From our initial arrival, and even before entering the terminal, we realized that Carnival was operating on such a low budget that they lacked basic personnel to direct travelers. There were no signs directing us as to where to drop off our luggage, nor were there any cruise personnel watching for this problem. After tracking down someone who 'looked' like they might be a crew member, they pointed us to a location way past two rows of buses where there were some luggage cages.
After dropping off our luggage, we entered the terminal where our check-in was quick and uneventful. We had arrived early, so we were directed to sit in the lobby area and wait for announcements. Note that there was only one snack/soda machine available in the lobby, and the crew members that we asked didn't even know that it was there. Finally, we began to hear someone speaking over a microphone, but never did discover where this person was announcing from. As a result, when our 'number' was finally called, we had to track down a crew member again to ask where we were supposed to line up.
Once we were in line, we were able to follow everyone else to the right places since there didn't seem to be any crew directing. After having our photos taken at a booth that we weren't sure whether was 'for sale' photos or i.d. photos, we followed the crowd to the gangplank which took us onto an exterior part of the ship where, once again, nobody was directing traffic. Finally, we found our way to the main lobby where there was a cluster of people trying to get around the annoying photographer setups.
After having a buffet lunch on deck 10 at 'The Gathering' (which we had to find ourselves), and when the announcement came on that our staterooms were ready, we found our rooms and began to settle in. It took several hours before all of our luggage arrived to our room.
Balcony Room Deck 7
Above average bathroom.
Nightstands not designed to fit properly
Room missing bathrobes (which we would be charged for if not returned)
Room missing beach towels (which we would charged for if not returned)
Balcony constantly flooded
Very few non-cruise propaganda TV channels - and most of those in Spanish
Telephone not connected and jack broken
Overall Ship Decor:
Why does Carnival continue to decorate in Gaudy bling and chrome in the 2000's? Everything on this ship is RED and chrome. The bars, the hallways, the dining rooms, the Encore theatre, etc. How about some classy decor?
The Gathering - buffet
Food quality - average
Food temperature - cold
Food selection - average
Good dessert selections
Warning - the floors in The Gathering are a lawsuit just waiting to happen. They are extremely slippery, and being that The Gathering is right between the 2 swimming pool areas, wet feet and slippery floors = major injury in the works.
The Crimson & Scarlet Restaurants
Decor - Gaudy red
Menu - Identical - you are assigned to only one of these 2 restaurants
Food quality - average
Food temperature - barely warm
Service - average
How about a little variety, Carnival? This is the largest ship that we have cruised on so far, but it appears that all of the extra space was just used to add more staterooms. So what we get is more people + same amount of public areas = more crowded venues.
Ports of Call
The 4 ports of call on this cruise are typical of most cruise lines. However, don't expect to find any Carnival crew members directing anyone to where they should go. Once you are on land, you will never see a crew member. Practically all excursions are run by local companies, which is fine, but when you arrive to shore, you are accosted by so many different locals trying to get you into their cabs that you may end up on a 'tour' that isn't Carnival-approved. All of the signs look generic and very few have the 'Carnival' logo on them.
I did not take any children on board this cruise, but I will mention that even though there were not a lot of children on board, there didn't seem to be ANY supervision of them whatsoever. There are separate 'club' rooms for the different age groups, but more often than not, the kids were just running around the hallways and the club rooms were empty.
In short, this was the most disorganized cruise of the 5 that I have taken. Carnival seems to be trying to minimize their employee base to only the bare minimum, so don't expect any outstanding assistance from anyone. If you are considering going on a cruise, and want the best experience, I recommend that you stay away from Carnival and pay the extra money for a top of the line cruise such as Disney.