My wife and I are loyal Princess cruisers. However, based on the itinerary, date, and price, we thought we would give Carnival a try since it would be on their newest ship. There was really nothing wrong or bad with the cruise, but there were several things that we have really come to expect and enjoy on Princess that we didn't experience on Carnival.
We stayed a night in Barcelona at the Hilton after we arrived from Atlanta. We have done the Mediterranean on Princess before out of Barcelona, so we were already familiar with getting around. The embarkation was very smooth. However when we got on the ship about noon, the rooms were still unavailable, so we had to drag our carry on to the buffet lunch with us. The stateroom was nice but offers no privacy other than the bathroom. The food in the marketplace buffet was average. There is no beverage service in the buffet area like on Princess. They don't do anything extra in the evening to make dinner a little more special. The line for stir fried was always long and wasn't worth the wait. We bought a coke pass which was too expensive. $66 for a 9 night cruise. And it didn't include the drink tumbler like on Royal Caribbean and Princess. In hindsight, we shouldn't have bought the drink pass because we didn't come close to drinking $66 worth. Also, they only serve can drinks. We prefer fountain drinks on Princess. We were surprised that there wasn't an opening night show on the first night. We had dinner most nights in the your time dining area. The service was fine, but the cruise director interrupted our dinner every night for ridiculous announcements or letting us know someone hadn't made it back on board. Who cares! let's go to the next port. They'll only miss the ship one time before they'll learn. Also, every night the staff in the dining room had to do a song and dance routine which I suppose for some people, that was cute, but for us, it was an interruption to good conversation with fellow passengers.
The complementary pasta bar at lunch in the Italian restaurant at the back of the ship was good but it was right under the basketball court. So during lunch you heard constant banging of players and basketballs while you ate. They says the basketballs are not available in the evening during dinner, but you still will hear kids running around. Could have been a better way to isolate the noise.
We were also surprised that on a new ship that size, there is no adult only pool. The only thing is an adult only hot tub in the serenity area. Smoking areas around the pools are also not marked. You just have to know that the port side is smoking and there are ashtrays on that side. A few people had to be told they were smoking on the wrong side.
There wasn't anyone in the buffet area that seemed to be in charge. One morning, a man in just a bathing suit with a towel around his waste was going through the buffet. How disgusting! I told atleast 3 guys attending tables that he needs to get out dressed like that. The information sheets says what is appropriate dress in the different areas. They all looked at me like they didn't speak english and didn't know what I was referring to.
We enjoyed all our ports of call and Carnival handled all the logistics just fine. Again, the cruise itself was fine, there were several differences that we preferred on Princess. The captain did take the time to steer us next to the island of Stomboli where we got to experience an active volcano and see if erupt. Very cool and was definitely a highlight.
One of the most disappointing aspects of our evenings was the buffet closed at 9:30pm. We usually like going to get a light meal and dessert after a show around 10pm. The only thing opened that late was the deli and pizza. A light snack which was hamburgers was going to be available at midnight. Of course with the all day excursions we were taking during the day, midnight wasn't possible.
On the last morning we were to disembark, we set our clock for 7am since we didn't have to get off the ship that quickly. Well, we didn't need the alarm clock at all. The cruise director started announcing disembarking zones at 6:30am.
We spent 3 more nights in Barcelona and had a wonderful time touring. The metro works well and we used it often. We even took a train out to Montserrat one day.
All in all it was a great vacation and a good cruise. We still prefer Princess and probably won't sail Carnival again unless we're with a group.