This was our second cruise with Carnival ( having enjoyed our first one last year ). We are avid cruisers, going on 15, and truly enjoy ourselves on cruises. This particular cruise was picked for the itinerary and the ports that it was stopping at. We also picked this particular ship, as we like new ships. Sorry to say that the ship did not live up to our expectations, which I will explain in full.
EMBARKATION: We flew Delta from Atlanta to Rome. Good flight and our luggage arrived with us!! At the Rome airport, there tended to be confusion on the part of the Carnival representatives, trying to get masses of people onto the different tour buses. We originally booked a 4 hour tour before going to the ship, but opted out, due to this confusion, as well as being very tired from the trip. We chose instead to take one of the Carnival busses directly to the ship. We arrived at the ship in about 1 hour. When we arrived at the pier, we went through the boarding procedures very quickly. Yes, they do collect your passports, but this really works out well for the cruise ( due to stops in Turkey ).
SHIP: The ship is a nice looking ship in its own way. It tends to lean back to some of the original Carnival ships, being over the top in dEcor. Now, trying to get around on this ship requires some doing, especially getting to the aft dining room ( Posh ). Having to walk the entire 5th deck, only to walk down two more decks to get into the dining room, is a bit absurd. The Dining room itself is very handsome and elegant. There are only three small pools on this ship ( obviously never designed to sail in warm weather ports, and several hot tubs. PLEASE, at least have one pool and hot tub area for adults only. The hot tubs were always filled with teenagers, who just "hung out" there! The stateroom was a typical Carnival room with two double beds that were put together as a king. This has not been too much of a problem in the past, but this bed would not stay together and I spent many a night sleeping in a crevasse! The sheets and pillows were okay, but I could not recommend purchasing these ( the latest way to make money on board!). Plenty of storage space ( we take extra hangers which really helps ). Bathroom okay with some amenities. Our cabin steward was attentive while not being obtrusive, during the cruise.
DINING: As mentioned before, the dining room was nice ( only a daily pain to get to ). Our server, Asep, and his back waiter were attentive and were a delight each and every night. The bar steward was also always there to fill all needs. See service slipping away as lobster and shrimp, which used to be removed from the shell by the servers, no longer happens. I never understand why the Maitre D' has to walk around each evening, saying HI to about 10 tables a night, only to make sure that he receives an extra tip at the end of the week? We had asked for a late seating ( and had booked over one year out ), but got early seating instead. I would not recommend this ( and that is why I wanted late seatings ) as the tours get back to the ship late and you have about 15 minutes or so to get to the dining room! This leaves no time to shower, change clothes and just relax for a few minutes. The food each evening in the Dining Room was very good. The exception would be desserts, which were terrible every night Skipped a lot as they were just not good! This is the one course where we could really see that service standards have been cut ( don't even spoon your cream into the souffles anymore ). The Buffet, as well as the grill and pizza stations, are some of the worst on the oceans. All burgers precooked until dry and cold, condiments pathetic, terrible pizza and mediocre food items grace the buffet. In 12 days, the breakfast buffet never changed ONCE!! The lunch was okay, with dinner being so poor, I can only guess that this was what was being served to the crew.
BRIGHT SPOTS: The deli in the buffet makes pretty good sandwiches, and the Fish and Chips area ( hidden upstairs ) was good. We are not big buffet people, but this one is really bad and needs rethinking. The buffet brings my overall food scores down to a low level. The food and service in the Sun King restaurant was very good. As we sat at the bar on several nights, we were catered to by a friendly bartender, Elisabeta and the very competent Maitre D and wine sommelier. The one night we ate here, the food was good. I have to tell you that Carnival has lowered the grade of steaks in this room, compared to our last cruise with them. That would be my only complaint.
ENTERTAINMENT: Again, both really good and extremely bad! The production shows were exceptionally good, with great sets, costuming and lights. The Beatles show was especially good, getting the best audience participation I have seen on a show. The other nights are the usual fare of poor comedians, singers and magicians who can't find work elsewhere. The lounge acts were pathetic at best, which was really sad! We like to go to the aft lounge on all cruises, as each ship usually has a showband each night to go dance to. This ship had a band two or three nights only with KARAOKE being the number one event instead! The three or four lounges that had entertainment were not good and were generally empty! I can agree with most critiques that the cruise director, John, was very good. He has been doing this for years and it shows.
INTERNET: The WEB, as it is called, seems to be an afterthought on this ship. It is basically a closet that about one dozen computers have been put into. Carnival has done so well with their other brand ships, just don't know what they were thinking here. To make matters worse, in order to get to this room, you must walk directly through the Havana Bar which is filled with smokers having cigarettes and cigars! For non smokers, this is just foul!
