I had read a review that Norfolk often is in the top of the cruise terminals and I have to agree. Aside from the longest line being mostly outside, the staff was friendly, efficient, and we moved quickly. We arrived at 3.00 and were on the ship by 4.30. It sounds like a long time, but the line was huge and it did keep moving. Norfolk advises that you park in the cruise parking lot, which is about a mile away, and take a bus to the terminal. They don't advertise that there is a parking garage right across the street that costs the same. We parked there, got out of our car, and hopped on the ship. We didn't have to wait for a bus or deal with traffic.
If you are going on a Carnival ship, be prepared to party! We are not big partiers and happily avoided the crazy stuff, but everyone is drinking. They pretty much start handing you drinks as soon as you get on the ship. This caused a bit of a problem since they didn't do the safety drill until 2.5 hours after we left. Half the people there were DRUNK! It was definitely a big waste of time since the staff giving the safety talk recognized this and made it short.
Dining was quite good. The food on the buffet was decent buffet food. Better than Golden Corral, but not as good as a fine dining Sunday Brunch. If you are an early riser, know you won't get hot food on the buffet until 7. I was up at 6 every morning and they had some fruit and cereal boxes on the buffet if I wanted to munch. The only concern there is that before 6.30, if you wanted milk for your cereal, you have to take it out of the carafes set out for people's coffee (read the label...I had cream in my cereal the first day!). My family actually preferred to do the open seating breakfast in the Platinum Dining room. There, we had excellent portion control, and superior food to the buffet. I had a ham and cheese omelet almost every day and it was so good! I did the buffet for lunch everyday. They have everything. Pizza, burgers, burritos, Mongolian wok, amazing fish and chips (get there early to avoid the line), and other average food on the main buffet. On the last day at sea, they had a chocolate buffet that was AWESOME. I had chocolate for lunch! Dinner service was awesome. It takes a while to get your bar drinks, but the staff is amazing. It was weird the first time I sat down and they put the napkin in my lap. One of our people had an allergy to peanuts and tomatoes. They came by every night at dinner and showed her the next night's menu. They did everything to help her. We both ordered Lobster Bisque one night and they made a completely different one just for her. BTW, if you don't like tomatoes, tell them you are allergic. They put tomatoes in everything.
There is tons of entertainment. You don't have to loiter by the pool or drink constantly to have fun (although some seem to think so). The casino is fun. I broke even on black jack. If you are new to gaming, there is a tutorial the first day at sea and if you go most afternoons when it is slow, the dealer will help you out by explaining the game and some strategies. Well, some of the dealers. Some dealers were quite rude and scary. The White Heat Dance Club had a theme night every night. Music themes from 50's the first night and ending with the 90's the last night. The comedians were awesome. The shows in the Amber Palace was not that great. The sound was turned up WAY too loud and the lip syncing was quite obvious.
Now for the bad stuff. The bar staff was just terrible. They are way too understaffed at the bars, especially considering the amount they want you to drink. The best bar is at the Colors Lobby. I had the best martini of my life there. Also, they advertise a drink of the day. It's cheap and you get a souvenir glass, but they premake it. It felt cheap. Language and cultural barriers were a challenge. Anyone would do anything for you, but they seemed to have an attitude if you asked anyone to go above and beyond. Also, a couple of people said things to me that they didn't mean. They got their words mixed up because English was not their first language. And somehow I became the official translator of the bartenders at On the Green. I liked that bar because it was quiet and you could smoke in there and watch sports. Last bad thing for me was the number of pictures. I probably had my picture taken at least 6 times a day. It was awful. And I know it's the job of the photographer, so I was always polite, except when they looked at my partner and told me to act like he's my brother. grrr. Oh yeah! GLBT cruisers, be warned. There was a gay event every night but it wasn't organized. It's called Friends of Dorothy (FOD). It felt more like we were being ghettoized for an hour. There was no cruise staff there to mediate the meet and greet. The guide could have said "Gays and Lesbians show up at x bar at x time." I have read about some ships offering special tours, etc. Nothing like that here.
If you have read through my entire review, thank you. I know it was long, but I had hoped I had a good long review before I booked this. I hope I covered everything. If not, leave a comment if you can I will get back to you.
Day two we went to the Pirate Tour. That was my favorite. You get a tour of the island and get to see cable beach, etc. You also get to do a couple of forts and the Queen's Stairs. It was beautiful. I can't even describe it. The museum was really cool. You basically walk through a full scale replica of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge. Having grown up down the street from where his head was displayed after he was executed, I was crazy excited to see that. After the museum, we did tons of shopping. Also, try Conch. You'll love it