This was my 2nd cruise and my husband's 1st, so we don't have a lot of past experiences for comparison. We sailed from Ft. Lauderdale with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, and Nassau.
We took a taxi from the airport to the pier and were glad that we followed the advice of other Cruise Critic members not to book our transportation through the cruise line. We did not have to wait long for a taxi and the ride cost us under $20 including tip, which was a lot cheaper than paying $15 each for the cruise bus. We also didn't have to wait for other passengers to fill the bus, so it was both a faster and a cheaper option for us. If you are not travelling alone, this is definitely the way to go.
We arrived at the pier shortly before 12:00. Embarkation was very quick and easy. We were on the ship in under half an hour. We were immediately able to grab some hot food from the grill and a cold drink from the bar. Our stateroom was ready around 1:30 as promised and we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was. The room was sparkling clean and the bathroom, despite being small, had tons of storage space for our stuff and plenty of towels.
One word of caution is that our luggage did not arrive at our stateroom until around 6:00. For future trips I would pack my bathing suit and shorts in my carry on so I could get changed right away without having to wait for my luggage to arrive. Not a huge issue, but would have been nice to know.
Lots of other reviews have complained about the loud decor on the ship. It certainly was not my decorating style, but I did not find it distracting or headache-inducing as some have said.
We chose the "Your Time Dining" option and were glad that we did. The only time we had to wait for a table was on the first Cruise Elegant night, and the wait was about half an hour. They gave us a pager, so we were able to head to a lounge and had a drink while we waited. We also found a tray of desserts in our stateroom that night with a note apologizing for the wait. A thoughtful touch!
We heard that they were very strict on the assigned seating times and turned away a couple who were 5 minutes late. The flexibility of the "Your Time Dining" was well worth the potential for a short wait.
We were assigned to the Chic dining room and were content with the service there. Most of the dishes were quite good, although my husband did find that the Prime Rib was quite fatty. The food was always hot and fresh and the servers were very friendly.
We also dined quite frequently at the buffet and found it to be adequate for the most part. The line-ups were very reasonable and tables were generally pretty easy to find. The food at the buffet was usually pretty hot and fresh, and if we didn't find something we liked there we always found another option elsewhere that we did like.
The food at the grill was your standard fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and chicken fingers, but it was very good and we enjoyed it on several occasions. It was always hot and fresh and we were impressed.
The best kept secret on the boat was the Tandoor Grill. If you like Indian food, then this station is a must. Be warned that it did have a bit of a kick, which we both love. I only wish that it was open for dinner and not just for lunch.
The 24 hour pizza station was also a good bet. The pizza was always hot and fresh and the quality was good enough to rival a lot of pizza joints.
We tried the deli once and the sandwiches were made fresh to order and were good. We also ordered room service a few times and were impressed that they were quick and the sandwiches were very good. We got the veggie sticks and my husband tried BLT's and turkey sandwiches, which he would order again.
We did not try the Asian grill, Fish and Chips, or Sunking Steakhouse, so I can't comment on them other than to say that the Asian grill looked to be good and was made fresh on the spot. The ice cream and frozen yogurt stations were a nice treat, especially on the hot days.
I tried out the spa on our first day at sea. Be warned that I pre-booked the spa before the cruise and paid for it at that time, then got billed again at the end of the appointment on my sail and sign card. It took two trips to Guest Services to have the duplicate charge reversed. I had the pedicure service, which was a bit pricey but had a nice window view of the ocean. The staff at the spa were friendly and professional and the service was prompt, but the sales pitch for their products was a bit annoying.
My husband used the gym facilities on a few occasions during the cruise, but found the treadmills very difficult to run on with the rocking of the boat and made sure to do most of his workouts while we were docked. The equipment was very high quality and well-maintained. He found the gym to be packed in the morning, but quiet at most other times of the day.
We were excited about the prospect of the sports bar, but were sorely disappointed with what we found. We are not smokers and it was always filled with heavy smoke. We were looking forward to taking in a few hockey games and were disappointed to learn that they did not subscribe to Versus and thus did not have any hockey available. Oh well, we found plenty of other activities to keep us busy.
The specialty coffees at the Viennese Cafe were delicious and were reasonably priced. A nice treat that I enjoyed almost every day.
We did not attend many of the entertainment events, but we did take in a few comedy shows and were impressed with the comedians that we saw. The R-rated comedy shows are popular, so get there 20 minutes early if you want a decent seat.
Housekeeping cleaned our room twice a day, and we were very happy with the service that we received. We always looked forward to seeing which towel animal we would find left on our bed every night. A nice touch!
The rest of the ship was also very clean and in very good repair. All of the staff members we encountered were extremely pleasant and helpful.
We chose to do the self-assist option for debarkation. It was so fast and easy that we ended up with too much time to kill at the airport! We did not have to drag our luggage very far or take it up or down any stairs, so if you are in decent shape and have an early flight it is a great option.
Overall we were impressed with the quality of the cruise for the price we paid and we would not hesitate to book with Carnival in the future.
We did several shore excursions, feel free to read about them in my port reviews :)