A review of the Carnival Glory sailing from New York City on August 22 to St. John and Halifax, Canada. This was our tenth cruise on Carnival and the start of our status a Platinum Members.
Embarkation: We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and already found that a line had formed for check-in even though that did not officially open until noon. Plenty of porters were on hand to handle the luggage. We quickly passed through security and found the VIP line for Platinum members. Because of that, we were checked-in very quickly. We were then taken to the VIP lounge where other Platinum members were waiting. We were told we would be taken on board first and that a representative would come get us very shortly. Half an hour later, we were still there. After hearing three groups being called to board, a fellow passenger pointed out that the VIP room was still waiting to board. Apparently, someone forgot about us in there. Carnival's customer relations supervisor showed up and took us on board after apologizing for the slip up. I noticed huge general check-in lines that did not seem to move very fast. Thank God we have Platinum status now. Grade: B-
Stateroom/Steward Service: We had a balcony stateroom on deck 8 Verandah. Our cabin was very clean and in excellent shape. The bathroom was showing a little wear and tear but was very clean. Our steward was excellent and always asked us if we needed anything especially since we were Platinum guests. The daily laundry service for Platinum guests was great and clothes given to them in the morning was returned to us washed and folded by 6:00 that evening. Our steward asked our dining time on embarkation day so he could service our room after we left for dinner so we were not disturbed. We got the usual towel animals every evening which are always fun to look at. As Platinum guests, we received a gift and occasional treats left in our room. Grade: A
Food Service: Sadly, one of the most important areas of a cruise ship was the biggest disappointment. My apologies in advance to Carnival and its fans who may be reading this as I will get rather critical here.
Let's start with the dinner service in the main dining room. Dinner here can be described in one word: S-L-O-W. Not once did we have our main course before the wait staff either sang or danced for us at show time. On all of my previous cruises with this line, I had either finished or was finishing desert at that time.
On formal night, our main courses of lobster and shrimp arrived cold. The maitre d' was nearby and was called over for assistance. He apologized and told our wait staff to remove the plates and get us new dishes. When they arrived, the plates and the food were red hot. We suspected right away that the food was placed in a microwave or an oven and reheated. Unfortunately, this dried out the lobster tail and the shrimp. I ordered the warm chocolate melting cake for desert. However, it had so much chocolate in it that it resembled soup. We left dinner very disappointed after having what was, without a doubt, our worst dinner service ever on ten cruises with Carnival.
Our head waiter apologized for the slow food service and said that there were issues with getting the food from the kitchen. His assistant, who would get the food, said that the pick-up area resembled a war zone with wait staff yelling for their food orders from cooks who were way too slow to meet the demand. Other passengers we met had similar complaints about the slow service. On the final night, we had dinner in the buffet as we were fed up with waiting for main courses. I now wish I had gone to the steak house as everyone who went told me it was wonderful.
Sometimes the food at dinner was good and sometimes just fair. We did find it ridiculous that our appetizer and salad plates sat in front of us for nearly 20 minutes every night until someone finally showed up to take them. We could tell that the wait staff was very frustrated with the kitchen delays. Breakfast and lunch visits here were a bit better but the dining room was not nearly as busy either. At one breakfast visit, we were seated at a larger table and the waitress seemed overwhelmed. The dining room is a good choice for those wanting a relaxing a peaceful breakfast or lunch as compared to the sometimes chaotic Lido deck.
The buffet lines were your standard breakfast fare and lunch foods varied by day. The quality of the food was generally good. The buffet was kept well stocked and was exceptionally clean. Be prepared for long lines during peak times. The deli and burrito stations were fine as was the grill and the 24 hour pizza. These also can have long wait lines as the staffs in these areas are small. We found that the table service in Lido was a bit slow when it came to removing trays and cleaning up tables. It seemed to me that there was less staff than usual.
The Mongolian Grill was outstanding. The problem was the one hour wait to get through the line. We discovered when reaching the front that there were two cooks at this station to stir fry the food. No wonder! Previous Carnival cruises had four or five cooks on this station so the line moved. It's also curiously stationed at a smaller food service area by the pool area on Lido deck. This led to a line that was right by one of the swimming pools.
The fish and chips station was very good. It's located upstairs from the Lido buffet but there was never a line when I went there. Perhaps its location has something to do with that.
