My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Panorama on Feb 29th –Mar 7/8th (I will explain more on that later). We are experienced mass market cruisers having sailed on Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Panorama on Feb 29th –Mar 7/8th (I will explain more on that later). We are experienced mass market cruisers having sailed on Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean previously. This was our 28th cruise. We are senior citizens.
Those of you who have read my reviews before know that I might be politely described as picky. I can’t help it. I was born with the glass half empty gene. I know this is not a good way to go through life and I have tried to change, believe me, but I am stuck with my perfectionistic attention to detail. I try to counter this by bending over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt and see things from the other point of view. I usually fail. However, I am balanced by my wife who has a Mary Poppins optimism and sees the good in everything, even me.
My wife and I do like cruises for the same reasons. We love being on the ship and enjoy the relaxation and variety of entertainment that it offers. We don’t care where it goes, as the ship is our destination. Since we live near the west coast, the majority of our cruises have been either to Mexico or Alaska. We don’t even get off at the ports in Mexico any more. We shop for bargains and typically cruise during the off season. The things that are important to me in choosing a cruise ship are food, stateroom, entertainment, service, general ambience and activities – pretty much in that order. That being said, the Panorama appealed to me because of two things. 1) It had a trampoline park on board ship – the first and only ship to do so. 2) It had a category of ocean view rooms that had 2 bathrooms or technically, a bath and a half. The half bath had no toilet and smaller square footage but it had its own sink and a 2/3 size bathtub (but deep) and shower combination. The full sized bathroom with a toilet had a standard shower.
The last time I was on a trampoline I was 16 years old, 5’8” tall and weighed 135 lbs (maybe). I had fond memories of how much fun I had doing all kinds of gymnastic tricks on the trampoline: twists, flips, every manner of trick. The trampoline and I were one. Everything came natural to me. I looked forward to impressing my wife with my emergence from the couch potato she knows me as into an acrobatic marvel. The fact that I am now 73 years old, have shrunk about 2 inches and gained 85 lbs., not withstanding. As I started my warm up jumping, I noticed that the trampoline and I were no longer one. The bouncing felt awkward and alien to me. I tried a simple knee drop and was unable to bounce back up to my feet – and it hurt my knees and ankles. I bounced some more, I tried a seat drop and landed awkwardly to my right side and fell onto my right arm and shoulder. When I tried to get back up, I found I could no longer use my right arm to push myself back up and had to rely on my left (I am right handed). That ended my trampoline session. My wife, however, was impressed - WITH THE DEPTH OF MY STUPIDITY! For the rest of the cruise, I came to be known as Lefty as I was unable to raise my right arm very far and could not lift with it. But enough about me, onward with the ship.
FOOD – A
The food in the MDR was great. Not just good – great. I have cruised Carnival before. I am pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy. My favorite foods are steak, hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza and any kind of potato. I have the taste of your average 9 year old. According to my wife, also the mentality. The buffet had average buffet food. No better or worse than you receive on any other mass market cruise ship. On some Norwegian ships (not all), Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships, I have experienced better than average buffets. Although the buffet on the Panorama was often crowded, never had a problem finding a table/seat. One below average thing about the buffet was limited variety of offerings. Much more limited than most ships.
Back to the MDR. Since I tend to order meat and potatoes, I often order that flat iron steak which is on the always available portion of Carnival’s MDR dinner menu. In the past, this has been an okay experience but not memorable. The first night on board I ordered it for dinner. It was amazing. More tender than usual but bursting with flavor. It was all good. Never had a bad dinner in the MDR the whole trip. Guy’s Pig &Anchor charged extra for dinner but served complimentary lunch on sea days. The problem was on sea days the was a very long line to stand in before you ever get to the food. Lines tended to be the norm for lots of things. I don’t do lines well. Rather skip the venue than wait in line so we did not eat at Guy’s Pig and Anchor. JJ’s Asian and Cucina Capitan, both extra dollar restaurants, also provided free limited lunch items. We never ate at JJs but did the Cucina for lunch one day. Quite good. Of course, there was Guy’s burgers and the Blue Iguana (Mexican food) with lines for each. On occasion, when there was a short line, I had a Guy’s burger. I know I am going to sound like a heretic, as everyone raves about Guy’s burgers and fries. The burgers are good but not fantastic, IMHO, and I do not like the way the fries are seasoned. I would rather have regular French fries. I find the burgers and fries at Holland America’s Dive In to be far superior. For one thing, they are cooked to order. Second to the Dive In, I favor the burgers available at O’Sheehan’s or the Local (depending upon what ship you are on), the 24 hour dining venue on Norwegian’s line. To each his own. Pizza was good but not my favorite, but again, everyone has their own pizza preference. I think Carnival aims for the middle of the pack, which makes sense.
