I'm a seasoned cruiser and my 12 year old has cruised before so when we decided to take our yearly "girls only" vacation with our friends, we decided to have them try cruising and since we live in Connecticut, sailing out of NY seemed like an economical way to go.
We got to the ship early and got on before noon. Our rooms wouldn't be ready until 1:30 but we expected this and packed suits. Lunch on the Lido deck, a quick walk around and our room was ready, before 1pm and our luggage was already there! Off to the pool slide for the girls!
I went to the excursion desk to book the "Behind the Scenes" tour since I've never done it. All was fine until I received the ticket with the "rules" attached. I had no closed toe shoes with me so I couldn't go, no exceptions. So if you want to go, bring closed toe shoes!! Positive note, I saved $95! Don't worry, I lost it in the casino!
Days at sea had plenty to do. We signed the kids up for Circle C. My friend's daughter was only 11 but we said that it was wrong and that she had just turned 12. She wouldn't have been able to go to Circle C but rather to Camp Carnival with the 2-11 year olds. A 7th grader in Camp Carnival? I think they need to look at each case as they come up. So my friend said her birthday on the children's roster (over 1300 passengers under the age of 18 on this cruise)was incorrect and the Circle C counselor said fine but to go change it with the main desk. Put a sticker on her card & because of plausible deniability,we do sign that they aren't responsible if something goes wrong, we got away with it. Stupid rule to begin with, she'll be 12 in 2 months. I understand that they don't want to let everyone change so that siblings can be together but we were friends traveling together. When the kids went, they had fun but they only went a few times. It was never open before noon and many of the activities left them on their own, running around the ship like for the scavenger hunt (fun), or playing Wii or Xbox (nope, we can do that at home). Each club gives a backpack to the kids as prizes. And each was age appropriate. For example, Circle C (12-14) gave blue string back packs. Club O2 (15-17) gave black messenger bags and I have no idea what the little kids got but I'm sure it was some sort of handle bag, so no choking hazard! The last night together they made t-shirts that says My Circle of Friends, and they could decorate them. Carnival needs to invest in more permanent markers because there wasn't enough to go around and those they had were almost dry. Oh well, our girls did meet one friend who happened to "live" next door to us, so the girls all hung out together. The friend did have a little sister who was 5 and used Camp Carnival quite a bit. They also had the table next to us at dinner, late seating so after the first night, the little one ate at Camp Carnival.
Meals on this cruise never started on time and we chose to have the late seating. Heard from some who chose the dine as you like plan often had to wait and unless you want to eat in both dining rooms instead of the same table every night, I don't see the point. Heard from our neighbors that the steakhouse was decent but for a $30 surcharge, really wasn't so much better. Probably nice for them to be able to have a romantic dinner without kids. Their 13 year old joined us for dinner so she didn't have to eat alone, her little sister being at camp.
Justin the Illusionist was really good. Unfortunately we were seated toward the side and could see directly into stage left so it blew the illusion for me. Guess they need to be a bit more careful but all in all, it was a great show. Rated PG-13 because of costuming. The dancers wear thongs, so if dancer's butts bother you, you may be offended. None of the girls even commented except on the music, which was good.
We went to see both comedians, one time with the kids. Frank Del Pizzo was very funny, Chas Elstner, not so much. Then after dinner my friend and I went to see the R rated show. Very funny if you weren't the one sitting up front and being the picked on. The show was very racist, everyone was fair game but at times I think he went a bit too far.
Didn't go to the other shows but a gentleman I spoke with said he fell asleep during one. We went to the Not so newlywed game which had a couple who had been married a week, another 16yrs and another who were celebrating 50yrs together. Josh, the cruise director, who is fabulous by the way, was hysterical and stated at the beginning that the questions could be a bit "racy", so he asked any kids there without their parents to leave. This is the first cruise I've been on that had many 18yrs and older only functions. Maybe I just never noticed because it didn't apply to me and the last time my daughter cruised she was 9.
Did notice that they seem to have cut back on staff in the dining rooms, although our waiter and busboy after day 1 were the same and they got to know us well. The shows are not as elaborate, with all the staff joining in. And in cruises past, they wore different uniforms each night. Not this time, so no real "show", just wait staff dancing on pedestals in the middle of the room and the maitre de dancing around with goofy glasses or wig.
Our room was tight for 4 people but fine for sleeping. The girls would get ready for dinner and meet us there, so it worked out fine. The steward never put the couch back together during the day or put the bunk up so the room seemed much tighter then in cruises past. It was freezing on the balcony but I did get to see a whale about an hour after leaving St John, just as our guide said we might and told us what to look for. Unfortunately, the kids were off running around the ship so only my friend and I saw it. He was following our ship and we saw him dive a couple times, BONUS!!