A bit of background - prior to this cruise we had only sailed with Disney Cruise Line. We are Disney fans, so it is a natural fit.
However, we had been exploring options as to what to do for our 5th Anniversary. We had a limited amount of time, and after looking for a few weeks I found Carnival's two night cruise to nowhere departing the day after our anniversary. So we decided that was a great fit! It would have us both back to work on Monday - as the cruise gets in at 8:00am - we thought it was fantastic!
So we booked - found the perfect stateroom - and started making plans.
It was impossible to find the information that we needed (would there be a formal night was one of the biggest questions) YES, the representative said when I called - it would be our first night on board. SO, being that it was a two night cruise, we didn't want to bring along a ton of clothes, so we decided that we would just skip our dining room seating our first night.
There wasn't a 'formal night' there was an OPTIONAL formal night that very few folks observed. The Carnival Agent was incorrect.
Anyway - on with the review...
The port's website said that parking outside the city and taking a shuttle in was the best option - so I had thought we would do that. We ended up parking right across the street, for LESS than it would have cost to park outside the city and shuttle in - and took FAR less time. More on how we decided where to park later...
All of our documents provided by Carnival said that check-in would begin at 1:00pm - and not to arrive any earlier, as you would be turned away to return at 1:00pm. However, I had read on a thread from last year's cruise that check in started at 11:00am. But we took the documents provided by Carnival to be the most correct and we planned for 1:00pm arrival at the port.
We drove down on Friday evening and spent the night beachfront at Va Beach - left the hotel around 10:50am with plans to explore the parking options and decide what was best. We got into downtown around 11:10am and found parking garages ALL around the port with CRUISE PARKING signs out. It was a Saturday morning so they were all nearly deserted, with a few folks leaving from the previous cruise that was nearly finished disembarking as we arrived.
We had planned to walk around downtown between 11:00am and 1:00pm and grab lunch while doing so - but that plan didn't follow through...
So we decided to park across the street - simple enough - cheap enough ($30) - and no shuttle involved in either direction.
Since we parked across the street - I looked across the street at 11:15 and people were already ON the ship! What happened to 1:00pm?
The port terminal is beautiful, I really didn't expect it to be that nice, but it really is top notch for a port with so few sailings - it really is more than just a place to board a ship! I love the displays of an ocean liner era gone by - it really was a history lesson!
Security was very smooth - didn't feel rushed - it was very practical, and easy to understand what they expected from you - very clear communication, and a great streamlined process. Simple - and efficient!
Check in was very smooth - a breeze, and THEN - on to the waiting.
Boarding of regular passengers has just started (previous patrons and the disabled had already boarded). We were placed in the boarding zone group 24. We waited, and waited, and waited. We have never waited that long to board a ship. It was not fun!
Finally we board, simple enough - pose for your awful embarkation photo - and then you're off...
Staterooms were to be ready by 1:00pm
We ended up boarding the ship around 1:15 - just as they made an announcement that staterooms would not be ready until 1:30. Bummer - since the cruise was so short - there was no option to check baggage - so what you had, stayed with you until your stateroom was ready.
Lunch was being served on the lido - so we thought we would just grab lunch, and then wait a few minutes and our room would be ready. WRONG - with the ship less than 1/2 boarded, the lines were 1/4 the ships length long for lunch. WOW - that's awful.
Then they announced that staterooms were ready - so we found ours, explored - VERY ROOMY! A great price for an interior stateroom with an ocean view!
Then - to find something to eat.
Wait lines for EVERY SINGLE MEAL were no less than 45 minutes. I'm not joking or elaborating.
Carnival does NOT know how to manage lines - or food service.
Waiting in line would be the theme of the cruise - they often joke that you can't leave a cruise hungry - well, Carnival has changed that!
The food was awful - I had fish and chips for lunch on the 2nd day and it tasted like dirt. Absolutely disgusting!
We went to our 8:15 dinner seating - and once again - LINES 1/4 of the way through the ship! This ship's dining rooms are so horribly tacky, gaudy, and dated that I felt like I had stepped back into the 70's. AWFUL! We were in the Platinum dining room on the upper level - get this..... IN A BOOTH!!!!! Who in all creation thinks it is a good idea to put booth seating in a formal dining room?!?!?!?!
Our table mates were pleasant - and the conversation was as well.
The food however - I've had better meals at Denny's!
The food was a joke - the servers were so impersonal - and the service was slow. I had grilled chicken breast - the chicken fillets at Wendy's are larger!
Such low food quality - I was shocked.
There really is a lack of activities on the ship - our previous experiences had been running from activity to activity loving every minute of it - or just chilling out on deck, swimming, or reading. Chilling out on deck wasn't a possibility - there are smoking areas EVERYWHERE. You cannot get away from the stale odor of smoke. As I unpacked my bag to wash clothes when I got home everything in my bag smelled like smoke. I have restrictive airways and can't be around smoke for more than a minute or two, or I have difficulty breathing. I spent my time running from the stench or cigarette smoke!
Everywhere you go they are trying to sell you drinks - I have fewer than 24 drinks a YEAR, and the presence of THAT much alcohol is insane! There are 21 bars on the Glory (according to one of the bartenders). REALLY - that much space on a ship is dedicated to alcohol service? WOW
We wanted to try our luck in the casino - and once again - smoke - smoke - and more smoke. There are signs all over the place in the casino that you cannot smoke in the casino unless you are actively playing. No enforcement on that rule - trust me! We sat at breakfast on our 2nd morning with an older couple, tried and true tourist gamblers, and they described the casino as the worst they had ever played. They said the machines were tight, and the payouts very low - when they happened.
