Comments on a Carnival Cruise from A Princess Perspective

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#21
Queensland
6,900 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
There was reference to the Brunch on Carnival on sea days. We have had this on a couple of Princess cruises, but only on particular days - maybe only a couple of times in a long cruise. When they did it, the dining room was decorated and there were a lot of special menu items. It was great.
#22
Ahwatukee, Arizona
444 Posts
Joined Nov 2010
Originally posted by neverbeenhere
I beg all Princess cruisers who want to try a Carnival Cruise, only travel on the newest of Carnival ships. You may think that the fantastically cheap deal you see on a Carnival ship is too good to miss, but don't do it unless the ship is very new. If you doubt me, you are tempting the beast.
Ok I haven't been on Princess yet but I wholly disagree about new CCL ships vs old.

I love the Fantasy class ships. They are primarily used for shorter cruises. So I don't mind the lack of balconies because we are never in our room, except to sleep.

They are old and lack some of the "new" things but most do have the funship 2.0 upgrades.

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#23
SoCal Baby!
3,630 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I agree with your review! And I will say that Carnival food is better than Royal! We just got off of X, if I were to have blindfolds on, it would be difficult for me to tell if I was eating CCL or X food! I would know RCL food cuz I'd probably spit it out! Sorry!
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#24
Virgina
4,168 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by DnD_Cruisin
Ok I haven't been on Princess yet but I wholly disagree about new CCL ships vs old.

I love the Fantasy class ships. They are primarily used for shorter cruises. So I don't mind the lack of balconies because we are never in our room, except to sleep.

They are old and lack some of the "new" things but most do have the funship 2.0 upgrades.

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I enjoy the fantasy class ships as well but you need to keep in mind that there are many devout Carnival cruisers that won't sail them because of their lack of options from food venues to waterworks.

I would agree that a Princess cruiser, for a first time cruise on Carnival should stick with Sunshine, Breeze, Magic, Dream, Vista or Horizon. With the streak house and additional food venues it makes them more consistent with a Princess experience.

I think the OPs post is spot on with the primary difference between the lines being the overall feel - Carnival is less polished, more vibrant and fun with a certain segment of passengers that are working through their Cheers package to make sure they get all 15 drinks per day, whether they should or not. Yes, the waitstaff still performs a couple of nights. And no you will never see a formal night. Cruise Carnival and leave the jacket and tie at home; kakhis and a dress shirt are well within dress code for their dressiest night - cruise elegant.

Princess has a more classic, formal feel from the decor to the staff to the passengers. If you are a Princess cruiser and want to let down your hair and can go with the flow, Carnival is a realistic choice. Most of our cruises have been on Carnival because the price and wide variety of Caribbean itineraries is fantastic. But we prefer the slightly more sedate, elegant and classy feel of Princess and look forward to much longer cruises with them in the years to come.


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#25
Indiana
1,803 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
I could obviously look this up, but am being lazy (obviously). Does Carnival sail to Bermuda?


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#26
10,615 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Yep. In fact that was where we were just on her. The Sunshine does the NYC-Bermuda run regularly. I think the Horizon (new ship) will be doing some too for a bit.

Originally posted by cruiseintoheaven
I could obviously look this up, but am being lazy (obviously). Does Carnival sail to Bermuda?


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#27
Indiana
1,803 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by Loonbeam
Yep. In fact that was where we were just on her. The Sunshine does the NYC-Bermuda run regularly. I think the Horizon (new ship) will be doing some too for a bit.


Now how in the heck did I miss that detail!? I'll have to look into the itinerary - and give myself a refresher course on the ships in the Carnival Fleet. The Horizon might be interesting to try - nothing like that shiny new ship smell, though it sounds like the Sunshine offered a good value all around.


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Upcoming cruises:

Ruby Princess, March 10, 2018 California Coastal
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Past cruises:


Regal Princess Feb. 12 W. Caribbean
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Crown Princess May 21st 2016, Return to Alaska!
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Emerald Princess, Feb. 6, 2016, W. Caribbean
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RCCI Majesty of the Seas Dec. 2007, Christmas cruise
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#28
Lakewood, Ca
12,578 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by Loonbeam
So, we finally went on a Carnival Cruise and just like I have prior for NCL/RCCL/Disney I'll post a few thoughts that might be helpful for those Princess cruisers considering it....

