We are a couple that has been on five cruises with Carnival. We traveled with two other couples. One couple has been on a Carnival cruise with us before, the other couple had never cruised and was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. We are all in the late 30's to early 50's age range.
We drove from Iowa down to New Orleans, staying at two hotels along the way. The first night we stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Memphis. Nice and clean hotel, very hot "hot tub", good breakfast. The second night we stayed in New Orleans, at the Drury Inn. Very lovely hotel, clean rooms, great "kickback hour" food and drinks, great breakfast. One highlight: One of the couples checked into their room and found that there was another family already using the room! They were upgraded to a whirlpool suite at no extra charge, and that made for a nice start to their anniversary trip.
PORT: We planned to park at the port and weren't sure how long it was going to take to get there. We estimated about 45 minutes but it actually only took about 20 from the Drury Inn to the Port of New Orleans. We parked in the parking garage. (Note, we had a luggage topper on our minivan and it fit just fine inside the garage). The porters had our luggage unloaded and whisked away very quickly.
EMBARKATION: The smoothest, fastest embarkation we've ever encountered. Everyone had smiles on their faces, were professional and moved people along quickly. They were taking pictures in the port instead of the gangway, so there was no struggle to wait for all that. You could take pictures at your leisure. One interesting thing that happened was that the fire alarm kept going off while we waited to board. We were never asked to evacuate though. We were called to get onboard and were escorted with music and a little parade! So cute. We were onboard the ship by 11am...a new record for us.
STATEROOM: Our stateroom was M116. We've had both interior and balcony staterooms in the past, and found that we prefer an interior room. Cold, dark and quiet for sleeping. Spacious bathroom and storage areas. We never did meet our room steward the entire cruise. This was a drawback, as we like to meet him/her and tip extra! We had ordered "Happy Anniversary" room decorations from Bon Voyage for our friends and they were beautiful! One thing we noticed was that the trays from Room Service were left outside in the hallway for hours at at time. (Up to 12, from what we observed). We did not order room service at all during the cruise but many of the cabins on our floor did, and it was difficult by the evening to step around/over/between all the trays at times. Since we never saw our room steward, I can't help but wonder if there was something going on and they were understaffed. We've never had anything less than stellar service in this area before.
SHIP: Our room was good, but there was a strong sewage smell in the hallway and in several areas of the ship. Next time we'll try to book the Verandah deck again, up closer to the action. We really like the layout on the smaller ship class. The decor was okay, not as over the top as some of the other ships. I liked the "city" touches that were included. Most of the areas of the ship were clean and well maintained. A few of the womens' bathrooms had missing/broken/almost broken faucets. We observed employees cleaning the areas of the ship (except those room service trays) at all hours of the day and night!
DINING: We decided that on this cruise we wanted to experience the Main Dining Room as much as possible. So we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the MDR. We did try out the Deli and Pizza as well as the Lido for a few snacks. We also visited the Sushi bar a few times. The food was great, but I really miss the old menu. The new menu didn't have as many appealing foods, and they seemed to serve many of the "favorites" on the same day. Our dining staff was WONDERFUL! We enjoyed the singing and dancing, the service was top notch. Our regular server cut her hand on the first night so they had a "new" server fill in who had never been in the MDR before. He did a fantastic job. We never met the Maitre-d'. A note about the Pizza: Every time I tried to get pizza, there was a very long line, and the only kind available was Pepperoni. The pizza guy would ask "What kind would you like?" and no matter what I said, he'd give me a slice of pepperoni. It just made me laugh.
ACTIVITIES: We kept busy the entire time. The Serenity Deck was great, minus a few "chair hogs" that would hold spaces all day and never showed up. The hot tubs were nice when they were working. Several times during the cruise they were shut down for "puke" in the pool and cleaning. Other activities we enjoyed were Afternoon Tea, the comedy clubs, martini tasting, the casino (lost my $20 and that was it for me), the nightly shows, Bingo, trivia, dance lessons, and I'm sure I'm forgetting others. The comedy club was much funnier at the "PG" rating level. There were a lot of drunk hecklers at the rated "R" shows and that took a lot of time/attention away from the comics.
CHILDREN'S CLUBS: We didn't bring our kids this time, but there were a LOT of children on board. We found out during the cruise that the southern schools have a "fall break" week, and this was it. While it didn't ruin our vacation, we did have to ask kids to leave the Serenity deck a few times, and there were a few "tantrums" in the dining room to listen to.
PAST GUEST PARTY: This seemed like an endless advertisement for Carnival. The drinks were strong and plentiful, the appetizers were few and not great. In all our cruises we'd never been to a past guest party before so I'm not sure if it was a fluke or if they are all like this.
ENTERTAINMENT: "Extreme Country" was a great show. "Dream Voyage" was a bit wacky and strange. It was quite rocky during part of the cruise but the singers and dancers had it under control. Well done!
PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS: Progresso was cancelled due to high winds, so we only stopped in Cozumel. Our excursion was booked through Carnival and was the Isla Pasion via Power Catamaran. Passion Island itself was great, but the boat to/from was having engine issues. Rather than inform the passengers of that, they left us standing on the beach, with no shade, for over 40 minutes while telling us nothing. That was the only drawback to an otherwise perfect day. The food and drinks on the island were plentiful and delicious. The hammocks were relaxing. The bathrooms and shower areas were spotless. And for those who wanted to take part in activities, there were organized games all afternoon. There were four ships in port, including the Oasis of the Seas, so that made the shopping areas very crowded. In several visits to the port, I've never had to stand in line so much/long!
BEHIND THE FUN TOUR: This was an amazing tour, and I would highly, highly suggest it to anyone who is a repeat Carnival cruiser. We learned so much on this 3 hour tour! My favorite part was getting to go backstage on the theatre as well as on the bridge, but the other areas including the galley and engine room were nice too. Again, highly, highly suggest this tour!
PROFESSIONAL PICTURES: We didn't purchase any of them this time, and that's a first for us. The quality just wasn't there like it has been on previous cruises.
ADULT BEHAVIOR: Carnival has a reputation for being a party ship, but in all our cruises we've never seen much evidence of that. This time, however, it was a giant party day and night. Along with people vomiting, removing their clothing, etc. I'm not sure if it's the people we cruised with (mainly Southerners) or what, but it wasn't the kind of behavior we want to see. And we're not prudes, which makes us question if it's time to move on to another cruise line.
DEBARKATION: Extremely well organized and fast, we were off the ship by 8:30am. The port agents really moved people along!