Sailed out of New York on August 30th with 18 friends --- some veterans, most newbies. This was my 4th Carnival cruise; first on the Victory. Boarding was a snap out of New York --- am thinking I may try to book all my future cruises out of home port :) I booked us a party bus/limo which dropped us off right at the pier and though the Carnival website says you can bring aboard any bags smaller than 24 x 16 the Porters at the pier insisted that anything larger than a small roll-on had to be handled by them. Rather than try to argue, we just let them take all the bags. Check in was a breeze at noon and it actually took us longer to walk to the check in desk than the time spent on line waiting to check in. We were on board enjoying our first cocktail a half hour after getting off the limo. FOOD on the Lido Deck buffet was okay, nothing spectacular but nothing inedible either. The stations were better: burgers and hot dogs off the grill, sandwiches from the Deli, pizza and salads from the Pizzeria. We ended up eating most of our lunches from these stations rather than the buffet. The breakfast buffet was not good at all and after 2 attempts I either skipped breakfast altogether or ordered room service. DINING ROOM food was good every night at our dinner seating. They split us up into a table of 4, a table of 7 and a table of 8. I thought they would give us two tables of 10 -- but maybe they don't have tables of 10? We asked if we could move around each night but our waiter said maybe after he got to know us. This was a little irritating because one night we had only 4 people at our table and 2 at the table for 4 and we could have condensed but apparently that was not to be. I think the problem may actually have been our waiter(s). The first night I could understand because I know from previous cruises the waiters get to know your preferences -- who likes what to drink, who wants 6 dinner rolls, who always gets liqueur with their coffee, etc. In any event, our waiter (Hernando) NEVER learned anything about us or perhaps he didn't care. This was such a surprise to me because I'm rather outgoing and talkative and we're a major fun group, but we just couldn't seem to engage Hernando at all. He remained stiff, cold and aloof throughout the entire time. Often our table had to ask numerous times for refills on iced tea and water glasses; I always had to hunt down the beverage waiter for a drink and after dinner liqueur -- even though we ordered the SAME THING every night. Our poor service did not detract from the food which was very good every night ---attested to by my one table mate who ordered no less than 2 appetizers, 3 entrees and 2 desserts EVERY night!! I just know from previous cruises that a good waiter can really make dinner an experience that you look forward to attending. Our assistant waiter, Norbie, was okay.
EXCURSIONS in St. John --- this is one of those cruise stops where you can understand some people just staying on the ship. We took the horse drawn trolley around town which was mildly interesting although the gentle rocking motion was lulling me to sleep (due to too much partying the night before and not boredom!). We had a gorgeous sunny day and took advantage of the weather by walking around and doing some shopping. Some of the group did the St. John River cruise but found it boring. Maybe because we already live in upstate New York and we see wildlife and nature all the time!
ENTERTAINMENT aboard ship was better than I remember from previous cruises and certainly exceeded my expectations. The Lido Deck band Tropical Fire was just perfect to listen to while laying out in the sun or grabbing a bite to eat up on deck. The singer/band outside of the Casino was fantastic and we spent more time than we would have at that bar just so we could listen to them plus there was always a small crowd dancing. We went to every single show...Livin in America was enjoyable but if you're only going to 1 show pick Vrooooom which was much better and a couple of our group sat through it a 2nd time! I should mention that we are a younger crowd ages 30-45 who is more familiar with the Vrooom music; Livin in America music is skewed toward an older crowd. Comedy by Peter Michael was great and even better during his R Rated show....we had tears rolling from laughing so hard. Dave Siegel comedian was funny at times but still seems a little "green". We went to both of his shows, too. But while Peter Michael had all new material for his 2nd show, Dave used some of the previous stuff and still could barely fill a half hour. The Silent Film Skit was hysterical and I recommend you always go to any shows where your fellow guests might appear -- performing live always lends itself to the unknown and usually ends up quite funny.
CRUISE DIRECTOR Malcolm Burns was the best C.D. I have ever seen. I can't say enough about him. He was funny without being too cheesy and we ended up going to every single function where he was going to be speaking -- even things like Debarkation talk which I never attend -- because he made every talk into a funny show. I may just follow him for my future cruises -- find out where Malcolm will be on the dates I want to cruise and book that ship for my vacation WOOOO HOOOO!
ACTIVITIES on board were similar to all the other cruises I've been on with ice carving, towel folding, scavenger hunt, trivia, etc. I usually participate in all of them because I am a very very competitive person but there were so many children and teens on board that they over-ran most of the competitions. Since we had left our own kids at home, we spent most of our time on deck trying to figure out where we could go where the kids wouldn't be.
DEBARKATION was the fastest ever with the new Self Assist program and I can't imagine anyone capable of wheeling their luggage not taking advantage of this. I had room service deliver breakfast, then laid on the couch watching tv until after 9am when I wheeled my (very heavy) suitcase to the 3rd floor, swiped my sail & sign card (sadly) for the last time, showed my passport to the security officer, handed my customs form to the customs agent and took the elevator down to the limo area. Was on 12th Avenue by 9:22am, listening to the announcement bells on the docked ship and wishing they were for me!