This was my third Carnival cruise, the first two being on the Inspiration. I have since traveled twice on Royal Caribbean and once on Holland America, so stepping back "down" so to speak was a bit of a culture shock.
First, embarkation was not as offered. Supposedly if you filled out your paperwork online you were put in an expedited line. You were, but there were people in that line who had not filled out the paperwork . There were many long waits. Upon entering the ship, you were not directed anywhere....either to your room or the buffet. I had cruised enough to find my way around with the map rapidly, but many first timers were not.
I was quite disappointed in the ship and in the cruise in general. The ship is big and has some beautiful artistic appointments, but the quantity of the "nude art" is a bit overwhelming, especially to parents of young children and those of us over the hill so to speak.
This was a member reunion cruise, and as part of the booking we were to receive a gift package of coupons, towels, a travel bag, etc. These were not received due to some sort of shipping glitch. The coupons were printed up but did not match up with those I had seen advertised and came too late to use on a couple of items.
The ship seemed dark overall inside......which surprised me a bit as most of the Carnival ships tend to be TOOOOO BRIGHT.
I noticed a large change in dining room service from my former cruises. Our first night we were assigned a table towards the rear of the dining room, next to a service area. We were mostly ignored, never offered tea or coffee, last ones to receive bread or food even though the first ones seated. Granted, that may have been opening evening jitters. Most of my other cruises had been open seating the first night. Later that evening we met up with Candigirl41 and we all got a table together in an alternate dining room . However, for the first couple of nights there the service was also poor. Coffee and Tea had to be requested, no one offered ground pepper for salads etc, no ground parmesan for italian dishes, etc. The last 3 nights were very good with those exceptions. Our waitress was leaving the ship at the end of the cruise and I dont know if that was part of it. Here assistant was seldom to be seen and certainly not up to the par of bus attendants I have had in the past. I also noticed a predomination of women as waiters..possibly they were the majority. Again, they did not offer the service in the buffet that I have been used to previously.
Our cabin was in a great location as requested, it was quiet and large enough. I traveled with my husband and we left the beds together, but I believe they work better and you have more space with them apart. I had to request that the refrigerator be opened, and that we receive the robes that are usual on every cruise. I later learned our steward had 17 rooms. That is excessive. He was prompt to service the room and did an adequate job, but never replaced the items taken from the refrigerator.
The weather was cool, so the pools weren't as enjoyable as they are on warm days, but with Carnival there is always plenty of other things to do on the sea days.
The breakfast buffet was adequate, but certainly not more than that. After being spoiled at the Navigator and Rotterdam, with their fabulous breakfasts it was a bit of a letdown. The ice machines did not work well, and a couple of the coffee makers were also not working. The set up of the buffet is confusing and strung out. At lunch there would be two or three different stations, the nation of the day, the delicatessen, all american and oriental. With my husband's disability it was hard for him to visit each one. The desserts were always good and of course there was free soft ice cream and pizza all day and evening.
In general the food was pretty good, but again, not on a par with the last two cruises. The filet mignon one night was totally bland and off......but linguini with chicken and mushrooms was fantastic..so you never knew for sure!!
Overall the service quality on the ship was way down. I am wondering if the automatic tip charge has caused this, or it was this particular cruise, or if they were extremely shorthanded for some reason??? However, the purser's office was staffed with excellent personnell, always joyful and helpful. When the shore tour booking area was full and my tv did not work, they were most helpful in getting me the tours I requested.
As for the tours, I got to see whales up close and personal, mama and baby from the deck of the sailing ship ISIS. The crew of this lovely old sailing yacht were most helpful and most respectful of the whales. Although it is pricey, it is worth it for the next month or so while they are active. We also visited the art galleries in Puerto Vallarta.....actually just a fancier term for shopping. In Mazatlan we took an all day tour to the Sierra Madre which was fun and different, and as I know Cabo San Lucas I just walked around and did some shopping and sightseeing.....so many beautiful yachts there!!
The entertainment was sporadic. The "Wonderful World" Show was outstanding and the special effects were amazing. The Swing Time show that followed it was a bit of a letdown. I did not attend the comedy shows. The mexican folkloric show was also very enjoyable. Some of the shows only took place at 10:30 which was later than we usually stay up.
The casino was very good.....slots were loose and many people were very happy with their at least staying even and not losing too much. One lady won over $3200 ........on slots!!
The library was very small, it was an excellent internet cafe but not much of a library. Again, I compare it to the Rotterdam which had new papers and magazines every port day and every book you might want to read.
The various musicians in the different bars were also excellent...especially a young lady who sang in the middle of the atrium every evening. She was very much like Sheryl Crow. However, it was difficult to hear or enjoy her because of the loud talk all around. I hope they will give her a smaller "club" opportunity. There was also a good country singer in the casino...again, difficult to hear and enjoy because of all the noise.
I met many nice people, but there also were a large number who seemed totally thoughtless of anyone . They would hog the adult hot tub for over an hour...also some of the other hot tubs. Maybe because it was cool.!!
The gym/spa was state of the art, the finest I have seen. If going on a cruise makes you want to excersise there is plenty of opportunity even without a rock wall!! Great machines (treadmills, elliptical, bikes, rowing machines, weights of all types) plenty of trainers, plenty of classes. The upper deck was 31/2 rounds for a mile, or 10 rounds on the jogging track.
Overall, as I say, this was a disappointment....but had its good moments and I am always happy at sea. I do hope that this type of service and limited menu is not going to be the norm for Carnival..and if it is I am not that interested in sailing with them again with so many other choices out there. I heartily enjoyed meeting my cruise critic friend and her lovely daughter, as well as the two other fun couples who joined us.