First the TL/DR - Would be very happy to cruise Carnival again, but not on that particular ship...

Now the longer thoughts...

First, this was only a short cruise on the Carnival Sunshine - 1 day in Bermuda out of Manhattan for 4 days total. I'll be using our last cruise on the Island as a baseline, as it's not fair to compare a smaller ship like the Sunshine to the Royal.

The Sunshine is an older ship, built in 1996 as the Destiny and refurbed and renamed the Sunshine in 2013.

Whether you would be happy with Carnival or not probably depends on your priorities. There are some things they do better (and I assume procedures are the same across most if not all Carnival ships) and there are some areas that don't measure up. Everything is subjective, of course.

First up, the ship.

Carnival seems to not mind design elements that end up with a lot of 'you can't get there from here' and bottlenecks. For example, the Galley is located in the middle of deck 3, which means to get from Guest services on deck 3 to the MDR aft you need to go up to deck 4 and over or down to 2 and over. And if the comedy club is in use on 4, that path is blocked. Guy fieri's burger bar and the resultant line overlaps with the buffet entrance. On deck 5 you have to pass through the casino, etc. (Side note, why is the arcade next to the casino - this has been changed on other carnival ships but just seems like a bad idea)

Decor wise however, it was pretty nice. A little bland in some areas (surprising, I really was expecting it to look like Mardi Gras had vomited) but honestly in the corridors and venues you could have told me I was on Princess and I probably wouldn't have argued.

Their comedy/small theatre lounge is in a bad location but is a much better facility than on the Island (smaller, but they run multiple shows to make up for it). It's more intimate and comfortable - in short its what Princess Live should have been. In general, they have more small venues that allow for much more programming flexibility and they use it.

Their main venue seemed small for the ship but never filled.

The atrium would not have been out of place on any Princess ship except for the large bar in the middle of the lowest deck. Since the MDRs are located aft and have a better system however you don't get dinner crowds clogging it up.

Rooms:

We had what they call a Spa Suite and honestly it was pretty small for a suite (call it a Mini and a half in Princess terms) but it did have a double balcony and full tub/shower plus access to the thermal spa (which was pretty much the same as the one on the Island in terms of amenities, except you had a window where the loungers are). We checked out a few cabins and they seemed overall a little tighter than Princess but manageable. Plenty of storage.

Design wise, they were cruise line beige. Which is fine. It's worth noting that not all rooms on Carnival have refrigerators.

For a standard itinerary most people would be fine with a comparable Carnival room. Might be a bit tight for something like a TA.

Dining - MDR

There are three aspects when discussing Dining, system, menu and preparation....

System - quite frankly Carnival kicks Princess's tail. Using a 2 level MDR plus a second satellite MDR they can mix and match traditional and anytime dining as needed. If you have anytime dining, there is a dedicated check in desk on deck 5 where you can make any requests. Even though you have anytime dining, the system knows which servers you have had and if you liked them will place you back in that area when possible so you get the best of both worlds in that respect. They also have a lot more 2 and 4 tops (no real sharing option) and they are not right on top of each other. TD diners cannot check in at the AD station, you must get approval from the MD to be seated. If there is a wait, which was only one night of the cruise and less than 10 mins at peak time, you get a pager which works anywhere on ship except the casino.

If there is a wait, the Alchemy bar has seating right there as does Ocean Plaza where they only play live music during the dinner hours, no activities, so plenty more seating. Once your pager buzzes (or if no wait) you don't need to go back to the desk, just to the entrance on deck 3 where you are typically seated in less than 5 mins.

Another nice touch is the Taste Bar. Located in the same area, it serves free samples of what is available in the other dining venues like the specialty restaurant etc. And at lunchtime it doubles as an out of the way lite meal venue (soup, salad, small wraps, etc).

Menu - This one is going to depend on what you prefer. Princess definitely skews more European than Carnival in their menu selections, less sauces on Carnival for example. Also Carnival has upcharges for certain menu items like filet (a flat-iron steak is the always available option). They do however each night have one item listed as 'Rare Finds' which might be something you have never tried, like Frog Legs.

