First of all, let me introduce our "travelers" for this cruise. I am 34, hubby is 33, mother (60) and aunt (63). This is hubby and I's 12th cruise. Seven on Carnival, One Royal Caribbean, One Norweigan, Three Disney (and one booked for 2011). We love cruising! We like some aspects of certain ships better than others, but overall have never had a bad cruise.
We flew into White Plains, NY (Westchester airport - HPN). Typically, 30 - 45 minutes from Manhattan. However, we flew in on a Friday night. Therefore, we were about an hour to an hour and half from Manhattan. We had made reservations with www.nylibertylimo.com. They were excellent!!!! I was a bit nervous. Not having been to New York and booking our travel to and from the airport/cruise terminal with an online agency. However, we couldn't have been happier! They were great!! Picked us up in an SUV. Gave us a great "tour" of New York on the way to Manhattan. Lots of information and couldn't have gotten a better deal if we'd have booked a regular "tour". The price for all four of us from White Plains airport (HPN) to the Roosevelt Hotel was $180. Split by four - not bad. That included the tip. However, we tipped an extra $20 because Alex did such a nice job. Told us where to go and what to do to make the most of our night in New York. Our hotel was The Roosevelt Hotel. Great location. Booked on Priceline ($133.85 with taxes, etc.). Good deal for the location. Hotel room was very small! Way too cramped for four people. Oh well, it was only one night and we were only there to sleep. We booked name your own price. We only got a queen bed, but they gave us two doubles instead since we had four people. Supposed to have charged extra for that, but they didn't. So, that was nice. Easy check in and check out. The bellman made us reservations at a steakhouse nearby. All in all, the hotel was fine for one night. Would be fine for two but if you have four I'd get two rooms.
New York cabs are great. They are everywhere and it's only $6 - $10 for the whole cab depending on where you are going in Manhattan. So, if you split by four - definitely cheap! Nice steak dinner, then we went to Central Park and took a carriage ride ($100 for all four - about an hour). Took a cab to Times Square (spent a couple hours there). Ate some street food (hot dogs and sodas). Stopped at a bakery in Times Square and got some stuff for breakfast the next morning. It was a fun evening.
Left the hotel room around 9:15am. Checked out. Got a cab to Manhattan Terminal. Around $13 for that - I think. Got there around 10:00ish. Gave bags to porters, used restrooms, watched people. Then we waited in a line to wait in another line for 20 - 30 minutes. Finally, around 11:00am they started taking people thru security. We breezed thru the check in process and waited another half hour or so and were on the ship around 12:00ish. We were one of the first ones on the ship. I'd say most were on around 12:30-1:00pm. Contrary to other reviews. It was not hot in the terminal. They must have the air-conditioning problems worked out now.
We had two cabins. Hubby and I were in 1210 (inside, front of ship, on Riverea deck). Mom and Aunt were in cabin 1216 across the hall (two portholes, front of ship, on Riverera deck). 1216 room was slightly bigger. Had a sofa in it. We had plenty of room and storage for two people. We would rather spend our money on other things than a balcony room. To each their own. An inside room is fine with us. Our room steward, Juan was terrific!!
Our cruise director was Jorge. We had him as a Cruise Director on the Valor. He is very funny! We like to do the trivia, game shows, etc. on the ship. Not into bingo, but they seemed to have a lot of that if you are into that. The Game of Love (Newlywed type show) was very good, as usual. As far as evening shows they had a welcome aboard show featuring the dancers/singers, & the two comedians that would be in the comedy lounge later in the week. For evening shows they also had Livin' in America (dancers/singers) - very good, Let's Rock - very good (dancer's/singers), Justin Illusion (I am normally not a big fan of "magic shows") - this was awesome though. He used the dancers in his act. It was quite good!! Last show was Star/Talent Show. The guests onboard sign up for this. This show just depends on who signs up and the level of talent. I've seen wonderful talent and not so talented. Usually a pretty good show though. Out of 4000 people hopefully, you'll get a few talented people willing to show it off. They also offered a comedy lounge with PG shows for the whole family (several kids) and an adult show. We did the PG shows and they were pretty funny. Drinks during the PG show are a $1.00 off... just FYI.
The pools were used some, but not a lot. We didn't use them at all. The weather was mid 70's in port. So, on the open water it got windy and not really swimming weather. Lots of people sitting out watching people, reading, talking, etc. Mom and Aunt LOVED the light blue chairs on the Lido deck. Not the lounge chairs, the light blue chairs are more of an upright chair with little tables. They said they were quite comfy. They sat out there most days for an hour or so at least.
