This is our second cruise, the first with our kids. First off - There was SUPPOSED to be an orientation for the kids club. We were told about it 5 minutes before it started, and by the time we made it there - there was no one around. We asked at member services and they said to take our kids to the Kids club in the morning. We do so and again, no one there. We finally catch someone at around noon who tells us to pick up a flyer that lists the activities. We pick up the flyer and then have to figure out where they are - which is in a dining room. We race up there and we are told that we need to get our kids enrolled and then they can join activities. By now we have wasted a full day just trying to get the kids squared away. They finally got squared away on the second morning, but I was a little dismayed that they spent most of the time watching TV. They did a few activities but my daughter said she got bored and she and a friend played with an activity the other little girl brought. My boys, who are older were EXTREMELY bored at most of the things they offered. The 8-12 year old activities need to be revamped, as they only ended up going for 2 nights.
The other kids on the cruise were another story. Several of them formed a roving gang, literally taking over one of the pools, cutting in lines at the buffet, and creating their own fun - in the forms of pranks and horseplay on the other guests. Several times I saw staff dealing with them, and security was involved more than once. There was also an incident on our last port visit where a group of obviously underage girls had a "party" a few doors down. The climax of which involved a girl puking all over the floor outside the cabin. The smell was atrocious and penetrated into all the rooms nearby for the entire night. (This all of couse was not carnival's fault, but adds to the dismal experience.)
The cruise ride made a lot of people sick. The pools were mostly empty the first 2 nights at sea as many people were nauseated in their cabins. (again, not the cruise lines fault.) The only place that was always busy was the work-out rooms, and every time I went in to use a treadmill, they were all taken with people waiting.
The food - was miserable. Food in the dining room was either overcooked or delivered cold. Some of the selections were good, but delivered so bland and devoid of thought that it took away from the dish. The buffet was disgusting to say the least. everything had a layer of grease on it, and most of it lacked any real nutritional value. The free drinks were OK, the water had a variety of smells and flavors. Sometimes musty, sometimes metallic, sometimes fishy. I stuck with the tea most of the time, but in needing to be hydrated had to suffer with the water. We ended up buying a total of three bottles when the water was absolutely too gross to drink. The mini-bar had a fairly decent selection, but could have used a couple more options, like pretzels or crackers.
The staff was great. Our room attendant was attentive, helpful and tried his best to fill our requests. Room service staff was always kind and polite, and so was our waiter. The only two exceptions were the maitre d and assistant waiter. We asked for the maitre d on the first night when we found out that we were mistakenly assigned late dining. Our daughter gets extremely hard to deal with when she is hungry and waiting until 8 to eat was not acceptable. We were repeatedly told he was busy, and when we finally saw him, he rudely said "Early dining is full, I cannot help you." and walked away. We dealt with getting her snacks to tide her over until 8. The assistant waiter never, ever smiled. She spoke all of three words - "water?" "roll?" and "finish?" to us the entire time.
And what is the deal with showing TV from DENVER? why not a port city? (I was told a rumor by a crewmember that it was because they hardly ever reported on storms in the Atlantic, which could frighten the guests.) It was also crappy that we lost TV reception every night when the weather was bad.
Finally - we had our last port call in Freeport. I strongly discourage you booking a cruise with this option. You dock in an industrial area, and have to pay $10 round trip per person to get to the shopping center, and $15 to get to the beaches. All the other ports I have been to have had activities within walking distance.
Debarkation was a NIGHTMARE. First we got to port 2 hours late, then it took them another 5 hours to get to our number - which was 8. (we had them take our luggage) There were people there with numbers in the twenties. I can only imagine they were there for quite some time longer than us. It would not have been too bad if you could wait in your room, but they kicked us out to get it clean after 3 hours. That left 4 hours in a crowded area with our kids. They then shut down the bathrooms except for the ones in the dining area. Then they ran out of anything to drink - and no staff was to be found anywhere. Finally right before we were about to leave someone appeared with some pitchers of ice water. However it was the same metallic/fishy water from earlier.
We also found out that it was $30 to see the nurse and $80 to see the doctor on the ship. Our table mate had to see a doctor on his first night, and he spent 3 minutes with him, gave him ibuprofen, and charged his card the fee.
The sail-and sign card is charged $10 a night for gratuities, Per person, regardless of age. I went down to have this reversed and was met with at least 100 others doing the same thing. In the end I left it alone, but tipped our room attendant an extra $40 as he did an excellent job. (the only gratuity I would not have paid was the maitre d, as per our only encounter with him)
Here are some suggestions if you take a Carnival cruise: 1) Bring a filtered water pitcher and some refillable bottles. There's enough room in the mini bar to store a smaller one. 2) Bring a portable DVD player for the Kids. Get plenty of movies. If you have a few "at-sea" nights, bring cards or board games. The ones in the library are most often missing cards or pieces, as we found out. 3) Don't go to Freeport. It's not worth it. A family we talked to on our last night had excursions at Freeport and Halfmoon cay and enjoyed the ones on the Cay far more than at Freeport. They said the people in Freeport just rushed them through everything and acted really put out if you asked questions. 4) Order room service frequently. It was the most palatable of all the food on the cruise, except for David's (the $30 restaurant.) 5) Eat at Davids, at least once. It was very much worth it, the food was great (although I did have to send my steak back as it was cold) and the staff was very attentive. 6) For kids - get a copy of the flyer offering events as soon as you can. Then look at the map to figure out where everything is. The groups were great for our 5 year old, but not so much for our older ones. 7) Bring dramamine during the summer. You may need it, you might not, but better safe than sorry. 8) Take your own luggage off the ship. It will save you a lot of time. 9) If you dock in Baltimore, use the "Go" shuttle to get back and forth to the airport. It's a little more expensive than a cab, but well worth it, as the drivers are much more polite and helpful.