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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a ... Read More
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a stranger in a strange land. I’m not Texan. I don’t like country music. I have no tolerance for children running around in my vicinity. I don’t even like frozen sweet tropical drinks or mass-produced American beers. This August my in-laws invited my spouse and me to join them for a 7 night cruise on the Carnival Magic in mid November. They are in their late Seventies. This was an invitation I couldn’t pass up. Spending time with parents is a limited commodity as we get older. I did a lot of research mostly at Cruise Critic to find out how to maximize the potential with what could have been a disastrously disappointing experience. It completely paid off. This cruise converted me to a Carnival aficionado, and now I’ve caught the cruise bug. My experience on the Magic for the Eastern Caribbean itinerary wasn’t only incredibly luxurious, despite some minor nits, it was ‘magical.’ The Ship This liner is very large, accommodating nearly 3700 passengers with 15 decks. However, the common areas where I found myself were never overcrowded. The décor of the ship is sort of an Eighties rainbow tropical mash up. It’s a little Vegas, but not in bad taste. The strobing lights in the lobby, hallways, and Ocean plaza were pretty. There are so many areas to explore, I was discovering new venues even on the last day. Deck 5 has a wide Lanai which circles the entire ship--a fabulous opportunity for some walking exercise and some sea spray. I found myself meeting others in the Ocean plaza on deck five for trivia games. This was the same venue for live entertainment at other times on the ship. It opens onto a special zone on the Lanai, which was one of the few areas of the ship where smokers were welcome. An occasional waft of smoke was the price to pay if one sits here because the automatic doors open often to the outside of the ship. As for smoking in general, the ship was very clean. However, it is allowed in the casino, which is unavoidable, since it takes up the entire midship of the promenade, deck 5. Frankly, the casino stunk of cigarette smoke. I’m not much for gambling, but there was a Carnival Player’s Club event for my cruise which had the casino buzzing with a lot of activity. I hear the odds are very bad at sea relative to land casinos, but someone won $2500 and a free cruise there. The sports deck on 12 had a lot of family activity toward the aft of the ship with a full sized basketball court, mini golf, foosball, ping pong, outdoor exercise equipment, the ropes course (which looked fun but never got the chance to try), and the waterworks area with two different large water slides, a big soaker bucket and two smaller slides. I never lounged around the two pools on deck 10, the Lido, where the majority of activity was centered. There were always chairs available, but the area was too crowded for me. I noticed one in the aft pool one morning all by herself. Mornings might be the best time to avoid crowds for taking a dip. The hot tubs tended to be bustling with groups of 4 to 6 sipping frozen tropical drinks and buckets of beer. There are 8 public hot tubs on the ship: two in the adults-only Serenity area, two on the Lido at the aft pool, and 4 on the Lanai around the ship. I suspect that the Lanai hot tubs were used less frequently because they were a little out of the way of most ship cruiser traffic. However, I was happy with my Thalassotherapy spa where it was always quieter. One night I saw a couple drinking beer in the spa hot tub. I was surprised that the Spa attendants didn’t say anything. I’d liken this behavior to smoking weed during yoga—gauche. The Serenity area is large, with aqua cushions on chaises, round loungers big enough for two, hammocks, and shaded seating. There was also a separate bar with seats for about 12. A waiter strolled the area to take drink orders. This was my deck hang out. Our weather was overcast with quite a bit of overnight rain, and Serenity was practically deserted. There were also a couple of smaller areas on the Sun Deck one deck below just aft of the Serenity flanking the Waterworks which had comfy chairs and great sea views. Faster To The Fun A $49 upgrade from the base fare per cabin gave us some premium level benefits only otherwise afforded to Platinum and Diamond cruisers with 10+ cruises on Carnival. If you can snag one of these, offered as an excursion, I couldn’t recommend them enough. It starts with special luggage tags that cue the embarkation port attendants to expedite your luggage to your room. They asked us to march straight to the front of the line where they had separate embarkation agents checking our IDs and medical affidavits before we got our Sign and Sail cards. FTF does not give you access to the premium lounge, however. We were considered priority boarding and got on in this order: wedding parties, diamond, platinum VIFP groups, suites, Carnival Players Club, FTF, then in the numbered boarding groups by zone. From luggage drop off to boarding was about 30 minutes, as we arrived around 10:30A. Upon boarding, our cabins were already cleaned and ready for us to drop off our carry-ons. We had finished lunch before more than half of the people had boarded. By the time we were done with lunch, our luggage was in our rooms. We were first to debark as well, after the self-service cruisers who carried all of their luggage. FTF gives you access to a separate window with no line and priority attention at guest services which I used to quickly clear up a question about my account and get the tender for in Belize. I’m not sure, but it may have helped with my specialty dining reservations and request for Any Time Dining. In any case, it helped to avoid many more lines, which do not please me. The Spa The Cloud 9 spa is actually on two decks, the fitness center, locker room and saunas on 12, and with thermal suites and treatment rooms on 14. I loved the proximity to the gym from the balcony on 11. I could take a private elevator between 11 and all the way up to the Serenity deck on 15. I spent multiple mornings on the LifeFitness elliptical trainer gazing out to sea. Spa amenities also gave me two free yoga / Pilates classes which were not absolutely conveniently timed, but I did make one yoga class. There were 5 of us in that class led by an enthusiastic Aussie Kevin who was great. I also went to a fee-based ($15) spin class with Kevin (only three people in that class!) and burned serious calories as well as learned a few tricks to take back to the gym at home for spinning. On port days, the ship offers free morning stretch classes for all cruisers. I participated in a couple of those as well. They were more like Yoga-lite and perfectly adequate. There were never more than 6 people in these classes. Fitness wise, it was like we had private lessons. The thermal suites are a little piece of heaven! Don your bathing suit, put on your upgraded Cloud 9 bathrobe, and if you’re like me, try to stuff your size 13 foot into a size 8 slipper (they’re too small!), and take a trip to Nirvana. The medium warm tepidarium has six tiled, heated chaise lounges with a gorgeous private view of the sea. Just next to it was the warmer laconium, with two heated chaises and a wall of heated benches across the back. There are two separate steam baths: the oriental with a spicy herbal scent to it and the even warmer aroma steam bath which features menthol and eucalyptus in the air. None of these rooms ever had more than 4 people in them. It was so peaceful. Just around the corner from here is another semi private multi-head shower with color therapy. I probably spent the most time in the covered Thalassotherapy pool which amply fit about eleven people, but never exceeded about 6. There’s a long underwater chaise which maximizes the jets against the backs and the legs. The jets pushed me off the chaise they were so powerful. At the end of the pool there were two power showers which felt great to pour down against my shoulders and back. All of the spa facilities are available from 8AM – 10PM daily. Some nights I stole away just before retiring to catch some relaxation in that hot tub. I developed some strong shoulder pain that no ibuprofen would allay during the trip, so I considered a ’la carte spa services. I opted for a $129 special (don’t forget the automatic 15% tip surcharge) on day five that included exfoliation, hot stone back, neck, shoulder and scalp massage and a facial in 75 minutes of treatment. This was actually a good deal, and much cheaper than my initial recommended course. Having read the warnings about the hard product sell after treatments, I printed clearly on my intake form that I didn’t want any products. My very nice technician told me after I was finished that this made her feel sad and still pushed a face wash, scrub and mask on me. I eventually caved for the wash and scrub at an additional $77. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to these services. The reason they include so many services in one package is that it gives them an opportunity to sell you exfoliator, shampoo/scalp, massage, facial, and even a very pricey detox program. The facial was good and so was the back massage. As a point of reference, at first I told them about my shoulder pain and they recommended acupuncture. These treatments are $150 a piece, and the specialist recommended 5 sessions at a $150 discount of $600. $pendy. I was also curious about the Botox / Dysport treatments on the ship so I consulted with the ship’s doctor day one about my crow’s feet (~$350). She recommended a total brow lift across my “much worse” forehead (~$450) and midbrow (~$350) for a discounted price of $800 if I booked them all together. These also included free touch ups during the cruise. I don’t know if this is a good deal, but it was definitely beyond my budget. The food There’s more food on this ship than anyone can eat, but I tried. :) The Prime Steakhouse I started out with a reservation on night one made well in advance at the Prime Steakhouse which included a free bottle of wine for our table of four. We tried to get another bottle saying that we were two cabins, but they balked. The free wine is passable, not the best. However, it was free and I love that price! I savored this intimate, upscale restaurant ($35 upcharge) which seats about 80 people. The service was extremely professional, from the chummy bartender at the entrance to the friendly wait staff. The nights began with a cocktail at the very small bar at the front of the restaurant. The absolutely charming Gabriela from Hungary took sweet care of us for my standard classic Crown Royal Manhattan on the rocks (she sought out Angostura bitters to finish the drink for me personally) and a Hendricks gin martini up for the husband. Both of these call brand cocktails come in at under $10. I’m used to $14 cocktails in the bars in Chicago, so the prices were reasonable to me. We got to know Gabriela, and she recognized us by name. This bar was so nice; we had pre-prandial cocktails there on four evenings. It made me feel like I was the only person on the ship for a swank, intimate encounter. We enjoyed the ambiance and food at the Prime Steakhouse so much, we ate there twice. The evening begins with an amuse bouche. We sampled the tomato water, the lobster carpaccio, and crab croquettes. The croquettes stood out. Appetizers and sides were also delicious, from the giant shrimp cocktail to the rich, earthy lobster bisque to the excellent tuna tartar to the surprisingly airy escargot puffs with amazing dipping sauce. The crab cake was so good! It’s just a whole head and shoulders above the absolutely fine crab cake appetizer in the MDR. As for salads, I loved my beefsteak tomato and blue cheese salad, but the Caesar salad could have been better. It was served traditional, whole romaine leaf style with a thick dressing. It’s better than the one they serve in the MDR which tended to be