Short Version: Cheap and easy getaway from Manhattan hustles and bustles. Would do another 4-5 day cruise on the Glory.
Background I will be honest. I had very low expectations and I think that helped. A lot. My husband and I are in our late 30s. He's a teacher, I'm a writer and we are stereotypical thinkers. We are more museum and culture travelers than relaxing vacation types, but after spending a few weeks figuring out the logistics of where to go on our summer getaway, what to eat, activities to do, renting a car, securing lodging, etc., I gave up and said, "Let's just go on a cruise."
Transport Living in upper Manhattan, I can see the New York cruise terminal from our bedroom window, and although I had heard many unflattering things about Carnival cruises, nothing could beat the price or the convenience. We booked directly through the Carnival website with less than a week to go. The morning of the cruise, we hopped in a cab and were at the port in 15 minutes.
Getting On Embarkation was tedious. It took about an hour to snake through the lines and I was disappointed that after all of that we still had to go to Guest Services and wait in another line to put down our cash deposit. Luckily, I happened to walk past the Chef's Table sign-up - I had not had a chance to read about it on the boards, but I did recall that it was something special and we signed up. We are frugal, but the event was scheduled for my birthday and I couldn't pass up a chance to visit the ship's galley.
It was around 1:45pm when we finally got everything straightened out and we headed down to our forward cabin on 2. As we had booked the cheapest available room and I had heard that cruise cabins were tiny, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of our stateroom. I was certainly relieved by the understated dEcor; the majority of the Glory looks like something from Liberace's yard sale. I was worried about feeling claustrophobic in an inside cabin, but the space was well ventilated and I never felt closed-in. Overall, we were satisfied with our cabin and the location. There was plenty of space for our belongings and it was easy for us to get everywhere. There was noise from what I assume were the stabilizers, but as a light sleeper, I take earplugs with me everywhere and I chalked it up to our cheap room. (Note: there is piped music near everywhere on the ship. It is hard to get away from.)
Dining Avoid the Red Sail buffet at all costs. My husband has very simple tastes and summed it up as "cafeteria food." I tried a few items and they were beyond bad - how does one make taco meat taste watery? One day, we set next to a table of kids and one said, "Nothing here tastes like I expect it to." It was hilarious and sad.
Here's a tip: at breakfast, you have to split up and have one person stand in the omelet line while the other person gets bacon, fruit, toast, etc. And have some hot chocolate; it is unexpectedly rich and delicious.
The burrito bar and deli station are nice, but we couldn't get to the Mongolian station. It opened at noon; we got in line at 12:30pm and were told it would be an hour. We got out of line. Later, I went to the pizza station to get a chicken Caesar and was told that it would be 20 minutes. For a salad. And the staffer was annoyed that I couldn't understand why it would take so long to make a salad. Another staffer refused to re-fill the empty orange juice dispenser when there was still half an hour left of breakfast service.
There is a TON of salt in all of the food. I didn't go crazy with food and kept to my regular-life meal times and amounts, but by the end of the first 24 hours, all of my extremities felt tight from the salt. Drink a lot of water.
We had the late seating in the Platinum Dining Room. Our waiter was a bit obnoxious and regularly forgot items. But I would put up with a lot for the Chocolate Melting Cake. It is as good as people say, except on the last night I got a bad lumpy one. Eating with strangers was weird and after the first night, I was ready to change tables, but my husband told me that what I interpreted as excruciating awkward silences, were just folks enjoying their food and things did get better over the length of the cruise. It was nice to have a nightly check-in with others on the cruise experience and to get recommendations and warnings.
The Chef's Table was like being a judge on Iron Chef; the experience was all kinds of awesome. I can't recommend it enough - well worth the extra 75 bucks each.
Activities We didn't participate in any activities, as we were on the cruise to find a quiet place to read and look at the ocean. That was a challenge.
In fact, there were children on the Serenity deck for the first two days of the cruise, which ticked me off, as the Serenity deck is what drew me to the cruise in the first place. I don't know if someone spoke up, but there were no children on the deck on our last at sea day and we spent the afternoon there. It was bliss. (Although many of the canopies on the round loungers were broken and none of the loungers had cushions well after noon. Someone finally came to set things up around 1pm.) I tried to follow up the day with a steam, but the steam room was broken. However, the sauna was nice and hot.
Entertainment We had a fun night in the karaoke bar but the R-rated comedy show was pretty much low-common denominator type stuff - really obvious and not that clever. I guess with the wide variety of guests on a cruise, we shouldn't have expected something fresh or innovative. We walked by the Amber Lounge during one of the song and dance shows and it was not for us.
I had one Pina Colada during the cruise and it tasted like the rum could be used to power the ship. Coming from the land of $10-15 cocktails, it was cheap, but not worth the burning sensation in my throat.
Service Oh boy. Service was all over the place. For every staff member who made me cringe, there was another who went above the call of duty.
St. John Port day was a bust mainly due to the remnants of Hurricane Earl. However, there is nothing to see of note in St. John. Okay, the old general store was interesting for about 15 minutes. But look at the Reversing Falls on YouTube - it is not worth a port stop. We were going to drive out to St. Martin, but the weather put a kibosh on that. We visited the farmer's market, which was fine but we have amazing farmer's markets in New York so there wasn't much to get excited about. St. John is a pity-inducing rust-belt type town and I wish its citizens the best, but they should find another source of income.
Getting Off We did "Self-Assist" disembarkation and although we had to stop by the guest services desk to look into a minor error on our bill, we walked out of our stateroom at 8:30am and we were back in our apartment at 9:17am.
Summary Overall, as much as things went wrong, we can't beat how inexpensive and convenient the trip was. Upon returning home, I started to think about what was in the fridge, what I could cook for dinner, etc. and I realized that one of the greatest gifts of the vacation was getting away from our every day responsibilities. We didn't need Broadway-caliber shows, gourmet meals or posh accommodations - just a peaceful room, time together and someone else to make the beds and for this, Carnival delivered.