I can't believe how quickly a week can pass. After waiting for over 1 year we are back from the Glory Christmas sailing from Dec. 23 to 30.
I'll start out by saying that I have had to learn the difference between being a critic and being critical and making judgments and being judgmental. What I share is my experience and my opinion based on one other cruise for comparison. Others may have had a different experience on the same cruise. I'll try to be clear on stating objective facts and my subjective opinions.
This was a family cruise that included my husband, age 42, myself, age 46 both have cruised once with Carnival and in the very far past (1980s with RCCL and Cunard), sister-in-law (39) and brother-in-law (40), their children: niece (13), nephew (7), niece (5) and sister-in-law (45) and her daughter (8).
CABINS There were 9 of us sharing 3 cabins. We had 3 balcony cabins on Upper Deck (deck 6). Cabin 6465 slept 4 in a twin/king with an upper and lower/sofa. Cabin 6469 slept 3 in two singles and a sofa bed. Cabin 6473 slept 2 in a twin/king. DH and I were in 6473 and I personally thought we had plenty of room. I had read about storing our luggage under the bed and that left us plenty of room in our 3 closets and 5 drawers. Storage was also provided by the two nightstands by the bed. DSIL and her daughter and niece in cabin 6473 and DSIL/DBIL and their son and daughter had difficulty storing all their items. They had been at Disney World the week before and had extra toys and Christmas gifts for the 4 children.
EMBARKATION Embarkation took about an hour from arrival at the port (11 a.m.). After lunch we went to the Purser's desk to have the three balcony dividers opened and to switch the room keys for niece and myself. Our PVP booked us in different rooms to receive a past cruiser discount on two of our cabins. On the Glory (as opposed to the Fantasy) the sign & sail card is your room key. With a few keystrokes, we were in our appropriate room. We were able to get to our rooms between 2 and 3 p.m. They might have been available earlier but we were relaxing on deck 10 overlooking one of the pools.
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS I thought the Glory was a very colorful ship even without the Christmas decorations. The Old Glory lobby with it's (9 story?) atrium was decorated with swags and ball ornaments along the railings of each floor, a gingerbread village, a menorah that was at least 7 ft. tall and an even taller Christmas tree. There was also a Christmas tree made of wire and electric lights on the deck overlooking the main pool.
There was a menorah lighting ceremony on the 23rd and the menorah remained lit for the duration of the cruise. Christmas music was playing in all the public hallways and on the in-house t.v. stations. Between 10:30 and 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve they had Christmas caroling scheduled. Many of the cruise games had Christmas themes e.g. Christmas trivia on Christmas morning & Christmas clues for the Pictionary game.
Santa showed up for pictures on Christmas Eve at approximately 8 p.m. While this was nice, I was disappointed for my family. There was no announcement that I heard, about Santa being available for pictures. It was the first formal evening and, while we had stopped for formal pictures before dinner, we had changed out of our good clothes and didn't stop for additional pictures.
While others have said that Santa shows up on Christmas day, he was absent on this cruise on Christmas day.
FOOD/SERVICE The food was good for the most part. Nothing was terribly outstanding to our taste. Well, except for the warm chocolate melting cake. My DNieces ordered it every night. DH, who liked the lobster on the Fantasy found the lobster on the Glory to be too fishy. DBIL's looked burnt and mine was just right. The portions are spa portions (small) but there was never any reason to go hungry. The 5, 7 and 8 year old children stuck to the children's menu. I'll never forget the waiter listing off all the choices and my 7 year old, wide eyed nephew saying, Excuse me, but is that all free'? The 13 year old tried the lobster and a couple of the pasta dishes. After much cajoling she also tried one of her Dad's escargot.
Service in the Platinum dining room was fairly good. Our waiter seemed overworked at times and was not very talkative. His assistant made up for the waiter's lack of personality. We were pleasantly surprised when he stopped us on the pier at St. Thomas to say hello as he was going out for some time off.
We probably ate more pizza and ice cream than most families. Did not try the fish & chips (nothing appealed to us). I had my Reuben sandwich one day. We also tried the Oriental station. Oh, and sushi almost every night was good. I enjoyed the choices of sushi on the Fantasy better than the Glory but on the Glory it was available every night for what seemed to me to be a longer amount of time (5 to 8 p.m.)
PHOTOS After reading these boards I looked for the photo recycling baskets (they do have them) and digital card developing (it was available). I was disappointed that we couldn't get 5x7 or wallet size photos because our group (of 9) photo was too large for the smaller size. It was also difficult to have our photo taken in front of the staircase with all the people walking past the photographer and up the staircase. There is only one stair case in the Glory lobby.
FREE LIQUOR While I don't drink, others in our party do and I was very aware of the amount of free liquor that could be had during the cruise.
There was champagne being given for free at lunch on embarkation day. There was liquor tasting at the gift shop on a couple of nights. There was free champagne if you went to the art auction. The captain's party had free drinks. If you are a past cruiser, there were drinks. Many of the jewelry shops in port offered free drinks. Finally, on Christmas day there was eggnog with and without alcohol at the Red Sail buffet.
