Family Cruise - me, hubby (both 35), son (7) and daughter (5). Left out of Tampa on the Carnival Legend on Sept. 7th for a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean.
I love to cruise and have been on 15+ so far. Mostly RCCL cruisers, thought we were done with Carnival. Had a trip to Key West planned this week and that changed quickly due to Hurricane Ike causing evacuations and us to book a cruise two days before sailing. The only cruise available with a room for four was this one. So we were off! Very excited at the short notice and didn't know what to expect as usually I have researched the ship, etc. and we really haven't loved Carnival in the past so...
We live only 30 minutes from the port and it was a beautiful day to leave. The Embarkation was packed but moved quickly for the amount of people. First nice surprise... we had booked an inside guarantee (the only thing available to us two days out) and received an outside stateroom. We were on board by noon. Lunch on Lido was being served and the cabins were ready by 1:30. We immediately went to the Truffles restaurant to find out about our dining time (another thing that was up in the air booking two days out). We were told the only thing available was flexible dining. Good, we wanted to try this anyway. I have always favored having the same waiter every night, I like to get to know them, but have always felt 6p was too early and 8:30 too late. So with this flexible dining option, we were able to call daily and request our server/table for a different time each night. We mainly ate around 6:30 or 7 and 4 out of 7 nights we sat in Gerard/Haydee's section at table #391. They were awesome and highly requested, so we missed them two nights and made a reservation at the Supper Club, The Golden Fleece, on the 2nd formal night. More about dining later!
was what we expected. Carnival does have some of the largest I've been in. We were on deck 1, Riviera, in cabin 1160, located Forward/Mid. My only real complaint was that smoking is still allowed in the cabins and our hallway was horrible the entire cruise, worse on sea days. Our cabin steward, Francisco was fantastic. Very personable and great with the kids too!
First impressions were that it was Carnival for sure. The over the top decor and theming. This ship has a lot of Medieval/Shakespearean/Greek Mythology decor. In most areas of the ship this didn't bother me at all. The only place it really got to me was around the pool. The pool area was very dark and not very relaxing. It was always very crowded, more so than I have seen on other cruises and the decor made it feel even more cramped. It was heavy Shakespearean out there, even having a very gaudy stage area that looked horrible in a cruise pool area. It didn't feel caribbean-like at all. So we stayed away and only took advantage of the pool on days we were in port, when we returned a bit early from port and there was hardly anyone at the pool. We found other things to do on Sea days. This was the most unfortunate part of our cruise, as we usually enjoy the pool time. I can't stress how cramped it was out there. The best analogy I can think of is that the pools reminded me of photos of Roman Baths with tons of people in them in the warm water at the same time. lol!
Back to the rest of the ship... the Medieval decor on the Lido deck in the Unicorn Cafe, was fine. Over the top yes, but it felt fine here to us. The Atrium or Lobby Lounge was more of the Greek Myth design, the Follies Lounge looked German and I thought was nicely done! Oh, leading towards the kids area is the Enchanted Forest and this was very neat, check it out.
Overall, I really prefer the open, airy areas on RCCL ships. You can see the ocean more on them and there seems to be more room to move around overall. This ship and other CCL ships I've been on are more broken up and have less room to move around in with little view of the ocean unless you're on the upper decks.
One more note about smoking, obviously you can smoke in the casino. Well, it was located off the Lobby on deck 2 and because of this, even though you can't smoke at the Lobby bar, it was very smoke filled! Just a note.
The Supper Club, Golden Fleece, was located on deck 10 and was fantastic! Since I'm here, I'll go ahead and talk about the Dining!! To begin with the best first, The Golden Fleece is a must!! I only wish we had gone more then once. Book early as they do fill up! The charge is $30/person and is so worth it! The menu selection includes, NY strip, a 26 oz. porterhouse, Maine Lobster, Lamb chops, a fish selection (can't remember), and several more. The escargot and lobster bisque were amazing, as was the carpaccio and french onion soup. You were able to choose three starters each, an entree and dessert. The presentation was top notch, and we tend to be food snobs (I know, please no flaming, we love food). I was super impressed and as a RCCL cruiser primarily, we've been to Chops several times on different ships and this BLEW Chops away!!!! Far, far away!!!! The service, food, decor, ambiance, presentation all were incredible!! The bar in here is also a great place to stop in for a drink at night. Introduce yourself to Preshant the Sommelier from India. He was great!
