Embarkation: We chose this cruise because we were taking our whole family, kids and grandchildren and would be able to drive to Charleston in under 2 hours. Port of Charleston was very disappointing. It was unorganized. The AC was not ... Read More
Embarkation: We chose this cruise because we were taking our whole family, kids and grandchildren and would be able to drive to Charleston in under 2 hours. Port of Charleston was very disappointing. It was unorganized. The AC was not functioning up to par inside and the lines were long. I have a bad knee and can’t stand for very long or walk far. My husband was unwilling for me to take a wheel chair or even a walker so I was hobbling about with a cane. The security was extremely slow. They said one of their scanners wasn’t working, but every other line was moving much faster than the one we were in. When we finally made it through the luggage scanning process, one of the port employees noticed that not only was I having difficulty standing and moving, but I was beet red from how hot it was inside. She took me to a place where I could sit and wait for the rest of my family to make it to the check-in counters. Not long afterward, she got my husband and son and brought them to me and let us check in. She offered me a wheelchair to board. I was so grateful. I could not have climbed stairs at that point nor walked all the way to my cabin.
Stateroom: The ship décor left a lot to be desired. We hadn’t been on such a small ship since our first cruise on the old Carnival Tropicale. Our room, an ocean view on deck 6, seemed even smaller than our room on the Tropicale. But we had all of our kids and grandchildren with us and staying in adjacent cabins. Our cabin steward, Geraldine, came and introduced herself right away and asked if we preferred morning or evening service. We chose morning. When I saw how many rooms she and her staff had to clean, at least 30, I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for both morning and evening. Those crew members were in the hallway morning, afternoon and evening and working hard. I honestly wouldn’t mind paying more and having more crew members with fewer cabins to care for each day. But our room was kept clean and they brought me ice everyday so that I could ice my bad knee.
Food: We are not among those who are lucky enough to cruise every year, but we have had 5 previous cruises on Carnival. This was the first time I was disappointed in the food and my husband felt the same. The Lido food was only so-so. I tried to get pizza twice at lunchtime and there was never any ready. There were 2 crew members working the pizza station and they seemed to make primarily pepperoni. Any other kind you requested, they’d say it would be a 7 minute wait. Believe me, I waited much longer than that. The second time I tried to get margherita pizza. I had seen someone just get a slice. The guy said to me 7 minutes. I said forget it and that I’d take the pepperoni slice he had in his hand and just pick the pepperoni off of it. Buffet on first day was Italian. My pasta was under-cooked, cold and dry. Breakfast on the Lido wasn’t great. The eggs were much worse than I remembered from previous cruises. Waffles had no flavor. French toast was good. I wished we’d done breakfast in the MDR, but this was only a 5 day cruise. The first sea day my husband didn’t want to go there and the last sea day was the Dr. Seuss Breakfast, so we didn’t go. The soft serve ice cream was better than I remember from my last cruise. It definitely was creamy. The frozen yogurt was grainier, but still tasty.
Food in the MDR was also sub-par. Some of the soups I ordered had a funny taste, like there was some unidentifiable (to me) spice that spoiled the taste. My prime rib was tough and dry instead of the melt-in-your-mouth experience I had on other cruises. Also filet mignon was tough and dry. We did get crème brulee and bitter and blanc. I was afraid only being on a 5 day we wouldn’t get the desserts I look forward to. They brought my son a small birthday cake on our last night and it was more delicious and moist than any other dessert we had all week. Also, service was okay, but like the cabin stewards, these waiters just have way too many tables to take care of. They made a point of addressing us by name. One waiter did math puzzles with toothpicks every night for us to try and figure out. We did not feel slighted by our wait staff at all, but had a sense of them being completely swamped all night long. And we had 12 people crammed at a table for 10, so we knew we were making extra work for them and we really felt cramped at our table. It would have been nicer if they had given us the tables with the bench seating on one side. We had 4 children with us and they would have taken up less room seated there than trying to get 12 chairs around a table that really is for 8 or 10. But even though it was tight, we were grateful to be seated together as it was the first time we had all of our children and grandchildren together since our 2 grandsons (4 and almost 6) were born. We enjoyed our time together.
