This was my first cruise with Carnival and I had heard some very negative comments about the ship board culture: noise, rowdiness, unclean rooms, poor service. I did not find this to be the case but I did find some areas for improvement. The ship is clean and for most part personnel are friendly, courteous, and helpful. With one exception: I found the Purser to be either overworked or disinterested as the two times I used their service it was not pleasantly given nor was the info correct. I would rate that department unsatisfactory. Outstanding were the cabin attendants. They were courteous, room cleaned very thoroughly, got whatever you needed. These folks work very hard and if any additional gratuity over what Carnival automatically adds to your bill. In our case, for a 12 day tour, $120.00. Of course you can change this with the purser if you feel some or all did not earn it. Waiters in Posh earned extra
Booking, Documentation, and Agent: Not happy at all. I am retired Military and a senior. I was told by other agents to ask for Military Discount and or Senior Discount. I booked with Carnival Direct and my agent advised that no discounts applied. At the time of booking I received an Email advising that Carnival was offering upgrade for bookings on this day. I booked on this day but never got an upgrade. Repeated Emails to my so called agent went unanswered. In fact, after I paid never heard from her again. I was told by one Military family that they did receive a Military Discount. My advice: Do not deal with a Carnival Agent; they are not good or at least mine was not. Total silence after they got the payment. My cabin was last outside port aft. It was right over the screws and the rudder. Terrible cabin, with lots of noise esp. when ship was docking. You will be awakened many times by loud noises. Got to be worse cabin on the ship. I had asked for Midship but again never heard from the
Carnival Agent. Advice: Don't pay until you are satisfied that they have tried to meet your requirements. Other issue was the amount of time I had to spend on computer downloading the entire cruise documentation. I asked for hard copy to be sent but it was never sent. How someone without some computer skills could do this is beyond me. If I do all the work why I should pay the full price?
1. Arrival Day; Arrived one day early and took the Carnival pre cruise hotel and transportation package. ($580 for 2 ) Met at the airport by a Carnival Representative and assembled until all flights had arrived. Way to long to wait. By time we got to hotel around 11:30 rooms were not ready until nearly 3 PM. Nothing much to do but hang in a very crowded lobby and keep eye on your luggage which you must do in Italy. Most of us were tired and it was too late to take the pre cruise tours of Rome. There are 3 package tours but after flying all night not many were up for a tour and again they had to have a minimum number of sign ups to even do the tour. I think Carnival knows they have a captive market on arrival and the charges reflect it. Way too much for what you get. Hotel is Ok but not Deluxe. Very Very busy so do not expect much in way of service. There are all kinds of tours going and coming and there were many false alarms about which bus, where is the bus, etc. Not too organized.
2. Next day bus departed for the port city at 10:00 so no pre cruise tours of city was possible. Traffic was horrible and it took over two and half hours to make the 50 or so miles. As with all busses that Carnival used, to include all tour busses the on bus bathrooms were locked and the "driver said he did not have the keys". This situation was on every bus we were on and we were on many. Drivers do not want to clean the bathrooms. Tip: Busses line up on the road leading to the terminal and move forward as other busses are emptied; there is a public bathroom at the control station that you can use. Just get off the bus walk up the street and rejoin your bus as it inches forward.
3. Pre Cruise processing was very orderly and went pretty fast. Building is actually a huge tent and the AC was either broken or off. It was stifling hot. Folks doing the processing were very good though and we boarded. Restaurants on board were kept open for food and drink. Luggage was delivered very promptly.
4. Food and Drink and Dining: I have several points with food and service in the Lido Deck Restaurants; breakfast was pretty much the same every day; toast was never toasted or warm; butter or margarine was not cold so it was runny; the eggs to order man on the aft side was about the most unfriendly person I have ever met and I decided not worth my time to even have him cook me a omelet. Started my day off bad. Never met anyone with such an attitude. Food was adequate but though but not of real quality. The other specialty restaurants were good esp. the Deli Restaurant. They made some great sandwiches. Never tried the Oriental or Mexican Restaurants but lot of people did and I did not hear any complaints. Bus boys in Lido did not do a good job busing tables and so often you had to move the plates and dirty dishes. Noticed lot of standing around and jawing by the people who should have been busing tables. I did not detect much supervision by anyone. The Chic Restaurant (Other one is Posh) where I ate dinner the entire cruise was the opposite. First class meals, service, nothing but A+ food and service. Our waiters were good, attentive, and after first day knew what we wanted. Folks on Lido need training by these folks. There are two formal nights. Dress code is not enforced and some came to the dining room with same casual or less attire. Despite notice of no shorts, sandals, they were worn. Not sure they even want to enforce. I think cruisers who bring a tux or business suit like to dress up and go to a dinner with fellow cruisers who are also dressed. If they are going to have formal dinners than enforce the dress code or do away with it.
5. Shore Excursions: Go to all the meetings by the Tour Director. Even though he is slightly long winded he puts out some good information about the various ports and the tours. These meetings are invaluable and he has a good visual presentation of what you can expect to see. I thought the tours were little expensive, especially in countries using the Euro. The Tour of Pompeii was well worth the money and time. It was one of the best. The tour Secrets of Naples was worthless. You see enough of a dirty city when you drive thru parts of it to see Pompeii. Skip this tour. In Izmir the tour, "House of the Virgin Mary and Ancient Ephesus" was great. This is a must. You have plenty of time to see both and the ride is thru some very beautiful country. Our guide was fantastic. If you just want to see Izmir do not book a tour; just walk to the city. Be sure to be back on time though. The Panoramic Marmaris tour was little disappointing. Lot of riding on a bus, stop at a place that was not fully explained, and two other stops that were not that interesting. The first place we stopped had only Turkish toilets and some found them interesting to say the least. Be sure you bring your own paper. I would go for the boat trip to Rhodes or walk around the town of Marmaris. Istanbul was fantastic and there are many tours to satisfy all tastes. I had been to Istanbul before so I took the tour, "The Blue Mosque, St. Sophia and Grand Bazaar" You see some of Istanbul on the drive thru. It depends on your interest and what you want to see. The Grand Bazaar Covered Bazaar is interesting. It is about 1,000 shops selling almost the same thing. They include a so called Turkish Rug Making stop but it is nothing more than a very high pressure sales pitch to sell rugs. Skip it! If you do go, do not take the beverage, watch the presentation and then leave. The folks are very aggressive. Good place to use the bathrooms though. Someone they felt taking the free drink indebted you to buy a several thousand dollar rug. Athens: The boat docks at Piraeus and you have to take a bus to Athens. There are many good tours to choose from. The Acropolis was the most popular and there were thousands of tourists there. If you were not interested in that and wanted to only see Athens I would recommend you negotiate a taxi fare and use it instead of a bus. Livorno, Pisa and Florence. I have been to both so did not take any tours plus it was raining. Livorno is too far to walk from the ship so you need to take a taxi or the ship's shuttle. Rome: It is good one and half hour on way bus ride to Rome from the Port City of Civitavecchia. There are many tours and no matter where you go in Rome it will be crowded. The Vatican and the Museum is a sea of humanity and you are shuffled thru like a herd of sheep. You see it alright but only have seconds to view the masterpieces. The 3 hour RT bus ride eats up lot of time. My recommendations: schedule extra day in Rome and see the city at more leisurely pace. Tour groups do get preferential treatment and move to front of the very long lines. I hate to keep harping on this but have a strong bladder as bus toilets are locked and it is hard to find a public toilet in Rome.
6. The Tour advances provide very good guidance on difficulty of walking. They are right. Many of the tours involve lots of walking, getting on and off busses. Be sure you are fit to do it. If not take a Highlights tour where you mostly drive thru. Exception: Naples.
7. Last Day; Carnival gets you off the ship pretty fast because the are reloading for another cruise. Problem is that I got to the Rome Airport 5 hours ahead of my flight! Very few seats unless you go to the boarding area and hang out at an empty boarding area. The Transfer Package was $106 per person which was basically a bus ride to the airport, again no bathrooms on the bus. There is a train connection from the port and I guess if you were young, not too much luggage, you could catch bus shuttle to Metro Station and ride it to the airport. Entertainment: Very good. You will enjoy the shows. They are very professional. Do not miss any of them. Would I take another Carnival Cruise? Yes. Many of the issues are minor and if Carnival pays attention to the Customer Comment cards they can fix them easily.