This was my granddaughter's first cruise experience, my seventh. I thought taking her on a cruise where we could get reaquainted would be a pleasant high school graduation gift to her as we live in cities about 1,000 miles apart and only get to visit a couple times a year.
The check in procedure at the Carnival dock in San Juan, P.R. was very efficient with a minimum of waiting in lines. The greeting as we boarded the ship, however, was nonexistent. As an experienced cruise passenger, I had some idea of what to do once on board but I'm sure a first timer would have been totally confused. Very few crew members were available to answer questions.
Over all, the food was excellent and varied with several options for meals in addition to the two formal dining rooms. While our wait staff was very slow and inefficient, others we observed were very well prepared and professional so the dining room service was definitely a mixed bag. On this cruise, the food was definitely the high point.
The ship appeared to be well maintained and public areas were clean and neat all week and yet the cleaning crews were not intrusive.
The port excursions were numerous and varied but definitely geared toward the younger, physically able passenger. Even the tours labeled "EASY" were not particularly easy for anyone with the slightest mobility issue. For one thing, the hired transportation vehicles were difficult to "climb" into and an inexpensive folding step stool would have gone a long way to make access easier and safer for the older passengers. Excursion costs were reasonable but there weren't very many "extras" included in most of them such as snacks, etc. The beauty of the islands visited seemed to increase as the cruise progressed.
Unfortunately, the on-board entertainment and amusements were mediocre at best and at many times, non-existent. While activities were listed on the ship's daily newsletter, often they did not occur. The camaraderie I have experienced on other cruises was not at all present on this one. Other than at evening activities, the Cruise Director's staff was noticeably missing. The library was only open for an hour or two each morning so that the board games and books were inaccessible most of the time. While there was a show presented in the main lounge each evening other than the night of departure, they were not very well done. In addition, the temperature in the lounge was set so low that even with a full house, it was uncomfortable without a sweater or wrap.
Our cabin was very comfortable with a slightly larger bathroom than I've seen on other ships. Our room steward was excellent and kept the room clean, neat and properly stocked. Anything we requested was there very quickly and presented with a pleasant smile. The beds really are marvelous. I have rarely slept so well from the first night away from home. Be aware if anyone in your party has an allergy to feathers, the pillows and covers are all down and feathers.
Most of the dockside shopping was easily accessible but a few ports had such long piers that again, anyone with an ambulatory problem could not easily leave the dock either to shop or to access the vehicles to shore excursions. The cruise line should look into the feasibility of providing - for a small fee - golf cart type carriers to transport passengers from the ship to the excursion/shopping locations.
We did not use the children's activities or camp but those children that were on board were not a problem, overly noisy or difficult so whatever activities there were for them must have worked well.
We did use the SPA services and they were very good. They were quite "pricey" but during the week, the spa offered several specials that were far more reasonable than the standard massage and body treatments.
In all, this was a pleasant, relaxing cruise but not the best I've ever been on. I doubt I will choose this cruise line again unless I am going with a large group who provide their own activities and diversions. I would love to return to this destination again with better excursion experience.