small and underdressed, but doesn’t match the finishing and detail of so many of the other menu items in the steakhouse. The spinach salad was ample, competent, and tasty. The first night was rife with beef, and I tried the 5 spice rubbed bone-in 18 oz. hangar steak. The prime meat was grilled perfectly and seriously too big. Dear father in law loved his 9 oz. filet mignon. “One of the best I’ve ever eaten,” he remarked. A more petit filet comes with the surf and turf. The hubby got the lamb chops. This was the biggest serving of lamb chops I’ve ever seen. It also included perfectly succulent lamb loin medallions if the three giant chops aren’t enough. The second time we went back for two only and focused only on fish and shellfish. We were still blown away with quality. Evidently, so was the staff. This Thursday evening, a formal night in the MDR, the restaurant filled with officers of the ship, including the cruise director, the shopping expert, and surprisingly, a table of the captain and his senior crewmen ship in their very fancy black jackets with epaulets and gold braids. Needless to say, I felt like a VIP sitting next to them. Unfortunately, we didn’t chat because their entire conversation was in Italian! On my second visit, entrée choices were sea bass and lobster tail for us. Perfectly cooked. Absolutely delectable. Note that they only have one size of large lobster tail in the steakhouse: 7 oz. It’s split for a surf and turf and three halves are served for the lobster tail entrée. Sides are unremarkable, unfortunately. We tried the large portion of plain steamed broccoli, basic baked potato with nice side dish of bacon, butter, and sour cream, horseradish whipped potatoes which were just a bit too creamy for my taste, and the strange creamed spinach which consisted of steamed spinach leaves with garlic cream poured on top of them. I actually prefer Boston Market on this one! One standout side was the plain sautéed button mushrooms. These are hard to beat. Desserts were gigantic and amazing from the rich, tall cheesecake which easily feeds three to the chocolate sampler in four tasting portions. Two standouts were the decadent, caramelized apples in a puff pastry dome for which my server announced was the best thing on their menu. Don’t underestimate the cheese course, either. It was chock full of very high quality cheeses: French brie, St. Andre (crazy stinky), Roquefort, aged gouda, almonds, water crackers and a perfect little cluster of grapes. This alone would cost $15-$20 at any fine restaurant. I must not forget the bread choices: rosemary focaccia or a delicious little brioche roll. They’re served with a trio of smears including butter, tomato relish and eggplant relish. Bottom line, this place is near perfect. Another couple we met on the ship told us the same story: they were so blown away with the place, they came back twice. I want to share a final note about reservations in the steakhouse. If you use the reservation system, it may seem full and sometimes hard to get a table. My experience, however, was that it was often not full by more than half. My suspicion is that people make the reservations and then forget to cancel, for which there’s no penalty. Because of this, we arrived 45 minutes early the second night expecting to have a cocktail before dinner and we were seated almost right away. We also saw people coming into the restaurant and being seated without reservations. Words to the wiser! The Chef’s Table I was very pleasantly surprised by the sheer artistry of the Chef’s Table. I’m also happy to report that we experienced a new, third menu for this dinner. I reserved well in advance of the cruise by about 6 weeks through the Steakhouse mcsteakhouse@carnival.com. At our seating, there were 16 cruisers participating. I was told that this was the second offering on this ship this cruise and that because of demand they may have expanded to up to four evenings. In other words, Carnival accommodates for this special event. We met early in the evening at 6:15 in the piano lounge for four appetizers. The pre-dinner event was moved from the Vibe nightclub due to a conflict. A tall stem of champagne accompanied what began a culinary journey which lasted almost three hours. The chef de cuisine and three of his white-toqued sous brought us delectable little bites including an unusual mango sphere which resembled an egg yolk made possible by molecular gastronomy techniques on a savory rosemary cracker. The standout amuses were the salmon tartar mini hand roll and the double crusted lamb meat balls. The third beef carpaccio on air pillow was wild. It looked like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. This is a theme for the dinner: presentations are spectacularly adventurous. Chefs and his assistants explain everything and answer any questions. You’ll feel pampered. From the lounge, we marched into the galley. It’s a clean machine of efficiency and volume. About halfway in, we found ourselves at a white table clothed table with fine china and stemware. Our host, the chef de cuisine was warm and animated. I found my place card with a scrolled personalized menu for the evening featuring a ribbon with a star anise closure. The bread presentation then came with savory thin crisps separating brioche curls with caramelized onions and herbs. Three surprises flank the end of the bread board: a roasted garlic clove, and two different cherry tomatoes which were delicious. I’ve never eaten any tomatoes prepared this way. They were unusual in that they looked raw but were somehow cooked. They were like a little bite of magic. Red or white wine flowed freely at the table, a 2013 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio or a McGuigan Bin Series Merlot, both about $10 a bottle in retail stores. We began the seven course journey with a gorgeous, multilayered beet ‘blanket’ served with a grape tea. Many of the courses are served with separate finishing pours and this was the first of them. This course was beautiful! Diners would be served simultaneously. During every course, the assistants or the Chef himself would crouch down to the table to ensure that everything was to our liking. Next was a delectable crab salad served on a polenta cracker with passion fruit caviar, another gastronomy trick. The duck textures, basically duck two-ways, was delicate with the creamy quinoa and parmesan churros. Probably the most spectacular presentation was the Bisque our way, where two separate tomato soups are poured simultaneously into the plate with a ‘log’ of whipped cream and herbs separating them. Wow. We then stopped and took a tour through the service area where we learned some amazing facts about the kitchen and food preparation on the ship from the Chef. He explained that for a one week cruise, he will order $450,000 worth of food to be delivered in Galveston. They prepare 4000 meals for the brunches and dinners in the MDRs per day! He showed us a computer screen which shows a grid of every order to be completed in real time during the dinner with color coding for modifiers like temperature for steaks. We paraded by stations where we learned that for safety, there are no flames at all in the kitchen. All food, even the grilled steaks are made with on water-heated grills. We saw how each entrée on the menu has a picture at the completion station to cue the assistants on presentations. We then stopped by the pastry area of the kitchen where we met the head pastry chef. He gave us the recipe for Carnival’s signature warm melting cake and demonstrated the preparation. Basically a custardy soufflé of eggs, sugar, butter, cocoa and flour, I discovered the real secret to this dessert: Felchlin Lucerne 44% fine Swiss cocoa powder. They prepare 1450 of these every night. We next marched back to the table where we were greeted with a close up magician who entertained the table with two illusions, one at each end. This was just delightful. The sea bass with fried pop corn pudding, savory lemon macaron, and lobster foam was another winner as the next course. The Wagyu beef short rib with bone marrow soufflé and gremolata crisp was finished with a flourish of demi glace. It was rich and succulent. Finally, we ended with a tapestry plate of sea salt praline chocolate, raspberry, key lime cake, another sweet macaron, and apricot vanilla gel. Just amazing. By now, our group photos were ready and each of us got a picture of the Chef’s Table and participants. We got to know some very nice and interesting people at this meal. Attire was evening casual with a mix of jackets and ties, but plenty of polos and collared shirts for the men. Women as a group looked very nice, but there were no gowns nor sequins. These conventions are an artifact of the past. The Chef stood for pictures with people and the end of the event. Before I booked the Chef’s Table, I had read that this multi-course menu may not approach the finest five star restaurants in large cities. That is NOT the case. This food is a tour-de-force of techniques, ingredients, and presentations. The synchronized service is near perfect. With the champagne, unlimited wine, entertainment, intermezzos, and complimentary photograph, the value is unprecedented. If you’re adventurous or a foodie, it’s a must! Cuchina Del Capitano I never had a chance to try this restaurant in the evening when there is a $15 surcharge. I did however, love it for lunch. Even better, you’ll get quasi table service with an excellent, limited food menu. At lunch, I’d walk up the stairs and visit the hostess who’d assign my party a number and individual ordering menus which are filled out and dropped off at the kitchen. You find any open table, fill your order and wait a short time for your food. The ambience was like a little Italian village. Like most of my favorite places on the Magic, it seemed like a hidden gem. The décor is quaint, and it was never crowded. Honestly, the lunch service was a little slow here. There was also a wait to get an alcoholic drink ordered and delivered. If you order a beer with lunch, which is great because they offer Peroni and Moretti in the Cuchina, they have to get a bar waiter from downstairs to come up. A minor gripe. It’s a cruise! Who’s on a timetable? The limited menu consists of salad, bread, made to order pasta and a spectacular lasagna. Salad and bread were just okay, kind of plain. The made to order pasta, for which you could choose your pasta type: penne, linguini, farfalle; sauce: marinara, Bolognese, red clam, or alfredo (fancy patrons were ordering ‘pink’ sauce, which is a mix of the marinara and the alfredo), and then a nice assortment of vegetables, chicken, or shrimp. My farfalle with marinara, vegetables and shrimp was very delicious. The lasagna is in a class by itself. A generous portion of layered pasta sheets, it included layers of spinach, eggplant planks, and whole chunks of braised beef underneath bubble, melted cheese. This should probably be illegal it’s so good. I wanted to try the arancini, but alas! They’re only available at dinner. Even one evening when the Cuchina’s cuisine was featured at the taste bar, there were none to be had. I guess there’s always a next time… The Red Frog Pub On the Lanai deck right next to the Vibe nightclub sits a large Caribbean style l-shaped pub with convenient outdoor seating on deck. This lively, warm venue featured a variety of beers, specialty mixed drinks and island-inspired small plates to share. The servers are mostly from the islands as well; very friendly and, like most of the staff on ship, surprisingly apt to remember my name with a second visit. When it comes to beer, the place features Red Frog Ale made especially for Carnival. You can order a large 20 oz. pint or a 110 ounce beer tube with a spigot at the bottom for communal sharing. I mentioned that I don’t care for mass produced American beer, and in my opinion, the Red Frog Ale is on par with them. Unless you’re going for quantity, just pass on this. They also serve Boddington’s in the can and Guinness here. When it comes to