BACKGROUND: We were a total of 13 people in our group. Myself, DH, my mom, and my dad. It was my husband and I's third cruise the first two being on the Conquest out of Galveston and my parents 5th cruise. They have been on the Conquest and the Holiday. Some of the others it was their first cruise. We are from Hot Springs, AR. We traveled down to New Orleans the day before we left and stayed at the Marriott Convention Center Blvd. It was a very nice hotel. We booked the stay and park deal for $149.00 + tax. They have valet parking and the parking is covered underground. The rest of our party stayed at the Springhill by Marriott a couple of blocks away. The Springhill parking is not covered and they felt that if they moved their car they might not get a spot when they returned. Our hotel was very nice and I would recommend it to others. We easily walked to the port the next day.
EMBARKTION: One word that comes to mind is AWFUL. Compared to Galveston it was completely disorganized. It took us about an hour to get on the boat, but it was very disorganized. Lines crossed in many places. People were confused as to where to go. Once we finally got our sail and sign cards we were headed to start walking to the ship after already going through one line of people waiting for their sail and sign cards they called another zone and we got caught up in the mad rush to be first in line. New Orleans needs to go to Galveston and take some lessons. My husband says that he will not cruise out of New Orleans again because of this. I don't feel that strongly, but I strongly prefer Galveston. SHIP: All I have to compare with is the Conquest so I will be comparing the two ships. Public areas were more crowded. The lido dining room which we did not use except a couple of times was the worst. The tables were too close together in some places. The dEcor was not as bright as the Conquest. Everything was very understated on this ship. You could tell it was an older ship than the Conquest, but it has been well maintained.
ROOMS: My husband and I, and my parents had rooms right next to each other oceanview on Main rooms 2254 and 2258. The rest of our group was on the first floor except one couple who got a balcony on the 6th floor. I did not go see, but I was told the balcony room was a lot smaller than ours. I'm now glad we didn't upgrade. Our room was maybe a little smaller than the ones on the Conquest, but not bad. They have the old style televisions. The bathroom is PINK. The shower does have a lip so you don't feel like you are flooding the bathroom. There was plenty of hot water. Our only maintainence issue was the light switch for the bathroom went out. I called and as soon as I mentioned that it was making a frying noise they were there in less than two minutes. It worked fine after that. The beds are very worn and very hard. I did sleep, but it was just because I was always exhausted by the time I went to bed. I hope they go to dry dock before going to Galveston and that it includes new mattresses.
WEATHER: We had great weather except the first and last sea days which were rainy. Ports were sunny and hot. Seas were very calm except for the last sea day and it was pretty rough. One of our first time cruisers got sick and spent most of the day in his room.
ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the Welcome Aboard show, Magic Show, Hypnotist Show, and the New Orleans show and they were all good. We also went to the R rated comedy show and R rated hypnotist show both were just okay. We had some very good Karoke singers on board. We also watched a movie on the big screen out side. The movie titles that I remember are The Blind Side, Up in the Air, Old Dogs, Avatar. There were more that I can't remember. Popcorn is decent and is $1.50 plus tip.
PORTS: We did two excursions through Carnival and one on our own. This being our third cruise I think it will be our last to take Carnival excursions. Simply because they are overpriced and crowded and we feel more comfortable now. We did the Atlantis walking tour and it was so crowded you could not enjoy it or take it all in. It is a wonderful place, but again the crowds ruined it for me. We left right after the 2 hours guided tour to go explore Nassau's shopping. We did the Viva Wyndam in Freeport. It is an all inclusive resort. It has a very nice beach and a nice pool. The hamburgers and hot dogs I hear were very good out on the beach. The buffet food didn't look that good to me. Drinks are free flowing, some say the liqueur was watered down, but I got some strong drinks and some not so strong so I don't know. They do have non-motorized water activities which some in our group did and had a good time. In Key West we did a Jet Ski tour through Barefoot Billy's. The tour went all the way around the island approx. 28 miles. It takes about 90 minutes and that is with 20 minutes of playing time in one of the bays in the area. We loved this tour and would do it again in a minute. Having said that it is not for anyone with any back trouble or health issues. When you are riding on the Atlantic side of the island it is very rough. Barefoot Billy's sent a van to meet us in front of the Westin and also took us back to the Westin when we were done. We couldn't have asked for anything more. We had a great time and will do it again if we ever get a chance.
FOOD: We ate breakfast every morning, but two in the dining room it was the same as always good. We always had a light snack from the lido for lunch, it was fine. The dining room food was good. It does seem to have gone downhill a bit. I don't eat steak, but I heard many of the people that did complain about them being tough. I never ordered the warm chocolate melting cake, but others at my table ordered it every night. It was very runny the entire cruise. It didn't stop them from eating it, it just could have been cooked a little bit longer. All my desserts were great. One side note, we had a group of 13. It was supposed to be 14 but one had to cancel at the last minute. We all booked through the same travel agent and all had our reservations linked. They put 9 of us at one table, 2 at another, and 2 at another. The two couples that were separate were way far away. This upset one person in our party because he wanted to eat with his adult child and his wife that were on their first cruise. He complained, they solved it the best they could and it all worked out, because not all the couples ate in the dining room every night. They could have solved this whole issue by just putting us at tables close together. They don't have tables for 13 and that is okay, but they could have paid more attention to the linked reservations and made sure we were at tables next to one another.
DEBARKTION: We did self assist and we were off the boat by 7:30 without any problem. They didn't even check our passports or customs forms. We just handed them our custom form and the waved us through. I think they did the same for all 13 of us. My father walked to the Marriott to get the car and came back to the port to get us and our luggage and we were in the car on the road for 7:45am. FINAL
THOUGHTS: We will definitely cruise Carnival again. We probably will not go out of New Orleans again if we can help it.