My wife and I just returned from a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Glory. I am 43, my wife is 46. Overall we had a very nice time. There are both pros and cons with cruising in general that you should know about before booking. Since we just got home yesterday, everything is very fresh in my mind.
The Glory is a big, beautiful ship. I have been on one other cruise about 11 years ago on Carnival Celebration, and the Glory is a vast improvement. It's really exciting just getting onboard and looking around. The ship is really colorful inside. Lots of deck space outside. The staff did a great job keeping the ship neat and clean.
Embarkation: Getting on board involves waiting in line for about 20 minutes to check in. Then there is another short line to get your room key which doubles as your Sign & Sail Card. After that, welcome aboard! We discovered that they gave us an early 5:45pm dinner assignment, even though we requested the late seating. We went to the Golden dining room, where the Maitre D' changed our assignment with no problem.
Cabin: We booked a balcony room on panorama Deck 10, room 1043 on the starboard side. If you can afford it, I highly recommend that you book a balcony room. I packed a bungee cord to keep the door open at night...it was great to fall asleep to the sound of the waves outside. Before booking, we researched the ship's layout to find a cabin that was not too close to the noise and vibration of the engine room, and not too close to the nightclubs, casino and galley. Our cabin on panorama deck was perfect. The balcony is big enough for two chairs and a small table. Our cabin stewart, Oakley, kept the room really nice for us.
Dining: The food was excellent. Better than I expected, especially when you consider they are serving about 3000 guests each day. The breakfast buffet at Red Sail restaurant was fantastic. You can get just about anything you want, including omelettes and eggs any style. We ate breakfast in the dining room only one morning, but it was no better than the buffet. For lunch, in addition to the buffets, you can choose pizza, burgers, hot dogs, fish & chips, deli sandwiches or chinese. For dinner we were in the Golden dining room. Some entrees we had were lobster tail, filet mignon, NY strip, and it was all excellent. The Emerald Room supper club was outstanding both in service and food quality...well worth the extra $25.00 per person. We liked it so much we went twice. Compared to my previous cruise, Carnival has made very good improvements in the food service area, and I believe the chef and galley staff deserve to be recognized for that.
Gym: The gym is great. Plenty of equipment, nice locker rooms, nice whirlpools, steam room and sauna. They played good music in the gym also. The head trainer, Johannes from South Africa, was a nice guy and really into his job. We worked out 4 of the 7 mornings. You can also run on the track on the sports deck, which also had basketball courts.
Excursions: These are a total rip-off. For instance, in Cozumel we took the excursion to Passion Island, which is a very nice spot. It's a five hour excursion, but it takes an hour of travel time each way. It includes lunch and drinks, but how much drinking do you feel like doing from 9:45am until 12:00 noon? Then, the chef and the guides hit you up for gratuities...not really appropriate after you've spent $75.00 per person and, quite frankly, it's just exhausting to listen to. Plus, you're packed on to a bus like a herd of cattle to the slaughterhouse. Next time, at Cozumel, I would simply hire a cab for about $50.00 for the day and get to a nice beach or see some sites. Or just hang at one of the bars near the pier and browse through the many shops. In Belize we booked cave tubing through Action Belize. It was less expensive than if we booked through Carnival and there was only one other couple with us. Compare that to the cruise ship excursion of over 160 people. We had a great guide, Roberto, who told us a lot about Belize and the plant life/ecosystem of the jungle we walked through. We had a really nice time, then stopped at "Amigos" for a very inexpensive lunch while the cruise ship people where probably still trying to shoehorn themselves onto the buses. One of their buses got a flat tire on the way back to the ship. When we got to Progresso it was raining and windy. The pier at Progresso is about 6 miles long, so they provide shuttle buses to take you into town. At the end of the pier, there are very nice beaches which we would have taken advantage of if the weather was right for it. So, we did some shopping (my wife recommends that your buy a coconut shell pocketbook for just $5.00...very unique conversation piece) and went back to the ship for lunch. On the way into Progresso, our shuttle bus had a small fire, either electrical or perhaps an overheated fan belt, but they put it out before any real damage was done.
