We embarked in San Juan on 7/26 for a 7 day cruise with 7 ports of call. I have cruised with other lines before (Royal Caribbean, Princess) so was a little apprehensive about Carnival as they have not always gotten good press. Not having cruised with Carnival before, I was pleasantly surprised that this cruise was at the same standard as the other cruises on which I have been a passenger. They exceeded my expectations!!! Each night we were greeted by Gede and Adhi, our head waiter and waiter. They were always pleasant, courteous, knew our drink preferences, called us by name, and made great dinner recommendations! The bar staff was always equally friendly! We made acquaintance with Edwin in the sports bar, he will tend to your needs very well! The food on this cruise was great, not SUPERIOR but great. I would rate it to be equivalent to both Royal Caribbean and Princess' fare. The buffet restaurant (Mediterranean Restaurant) was always hot and good. However, for breakfast, I would recommend going early (around 7am) or just heading to the dining room; the lines were ALWAYS long and the time it took to get your food and be seated was equal to having a sit-down, made-to-order breakfast. Seemed that everything in the dining room was the same fare as being served in the buffet. We found the environment there to be more relaxing and less chaotic.
The ship itself is flashy and bold. Princess and Royal Caribbean are a little more conservative in their decorating. This was simply not important to us, but if I were decorating the ship I may have toned it down a bit. The facilities: pools, hot tubs, etc. were always clean and well maintained. Main pool area was ALWAYS crowded with children, but this ship has the luxury of an adults-only atrium with a pool and 2 hot tubs where space always seemed to be adequate or better. There was always extra space on the upper decks for sunbathing and relaxing. The atrium is opened during the day so that the indoor area becomes an outdoor area. The only thing that didn't make sense about this area was that the ICE CREAM MACHINE and BIG CHESS game were placed in this area!! So, if you are looking to leave the "pitter patter of footsteps" at your threshold when you leave ....think again about getting full sanctity in this area. What I did like was that when people would allow their children to get in these hot tubs, the Carnival staff was VERY attentive and enforced the adults only rule and politely asked the child to leave the hot tub or pool. (Why people do this is beyond me!!- There is a children's area and a huge waterslide plus two pools in the main area for them.) We were not travelling with children, and so I cannot comment on the Teen or childrens' areas onboard. There appeared to be more than adequate facilities for children and families.
Some helpful (and money saving) tips: If you are going to enjoy beverage services, do so while at sea. You avoid tax this way, as tax is charged while in port. Buckets of beer (Domestic-Bud, Bud lite-16 oz.) are available for $17.50 for 4. You save over the beer by the bottle. Coors light is the best deal for $13.50 per bucket, for 4; 12-oz. cans. Get the "drink of the day" if you prefer cocktails, but instead of paying $6.75 for a souvenir glass, order it in a regular glass and you pay only $4.50. A seven-day soda card is available for $44 at the beginning of the cruise. Wait until you leave port and you will save tax on this purchase as well. The staff is pretty diligent about "one drink" per card per trip to the bar, so it may be difficult or inconvenient to use one card for your whole party (as we have done with no problem on Royal Caribbean). Gratuities: You are charged a gratuity for room service whether you use it or not. It also suggests in your daily paper that you tip room service stewards. Hmmmm....seems like double tipping to me. If I had it to do over again, I would have had the pursers desk remove my gratuities from the sail-n-sign card and would have presented the people who served us with cash. I tipped a room service steward for a service I did not utilize, which takes tips away from the others who did serve us and served us well.
Okay, now.....a word about the other guests on this ship: And I am a well-travelled person who loves learning about other cultures. It certainly was not ALL guests but there were an abundance of RUDE people on the ship. I will not point to a specific culture as I would not want to be stereotyped by mine either. There needs to be a little more order from the Carnival staff in this area, presently not their fault as they do what they are told to do. Children would barrel into the elevator in front of a person in a wheelchair. People were cutting in line, reaching over you to get food, demanding and entitled toward buffet servers (who very professionally smiled and did their very best to accommodate these folks despite their disgusting behavior)....there was loud noise in the hallway at night, people having no regard for those of us who were sleeping (and I'm tolerant up until midnight..) This was not just a party crowd. This was not just one family. This was not just one individual. There were an ABUNDANCE of people behaving in this manner. Perhaps there is a cultural standard of which I am ignorant here. But having travelled the world, I have never seen anything like this in my life from grown adults. Please, thank you, and excuse me go a LONG LONG way toward happiness of all passengers. Perhaps Carnival could place a staff member in the buffet area to remind people where lines begin and end. The one time we called security about an obnoxiously loud party in one of the staterooms down the hall at 3 am, it was attended to promptly and adequately.
Overall, despite the aforementioned "cons"; this was a wonderful cruise experience. Please be aware that this is an international cruise with passengers from everywhere in the world. In comparison to past cruises, there were many more nationalities represented on this cruise than any other that I have experienced. I would say that Americans comprised about 40-50% of the entire cruise population. This cruise also embarks/disembarks in Barbados as well as San Juan. So if you are willing to branch out a little culturally, this will be enriching. If you're not, then this may not be the cruise for you.