This was our 13th cruise - our third on Carnival. We chose this cruise because of the price, the timing, the embarkation port, and the itinerary - three days in Bermuda.
We were very impressed by the way Carnival made note of the 10th anniversary of September 11 - not only did they gain permission to delay sailing and, in fact, brought the ship to a dead stop just off of Manhattan, so that we might pay our respects at Ground Zero at twilight, but they brought on a bagpiper to play appropriate musical selections as we were alongside. It was a moving experience, marred only by the loudly-inappropriate NYC-based family who kept prattling on with inane discussions about anything but the topic at hand, as they kept elbowing me and my husband at railside.
We had an extended balcony cabin, forward midship portside, Empress deck. It was a spacious room, tastefully decorated. My husband missed having a second row of drawers on one side of the vanity, which was taken up by the minibar/fridge. I appreciated having a third closet with deep shelves for storage. This was our first balcony stateroom and, while I enjoyed being able to sit outside quietly reading a book from time to time or watch the sunset, we suspect our cabin choices in the future won't be bound by the experience. The "Carnival Comfort Beds" are a little soft for our tastes -- but then again, we prefer firmer mattresses.
We could not have asked for better service from everyone we had the pleasure to interact with - Miastra and his assistant steward were absolutely flawless; our dinner service team, Edwin, Donald, and Ladislau, equally so; and the many requests we made of the maitre'd, Drasko, to adjust table assignments and acknowledge special occasions were met with smiles and alacrity. The casino staff we worked with for our Roll Call slot pull; the internet cafe manager, who credited us with extra minutes for promotions even if we signed up early to keep in touch with inlaws caring for a sick pet; and the friendly folks at the purser's desk who graciously helped with extra quarters for the laundromat and handing off an errant rental cell phone accessory bag to the port agent . . . every person we interacted with was gracious, smiling, and service-oriented.
The Lido menu was straightforward with no surprises nor disappointments. Alas, we cannot say the same for the new dining room menu, which greatly restricts the variety of dishes offered each evening, as well as the widely-varying quality of said meals. One table-mate had to send pot roast back as it was tough as shoe-leather; the 'tiger shrimp' was really not what we expect to see in terms of size -- the servings of seafood, especially, seemed less than generous. However, we never left the table hungry - we just wished we had had more options from which to choose.
We cannot comment on the shows, as we choose late dining and rarely make them; the new comedy club was a nice option —- my husband said that the comedians were passable, but the emcee went a bit overboard (no pun intended) in setting the "R-Rated" context of the performance by being overly crude (much more so than the comedians themselves). We were impressed by two performers, however; Dave Fulton and The Miracle Orchestra, along with their vocalist, Crystal, were a pleasure to hear; and Taylor, the petite auburn pianist/vocalist who often held court in the Metropolis atrium, was delightful.
This was our second trip to Bermuda and we thoroughly enjoyed it, even as one day was full of rain and wind due to Tropical Storm Maria. We made the most of it, though - spending time at the National Museum of Bermuda (formerly the Maritime Museum) and falling upon a one-time deal at DolphinQuest because of cancellations from the weather, that ended up being the highlight of our trip. We heard from other Carnival cruisers that they found Bermuda too expensive for their tastes in terms of 'cheap souvenirs', but for us, we enjoy the unique pieces of pottery, jewelry, perfume, and other experiences that make the island what it is. We were very grateful that Carnival chose to head to Bermuda instead of heading south as Maria made up her mind which way to go, but there was no mistaking the rough seas reminding us that bad weather was beside us.
We also had two medical disembarkations - one via helicopter that diverted us to outside of Norfolk the first morning of our sailing; the second, as we were readying to depart Bermuda that delayed sailing. Neither impeded our ability to arrive on time, but it did impress upon us how important travel insurance is. And, thanks to the tropical storms along the coast, the ride back was quite the adventure.
In summary, I would say that if haute cuisine is not your highest priority, Carnival is certainly a fine way to travel to Bermuda and back. The excellent service we received and spacious cabins definitely makes up for the lackluster menu offerings in the main dining room. . . . and the lengths to which Carnival went to recognize the 10th anniversary of 9/11 will not be forgotten by us.