As an introduction, this was my 7th cruise (and my husband's 4th); this was my 5th cruise w/Carnival.
Embarkation was a breeze, we were onboard w/in 45-60 minutes after stepping out of the cab (this includes the security line / ... Read More
As an introduction, this was my 7th cruise (and my husband's 4th); this was my 5th cruise w/Carnival.
Embarkation was a breeze, we were onboard w/in 45-60 minutes after stepping out of the cab (this includes the security line / passport check, etc.). Onboard and having lunch at the Pig n Anchor buffet by 1pm. My opinion of the new 'smart' elevator system, like many others, is not all that favorable. The touch-screens always seems gummed up from greasy/sticky fingers, not at all appealing (and most certainly, unsanitary). They also take FOREVER to pick you up, in our experience. However, stairs are always right around the corner so that’s an easy fix. Otherwise, I do not have anything negative to say about the ship itself... it was big, modern, plenty of places to eat, etc. It was sleek and full of simple, clean lines, and the décor was "safe" with a mostly neutral palette, trimmed with gray, beige and muted burgundy tones. I will say that I did not feel any real "personality" from the ship, aside from the Havana area, and I do miss the days where ships felt luxurious, grand, and over the top. I can get a neutral palette at home; at sea I like to be blown away. Our Havana cabin was fantastic, however as was our steward (Rodriguo).
CABIN: Havana Cabana (patio) – what a dream! This totally made our vacation. This is truly the only way to cruise, if you are sailing sans children (like us). The patio is heaven on earth, better than any balcony or suite could possibly be. We had the cabana room closest to the Havana pool, so we could literally walk out our patio gate, and walk about 30' feet to a cushioned sunbed or lounger; 60' to a hot tub and a little further to the pool. The Havana area was so peaceful during the day, and reserved exclusively for Havana guests until 7pm (I believe), and they very closely monitored for wristbands / kicked out anyone who didn’t belong – and lots of people tried. Best money we’ve ever spent on a cabin, and would love to sail in a Cabana room again and again. Tastefully decorated in Cuban-style colors and an attractive headboard, otherwise the same size/features as any other balcony. I almost hate to give it a good review, as it is almost be better to keep it a secret (it’s that good).
FOOD: While still being palatable (I never sent anything back), almost every meal I had seemed less impressive than on past Carnival cruises. The main dining room options were all familiar, but I often detected either a rubbery or mushy/overcooked texture to everything I ate (from entrees to desserts), as if the stuff was made too far ahead of time and sat too long after being prepared? I have historically enjoyed the Carnival menu, and never had a single complaint - often being quite impressed - but this time, although not terrible, I was slightly disappointed in the texture of most of my meals. For the first time on Carnival, it felt like everything was prepackaged or pre-prepared (and while that may have been the case all along, it never tasted that way on previous cruises). I had the melting cake twice, which I’ve always found divine, but even that felt rubbery to me this cruise. All that being said, I generally gravitate toward chicken, pasta and/or meatless dishes; I am not a vegetarian by choice, I just don't like much red meat or seafood… though, I'll make an exception for a good burger pretty regularly. I must say, Guy’s Burger joint was pretty impressive, and lived up to all the hype IMHO. My husband mostly ate the meat & seafood entrees, and most of the time he was very content (thought he said the prime rib was a disappointment). We tried the “midnight buffet” the first night, but found there were only about 5-6 available items… most of which looked pretty unappetizing, from a boring pre-stirred penne w/marinara (you all know how good something like that looks after sitting under a heat lamp too long), to a sad and inedible version of “grilled ham and cheese” (which again, was rubbery in every sense from the waxy-buttered bread to the ham to the cheese). We never ate at the buffet after that, except for things like fruit, cereal and milk, as we were usually still full from dinner the night before… however, it seemed to offer the same breakfast items as on previous cruises, which we’ve always found to be very adequate (eggs, bacon, French toast, oatmeal, omelette bar, etc.). Guy’s Pig n Anchor buffet (BBQ joint) was a nice treat that was free on embarkation day; on other days, they offer an a la carte menu for additional $. I did have a breakfast burrito at the Blue Iguana one sea day morning, which was one of the best things I ate all week. Breakfast in the MDR was better than dinner, in our opinion. Tried to make it to the Mongolian Wok the last sea day, but sadly it's only open for about 2 hours and they stopped seating just as we arrived. I will say, that we are generally very easy to please… and I never understood reviewers who complain about everything the eat on cruise ships. I have always thoroughly enjoyed the MDR on my 5 prior Carnival sailings; but this time, I admit they lost some of their luster. Like it didn’t seem much better than the “upper-eschelon” Lean Cuisines I microwave at work back home. However, I will give the dining experience 4 stars based on the impressive variety of dining venues on the 2.0 funships nowadays... there truly is something for everyone.
