This was our second and probably last cruise with Carnival. First let me say that I think you get your money's worth with CCL but we are willing to pay a little more to get that edge that Carnival is missing. Although the ship, amenities, entertainment, ports of call, food, and service were about what we expected, we were hoping for just a little more. It is probably a great value for families with children looking for a cruise vacation. It that regard it probably ranks right up next to Disney for a lot less money.
Embarkation in Galveston was a breeze, but then, we had FTTF to get us on board quicker and it worked. If we were ever to sail with Carnival again, that is the only way to fly and well worth the extra $50. The port itself was easy to navigate. Within a couple of minutes we had unloaded our luggage and drove our rental car to the parking lot. We booked our parking on line so it was only $45 for the 5 days. A shuttle picked us up immediately and we were through security and in the check-in line before I could even think about finding a seat on the Lido deck. No problems with our luggage getting to our stateroom. It appeared about 2 or 3 PM. We were able to get to the room around Noon to drop our carry on bags.
Lunch on the Lido was a breeze. Guy's burgers were great for me, but my DW, not so much. She just isn't a burger person, but she didn't investigate any of the other venues. The drink special at the Red Frog Rum Bar hit the spot and I was able to maintain my image of the "Old Man in the Cool Cruisin' Hat with a Drink in Both Hands" with no trouble.
We were in stateroom 1005, 10th deck all the way forward on the starboard side, and we loved it. The veranda was large enough for the two of us, but it would not have been large enough if we were trying to eat a meal there. Two deck chairs and a small table fit nicely with little room to spare. The room was clean and well maintained. After we found all of the light switches AND the slide control on the AC vent we were comfortable. The AC is controlled by a slide on the vent itself, which for a vertically challenged person of my stature requires a balancing act on a chair to reach. There is no thermostat control. Our major complaint is that Carnival cuts costs by mounting liquid soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower. Not my cup of tea. Individual hotel type containers and decent bar soap would have been my choice.
Our room stewards were fantastic. They quickly learned our names and never failed to greet us by name. Ice was always available and our towel animals never failed to appear on our turned down bed when we returned to our stateroom in the evening. The bed was made and the room cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast in the morning. I must say that they earned every bit of the additional tip that I gave to them at the end of the cruise.
Although I thought the Red Frog Rum Bar was going to be my favorite with an occasional change to the Blue Iguana Tequila bar, we soon discovered the Alchemy and Milo our favorite bar tender. He quickly learned our preferences and whenever we walked up to the bar, he was making our special drinks before we sat down. All of the staff was cordial and friendly.
Now we get to our major complaint with Carnival. FOOD! Whether it was in the MDR or the Lido Buffet or any of the ancillary fast food joints, the food in our opinion is institutional at best. The selections appear to be quality restaurant on the menus, but what gets served is rather bland, tasteless, and totally unexceptional. It is probably on purpose, but the selections usually seemed to be better suited for the 8 to 11 year old tastes. Portions are small, so if you are really hungry, order multiple entrees. On lobster night order 2, they are small, then order the prime rib as an additional side, but don't be surprised if the drawn butter is cold and the meat is overcooked. Since we did not have traditional seating, we did not get to know our wait staff, but those that did wait on us were pleasant and efficient. Our meals were served quickly, drinks were refilled whenever needed and we never felt rushed. Dessert in our opinion was just so so. Sea days brunch was good and for the most part met expectations. Eggs were cooked correctly and were hot when served. My DW particularly enjoyed the salmon and bagels.
Excursions - We chose one ship sponsored excursion to Merida to see Spanish architecture and to do a bit of shopping. We enjoyed this one, particularly the Mayan Shrimp for lunch. Be prepared to bargain if you want to buy anything and you will probably get a better deal if you have Pesos not Dollars. We didn't have time, but there is a new museum that we would have like to have explored.
In Cozumel we booked a private Cozumel Bar Hop tour that took us to the back side of the island and it was fantastic. Since it was not a ship sponsored tour there were people from several ships and resorts on board. All were party people with no kids. Check them out here on Cruise Critic or Trip Advisor. They deserve all of the excellent ratings that they have received.
Entertainment - Totally not impressed. The shows were ok for kids, but off key singing, extremely loud orchestra, missed dance steps and weak choreography did not make them enjoyable for us. We almost had to leave due to the volume. The magic show again was great for kids, but not for us. The comics were funny, but the venue was over crowded. Music around the ship was ok in quality, again, too loud.
Debarkation - with FTTF was quick, easy, and without a hitch. We were on our way back to Houston before we had time to say good-bye to some of the new friends that we made on the cruise.
Overall, we enjoyed ourselves and for the money, it was worth it. We had 5 days of beautiful weather and a good time overall. This was our 3rd cruise and the second on Carnival. We haven't given up on cruising, we just haven't found the right fit yet.