After last years near disaster cruise on NCL in the Mediterranean, my wife and I decided to forego the airline flight (no volcanoes to contend with this year) and leave from NYC, 35 miles from our home.
I didn't realize that our embarkation on 9/10 would cause any problem, as for some reason; I didn't associate the 10th anniversary of 911 with our sailing. For us this caused 2 annoyances. Number one was getting onto the ship. There was a lot of extra police right before the cruise docks and we lost about an hour waiting to be dropped off. The second altered our itinerary. According to Carnival, we were to be in Boston on Sunday but this was changed to Monday, with Sunday as a day at sea, due, supposedly, to migrating whales. Most passengers felt that this was a ruse and the real reason was because of the high security involving 911. In any case, this ruined our day as we were meeting my cousin and his family and spending Sunday with them. My wife and I met and worked in Boston and we already knew the city well. No really big deal, so we just walked around the city.
Now for Carnival, it just so happens that Carnival was the first cruise line that we vacationed on together, way back in 1994, on a cruise to, you guessed it, Canada. It was my wife's first cruise and since then we have cruised many times to several, worldwide, destinations. We both thought it would be interesting to compare cruising almost 20 years ago to cruising today on the same cruise line to the same destinations.
EMBARKATION: This could have gone better. As I stated, getting to the pier was a problem, but, I don't think it was Carnival's fault. However, the long lines and wait to process and board the ship could have been faster, but it was acceptable.
From there we were sent to the Lido Deck for lunch, which was very, very crowded with few empty tables but plenty of food. We were allowed into our rooms by 2pm and our luggage arrived by 4pm.
Leaving from NYC is always impressive, especially sailing by the World Trade Center site one day before the 10th Anniversary.
THE ROOM: We had a balcony room, as is our usual preference. The room itself was rather plain, with a regular door and large window to the balcony instead of the usual sliding glass. I prefer the sliding glass, but this presented no real problem. What was disappointing was the couch and the bed, especially the bed! Both were terrible, but I found it difficult to sleep on a bed that was comparable to lying on a table. I complained to our room steward the very next morning, and for 2 more consecutive mornings, but nothing was done until I went to the customer service desk on day 4 when they were finally able to come up with a pad that made it more comfortable. The same pad that my room steward said was not available.
The couch was just as uncomfortable and not suitable for watching TV. I had noticed that some of the passengers had taken to using the deck chairs in their rooms. The bathroom was small and the shower was miniscule with a shower curtain instead of glass doors and I found the hairdryer being outside, attached to a drawer an inconvenience. There was plenty of storage space, the room was clean and the towel animals a nice touch.
DINING: After last year's disaster on NCL, where the food was atrocious and I couldn't get a hot meal, Carnival scored high on food quality. Hot food was not a problem, even at the buffet, and there was plenty of variety.
The service was a little slow and we were forced to use their "Your Choice Dining" program because we only booked three months in advance and the early seating was no longer available. Although we were always there early for seating and had no trouble getting a table, several people that came after 7pm had long waits which were exacerbated by the need of the dining room crew to sing and dance every night. On formal night we arrived at 5:45pm and didn't get out until 8:15pm due to the service. When we left, the line to enter the dining room was enormous and we rushed to get to the Broadway Style show where few spaces were available and we had to accept seats that gave only a partial view of the stage.
One thing that did surprise me was that on Formal Nights, it was not mandatory for people to dress up and people without jackets and ties were allowed into the dining room. On other cruises these passengers were asked to go to the buffet. What's the use of a formal night, which I personally enjoy, if everybody can dress, as they desire?
The Lido Buffet served good, hot food but it was usually crowded, except on days that we were in port. I tried the Burrito Bar, the Fish and Chips and the grill and all were fairly good. I do believe the layout could be better, but not something terribly important. On a couple of mornings we had breakfast in the dining room, which served a full menu of breakfast foods cooked to order.
The Sushi Bar, open from 5pm to 8pm, only seemed to serve rolls instead of real sushi and the Mongolian Grill lines were always too long.
ENTERTAINMENT: The shows on the ship were acceptable, nothing memorable, but, "OK". On our cruise this consisted of 2 Revues, a magician, a hypnotist and 2 comedians.
Seating in the auditorium is horrible with uncomfortable seats, many with restricted views. If you don't get there early, you're just out of luck. One thing that did concern me however, was the acceptance of people sitting in the aisles on the stairs. In an emergency this could be a problem and the crew never did anything about it other than making an announcement that was ignored.
CREW: Service on the Carnival Glory was acceptable. The crew kind of goes about their duties, but don't go out of their way.
The cruise director Josh, was your typically loud, abrasive, comedian, reminiscent of the "Tummlers" from the Borsht Belt or Catskills, which kind of ages me.
The photographers were a downright annoyance! They were everywhere, constantly in your face. I have never seen so many on a cruise constantly trying to take your picture.
ACTIVITIES: Always plenty to do on board with the Spa, a gym, Mini-Golf, Basketball, gambling, bingo and several pools and hot tubs. The shops had plenty of merchandise to choose from and some good deals on select days.
PORTS: We have definitely been to some more exciting ports. Both my wife and I worked in Boston, so that was nothing new to us. Portland should be replaced by Bar Harbor. St John is just depressing and Halifax, normally a fun place was fogged in.
MISC: I had thought that Carnival played to a younger group of passengers, but not so on this cruise. At around 60, my wife and I seemed to be among the younger end of the passengers. This kind of surprised me. There seemed to be very few children on board. That means that either few children were there or Carnival does a fantastic job of keeping them busy.
DEBARKATION: The worst part of the trip. Carnival uses a Zone method for debarkation. That means that first they allow people taking their own luggage off to leave then everyone else is assigned a "zone number". On our cruise we had from zone 1 thru zone 29. We were zone 25. According to the ship instructions issued the night before, which means we should have left the ship between 9:45am and 10am. We didn't get off until 11am. A problem when you have people picking you up. It wouldn't be bad if you could wait in your room, but passengers are asked to vacate at 9:15 and wait in one of the crowded common areas. A further problem when you find out that most people ignore the zone method and that Carnival doesn't check. We were one of the first passengers off when they called our zone only to find that 80% of the luggage for our zone and all the zones above us were already gone.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Carnival was definitely better than NCL, but not as good as Celebrity.