Preparation - Honestly? I'll rank how our meals were prepared and presented up with almost any MDR on Princess. Over 4 days I can't recall any complaints with the food, at all. (There was a service issue, but it turned to a net positive, more on that in a bit). We ate all dinners and most breakfasts in the MDR. This was a big surprise to us, how well the food was done and presuming the type of food meets your liking, I don't think any Princess cruiser would be disappointed.

Dining - Other Venues

Carnival does have some upcharge venues (Steakhouse, Italian, Asian, Sushi, Shakes) - the interesting thing is that they use some of those to provide additional lunch options - the Asian restaurant becomes a (somewhat slow) made to order mongolian wok station, the italian venue becomes a pasta bar and these are no charge. Poolside you have a Guy Fieri burger bar and blue iguana tacos and burritos (never had a chance to eat at either of those). Add in the taste bar and buffet and you have a lot more lunch options than is typical on Princess.

The buffet was Small, but had more than enough to keep most people happy. Two main kiosks in the middle serve the same items and then there is a Deli kiosk (open longer hours), a pizza station (24 hours), 2 self serve beverage stations Juices in the AM, lemonade and iced tea rest of day plus coffee and water) and other stations that changed according to meal. While the space was small, Princess could learn something from their organization which kept things moving.

Room service is available 24 hours, no charge, limited menu.

Sea Day Brunch - now this is brilliant and something I think princess cruisers will love. On every sea day the MDR is open straight through from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM with a brunch menu featuring everything from eggs to grilled salmon. This means you can sleep in and still get a full breakfast if you want.

Entertainment -

Main Stage - the entertainment structure is very similar to that on Princess, a set of performers doing revue style shows. The two on this sailing were Studio 54 and Epic Rock (I think you can guess the themes). Costumes and staging were surprisingly good, probably a bit better than Princess, talent level about the same. The middle night was Hasbro the Game Show - a lot of fun and a great family show, later that day was the Love and Marriage show - a carnival staple, which we didn't see.

Lounge - each night the 4th floor lounge becomes Punchliners, where they bring in mid tier or better comedians. There were two on this cruise and each did a mixture of PG, R and Explicit shows, all with different material. Both were far funnier than any I have seen on Princess.

There are the usual musicians around the ship (mixed talent level). Again, if you were sitting in the atrium, eyes closed at any given time, no idea you were not on Princess.

Cruise Director - No joke, Emma was one of the best cruise directors I have seen at sea. Yes, she had a few vocal mannerisms that got a bit tiring at the end of the cruise, but generally she was always on and she was on and about a lot. Carnival splits the CD role into the onstage CD and the backstage Entertainment director and it really frees up the CD. If you like interacting with the CD this is a plus.

Staffing

This is where I might be found a bit controversial. While I don't think the staff was as good as on Princess, I think the staff was better than on Princess. Wait, what?

What I mean by that is the staff did not seem as polished as Princess staff does generally. They were more casual, joking,, etc and I know some folks might not like that. That said, I felt far more of a general desire to do a good job than I did on Princess, the staff genuinely seemed to care about your experience. Officers were far more out and about and mingling with passengers and the casual interactions really worked.

Problems happen on cruise ships. The key is how those problems are handled. During a Sea Day brunch there was some kind of problem in the galley. Our server was obviously stressed and this ended up resulting in a service delay and my order being switched with one at another table, we both touched the food before we realized. Now, on Princess, I would normally expect the issue to be corrected, and it was. What I didn't expect was for the server to seek out the MD and explain the issue so that the headwaiter and MD both came over to apologize, explain the issue, etc. Plus, the FB director also sent a note to the room, with snacks. The culture was clearly one of teamwork and accepting that issues happen, and I saw other examples of that all over the ship. To be blunt, that is not the shipwide culture I have experienced on Princess in general, and I wish it would be (and yes, this is only one ship, management on another could be totally different).

Our cabin steward also offered something we are not used to on Princess. Once a day service. I want to stress this is OPTIONAL but great if you like to sleep in. Instead of early morning and evening turndown, the cabin would be done once, around lunch time and if you needed anything at other times you could call housekeeping. I thought this was pretty brilliant as you did not have the 9 AM tap on the door when sleeping in AND the steward had more flexibility in their day. Some people may see this as a downgrade in service, we did not. Our steward was also very personable.

