As much as we like cruising with just the family, cruising with a group is 10 times better. Renewing our friendship, making new friends in the group(several did not know each other before the cruise) and always having someone to do things with make a group cruise a fantastic experience. I highly recommend this if you can arrange it. For 2 of the couples it was their first(but definitely not last) cruise, and having us along made it much less stressful for them.
We chose the Glory for several reasons - good mix of sea days and Islands, cost, and Port Canaveral being the debarkation port. Many of us were driving, and PC is closer than Miami to Wisconsin, which is nice. So on with the Review:
We got to the port about 11:30 and whisked through security and the line. The parking is a bit steep (I think like $84 for the week) but you don't really have a choice. I know several local hotels will let you leave your car if you stay the night before, but parked at the dock. They have really streamlined the boarding from the old days, that is for sure.
We got on the ship, and started running into others from our group in the lobby, and then in the Red Sail. We all ate lunch and then we were let into our room about 1:30. By that time, we all had a few fun ship specials (my favorite) and were "loosened up" for the trip.
Rather than go day by day, I am going to just comment about all the different parts of the ship, I think that is more useful.
1. Rooms - These rooms are AWESOME. Better than the fantasy class ships in Layout, although not larger. The bathrooms do seem slightly bigger, but really can't say. There is PLENTY of storage - 3 closets with shelves, 3 drawers in the desk and 2 cubbies between the beds. There was plenty of room for me and my 2 college age sons with no problem. The Beds are also excellent, and I almost bought the pillows and sheets. Carnival has really upgraded this area. Because we booked almost a year in advance, we were in 9259 - about as close as you can get to the pool on Lido deck, but we only paid for the lowest grade cabin. By booking with Elizabeth at Carnival, we got a great deal. Every time there was a better price or sail, she would call us and rebook at the better deal. This happened twice - I went from paying $699 to about $520 in the end. I highly recommend booking with the cruise line.
2. Food - ok, this is where Carnival has outdone themselves. I have to be honest, I never could figure out why people would complain about the food - but it was not gourmet either. Well, it is now. This was the best food I have ever had on a cruise, bar none. Every meal in the dining room was awesome - the lamb, veal, steak, lobster - everything was tender and juicy. The other thing we noticed is the portions are smaller than they used to be so you can try more stuff. We really liked that. And of course the desserts were awesome. Do not miss the chocolate melting cake. Several of the kids had it every night. The food in the Red Sail was good too, and the Pizza as always was a treat.
3. Entertainment - Once again, I think Carnival has upgraded their production shows. The 2 main shows were the best we have seen at sea, and we have seen some pretty good ones. The female singer was especially good. The special effects were awesome as well. As usual, the comedians and other performers went from exceptional to mediocre. Don't miss the midnight comedy, it is always good. The sight lines on these bigger ships is also better than in the Fantasy class ships, with no poles to block your view.
4. Staff and Crew - My hats off to all these guys. WEE Jimmy, the cruise director is a RIOT. Do not miss his morning show on the tv every morning, it repeats over and over and is only about 15 minutes long - but is very funny and informative. Our room steward was invisible, but did a great job. Our Waiter was fabulous as well as the other dining room staff. The shows in the dining room may be a bit hokey, but they are so much fun, I would not miss them for the world. The cleaning crew keeps the ship SPOTLESS. The staff in the spa is wonderful as well. Now, for my complaints - the cocktail waiters are a bit pushy, but serve you well if you are buying drinks. If you are using your soda card (a great value by the way) or just want a glass of water, they are very hit or miss. The bouncers in the disco I thought were a bit rude as well - believe me, these are MINOR complaints.
5. Clubs and Casino - The clubs are nice. They have Karaoke every night, but it revolves way too much around picking the people to be in Carnival Legends at the end of the week. The guy who leads it is a bit annoying. The piano bar guy was good, and the other lounge entertainers were good also. Overall good entertainment. The casino staff was very good. I liked the dealers the one night I played, and I won, so that is always good.6. Pool and outdoor stuff - I like the layout on the pool deck. We had less problems finding chairs than on other ships. The pools seem deeper, but I am not sure of that. The band was good as always, and the pool games were fun. Overall, excellent!
7. Spa - The spa is wonderful. My advice is to wait until the last 2 sea days to do anything. That is when they run a bunch of specials. I went with 3 of the women for a $54 special that included a back and foot massage, and a facial and body toning treatment. It was a lot of fun and well worth the price. I suggest taking a guy along. If it is all women, they do it in the locker room. Since I was along, we got our own private room. They did NOT oversell the products at the end like they used to do. I did not use the workout equipment, but it looks great. The sauna and steam room overlook the ocean through floor to ceiling windows - very cool.
8. Islands - Nassau - My dive was called off because of too much current. I went on an island tour with my wife - it was 27 bucks and a ripoff. Oh well. St. Thomas - finally went over to St. John Snorkeling. It was great, we had a great time. A really Beautiful Island. I recommend the trip. A few in our group went to Coki beach on my recommendation and had a wonderful time. St. Maarten - a fantastic place. My dive was canceled again. We went to the beach right in the main city- 20 bucks for 4 chairs with umbrellas and nice sand. It was great. We went Jewelry shopping in the afternoon (always wait until the crowds hit them in the morning THEN go). The deals are always better in the Afternoon. We have been on most of the islands in the Caribbean, but St. Maarten had the best prices, and nicest people. We spent some money, that is for sure, but got GREAT deals. The selection was fantastic too. The mall right off the ship has some good deals too, especially on shirts.9. Shops on board - we actually bought some tanzanite on board - the deals were comparable to St. Maarten we thought. Wait until the end of the week to buy.
10. Photos - We did a lot of pictures during the formal nights. They turned out great. The photos seem a BIT steep in price, but you do get to see them before you buy them. The only complaint we had was you HAD to buy the 8x10 first in order to get a 5x7 or wallets, that sort of stinks. We had no problem lining up a group picture the second formal night in the main lobby. You could tell they had done this before - they lined us all up, and only took 2 shots that BOTH looked great.
11. Debarkation - unlike in the past, you CAN stay in your room until like 10 AM. You can also wait in the red sail or on deck. Debarkation is quick and fairly painless. They call by numbers. My only complaint is that you come out and your luggage is on airport style turntables. There are 2 sides - one for odd and one for even numbered cabins. One of our bags ended up on the wrong side, and it took us like 20 minutes to find.
12. Overall ship impression - Fantastic Ship. Carnival has outdone themselves on this one. Just a wonderful experience. You really don't feel like cattle very much, except maybe at lunch in the Red Sail. If I had to choose, I may take the Imagination over the Glory, but it would be a VERY close call. For some reason the Fantasy class ships feel like the right size, and this just may have been a little too big, but I am REALLY nitpicking on that.
I do have one other complaint, and this may sound like a small thing to some, but a big one to me. On the Fantasy class ships there are at least 3 late night deck parties. On the Glory, there was only one and it was rained out. This stunk, as we look forward to the music and the conga lines.
Overall, I would highly recommend cruising with Carnival, on the Glory. I would especially recommend cruising with a Group. We are already planning for next August - I think on the Legend to the Western Caribbean!