In reading some of the gripes about Carnival not delivering value for the price, I wonder if the context of it is cruising during a holiday or spending extra on the cabin selection. You can spend more on some things and you will still have the same food, entertainment and ports as someone next to you or after you that paid less money. Do your comparison shopping and look at other cruise line rates before you book. Our previous cruises were Disney and no one does it like Disney. On the other hand Carnival delivered an ocean view, 7 night, 4 port cruise for what it cost us for an interior, 3 night, 2 port Disney cruise. Carnival was great for a budget friendly family trip because we could a la carte the trip and decide what extra things we did or did not want to do.
The not so good was some of the food, in particular the beef, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for a future cruise for me as I would just skip it next time and More
found plenty of other choices.
Background: Two near 50 yr olds, two near twenty year olds, and a 13 yr old. Chose this cruise based on itinerary and cruse rates were a good value. Bought the cruise through the Carnival website- good website and they re-priced our fares when I found them lower. It was tempting to upgrade to balcony rooms, but we chose to spend that money elsewhere- excursions, South Beach Miami pre-cruise stay (not booked through Carnival) and drinks by the pool!
Miami area: The Good: Flew into Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) for a better fare than Miami and free baggage on Southwest. Savings for 5 people was greater than the extra $100 round trip taxi cost as long as we all fit in one van and we did. Arrived the day before the cruise. Hired a shuttle van curbside for a reasonable price. Stayed in South Beach (SOBE) at Courtyard Marriott on Washington. One of the few SOBE hotels to accommodate 5 people in a room. SOBE lodging in January can be expensive, but we enjoyed our time there, Art Deco weekend festivities, Lincoln Road Mall shopping and beer at Hofbrauhouse. Front Porch restaurant.
Not so good : Long lines for a taxi at FLL. Food at Hofbrau house disappointing. Most restaurants automatically add gratuity, so check before you unwittingly add more.
Brought our allotment of sodas, wine and bottled water aboard in a wheeled carryon bag. Ordered a bottle for the room from Bon Voyage. The lines looked long when we arrived at port, but they moved quickly. Cabins were ready early.
The good: Cabin Steward was good and had the ice bucket filled in the afternoons. Clean ship. Hand sanitizers located conveniently. Although people saved deck chairs, there were plenty. We loved the family and adult comedy shows- some funnier than others of course. The kids liked watching the poolside activities. The singing cruise director "Good Morning, I say a good morning..." Somebody record that please, put it on the internet so I can dub it into my cruise slide show. At first we weren't sure about the singing intro. to the announcements. By the end of the cruise my son was doing a pretty good impression.
Not so Good: Amazing so many passengers skipped the hand sanitizer before they grabbed their food (hamburgers, pizza, ice cream cones). Lucky for them we didn’t have a Noro virus outbreak. Oceanview cabin Windows were dirty and streaked the whole week. Elevators and stairwells not labeled "Forward", "Mid" and "Aft", but you can consult a map by the elevators to find your way. Since the galley is between the two main dining rooms on Lobby deck, there is not access across Lobby deck, so plan accordingly.
The Good: Guys burgers, Blue Iguana -easy to grab a breakfast burrito before heading into port. Fish and Chips, pizza. Servers in the dining room were friendly and fun. Bacon Mac n cheese,Chocolate Melting Cake, calamari, Cranberry bread, bread with pumpkin seed on top, crab cake, Lobster. Water carafes on the table.
Not so good: We were a party of 5 seated with another party of 5. I thought we would have had our own table but considered it awkward for me to ask for another table after the first night (and they were nice people). The timing of food was uneven. A few evenings we sat waiting for our entrees near an hour then we rushed through dessert to get out before 8:00. Did they have too many tables? Was it because there were 10 people at our table? Not sure. I didn't complain because the servers looked like they were trying so hard. Steakhouse staff excellent, but both of our steaks didn’t seem worth the $35 each upcharge, so we cancelled our last night reservation there.
