My husband and I, ages 28 and 30, have been on 4 previous cruises, 2 on RCL and 2 on Princess. This was by far our worst vacation ever, and we will never sail Carnival again, please let me explain.
Why we booked this cruise:
We booked because of the itinerary and cost. We thought "how much different could Carnival really be for the cost?". We did not feel we received a value for the price paid. If you are thinking of booking to save a few dollars on Carnival, you might want to think about booking on a better cruise line in a less expensive cabin, and may be much happier.
What went wrong at the start:
I an a rational person, and while I think the WHO blew swine flue totally our of proportion, I understand the cruise lines stance that they do not want to take any chances by sailing to Cozumel. What I don't understand is why they changed our complete itinerary, except for Nassau, to the Eastern Carribean and offered only $20 for the inconvenience of not going to that port. Other cruise lines, and even Carnival opted to still cruise to the other ports, like Belize, that were on our original itinerary. When RCL changed the itinerary on some of its cruises, they offered money back, or if you chose to cruise you got a 50% credit of what you paid toward a future cruise, which sounds like great compensation for changing someone's vacation plans at the last minute. Carnival only offered a future cruise credit good until 2010, and only 5 days to figure things out. We tried to switch to another Carnival ship leaving out of Tampa and were given the run around by 5 different departments at Carnival, each seemed to think that it was not their job to speak to us concerning this matter, and when we finally got a hold of someone they said the sailing had no more balcony cabins available even though the online booking sites like Expedia all had open cabins. The day after Carnival said we could switch bookings, miraculously there were open cabins, but we were still not able to switch, even though we were willing to take the major hit in the airline tickets.
With all that run around, I still was in great need of a vacation and was going to make the best of things. My motto has always been "get me on the boat, and I will be happy". My husband requires very little to be happy, so no problem there.
People on the cruise:
70% seemed to be from FL, GA and were last minute cruisers who had no idea of the itinerary changes, and all got on the boat for far less money then we paid
25% seemed to be college students celebrating, hey I was there once I can relate, but if you are looking for a cruise free from alcoholics and chain smokers you will want to book a different line
10% seemed to be just like us, and annoyed at the ship, service, and fellow cruisers
We had a car service, Town Car Service of Orlando, who picked us up from the airport; They were wonderful as usual and I highly recommend them. When we arrived at the ship at noon, people were still getting off the ship?!?! We waited in a line of cars for about 30 minutes until we were allowed to start the embarkation process. Carnival should think about sending luggage tags in the mail so that the process goes a lot faster when unloading the cars, vans, buses. The first thing you notice about the ship is that she needs a paint job, and I will try to refrain from the run down appearance comments because I know she is going to dry dock next month. All in all the embarkation process was a good one once we reached the doors.
We could not get into our room until 2, probably because everyone had not left the ship until 12:30. There were not enough hangers, that took a day to get some from the room steward. The room was big, we had balcony, but it was dirty. I mean there was literally a pile of dirt on the floor, and the balcony chairs looked as if they had never been cleaned. They did "clean" our balcony that week, and from what I saw was that meant they sprayed the deck with a hose for 1 minute, and kept walking onto the next cabin. There was a minibar fully stocked with liquor and pop. This is locked the last day of the cruise so don't think you will have a cold water bottle for debarkation day. I have never the fridge locked the last day of sailing. They also take away the robe the last night as well. It just seems like they were sending the signal, "now pack up and get out".
Besides needing an upgrade, which she will get soon, the layout is odd. There are no big open spaces, even the atrium is small compared to other ships we have been on. The ship was not full, and we have been on larger ships, yet this one seemed to make us claustrophobic. There were people everywhere you looked because of the layout, and timing of activities.
The staff seemed generally run down and beat-up. Mind you, we were not called by our names by our cabin steward or dinning room staff all week, this is when we realized it is the little things that count. There was no energy or friendliness in crew's voices. Usually when you walk down the hall of a cruise ship by the cabins, it almost gets annoying at how many of the staff say "hello, how are you today", or "have a great evening sir". Well, on this ship it is the opposite. I started keeping count of how many of the staff acknowledged our presence in the hall way. It was only 7%, in fact we had to say "good morning or hello" to most of them, and their responses were less then enthusiastic. Of course this went on all week, until tip day came along and they all seemed to perk up, and then I head one of them singing "hello, last day last day" to his fellow cabin stewards and they all laughed. That was the last straw. We decided to take away some of our tips, not all because there are a few employees here and there that were doing their jobs. We went to the front desk, and when I said that I would like to adjust our gratuities, he did not ask how much, why, or seem to be shocked at this request. He then said that the $140 would be credited back to the credit card. I think that said it all! I am glad he adjusted the whole amount because service was non-exsistant on the last day.
I have read other reviews of ships we have been on and have disagreed when people expect this to be 5 star food. I had no expectation of the quality going into this cruise, but I expected the same quantity as past cruises. I think you know what I am about to say....The buffet was a glorified salad bar. Don't expect any thing more for lunch or dinner except for a pasta station. The pasta guy makes it for you, he works extremely slow, and when he runs out of an item, such as Parmesan cheese (with 2 more hours to go into the evening buffet hour), he refuses to go into the back and get more.
The food was good, but there the selection was VERY limited compared to other cruises. The 24 hr pizza was alright, and this is the only station that is 24 hours. This made the buffet very crowded, more so than any other ship we have been on.
There were some Pro's:
-The Gym, small but well equipped and no lines!
-Good Comedian's (very bad venue, it was a small bar that was laid out horribly..you could only see the stage if you were up front)
-Plenty of elevators
-Lot's of picture back drops and opportunities
-Casual atmosphere (if that is what you are looking for, I have never been the fashion police but come on...jeans on formal night..really?..you couldn't find khakis)
-Bar Service was great, the $10 martini tasting was excellent
-Room service was fast
-Our table mates (of course not our first tables mates as we were put with a family of 7 with 2 children, they were a very lovely family, we just preferred adult conversation on our vacation...there were lots of empty places at other tables, why Carnival put a couple with a family of 7 I have no idea)
-Room attendant would knock on our door at 6:45am to ask us when we were leaving it so he could clean. That happened one other time on a past cruise and he knocked at noon, not 6:45 am. It was extremely rude since we told him we were late sleepers when he first introduced himself.
-The "pantry" was right outside our door, so at all hours of the early morning and late night you could hear glasses being clanged together and ice being shoveled. If they would've done these things with the doors closed it would've made a big difference. Of course we were told we could not switch rooms, when we called Carnival, and then we found out that people who paid far less then us had better rooms then we did who booked last minute...that makes sense...
-The room stewards vacuumed at 6 am
-You don't have the right of way when a staff member is coming down the hall or going up an elevator
The spa was not comforting as it is on the other ships because of the layout, and decor, but the services were same. I had the seaweed wrap as usual, and it was as good usual.
If you think you are saving a few bucks, or getting a great deal, think again. They make up for the price of the fare, in the cost of the drinks (about $1-2 more than other RCL and Princess), Bingo payouts ($20 for our ticket but only $100 payouts), and Supper club cost ($30/per person). I do feel bad writing this comment, only because I did not write about our 4 other cruises which were wonderful. If this is your first cruise you will think it was fine, but trust me once you sail another line you won't be back!