My husband and I have always sailed Carnival, and this was one of the few Carnival cruises to port in Europe. Let me start by saying overall I had fun not enough to justify the cost of this vacation and not enough to recommend it to other ... Read More
My husband and I have always sailed Carnival, and this was one of the few Carnival cruises to port in Europe. Let me start by saying overall I had fun not enough to justify the cost of this vacation and not enough to recommend it to other people. I had many friends on the ship who disagreed with my assessment. Here's what I think happened...
Carnival doesn't usually sail in the Mediterranean so it probably won't be a problem for most people, but I feel like cruising is not the best way to experience Europe. We stopped in Sardinia, Florence/Pisa, Rome, and Naples (Italy), and Marseille (France), and we sailed from Barcelona, Spain. Most of our stops were not close to our actual destination and required a long bus ride (1-2 hrs) to reach the points of interest... Which left less time to explore and made for longer excursions. We only had one day at sea which was at the beginning of the cruise so all of our really long excursions were back to back. We were so tired by the time we reached our last stop that we actually skipped the expensive excursion we had already paid for. We just couldn't do another full day starting at 5:30 am (that's how early we had to get up to get ready, eat breakfast, and get to the meeting point in time for the excursion to start.) Plus, we were constantly rushing on and off the ship. On the excursions we were running to cram in as much of the sights as possible or to keep up with the tour group. I feel like we didn't have nearly enough time to really see anything Europe has to offer, which is A LOT.
On the ship we were rushing to make it to some meal before the restaurant closed, or to some show, or to some other activity before they closed. Which brings me to my next point - I can't understand why Carnival had so many things closed so much of the time. It seemed like every time I turned around something that I wanted to do was closed and there didn't seem to be a good reason. On our last day on the ship we found only one of the four whirlpools on the ship was open. We had to wander around for twenty minutes looking for it. We did a lot of that - wandering around the ship looking for something that was open. I purchased the bottomless bubbles (soda) package which means you are supposed to be able to get free unlimited soda any time of day or night. I paid a lot for it. But there are so many catches... for one- you can only get a soda at one of the official bars (does not include the coffee shop or theater), which means yiu have to wait in line, there are no soda fountains. Second, you can only get a soda in a glass, (no cans) and only one at a time. So you can't use your bottomless bubbles to stock your in-room fridge. Last and most frustrating of all, not all of the bars are open at all times and not even the same times from day to day. Which means you have to wander around the ship all day and night searching for a bar that is open, or you need to constantly have your nose in a schedule trying to figure out which bar is open at that time that you happen to be thirsty. Most bars close at 11 or 12 at night and don't open again until 6 or 8 the next morning. If you want a soda between those times you have to go to the casino bar. If you're a non-smoker like me this can be exceedingly frustrating because the casino is a smoking area. You'll have to wade through the clouds of smoke to get a soda. I'm not complaining about the smoking, I'm complaining about the fact that the only bar open is in a smoking area. That's not very inclusive for people who don't smoke, and there doesn't seem to be a good reason for it considering there has to be at least 15 bars on the ship.
Another example is the main buffet restaurant. During the day the buffet is almost always open, but only half of it... which makes for bigger crowds and longer lines. Why, Carnival? That's the main eating area, it's the busiest restaurant on the ship... seems like a really bad idea to keep half of it closed all the time. And if you want to eat between 12 and 6 am (hey, I'm on vacation... I'm allowed to eat late) the only restaurant open is the pizza place... Which will probably be packed since it's the only option. Or you can get free soft serve ice cream (If you can find a machine that isn't out). So basically late night entertainment and food is QUITE slim on this ship. Sometimes they have a night club open if you like that kind of thing... But I don't know if they have food.
For those people who have babies and children under 2 yrs of age (there are a few of us at least) they do have a babysitting option but there are a lot of catches. It costs extra, of course but it's quite reasonable in my opinion. (6.75 per hour plus 15% gratuity). They only take babies 6 months to 2 yrs old at night from 10pm to 1am, and then in the mornings at different times depending on the day. Most days for us it was 6:30am to 12pm. That's a lot of hours but you have to work around the excursions you planned and the opening hours for all the activities on the ship. I felt like most of what I wanted to do was closed during most of those hours - not all of thise hours, and not everything. I did have a few small windows to take advantage of the baby sitting service but it took careful planning, and a lot of rushing, again. And one of those times was during the time I would have been on an excursion had I not been too tired. So I basically traded an excursion for a little bit of fun on the ship. So just be aware if you have babies.
Lastly, the elevators. I don't know what they have done to the elevator system but I didn't meet one person on the ship who wasn't disappointed or angry with it. They have some kind of smart technology or poorly designed algorithm controlling the elevators. In the middle of the ship they have 6 elevators but I could only ever get 2 to work at a time. This meant you had to wait a long time for an elevator and sometimes it would be so full you had to push the button again and wait for the next one, or even the next one after that. I waited for 10 minutes for an elevator more than once on my cruise. Doesn't sound like a long time but when you're standing there doing nothing and you're in a hurry, AND there are 4 other elevators doing nothing at all... It gets frustrating. You can take the stairs but if you're on deck 3 and you want to get to deck 10 - who wants to climb 7 flights of stairs every day? This says nothing about people who don't even have that as an option. (Wheelchairs and strollers?!?)
Another complaint I have is the amount of entertainment and food that costs extra now. Is it just me, or has Carnival started charging for a great many more things that used to be included? And it could have been my frustration clouding my judgment, but it seemed like the activities and food options that are included are closed more often than those things you pay extra for. I felt like a lot of the free "entertainment" was a sales pitch in disguise to get you to spend more money. There were faaaaar too many spa demonstrations and not enough live shows on the itinerary. The shopping was quite limited on the ship. A lot of expensive jewelry and watches, and not enough souvnire type shops. I was dissapointed. I really liked carnivals new candy shop, however. That was a fun place to go. I spent a lot of money on souvenirs for my children there.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the service. Carnival always employs the hardest working and the friendliest people. I give them 5 stars for service. Also, the ship is always immaculate. There were never a shortage of clean tables to sit at in the main dining area (unless the dining area was straight up full - which didn't happen very often.)
I loved the water slides, the sports square, and the skyride. The sky ride is soooo fun. You must try it if you cruise on the horizon or Vista. The sky course looked like a lot of fun too but I never got to try it. (I had a baby with me.) The ship is beautifully decirated as well. I loved my cabin which was just the right size. (A regular balcony room.) I love the addition if the mini fridge in the room. I also really appreciated the new hand washing machines in the main dining area. Those things were so cool and convenient. Overall, I had fun on this ship but it was very expensive and I feel like we could have gotten a much better value for our money if Canival had planned things just a little bit better. For that reason I do not recommend this ship to other people (especially families, people who don't drink or have conservative taste in shows and entertainment, or those with disabilities) and we probably won't sail with Carnival again. Read Less