Entertainment: We are not folks who require outside entertainment to enjoy ourselves but we did enjoy the shows we saw. We saw the Motown Show, the British Invasion Show, and the Hasbro Game Show. We enjoyed them all. At the pre-show for The British Invasion Show, the cruise director, Ben, was so impressed with our family for knowing the answers to so many of his questions and for our enthusiasm and loud cheering and clapping, that he sent our table a bucket of drinks. We were happy just for the shout out. Then for the Hasbro Show, one of our daughters and one of our sons were selected as contestants, so we all went crazy cheering them on. Neither of them won (I think they wanted to let children win since the prize was a Hasbro game package) but again we just had a blast being among the participants. Our youngest son signed up for the talent show for the last night and was featured last doing a Michael Jackson number. The band was really enjoying him and he really hit it off with Ben the cruise director since he’s from our area of SC. He brought the house down. Although they did not declare a winner, he was clearly the favorite of the evening. So it was another really enjoyable experience for the whole family.
Karaoke: my youngest son was the Karaoke king on our family cruise back in 2008 and it was the same this time. One of the female crew running the Karaoke lounge was really taken with him. Several of us also participated in Karaoke. And although this venue was on deck 9, it was not smoky inside the club. But as with any Karaoke experience, some folks are really good and some are really awful so you just have to decide how much of this you can take each evening.
We did not see any of the comedians, although we had to walk through one performance one evening in order to get off the Serenity Deck. It was the only way to leave the Serenity without having to climb or descend stairs. The guy seemed kind of out of it, like he’d had quite a bit to drink, but I’m sure most of the audience was in the same condition. At any rate, we are not in a position to rate them not having heard their material.
Live musicians on board were sub par. A guitar playing singer in the Atrium was pretty bad. And the Atrium on the Ecstasy is so small and crowded feeling, not like the newer, larger ships with their double staircases and view of many of the decks above. There was a small group playing outside one of the bars on deck 9. First of all, all of deck 9 stinks of smoke because of the casino and 2 of the bars are also legitimate smoking areas. For that reason, I don’t care to sit there, but this group was way too loud for the space they were given. You would not be able to carry on a conversation if seated in that area, and I felt so bad for the bartenders who work at the bar right opposite the band. They cannot hear the drink orders, plus they have to stand there for hours getting their eardrums blown out and the music isn’t even good. We missed things like small ensembles like the classical ones we had seen in the Atrium on previous cruises.
Camp Ocean: Our grandsons (4 and almost 6) loved it. They did all kinds of activities and really enjoyed hanging out with other kids. Our two granddaughters (8 and 11) enjoyed limited participation, based on whether they wanted to do the activity. But it gave our children, their parents, a chance to relax for a while without constantly having to watch the kids. This was the first time we had any experience with kids in camp and it was a positive one.
Shore excursions: My husband and I chose the See and Sea Tour. It included a bus ride around Nassau to show us some stuff in town and then a boat ride to another boat with a glass bottom so we could see fish and other sea creatures. Because of my knee issue, I tried to get info on the amount of walking, distance, etc. on shore excursions I was considering. I got no one on the phone at Carnival who could help. I emailed Shore Excursions and never got a response although I did get an email shortly before the cruise asking me to rate my experience with the response from Carnival. I asked on John Heald’s blog if he would ask other cruisers and got no response from him or them, even though I read his FB page every day. So, of course there was a very long walk in very hot, humid weather to get to our first excursion in Nassau. After I walked the length of the very long pier, they pulled me aside and said I could take a shuttle bus to the excursion, but that wasn’t exactly true. It got me closer, but I still had to walk quite a ways to get to the boat that was going to take us on the first part of our excursion. And the return was even worse. We were so hot and sweaty and dehydrated and we had to walk and walk to the checkpoint to get back to the cruise ships. I kept asking for where the shuttle was that I had been told would take us back to our ship. Finally one came. It took us to the end of the pier and we still had to walk the length of the pier to board the ship. Once again, a Carnival employee noticed the difficulty I was having hobbling on my cane and allowed me to enter the first opening rather than walking all the way to the end of the ship with the rest of the passengers. No wheelchair this time, but still saved some steps.
In Freeport, most of our family chose a beach excursion. It was a long bus ride to get there, but there were plenty of chairs and the beach was clean. It was overcast most of the time we were there so they didn’t even bother putting up any umbrellas or other shade devices. There were water activities. You could purchase the option that included lunch and/or open bar or just purchase food and drinks a la carte there. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. We were back on board before it got hot and sunny and before the rain kicked in. It was a nice way to hang out with our family and the younger ones could be as active as they liked while my husband and I could enjoy relaxing in our chairs, reading our books or listening to music or just enjoying watching the others have fun.
Overall, we had a great time because we were together. I much prefer the Spirit Class ships or the Conquest class and a balcony room. I would hesitate to cruise out of Charleston again. While convenient to get to, between the hassle of the terminal and parking and only having a smaller, old ship available, Charleston is less desirable for me. Read Less