Transit through an Engineering Marvel: the Panama Canal !
GENERAL OVERVIEW We have sailed NCL, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess and toured HAL and Cunard so were looking forward to this first Carnival cruise on the 14 day full transit cruise. Carnival did not disappoint with its "Fun Ship" programming. Far more activities, trivia contests, wacky contests like(best hairy chest-all male competitors!) than any other ship we have sailed. Food was in general very good, excellent service. David's Supper Club did disappoint somewhat, but had excellent food presentation. Main course was cooler than it should have. We wrote feedback to the hotel manager, but received no feedback. Evening entertainment shows were excellent, better than other lines, except for the new Freedom class ships with their large stages and theatre features. Our balcony stateroom was very nice, bed very comfortable, larger shower than expected, nice to get some free amenities (shavers, toothpaste samples, antacid and shower soap/shampoo) Room needs a bit of updating in the staterooms and like the ship overall. For a 8 year old ship, she looked very good. The Renaissance theme throughout, with extensive painting and decorating I think is as departure from the normal bright and lively Carnival design. The 10 ft. statue of David in the supper club was a real classy touch. Staff in general did not greet us as often as other lines, feedback was also given to Carnival ship management staff: they need some improvement here. An excessive amount of daily announcements on ship events is unfortunate, with many who don't approve, but likely Miami requires maximum revenue to be generated on each sailing, like Bingo, photo sales, duty free etc. Our captain, Vito Giacalone, was always visible, even dressed casually going for a swim, exercising, going ashore. We have never seen this in a Captain and it was real nice. Cruise Director, Mark Price was the best we have ever had, a fine British fellow with 13 yrs experience, was an expert hypnotist and did a show to be remembered. Mark had married one of the Fun Patrol staff from Karaoke a few months back and it was nice to see this couple throughout the ship. This ship of 2200 passengers, was not a typical Carnival cruise demographic, Average age was 65, where normally it is around 40. only 25 youths were present, whereas the next cruise for Easter week, had a crowd of children was 600. A lot of bars and dance venues were very quiet in the evening, the casino looked empty, but most $ were spent on shore excursions. Would recommend Carnival to anyone, as great value, a fine vacation.
Ships entertainment: Bars had some excellent piano players and guitar. Dance and song shows were outstanding with great staging, sound, props and professional performers. Show band played elsewhere on the ship and were tight. Evening shows were even rescheduled due to some computer glitch. One note: the dancers wore the skimpiest Vegas revealing outfits we have seen. Had Edge a great juggler/comedian, impressionist Ken Block, Mark's Hypnosis show was hilarious, getting about 10 people truly hypnotized. Jamila-songstress, Doug Cameron (great violinist)guest talent show, real funny Tommy Drake. motown Marcus Anthony-fantastic, staff/guest traditional Legend's ending show, moved to the pm to allow for the rescheduled end show. Restaurants: Normandie dining room, was great, still have one lobster night, 2 elegant (formal) evenings, the award winning warm chocolate cake was available every night. Never had so much dancing in the dining room before, entertaining. Lido buffet, good variety, but very much spread out. A few things we missed: printed mini newspapers (we heard these were available in Europe on Carnival, a better library, more trivia/suduku puzzles (they did have daily events to make up)no future cruise booking desk, not even a Carnival travel flyer, no future deposit, onboard credit promo available, no anytime dining (being rolled out right now)
Panama Canal; transit was incredible. ship showed a PBS video the day before the transit, to an overpacked theatre-then replayed. Would have been nice to have an expert give a few lectures on this marvel and other Caribbean topics. Get up early to get your chair on the forward deck of the ship, some were there at 5 am. Also if coming from the Pacific, also get up early around 7 to be part of the interesting ship sailing under the Bridge of the Americas and Panama City on your right. We flew into Long Beach, a much nicer, smaller airport (only 5 airlines) than LAX. stayed at the LB Marriott, very nice, drove with friends to the San Diego Zoo pre-cruise, worth the visit. Embarkation was a very long delay, and not sure why, only 2 metal detectors I think. Carnival cruiser are very loyal, so be careful when comparing with other lines. On this ship out of 2200, 1500 were past passengers, the loyalty party was packed. Carnival somehow does not have a name for its loyalty program and does not publicize it enough on its website or on the ship. Platinum (10 cruises) is what everyone was aiming for. Had an aft balcony on Deck 8, learned something about the Azipod propulsion system that most newer ships have. With certain wave heights and cross winds, there is a lot of vibration felt all up the ship. They call it cavitation and nothing can be done. Forward on the ship, there is a lot of side to side motion with the winds and waves and the bow bulb plowing through the water, they call it tail wagging the dog. So midship and low is best for the motion challenged customer.