second day on the ship. That was huge because I felt like it would have been a waste for the first day on the ship since you're only really able to enjoy yourself from about 5:30 p.m. onward.
We had great service pretty much every night in the dining hall (we had my-time dining in the Golden). After the first night, we asked for Yudi's (or Yuli?) section every night. We got him as a waiter the first night and he and his team were so good to us that they were actually part of the reason we ate at the dining hall as many nights as we did.
The entertainment and shows changed since the last time we were on board... thankfully. I can't stand it when I take the same cruise ship a year or year and a half apart and the shows are the same. I was really happy to see the change this time. They had 3 new big shows in the Amber Palace; a Latin show, a Diva show, and a Motown show. All were great. All of the performers were really good, but one stood out for rme; Aaron, who has the most amazing vocal range and ability. With ability like his, I'm honestly surprised he's not a famous Broadway performer or something.
The cruise director and his side kick (don't remember his name), were a blast. Those two really work together well to get people going and having a good time. They're both just the right amount of crazy and both know how to flirt and schmooze with the ladies as well. I'd say, whatshisname (good looking cruise director dude with the English accent) was probably the best cruise director I've had over the course of several cruises. My apologies for not remembering his name or most others only 2 weeks later.
As had been the case in the past, the piano bar was one of our favorite places on the ship. Dave was the piano player this time and I think he ended up being our all time favorite, and we've seen several over several cruises. He got to know people's names throughout the course of the cruise. He also had instruments (maracas, tambourines, etc) for people to play, and he played some games with the audience too. One night, he had slips of paper with 20 lines. He'd play the first bar or two of a song, and we had to guess the song. We liked that game a lot because we won it! :) But seriously, what a great time this bar is when there is a great entertainer behind that piano. My only complaint to Carnival would be to set up the piano bar a little differently because you don't really feel like you're part of the action if you don't get a seat directly around the piano itself, which was a challenge this time because the bar was so busy. The other seats in the lounge should all be higher up so you can still see the entertainment. It's the only flaw of this bar and has been that way for years. Still a great bar despite that flaw though.
As usual, we enjoyed some time on the Serenity deck this time. It's one of the only places you can get away from constant loud noise on this ship and the loungers are very comfortable there. It is, however, exceptionally windy quite often on this deck, which is not great if it's October and you're too far north.
We also enjoyed the adults-only hot tub this time. In general, we like the adults-only pool/hot tub area in back of the ship and the adults-only Serenity deck in the front. We just wish that they would change things up a bit so that those weren't the only two adults only areas and so that the only two adults only areas were not at complete opposite ends of the ship.
Service: Consistently great from our room steward to our wait staff and everyone else throughout the whole cruise this time.
Food: About the same as it has been in the past (which was always pretty good, and very good in the main dining rooms). Guy's Burger Joint improves things. Pizza Bar was good. Burrito Bar was a nice improvement as well. Still like the Red Sail - not the the greatest food in the universe, but some pretty good stuff, and convenient.
Cabin: Bed seemed more uncomfortable than it ever has on a Carnival ship. I don't know if we just had an old bed or what, but it's usually more comfortable. There are never enough pillows and the pillows they do provide are way too small. I brought a couple of my own this time, which helped. Other than that, the cabins haven't changed; compact, but efficient, and had enough place to store our stuff. Always like having the safe for my photography equipment when it's not in use.
Disappointing: We only had one formal night. That's because they cut this cruise down from 6 nights to 5. That is disappointing as well. In the past, they sailed out of Norfolk 4 times in October, I believe with two 4 night cruises and two 6 night cruises. I'd like it if they sailed out of Norfolk 4 times with one of each, a 4, 5, 6, and 7 night cruise, each with different ports. Give us some variety to choose from, Carnival!
The port of Freeport has improved dramatically. Years ago, there was nothing at all to get off the ship for at this port unless you were going to take an excursion or get in a cab and go somewhere. Now, there are a bunch of shops and vendors, a Senior Frogs, and even some courtyard entertainment and seating at the port itself.
Our time in Freeport was very limited (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and we're not early risers, so we chose not to go crazy trying to go anywhere this time, even though I would have liked to hit Taino Beach and would have happily done so had we been in port until 6 or 7 p.m. Note to Carnival: I really wish y'all would make port stays significantly longer for all your cruises. Nonetheless, we got off the ship for a couple of hours and just hung out, checked out the vendors, made a few small purchases, watched the courtyard band play for a bit, and had a pretty good little time for ourselves.
We went back to Adastra Gardens, Nassau's Zoo. We'd been there before, but were rushed the last time. This time we went earlier so it would be a more leisurely experience. We love this zoo. It doesn't have a ton of exhibits. As a matter of fact, a lot of them were even closed and under construction. But, there is the feel of the place that draws us both there. It's not like American zoos where we clear all the land and flatten it out and then make fake looking exhibits. These people will see a large tree and literally make a cage around it and put an exotic bird or two in it and viola!, there's your totally natural habitat efficiently and effectively made into an exhibit. The whole place is like a jungle maze and that's what we love, the feeling of being in a tropical jungle. We even found a quiet location with a bench in the middle of a jungle setting and just hung out there and relaxed, talked, and enjoyed the scenery for a while. We also had a blast feeding the lorakeets and watching the famous flamingo march. Many of the exhibits are of various colorful, and I believe tropical, birds. I'm a photographer, so I have a field day at this zoo because I'm able to take pictures that appear to be natural or taken out in the wild.
From Adastra, we walked down to Twin Brothers at the Fish Fry and each had an out of this world smoothie. Their smoothies are so much more flavorful than American Smoothies. The fruit taste is powerful and not at all processed tasting like ours in the states. We highly recommend these to anyone who visits the area.
After that, we ran into a local marching band on the walk back to the ship, paused to watch them for a bit, and then made our way back on board.
The ship was only docked in Nassau for one day, rather than it's usual two days. This didn't affect us too much as we've been to Nassau several times now, we've already done the Atlantis thing, the Senior Frogs thing, the horse and buggy tour through the city, etc. However, if it had been my first time there, I think that would have felt limiting. I always prefer overnight cruise ports because I like not having to worry about when I need to get back on the ship.