This was our 6th cruise, 3rd on Carnival with another 3 on Royal Caribbean. We booked due to the great price we found and the fact that we had never been to New Orleans so it was a great chance to visit there too. We booked an inside room to keep cost down (we have previously stayed in balcony and window rooms as well) We drove from Michigan stopping in Nashville on the way. We met my parents in New Orleans and they were joining us on the cruise.
We arrived in New Orleans the day prior. Weather was nice and made for great walking around weather. Our hotel was Holiday Inn in French Quarter. We had no complaints about the hotel, it was easy to find with our GPS and they have onsite parking for $24 per night. We visited the much recommended Cafe du Monde and Im almost embarrassed to say that I didnt see what the big deal was. We waited in line almost 45 minutes to get hot chocolate that was good but not out of this world or anything and the famous beignets seemed pretty much like elephant ears/funnel cake from the carnival. Im not saying it was bad, they were fresh and hot and not horrible or anything, I just didnt get the hype and it wasnt what I expected. We had lunch at Bubba Gumps and enjoyed our day in New Orleans. Bourbon Street is certainly interesting, not sure its a place I would bring my kids back to visit. Lots of gift shops and typical tourist type stores. The buildings were all amazing and very interesting to look at. It was hard to image this city was underwater just a few years ago. The city is bigger than we imagined but once outside the city, there isnt much at all to do/see.
Embarkation was very easy. We arrived at the port very early with the intention of parking and then walking to find somewhere to eat breakfast. So we arrived around 9:30am and were the only ones arriving at that time. Paid $80 to park. A porter took our luggage from us right in the parking structure. We were told they had restaurants and things in the building next door which is the River Walk. However this is more of a shopping complex and nothing was open until at least 10am and all the food court places serve only lunch. So we really didnt get breakfast but that was OK because we were on the ship in no time. We checked in around 10:15am, no lines to speak of. Every staff member we encountered here was very friendly and nice. We were assigned zone 2. We were on the ship eating lunch around 11:30. Very easy and painless embarkation.
They said we could access our rooms at 1:30pm, which we figured was an estimated time. However we were surprised that not only were we in our room at exactly 1:30 but our luggage was also there waiting for us! The room was plenty big with enough storage for everything we had. Our giant suit cases even fit under the bed. The bathroom was sufficient and we had no complaints. Well one minor issue was the water tempature in the shower. It seemed to go back and forth between boiling hot and luke warm. But this wasnt a big issue, its expected when you have 2,000 plus people using showers on a cruise ship. They do provide shampoo and body wash, however the shampoo seemed to dry out my hair so I used the stuff I brought from home.
I was surprised how long it takes to get through the Mississippi River and the Delta. We didnt hit the gulf until after bed time. Which is when the "Rock N Roll" started. Apparently we came just in time for a cold front which delivered pouring rain during sail away and 8-14 foot swells all night and the entire next day (which was our at sea day). I was taking Bonine but even still I felt pretty nauseous and spent most of the day laying in bed where I seemed to feel better. By dinner the seas were calming down some but I only managed to eat and go back to bed.
Next morning was Progresso and the weather was 100% better. Sunny and warm. We had not booked any excursions on this cruise and planned to just walk around town and play things by ear. A quick look around town and we could tell there wasnt much to do/see here so we joined a ruin tour. It wasnt much of a tour and the ruins were small, but the tour guide was very nice and tried his best to be knowledgeable. For $19 each it was a pleasant little trip and we were glad we did that rather than roaming around the little town.
Seas from then on were just fine and so was the weather. We had been to Cozumel before so no surprises there. Lots of shopping and excursions available if you desire. We just walked around town and did some shopping. The vendors do get annoying begging you to come into their stores and then following you around the entire time trying to sell you stuff. We had a very fun lunch at Carlos and Charlies and then headed back to the ship.
We ate in the Paris dining room all nights except one. The food was mostly just OK, never great but never horrible either. Our waiter was efficient, however not as friendly or funny/personable as most others we had on past cruises. The assistant waiter made up for him though as we enjoyed him very much.
Food on Lido was pretty awful. And I dont like to say that because on vacation and on cruises we are not fussy people who expect 5-star quality every time and we are not obsessed with food or anything like that. But this was pretty bad. The burgers/fries/chicken strips were the safest choices here. The one night we attempted to eat dinner on Lido we found there was literally no main dish being served. On other cruises we have had stip steaks, chicken breasts or even the same entree that was being served in the main dining room. That was not our experience here. They had salad and side dishes, but no main dish at all. Very very disappointing. The lines were long and I think that is due to the design of the buffet with salad bar being in the middle of the line. However we never had a hard time finding a table or place to sit. Our biggest complaint here was the food on Lido. This needs to be improved.
Our cabin steward was efficient also. We never saw him much at all so didnt really get to know him or have much to say about him personally. He did a good job taking care of our cabin and thats all we expected from him so good job there.
The shows were typical cruise quality shows. I wasnt much impressed with the cruise director "Squishy" simply because we didnt see much of him, he wasnt that funny or personable in my opinion. We've had better cruise directors. Actually we noticed on this cruise that not much effort was made to communicate. If you didnt read your capers, you probably wouldnt know about anything going on. They didnt make many announcments, not even when we docked in port to let us know we had cleared customs and it was OK to get off the ship. The captain also made only one or two announcements during the cruise even when we were experiencing very rough seas. Would have been nice for him to give us an update. On prior cruises we've had captains come on and keep us updated and in the loop. I know thats a little nit-picky but it I liked it and it seemed like a nice touch that was appreciated and made us feel like they cared about us.
Fellow passengers were also typical. No issues there. Not many kids on the cruise I assume because they are in school and there were no holidays or breaks during this time. We did see a few people wearing bathrooms on the pool deck, which I personally think is a bit tacky but thats just my personal opinion.
I had read on other reviews that the ship was "smokey" and I found this very true. There seems to many public smoking areas on this ship and even just walking though the ship requires walking through some smoking areas. I am very sensative to smoke and was surprised how much smoking was allowed and in how many places it was going on. A little disappointing since it makes your clothes/hair smell.
Debarkation was also easy and painless. We did self assist and were ready to go when they called our deck. We walked right off the ship and had a short line at customs.
Overall we had a nice time. Nothing specific that ruined our cruise and no big complaints. Couldnt beat the price thats for sure. However it did leave us wondering if we paid a little more, maybe we would get a little more (such as better food quality). So we may try a new cruise line in the future for comparison.