7 Days Western Cruise. Travelled with kids.
FOOD Ok, nothing great. Huge lineups for buffet at lunch. We ate in restaurant every day for breakfast - we highly recommend this. Public space seemed to be the same as that on their smaller ships. This was most obvious in buffet areas, and on the deck - more on that later. Dining room was ok. Food not great, but good. Unfortunately, carnival now has a pre-paid tip option wherein the $10/day/person is charged to your credit card unless you stand in line and have it removed (we didn't try as we were happy with service, but were told it was a painful process to remove the tips - they wanted you to specify which services you didn't like etc). We usually tip more than $10/person/day, but when they automatically charge that amount, we tend to stick to that. We played along as service was ok. However, on the last night, it was very uncomfortable as you definitely got the impression that your waiter wanted an extra tip - we observed many tables slipping their waiters an envelope. Next time, we'll cancel the prepaid, and give our waiter and assist waiter a cash tip, like the good old days.
PUBLIC SPACE Overcrowded, and by 7am every chair in a nice location had a towel over it, ie reserved for whomever. Carnival has a 30 minute towel policy, ie if you leave your chair unattended for 30 minutes they 'safely store your towel and personal effects at the towel desk', however, this was never enforced. One day, we picked two empty deck chairs from a row of 10, and were told by the guy at the end that he was saving them all for his 'group' and if we wanted a chair we should get up early, like he did. Simple solution, if Carnival wants to increase capacity without increasing public space, they need to enforce these rules.
SEWAGE SMELL Definitely a problem, but only smelled it 3/7 days. Seemed to always smell by the kids water play area, and in the 'Serenity spa' lower deck on same side. Almost vomited one day on lowest floor at front of ship - an awful smell, like an outhouse. Seemed to be coming from behind a 'crew only' door. Rest of the time, this same area didn't smell.
CRUISE DIRECTOR There are a lot of good reviews, which we find interesting. He told a story about a couple in Cozumel who rented a jeep and got stuck in the mud, and missed the ship etc etc. It wasn't necessarily a comedy routine and most people felt sorry for this couple and felt the cruise director was telling a true story. However, we come to find out, from the couple sitting next to us who did a back-to-back cruise, that he tells that exact same LIE on all cruises. On that topic, they told us that even though it was two different itineraries (Eastern and Western) all the comedians, musicals, jokes, meal menus etc were EXACTLY THE SAME. Overall, we found the cruise director pretty pathetic and thought that Carnival would have put a good young energetic cruise director on a new ship instead of a guy who doesn't care enough to change his jokes or lines from one week to the next. BINGO a complete rip-off. The prize $$$ is usually covered by 4-5% of the people buying cards. Entertainment was ok, but once again, 40% of seats were 'saved' 30 minutes before the show, and no one enforced the rules. Not enough space for the amount of people this ship holds and an unusual placement of support beams which obstruct views.
CAMP CARNIVAL We were very happy with the children's program. Our kids liked it and we felt comfortable. We have been on 6 carnival cruises. On this cruise, they cut back the hours significantly. Apparently, because there wasn't as many kids on board as usual. We were used to the usual hours and wondered if this a carnival head office policy or just a slacker in charge of the program. they should stick to set hours on sea days and set hours on port days, so you know what to expect. Counsellors were fantastic.
Kids WaterPark was nice, but once again, they often shut one big slide down for 'maintenance' but really just a policy at certain times or when in port. This was a shame as they obviously just wanted to not operate an extra slide with the extra two people it takes to police it. There was often a line for the other slide AND NO MAINTENANCE on closed slide. Just cheap. Staff told us that they close one slide on less busy days. Each slide is different and our kids loved doing both. When they advertise WaterPark hours, all slides should be open, unless weather causes all slides to close.
Apparently, Camp Carnival and WaterPark is fully open on the Eastern Version of this cruise.
PORTS Nothing great. Definitely recommend the Eastern Caribbean. We missed Isla Routan because of high winds, which was a pity as that is best port. Cozumel was a beach day at an overpriced rocky beach. Definitely book a day trip in Belize - not much to do in dock area or nearby beaches. Costa Mayae - cruise docks in isolated shopping area - book a trip or stay on board.
- Do Eastern not Western - Pay your tips in cash on last day - the crew really are hard working and great, so don't stiff them, but pay it in cash. Who knows how much of the $10 the crew actually gets anyhow. - Check on the hours of Camp Carnival before you buy your tickets - don't settle for crappy service just because there are less kids on board... perhaps they should reduce staff, but hours should be the same. - If they close a slide on a busy day with a 'maintenance sign' and nothings going on, raise hell. - If you smell sewage, keep on going. Only good thing is that there is usually a few choice deck chairs near the sewage smell. I think they need to fix problem, but I imagine would involve some time out of service. - Eat lunch at off-hours, unless you like standing in line for 30 minutes and then wandering around a crowded cafeteria with a tray full of food looking for a seat, for another 10 minutes.