Embarkation: First, I have done the VIP check-in maybe one additional time, but I must say, it is truly the way to go. VIP check-in is for anyone with a Junior Suite (JS), Ocean Suite (OS), Verandah Suite (VS) or Grand Suite (GS) accommodations. On this vessel they only had the Junior or Grand Suite categories, so, I opted for the Grand Suite, which allowed me VIP embarkation. If you can handle the additional money, simply the best way to go! From the cab and on the ship in a matter of 15 minutes max!
The Ship: Upon entering the ship, I thought I had stepped back 15-20 years. I thought the loud clad decorating, neon lighting, unimpressive "Grand Spectrum" atrium was a disaster and I thought this was one of the ships that had been refurbished? It had, but just not in the public areas.
As I start to make my way through the ship, I must say, it was truly disappointing. After having been on the Conquest and Spirit class ships, which are larger and understandably newer and would have more amenities, I thought this ship had seen it's better days and if this is the way Carnival would want to introduce people to cruising, they had better continue to offer the lowest prices and over intoxicated rowdy crowds or they'd be washed up!
I made my way to the pool bar, I was expecting this huge beautiful pool area with faux palm trees and tiki huts, well, they were there, but looked nothing like the on-line pictures. The Adults only area was nothing impressive or nothing to look forward to. If you weren't out there at 8:00 AM with a towel to "RESERVE" your chair, you'd be sitting around the only pool over run with kids (weren't that many on this sailing) and crowded. They need a dedicated bar in the "Serenity" area so, you can relax around a bar and sit out back if there aren't chairs available. Another issue, was the unnecessary annoying games constantly by loud people on the microphone at the pool with hardly any music being played and since this was the only pool, you almost had to deal with it because you had no other options.
Dining/Service: The food on this sailing was just OK. I thought the wait staff did a good job, but the customer service on this ship left a lot to be desired. I asked one of the staff about prior guest events and she said "sir, you are on the lowest class of ship..." when she said that, it totally summed up my experience.
The Suite: HUGE! Walk-in closet, huge over sized desk with granite top, huge bar with ample stemware, large balcony, this was the highlight of my ship time! I spent more time in my suite than I have on ANY other Carnival cruise I had been on before. The beds were comfortable, jacuzzi tub, large living room all with chairs and sofa. VERY VERY NICE!!
PORTS: Key West and Cozumel. I had a great time in Key West, they have done a lot of new things to the island since I was last there and I would totally look forward to going back. Cozumel, was as always, very nice and I went to Mr. Santos Beach as the other beaches were totally too touristy and over crowded. But I always look forward to going there.
Debarkation: A breeze. As stated above, category 11 and 12 allow you priority debarkation as well. Off the ship and to a cab in a matter of 15 mins!
Final Thoughts: While I will more than likely book Carnival again, this sailing has really left me with a bad impression and if this had of been my first Carnival cruise, I'd probably not be booking again. I want to re-iterate, this is by no means meant to deter you from your trip or leave you with a negative impression for your upcoming sailing, just telling you as a Carnival loyalist what my experience was and while every one's impressions will be different, this is what I experienced.