We live out on Long Island, NY and decided to take a short cruise to wrap up the summer. We've been on 6 cruises: 5 Disney and one Carnival out of Tampa- and all have been in mid-to-late August.
We've never done a touristy-Manhattan thing, so we decided to book a room on priceline. Took the LIRR west on Friday afternoon. The room at the Best Western was (thisbig). Very tiny. Dropped the luggage and went out to midtown and Times Square. Throughout the day we were getting E-mails from Carnival updating us about Hurricane Irene and how it would affect our travel plans (please cancel, please cancel, please cancel) The decided to begin boarding earlier so we could leave by 3pm.
We hopped in a cab right outside the hotel and got dropped off at the end of the gigantic line at the terminal. It eventually started to move. Checking in was very segmented. Deck 6 goes on this line, etc. Got the key cards pretty quickly. But then there was the impossible task of trying to get everyone to board the ship. They decided to do it by zones, and we were zone 32. Apparently, no one communicates in the terminal bc one employee told us to go on this line, but then the employee at the begining of the line told us we should have sat down and waited.
In typical Carnival fashion as they insert your key card at the gangway, the waiters were there hawking their drinks. They waste no time in getting your money. We had to go up to the Lido Deck to (attempt) to get lunch and wait for the rooms to be ready. It was PACKED!! Literally, no place to move, much less with carry ons in tow. And, being that it was a ship packed with New Yorkers, most people were unbeliveably rude. Excuse me didn't work, pardon me, may I please step by, nada. Hip checks were common. And the persistent lounging long after people downed their 5th plate of food. Did it ever occur to people that perhaps others would like a place to sit and try to eat? Nah. We didn't even get to have lunch because the lines were too long and ill controlled. We waited until 2 pm for the decks to clear and then had some plain fluffy doughy pizza (yuck). How long for pepperoni? 20 mins? Goat cheese? 20 mins. So you have 8 varieties but are only serving one. Nice.
Husband bought the bottomless bubbles card. Daughter and I drink mainly water, and lemonade occasionally. Drinks tasted watered down- were all of the pina coladas "virgin"?
We had the your time dining. It was good to be able to eat when you wanted to- that was a definite plus. However, there are major downsides to it. The service was terrible most nights, peaking at a mere medicore one night. I guess bc you have different servers nightly they just don't care to treat you well. Dinners would take easily over an hour. Husband's soup came out, he finished it, and then my soup came out... they seriously needed serving 101.
The food tasted like it was from a high school cafeteria. Prime rib was small and very well done. Meatloaf was disgusting. Chicken dishes were dry. Lasagna was ok. Buffet lines were ridiculously long. When it was your turn, it was more of the same quality food every day. I did enjoy the Mongolian wok station. I happened by it a few mins prior to opening. That was delicious and fresh and somewhat healthy. But, the line was never shorter than a 45 min wait once it opened - everyday.
The free ice cream they brag about? Tastes like McDonald's. No real flavor. The grill had some nasty overcooked chicken fingers and one day had spicy chicken fingers (but forgot to season it). Burgers were ok. Hot dogs looked like cylinders of meat. The Deli was good and in fact, many of our calories were in the form of turkey, pastrami or grilled cheese sandwiches. Fish and Chips was a unique out of the way option. There was usually plenty of seating up there. The Seafood boullabaise was bland but the golden nuggets of fish, mussel, and clams were delish. The toasted garlic bread that came with it was a definite highlight- though make sure to have Listerine back in the cabin. I didn't try the ceviche or ahi tuna. Everytime i tried to get the fried oysters I was told 20 mins. The fish and chips itself varies from day to day- beer battered, cider battered...
The pools were closed for the first two days due to the rocking of the ship. Mind you, I am not holding the weather against the crew- they couldn't help it, but perhaps the safety and comfort of their guests should have been taken into consideration. Why would you want 1000+ people vomitting for 2 days?!? Anyway, the pools were also netted down at night. I didn't notice at what time, but it seemed waay early. There is a huge TV screen that showed movies nightly, and it would've been nice to hang in the pool and watch them.
The stateroom we had was AMAZING! Aft-extended balcony is def the way to go. The room seemed bigger and we loved the views. Typical towel animals were made daily. yay. Steward missed dirty washclothes here and there, used dishes and glasses.
Casino was a nice diversion. Played Fun 21 but beware- there are no Queens in the game. Greatly reduces the chances of you getting a black jack
Daughter is 11 and by all rights should have been in the 9-11 camp carnival group. However, when told there would be exciting games like musical chairs she was less than amused. We begged for her to go up to the 12-14s and she really liked it alot.
St. John was eventually canceled. We got to Halifax at 4 pm and stayed until around 5 the next day. Beautiful place, but I say, skip the shore excursions.
Be prepared to be attacked by a moose, a lobster, and various other Carnival costumed people... all in the effort to turn a buck on a picture. We exited the terminal and followed the masses to the right. Found a place called I Love Bikes- we rented three and rode around two. It is hilly but to be honest we are not in awesome shape but handled it well. Check out Cow's for ice cream- expensive but worth it. Walk back towards the ship and hop in a cab and for $45 they will show you the highlights- the Citadel, the Titanic cemetery, the site of the biggest non atomic blast in history, etc. Look for a minivan with Citadel on top. Doug was AWESOME! The hop on/off pink bus was like $45/person. who needs to spend that much?
The comedians were ok. There was a one-name black guy who was hysterical at the adults-only show. And there was a two-named white guy who was not funny- he was really just... not funny. His family-oriented show produced a few chuckles though.
We had a fake milkshake at Creams Cafe. Who puts chocolate ice cream and milk to make a shake? How about some syrup?
The Spa was typical. Hydratherapie facial, standard price... the gym was nice with a great view, but the hot tub always seemed to be closed.
Biggest complaint of this cruise? The crew's complete indifference towards the guests. It showed up in the dinner service, bar service, the shops... in no way did they even attempt to pretend to care about us... even when people were smoking where ever they wanted to- nothing was said to them - (it is supposed to be relegated to certain decks and starboard side- it would be nice for them to enforce this!)
The night before disembarkation the fam and I made a decision. We wanted to get out of there ASAP. We never put our luggage out the night before... We grabbed it and ran the second they called self assists can disembark. Got out of the terminal, hailed a cab to penn station, and went home.
This trip was *slightly* better than being home during a hurricane.. but at least there I would have had decent meals, no exposure to second hand smoke, and fewer bruises from having been hip checked every few mins.