We just arrived home to Vancouver from Hawaii yesterday, and wanted to get this off while things are fresh in the mind. There was a foreshadow of this cruise not going smoothly when we never had our cabin number confirmed until we arrived at the dock in Honolulu, where we lined up up for far too long in the heat we were not used to yet, to board the ship. Then, when we entered the dockside boarding shed, we began the ritual, which was the same at every port, of going thru three ID processing and shakedown processes. One to enter the dock or shed; another in the shed, similar to boarding an aircraft to check for forbidden items like weapons, and forgive us all, booze; then once more to board the ship, where illegal contraband was confiscated, mostly wine and spirits. This three time ID check was at every port, sometimes taking half an hour, and discouraged us from going ashore again in the afternoon.
The process of confiscating wine and spirits really irked a lot of fellow passengers, who like us, had stuck a bottle in our bags for "in cabin" happy hours. This policy is stated by the other cruise lines, however was never enforced in past cruises. I have thought of challenging this rule, arguing that a hotel cannot stop a guest from taking a bottle in to their room as it is their temporary home, so should a cruise ship be. Nonetheless, we were caught, as were many others, one man who said he refused to buy a drink on board, and his usual bar bill was around $1,200 even with having a bottle in his cabin. Carnival was over anal with this policy.
It is hard to believe that Holland America is part of this company. The differences are so obvious if one has travelled on both lines, or on others. The ship decor in some public areas like the Atrium, Pharoh's Lounge, and the Jungle Zone, is over the top, even ridiculous could be used to describe it. Cabins, restaurants, casino, library, gymnasium, public bars were very nice; and the food was very good, although waits in the dining room were sometimes long and dishes would arrive cooled off.
Their scheduling was not on time, or published incorrectly. First evidence was the life boat drill, or Safety Lecture, which was scheduled for 1700 on the daily report; many of us were at our stations at 1700, without life jackets as advised, but it did not begin until 1730, and they had to drag the ship to get everyone to their stations. On previous cruises, life jackets were mandatory, and crisply uniformed staff inspected every individual to make sure it was worn correctly. The young man supervising our station could have been a passenger, no uniform at all, just a casual checkered shirt, might have been a seaman. For other scheduled functions, eg. a mini golf tournament for 1500 one day, no ship's staff showed up to organize it; poor form, showed their stuff.
We enjoyed our time on board, this review is to show what we felt are differences between this experience and previous experience. There did not seem to be the joi de vive between the crew of other lines; spills, papers, and empty tins and bottle would sit too long before being picked up; the tenders/lifeboats seemed to be worse for wear; they needed a second gangway to reboard the ship more quickly.
The purpose of this review is not to rip Carnival, only to point out out that they lack some of the niceties of other companies. Most things were great, but they need to take some lessons and refine themselves.