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Now this is what the trip was really about. Even though they were incredibly expensive, they were worth it. I will try to go into a little detail on all that we took: First day out we did the Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri tour. This is actually too much to do in one day, but if you are limited, as we were, it is good. Capri is wonderful and would love to go back. Stop in one of the little pasticerrias and buy some of the best cookies you will ever eat! Didn't really see much of Sorrento, except for a quick ride through town and a mediocre lunch. Pompeii is staggering, but strayed from the group as our group was sooooooo slow, we would not have seen very much. As it is, we spent too little time there. This is worth at least a four hour stay to see this amazing piece of the past. Next day was a sea day and definitely needed it. Really tired after the first two days. Rhodes tour: Went on the best of Rhodes tour, which was very nice. Got to see more of the island than just the downtown corridor. The stop at the touristy pottery shack was unnecessary, nut other than that, it was nice. IZMIR, TURKEY: We went on the Ephesus and Village tour. Ephesus is amazing and well worth the day. Stay away from the tour that includes the village as there is nothing there to see except shops. This is basically a 15 minute shopping stop and then lunch, which was okay. ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Did the grand tour of the city with lunch at the Four Seasons. The mosques were amazing, the city wonderful, great museums and shopping. The Grand bazaar was not something my family enjoyed, but it was pretty amazing to me. The "time share" stop at the local carpet makers store is not fun, especially when you get pushed into a small room and get pressured to buy 3 to four thousand dollar rugs!! The cruise lines should be ashamed for this. IF you take any tours and they want you to go in to see carpets, I would suggest bowing out and going directly to the bazaar. Lunch at the Four Seasons was disappointing as I hoped we would have some Turkish cuisine. IT was just typical hotel food with salad, steak and chocolate cake (not worth it). Our guide, Janset, was extremely intelligent and made for a wonderful guide and host to this city. SEA DAY: Thank goodness, as again with high temperatures and humidity, we were really beat. Good day for the pool and just reading! Was beautiful traveling thru the Dardanelles ( like the Isthmus of Panama ) and seeing the beautiful villages and historical sites such as Gallipoli. ATHENS, GREECE: Went on the Acropolis and coastal tour. Again enjoyed seeing the coast line as well as the archeological acropolis at Sounion. After another hotel lunch with some Greek cuisine, we took a tour of the city sites and then went to the Acropolis. This was great and again, our very passionate Greek guide, Poupie, was terrific. We learned so very much about the Greek people, their beliefs and history. KATAKOLON, GREECE: Olympia and Museum tour. Was disappointed with the cruise line again here as our tour was scheduled for 8 and left at 10 instead, leaving us no time to visit the small village of Katakalon. Olympia, guided by Peggy, another young and vibrant Greek women, was terrific in her explanations of this ancient Olympic site. The museum was excellent too! SEA DAY: YES....time for some more rest! A beautiful day also to see the volcanic island of Stromboli, which was incredible! LIVORNO: Took bus to Florence, which was a definite highlight of the cruise. A beautiful city with so much to see and do! Seeing the David up close was an amazing sight as well as all of the art and sculptures of the city. The churches are staggering also, almost too unbelievable to discuss. Skip the tour with lunch, the lasagna isn't that good. Too many good restaurants to eat at to suffer through the over used pasta dish! ROME: Best of Rome and the Catacombs tour...not a great guide ( actually the only male guide we had ). The city is incredible and if you only have this one day ( shame on you ), this tour is not bad. Guess what's for lunch again,,,,,you guessed it...LASAGNA. Now, being a chef, I know that there are many other great types of pasta that can be made for groups. I guess there's just something stamped on our forehead that says " We are Americans,,,feed us Lasagna!! ( Garfield would be happy! ) Overall, I feel that the tours were a means to an end. I think I would do it differently next time and arrange for a private car. The people who did this seemed to have a better time. All in all, we were blessed with pretty good groups ( not many stragglers ) and great guides ( at least the females).
DISEMBARKATION: Boy, when they want you off the ship early, they mean it. Everybody must have been off by 8:30 as they start calling numbers at 6:00 a.m. sharp. This is not a criticism as everything was orderly and done well. Just want to let you know that if you think you are going to be off the ship later because you are not going to the airport, forget it. Be up early and ready to go!!
OVERALL: We found the ship to be second rate ( surprising for a new ship ). I could not recommend this ship, other than the itinerary. Will go back to Europe again to cruise, but not with Carnival. For the money, there are better ships and lines out there.