STATEROOM – A+
We had the deluxe ocean view stateroom with the one and a half baths. The luxury of having essentially two separate bathrooms so two people can get ready at the same time cannot be overstated. Did not know what I was missing, but any Carnival cruises I would take in the future would have to be on a Vista class ship that offers this type of stateroom. Much rather have the extra bathroom than a balcony. Nice TV that offered only a few channels and a few free movies. Comfortable bed, adequate storage. Thermostat worked great. I like it cold and lots of times I cannot get it cold enough to sleep. My wife, needless to say likes it warm. Our compromise is she can have it warm during the day and I get it cold at night. Thermostat worked great for both of us.
ENTERTAINMENT – B
Musicians, singers and dancers were all A to A+. The reason for the B grade was the venue. The main theater, known as the Liquid Lounge, is a hideous monstrosity of a venue. On the main level, the chairs which are not theater type chairs but regular sitting chairs quickly become uncomfortable after 10-15 minutes of sitting on them. The floor is flat and does not slant upwards so the chairs are all on one level. The farther back you are from the first row, the greater your chance of not being able to see what is going on because you are blocked by either one of the people in front of you or a pillar. Sight lines are awful. If you want to see a main room show, better get there an hour before, even though doors don’t open until a half hour before, as there will be a very l-o-n-g line.
SERVICE – A+
Every crew member was attentive, friendly, warm and greeted us with a smile despite the onerous duties of their jobs. From our room steward to our dining room servers to the cruise director – just everyone we encountered were above and beyond. I admire and have utmost respect for those crew members. I could never be like that but their attitudes just made the whole cruise that much better.
GENERAL AMBIENCE AND ACTIVITIES - A
The general ambience of the ship appealed to me. It was nicely decorated and had lots of organic wood and earth tones. It was incredibly clean but it is also Carnival’s newest ship, just put into service in November and this is its inaugural season. Activities rate an A+. The top deck which has the water park, slides, sky obstacle course, sky pedal ride, pool tables, club house, miniature golf, outdoor exercise machines – too much to list, really is incredible. The elevators take a little getting used to, You push the floor on a touch screen outside the elevator banks – not buttons in the elevator itself. Then the touch screen tells you which letter elevator gets assigned to that floor. Sometimes you can wait quite a while for your elevator and it might be packed at peak times, but most of the time it worked okay.
Embarkation was relatively easy. We were supposed to disembark on March 7th. We put our luggage out the night before and had our carry-ons with us ready to go that morning. It was announced that disembarkation would be delayed as customs would not clear the ship and the cruise line could do nothing about it, Apparently, there was a woman who had taken ill but clearly had a non-COVID condition. Nonetheless, customs wanted to do a thorough screening before the cleared the ship for disembarkation. Carnival knew what was going on with the passenger and was confident that she would be deemed to not have a condition that was virus related. Being that everyone is hyper vigilant with what is happening these days, customs (I think with CDC input) decided she should be transported to a local hospital and tested. We were advised it would take 6 hours for the test results to come back. At that point, it was pretty clear that we were on the ship until nightfall and probably overnight. Carnival was great about it. They opened up all the restaurants, gave us free wifi, made the pay movies on TV free, put together an entertainment schedule with the entertainment staff and did everything they could to keep us happy, fed and entertained. Hats off to the crew of the Carnival Panorama. Could not have been more accommodating and all with smiles on their faces even though they were under the most pressure of any of us. They also had to deal with the people on shore who were supposed to board for their cruise but could not as we were still on the ship. I could almost hear those poor people yelling as the buffet opened up again –“ Hey, hey – that’s our food. They’re eating our food. I paid for that food.”
As it turned out, the results of the testing came back negative, just as anticipated but at that point we were well into the evening and had to stay overnight on the ship until the next day when we disembarked. Such are the risks of cruising in the current climate.
The cruise itself was terrific and I would do it again. My only objection was that there were lines for almost everything and I hate lines. Read Less