Sailed on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore - returned today. My husband and I have cruised before - this was the first time we took the kids (17, 15, 12 and 7).
I'd like to start with the good:
Camp Carnival for the 6-8 year olds: FANTASTIC. Our daughter was kept entertained and always wanted to be with her camp friends. She loved having dinner with them, loved having "parties" etc... she probably had the best time of all of us.
The Entertainment Staff: terrific. We loved Kirk, Jaime, Eli, Jeff and Ben. We are not big party people (Carnival was probably not the best choice for us, but the Baltimore embarkation was really convenient) and spent a lot of time at the trivia and games events. We loved them and they made it really entertaining (hence their titles, I suppose).
The Cabin Stewards: outstanding. Our room (actually, the whole ship) was spotless. Sergei, our steward, was charming and helpful. We loved his towel animals and that was a More
real treat for my daughters. They couldn't wait to get back to the room to see what animal he'd left for us that night. In fact, we had nice interactions with all of the staff - it's a very friendly ship.
We loved our excursions: Kennedy Space Center, Atlantis Aquaventure and the Dolphin Experience. We were really pleased with all 3 - particularly Atlantis and we liked it so much, it'll probably be our next vacation destination.
Okay, now the bad: the Circle C camp (for 12 to 14 year olds). The counselor could not have been less helpful if she tried. We showed up the first day, totally clueless (as most people on the ship would be) and she wasn't able to help us at all. If she said: "I don't know" one more time I thought I'd scream. Also, the 12 to 14 age range is very awkward: you've got kids as young as 6th grade mingling with kids as old as 9th grade. Parents know they are totally different breeds. There was a 14 year old boy there who was so irritating and inappropriate and the counselor did nothing to rein in his bad language. We ended up finding 2 other 12 year old girls on our own and just sort of pushed our daughter and these two girls together. Thankfully, they got along well and spent the cruise together.
I agree with previous reviews that the setup for the Mermaid Grille is confusing. We never knew which section would be open serving what.
And the ugly: Oy, that decor. I swear I don't need to see another breast for the rest of my life. Yes, yes...I get that it's supposedly some kind of romantic homage to classic sculpture yada yada yada. It's garish, glitzy and tacky. Less
We did UNEXSO's Dolphin Experience and liked it very much. I did the Dolphin Encounter with our 7 year old; my husband and older 3 daughters did the Open Ocean Swim with the Dolphins. We all were very happy with the experience.
We went on the Atlantis Aquaventure and LOVED it. My kids could've done that "lazy" river all day long and never stopped. We'll be visiting Atlantis as a separate vacation sometime soon, that's how much we loved it.