This was a very last minute cruise. Booked on Sunday and left on Saturday. I have been on 86 cruises so far so I guess I am a tough customer when it comes to my expectations. But one thing I learned many cruises ago, it is usually up to you whether you like it or not. I think that any cruise is a great way to spend some time away. Sure some are better than others but give me a day at sea and a deck chair and I am one happy guy.
Port of New Orleans - I live in Pensacola so it was a short 3 hour drive to the port (ok - 2.5 hours - LOL). Please be aware that the parking lot adjacent to the pier is gone (construction site now). You have to park a few blocks away at a cost of $12 per day. Carnival had baggage check-in at the parking facility and offered bus shuttle to the pier. Be warned. The baggage check-in is fine. But one bus shows up every 10-15 minutes and it is a pushfest to get on. If it is a nice day, walk. Go around the convention center, up the stairs/escalator/elevator to Riverwalk, and out the side door.
Embarkation - I learned a long time ago not to be in a rush to get on the ship. We went for a walk and had lunch. Got back to the pier about 2:30pm. Breezed right up to the check-in counter and we were onboard in less than 10 minutes.
Ship - Well, this is typical Carnival. VERY busy interior. My travelling companion asked if the designer was on crack? The public rooms feature myriad colors - some that simply don't mix. But, it seems to suit the market. The hideous sculpture that was in the atrium has been replaced with the atrium bar now being installed in all Fantasy class ships. One question - does the ship really need another bar - there is one on every corner? My opinion - the ship needs one quiet place besides the poorly stocked library. There is no place - and I mean no place - inside or out - to go for some peace and quiet. That is unless you want to be a cabin hermit. Get ready to shout to have conversations. The ship was decorated in the early 90s. I am not sure purple and gold and pink and red and green and yellow and blue and black where ever this popular back then. Certainly not mixed all together with neon blue lighting to "set the mood".
Food - Boy has Carnival really improved. The lido food was hot, tasty, and good (not extensive) selection. The evening offering in the Seaview was fantastic and we ate there every night. The bright red neon of the dining room was too much for us and the 5:45pm time we were assigned was just too early. 24 hour ice cream was a big hit with one of my party. The Seaview bistro only has 2 buffet lines but we never encountered a long wait. The burger and hot dogs outside by the pool were also tasty and rarely had any lines. Room service was prompt and the food was about what you'd expect. I do think the easy-bake-oven brownies need some attention. One frustration - the ice machines seemed to be having a bad week. One or more were broken every day. Tip - dilute the lemonade before drinking it. You will have a spasm behind your ears with the first sip and every orifice on your body will pucker. You've been warned.
Entertainment - All in all - very good and very Carnival. Juggler, magician, singer, comedians, and HIGH energy production shows. The production shows were great (themes were a bit nebulous). The dancing was tight and the singing was actually first rate. Two words to describe the entertainment offered onboard - frenetic and LOUD. A walk down Sensation Boulevard is an assault on all your senses. You may find yourself drained by the stimuli. Certainly allow some time for the ringing in your ears to subside.
Service - Didn't have any problems. Most of the staff was friendly and smiled. Efficient courtesy would sum it up. The usual snotty person at the pursers desk (do they have power or something?). A friend in an adjacent cabin had a shower head that spewed like a hose. Reported it and it was fixed promptly. Boy does Carnival need to replace the TVs in the cabins. Ours had a mysterious green hue to it. Maybe it was my damaged retinas from the ship's decor. Carnival now has duvets rather than bedspreads and I think they have upgraded the towels as they were soft and fluffy. Bed was comfy and pillow was wonderful. A goody basket of samples is in the bathroom and shampoo and conditioner is provided. Towel animals will greet you when you return in the evening. In yet another revenue generating move - you can purchase a book on how to make towel animals. Guess you can put that with the cruise video and never look at them again once you get home.
Debarkation - HOOOORAAAAYYYY. No more waiting for your color to be called. The new process is if you have your own luggage, you can get off around 8am. Otherwise, at about 8:45am they give the signal that you can start getting off. We waited until about 920am. We were off the ship and on our way to the parking facility in less and 15 minutes. FANTASTIC !!!!! I think there might be people still waiting for the bus shuttle back to the parking garage - try to walk it if you can.
Summary - Great cruise for active people looking for a Vegas type environment. Not for people wanting some peace and quiet. I had a great time and you will too if you go with the right mind. Carnival delivers what they promise and they don't try to be more than they are. For that, I say great job.