Same with Dining staff - we ended up having the same waiters most dinners and even one breakfast. Now, they joked with one another in a way I would not expect on Princess but that never affected service (in fact, I think it enhanced it). (Side note, they work in teams of three over a larger area than on Princess - each section has a lead waiter, assistant waiter and junior waiter - it works well the way their DRs are set up)

Ship Condition:

This is one of those areas that if it bothers you on Princess, well this may not be the line for you. I will start by saying that the ship was CLEAN. Really clean. But there was definitely less attention to cosmetic maintenance. The railing on our balcony had a large section where the varnish was almost totally gone, and there were more rust spots than I am used to plus a lot of sea salt accumulation. In the MDR, a broken window shade was held in place by duct tape. There was wallpaper damage near the elevators. Not sure if it was just this ship (I think not because of the general attitude of staff) or Carnival has a less aggressive attitude overall to cosmetic maintenance.

Amenities:

If you put waterslides on top of the Island and have the adult pool uncovered and facing the main pool from 2 decks up, you pretty much have the Sunshine. Personally I was not a fan of that setup as the adult area except for a very small and crowded area really picked up the noise of the pool area (see Atmosphere, below). There was a definite lack of quieter spaces such as you might find on Princess and this could be a key factor (we just used our balcony and could not hear a thing). The adult area is free, there is no equivalent to the Sanctuary.

Kids clubs seemed pretty similar, we didn't go in, there was a small 24 hour playground as well for younger kids plus a splash zone. For older kids there was a 2 level ropes course, sport court, etc.

Shopping and Spa no difference at all between the two.

Atmosphere:

This is the big difference. Carnival is definitely more high energy and far more casual than Princess. Elegant night in the MDR means no shorts and t-shirts (shorts except cutoffs are permitted on casual nights). There was no formal night this cruise, people did dress up for the elegant night, others did not. Activities routinely ran till 1-2 AM and the pool deck was officially open till 2 but apparently never really closed.

The common areas all seemed to be a bit louder, more boisterous. Not obnoxious, just...more.

And alcohol is more prevalent. Not in your face, it was not the booze cruise we had been fearing, but bars are more of a structural focus than on Princess.

I should point out we never felt nickeled and dimed. In fact the only time we were approached to buy anything was on embarkation day, where someone walked around the buffet selling wine packages. We also never felt compelled to try specialty dining, the MDR was just fine. There is an all-you-can drink package for $50 per day pp, and a soda package for about $7.50 per day. Taking into account Carnival fares tend to be a bit lower than Princess on many itineraries it does make a good budget option without giving up too much.

Summary:

Overall, if you look at a cruise ship as a place to eat, drink, and enjoy entertainment between ports, I think based on our experience you would be happy on a Carnival cruise. If however, you are looking for more of an upscale experience, you are probably going to be happier sticking with Princess.
You hit the nail on the head. I couldn't have said it better.
I've always considered myself a "Princess" girl, but I'm quickly becoming a "Carnival" Girl, It's just so much funner!
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#29
Lakewood, Ca
12,578 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by neverbeenhere
I beg all Princess cruisers who want to try a Carnival Cruise, only travel on the newest of Carnival ships. You may think that the fantastically cheap deal you see on a Carnival ship is too good to miss, but don't do it unless the ship is very new. If you doubt me, you are tempting the beast.
Completely disagree. I have been on the Imagination too many times to count, as well as the Miracle, Splendor and Inspiration. Great older ships!
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#30
Lakewood, Ca
12,578 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by klfhngr
I agree with your review! And I will say that Carnival food is better than Royal! We just got off of X, if I were to have blindfolds on, it would be difficult for me to tell if I was eating CCL or X food! I would know RCL food cuz I'd probably spit it out! Sorry!
Ditto!
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#31
Lakewood, Ca
12,578 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by A&Jfamily
I enjoy the fantasy class ships as well but you need to keep in mind that there are many devout Carnival cruisers that won't sail them because of their lack of options from food venues to waterworks.

I would agree that a Princess cruiser, for a first time cruise on Carnival should stick with Sunshine, Breeze, Magic, Dream, Vista or Horizon. With the streak house and additional food venues it makes them more consistent with a Princess experience.

