Well folks as all my previous reviews I will try to keep it real with the good and the bad from our cruise.
First I would like to state that in my opinion this is not a cruise to take for your wife/girlfriend for a romantic cruise. It really is totally designed for families. I am sure if you are a couple with a few kids you will love it! if you are a couple you may hate it! Couples I suggest carefully reading the reviews especially around school vacations before booking.
I booked this cruise for my 35th anniversary, I deliberately booked it when all schools were back thinking "how many adults will take their kids out of school for a cruise?"
Upon check in I got my answer HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS, I was pretty shocked and knew at check in this would impact our cruise. We had a long stressful check in at the best part of an hour. We intended to have a long lunch at the main restaurant to relax only to find it was closed. Everyone had to eat at the buffet restaurant and it was crowded behond belief. Seemed very disorganised with long queue's everywhere and lots of folks walking around stressed trying to find a seat, It was not a pleasant start to the cruise but I am afraid to say it got worse.
After waiting (get used to queues and long waits on this cruise) 25 mins for our booked 5.30pm evening table for 2 we heard 4 people in the queue who were obvious friends deciding whether to change their booking for 4 to two tables for 2, they spoke to the Maitre-d who obliged them. I never really gave this a second thought as we had confirmed in writing that we had a booking for a table for 2 at 5,30 each night.
We were then shown to a table for 10 people, 4 adults and 4 kids engaged in "shoot em up" games on their I Pads.
We immediately returned to the Maitre-d stating politely we had a booking for a table for 2 not 10. he was completely unhelpful, repeatedly stating he had no tables for two left and advising us to return at 7.45 sitting but even then he advised you may be sent away with a buzzer! totally unacceptable Carnival!
I personally feel for Carnival to accept a booking for 2 and then reject it was a breach of contract/trust and outrageous , the Maitre D then made the matter worse by stating that the table for 10 was our allocated table for the entire cruise and could not be changed!! , at this my wife, after a stressful day burst into tears. To defuse the situation I decided to go to Nouveau to get a table for 2. and calm down.
The only credit I can give this Maitre d is that he moved us to anytime dining, not what we booked but solved the problem. Unforgivable start Carnival. It could only get better! I must also add here that anytime dining staff also seemed to be surprised? annoyed? when we repeatedly asked for a table for 2 each night, several times asking us if we wanted to join a table for 6/8/10. Why could staff not remember our request from each evening before? this was annoying.
OK to stick for the bad for now (and there is good) the ship constantly felt crowded, we could not find a quit spot at any area of the ship. Due to numbers it is very impersonal, only once by our cabin steward were we addressed by name and not cabin number.
Due to the number of kids the pool areas and spas were out of bounds, even the pool areas resembled a kids playground, the noise alone made them intolerable, if I had a dollar for every unsupervised kid running around the ship my next few Princess cruises would be free!, I shudder to think what this cruise must be like during school holidays, a definite no-no for couples.
OK by now some folks would be thinking "if kids were that bad why didn't they just go into Sanctuary adults only section, for those who have never stepped on board let me sum up Sanctuary in one line, think 1000 adults wanting to use a space that only has space for 100 adults. People were so desperate to sunbake here I was totally convinced some folks were actually sleeping in the pods since early dawn! or even the night before!
My wife and I managed only ONCE in 9 days to sunbake here. You could walk out here and see a sea of towels and no people! the 40 min sunbed rule is a joke!
On the first of our last 2 sea days we walked out and was pleasantly surprised with free sunbeds galore, we soon found out why, when at sea they are constantly hit by a wet drizzle coming from the kids water chutes above, you literally could not sit here. I think Carnival desperately needs another adults only section.
Credit where credit is due we found all our meals here very good with excellent service, due to a medical condition my wife requires Gluten Free food and Carnival made sure all her food was Gluten Free. We both enjoyed the entertainment "interludes" here. All staff were very pleasant and attentive.
But by mornings the service becomes tedious, seems a totally different staff in the mornings, getting T or coffee takes forever, service is poor, the breakfast will arrive when your T is finished, your T will arrive when breaky is over, several occasions requested toast never arrives. expect to be here an hour plus which you have to factor in for early excursions. We could not use the buffet as if you are Gluten Free your order must be placed the night before, this still does not speed up the service!
Food was good but always crowded with queue's, on two occasions when my wife asked what was Gluten Free she was told by chef " all vegies" in this day and age I think the chefs should be able to prepare a Gluten Free dish every day. It isn't rocket science. We also have to join with other reviewers by stating we had concerns at the temperature of the food here, on one occasion on board I fell ill, I had eaten a salmon slice that I thought could have been hotter. Should have trusted my instincts, luckily I was OK after a day.
Due to the Carnival screw up on our first night we ended up here 3 nights, I cant compliment the staff here enough and the food was just incredible a "must do" experience.
This is excellent for a cruise ship and I worked out every day, at peak times several hogged every cardio machine for hours on end, despite a 30 min useage rule I never saw a member of staff for 9 days.
On the subject of fitness I would like to give Kudos to Shannon Ponton for his enjoyable morning walks and my wife was very impressed by his motivational talk.
Mostly aimed at 70+ and most not to our liking, HOWEVER I do want to give major kudos to one singer/songwriter on board who made our cruise. Her name is SARAY RZEK her shows on acoustic guitar were terrific, we regard her as a future star and regarded it as a privilidge that we got to see her perform so many times for free. The best on the cruise, do not miss her as next time you will have to probably pay to see her, extremely talented. Thanks Sarah!!
We enjoyed all our excursions apart from the tenders, they were so unpredictable, one was literally 10 mins and one was 1hr and 50 mins, go figure! some of the islands are very nice. Other reviews pretty much has this covered.
As we like to end our evening with a few on the balcony we used room service most days, allow 45mins or longer for service, on our first day I ordered a 6 pack of Stella beer, after 90 mins I gave up and went to bed. It arrived after 2 hrs and I was wakened out of bed to receive it! and all this without a bottle opener, so had to call room service again, staff arrived to open said beer, but could not leave the $1 bottle opener! advised calling room service each time to open a beer, Carnival what a waste of staff time and mine, I do not want to steal your ugly $1 bottle opener, this is just silly, next day I had to purchase a bottle opener from the shop. Carnival management what are you thinking?
Bar service was always very good with friendly staff, we did not think the drink was overpriced but reasonable compared to Sydney. I particularly liked the Thirsty Frog beer.
I state again, in my opinion this cruise is not suited for couples, it is designed for families and extended families, If you have a young family I think you will have a great time. The kids will love it.
For us despite all the above comments we made the most of the cruise and did enjoy it. It is great value for money but I do not think I would do it again. so many other ships better designed for couples.