This was our third year in a row to take this 4 day cruise from Galveston to Cozumel. Last year, we sailed two cruises before the infamous stranded cruise. The ship was having propulsion issues which delayed our arrival at both destination and port. This year, after the refitting, no such problems and the ship looked great.
We got our first upsell call from Carnival three days before our cruise. We were upgraded from a first deck ocean view cabin to an Ocean Suite for about 40% off the Internet prices.......we loved the value and enjoyed the much larger stateroom and the oversized balcony. There are not many perks for suites on Carnival, but the priority embarkation and debarkation got us on and off in record time.
We were in Cabin 7230.....forward on the port side. While it in no way detracted from our experience, there was an intermittent odor of sewage at the corner where the forward hall on the left side met the elevator lobby. It was unpleasant, but not overpowering, and confined to a small area. I mention this because I know there are folks saying there is a sewage odor in places and some folks say they did not smell a hint of sewer gas. Maybe they are both right. We did not smell anything like that anywhere else on the ship.
We are usually deck 1 and 2 type travelers........budget, budget, budget. We have always been amazed at just how efficient and thorough our room stewards have been, but we were a little disappointed in our room steward on this cruise. I'm not sure if our anytime dining left our steward guessing, but we did not have the third and fourth person beds put away during the day and remade at night like we usually get. It may have had something to do with our teen girls napping throughout the day......not sure. It was mediocre service at best, which surprised us. I wish he would have filled our ice bucket each day, which, even after being asked, did not happen but once.
We were a little frustrated with all of the service numbers being perpetually busy. I never could get anything but a busy signal for room service and the wake up call line. Others obviously got through to room service because the servers were everywhere on the ship with there delivery trays. Not sure why we had an issue. Our room also tended to be stuffy. We opened the vents all the way but could not get the air to move. On our previous cruises we could get the room as cool as we wanted it with no problem. Did any of these issues make us miserable? Absolutely not.
We did the anytime dining in the London Room and loved our waiter, Feland, and his crew. It is amazing that they can work so hard for so many days and still be so fun and entertaining. We asked for him the rest of the cruise. The food is outstanding in our book. The only thing none of us cared for was the prime rib on formal night. It tasted more like ham and almost looked like it had been cured. We loved the chocolate melting cake. The service and settings are both elegant. Service could drag very slightly, but nothing to complain about when you see the wait team flying around to different tables.
The best part of the upgrade? Guy's Burger Joint. Quality 80/20 burgers served Fuddruckers style with a helping of skillet fried French fries. They were extremely tasty and we ate there several times. The breakfast buffet was very average, but I could have sworn they used to serve gravy for the eggs and biscuits.....but no gravy anywhere on the buffet. I wish they would bring it back. I don't know if anyone else feels like the serving tongs are ridiculously difficult to use. This may be by design that they make it difficult to use the difficult to maneuver tongs to limit portion sizes, but I feel like I would have had more control over the coin operated claw machines trying to grab my kid a toy. Surely, Carnival can do better.
We have seen "What a Wonderful World" and the "Big Easy" for three years running. A lot of costume changes, colors, singing and dancing. I do not know how cost effective it would be to rotate into another production, but we think it is time. So many of the people on this cruise were repeats that the shows were only about half full. The talent level is semi professional, but after a day in the casino listening to karaoke, the ship's talent crew sounded pretty good. The Carnival Show Band sounded great.
We saw a lot of teens and kids on this cruise......many more than we had seen in previous years. The high number of kids was fine, but it did show us where Carnival is weak in enforcing policies. The "children must be supervised by an adult in the hot tub" policy was completely ignored as was the removing towels in deck chairs that had been unattended for two hours. These are age old problems on cruise ships everywhere, but still wish it could be better managed.
I spent plenty of time in the casino playing slots.....which I know is a bad idea on cruise ships. However, I got to kill a lot of time playing 18 cents a spin on the penny slots. I did better at Blackjack. The table minimums are $6 for Blackjack and Fun 21. The other table games had $5.00 minimums. The casino did not seem nearly as smoky this time around.....they may have improved the ventilation during the refurbishing.
Like 90% of the people that were signed up, we went to the art auction to get champagne. In a true "boooo" moment, they ran out of champagne without everyone getting a glass. After the champagne was served, the area immediately cleared out. The art "auction" is not a true auction. I know Park West has had to reform its tactics and they have laid off of representing the far overpriced art as investment art to vulnerable seniors. Unless you are just trying to score a little free champagne, avoid the art auction at all costs.
A Carnival employed Asian band played some pretty good classic pop and rock songs with the benfit of an auto tuner.....but still, it was fun to sing along to in the evenings. The craziest thing we saw was the piano bar singer who was in his 60's and, though he played the piano well, did not have much of a voice and just could not seem to capture the rhythm and beat of the songs very well. It was weird. He turned down a number of audience requests after asking for them saying he needed to warm up his voice. Really? He said for us to watch....that Benny and the Jets would be requested 20 times by the end of the night which seemed to irritate him. Most people started walking out, but it is worth stopping in to see how bizarre he acts for a piano lounge entertainer.
The ship got to Cozumel early and we were able to exit about 30 minutes early. Debarkation was a record for us. With Priority Debarkation, we were off the boat and into our car by 7:30 a.m. Most of the Trivia is done by the casino and there are trivia groupies who will get the seats early and not leave. If you want to participate, get there early and plan on not getting up. The Pizza Pirate was open 24 hours, but the kids kept it packed and way behind on pizza. I was thinking that Carnival could do much better to keep up with the demand, but lots of us older night owls did not want to wait 20 minutes for a slice.
The ship's benefits far outweigh the negatives. It is a fun cruise. It is hard for us to believe Carnival can offer cruises for 4 for less than $1,000.00. As always, we felt like we got much more than we paid for. We have been on Holland America and Norwegian and paid much more for their cruises. While they are higher end cruises, it is not that wide of a gap. Carnival offers the best overall value in the business.