I think the OPs post is spot on with the primary difference between the lines being the overall feel - Carnival is less polished, more vibrant and fun with a certain segment of passengers that are working through their Cheers package to make sure they get all 15 drinks per day, whether they should or not. Yes, the waitstaff still performs a couple of nights. And no you will never see a formal night. Cruise Carnival and leave the jacket and tie at home; kakhis and a dress shirt are well within dress code for their dressiest night - cruise elegant.

Princess has a more classic, formal feel from the decor to the staff to the passengers. If you are a Princess cruiser and want to let down your hair and can go with the flow, Carnival is a realistic choice. Most of our cruises have been on Carnival because the price and wide variety of Caribbean itineraries is fantastic. But we prefer the slightly more sedate, elegant and classy feel of Princess and look forward to much longer cruises with them in the years to come.


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Yes, but the late night comedies and entertainment choices on Carnival kick the snot out of Princess. IMHO

The Princess comedians just don't cut it. There have been a few good ones, but Carnival comedians rarely disappoint.
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#32
Scarborough ON Canada
3,890 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Originally posted by cruiseintoheaven
Now how in the heck did I miss that detail!? I'll have to look into the itinerary - and give myself a refresher course on the ships in the Carnival Fleet. The Horizon might be interesting to try - nothing like that shiny new ship smell, though it sounds like the Sunshine offered a good value all around.


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You may also want to check the Carnival Pride - it has some Bermuda cruises in April and September/October. It's a Spirit class ship which is one of the favourites - the galley doesn't block passage on any deck. It has also had the FunShip 2.0 upgrades. I love that ship.
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Patricia (Trisha to my friends and family)

Past Cruises:
Disney:
Magic 10-30-2010 (7 nights) - FirstCruise Ever!
Dream 10-30-2011 (4 nights) - first halfof B2B on DCL
Dream 11-03-2011 (3 nights) - secondhalf of B2B on DCL
Magic 4-30-2012 (4 nights)
Fantasy 10-26-2013 (7 Nights) -Halloween on the High Seas
Magic 11-15-2015 - (5 nights)

Carnival:
Dream 3-12-2011 (7 nights) - First half of Jenna's Birthday cruises
Dream 3-19-2011 (7 nights) - Second half of Jenna's Birthday cruises
Miracle 8-26-2011 (8 nights) - PlayersClub VIP Cruise
Dream 10-27-2012 (6 nights)
Pride 03-15-2015 - (14 Night) Tampa to Baltimore Repo cruise
Pride 01-17-2016 & 01-28-2016 (21nights) B2B Baltimore to San Juan to Baltimore
Pride 07-10-2016 (7 nights) Free casino cruise
Pride 08-21-2016 (7 nights) Family trip with brother, SIL, Niece, 2 x Nephews, plus my parents - oh boy!
Sunshine 05-29-2017 (5 nights) Just because I've always wanted to try the Sunshine

Royal:
Explorer of the Seas 2-24-2013 (9Nights) - first time on RCCL
Explorer of the Seas 2-23-2014 (7nights) - a cheap getaway from a terrible winter
Navigator of the Sea 11-10-2015 - (4nights)
Freedom of the Seas 02-12-2017 (6nights)

Celebrity:
Summit 06-01-2014 (7 Nights) - my 40thbirthday cruise
Equinox 11-21-2014 (10 Nights) - mydad's 66th birthday cruise
Summit 08-30-3015 (7 nights)
Summit 02-18-2017 (9 nights)


Future Cruises:

Caribbean Princess 11-20-2017 (10 nights) Partial Panama Canal in a Window Suite!
Carnival Pride 07-01-2018 (14 nights) Another Journey Cruise!
#33
Phoenix, AZ
438 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by neverbeenhere
I beg all Princess cruisers who want to try a Carnival Cruise, only travel on the newest of Carnival ships. You may think that the fantastically cheap deal you see on a Carnival ship is too good to miss, but don't do it unless the ship is very new. If you doubt me, you are tempting the beast.
I have to respectfully disagree with you. We are Platinum on Carnival and Elite on Princess. We have sailed on new, middle aged and older ships. We find that each ship has it's own charm. Matter of fact, we actually prefer sailing some of the older class ships over the new sparkly ones. The Holiday (Carnival) was one of our favorite ships ever. Don't pass over the older ships. They have a lot to offer.
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MSC Preziosa - Norwegian Fjords - Sailing 07/08/2018
Emerald Princess - California Coastal - Sailing 09/25/2017
Carnival Imagination - Baja Mexico - 02/16
Carnival Inspiration - Baja Mexico- 04/15
Carnival Inspiration - Baja Mexico- 09/14

