We just got back from a 5 night Western Caribbean cruise with 96 of our friends sailing with us. We had a large group and we had a great time, but I was disappointed with a few things. I have cruised numerous times before, but this was my first Carnival Cruise. I have been on RCI and Disney. I thought the food was horrible. We ate in the main dining room 3 times for dinner and the food was inedible. NO one in our party ate the dinners. One of the appetizers was goose liver mousse, for example. A lot of the choices for entrees were along these lines, and even the ones that sounded appetizing, roast turkey was our choice on our last night, was terrible. They roasted the turkey in curry, and I can tell you it was really bad. The kids were very unimpressed with the food, and most of our group dined on the pizza bar for a lot of the cruise. RCI's and Disney's food is much better. Also, we were told we would be able to order lobster and steak at any of the dinners. This is not true. Only at formal night can you have lobster and steak. The maitre'd was rude and non helpful when I inquired about this.
Also, as the group coordinator, I had arranged for the guests with birthdays to be celebrated on our 3rd night. They celebrated them on formal night and no one from our group was there. When I brought this to the maitre'd's attention, he said it was too bad they missed it. I was not very happy. Our waiters did sing again that night to them, at my request.
On a positive note, I enjoyed our group's cocktail party that Carnival provided. They did a very nice job and everyone in the group enjoyed it also.
As far as the ship itself: it was very dark inside. It was unimpressive when I first got on the ship, and I was surprised at how dark it was. The ship is beautiful, and I adjusted to it being dark. The bartenders and drink persons were great, and always bringing drinks, you never had to look for them. On the flip side, our waiter was slow, we never got our sodas before our meal was served. He did not ask what we wanted for dessert, he chose for us. Now what woman doesn't want to choose their dessert?:) Our friends that were at different tables all seemed to receive better service. I was watching them at the table beside me, eating their entrees, when he had not taken any part of our order yet.
OK, I think this STINKS. On Carnival, or maybe it was just this ship, you have to rent a basketball to use the court. This is $20.00 per day. All of the kids (teenagers) in our group had to pay to play everyday. I think this is terrible. I have never ever had to pay on any other ship. Photo gallery prices were very reasonable. Less expensive than on other ships.
Embarkation very fast, debarkation over 2 hours. I think that is too long. I did not like the port of Tampa. The parking at the port is in a parking garage in the middle of town. Port Canaveral is much better.
The excursions were wonderful. We did the Hell, turtle farm, and Stingray City tour. Great. Adults and kids all loved it. We did Passion Island on Cozumel. Beautiful, and relaxing. Too expensive though. It cost me $280.00 for the 4 of us, my husband and I and 2 kids to go. There was no discount for kids even though the price included an open bar, and obviously the kids don't drink, so I think there should be a cheaper price for the kids. Great tour guides in both Cozumel and the Caymans. I was very happy with the excursions.
Our cabin steward was very nice. Attentive, and always seemed to be around if you needed anything. The size of the cabins were fine. We had a quad, and I liked the layout. The bathrooms on this category seemed bigger than some I have been on.
Casinos and bars were great. The shows were ok. I loved the What's in the Bag show. Very cute. Others in my group enjoyed the comedian, only I didn't have a chance to see him. They were all talking about him though. BINGO---very big ripoff. We paid $20.00 for a chance to win a jackpot. On most ships, you get to play like 10 games. On Carnival it was 1 game for a lot of money. I would have rather played 10 games for less money each time. The lady won in like 8 numbers, and a lot of people felt ripped off. At least if they had played 10 different games, you would feel like you got your money's worth. It was over in like 3 minutes.
I am planning another cruise for next January 2005. I am very leery about taking another Carnival cruise for the simple fact of how bad all of our meals were. That was a surprise for us, and we may give them another try, but we will probably go back to RCI. Anyone interested in joining our group? We are in our 30's and 40's and travel with our children.
I hope my review helps you, and feel free to email me with any questions. I am a travel professional.
Take care, Brenda