We are from NYS so we chose this, our fourth cruise to leave from Baltimore and avoid the nonsense from the airlines. Six hour drive to the port from our house. That was a big plus. Baltimore cruise terminal was awesome at embarkation ... Read More
We are from NYS so we chose this, our fourth cruise to leave from Baltimore and avoid the nonsense from the airlines. Six hour drive to the port from our house. That was a big plus. Baltimore cruise terminal was awesome at embarkation and debarkation. Lots of parking well organized etc.
We started out booked into an extended balcony, 2 adults, 2 kids, age 15 and 12. About 3 months out we got an offer to upgrade to a suite for $400. So we did that. Room was awesome. Clean, roomy etc. We got priority boarding with the suite. So we literally only took about 15 minutes to check in and up the gangway. Right to our room. Not sure the baggage lived up to the billing of fast. Other people with interior rooms across from us got their bags first. But oh well.
We also bought the faster to the fun, mainly for the tendering into Princess Cay as we have been there twice and that part of a port can for lack of better term SUCK. But I will cover Princess Cay a little later.
This is our second Carnival cruise and we also have 2 Princess cruises under our belt.
Ports on this trip. Grand Turk, Princess Cay and Freeport.
Looking back, the negatives outweighed the positives on this cruise. Cabin Steward Rattikorn was excellent. Kept room clean without disturbing things we had left out.
We also purchased the CHEER package. About $850 for the cruise. This is a little bit of a scam too. You pay for all 7 days, but you might not get a drink on day one until about 4pm or later and the last day you have to be packed and out of your room by 930am. So that day is a bust. We didn't go boozing from sunup to sundown, but we still drank 107 drinks from soda and juice to Angry Orchard and mixed drinks on the 5.5 days we had to drink. So we made out ok. There is an observation we made about this as well as other aspects of the cruise that I am sure Carnival will deny. Peak times at the bars, they cut down the bar staff. Dinner times, reboarding from port times etc. One bartender. Alot of waiting for a drink. But if you want a mimosa at 8am, you usually had 2 bartenders.
Sailing out of Baltimore, there may be another reason for the sailing path, but I didn't find one. They take you way, way out to sea. 15,000+ deep seas. It gets rough. Big time First day and a half, alot of queasy people. Maybe that was to cut down on food and drink consumption? Good for me, no lines and waiting during those times. Coming back to Baltimore, you hug the coast and it was alot smoother and tons more people on decks drinking and having fun.
Food: We did breakfast buffet, Guys Burgers and the anytime dining. Breakfast, I usually got up early. First day I was in the lido buffet at 700am. Didn't check my fun times newsletter, got to the hot buffet and all the food was out and everyone standing around. Food was drying out under heat lamps. Wasn't opening until 730am. I didn't have to say a word, other people were complaining. When it did open, it was usually awful. Dried, nasty food. My suggestion, wait until about 830am or on hour after it opened to eat off the buffets, all three meals. This happened each time. After an hour you get fresher food. I started doing the taco bar for burritos at 730am. They were hot, fresh and awesome. You get a burrito filled with eggs, hash browns, meats etc. And top it off anyway you want. Guys burgers were excellent. I would say awesome, except one problem. Yes, another conspiracy theory. Peak times, only one line open. Reboarding from port, noon at opening etc, the second line staff would be present, but just standing there. Not allowed to serve. So longer lines, some people would not wait. Win win for Carnival, less people eating. Anytime dining. Hot and cold here. We usually got in quick. Staff worked their butts off. But you better set aside 2+ hours for dinner service. Clearly understaffed. Fresh menu choices were very well done. Chicken, steak, pork chops that were every night offerings, dried out and flavorless. Pizza open 24 hours was ok also. Again, slow service. They claim they make the pizza's fresh, but that creates long lines at 1000pm. Drinks, 2.95 for a soda, vitamin water, coffee etc. All included in CHEERS package. Angry Orchard and beers around 5.50 to 6.50. Mixed drinks 8.50 to 9.25.
Ports: Grand Turk. Excellent. Did a reef snorkel and stingray swim with CHUKKA. Great staff, had a good time. You can literally never spend a dime in port if you didn't want to. Go to Margaritaville and chill out.
Princess Cay. Been there twice. Awesome time, buffet lunch included, beach, reef to snorkel on. Tendering is the only drawback. However, Carnival told us some story that there was "scheduled maintenance" at the tender pier and we would be diverting to Nassau. They offered up shore excursions at no discount that would run anywhere from 200-400+ for a family of four. So we went from free to paying money if you wanted. When we arrived, they were sooooo proud of getting into port 20 minutes early, patting themselves on the back. They also announced no bling, no cash, do not stray from tourist areas. Makes you feel real comfortable. We opted for just walking in town. After being harassed by every vagrant in town and then going into Sharkees store and having an employee walk with us every single step of the way never once asking us if we needed help, but clearly that we might steal some china made bottle with sand and shells on it claiming to be from Nassau. We went back to the ship and played mini golf. Keep in mind, Carnival owns Princess Cays, so I don't buy the excuse they had some tender issue in the port. Left a bitter taste in our mouth. Couldn't get worse in the next port.....read on.
Freeport. Booked a catamaran reef snorkel. 3 hours through Carnival. Boarded a bus at the ship. Windshield was smashed. I found a seat next to a fogged over frosted window from age. Black tar had obviously sealed the window and most windows before. The seat in front of me fell back and was obviously broken. So was mine. Literally laid on your back the whole 25 minutes. No A/C on the bus, the only air was from the wife and second childs seat where the window flapped and could not be secured. Could not get worse.......read on...............boarded the cat in port. Two "guides" took us out. During the safety briefing, they explained with no humor that they don't swim and are not lifeguards. At that point, just at the mouth of the harbor, the port engine started smoking bad. But the cabin had filled with smoke. I asked where the fire extinguisher was and neither guide had a clue. They made a phone call and were told to keep going on one engine. Instead of an hour sail to the reef, we got 15 minutes to the middle of the bad, dropped anchor and they had no clue how to anchor a boat either, 1 hour snorkel, thank goodness someone brought cereal for the fish or we wouldn't have seen any, then back to port. Handshake as you got off the boat and then onto the wonderful bus. Daughter needed the restroom out at sea on way back and was denied by the staff and no restrooms in the marina either. Absolute joke of an excursion.
This was the first cruise I have ever experienced some, not all, but some RUDE staff. At Freeport on reboarding they only opened one gangway, so 30 minute wait to get on the ship. Security barking at everyone to keep moving, grabbing our stuff, one drops my cellphone and then blames me.......just not alot of customer service on this ship. Officers would walk by and make eye contact with you and keep right on walking, not a good morning or anything.
Shows were a positive. Well done and alot of them. Two shows per night to accomodate the theater and not having to fight for a seat.
Another scam was gratuities on this ship. We opted OUT of the prepaid gratuities. When you buy the CHEERS package, it automatically adds in 15%. So bar staff is taken care of. We just have dining and room steward at that point and we pay cash. So on day 5 almost $400 in charges are added to our expenses again. Guest service staff were very rude when I went to take the charges off AGAIN and ask why were they just thrown in again after I clearly took them off once. How many people miss this on their bills or are caught in the moment of vacation and say, ah who cares, and they pay it.
So all in all, it was nice to get away with the family from the cold nasty northeast, but I would not recommend this ship to anyone. Carnival has gone way downhill since our last cruise and it is clear that profit is their number one concern. Read Less