We recently cruised the Eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Glory. Our party included my wife, myself, and our 3 daughters (ages 23, 19, 19).
We have been on multiple cruises in the past. All but one of my cruises have been with Carnival. We have found that for our vacation dollar, a cruise is a great overall value as compared to other family vacation options.
All of this being said, it feels as if each subsequent cruise is falling incrementally shorter in meeting expectations. Our first cruise with Carnival was a 4-day cruise out of New Orleans. Our next one was a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise out of Port Canaveral. We were blown away by these experiences. We all felt that the staff and crew on those Carnival ships went out of their way at every turn to make out vacation experience special. The "extras" were automatic and impressive. Even beyond that, there were things that went beyond "extra" to being "astounding" in the area of customer service. Our needs were anticipated and our desires were met promptly with a smile. There was no reason to phone in a concern because before we could report a problem, the crew or staff had already noticed it and had fixed it or were working on it.
The past few cruises feel as if that attitude is gone. Now we make reasonable requests only to be met with blank stares and "what do you expect us to do about it?" attitudes.
We were on the Panorama Deck, forward (10th deck). Our stateroom air conditioning at times just quit working. We would awake to stifling temperatures. We found that blocking open the door to the hallway brought in some cooler air, but was hardly conducive to privacy. We contacted Guest Services (an oxymoron). After a brief visit by the Maintenance staff, we were told that there was no problem with the A/C and that the temperature in the room felt fine to them (between some nominal temperature limits). After another sweltering night, we asked for a fan and were told that fans could only be given out in cases of "medical emergencies." I'm not a doctor, but I didn't realize that fans were considered hi-tech emergency medical equipment and I'm not sure what condition would have applied.
Another example included an afternoon when my daughter came down with an apparent migraine headache. We had been in port in Nassau on Sunday. All of the pharmacies and convenience stores were closed due to it being a Sunday. When we got back on board we went to the infirmary and it was closed. Later, I went to the infirmary to inquire about some help. There was one young lady behind the counter (no other people in the clinic). When I explained why I was there, she actually shrugged her shoulders. She didn't show any concern. She pointed to plastic bins on the wall said that I could have any of those (including generic Tylenol). If I needed to, I could bring my daughter back when the doctor was on duty. The nominal charge for a visit was $80, plus any additional charges including meds. Can Carnival not use a few of our fees to have a doctor do a short visit to make sure things are okay?
On our first two cruises, our steward knew my name after the first afternoon and greeted me by name each time we met. Now, we barely get a grunt or a hello when we encounter the housekeeping staff. It seems like they are being assigned more rooms so that they are so busy, they have no time to even look up and make eye contact.
This also applies to the dining room staff. They seem to have been stretched beyond thin, so that now they are struggling merely to deliver the food before it gets cold. They no longer have time to spend with the diners at their tables.
Embarkation - Actually went about as well as any I have been through. We arrived early (about 11:15am) but met no objections. We were processed promptly and found ourselves in the Lido cafe eating lunch in a short time. No issues with luggage. All bags delivered to the staterooms very quickly. The rooms were arranged to our specifications (beds, etc.) before we arrived.
Days at Sea - Age old problem persists. People hogging deck chairs that they don't use. They rush out first thing in the morning to "reserve" deck chairs by throwing a towel or some other article on the chair. Then they go off and spend the rest of the day elsewhere. Chairs stay empty for hours. Carnival refuses to enforce their policy of not allowing the reserving of deck chairs. That forces customers to get into squabbles (I've observed way too many) or to enforce the policy themselves. Now if I see a chair that stays "reserved" and not used for more than 45 minutes, I take the towel or article down to the dirty linen bin and toss it in.
Food - Main dining was adequate. Nothing too special, but good quality and variety every evening. I can eat my own weight in Chocolate Melting cake. We ate at the Supper Club one night. It's pretty awesome. Watch your bill. They tried to charge me for an extra diner, but promptly corrected the "mistake" when it was pointed out. Lido deck, grills, and pizza oven were all good. The fish and chips location on deck 10 is the best kept secret on board. Too often we encountered coffee or drink dispensers that were out of service.
Entertainment - YAWN! This was the worst trip for entertainment by far. The main shows were "same old, same old." Lounges and on-deck entertainment was barely mediocre. I like to go to the casino. They have ruined blackjack by installing auto-shuffle machines. Save your money and play on-line blackjack for fun at home. It's the same experience without watching your money disappear.
Port excursions - We've finally learned to not even bother with the ship excursions. Much better deals are available through local companies via Internet. Do some research before your trip. Find out the best places to go and either book with a local, or just catch a cab in port. There are plenty available and the competition is stiff. The locals that are not hooked up with the cruise lines are actually thankful for your business and are enthusiastic to tell you about their home.
Overall ship appearance and condition - The Glory is showing its age. Carpets worn. Walls scratched. Other equipment issues discussed earlier. Time for an overhaul.
Summary - Still a confirmed cruiser. Maybe becoming a bit jaded. However, I still contend that Carnival is going downhill. They have become too blase'. It appears that some accountants have been advising them on how to cut corners and milk an extra buck or two at every turn, instead of serving the customer and surviving on repeat business.