We're some of those strange people who prefer to travel for Thanksgiving and this year we decided to do a Thanksgiving cruise. Neither my wife nor I had ever been on a cruise before so it was a bit of a risk to bring ourselves and two teenage boys on a week long cruise but what the hey.
We live in Santa Barbara so it wasn't too far a drive to get down to long beach but boy when we got there wow, what a zoo. Apparently the ship had gotten in late so when we arrived to get on the ship the previous passengers we're still getting off. It was quite chaotic and it took several hours of standing in line before we finally got on board. There were a few carnival people around but until we got inside the Cruise Terminal not many seemed to know exactly what was going on either. In the end all our luggage arrived at our rooms safely and in a timely fashion so no big complaints there.
Not being a natural mariner it took a day or two to get used to the motion of the ship even though it wasn't particularly harsh. Oddly I seemed to feel it most in the Gold Pearl restaurant (deck 4 at the rear of the boat) most other places I barely noticed it or didn't notice it at all. Anyhow here's a breakdown of how I viewed all the components of our cruise.
Public Areas- OK everyone else mentions the "pinkness' I think its closer to a mauve but who's to say. It wouldn't be my first color choice but it was fine for what it was and didn't make the trip any more/less enjoyable for me. Overall I enjoyed the public areas, my favorite spot on the boat ended up being on the Lido deck by the pool and the big-screen. I wouldn't have thought that would be the case but I really gravitated to that spot. It's great for people watching at all hours, access to food and drink, sun and it was pretty close to our cabin. They usually have live music or show movies there at night and being partly inside and partly outside meant the temperature/weather was never at the extremes. I also spent some time on the aft pool deck for many of the same reasons but with the added view. Being a noob I wanted to visit every facility/venue on the ship and although they all had charms none really made me want to spend my time there. The best I suppose was the El Morocco lounge which it the big lounge in the rear of the ship on deck 5. They usually had live music in a comfortable setting with seating either very close or far away from the decent sized dance floor. The Jazz bar (the Cool) was also excellent. I'm not a gambler so while the casino seemed nice enough I didn't have a use for it. I really liked the wine bar's decor (deck 5 again) and I probably would have visited more often if it had been an enclosed space. As it was it was basically a wall-less open space near a busy through-fare. Too bad there, The bartender was great and gave us some great tips on the areas we were going to visit ashore. The BIG bummer for me on this cruise was that they allow smoking indoors on some parts of the ship. This made places like the sports bar and main atrium lounge unihabitable for me.
Stateroom- I particularly liked our room on deck 8, starboard side rm 8293. We had a balcony (which I really liked) and the room never seemed cramped or confining and had plenty of closet and storage space. Having the balcony with the glass door and big window made the room seem bigger and nice and bright. The only downside I remember from the room was that for a queen(or whatever) size bed they just stuck two single beds together. This means there a ridge down the center of the bed which is bit of a bummer. Despite that, the beds were pretty comfy otherwise. Our steward Kodak was great too, really helpful and the room was always immaculate when we returned. Plus, who doesn't love those towel animals!
Spa/Fitness- My wife and I like to hit the gym and the Splendors gym was pretty good overall with a lot of treadmills, bikes and elipticals. They also had a good rack of dumbells and a dozen or so weight machines. Everything was clean and well maintained. Next time we do this we'll definitely get the spa option. It looked great and everyone we talked to said it was well worth the money.
Dining/Food- I was really impressed with the food on this ship. We dined each night in the Gold Pearl and I really enjoyed the entree choices each night. Our food was always prepared well and to our specifications (med. rare was med rare etc..) This was impressive since I assume everything comes form a central kitchen and there are hundreds of people ordering at any given time! Deserts were universally wonderful and creative as well. Outside the dining room the food at the buffets, the pizza bar and the burrito bar was OK too. Nothing spectacular but that's not what those things are about anyhow. One thing that was quite good though was the Indian food buffet on the starboard side of the aft pool deck. Not only was the quality and selection of the food excellent there was rarely more than a few people in line for it. I ate there a number of times, it's definitely one of the hidden gems of the ship.
Entertainment- Being a noob I really didn't think much about on-board entertainment when I was planning the cruise but boy what a great surprise this turned out to be. From the individual performers in the lounges to the main stage acts I was floored by how good these musicians and entertainers are. My favorite band was a 4 piece called "the highlights band" which turned out to be a family Mom,Dad, Son and cousin. They played a lot of rock-n-roll and a bit of more jazzy stuff but they were really smoking-hot good and I found myself searching out wherever they were playing that day so I could catch part of their set. I also enjoyed the 2 man calypso band especially when they played on the lido pool deck. We did get to see Vroom in the main theater and boy it was great. The other dance/music show was quite good as well but Vroom took the cake. I also caught one late night comedy act in the El Morocco and really laughed a ton. There were no disappointments entertainment wise whatsoever.
Pricing/Value- Well the thanksgiving cruise is always more expensive and we got the full balcony outside room (for us) so I'd say the value was diminished a bit by the minor extravagance of that but we tend to like to stay at nicer places on land so were used to paying a bit more for the nicer rooms (at least thats what I keep telling my wife now that the bills are coming in). Truth be told I'd probably be happy sacrificing the windows and balcony for a top level inside room and the spa package.
Service- Again I was floored how great the staff we dealt with were. Our waiter and server at the Gold Pearl (Anak and Komang) were so much fun and so good their jobs it was a delight to dine with them every evening.I can't speak highly enough of them. Since I tended to gravitate to certain areas on the ship I got to know the barstaff and servers in those areas and I must say they were universally great. I wish I had had the presence of mind to collect their names so I could mention them here (and to Carnival) but next time I'll be sure to note them all. Several of them knew me by name after only a few days!
Last leg back-After our last shore excursion there was a day and change to cruise back to LA. This turned out to be a quite eventful day (or two) We had to turn back after a few hours out of Cabo because our poor Captain became ill (someone said he had a heart attack!) This put us several hours behind and on top of that we hit some pretty stiff winds which slowed us down even more and made the seas very very choppy. Having zero seafaring experience the heavy seas we're pretty tough on me althoug my wife had no physical problems with it. The second day was a lot calmer and ended up back by the lido pool watching the football games on the big screen.
Overall I had a fantastic time on this cruise and I can't wait to go on another one. I'd even do the same one again only this time I'd spend all my ashore time exploring the cities we visited instead of doing the adventure stuff. I realize that I don't have any other cruise experiences to compare this to but if my next ones are anywhere close to this I'll be more than pleased.