I will break down the review into parts for easy reading:
EMBARKATION: The embarkation email came the day before the cruise that embarkation would be delayed due to ship maintenance. No big deal, however it required the staff at the port to deal with all 3000+ passengers into a shorter timeframe as the departure time of 4pm was not going to change. Took about 1.5 hours to get to our cabin. Was very efficient but just processing that many people takes time.
CABIN: We had adjoining balcony cabins 8421/8417. Very clean and well attended to. Our outstanding steward Jomar had a lot to do with this. He checked on us immediatiely and asked if everything was to our liking. I had noticed that one of the balcony door latches was not working properly. He said he would have someone fix. Typically on cruises, that is a blowoff, but not this time. After dinner..all repaired! Bathrooms were both spotless and ready for action. With 3 teens sharing one room, and my wife and I in the other, the bathrooms got a lot of use. Jomar always had new towels and beds made. He is a happy person whose work reflected this.
FOOD: Carnival has stepped up their game in the offerings. Guy Fieri's burgers ARE the best burgers at sea. Period. One offering that doesnt get alot of notice but was excellent was the Blue Iguana grill. Lido Deck/opposite side of Guy's Burgers. It serves made to order Burritos with a huge salsa bar. They are on par with Chipolte. Between these two offerings, teen lunch was covered expertly! Blue Iguana serves a great morning huevos rancheros. Basically a hand made soft taco, chicken, cheese, and beans with an over easy egg on top. Fantastic. The third food that cruise ships are famous for but always fall short is the 24 hour pizza. Not any longer. Pizza was spot on Italian like you get in Italy. (not the pizza hut type crust). Crust was wafer thin with very tasty toppings. If you've eaten pizza in Naples Italy, it resembles that. Buffets are good for variety and quality is very acceptable. I don't understand the comments about not being able to find healthy choices. Broiled fish and organic greens are not healthy? Main dining room food was very well prepared with 10 options per night. About five constant dishes (Steak, Salmon, Grilled Chicken, Fried Chicken, and a vegetarian dish) and 5 ever changing entrees. Rotating through the week were things like Lobster, Chateaubriand, Fishes, Pasta, Seafood, Steaks, Prime Rib, Chicken dishes, etc. Starters had good variety of soups and apps. Salads were plain for the most part but good. Deserts were hit and miss. Order a few and eat the ones that are appealing. The "famous" chocolate melting cake was a 50/50 deal. Half the time it was prepared correctly, half not (underdone or overdone). This was confusing as for the most part the food from start to finish was prepared correctly.
SERVICE: THE SERVICE THAT WE ENCOUNTERED WAS THE BEST WE HAVE HAD IN 10+ CRUISES. The employees are happy and happy to accomodate your wishes and go the extra mile to make your experience great. Special accolades to our expert dining team, Iyeoman, Andre, and Omar. They made the week's dinners memorable for sure. At the Alchamey Bar (see next paragraph), Daniel, Kat, and Randy are to be commended as well. Great job!!
BAR OFFERINGS: There are ample places to get a beer or frozen drink through out the ship. There was a sports bar, pub, piano bar among others. BUT the real standout was the Alchamey bar. This new cruiseship concept hit the nail on the head. Top shelf liquor concocted into spectacular cocktails and martinis using natural ingredients like fruits, herbs, and different flavorings. The upscale aspect limits the broad appeal as many people are happy with beers and pina coladas which is fine. This was great as the specialists behind the bar got to know the clientele very quickly by name and drink preference (Caribbean Manhattan was outstanding). Cheers of a sort away from home!!
ENTERTAINMENT: This is the tale of two cities. First was Comedians. FANTASTIC! Best in the industry. Branded standup delivered on the promises. Now the bad part of the Entertainment category: The theatre shows. Wow they were bad. At times, felt sorry for the performers. Carnival either needs to step it up or do away with that type of show. Saw all three and each was worse than the previous. I was on Norwegian a couple of years ago and they had "Jersey Boys" broadway type show that was fantastic. Just the fact that I (who does not like that type of thing typically) could remember it tells you something.
KIDS CLUB: I have a 13 yr old boy and two 16 year old girls. They had a blast every night all night. The counselors give a good mix of organization and letting the kids do their own thing.
DEBARKATION: Painless and quick.
Book the Freedom and you won't be disappointed.