CAMP CARNIVAL When DH and I cruised on the Fantasy last April I cried when I saw the little children in their pajamas at midnight watching a video. I vowed that our nieces and nephews would not be abandoned there (my judgment); I would baby-sit them, unless they wanted to be there.
Was I ever wrong!
I asked one of the staff members what drugs they offered the kids because the 5, 7 and 8 year old were jonesing to go to camp every day and threw temper tantrums when picked up at night! There was one evening when the 5 grow ups were waiting to pick up the children. We wanted to go to sleep and the kids didn't want to go home!
They did let the little one who was 5 years, 11 months and 1 week; join the age 6 to 8 group so that she was with her brother and cousin. They told her Mom that they would try it out to see if she could follow directions and play well with the older children. She did fine.
They offered a build-a-stuffed toy workshop. It was $19.99 per animal and included the box, birth certificate and a Camp Carnival t-shirt.
After 10 p.m. the charge was $6 per hour for the 1st child and $4 per child for the sibling.
PORTS OF CALL DH and I stopped in Nassau on the Fantasy. We hadn't been impressed and chose to remain onboard the Glory. It was nice to enjoy the ship without so many other guests.
St. Thomas: in my opinion, was a fiasco. We bought shore excursion tickets for a 10 a.m. tour. I guess we didn't get the memo to line up before you are called. We waited till they called our deck and we were already late for our tour. Carnival made repeated announcements to let guests with 10 and 11 a.m. tour tickets move ahead in line but do you think anyone moved out of the way? Finally, I ADMIT IT, I became the aggressive guest that others will probably complain about. I raised my voice and started saying, excuse me, coming through, I have a ticket. One group of men wouldn't let me through so I just said, excuse me and pushed through. I must have given one of the buffoons a thrill because he yelled, about how good it felt. I was enraged and turned around and yelled, I'll give you something to feel and then I turned and pushed ahead.
When our family finally all met at the dock, the tour operator was ready to cancel the 10 a.m. tour since it was 11:30. There were 23 of us so the tour did go off, but was disappointing. The driver tried to ditch our group during the downtown shopping. He returned us to the ship to drop off packages and then asked us which beach we wanted to go to. No one volunteered any suggestions so we ended up at Sapphire Beach. It was nearly deserted, which was nice and the water was lovely. After about an hour in the water the sun began to set. We waited and waited for the driver to return. He did show up about 10 minutes late and we held our collective breath as his truck tried to make it up and down the treacherous hills. We were all grateful when he finished? ordering his dinner? and we pulled away from a dark roadside stand.
St. Maarten was our favorite stop. DH had to go to Maho beach to see the planes land so we hired a cab to take us over. We didn't realize how far away it was from Phillipsburg. It's far. Unless you really want to go see the planes, I wouldn't recommend this trip. Since it took so long to get to the beach and back we had lunch on the ship and just shopped at the pier. I did buy some linens and a necklaces and DSILs each bought Citizen's watches.
CASINO The casino was not very good to me. I was using my sign & sail card to rack up points when I switched machines one evening. I tried to upload money from my account and the machine wouldn't register. I tried another machine, still nothing. DH and I went to the cage and said that I was having trouble with my card. One of the suits took my card and started putting it into machines to check it out. It didn't work for him either. He went to the back room and came out a minute or two later. Sure enough, their whole computer system was down and they hadn't known about it. Oops! I guess I broke the system. That was my sign not to gamble anymore that night.
SEA DAYS Sea days were crazy/crowded. Seat saving was prevalent. Carnival could solve the problem by taking the towels and shoes and magazines left strewn across miles of chairs. Why have a policy and not have management enforce it? They seem to leave it up to the guests to fight it out amongst themselves.
ACTIVITIES Activities were plentiful. There are lots of opportunities to earn a genuine gold plated 24k plastic ship on a stick. Unfortunately I did not win one. I did help my team (Blue team) to win with the in the bag game (think Let's Make a Deal).
KIDS ON A VACATION CRUISE Finally, I want to comment on the behavior of the kids on our holiday cruise since it is an often asked question. Cruise director, Dana Hodson (no comment) announced at his debarkation talk, that nearly one third of the cruisers were under age 18. Maybe it was because we were traveling with 4 children and I was worried about their behavior but I didn't notice other children's behavior that much. Yes, there were kids using wheelie shoes who fell a few times and there was an underage drunk girl. I think that some of the children I saw wandering or mildly-misbehaving was a reflection of the lack of parenting (my opinion) and not their fault.
During the lunchtime chocolate buffet our family put a few towels and bags at two adjoining tables. A young boy (age 8 to 10) put his plate down on one of the tables and started to eat. There was no sign of a grown up around him so I said, what's one more kid, let him stay. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, his mother shows up and assumes that he got them a table. I told her that he had joined us and she apologized and took him away.
And last, but not least, on Christmas morning we saw a teenage boy and girl sitting at a piano along the promenade. The prejudice part of my mind thought, what is this kid up to and I assumed he was going to cause trouble. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This very talented young man opened up that piano and played some of the most beautiful music I had every heard. It is a wonderful Christmas memory.