specialty drinks, the Pub offers many of the fruity, tropical, “drink two of these and get a headache from sugar” cocktails as well. You can order most in these giant fishbowl goblets which can throw you for a loop. I liked their specialty “Ting” cocktails made with a grapefruit soda and white liquor like gin or vodka. The gin Ting is very refreshing since they spice it up with a dash of bitters. As for the food, it’s a tasty winner. Presentations are rustic island themed in paper lined wire cones with long plantain chips mixed in with the mostly fried offerings like fish fingers and excellent coconut shrimp with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. We tried the conch fritters as well and found them to be good, but aren’t what you’d find in Mallory Square in Key West. They unfortunately have a spice in the batter which fries to a shell-like hardness. When I bit into them, I felt like I was going to chip my teeth. The conch ceviche was delicious. The portion big enough, but suffered from a lack of saltines or bread with which to eat it. I also tried the chicken roti and found them to be satisfying. Any food ordered in the Red Frog will run $3.33. They are all certainly big enough to share. Go with a dining mate; and with the ambience, live music in the evenings, and quality, it’s a fun place. The MDR I was happy to reserve a Your Time Dining reservation. We ate in the Northern Lights room always at a separated table for four. The room is large, on two levels. I preferred to eat on the edges of the restaurant rather than in the two-story open center. While the view of the singing and dancing waiters is better in the center since they tend to gather along the crescent stairways to perform, I did not care for the large blue green florescent chandeliers casting and unsavory glow on my food and my family. It’s more intimate under the eaves. We never really waited in long lines to be seated when we’d typically appear between 6:15 and 7:30, maybe three or four parties before us. It was only on our last night that there was a bit of a wait, so we were offered a pager to let us know when our table was ready. It’s completely convenient, since the lobby lounge opens onto the dining room. We just excused ourselves and sat and chatted on the sofas for about 25 minutes while we sipped a drink from the bar. The quality of the food in the MDR is a bit hit or miss. I was never dissatisfied. I loved the variety and didn’t order off of the everyday items menu. I liked more adventurous fare, often trying a ‘Didja’ appetizer which included interesting fare like frog’s legs Provençale and braised Ox tongue. The fish entrees were typically overcooked to my liking. I asked the waiter if they could cook my salmon to more of a medium consistency and he said it would be too difficult for the kitchen with the volume. I thought the Panko breaded shrimp were delectable, as was the rich, sherried seafood Newburg. Soups were consistently good and often interesting with options like strawberry or chilled peach, a hearty navy bean, and a surprisingly spicy Tom Kha with chicken. My in laws thought that their food was often not hot enough for them. I’m not as sensitive to temperature and found mostly everything very good. For dessert, I loved the warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream; it’s totally decadent. We had four different dining captains when we ate and each was quite special, but it wasn’t until the last night that we really struck the jackpot and had a waiter who was clearly trained in a five star establishment. From the whisking of the napkins to our lap, the attentive and friendly service, to the use of a crumb catcher, he was spot on! The others had strengths in different ways. One evening, our friendly waiter surprised us all at the table with a solo singing performance to the entire dining room after the wait staff finished their number. Another night, we had a guy who comped us our after-dinner drinks and didn’t charge the corkage fee for the wine we brought to share at the table from the cabin. Yet one other night, when my in-laws were dissatisfied with their food temperature, our waiter tried to buy our satisfaction with extra appetizers, entrees and desserts to the table. It wasn’t like we needed the extra food, but I can (but probably shouldn’t) always eat a few more shrimp or a few forkfuls of cake. If I had to put my finger on the issue with the MDR, it would be that the servers are spread too thin. It doesn’t help that every 45 minutes or so, they all MUST convene in the center of the room to sing a song together. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the live entertainment, waving my napkin above my head with the majority of the diners. However, when your domed entrée sits on a large serving tray cooling with 14 others while you wait for the musical number to end, there’s kind of a disconnect here. Sea days gave us brunches in the Southern Lights dining room. There was always a line for this, but it moved briskly and we were seated within 15 minutes of arriving. As a bonus, as a repeat Carnival cruiser, I was offered coupons for free drinks at brunch. They’ve got a delicious bloody Mary bar right outside the dining room with multiple ingredients and hot sauces all mixed to order with a generous pour of Belvedere vodka. No complaints here whatsoever! Brunches would start with a basket of breads and sweet rolls. Coffee and juices at brunch were included with no surcharge, so that was nice. The special menu had nice savory options like salmon and mildly spicy Cornish hen diavola, which I thought was great, as well as omelets made to order. Standard breakfast options like eggs or sausage or waffles were good as well. A totally delicious and easily overlooked option was the jerked bacon on the Caesar salad. The spice rub on that bacon was amazing. We got four pieces, so I shared them. We all loved it. Not so good was the soupy mac and cheese which suffered from too high a béchamel to cheese ratio. Seating could be communal or at smaller tables. One morning we asked for a window view. They suggested a long 10 top five seats from the window at first. We said we didn’t prefer it, so they moved us immediately to a gorgeous view aft of the ship right at the window with the azure eddies from the engines coloring the ship’s trail in the water. Lido Buffet I avoided this area of the ship almost entirely. I think it’s great for families, but the idea of carrying around an oversized plastic plate on a tray and finding a clean, available booth to sit in seems unnecessarily downscale. One would typically have to stop at multiple stations with multiple lines. In almost no case were these lines very long, about 3 or four people waiting, but it’s like a giant Golden Corral. I don’t eat hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, or even pizza when there’s a finer dining option just steps away. It always seemed like the line for the Mongolian Wok which wrapped around the area was too long. Skipped it. There were three areas here which did get my attention, however. The first was the deli portside aft of the ship. The in-laws tried the Reuben and were underwhelmed. The meat portion was skimpy as were the sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. The second buffet area which tended to have my husband suddenly appear with some chocolate delicacy was the chocolate bar. The cakes looked great. The best buffet option was the Tandoor kitchen starboard aft on the ship. The food here was excellent. There were plenty of vegetarian entrée options with rice, entire sauce bar of Indian choices from tamarind to raita to complex chutneys. They had delicious tandoor charred fresh fish and fresh naan coming out of the oven in a stream. We lunched there twice. Room service We regularly used room service for an early breakfast delivery of juice, coffee, bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Options were limited but certainly sufficed. It was great to use the door hangar the night before to get something delivered freshly to the cabin. Timing was always spot on and the portions were really big. Order coffee and they send you a carafe of four cups! The smoked salmon included four large smoked fillets wrapped up to look like roses with a few raw red onion rings and tasty capers sprinkled over them. I wasn’t really happy with the limp wheat toast I got one morning. The next morning, I just marked ‘dark toasted’ on the card and the problem was solved. One day, we made smoked salmon bagels to take with us on our excursion. Nobody looked in our beach bag as we left the ship. We always tipped the room service waiter $2-$5 cash. The Coffee Bar I only went to this place once, which surprised me because I’m a Starbucks-a-holic with daily visits. I like a triple espresso over ice with a touch of soy or almond milk and a Splenda. I got one here twice and I was just a bit underwhelmed. The espresso shots were premade and just poured from little metal pitchers under the machine, which if you know anything about good espresso is a total no-no. No almond or soy milk, either. This is a missed opportunity for Carnival. Service was great, however. Not surprisingly, the second time I visited, I was greeted by name. Drinks I wrestled very hard with whether to purchase the Cheers program for my trip. Three weeks before we cruised, Carnival raised the prices on the package from $37.50 per person per day to $49.95. We opted out. When ships leave out of Galveston, Carnival states that drink packages cannot be purchased until day two because of Texas law. Between the four of us, we each brought on a bottle of wine. We used these bottles at dinner in the MDR three times to offset the costs of buying at dinner, despite the fact that there is a $15 corking fee with a bottle. We also had dinner reservations in the steakhouse on the first night for the free bottle of wine. As repeat cruisers, my in-laws gave us their free drink coupons for Sea Day Brunches which we used with ours as well to save. Since we’d have one or two drinks during the day, a drink before dinner, wine with dinner and one drink after dinner, the Cheers program with the previous price would have saved us about $70 overall in drink fees. We ended up spending $589 on drinks and were never wanting, so the new prices would not have made sense for us. The ones that got away If the cruise had been longer with more sea days, I would have like to have tried the Sea Day Barbecue on the outside Lanai deck. My only other often desired but never tried area was The Taste Bar, which doubles as a breakfast buffet on port days (good-to-know fact!). The taste bar features amuses from the restaurants on the ship, including the premium ones. It was never open when I walked by, except the one night when they featured the Cuchina Del Capitano fare sans the treasured arancini. Entertainment We caught a couple of shows in the theater. Overall quality was good. The cast consisted of a male and female singing lead, four male dancers, eight female dancers, and a five piece band-- all seasoned professionals. We caught two music reviews, both about 40 minutes. My wish was that the reviews were a bit shorter, because I was ready to leave by the end. They were just a little long. Multiple costume changes, great dancing and decent singing was the fare for both, one being Seventies inspired. These would greatly benefit from an overhaul for content. Surprisingly odd was the Destination Unknown magic show with more pyrotechnics than I think is safe on a ship at sea! Sparks fly everywhere. There are large scale illusions with some dancing and a little bit of singing. This show makes no sense at all. It has a futuristic, bondage theme to it. Evidently, someone got hurt during the early performance of the show because of the ship rocking; so we got a modified version. It lasted twenty minutes. I remarked as we left, “Well we just saw something, but I have no idea what it was!” I remember the Love and Marriage show from the previous cruise and I didn’t want to miss this afternoon