Background: My best friend and I were supposed to be going to Las Vegas, but had trouble finding decent flights that didn't cost a fortune. We booked this cruise as a last minute substitution after seeing the great prices and tracking down Jet Blue flights to San Juan for only $150 round trip from Orlando. We are both male. I am in my 40's and my friend is in his 50's.
Embarkation: We took a cab from the airport and arrived at the port around 11:30. Check-in was very easy, taking less than five minutes. We were assigned zone two and waited to board. They started with VIP and zone one about 12:15 with our zone following soon after. We were in the buffet on the Lido deck by 12:30.
Ship: All Carnival ships have gaudy dEcor and this one (while not as extreme as most) is no exception. Yes, it's tacky, but you're on vacation, not redecorating your home. The casino was small and uninviting - I didn't play anything the entire voyage. I didn't see anyone winning either, but I wasn't there very much. The bars were all very nice. The cigar bar was probably the nicest looking room on the ship, but I couldn't stay there long due to the smoke. I was very disappointed that the best bourbon I could find was Maker's Mark. One more step up would have been nice - maybe Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve. Overall, the ship never felt crowded and we never had trouble finding a seat in the buffet, the theater, or any bars or lounges. I'm told that you had to arrive early if you wanted a seat at the Karaoke, but I never went.
Cabin: While needing a bit of an update, our cabin was nice and the balcony was very pleasant when our neighbors weren't around. Bad luck on our part got us a chain smoker on one side and a very loud couple with two even louder children on the other. We liked the location on the Lido deck as it was only a short walk to get drinks and snacks.
Dining: We thought the food in the main dining room was very good, but the menu seemed to be "dumbed down" a little from other cruises. I was happy to find that the lobster was from cold water. I'm really not a fan of the warm water lobsters on Royal Caribbean. Our servers were fantastic. While this isn't a complaint, it was strange who Carnival assigned as our dining companions. Any time in the past that I have cruised with only one other person we are seated at a large table, usually an eight or ten top. On this cruise we were seated at a table for four. Since we are two single men in our 40's and 50's, it was a little creepy that Carnival chose to put us with two female college juniors on spring break. We enjoyed the conversation with them, but this could have been an uncomfortable situation all around. I'm sure they were not happy being stuck with people older than their parents, but they were very nice and didn't let it show. The food on the Lido deck was never anything special, but there was nothing wrong with it.
Entertainment: The production shows were better than expected, but extremely uneven. They would fluctuate from appearing more amateurish than a junior high production to being paced within an inch of their lives. During the high points they were incredible, but through the lows they were almost painful to watch. Both comedians were quite entertaining, but I feel I wasted an evening going to see the magician.
Cruise Director: Here is my only real complaint of the cruise. I know that Cruise Directors need to be extremely energetic and outgoing. While I find this annoying I do realize that it is part of their job. Karl with a K is without a doubt the worst Cruise Director I have ever seen. He seems to think that all of the guests on the ship were there only to provide an audience for him. Almost any time he spoke it was to tell us how great he was. On rare occasions he would talk about other people, but only to put them down and point out how he was better than them. I never thought that the Cruise Director would be a factor in making a selection, but I will never again book a cruise if I know Karl with a K is going to be onboard.
Other Guests: Fantastic! I have never made as many new friends on a cruise as I did on this one. At dinner the first night we were seated with three women from Arizona who were a pleasure to be with. When they found out that the next day was my birthday they sang the most beautiful and heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday I have ever heard. It meant far more to me than the endless drone of the song the waiters performed throughout the week. We did not encounter any of the problems that previous reviewers have mentioned. Everyone was courteous and respectful of each other with the exception of one couple who felt they were a little too important to wait in the line to disembark at Barbados. We were told that there were over 400 children on the ship, but I barely noticed any.
Summary: I would book this cruise again in a second, so long as it has a different Cruise Director.