First off, we got a great price for our cruise. We had a balcony for the price of an inside state room. This was one of the reasons that we came back to Carnival for our second cruise with them. We have been on four other cruises with Royal, Norwegian, and Princess.
Embarking and disembarking: Was a snap at Baltimore. I was told by other travelers that parking was around $15 a day. We took the train and a cab and had no problem doing so. Taxi fair from train station to the ship was $9.00. Checked bags at curb side at noon and was on the ship by 1:00pm We could tell that Carnival was cutting corners, or costs, in comparison with our last cruise with them. What I mean by that is there was less food, No midnight buffet, and drink prices have sky rocketed. This had the overall effect of a less fun cruise as people were drinking less, and complaining about the food more. To put it into prospective, it seemed that the last time we were on Carnival, it was quite a floating party with many more people with a colorful drinks in hand. This time, with drink prices ranging from $7.50 for a beer, $8.50 to $10.50 for a mixed drink, people were being more frugal, drinking less, and having less fun. At least thats the way it seemed to me. The people in the cabin next to us were fighting over a $900.00 bar bill and it was only the third day of the cruise. Seems the young man there liked his beer and was surprised at how quickly the drinks added up.
Dinning: Dinning in the Normandy dinning room was great. I contribute this to the great company (traditional dinning, where they sit you with other guests, is the way to go in my opinion) and an excellent wait staff. Our head Waiter, Nuy I think, but we just called him Joe, was outstanding, we never left dinner wanting anything. I wasn't surprised to see that he had been head waiter for the prior month and his picture was prominently posted at the grand lobby on the promenade deck. Our fellow dinning guests Bue and Diane where great company for dinner each night and made our cruise much better for knowing them and having their company each night. Breakfast was hit or miss. We had breakfast in the Normandy dinning room the morning after the first night and must have got lucky, the meal and service was great. We never saw that again for the rest of the cruise and started going up to the buffet for breakfast. The buffet had a omelet station which was worth the wait as the scrambled eggs on the line were most often runny. They had the bacon police on duty, dolling out the bacon and ham. Another sign of cutbacks. Sigh, sign of the times I guess. Lunch buffet: Mediocre at best. Like the Vegas Vacation movie on a bad day. (pitcher Chevy Chase sharing a try with Randy Quaid slopping gunk onto it. "I'll have more of the blue! Is that chicken?") The bread was most often, hard as a rock. I'm not kidding! But to be fair, most of the food was hot and good. What there was of it. Small selection. The Hamburgers and Hot dogs on the pool deck were good and they had wonderful sides of sautEed mushrooms, onions, chili con crane, sauerkraut. Was best bet for lunch if you didn't get tired of burgers and dogs. Ice Cream machines, soft serve were tasty and always running. We didn't go to the specialty restaurant and didn't feel the need to because the food and company in the Normandy main dinning room was above par.
Rooms: Our room was a balcony on the Veranda deck, port side, Aft. Our porter was great and kept the room clean at all times and we never were in need of a thing. Beds were a little hard, but not too uncomfortable. Our two twins moved together to make a king. The room had plenty of space for our clothes and such. We never felt cramped. The balcony was wonderful, we enjoyed sitting there as the ship would dock and undock each time.
Pools: The pools were good, hardly ever to crowed during this cruise. After the first day, once we were well south of Baltimore, the weather was great. In the 80's F. each day. The wife and I often camped out at the Adult pool on the back of the ship. No kids. And we could smoke on the starboard side. This pool and hot tub never seemed to be to crowded so we made it one of our get away spots and visited it almost every day. We met a wonderful couple from Australia there and had a great time talking with them.
Ports of call: Two wonderful days at sea hanging out at the aft pool and running up the bar bill a little and we were in Cape Canaveral FL. That morning we watched a rocket take off from Cape Canaveral as we sat on the starboard side of the ship. I had no idea that we were there on a launch day. It proved an additional treat. There was an excellent shuttle service set up that went to Coco Beach, Ron Jon's, Wall Mart (of all places, but we actually did stop there for some necessities) $10.00 pp for all day. We ran into our dinner table mates Bue and Diame on the bus, they went to Coco Beach, the wife and I went to Coco Beach Pier. I liked Coco Beach Pier, it seemed like a blast from the past. It seemed to have a character of from an by gone age. We sat on the deck of Ott Shucks seafood bar and had Nachos' as we watched the waves roll in on the beach. Later we went to the end of the pier to the Mai Tiki Bar and had Corona's. It was a lovely day.
Nassau Bahamas: We took the water taxi over to Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel. $3.00 pp each way. We took the Ferry over and a cab back. Cab was $4.00 pp one way but was better as they actually drop you where you want to go, the Ferry drops you like 5 blocks from Atlantis and 4 blocks from the ship. If you don't want to wake, take the cab ride. Much better but less in the way of scenic view. The water taxi/Ferry was a nice trip, though packed with people and hot, it was a scenic adventure in itself. We had an order of Potato skins and large Ice Teas at a grill inside the Atlantis Casino then headed for the Aquarium. The large lobby and Aquarium of the Atlantis was fairly impressive. We wondered toward the beach, very nice, then took a cab back to the ship. Another wonderful day.
Freeport Bahamas: We didn't even bother getting off the ship. We slept in and were not even up until 11:00 am. The ship left port at 2:00pm so we said, why bother. It seems a good thing we did, as I understand that some people didn't get back to the ship in time and were left behind. We spent the day at the wonderful aft pool nursing expensive drinks and chatting with the wonderful Australian couple.
Shows: My wife liked them, I did not. I snuck out of one to go play at the poker table in the Casino. Was the electronic type which threw me off of my game, calling a hand, and hands, that I should not have as I was confused by the electronic interface and called before I realized that another good player, was going all in. Im too used to players pushing a stack of real chips toward the center of the table. This lack of attention on my part Lost me $200 during the trip, but I was still glad to see that there was a (semi-real) poker game going on almost every night.
Tipping: As a Tip was automatically added to each drink served us and we tipped our porter and head waiter at the end of the cruise, we felt that the, (added in advance $10.00 pp per day tip) was preposterous! We went down to the service desk and cut that down to $2.50 pp per day. Took that money and used it to tip the people that actually took care of us.
Ships Decor: The ship was done up in a Copper, bronze, metal kind of scheme that I just loved. This along with renaissance art thing going on with a life size statue of david over the elevator banks really did make me feel like I was transported to another time and place. Some of the more simple,virtue minded, were put off by the nudes. But I thought it was great and added to the feeling of being removed from my ordinary life to that other more wonderful place and time. My wife giggled for hours over the statue of David's private parts.
All in all, I would say that this is a great cruise for the price, as long as your not a big drinker. Drinks are way overpriced and Carnival should reconsider their pricing. I would go on the cruise again for the same price. But would not buy the overpriced drinks.