I should start off by saying that I traveled with my husband, we are 25 yrs old and this was our first cruise. WIth that said, we really don't have other cruises to compare this to, but these are our experiences...Over all, I'm not sure if i'd book another carnival cruise. Only if I got a really good deal on it. Another review posted it was the "walmart of cruises" I might have to agree on this one.
Embark - Very smoothly. We got there around 11:00pm expecting to wait until 1:30 to board the ship and we got on no lines no waiting. We already had our funpass filled out, as well as our Bahamas immigration form filled out so we didn't have to wait in any of those lines. Very smooth process. We were on the boat by 11:30 and eating at the Red Sail by 12:00.
1 problem: I have out of control bloodsugar problems. ie: I'm on a strict meal time schedule, etc. If I stick to eating my three meals a day plus snacks I don't have problems. But when I eat at different times it throws me completely off...Well, we noticed that we had the wrong seating assignment on our sign and sale cards - so we headed straight to the dining room. Explained to the Maitre D that I have bloodsugar problems and needed to eat at either 5:45 or 6:15. He said he'd put me on a waiting list, (we were first on the list) but then added in a very sarcastic tone that there was plenty of food to eat on the ship and if I wanted to eat early around 6:00 I might as well just eat at the Red Sail for dinner and not come to the dining room. I was VERY upset by this. STRIKE ONE...
After lunch, we headed to our rooms to find our luggage already waiting for us. Great job on Carnival's part! What efficiency! We were also greeted by our stateroom steward who was very friendly and never let us down the entire week. He was by far the best part of the cruise - every time we left the room our room was tidied up, and any problem we had, he took care of it with in minutes. He was wonderful!
At dinner time, we went back to the Maitre D if he had decided if we could have the earlier seating and he told us no, we were still on the list and that that there were plenty of openings in the late seating, and just because I have bloodsugar problems doesn't give me the right to decide when I want to eat. Uhh, I don't decide, my body says it's six i'm hungry. strike two. Around dinner time (six or so) the red sail was beyond flooded with people. So we ordered room service. I was very disappointed that I was missing out on the experience in the dining room and had to eat a turkey sandwich instead.
The next morning, we heard that several couples had been moved from the late seating to the early seating by slipping a 20 into his hand...so we went down to the Maitre D again to check on any openings and he then proceeded to tell us that families with children get first priority and that the cruise was full to capacity and there was nothing he could do for us. We were "First" on the list and when something becomes available he'd give it to us first. Now, we could tell he was lying b/c we already talked to several people who had been moved. He then told us to "stop bothering him" STRIKE THREE. We soon realized that he basically wasn't going to move us b/c we didn't give him extra money. Little does he know if he would've moved us in the first place we would have tipped him. We're not going to give him $$ unless we receive service first. SO we went to the information desk and they told us "there's plenty of food on the ship, you don't need to eat there for dinner" It's not a "NEED" it's a want, I want to eat in the dining room, I want to experience the waiters dancing around, meeting others at dinner and enjoying the experience of new foods... After I went to the desk a second time had then remove a portion that would cover dinner tips - after all we weren't eating there, i'm not going to tip them - they were very upset that I could "do that" I explained to them 100% in tears that i'm not paying tips to someone who i'm not receiving service from...I really did make a scene (not intended)...the next day we received a note that we got the early seating. This whole ordeal really was obnoxious and it ruined part of my trip.
Carnival should do something about this. I'm not saying they can please everyone, but throughout the week most people did not get what they requested for dinner times, whether they booked a year ago or a week before the cruise. I specifically told the person through carnival booking me, "I MUST have an early seating" I sent him doctor's info, etc. And did it happen? No. Very obnoxious.
After we were in the dining room after a few days, the food wasn't that good. I'm not a foodie, we don't eat out very often so this was a treat to get "good meals' several times this week. However, I could cook steak or these foods just as well if not better. There were several days my meat at fat throughout the entire thing. You'd think they'd at least cut the fat off the side before serving it to me? The waitstaff looked like they were being over worked and the service was "okay" because of that. We understood when our orders were forgotten, when we didn't receive utensils or when they would forget to bring some people salads etc. For how many tables they were serving and the amt of work they were doing, the waitstaff receives kudos. They really should hire more staff.
