Traveling with me were my wife, 21 year old son, 16 year old son, and 28 year old son and daughter in law. It was her introduction to cruising. Four of us had a balcony cabin while my oldest and his wife had an inside.
EMBARKATION: B We left our home in Jersey City at 10:10 A.M. and traveled to the ship via NY Waterway Ferry each with one carry on bag. Arrived at the terminal at about 11 A.M., Quickly checked in and were given a group 7 card. The check in clerk welcomed us aboard the "Inaugural Cruise". That would be the one and only time we would hear the word inaugural for the whole weekend.
The ship started boarding at about 11:30 and our number was called just after noon. Getting on was different since you had to go downstairs through the customs area to board on deck "0" due to the fact that the extended gangways would not fit this new design. They told us it was due to the size of the ship but since I boarded the QM2 there several years ago before she went to Brooklyn, it could not have ben the size. It had to be the design with the lifeboats hanging below the extended promenade. Slowing down the boarding was the picture taking for the sail and sign card that was done as you entered the ship. Other cruise lines do this at sign in which makes getting on board much simpler. Still, we were on board by 12:30. Once on board the elevators at the entrance were packed. We chose to walk up two flights where a crew member directed us to the glass elevators which were completely unoccupied. this helped us get to the lido buffet without waiting.
BUFFET: B Once on board we immediately headed to the buffet. There were two main sections. One had a general buffet and a Mongolian bar, the other had a burrito bar and general buffet. There was also a pasta bar upstairs overlooking the dessert bar where you could order pasta dishes prepared to your liking and they were brought to your table. In addition there was a pizza place, grill for burgers, etc. and a deli. And of course soft ice cream was available. The food at all these places was excellent. The fried pork was especially good as was the seafood scampi. The chocolate chip cookies looked small and store bought but were in reality delicious and tasted home baked. The reason I rate this buffet a "B" is because of the layout which causes long lines. Carnival needs to open a dining room for lunch like NCL does which helps disperse the crowd. One thing I notice on Carnival that I do not see on the other lines: the food is too plentiful and too good. I see more obese people on Carnival than any other cruise line. Talk about gross tonnage!
CABINS: A Our balcony was on Deck 6 overlooking the promenade at the Lanai with a hot tub just below our room. I'd expect this to be a real problem with noise and smoke when the weather is nice. Our cabin was roomy and tastefully done. Plenty of storage and room for four of us. The balcony seemed cramped. The bathroom is basic but with a shell shaped bowl filled with sample toiletries. The shower has dispensers for body wash and shampoo as well as a retractible drying line. The TV has the basic broadcast stations from Denver ( something to do with the height of the Rockies for broadcasting the signal) a couple of cable channels and many Carnival channels. The ship's information channel is a joke compared to other cruise lines. You never get wave heights and all other info is in metrics. There was also a free movie channel and two pay per view channels. It was easy to see this was a new ship. I had to remove the plastic from the TV's remote control. Walls in the rooms on this ship seem paper thin and you can hear a lot of what is going on in the rooms next to you. Artwork is tasteful but hung at headboard height which is annoying if you want to sit up in bed and read. The safe has a numeric keypad unlike other Carnival ships where you operate the safe with your credit card. The mini fridge is in a cabinet that you can ask the steward to lock. My son and daughter in law's inside cabin also had good space and similar amenities. Friday night it was hard getting to sleep because of the ship's rocking and the banging noise of the waves hitting the ship. I've been on cruises with 27 foot waves , but never as noisy as this. But once asleep, I slept well on the very firm new bed. I heard that some on decks higher up had things falling off shelves and people hanging on to their beds. On the second night the fog horn was blowing every two minutes but that did not disrupt my sleep.
THE SHIP: C The design of this ship is flawed in a number of ways. The promenade is uncovered so you have more places to sit on nice days, but if you like a covered promenade to sit on in wet weather or want to get out of the sun, forget about it. The promenade also has two hot tubs on each side of the ship that are just below balcony cabins, as is the Lanai on each side of the Ocean Plaza. This is a "What were they thinking?!" design. To get to any of the hot tubs on the promenade people need to walk through the ship in robes. Not exactly a good plan. The promenade did have a couple of nice seating areas with wicker furniture and pleather cushions.
The waterworks slides look awesome, but we could not use them or the pool because of the weather. I wish Carnival had put a sliding dome over one of the pools as they've done on some of their other ships. Also the pools are way too small for the amount of people traveling on this ship. The pool area also hosts a large movie screen They did run Two movies, "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" and "Star Trek" but it was just too nasty to sit out and enjoy. They also run nightly laser shows here which are an interesting novelty but nothing really special. On the night we went to the laser show it was punctuated every two minutes by the ship's fog horn. Lasers need fog to show up properly so in the midst of dense foggy weather the show is done adding more fog with fog machines.
While still in port we decided to play the 18 hole mini golf just below the funnel. It was windy but fun and we knew we'd be unable to play once the ship left port. You need to check out the clubs and balls at a table onthe pool deck, leaving your ail and sign card for security. Had to hunt down the person running the place. She was surprised anyone would want to play in the wind. Since we chose to play mini golf we missed our cruise critic meet and greet, but you can only do so much on a 2 day CTN and this was to be a family weekend. Once we started , others started to play too.
We found no shuffle board on the ship but there were extra large chess boards on the promenade. The sports deck looked nice but was not open.
