My wife and I took our first cruise without kids. We have had success with Carnival in the past and booked on the Destiny for a 5 night Eastern Caribbean. Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica as our ports of call. Over-all, this is just a tired ship and it shows. It's scheduled for an over-haul. However, the ship was clean and well cared for. In a nutshell, Carnival needs to update its formula for its passenger agenda and things like its menus if it wants to attract repeat customers. It was too much a repeat of our past cruises on board a Carnival cruise, the last of which was last March. For more specifics, read below:
EMBARKATION: At the Port of Miami. WOW! Got there at noon. We had everything in terms of paper work ready to go. We were ON BOARD in about 20 minutes after entering the terminal. WELL DONE!
FIRST DAY ABOARD: It is always interesting getting used to a new ship. Since the Destiny is a near carbon copy of the Ecstasy, we knew our way around immediately, since we were on the latter last March. Allegedly, the Destiny is the only ship of its class, but you could not tell the difference. Our stateroom was ready very quickly and so we were able to jump right into the cruise style of living quickly. Again, well done, Carnival!
STATEROOM: This was our first time with a balcony room. (Again, no kids, so more budget for us!) We are already spoiled! While we spend most time out of our room, it was wonderful to have the balcony, especially in the mornings and evenings. It was not huge, as is common on ships, but cozy. We had an aft facing balcony, so that made it all the better. Because of the slanted design on aft of this class of ship, the balconies on the aft lack some privacy. The room was not special. A small, but not tiny bathroom. The TV was an old style tube TV that took up a lot of the counter space. I'm sure the re-hab of the ship will include replacing these with LCD screens. The bed was comfortable enough. Nothing special about the room, but nothing to complain about, either.
DINNER SERVICE: This is where Carnival first started to lose us. We used Carnival's "Dine when you wish" service. We can't stand strict dinner times, so this met our needs in terms of scheduling. The drawback is that you don't get to know your server as you do with assigned dining times. Each night can be a different service. Seating was awkward, as the would sit couples at six-top tables that were separated into three sections about 4" apart. The kind of seating one sees on busy valentine or new year eve services in restaurants. We would always be seated across from each other, but literally on top of another couple, or even between to other couples. It was awkward at times and completely eliminated the opportunity to have a romantic dinner. Some nights, the other guests were interesting enough to carry conversations with, but not always. We really wished for something more intimate. Perhaps it would have been better if the food had been enjoyable. It was not. It was downright terrible at times. Maybe we would get a good appetizer or good side here and there, but generally, it was terrible. The main meat courses were almost always over or under cooked. In particular, the fish main courses were nearly inedible. Wait service was usually not much better, though there were some bright spots. They did not seem to know how to handle simple requests like applying bar credits to a bottle of wine (even though the certificate said right on it that it could be applied to wine). These little details made dinner almost a labor. The fact that the food was bad just made it worse.
OTHER FOOD SERVICE: Typical stuff and not that great. We do like to have an omelet in the morning, and those were typically good. But, hey, they were omelets. The various buffets were just poorly managed. Either from the quality of the food or the physical lay out. For instance, at the grill, you would be required to put your toppings for you nachos, or fries, or burger, or hot dog on your plate BEFORE you got to those items. Very strange. Some of the food service areas seemed understaffed, as well. This all lead to unnecessarily long lines. It's almost as though Carnival did all this on purpose to reduce food consumption. All it accomplished was create inconvenience for the passengers. The NY Deli was pretty good. The oriental station was ok. The Grill and main lunch buffet was boring and poorly seasoned. Luckily, while we do like fine dining, this part of the cruise experience (the buffet eating), is not a critical factor for us.
A nice feature we like with Carnival is their offer of sushi before dinner. This was done on 4 of the 5 nights near the Casino Bar. Again, under-staffing lead to long lines at the sushi bar. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the sushi was way below par. Almost tasteless. Also, the nori (seaweed paper) was chewy and nearly inedible. One of those thing we like most of Carnival - fail.
