Having sailed with Carnival a number of times in the Caribbean and in 2007 sailing this same itinerary on the Freedom, we were quite relaxed about taking the same cruise again. What we didn't realise until reading threads on Cruise Critic is how much excitement is generated when its an inaugural cruise.
We had initially booked on The Liberty before being bumped off when the summer sailings were pulled owing to the financial markets. We had talked our friends into sailing with us, they were cruise virgins, and apart from a change of date, they had no idea that we had changed ships.
We stayed overnight in Civitavecchia as we have done previously, I can recommend this to anyone who doesn't particularly want to "do" Rome. Check-in was smooth and we were on the ship by 11.30. Although we were told cabins wouldn't be ready until after 1.00pm we were able to dump our carry onus in the stateroom. This was the first chance we had had to see the Lanai and the new promenade deck on deck 5. We were in a port side balcony on deck 6 Upper and we were desperate to see what our view would be like from the balcony. Fortunately although we couldn't look straight down to the water as the promenade was beneath us we had no hot tubs or sitting areas directly underneath us. Although there was a sitting area 3 cabins along to our left , the nearest hot tub was way down towards the front of the ship.
The cabins themselves were pretty much Carnival standard so nothing much to write about there. One thing to note is we were just below the disco so there was some noise but the effects of the G&T's usually got me off to sleep without any problem. Throughout the cruise the cabin steward and his team were always busy working away and typically kept the ice bucket full, (always a good sign).
As you would expect on an inaugural cruise the ship was bright and clean, although I would say the lighting was too red for my liking !!
We spent the first afternoon exploring the ship and getting our bearings, mind you my DW and my friends DW never did get the hang of it !!
The first negative was the new format for the Muster Drill which had everyone gather in various public rooms rather than at the lifeboats. After what seemed an age and announcements in a number of languages I still didn't know how to get to my lifeboat. This caused a problem in that as it over run the dining room wasn't ready for first seating dinner, which also made our late sitting even later. We got into the dining room at 8.30 and it still wasn't ready, the staff were at sixes and sevens and our wait staff weren't ready to take our order until almost 9.00pm. We finally left the dining room some time after 10.30pm. It was complete chaos. We didn't blame the staff and told our apologetic waiters that. I think they didn't expect to see us back after that performance. We did dine every night in the Main Dining Room apart form the two night where we went to the Steak House or Supper Club what ever you want to call it. I was a little disappointed with some of the dishes served up but our waiter spotting my not being impressed always manage to rustle up something else for me.
The entertainment on the ship was excellent especially in the lounges, although I was surprised that the piano bar seemed almost empty most nights. The karaoke host had a nightmare trip as most of the song catalogue had not been loaded onto the fancy swanky new computer system which meant she struggled to get people to stay with her. By the end of the trip I think she was shunted into a lounge at the rear of the ship and she seemed to be on her own.
The Spa treatment area was huge but some of the prices seemed a little expensive for our tastes. There is still a free sauna off the gym area if you don't want to pay through the nose for some fancy treatment.
The Serenity Deck area was where we hung out for most of the time when we were taking in the suns rays and I can recommend it to everyone (well the adults anyway).
My wife and I had a problem with our S&S cards as her details were on mine and mine on hers. So when I bought beer she had to sign for it, and when she bought perfume and Spa treatments I had to sign for it. When we got it changed at the Pursers desk they didn't re take the photos , so for the first 3 port days I had trouble getting on and off the ship.
The itinerary , as I have said, we had done before, and we were lucky with the weather in every port the sun shone, although Barcelona was cloudy first thing with a spot of rain.
All in all another great trip, of course there were problems with it being a brand new ship, one in particular being the Internet connection which was hit and miss all cruise. Also some of the staff seemed a little unsure of themselves. Strange dining times with the Burrito bar and the Indian closing in mid afternoon, but I am sure these will be resolved.
I still have a slight concern for some of those staterooms which over look the lanai port side. Not only do they have hot tubs but its also where the smokers hang out. I am sure Carnival will have to put some restrictions on usage when she moves to the Caribbean especially during Spring Break