I'll start out by saying that we had a great holiday, don't regret taking the cruise for a moment and would happily do it again. Just a short note for any other shift workers out there, be sure to double check everything if you are finishing a long shift in the morning and flying half way around the world that afternoon! We managed to turn up at the airport minus passports and tickets (left in another bag) and then left our camera on the first aircraft (never to be seen again). A $215 taxi trip and a new camera bought on board set things right but next time we'll do it without the benefit of sleep deprivation before hand.
Now to the cruise. Embarkation was a doddle. Bags were dropped off, ten minutes spent in a queue and before you could say "haul in the anchors" we were on board and heading straight to the lido deck for a bite to eat as it was still to early to go to the cabin and there's no point heading off on a great adventure on an empty stomach.
Our cabin, or stateroom if you prefer, was perfectly adequate. Being an inside cabin it of course looked and felt small but as all we were after was somewhere to sleep, get changed and have showers it was all that we expected, clean, tidy and functional and well cared for by our steward. Our only complaint was that we must have been somewhere around or below part of the galley as in the few hours before dawn there was a racket from above which was most likely caused by the preparations for breakfast. Otherwise silence ruled and sleeping was very restful. Perhaps one other point of note was that the 'artwork' in the cabin was done in psychedelic colors and would no doubt frighten people of nervous disposition and small children.
This brings me to the rest of the ship itself and in particular to something commented on by many previous reviewers……the décor! Let me say that I think that it is commendable that Carnival have tried to be different in their approach to decorating a ship but call me old fashioned but I like a ship to look a little more nautical. To my eyes at least most areas were decorated in a style that at best could be described as a cross between gaudy and tacky. Very reminiscent of the tastelessness of a Las Vegas casino or for those other Aussies here, any of our large sporing or RSL clubs. It was a real mish mash of colors and textures that more often didn't sit easy with one another and had a look of bits and pieces from a textile warehouse left overs bin. Fortunately the main dining rooms were rather elegant and the outdoor areas were spared this treatment and looked like any other ship. If decor was your sole criteria for choosing a ship then Carnival would be your last choice but at the end of the day it's a talking point and you soon learn to live with it. Sorry Joe Farcus.
The food overall was very good with a good choice and dining each evening as we did in the Chic Dining Room was a wonderful experience. The service from our table staff was great with happy faces and smiles all round. We had originally requested a late sitting but found that we had been given an early one which was happily changed for us on request from the second night onward and we had the delightful company of two Dutch ladies as our dinner companions. I'm not sure if this is policy or not but on the first night we were put at a table with only other Australian passengers. While nothing against these fellow Aussies as our dining companions when we travel overseas we like to experience the benefits of other cultures and think it a good idea if people are just mixed up, providing of course that they all speak a common language. Why not when you book and indicate your dining preference you also tick off whatever languages you are fluent in and have the tables organized on that basis. Just our thoughts anyway. One more point on food. We had breakfast in the Lido buffet as we went to the gym first up most mornings or else were eager to get ashore early and found that the choices were identical every day. This was mostly fine except that the cereals on offer were either coated in sugar, full of saturated fats or both. A few more healthy choices wouldn't go astray as the only way to get an adequate fibre intake each morning without packing on the kg's was to eat a lot of fresh fruit of which there was a fairly limited choice.
This is a big ship so it was always easy to get away from the crowds. Quiet time out was not so easy to find though above deck. The main pool area amidships had no shortage of deck chairs facing every possible direction but at all hours of the day you had to contend with the sound blaring from the big screen. If only they could have turned this either off or down for at least part of the day. This wouldn't be so bad if you could find a quiet spot elsewhere but almost every other outdoor area with deck chairs was located near a noisy ventilation system. Tip…..if you come on this ship and want to lay out in the sun in peace and quiet, bring some ear plugs! The design of this ship doesn't allow for any pool or bar areas with direct views of the sea. We have found memories of being on a cruise last year and soaking in either a pool or a spa and blissfully staring out at the ships wake as the days slipped by. Not being a naval architect though I'm sure that there will always be design compromises when building such a complex machine that aren't always obvious. The layout of the ship was otherwise relatively easy to master for such a large vessel although it took us some time to find things on the appropriate deck sometimes. I'm sure that they kept moving things around!
The gym facilities were good with quaint touches such as all the weights being in pounds to remind us of a bygone era…..for most of the world anyway. Apart from one occasion we used the stairs where ever possible and being on deck 2 this meant several flights of stairs several times a day which is a good way to maintain some level of fitness when on holidays. We left the lifts for the lazy people (elderly and those with disabilities excepted of course).
There was plenty of entertainment throughout the ship and of the shows we went to two which were quite good. As most days were port days which for us meant long days on our feet we were often too weary to stay up all hours so didn't get to see a lot of the performers but from the snippets of music we did hear made us wish that sleeping wasn't always necessary.
I wont go into detail on the ports visited as they have been covered very well by others. If you do get the opportunity to do private tours as we did in two of the ports (Naples and Messina) then do so. They are great value and as a small group much more personalized and less time wasted herding people on and off large buses. Many thanks to the couples that organized both of these great days. ( Jane & Gilbert and Marlon & Andrew). All the ports were excellent with the majority perfect for exploring on foot on your own. The one thing that did happen to our cruise however was missing out on Monaco due to adverse weather preventing docking. As an alternative we spent the day in Genoa, which I might say having been to Monaco in the past was a much better choice anyway. So much more to see and far more historically important unless you'd rather look into the windows of over priced shops and ogle at an endless parade of uber luxury cars.
Perhaps some talks or lectures on the historical background of the ports and countries visited wouldn't be a bad idea for those that are interested which would be good to fill in some of those hours at sea. On the topic of talks, don't bother going to the shopping talks as all they do is tell you about a small number of Carnival recommended shops which obviously have some sort of financial arrangement with the company. Not a word about any of the many markets to be found or other such things.
Disembarkation was also very straight forward and even quicker than getting on. A marvel of efficiency and coordination. We followed up with a few days in Rome followed by a few days in Singapore then it was home to good old Oz.
So in summary we may have come across as being a little negative about things but believe me none of these issues are deal breakers and we did have a marvelous time. The attention from all the staff and crew was first class. The ship clean, spacious and comfortable and overall good value for the money. As I always say, a bad day on holiday is better than a good day at work! Would we travel on Carnival again? Well we chose this cruise on it's itinerary, sailing date and price which is how we would cruise again. If it was on a Carnival ship then so be it, if not then there are others that do things just as well or better( for a price of course).
If you are booked on an upcoming cruise on this ship then you are in for a great holiday. If you've just been on it as we have then I'm sure that like us you have come away with some great memories.