We've been home 5 days now and I think I'm sufficiently recovered enough to write a review. This was our 2nd Carnival cruise, having been on the Elation in 2004. We drove to Galveston from San Antonio (only about 4 1/2 hrs) Sunday a.m. arriving at the Lighthouse parking lot by noon, paying our $55 and immediately boarded their shuttle bus with luggage loaded and unloaded for us. (It's absolutely painless and far superior to dropping off luggage and one person to watch it at the terminal while the other person parks and walks back. It's especially nice when you get back, tired and ready to go home.) Things went smoothly at the terminal and we were through security in no time. The ship is much bigger so the lines are longer but getting through to the Carnival agents at the desks went surprisingly fast...only about 15 minutes. No so for non-U.S. people. Their line was very very slow. I heard from a Canadian family that it took them 3 hours to get through. The ship is lovely but a difficult to navigate until you understand that deck 5 is the only one that goes through, front to back. Our room was on deck 6 so unless we were going up to Lido on 9, we just walked downstairs to 5, across the ship and down 2 flights to the dining room. We got another inside room and were happy again. For as little time as we spend there, it's not worth it to have a tiny balcony. Plus it's delightfully dark, even in the middle of the afternoon if you want to take a nap. I would advise you look at the deck plan carefully and get a room NOT in the middle of one of the long hallways. People walking by in the hall (or running and laughing) don't realize how loud they are, especially at 3 a.m. Finding a room in a quieter spot can make a huge difference, especially if you are a light sleeper.
Carnival has made a huge improvement in their food since our last cruise two years ago. We enjoyed it then but REALLY were happy this time. We ate in the dining room every night except one, for two breakfasts, and for two lunches. All were wonderful and highly recommended. One night we went to The Point supper club and had probably one of the best 5 star meals of our lives. My husband had a 24 oz Porterhouse that he cut with a fork! Well worth the extra $30 or so. Call to book reservations early if you like to eat late. They fill up quickly. The food on the Lido deck was also quite good, especially for buffet style. I especially enjoyed the seafood upstairs - open only at lunch. Fabulous huge fried oysters and delicious boulibasse (sp) were my favorites. The activities onboard made sure there was something for everyone at any hour of the day. The shows were good and the music (especially Blood Power) was great. We chose quite active excursions and were pleased with our choices. Horseback riding in Jamaica, 4x4 jeep in Grand Cayman, and 3 reef snorkeling in Cozumel are all well worth it and lots of fun.
OK, that's the good part of this review. The bad part had nothing to do with Carnival. In fact, they were wonderful and more patient with problem people than Mother Theresa would have been. Although their were many non U.S. citizens onboard who were perfect cruise companions, the ship had a large group (about 1,000) of Mexican Nationals who were amazingly demanding, loud, rude and generally obnoxious all week. Their children (hundreds!) were allowed to run wild all over the ship. (Two years ago on Elation we were told there were 1,000 children aboard but we never saw them. They went to Camp Carnival and the people involved with that program were fabulous. The kids had a blast I was told.) This cruise was different. The Mexican National kids were not enrolled in Camp Carnival. They ran wild all over the ship. I saw very few attempts at discipline. The Carnival staff did what they could but the parents were not cooperative. Older teens and young adults partied in the halls and simply ignored requests to keep it down. If a second request was made, they laughed in your face and then proceeded to harass you by knocking on your door over and over. Complaints to the pursers desk were listened to but I didn't notice any improvement. Kids were in the whirlpools and pools all the time day and night...without supervision. Adults butted in lines, ignored polite requests to let other pass in aisles, and demanded special treatment. One day a family wanted a particular table across from me at lunch on the Lido deck. Many other tables were available but the father insisted on this particular one. He demanded that it be cleaned immediately. While he was waiting, he put his full tray of food down on my table without asking. Then his wife did the same. I said, "Excuse me, I'm sitting here" but the woman ignored me and the man just snorted and looked away. They let their kids scream, climb all over and under the table, lay in the aisle and never even looked at them! Amazing! I was told by the Cruise Director that they had so many problems with the Mexican Nationals on this cruise with their demanding behavior. Getting off the ship was delayed because these people brought their luggage down to deck 3 in the morning and demanded to be let off. When told they had to adhere to the rules and wait their turn, they became threatening. The cruise director told me that one guy hit him! They had to call not only their security people but the port security to arrest the large group of people who blocked the exit for all the other passengers. They said if their family couldn't get off, then no one was getting off. He also told me that groups had been thrown off the ship at every port because of their bad behavior. Moral of this story? Don't travel any cruise ship at Christmas, New Years, or in January! That's when the Mexican Nationals cruise and the cruise director says it's like this every year. One nice thing...a woman had observed me with a particularly obnoxious bunch of people and came over to me to apologize. She said that she and her family were from Mexico but begged me to tell people that all Mexicans weren't like that. She was embarrassed. Of course I know that all Mexicans aren't like that. I'm from San Antonio and am used to being in the minority. About 70% of our city is made up of people of Mexican or other hispanic descent. They certainly don't act rude and demanding nor do their kids run wild. I was absolutely shocked by what I saw on the ship and anxious to get home. In spite of that, we will cruise Carnival again. This time I'll try a little smaller ship and we careful not to book at this time of year.