My hubby and I have cruised with Carnival over a dozen times, and found this most recent sailing to be surprising, and not in a good way.
We realize that booking in the middle of hurricane season is always a risk. We are native Floridians and know how the Caribbean can be 'busy' this time of year. However, we did expect Carnival to keep their customers more in-the-know than waiting to surprise us at the check-in desk. I phoned them late the night before sailing, and then again the morning of sailing before we drove to the Port, with the Carnival customer service persons saying that the itinerary had not changed...
Once we were over the initial disappointment of the itinerary change (from Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maartin port stops to Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan, and Costa Maya) we quickly boarded the ship. I really do appreciate the way that Carnival at Port Canaveral has simplified the checking in and boarding process. I hope that implement this at the other Florida ports.
Had I not known that this was a new ship for Carnival, I would have assumed that I was on one of the older ships. No "WoW" factor anywhere! Rooms were just okay, atrium and dining rooms just okay. No luxury or thoughtful touches anywhere. I guess this confirms that Carnival is becoming the 'Walmart' of cruises.
We chose an inside room since we spend little time there...but, we do expect our Cabin Steward to clean our room and keep us informed. A stray room steward in our hallway upon our first visit to our cabin let us know that our regular cabin steward was on vacation and someone else would fill in. Not a good sign.
As the cruise progressed, our cabin steward (whoever he/she was) made our bed and left clean towels, but neglected to give us timely information (such as notification of the free cocktail happy hour, or the past-passenger invitation). What a disappointment.
Our meals in the Lido's Gathering, as well as in the dining room, were good. Just good, nothing more nothing less. We did make the decision to eat in the Steakhouse twice---worth every penny of the $30 per person. The filet mignon I had both times literally melted in my mouth! And, if you really love cheesecake, it is worth every penny spent for dinner.
Something happened with water pipes mid-way through our cruise, and we had no hot water anywhere on the ship for almost two days. Other cruisers received a written notification from the captain about the situation...not us. Again, our cabin steward failed us. When the pipes were repaired, the captain sent out a written notice of a happy hour of free cocktails for everyone. It sure would have been nice if we received our letter letting us know this instead of us stumbling upon it after dinner. But, there were many happy cruisers seeing just how many free drinks they could consume in one hour!
We met many nice people on board, as we usually do when we cruise with Carnival. We all agreed that we were having a good time, but felt that our expectations fell short of this being a new ship.
Entertainment was good, but the show lounge does not have good capacity or thoughtful layout of seating. If you are stuck on the sidelines, be prepared to miss some of the shows simply because the stage extends past where you can view. This ship brought on a group on young men who were break-dancer performers. They were FANTASTIC! Carnival should have them on every ship! And, the best part of the cruise was the Comedy Club and performers. Again, something that Carnival needs to put on every ship now. It was a great ending to our evenings.
We are already planning on organizing a group to cruise in early summer 2011, and may seriously consider trying another cruise line. Too bad that Carnival is becoming run-of-the-mill, with no special touches for repeat cruisers.