Flew to Barbados with Virgin Atlantic (Tinker Belle) from Gatwick in premium economy I really feel this upgrade is worth the extra if you have the funds but the economy cabin on Virgin Atlantic is pretty good anyway.
We stayed for 3 days at a hotel (Almond Casuarina Beach) then joined the ship for a 7 day cruise. The cruise actually starts in San Juan, Puerto Rico but mostly English holiday makers join/leave the cruise in Barbados. The formalities are handled very well by the crew members and you are given your room key/sail and sign card quickly you are then told how long you will need to wait for your stateroom (7340 balcony, amidships deck 7) in our case it was around an hour and a half. We arrived at our room and had to wait a further hour for the luggage to show up. The room was of a good size with plenty of wardrobe space, room under the bed for empty cases and a nice size balcony with a lounger a chair and small table. The room didn't have a mini bar or fridge but there was cans of soft drinks/water and an ice bucket which the steward filled daily.
Technical details of the ship can be found elsewhere but it may not tell you about the gaudy fixtures and fittings. They are trying to create Neptune's Kingdom they fail dramatically. Statues of mermaids and seahorses are placed all over the ship including what seemed like hundreds in the Pacific and Atlantic dining rooms. Breakfast and lunch are served in the dining rooms with open seating while dinner is served over two sittings you can also use the Lido deck buffet style option for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is where the problems begin.....! While the service and food in the dining rooms are of a pretty good standard the same cannot be said for the Lido deck facilities. There are hundreds of guests mostly Puerto Ricans and Bajans who are offered the cruise at a knock down rate, as far as I could tell about 10% of the rate available to British holiday makers. These holiday makers are only allowed to use the Lido deck dining facilities this makes for very long and very noisy queues which you will have to suffer all day long if you want a buffet style meal or use the facilities anywhere on deck 9 the Lido deck. The atmosphere on the lido deck which is also the location of the main pools and sun lounger areas is similar to a sports pub on match night while the decor and service is akin to a cafe that you see in some of the bigger supermarkets, a very different scene from the loving couple sipping a glass of wine at an on deck dining table which you see in most of the publicity photographs. This situation is not the fault of the Puerto Rican/Bejan guests they are just enjoying themselves like the rest of us.... The problem is Carnival put together two sets of holiday makers one spending thousands of pounds/dollars and the other spending hundreds of dollars for the same holiday experience however the two sets of holiday makers have very different ideas of what that experience is.
The daily activity sheet (Carnival Capers) listed all the "Fun" things to do on the "Fun Ship" in an easy format listed in time order with its location and deck number so you wouldn't miss the hairy chest competition or the Mr and Mrs quiz game.... you know the sort of thing! Ask anyone who's been to Butlin's and you'll understand what I mean. Service on the ship was generally good with the odd exception while the obvious excellent service was from the staff in the main dining rooms.... again if you're newlyweds on honeymoon you may find the waiting staff dancing on the tables while singing, at odds with your dream of a romantic evening together.
Entertainment around the ship was "Fun" and plentiful.... Each day as the ship left port the Caribbean Reggae rang out and the rhythm was infections. During the evening all around the ship there were musicians playing a diverse selection of music. The main show lounge had a good quality show every evening even the karaoke was well organised.
There were plenty of excursions available at each port of all except Puerto Rico which is where most passengers left/joined the cruise. This port required that all passengers had to go through immigration, although it was well organised it did take quite some time and made a mess of the schedule. Our holiday was 10 days, day one you fly out to your destination then a day is wasted as you pack, leave the hotel and join the ship a further day is wasted in Puerto Rico where you have to go through immigration and you're not allowed back onto the ship until the afternoon and of course your final day as you pack and leave the ship.... Your 10 day holiday has been cut down to seven days.
It is pointed out by the cruise director how going off on excursion, not organised by the ship then "You're on your own". We found most of the tours could be purchased at a much reduced rate in the port of call and things like beach visits can be done by getting a taxi to take you to the beach, the driver will wait and then drive you back... the ship organised beach trips at around US$ 45 per person same trip for two lasting 4 hours in a taxi including a tip US$ 30 a saving of US$ 60 times that by 4 days and I had enough money to pay the 15% service charge they add to your final bill for anything purchased on board.
Disembarkation during port visits and at the end of the cruise was very well organised, it was hassle free and very quick. At most ports of call most of the passengers left the ship but there were never any queues to speak of. In summary........ The cruise I felt was miss-sold by my tour operator and Carnival, I don't want to sound bad it's just for the money I expected a different atmosphere I feel you can replace the slogan "FUN" with "Cheap, Tacky and Dated"............. Would I go on a Caribbean cruise again? Yes, but not with Carnival in fact I won't cruise with Carnival on any ship at any price.