New Years Eve Cruise. We went with our kids (13 and 8) and my parents (60's)
This was by far the worst vacation we've ever taken. The 10 night Spring Break cruise we had booked on the Lirica was cancelled as soon as we possibly could. Instead we booked the Carnival Triumph for less days , fewer ports and more money. We feel this is a better choice to spend our precious vacation time.
Pre-Trip. First my DH forgot the garment bag with his dinner clothes and our dd's dresses. We first noticed as we were arriving to pick up my parents. So we went back home about 1 hour out of the way. Finally we arrive in port and are unloading the luggage and my mother notices that her toiletry bag is not there. this held her passports and medicines, two things she could not board without. at this very moment my father's glasses broke. so off they went back home. This was about 2 p.m. they made it back just in time to miss the Muster Drill. Strangely the Muster Drill was held long before sailaway and before all passengers were on board.
Embarkation: was very smooth, got on the ship within 15 minutes where we were escorted to a table to get our ds's muster station bracelet, then escorted to our cabin. The escort did not speak a word of english, only enough to tell us that muster drill was at 5:45... 15 minutes after dinner was to begin. it was really 4:45. no problem.
The Cabin: we took an inside (8046)which was unfortunately next to a service area. The room was VERY clean, very tiny, but well equipped. The bathroom is extremely small, and the shower smaller still, oddly shaped but with good water pressure. There are 2- 220V outlets at the dressing table and 2-100V there also. none in the bathroom.
We could hear every footstep in the hallway, every ding of the elevator and EVERY noise in the service area, which went on 24 hours a day. we could hear the people talk, whistle, walk around, every door slam and everything they dropped. the last night we heard every piece of luggage they threw around. sleep did NOT come easy in this cabin. the beds were uncomfortable and the pillows like rocks. Our cabin steward, who's name we never found out, was terrific, very attentive and responded to each post-it note request. He was very well tipped although we removed all other tips from our accounts.
The Dining Room: awful on our first night we were a few minutes late after muster drill and getting our luggage into the cabin, the doors to the dining room were shut. they shut them 10 minutes after seating starts. we did get in and were shown our table with a pointed finger from across the room. The waiter never introduced himself nor seemed interested in letting us get to know him. Getting drink refills was impossible, never saw bar staff, orders were wrong or incomplete, wait staff throughout the ship has awful body odor issues. we had issues with waiting 45 minutes from ordering until first course and then we wouldn't have enough time to finish dinner. this happened almost every night. the maitre' d could not care less. the people at the next table, who spoke italian and ordered wine every night, were VERY well taken care of. menu selections certainly varied but the food quality and taste were lacking, often we'd look at each other and ask if they forgot to add the flavor. The Filet Mignon was about 1/2 inch thick and too hard to chew, my mom thought she broke a tooth! Try ordering some salmon with a baked potato, it wasn't too bad. The soups, IMO were always good. There were a few good choices on the kids menu. On the baked alaska night the cruise director introduced the maitre'ds, the chefs and the waiters. some of the waiters were booed as they paraded around the dining room. only one small section cheered very loudly for theirs. I can assure you that a very good waiter would have been WELL compensated for their service by us.
The Buffet: BARF! well, not every single item was BARF, but darned close. Every day they had a pasta station with different items, a few days those were tasty. The carving station was OK, salads varied but there was always a way to make a standard lettuce and tomato salad. Or you can do what my dd did, live off of hard rolls and breadsticks all week.
Desserts: Tiramisu Good, most others pretty darn bad. The kids didn't even like the ice cream. On the last night there was a delicious cheesecake in the dining room but the service was so slow that it was delivered to the table just as they started turning the lights on and off, signaling that it was time to get the heck out of the dining room, frustrated and fed-up we left it on the table.
Breakfast: this was my dh's favorite meal of the day. We ate both in the dining room and buffet. Stick with fruit and yogurt and you should be ok. In the dining room we enjoyed the chocolate croissants, french toast and my dad LOVED the eggs benedict. Service also BAD, one day my mother was eating her bagel and as she lifted it to her mouth the waiter took away her plate then reached right across her face to take another dish. These kind of things were a running issue on this ship. That same day a man at the table behind ours just lost it, he was so upset at the poor service that he was nearly screaming at the maitre' d and finally threw down his napkin and left. they had waited 20+ minutes and hadn't had an order taken or gotten a cup of juice. and while 20 minutes doesn't seem like a big deal, the place was nearly empty and he was frustrated by the total lack of good service the whole week.
Entertainment: This is where we felt the Lirica shined (well not my dh but i'll go into that later) the shows were very good and interesting. each night had different themes but within each theme was various concepts. Things like magic and juggling were thrown in with singing and dancing and acrobatic acts. the entertainment team were very good as well, high energy, friendly and fun. My dh is legally blind so he could not really enjoy the shows as they were mainly all show and no communication.
they had karaoke one night and it was a lot of fun, one guy (if he or his family reads this please know that everyone LOVED you) and 2 girls sang bohemian rhapsody by Queen and just ROCKED out. he had the whole crowd going and was really the highlight of the entire week on the ship.
staff: wow, what can i say?? 90% bad 5% awful 5% really darned good. Many didn't speak a word of english and couldn't even tell you where to find a restroom or take a drink order. Many smelled VERY bad. one afternoon my dm was talking to another guest in the buffet line and the man was complaining to her about the bad food and rude staff and the guy behind the buffet looked at them and said "the guests are Rude!" My dm was shocked! one night we were playing monopoly in the buffet and were asked to leave. my dm asked if we could stay and the guy just turned around and walked away, no response. so we played monopoly until my dd had to use the restroom and realized that we were locked in!! we found a back door that we could unlock from the inside and go up a flight of stairs to enter the back door of a dance club.
