This was my 6th cruise, 3rd on Carnival (other 3 were on Princess)! Our traveling party was my wife, sister and her husband (and two children) along with my parents.
Hotel prior to Embarkation
We booked through priceline and all received the Yankee Sheraton properties. For $89 it wasn't bad. The hotel is old and needs some work but you couldn't find another hotel for the Sheraton price so all in all it was fine.
Certainly wasn't as quick as Princess but it wasn't anything unexpected. We arrived at the Pier around 12:30 and were all onboard by 1:00.
The ship was clean and its decor was traditional Carnival flavor. One complaint I have is the layout of the ship. It's lounges are all positioned Aft, only Deck 5 is open forward to aft, the public areas are really tight, no outdoor deck to walk all the way around the ship, and the pools are extremely small. I much prefer the layout of the Princess Grand Class Ships.
Our room was very clean and full of storage space. We had a balcony cabin. Carnival beats Princess in this category. While the Princess rooms maintain a similar layout, Carnival has much more storage space and their balcony decks are made of wood, not the blue water mat that Princess has.
This is where I have to address the previous review posted on cruise critic. My wife and I were in Cabin 9272, positioned next to 9270 (the number of the previous reviewers cabin). My wife and I do not have any children so he is mistake there. My sister and brother-in-law (they were in cabin 9274) do have two children however I never heard the children the entire trip. Regarding the "loud and obnoxious friends", don't know what he is addressing there either. We woke up early on port mornings in order to be off the boat by docking time however no noise was made. Carnival has done a nice job with insulating its cabins. In fact, I heard cabin 9270 FAR more than I did 9274. The family complaining about us was very noisy, constantly dragging chairs accross their balcony etc. 9270 didn't get off in Ocho Rios (by far the best stop), slept late every day, and wouldn't talk to me when I tried. Sounds like they have a few social issues they need to deal with. We had a great time and UNDERSTAND the fact that we are on a boat with 3,000 other people, NOISE WILL HAPPEN!
Ports of Call
Nassau: Didn't do much here, we took a cab to Atlantis but avoided paying the $100 fee to use their facilities.
Grand Cayman: Took a tour of the island (Turtle farm, Hell, Rum Bakery) and then spent a few hours on Seven Mile Beach. We camped in front of the Ritz Carlton however the Westin seemed a bit less crowded.
Ocho Rios: By far the best stop. Hired a cab for the day heading to Bremmer Hall plantation (highly recommend), Dunns River Falls, and finally the small local shopping area.
Better than Princess. I was pleased with buffet selection (make sure you hit the fish and chips upstairs aft of the buffet), daily dining, and room service. Harry's Supper Club is a must, the service and food was exceptional and worth the $30 cover charge.
This was one of the few disappointments. While our dining room wait staff was good, Maria and team were not over the top, often showing frustration when special request were made. The bar and pool staff showed the poorest service by far, many times acting annoyed at guests requests. One last complaint on service, many of the staff members had conflicting answers regarding where or what certain things were on the ship. Basically they were forcing answers when they didn't really know what they were talking about. This became very frustrating to us and many other guests.
Not sure if this area struggled because it was only a six night cruise or if its standard Carnival. Princess really outshines Carnival here. There were very few choices regarding shows and nightly entertainment. The comedian they did have was ok and certainly not appropriate for families. This is not common on large ships however on Liberty it was.
I would sail Carnival again however with the Princess Captains Circle, we will most likely continue on with Princess. We are booked on the Emerald Princess this coming August (12 night Med Cruise).