We were repeat Carnival passengers having sailed on the Carnival Paradise in January 2007.
We arrived at midnight the night before the cruise and saved money by flying into Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn in Ft Lauderdale which had a rate of only $75 for the night. The nicest things I can say are that it was clean and they let you make fresh waffles for your family in the morning.
Having arranged a corporate car for the ride to the Miami Port we were surprised to be picked up in a dark tinted large Suburban with separate riding section with DVD, air, adjustable seats and more. The cost was $102 and included the gratuity.
We arrived to a packed port to enter the Carnival processing line right away. We were through with the embankment process and were sitting down to lunch on the Lido deck within an hour. Our balcony cabin was forward on the Lido deck and was one away from the only suite on the port side. It was one floor up from the glass enclosed bridge and by sitting on the balcony, you could watch the captain and staff driving the ship.
Our steward was not the most social person and while we loved our cabin and the lack of noise from around us we were also the last room to be touched by housekeeping each day. Ice was made available only in the morning and the room turn down service and towel animals we looked forward to were only completed on 4 of the 7 nights.
The ship has an interested design motif that folks either loved or hated. Reminded me of visiting a UFO with the pulsating, changing colors of the lamp scones and the copper colors. The red snake skin wallpaper in the Chic restaurant was a shock to discover as well.
We ran into a problem with the lack of service and lack of friendliness we expected to find on this the first 7 day US inaugural cruise for this new ship. Several staff including bar and restaurant staffs made comments about how they "...had been lied to about working on the ship" and how they couldn't stand the "rude Americans" on the ship. After this happened several times, we spoke to our dinner waiter assistant who explained that "...several of the Europeans that were on the ship were not accustomed to the amount of hard work and lower wages". Not all staff were resentful but more than half of all the ones we dealt with for the entire week were.
We felt bad after hearing the same story from the Salon staff and ended up spending several hundred dollars on items they explained they were paid commission on. We did so as these staff members earned our gratitude with their excellent talent and service. We would recommend you visit the Salon for any needs you may have as we did both the female AND male treatments and the staff was wonderful for both.
Our biggest disappointment was with the food and food service. Deciding to forgo our 8:30 seating in the Chic restaurant, we visited the Lido buffets expecting to find a wide variety of selections. We were disappointed to find only a wimpy salad bar, cold room service or a Pizza bar available as choices.
During the day, you can find Chinese food on the side, a Deli for sandwiches, a Grill for Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers, Fish and Chips, other seafood on the 10th floor and various different sections of the buffet open for lunch. We never made breakfast on the entire trip and I was not upset after tasting some of the food available for lunches.
We had two dinners in the Chic dining room at the 8:30pm seating. The first formal night we saw folks in less than formal wear, shirts with no collars etc. The lobster was undercooked and a disappointment but my companion's meal of Beef Wellington was excellent. The other night was fine with Chateaubriand beef being the main course, which was excellently prepared.
We skipped Thanksgiving in the Chic dining room as we were ill from our lunch that day at the buffet. We did spend our last night on the ship at the King's Supper Club, which charged an extra $30 per person but was so worth it. We both decided if the food downstairs had been half as good as in the Supper Club we would have been completely happy.
Our stops on the cruise included 5 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 8 hours in St. Thomas USVI and 8 hours in St. Maarten USVI. We stayed on board after it started pouring rain in San Juan and we only had 4 hours to discover it in the evening/night. Most of the people we met who did go ashore stated they wished they had not.
We visited the Tram on St. Thomas and rode to the highest point on the island. We had a simple lunch of 2 Bushwhackers, fish nuggets, cheeseburger and rice and beans which came to over $60 with tip added on by the restaurant. Pricing on the island was expensive but they did take the US dollar.
We took the Macarena Choo Choo Party bus on the island of St. Maarten and had a GREAT time. The other passengers and the tour leader enjoyed music and several Rum based drinks as we were driven around both the Dutch and French side of the island. We would recommend this excursion to ANYONE as it was the most fun we had on the islands. We were given time to see a Plantation, shop in the French capital and swim at the most popular "European - clothing optional" beaches on the island.
Entertainment and young adult actives on the ship were great. The comedian who performed twice and Marcus Anthony were just terrific and worth attending. We did miss most of the other "shows" do to other activities on the ship but still heard they were great.
Based on this our second experience on Carnival we are now planning on trying a different cruise line in the future. We won't be going on any other "inaugural" cruises as we don't want to experience the same type of service again.
Based on a scale of 1 to 10, we rated this cruise a 6 due to the bad service and bad food.