My wife and I had not been on a vacation alone in 6 years since the birth of our oldest child. We decided to take a romantic cruise, and went with another couple who are close friends of ours. My wife had cruised once before on the Carnival Destiny out of Miami, and she enjoyed the experience thoroughly before. Only, that was 10 years ago... have times changed for Carnival?
First, we arrived at the New Orleans port at 11:00 am, and had no issues getting registered and getting our room cards/ship id's/fun cards (whatever). Security was swift and thorough, and found ourselves on the Lido deck with a few carry on items by about 12:30 or so. We were not allowed to go to our state rooms until 1:30, so we ate lunch on the Lido deck - I had the Mongolian grill/build your own meal (which was decent) and my wife had a standard hamburger and fries, of which the quality was less than Burger King or McDonalds. Nevertheless, we looked forward to the cruise, and what we thought would be better food going forward.
We went to our state rooms, and a few minutes after getting there, our luggage arrived. The room was clean, well maintained, and we had a cool looking octopus towel on our bed. It was clear that our room service man was top notch. He went out of his way to ensure our room was ALWAYS perfect. No complaints here.
We decided to do the formal dining room for dinner on every evening of the cruise, and from the get go, I was very pleased with the prompt service my waiter and assistant provided. No complaints on the actual service were EVER necessary. However, the quality of the food each evening was less than stellar, and I can only compare it to cheap/bad buffet food. There were 2 notable exceptions 1) The Lobster was good (not fantastic) 2) A Beef Soup I ordered WAS fantastic. But pretty much, the rest of the food was nothing to write home about. 3 mornings, we had breakfast in the formal dining room, and pretty much had the same experience incredible service coupled with bad to marginally decent food but the coffee was great! The best food on the whole ship was the fresh pizza that was offered in the non-formal dining room area so each night after dinner, I could at least get a good pizza to fill my stomach up with something good of course, it gets old after a while though..... I can not comment on the sushi bar, as I do not like sushi and have been to VERY lavish Sushi Bars on land, and STILL hated sushi.
After arriving in Cozumel, I could not wait for the opportunity to buy decent food in Mexico..... we went on our morning excursion on the Fury catamaran, and the general experience on this boot, and the crew was FANTASTIC. The time in the water snorkeling (45 minutes) and the distance they allowed swimmers to get from the boat should both be increased for a more personal experience, and more time. The beach part of the excursion was only 1 hour this probably should be 2-3 hours. Unfortunately, the hamburger (which smelled wonderful) costs $9 so much for the food off the boat.... However, there was unlimited margaritas and cheap Mexican beer as a part of this excursion too. I found myself simply wishing for more time on the catamaran activities that being said, I strongly recommend the Fury Catamaran excursion, even with the short times at each activity. Beware the ride back to the dock from the beach is a quite a party - I witnessed a crew led women's chugging contest, and from there it got wild. The Captain Jack look alike photographer and hat maker is a trip!
We spent some time in the little shopping mall at the Cozumel port, and picked up some overpriced souvenirs. They even have a shop there named after me (Erick's). Found some knock off Oakley sunglasses that look like the real thing for $8 ( I talked her down from $10). Before we left the port, we enjoyed some appetizers at the 'themey' Three Amigos bar, where we enjoyed the late afternoon sun, the blue water, and tropical breeze, along a drink or 2.
After getting back on board, I found myself sad to be leaving Mexico after only 9 hours. For people like me, who like to really see their vacation destination, I CAN NOT recommend a quick turnaround cruise.
The ride back was very smooth until the last day, when we started getting 10 foot or so swells the crew did an excellent job of keeping the rocking to a minimum, although, it was a bit unnerving for me as a first time cruiser. Unfortunately, a few people could not handle it, and lost their cheap buffet food that they had in the stomach some of them losing it in the casino and in the main concourse areas (yuck). But that is to be expected, I suppose, when there are such rough seas. Staff promptly cleaned and disinfected the areas. No problem there either.
The alcohol prices on the ship were comparable to those in a standard US bar, and the drinks were always mixed well, and by friend bartenders too. Especially Anna from Bulgaria in the main lobby bar.
Musical entertainment was excellent, and I STRONGLY recommend the ship's pop/rock band Manilla - these guys can play it all from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Elvis. The drummer plays wicked drums, and sings while he is doing it (very difficult). On the last night, Manilla was joined by the Motown show star Yolanda and the bar got very crowded quickly it was a perfect mix, and dancing was terrific.
We enjoyed the Motown show w/ Yolanda, even though Motown music is not my thing usually..... however, the Beatles Show (Beatles music is my thing) was tacky and cheesy. The performers over-performed the Beatles song, and did this lame 'Beatles Around the World' bit where they took different/stereotypical music styles of countries and wrapped them around Beatles music - this SIMPLY DOES NOT WORK. I hope Carnival terminates this show ASAP as it dishonors John and George's memory, and tarnishes Paul and Ringo's legacy.
But, all the good, for me, was tarnished by the LACK OF QUALITY in the food. I contend that I did not experience a truly fine dining experience on the ship. Yet I had INCREDIBLE dining experiences at Jaquamoes (sp?) in New Orleans uptown the night before the cruise, and at Mortons in Madisonville, LA (across the lake from New Orleans) the afternoon after we left the ship.
The laundry rooms are awful and steal your money too but fortunately they will reimburse you for lost change..... although, for a multi-million dollar ship, they could afford better industrial strength washer/dryers and better laundromat rooms.
Additionally, I still do not understand why soda (which costs about 2 cents to disburse from a fountain to a 12 ounce glass) is not free on Carnival ships (and others) , while orange juice and apple juice (both of which are much higher at costs per ounce) are free.... the industry should standardize free soft drinks on boats as complimentary, like coffee is.
This was my first cruise, and the service was great, as stated earlier.... but the food issue will keep me from booking on Carnival again unless I heard from lots of others about how great the food is in the future. My wife states that the food quality was simply poor when compared to the way it was on the Destiny 10 years ago. Carnival has a cuisine issue that should be addressed.