Hello, This is my first review I have written on CC and this was our second cruise with Carnival. We flew from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale on American Airlines with no delays and a relatively flawless flight. Upon arrival we took a cab to the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa. The cost of the cab was 40 dollars which I found to be a little high. The hotel itself is beautiful and when the hotel staff found out we were celebrating our honeymoon, they sent up a bottle of wine which we thought was great.
EMBARKATION: We arrived to the port at 12:00. We would have been early but the road leading into the port was in dead stop traffic which we were in for about a half an hour. Upon arrival, the line was all along the building, curling into where buses and cabs dropped you off. Once moving the line moved pretty well. We were on the ship at around 1:30 and ready to check out the ship.
SHIP DECOR: I read many reviews before boarding the ship regarding the pink color of the public rooms. To be honest the ship is tastefully decorated. Yes it has many pinks and reds but the lights change to different colors and everything goes well with one another. The one aspect I could do away with is the pink circles on the steel doors and elevators.
CABIN: We had an aft balcony cabin for this cruise. Cabin was the basic layout with the two beds pushed together, couch, flat screen tv and extended balcony. Privacy on the balcony was moderate and depended on if the neighbors next to you or above you were out on their balconies. I will go into a little more details below.
ENTERTAINMENT: The main shows in the spectacular were outstanding as usual. The dancers were great and the singers as well. There were two great comedians who were the best of what we have seen on cruiselines. Also there was a hypnotist comedian who was the absolute worst we have encountered on any cruiseline or in any other venue. The royal flush casino was nice but I wish they had more tables as they were crowded every night except for the Caribbean stud table. Waiting to play blackjack for over an hour is a bit much. El Morocco Lounge looked great until the band they had in there started to play. I do not recall the band that was playing in there every night but they too were terrible. The Morocco was never busy unless there was a comedian in there. The piano bar was great. Greg was the piano player and we spent time with him in port and on the ship. The only negative to him was that he constantly changed the words to the songs and consistently played downbeat depressing music. When songs that were upbeat were requested he would say he could not play them because his voice was gone. The Red Carpet was never busy until about 1:00 a.m. That is about the time we normally went there after the piano bar. Music and atmosphere was very upbeat and we almost always went back to our cabin full of sweat from dancing the night away. The one major component lacking on this cruise was there was no Caribbean music or reggae. It did not have the feel of being in the Caribbean.
DINING/FOOD: We had table 341 in the Gold Pearl and had the most fantastic waiter named Mugni. If any of you are lucky enough to have him he will make your experience most pleasurable. He was very humorous, told us some great stories and answered alot of questions we had about working on a cruiseship. We had some great meals throughout our cruise and almost every single dish was outstanding. The only meal that was outstanding and was just plain terrible was our Thanksgiving meal of Turkey. The turkey served was 45-60% composed of fat. Now in all of our years I have never encountered a piece of turkey, even from my hospital cafeteria to be of such poor quality. But if only 1 dish out of our 8 meals was bad, those are great numbers. Now on to the lido deck. The lunches and dinners were similar to Country Kitchens or Old Country Buffet restaurants. Nothing great but nothing that bad either. Breakfast on the other hand has a lot of room for improvement. Often most items were cold. The eggs are very runny, now again I am not that picky with my food, but they were runny. The pizza bar is similar to the past carnival cruise we had, good pizza, a little bland and often undercooked. The grille was great and the sandwich shop also was very good. We ordered room service a few times and all the food was delivered within about 30 minutes at the latest and was all very good. The main problem we experienced was dining on the lido were the lines. Out of all the cruises we have been on there was a line for everything. The line for pizza would stretch to the counter for the grille and vice versa. The buffet lines would always be around the corner. On multiple occasions all four drink dispensers were out at the same time. Those are the only negatives for this section.
SERVICE: Once again Mugni our waiter was great, the best of Carnival and of the other cruiselines we have been on. We will never forget him. Our cabin steward was Joeffrie. He also was very good. Our room was never in need of ice, clean linens, or mint chocolates. He always kept us smiling also with a great sense of humor. The cruise director was Goose. Now here is were I think there can also be some improvement. Goose seems like a very nice guy. I do not know if he was new but the activities on the ship were lacking compared to the activities we had on the Liberty with Todd Wittmer. Also he was not visible throughout the cruise except while talking to ship staff. He was in the piano bar two nights during our cruise and never stopped over to say hi. He sat with a group of 21-25 year olds who were cursing saying whats up m.....f..... to him. To his credit he did look uncomfortable like he was obliged to sit there but he could of made his was around to say hello to guests. On all of our other cruiselines we have always had the opportunity to shake the Cruise Directors hand and say hello. The dancers again were very nice. We sat with them a few nights in the piano bar and at the Red Carpet Disco. I cannot remember the mans name but there is a very tall dancer (not the one with curly hair) that we also had on the Liberty. He is very good, always on cue, and a gentleman when we have met him several times.
