Let me start by saying that we have cruised with Carnival a total of 5 times before. For this Thanksgiving cruise from NY, we had a group of 8 cabins (20 people), mostly family and some friends. We all live in Brooklyn, NY, so traveling to the pier was easy. We got 2 vans and arrived around 10:30 AM at the pier. We were pleasantly surprised at the quick and efficient check-in process and were sitting on the benches past security at 10:45 AM. We were allowed to board the ship at approximately 11:30 AM.
Upon embarkation, we headed to the Lido (Deck 10) for lunch. Our cabins were ready at 1:00 PM. After lunch, we headed to meet the Maitre'D because we had requested Anytime Dining and needed 2 large tables of 10 people each. The Maitre'D was pleasant and told us there were no problems, he said "just come anytime and we will take care of you". Sounds good so far, however the first dinner later that night, we had to wait 30 minutes just to see the hostess at the podium. She told us that they did not have any large tables and the wait would be 1-2 hours or we needed to be separated into smaller groups. Upon talking to the manager, he stated that the ship was completely full and there was nothing he could do. We offered to change from Anytime dining to either early or late just to all sit together but they could not accommodate us. The interesting thing was that there were 2 large tables of people always sitting together without having to argue with the staff.
There are 2 dining rooms, 1 in the front of the ship and 1 in the aft. The dining rooms are fairly small, especially the area in the forward dining room on the 4th deck which is dedicated to Anytime dining. The waiters and waitresses are overwhelmed and confused and unprofessional. At one point, one of the waiters said our order was "mind boggling".
The Dining room food was good, but service was so poor and frustrating that it made the food worse than it should be. The tomato juice was served spoiled on 3 separate occasions without an apology.
Lunch was fairly good, the biggest line was for the Mongolian food (cooked to order) and it was worth the 30 minute wait. I highly recommend the black bean sauce. The burrito bar was also tasty and the pasta bar was tasty, but sometimes the wait was long (20-40 minutes).
The activities were the usual hairy chest contest, newleywed game and lots of bingo.
The shows were good, especially the Dancin' in the Streets and the late night comedy acts (R-rated).
The were lots of children on this cruise and Camp Carnival was overwhelmed but they got the hang of it after the first day and really had lots of cool activities for the kids, especially face painting and games.
The staterooms were nice, plenty of closet space and bathrooms seemed a little bigger than before, however we did not like the fact that the balcony cabins all face the 5th deck and not the water. When you look below, you would see people and lounge chairs.
Overall, the service in the dining room ruined our experience on this cruise. But the kids had lots of fun.