Just returned from our Carnival Cruise. You know all those complaints about Carnival food? Well, it turns out people know what they are talking about. The Filet Mignon WAS shaped like a tenderloin and it was vaguely beef-like. The flat iron steak in the main dining room was also beef like. The Mongolian grill was excellent - for the 2 hours a day that it was open. You could get cooked frozen pizza 24 hours a day - with a ten-minute wait. You could usually get a burger cooked most of the day - a burger that McDonalds would be ashamed of. I will say that a lot of people enjoyed the 1 night that they served lobster. So if you want to pay the price for a cruise in order to get 1 lobster tail, then you will get a good lobster.
I was looking forward to a lot of shows, but there were only a few. Supposedly, there would be lots of comics. In 5 days there were 10 half hour comedy shows - of which 6 were "adult" themed and 2 family shows were repeats. Sample adult joke: "I'll be glad to get home so I can sleep with my OWN wife." We lasted about 5 minutes.
In a 5 night cruise there were 4 Vegas-themed dance shows lasting an hour. There 4 half hour dance classes. There were a couple of shows in the Piano bar but they were scheduled at the same time as the other shows. There was one rockabilly band that played in the hallway most nights, so not more than 30 people could listen. In short, I was expecting a cruise were I could spend most of my time listening to music or comics - but there was not more that 1 or 2 hours each night that I could watch entertainers. The Romeo and Juliet lounge, the drama bar, the Gatsby bar, the Cole Porter lounge, the Jekyll and Hyde disco, the piano bar are almost always empty and dark. Afternoons are empty of entertainment activity. The only music on the boat was on the stage at the pool where a DJ played music and 1 or 2 kids occasionally danced.
Cozumel and Progresso were fun. Fortunately I knew to buy the tours directly in the towns instead of paying the $90/day/person that Carnival was charging.
Embarkation was confusing in the extreme. Even though I had filled out everything online previously it took an hour to stand in line after line after line after line. When you finally get to the desk for the sail and sign card, the desk clerk knows nothing - can do nothing about dining assignments and doesn't even know how to tell you where to go to fix it. "Just ask someone with a green jacket". Asking inside the boat was confusing because the staff were all clueless. After another hour of standing in lines someone finally told me where the maitre'd was.
Debarkation was almost as bad. In the room papers and the announcements, they tell you that you need to register if you have an early flight. But when you try to register they tell you "just show up in the Cole Porter Lounge at 7:30 with your bags" It turns out that everyone who just wants to get off the boat first thing is told the same thing. We had to rudely push our way through a throng (not a line) because we really did have an early flight.
The Cheers package is very, very limited. By the time they finish telling all of the things it DOESN'T cover (bottled water, coffee, single bottles in the room, special drinks being carried around the deck) the only thing it DOES cover is cocktails, glasses of wine, and beer - for over $55/day/person.
The boat was clean and well-maintained and the staff was friendly, remembered our names and did their very best. I give 2 stars because of how hard they tried. The problems are entirely corporate.
In short, I enjoyed the cruise enough, I guess, but I won't be doing business with Carnival again. They are not spending money on food or entertainment. It would be cheaper and more enjoyable to just get a condo somewhere where entertainment was actually available.