Beautiful Ship, yet wouldn’t Sail Again

Mardi Gras Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 2
Helpful Votes: 14

Overall rating:

2.8 out of 5
Mardi Gras

7 Night Western Caribbean (Port Canaveral Roundtrip)

Sail date: September 04, 2021

Ship: Mardi Gras

Cabin type: Inside

Cabin number: 16293

Traveled as: Family (older children)

Reviewed: 2 months ago

Review summary

My summary: If this ship is an indication of the direction Carnival is going, it’s sad. It feels like Carnival is trying desperately to be RCCL and is abandoning everything that made it our preferred cruiseline. The ship isn’t practical, everything feels like money grab, the designs feel sterile, like any apartment complex or mall. I actually preferred the unpredictable whimsy of the Farcusan aesthetic. This just feels like a watered down attempt by Carnival to be something it isn’t and a betrayal of the loyal guests who have kept its ships afloat. If you are a smoker, as many Carnival guests are—you will be treated like a 2nd class citizen and banished to the far corners of the ship. Meanwhile, you will walk by the the “non-smoking areas” and they sit nearly empty, looking sad and depressing. The ONLY reason I would recommend this ship is if you want the bragging rights of riding the first coaster at sea. However, that is $15 for a 30 second experience, and IMO is hardly worth the endless hassle of the entire experience on this ship. I expect Celebration and future XL class ships to be the same. I hope Christine Duffy will soon see that the fun is being quickly taken out of the “fun ships”.

Embarkation

1 out of 5
We had high hopes for this embarkation as the new terminal was touted as being built for a streamlined check in and embarkation. Parking was easy, luggage drop was not clearly marked or directed, which led to confusion and awkward traffic. We parked on deck 3 as this is the level that connects to the terminal, and my Dad needed wheelchair assistance. We were then told we had to go to the first floor to get wheelchair assistance. Fortunately, an employee requested one, but this was about a 10 minute wait for them to bring a wheelchair up 2 levels. Again, not clearly marked or communicated in advance. Upon entering the terminal, you have a group of three people at podiums checking ID’s. These people did not have a clue what they were doing and were just mixing up documents and talking over one another. This was chaos. We were then directed to go wait in the terminal for about an hour after our check-in time before boarding. I was under the impression that since the terminal was built to accommodate the Mardi Gras, the gangway entrances would be more direct, but they had more (and longer) switchbacks. Given that we had a check in time of 10 am, and weren’t on the ship until 11:30, this is concerning. Our sailing only had 3900 guests on board, while this ship holds 6500. This was our longest embarkation process out of all cruises—I would not want to see the disaster this would be at full capacity. Once on board, the new mister process of checking in on your phone and visiting your muster station whenever you’d like before 4 pm was a breeze. This was really the only silver lining here. Around 3 pm ish, we were told that the ship would not be fueled by 4–we didn’t leave Port Canaveral until after 8 pm.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
The Good: Shaq’s Big Chicken (delicious), noticeably better food as far as taste. The Not so Good: Main dining rooms felt closed off, no stairs to upper level, less windows, more tables jammed in. The MDR’s are incapable of holding the guests onboard, so cruise staff are constantly trying to convince folks to visit the other dining venues. Guy’s burgers is on 17 above the pool, Shaq’s is at the back, Street Eats were not so great—therefore, poolside dining is limited to BlueIguana. Sure you can walk and get others, but it’s just a hassle of a walk on a ship this size. The Lido Buffet area occupies a lot of space and offers a lot of seating, but the actual buffets are in these narrow hallways. I genuinely miss the open “airy” feel of the older Grand Buffets of Carnival past.

Onboard Activities

2 out of 5
Bolt was cool, but wouldn’t pay $15 again for it. The ropes course with zip line was fun. The waterpark seemed under used—this could be due to limited children onboard due to vaccine requirements.

Entertainment

3 out of 5
Show Entertainment: terrible. I can forgive mediocre vocal and dance performance if the production itself is good, and Vice versa. However, the entertainment on board Mardi Gras left me feeling cheated. The Hippie show was just weird, and the interpretive dance just didn’t land. The Broadway Beats show was corny and lacked continuity—they picked some of the most unpopular Broadway Hits and coupled them with songs that were never on Broadway, added cheap costuming—it was bad, we weren’t the first to walk out, but we did leave before curtain call. Also, hate the new theaters. Felt cramped, yet again, and somehow even without all the big poles, the view felt just as obstructed. Musicians—there were a couple shows that were canceled on the fly—like when we showed up to the venue based on the Carnival Hub app is when we found out. The app wasn’t updated to tell guests otherwise. Tacky and unprofessional. Additionally, I can’t forgive Carnival abolishing its nightclubs and trying to pass off “Limelight Lounge” as an alternative. This has led to a huge drop in enthusiasm among guests. Smokers and Non-Smokers united in the nightclubs, those non-smokers who didn’t want to be near smoke, would go to the more tame open air venues, deck parties, etc. Now, those who like to party and dance are given low ceilings and small dance floors tucked away in the back, and if they are a smoker, have to walk half a mile to go smoke a cigarette. Overall, the entertainment felt severely lacking, and with the long pause in operations, I expected a lot more as Carnival had PLENTY of time to prepare something extraordinary.

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
Service was good overall. You could tell the wait staff and stewards were happy to be back to work. I will say that staff in MDR during brunch AND dinner seemed quite stressed trying to hustle food out in a timely manner. For the most part, dinner was quick, however Brunch was always over an hour.

Ship Quality

1 out of 5
The ship is beautiful and for veteran Carnival cruisers, this is completely different for the cruiseline. That said, it isn’t really practical. The layout is chopped up. It’s obvious this ship was designed to spread people out and make Carnival money, and not with guest experience in mind. It seemed like no matter what you were doing, you always needed to be on a different floor. When you have someone in a wheelchair in your party, and TINY, slow elevators traveling 19 floors—it makes it a constant chore to get anywhere. I’m not lazy by any means, but it’s hard to relax and enjoy a vacation when half your time is commuting on board. The ship was clean, but the ship is already showing its wear after 5 sailings. There were many spots on outside decks that had been patched, stairs falling apart, rusted areas. Overall, this ship was an obvious attempt by Carnival at copying Royal Caribbean—but is in over its head.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
The cabins are nice and the blues of the decor feel refreshing. The fridges actually cool your drinks some now. The downsides? Somehow, the rooms and bathrooms managed to get even smaller, and Pullman beds aren’t recessed into the ceiling, but hang on the side of the walls, which severely limit the already limited space in the cabins.

Ship tip

I don’t recommend this ship, but if you must go, choose your room location wisely.

Ports of call

Port Canaveral, Florida

2 out of 5

Cozumel, Mexico

3 out of 5

Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico

3 out of 5

Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

4 out of 5

Disembarkation

1 out of 5
Terrible. Disorganized. Unthoughtful. Slow. Chaotic. Rude. I can’t think of a better way to describe this process. Worse than the embarkation, and worse than any debarkation of any previous cruise. Self-assist, platinum debarkation, with wheelchair assisted guest in party, and this was the latest debarkation of them all. Keep in mind—this terminal and ship were built and staffed to smoothly accommodate a ship carrying 6500 guests and we only had 3900 on board.
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