My wife and I just returned from our 9th cruise. We have taken prior cruises on Princess, Celebrity, NCL and Carnival. We sailed on the Carnival Magic out of Galveston last week, March 4th thru 11th. We came away from the cruise very diasppointed and questioning some of the descisions and changes Carnival has made to its ships and services. Food, service, friendliness and convenience have all taken a step back in our opinion from our traditional Carnival experience.
First - Embarkation in Galveston. Why is this the only Cruise line that cannot get this process fixed. We were subjected to long lines and a process that seems like it could be more efficient if it was addressed. It certainly makes you look forward to getting on the ship just by getting to the end of the line and thru customs.
The ship is big and decorated very nicely. We arrived at our cabin (A deluxe oceanview 6M) and were happy with the size of the room and the dual bathrooms. Plently of room for storage and to put away your belongings so that they are not underfoot. Waited for our cabin attendant but she did not arrive so we headed out to see the ship and get something to eat. LIDO Marketplace seems to be where the buffet's are so we started there. Only one buffet line opened for all passengers coming aboard and the food choices were limited. We had to hurry because the buffet closes promply at 2:00pm and it was already 1:15pm. Wife got in the specialty buritto area with 4 other guests. 45 minutes later after I had finished eating she finally received her buritto. The food selections on the buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner were very limited and did not change on a daily basis - not what we were used to from other cruises. Also - the Buffet's are not open in the morning until 7:30am - so if you are looking for an early breakfast to watch the sunrise you are out of luck. The lines for the buffet were very unorganzied with both lines meeting in the middle of the buffet where there were additional items that you had to fight thru to get as you ran into people from the other direction. Same food pretty much all seven days.
Weather leaving Galveston was crappy as usual and there was not many activities on ship to occupy time since you really couldn't go on deck with a 40/kn wind blowing and temps in the 50s. This ship needs more activities for the older (40-50y/o) crowd. Not much going on so we went and took a nap.
Can go on and on but what it came down to for us was this. Service was far below not only other lines but other Carnival ships. Crew were not very happy and not very helpful when questions were asked. Not many people coming around during dining service to fill drinks and take drink requests. Food servers at the buffet were just plain rude and not interested in helping or being friendly. Specialty dining (Italian) food was mediocre and I ordered salmon which was overdone and had to be sent back. Tried Southern Lights formal dining room on 2nd night. Was made to feel unwelcome and ignored since we did not dine the first evening. We wereasked multiple times who we were and why we were sitting at the table. Then we waited for service and food. Since this was the John Heald Blogger #5 cruise it appeared that the bloggers were getting the experienced servers and excellent service while John Q Public was left to fend for himself. Not the Carnival experience we fell in love with when we first started cruising. The food was better in the dining room then the buffet. Anytime dining was not allowed for people that were already in the early or late seating. No flexability to ever eat just the two of us.
Heavy smoking in the Casino made that a miserable experience. If though one side is dedicated to smokers - smoke moves..! After 10 minutes sitting on the Non-Smoker side my clothes smelled like smoke and the coughing started. Couldn't stay long to enjoy ourselves in that atmosphere. Adult Serenity area is nice, but only when the ship is not moving or in port - otherwise the wind blows you away since it is up on the highest deck on the ship. Couldn't spend one minute there like we wanted. Red Frog Pub is very nice and should be a standard on every Carnival ship. Felt like a neighborhood pub where you could sit at the bar and relax. Other Common areas were just that - common.
I appreciate the hard work and long hours that the crew puts in everyday to make our vacation special. But, I wish Carnival would go back and focus on some of the little things again that don't drive a buck, but make our experience special and a memory to remember. This is what brings people back - not just a bigger ship. I guess we will head back over to Princess for our next excursion. Happy Crusing to all of you...!!!