To give a bit of background before I start my review, I’ve sailed on a number of different cruise lines in the past including NCL, Royal, HAL, Sun Line (which doesn’t exist anymore) and Carnival. My first 4 cruises were 15-20 years ago but my 2 Carnival cruises were in the past few years.
Day 1 – Boarding - Miami
We arrived at the pier in Miami around 11:00am, hoping to board early, only to find out that there had been an outbreak of the Norwalk virus the week before and that the health department was going to be on board for a while ensuring that it was safe for us to board. We were worried that it was going to be hours before we could get on the ship but we were allowed to board around 1:00pm. We were able to bring on 2 bottles on wine and a 6-pack of beer in our carry-on – no one said a word. We were able to go to our cabin (balcony cabin 7274) and drop off our carry on luggage. We were very impressed with the size of the cabin and the amount of storage/cupboard space. I didn’t even need my over the door show holder! After getting settled in, we immediately went to Portofino to make a reservation and to the spa to book appointments. We then went to the Windjammer for lunch and sat out in the sun for a while. At 3:00pm, we went back to our cabin and discovered that 2 of our suitcases had arrived, so we started unpacking. My husband tried to blow up our inflatable palm tree for the balcony and we quickly realized that we should have brought a pump. So much for that idea!
Soon it was time for muster. It was a bit of a pain, as always, but only took about 15 minutes so we really can’t complain. After that, it was time to set sail. We headed for the Viking Crown lounge and met up with about 20 other Cruise Critic members to watch the ship leaving Miami.
Around 6:00pm, we headed down to the cabin to shower and change for dinner. We had second seating, so we went to the early Welcome Aboard show, which was very good. Clo, the cruise director, was hilarious and we got to see a sampling of the entertainment.
Next, it was off to dinner. We were at table 360 in the Magellan dining room (level 3). It was a table for 8 – we were seated with the other couple we were traveling with and a group of 4 mid-20-something’s who were on their second cruise. We met our waiter, Richard, and assistant waiter, Sander, both of whom did an excellent job the entire week. They were both very personable and made all of our meals pleasurable. We also met our head waiter, Mehat, who stopped by most evenings to say hello but didn’t do a whole lot else. We had dinner in the dining room every night except for Wednesday, when we ate at Portofino (which I’ll describe on Day 4).
We were quite impressed with the food in the dining room. It was by no means 5-star dining, but we didn’t expect that it would be. Considering the number of passengers being served all at once, I thought the chefs did a great job of preparing tasty meals that were presented very well.
After dinner, we went back to the Viking Crown/Dizzy’s to try out our ballroom dancing skills, since we had been taking lessons for 2 months leading up to the cruise. We had a lot of fun, although we were a little disappointed that there really wasn’t much of a dance floor. It seemed a little odd to advertise ballroom dancing and then not have a place to dance, but we made the best of it and danced beside our table.
Day 2 – At Sea
We were up by 8:00am for breakfast in the Windjammer. The lineups were long but they moved pretty quickly. Finding a place to sit was a bit of a challenge but we eventually found a table. The food was quite good and there was a large selection. The omelettes were especially tasty!
After breakfast, we went out to the pool to find a deck chair which, at 8:30, wasn’t too hard. I felt sorry for the people who showed up an hour later though, only to find 90% of the chairs covered with towels and books and flipflops. We didn’t do a whole lot for the rest of the day – mostly just lay in the sun and order yummy drinks (Mango Tangos if I recall correctly). Our waiter was even nice enough to bring us a box for the souvenir glasses we were collecting!
We went to a Wine Tasting in the dining room in the afternoon and were disappointed. The guy leading the seminar (one of the cellar masters) was one of the most boring speakers I’ve ever listened to and the wines we tasted were mostly pretty bad. The cellar master talked more about expensive wines that we weren’t tasting than the ones we were tasting. Having said all of that, anyone who was a real beginner at wine tasting might have enjoyed it more.
Day 2 was our first formal night so at 6:00pm, I went to the spa to have my hair put up. The stylist did a great job, but I thought $80 for an updo that took 20 minutes was a little pricey. Once we were ready, my husband and I went to the Champagne bar and met up with our traveling companions. We had a glass or 2 of bubbly and then walked through the Promenade where they were handing out champagne. We didn’t go for pictures with the captain because we got frustrated with the crowds, so we went and had some photos taken instead. Dinner was fabulous! The white glove service was a really nice touch and made you feel like you were in a fancy restaurant. Everyone at our table was dressed appropriately and it appeared as though most people in the dining room abided by the suggested dress code. That was one big difference I noticed between this cruise and my last 2 (on Carnival).
After dinner, we had a few more formal portraits taken and then went to the casino. I won a few hundred dollars, which was a nice way to end the night. We stopped at the Promenade Café for a slice of pizza (not the best I’ve ever had, but not bad) and went to bed.