embarkation: we took the train from nj to penn station, and then got a cab to the pier. we got in the cab at approx. 11am and didn't€™ get to the pier until 11:40! the traffic was a mess because there were turns that were blocked off, plus there were two other ships (both celebrity) in port that day. once we were dropped off, things went rather quickly. we gave our larger bags to the porter, then proceeded inside. we put our carryon bags thru the xray machine and went thru the metal detectors. there was a carnival rep walking with us up to this point, ripping out the appropriate docs from our folder. after going thru security, we got our embarkation picture taken, then were directed to the lines to have our docs checked and get our sail and sign cards. after that, were proceeded on board, and were in our cabin by 12:15pm. this was the fastest embarkation i've experienced!
cabin: we were on deck 2 (main) with an oceanview cabin on the port side. our cabin was ready, so we unpacked our carryons and relaxed a while before heading up to the buffet for lunch. the cabin was very spacious. we had drawers and shelves that we never used. there is a closet with 3 sections, one with shelves (one shelf held the safe that was operated with a credit card or any other card with a magnetic strip other than your sail & sign card), and two sections with hangers. we didn't have any skirt/pants hangers with clips so i was glad i brought some from home. there were 3 large drawers on one side of the vanity, and a section with small shelves behind doors on the other side. other furniture besides the beds were 2 nightstands that had storage space, a vanity stool, a pull out sofabed and a table and chair. also, placed on the sofa were 2 thick terry cloth robes and our carnival pool towels. very nice.
the bathroom had a small medicine cabinet with shelves, a basket of toiletries on the counter that included 2 packs of disposable razors, toothpaste, moisturizer, soap, and a few other sundries. the hair dryer was mounted on the wall, and was pretty decent unless you have really thick long hair. the shower had shampoo and shower gel in dispensers on the wall, and a shower nozzle that could be hand held or placed in the holder. the water pressure was pretty decent. we did have a problem with our toilet not flushing a couple times. once we were told that it was a problem that affected one area of the ship and would be fixed in 15 minutes (more like a ½ hour) and the other time we were told the plumber would be called and within 15 minutes our toilet flushed on its own. (i guess the plumber could access the problem without coming into your cabin.)
our cabin steward was antonio and he kept our cabin spotless. he always had plenty of fresh towels and ice waiting for us. i left a note requesting additional glasses and they were there when we returned to our cabin. he was always friendly and stopped for a little chat when he saw us. and of course we got chocolates and those cute animal towels with the turndown service. no complaints about cabin service for us!
ship: navigating the ship was a little tricky at first. the galley is in the middle of the ship, so on some decks you could not go directly from one end of the ship to the other. but after a day or two you learn your way around. iâ€™ve read some posts on these boards about the color scheme, but i actually liked it! i thought the different shades of green were pretty. and i loved the seventh seas bar with the seafoam green seats and seahorse tables. the dining rooms had peach linens. the lounge chairs at the sirenâ€™s pool had padded cushions and were more comfortable than the striped loungers at the other pools. but there were not that many of them so sometimes it was hard to find 2 that weren't "saved". those same loungers were also on deck 3 on both port and starboard side. that was a nice area for reading or even sleeping as not many people seemed to go there so it was very quiet. one thing that i didn't like was that it was hard to find a lounge chair by any of the pools that were in the shade. the shaded areas under the decks above were all filled with tables and chairs for eating. also, the carpeting in the hallway on deck 2 needs to be replaced-it was spotted and had what looked like water stains. otherwise the crew were always seen about cleaning. the public bathrooms, elevators, and buffet tables were always clean.
food: we requested late seating but when we got our sail and sign cards discovered we had been assigned early seating in the atlantic dining room. first order of business was to see the maitre€™d about changing that. no problem. we were seated at a table for 10 at the 8:30 seating. the first night there were 2 couples seated with us. the maitren d' came and asked if we would switch tables to accommodate a family of 12, but our table was next to the window and no one wanted to move, so we stayed there. the next night another couple joined our table after switching from the pacific dining room where they said they had horrible service. our waiter and assistant never introduced themselves, but were extremely efficient, and would chat after dinner if approached. i never felt rushed, but we were always done by 9:45-10pm, while other tables were just getting their entrees. on the first night i asked for lemon for my iced tea and after that night there was always a plate of lemon wedges on the table.
overall i thought the food was good to very good, but i think the food on royal caribbean was better. and on royal caribbean, the waiters were always encouraging you to try something in addition to whatever you ordered, and always brought out extra desserts for you to try. one night on rccl, i didn't want any dessert and the waiter insisted on bringing something, and brought me a fruit salad that wasn't even on the menu! our waiter on carnival never offered anything additional. if you asked for another dessert or a second lobster tail, it was brought, but not encouraged. maybe that was why we were always done early!
i can't remember everything that was on the menu for dinner, but some of the entrees were rack of lamb, lobster tail, prime rib, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, roast duck, roast sirloin of beef, chateaubriand, turkey and roast pork loin. a few nights there was a pasta entree that could also be ordered as an appetizer portion, but they needed more sauce as they were too dry. all the soups i tried were very good, especially the cream of mushroom and indian pumpkin soup (very spicy). the appetizers were also very good, but when you order the shrimp cocktail, the cocktail sauce that comes with it is just a little dab, hardly enough for one small shrimp let alone four! the smoked salmon appetizers were my favorite, not salty at all. another choice was escargot, which many at our table loved. each night you were offered two salads, but one was listed as field greens and was always just iceberg or romaine lettuce. the caesar salads were good. overall, nothing was terrible, but nothing was really excellent either.