As for the regular dining, I was super impressed here too. I got on this ship with low to average dining expectations and this by far was the reason I'd sail on CCL again. The last CCL ship I was on prior to this was four-night on the Inspiration and two seven nights on the Sensation and I was not impressed, but this changed my mind. I'm sure things vary with-in the fleet, so that may be a part of it. I was super happy with the food quality and food service. On the first formal night they did offer lobster and it was cooked properly and was good, a little small, but yummy! One night they had a Jerk Pork which was wonderful. The prime rib was great too! Gerard, the Magic Man (you'll see why, especially if you have kids) was our server of choice in Truffles and he always, from day one, called us by name. The other two nights we didn't have him, and this did not happen, though the service was still good. Maybe why he is currently Employee of the Month? Haydee, his asst. new our drinks and had them ready when we arrived and her smile and friendly manner was contagious! Maitre' D had a super personality as well!
The Lido food was also fantastic and always kept up beautifully by the staff. It's broken into several different stations (this was good and bad). You had to move around a lot to see what all was available, but it was nicely spread out as to not cause too many lines or congestion. There was pizza (24 hours), a salad bar, Asian was offered daily and then there was a station that changed daily (Italian, French, Thai, Mexican, etc.) There was a burger/hotdog (al American station) and a deli, making a nice variety of sandwiches, Oh, and a dessert station too! This was lunch of course. We were never in here at dinner.
Ice Cream was also self serve most of the day on Lido Deck Aft near the Adult Only pool.
Breakfast served the same selections at four of the stations, then there was also cereal, pastries, specialty coffee, etc. Always a nice selection.
We never dined in Truffles for breakfast or lunch!
Room service was the same on this ship as any other. Hit or miss. Oh, but the coffee on this ship is strong, not watered down like we experience on RCCL.
There were two Buffets, once the night before Cozumel (Thursday Night) that was a Mexican theme and Deck Party (Drink Special 'Mojitos') and then Friday Night, the 2nd Formal Night, the Festivale Grand Gala Buffet.
Sushi is available on deck 2 from 5p-8p every night. It was ok. We only tried it one night.
No code is enforced here at anytime as far as I could tell. I choose to dress nicely and participate in Formal nights, not Black tie, but semi-formal at worst. I do not, however let others choices get me down. Do I wish more people dressed nicely, yes. Anyway, you did see shorts, Yes! shorts in the dining room for dinner, even a couple on formal night. They weren't in abundance, though T-shirts and slacks were. They were not turned away. This is no different on RCCL, from what I've seen there, though they seem to have less of this so far. I know on these boards there is a lot of talk about attire and I just wanted to let you know what we experienced. On RCCL they usually make you wear a top over your swim suit in to the Lido Dining area, and here I saw full on bikini's in there. I think Carnival takes the "Fun Ship" Theme to the fullest lengths! Cruising is changing and I can't afford Seabourne so.... We make do.
Not impressed at all with almost all the bartenders/bars on this ship. I hope this is not the norm, we usually find a bar or two with a bartender at each we just fall in love with and use them all the time, NOT on this ship. The Lobby bartenders always seemed angry, never smiled, every time we went there. The only two exceptions we found, was one cocktail waiter by the pool, Alexsy from Belarus, he was super and even remembered our names and waved when we walked through. Always in a happy mood! Then previously mentioned, Preshant at the bar in the Golden Fleece is the other. That's it!
Enough about that! What about the ports? We were unable to get into Grand Cayman due to Hurricane Ike.
Our first stop was ROATAN. This was our first time at this port and it's still a new port and that was obvious. An excursion is almost necessary here. We did the Beach break to Tabyana Beach. It was beautiful and I'm so glad we did this. The food here was sub-par and American and there were a lot of bees around suddenly when you eat, and I mean a lot. They didn't sting, just REALLY wanted your food! I hope they take care of this in the future! Otherwise a perfect beach day, the water, sand, view, all perfect! We stayed for over four hours. This is a 20-30 minute drive from the port with a guide that talks about the island while you're getting there. Beautiful island, not much to buy, which is good! Oh, there where many other excursion options too!
