This was our second Carnival Cruise and our 4th cruise overall. I have used this board extensively over the past few months and it was very helpful. I am writing this review in hopes that it may help someone else pick the perfect vacation.
We are a group of 5, my husband and I in our late 30's and our three kids, 14 (girl), 12 (girl) and 8 (boy.) We are from Arizona so we began our vacation on Saturday by flying from PHX to New Orleans. I should start by saying how ridiculous NO is as a port city due to its complete lack of regard for tourists. I could not believe the cab fares (65$ from Airport to Hotel and $35 from Hotel to Port) the cab to the port was really ridiculous considering that the meter read $3.50 and it took no more than 5 minutes, but everything there is a flat rate. Only our last driver was pleasant but otherwise, know exactly where you are going to ensure fairness of quotes. If you are watching your budget, just be aware of these charges.
We stayed in the Renaissance Arts hotel downtown and it was beautiful, the art work was amazing and I could have slept in that comfortable bed for days! We started our Sunday morning with breakfast downtown at Mother's. It was excellent, southern food. We then caught the trolly and rode it round trip to get a quick view of the highlights. Have correct change, as there is no change given. We then quickly made our way back to hotel and by now it was noon. We checked out an hopped in a cab for the short ride to the pier.
We had completed the Fun Pass registration and had printed copies in hand and we were shuttled to the second line. The line was very slow and took about 40 minutes to get through. The Carnival rep at the end of the line was so slow that we spent at least 10-15 minutes with her reviewing everything that I had completed on the Fun Pass. Hopefully this process will get better soon. NOTE: Our tablemates had completed the paperwork and got through the entire line in 5 minutes, I am not sure why our experiences were different other than that the NO employees seem to be clueless. Other cruise lines that I have been on have been much more efficient. At that time I clearly explained that I did not want my daughters (who had their own room) to have charging privileges. She explained that she would not input a card number for them and that was that.
We quickly got our Sign and Sail cards, our pictures and security check and then we were on board. I noticed that the ship seemed very clean. The decor is definitely new but way over the top in my opinion. I thought Disney and Princess had new ships that looked much more elegant. We went directly to our rooms and were surprised at how spacious they were. We couldn't believe how nice the storage space was and have a nice large window really made it nice. The girls were directly across the hall from us so we put our things down and headed for the Lido deck buffet.
I am not a buffet person but I thought this was good. We ate there 3 more times during the week for breakfast and each time the food was good and the lines were fast. The iced tea and orange juice are good too. My son loved this place and ate here 4 nights with camp carnival. After lunch we walked the ship and checked out everything, spa, camp carnival, arcade, casino and pools. All seemed to be fine and well maintained.
At this point, rather than give a blow by blow description of our entire trip, I will just share the basics. If you have other questions feel free to email me.
Dining Room (monet): Food was better than expected, the desserts were divine but service was average. Always had to ask for water, iced tea and bread, always had to ask for refills when drinks were low. By the end this became very frustrating. Our tablemates were fantastic and we even did a private tour with them. I did not like the fact that at lunch we could not sit alone at a table for 5. Every time was asked to sit at a 6-top alone, they would make a big production and tell us how busy the ship was. UGH! Lunch was great food too but I was never impressed with any of the waitstaff.
Ship: Pretty and clean but way too gaudy. They went a little crazy with the purple and gold leafing. Note: The ship is FREEZING, especially on decks 5 and 9, the monet room and the show lounge. Our room was so cold that we had the thermostat on high (heat) the entire time. I saw many people complaining but with no relief. I had to purchase 5 sweatshirts and two wraps just to stay warm so we looked like fools constantly taking them off for pictures. I had read that the ship was cold but I did not take it to heart. Please prepare yourself for this, otherwise it could ruin your nights on ship, especially if travelling with kids.
Staff: Friendly if you are asking them about their area of expertise. If you ask anything else, they are clueless. This was disappointing. I wish that tipping was not added to your bill automatically, this would put the service back in the ship, otherwise they don't try very hard.
Shows: they were really good, Deja, the magician was unreal. Stuart and Corey (hosts) were really great too. Don't miss the shows, especially the talent show, it was great. Carnival excels in nighttime show but other activities are rare or non-existent. Disney and Princess have perfected a full day of activities and I hope Carnival follows suit. During the day, if you don't like fighting for pool chairs you will find virtually nothing to do.
Purser: I eventually had to stand in line at the pursers desk 3 times to get my daughters charge privileges revoked. Each time they told me that it was taken care of and each time I would explain to them that she was still able to charge. I was finally resolved by Wednesday and needless to say my daughter has quite a big arcade bill to repay. It is insane that they let kids charge arcade tokens to their sign and sail cards at will. It is also weird that no cash is accepted anywhere but the casino.
Coffee: good but the the coffee bar was great. The barista from Croatia was really good and her service stood out. I visited her daily.
Camp Carnival: Counselors were very enthusiastic during the orientation and my 8 year old loved the program. The older kids had lots of activities planned but my 12 year old found friends the first day and did her own thing the rest of the time. Our 14 year old hung with us (which is a first) and had a really good time too. I am not sure what they could do to interest this fickle age group. One concern is camp carnival dinners. The dinners are at 6pm, our monet seating was at 5:45. So our family would go to the Monet then I would take my son to the buffet on the lido deck to meet camp carnival, I walked him through the line then proceeded to the top of the stairs (tray in hand) to sign him in. Well, the counselors had blocked the top of the stairs with chairs and stood behind the chairs staring at their watches until EXACTLY 6pm. I kid you not. When I asked to set my tray down, saying that I would stay with my child until 6pm. I was told no. This was crazy and it happened 4 nights in a row! Once I got to the Monet at 6:10 (25 min late) our server was, miffed, but I didn't now what else to do. Carnival needs to align these times better.
Progresso/Merida: we rented a van and drove to the ruins in DZbuilitan (sp?) it was great to go early and at our own pace. Once 10am hits, all the tours come and the place is packed. If you can bring your swimming suit do it, our kids loved the historic cenote (watering hole) and it was clear as could be.
Costa Maya: nice, new port. We spent the day laying by the volleyball pool. Get there early to ensure that you get a nice chair with shade. Our tablemates tried to rent a jetski but that went sour so be careful.
Cozumel: Wonderful. We went to the new beach club called paradise beach and it was unbelievable. We stayed for 7 hours just relaxing by the white sandy beach. Food and drinks were excellent, massages on the beach and lots of stuff for the kids. Really great,family atmosphere.
Other: the beach towel process is a nightmare. They issue you 2 towels and then if you do not have them at the end of the cruise they charge you $22. At one point our steward took 1 towel out but never told us. I went insane looking for it. Once I saw him he said "oh, yeah I took it sorry!" Anyway, carnival needs to charge more for the trip and then just not be so anal about the towels.
There were some very rowdy teen agers ( 16, 17 18) that "held court" right outside the casino and never moved the whole trip. Every time you passed they would make comments) loud) so by the end that got a little annoying.
Casino was fun. Played the whole week with a 30$ investment and left with an additional 30$ (played blackjack and slots) One couple I saw complaining that the machines were voiding out their winnings. Not sure if it was just them or what.
Overall I can not complain about this trip, it is a cruise for goodness sakes. I will probably not take Carnival again after experiencing Princess and Disney. We are trying RCCL in May. I don't want to sound rude, but the crowd is definitely different on Carnival and the service just wasn't there for us.