Carnival Inspiration - Baja Mexico - 09/13
Sapphire Princess - California Coastal - 09/12
Carnival Paradise - Baja Mexico - 11/11
Carnival Paradise - Baja Mexico - 11/10
Star Princess - Alaska - 08/08
Carnival Elation - Baja Mexico 12/07
Crown Princess - S. Caribbean 12/06
Carnival Victory - Canada 9/06
Carnival Fascination-Nassau 12/05
Carnival Liberty -Mediterranean 10/05
Diamond Princess -Mexican Riviera 4/05
Tahitian Princess - Tahiti 11/04
Grand Princess -W. Caribbean 9/04
Coral Princess - Panama Canal 11/03
Grand Princess -W. Caribbean 11/02
Carnival Legend -Nowhere 9/02
Carnival Fascination-Nassau 12/01
Carnival Spirit - Alaska 8/01
Carnival Ecstasy -Nassau 10/00
Carnival Imagination-W. Caribbean 11/99
Carnival Paradise - Nowhere 11/98
Carnival Holiday - Baja Mexico 11/96
Carnival Imagination- Nowhere 6/95
#34
Lakewood, Ca
12,578 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Originally posted by LRDR01
I have to respectfully disagree with you. We are Platinum on Carnival and Elite on Princess. We have sailed on new, middle aged and older ships. We find that each ship has it's own charm. Matter of fact, we actually prefer sailing some of the older class ships over the new sparkly ones. The Holiday (Carnival) was one of our favorite ships ever. Don't pass over the older ships. They have a lot to offer.
Like button hit.
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#35
Las Vegas
580 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
Carnival puts out a good product and know their clientele very well. For warm weather cruises they certainly are more fun with a higher energy level.

As mentioned, the food is usually just as good and there's more variety, plus the staff is actually friendlier and warmer than on Princess.

Frankly, the main reason we do not sail them more is the too-common lack of class and manners displayed by some of their passengers. (Not to say this cannot happen on Princess, but it's more frequent on Carnival) People eating in the hot tubs, tank tops and baseball hats in the dinning rooms, frequent loud cussing, aggressive behavior towards others, etc.

In our experience, Princess guests tend to be more educated and better traveled, which makes for great conversations not focused on someone's favorite beer or shot.

Again, this is just our observation and experience - there's many PhD's, engineers, composers, artists, etc that travel on Carnival no doubt.
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Carnival Ecstasy - Bahamas 3/1998
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#36
575 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by Loonbeam
So, we finally went on a Carnival Cruise and just like I have prior for NCL/RCCL/Disney I'll post a few thoughts that might be helpful for those Princess cruisers considering it....

First the TL/DR - Would be very happy to cruise Carnival again, but not on that particular ship...

Now the longer thoughts...

First, this was only a short cruise on the Carnival Sunshine - 1 day in Bermuda out of Manhattan for 4 days total. I'll be using our last cruise on the Island as a baseline, as it's not fair to compare a smaller ship like the Sunshine to the Royal.

The Sunshine is an older ship, built in 1996 as the Destiny and refurbed and renamed the Sunshine in 2013.

Whether you would be happy with Carnival or not probably depends on your priorities. There are some things they do better (and I assume procedures are the same across most if not all Carnival ships) and there are some areas that don't measure up. Everything is subjective, of course.

First up, the ship.

Carnival seems to not mind design elements that end up with a lot of 'you can't get there from here' and bottlenecks. For example, the Galley is located in the middle of deck 3, which means to get from Guest services on deck 3 to the MDR aft you need to go up to deck 4 and over or down to 2 and over. And if the comedy club is in use on 4, that path is blocked. Guy fieri's burger bar and the resultant line overlaps with the buffet entrance. On deck 5 you have to pass through the casino, etc. (Side note, why is the arcade next to the casino - this has been changed on other carnival ships but just seems like a bad idea)

Decor wise however, it was pretty nice. A little bland in some areas (surprising, I really was expecting it to look like Mardi Gras had vomited) but honestly in the corridors and venues you could have told me I was on Princess and I probably wouldn't have argued.

