We booked this cruise mainly for the itinerary - we live on the East Coast and have pretty much explored the Eastern Caribbean and wanted to see something else. Tampa seemed reasonably easy to get to (direct flight from Baltimore), and we ... Read More
We booked this cruise mainly for the itinerary - we live on the East Coast and have pretty much explored the Eastern Caribbean and wanted to see something else. Tampa seemed reasonably easy to get to (direct flight from Baltimore), and we went two days early to spend some time in the area, which was very nice.
As for the ship, I didn't have high expectations, knowing Carnival's reputation amongst the cruising community, but the itinerary was great, the price very reasonable and I thought why the heck not, we are not very demanding and I'll go on pretty much any ship. Our last three cruises were all with Royal Caribbean - not necessarily out of brand loyalty, but they just worked for us as far as departure port, itinerary etc. - the last being being on a huge ship, namely the Anthem, which was a new experience for us but which we didn't love.
So I was actually looking forward to a smaller ship, and it did not disappoint in that respect. Yes it was a bit old and slightly shabby looking in places, yes there were a few weird smells here and there and yes the decoration is a bit gaudy, but overall i have to say we really really enjoyed it! We had cabin 5107, which is all the way in the front and has an extended balcony, which was great - not only because it was much larger, but we had a lounge chair as well as two chairs (the normal balconies only have chairs - I much prefer being able to stretch out long!!). It didn't cost a lot more and was definitely worth it. The only downside was that there was almost always a smell of smoke - it must have wafted over from one of the public smoking areas, I think. We could even smell it in the cabin, which was unpleasant. As far as movement, we were afraid it would be rocky, being all the way in the front and there being some tropical storms around etc., but not so - there was only one night where we felt the ship move a little more (which I personally love but hubby doesn't). On the whole, we slept like babies!! The bed was so comfortable and the tiny vibration you get on a ship - I wish I had that at home!!!!
Food was MUCH better than on Anthem - we enoyed every single meal. Choice was great and a lot of thought put into presentation. I should say that that only goes for the MDR - the food in the buffet restaurant was not great, but that didn't matter too much to us since we're not buffet diners anyway. Quite possibly the biggest surprise were the sandwich station - outstanding - and even better the pizza station - this actually tastes like Italian pizza!!! Why can they make that on a ship but nowhere on land in the US?? I could have just eaten pizza all day - it was utterly delicious!! You just need to keep an eye on the line, or else you'll be there forever.
Another thing I really liked was that a) overall drinks prices are more reasonable than on RC and b) the Red Frog Pub Happy Hour (which they had on two port days-I thought this was every port day but not so, alas). You can literally get drinks for HALF PRICE, and if you get a bucket of beers, you can take them with you anywhere else on the ship or to keep in the fridge in your room! The one day, i got a pitcher of rum runner for little over ten bucks, and it was REALLY good!! I think it's awesome that Carnival offers this - never heard of a Happy hour on board a ship. Along with the two bottles of wine you may bring onboard, you can save a lot of money that way. i am SO glad we didn't get the drinks package, it would not have been worth it (and I like to drink!!)
Contrary to what i've been reading, both embarkation and disembarkation in Tampa were pretty easy and quick - esp. embarkation. No probs and the staff in Tampa were all super nice! Not like on the East Coast....
So, in conclusion - as far as "Carnival is the Walmart of cruising" goes - true, it's not very posh but I really really enjoyed this cruise and will most certainly cruise with Carnival again - I found most people to be friendly and relaxed, which is what I like when I'm on vacation. And if it's affordable on top of all of that - what's not to like??? Read Less