I've never cruised alone before but couldn't find anyone who could go and the price was just too good to sit home..so I did it. I am happy I did! A lot of people called me "crazy" but hey, I never really care what other people think about me anyway. This was my 5th cruise..3 with Carnival (Holiday, Fantasy & Triumph) and 2 with NCL (Spirit & Pearl).
Flew into New Orleans Friday before cruise and took shuttle to hotel, which is about 1/2 of cab fare for one person. Stayed overnight @ Hampton Inn Convention Center, which is a great hotel! We have stayed with them for previous NOLA cruises and have always been pleased with their hotel and free shuttle service to the cruise terminal. Hit the Riverwalk, had late lunch at Poppy's, warmed up at Harrah's Casino and then the hotel bar that evening.
Embarkation was smooth and fairly quick. One has to remember that getting 2000+ people within a 2 hour period onto a ship via one gangway/entrance is not going to be a speedy process. Not to mention the fact that I saw numerous people not paying attention to instructions and holding up the line when they had to pull out their documents and go through security (just like the airport) only to set off the metal detectors. Then pitching fits about all the crap in their pockets that they were told would have to be removed. Once on board, I knew better than to attempt the Lido deck buffet lines..so I headed for deck 5 bars. Met a lot of nice people enjoying a drink there. The rooms were ready as promised at 2pm, so dropped off the bag and head to the food after the crowd had thinned out. I've never had an interior room before but did this time and it was just fine. It was nicely laid out and the bath was a good size. My room stewards were GREAT! They were so nice and always greeted me by name and checked to be sure everything was to my liking.
1st day at sea, Sunday, was the playoffs for Super Bowl...so being a cruise out of NOLA..there were a lot of Saints fans, which made for a very entertaining day/night! The games were played on the lido theater screen. Earlier, I got out about 10am and had no trouble finding a lounge chair but by 11am..it got kinda aggressive. Chairs had run out and people were beginning to fuss. After an hour of people stomping around fussing, more chairs were being put out by crew members. The crew was also working on the deck around the stage, sanding and refinishing which smelled very strong even at sea. I will also say that the Lido drink waiters and waitresses are only there to sell drinks. I bought a 'bucket' of beer for myself and needed more ice by midday cause I cannot drink 4 16oz beers in a 2 hour period..well I could but I didn't. 2 different waiters assured me they'd bring me some ice..but never did. Also on 3 different day, 3 differ wait staff, I asked for an ashtray and no one ever bothered to bring me one after they all said they would. Yes, I was on the smoking side of the ship.
2nd day was Progresso MX...I loved this port. First time there but once you get past the tourist port..its real Mexico. Block buildings with bad paint jobs and iron bars on the windows. I just know eating something from a street vendor would give you the "revenge". Anyway, I took in the flea market in Progresso and headed back to the port area. Being solo on this trip, I did not feel it wise to walk around in the downtown area alone. I'm sure I would have been fine but I opted to have a few Sol beers for $3/each in the "touristy" area and headed back to the ship. Got a little more sun cause I believe this was the warmest day of the cruise. Hit the ship casino and it hit me back (lost big time overall) but still had fun.
Food...was all good to me. Buffet was crowded at lunch but no one is going to starve on a cruise so just be patient and chill out. I ate room service for breakfast most days..love the lox and bagels. Dinners were at the buffet which was never crowded. I just don't do the main dining rooms, set seating time and being seated with strangers. Buffet always had a nice variety of dishes..excellent fish of various kinds each day. I enjoyed most everything I ate at the buffet but I like all kinds of foods and will give something different a try, usually to my delight. Had room service last night cause I missed the buffet and BLT was good. I will say that I was really grossed out in the buffet line by my shipmates because few to none utilized the hand sanitizers. Even if they did they were eating off their plates with their hands and after putting food in their faces....they grabbed the spoons and tongs that everyone else had to use!! I also saw people using their hands to get bread/fries/buns/pickles/items off the salad bar & even lemons for their drinks!!! Yep the same people who couldn't wait to eat until they sat down. So I carried my mini sanitizer an was sure to use it before I ever ate a thing off my plate after I sat down. GEEZZZ...again no one is that hungry on a cruise!
Drinks...I've read a few people fuss about no free cokes..I've never known of a cruise to have free sodas. I prefer iced tea anyway. As for alcohol prices..yep it can get expensive but I believe cruise drink prices are in line with what you'd pay at most bars/restaurants, so its really no surprise to pay $7-8 bucks for a frozen cocktail.
Entertainment was great....Carnival really does have good shows compared to those I've seen on NCL. The only show I heard of that was not in the Rome Theater was a new burlesque show in Club Rio at midnight on one night only. Someone was complaining in another review about all the shows being in the "smoky" casino or bars. Don't know what they are talking about unless maybe they confuse the live music with the "shows". As for smokey...yep, it is..its a casino/bar and truly nonsmokers have a grand monopoly on most all areas so give us smokers a break..hold your breath or go some place less smokey cause there are lots more nonsmoking areas than smoking. Cozumel was the other port but I stayed on the ship that day...been there done that. I had a hot tub and pool to myself..more sun and rest.
Disembarkation--I did the self assist which went pretty quickly..no problems and got to the airport in plenty of time. I did notice that the Captain of the ship made few to no announcements about the ships location, the weather, the arrival times in port, etc. which I found odd. The Cruise Director, Jorge, who was very entertaining, made a lot of announcements about different ship activities but that was it. I just love cruises...so this one was no exception. Only a few dislikes on Triumph but not enough to keep me away. It is my observation that Carnival serves a party-hardy, younger client, while I think that NCL serves more 40 - 50's and is quieter and calmer. It just depends on what you like and go on vacation to do.