We arrived at the port at 12:00 and were told they were a little backed up with the debarkation of the ship that morning. We waited in the parking line about an hour, then another hour through security and customs before getting onto the ship. So we were onboard around 2pm and I believe they announced all rooms were ready sometime around 2:30. My husband said we should have gotten there later to avoid all the waiting.
We had a balcony stateroom on the 6th floor. I've heard that Carnival's rooms are larger than many other lines. This was my first cruise, so I don't have any point of reference, but our room felt fairly cramped to me. Part of the issue is that our room had a large table and an extra chair that we didn't see in any of the other rooms our size. The extra furniture made it feel cluttered and my husband and I were literally bumping into each other and climbing over each other. If I sat at the vanity to fix my hair or makeup, my husband could not get around me...so I'd have to stop, get up and move. Or otherwise he would climb over me. We both agreed if we had to spend a week in one of those rooms with the kids...it would have been worth the extra money to purchase an additional room for them.
Otherwise, the room was fine. Maybe slightly outdated, but only barely. Everything was in good condition. The bed was comfortable and I slept like a log every night. Our steward was very attentive and greeted us by name every time he saw us. I don't know what hours he worked, but it seemed like he was always around nearby, night and day. He kept our room very clean and even neatly organized the things we left lying out. One night our air conditioner stopped working and it got really hot and stuffy. We left a note in the morning requesting it be fixed and they did so by the time we got back to the room.
We always ordered room service for breakfast by filling out the forms the night before and hanging them on our doors. It always arrived during the time period we specified. Only negative experience with room service was one time my husband ordered it for lunch at peak time and it took about 1hr, 45 min.
We ate most of our lunches in the Normandie dining room. We were able to get a table for two by specifically requesting it, since we are both a bit uncomfortable with being seated with random strangers. It seemed odd that people were being seated with other guests, even when the room was practically empty, although some people actually enjoy that. We also ate most of our dinners in the Normandie and we were able to request a table with the two other couples we traveled with. We ended up assigned to a great table at the rear of the room with a window looking out the back of the ship. I was impressed with all of the food I tried. Everything was surprisingly delicious and the presentation of it was great as well. The service was always excellent. I wish I would have written down our servers' names so I could give them proper recognition because they all did a great job. (I think Pretho and Adhi are two of them...) They remembered our names and our food and drink preferences. Our waiter recognized that several at our table were vegetarians and he offered us a special Indian dinner (not on the menu) that was fantastic. On several nights the wait staff danced to a song in the middle of the meal. One night they pulled me up to dance to the song "Low," much to the amusement of my tablemates. Good thing I already had a few drinks in me by then!
We ate at David's Steakhouse on two occasions (Valentine's Day and the last night of the cruise). The steak was phenomenal. I ordered the steak with 5 spices the first time and then filet mignon the second. My husband ordered the Surf & Turf. It was all great and the service was very professional as well. I did feel it was several steps above the Normandie and worth the extra cost. Some extra touches included a special presentation of the meat options and a sommelier to assist with wine selection. I tried a dessert called the Chocolate Sampler and it was one of the most elegant, delicious, and beautifully presented desserts I've ever had. I wish I would've taken my camera so I could have snapped a picture. Plus the dEcor is gorgeous and more intimate than the Normandie, although the Normandie felt somewhat elegant as well. Our vegetarian friends even had a dinner at the steakhouse and they were prepared a special dish that wasn't on the menu at the last minute.
My husband purchased the soda card and got his money's worth as he is a big soda drinker. I was able to go soda-less for the week with no problem. Alcoholic drinks, as expected, were very expensive...and our bill at the end of the week was painful. My favorite drink was the Leprechaun, which was the Mixologist contest winner of the week's concoction.
Overall Ship Layout/DEcor
I was concerned after reading several negative reviews of the ship's dEcor and condition. I could not disagree more. I thought the dEcor was beautiful and it felt very elegant to me...lots of dark wood, jewel tones, velvety fabrics, candelabras, etc. Kind of reminded me of being inside the board game "Clue." Everything seemed to be pretty new and in great shape. I didn't notice much of anything that seemed as though it were dirty and needed repair. Only thing I can think of is the putt putt course, which seemed in need of new turf, but that's about it.
We watched four of the comedians (the adult shows) and thought they were all good, especially Joe Carbonara from the Godfathers of Comedy (which, ironically, we had just watched about a week or so before the cruise). He had the room completely cracking up. We played Bingo a few times and lost, of course. I thought the best game was the 7-in-1 Bingo, which lasted for seven different games and seemed the best overall experience. Several of the other sessions were just one game only and were over in a matter of minutes. We played several of the trivia games but never managed to obtain the elusive Ship on a Stick trophy. We went to the Love & Marriage Show and that was a lot of fun. Kirk did a good job hosting that and it ended up being really funny. They select three couples to compete: the most recently married, the couple married the longest, and a third couple that competes for audience votes by performing some specified task. We went to the show "Around the World." I begrudgingly went at the insistence of others, as those types of shows often seem cheesy to me and generally aren't "my thing".............but I ended up being rather impressed with it. I enjoyed seeing the different costumes, dance styles, and different types of music. I enjoyed the dancers more than the singers. I went to the Towel Folding lesson and learned how to make a few of the towel animals. I even bought the book and practiced a few on my own. I was looking forward to the Ping Pong Tournament (my husband and I both play a mean game of ping pong and were looking forward to putting the smackdown on the other passengers), but it was too windy on the day we planned to attend and they didn't have it. Maybe ping pong is a sport best played indoors as opposed to on the upper deck of a moving ship.