BELIZE Third time here, and there is shopping, but your best bet is to take an excursion or city tour or something. Anything but get off and just walk around. Pedestrians are only allowed in a smallish gated off area. We did the cave tubing/zip-line our first trip here and that was my favorite time here, it was AWESOME!!! The restaurant we loved here is now closed so we'll do another excursion the next time!
COZUMEL We have always loved it here. Yes, it's changed and getting more Americanized, but we still love it. We've been coming, my husband and I, as a couple for over 13 years now. (we even remember the original Carlos and Charlies!) We just go to a beach and then hit Cafe Denis and Pancho's, drink, eat and be merry! Good snorkeling, etc. if you like that. The finished pier that Carnival uses, Punta Langosta, is unbelievable. I felt like I was in Miami!! Way too Americanized for my taste, I'm in Mexico after all, but to give them credit, it's amazing. I hate that I have to walk through a million shops to get a taxi now though. Crazy!!
My husband and I weren't impressed so much. We definitely liked Adventure Ocean better with RCCL. However, the kids, they didn't seem to mind so much at all and loved it and wanted to be in there all the time! Whew! That's what matters I guess. They loved Fun Ship Freddy and the activities, the kids talent show, etc. The area is located Forward on deck 5, so kinda out of the way. I guess that's good for those on board who never want to see a child on board. You had to sign them in/out (2-8) and had to have your card with you. Good security. For the 6-8 year olds, they had Play Station, etc. My son loved this! The hours were most of the day, they could be in there 9-noon, 2-4 and 6-10. You could pay to have them in there from 10 to 3am. You can even leave them in while you go ashore on port days. Oh, for the 2-5 age group, you are given a phone that you turn in on the last night.
We managed to force them to have dinner with us three out of seven nights. They had dinner with their counselors and friends on the Lido deck at 6p every other night.
On the last day, one of the activities is a paper airplane making/flying contest. My son loved this!
Oh, this ship also has a water slide. opened on sea days 10am-5pm and port days Noon-5pm. This doesn't end in a pool, it's separate and the kids loved this too! Lines do get long though, as expected really!
Though we had good intentions, we never made it to a show. Too tired. I know, boring. We wanted to relax and read a bit. We enjoyed the casino on one evening.
To wrap this up... As RCCL cruisers, we would never have booked this ship/cruise had we made plans ahead of time. We were pleasantly surprised by many things on this cruise! I will definitely look into other ships/cruises with Carnival for future vacations. I feel after this that both lines have pros/cons. I still love, love, love the ships of RCCL, they are so beautiful! The food, however, is in Carnival's hand right now! I've noticed that Carnival has more variety when it comes to itinerary too! So who knows what we'll be on next. Please see below to understand what ships i'm basing my comparison on.
I'm completely open to questions, as I love to talk cruise! I will also be posting a picture thread in the Carnival boards in the next couple of days, so please look there. I tried to get some details shots of the decor too!
Prior cruises for better clarification.
Grandeur of the Seas 2/28/09 (Girls Cruise) (4 nt) Carnival Legend 9/7/08 (7 nt) Navigator of the Seas 2/08 (Girls Cruise) (4 nt) Enchantment of the Seas 9/07 (5 nt family) Carnival Inspiration 2/07 (Girls Cruise) (4 nt) Legend of the Seas 1/07 (7 nt family) Enchantment of the Seas 5/06 (4 nt my hubby and I) Legend of the Seas 1/06 (7 nt family) Enchantment of the Seas 2/05 (4 nt my mom and I) Carnival Sensation 7/02 (7 nt family) Norway 3/99 (7 nt, my hubby and I) Sovereign of the Seas 12/97 (4 nt, my hubby and I) Carnival Destiny 2/97 (two-week back to back honeymoon) Carnival Destiny 1/97 Carnival Sensation 9/95 (7 nt)
Below are all with my parents when I was a teen! Carnival Tropicale 3/87 Norway 86 Caribe 86 Caribe 85 NCL Skyward 84