This was my first cruise on a non-NCL ship so take this with a grain of salt. We chose Carnival Glory because we wanted to try something new, the price was good and a great room was available.
Embarkation was the usual hassle, no worse than anything NCL did to us but no better either.
Upon boarding my first and lasting impression of the Glory was crowded, cramped and dark. All of the public areas where smaller, had lower ceiling and were darker than any other ship I have been on. All of the dining rooms, the buffets and most of the bars, felt cramped to me and I was constantly being bumped by staff and guests while I was eating because of the crowding.
On the up-side, room 8457 was the nicest we have ever had on any ship. An aft balcony cabin with the larger balcony. We had some noise issues with the scraping of tables and chairs in the Red Sails Buffet on the next deck up but nothing serious. Our cabin steward did a nice job and we had no issues with him More
My main irritation with the ship was the Buffet. It was awful. The Red Sails buffets (they are spread out) where again cramped and crowded, had a very limited selection and served the same mediocre items at every meal - all week long. The buffet was also closed a lot. I frequently found myself roaming the ship looking in vain for a snack. On one instance we had to resort to room service just to get a bite to eat. Oh yes and the coffee was really bad. Our first breakfast on board was room service and the coffee was undrinkable. The only saving grace of the buffet was the Burrito Bar and the Deli bar. They always had a line but the food was great.
I found the Life Boat Drill a poorly organized aggravation. The Glory has a cramped lifeboat deck where the passengers muster shoulder to shoulder, three ranks deep down both sides of the ship. After 30 minutes of standing with our fellow passengers being unable to hear or see anything (all demonstrations were done by tiny crew members standing 12 inches from the front row). After whatever they did, everyone dispersed. The only plus here was that we didn't have to bring our lifejackets.
Aside from the crowding the dining rooms were good. Service was generally speedy and the food was good to very good. We did the Steakhouse once, the meal and service was exceptionally good.
The high point food-wise was the Chefs Table. The Chef Du Cuisine, Sameer Shaikh and 3 sous chefs, prepared the meal and it was served by 3 servers. The event included a kitchen tour, champagne, wine at dinner, appetizers and a 7 course meal in a private dining room. We also received a photo of ourselves with the Chef and the other guests, as well as a recipe book. The cost was $75 per person and was easily the nicest meal I have ever had. My only surprise was how poorly the meal was attended, a total of three couples. I know $75 for a meal on a cruise ship sounds like a lot but trust me if you are really onto food it is worth it. If you decide to do the Chefs Table, do not eat lunch that day. You'll thank us for that advice! Like many others, this event wasn't advertised nearly enough...if you are interested definitely do it...it's a fantastic evening.
The on-board entertainment was a pleasant surprise. We saw most of the shows and while I preferred the Jersey Boys and Shark Bait from the NCL Pearl, the Carnival shows were all far better than the Jean Anne Ryan productions we saw on The Pearl. Be sure to go see Mr. Ten Foo - the comedian/juggler. He is a hoot.
Another surprise to me was the absence of the Cruise Director. On NCL ships the Cruise Directors are everywhere, making announcements, laying out events, explaining shore excursions, hosting shows, etc. On every NCL ship I knew the Cruise Director on sight within the first few hours on board. For the first 4 days on the Glory I didn't know we had a Cruise Director - we only saw him in person introducing two of the shows. As an aside, they could easily get rid of the horrible uniforms the cruise director's staff wears - I'm absolutely sure they are left overs from the 1980s (bad shoulder padded suits for the ladies, and wind suits for more casual occasions...wow).
One thing I was quite surprised about - they don't make announcements about what is happening on board. They print the Fun Times daily, and I guess you're supposed to just go by that. Unfortunately, a few things that we did go to that were listed in the Fun Times just didn't happen (Trivia and Sudoku). So we stopped relying on it and found that there wasn't much happening. We had really been looking forward to the Martini Tasting events - but they took place at 10 pm, too late in the day for me to start drinking.
We really enjoyed our activities off the ship: We shopped in Cozumel, also did lunch at Pancho's Backyard which was remarkably tasty. In Belize we did a private excursion through Island Marketing to Goff's Cay for beach and snorkeling. In Roatan we rented a private cabana at Mahogany Bay (very obviously a manufactured 'white-bread' experience, but fun). In Grand Cayman, I did the ship's two tank scuba dive while the family did the Sting Ray swim and snorkel with Captain Marvin. Just a word about Don Fosters Dive Shop in the Caymans. It is run by a bunch of Aussies, one American and a fellow Canadian. They are pleasant, professional and it was a pleasure to dive with them. And the price they quoted was the price we paid, no last minute equipment rental scam. We did Eagle Ray Rock and Armchair Reef and both were great dives. Bring a sandwich from the ship though. They provide drinks but no food and you will be off the ship for 4 - 5 hours with no opportunity to get anything to eat.
The only aggravation we had with tendering or shore excursions was how Carnival got everyone together for the ship's scuba excursion. I had to line up at the Ebony Bar for a tender ticket, which is at the stern of the ship, only to be told I could go straight to the gangway, which is at the bow. As a result I got off the ship later than was needed. Getting back on the ship in Grand Cayman was a horror...over an hour in line to get on the tenders.
Disembarking was ok, but they could have made more announcements to let folks know what was happening - my major complaint all week. We only found out that we could get off by going to the exit area. We were told that there was some delay with customs and that they were letting everyone off....and no, they hadn't announced it. I definitely prefer NCL's system where you can hang out in your cabin til your group is called.
30 minutes to get through the customs line, then a quick trip to the airport and our flight was on time. As a word of warning - don't let any travel agent book a 45 minute layover when you have to change airlines at LaGuardia...we had to leave the terminal, wait 20 minutes outside in the cold for a bus to take us to another terminal, go through security again, then run like stink for our flight. We got to the gate 2 minutes before the plane was booked to take off. We got on, but it took about 15 minutes before our heart rates returned to normal. Less