MUSTER: F Muster drill was an hour late because the ship was having trouble getting everyone on board. There was no communication and people were confused, some waiting in their cabins. Once the drill began there was total chaos. With the new "safety drill" you do not need to bring your life jacket. A number of people did not get the message. Communication on this ship was non existent. Once at your station, no attendance ia taken. A brief demonstration is given, The crew member giving the demonstration at our station didn't know what he was doing. Then they show a brief video, once they figure ot how to lower the screen from the ceiling and get the DVD player working. In some muster stations they never did figure it out and told people to watch it in thier cabin. It would have been comical except that there would have been a disaster in the case of a real emergency. I had absolutely no confidence that this crew would be of any help should an emergency arise.
SAIL AWAY: A Sail away was late but beautiful. I'd never done a sail away at night before and the lights were gorgeous. We went to the front of deck 5 on the promenade and had very little wind and a very smooth sail down river. There are stairs at the very front of the ship that allow you to move from decl to deck.
DINING ROOM: B Both the Crimson and Scarlet dining rooms are similarly decorated. We had anytime dining which was on the top level of the Crimson. We went at about 7:15 after sail away and our group of 6 was seated immediately. Once at sea the rocking became more pronounced (70mph winds will do that). A tray of silverware fell as did numerous dishes. Still, we were served well and the food was delicious. I had cream of broccoli soup, a wonderful shimp cocktail and beef tenderloin;. Others tried items such as flatiron steak, grilled chicken, vegetarian pot pie. there was not a bad meal n the bunch. The chocolate melting cake was liquidy the first night but perfect the second.
During dinner about 9 loud and not so kind announcements were made to the crew as they got ready for second seating downstairs which would start on time in spite of the late first seating caused by the delayed muster drill. Before the advent of anytime dining passengers would not be subject to these announcements because the dining rooms would be closed for preparations, but with any time dining in the same room these announcements were both annoying and crude. On the Crown princess, anytime dining has its own dining room so this is not a problem. Again, this is a design flaw that could have been handled in the planning of this ship.
The second night they offered lobster tail and grilled shrimp, prime rib, and duck. I am allergic to lobster, but it looked wonderful and my wife said it was excellent. The prime rib was perfect, served with potatoes and onion rings, but the duck was dense and tasted more like steak than duck.
Breakfast in the dining room was pitiful. The OJ tasted as if it were mixed with Tang and the waffles tasted like sponges. My son couldn't eat his pancakes. The omelets were OK. Very disappointing
Room service was fast (10 minutes) and efficient, but with limited selection.
SHIP ACTIVITIES: B
Normally a two day CTN goes south to North Carolina so people can enjoy some outdoor time in slightly warmer temperatures, but since we were sailing in the worst nor'easter of the decade and the storm was around us in every direction we did figure eights off Long Island just far enough out for them to open the shops and casino. The casino always seemed busy, which is not surprising, especially with everyone indoors. We never felt as if there was nothing to do. There was the marriage show, numerous music venues, trivia contests and more. One Saturday afternoon the wind had died down and I was actually able to read on my balcony for an hour. i even took a walk of 3 laps around the promenade as did a number of people. Before dinner on Saturday all six of us went down to the rather small library and checked out the game "Clue" and had a grand time playing together. A ships videographer spent some time videoing us as we played. Not sure what they'll do with that since they were't making a DVD of this trip. We also spent some time having some family portraits taken, the photographers did a terrific job. Our pictures make me smile because not only do they show how much fun we had as a family, but we are all standing slanted in them because of the movement of the ship. My 16 year old did get sick once Saturday morning but was fine the rest of the time. My daughter in law, on her first cruise, did well with ginger pills and seasick wrist bands. The rest of us had no problems.
Saturday afternoon, my wife and I went to high tea which held in the scarlet dining room and was delightful. You could choose from a variety of teas and enjoy with finger sandwiches and pastries.
My 16 year old also spent a lot of time at Club 02, the teen center. He actually won a 24 carat plastic ship trophy in a dance competition Saturday night. There were 95 teens on board so many skipped school on Friday.
I was somewhat surprised that there was no Bingo on this ship and no art auction even though the art facility was larger than on most ships. The gym and spa looked well equipped. but we did not use them.
Entertainment was top notch. The show the Friday night was a Mowtown show with Marcus Anthony who sang well and was terrific at getting the audience involved. On Saturday night the production of "Dancing in the Streets" was amazing but not as enjoyable as the night before. The Encore theater is similar to those on other Carnival ships.
Shops on board were typical, but smaller than I expected.
CREW: B Other than the muster drill the crew seemed to work well and were courteous, but not overly friendly. On boarding many wore shirts that said "JUST ASK". We did and were always properly directed. The dining room staff was efficient and pleasant although there were no dancing and singing waiters. We did have a Carnival crew member come to our dinner table and do a magic card trick that was fairly entertaining. Have never had that happen on any other cruise. Our steward did a great job and the towel animals were adorable. Gratuities were paid at booking for this CTN. You never saw any officers, probably because the conditions were so bad. we heard that the captain actually stayed on the bridge all night Friday.
COMMUNICATION: F Communication was non existent. We were not told why we were leaving late. We were never updated on the weather. On the last night there were no disembarking information provided other than non needed custom forms left on our bed. The next morning after docking at 7A.M. they told us that they would call each deck to leave and immediately called deck one. It didn't take long before all decks were called, but very few had left. Many were still sleeping and most were in long lines at breakfast in the buffet. Announcements were not heard in the cabins. We were told that we needed to be off the ship by 9:15. We ate and left at about 8:30, took the ferry to Weehawken and were home by 9:45A.M.
OVERALL: B In spite of the rough weather, we had a wonderful time as a family. I have sailed Carnival before and will sail Carnival again. Currently looking at p the Fantasy out of Charlseton this summer. They offer a solid product at a reasonable price. I will not cruise on the Dream again unless it is at a ridiculously low price. The ship's design just did not work for me.