First off I will say that I have cruised over a dozen times and have been on RCCL ( our line of choice), Celebrity, Norwegian, and Princess. This was our first and possibly only cruise on Carnival.
There was just so many things lacking on this trip it was enough to partially sour us on spending money with Carnival again. The service overall was pretty bad. I spent the money on the soda card and it was basically a waste there was never a bartender present to fill a cup for me not to mention they tried to sell me for $4.95 on top of the price of the card a reuseable cup ( what a waste). In the dinining room you would think after the first or second night that your soda's would be waiting at the table for you. The drink service was so slow it wasn't even funny. We prefer late seating and was at table 206 there was at least 2 maybe 3 nights that we didn't even see our waiter at all. The head waiter ended up taking and delivering our order. Never in all my years of cruising have I seen this happen before. To top it off the food was really not that good either all the sauces and soups were extremely salty and the desserts were hit or miss especially the Chocolate Melting Cake which my Wife and FIL ordered each night. It was a running joke to see what consistency the dessert would be which ranged from complete liquid to totally solid and overcooked as were the soft boiled ( arrived as hard poached) eggs I ordered once in the dining room. It is clear that the attention to detail and consistency isn't something Carniva Prides themselves on.
The ship is old and really shows her age lots of broken decorate items around the ship and faded carpeting. The ship is in a general state of needing a good sprucing up. Our Balcony was one of the smallest I have ever been on and we couldn' open the door without moving the chairs out of the way and both of us could not stretch out at the same time it was really tight and dissapointing.
The coffee on board was horrible and unless you got it from the buffett dispensing machines it tasted soapy, and burnt and when it was fresh it didn't have much taste to begin with.
We booked this trip very last minute only a few days before sailing to escape the miserable winter so Carnival was really our only option. We are loyal Royal Caribbean cruisers and the difference was really apparent to us from the level of service to the quality of the food and the ship overall.
The thing that really bothered me the most was the night before Nassau knowing we ha ot be up early and not wanting to waste time with the crowds of pushy and rude people in the buffett or wait in line for the slow dining room service ( and I mean slow) I put the tag on the door to order the continental breakfast delivered to the room figured the extra time to get us and the baby ready would be helpful. The tag said to put it out on the door before 5AM, my tag was out shortly after 1AM and when my alarm woke me up a few minutes before my requested delivery time I checked the door aroun 7am and the tag was still there they NEVER bothered to come pick it up.
There were a massive amount of public bathrooms at what seemed lik eevery turn which was nice but sadly not a single one had a diaper changing station except for the one at the Kids area in Deck 1 which meant we either had to go all the way back to the cabin or find a quiet couch to lay the pad out and change out little man. For a line the promotes being family friendly it really wasn't.
We went to the cooking demo in David's which was nice and out of all the ship, and lines i've been on it was the first time we were actually fed samples and they didn't try to " wow" everyone by making Caesar salad dressing. The taste of the Mushroom soup was enough to give us a reason to book a night in the steakhouse. Very misleading becuase NONE of the items in the demo with the exception of the cheesecake was actually served in the restuarant. The $35 cover compared to the food quality and service was not worth it.
Things we loved:
Not being home- In the end I cant say there is such a thing as a bad vacation at least not that we have encountered yet and if desperation and push came to shove I would sail Carnival again but many moons and planets would have to allign for that to happen.
Our room Steward- Our man "D" was awesome and deserved the extra tip we gave him after dealing wiht many diapers, and cheerios on the floor no matter how hard we tried to clean up after out 20month old a small cabin meant it just got messy again quickly.
The Dining Room Staff- They were all really great in playing with my toddler but not so much in bringing food. We got more attention from other servers and staff not so much from our own.
The decor of the ship- We were expecting the flashy party type colors that other Carnival ships have and was surprised to see it more on the elegant side. The Taj Mahal theater was beautiful and I prefer pews or benches to individual seats, we were able to find one spot on the the top floor that we were able to put the stroller so that our son wasn't blocked by the massive pillars and could see the stage from the comfort ( and confinement) of his stroller). We joked at the sheer amount of naked people on the ships decor from the mermaids on deck to all of the wall coverings on the walls and elevators. It was even funnier that in most of the elevators anywhere there was supposed to be a nipple ( male of female) someone had scratched that part of the decal off. It was funny but also showed the ship is not being maintained.
The ports- We've been to them many times over so this trip wasn't so much about the ports. We did enjoy the British Colonial Hiltion daypasses we pre-purchased as it was withing walking distance from the ship which was great for the baby being we were not going to risk it without a carseat on a bus or taxi. With 3 ships in port one of which holds 4500 pax plus the nature of the week we knew the Atlantis would be packed to capacity when factoring in the regular resident guests and it was so over priced and not worth it. The BCH has a nice warm pool and private beach and was not crowded at all it was quite and peacefull and perfect.
The shows- The female singer was great, the male singer was horrible and either English wasn't hit first language or he has rocks in his mouth when he sang by far the worst diction I have heard in a long time. The stage band was good but was really lacking a trumpet player to even out the mix and provide desperately missing harmonies ( we are musicians ourselves and have played professionally and for fun)
The Room Service- The menu is more varied when compared to RCCL and we have gotten very used to their menu so a change was nice. Nothing came hot of course ( like the Reuben or Grilled Cheese) but I quickly became addicted to the Shrimp Salad on French Bread ( order 2 it's a small portion). We regularly got things we didn't order and items we did order was left off. With a toddler we ordered room service almost nightly and it was nevery consistent, and the wierdest part was if the food came on more than one tray ( with the drinks it regularly did) they didn't come together on a cart like other lines. The person would drop off one tray and then have to come back ( usually 10 minutes later) with the second tray which of course always had the forks which meant a very impatient toddler and an annoyed set of parents. I graciously tipped in general aroun $2-$4 each time a delivery was made.
Overall we decided that we much prefer Royal Caribbean and their consistent level of service and their standards. Especially when traveling with young kids having to search out a server isn't a good option even in the buffet area. On RCL they come to you and will help with getting drinks ( even waters, and free ones) as well as sodas. It shoudln't take 10 minutes to get a cup of soda or a high chair for that matter. If the situation was right and the price was perfect we might take a chance and sail again.