A little background before I start. My wife and I are in the 45-55 range with an 8-year old son. Our only other Carnival cruise was on Imagination in 2004 (5 days Jamaica/Grand Cayman). Since then we have been on several Holland America ... Read More
A little background before I start. My wife and I are in the 45-55 range with an 8-year old son. Our only other Carnival cruise was on Imagination in 2004 (5 days Jamaica/Grand Cayman). Since then we have been on several Holland America cruises (Alaska, Eastern Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Baltic). We are pretty active, not much on drinking and sunbathing, we like to see new places and to relax in comfort.
This was really smooth. The earliest embarkation time we could reserve was 12:30-13:00. Our flight arrived at 09:20 at MCO, our driver from Sunshine Florida Transportation ($90 all inclusive each way) was there to meet us when we got our bags around 10:00 and drove us to Port Canaveral. We stopped at Publiks on the way for some supplies and arrived at ~11:00.
We checked in (took about 15-20 minutes including passing through security) and were put in Group 9. After Gold/Platinum and FTTF, they went through the groups quickly and we were onboard by around noon. Very smooth, plenty of seating while we were waiting.
This was a bit scary. There are six muster stations on the ship, with the majority of passengers going to the starboard and port sides of Deck 4-probably about 1000 passengers on each. You are not assigned to a specific life boat and instead line up 5 deep wherever you find space. If you arrive late, like we did, they keep sending you farther down the deck. We ended up in a large mass of people in an enclosed corridor passed the life boats on Deck 4 without a clear path for people to move through. Sitting there for 10-15 minutes in a restless crowd during a drill made me think that in an actual emergency we would all be dead.
Rooms were ready around 13:30. Ours (1523) was an outside cabin on Deck 1 mid ship, starboard side. It was a bit on the small side for 3 people, much less the four it was rated for. There was not a lot of storage. No DVD player, no mini-fridge (things we miss from HAL ships). No chair, so when the couch is made into a bed (which it was for the length of the cruise), there isn't really a lot of space for more than two people to sit.
The TV had a couple of ESPN channels, three CNN, Cartoon and Boomerang for the kids, Networks, and a movie channel (there were supposed to be two). A couple of live cams (pool and bow), a GPS map, and some informational channels.
The beds were really comfortable and the sheets were great. No ice bucket, although the garbage can appeared to have previously been an ice bucket (very small). Hair dryer in the top dresser drawer.
The dinner food in the dining room was good. Not awesome, not as good as HAL, and variety was good. They always had Chicken Breast, Salmon Fillet, Flat Iron Steak, and Pork Chop, and then 6 other entrees plus one from the port you were visiting that day. We had Anytime Dining and never waited for a two-person table the three times we ate dinner (6:30, 7:00 and 7:30). Dress shorts and a t-shirt was acceptable non-formal night attire. You check in on Deck 5 so if you did have to wait you could do so in the lounge there rather than standing in line outside of the dining room.
On the Lido deck there was the buffet, deli, pizza, and salad bar as well as burritos by the pool. For lunch you could also get food from the Italian place in back and burgers by the pool. Everything else was extra (sushi, steak house, Cuban, Italian, etc.). The burger place only did burgers and fries and frequently had long lines (up to 15-20 minutes). They were only open 12:00-18:00 which seemed odd given their popularity. Burgers were good, pizza acceptable, most of the other food was fine. Dessert were ok. Cookies a bit dry, a lot of fruit-based desserts, odd mousses (mango?) and cakes, often chocolate.
Room service was . . . sub-optimal. More than half the time we called they were experiencing greater than normal call volume, often for hours at a time. Waiting on hold for 15-20 minutes was not unusual (nor was getting disconnected). The room service menu was very limited (on HAL it includes whatever is on the dining room menu and there is no cost) and many items cost extra . . . including chicken tenders. Really?
Beverages on the Lido were coffee, hot chocolate, lemonade, and ice tea. Orange juice and a mixed fruit juice were only available at breakfast, as were cartons of milk. There were pitchers of milk and half-and-half at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ice and water always available. No ice other than on Lido, which meant a 16-floor journey with our trash can. Our son only really drinks milk and without a fridge in the room, this was a somewhat miserable experience, especially after a couple of cartons of spoiled milk from room service.
Room service also provides continental breakfast in the morning if you put the order on the door. No hot items (eggs, french toast, waffles, bacon, etc.). When we ordered that it showed up early or right on time, which was good.
Carnival really fails here. There is almost nowhere on this ship to just sit and relax. The Lido pool is tiny and the 'hot' tubs always crowded, usually with kids. The deck chairs are singularly uncomfortable, and the giant screen and music is constant. There are some deck chairs on Deck 3 (similarly uncomfortable) but that is about it. There is a tiny library with a dozen or two dozen books and some board games. Everything else is cabins, restaurants, and noisy lounges that are in use most of the time. Movies are played out on deck (uncomfortable lounge chairs, subject to weather).
Extremely limited. Although there are a number of trivia and other contests (bean-bag toss being a favorite), the mass of 'activities' were cheap giveaways and marketing. The shows mainly started after 21:00, which is a bit late for us with an 8-yo. Almost nothing for kids (Trolls and Moana on the last night were the only kid-friendly movies).
