Okay, I'll admit it. I've been a cruise snob for over 30 years and always considered Celebrity my mid level cruise line favorite (until lately). Tried Norwegian a few times but last one was just "meh".
Last cruise on RCCL was also okay but again nothing special. Too much cutting back.
After reading so many good things about Carnival on the CC boards we decided to dive in.
The port of Norfolk and the timing was perfect for us because we have a new grandchild living in Virginia Beach so we combined our visit with our granddaughter and a cruise.
So here we go:
Hotel: Stayed at the Marriott the night before because of the cruise and park package.
We were going to walk to the pier from there but it was pouring rain so we took a 2 minute cab ride for $6.00 including tip.
Embarkation: Got there around 10:30 and thought we would be early but apparently everyone else got there early too so it was crowded waiting for the doors to open.
Boarding was very organized and we boarded quickly. Remember it was raining and we noticed the luggage sitting outside in carts for quite some time and while we weren't too worried about our own hard sided luggage, we were sure there were going to be some wet clothing on board once the bags were opened. There were, and guest services handled it beautifully. We only had a couple of things a little bit wet. But others were not so lucky.
The Ship: I kind of knew what to expect from photos but yikes! It looked like a clown threw up all over the ship. Truly no rhyme or reason to any of the decor in most of the public areas. But we quickly got used to it and had quite a few laughs over it, too.
The ship is one of those that you have to go up to a high floor or to a low floor to get from one end to the other due to the DR being in the middle of decks 3 and 4. Just a small annoyance and we were glad to get the extra exercise.
The Cabin: Loved it! We booked a balcony guarantee about 4 weeks out and within 3 days had received one of the famous L shaped cabins toward the aft. Huge balcony and though the square footage was probably the same, we liked the layout of the room too.
Ladies they have a hair dryer in the dresser but bring a rubber band to put around the handle if you don't want to have to hold on to the button the whole time.
The Staff: Some of the nicest, friendliest crew we've ever encountered from start to finish. Room steward, dining room staff, bar staff and guest relations were professional and friendly.
The FOOD!!! Honestly the best food we've had on a mid level cruise line in more than 10 years. Sorry Celebrity.
Almost every dish we ordered in the dining room was good. My husbands steak was always cooked exactly as he likes it. The lobster on Elegant Evening was real Maine lobster, not that rubbery stuff we've had on other cruises.
There was more than enough variety with the Grill, Tandoor, The Rotisserie and the Buffet. Didn't do the Steak House as we thought $35.00 pp was a bit too much. We could pay that at home and really didn't think we needed to because the MDR was great.
But the desserts! The desserts were to die for. Really. I love a good home cooked chocolate cake and theirs was the best! Carrot cake was excellent. Butter Pecan Ice Cream heavenly. Apple Pie just like mom used to make. The creme brulee was just okay and I could only find cheese cake with caramel in it and it was so-so.
Nassau: Been to Nassau a zillion times and each time we regret getting off the ship.
Freeport: Took a van for $10.00pp r/t to Lucaya Hotel. Got a day pass for $16.00 pp which was good for their pool and beach chairs. Loved the pool. Walked around the shops across from the hotel for a bit and back to the ship by 1:15.
Disembarkation was not good. I think we arrived in port about 7:00 AM but we didn't get off the ship until 11:30. It wasn't Carnival's fault. Customs got backed up and I think they just aren't used to cruise ships arriving in that port lately. Hopefully that will be fixed.
Misc good and bad: Too many smoking areas. I felt like I smelled like smoke all the time.
Lots of music and entertainment in the evening. There was always some place to go and dance or listen to music. Having a dedicated comedy club is a great idea. They had 2 comedians that were pretty good, too. The Red Carpet club DJ seemed to be catering to the hip-hop crowd. Even on 80's night he was playing stuff I never heard of and I was clubbing like crazy in the 80's. Too smokey in there too.
Nice looking Casino but again too much smoke so no money lost in there this time.
All in all a great cruise. I'm now planning another one for our family to take together from Norfolk next year. Carnival won us over!!