This was third cruise with Carnival. It's been a few years since I sailed with them. Our first two experiences were our first two cruises ever and we loved them. I think part of the disappointment was I am now used to larger ships and a different cruiseline.
I'll start off with embarkation. We sailed out of Baltimore the day (Feb. 7) after a huge blizzard. I have to say I was surprised that the cruise was not delayed. We live 20 minutes from the pier so we were luckier than others who were trying to get to the pier. It took a long time to get through the line to park the car. We had cash and it didn't matter. It took almost an hour and the folks at the pier said it was unusual. Getting through check in took a little longer than some of the other reviews I read. We got to the pier around 2pm and it probably took us 45 minutes. Not complaining at all, just noting it for those reading this review.
I'm not going to write a long review, but there are some things I wanted to note. First, I wasn't happy with the Mermaid Grille set up. I have read other reviews and now I get it. The grille is broken up into stations and this really got to be a pain. You learned very quickly to get your cold foods first and then hit the hot foods. By the time we sat down most times, our food was still cold. You had to go to different stations to get different foods.
As for the food, overall, the quality was good. The dining room service seemed slow. The one thing I will say is i was really disappointed with the steak. My first night, I asked for a medium steak and they sent out a medium rare steak...pretty red...not pink at all. I tolerated it. The next night I told the waiter I wanted it pink. Well, after 3 tries (first was well done, second was RARE, and third was well done), I gave up. I spoke to the restaurant hostess and she promised the next night would be better. They finally got it right on the 3rd night. Some may say why try again? Well, she encouraged me to try the filet mignon. They got it right and it was delicious.
The wait staff was super and took good care of us. It took over 2 hours to eat and I learned if I wanted two starters, have them bring them out at the same time. They saved a little time.
Entertainment...it was pretty good. One thing I noticed is they don't seem too organized with times. For example, they would have Bingo at 8:00, with a game or some other entertainment scheduled for 8:30. Well, in my previous cruising experiences, we liked to arrive 15-20 min early for a show or game to get a good seat. There was none of that since folks playing Bingo were still there. You had to wait until 8:25 for them to leave to get a seat.
Cabin...we loved our cabin. Roomy enough for us and we loved the balcony. Oh the toilet...sigh...the toilet was slow to flush sometimes. That was frustrating.
Debarkation...a bit of a pain. We chose to do self-assist as well as most of the other passengers. I think the frustrating part was they called people off by decks. They started with Deck 1, 6, 4, 7, and so on...well, there sure were a lot of folks staying on Deck 1. Get it? LOTS of people got off when they opened up debarkation. WE stayed the course and waited until they called Deck 7 (about an hour later). It was actually better because once all the cheaters got off in the first calling, it was less hectic and more organized.
Overall, the ship seemed to be in great shape. I think part of it for me is that I have been on larger ships. This was smaller for me, and I'm used to "more". Would I cruise Carnival again? Probably...they try really hard to make you happy and take care of your needs. I really hesitated to write this review, but for those used to larger ships, and then if you get on a smaller ship, you might find this helpful.