My husband and I are pretty loyal to Carnival, this being our third cruise with them. We've also cruised on Royal Caribbean and Holland America. We prefer Carnival because of the more relaxed customers. Just my observation, Royal is best for families unwilling or unable to spend the money for Disney, and Holland is for the older crowd. While my husband and I are demographically more aligned with Celebrity or Princess, we like to let loose and have fun while cruising and have found Carnival to be a good match.
We used All Stars Tours & Transportation to get us from the Crown Plaza to the port and would recommend them. We don't purchase the FFTF and aren't Diamond or Preferred or Platinum members and it's not a race to me, it's vacation. I prefer to get on board when the cabins are accessible. I wipe down the cabin with antibacterial wipes first thing. My kids call me a germaphobe, but knowing how quickly they turn over cabins, going over light switches, the telephone, the tv remote assures me the cabin is clean. I drop my carry bag, stash valuables in the safe and then head to the buffet for lunch.
We sailed Carnival in 2012 and in 2015. Since those cruises, the quality of the food has changed, not for the better. Before I go further, let me assure you I have realistic expectations. I know the dining room food is on par with banquet food, the buffet isn't gourmet although everything should be fresh and appealing, even if basic. The buffet wasn't very good for the most part, especially at dinner time when they'd serve creations that were barely edible. The main dining room food was hit or miss. During the past cruises, I could name memorable dishes from the dining room. This time around, the food wasn't very good. The salmon was overcooked, not just a little, but close to inedible. The chicken was dry. The shrimp was okay. The dining room and buffet is where I had the disadvantage of having sailed Carnival previously, because I KNOW they can do better. At first I thought I was being too picky, too critical (getting too old?), but other passengers talked about it as well. So, where is the good food aboard?
1. The Blue Iguana. Go for breakfast and let them make you a scrambled egg and sausage burrito. This will be the one food thing I will miss. Also, they will make you eggs to order here: fried, freshly scrambled. This was a little-known option.
2. The barbecue on deck 10. No, it's not going to win any awards, and Franklin barbecue in Austin has nothing to worry about, but it's decent pork and beef (I didn't try the chicken), served with decent potato salad and beans.
3. The Deli. There were longggg lines here. Sometimes you just want a good, basic sandwich. They had a good falafel wrap.
4. The steakhouse. $38 per person. The food was very good, akin to what you'd be served in the main dining room years ago before cruising became so mass market. I did find it odd that we couldn't get a 7pm reservation, just a 6pm, yet at 7pm, while we were still dining, the room was half empty.
5. The Chef's Table. A $75 per person experience that gets you a tour of the galley, along with champagne, wine, interesting taste experiences like mango that looks like an egg yolk, a smoked salmon and cream cheese appetizer in what looks like an ice cream cone, and a 7 course meal that includes Wagu beef and sea bass in a lobster foam. This fills up quickly, reserve it when you book your cruise. It's a cool experience, like being a judge on Top Chef. Bring an open mind. There was one couple who turned their noses up at most offerings.
6. Guy's burgers. They are greasy, so I can't recommend them for a daily meal, but indulge at least once.
Room service now charges between 10pm and 6am for a limited menu. Outside those hours, they charge for warm items like the cheesesteak sandwich, chicken nuggets, and fries. A simple sandwich or salad, some cookies or cheesecake will be delivered without additional charge.
Also, room service no longer delivers a warm breakfast. Your choices are bread, bagels, cereal, and yogurt. Also, there is NO breakfast delivery the morning the cruise ends. THIS is an UNWELCOME change from previous cruises. Just 3 years ago, my group enjoyed smoked salmon, cream cheese, toasted bagels, coffee, and muffins on our balcony while we watched the ship come into port. AND speaking of smoked salmon, it's no longer offered on the buffet line. The ONLY place to get it is during the sea day brunch.
Pizza, available 24/7, was greasy and nearly inedible.
And while it may seem like I'm being overly critical, these changes have taken place in just three years. The differences between then and now are pretty significant.
Okay, what about the rest of the cruise?
Our cabin attendant was very friendly and asked if we'd prefer cabin service once or twice a day. We gave him a beginning of the cruise additional gratuity to tend to us twice a day. He took excellent care of us and we made certain Conquest's hotel director, Mirel Cimic, knew it.
I wanted to go to the comedy club more often, but only made it once due to longggg lines to get it. You seriously need to be queued an hour before a performance to get in. If anyone from Carnival is reading this- 86 the lip sync night and put comedy in the main showroom for that night.
We spent most nights in the casino. They allow smoking all over, you can't get away from it. As a former smoker, having the smoke smell on my clothes and having a sore throat every night was a huge inconvenience and we spent less time there than we would have had smoking been limited to one area or ventilation been better.
The entertainment staff were fine, the Cruise Director, Leigh, was pretty funny.
The best music on board was on the 3rd floor each evening. They had a trio of string players, very pretty ladies, performing rock music on the cello, violin, and viola. Their version of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir was excellent.
Also on 3, usually later in the evening (but through by midnight) was a band called Soul Sensations, and they were great. It was sad how few people got up and danced, but there was always a crowd. They played 70's, 80's, pop, soul, rock. I enjoyed this band very much.
The spa is very expensive, but there are few things more indulgent and say "vacation" than a massage at sea.
Most staff were friendly. They bust their asses though and a few were visibly burned out. There was one girl, maybe 18 or so, who was dragging and seemed so unhappy, I just wanted to hug her. There are not enough thank yous to cover how hard they work.
Music is piped throughout the ship, there are no quiet public places other than the Serenity area on decks 11 and 12, however you do hear the music from the pool area.
I'll review the cabin location below.
We booked two excursions through Carnival. Curacao's Coastal and Country Drive was good. It was a motor coach tour where we went to a couple of museums, scenic overlooks, and get thorough information about the island.
In Aruba, we had the BEST EXCURSION EVER! Kukoo Kunuku Open Air Bus & Beach Break.....if you want to see the island, spend some time on the beach and have FUN, book this! When you check in for the tour, ask for Lesley's bus. Only book this tour if you want to get loud and rowdy and have fun. Party people make some NOISE!!!
Disembarkation was fine. We grabbed a porter at the terminal and he whisked us past the lines and we were outside within minutes.
My husband and I have been having a conversation about whether we want to sail Carnival on our next cruise with the changes they've made. It's a conundrum for us, as the clientele on Carnival are our people, and we do get loyalty rewards and casino player rewards. So then we're thinking that Carnival is concentrating more on the newer ships, but again we have a conundrum, as I don't want to sail on a 6000 passenger behemoth amusement park. Is there an affordable cruise on a smaller ship for fun-loving people?
We do NOT want to abandon Carnival, but don't wish to experience any more downgrades. Carnival, are you listening?????
Normally I prefer the aft extended balconies, but this area was the one available using the casino rate.
This was an excellent location! I was pleasantly surprised. It's quiet as there's no reason for anyone to come this far forward unless they're going to their cabin. The food is on the same deck, aft. It's literally right above a stabilizer, so we barely felt motion, and there's a view of the flying bridge, so you can geek out watching the bridge staff.
Nice beach, not much else there. Had a good smoothie at Froots.
Motor coach tour of the island with a stop at a museum and scenic overlooks.View All 224 Island Tour Reviews
BEST EXCURSION EVER! Kukoo Kunuku Open Air Bus & Beach Break.....if you want to see the island, spend some time on the beach and have FUN, book this! When you check in for the tour, ask for Lesley's bus. Only book this tour if you want to get loud and rowdy and have fun. Party people make some NOISE!!!View All 248 Island Tour Reviews