This is a long review, but I think it will be helpful. I have been on Carnival 3 times prior to this, Royal Caribbean twice, and an Italian cruise line 4 times, years ago. I like nice things, but am easy to please, so I think this review will be very fair. First let me start off by saying, I loved the cruise and would sail again with Carnival on this ship.
Before you sail: Fill out your fun pass on line prior to sailing, and you will get a sail and sign card when you board that you will use for to get on and off the ship, as a credit card on board, and to get into your room. You don't need to carry cash with you, except for the casino. ATMs on board give American money which you can use for the casino. ATMs in port will give you Euros. Best way to get your Euros. There's ATMs everywhere in the ports. When using your credit cards in port, let them charge you in Euros. Your credit cards will do the conversion, and let your credit card companies and banks know what countries you are visiting so they don't put a hold on your card due to suspicious activity. All ports use Euros except Croatia, however they did except our Euros.
Tips - (on ship) they will take $10 per day per person out on your sail and sign. You can ask to adjust this one way or the other. We left that and gave a little extra to people who really made our cruise special. Also, the maitre d isn't included in these tips so they will give you an envelope for him. Tips are included in the drinks. (For tours) - We gave 10% on private tours in Euros, which we only did private tours in Rome and Venice, and tipped a little to the tour guides arranged by Carnival as well. Having done both, it's nice to have private small tours, but it was also nice to have the Carnival tours paid for in American dollars on our credit cards before we left, and not have to worry about making sure the private tours got us back on time. The private tours and Carnival tours were great. I will describe them below. (For restaurants) - the service charge was included.
May 20th - flew on Delta to FCO, day before the cruise. Flight was uneventful.
May 21th - Took private transportation using Rome Cabs. We Paid 50 Euros because we were also booking private tours through Rome Cabs as well. Driver was there at the airport for us when we walked out of the baggage claim area. There were no problems with luggage. Nice ride to hotel, although a small car was sent for us. I was traveling with my husband and parents. We all had a lot of luggage. We stayed overnight at the Best Western Springhouse. The people were very nice and accommodating at the hotel. Rooms were very small. Bathroom, shower, and lift (elevator) also small. But hotel was clean, about 2 blocks from the Vatican and we loved the area. It was about $300 US dollars. For the area, the price couldn't be beat. We also received a complimentary buffet breakfast. Room for the buffet was small. Breakfast was good. For one night, the hotel was fine. We would stay there again. If size is important to you, than you may want to pick a hotel with more space, but it will cost you more. Our rooms weren't ready when we got to the hotel, and we had to meet our private guide at the Vatican at 1pm. The people that worked at the hotel worked quickly to get our rooms ready so we could freshen up. They also make copies or take information from your passports. That was a surprise for us, but it seems that's what they do. So don't be surprised by that. Also, you need your key with card to put in slot in room for lights, and anything else to work in the room. We wish they would have showed us this. It was funny, however. Also, had a balcony and a little bit of a view from our rooms. We met our tour guide at the Vatican for our tour of the Vatican and St. Peters. She was great. This was arranged again by Stefano at Rome Cabs. No lines. We were able to see the highlights in 2 hours. We ate lunch near the Vatican. I don't remember the name of the restaurant. Great food! We also ate dinner near the hotel. The restaurant was our favorite. We ordered antipasto, which was a typical overflowing antipasto that they kept bringing to the table, along with great wine, and dinner was also great. They were so nice to us in Rome. Price was also reasonable. Any house wine is great in Italy. Prior to dinner we did a night tour again arranged by Stefano. Again, another great guide. We saw the highlights, St Peter's all lit up, spectacular, Trevi fountain, a true highlight, and much more. A 2 1/2 hour tour for 120 Euros. A great tour. It was very nice doing these private tours prior to the cruise.
May 22 - had private transportation through Rome Cabs to port arranged by Stefano, 140 E, and worth every penny. Arrived to ship in about 1 1 1/2 hrs. We got to the ship about 12:30. Everything arranged by Rome Cabs, Stefano was great. A little confusing going back and forth with prices and times. He changed that a couple of times on us, but he quickly made up for that, and all and all made everything great for us. Would highly recommend Rome Cabs. Reliable and great people. Made our stay in Rome very enjoyable. Embarkation was a breeze. Was up in our cabin in a matter of minutes.