Negatives: The biggest negative, outside of the poor value of the excursions, is the Cruise Director. I'm sure that he is a nice guy, but he really angered a lot of passengers. On our first day at sea, he made an announcement promoting a "very important" disembarkation talk regarding Belize, Cozumel and Progresso. So, even though it was a beautiful sunny day on the deck, we went to it. He starts out with about 30 minutes of bull about bingo games, spa services, jewelry sales, liquor sales, blah blah blah. Then, finally, he talks about various aspects of the upcoming ports. Then, he did it again on Friday on the last day at sea. Again, a beautiful sunny day, but "you must attend this very important talk" about disembarking the ship upon arrival at Port Canaveral. Sure enough, he starts off with 30 minutes of selling all kinds of crap that you don't want to know about. Finally, people in the audience heckled him to get on with the disembarking info. Carnival doesn't understand that on a sunny day people want to relax, read, drink and swim...nobody except the old ladies care about bingo, cheesy jewelry and the art auction. Don't be fooled as we were. All the information you need appears in Carnival Capers, the daily newsletter, or you can simply call the information desk from your room.
As huge as the ship is, there are times when you are aware of being on a ship with about 3000 other people. Sometimes the food service people at the Grille and at Fish & Chips move very slowly, and they'll have just one guy up front serving guests. I've read other reviews where smoking was an issue. It wasn't much of a problem on our cruise. Most of the smokers hang out in the casino or some of the nightclubs, especially the Ivory Club. There is no smoking in the public areas and dining rooms. Regarding the Spa, they promote this "Isothermie Treatment" which they claim will help you lose between 1 to 8 inches. Now, if this where true, the members of the spa staff who are approaching maximum density would look fit and trim, right? It's just another Carnival money grab. They get really aggressive with the spa services. For instance, I was speaking with a woman from Toronto who spent a lot of money in the spa on massages and on hair services for her two daughters. She actually got a telemarketing call in her cabin asking if she was interested in even more spa services!
clientele: Carnival appeals to all walks of life. You'll be cruising with retirees, families, folks who would benefit by jogging around the track instead of jogging to the buffet, and college kids. It was spring break and a lot of college students on our cruise. They partied exuberantly, but they were totally cool. I really enjoyed their excitement, energy and attitude! While wondering how these kids could afford this cruise, I realized that their parents deserve a pat on the back for giving their kids this experience.
Final thoughts: I couldn't help feel that once Carnival had you on the ship, they tried as hard as they could to separate you from your money. The bingo, the jewelry, the spa, the excursions, internet services, the casino...it feels like a big money grab. I was concerned that we would be turned upside down and shaken while leaving at the end of the cruise! The best thing is to ignore anything that you're not interested in. By the way, you may be able to save a lot of money by booking two or three weeks before the cruise. A gentleman from Ohio told us that he booked a balcony room two weeks before the trip for just $650.00 per person, not including air...a really good deal. Regarding airport transfers from the airport to the port, we booked that through Carnival and although the voucher said that gratuities were included, the driver and porter were looking for tips. So, even though it's wrong for them to double dip in this way, you may wish to bring lots of small bills with you. However, don't feel as if you have to tip...simply walk off the bus...your luggage will still make it onto the ship.
We also booked air through Carnival. They put us on Delta on the way there, which was fine. However, we were on US Airways on the way home, and it was a less than positive experience. Even though we booked this trip 8 months in advance, the flight home was oversold by two seats. They offered free round trip tickets to anywhere in the continental US and Canada if you would give up your seat. We would have bitten if it included St. Thomas, but since it didn't and since there is no guarantee that US Airways will even exist a year from now, we kept our seats. Even though they said the flight was oversold, they had 5 US Airways employees sitting in passenger seats on our flight. So, in actuality, the flight was NOT oversold. Way to go, US Air. Nice way to put your paying customers first. No wonder US Air is in bankruptcy for the 2nd time.
We did, in fact, have a great time. I just want you to know about the negatives as well as the positives before spending your hard-earned money. The food, staff, ship, and balcony cabin were all fantastic. The negatives were not enough to ruin our cruise or keep us from taking another one. However, we may consider another cruise line next time just to see what it's like. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions.