We cannot comment on Venice as we had no time in this city due to flight cancellations and changes. We barely made it to the ship on time. Took a cab directly from the airport to the ship for 4 people with 4 large and 4 carry on luggage was 60 euros, tip inclusive. Great deal I thought. We had pre-purchased Water Taxi and Vaporetto passes, but because we had a flight cancellation and lost all of our time in Venice, we also lost all the money expended for these transportation modes. SO, be aware if you are considering pre-purchasing these items.
The embarkation process was fairly painless although it was not clearly marked at the terminal. Employees of Carnival were available to point you in the right direction. We did miss our embarkation photo and we always purchase one. We just did not ever see it and no one directed us. Disappointed.
Being on an Inaugural Cruise, we expected to have a few bumps and a few bumps we had. They had very little impact on the cruise itself and our enjoyment of the ship and its ports. One of the items not ready was the TV system. There were few channels available, especially news, but we were able to follow the cruise directors shows and view our portfolios which were crucial. The biggest drawback was the lack of the big shows. They were just not ready for this sailing, however Carnival did a great job filling in with other entertainers. They did have a big show on the last night, but we were unable to see it, as we had to pack and take care of other items before the end of the cruise. Another issue we had a problem with at first was the lack of trays on the lido deck for food transfer to the table. We sailed on Royal Caribbean and they have no trays, so we had always thought this to be one of Carnivals positives and now that is no more, however, they do provide over sized oval dishes which hold more than enough food, and even a bowl for salad etc. Of course you can always go back for seconds or more. While speaking of the Lido deck, let me speak about the food. Keep in mind we have sailed on the Carnival Dream. This was also typical Carnival Lido deck fare. The Mongolian Wok was delicious, but the wait is long and some people take two or three bowls of vegetables at time, drastically adding to the wait time. There ought to be a law about that. The Burrito bar is worth trying for any meal and if you like Indian Food you can find Tandorri on the aft Lido deck. We sampled the food in the Cucina di Capitano, an Italian Food, pay ($10.00 / head for dinner ) restaurant. It was ok but nothing to write home about. The basketball court was directly overhead, so for lunch it was noisy, however there was no cost for the lunch Pasta Bar. This is located on deck 12 above the Lido Deck. In the evening there was entertainment and a different menu. We had dinner at the Steakhouse and it was well worth the additional $30.00 per person. We do this on every cruise and have never been disappointed, but be forewarned that this Steakhouse only seats about 90, half of what the steakhouses normally seat, so make your reservations early, and it is located on the Promenade Deck 5, instead of the top of the ship. The Promenade deck is always busy. The Casino, ( which took my money )the shops, ( which took my wife's money ) Coffee, Sushi Bar, Piano Bar, ( Ron Pass was fun ) Comedy Clubs, ( the show we saw was not very funny at all. As a matter of fact we left )smoking deck, and lots of entertainment is all there. We have nothing but kudos to give for this deck, the biggest to the Red Frog Pub. A new edition to the promenade deck, it has a Caribbean feel, great beer, ( Thirsty Frog ) and affordable bar food treats, like grouper fingers, and coconut shrimp to name a few. The beer was so well received that they sold out of it on the first sea day ( day 2 of the cruise ) and we had to wait until Sicily to get more. Someone said it was brewed on the ship, but I was never able to verify that fact. The room stewards were great, the dining room staff seemed to be a bit strained, especially on the the first day. Everyone was up on deck enjoying the sailaway from Venice,and as soon as we hit open water, there was a mad rush to the dining room, especially for anytime diners.
PORTS of CALL:
In Sicily we did the Carnival excursion titled " In the Steps of the Godfather". We enjoyed this as well, however part of this excursion was cancelled do to rain washing away a dirt road. It took us to the Bar Vitelli, where Michael Corleone, visited, and the church where Michael married Appelonia. We were able to spend a longer time in Savoca,and the photo ops we good at this locale as well. Twisting switchback roads took us up the hill to this small village. After this half day tour, we walked around Messina, climbing the bell tower you will see from the ship, enjoying some pizza and gelato at some local shops.
In Livorno we rented Harley Davidsons and toured Tuscany, visiting Volterra, Siena, and San Gimignano. All of them medieval towns and absolutely must sees.
Our Day in Monaco was cancelled due to high winds, so we missed that port entirely, probably saving me some money but disappointing as well.
Debarkation was a non issue. As we planned on staying in Barcelona for a few days, we were in no hurry to get off the ship, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room, then began the Disney style line to get off. I guess many were staying an extra day and not in a hurry to get off. We caught a cab to the hotel. I was traveling with a a group from Cruise Critic and each of us had different cab fares to the same hotel, ranging from 17 Euros to 35 Euros. Get your rate before you get in the cab. Get out if you think its too expensive.
Overall it was a fantastic trip. The ship was amazing, the service and food were great, the ports and excursions were wonderful, informative and fun. Flying sucks. :-)