Their comedy/small theatre lounge is in a bad location but is a much better facility than on the Island (smaller, but they run multiple shows to make up for it). It's more intimate and comfortable - in short its what Princess Live should have been. In general, they have more small venues that allow for much more programming flexibility and they use it.

Their main venue seemed small for the ship but never filled.

The atrium would not have been out of place on any Princess ship except for the large bar in the middle of the lowest deck. Since the MDRs are located aft and have a better system however you don't get dinner crowds clogging it up.

Rooms:

We had what they call a Spa Suite and honestly it was pretty small for a suite (call it a Mini and a half in Princess terms) but it did have a double balcony and full tub/shower plus access to the thermal spa (which was pretty much the same as the one on the Island in terms of amenities, except you had a window where the loungers are). We checked out a few cabins and they seemed overall a little tighter than Princess but manageable. Plenty of storage.

Design wise, they were cruise line beige. Which is fine. It's worth noting that not all rooms on Carnival have refrigerators.

For a standard itinerary most people would be fine with a comparable Carnival room. Might be a bit tight for something like a TA.

Dining - MDR

There are three aspects when discussing Dining, system, menu and preparation....

System - quite frankly Carnival kicks Princess's tail. Using a 2 level MDR plus a second satellite MDR they can mix and match traditional and anytime dining as needed. If you have anytime dining, there is a dedicated check in desk on deck 5 where you can make any requests. Even though you have anytime dining, the system knows which servers you have had and if you liked them will place you back in that area when possible so you get the best of both worlds in that respect. They also have a lot more 2 and 4 tops (no real sharing option) and they are not right on top of each other. TD diners cannot check in at the AD station, you must get approval from the MD to be seated. If there is a wait, which was only one night of the cruise and less than 10 mins at peak time, you get a pager which works anywhere on ship except the casino.

If there is a wait, the Alchemy bar has seating right there as does Ocean Plaza where they only play live music during the dinner hours, no activities, so plenty more seating. Once your pager buzzes (or if no wait) you don't need to go back to the desk, just to the entrance on deck 3 where you are typically seated in less than 5 mins.

Another nice touch is the Taste Bar. Located in the same area, it serves free samples of what is available in the other dining venues like the specialty restaurant etc. And at lunchtime it doubles as an out of the way lite meal venue (soup, salad, small wraps, etc).

Menu - This one is going to depend on what you prefer. Princess definitely skews more European than Carnival in their menu selections, less sauces on Carnival for example. Also Carnival has upcharges for certain menu items like filet (a flat-iron steak is the always available option). They do however each night have one item listed as 'Rare Finds' which might be something you have never tried, like Frog Legs.

Preparation - Honestly? I'll rank how our meals were prepared and presented up with almost any MDR on Princess. Over 4 days I can't recall any complaints with the food, at all. (There was a service issue, but it turned to a net positive, more on that in a bit). We ate all dinners and most breakfasts in the MDR. This was a big surprise to us, how well the food was done and presuming the type of food meets your liking, I don't think any Princess cruiser would be disappointed.

Dining - Other Venues

Carnival does have some upcharge venues (Steakhouse, Italian, Asian, Sushi, Shakes) - the interesting thing is that they use some of those to provide additional lunch options - the Asian restaurant becomes a (somewhat slow) made to order mongolian wok station, the italian venue becomes a pasta bar and these are no charge. Poolside you have a Guy Fieri burger bar and blue iguana tacos and burritos (never had a chance to eat at either of those). Add in the taste bar and buffet and you have a lot more lunch options than is typical on Princess.

The buffet was Small, but had more than enough to keep most people happy. Two main kiosks in the middle serve the same items and then there is a Deli kiosk (open longer hours), a pizza station (24 hours), 2 self serve beverage stations Juices in the AM, lemonade and iced tea rest of day plus coffee and water) and other stations that changed according to meal. While the space was small, Princess could learn something from their organization which kept things moving.

Room service is available 24 hours, no charge, limited menu.