Our service was very good. We can't really complain. I'm going to do some comparison now for a moment....bare with me....We've done Disney the last two cruises and to be honest, Disney wins hands down on service. They just go way above and beyond. But you pay twice as much for Disney, so I guess that should be expected. Let me give a couple examples, it was around 10:30am breakfast was still being served on the Lido deck. I was however, having pizza. I wanted some Lemonade (which is free and quite yummy, by the way). I asked about it and was informed Lemonade is not offered during the breakfast hours. The worker was on her way, probably to do something else, and didn't want to go hunt down Lemonade for me. Ok, no biggie. Really, it wasn't a big deal. However, on Disney if you ask for something ALL the servers go out of their way to get it. They would have went and got what I wanted do drink, I'm sure. Again, it's not a big deal, it didn't ruin my vacation or anything just pointing out that the level of service is not as good on Carnival as the service on Disney. But Carnival definitely isn't bad service. Our dining room staff did a great job!!! We noticed a few times during the cruise that if you asked someone for something who wasn't getting a tip at the end of the cruise vs. someone who was getting a tip at the end - (room steward, dining room, matire' D, etc.) the ones expecting a tip at the end of the cruise were much more helpful. Again, no one was rude or anything close. They just didn't go out their way. The photographers were all very good, as well. Again, back to my comparison....not as friendly and nice as Disney's though. On Disney Cruises the photographers are so nice about letting you take your own pictures with their backdrops, characters, etc. Keep in mind, we drop at least $300 per cruise on Disney photo's. As do a lot of people, I'm sure. On Carnival we spend maybe $100 on pictures. We weren't planning to take any of our own photo's in front of their backdrops. However, one lady was taking a picture in front of their flowers they had set up for "professional" pictures and the photographer was VERY unhappy with her. She told her not to do take pictures in front of their backdrops. When the lady walked away the photographer went on at length to hubby and I about how rude it was of the lady to try and take a picture with their flowers. I agree, it's a little rude not to at least ask if it's ok. But come on, they are just flowers. She wasn't taking a huge profit away from Carnival by taking her own picture. Not to mention, an employee of any organization should not bad mouth paying customers to another customer. I can understand going off to another employee, but not another guest. That's very unprofessional. Again, nothing to ruin my cruise over or make me not sail on Carnival. Just the little things that I think Disney has the upper hand on service. One more example, and I'm moving on....In the Red Sail (Lido Deck) buffet area it gets crowded, hard to find tables, etc. during busy times. On Disney, when their lunch area gets crowded there is always someone there to help you with your tray, find you a table, get a high chair, whatever you need. I just want to reiterate that Carnival's service was fine. I have nothing to complain about. Just making comparisons to Disney. Also, keep in mind, Disney prices are far more than Carnival's. Therefore, the service and everything else should be, as well. Just trying to touch on all the points of the cruise. Please don't take that for more than it's meant. The service was fine. We really don't have any complaints. Just nothing to say "wow" over either.
Ok, moving on....Port and Shore Excursions - Two ports, Halifax & St. John's. Both were very nice. We did a Halifax City & Peggy's Cove tour. Booked thru Carnival ($40 each). Appx. three hours & fifteen minutes. We had an hour drive around Halifax up to Peggy's Cove. Spent an hour at Peggy's Cove and then an hour drive back. Informative. Not super exciting or fun, but informative and nice. It was what we were expecting. St. John's we did a trolley tour. Booked thru Carnival ( I think around $20 - $30 can't remember, for sure). It was appx. an hour. Good tour and interesting. Dropped us off near City Market. We had made reservations at Billy's Seafood. It was very good Lobster! A little expensive, but not terrible. They have a website you can look at the menu & prices. We did a little shopping and walking around. Had a couple donuts and cookie at Tim Horton's. St. John's was much prettier than Halifax.
Dining - this is all depending on your palate and expectations. The food in general was average for a cruise. All cruise food is basically the same to me. It's decent and there is plenty of it. I never left the buffet hungry, for sure. Never found anything I couldn't live without either. Here are my opinions on the dining on a scale of 1-10 (one being awful and ten being outstanding): Pizza - 7, Grill - 7, Mongolian - 2 (but it's not my type of food), Deli - 7, Fish - 6 ( I didn't have any, but my mother said it was good but not fantastic), Buffet - 5, Ice Cream - 7, Dining Room - 7 Now for a few of my favorites and other suggestions: Breakfast - Cereal and French Toast my favorite, Lunch - Pizza, fries and lemonade were my favorite, Dinner - Shrimp Cocktail everynight, pasta's were good, steaks were ok, Lobster was a little over cooked, but still good enough to have two! Desserts were ok. Hot Chocolate in the dinning room (free) was better than the hot chocolate at Creams ($4.00). Creams was too chocolat-ie for me. I wanted to have a dessert at Creams, but everytime I was by there - I was too full. : ( They looked yummy!! The chocolate buffet on Wednesday (last sea day) was ok, not outstanding, but ok.
I did not bring my children on this cruise. However, I did go up to camp carnival to check it out. Looked like children were playing and having a good time. I did get a camp carnival paper for 2-5yrs old and for 6-11yrs old. Looks like they have several activites for the children. We are undecided whether to take our children on Carnival after taking them on Disney. I'm afraid, they and we, might be disappointed. We'll see though. I talked to a couple parents who were happy with the Camp Carnival. So, maybe.....
Disembarkation was pretty easy. Although, we didn't get called to get off the ship until after 10:00am. It was fine. We ate a leisurely breakfast and watched people. Once we got called we were thru customs fairly quickly. However, those people down there are rude!!! I could never have the attitude those people have and still have a job. The actual customs people were very nice. But the people directing the lines, luggage area, etc. were rude (except one lady who did seem pretty cheery). I don't know if they work for Carnival or not, but it's a good thing you don't see them until the vacation is over. They obviously don't work on tips! Whew....We got our luggage, cleared the customs area and our NY Liberty Limo service in the SUV was right there to pick us up. Again, they are terrific and I can't say enough good about them!!
One last thing, a lot of people say New Yorker's are rude. We found this completely untrue. Everyone we met in New York and Canada were super nice, friendly and helpful (with the exception of the disembarkation people). New York folks talk a little fast, but they were so nice and helpful. What a nice city. I felt it was a great place. Thanks for taking great care of your "tourists". We had a great trip.
This was a great trip! We got a great deal on this cruise and are very happy we did it.
Thanks for taking time to read my review! If I get real ambitious, I might post some pictures on the message board.