We have been on over 11 cruises with Carnival Cruise lines since 2000, both here in Caribbean (eastern, western, southern) and one in Europe, and all we're really great until this one (December 2013). We've had a few inside cabins, a few with windows, and a few with balconies when we've been able to land a good deal. We always loved every minute on board. Over the years we've seen a decline in some of our favorite things:
1. Shows: on our first few cruises, the show team had about 12 to 14 dancers, two singers, and a small orchestra. That has dwindled to 4 dancers and 2 singers and a stereo. Does anyone remember the "Cars" show and the one with the "Copacabana" song? These were great great great shows. These last shows were a real disappointment—no band, 8 dancers, two shows and one was so raunchy we left. We used to go see the shows twice, they were so good. If we had early dining, we could go to the early show and stay for the late show.
2. Food: We were always so impressed and delighted with dining on Carnival ships. The menus varied every day, and everything was special and really good. We have had a saying in our house for many years that we say about a really good meal when eating out: "That was cruise quality!" But on this most recent cruise, they changed their menu drastically a week before our cruise (the waiter told us!) and now the whole meal experience is a bit below Applebee's. I've got nothing against Applebee's, but it is not special. They are calling it "American Dining" and apparently that is so, because the menu selections are blah blah blah American restaurant food you can get anywhere. I am not saying that the food was bad, but it was certainly nothing to excite your interest or palate! I never once left the table thinking “that was good” rather I left thinking “I hope tomorrow’s dinner is better.”
3. Dining Experience: Well, I guess the little music combo is long gone that used to play in the dining room. Huge shock #1: no more table cloths. We were used to elegant dining at every dinner. But now for 5 of 7 nights, the tables are not set well—no tablecloths, the napkins are not starched and folded nicely, even the silverware is not in the right place (forks and knives anywhere), the noise level of clinking silverware combined with the regular ambient noise of the engines in the stern of the ship where the dining room is located really made it hard to hear other people in our party. It was crazy. Then there were small gangs of waiters going around urging people to chug shots of whiskey, chanting the whole way. Are you all kidding? Who thought that up that brilliant idea? That made the dining room take on the characteristics of a fraternity basement! Uggh! I guess I don’t need to say that the dress code for dinner in the dining room is no longer in existence. I saw a group of men wearing tank tops and shorts in the dining room on “Cruise Elegant” night (what used to be called formal night). So what used to be a special experience for us has descended to something akin to Fuddruckers. Then there is the waiter dancing … what used to be fun to witness has degraded, like everything else there, into a rude version of itself. Now the waiters are imitating pole dancers on the server stands. This is not what I want to see at a classy dinner. On our first cruise, the waiters got together on the last night and sang an American patriotic song to show they were appreciative — and we all returned the appreciation favor back to them with thanks, applause, and tips. None of that goes on anymore. However, at the individual level, I need to state that the wait service was still VERY GOOD. One of my family members had a special dietary restriction, and the Maitre d’ and the waiter bent over backwards to accommodate him at every meal, including breakfasts and lunch on the Lido when we were in port, and which consisted of reviewing the menu for the day on the night before (!!) so that they would be sure to have any dish prepared the right way. We REALLY appreciated that part of the service.
Formal Nights, now called Cruise Elegant, were the only times that the dining room somewhat resembled what Carnival was for us for so many years with table cloths, better settings, better menu. I am really disappointed in Carnival. We are gold status members, and we are VERY PARTIAL to Carnival, but I guess we’ll have to find a different cruise line in the future. What with bringing the standards of the Lido down into the Dining Room, the lowering of the menu, and the gangs of chuggers, I can only conclude that Carnival has decided to re-aim their cruise experience for a lower-class customer. Good-bye, Carnival! It was great while it lasted.