Room service had quality food but slow service. It took them two hours one day to deliver cold sandwiches and coffee. I usually ordered a pot of coffee from them each morning and that was delivered within an hour.
Clearly, there were some staffing issues that caused issues with the normally good food service. I don't know if it was just too many passengers and not enough staff. Hard to say but clearly, the crew was overwhelmed at times. Hopefully, this problem was limited to this ship and is not a fleet wide issue. Grade: C
Crew Members/Officers/Cruise Director: Most crew members we encountered were professional, polite and helpful. All said hello or good morning to us when we saw them. Our wait staff in the dining room was not very personable and said little to us other then when apologizing for delays with the food. This sort of compounded the dining room issues for us.
The cruise director, Josh, we had before and enjoyed having him again. He is genuinely funny and enjoys his job.
Guest services were very helpful with a few minor questions. The separate line for Platinum guests was great as there were sometimes huge lines there. Grade: B
Ports of Call/Excursions: Ports of call were in St. John and in Halifax. Carnival provided a wide variety of excursions to choose from.
St. John: We took the day trip to the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy. This is great trip that will show you a lot of unusual scenery as well as great view of the tides of the Bay of Fundy. The trip will take up most of the time in port but is well worth it.
Halifax: We took the trip to Peggy's Cove. This is a beautiful fishing village that has some very scenic views. The weather was perfect making this trip even better. It's only three hours and allows you time to walk around Halifax on your own after you get back.
Thanks to two people who apparently ignored numerous requests to see Canadian immigration, disembarking was delayed in St. John. The excursions desk did a very smart thing. Anyone with a long excursion, as we did, was literally seated near the ship's exit so we could get off first once the ship was cleared. This turned out to be a very smart move. Grade: A
Entertainment/Shows: The two musical shows put on were very good but we had seen them before on previous cruises. It would be nice to see some newer and different productions. The show "Just an Illusion" was the best we had ever seen on Carnival. The comedians were very funny but get there early as the comedy clubs fill up fast. We didn't and had to stand in the back. The disco was fine but was not too crowded and was rather empty. The piano bar was pretty full on a nightly basis and the pianist was great. Grade: A-
Shopping: The duty free shop had their usual sales of watches, watch sets and jewelry. My wife found some good jewelry buys as she always does on Carnival. The other store had duty free liquor, cigarettes and general souvenirs were basically the same old stuff. It would be nice to see Carnival add a few more shops to its ships at some port instead of the usual two. The staff in the stores was friendly and knowledgeable. The photo shop was fine but, personally, I think way too many pictures get taken of the passengers and we declined to have our picture taken most of the time when they asked. We have enough of them already! I did manage a great deal on a digital camera I had been looking at prior to this vacation so that was a nice find. Grade: B+
Ship's Condition: The Glory is starting to show some wear and tear but is still a fine ship. Crew members were always cleaning, shining and polishing to keep her in good shape. No noticeable damage in the common areas was ever seen and the ship as a whole was well maintained. Grade: A
Debarkation: As we headed south back to New York, Hurricane Irene headed north for the same city. As a result, Carnival moved up the arrival time by two hours so all passengers could get off the ship early. This was an outstanding move as New York was preparing to be hit by the hurricane and had announced shut downs of mass transit and the airports as of that afternoon. Kudos to Carnival for allowing passengers to use their cabin phones to call home without charge so as to make or confirm their pick-up arrangements. The captain also kept us posted as to the storm's progress. We were off the ship early and home in New Jersey with time to spare to prepare for the impending storm. Grade: A.
Summary: Our first time as Carnival Platinum guests was a bit disappointing mostly due to the issues with the food service which is normally one of Carnival's strengths. However, we did not let that ruin what was otherwise a good vacation.
Many passengers thought that five days was too short of a cruise and I would tend to agree. Carnival runs seven day cruises to Canada and New England in the fall but not during the summer months. Perhaps they should consider doing it. For example, stops in Maine and Boston after Canada would have been nice.
This was not the best cruise we have ever been on but it wasn't our worst either. However, Carnival is capable of better. We sail on Carnival in January and April of 2012 so we will be hoping that our experiences are better than this one.
Final Overall Grade: B.