For more than 12 years, my husband and I would travel to Las Vegas to spend the holidays. This year, another couple suggested we go on a holiday cruise with them. This was their first cruise, our fifth (3 with Princess, 2, including this one, with Carnival). I would have loved to go with Princess, but budget constraints and the fact they jack up the holiday cruise prices landed us on the Glory Dec. 22-29.
First and foremost, I always say a cruise is what you make of it. We had good friends and mostly good times (I have already regressed into the deep corners of my mind the ugly times) on this cruise, hence we will have warm memories of Christmas 2013. Here's some specifics:
Embarkation went extremely smoothly with the whole process taking about 1/2 hour, if that. Our only issue was parking -- most of the lots were full, but we lucked out and found a spot on the top floor of the D Garage. We arrived on board at about noon, and were told we couldn't go to our cabins until after 1:30. We headed up to the Lido Deck where I tried Guy's burger joint. The best thing was the bar of fixings -- everything you would want on top of your burger! The staff at the burger stand were beyond friendly and were having a great time -- and were very funny! A good start. After a quick look around the Red Sail buffet area, it was already time to go to the cabins.
Three days prior to sailing, Carnival called and offered us an upgrade from a balcony cabin to a grand suite for an extra $800 (total for two people). While I felt a bit bad that our friends had not been offered this, we decided to take it, thinking it would be very nice to make our room the "get together spot." As I walked into the Grand Suite, I knew this was going to be a most comfy home for the next seven days. A huge seating area with a wrap-around couch, a bar area, a nice big bed and the very long balcony greeted us. The best, the absolute best, part of the suite was the dressing area and bathroom. Double vanity, jetted tub/shower combo, toilet and bidet in a space quite large enough for at least two people to get ready at the same time. And closets -- they were everywhere! Our cabin steward, JB Joey, was also the absolute best -- we wanted for nothing when it came to our cabin for a week. Thank you JB Joey!
Some good, some bad, some ugly. For the most part, we certainly didn't grow hungry. Carnival was testing out its new American Menu in the dining room. Not quite so sure it will be a hit. Limited choices on most nights. I think this new menu wreaked havoc on service, however. SLOWEST service ever. We never waited in line for seating (we had any time dining), but once seated, it could take 15 minutes up to a 1/2 hour before we ordered -- and that was the fast part of the meal. Most dinners lasted way beyond 2 hours, and not because we were taking OUR time.
The buffet is, well, a buffet. Hit and miss, but I always found something. The most frustrating part was the line -- slow and long -- and it didn't help that once you got up to the food, someone was always cutting in front of you. I would stare at them and turn back and see the line behind me and wonder if they knew how rude they were behaving. Nope. No sign of recognition or caring. People. Got to love them. Our group of four found a haven from the mass crowd at breakfast by heading to the far back of the ship, just beyond the two adult jacuzzis. Few folks would venture this far back and we were treated to solitude along with a picture perfect view of the ocean. If you want to get away from people, there are ways of finding spaces.
First port was Cozumel. We splurged and went with the La Casa en La Playa select retreat. This is a secluded beach house and only a total of 32 folks were allowed to sign up. The staff attended to our every need, including a chef that prepared an awesome lunch. I cannot recommend this excursion ENOUGH. The best excursion I've ever been on...ever. It's a bit pricey at about $130/pp, but worth it and then some. The beach, facilities, everything was right on. And the water, well, the water was perfect.
With the highlight coming at the very first port, the other ports save for the last one were let downs, to say the least. Next up was Costa Maya. We signed up for the Jungle Beach Break. WARNING -- please, please do not do this. Water was far from "crystal clear" as advertised. It was cloudy, disgusting and filled with garbage. Yes, garbage. From plastic utensils to a razor (!!!!), this was the dirtiest, filthiest place both inside and outside the water. All week, the Carnival Legend out of Tampa was shadowing us. We jumped on their bus for the port just to get the hell out of there sooner. Terrible.
The next stop, Roatan, wasn't a huge improvement I'm sad to say. We booked a snorkeling trip (Barefoot Catamaran) while our friends opted for a day at the beach next to the port. First, the crew for our trip was late and confused. We finally got to the catamaran when I noticed one of the crew coming on board with a container of gas. Hmmm. We actually sailed to the spot (most of the time the sails are for show only), which I thought was pretty cool. Until they stopped and said here we are. I looked toward the shore and there was an small industrial port. I thought to myself, "Certainly we're not going to snorkel here?" Uh, yes. For the second day in a row, I was swimming in garbage. Roatan has the second largest reef system after the Great Barrier Reef (which I've snorkeled), so I was excited to snorkel here. That excitement waned significantly, all the way down to utter and complete disappointment. We got in the water to find NO REEF. Are you actually kidding me? The worst snorkel experience of my life. I felt bad for those fellow passengers on their first snorkeling adventure thinking this was snorkeling. Something tells me this wasn't their normal spot? Remember that container of gas? Wonder if they didn't cut the cruise short and just dumped us into the water at the first stop just out of site of the cruise port. Hmmm. Oh, and the women's restroom broke about 10 minutes into the trip.
Now, as I said at the top. Cruising is what you make of it. I manage to find fun and happiness on just about every trip I take. After these last two days, I was working hard really hard on my smile. I went to the shore excursions desk that night and told the person behind the desk that I rarely complain, truly, but had to tell him about the last two excursions because they were not up to the lowest of standards and that Carnival should evaluate carefully its connection with these two companies. The person behind the desk was awesome and every time I tried to get away as I said my peace calmly and as accurately as possible, he would stop me and want to hear MORE. In the end, we received a $40 credit for the catamaran excursion; nothing for the jungle (hell) beach break. You win some, you lose some. Moral of the story: make sure to do research online and remember, you always get what you pay for and cheaper is certainly not always better.
However, with that being said, we went the real cheap route for the last port, Grand Cayman. We jumped into a taxi bus, and for $5/pp, we were dropped off at a nice spot on 7-mile beach. we walked about 10 minutes down the beach and found a spot where the four of us were completely alone. It was the best beach day....ever! Sun out, water crystal clear, no crowd. Heaven. We would lay in the shade, wander to the sun and sand, get hot, run into the ocean, and start the whole process over again. It was just a wonderful day -- and one that just about made up for the last two ports! It was also the very best way to spend our last day in port. We then jumped back into a taxi bus, and went back into town for $2.50/pp. After some shopping, we boarded Glory for one last sea day, then on to Miami.
The Glory is a nice ship. The adult only Serenity area was a nice place to go after heading back from a day off the ship -- but it was always crowded and not very serene. I play the slots. A lot. And spent most of my leisure time on board in the casino. Casino staff members were excellent. Slots paid just enough to let me play within my budget all week. Can't ask for anything more. Matter of fact, the crew throughout the entire cruise were friendly and, for the most part, helpful. I did get a massage at the spa. One thing I'll never, ever understand is why the designers insist on putting the basketball/activity center a deck above the spa??? All I heard throughout my relaxing massage was "boom, boom, boom." Ugh.
Carnival markets itself correctly. You're not going to get the luxury cruising experience on Carnival. As long as you know that, you're good to go. Remember, cruising is all about what YOU make of it. Cruise happy.