Open most days from 08:00/10:00-19:00 with an extra charge for 19:00-22:00/01:00. Not huge rooms but they seemed to have activities going most of the day. In the 8-9 room the PS4s (four hooked together so they could play Minecraft) were a big hit when you could get them. Staff friendly, but I got the sense that the kids didn't give them much respect.
Smoke filled and bad odds. They have several tournaments during the cruise including: black jack, slots, and Holdem. To say that their advertising was deceptive would be a kind way of putting it. The Holdem tournaments (2 of them) were advertised as: "Play for a chance to win your share of $175K in our Grand Final Event. Guaranteed first prize of $75,000, plus cash prizes if you reign victorious this cruise!" In fact, there are up to 10 players in the tournament for $150 each and a single prize of $750 (50% rake for the house) to the winner. The last two players get free seats in the $175K Grand Final that occurs *on a cruise in August.*
Often occurred late, like the shows (20:30+) and despite claims that the winnings depended on the number of players, it was always $100/$150/$250. Only three games per session, with tickets costing $20/$30/$40 (3/6/9 boards). Not really worth the price of admission.
The Sport Square was nice, I liked the running track (1/10th mile) which we used every-other morning. There is a basketball hoop, ping pong, bean bag toss, shuffle board, and miniature golf. The rope course is somewhat limited and was often closed. I don't recall ever seeing anyone on the water slides.
There were a lot of shops, almost all duty-free garbage that you could pick up at lower prices in port. No real idea why people buy anything in them. Not much in the way of interesting merchandise.
As noted, the pool was small. There is a huge screen over the pool which was almost always blaring something. There was no policing of chair hogs. Stuff was left for hours on chairs with no one there. The chairs themselves were uncomfortable. The blue Carnival towels and the Drive-in blankets were awesome.
Serenity (Spa/Fitness Center/Deck):
The Spa was nice enough and a 75-minute port-day massage was $132. Purchased in advance, still charged us and we had to get the charge removed. Fitness center was good, although the weather was nice so we ran/walked outside on the track. The Serenity deck was very nice, with more comfortable chairs, couches, and hammocks, many in the shade. However, many were taken by lounge hogs for hours without anyone actually using them, no enforcement of time limits.
The casino is filled with smoke, which is to be expected. However, it is also right in the middle of the 5th floor, which is a busy place. So you end up going through the casino on a not-infrequent basis.
The other place to smoke is on the starboard aft section of deck 10. Right between the Lido pool and the sole exterior entrance to the Carnival Kids Club. Also, right below the Sports Square. So it really only affect smokers, kids, and the physically active. Not sure how to fix that as the other side of that deck is where the little-kids playground is. Still, not really an excellent place to have a smoking area.
The room steward did an awesome job. He asked whether we wanted morning, evening or both, always cleaned the place while we were out. Unlike HAL, he didn't remember our names and address us when he saw us but otherwise great. Always enjoy the towel animals!
Waiters and other staff in Lido and Dining room were great. Very accommodating and pleasant.
Cruise director, etc. were good, remembered you from one event to another and were generally amusing and entertaining.
Grand Turk - Private island, not much interesting about it except activities. We got off and went to the beach (the one on the right which was far less crowded). Son played in the water for two-and-a-half hours while it rained. Free is good.
San Juan - Walked to Fort Morro and a bit through the town. Stopped at CVS right near the port for some supplies. Got back on the ship as it started raining. It was pretty hot and sunny while we were ashore.
St. Kitts - Did a private full island tour with a local guide to the Black Rocks, Brimestone Fort, and the Plantation. The Batik demonstration was interesting and the gardens beautiful. Picked up a few cheap batik bags. Then over to the new resort areas. St. Kitts was pleasant enough with lots of open space where the sugar plantations used to be.
St. Maarten - Took a cab to Maho Beach and watched the planes fly over (from around 12:30 to 14:30). $8 per person each way but may require others sharing the cab. Only certain cabs accept the wrist bands they sell at the taxi stand for $16 round trip. Make sure you leave before the traffic backs up over the two draw bridges that open around 15:00. Drinks are expensive, beach recliners are $20. Stopped at the Hard Rock looking for shirts on the way back and then walked to the ship. St. Maarten reminded me more of St. Thomas, more high-end than a lot of the Caribbean islands.
We had an 11:55 flight out of MCO so we had to do the Do-it-yourself disembarkation, which was fine. We had breakfast in the Lido at 06:30 and then went with our bags to the Liquid Lounge at 07:15. There were only 5 other people there and as soon as the Gold/Platinum and FTTF people got off they sent us off. We were off the ship at 07:30 and through customs by 08:00. Our driver was waiting and we arrived at MCO around 08:40.
I don't think I will ever sail on Carnival again. Maybe we are just not their demographic. We ended up spending a lot of time cramped in our room. There was very little to do compared to HAL, which is hardly the paragon of entertainment. There was nothing to do in the evening 18:00-21:00 except eat. Not having a fridge or DVD player in the room made being in the room far less pleasant. It seemed very much like everything on the cruise was just a marketing ploy or sales gimmick.
Just to compare costs for 3 people, outside cabin 10/28/2017 HAL Nieuw Amsterdam vs Carnival Glory, 7-day Eastern Caribbean from Miami/Ft Lauderdale, total price $1737 vs. $1715. HAL Deck 4 obstructed view between life boats, Carnival Deck 1. About 2000 cruisers vs. about 2900. No question which I would go on, even if the prices were not almost identical. Read Less