One year ago almost to the day we took the same cruise on the same ship to the same ports. My review of that cruise is on here. I can't believe how much has changed. We also got the exact same cabin types and in the same locations, so this really is an apples to apples cruise comparison. I shall do the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Ehhh.
The good - The ship recently underwent a short dry dock and the carpet and the paint looked new in both the public areas and the staterooms. Flat panel tv's were also new from our last cruise, however, the picture quality in our room was bad but the girls room was good. We were not there to watch television. The service on the port side of the ship in the Mardi Gras dining room was fabulous and I have to say the cocktail servers and the casino folks were also really great. Friendly, polite and remembered what you liked.
The bad - We ate on our last day on the starboard side of the ship in the Mardi Gras dining room. You would have thought that we were somewhere else entirely. You either could not get service or the service was shockingly bad. As most cruisers do, you order multiple appetizers, soups and/or salads and possibly more than one entry. NEVER in all my years of cruising have I ever had a waitstaff attempt to bring out and serve everything all at once. The food was piled all over the table. It was insane. It was the same for brunch, tea and dinner. We actually spoke to the dining room manager about it on our way out. We had three different servers on that side and they were all horrible.
The ugly - The food this time was so bad I don't know where to start. Last year we had set ourselves up to expect Sizzlers, Dennys or IHOP food based on other reviews. We were surprised then that the food exceeded our expectations. This year, we we expected the same and were horribly disappointed and wished it was up to Sizzlers, Dennys or IHOP. We ate in the dining room every night. The food tended to be tasteless. When I say tasteless I don't mean bland, like it was unseasoned, it was in some cases taste free. Also, some entrees were not as described. We ordered a seafood penne pasta that was supposed to contain calamari, shrimp and scallops. Three of us got it. I hit the jackpot with four calamari and 1 shrimp, the other folks got one shrimp and one scallop and the other person got not seafood at all. Deserts tended to be the worst. The baked Alaska was served without the meringue being toasted. The pound cake used was stale, so you melting ice cream between stale pound cake, surrounded by runny meringue. How appetizing is that? I also ordered a brownie that was SO stale, when I bit into it, it turned to brownie dust in my mouth it was so dried out. I swear a spoonful of browning mix straight out of the box could not have been as dry as that bite was. We also ate at the buffet and brassier several times. Ice machine in the buffet was out of service for the whole cruise. Some of the buffet meals were better than the dining room.
The Ehh - I had prepaid my tips for this cruise because we had invited guests. I have been on multiple cruises and this is the first time I never tipped extra, except to the cocktail waiters who got it on the bar bills. The room stewards were ok. The port side dining staff was ok. But last year we tipped more because the service was that good. This year, my friend and I looked at each other and said we didn't do extra tips. An we both said we didn't get anything beyond the basics.