ENTERTAINMENT: Comedians were exceptionally funny, as they usually are on Carnival (especially the 18+ shows). The band Event Horizon was also impressive, and put on different shows every night. My favorite was the 2-hour Queen tribute, which featured various singers including a female "frontman". Unfortunately there was no Playlist Productions crew this trip, due to "unforeseen circumstances", but Carnival flew in some backup entertainers from a comedy-hypnotist (excellent) to a pseudo-funny magician (meh) to an excellent female singer/dancer who shined during a lively rendition of Proud Mary. I do wish they would have sloped the lower floor of the main theater (Liquid Lounge), as it is hard to see over people's heads beyond the first 3 rows... and what does there ALWAYS have to be giant decorative pillars set up on the sides of the lounge stages (making it impossible to see the comedians or musical acts unless you are sitting in the very middle)? The 90’s ‘trivia’ show in the atrium bar was more like a 90’s DANCE CRAZE on CRACK! (It was absolutely awesome!!) There was an 80’s version later in the week, which we had to miss, unfortunately, as it was at the same time as the last 18+ Comedy show… and we never miss the 18+ comedy shows.
FEATURES: The Skyride is awesome! Do it, it's worth the wait (hint: show up right when they open and the line won't be more than 15 minutes). Tried to do the big red Cat in the Hat waterslide but it was closed, and the line for the skinnier-blue slide was so long / slow-moving I ended up bailing after 15 minutes of not getting very far. Mini golf, Ropes Course (very thrilling in the wind!), adjustable outdoor pool tables, giant gazelle-like exercisers near the sports court, basketball, etc. Fun for everyone!
PORTS: In Ocho Rios we did a ship excursion (combo Catamaran Sail w/snorkeling, hike up Dunn’s River Falls and ziplining), it was fantastic! Because of this, we did not see too much of the port area there. Grand Cayman we had been to before, took the public ‘bus’ to Seven Mile Beach in hopes of finding the same snorkel boat operator as our last trip; but sadly, it was not to be. We ended up enjoying two of the nicer lounge chairs/umbrellas along the beach, my husband did a little snorkeling but there was not much to see that close to shore. Cozumel we had also been to once before, and rented a scooter for the day right near port. We went to the Eco Park at Punta Sur, took their pontoon ride around the lagoon (saw some crocs) and otherwise just rode around the island all day, stopping at one restaurant on the eastern side for a couple drinks. The shopping area at Puerta Maya is much larger/nicer than I remember near the international port we sailed into previously, for those of you who cruise for the shopping.
As far as the overall experience, like many others, I have noticed a definite decline in the Carnival “clientele”. I can’t say much more than that without risk of sounding catty or judgmental, which I assure you, is not my intent; but, far fewer people seem to have any manners or common courtesy anymore. From the moment we got on board, we were amazed at how rude and inconsiderate people were… specifically large groups of clueless and/or morbidly obese people (more than I have ever noticed on any other cruise), meandering at a snail’s pace down every aisle, hallway, corridor, row of seating, etc. and blocking anyone else from getting where they want/need to be… quite literally, just stopping in the middle of everything, everywhere on the ship, all the time/constantly and to just look around and wonder what they might possibly want to do next (to the point that it prevented anyone else from getting anywhere in a timely manner). Yes, the boat holds 3600+ passengers… however, there was plenty of space and venues on board to accommodate them all. My point being, if I need to stop and figure out what I’m doing / where I’m going, I politely STEP TO THE SIDE while I figure it out… not stand 4-wide w/my group across the deck 5 hallway and cause a logjam because no one can maneuver around us. Common courtesy like that was lacking more on this cruise than on any other. We also observed lots of 20- and 30-somethings being discourteous toward the wait staff in the dining room; lots of drunken and annoyingly loud conversation during all the shows and performances, lots of inappropriate and offensive political statements, and lots of general “entitlement” on display… as if a cruise fare absolves one from displaying any sort of common decency for a week. Nothing so outrageous as vomiting in the bar or a fistfight on deck or anything (thankfully); just a complete lack of basic manners/courtesy throughout this cruise... enough to constantly lessen the experience for us, moreso than the previous cruises we’ve taken. And I get it, trust me - Carnival has always been known as the “fun ship”, we 40-somethings love to be as carefree and FUN as the next couple - but we still make an effort to maintain a basic level of awareness/courtesy for our fellow cruisers. This does not seem to be the case for the majority of Carnival cruisers nowadays. We are generally reluctant to sail w/other cruise lines for fear of being bored/lack of entertainment… but we don’t know how much longer we can tolerate the increasingly trashy Carnival crowd. Thankfully, the Havana area provided a much-needed sanctuary from the worst of this, and I can't write a bad cruise review based on a decline in intellectualism. Carnival does a great job doing what they do; the rest of us need to be respectful of others.
We already have our next Carnival cruise booked (Magic, Feb. 2020) as it was booked prior to this sailing. I still feel loyal to Carnival, but I hope the next cruise is back to the awesome-in-every-way experience we used to have. Read Less