We arrived at the port much earlier than instructed and were very pleased we did. The check in process was relatively smooth except for the new agent that checked in our friends. She took twice as long as our agent did. No big deal. We proceeded to the musical chair system that Carnival seems to think works well. This system was frustrating the passengers before they even started their vacation. The good news was, we met a few people who were equally as frustrated and enjoyed their company through the cruise.
There was absolutely no one directing passengers when we arrived onto the ship. There is usually someone looking at cabin numbers and giving directions. Some ships even have staff escort you to your cabin. We had to find a crew member and ask directions.
We carried our own luggage on board so we did not have to wait. We did hear people complaining about how long it took to get their luggage. I don't think this process was any different than any other cruise line. The cabin was very nice. We had a balcony on Lido deck. It was spacious and well appointed. We were talking with others who had an inside cabin and said it seemed very small. They also paid more for their inside cabin than we paid for our balcony. They were Gold Passport holders and thought they were getting the best deal. Beware of pricing. After you book your trip, keep an eye on reductions.
This was my twelfth cruise, first on Carnival. I am a retired travel agent so I know I am much more critical than the average passenger.
I will only comment on the things that I noticed everyone complaining about. The bar staff was much less than friendly. Especially at the lido bar, smoking side. Maybe because I only used a coke card and they were not receiving any additional tips. I purchased the card for $47.50 and had to pay an additional 6.00 for the logo cup. Princess gives you the cup when you purchase the card. There were long lines and waiting times everywhere. The buffet lines were slow and long, the time to get a drink at most bars was very long. No one seemed happy with what they were doing.
The food at dinner in the dining room was excellent. I know carnival was known to have inferior food compared to other cruise lines so I was very pleasantly surprised with the cuisine at dinner. The dinning staff were some of the best staff I have seen on any cruise. They were accommodating and truly aware of our every need.
The shore excursions were the usual. Half moon Cay is a beach. The lunch on the island was provided by carnival and was truly horrible. Spicy chicken, soggy salads. This was in accordance to all the food offered on the ship. I did not have the opportunity to eat in the dining room for any meal other than dinner.
This was the first cruise I've ever been on where I did not gain a single pound. They still have a long way to go with their cuisine.
St. Thomas shore excursion was a snorkel trip. Nice boat and crew. The beach was beautiful but the snorkeling was not. The water was deep and there were hardly any fish.
San Juan was a wonderful port, my favorite. We took a city and shopping tour that was supposed to be 2 1/2 hrs. and wound up being 4 1/2 hrs. Tour guide was terrible. She had an accent so thick no one could understand a word she was saying. We all had the feeling it was her first day on the job. There were hills to climb to get to the shopping district that had many of the older passengers angry and wishing they had not taken the tour at all. It was ridiculous that this was not explained before hand. However, after complaining, Carnival refunded us for the tour.
Grand Turk is a beautiful Island, however I would never take a cruise with this as a port again. It is the kind of Island you fly to and enjoy. The port had shopping that was set up just for the cruise ships. No buys at all. I was expecting it to have a town. People who went to town were so disappointed that there was nothing to see. Everyone's taste is different. I was not looking for two "beach only" ports. I prefer more active ports. If you enjoy just lying on a beach, this was a great itinerary.
Carnival is still a "fun ship" and definitely not for any type of sophisticated traveler. Their price is the best in the industry and I understand why. If not for their price, their ships would be half empty.