I traveled with a group of eighteen people, most of whom were clergy participating in a continuing education event on board. Overall, we had a great time!
My roommate and I were in cabin 2661. This was my first (and probably last) time in an inside cabin. It was definitely my last time being that far forward, and under the lounge where the main shows were held. The unending darkness in the inside cabin was difficult for me. I appreciate the ability to open the curtains and--balcony or oceanview--see the daylight for myself. I also appreciate the quietness of cabins where the thumping of the music from the shows does not disrupt my rest. Other than the noise, the cabin was comfortable and clean, although there is far less storage space than in a balcony cabin. It wouldn't have been enough for my family of three on a seven-day cruise, but it worked for the two of us who shared it.
I've been a Carnival cruiser for twenty years, switching to Disney Cruise Lines for two sailings while my son has been young enough to enjoy the characters. Although my early sailings were different, Carnival's service today is no comparison to Disney. I miss the routine twice-daily cabin cleanings. I don't care about having the bed made twice (although it's nice!), but I sure as heck appreciate having clean towels before an evening shower after a long, hot day in a port! Other differences were the lack of tablecloths on the dinner tables, a lack of variety of teas available with coffee, and other small amenities like body lotion, fresh soap every-other-day or so, etc. I really didn't think any of this would bother me, but it felt like quite a step down in service.
Please note that (1) the lack of tablecloths isn't enough for me to stop cruising with Carnival, but it's a noticeable difference and (2) I will ask for twice-daily cabin service for all future cruises.
This is the first Carnival cruise on which I've seen crew members acting as lifeguards, standing beside the pools. It was a step up in service that I appreciated.
I found the ship to be impeccably clean and saw crew members wiping down railings, cleaning windows, and mopping floors all week. Our cabin steward, I Wayan, did an outstanding job. I only saw him once, and my roommate (who arrived late) didn't get to meet him, but he responded invisibly to all of our requests in a timely manner.
The dining room meals were all excellent. My prime rib was fork-tender, perfectly cooked, and seasoned well. Roast chicken and stuffing were delicious, although the white meat was dry. The same was true for the southern fried chicken; dark meat was great, breast was dry. Filet mignon and flatiron steaks were as delicious as the prime rib. Our dining room staff, Headwaiter Kijpracha, Team Waiter Pande and Assistant Brian were efficient and friendly. They learned the names of our entire group on the first night, and managed to keep us all straight even though we routinely switched tables to enjoy different company each evening.
Lido Deck meals were also good. Guy's Burgers were juicy and there were a nice variety of toppings available. The pizza on board is not my favorite, as I prefer a thicker crust, but the sauce and toppings tasted fine. I didn't try the tacos, but heard nothing but praise for them. We enjoyed the barbecue from Guy's Pig & Anchor, too.
For me, the entertainment on board was a mixed bag. There was an absolutely wonderful string trio (Allure), a decent singing duo (Recap Acoustic), and a superb steel drum musician (Ms. Drumz). The Hasbro games were boring to me. They might have been less so if anyone from our party had been chosen to participate, but I doubt it. What I saw of the song-and-dance shows were good but, frankly, the volume in the theater was offensive to my ears, so I never made it through an entire show.
Negatives: Our group was in Sam's Piano Bar for our learning sessions. I was disappointed at how many people completely disregarded the "Private Session" signs and walked right into our space. It was distracting to us, and to our leader. One day, a man even moved the sign in order to open a closed door--and then propped the door open!---in order to walk through the bar. He could just as easily have exited the Burgundy Lounge through the main hallway, but chose rudeness instead. There was a child (preteen or early teen) who ran the hallways outside our cabin shouting and/or screaming nearly every evening around 10 pm. Neither of these issues is the fault of the cruise line, of course. And neither would prevent me from cruising with Carnival again, but they were unpleasant experiences.
Positives: Every time we had to wait in line, people around us were courteous and good-humored. Guest Services staff was efficient polite when (1) I needed a new S&S card because the bar code on mine had misprinted, (2) an excursion ticket was not delivered in a timely manner and I needed a reprint and (3) my credit card was declined because I'd forgotten to tell them I was traveling.
Ports of Call: Montego Bay, Jamaica--Meh. We did the Top Ten bus tour, booked through Carnival. There were no photo stops, just stops for shopping. Definitely would not recommend it. We ended at Margaritaville, which was crowded and unimpressive to us. We chose to walk to a nearby park, where we sat and enjoyed the view while chatting with a local. On the walk back to our bus, we were offered (1) a taxi, (2) marijuana, and (3) a man--in that order. Needless to say, we refused all three. 🙂
Grand Cayman--I stayed shipboard, since I've been there several times. My roommate did the VIP tour, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a small-group tour, with several stops for sightseeing and photos. She liked the Rum Factory best.
Cozumel--We did the Atlantis Submarine tour. It was short, but fun. We got to see a variety of underwater life, and the ship that is becoming a reef.