STEWARD: We did not meet our steward until the fourth night on ship. What happened to the days when your steward to would greet you as you first got to your stateroom? It was very disappointing.
DECK MANAGEMENT: Perhaps this an industry wide problem - deck chair management. Ok, we're guilty to a certain extent that we get up in the morning to get our spot on deck by depositing our deck bags and towels on chairs. We then tend to use the gym and/or have breakfast. However, we are early risers and get to our chairs by 8am or so and we pretty much STAY THERE all day except for an occasional dip or to have a bite to eat. Also, we don't take "premium" pool side chairs up. We hang back in shady spots on the deck. At around 10:30, I noticed that 100% of the chairs were "saved" but that only about 25% of them had anyone actually IN them. They were still "saved" in the most trivial fashion. Some had ONE.. Yes, ONE flip-flop or sandal on them. Some were just flipped forward and turned around. I walked all over the deck and observed this in all areas. Literally, no one had been to these deck chairs for hours! Passengers were emerging looking for places to sit only to have to end up spreading their towels on the deck!!! I was atrocious! By Noon, no more than half the chairs had been visited by their "owners". By mid afternoon, there was a fair number that were occupied, but still many still with their objects on them undisturbed. Perhaps not a Carnival problem, but something that this, and other, cruise lines need to address.
ENTERTAINMENT: The cruise director lacked much personality. The sing-along piano bar guy had a great personality, could play well, but not a strong singer. The main lobby piano guy could not sing at all. He was painful to listen to. Karaoke - well.. karaoke. The dancing band at the casino bar was pretty good! The big production "Vegas" shows - AWFUL!!!!! The first one featured a space-traveling club-hopping sofa! WHAT??! I kid you not! A talking couch! It was bizarre. The second one supposedly had some kind of Paris theme to it, but other than a strange sequence of the 2 main singers walking in front a video montage of scenes out of Paris, it had no real feel of anything French. The dancers are mediocre and the female lead singer just doesn't have it.
PORTS: Grand Cayman was wonderful. Snorkeled along Seven Mile Beach. Awesome! Jamaica was fun on shore and doing Dunn's River Falls. However, note there are TWO ports in Jamaica next to each other. One is relatively new, and has a long pier that brings you right in the middle of the business district. It moors two ships. When we came into Port, the Carnival Freedom was there. We passed it up and moored up to the old Pier that literally was an old industrial pier. It was actually dangerous, if not down right depressing. Passengers had to navigate over raised RR tracks and around industrial crane equipment. At one point, alone a narrow stretch with the ocean on one side and a steel structure on the other. Anyone in a wheel chair or using other wheeled assistance had to cross the tracks at two unsafe areas with very inadequate ramps over them right at either side of the narrow pass with NO ASSISTANCE. At we returned to the ship, we helped a mother and daughter get "grandma" in her wheel chair across this dangerous stretch. They said in the morning, no one had helped them out and actually were pushing around them in haste of getting ashore. Ultimately, no other ship moored at the nicer port. I'm still not sure why we did not!
DISEMBARKATION: It was announced on the last day that "technical" problems would put us late into Miami. For those with late flights, this would create an obvious issue. We did not have a flight til later, so we had no problem just waiting around. The ship moored in Miami around 9:30 (as opposed to 8am). Though the cruise director begged and pleaded for all passengers, except those that ABSOLUTELY NEEDED to get off an early flight, to stay away from the lobby, it was obviously many did not listen, since he continued to get on the speaker to beg people to leave the lobby and the stairways. Overall, Carnival seemed to handle it well. It's not their fault passengers refuse to follow directions. It would have been nice to be given SOME idea what this "technical" issue was that impeded our arrival time, though!
OVER-ALL: Maybe it was just too familiar given our past cruises with Carnival. We will be cruising again, but not with Carnival any time soon.