The bad: Lady who used her finger to get the Peanut butter off the serving spoon at the buffet and she put the spoon right back in the peanut butter bowl. Really!!
Dining room Chateaubriand and prime rib that tasted like the salted pre-marinated kind from the supermarket- not good. I need a coffee jolt in the morning and the ship coffee felt like decaf. Tolerable taste, but it left me flat. Creams Café only serves blended coffee drinks and espressos (for a fee). Next time I will bring instant coffee or a French press mug, since there were plenty of hot water dispensers.
Excursions. Do remember the ship time vs local time. We had watches on our beach bags.
Cozumel- Money Bar and snorkeling with Cozumel H2O. Our group could snorkel and dive from the same boat. It was fun. Loes and Uriel were great.
Roatan, Honduras: Subway Sports- best snorkeling of the trip, also Little French Key is a tropical paradise. Belize - Ecological Tours trip to Goff's Caye booked onshore. Snorkeling was included but not very good that day- lots of wind and waves. Best lobster I had on the whole trip and only $10 on Goff's! Beach was not overcrowded even though there were several ships in port.
Grand Cayman: Stingray city was closed so we snorkeled in the Georgetown Harbor- shipwreck and tarpon swimming around there. I saw the big Tarpon and had to get in. Because of the water current that day we had to snorkel down the shoreline before we found a ladder to climb out at- no sandy beach to walk out. So do plan your exit and don’t try to fight your way back to entry point if the current is carrying you along the shore. After that we went to the restaurant on the harbor and they have a ladder that you can climb down to snorkel over to the shipwreck. One of the dive shops there had let us know about it. Wish we had went over to check out 7 Mile Beach but we ran out of time.
Not so Good: Roatan has a 19% tax rate, so bring enough money for your excursion. We should have went over to Seven Mile Beach on GC but saw those big Tarpon and we never left the harbor. Bland coffee at coffee shop in GC (I was desperate and disappointed). Restaurant on the harbor there (can't remember the name) drinks were good but the lobster was a small portion and expensive (US$40). Next time will consider booking a Carnival Excursion in Belize if it is a water excursion leaving from the ship. We tendered ashore there, then our non-Carnival excursion drove right back out in the direction of the ship. Same thing when we came back in, but outside tour companies are obviously prohibited from stopping at the ship for pick up or drop off.
Room Service/Bon Voyage:
Not so good: I pre-ordered a bottle of scotch, but the wrong type was delivered. A friend pre-ordered a birthday cake, fruit and cheese platter and bar credit to be delivered on my birthday. The cake arrived a day after my birthday as we were headed to dinner. No place to store it, so we had cake for breakfast the next morning. The greeting card telling me about the cheese platter arrived a day later and when we ordered it they said it would be 5 hours before they could bring it. It did look nice and was big (but not 5 hours big) Never received a notice/card about the bar credit gift and only found out when my friend asked me about enjoying it. I did later find an unspecified credit on our bill. We didn't have a room service menu in the cabin and didn't look for one.
Debarkation- Wish that we had done the self Assist (carried our own luggage off the ship). We didn’t get called for debarkation until 11:30 am. Understandably, the debarkation call is related to your flight time, but we didn’t know it would be so late otherwise. We had planned to rent a car, visit Vizcaya and drive to the airport. Customs lines were slow. There were multiple lines and several had 2 lines for one customs agent. They were somewhat organized in getting people into taxis. We had a group of 5 and we were able to fit us and luggage into one van. Fort Lauderdale airport is really crowded on Sundays, so don't get there any earlier than your airline advises..
Back home now
The good: Great memories and family time. We had fun and explored 4 ports that we would like to go back and visit again. Ate plenty.
The bad: Came home fatter. Our tropical vacation over and we are preparing for yet another snowstorm! Enjoy your cruise if you are planning one.
Helpful websites in planning this trip:
Cruise CTT if you want to know what other ships are in port with you. (Crowd level) http://ships.cruisett.com/schedule/Carnival_Cruise_Lines/Carnival_Glory