This experience with Carnival was 10 times better than my experience with them last May 2014 where we sailed on the Carnival Breeze. At that time, you would have expected the customer service to be exceptional given that it was a new ship, but it was not. Most of my cruise experience has been with Norwegian Cruise lines, and I'd had only one other experience with Carnival, so I had my reservations. Here goes my review in a few different categories.
Embarkation & Disembarkation: Leaving out of NY is pretty easy for me since I live in the DC area, and so getting to New York and to the ship is as easy as a train ride, and then a taxi ride to the port. Actually getting into the ship was atrocious. Typically I arrive for cruises pretty early in the morning - like before 11am, and its usually pretty easy to get on a ship. I am not sure if its because we arrived around 1pm, or not, but it took like TWO HOURS to get into the ship and go through the check in line to get on. I think that is unacceptable. They either need more people to check folks on, or have a different means for people to get checked in. It has never taken that long to get in. Took way too long to get off of the ship too, but I do like Carnival's relaxed approach to letting people off. On Norwegian ships, you feel like they are forcing you off the ship. Next time I do Carnival, I'm getting the "Faster to the Fun" pass so that we can avoid all of that.
FOOD and DINING: The food was much better than I remember it being in May 2014 when I went with a group of friends. I absolutely love the chocolate lava cake thing with the vanilla icecream that they serve at dinner and got that just about every night. Overall, the food in the dining hall was pretty tasty. We splurged for the Steakhouse one night...and while the food was tasty, I don't think it was as good as Norwegian's steak house. My mother's ribeye was pretty tough and I think similar quality as we would have gotten in the free restaurant. I absolutely love that Carnival has the Seaday Brunch that goes until 1 or 2pm on sea days. Great choices, and pretty good food - much better than Norwegian on that front. Love the Pizza Pirate pizza...found a reason to stop by there every day. Again, much better pizza than Norwegian. Also like that they have such a variety of ethnic foods like Indian, Mexican, etc. I wish they had the delicious Guy's Burgers restaurant like they have on Carnival 2.0 ships....but can't really complain. In the main dining hall, we had the "Anytime dining". Its clear that Carnival is still trying to get their anytime dining "together" because they don't have a very efficient system for it. On Norwegian ships, everything is free-style, and so anyone can eat anywhere, anytime. In Carnival ships, they separate anytime diners from those that have set dining times...we are literally in two different restaurants. There were times anytime diners had to wait to be seated a lot longer than I would think we would have to. In addition, one of the servers was not my favorite and we asked not to sit in her section again. We'd requested expedited service because we wanted to make it to a show within 40 minutes and she argued about why she would not be able to do that....when in reality..they made it happen. On another night, it took almost 3 hours for us to eat in her section. Not sure why....its like there was no sense of urgency. However, we had a very pleasant experience whenever we did not sit in her section. Overall, enjoyed the dining at Carnival.
Entertainment: Entertainment was meh. I'm used to a bigger variety of entertainment on Norwegian's ships. I did enjoy 2/4 comedy shows I saw, but wish there were more options for the shows they have each night before and after dinner. Those were hit or miss. I did enjoy the club...that is where I went every night after 11pm or so. The DJ was cute to stare at too...
Ports: Ports were fun - can't complain. I did the hike in St. Maarten and we had a fabulous guide who talked to us about the country and schooled us on natural living. Antigua was absolutely gorgeous. We did the lobster & champagne cruise there. The lobster was overcooked and there was little flavor to the food, but this was my favorite excursion due to the crowd, the overflowing champagne, and the BEAUTIFUL scenery and beaches. The St. Kitts Rail and Sail was nice, but I'd probably skip the rail and just do the sail next time. It was nice to be taken around the island on the train but it was too long. However; the overflowing beverages were LOVELY and kept us feeling nice. There was some issue when we first got there where there weren't enough train cars for the number of people. So a group of us were standing out in the hot sun for a good 20 or 30 minutes waiting for them to fix that before our excursion started. We were packed like sardines in the train cars, and it was much too hot for that. But after the drinks started flowing, I cared a lot less about that. My mother had a good time, so that was great. On the "sail" portion, the drinks kept flowing and the shipmates were great. We received a little bagged lunch that I didn't eat, but still...very hospitable people. We've been to St. Thomas a few times, so we didn't pre-pay for any excursions there. We ended up paying for a cab to take us to a local beach for a couple of hours, and that was really nice.
