We are six time cruisers, fourth time on Carnival. (Jubilee, Spirit and Conquest previously). We have also sailed on Holland America and Celebrity. There were six of us in three cabins, two fantail balconies and an interior across the hall for the boys. The four adults are in our early/mid 40's and the teens are 15 and 16. We choose Carnival because it is a great value for the money, has comfortable cabins, decent food, high energy, varied activities and interesting ports of call. The Glory ranks among the best ever!
Pre-boarding and Embarkation: We live near Philadelphia, so we made our own travel arrangements.We parked at Newark airport ($9 per day) and took a Newark Liberty Express bus to the Port Authority bus (Round-trip for $15/person) for about half the cost of parking at the pier. Spent the night before the cruise at the Holiday Inn on 57th Ave, about 4 blocks from the pier. We walked the 4 blocks (all downhill) to the port in the morning after a quick breakfast at the Bagel "n Bean. (2 coffees,2 smoothies,6 real NYC bagels with cream cheese for $16!) We arrived at the pier at 10:20am and were directed inside immediately. Porters were readily available and took our bags allowing us to proceed directly to security and check in. This was very efficient and took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. We then proceeded to the lounge(airport seating style)and waited for the boarding call. Carnival provides lemonade and ice water, which was great since the day was hot and humid. The "Glory Glory time for boarding" call came at 11:30 and we were on the Lido deck for lunch by 11:50. Carnival boards in zones similar to Southwest airlines. (Guests requiring assistance, then by number) We were in zone 3.
Dining:We were assigned a table for 6 in the Platinum Dining Room for the early seating. We always select assigned dining to allow everyone to catch up on the day's events, and we probably would not see the kids if there was not a set time. Carnival has upgraded their MDR SUBSTANTIALLY since we last cruised with them three years ago. Generally speaking, Carnival's MDR compares to an Outback Steakhouse and the buffets compare(not always favorably) to a Denney's. The food on Glory was better across the board. We ate all dinners and most breakfasts in the MDR. Carnival offers the "Carnival Classics" each night in the MDR, meaning Steak, chicken, Caesar Salad and the famous Chocolate Melting Cake are always available if you don't want to try the more adventurous options that are offered nightly. All meals were very good and we appreciated the effort Carnival put into it. Lunches on the days we were aboard the ship were on the Lido deck. We selected the specialty dining areas (Mongolian Wok, Fish and Chips, the Deli, Pizza) rather than the traditional buffets. The food was fresher, hotter and better than the buffet. The chocolate buffet was OK. Carnival tends to buy their pastries and thaw/reheat them on board. If you want a chocolate treat, the 5 layer cake at Creams ($2.75) is incredibly rich and decadent and well worth the cost. We bought a Wine Package ($110 for 5 bottles, you select from a list based on how much you spend) to enjoy with dinner in the MDR. We are not wine snobs by any stretch, but this was not worth it. It was comical to see our waiter insist on pouring wine for us that retails for $3.99 on land when it would have been more appropriate to wrap it in brown paper and drink it right from the bottle. Unless you are partial to boxed or screwcap wines, I'd pass on this option. Next time, I would by one bottle of decent wine and refill it nightly from the wine we carried on board. We were glad to see Carnival enforce the dress code at least loosely. We saw two people in T shirts turned away on formal night. There were plenty of open collars, but no T-Shirts. Since I'm sure it impacted the waiter's gratuities, I thought this was a courageous move on Carnival's part, but we were glad to see it.
Activities: This review may be a little light since we did not do a whole lot of the organized activities. We hit the casino the first night, but after doubling my money felt no need to return. ($10 became $21.45 on nickel slots, nothing high stakes) We played Bingo and a lot of the trivia games which were primarily 80's trivia and pop culture. We were routinely embarrassed by how much we had collectively forgotten. The Serenity decks are fantastic, the "no kids" policy is strictly enforced and it is spacious and well laid out. Our boys enjoyed Club O2, the teen club for 15-17 year old on board. Their days were filled with X-Box tournaments, miniature golf, Soda Pong, Laser Tag and a host of other activities. The only complaint either boy had was that events were sometimes cancelled or postponed without notice. We spent quite a bit of time in the Sports Bar, On the Green,since one of our group is from England and actually cared about soccer. The space seems small for a ship that size, especially since it doubles as the cigar bar, but was never crowded. The adults participated in a wine tasting at the Emerald Supper Club which has become a tradition for us. This time, they had us taste the wine, then served food and had us retaste to see how the flavors changed. It was a nice touch and the sommelier was great at her job.
Cabins: Cabins were all spacious and well designed. It was our first time with a fantail balcony, and we are sold on it. We have always had balconies on the side before, but we loved the view coming in and out of ports, and especially sailing out of NYC past the Statue of Liberty. The boy's interior room was spacious and comfortable and seemed to absorb the worst two teen agers can throw at it.
Ports of Call: Halifax- We got off the boat and walked up to the Citadel and then back down to the Maritime Museum. Entrance to both was about $40 for the six of us and well worth it. The Titanic exhibit is well done, and we finally got to hear the story of the Bluenose, which we sang an old folksong about back in 5th grade. The Citadel was fun, and the re-enactors were friendly and engaging. Saint John- This was probably the best port ever visited in terms of friendly people. They have a group of volunteers who greet everyone and hand flowers to the ladies and lapel pins to the men. We visited the Farmer's market, Loyalist Burying Ground and the Museum of New Brunswick. The tides were wrong for the Reversing Falls during our stop, so we just went off on our own.
A note on Cost Cutting: We noticed that Carnival has done away with some extras like free drinks at the Captain's Party and the Lapel Pins at the Past Guest reception. (Drinks are still free there) Also, Carnival has servers on the buffet "the Bacon Police" at peak times. The portions are still double a regular serving back home, and triple what your cardiologist would recommend. For example, a serving of bacon was 8 pieces. Given the waste we have seen in the past, we actually don't mind these steps and it was more than offset by the increase in quality in the Dining Room and at the specialized restaurants.