We traveled with 24 of our friends and family,ages from 7 to 65, most of us veteran cruisers, some past Carnival passengers, and some like my husband and I who mostly have sailed with Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise mostly because of price, the sailing was pretty cheap as cruises go, so on a recommendation of those who had previously sailed with Carnival we decided to take the plunge on the "Fun Ship".
EMBARKATION was pretty easy, no problems there, good organization at the pier and we were on the ship in probably 1/2 hour.
OUR BALCONY state room on Empress deck, was not ready until 1:00 so we decided to wait in the hall since it was around 12:40 when we got on board. My first impression of the ship was how very nice the room was. Carnival ships truly do have larger state rooms and the storage is amazing. The balcony is very small but has 2 chairs and a small table. The room was very clean and the beds were very comfy. We spent a lot of time out there and it was wonderful. Our steward kept the room perfectly.
SHIP DECOR was, in my opinion a lot to be desired. The ship kind of has a garish glitzy look about it. It almost seemed "old and worn out" in the way it's decorated. We are used to the more understated look of Royal Caribbean ships, they are very elegant and use more traditional elements in the decor. The color scheme was greens, blues with black tile with white splotches on it, and lots of gold faux painting on the metal on all the walls of the ship. I just didn't get the whole idea behind it, and it was really chintzy looking.
FOOD AND DINING ROOM SERVICE was definitely below par and pretty much all of the 24 we sailed with agreed on that point. Some of the soups were good, the deserts were really good, the steak was grizzle and couldn't be eaten. Out of 6 who ordered the steak the first night, we all sent it back. The service was not good at all. I have never been on a ship that gives you one fork to eat the entire meal from salad to entree with. What was up with that? I like to sample different items and really enjoy soups and appetizers even more than the entrees. Problem was, if you ordered more than one soup or appetizer you got them ALL the same time rather than one at a time as on Royal Caribbean. So, by the time you got to the 2nd one, it was cold. The water was never refilled, there was no Splenda for sweetener even after asking for days to have it on the table, and iced tea was not even offered without asking. It seemed as if they just wanted you to get in and get out. Their attitude during dinner was friendly, that's not the problem, it's just like they were not into going the 1st. or let alone the extra mile. During lunch, open seating it was really bad, no ketchup with fries, no cream for coffee. One morning we arrived around 8:50 to have breakfast thinking it was open until 10:00 am on Port days only to find they only seat until 9:00am. Well, because we were coming in so late they refused to seat us. One lady (not in our party) got really PO'd and was yelling at the head waiter, which by the way we NEVER saw until the last evening (for a tip, yeah, dream on buddy). Over all, the dining experience was lousy. One redeeming factor is the sandwich you can get on the Lido deck. Very good, but you will stand in line for it LOL LOL.
THE ENTERTAINMENT on the ship was up and down, mixed bag. The late night comedy was funny, the magician was not good, he didn't do any tricks really. The production shows were just ok, nothing to write home about, the choreography was really awful so I don't think it's the dancers, they just had to dance the show and didn't have much to work with, so that wasn't their fault. I could not understand the lyrics of the songs that the female singer sang, she had a very throaty, strangled sound to her voice and that was frustrating. I have a lot of experience in this field as I am a voice teacher. I would love to be able to show this to my students as an example of how NOT to sing. She had a nice voice but it was ruined by her lack of diction. She was, however, a very good performer. I knew all the songs in the show also so I'm sure those who were not familiar with them were even more confused. In entertainment all the elements have to be there to have a good show, and they were not in this case.
THE PORTS were St. Thomas, lovely, St. Maarten, the beach and San Juan. We have cruised so many times and been there and done that so I will defer to someone else to critique them as we just walked about and shopped.
IN CONCLUSION the cruise was really fun, but not because of the ship, it was the company we kept with friends and family. If we had just sailed Carnival alone, we would have been sorely disappointed. It just does not measure up to Royal Caribbean, but doesn't have Royal Caribbean prices either LOL LOL. Our balcony was around 800$ per person and on Royal Caribbean it would have been a lot more. I have noticed on Royal Caribbean last time we sailed on the Mariner, a few months ago, things seemed to go down also. No bands in the lounge, only Karaoke, food, just ok, BUT the ships themselves are beautiful and the service is great. The entertainment is awesome. Carnival did not meet my expectations at all.