First off we have cruised many times including many on Carnival (CCL). CCL is and always has been a discount cruise line. It's the WalMart of cruising. This is not a complaint since the majority of us are WalMart shoppers. That said, CCL always provided a good product at a good price. However, the last 3 cruises we have taken on CCL since 2009, overall have been a disappointment. This last cruise we went because we had a large group of friends going so we joined them. I'll break the cruise down by sections:
NON-EXISTENT-we had friends coming in from Canada, who because of weather were delayed. They missed the sailing from Port Canaveral along with 23 others. They booked ALL directly through CCL and had travel insurance. Now the ship was scheduled to sail at 4:00 and did so. Our friends along with 23 others landed in Melbourne at 4:04. Since CCL made all the flights they should have known the status of the flight and that it was en route. CCL agents had left Melbourne 45 minutes earlier. It is only 30 minutes from Melbourne to Port Canaveral. CCL could easily have held the ship. I've seen them do it before many times. Our first day sailing was at sea so the time cound easily be made up. Anyway when our friends called CCL, they were essentially told you're on your own. Get your own hotel, find your own flights to catch the ship, all at their OWN expense. CCL offered NO assistance. ONLY through angry persistence were they able to get CCL to help them with flights, hotel and get them to Cozumel to meet the ship. And they had travel insurance and CCL did all the bookings. The CCL agent that they booked through would not accept their calls even though she was available. Of course nobody can control the weather. That is understandable. But for the things CCL could control it dropped the ball.
CCL did a very good job here. It is a monumental task trying to transfer 4000+ people on and off a ship and trying to service the ship as well. Transfers were organized and smooth. Kudos to CCL.
This was the worst ship design we have been on. Yes its big, but its fractured. You cannot easily move from one section to another. You must go up or down decks to proceed forward or back because the decks do not go through. Lido deck area was very small. Chairs were cramped into small spaces. Pool looked more like the kiddie pool on other ships. The bathrooms on the Lido deck are right in front of the food lines. Who designed this???? You have to cut through the food lines to enter and leave the bathrooms. Huh? We had a Cove Balcony. Wasn't sure about this at first, but highly recommend it. They are on deck 2 and very close to the water. What a view! Although the ship is very big, the lounges and other areas seemed small. Even when not full they didn't fit well. Adult only section is a great idea but again the design seemed poor. Designed so that people were constantly cutting through to go from one side of the ship to the other. They call the section Serenity. It wasn't. It was very busy. I would think it needed more solitude that it had.
Without exception we have never had an issue with staff members on any cruise. Always have found that if you treat them right they will bend over backwards for you. This cruise was no exception. The staff was excellent. My only question is if CCL has reduced its staff size. Reason being, is that things were not getting done. In years past, dirty dishes on a table on the Lido deck were bussed in 60 seconds. Now it was not uncommon for dishes to sit on a table unbussed for 30 minutes or more. We even bussed our own tables. Same was true for the cabin. Joke always had been that if you got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom your bed was made before you got back. Not any more. Cabin would sit for hours before servicing. And we heard this from many others on the ship so it wasn't our just our cabin steward. So all of this makes me wonder if CCL has cut back on staff. If they haven't then CCL has a serious problem. I have read on other reviews that people speculate that since CCL went to the prepaid gratuities, then the staff does not have the incentive to do more. I hope this is not the case. I want to give the staff the benefit of the doubt.
This is the worst part of my review. The food was very poor. Dining room, Lido deck it didn't matter. My guess is that it was the quality of the food. They served the cheapest of hamburger, cheapest steaks. We did eat in the specialty steak house and that was very good. So that showed that CCL can deliver good food, if they are willing to pay for better quality, Now CCL has never been gourmet. But in years past the food was always good at least and many times very good. Not any more. We found the food VERY poor.
We learned long ago not to book through the ship. Generally you can book the same or better excursions on your own for half the price. A little research on Cruise Critic can direct you to reputable persons to deal with.
Again CCL has gone down hill. Overall the entertainment was OK. The comedy shows were VERY good. Now some will complain that they were crude or vulgar. That is a personal choice. We found them comparable to any comedy club. The other entertainment was fair at best CCL has the Carnival singers and dancers. OK they provide a variety show and do OK. we are not expecting Barbara Streisand but in years past they had "headliners" - tribute bands, opening acts, more "professional entertainment" not just their own singers and dancers every night. Now they have Carnival Legends which is essentially Karaoke winners perform one night. This is fine if you are on a cruise that has some talented people but if not then this could really suck. This again just seemed a way for CCL to provided something without paying for it.
We have sailed CCL over a dozen times and have found that in recent years they have gone down hill. Yes the economy is tough, but CCL seems more interested in keeping its expenses down and its profit margin up. Cruising is still the best bang for the buck. CCL is a discount cruise line and they say you get what you pay for. This may be somewhat true, but Royal Caribbean (CCL's closest competitor) also offers discount cruising and prices and we have found provides a superior product for about the same price. We may sail CCL again but not for a while.