You're going to see the three circles and think "They really didn't like this cruise." In fact, we loved almost every minute of it! We would do this same cruise, on this same ship, with this same crew, all over again. ... Read More
You're going to see the three circles and think "They really didn't like this cruise." In fact, we loved almost every minute of it! We would do this same cruise, on this same ship, with this same crew, all over again. But, we know more now.
Embarkation: Mixed. We were suite guests, with priority embarkation. The trip through the metal detectors, Xray machine and initial screening went extremely well. We entered the priority lounge and had our on-board passes within minutes. The woman behind the desk was very pleasant, efficient and professional. The lounge was comfortable, if spare. It lacked any real amenities, though (water and lemonade? Spring for some chips or something, huh?). When the time came to board we were herded together and told to stay in line. Then, things went badly awry.
Carnival officials paraded us through the main lobby, full of 3400 people "patiently" waiting to get aboard. Of course we got intermingled with everyone else. Of course there was confusion. What would anyone expect? A harried, not very polite fellow demanded my (put away- why would I need it now!?) boarding pass. I tried to explain it was buried in my backpack, and he was sniffily reluctant to let me get somewhere and dig it out. His half-hearted apology...he could have saved it. We entered a maze alone and got quickly lost.
"Your cabin will be ready when you board." Hah! All of the bulkhead doors were closed until 12:30, the sign said (it was 11:15). Well, they might have been closed, but they weren't locked. We let ourselves into our cabin which was, in fact, ready for us.
Once we got that fixed, we repaired to the buffet, had a light lunch and several very tasty (and potent) "Fun Ship" sail away drinks at the fantail, watching harbor traffic come and go. Our server chatted with us about Indonesia (his home country) and made us feel welcome. Heaven.
Cabin: Spacious, if dated. The main dresser drawers took considerable effort (and some technique) to pull out and push in. Plainly, they were worn out - the inexpensive wood on wood construction was tired. Lots of closet space. Nicely appointed mini bar. Very comfortable bed. The carpet was old, but clean. The balcony door was a brute to open - we much prefer the sliding doors in other lines. Koko, our steward, was very nice and accommodating. We always had fresh ice, a made bed and a towel animal in the evening. Oh - lots of noise (we were close to the stairs and the opening to the third floor lounge). It took a night to get used to the commotion.
We are a special needs couple, in the medical sense as opposed to the high maintenance sense (I hope). Every need was addressed to our total satisfaction.
Food: Okay. The main dining room fare was excellent, if sometimes unimaginative. I had Blue Crab Ravioli so good I would expect it from an upscale Baltimore restaurant. My wife had Mahi Mahi that was superb. Everything was at least four spoons. Made (pronounced Mah Deh), our server, was as fine a pro as you'll find anywhere. Patrick, who brought out the drinks, was also a delight, big smile to accompany the wine selection ritual. We lucked out on our dinner mates, too. The dancing seemed a little forced - do I really need to watch our servers up on tables? The Buffet, on the other hand...
Ah, the buffet. This ship cries out for a renovation. The number of choke points were amazing, places where one person could slip through while ten people waited. The serving spaces did not account for common human behavior ("Which two of these thirty identical pancakes do I really want?") leading to long, slow-moving lines. Oh, the one thing I might have brought aboard was hot sauce. The scrambled eggs were marginal, when they weren't hideous, and a good dose of cholula might have helped (the condiment stations didn't have hot sauce of any description). The food was otherwise plentiful and consistently fine. Beverage stations were abundant, the orange juice happily seemed to have derived from recently-harvested oranges and the machine coffee was so good we never used the specialty coffee bar (although they insisted a fresh cup be used for each new dose of coffee. Ok, but was there someplace obvious for used cups? I never found it). Seating was not an issue once we learned where people congregated, which leads to the big downside of our trip.
Several years ago, we were aboard another line. We watched a Carnival ship depart - people on that ship waving and cheering, music playing. "That," I said to my beautiful wife, "is a happening place." Well, it happened to us. Someone has somehow concluded (right or wrong) that loud music and fun are synonymous. The louder, the more likely fun is being had in greater proportion. Which one causes the other (or whether they spring to life simultaneously) I know not. We found it difficult to carry on a normal conversation in many of the shipboard venues. Everywhere we went, the music was louder than where we left. We spent a lot more time in our cabin this trip just to get away from the music. Let me pause for a moment - the live stuff was fine. That we expected. And the stuff ashore - Margaritaville Grand Turk was horribly, unacceptably loud, and for some reason pier-side speakers blared second-tier reggae music at us the whole time we were docked. Can't blame Carnival for that. And the idiot who brought the boom box to the secluded strip of beach we'd found. Not Carnival's fault, either. But, "China Grove" with my coffee and cornflakes? Let me at least wake up.
That said - the movie on deck was great fun. The day on the beach at Half Moon Cay... I would pay a premium to sail to Half Moon Cay and stay there for a week. Keep the ship at anchor, charge me per tender ride. Don't care. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
Getting off the ship - a breeze. Thirty minutes after we reluctantly left our cabin behind we were on the shuttle bus.
As I said earlier, we would do this whole thing again, warts and all. This boat had an adept captain (who successfully skirted a tropical storm), a splendid crew and nothing standing in the way of a great cruise. But, we'd love them to turn the music down. Read Less