On 2/04/12 we took our third Carnival Cruise. This was the first time we had taken less than a seven day cruise, had a room without a balcony, or cruised on a Carnival ship more than two years old.
First let me start with embarkation. Actually, it wasn't too bad. We had a couple of glitches because we had to move people around in cabins, and that messed-up security for two of our passengers requiring those passengers to go through extra stations to get Sign and Sail cards, but that's about it.
The next thing we noticed was that while the ship had been remodeled, it looked "tired" on the outside. The inside was much better (very clean) with the exception the dining room we were assigned had oxidized metal around the windows which made it apparent we were on an old ship. It was a little depressing to be dressed nicely for dinner and then feel like you were sitting in a scowl if you were sitting next to a window.
Our cabins, ocean-view on the Main deck, were very clean and kept that way (great steward) during our trip, but they were without a doubt the smallest cabins we'd ever been in on a Carnival ship. There was no sofa, just a hard back chair and a small, square bench under the counter-top/drawers in front of the mirror because that's all that would fit in the room. Closet space was okay and the bathroom size was adequate.
Our children had interior rooms on the Conquest and Miracle that were larger than our Ecstasy cabins. I guess I should've checked on the size of the cabins compared to what we had before, but what I was expecting was the same size cabins we'd had on the other two ships minus the balcony my husband and I had. Wrong! I might not have minded so much, but this was first time we'd had a third adult in our room, and it was just too crowded when all three of us were trying to get ready to leave or if we just wanted to watch TV.
Since we had a third person, my husband's elderly mother, I opted to sleep in the pull down bed above her. That didn't turn out to be a bad thing. That was very possibly the most comfortable mattress and bedding I've ever used. Carnival did something right there. My mother-in-law agreed with my assessment and her bed.
At this point I haven't said anything too negative about the ship, but here goes:
First, the ship photographers have just become too aggressive/annoying. I finally wouldn't let them take any more pictures. I know they were just doing their jobs, but I don't want a camera in my face 24/7.
Secondly, and this is my most important point, the quality of Carnival's food and menu is gone. It's just gone. If you like a menu that only sounds half appealing and has food that tastes like it was prepared in a school cafeteria or in a budget buffet you may be happy. Unfortunately, what we had liked about Carnival in 2004 and 2005 was its food, and this time we rarely found anything we really wanted to eat in the dining room. With a party of nine previous Carnival cruisers who all felt the same way, the dinners became a joke and a source of frustration. The only dinner items that were really good were the lobster (but not the panko shrimp served with it--mushy), the mushroom soup, and of course the chocolate melting cake. Basically, all the food was edible with some dishes better than others, but definitely not of the quality we'd had on our previous cruises, and none of us are really picky eaters. Carnival appears to be cutting corners on its food and it shows. However, I will say the deli sandwiches on the Lido deck were pretty good even if the servers manning the deli were incredibly slow. (The buffet and the patio area around the pool serve okay food, but it's just okay.)
Next, and I blame this on myself, I will never go on another five day cruise. It's too short and the sailing clientele seemed different, especially when it came to what to wear for formal night. Some people looked fabulous, most looked pretty good, and then there were those who just didn't get the concept, and the cruise line enforced no dress code. It's a small thing, but it was more noticeable on this cruise than our previous cruises.
Lastly, Freeport is a horrible place to dock if you don't have an excursion planned. Its industrial-strength ugly. Truly! There are just a few "same old stuff" shops there and basically nothing else to see but the place Carnival overhauls its ships. I felt so cheated, but again, I guess I should've booked an excursion. Regardless, it seemed so strange not to be able to walk to a free beach or a local pub at least.
Okay--one more "lastly." Our adult children went to the free beach next to the RIU while we went to Atlantis to go to the casino during our time off the ship in Nassau. Atlantis is the equivalent of a Disney property in my opinion. It's okay. What I didn't like was how I was treated when I wanted to go with my friend into the hotel atrium from the casino to see what the hotel was like.
I hadn't purchased a ticket to go to the aquarium in Atlantis (friend had previously purchased one that day), but I was not even allowed into the atrium with my friend. I was made to feel like I was a criminal. Yes. You could see a bit of the aquarium in the atrium, but you couldn't actually access the aquarium without a wristband so I didn't understand the big deal.
Well, that's okay. I won't be going back to Atlantis. As I said, it's the equivalent of a Disney property in my opinion so why travel to the Bahamas for an overpriced Disney. However, I just wanted others to know this is not a friendly place without a wristband even if you are a potential customer. (I am not a potential customer any longer.)
We are looking for other cruises, but not likely to go on another Carnival cruise without a better menu and better prepared food. (We aren't interested in specialty restaurants for a fee.)