event hosted by the wry, cheeky, energetic James the Cruise Director. It was very funny, often off-color, and completely spontaneous with three couples playing the Newlywed Game from various stages of their marriage, one just married three days ago, another married for 11 years, and the third for 56 years. What a hoot! Don’t miss this one. I caught three shows in the George Lopez Punchline Lounge. This place was very popular. Towards the end of the cruise, people would line up in the piano bar about thirty minutes before the show in the Piano bar for a seating. They had a total of four comedians performing for the week, two rotating early and two later. These are all performed by professionals, except the lame comedy director who consistently introduced the shows with a very short routine of flat jokes. I was very happy to see that since the previous cruise, the comedians no longer do political humor which I found so offensive eight years ago, I walked out. This time, two of the three had me laughing out loud with their bawdy humor. The third to standing room only was so meek; she made me merely smirk weakly. Mildly amused, I snuck out. Other than that, I played Trivia as often as I could. As I mentioned, these weren’t really interactive, but more like a paper and pencil test given by the administrator. Didn’t matter. These were fun, and I’m happy to say that I won three of four entered! In addition to two ‘solid-gold plastic ships-on-a-stick’, I won a giant fishbowl of a rum drink that was so big, two of us couldn’t finish it. It was, however, very fun to cradle this behemoth across the rocking ship one evening as an ice breaker. They’re available at $19.95 in the Red Frog Pub. The lobby bar had an okay three piece ensemble of singer and two musicians before dinner. They tended to country music, so I never stayed to listen. Summary Carnival is an incredible value for cruising. The service was consistently first rate, the cabin accommodations were spotless, and the food was surprisingly sophisticated if you know where to eat. I loved the spa and found the entertainment to be satisfying. I paid extra for many upgrades on this trip to enhance my experience. Even with the upgrades my cruise on the Magic to the Western Caribbean was much less than it would have cost for a similar experience on other cruise lines, and I still felt like a king being indulged at every step. So many of my friends essentially turned up their nose at the idea of a Carnival cruise, and that’s their loss. I was so impressed with my cruise, I’m looking to book the West Indies out of San Juan as soon as possible.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
First time on board an MSC ship and what an experience this flagship vessel was! Luxury design and finish in every room we walked into. From the moment we walked on board we knew we were in for a treat and the quality of service and ... Read More
First time on board an MSC ship and what an experience this flagship vessel was! Luxury design and finish in every room we walked into. From the moment we walked on board we knew we were in for a treat and the quality of service and design couldn't be flawed at any stage. Cabin - absolutely stunning balcony cabin, quite spacious for two people and the facilities were very good. The cabin steward made every effort to improve our stay on the ship and was very approachable. Food - As with all such cruises the buffet breakfast and lunch can start to become a little repetitive after several days but nevertheless the quality was very high, meanwhile at night the menu was varied and all cooked and presented to a very high standard. Entertainment - not something that we really engage with on any cruise, but would have been challenging on this ship during the daytime as it was mostly in Italian (just as one would expect on an Italian vessel), but the evening entertainment was often English led. Excursions - Can't comment as didn't join any of these, however the provision of shuttle buses by the excursions team for some ports were very good. Worth noting though that at some ports a cheaper or free version of the shuttle bus operates from the port also. Our only real issue about this cruise was what appeared to be a horrifically disorganised check-in procedure at Naples. It is something we put on our feedback forms at the end, but in summary the concept of cruise is predominantly luxury... 3 hours sat on a marble floor in Naples cruise terminal waiting for our check-in opportunity to come around was in no way a luxury experience. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
This was our first time cruising with Carnival but it certainly will not be our last.Like others we had done our research on the cruiseline itself and also on the ship itself,and like others we had read both positive and negative reviews ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with Carnival but it certainly will not be our last.Like others we had done our research on the cruiseline itself and also on the ship itself,and like others we had read both positive and negative reviews so like always we got ready for our cruise with an open mind and now I can positively write an utterly positive review due to myself and my husband having had a fantastic time aboard her. We started our holiday with an overnight stay in Barcelona at the lovely hotel Arc La Rambla situated on Las Ramblas and in a perfect position to get to the cruise pier the next morning.We booked a taxi at 10.30am and arrived at the port 5 minutes later check in was a breeze with no crowds at that time and we were sat in the upstairs waiting area 15mins later.Embarkation began at 11.30am and we were on the boat for 12.00pm. We went upstairs to the Lido Deck and we were enjoying a tasty taco by 12.15pm.We then relaxed in Serenity until we could go to our cabin around 2pm. Our cabin was a Spa Balcony on deck 11 perfectly situated for the serenity area,the cabin itself was lovely and spacious with a more than adequate balcony.Included was entry to the Spa and a free class each,at this point I must mention there are two steam rooms,a thermal suite but NO thalassopy pool in the Spa area.If you do not have a Spa cabin, entrance is $25.00 per day.Bathrobes were also included in the package but the slippers that were advertised as part of the package were none existant and only when we inquired were we told by the steward that these hadnt been sorted out yet,but he did fetch us a pair with Marriot hotels displayed across the front(Strange).The dining options on the Sunshine are superb,with a high quality throughout,we particulary liked the variety of food options available on the Lido deck these were:- Blue Iguana Cantina:-open for breakfast and Lunch Guys Burger Bar:- We cant speak highly enough of this place,the rumours are true,the burgers particulary the Ringer are the best we have ever tasted and the fries oh my goodness these are absoulutely delicious very very moreish!!! Then you go through to the Lido Buffet area,were there are several stations although they are not all open at the same time,there is a good variety of food on offer in here again delicous and the food that is meant to be warm is exactly that warm.Also in this are is the 24hr Pizza de Capitano,the Pizza slices here are so tasty. Wandering through the buffet area,you come to JI JI the Asian Kitchen,at lunchtime they present a mongolian wok make your own stir fry via the chefs and they cook it for you fresh its free and once again delicious.At night it becomes an amazing restaurant book here early in your cruise because we can almost guarantee you will want to come a second time for a fee of $12.00 this is a bargain eatery. On the opposite side is Cucina de Capitano a lovely Italian Restaurant at night with a $12.00 fee,at lunchtime a free pasta bar all made fresh by the chefs.Take the order form from the waiter when entering,find a table,you then tick,which pasta,sauce and filling you want then take it back to the chefs to cook and your meal is brought to your table when ready,restaurant quality pasta for free. In the middle of these two restaurants is the Havana Bar,where there is entertainment at night,but also combined with the afore mentioned restaurants is also a great place to eat your breakfast and lunches with a lovely quiet atmosphere.In a morning the pasta bar and mongolian wok make made to order fresh omelettes .It was lovely having breakfast in this area as you can sit by the huge aft windows and gaze at the lovely views. On deck 4 midships is the steakhouse Fahrenheit 555 a lovely elegant dining experiance with a fee of $35.00 it was worth every penny or dollar,I enjoyed the surf and turf ,it was amazing so tender. We were on Your time dining with our main restaurant being the Sunrise the food was lovely in here.But the one and only sit down breakfast we had in here was very dissappointing the service on this occasion was very slow and the food that was meant to be warm was freezing,we did observe that not many people came down to eat breakfast in the MDR. Punchliner Brunch:- This was held on the one and only seaday in the Sunrise Restaurant,the food was lovely and a comedian came out on the hour for ten minutes it is held from 9.00am-1.30pm,its free and no reservations are required. The taste bar we didnt try but basically it offers small bites from the different eateries around the ship,changing each night we saw a few people pick up plates and head down to the restaurant with them,to eat as appetisers. The shakespot and Java cafe offer for a small fee shakes and coffees.We felt in this area there could have been more comfy seating as it was a huge empty soulless place lacking atmosphere. There was always lots going on around the ship and the entertainment was top notch although a couple of the comedians we found a little dissapointing,the Ocean Plaza area came alive at night with a fantastic duo who sang anything from 80s music to American Rock,The singer Zach Majors in the Red Frog Pub also gave a good performance.Lovely cocktails you can find in the Alchemy bar ,oh and do try the Martini tasting in here,its an experiance !!! Check your balance at the sail and sign machines located in the Atrium and you might have a surprise, a credit of $63.78 dollars each had been credited to our account this was for a nine day sailing everyone got this reimbursed,I think it was for overpaid port taxes. Although this was a port intensive cruise we had gone on the Sunshine with a view to enjoying a nice relaxing ship while everyone was off sightseeing we wanted to relax on board and we did just that,we did see visitors being allowed onboard ship,mainly crew members families but there was no problem with this and on one occasion there was a few health and safety drills for crew taking place onboard and although this was noisy for a couple of hours it was reassuring to observe all the safety procedures that the crew were taking part in. We disembarked in a few ports;-The shuttle bus to get to Marseille cost 14.00 euros return each and shuttle to Livorno centre cost 5.00 euro.In Naples we docked very close to the hydrfoils,these are very regular and go to Capri,Sorrento and Ischia etc. When sailing into Venice try and get a sunlounger on the Starboard side as about 11am you start to approach Venice and this sail in is absoulutely stunning you sail through the little Islands and eventually past St Marks.If you are sailing out of Venice you need to get a seat Portside. Embarkation was easy and stressless,it can be early but I think Carnival take note of your departure details in your paperwork you fill out online beforehand and they refer to this before giving you your disembarkation details. All in all we had a fantastic cruise on the Sunshine and can highly recommend her to all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
Having sailed many of the Dam Ships previously, I was looking forward to the newest in the fleet, and she and her crew did not disappoint. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary, I like port intensive trips with ports that need some ... Read More