We lucked out by having excellent weather throughout the cruise. It was mostly sunny and in the upper 70's in all of our ports. It was mostly sunny and decent temperatures on all of our sea days as well, although windy our first and last days. On Monday, I think the winds topped 50mph and the boat was rocking like crazy. As a result, lots of passengers (including my husband) got pretty seasick. On most other days, it was warm enough for people to swim in the pools and sunbathe on the decks. It was downright balmy on Wed, Thurs and Friday. In Port Canaveral, we rented a car and drove to Orlando to meet local friends at Epcot. We rented the car from Dollar, which had a shuttle waiting for us at the port. The shuttle stopped running at 4:30pm. We got back around 5:30 or so and called a cab when we were at the gas station across the street from Dollar. The cab was ready and waiting before we even got done filling up the car, and several other cabs showed up shortly thereafter. Epcot was a bit underwhelming in our opinion. We enjoyed wandering through the different "countries," but otherwise it seemed lackluster as compared to places like Busch Gardens Williamsburg or Cedar Point. I guess I expected it to have rides like other amusement parks, but it's not really that type of place. It was also a bit outdated...it's heyday was obviously sometimes during the 80's. It was pleasant nevertheless.
In Nassau, we caught a cab to Atlantis. It is important to know that you can get a cab there for only $3-4 per person, but the cab drivers will try to trick you. First of all, do NOT get into a line of people waiting for a cab when you are inside the Festival Marketplace as you are crossing from customs out into the city....go right up to the cabs themselves. Lots of cab drivers seemed to be competing with each other to lure us into their cabs, even arguing with each other over us. The first guy told us it was going to cost $15 each to take us to Atlantis. When we told him no, he started lowering the price. Eventually we found a guy who took us for $4 each, so just tell them that is what you are going to pay and no more. We did not find Atlantis very friendly to those who are not staying there. It felt like we were constantly being watched and we weren't allowed to go anywhere. Nevertheless, we managed to accidentally pass security and wander into the aquarium and grounds before realizing we were in a place we were supposed to have paid for. The aquarium and grounds were breathtakingly beautiful and the casino was really nice as well. Very upscale.
We made a reservation for snorkeling in the Ruins (by calling Atlantis directly...not through Carnival). It cost about $70 per person for half an hour. I thought it was one of the most awesome experiences in my life and soooo worth the money. It felt longer than 30 minutes to me, but still not long enough. I could have done that for hours. We got to swim along with the sharks and the manta rays that were bigger than us. You aren't allowed to touch the fish, but a shark "brushed against my open hand" as it swam next to me. (They are "docile" sharks and rays.) The water was so clear and you could see everything...tons of colorful fish, even the people staring up at you through the glass from below. The snorkeling guides, unlike the rest of the Atlantis staff, were very friendly and accommodating. They were good sports in dealing with the rest of our group who were freaking out the whole time they were in the water.
In the evening, we took a cab to an area called the Fish Fry (upon recommendation from some locals), where there was a collection of local restaurants and bars near the beach. Unfortunately, we had poor service at the restaurant we went to (Twin Brothers?) and the food was not great. It was an interesting local atmosphere though, compared to the commercialized area around the port.
In Freeport, we rented a car. I had a bad experience with K.S.R. Rental Car who, on Friday morning when we got to port, informed us they had made a mistake and booked us a car when they didn't actually have any left. They said they sent me an email on Sunday...but guess what...I was on the cruise by then and wasn't checking my e-mail! Luckily, we went to Celebrity Rental Car right there at the port and they had a car available. It had a steering wheel on the right side, and they drive on the left in the Bahamas...so that was a fun adventure in itself, especially with all the roundabouts. We drove to a beach called Gold Rock Beach, which is directly across from Lucayan National Park, about 45 min. east from port. The beach is a gorgeous, secluded stretch of natural white sand beach and crystal clear turquoise waters. My husband and I were the only ones on the whole beach for two hours!!! It was a picture-perfect romantic setting, just the two of us. You can check the tide schedule for the specific date you go there, because it is awesome at low tide. Even at other times, you can walk really far out and the water is still only a foot or two deep and very clear.
We had to be out of our rooms by 9am. We opted for the Self-assist option. Unfortunately, our deck was the last one to be called, so we waited about 2 hours before we could get off the ship. We waited in the Taj Mahal and watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid one and a half times. Once our deck was called, it only took about 20 minutes or so until we were in the car and on our way out.
I've attached a link to pics of the ship and our trip overall: