Gathering of family spread throughout U.S. (10 adults, 7 kids). My group was me, my wife, and 3 kids (7, 4, and 21 mos). The grandparents cruised on this ship/itinerary previously. Price, cabin availability and itinerary were appealing. My 4th cruise with Carnival.
Embarkation: Transfers to/from HOU: no problems. Galveston Cruiseport: porters were solid; transfer bus to check-in was smooth; no baggage problems; check-in felt hectic/rushed with group of 17. Ocean suite on deck 7 and ready at 11 am; crib was ready; typical crowded buffet and first-timers adjusting.
Cabin: spacious, felt smaller with double sofa bed compared to cabin next door with single sofa bed; plenty of storage including two closets and under bed for luggage; empty fridge; TV was older but fine; carpet showing wear; bathroom was a good size with double sinks and tub (jacuzzi not functioning); bed/linens comfortable enough.
Ship common areas: clean, carpets showing wear. Consolidated on decks 4, 5 and 10 and 11. Ship has 18 elevators, and they were often delayed (also a LOT of people taking them only 1 or 2 decks). Theater, comedy club, piano bar, night club, casino, arcade, deck 3 atrium lounge, deck 5 mid-lounge (trivia/games area), unused library, deck 5 shops and deck 4 photo galleries, top deck mini golf and basketball court - all pretty typical. Coffee bar had regular line, but moved.
Deck seating: Promenade (deck 5) chairs, walking and whirlpools completely under-utilized. Main and rear pool seating was crowded and loud. Serenity deck typically had seating and was quiet. Deck 11 seating by kids club and sports area were typically open.
Dining: early seating in Blush (6:00 pm; waitstaff got into a rhythm with the kids by the 3rd night and were accommodating; piece of metal wire in nephew’s chicken one night, response from manager was underwhelming). Food was consistent - few items lackluster, few better than expected. Buffet: always a hassle, long lines (especially at breakfast), poor layout. Italian restaurant pasta at lunch is a nice escape option. Soft serve and beverages were fine. Red Frog Pub grub ($3.33/small plate) was good snack if willing to pay.
Port/Excursions: Montego Bay: Cinnamon Hill Golf - pretty good price, nice course, great views, caddies helped, had extra time. Grand Cayman: had reservation at Royal Palms Beach Club with cabana - great service but got crowded and food/drink very expensive. Cozumel: had reservation at Playa Mia with transfers - great for everyone esp. kids, food and drink were cheap (all inclusive not necessary). No problems on and off ship.
The surprising: Guy's Burger Bar was the consistently very good and so was Blue Iguana (liked the breakfast burritos). Steakhouse was enjoyable. Tandoor (Indian) was good and a forgotten/missed option at the buffet. Waterslides and splash area were great for the kids (except the swimming diapers restriction is harsh – 21 mo old could not go in any water except the cabin’s tub).
The disappointing: kids club programming (not engaging, kids did not want to go which was a shock to us); no options for kids under 2; buffet layout (front/middle/back is a terrible layout); chocolate buffet was very lacking; pizza (never any pizza ready; long lines); elevator wait times; poor efforts for germ control - Purell dispensers frequently empty or not working and no paper towels in restrooms; arcade overpriced.
Entertainment, spa, cabin steward, wait/buffet/bar/cleaning/cruise staff, drinks, and cruise programming (bingo, music, trivia) were all fine, but nothing exceptional just met typical cruising expectations. I was not expecting an ultra-luxury experience, but I was pretty disappointed and underwhelmed. If someone came up to me and asked “How was your cruise?”, I could only really respond “Meh..”
Upgraded for the extra space, which it had but felt smaller with double sofa bed compared to cabin next door with single sofa bed; plenty of storage including two closets and under bed for luggage; empty fridge; TV was older but fine; carpet showing wear; bathroom was a good size with double sinks and tub (jacuzzi not functioning); bed/linens comfortable enough. Balcony was good, little tight with the chaise lounge but partitions opened to adjoining cabins. Convenient to forward elevators but corridor was quiet; good soundproofing from adjacent cabins; no activity above or below (including deck 5 promenade - would be weary of cabins mid/aft starboard with BBQ and its music below).