Having sailed many of the Dam Ships previously, I was looking forward to the newest in the fleet, and she and her crew did not disappoint. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary, I like port intensive trips with ports that need some research. I used HAL's transfers and hotel in Rome, and thank-goodness I did. My luggage didn't make it through my connection from Delta to Alitalia. The HAL hostess who greeted me took me to the Alitalia luggage desk to file a lost luggage report, which took many hand gestures and multiple copies of forms. I would have been lost without her help. My bag was in my room at the Visconti Palace, well located to St. Peter's, by the time I got back from dinner that evening. I am not certain whether Alitalia or HAl took care of that for me. Embarkation in Civitivecchia was a breeze. It was less than 15 minutes from stepping off the bus to stepping onto the ship. The ship had a noro outbreak on the previous sailing, and they were super cleaning the ship (even the walls were bleached), and anyone who arrived earlier than 1:30pm was not allowed to board. Having done the HAL transfers, we arrived at exactly the right time to board. I know it costs a little more to use their transfers, but the benefits far outweighed the costs, in my opinion. As the fare had been reduced over and over for this repositioning sailing around the Iberian peninsula, I was upgraded to a Spa Cabin, which seemed the same as other verandah cabins, I never used the tabletop fountain, and though the Bose iPod dock was great to listen to my own music, the best part was the location. One quick flight down to Lido deck, the spa, pool and buffet restaurant. One quick flight up to the Crow's Nest lounge and Explorations Cafe for internet and library. My cabin stewards, Hairul and ??? were friendly but non-intrusive. I am one who leaves the "service my room" sign out, and it is always ready when returning from a meal or activity. Because of the port intensive itinerary and my full day tours, I ordered room service breakfast each day using the door card at night. Each time I added extras that weren't listed, like a whole banana to take to shore with me, it was on the tray. They were on time each day and a delightful wake-up call, instead of relying on my cell phone alarm, that didn't change time zones automatically. The food in the Rembrandt Dining Room was always tasty and varied. We had open seating dining and at 7:00pm always walked right into a shared table. Each person we had contact with in the MDR was energetic and helpful. We especially loved Made, who added a bright spot to each evening, and remembered us at the dessert bar in the Lido after lunch. HAL is still not the best for desserts, but for me, it's perfect, a scoop of ice cream is all I need after a long meal. We ate one night in the Tamarind Restaurant. Best meal of the week. It is free at lunch and only $15 additional for dinner. The menu is varied and well prepared, and it's a visual masterpiece! We did have to change tables because of vibration near the window, but everything else went very well throughout the evening. The waitresses are wonderfully attentive. I had a brief problem with noise above my stateroom in the wee hours, the Front Desk staff handled it right away, offering to move me, but I was settled in with friends in cabins nearby. They provided ear plugs that worked like a charm, and left a bottle of wine for me in my cabin. They handled the situation professionally and immediately, calling often thereafter to make sure I was OK. The BB King Blues Club was my hangout after dinner for the entire cruise. The Memphis Sound is highlighted by 5 amazing musicians and CeCe (sp?), the singer, who was terrific! Each night was a different theme, from Elvis to Blues Brothers, to Aretha & Diana, to Otis Redding. This is a new concept for HAL, and I truly hope this is the direction they are going with entertainment, something for we younger cruisers (who grew up in the 70s) to enjoy. I'm not one for big show productions or comedians, so this was a special treat aboard the Eurodam. The Queen's Lounge, where it plays was full for the early set every night, and plenty of people danced when the mood hit them.Our ports were unique, not listed on many sites. In Spain: Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, & Vigo. Lisbon, Portugal, St. Peter Port, Guernsey and ZeeBrugge, Belgium, ending in Copenhagen. I used SpainDayTours.com for 3 excursions, one HAL trip to Cordoba, which was excellent, and booked a private taxi tour in Guernsey and taxi transfer to Brugges, which is amazing! More on the ports when they are listed by Cruise Critic. There were many, many Australians aboard. They added a liveliness to the atmosphere. Not a lot of children aboard, but a few and they were well behaved. The hot tubs were closed for the first several days due to the virus, as was the thalassotherapy pool and thermal suite. I had signed up for the entire cruise, but lost interest in waiting and the spa promptly refunded my payment after the 3rd day. Seas were heavy most days and nights, especially in the Atlantic. Often, then promenade deck was closed for walkers, which made the treadmills in the gym full most times I visited there. The ship listed and creaked on a couple of nights, and the Captain came on the PA to advise us that the weather forecasters were wrong, winds were higher than expected, but that the ship could handle the winds we encountered. Disembarkation in Copenhagen was a breeze. My bags were already on the transfer bus when I got off the ship, so went directly to the bus. The Palace Hotel in Copenhagen was a PERFECT location, just off the walking street. I give the itinerary very high marks, the ship and it's crew very high as well. I met a lot of wonderful people on this trip, and hope to sail the Eurodam another day. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
We were a group of 7 friends and family. My recommendation is to spend time in Spain 1 week before cruise. Drop off luggage at cruise terminal around 12pm. Have to check-in on ship by 4pm. If arriving early morning same day as cruise ... Read More
We were a group of 7 friends and family. My recommendation is to spend time in Spain 1 week before cruise. Drop off luggage at cruise terminal around 12pm. Have to check-in on ship by 4pm. If arriving early morning same day as cruise departure do the hop on hop off city tour (4 hours for 2 routes if you don't get off to walk around). Take cab to Columbus Monument at foot of Las Ramblas to catch the tour bus. Pay for tour bus on the bus 21€ for 1 day, 2 routes or book online before trip. There are 2 hop on hop off bus companies, Bus touristica (blue bus) and Bacelona City Tour (red bus). We did bus Touristica in Barcelona and Madrid City tour (red bus) in Madrid. Both were good. If you have time have lunch on Las Ramblas. Buy souvenirs and art work on Las Ramblas. Or stay an extra day after the cruise and do the above tour. Ok back to the cruise: I was worried about free style cruising but prices were the same for services and eateries my husband and I frequent at home. Spa-Sign up for the spa raffle on the first day. Everyone in our group got a spa coupon. Get the spa packages- it's worth it at the end of the day, especially excursion days. Go to free seminars but don't buy the products. I had hair, cut, and style with a coupon-- had a little makeover done. Stylist are hesitant to do anything dramatic to your hair. Facial was so relaxing I fell asleep. Discos- The best music for dancing-popular dance music. Great djs no need to make requests, they play everything. Bring a white outfit for white party-- it was a blast. Enjoyed that the clubs were non-smoking. Even the senior citizens were dancing. I saw one elderly lady on the dance floor with her cane having a grand time line dancing. Food- Mediocre but still good. We cook a lot of gourmet meals at home so it's hard for us to like other people's cooking. If you don't typically eat out or cook at home, you'll enjoy the food. If you don't want to pay extra for food the buffet line is satisfying and the pub food at O'Shehans is good. Buy the coffee at the coffee shop, the brewed coffee served elsewhere on the ship is vey weak and horrible- prices comparative to Starbucks. We did specialty dining at the steak place. I don't know of a fine dining place you can get a 3 course steak dinner meal for $20.00. It was a deal. One person in our group had a mild food allergy to dairy and the restaurant staff were accommodating. I wouldn't recommend cruise dining if you have a serious food allergies, like gluten allergy. I just can't see how they can keep gluten products/cooking utensils separate from gluten free areas. Excursions- Pre-purchase on your own if want more personalized service. The excursion prices from ship were reasonable if you don't want to purchase on your own. Recommend excursions for Italy, especially a shopping excursion in Florence. For Italy tours we used yourtourinitaly Company owned by Aldo-excellent service. No need for excursions in France. Access to Cannes port is by tender boat and will need to make reservation for early tender boat departure a couple days before Cannes/Nice stop or the day before on TV menu in state room. If leaving on late tender boat (after 10-11am) then no need for reservation. For Cannes, relax laying out on small sandy beach at port entrance and walk around or take the Little Train Tours of Cannes. Or start out early and walk 15 minutes to train station to take train to Nice Ville (10 euros) and tram rail (2-3 Euros, 5 minute walk from train station) to city center to get to market areas. Don't eat in plaza at Nice across from beach; eat on side streets. Wear bathing suit to layout on rocky beach (no sand). Waves crashing against rocks is very soothing in Nice. Need 2 hours to return to ship from Nice on train. Beaches in France are topless (yay). In Marseille take ship shuttle ($12 USD round trip) to Veux Port town early (8am). Then take the Little Train Tours to Notre Dame (7 Euros) then have lunch around plaza with carousel or go shopping at designer stores. In Marseille port you only have until 3pm to see the attractions. Souvenir shop at end of strip to get back to port shuttle or around plaza with carousel. Take non-drowsy motion sickness medicine if prone to car sickness because there's lots of winey roads and sudden stops. People in Italy are crazy drivers. Staff: is very busy and efficient; smiles are only given to pleasant, non-needy, and non conplaining customers. Our room steward was excellent. He was very personable and easy to find when we needed assistance or had questions. I never tip room stewards and I did this time. Entertainment: Las Vegas style shows Cirque and Blue Man group were of good quality. Legends show was mediocre. Flamenco Show was entertaining but not like what you would see in a traditional Flamenco Show on land. I would cruise Norwegian again. It was a younger, less trashy crowd than other major lines I've cruised on (Carnival and Princess). They didn't follow us with cameras or push us to play silly games to have fun. It was just fun and relaxing. Would have liked more days at sea to enjoy the ship activities. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
This cruise was to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we booked Aquaclass and enjoyed it but did not take advantage of it enough to do it again. Our cabin aws very nice and our stateroom attendant was excellent. We like Celebrity overall but ... Read More
