Background: We are 40-45 years old and have cruised 9 times previously on various lines (RCCL & NCL)and from various ports (MIA, FTL, SJU & Port Canaveral)
Embarkation: We live in Va Beach, so we took a cab to the new Half Moon cruise terminal around 2pm. Our documents stated boarding would be from 2-4pm, but we were ready to get our vacation started so we left early. We arrived only to notice there was no ship at the dock. The porters indicated the ship had been delayed in Charleston, SC due to Tropical Storm Barry and would arrive between 6-9pm. We decided to stay at the port and went ahead and checked in. This took all of 10 minutes even though they had to check manual list given the computers were on the ship and obviously no ship, no computers. Every person we encountered was very nice and apologetic regarding the weather and delay. We were issued a zone pass for boarding so once the ship arrived, we would not have to storm the door. We took a sit in the terminal, which was very nice and roomy. We used the time in the terminal to meet our fellow cruisers, play card games, etc. While we would have preferred to be on the ship, you gotta make the best of any situation! The ship arrived around 5:30 and boarding began around 6pm. There was a tremendous line out of the terminal given they stopped letting people in once it was full. This was an unfortunate situation that would not have occurred if the ship had arrived on time. Boarding would have been staggered so the lines would not have formed. Our zone was called and they spaced the boarding out so that lines in the walkway did not get backed up. We were in our balcony room - deck 6 by 6:30pm. We went to the dining room and had our first dinner. The lifeboat drill was around 9pm, and as usual takes a long time. This is common, so you have to just roll with it. The ship departed at 11pm instead of 7pm. We did not see this as a issue, since as soon as I was at the terminal, I was in vacation mode.
Stateroom / Dining: First, I must say that unless I get sick, the food and/or room service does not make or break my cruise. So, I will say this about the room, it was very roomy, the beds comfortable, the temperature controllable, the shower pressure awesome and overall a fantastic location. The room steward cleaned the room daily, what more can I ask. We enjoyed the dining room and ate at a table of 8. The menu had great variety. My husband enjoyed the seafood and I most remember the stuffed mushrooms, filet mignon and the warm molten chocolate cake. I did not care for the buffets, reminded me of low budget Vegas food, so we dined at the dining room whenever possible. The pizza, hamburgers, steak sandwiches and deli were fantastic alternatives. Lines do form if you eat at the prime times. Again, relax. The ship was full and I did not ever feel crowded. We ordered room service one morning and it was delivered on time. It was great to relax on the balcony and have coffee. We also enjoyed the coffee bar for a late night cappuccino or chocolate covered strawberries.
Ship: The ship was large and decorated in a gaudy fashion. I am ok with this! It is Carnival cruise line after all. If you want luxury, stay in a Four Season's hotel. The ship was clean and well maintained. Other than the casino, we had no issues being over-whelmed by cigarette smoke. Navigating the ship is simple once you realize deck 5 goes from front to back. The pool area has various levels, which I like since it feels less crowded than other ships I have been on. We never had difficulty finding a chair...but we also did not want one right at the pool level. The service around the pool was excellent and abundant. Drinks are pricey at $6, but you are on vacation and we are use to this.
Entertainment: The casino was great for us. We stayed pretty even and the staff was pleasant and the service quick. We enjoyed both comedians and the magician. The Victory Dancer shows were so-so. Yes, the Caribbean Lounge is cold, just bring a sweater. We never had a problem finding a seat a few minutes before the show started. The ship had various activities such as trivia games, pool games, scavenger hunts, etc. The cruise director, Malcom was the best one I have had on any cruise. He was energetic, funny and a real treat. While many may have gotten tired of hearing WOO HOO, we thought it was funny and really provided cohesiveness among the guest.
Excursions: Our first day at sea was a little rough given the storm. I always use the patch, and it worked beautifully. It was really windy, but very sunny and we enjoyed the deck time. We arrived on day two in Nassau around 5pm vs 1pm due to the delay in leaving Norfolk. There was a mass exit off the ship once docked which made for a somewhat lengthy line to get back on around 8pm. There were two smaller Carnival ship and a RCCL ship in port. Day three we were in Nassau all day. Sometime during the night the Askura from Japan arrived. It was on a 56 day cruise. We met a few people along the dock from that ship and had interesting conversations. We really did no excursions to speak of given we have been to these ports before and were looking to relax. I will say Nassau has various adventures to offer, Freeport is a crummy port that they should simply bypass all together. We left Nassau around 10pm and woke up on day four in Freeport. We set sail for home around 3pm and the water was like glass. We had a great final day at sea.
Debarkation: I guess we were lucky. We pulled in to Norfolk around 7am, were off the boat at 8am, through customs by 8:30am and back home by 9am. We used the self assist method. While I have heard others complain about the debarkation process, it went well for us.
Overall: We had a great vacation, great weather and a wonderful time. We are pretty easy to please given any time we can get away just the two of us we make the best of it. We will book another trip out of Norfolk in an instance. We only hope Carnival add additional trips and itineraries in the future.