Our Cabin - we had cabin 6372 on Upper deck. A balcony cabin. Location was perfect. Not too far from elevators, and mid ship. No noise. Carnival has the best cabins. Size and space is great. Only complaint is one outlet. My camera and camcorder often died because I was unable to charge them up at the same time. They said there was an outlet in the bathroom, although we couldn't find it. They also had no electrical strips for rent as they said this was a fire hazard. Many people brought their own. They have a basket of toiletries: toothpaste, razors,... They don't refill unless you ask for it. We loved our cabin, and loved our balcony. They also have bathrobes in the cabins for your use, and 2 carnival towels. If you lose the towels they will charge you, so just hold on to them. Cabins have flat screen TVs and pay per view movies. There is a safe in the cabin. I brought a store credit card with me, because that's how you lock the safe, and you don't use your sail and sign card for that, and you don't need to carry a major credit card on the ship with you.
A Little About the Ship - Read the Carnival Caper. A lot of helpful information. Also watch the TV for the morning or afternoon show on sea days and go to the shore / shopping talks. Very informative. The ship really is beautiful. I don't know why all the negative reviews about the decor. It's a beautiful ship. The lobbies are not as exclusive as other ships, but then there is nothing like a Carnival lobby with the bar, and music and dance floor. A wonderful central meeting place. One of my favorite places to have a drink and dance and meet up with others.
The only thing I would have to say is that more on this cruise than any other cruise, we experienced people pushing and being a little rude. But that certainly wasn't the majority. The majority was great. We met soooo many great people!
Also, another difference we found on this cruise was by the pool areas on this cruise, it was much more quiet than we are use to from Carnival. We enjoy the liveliness and the music, and the band, Lifeline when they played were great, just would have liked them to play a little more and keep the pool area a little more lively. The big screen was great but felt that took over some of the musical entertainment. On the other hand, the deck party they have one evening, don't miss. A lot of fun!! Also getting into Venice and leaving Venice, you don't want to miss being up on deck. Deck 5 - has just about everything. You will find the casino, many of the lounges, the 70s club, teen disco, Swingtime lounge, Piano Bar and International Lounge. All really nice lounges, however dance space in Swingtime and International is small. Lifeline, and the duo by lobby bar on deck 3 are great. DJ in 70s club is great. Dance floor in 70s club is not wood, not great for dancing, but club is really nice. I heard the piano bar is a lot of fun, however didn't really get a chance to go. Habana Bar, I think Cigar lounge is on 4 near the internet lounge. By the way if you use the internet, buy one of the packages. I went on twice and spent close to $70. On deck 5 you will also find sushi bar which is great, early evening, and midnight for midnight snacks. The cafe also has great coffees and cakes you can purchase. You can also get cappuccino and espresso free at dinner. The game room is also on Deck 5. Lido deck is where you will have your buffet breakfasts and lunches, and of course dinners if you want. Deck 10, right above Lido Deck has Fish N Chips that is open at lunchtime. Serves fried oysters, octopus salad,.... The pool areas and Jacuzzis very nice. Jacuzzis not quite has hot as I like, but areas very nice. Plenty of lounge chairs around all the pools. If you miss lunch, you can always get a burger, frank, chicken, fries late afternoon by pool area. And of course you have pizza and ice cream available 24 hrs a day, and a limited but sufficient room service menu. Food was great!!! Make sure you see the maitre d and confirm your dinner reservations when you get on the ship. We were upset because we booked one and a half years prior to the cruise and we requested a table for 4, and ended up with a table for 8 which he changed after the first night, bur he wasn't that nice about it, and we didn't get a great table, but that didn't ruin our dinners. It was still great. Chic and Posh restaurants are on 3rd and 4th floors. Both are very nice. We had late seating in Chic. We went to open seating breakfast a few times in Posh. Okay so you have to walk through the restaurants if you are on the 3rd or 4th floor to get to other areas of the ship, otherwise just go to the 5th floor and go across the ship that way. People have complained about that, but it's really no big deal. Each area of the ship takes on a different time period. It's really beautiful. Victorian lounge, where the shows are, is beautiful. You can get to the lounge from 3rd or 4th floor. It's in front of the ship. We went to just about every show. The shows were great. And then we were in the talent show. A lot of fun. The gift shops are on the 5th floor.
The spa and gym are really nice. Both on deck 10. Loved the Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room. Working out on the treadmills would have been even nicer if you could see the water. All and all, very nice.
