We chose this cruise for a quick getaway and departure port would eliminate airfare. We read plenty of reviews prior to boarding so our expectations would be accurate. I have sailed twice with Carnival in the past and three times with NCL.
We chose to drive down the day before and stayed at the Quality Inn in Mount Pleasant, SC. They had a cruise package that included shuttle to/from port and parking for the 5 days of the cruise, only $40. Hotel was fine; clean, hot breakfast was great (eggs, french toast, cereal, bacon, sausage, pastries, biscuits and gravy, grits, fruit, coffee, assorted juices, etc) . Staff was very friendly. The only problem we encountered was that the shuttle that was to pick us up at 11:45 am the next morning did not show up until almost 1 pm. After we called the shuttle service directly, we were told that the hotel did not notify them that we were there. Shuttle driver was apologetic and friendly. We would not have cared except we'd paid for FTTF and it kind of defeated the purpose by the time we arrived at the port, unloaded, checked in, etc.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Check in at Charleston was a bit hectic; disembarkment was a piece of cake. We were off the ship and at our shuttle within half an hour. Beats Miami by a long shot!! We were on the road headed home equipped with Starbucks before 9 am.
Cabin: We stayed on Empress (deck 7) forward, cabin E11. The cabin was what we expected, fine for 2 people to maneuver. However, if you are a light sleeper, it could be troublesome. The cabin is located directly under the Blue Sapphire Theater where you can hear lots of "thumping and bumping" during late night shows, if you happen to be in your cabin, which we were. You also hear the early morning noises of coming into port, creaking and moaning of anchor or whatever it is that is located Forward. Very, very loud. Our steward, Slam, was wonderful. Very gracious, tidied our cabin quickly and left fun towel animals almost every day.
Sidenote: The last day of the cruise, our sail and sign cards quit working as keys for our cabin. A steward down the hall came to try her master and it worked. Ours just flashed red. She contacted the technician right then and there and asked that he come check our lock. My disabled mother had broken her toe earlier that day so was just wanting to lay down for a bit. They let us in our room so she could rest. A while later, we decided to walk to the casino to pass the time until the technician would arrive. Two hours later (three hours since call placed to technician) and my mother tried to get in our cabin. The lock still wouldn't work. At this point she was in so much pain that tears ran down her face; I had her sit on the stairs closest to Guest Services (no benches available in that area) while I ran over to Guest Services. Iris was wonderful. She called and requested immediate attention for our situation. She expressed sincere concern for my mother and her pain. When I returned to my mom, a young man, Josh, part of the Entertainment Staff, had walked by mom, stopped, knelt to her level and was gently stroking her hand and comforting her while she cried. He was the kindest young man we have ever encountered while traveling. He helped me guide my mother back to our cabin at a snail's pace, laughing and talking softly the whole way. Iris walked with us also. My mom hugged him when he left us. Carnival has two gems in Iris and Josh. I'm writing directly to Carnival to commend them.
Stunning island; Carnival provided the buffet that was pretty good. Jamaican jerk chicken and rice, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fruit, small pieces of cake.
We love Charleston for its historic value. The port was okay; disembarking was much easier/faster than embarking. I would cruise out of here again, especially to save airfare.