As a veteran cruiser and someone who is very laid back, adaptable, unstuffy, and so on, this is the first ship in all the cruises I have taken that disappointed me. Don't get me wrong...there were some pleasant surprises to offset this cruise...so let me explain...
The terminal in Miami is very nice. First time, I cruised out of this port. Mainly have sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale and heard the Miami terminal was a mess...nothing could be farther from the truth! We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes!
This was my first cruise with Carnival and booked a balcony guarantee (8A) and was bumped up to a 8C. I must say, the stateroom was one of the best I ever had in this category. Putting the bed near the window and balcony door was a stroke of genius. To lie in bed and see the ocean in the morning...nothing like it! PLUS it creates better traffic flow in the cabin with the couch and tv in the middle section of the cabin allowing two people to maneuver without getting in each other's way. The bathroom was ample...shower a little tight but manageable. Cabin stewards were terrific, attentive, friendly and offered great over all service.
NOW...the dreaded news. This is definitely one of the ugliest ships I have ever seen. I wish I could say this was my first cruise so I would have nothing to compare it to, but sadly, that isn't the case.
How can I put it...with the all the ironwork with the dots of color behind it to create an impressionistic garden was the main theme throughout the ship, made the whole ship look like a third rate, cheesy Italian restaurant in the Bronx! Everything looked forced, and not well put together. It seemed like they ran with whatever material they could get their hands on at a discount house supply center! I mean, fake carved rock arches...looked so phony and if it were real rock, it would have sank the ship...it was so out of place.
Now I knew going into this sailing that Carnival ships were over the top, glitzy and fantasy oriented and I was actually looking forward to something different....but this ship was none of those...it just looked poorly put together. The ship's designer, Joe Farcus is Joe Fraud...he is NO designer...color palettes clashed and his "more is better" philosophy just kills a room. There was no sensory overload for my eyes,just a garish ship that is dated before it's time. Rope lighting...gimme a break! I am a graphic designer and for a lot less money they paid Mr Fracus, they could have hired me...and they would have had a much better looking ship! Trust me, this is one ugly girl that needs a new dress and she is not even an old ship!
For example, we ate in the Gold Olympian dining room and according to the Maitre D' that AFTER the room was finished with its curved flatware on the balcony and on the ceiling and very ornate gold railings and just gold gold everywhere...they thought the finished room looked too much like a Chinese restaurant...so what did they do? They installed pairs of blue headlights what looked like the taillights of the Batmobile along the balcony. The modernism of the blue lights made them look like emergency lights and did not go with the Neo-Classic design of the room. So it proves a point that Mr. Farcus doesn't think his designs out thoroughly. It was a joke. The ship looked like a poorly executed junior high school project...very amateurish.
Anyway, onto more positive things....there were a couple of rooms that Mr Farcus actually used his noggin. The Gloves sports bar was ingenious...great attention to detail...the boxing, baseball, hockey gloves and more work...the color palette in mostly browns made for a soothing environment and it was fun to watch the World Series there! IT was a smokers bar and was hidden from the public with a little entrance in the Atrium tucked in the back corner of the casino. What a shame...
The Cabinet bar had a nice clubby feel to it and offered a jazz trio for dancing but cigar smoking was allowed in here and again, if you were a nonsmoker, you wouldn't have liked it. I am a non smoker and smoke doesn't bother me but I noticed it bother others.
Other than that though...the ship was awful to look at.
Now, there were some highlights. The food in the dining room was surprisingly good. Better than I anticipated but not on the level as Celebrity or Holland America. But still quite good. The service could use a bit of polishing and refinement. Our waiters, Alex and Bojan were very friendly and well intended. Ryan our drink waiter had a nice caustic wit about him. The three were good...even the dancing waiters nights were a pleasant surprise and their last "GOODBYE" song was hilarious.
ONE NOTE: Carnival doesn't enforce its dress code in the dining room, so if you feel like coming to dinner in a dirty wife beater that says "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" please feel free. While you're at it, put on those ripped jean cutoffs too! Nothing gives me an appetite than seeing someone's hairy armpits and seeing their belly button peaking out from their beer guts. Hmmm..just yummmy. If you think I am kidding...just dress like that for dinner one night...and make sure you descend from the grand staircase for all to see...and you will not be denied a meal!
The food on the lido was the usual lido fare you see on any mainstream cruise line. The pizza was ok...not great, not awful. Hot dogs and hamburgers were the same as well.
The production shows were superb! Great dancing, full energy and creativity...don't miss "These Boots are Made for Walking" number in the Rock n Roll show...it was something out of Quentin Tarentino movie! A great visual!
I worked out every day in the gym and it was more than adequate. Equipment was well maintained. Everything was clean. I didn't do any spa treatments because, all of them are overpriced no matter what cruise line.
For us, Caribbean ports are Caribbean ports...we always do the same thing...get in a cab, tell the driver to take us to a beautiful beach that no one knows about. And on this cruise, we revisited a few gems from past cruises. And we found a great new beach in St Thomas!
Don't get me wrong...I have never had a bad cruise, all of them are good, some better than others...and I still have a good time on this ship and got a good dose of R&R.
However, for us, we will probably never come back to Carnival...seeing that other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland are providing an overall better cruising experience.