We were frequent visitors to the 24 hour pizza and the soft serve ice cream. Seemed to fill the gaps when we were hungry. If they didn't have the pizza right there for you, they'd make it on the spot, pretty neat.
Ports of call:
Cozumel - We went to Paradise beach, at the recommendation of several cruise critic members. When we arrived it was raining...but after the rain we enjoyed ourselves. We had an absolute blast. We were greeted by someone who sold us a wrist band. We paid 13 dollars to drive out there, 9 dollars on a wrist band and 20 dollars on lunch and couldn't have been more happy with the service and experience. I enjoyed beach snorkeling and the ocean kayaking. Can't beat that price! Plenty of chairs, clean facilities and alot of families to tone down the obnoxious drinkers. PERFECT. I would highly recommend going, you won't be disappointed.
Belize City - If you don't have an excursion don't get off the boat. You have to tender (20 minute boat ride to the port) and it's not worth it. The city is full of trash and we were disappointed that the excursion drove us through parts of town where we could see some things children on the bus really shouldn't be exposed to. We had an excursion booked through carnival (our one and only one) It rained the entire time out to the location. We drove on a paved road for an hour and a gravel road (well red clay with pot holes) for another 45 minutes. Our excursion was the Canopy tour (zip line). The actual excursion minus the rain was awesome, we had fantastic guides and had a blast. Nothing can explain the experience of going through the jungle... Double kudos to this staff. However, the bus rides were horrific. We were supposed to be back by 12:30, and didn't end up getting back until 3:30. Those of us on the bus with bloodsugar problems were struggling to stay awake and conscious (even after eating numerous snacks from what we brought and what others gave us) you'd think they would have offered us some sort of food...We later heard that this tour typically runs late...would've been nice to know I would've brought more food! ALso, if we would've known it was so long, we might not have chosen it.
Costa Maya - The cruise ships have built this little shopping area right off the board which is beyond over priced. So we took a taxi cab (three dollars there, two dollars back) to the small fishing village. We walked around there, shopped a little and then decided to get some sun. We made the mistake of not asking for prices when we sat down, because our meal of ONE strawberry dac, two cokes and one entree ended up being 36.00. Basically the guy didn't tell us that we were "renting" the chairs and table as we ate. He screwed us over. In the long run, 36 dollars for beautiful beaches, a meal and an afternoon of relaxing is not alot, but we were shocked to find out how much that was. After we left we could hear several people debating their "prices" with him and he was threatening the police... lesson learned we should've asked before we sat down.
Nassau - we did not book an excursion through carnival b/c they took off all the "beach" excursions at the last minute. (So people who booked online were refunded their $$). We got off the ship not really knowing what we wanted to do and were stopped by a local who offered us a tour of the city and Atlantis for 25 a person. So we took her up on that offer, we rode in an airconditioned van with 9 other people. We got a tour of their govt area, explanation of several laws and customs, homes and how they live their day to day life. Then, she drove us by the water tower where there wa s not only a little market with cute little items but "Queens staircase" where we were able to take some pictures and look around. Then we hopped back into the van, and she took us over to the island where Atlantis stood. It was a neat hotel, but in my honest opinion they were making too big of a deal about it. We toured the hotel and aquarium and then back into the van. We asked her if she could just drop us off at the beach instead of taking us back to the port and she said sure, so we spent the rest of the day at the beach. The beach was rough, and it seemed as though stupidity ran through the people in that area as far as getting into the rough waves. The life guard said "no swimming b/c of rip tides" but you'd be amazed how many people still get into the water only to get knocked down... Or parents that allow their kids to get into the water only to swim out to get them b/c they're crying... We also went to the infamous straw market. We were disappointed b/c all the items were over priced, and when we tried to make a deal they would tell us "honey i've got to eat, i'm not lowering." Where as in other ports we saw the exact same items for 1/3 of the price. Over all, if it hadn't been for the tour we would've been bored out of our mind, there's not alot to do at this port and it was the general consensus at our dinner table this port could've been skipped.
