This was my platinum cruise (10th under old rules) and probably my last trip on Carnival.
I have been on this class of ships, but it was years ago. We chose this cruise for proximity to home and we are able to drive to port. We drove to the port the day of and arrived around 130pm and since we are Platinum, boarded very quickly. I imagine the line to get on would have been about 30 minutes if we had to wait. We skipped the requisite "Welcome Aboard" photo, found our room, dropped off some bags, and went to find some food and drinks. Our room was convenient to the lobby on Empress Deck (deck 7).
Positives: The crew is very friendly from the room steward to the waiters to bartenders. They do a great job. All of our room staff called us by name. And for the three nights we went to the Jubilee dining room, our waitress knew our name and was very cordial. We had to move dining rooms on day 4 and 5 because the crowd around us was unruly and acted like idiots in the dining room. But since we realized we were the ones that didn't fit in, we elected to move to another dining room and were reassigned Your Time Dining. Our matre d in that dining room (Barish) was outstanding. We wished we would have moved sooner.
Another positive: drinks on this ship are awesome. They have classic cocktails like Long Island Iced Teas which are pricey but worth it. Plus, all classic cocktails get you a $5 match play card in the casino. The Martini tasting in the bar above Jubilee was cool, too. If CCL had any sense, they would turn that entire area into a Sports Bar. Both Saturday and Sunday were filled with families trying to watch games on television. It would have been nice to have tables and food service. I would have paid extra to have someone bring me food and beer to watch these games. Instead, they have one cocktail server designated for the room full of chairs pushed together to get a better point of view for the TV.
The food was all around disappointing in just about every venue. I have always thought CCL did a good job with food until this cruise. They have reached rock bottom. I'm not sure if its a budget item that has been reduced to nothing or just overall quality control has gone adrift. Too many examples to list but in general: tasteless, cold, unappetizing, and overcooked. I actually didn't look forward to dinner . . . something I have always enjoyed on CCL. Lobster night was a bust: overcooked, rubbery, and cold. Shrimp cocktail: uncleaned shrimp that were floppy and the size you would see in a popcorn shrimp dish.
Onboard activities were the Carnival norm: bingo, hairy chests, drink making competition, towel folding, etc. My wife used the spa twice for massage and facial and was happy with the quality BUT has been on other CCL ships with much nicer spas. She spent about $500 in the spa and got about a $250 experience if that makes sense to avid spa goers. For those that haven't spent the money, CCL spa is worth it most of the time. The nightlife on the ship was centered around the smoking area mid ship level 9. This area usually had a band or some cheesy trivia game going on and the casino was nearby. All clubs and bars are within walking distance so this area was overcrowded.
The best food on the ship was the Carnival Deli which was open from 11-11 and served hot and cold sandwiches. Don't bother with the pizza: its basically heated frozen pizza and tastes awful.
The ship has been redone and you can see the difference. Serenity is nice but overcrowded on sea days.
And to put it nicely, the people on this ship need a lesson in how to behave in public. It's hardly appropriate attire for a cruise ship and the staff will do absolute nothing to enforce an already loose dress code. Add beer and wine, and some of these people would probably get kicked out of most places on dry land. Loud, obnoxious, rude, and downright embarrassing. I like to have fun and Carnival is the place to go to let loose and have a good time. But there is a fine line between having a good time and acting like an idiot in public. Enough said.
Disembarkation was fine. They moved us to a private room (Platinum) and personally escorted us off the ship. We had them take our bags night prior so we could avoid getting up at the crack of dawn. It was obvious that most people choose self assist debarkation which is completed from around 615am and is all done by about 8am.
Carnival is lowering its prices to fill ships. Its pure economics and I understand the bottom line philosophy. But the brand image is suffering. Thanks, CCL, for a 9 out of 10 great cruises. But I am going to spend my hard earned money elsewhere from now on. Carnival is attracting a crowd that I am no longer interested in being around for a vacation and the brand is suffering immensely.
I rated this cruise very low for two main reasons: the quality of food is awful AND the party on a budget crowd has reached an all time low. I learned not all CCL cruises are created equal and the brand is different depending on the size of ship. Use caution when booking this cruise . . . if you want the large ship, large variety experience of a newer boat, you will be disappointed in this ship even with the immense savings.