This was my second cruise (my first being almost 20 years ago) and my husband's first. We were celebrating his 40th birthday, so I wanted to make sure our experience was memorable and as stress-free as possible. I loved reading reviews and tips for our cruise and thought I should share my experience..in other words, this review might be long. After booking the trip and reading reviews, I made sure our expectations were very low. However, there was nothing to worry about....we had a fantastic time! As many people have stated in these reviews, your experience is what you make of it.
If you can get this, do it. $49.99 for everyone in the room is worth it. We were first to board the ship, we had our luggage waiting for us in our room by 1pm, and we were first to tender to Catalina Island. The waiting in line/skipping to the front might not be important to some, having that priority status made our vacation that much more relaxed. I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone. We have already booked our next cruise and purchased it for that trip, too.
Our cabin was great for just two people. We were on the Upper Deck and had an Ocean View. We really loved waking up in the morning with the sun rising. We did some research before we sailed and brought a mesh, collapsible clothes bin and also a cheap, clear shoe rack to hang over the door. Both of these things really helped keep our cabin in order. Our room steward was incredible.
The service overall was great. The staff is happy to help with any questions you might have (if they can) and eager for conversation. We did pay our gratuities up front and had no problems tipping additional if the service was fantastic.
You can always find something to eat between the buffets, room service, the deli, and the pizza parlor. We are not big fans of buffets anyway, so we did not expect much. However, I felt that you could always find something to eat. We loved the Seaday Brunch and the main dining room food. We tried a variety of different foods - alligator, lamp, duck, snails, and some of the best red meat we've ever eaten. You can have as much of any one thing as you want, just ask! We absolutely LOVED Taste.
We loved the live music and bands. We did not see any shows and can't comment on those. We did spend one evening dancing the night away at Illusion and had a fun time.
The boat's upkeep is top notch. Again, our expectations were basically down to a Motel 6 so this ship really impressed us. Yes, there are neon lights and crazy patterned carpets but that made the experience even more fun. We truly felt like we were a world away! We did spend a little time on the Serenity Deck (adults only) and loved being away from the loudness of the pool area. My only suggestion on improving this space is to have some kind of music piped in. Smooth jazz or easy listening on a low volume would be ideal.
Carnival's Shuttle Service:
Absolutely fantastic! We used the shuttle service to take us to the ship. The charter bus was quick, clean, and professional.
A few other things that I recall: the photos they take on the ship are incredible. Some say to just take your own pictures, and yes, definitely do that but I would recommend putting a little money aside in your budget for these pictures. They really are stunning. The layout of the ship is a little strange but we were able to get around just fine. Keep a map of the decks on you for reference. We both had spa services and they were wonderful. We did use the gym and it was adequate.
The ship stays pretty cold inside. Take a sweater, light jacket or hoodie. My husband didn't know it would be so cold and had a buy a light jacket when we stopped at Catalina Island.
Hope this review helped. Enjoy your cruise!