I started out my cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Glory in mid January 2008. I had arrived by bus along with several friends and neighbors from the St. Petersburg area on the west coast of Florida. The embarkation process went very smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. Upon boarding the ship I was immediately impressed by how clean and new everything appeared to be. I later heard that they had just received a cleanliness inspection in the high 90's. The ship looked immaculate.
My cabin was also in very good condition. I was a little disappointed by how small the cabin was though. I had an oceanview room and there was what seemed like less than 3 feet of space to walk between the twin beds and the desk and drawers. While trying to get around the dressers in the dark so as not to disturb my cabinmate I twice injured myself by hitting the shelf that the TV sits on. It sticks out too far. One evening I caught my left eye on it. (Fortunately my eye was closed at the time.) Another night I bruised my collar bone on it. I was told by other more seasoned travelers that they were some of the smallest cabins that they had had. The bathrooms were actually slightly bigger than others I've seen.
One thing I was not prepared for was that apparently they were doing construction work on the ship during the cruise. For about the first 5 days the noise would start between 7:30-8:00 am. It sounded like it was coming from in between floors. The sound of hammering and whining drills would wake me up at that hour and keep me awake.
Our room steward was very polite and friendly. We had no problems with our service there at all. I really enjoyed coming back from dinner to see the towel animals that he left in our rooms. All of the room stewards regardless of the hallway you were in would give you a hello and a smile whenever you walked past. We gave our steward the biggest tip among those who who took care of us.
I had heard before the trip that some people had smelled sewage in some of the hallways of the cabin areas. Yes, I did notice that also. It was not terribly strong but I could smell it once in a while when I would walk the length of the hall.
In the Red Sail Restaurant on the Lido deck I found from the first day on that the food there would be decent but not anything great. On a scale of 1-10 I'd give it an overall 6. Some better, some worse. The desserts offered there I would go a little higher on. About a 7. A couple of desserts in the RSR might rate an 8 but not very many. My favorite dessert there was the chocolate fudge left over from the Chocolate Night.
My group was seated in the Platinum Dining Room and we had one of the best tables there. Our table (337) was against a window and sat directly above the propeller in the aft section of the ship. We could look out and see the engines churning that beautiful shade of chlorine pool blue water away from us as well as watching the wake that the ship was creating for at least a mile behind us. The contrast of the light blue water against the Midnight Blue of the rest of the ocean was quite a sight.
Our experience in the dining room was not very good. The tables are so close together all over that the place might be declared a fire hazard if it was on shore. The chairs at the tables for 8 are much less than a foot apart. It was very elegant though.
Our service in the dining room was horrendous! I knew we might be in trouble as soon as our waiter introduced himself. He was 69 years old. One of our party did ask him his age one day. I don't recall his name. He only said it once on the first day. He never came around to the table to converse or share any jokes the whole week. He never asked any of us our names or attempted even the slightest bit of polite conversation. It was quite clear from the beginning that he was only going to take our orders and bring us our food. And he did the basics of that quite poorly.
His assistant was much younger and faster but I was really put out by how both of our servers would just shove their hands between us in our seats without warning. They never said "Excuse me" before they shoved a hand in to reach for something. We were constantly being brushed on our arms as they tried to set down or remove plates. At one point during the week I turned to say something to my mother seated next to me and a bare forearm was sliding across my cheek. Not pleasant.
We were served so slowly for each course that we were always among the last to leave from our 5:45 seating. And that's not because we were slow eaters or arrived late. We would sit there for 10 minutes or more with empty plates in front of us waiting for them to be removed. I also didn't care for the fact that they did not provide 2 forks per person. When I had a Caesar salad for instance I would purposely leave the fork in the bowl. When the waiter got around to removing it he would take the fork out and set it on my bread plate. I would have to ask for another fork. For crying out loud it's a Formal dining room!
These patterns continued throughout the week. I never ate breakfast in the formal dining so I can't speak to that. I did eat lunch there once and had the spinach ravioli. The food at lunch was okay but not great. I enjoyed sharing stories with people I was seated with whom I didn't know beforehand. That was more fun than I expected. One of the topics though that they brought up was how tough and inedible the Fillet Mignon steak was from the evening before. They were quite disappointed with it.
As for some of the other dishes that were flops I have to give special mention to the "Lobster Bisque". I had high hopes when I ordered it until I found that it was a water based broth that had no meat except one small piece that floated on the top as a garnish. I thought a bisque was a milk or cream based soup with meat. This was like a package of powdered seafood seasoning that had been added to hot water. Salty yellow water with a vague seafood flavor. Yuk...
In fairness now I'll talk about some of the things not to be missed. The lobster tails with shrimp and melted butter were wonderful! It was by far the best meal of the week. Do NOT pass up the chance to try the Creme Brulee. It is the best I've ever had. They only offer it one night so take advantage. The other dessert that is great is the Chocolate Melting Cake. That one is offered every night and worth getting more than once.
I really enjoyed the Camel Club Casino. Having the bar attached right next to it gave you the best of both worlds between partying and gambling. The other clubs were okay but many except for White Heat were for a crowd older than myself. Being a 40 something single guy I was more in my element in the casino bar. This time of year it seemed that about 60-70% of the passengers were 60 or older.
I did go to the gym on board and the facilities are quite nice. Good equipment and very clean. I also liked the fact that you could look out at the water from windows surrounding the gym.
My group didn't see a whole lot of the shows. We did see the Vegas style show and we all enjoyed the singing and costumes. We saw another show that had some of the 70's rock and disco songs choreographed with dancing. We didn't care for as many of the songs that they chose to do. It was still good fun though.