This cruise was to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we booked Aquaclass and enjoyed it but did not take advantage of it enough to do it again. Our cabin aws very nice and our stateroom attendant was excellent. We like Celebrity overall but the constant "sell" gets a little old. Most of the shore excursions were great, I was very disappointed in the Venice tours. We took a tour to St. Marks square and afterwards to a"glass museum" it was nothing but a sales pitch, next morning we did a tour to Murano, it was exactly the same a sales pitch for the factory! We were disappointed, we had looked forward to seeing more of Murano since we really enjoyed the Hot Glass Show on board, it was really great and informative. Blu the Aquaclass restaurant was excellent and the service was very good. In Rome we booked a private tour with Stefano Rome Tours and it was great, I would recommend them. We spent 3 days per cruise in Barcelona and really enjoyed it, overall our cruise experience was good and I would recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
I will begin by saying I have not cruised 50-100 times like many of the cruisers on cruise critic. But I like and know luxury and quality. Agree with some of the good things said about Marina, but also agree with weaknesses that when you ... Read More
I will begin by saying I have not cruised 50-100 times like many of the cruisers on cruise critic. But I like and know luxury and quality. Agree with some of the good things said about Marina, but also agree with weaknesses that when you leave always seem to stand out. I traveled with 2 other couples in a transfer back to Rome after the cruise and we all felt the same exact way, so I do not think I was being demanding or my expectations being too high for Oceania.. We literally walked on the ship alone. First time this ever happened. Was happy to not have the lines (we boarded after the rush, of course), but agree that no one was there to greet when you did board and provide some quick information (or champagne, perhaps). As others stated, cabins nice, small. Liked the granite bathroom and beds. Otherwise, amenities standard by our expectations. Do agree, the bed was most enjoyable after each full day of touring. Once boarded, we went to get a bite to eat after reading the elevator and picking a floor. No dining available. In between meals. We found this consistent on our ENTIRE cruise. We would tour most of the days since this was a port intensive cruise and by the time we would return (around 9 pm-9:30) were told every night to order room service. Not my style for luxury. We had a suite on Equinox and could have a lovely serving any time of day. This was consistent with our schedule every time we wanted a bite to eat. Room service is an option once in a while, but the rooms are small and confining and you get tired of eating in it because Marina was "in between". This even happened on short tour days. Right at 2:00 pm. Were unable to change or add to specialty reservations. They like the word NO on Oceania. Heard it ALL week, too. Like other reviewers here. Also agree that the staff seems to be more enthusiastic about the entrees. Lobster was tough every time I ordered it (3 times, then gave up). Did not like the effort of communicating to get food served to you at the buffet in the Terrace and agree that rude cruisers would just step in and demand while others waiting to be served. Change the policy. Service was poor many times and then excellent at others. Sporadic, not consistent. Excursions---plan your own. you will be disappointed and frustrated. Considering cost and what we heard from so many people on the ship. Felt sad for them. Always witnessed upset cruisers at the destinations desk. Very sad to see on such a cruise line! Entertainment-Better on the TV in your stateroom. Understanding that they are not know for their entertainment. I get it. Cabin Butler-Excellent. Room always prepared upon entering and spotless cleaning. This expectation fully met. Lidvidia was very accomodating, even though we are the easiest of travelers. Do not require much attention. One last observation-We had charges on our bill from a culinary class that was overbooked and we could not get in. We instead planned a private tour for this day and when we went to the desk to question, we were told to go to destination desk. Ok, no problem. Well, they made it seem like it was our fault and that they would start an inquest to see if the charges could be credited. Are you kidding me? The clerk made us feel like we were at fault. Even after clarifying and re-clarifying that it was their mistake. This is how we felt every time we asked for something. It was not like this ever on Celebrity, or Royal Carribean. Will try Crystal next time and, of course, continue the Aqua Spa Suite Class on Celebrity. They have it right. Fortunately, we like people and do not turn our nose up to having more friendly people on board with us as long as the service level does not suffer. Spa- No indoor pool or inside "relaxation/meditation" area on the pool deck. We like to use the spa amenities whenever we travel. Couples massage is one of our favorites. Steam, sauna, aromatherapy, together. No co-ed on this ship. We were intimidated by the extremely high prices charged for services at the spa. Understanding that is "Canyon Ridge". But, $400.00 something dollars for a couples massage (50 minute??), manicures, upwards of 80-90.00?? this we cannot understand. Nor, would I subject ourselves to the overpayment. We, instead, waited for the Waldorf-Astoria Cavaleiri Hotel in Rome and indulged in our "spa fix" at a much more reasonable charge for all services. Perhaps, this subsidizes the cost of sending 16 brochures/marketing pieces each month to your home address. not sure. All in all, nice cruise. Not the best ever, not the worst ever. Unimpressed. We did stay at the Rome Cavelieri for a few days after the cruise and was able to experience at the Imperial Club level what impeccable service levels should be. And what a view off the balcony!!! Worth every penny! We do not mind spending the money when expectations are met and exceeded. First time reviewer. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Cruising was a lot more comfortable than taking trains, planes, and other methods of rushing across Europe, trying to get to different places. The Solstice was a beautiful ship and I was glad to go AquaClass, because it gave me access to ... Read More
Cruising was a lot more comfortable than taking trains, planes, and other methods of rushing across Europe, trying to get to different places. The Solstice was a beautiful ship and I was glad to go AquaClass, because it gave me access to Blu, a restaurant I'll solely miss, now I can no longer go there. The dining area was modern, but a lovely kind of modern, with walls carved in the shape of a rose and windows looking out at the sea. I could eat healthy, beautifully prepared food there. The other specialty restaurants didn't capture my heart the same way, although I did have a very lovely meal at Murano's. Everyone on the ship was courteous and attentive to my needs. Arthur, the attendant to our cabin, found out I preferred cheese to canapes and I got cheese every afternoon in my room. The shore excursions were excellent, especially Florence on Your Own, Rome on Your Own, the Kusadasi/Ephesus excursion, and the Malta walking tour. On the ship, I really enjoyed the lecture/presentations of both Miriam and Gordan. They gave us a lot of information relevant to the ports we were visiting in an interesting fashion that was easy to absorb. The shows were also excellent. There was a wonderful circus performance with acrobatics and contortionists, as well as an extremely talented magician. A lot more was going on that I didn't go to, but I was mostly interested in events that had to do with the ports we were visiting. Our cruise director, Lisa Richards, was very attentive to my questions and needs, pointing me in the right direction when I wanted to know more about the places we'd be passing by on our voyage. If I had one complaint, it was that things got crowded at times. It was hard finding a place to sit in the buffet and we missed one of the shows, because there were no seats. The buffet was, however, excellent, and I'll miss the pizza maker who made such wonderful pizza every day. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2011
My wife and I simply love to cruise together. It is amazing how well we travel together when we cruise - and, for us, it is the absolute best way for us both to leave our work behind and escape into each other's company, making ... Read More
My wife and I simply love to cruise together. It is amazing how well we travel together when we cruise - and, for us, it is the absolute best way for us both to leave our work behind and escape into each other's company, making romantic memories that will last for the rest of our lives, having plenty of time alone as well as an abundance of time together. She has cruised several cruise lines dating back to before we were married; I have only cruised Carnival, starting with our honeymoon 9 years ago ... and now that we've been Platinum for a while, I personally see no reason to switch ... except for that occasional trip when we may be looking for a specific itinerary that Carnival does not offer. In 2011 we booked a Spa Package room on the inaugural voyage of the Magic, and we absolutely loved it!! We spent a couple days in Venice (actually Lido Island, which was extremely cool ... no canals there, which allowed me to jog as much as I wanted which would be difficult in Venice proper ... but it is just a quick water bus ride from Venice itself ... and we discovered tuna pizza in one of Lido's quaint outdoor cafes) ... so we were well into the romantic mood before setting sail. We both fell in love with the Spa package from the get-go: for me it is the perfect way to finish off an intense work-out in the excellent gym for this class of ship (we have been on the Magic, the Dream, and the Breeze ... all the same class ... all fantastic) ... for her, what can I say, "It's a spa!" Of course that means all the saunas and steam rooms and relaxing areas you could want along with the therapeutic whirlpool (facials, and all the other girlie stuff are extra). Since we booked a Spa cabin, the more or less private spiral staircase up to the gym, spa, and serenity decks was right around the corner from our room. For economy's sake this cruise was our first interior cabin - all the previous were either Ocean View, Balcony, or Suite [honeymoon, of course ;)]. The Spa package and close access (not to mention that you are on deck 11 or 12) added so much ambiance, that I did not notice at all that it was an interior! Besides, I love to pray and seek the Lord, meditating on the Word in my heart in the morning while she gets coffee and explores the ship, and the interior atmosphere enhances the experience - in my own little cocoon alone with God! Even though Carnival is known for its on-board activities of a "fun" or "party" nature, there are many opportunities for privacy and serenity, which is what we love ... I don't even notice the other stuff going on. Speaking of serenity - we love the adult-only Serenity Deck - and, specifically, the "cones" - picture a stationary Tilt-a-Whirl car-like circular chase lounge with a wicker top and aides, a large foot rest, nice padding, pillows ... and privacy ... a great place to chill and read all day ... or snuggle! Tip - don't wait until 8:00 a.m. on sea days to grab your cone - it's probably too late. Here is what we love about cruising the Mediterranean - plenty of Romantic ports that stretch the dollar - our second Med. cruise was on the Breeze on a 12 day itinerary that anchored in Venice for 2 days - saved us $600 in Venice hotel bills! (Details in another review). Though we are selective about our excursions, there is one type that we always enjoy - wine tasting with the locals - nothing compares with any afternoon of fun, fellowship, laughter ... and wine ... under the Tuscan, Sicilian, or Sardinian sun ... simply amazing! The Magic is a great ship ... but the Mediterranean itineraries are even greater ... my recommendation ... take as long a cruise as your schedule affords ... don't sacrifice number of days for a better cabin (all the Carnival cabins are extremely consistent) ... and consider buying a partial Spa package on board instead of pre-booking one - you may not use it every day ... unless, of course, like us, you like feeling special in our interior Spa room. One last hint - avoid cabin #11207 (or 12207, I assume ... or the mirror on the other side of the ship on either deck 11 or 12) ... we somehow got this room twice on the Dream and the Breeze ... and never again! It is rated as a handicap room (which happened to be the last Spa Cabin available the first time we got it ... the other time it was a mistake ... we are not handicapped). This cabin is too small and does not have enough closet space! I took one little cube of space so she could have all the rest - and still my wife did not have nearly enough closet space. This is a design flaw in the ship itself ... very unusual for Carnival. Makes you feel like you are living out of a suitcase for the entire cruise. The side cabins are great, though, so no worries, just be careful when booking. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2011
