First, I'll start with the only downers that happened on the entire cruise:
-the ship was late leaving Jacksonville due to coming in late from the previous cruise. This was due to a storm which kept the ship from being able to hit low tide and clear the bridge between the dock and ocean. I see a few complaints on here from people that were on the previous cruise, but I fail to see how the weather is Carnival's fault. I understand it must have been miserable to be on that cruise, I was in the Navy and know how bad a storm at sea can be. A tropical storm in the Atlantic is too big and fast to outrun, and a cruise line has to do it's best to stay on schedule. A big thank you here to the Jax Hyatt hotel for letting us stay in our rooms at no extra charge until the ship was ready for us, and to Jax Park-n-Cruise for arraigning extra transport. Both establishments really came through.
-leaving the ship was a hassle for one main reason: passengers who believe they are special and have no obligation to follow instructions from the crew. We chose to carry our luggage off ourselves, as we had a 900 mile drive back home, and this option gets you off the ship more quickly. The crew announces which deck may leave (in order from bottom to top). This ensures that the elevators and stairs are not congested with the entire passenger complement trying to leave at the same time. HOWEVER, when it was our turn to go, the elevators were being hijacked with people from decks above us WHOSE TURN HADN'T COME YET. We would hit the 'down' button and watch as the elevator came from upper decks, stopped at ours, opened the doors, and showed us it was full of line jumpers who had packed it full with themselves and their luggage. The same was true with the stairwells that ground to a halt with people coming down from the upper decks. I estimate this cost us almost an hour of not being able to move off our deck. The crew did their best to reiterate that it was not their turn, and that they must wait, but these jack@#$%^s all of a sudden acted like they couldn't understand English. My suggestion to the crew: post people at the elevator and stair landings and do not let them on the stairs or elevators until their deck is called. Elitists have never been known to police themselves, so you must do it for them.
-the only things I can really complain about that that Carnival has total control over is: 1)the drinking water. I guess I started getting used to it by the end of the week, but it just plain old does not taste good. Doesn't smell, though, so showers were fine (side note-awesome water pressure in the sinks and showers). 2) the photo taking. It's nice to have the opportunity to have our photo taken by trained photographers on certain nights (formal night), or at certain times/places, but we almost felt harassed by the photographers wanting us to pose in front of different props for photos whenever we got off the ship. Same thing during the Captain's celebration, it felt more like a county fair midway with all the photographers goading you over to their little backdrop. The one that was the grand staircase from the Titanic was cool, though.
Now that I have that off my chest, the good:
-number one is the crew, from the Captain on down to the maintenance people you rarely see. I never passed a crew member that didn't smile and nod or say hello. They all make eye contact and never seem to stop smiling. Our waiters, Yves, Ronaldo and Amir, were fast, efficient, and very friendly. They remembered us and would use our names even when we saw them during the day outside the dining room. They gave our boys a lot of attention and made them feel like they were just as important as any other passenger. Can't say enough good things about these hard working folks. The cleaning staff never seems to sleep, I saw every surface of the ship being cleaned every hour of the day and night. Our cabin steward, Dante, was the best, also always using our names. He cleaned our room spotlessly every day. Jen, the cruise director, must be on some damn good meds, because it's not natural to be that upbeat and excited all the time :).She was a lot of fun. We saw the comedians (Lewis Nixon and John Floyd), and they were great. We only caught one show ( the '80's dancing/singing review) and it was a lot of fun for my wife and I, having spent our teens in that era. We brought our two boys with us (5 and 11) and they had a blast at Camp Carnival (great staff here, too) and at the pool and slides. We had our dinners at the Sensation dining room. Besides the above mentioned waiters, the maitre'd (Claudio) seemed to be everywhere at once, very on top of things and very entertaining during 'showtime'. The hostesses always did their best to get us the table and waiters we requested (we used the 'anytime' dining option). And the woman who took our drink orders always remembered what I had ordered before and made good recommendations.
-not sure what the complaints about the food are all about, we ate great. Maybe not what you'd get on Royal Carribean, but we weren't paying for Royal Carribean.
-the passengers. Despite my earlier rant about the issues during debarkation, I saw everyone else enjoying themselves as much as we were, and everyone was generally very friendly. Without a ship full of happy passengers to be around, a cruise wouldn't be much fun.
-Atlantis in Nassau-almost beyond description, I've been around and have never seen anything quite like it. The whole trip is worth seeing this place. We got the deal at the Comfort Suites that is mentioned in other posts, and it went very smoothly. Get a cab for $4 a person at the Nassau cruise ship terminal, they'll take you right to the Comfort Suites, pay for the room you won't use, and walk right across the street into Atlantis. Do this sober and wearing comfortable shoes, because it's a walk (albeit the most gorgeous walk you'll ever take) to get to the water park area. Do it, it's an experience.
All in all, a great time, and we'll be back!