Room: Our room steward was really nice and the room was large with a lot of storage space compared to other cruise lines I've been on. I love the complimentary robes they give. Our steward was a little loud though (or either the walls were too thin), because every time he spoke to the neighbors or anyone in the hall, we could hear their conversation. That was a little annoying when I was trying to nap or read, but I'm not sure how much anyone could have helped that. The balcony we had was not very clean and I didn't want to sit out there very much without putting a towel down first. It just seemed rusty and dirty.
Overall Customer Service: There were a few items that we had to call and request. I'd ordered water bottles that were supposed to be in my room once I arrived and they werent. They did not get there until late evening the first night...and that was after many phone calls to customer service. My mom requested distilled water at about 3pm, and we did not get it until like 1am in the morning. She could not sleep without it because she needed the water for her sleep apnea machine. It took at least 3-4 calls to get them to bring that to us. Overall ship decor was nice and clean, so I can't complain there.
CASINO: I'd received a casino offer for $50 match play at a table on my next carnival cruise. When I went to redeem that at the casino cage, they informed me that I could not use the coupon because the cruise that I was already discounted from the casino. However, there was nothing on the coupon that said anything about using it being contingent on not receiving any other offer. For as much money as I've dropped in their casino, I was annoyed by this. The casino was too smoky at times, but at least they had a few non-smoking sections. There were not enough blackjack tables and most of them were automatic shufflers. I really think those machines are rigged because NO ONE WAS WINNING AT THEM. Like the entire cruise. So beware of those. I also think its ridiculous that if you come in on a casino offer, that you have to pay for drinks throughout the cruise. Norwegian honors their casino players by offering free drinks throughout the entire cruise. Carnival could take some lessons there.
Overall - we enjoyed our cruise and I plan to sail again in July (casino offer from this cruise) out of Baltimore on the pride. I hope its at least as nice as the one I went on in May.
I'm 32 years old and went on this trip with my Mom (who has cruised several times before), and my Dad (who had never cruised prior to this).
The experience was wonderful overall except for the food poisoning that we all ended up with around the last days of our cruise. I'm thinking it was the salmon that we had in the Second City lunch show because that was the only time we all had the same dish. Unless it was the food that we had in Costa Maya where the locals made us food. Norwegian said no one else came forward with illness but I spent the last day in New Orleans sick all day and my mom and dad spent the last day of their actual cruise sick. I do believe this was an anomaly because I've never had this issue on Norwegian, so I'm still giving the cruise 4 stars.
Aside from that ,the experience was wonderful....take note:
Embarkation/Disembarkation: The Port of New Orleans was all around less organized than Miami or New York. We found ourselves asking people how to get inside and outside of the cruise terminal and how to get to the places you take taxis, etc. However, we made it in!
Food: The food was very tasty overall. We had the speciality dining package for free and so we tried all of the specialty restaurants. The Brazilian restaurant and the steakhouse were by far my favorite. The food in the main dining room was very good too - no complaints.
Entertainment: They left more to be desired here. I am usually in the club every night, but found the music, etc. left something to be desired in the clubs. I spent maybe 30 minutes of my entire cruise in the clubs. The evening shows were ok - also not as great as I'm accustomed to with Norwegian. I did appreciate the usual Newlywed show, and the game shows that they have. I usually don't buy tickets to Deal or No Deal and all of that, because its rare you will actually be called and I think its a waste of $30...however, we sit in the audience and watch the folks go up there. That was really interesting. The cruise director wasn't my favorite. He wasn't that funny or entertaining like I'm used to and I felt the line up was overall boring.
Casino: Was cool - can't complain here. Love the free drinks while playing....
Overall customer service: Great customer service. Miles above Carnival in so many ways. Except - i wasn't fond of how they handled our food poisoning complaints. They eventually refunded the money we paid for the Second City show where we believe we got the food poisoning from, but at first, they weren't trying to do anything for us since we did not pay to see the on-ship doctor and actually have him DIAGNOSE us with food poisoning. However, they did eventually fix it. Other than that, we had no other customer service issues.
Ports: Super fun and educational. The Mayan house we went to was cool, and the Mayan ruins in Belize was awesome. The actual ride to the Mayan house ....the guy talked the entire time and I was bored. But...I LOVED the beach and the Gumbalina Preserve in Honduras. Favorite excursion. Monkeys got to sit on my shoulder. It was lovely. :)
Overall crowd: I often say that the crowd makes the ship experience. On this cruise, there was not a whole lot of diversity. A lot of older couples, and a lot of late teens/early twenties on spring break. As a woman in my early 30s who traveled with my parents, the experience would have been nicer with more people my age.
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