My wife, daughter and I took the 8 day Carnival cruise out of Fort Lauderdale departing Feb 13, 2010.
We had a cat 12 cabin as we really enjoy the extra space. We find that we do spend a lot of time in our room, contrary to popular belief.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier at approx 11:00am. We went to VIP check in and there was no line at all. A very courteous woman checked us in and asked us to wait a few minutes. Within 10 minutes we were escorted onto the ship and asked to go and have lunch on the Lido deck. That is exactly what we did and the food was excellent.
I should say that we took this exact cruise last year at the same time. It was the only 8 day cruise that matched up with our daughter's break from University.
Approx 1:30 we were allowed into our room...The cat 12 rooms are very nice, approx twice the size of a standard room, with larger balcony and bathroom. It has an amazing amount of storage space and we could not even come close to filling it all, even though we had a ton of luggage. We met our steward Kae, a very pleasant person, we saw him again a few times over the week and he did keep the room in excellent shape even though we tried our best to mess it up.
The ship is very beautiful and I thought that I noticed an increased effort to keep the ship sparkling clean, with many cleaning people visible right up to late at night.
Dining: The food on the Lido deck was very good, right from the burgers, deli, to the themed buffet that was different everyday, certainly no complaints.
Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the dining room. We ate in the Chic dining room and I considered it a complete disaster. We went to our late seating dinner the first night and met our waiter Raphael, and his assistant Soe, from that point on for 8 days we rarely saw Soe for any service. Things like wrong food served, used plates sitting in front of you for over 20 minutes, very long delays for everything! The lack of service lasted for the full 8 days of the cruise. The ultimate insult for me was when I ordered Chicken on the second last night and it took a very long time to appear and was stone cold. The food itself was fair, even right down to the simple menu of desserts.
The Shows: EXCELLENT. I went to the New Orleans show, the Beatles show, the Legends show, the English "Michael Buble"- Jamie Fraser , the Guest Talent show etc. The production shows were excellent, the British singer and the comedian were OK. it's nice to see that even though Carnival is cutting back,they have not chipped away at the entertainment yet. The shows had a 10 piece band, 13 dancers,and a male and female lead. The Cruise director Felipe was possibly the worst CD we have ever had on a cruise, his annoying Whoo Hoo started to bother the majority of people by the end of the week. I got sick and tired hearing about his girlfriend. I believe he should have concentrated on his guests and not his love life. The entertainers throughout the ship were great especially Greg in the Piano Bar, and Danny who performed in the lobby. It wasn't unusual to see people dancing and smiling around a performer, truly making it a "Fun Ship". Our family had a great week as our daughter was asked to perform in the Guest talent show and the Legends show....as a family we had a great time and my daughter loved performing in the shows. She also got asked to perform in the Piano bar and she loved it...the entertainment on this ship was the best that we have ever seen.
The casino: The casino host was wonderful, and efficiently ran the slot, and blackjack tournaments. I have to say that allowing smoking must be costing them as the area really does smell and as an ex smoker, I would only gamble when the casino was quite empty. I did really like the new automatic Texas Hold'em poker table.
The ship: I loved the new Serenity area for adults, very nice but it does get full fast by inconsiderate people who hogged chairs etc, by putting a towel on a chair and then disappearing. I think all the areas need to be policed a little better in fairness to all guests.
The activities: In fairness, I did not participate in many activities, as I like to relax when I cruise. I did like the Karaoke, and the small amount of activities I attended.
The ports: In Cozumel my wife and daughter went on the Dolphin swim and lunch...They were thrilled...it was the best shore excursion they had ever been on..highly recommended. I went on a Deep Sea fishing tour...complete waste of time and money...they put 6 people on a boat and you rotate as the fisherman every 10 minutes which means you get to fish for 10 minutes an hour...it take 40 minutes to get to the fishing area and 40 minutes back, so you can see in a 4 hour tour you get to "fish" for 25 minutes. I didn't understand how they set up the tours as another boat only had 3 people on it. Oh well, a COMPLETE waste of $150...save your money.
Costa Rica: very beautiful, this trip we took the boats in the canal and banana plantation tour. It was EXCELLENT, well worth the money. We were picked up on the dock by a beautiful bus and transported to the docks in the rain forest where the boats were situated...we had a guide who stayed with us all day and was possibly the most knowledgeable on the Costa Rican rain forest...in the boats we saw monkeys,sloths, caymans, birds...it was great. We then went to a banana plantation and I now have a new appreciation for bananas....what a lot of work. They also included a drink and all the most exquisitely delicious Costa Rican pineapple, bananas and water melon. We were in heaven!
Panama: we didn't take any tours, just a few souvenirs from the shops on the pier, and then relaxed on the ship. I have to admit, I don't think outside the dock area in Panama is an area to walk around in.
The last night of the cruise Greg in the piano bar played past his expected 12:30 AM until after 3, including another ship musician Danny and 2 talented passengers. They jammed and the people loved it, it really was worth being a bit tired the next day! Debarkation was a breeze! We set our luggage outside the room the night before, in the morning we ordered room service and got ready. As we were cat. 12 we got called first to leave and at 9AM we did. Our luggage was waiting, we boarded a shuttle and were soon on our way to the airport. This process has come a long way from when we had to wait for hours in the showroom while waiting permission to leave. So much more civilized now. While we had a few complaints, we'd go again tomorrow!