The best thing about this cruise was getting off the ship! The ports of call were AMAZING! I cannot wait to go back to Europe!After day 3 of the cruise my nhusband was looking for something in our room and said " it's like they ... Read More
The best thing about this cruise was getting off the ship! The ports of call were AMAZING! I cannot wait to go back to Europe!After day 3 of the cruise my nhusband was looking for something in our room and said " it's like they do everything on this ship" and we said together "half-assed".The food was average at best. The buffet was small and the same every day. The 2 no extra charge dining rooms had the same small menu aand the food was OK. It felt like they put ALL the effort into the restaurants with a "cover charge". Even then, the cheese they used on ALL foods with melted cheese, when scraped off the food cooled to a gelatonous glob. It was so gross. There was same spice used in all the sauced foods that made everything taste the same italian, mexican, japanese, french...all had the same taste.We often joked about NCL's tag line of "free style cruising" since there was a charge for everything. On top of the $12 per day per person "service charge" there was a mandatory 18% gratuity added to everything plus a place on the bill to tip more of you liked. We bought pop packges on the first day. Because we didn't get charged for soda it was often hard to get served.There is very little common space on the ship. Only 2 small pools for 2000 people, a small library, and small quiet room. Every other common area there to get out of your state room was someplace you were expected to spend money. The activities were half assed, and the entertainment was very hit and miss. The beds were SUPER uncomfortable, so hanging out in the room wasn't an option. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
After having an amazing time on the NCL Pride of Aloha in Hawaii three years ago, we wanted to take our "little ones" on a cruise. Currently living in Poland, we looked for a cruise leaving north of Italy so we could drive to it. ... Read More
After having an amazing time on the NCL Pride of Aloha in Hawaii three years ago, we wanted to take our "little ones" on a cruise. Currently living in Poland, we looked for a cruise leaving north of Italy so we could drive to it. I originally wanted to take a Royal Caribbean Cruise leaving from Venice, but was convinced by my travel agent that I'd have more "fun" on this one... I should have listened to my instincts. We booked a suite with a balcony for three of us and an inside state room for our two older daughters. The booking all went very well and we happily printed our luggage tickets that we received by email and headed off to our cruise. We are generally easy to please and this is my first "negative" review of a trip... ever. I am going to try to give as balanced a review of our time on board as I can. COSTA PACIFICA - A "BIG BUS", NOT REALLY A CRUISE SHIP This is a 3000 member ship, with "common areas" catering to far less. We felt that this ship is more made for people wanting to take a "tour" everyday and party all night, than for people wanting to enjoy a cruise on board. When "all members" are on board, the common areas are packed, there is not enough sitting space in buffet areas, service is slow, the gym was packed and the three ridiculously small pools - I cannot call them "swimming" pools - are crammed with people. We were more looking at a fun on-board experience than taking a tour bus. As this was a brand new ship, unfortunately we didn't have any reviews to read when we booked. So our advice is: if you are looking at taking excursions at every port, have "room service" for breakfast, don't use the pools or common areas much, and like slot machines, then you will probably love this cruise. If you are looking for a "fun" on-board experience with great service, this is not the ship. THE WHOLE BOARDING EXPERIENCE SUCKS AND "PRIORITY" CERTAINLY HAS A DIFFERENT MEANING ON COSTA Upon arrival at the parking lot we had to wait 30 mins in the car to unload our luggage because they only had one unloading area with a lot of cars coming in (there were two ships leaving on that day). We where given a ticket with a number and told to go to the "tent over there" (the main terminal was in use for the other ship). When we arrived, there where hundreds of people piled up waiting for their "number" to be called. Approx 50 people at a time had the same number and they all pounded on the entrance pushing each other like their life depended on it. There where no drinks offered, no welcoming staff, it was all very administrative and not very nice. They did however get everyone's picture taken... they do not miss any "sale" opportunity... Queue again for ID photos and security checks. Having booked a Suite, we had theoretically priority luggage delivery. Our luggage arrived 4 hours later... so much for Priority. On NCL, same size ship, flawless check-in, friendly staff, flowers and drinks handed out while you where waiting, no one pushing... very different feel to the start of the cruise. SUITE - VERY COMFORTABLE AND FRIENDLY HOTEL STAFF This was the highlight of our stay. The room staff (all Filipinos) where adorable and very present. When we needed anything, we got it fast and with a smile. Each time we came back to our room, it was spotless. Breakfast served in the room was always on time and we received what we had ordered. The beds were very comfortable. From this perspective, the service was impeccable. FOOD - RESTAURANT-OK - BUFFET-AVOID CROWDS - ROOM SERVICE-GOOD This is one of the "big bus" aspects of the ship. The buffet areas at peak times were really awful. Luckily for us, we weren't booked on excursions every day - and we had room service for breakfast - so we went "out of hours", but the only times we did, it was packed with pushy and rude passengers all trying to get to their food as fast as possible. We think this is due to the manner in which the buffets are laid out in a long line, instead of the modern layouts with different areas dedicated to different types of food. Then, there weren't enough seats and many tables were left with food on them as there wasn't enough staff to clear the tables at sufficient pace. There was no food variety: salads, pizza, pasta. The evening meals where very good in quality and the service by two Filipino waiters really friendly. They have a "kids" menu and gave pencils for the little ones to keep busy, which was useful because the service was a little slow most evenings, between 1:20 - 1:40... which is long with a 4 and 7 year old. Once again, nothing really innovative: standard classical European food (except for 2 Asian options across the whole week), pretty tasteless vegetarian food. Room service was impeccable. They have a good selection for breakfast and a "round the clock" service with a small menu. KIDS CLUB - GOOD AND FLEXIBLE Our children, 4, 7 and 12 attended the club. My 12 year old stayed the first day, but it was too "babyish" for her. The Teen club was intimidating because there where mainly older teens. A "Tween" program would have been a good thing. For the younger ones, it was a good service, with a different theme every day and dances, meals, games... They had a good time and the ladies where very dynamic and spoke Italian, English and French. The kids could attend daily from 9-12, 15-18 and 21-23:30 which allowed us some free time to practice some sport, go to the spa and in the evening play a little blackjack. The only day we took an excursion, the children could stay all day at the club, which was a real plus since they where too small for the excursion. SPA AND GYM - GOOD SERVICE, NICE AREA, A LITTLE PUSHY ON THE SALES We made extensive use of the gym and spa. We went out of the "crowded" times. The staff was really friendly and helpful and the treatments where of very good quality. The area was peaceful and relaxing. I know this is standard practice, but every treatment was linked with an attempt to sell products and other services. When I'm on holiday, I don't like to be "sold to" all the time. Cost was high - do expect a 1000 EUR bill for a spa pass and a couple of treatments for 2 adults. MUSIC - THE GOOD AND THE ANNOYING - GOOD RECORDING STUDIO It's "the ship of music" and most of the music played on board was not my style, but to be fair to Costa, it is a huge bet to achieve something that will please the majority. On the other hand, if you can't stand the "um-pah-pah German and Italian folk music, just don't board this ship. There where several styles of music and we really enjoyed the chocolate bar guitarist who was the best musician in our taste. All the bars had live musicians and in general the quality of their playing was good, but none were excellent. The only really annoying part was the same single track being played over and over again in the deck corridor, and the ever-present Italian folk songs. My daughter tried out the music studio and it was a great experience for her. The engineer was really nice and helpful and the resulted recording was very flattering :) If you like to sing, I would recommend you try this for fun. A "GREEN" SHIP - MAYBE... BUT... Another argument that made me tend towards Costa was their information about being the first "green" cruise company. Some of it is not visible to passengers (water heating, recycling, etc...) and they do have "recycling" stations all over the ship with plastic, paper, metal and "all the rest". Once a week, they have a WWF day in the kids club. They did announce at the beginning not to throw anything over bord too. But they could be doing so much more. Lighting is still mainly non economical, all soft drinks are served in cans (when has that been an ecological mean of packaging?), there is not a trace of organic food on board, they print over 100'000 pages each week (very ecological, isn't it?) and joke about having to change the printers every 4 months... and even though I never threw a towel on the floor and hung it back every time, when I came back to my room, it had been replaced by a new/clean one... theory is one thing... practice is another. FUN STUFF What we did enjoy on board was the Casino, since most Europeans don't gamble, it was easy to find a place to sit and play and we met some nice people there. The F1 racing simulator and the Recording Studio are fun. The slide was a big hit with the little ones too. VIBRATING AND WOBBLING SHIP We are not experienced cruisers, but it seemed that the boat vibrated much more that the NCL ship, even though the sea was a lot calmer. Every wave that hit the bow could be felt quite strongly in our cabin. Each maneuver in the ports, especially slowing down and turning, resulted in severe shakes and very loud noises. We also felt that the ship was quite "wobbly" and didn't feel very "solid". I want to stress that the sea was super calm all week and this is why we were very surprised by these behaviors and did not find it very reassuring. DISEMBARKATION - RUDE AND UNHELPFUL ITALIAN STAFF The last night we received a letter in our