Cabins - Were small - but they had alot of space saving areas throughout the cabin to make up for the small space available. We had an interior cabin, (smallest as they come) and we were satisfied with how much room we had. With two of us, and our beds pushed together, we were fine. I heard others complaining, but we seemed to get by just fine. We were able to unpack all our stuff, and store our suitcases which made it alot easier throughout the week. Only complaint is the shower was a little small for my 250 lb husband.
Decor around the boat - i've heard it was gaudy, but to be honest with you, i didn't pay too much attention to any of it, I was focusing more on getting to where I needed to go and do what I needed to do to stop and look at the walls and say "they could've painted this another color".
Photos: It seemed like everywhere we went they were trying to take our photo and then sell it to us. Here's you at dinner, here's walking off the boat, here's on the pier, etc. We didn't even bother buying them, because of people or things in the background. We had fun looking at everyone else's pictures though. Seemed to pass the time waiting for dinner.
Casino: did not visit this because it was overly smoky the entire week. We did however, get a kick of a channel on the TV where it showed 24 hours of teaching you how to use the slot machines or how to gamble.
Other lounges: THis is the part that boggles my mind: they are filled with smoke - all of them. I think this was the number one complaint on the boat - not enough places for NONSMOKERS to go. Alot of the activities (trivia, etc) were held in smoking lounges, well if you don't want to inhale all the smoke or if you're allergic it's not a good environment. All the activities at night, disco, karaoke, dancing, etc were all in "smoking" areas which prohibited many people from attending.
Internet Cafe: It's in the cigar room! Seriously, that's gotta be changed. SEveral older folks were complaining they couldn't go in there b/c of the smoke, and of course that gave me motivation to avoid the computer b/c of the smoke as well.
Activities: On sea days there was ALWAYS something to do. You couldn't be bored. However on days where we were at port the ship was quiet and not an activity to be found until all aboard and sailing off. We liked the daily capers. This allowed us to plan our day the night before and I liked the tear off section that we could keep in our pockets for quick reference.
Entertainment: Uhh, few pet peeves. 1. Music was so loud you couldn't hear their voices 2. They had the singers dancing around - so when they tried to sing they'd be out of breath. What we liked: justin illusion because he was also a comedy act, so we liked his personality not so much his "tricks". We also liked some of the comedians at the regular shows, however when you put them at the later "adult" shows, there was alot of cursing and jokes that were not funny.
Cruise director and Social Staff: Excellent! We had dana hudson, and his crew and they were great. Each social host had a good personality and made many of the activities so much more enjoyable. Kudos, double kudos to them.
To save money we: 1. Did not buy over priced pictures, instead we took our own pictures with our digital camera and are printing them off using snapfish or shutterfly in the next few weeks. 2. Did not buy alot of "drinks" 3. Brought on a 12 pack of soda, koolaid mix and crystal light tea mix. Between those, and the free juice, coffee and hot coco we were fine. 4. Did most of the shore activities w/out carnival. 5. No internet. 6. Stayed far away from the carnival stores.
Types of people: Uh, this was supposed to be a ship where there was a younger crowd...We were told there were 400 kids on board, however I never saw them unless it was dinner time and even then they were all behaved. Great job to the responsible parenting! Being 25 I felt like a little kid compared to everyone else there. The general age group of the cruise was 45 yrs and older. We met ONE couple that was close to our age (30 yrs old), and other than that, we were constantly being singled out "oh you're so young" etc. Everyone we met kept telling us "we have kids your age, etc" We saw alot of stuff for singles 35+, and older adult activities but felt that the activities for younger adults were lacking.
Rocking: The ship was rocking the entire time. We felt very light headed several times b/c of how rough the seas were. We know Carnival doesn't have control of this, which is why I won't hold this against them. I guess we just hit a bad time of the year to sail.
Disembark: Fairly easy, we were close to the bottom, and did not elect to use self assist so we were the last ones of the ship. We were through customs and on US soil ready to be picked up by 10:30. Not stressful, very relaxing morning.