I wasn't going to submit my review until the Costa Cruise line tragedy unfolded. After I learned Carnival is their parent company, I was not surprised, and decided to submit the review, in hopes that anyone who reads this, learns from our experience. My husband and I cruised southern/eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Victory, from November 13 through November 20, 2011. This was our first cruise, so we did some research. We chose the cruise line and itinerary because it seemed to best fit our lifestyle and budget. We are in our 40's and have travelled to a few all-inclusive resorts and enjoyed the all-inclusive aspect. Before I begin the review I just want to explain that my husband and I are very laid back. We have stayed at resorts that were given mediocre reviews and we always found something to love, and often couldn't figure out why the not-so-stellar reviews. That being said, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning, it went quickly down hill from the arrival.
THE ARRIVAL: We arrived at the port of Puerto Rico, at 3:00 p.m. When we arrived at the Port we went through the 1st of FIVE checkpoints. The line was out the door (passed the escalator out the first door). Carnival had "roped off" the stairs so as not to create a "bottle neck". I was curious about that procedure; I thought it would make more sense to "rope off" the escalator. I came to that conclusion after attempting to step off the escalator; the corridor was blocked, I, my husband and approximately 10 other people all fell on top of each, only minor injuries thank God. We were then greeted by a Carnival representative yelling to "keep it moving" we then proceeded to wait on line for 2 Â½ hours to check in. We were told the computers were down. We get that, things happen, but have a back up plan.
The terminal was filthy and not air-conditioned. During that time, Carnival had the audacity to request passengers take candid photos in front of a huge poster of the Victory. A fellow passenger informed us that there were lemonade and iced-tea fountains available. It amounted to two "coolers" hidden in an area littered with used Dixie cups and napkins. The trashcan directly underneath was overflowing with garbage. We then went through 4 more check-in points, and finally arrived at our room.
THE ROOM: We chose a balcony stateroom. We let Carnival make the choice, as we weren't too sure about good vs. bad locations. BIG mistake. We didn't have to go to the shows because we heard them clearly from our room. The stateroom was very "tired" and needs a desperate update. The bathroom was functional and very clean. The hairdryer, (a vacuum hose attached to a tooth-brush size blower) was useless. The bathroom was well-appointed though with razors, toothpaste, breathe-rite nasal strips were a very nice touch. The room was not clean, the TV and shelving were caked with dust. The carpet looked as though it hadn't been cleaned in quite sometime. Fingerprints everywhere. The bedding was very clean.
OUR FIRST DAY (arrival): Once in our room, our steward suggested that we get something to eat at the buffet. Ah yes, the buffets, those wonderful, gorgeous delicacy laden, gastronomic wonders we heard and read so much about. If only. When we arrived at the Lido deck we ate at what we thought was the buffet. We "enjoyed" greasy hotdogs, hamburger patties, hard-as-a rock French fries, and nachos. A map distributed to passengers at one of the five check points indicating where the real buffet was, would have been nice and a good idea. Eventually we got there, and the food was not that much better.
THE FOOD: Cheap cuts of over-cooked meats, minimal fruits (mostly canned) and salads, only two different kinds of desserts (one of which is sugarless). All barely edible. This was a step-down from the budget-friendly buffet style family restaurants that we frequent. The breakfasts were the same. Greasy over cooked eggs, bacon, pancakes etc. Everything was a mix, frozen concentrated orange juice, Iced-Tea that came in a Clorox bleach-style container and tasted like sewage water, the coffee when the machine was working, was terrible. The dining room breakfast was awful. We were greeted by the hostess (Atlantic dining room) who walked us clear across an empty room (it was 9:00 a.m.) and attempted to sit us at a table (not our assigned one by the way) who had a family of six, in the middle of enjoying their breakfast. We asked VERY politely if we might be seated elsewhere. Without even an acknowledgement actually, a scowl, she shot back across the dining room. We weren't sure if we should stay put or actually chase after her. We opted for the latter. The food was as pleasant as the service. French toast consisted of two pieces of cinnamon raisin bread fried (without a batter) served ice cold and eggs Benedict, served warm, but it was reheated to the point where the hollandaise sauce was a scrambled egg like consistency. Elegant night was disappointing. The food was lukewarm. The lobster tail was the size of a prawn. The shrimp not jumbo as stated, medium size at best. The stuffed mushrooms were the size of a quarter. ALL TASTELESS. The molten chocolate cake, tasted like a melted Hershey bar. By the end of this trip I was longing for McDonalds and IHOP.
GENERAL: You are nickeled and dime for everything. If you want a non-alcohol drink, like iced tea or lemonade, on the lido deck I learned quickly, you get it yourself. Paying customers only I guess? I asked a waiter for an Iced Tea. He took the order and mumbled something. I really wished he had flat out said no, or issued a surcharge, instead of disappearing. I thought maybe he jumped ship. A fellow passenger sarcastically remarked "you really don't expect to get that do you?" (a returning Carnival guest, Im sure.) He never returned with the beverage.
THE ATMOSPHERE: Everyone seemed on edge and annoyed. We were pushed and shoved at the buffet, and our tablemates during "elegant night" did not speak a word, unless spoken to. We tried to engage, but were unsuccessful. I asked for your time dining, and did not receive it. And last but certainly not least, my husband and I become violently ill two days before disembarking. So much so, that he had to report to the E.R. three days after returning home. I will never cruise with Carnival, or cruise again. I always say, it's a matter of expectation. I've read and heard such good reviews and had such high hopes. My husband and I often joke that our standards are low, so no matter where we go, we are guaranteed a good time. I guess my expectations were too high, and we were so disappointed.