Having taken a seven night cruise on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines less than a year prior to this cruise, my wife and I were very excited to cruise again and experience another ship and cruise line. However, we were, overall, disappointed by the food, cleanliness, service, and atmosphere of this cruise. While our trip was not a bad trip, if what we experienced was typical of Carnival Cruise Lines, I would not recommend them to anyone. Undoubtedly, this trip could have been much improved by a lot more attention to detail and less worry by Carnival about the bottom line. My wife and I spent much of the trip discussing how much better our experience on RCCL had been. We chose a Carnival three night cruise from Long Beach, CA as it fit with both of our work schedules. We took the time to fly to LAX and spend the day before the cruise at Universal Studios Hollywood. We drove from Universal Studios and spent the night at the Long Beach Hilton. The morning of the cruise was spent at the Aquarium of the Pacific, a very wonderful exhibit of Pacific fish and wildlife and one that was well worth the $20 entry fee. We finished at the aquarium at about noon and turned our rental car in at the Long Beach Airport, which is about a 20 minute drive from the Carnival Cruise Terminal. Getting from the airport to the cruise terminal was very easy as shuttle service is available at the rental car lot.
We booked this cruise in part, because of Carnival's advertisement of free upgrades within the same cabin class. We booked a category 6 ocean view room expecting an upgrade. However, this never materialized and Carnival never mentioned why. I wonder does Carnival consistently make a habit of offering more than it intends to deliver?
Embarkation went smoothly, but I was a little surprised that the embarkation agent could not make any changes to dinner seating or bed arrangements. In fact, the whole Carnival web site is lacking in information after you book your cruise. I never received an acknowledgement from Carnival concerning my booking. However, RCCL sent us a greeting and tips immediately after notification from the internet travel agent on how to make our experience more enjoyable.
The room we reserved could accommodate two single beds and a Pullman or it could be set up in a king bed configuration, as was done for us. Closet and drawer space is certainly adequate for a three or four night cruise. However, the king bed arrangement left very little room for the two stools and one chair. One problem with the room is that there is a square storage box in the corner that is used for head boards for the single bed arrangement. When the room is set up as a king, the person on the side of the bed next to the window has to crawl over the bed to get out of bed. Seems a more sensible arrangement would be to have the corner box movable so it can be used in multiple configurations.
The bathroom only had a shower. It was comfortably large. The shower head was one of those that rides up and down on a rail and so can easily accommodate persons of varying heights. The shower is equipped with shampoo and body wash dispensers, but lacks adequate shelves to store one's own shampoo bottles or other personal hygiene articles. One complaint I had with the shower manifold was that it was not pressure balancing, so the water temperature varied widely while bathing. Another concern I had was the shower valve was designed with handles which used two inch metal dowels for leverage. I think this is a safety hazard because the dowels pose a puncture hazard if one fell against them. Also above the shower valve was a sign warning against scalding-hot water. Again the poor design of the valve allows one to come into contact with very hot metal where the hot water enters.
Overall, the worst part of the trip was the food quality and standards in all eating areas. We tried foods from formal dining to the casual buffet, and none of these meals met our expectations (or came anywhere close to RCCL). For example, if you enjoy a healthy and fresh salad bar with many choices, then you will be very disappointed. Another concern for us was watching the servers in the buffet clear tables but NEVER wash or wipe the tables before others sat down to eat.
Public and common areas were equally dirty--especially the restrooms. I did not see anyone cleaning restrooms while I was on this ship and from the looks of them I wonder if they ever did more than empty trash cans. This is strange, since this ship had so few public restrooms. Also in need of a thorough and what should be continuous cleaning were the stairs and stairwell railings. Again I never once saw anyone cleaning in the stairwells. The stair tread carpeting was extremely worn and badly in need of replacement. Possibly Carnival avoided carpet cleaning because it might destroy the old carpeting?
Staff service was atrocious. They seemed to be mad all the time and rarely spoke to passengers. I only saw our cabin steward once during the entire cruise. We only had dinner in the main dining room the first night due to the poor service and the extraordinary amount of time it took to be served. Our drink glasses were only filled once and we only received bread at the beginning of the meal. At RCCL, the servers almost knock you down to make sure your glasses and bread plates were never empty.
In conclusion, I do not plan on booking any more cruises on Carnival and certainly will not recommend others do either.