we never went to the dining room for lunch (which is not open on days when you are in port), but went to the buffet, the grill, and the yangzee wok. the buffet always had a nice variety of food and even when the lines were long, they moved quickly. there was a salad bar with various fixings and dressings, cold selections, hot foods, a carving station that had a different meat every day (turkey, ham, pork, roast beef and leg of lamb), fresh fruits, and desserts. the grill served hot dogs, hamburgers (well done only), minute steaks (which took 10 min. to cook), chicken breasts, and even veggie burgers. the line here moved more slowly because you had to wait for things to be cooked. drinks were iced tea (no lemon available), lemonade, fruit punch, water, coffee and tea. pizza was ok, and there were self-serve frozen yogurt and ice cream machines.
for breakfast we ate in the dining room and at the buffet. (not on the same day!) the buffet had an omelet station where you could choose your fillings, sausage, bacon, ham, pancakes, toast, bagels, yogurt, cereal, danishes, fruit, scrambled eggs (which i think are powdered eggs) hash brown circles, and cold cereals. fruit juices were only orange and grapefruit. there was more of a variety of juice choices in the dining room, but if you want cranberry juice the waiter has to go to the bar for it. one morning it took 20 minutes to get a cranberry juice which i thought was just ridiculous. the dining room offered some things you couldn't get at the buffet, such as bagels with lox and cream cheese, hot cereals (oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits), french toast, and eggs benedict. for the eggs benedict, you only get one egg and it is finished under a broiler making the hollandaise sauce pretty dried out.
we never used room service so i can't comment on that.
entertainment: our cruise director was mark price. he was ok, some of his jokes were pretty corny. the welcome aboard show was fun, and there was a very funny comedian that night. he also did an adult midnight show the following night. living in america was a broadway revue song and dance extravaganza with some spectacular costumes. and yes, many of the girls costume bottoms were thongs! vroom was another song and dance show, but the songs were pop and disco. the other shows offered were a magic show and the guest talent show, but we skipped those to go the casino instead. there was kararoke, and the usual newlywed not-so newlywed game was done in the afternoon on our last sea day. we wanted to stay by the pool so we didn't get to see that. (many of the shows are shown on the tv in your cabin afterwards but we never saw that one.) the adriatic lounge had dancing to a variety of music, 60's, 70's, disco and latin, on various nights. films were also shown here on certain days.
the adriatic lounge was also the site of the captain's cocktail party, and the past guest cocktail party. we attended both. (i think we were invited to the past guest party because i had previously cruised on princess which is now owned by carnival.) both parties were similar. note: before entering the lounge for the captain's cocktail party, you go thru a reception line to meet the captain and other ship officers. get there early as the lounge gets very crowded and it will be impossible to get a seat. waiters walked around with trays of drinks you could choose from such as champagne, wine, whiskey sours, martinis, and fruit punch. you could also get soda. and other waiters passed around trays of hor d'oeuvres like mini meatballs, chicken nuggets, and empanadas. at the past guest party, they had more cocktails to choose from like melonballs, and blue margaritas. they had 4 different canapãs to choose from, and then came around with mini pastries for dessert. mark price raffled off a couple of prizes and then a short film was shown on carnival's history.
ports: in saint john, all the ladies were greeted with roses as we disembarked the ship. we took the saint john highlights tour and enjoyed it very much. we had a lovely sunny day that started out at 63 degrees but warmed up nicely. our guide told us that it was the first time they'd seen the sun in 13 days, previously they had nothing but rain and fog so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face! i guess the travel fairy was with us! the tour took us to the city market where we were able to walk around for 45 minutes, then to view the reversing falls. our last stop was at the carleton martello tower, a circular stone fortification, that had spectacular views of the bay and harbor.. along the way, our guide also pointed out some of the notable places in the city, along with bits of history. it took about 2½ hours and i'd recommend this tour. after returning from the tour, carnival only had one gangway open to get back on the ship. the line was unbelievable as most passengers were returning from their shore excursions at the same time. they finally opened a 2nd gangway, but clearly a lack of planning.
in halifax, we walked along the boardwalk that runs along the waterfront, and poked into some of the shops along the way. in the afternoon we took the titanic treasures tour. there wasn't much to it. we were taken to the maritime museum (which is right on the boardwalk so you can easily walk to it) where there was a small exhibit of titanic artifacts. this seems to be the major attraction, so it was very congested in that area of the museum. there were many other nautical exhibits but not enough time to see them all. then we were taken past two of the cemeteries where victims were buried (the catholic and jewish) and then to the fairview lawn cemetery where the rest of victims that were recovered were buried.
both ports are relatively small cities and easy to get around in. we never saw the free bus in halifax. also both ports had shopping areas set up right at the pier so you didn't have to go far to look for souvenirs.
misc: the passengers on the cruise were evenly mixed between families, couples, and singles. lots of kids, but for the most part they were well behaved. we had some noise from them running in the hallway but otherwise our cabin was quiet.
even though it was late july, the weather was very cool. we had no rain or fog, but the air coming off the water was quite chilly. also, the dining rooms, bars and lounges were like alaska, so i'd recommend bringing a sweater or shawl. i was freezing most of the time, and bought a sweatshirt jacket to try to keep warm.
i think i've covered everything. hope this helps some of you who are taking this cruise, or thinking of it. i would cruise carnival again, and think this cruise was definitely worth it for what you paid. hope this wasn't too long.