The buffets at Lido deck are good- Enough variety and constantly good quality. The food at Normandie are also good - but the service made the dining experience much better. We opted for room service for our breakfast and Lido deck buffet for lunch as the meals at Normandie, everything is in former. It took at least an hour. We love pizza station too - the crust there is just tasty - better than most of the pizza we got back in the US. We went to David Supper Club for one night, and we felt that 3 hr dining experience was incredible. It made us realize that the food at David is like a custom artwork while those at Normandie are one size fits all mass-products. Yes! We can taste the huge difference. For us, we do not see any problem with food although I saw some negative review about food when I checked the forum.
In terms of Taj-Mahal shows, We went to six different ones - Around the World show was remarkable - the others are okay. It'll keep us occupied somehow! Pre-show Bingos were just rip-offs for us! As it's $20 for a sheet of 3 tickets.
Talks! Excursion talk was little bit helpful - but you can always tune them in from your stateroom. Shopping talk reminds me of time-share presentations. It did not give any useful information but kept advertising their sponsored businesses such as Diamond International, and Tanzanite International. The shopping consultant guy consistently emphasized quality/price guarantee program but the funny thing is the sale guy from Carnival jewelry shop told me the heart-breaking story of the woman who paid $6000 for a diamond - which turned out to be a fake one. She bought that at the Diamond International.
Shops on Board seemed attractive but they are way overpriced. They would tell you all sorts of things such as quality difference - duty free discounts, etc, and will try to sell you one thing or another. I was looking for a particular Tag Heuer Carrara watch, and the guy there was giving me $500 discount - which made $2700 watch $2200. However, Tag Authorized Dealers back at the US are selling it with an average price of $1700! Their diamonds seems to be attractive if you just look at the price tag - but if you consider the size, and the quality of the diamonds - they're rip-offs!
Our shore excursion at PV starts with jungle tour. Yes we booked via carnival. It's fun walking in the jungle for 40-50 minutes but it is not suitable for older people or those who has knee problems. The tour guide is very knowledgeable and professional. He also wear a name tag issued by the Ministry of Tourism. We think it is very important to choose official tour guides because we do not want to spoil our holiday dealing with liars.
At PV, we checked out the menus at Blue Shrimp and Si Senor as per recommendation of Carnival shopping consultant, but turned off by $46 per entrEes. We ended up having lunch at a small yet nice and clean place near Si Senor!
Our time at Mazatlan was not great. We booked stone island tour via internet. For the whole day we ended up fighting with the so called tour guides for everything they promised on the website (complimentary city tour, beach activities such as horse riding, banana boat etc). We, the tourists were transferred to different mexican tour operator throughout the day. The first guy is okay; at least he explained with the limited English about the city. Once we were on the boat to the stone island, no more explanation or help in English. We won't consider any tour in Mexico unless they can show id or any proof that they are official tour guides.
Shore excursions - Although we really wanted to do snorkeling, we were hesitant to pay $100 something per person to Carnival excursion. But once we get off to Cabo, there were couples of guys who're offering glass-bottom boat ride + snorkeling for $24 per person, and we somehow negotiated it to $14 pp. As far as we could see, there is only one snorkeling place near Cabo, we wonder if $100 snorkeling would be any better than ours. Also we think people at Cabo are much more honest than those rip offs from Mazatlan.
One thing I learnt from Mexico trip is that the price they ask for is at least four times more than they could sell for. $40 bag could be easily bargained for $10 if your offer is $5. etc. Best places to buy are the markets near the cruise terminal at PV and Mazatlan.
Overall, we enjoyed the trip very much! After 7 days, we're pampered and spoiled yet exhausted. We will do it again, but as always, we have learned our lessons of do's and don'ts! Hopefully, we will become better tourists next time.
Please do yourself a favor. Do not try to do business or look for a bargain while on vacation. Things ain't cheaper just because they are duty free. We do remember the disclaimer from Carnival stating that Carnival will not take any responsibility for any product or service you received from gift shop, spa or from shore excursion.