For my excursions I chose the Discover Atlantis and Historical Cruise while in Nassau. In hindsight I would just take the cab ride over to the hotel rather than get there by boat. It is nice to get some historical information on the islands as you are riding the boat over. However once the boat docks and sends you walking over to the hotel there is a greater distance to cover than they let on. They tell you it is about a 4 minute walk to the hotel when you get off the boat and 20 minutes later you're still walking. It was not a problem for me but one of my friends is older, asthmatic and has had part of a lung removed. He was struggling with the walk and the heat. So we took a cab ride back to the Glory rather than the boat.
The tour of the hotel offered on this excursion is very rushed. Especially so when seeing the aquarium. It's difficult to cram 25-30 people into the narrow walkways of the aquarium to hear the guide and get pictures before the herd is moving on. The Atlantis Hotel is well worth seeing and I would go back. Next time though I would just take a cab and tour the place on my own.
On my next excursion I chose the St. John Trunk Bay Beach and Snorkel while docked in St. Thomas. I chose it because friends back home had told me that Trunk Bay is so beautiful that it was well worth the trip. They showed me pictures of stunning vistas looking down the cliffs and the blue ocean below. I bought a camera for the trip with the intention of getting as many pictures of my own from there as I could. It was the excursion that I was most looking forward to. I boarded the boat in St. Thomas for the ride over to St. John and it was so pretty all the way there. Before getting off the boat for the bus trip to the beach our tour guide said that we should not worry if our bus drivers did not stop at the overlook ares on the way up due to traffic. The overlook areas have tiny parking areas so with about 6 mini buses leaving at once there was not enough space for all of them including mine to stop on the way up. As we passed by the overlook areas going 40 mph we could see that the views were fantastic.
We didn't stop at any of the 3 overlook areas on the way over to the beach. Trunk Bay Beach was very nice. I was not into the snorkeling so much but I made do. We readied for the bus ride back to the boat. Our bus driver's name was Troy in bus #110 which is really a converted green open-air pickup truck. Long story short he didn't stop at a single overlook area on the way back. He sat inside the cab of the truck and flew past every one of them. I had had my camera out and ready the entire time and never got a single picture. When he stopped in front of the Island Girl boat to drop us off I was livid. I called him out on it as soon as I stepped off the truck. When I told him that he hadn't made a single stop he just got a goofy smirk on his face. He never reacted like maybe he had honestly forgotten to take us. He knew he hadn't and he didn't care. He just said "Sorry" and took off running for his truck. We were the first group of people to arrive back on the boat. We had been dropped off the earliest of the 100+ people that had come over with us for various excursions. It was a good 20 minutes before more people started trickling back to the boat.
I immediately went to the tour guide on the boat and told him what had happened. I asked him how I could file a complaint. I was almost in tears from the anger and disappointment. He said that the only channel to complain through was to write it on the comment card aboard the Glory before the end of the cruise. I didn't feel like that was sufficient. I did write a complaint on my card as well as going to the excursion desk aboard the Glory to complain in person about my experience. I was told that they could not give me any phone numbers, addresses or email addresses of the company employing the driver. As of this writing I have still not been contacted by Carnival or the excursion company in regards to my complaint.
For my next excursion I chose the bus ride tour of St. Maarten. It was very good for giving you the chance to see the whole island from one end to the other. It was a nice air conditioned bus. The bus driver slowed down in places to allow us to get pictures. He even stopped at a few overlook ares to allow us to get out and take pictures. The tour guide on the bus was very knowledgeable. Even though it was only a 2 hour excursion it was very satisfying. And then you had plenty of time to go off exploring on your own.
The last night of the cruise on a Friday evening we heard over the loudspeakers: " Code Sierra. Infirmary." I looked at my friend and said: "That's not a good sign." Within a few minutes we heard the engines making a sound we hadn't heard before. Shortly after that I could feel my whole body being pulled to the left even though I was standing up. Then they announced over the loudspeakers that a passenger was in dire need of immediate medical attention off ship. The captain had fired the thrusters to stop the forward momentum of the ship so that the rescue helicopter could come and evacuate the patient to a medical facility on shore. The captain had turned the ship at an angle that would make the wind direction more favorable for the approaching helicopter to come along side the aft section.
They told us that if we wanted to see the approaching helicopter to go to the top of the aft deck. So a group of us got over there right away and the helicopter was already there hovering above the ship. Apparently they don't have a landing deck for helicopters on the ships because it never landed. One of the men in the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter lowered himself by rope on to the deck. Then they lowered a gurney on to the deck. They put the patient in the gurney and pulled it back up. The pilot was having trouble staying steady because the wind was very strong. Then they lowered this big basket and about 3 people climbed in. Once they brought them up they brought up a couple more in the basket. Apparently these were all family members of the patient. They finally brought up their own guy again and the helicopter flew off probably towards Miami. Everybody on deck was cheering and clapping as the copter departed. That was a sight!
Our disembarkation went very smoothly. I was a little apprehensive but they staggered the people off the ship in a very efficient system. You could just stay up on the Lido deck eating food and waiting for your number to be called. There was no pushing or shoving. No long waits for the elevators. When your number was called you went downstairs and casually walked off the ship. Customs was a breeze. Baggage pickup was easier than at an airport.
As you can see, my experience on the Glory was a mixed bag of bitter and sweet. So it is up to you to pick and choose to see what lessons if any you could learn from my cruise. I'm going to Cozumel in March on another cruise line so I'm looking forward to comparing them. :)