We are very new to cruising, this one being our second - so many of you may not think we know enough to write a review, and we probably don't since our first was on CCL Ecstasy and we loved it!
The problems started almost from the beginning, not all Carnival's fault. The first CCL problem was that we were promised a CCL rep would met us at the airport to make sure we were transported to our CCL arranged hotel, no one ever showed. After the large group of us found our way thru the airport and around the building we found the shuttle pick-up, but the hotel only brought a small van (They used the large vehicle to transport groups for other things), so we waited over and over for the van to return until it was finally our turn (even though several people thought they were to good to wait in line). The CCL arranged hotel was nice & the staff very helpful. The next CCL problem was that a CCL rep was suppose to be at the hotel on departure day for those of us that arranged a pre cruise tour. That rep never showed and when the CCL rep in charge of the shuttles from the hotel to the port arrived she met with a very angry mob. After many phone calls, our tour bus arrived over an hour late and with not enough seats and no room for our luggage which was suppose to be transported with us according to the tour description. After more phone calls and loud arguments between the tour guide, the CCL rep and the concierge about what to do with all our luggage - it was finally decided that we would leave it in the lobby and the CCL rep would stay with it until it was transported by truck to the ship. We later learned that she did not stay with it and many people had items stolen from their bags (ours were locked). The tour was nice, but a bit rushed due to leaving so late.
Embarkation was difficult, but probably our fault. We purchased a souvenir on the tour that the Spanish customs wasn't sure we could take with us. Since no one spoke English and our Spanish is weak, the only thing we got was that our walking stick might be considered a weapon, but no one was sure. The CCL rep & CCL security would only speak to the Spanish customs staff, no matter how many times we tried to ask questions or offer to just leave it behind. Finally we were told they would check into it and if we could have it they would give it to us in Galveston (yes we received it in Galveston). All that time and mess for a 10 euro wood walking stick. By the time we were onboard our room was ready. We dumped our stuff and then joined the fantastic CC Roll Call on deck for a M&G and sail-a-way. This was the first time we had joined a Roll Call and the group was so nice and really added to the cruise for us. It was also the first time we noticed that we could not find a waiter to get a drink. This continued for the entire cruise no matter where you were. We never had this problem on our other cruise and I have heard many people talk about how the bar waiters drive people nuts trying to get them to buy drinks.
Since I don't have a lot of experience to compare to, I can only talk about things I thought were a problem and would have been a problem on a cruise or any vacation.
The shortage of bar waiters was in almost every location, except the Red Frog (we saw 4 and no customers). The Spotlight (comedy club) holds about 200 to 300 people. We only saw one waiter every time we were there and was only able to get one drink at one show and it arrived just as the show ended. We only saw 2 bar waiter in the casino and were NEVER able to get a drink from them. We were only able to get a drink from the bartender in the casino and only if we went to the smoking side and hollered and waved. The rest of the time we were totally ignored. We had Your Time Dining and saw 2 bar waiters there. If we sat in the back we had a very nice young lady who really watched her tables, but the 2 times we sat in the front we had a young man that would never come to our table, even if the head waiter told him to. He spent more time vising with his friends, even sitting at their table and talking. We saw a few waiters in the Showtime Theater, but could never get them to wait on us (maybe our S&S card was the wrong color). At the Past Guest Party we ask 4 waiters if we could have a glass of white wine, then each tried to tell us that someone else would bring it to us. We were able to get 2 cubes of cheese and then at the end of the party we got to glasses of hot white wine. The people in the seats behind us never got any food or drinks. We were very lucky that our CC friends gathered us up and took us to the Farewell Party on the last day. That was the only time we had a bar waiter that brought drinks and checked on us.
I know some people have complained about the lines for all the venues. As far as dining, that really depended on what time we ate. The lines for the shows started at least an hour before the doors opened and people stampeded like cattle to grab seats. Knocking people over and saving seats (sometimes those seats were never filled). If they can issued tickets for the shuttles, then why can't they issue them for the shows?
The food in both the buffet and dining room was ok, but we never had a meal that was the correct temperature. The cold food & hot food were both room temperature. The waiters served it as soon as it came from the kitchen, the kitchen was just not doing their job. The steak house was wonderful and worth the money. The Cucina (Italian) was pretty good for the free lunch, but I got food poisoning from the dinner.
Our room steward was very nice, but nothing special. Guess we were spoiled on the Ecstasy. It was 3 days before we had a towel animal and they were removed everyday. :-( The minibar refrigerator was not refilled unless we asked and we had to ask each time.
The thing that stood out more than anything else was how old & worn the ship looked. The back of every elevator had a beautiful glass panel with 2 modern metal sconces. Every panel was shattered and the scones dented. We noticed the transition strips in many areas were coming lose and some were coming off. Worn carpet, worn upholstery, deck chairs with torn place. Even our cabin look old and worn.
We took CCL tours at most ports. They were ok, but we felt rushed on every tour.
We are very confused about the staffing problems. I seem to remember a Facebook posting about how the ship was going to be staffed with the cream of the crop - the employees with the best reviews from the customers. Well if staff that doesn't speak English, that is rude or ignores customers or just plain doesn't care, are the cream of the crop, then maybe Carnival needs to rethink their employee reviews.
Will we sail CCL again? Yep - we have heard too many good things to let this one sailing keep us away. Will we sail on the Magic again? Probably not, at least until CCL get all the problems fixed. Rumor has it that the ship is cursed - I am beginning to think maybe it is.