cabin telling us we had priority disembarkation and had to go to the restaurant at 8:30. No mention was made about where to leave the luggage in that letter, or in any of the written communications we got (including the cabin guide). Having with us a professional-grade guitar, two laptops, professional photography material in addition to all our luggage (value of over 20K$), we left our luggage in the cabin. We waited 30 mins in the restaurant for our names to be called and after disembarking waited for another 40 minutes outside. Our luggage didn't arrive. The ladies on the parking lot couldn't care less and were rather rude, complaining about us in Italian (expecting us not to understand...). Only when my husband got upset with them, they called in and told me to find Lara in the luggage area. When I found Lara, I explained the case and she said "it's your fault, you shouldn't leave the luggage in the cabin". I tried to explain why we had and asked her to call in the ship to arrange pick-up but she said that since we had "messed up" I had to go back on board and fetch my luggage myself. She was extremely rude and not helpful at all. Back on board, the lady at the front desk was lovely and our luggage was delivered to our car within 10 minutes flat. Unfortunately, this left us with a really unpleasant memory to finish this experience that was already mitigated. ALL IN ALL We wanted a relaxing holiday with time to ourselves and time with the kids. We left relaxed - but not as much as we could have been. The kids had a good time and we ate well, but we didn't have any sparkles in our eyes. We also felt that the staff wasn't really happy on board, that Costa tries to get a cent wherever it can and that customer service and environmental protection are more of a sales pitch than a worldly reality. All in all, it wasn't a bad cruise, but it wasn't a very good one either. We will certainly not cruise Costa again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
Our initial thoughts on our Inaugural cruise on Carnival Dream - this was our 12th cruise with Carnival and 22nd overall. We had a great time on our trip. Pre-cruise. We stayed in Rome for 2 nights prior. We took the Airport shuttle ... Read More
Our initial thoughts on our Inaugural cruise on Carnival Dream - this was our 12th cruise with Carnival and 22nd overall. We had a great time on our trip. Pre-cruise. We stayed in Rome for 2 nights prior. We took the Airport shuttle train into the city. Our hotel was close to the Rome Termini train station. It was OK for a 3-star hotel, but the location made it easy to get to on arrival and when left for the ship. We did a Rome tour by night - thanks Lisa. We took the train to Civitavecchia on the morning of embarkation. We took an Intercity train, which was shorter - only 1 stop in Rome before going direct to Civitavecchia - the train continued north after that. For an extra 3 Euros each we went first class and had assigned seats. It is about a 10 minute walk from the train station to the port entrance. Easy enough if you have wheels on your luggage, but you can take a taxi if you wish. From the port entrance there is a free shuttle bus to each of the different ships. The embarkation process was very easy and we were aboard the ship by 11am. Positives: Spa facilities - similar to Splendor with some added treatment rooms. If you wish to pay for 12 day access to the Spa facilities - Steam and Sauna rooms, Thalossotherapy pool etc you can purchase them onboard. We forget what the daily rate is, but at the start of the cruise you can purchase a pass for the entire cruise for $329 - which will admit two people. This rate is cheaper on Caribbean cruises. Massages and treatments are extra. Bear in mind that you may be challenged to get the full enjoyment of the spa each day if you are off the ship visiting all the ports in Europe, but that is an individual choice. For those that don't get the spa passes, they still have excellent steam rooms in the regular Men's and Women's change rooms, and a co-ed sauna with a window on the side for a view. Slides. With few children aboard, many adults tried out the slides. They have two long tube/covered slides. One is a typical twisting slide, and the other is called the Drainpipe - it is a shorter slide but has a steep bit to launch you out into a round bowl where you slide around until you come to a stop and then get out at the bottom centre. They were both a lot of fun. You get a great view of the ship - and sea or port - from the top of the slides. Adult-only areas. The Serenity deck area is on Deck 14 at the front, and the pool at the aft of the ship on Deck 10 is adult only. (more on this later). We didn't use the Serenity areas on Deck 14 but they looked very relaxing and are probably very popular on warm sea days. Ship Layout. The Deck 5 Lanai (exterior deck area) is a noticeable change from Splendor and earlier Carnival ships. This was a popular area to walk around the ship, however this could change when the ship gets to the Caribbean as we understand Deck 5 is going to be full of deck chairs to provide additional places for passengers to lie out and relax. The jogging track is on Deck 12 at the aft of the ship although there weren't many joggers out, and most of the walkers were on Deck 5. The Spa staff suggested it was 4 laps of the jogging track for 1 mile, but it is more like 6 laps. For those who were looking for a quieter method to move from bow to aft or vice versa - try Deck 4 rather than Deck 5. Deck 5 has more activities and therefore more passengers, but Deck 4 is usually much less crowded. Food. We enjoyed the food. Many of the popular items from past Carnival menus were included on the dinner menus. We understand food is a very subjective topic, but we found the food to be just as good as recent Carnival and RCI cruises. We ate all of our meals in assigned dining - 1st sitting Crimson Dining Room and didn't go to the Supper Club. Welcome Aboard party. There are separate activities for 1st and 2nd sitting. With so many passengers, the reception was split across all the lounges at the back of Deck 5 and the Welcome Aboard by the Captain was done later that night at the Production Show. We found the bar service to be very prompt and they provided a good selection of bar drinks. Everyone was well dressed on both formal nights. Dancing in the Street Production Show. Terrific. Lots of different entertainment included in this show that had something for everyone. Just about everyone we spoke to said this was one of the best (if not the best) show on a ship they had seen in a long time. Try to sit somewhere in the centre of the theatre (upper or lower) to see everything that is presented. Fun Hubs. The ship has around 34 computer stations. Most people go to the main facility in the middle of Deck 5, so it is a bit more crowded there, so find some of the other ones scattered across the ship and you can use those without a line. Those who bring their own laptops can log in from anywhere on the ship. You can get an account for free to access basic news, ship layout, and an electronic version of the Carnival Capers. You can do this from any FunHub or personal laptop. If you want to access the internet, you will pay for that. Packages range from 45min $29 (.64/min), 120 min $59 (.49/min), 240 min $89 (.37/min) and 480 min $159 (.33/min). They have a small number of promotions for extra/discounted minutes based on when you log in on certain days. We found the FunHub staff to be very helpful and most times we walked by they were helping someone with questions. Libary. A modest collection of books to start, however they were all hardback and brand new. By the end of the cruise passengers had dropped off a number of paperbacks for future cruisers to read. They have quite a few games in the library as well. We don't know if the Children's activities have a separate section for board games. Cabins. We had a problem with the thermostat in the room, but when we called maintenance, someone showed up within minutes to look at it. Overall the rooms were great, they have flat screen TVs and the beds were very good. The bed frame seemed a bit higher than previous ships, which means that most luggage should be able to fit under the bed. We had a Cat 9A corner cabin with a larger balcony at the aft, however the room layout meant that there was no small sofa in the cabin. There were small armchairs however. Other than the sound from toilets flushing, the sound insulation between rooms was very good - we never heard our neighbours. Seaside Theatre Outside Screen over the Main Pool. Very good visibility. Note that movies, concerts and relaxing spa-like shows are shown. No news is shown on the big screen, apparently as a result of previous passenger comments. Several news channels are available in the cabins including CNN International, BBC World, Euro News, German, Italian, French news, etc., Itinerary. Very good. Many people we spoke with would have been happy to spend extra time in Barcelona, Monaco, etc., however doing so would have meant a longer cruise, or skipping a port. We had been to several of the ports before but took the time to visit Barcelona and Monaco. In Barcelona we visited Las Ramblas, Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familial. Time flew by in Barcelona and many of the people we spoke with at the end of the day while waiting to get the shuttle back to the ship (5 Euros rtn per person) said the same thing. It may be worthwhile trying to do a few things well rather than try to see many things briefly. In Barcelona we used the public bus, taxi and subway in addition to the shuttle downtown. In Monaco we did a private tour with Revelation tours - Frank was our driver - he gave us a great tour and we visited some scenic lookouts larger buses didn`t visit. We visited Monte Carlo / Monaco, Eze, Nice and St Paul de Vence. We stopped to walk around Eze, Nice, St Paul and Monte Carlo. We recommend them highly - www.revelation-tours.com Fellow Cruisers. We met lots of great people from all over the world on this cruise. Everyone had a different experience and it was fun to share stories. It was great touring with others (all our CC friends) and meeting others aboard (Lynette and Ian among others). The CC Meet and Greet started off beside a Trivia contest and we moved to an empty lounge. Disembarkation. In Civitavecchia this starts early. People were leaving by 6am. We left around 7:20am and the ship would have been cleared probably by 8:30am at the latest. It seemed that people were able to get the disembarkation time they wanted, and the process of retrieving luggage in the terminal area was organized and simple enough when we went through. If you wish you can do self-assist and take all of your luggage with you. We took a private shuttle to Rome airport along with some other CC passengers - thanks Joanne! Points to Impove. We'll try to keep this brief (we did have a good time after all...) Entertainment. We found this OK, however there were only 2 production shows on a 12 day cruise. The 1st one was extremely good, however the production of the 2nd show (Get Ready) was just an average production of Motown and R&B song and dance. Apparently there was a 3rd show - Extreme Country - but if so, we missed it. Pools. We were told that the Main Pool was among the smallest in the fleet. There are extra Whirlpools on this ship (Deck 5) however no doubt the pools will be crowded on Sea Days in the Caribbean. Unlike Splendor, the Main Pool does not have a retractable roof, which means that on cool or rainy days, the Main Pool area will not be as useful. Inaugural Cruise. As head office is recognizing the New York cruise for the naming ceremony and inaugural activities there wasn't much additional benefit to being on the first passenger cruise. We did get a gift of a standard black Carnival photo folder (holds two 8 x 10s) and were told repeatedly that we were the first to cruise on Dream, so we would always have that. Read Less

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