On Sunday we tried to find a place on deck to relax, and there was no quiet place that was free of smoke - so we went to the adults only area, and found a couple chair, no smoke, low noise - and THEN, a party shows up with their stereo, another party shows up with buckets of beer, and then the smoking starts - all within 40 minutes - so I finally decided to just go to our stateroom and read. We arrive in our stateroom only to be greeted by such a strong chemical odor that I had a headache within 10 minutes. I had had enough at that point.
I went to guest services to complain - and the agent was very apologetic - but offered us absolutely no solution.
We literally sat in the atrium and stared at each other for 45 minutes with absolutely nothing to do. There was no place to go that was quiet and free of smoke, there was nothing to eat without waiting in line for 45 minutes, and there weren't any activities scheduled for another 2 hours! Fun ships? Hardly!
Let's talk about the shows - well - show - we only saw one and had quite enough.
It was rated PG-13 - NO WAY would I let a 13 year old watch that show. It was vulgar - obscene - and lacked any sort of story line. I fell asleep 3/4 of the way though and it wasn't even exciting enough to make me up. It was awful - and I've seen a lot of awful shows at amusement parks, and community festivals - this was a high budget, low value show. No story, no plot, just a lot of rear ends waving in the air for no reason at all. I am totally fine with risque as long as there is reason for it - but this was for no sake other than oogle factor. It was a disgrace, and very indicative of what Carnival thinks of its patrons. The show objectified both men and women, and is of no value what so ever.
OK - I've talked about just about every aspect of cruising - now lets talk about about one thing that ALL cruises have in common - and that is the required muster drill. For safety sake - and to prepare for the worst case scenario, the muster drill requires attention to detail, a sense of purpose, and needs to be taken seriously by the crew to be taken seriously by the passengers. Yes, I am about the rate the muster drill. My wife and I have only sailed on Disney Cruise Line previously - so we expected the same thing - as it has to be pretty standard - right? WRONG
Disney Cruise Line assigns you not only to a Muster station but also to a life boat. You know where to go on the ship, and what boat you will be on in case of an emergency.
Carnival starts it without warning, and pushes everyone to the same deck, at the same time, and you line up in rows. It was absolute chaos. The crew members were laughing and joking - there was no instruction being provided - the young lady assigned to our station was off laughing and joking with other crew members when the captain started the life vest instruction. There was no sense of urgency, no urges to remain silent, people were talking laughing, joking, and NOT listening to the instruction. After that - I DID NOT feel safe on board the ship. What IF there was an emergency and minutes = lives saved or lost? There would be no time for laughing, joking, catching up on crew gossip, or talking about how tired you are, as a crew member, or providing instruction during the muster drill. REALLY? This cruise line values my life so little that they don't even assure that everyone knows what to do in case of emergency? That's sad. And so dangerous.
We felt trapped on a two night cruise - I HATE to think what it would have been like if we had given Carnival a try on a 7 night cruise.
There was literally nothing to do, no place to go, and not even a chance of having 'FUN'. Carnival definitely isn't for us.
We took a look around the kids clubs when we got on and they were pretty sad - they were kid themed of course, but having toured those same areas on Disney's ships - I REALLY can't imagine a kid wanting to spend time there vs. somewhere else on the ship. The area seemed very very childish - and I can't imagine a teen would be entertained enough to stay out of their parents hair on a 7 night cruise.
The ship was not clean. There were abandoned glasses, trash, and stuff everywhere. There were shipping pallets on one of the decks loaded with exercise equipment. Was this a cargo ship to no where?
The overall maintenance of the ship is very poor. The decor in the staterooms is very 80's - (the ship wasn't even in existence then... why decorate two decades back?) The crew members speak very little English - not even enough to provide directions around the ship.
Buffets often sat empty while lines 45 minutes long were at service areas. The drinks I had contained VERY little alcohol, and I couldn't believe that they didn't swipe your card and ask for a signature. They still use printed paper slips to take orders.
The huge jumbo-tron on the Lido deck had 3-4 areas that were malfunctioning and flickered blue/green/magenta or didn't display anything at all.
Windows were dirty - carpets were dirty and stained - we were so disappointed with the entire experience.
We were hoping it would be very similar to Disney - but WOW were we wrong. Disney manages crowds and assures the ships never FEEL crowded - even though they sail at 100% capacity the vast majority of the time.
I wish we had done a 3 night with Disney - it would have cost about the same - the food, service, shows, and ship would have been amazing. BUT, we didn't have 3 nights, and Norfolk was so much closer to home. However, it definitely made up our minds - we aren't Carnival cruisers. We will try Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, or another line - we won't 'always' cruise with Disney - but we just have to find a line that will meet our expectations on entertainment, service, safety, and cleanliness. Carnival failed in every category.
The only thing that was as expected on our cruise was our continental room-service breakfast we had on our last morning - it was exactly what we ordered, when we ordered it. But that's not enough to bring us back to Carnival for a 2nd try - it's too expensive to given them a 2nd shot.
Not saying that ALL of Carnival's cruises are this bad, but I can't imagine they would be THAT much different. Not worth the chance for us!