On arrival at Port Canaveral the embarkation process was relatively smooth. We arrived around 12:30 and were on the boat by 1:15. We had received all 3 pieces of our checked baggage by 5 p.m.
We selected a balcony cabin and were very pleased with the size and layout of the cabin, the bathroom was more spacious than on previous vessels. The balcony was certainly worth the extra charge especially for a 7-day cruise. Our cabin steward "Derek" was great, pleasant, professional and always smiling.
Once you grasp the basic layout of the ship it is very easy to get around, hold onto the ship's plan, as it is invaluable. The decor is colorful and eclectic. The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays throughout.
The food in the dining room was standard cruise fare, always tasty but never spectacular. The Red Sail restaurant offered a wide variety of excellent food for all three meals. The 24 hr pizzeria was great, the pizza delicious and the Caesar Salad outstanding. We ate in The Emerald Room supper club one night and were both very disappointed in the whole experience. The service was mediocre, the food unremarkable and, in our opinion, certainly not worthy of the extra charge. It was, however, beautifully presented and the setting was attractive. The one time we ordered room service it arrived promptly and was very tasty. As sushi lovers we enjoyed the Sushi Salmon bar very much and in addition to this site, sushi was offered 2 or 3 times in the Red Sail also.
Stuart Dunn the cruise director was a disappointment, not to mention having serious hair issues. He seemed to be repeating his lines almost from a script with little spontaneity. The only member of his staff who stood out was Butch who seemed to genuinely love his job and the passengers. The number of activities offered was more than adequate and encompassed a wide range of topics. The art auction was enjoyable and it was a pleasure to see so many beautiful pieces.
The entertainment was plentiful and offered something for all tastes from jazz to disco. We enjoyed the Amber Palace shows, especially Marcus the singer from St. Thomas. The casino was never overcrowded and unlike previous passengers we never found it or any other area of the ship to be smokey.
In St. Thomas we took an island and shopping excursion, the driver was knowledgeable and informative, the scenery beautiful and the weather warm and balmy. Shopping was a disappointment as the majority of prices seemed little or no less expensive than in Florida, however we were not looking for jewelry or high-ticket electronics. On St. Maarten we opted not to take a tour but to wander on our own. The water taxi to downtown was a great value, the town very picturesque and the shopping good. The only down side was the aggressive sales pitches of the locals waiting as you got off the taxi.
Previous reviews mentioned how unhappy the staff appeared. We never noticed that, instead they seemed to enjoy their jobs, were always professional and smiling. We talked to a lot of staff and noticed no disgruntlement or back stabbing. We even got email addresses from several staff members so we could send them pictures we had taken of them.
New Year's Eve on the ship was enjoyable; the Lido deck was crowded with revelers, both the passengers and the crew. The entertainment was good, apart from the trumpet player's singing -- fortunately he is a much better trumpeter than he is a singer. The scene from Times Square was projected onto a large screen and at midnight the horns were sounded, air cannons shot streamers and confetti into the air and much champagne was consumed.
We chose to carry our own luggage off the ship. We didn't wait for our deck to be called, instead just went down as soon as we saw people getting off. People started leaving the ship at 7:30 and by 8:15 we were driving home. As locals, we walked into the house by 9 a.m. probably before others were leaving the boat. If you can carry your luggage I would strongly recommend that you do so as we were out of the terminal and on the road before they started disembarking the other passengers.
All in all we had a great time, there was more than enough activities to suit us, the food was good and plentiful and the ship attractive. The only downsides were the weather, which was very poor, and the constant promoting of the Carnival Sea Miles credit cards. At times it felt like we were in a 7-day infomercial. We would cruise with Carnival again.