PORTS/SHORE EXCURSIONS: Our first stop was on Sunday evening in Puerto Rico. We did not do too much, we were off the ship for about an hour, then it started raining and we went back on board and headed to dinner. Next stop was St. Thomas. Our initial plans for our yacht trip fell through so we decided to take a cab to Sapphire Beach. Sapphire is a great beach with a great few, soft sand, food, drinks and plenty to do. Next we went to La Romana, D.R. We took a carnival excursion at this port due to the advice and concern for our safety from this board. We went on the Limestone cave tour and Aigo Cigar Factory tour. This tour was just o.k. The limestone cave tour was not very interesting. The caves became protected in about 2003 so there was alot of vandalism and graffiti in the caves themselves. The cigar factory was tiny, there were three employees rolling cigars and the shop was about the size of a jewelry store in an average mall. The locations we drove through were showcases of extreme poverty. Everywhere we stopped we had little children with no shoes and shirts begging for money. This has to be the worst destination we have ever gone to as of yet and we will never book another cruise that does a stop here. Grand Turk was next. We took the Catamaran Sailway tour which was outstanding. We went snorkeling to a spot where the reef is on a drop off wall where the ocean goes from about 15 feet to a plunge of 7000 feet. This was absolutely beautiful and was better snorkeling than we experienced in Costa Maya the previous year. Then we stopped over at a beach that was very pristine as well. The Catamaran served us pringles and gave us unlimited cups of rum and punch which was great considering most excursions only give one free cup. Our last stop was Nassau. We booked privately through Dolphin Encounters and took the Paradise Island Ferry over to the Blue Lagoon. This also was a highlight to our trip. We paid 85 a person for a close encounter with a dolphin. We got to kiss, hug, feed, dance and rub a dolphin. The mammals here are treated very humanely and I did not feel like I was contributing to the detriment of the dolphins. At this location the star of Flipper is also kept. You can also do a Sea Lion encounter but my wife was too scared to do that one. They also have a 350lb sea turtle that they rescued which was nice to see. The beach area at the blue lagoon was very nice. We laid out a bit and got some drinks at the little bar on the beach. The server there was very nice, danced to the music and made the best drinks we had on the entire cruise. This was the only time we felt the actual Caribbean island feel, with the music and drinks.
EXPERIENCES: First major complaint was that the retractable roof on the lido pool was closed the entire cruise. Staff stated the roof was broken. Now that is a problem that should be able to be resolved quickly but it was not. The first three days of our cruise was extremely rough. We had winds of up to 100km/h which translate to about 60mph and waves as high as 25-30 feet. I understand that Carnival cannot control weather and that is fine but the ships stabilizers did not go out the entire cruise. I continuously called the pursers desk daily to ask if they were out and were told that the captain decided that they would not be beneficial enough to support the use of them. That is an area that I felt was unacceptable. It was so bad that the coffee cups on the lido deck were falling and breaking, shows were postponed, pools unusable, and sea sickness was throughout the ship. Next complaint was that our power in our room went out twice during the cruise. Both times power was restored by maintenance in our cabin with about 2 hours. Next the TV was very nice except there were lip synch issues where the sound was completely off the entire cruise. Made watching anything on the tv absolutely terrible. For being a new ship the railings rattled on our balcony already, paint was peeling on the dividers and the vibration in the cabin was the worst of any other boat and cruiseline that we have sailed in the same level and location. This cruise also had alot of children, quoted number was 700 under the age of 11 who ran the ship rampant with no parental supervision and continuously got on the elevators pressing every floor and then exiting.
DISEMBARKATION: The absolute worst ever. Not sure what happened but we were ready to disembark at 7:00am when the assistant cruise director came on over the PA and asked any self disembarkers to wait until he made an announcement that the lines have died down. Well by 8:15 we decided to head down to deck 0 due to being told self disembarkation was only until 8:30am. We were on the 7th floor and the elevators were consistently full so we decided to take the stairs, we got to the second floor and hit the line. By the time we got out of the port terminal it was 9:45. And here is where it gets worse, this just happened to be the day the taxi cab drivers decide to go on strike. So we wait about an hour for someone to come take us to our post cruise hotel the Sheraton Yankee Clipper. If any of you are deciding on staying here or not, choose the latter. I am sitting in the hotel right now composing this and this hotel just smells of mustiness and mold. It is very old, the beds are very uncomfortable. I am a Starwood Preferred Guest and got upgraded to a ocean view room. If this is their so called top of the line, I have stayed in nicer Motel 6 in the Chicago area. The location of the hotel is not worth it and do not get fooled by the Sheraton name as I did. Just a shame.
Overall the Cruise was very good. We met alot of people who we became friends with and are planning on cruising with next year. We won our first ship on a stick during the Qwest Scavenger Hunt. There were alot of positives that outweigh the negatives but I wanted to provide everyone our full experience onboard this ship. For being a new ship, it sure did have alot of problems. For all I know the stabilizers also could be broken. But the experiences we had on board could not be replaced and I would not trade them for anything, as it was a wonderful Honeymoon. Now on to the return flight for Sunday, looks as it will again be a long day, thunderstorms in Fort Lauderdale may delay flight and Chicago has 4-6 inches of snow in the forecast tomorrow, wish us the best.