Other passengers: this was a total melting pot of a cruise. lots of asians, most in large groups that always seemed to be having fun together, europeans and us americans. I made it a point to greet everyone i met in the halls or elevators and almost all passengers were friendly back.. the crew not so much. Sadly, upon getting into a conversation with another passenger it quickly turned into how unhappy they were with the cruise. the theme being "i guess we got what we paid for" or how bad the service and food are. One guy had been on the week before as well and said if he could have gotten off after that he would have, but he'd have lost all his money. we did not speak to one passenger that enjoyed their cruise there were a lot of children on this cruise and i heard a lot of complaints from the older folks about it. mostly the kids were fine (by my standards) but i saw a lot of very young kids unattended. i saw many kids 5 and under unattended in the public areas, elevators and buffet. We also saw a lot of horse play in the pools, kids doing back flips or cannon balls into water that was about 5' deep. No one was stopping them, so i'd remove my kids from that pool until the others left.
Kids Club: my kids aren't kids club joiners, although i think my DD would have really liked the teen group. The younger group was all kids 3-12, but when we saw them in a group I never saw kids that looked older then 10 in the group. The group was BIG with about 3 or 4 people supervising.
Ports: Key West: not a lot of time in Key West. we docked but had to take a trolley into town. We had reserved an electric car from "conch". We were given a cell number to call so they could pick us up at the trolley stop but the phone wasn't answered. a few minutes later a guy riding an electric car pulled up, it was the same company but we were able to get a cheaper price from him! We had lots of fun in the cart, although it was VERY hard to steer, at the end of the day they mentioned that they do have carts with power steering! we had no problem finding parking. we ended up just driving around and shopping, bought some coach items, key lime pie on a stick and a hard rock pin.
Cozumel: we splurged and took the family to swim with dolphins at Chankanaab, definitely the highlight of the entire trip. my dm and i did not join in but relaxed in the shade and ate some quesadillas and burgers (some of the best food of the week) The rest of the family did the dolphin encounter, not the royal swim, it was enough for them. We could not get close enough to take our own pictures but we were able to watch the video. we did not purchase the video but bought one picture of each person for $44 total. they had a nice gift shop which was pretty inexpensive and the kids were able to get t-shirts with their dolphins name and other souvies. The food was also inexpensive and the guy serving us was super nice and accommodating.
Grand Cayman: we planned to do a semi-submarine but decided to just walk around and shop. it's a nice enough shopping area with some high end stores and some souvenirs to be found. we also had haagen daz here which was our best ice cream of the week. the jewelry prices in each port and on the ship were MUCH higher then our local stores and even in the mall. with U.S. companies so desperate for business there are much better buys here.
Cayo Levantado: my dad wasn't feeling well this day but decided to tender over. it was a lovely beach with some straw market type stalls set up along the way. i am a sucker for a straw market!! after just a few minutes my dad decided to go back to the ship so my dd offered to go with him. about 10 minutes after that my ds and dm left as well. I ended up buying a bunch of souvies and although i'm very happy with my stuff it was WAY overpriced. small wood vases and nicknacks which were $3-5 in honduras they started off asking $35-50!! it is true that there is no free food here. a lunch buffet is available for $15 per person. Massages are available in an open tent for about $1 per minute. my dh would have gotten a massage if there was some privacy.
Our last sea day started out beautifully, the kids were enjoying the pool and the waves in the ocean was sloshing the water back and forth. all the kids in the pool were having a blast riding the pool waves. then the sky turned dark and soon the pool was closed. The waves, as shown on the TV were 7.5 to 12 feet. but the ship was moving quite a bit. we ended us playing monopoly until my ds got sick from the waves. so we went back to the cabin to rest. the waves pretty much lasted all night but got a bit better later in the evening.
Disembarkation was easy enough. unfortunately we were brought back to another pier from where we started and shuttled to the parking lot. we were standing as there were no seats left and the driver was so crazy that my dh, dm and dd all fell when he slammed on the breaks. all of the passengers were yelling at him to slow down and be more careful. then they dropped us off in the far end of the parking garage to lug our belongings across.
Other things.... Casino: SMALL! only 2 blackjack tables, 3 poker, 2 roulette and one craps. there are only about 50 slot machines. the dealers were NOT friendly and seriously, had they been just a little friendly my dad would have lost a LOT more money there. he brought a large chunk of change to play with and was so disgusted with the bad attitudes that he kept his money and walked out. this coming from a guy that lives to gamble
the no water issue: there is water and iced tea offered in the dining room at meal times. if you can get it of course. the buffet had hot and cold drinks most of the time, often they turn off the ice and water machine and empty the juice/tea dispensers leaving only hot drinks. hot milk was also served with coffee and we had to ask for cold milk, which normally never arrived.
smoking: smoking is allowed in the casino and lord nelson's pub. both places were very smoky. one side of the pool deck allowed smoking but i never noticed it.
food after 8:00: just not available. you will have to wait until the midnight buffet or order room service. the room service menu is very limited and there are no drinks on it. we never ordered room service. although i took a picture of it. we met a family with three small kids looking for dinner for their kids at about 8:30. the kid slept through dinner and they were frantic that there was nothing to be found until midnight. we told them they could order room service.
cabin amenities: our cabin had shampoo, bars of soap, shower caps, and sewing kits. there were plenty of lights with most accessed without leaving the bed. there are 2 hanging closets and another with drawers (6) and shelves (2). there were no robes or hair conditioner, bring your own.
TV: european channels. including euro ESPN (dh not happy, no football scores), euro CNN etc. the movies shown were good selections although they were in several languages so if there were 4 movies showing only one would be english. not a big deal as we didn't want to waste vacation watching TV.
All in all, as a family we can always have fun but for now on we'll choose different ships to have our fun on..