About some of the people: Todd, the cruise director is great!!! He is funny, polite, informative, and really wants everyone to have a great time. You will really enjoy him. He's also a great singer! Mellody, one of the social hosts, also great. Very polite, sweet, and informative. Larry Burroughs, music director or band leader. You probably won't have too much interaction with him, but he was very rude, abrupt and disrespectful to us. Only 1 of 1200 crew members. Everyone else was really nice. Guy from the Casino, can't remember his name. He runs slot tournaments, which are a lot of fun. He was so nice and so much fun. Our bar waitress, Alny was a delight.
Day 2 - Naples - we took the Amalfi Coast and Capri tour. Great tour. Worth every penny. Great guide. Capri is beautiful. Lunch was great. Boat ride along Amalfi coast was nice, but would have been nicer if it was warmer. We stopped in Amalfi which I loved. Wish we had more time there. Then the drive back along the coast was spectacular. Scary but spectacular!
Day 3 - Sea Day - first formal night. People dress nice for the formal nights. Other nights are mixed. You will see people dressed up and people dressed in a casual manner. Sea Days are fun and a great way to get some rest in between the very full port days. Look at the Caper for the great activities on board.
Day 4 - Dubrovnik, Croatia - we took the Best of Dubrovnik Tour. Great tour. Dubrovnik is beautiful. They take you to the country and stop somewhere for a really nice snack and wine. It was a wonderful tour.
Day 5 and 6 - Venice - We loved Venice!! Our favorite!!! We did private tours I arranged with Fernando through A Guide in Venice. He was excellent!!! Very simple to make arrangements. He is very organized, very clear. Really wants you to enjoy Venice. I posted on Roll call, and was able to get a total of 8 people so cost was really reasonable. The first day, we were picked up in a private water taxi, saw St Marks, toured St Marks Basilica, and then went to Castello, and then after 4 hours we were left on our own. The tour was $335 E. We did a gondolier ride for 100 E for 4 right in front of St Marks. Make sure you ask how long and arrange where you want to go. We did back canals and a little of Grand Canal. Was very nice. Then we had cappuccino and pastry at one of the first cafes on St Marks with the orchestra playing. Expensive but was really nice. Then we took the water bus back. Cheap but took over an hour standing up with no seats. Felt like the water bus went in slow motion and stopped frequently at many stops. We would have just splurged for a private water taxi if we knew it would be that bad. Also, check because one water bus, maybe 11 E instead of 6 E goes straight to the ship. Second day with Fernando, we were picked up and dropped off in private water taxi, went to Burano,. Buraon is beautiful!!! Had a little free time. Then went to Rialto, had lunch, a little free time, and then toured San Polo and Dorsoduro. Just beautiful, by foot. And before getting to Rialto, we had a private water taxi ride on Grand Canal. That was probably the highlight, as this was spectacular. I would highly recommend Fernando. Weather was perfect the 2 days in Venice. Cost for second tour, 5 hours, was 650 E. He really custom made these tours as to what we wanted to see.
Day 7 - Sea Day - We had made reservations at the Supper Club. It's really worth it.
Day 8 - Messina - We did Taromina and Greek Theater Tour - it was okay. Not spectacular. Beautiful views, but a lot of uphill walking and just a lot of shops. If I had to do it over I would pick another tour.
Day 9 - Sea Day - second formal night.
Day 10 - Barcelona - we did Tossa De Mar, beach resort. It's a beautiful area, but would have been nicer if the weather was better. Also had paella in one of the restaurants, not that great. And by doing this tour we missed Barcelona and the shopping, street performers, ... Heard that was really nice. But again if you have warm weather and like the beach, this is a nice tour.
Day 11 - Cannes - we did Monaco and Monte Carlo. One of our favorites. We were in awe of the place. We gambled in the casino. A collared shirt and pants no sneakers for the guys is okay. No shorts, or sportswear. We had lunch in a great restaurant. We loved this tour.
Day 12 - Florence - we did Florence and highlights and shopping. A great tour. Florence is beautiful. We had plenty of free time as well. I heard Tuscany, Pisa and the other tours were nice also, but because we had never been to Florence, we really wanted the free time her. Another great tour.
On all the tours, we brought our passport. Didn't need to except for Monte Carlo Casino and Dubrovnik, but we did anyway. We also used Rick Stevens hidden neck and waist pouches on most tours, not all.
Disembarkation - very organized and easy. Sad to go.
All and all, a great cruise. Had the time of my life. The itinerary was incredible. The ship is beautiful, the food and entertainment great. Many activities. You will have a great time!!