This was our 3rd cruise, the first on Carnival. The others were on Princess and Norwegian. This was an 8 night cruise with three ports - St Maarten, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. We flew into Ft Lauderdale 2 days early and stayed at the Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise-port on Stirling road in Hollywood. The hotel was a great location, just a few miles from both the airport and cruise-port. They offer free pick up at the airport - although we had a little problem with being picked up and ended up taking a cab to the hotel, but the hotel manager quickly reimbursed our cab fare. They also offer free shuttle to the cruise-port. The pool area is nice and they offer a complimentary breakfast with both hot and cold items. Embarkation went smoothly, we arrived at the port at 11 am and we were on the ship by noon. Rooms were ready at 1:30 and we had our luggage by 1:45. We had a balcony cabin, mid-ship. The room was clean and spacious, plenty of room in the closets and drawers. The luggage fit easily under the beds. The room was tastefully decorated in peaches, tans and white. Our room steward was Leopold, he always had a smile and pleasant words, and he kept the room immaculate...Thanks Leopold! The bed had that traditional heavy comforter, but we had it removed and replaced with a light blanket - no need for anything that warm in the Caribbean!
The ship was clean, with the exception of the tables by the pools, they were in constant need of being wiped down, always seemed to be sticky. The decor on the ship was different, film/literary characters, lots of grapes in the dining room, phantom theme in the show room. I won't say I hated it, it was just not my style, I would have preferred earthy warmer tones, something with a little more class.
The nightly shows were quite good, very entertaining. I even enjoyed the tribute to the Beatles, although I have never been a Beatles fan. Malcolm the cruise director is a hoot - woo-hoo! He put together a silent movie skit featuring members from the audience, we laughed til it hurt - good job to all involved!
We did anytime dining - this is an area that needs major improvement. Having done anytime with both Norwegian (they have this concept down perfectly) and also with Princess who handled it well. Carnival says you can eat when you want and with whom you want - they lie. We ate in the dining room four times, twice we had an hour wait for a table for 2, while there were at least 9 open tables for 2 on the other side of the room. If you are willing to be seated with other couples, you can have a table in a short period of time, otherwise you are given a beeper and you wait and wait and wait.
The buffet area had the same items over and over everyday for breakfast, and the food seemed to be spread out all over the dining area. The fruit bar was at the back of the room while the hot items were in the very front of the room, not very well thought out. The other problem we had was with lunch, if you went to the buffet, it was hit or miss if the salad bar and dessert bars were open. Seemed like every time we went there you had the same choices, pizza, deli sandwiches or to go to the pool for hamburgers, hot dogs or nachos. They seemed ill-prepared to deal with lunch for some reason.
Overall we did enjoy the cruise, despite a few problems.