This was my third Carnival cruise and while the ship was the nicest ship of theirs I have sailed on, it was by far the worst trip I've taken. Since destinations can vary for ships covering different parts of the world, I will only critique the ship and our time on it. Our stops were Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico. We did not book any excursions through the cruise line, so that will also not be discussed.
EMBARKATION: This was very frustrating. The staff seemed un-organized and the set up for going through the process was not laid out well for those of us who brought smaller rolling suitcases. Our backpacks kept getting caught on the ropes and the corners were very sharp. We waited about an hour to get through the line and get onboard. Another issue was the myriad of ramps to get onto the ship from the port building. I've never boarded a ship so high - on the 7th deck. While my husband and I had no trouble, it was a bit much for my folks who traveled with us. It was several levels steadily increasing in incline.
SHIP OVERALL: The only good thing I have to say about this ship was that it was decorated impeccably. Nice stained glass peacock designs in the buffet food area and nice lighting on the main entertainment deck. The smaller lounges were done in great colors and reflected their names well. This ship did not have the usual Carnival neon which is on many of their ships. This was classy and very well decorated in every area of the ship. From the murals, to the flooring, to the lighting. The decorator should get a raise.
FOOD/DINIG: The biggest disappointment was the food quality, which has significantly declined since my last Carnival cruise. Food is one of the things I really look forward to on a cruise as the menu is typically pretty exotic and always yummy. NOT SO ON THE ELATION! One night, the food looked like a heated up Swanson's turkey TV dinner...talk about sad, and this was in the main dining room. Every night the menu consisted of 3 "Specialty Entrees" with 6 "Favorites". I thought this was a cop-out so the chef didn't have to be as skilled or come up with enough creative dishes. In the past, every night's menu was unique, FOR ALL THREE COURSES. The formal night was also a let-down as the lobster was way over cooked. The one thing the chefs on this cruise did know how to cook was shrimp...it was the best I've EVER had. The best part of our meal tended to be the appetizer and the free cappuccino for dessert. I was especially fond of the escargot and the fried cheese wedges. As for the iced tea, it was AWFUL!!! I don't think you could even call it that. It tasted like it was old and even though it was un-sweet, you could add four packets of sugar and it would not improve the taste. It was almost as if they were making the tea taste so bad that your only other option was to buy the soft drink card for the week. We've usually had really bad food on the buffets so we've eaten in the MDR for breakfast and lunch on other cruises. To our surprise, the MDR did NOT have good food for breakfast or lunch (we ate there the first day at sea and never went back). We were pleasantly surprised that the food on the lunch buffet was above average than other cruises and ate there the rest of the week. The breakfast however was poor. The eggs were like some sort of powder concoction and not fresh. The other weird thing was that the Texas toast, bread, and English muffins were spotted with raisins, none of the bread seemed to be "plain" for things like French toast or eggs Benedict. There was a good deli sandwich station where the guy would make decent Rueben and other sandwiches. This and a pizza station were the ONLY two options for food if the buffet were closed. There were also no alternative dining restaurants, not even to pay for which I would have GLADLY done so on this cruise! I was also disappointed that the dress code for the dining room was not enforced at all. To me, part of a cruise is getting dressed up (to a point) for your dining. There were several people that were allowed to enter and dine in shorts, hats/visors, and t-shirts. I felt like I was at a summer picnic or concert.
ACTIVITIES: I was also disappointed in the lack of activities to do, as in all of the previous 5 cruises I've taken, I was never bored and there were at least three things to do every half hour. This was definitely not the case on this itinerary. My family and most people I talked to were bored on the days at sea, as we had bad weather and could not partake in outside sunning and such. There was no ping-pong tournament, mini-golf tournament, talent show, massive decorative chocolate buffet, etc...like I said, very lacking in activities, I could go on and on. Of course, there was only one pool and it was very small, with half of it being used for the exit of the twisting slide. There was also a lacking in the lounge chair dept as most were taken off the higher decks. Yes, it was windy, but that's the way folks can stay cool. I'm not sure if they just didn't want to take chances, or put out all of the chairs, or a little of both.
ENTERTAINMENT: The advertising/descriptions for the shows are a JOKE! They are nothing like a Vegas style show and if they were, Vegas would be out of business. I've seen better costumes at a high school play and the choreography was atrocious. We only went to one show and left in the middle of it b/c it was so bad. I'm sorry, but you will NEVER hear someone in a Vegas show singing "Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail" (Yes, I'm for real, and Yes, it was THAT bad). I felt sorry for the dancers and if I had been one, upon seeing what I had been hired to do, would have quit on the spot!
CABIN: Nice sized room, larger than expected. The bathroom was also a good size, but the shower was tiny! Two separate closets to hang clothes and five shelves was nice for both of us. There were also four smaller drawers at the desk/sitting area. Nice flat screen TV, just wish it was tilt-able as we could not see the movies from a laying position on the bed (had to sit up to watch the TV). Was VERY disappointed that there was not a refrigerator as that is something we've become accustomed to on other cruises. It was a nice location while at sea (as we were on the same level as customer service, excursions desk and main piano bar), but horrible the day we left and arrived back to the US as our deck was the embarkation and debarkation deck (didn't expect that on deck 7, it's usually much lower like on deck 4!!) Had to go down a floor, walk the hallway, take the elevator back up to our floor, then walk back down the hallway again to our cabin...QUITE IRRITATING! We also had to deal with the sound of chairs moving every night. Crew swore that the dining room above us should have no one in it after midnight, but there were and it was an every night occurrence. Even though I don't enjoy hearing the toilets flush from above, I think from now on we will make sure we're below another cabin, not a public room.
DISEMBARKATION: WHAT A NITEMARE!!! The cruise line decided to promote "take you own bags" instead of letting their porters do the work the morning we arrived back to the states. I'm not sure if this is a new industry standard, but in the past, it was encouraged to do just the opposite. This lead to VERY long lines, confusion, and quite frankly people trying to offload their luggage who had no business trying to do so (ie elderly couples, families with multiple small children who really couldn't manage by themselves). It took almost 1.5 hrs to get off the boat and go through customs. Talk about a great way to end the already horrible experience!
All in all, while it was a very clean and pretty ship, the trip was unforgettable and not in a good way. We will NEVER travel with Carnival cruises again. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at jleigh31879 at yahoo dot com.