Sea Day Brunch - now this is brilliant and something I think princess cruisers will love. On every sea day the MDR is open straight through from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM with a brunch menu featuring everything from eggs to grilled salmon. This means you can sleep in and still get a full breakfast if you want.

Entertainment -

Main Stage - the entertainment structure is very similar to that on Princess, a set of performers doing revue style shows. The two on this sailing were Studio 54 and Epic Rock (I think you can guess the themes). Costumes and staging were surprisingly good, probably a bit better than Princess, talent level about the same. The middle night was Hasbro the Game Show - a lot of fun and a great family show, later that day was the Love and Marriage show - a carnival staple, which we didn't see.

Lounge - each night the 4th floor lounge becomes Punchliners, where they bring in mid tier or better comedians. There were two on this cruise and each did a mixture of PG, R and Explicit shows, all with different material. Both were far funnier than any I have seen on Princess.

There are the usual musicians around the ship (mixed talent level). Again, if you were sitting in the atrium, eyes closed at any given time, no idea you were not on Princess.

Cruise Director - No joke, Emma was one of the best cruise directors I have seen at sea. Yes, she had a few vocal mannerisms that got a bit tiring at the end of the cruise, but generally she was always on and she was on and about a lot. Carnival splits the CD role into the onstage CD and the backstage Entertainment director and it really frees up the CD. If you like interacting with the CD this is a plus.

Staffing

This is where I might be found a bit controversial. While I don't think the staff was as good as on Princess, I think the staff was better than on Princess. Wait, what?

What I mean by that is the staff did not seem as polished as Princess staff does generally. They were more casual, joking,, etc and I know some folks might not like that. That said, I felt far more of a general desire to do a good job than I did on Princess, the staff genuinely seemed to care about your experience. Officers were far more out and about and mingling with passengers and the casual interactions really worked.

Problems happen on cruise ships. The key is how those problems are handled. During a Sea Day brunch there was some kind of problem in the galley. Our server was obviously stressed and this ended up resulting in a service delay and my order being switched with one at another table, we both touched the food before we realized. Now, on Princess, I would normally expect the issue to be corrected, and it was. What I didn't expect was for the server to seek out the MD and explain the issue so that the headwaiter and MD both came over to apologize, explain the issue, etc. Plus, the FB director also sent a note to the room, with snacks. The culture was clearly one of teamwork and accepting that issues happen, and I saw other examples of that all over the ship. To be blunt, that is not the shipwide culture I have experienced on Princess in general, and I wish it would be (and yes, this is only one ship, management on another could be totally different).

Our cabin steward also offered something we are not used to on Princess. Once a day service. I want to stress this is OPTIONAL but great if you like to sleep in. Instead of early morning and evening turndown, the cabin would be done once, around lunch time and if you needed anything at other times you could call housekeeping. I thought this was pretty brilliant as you did not have the 9 AM tap on the door when sleeping in AND the steward had more flexibility in their day. Some people may see this as a downgrade in service, we did not. Our steward was also very personable.

Same with Dining staff - we ended up having the same waiters most dinners and even one breakfast. Now, they joked with one another in a way I would not expect on Princess but that never affected service (in fact, I think it enhanced it). (Side note, they work in teams of three over a larger area than on Princess - each section has a lead waiter, assistant waiter and junior waiter - it works well the way their DRs are set up)

Ship Condition:

This is one of those areas that if it bothers you on Princess, well this may not be the line for you. I will start by saying that the ship was CLEAN. Really clean. But there was definitely less attention to cosmetic maintenance. The railing on our balcony had a large section where the varnish was almost totally gone, and there were more rust spots than I am used to plus a lot of sea salt accumulation. In the MDR, a broken window shade was held in place by duct tape. There was wallpaper damage near the elevators. Not sure if it was just this ship (I think not because of the general attitude of staff) or Carnival has a less aggressive attitude overall to cosmetic maintenance.

Amenities:

If you put waterslides on top of the Island and have the adult pool uncovered and facing the main pool from 2 decks up, you pretty much have the Sunshine. Personally I was not a fan of that setup as the adult area except for a very small and crowded area really picked up the noise of the pool area (see Atmosphere, below). There was a definite lack of quieter spaces such as you might find on Princess and this could be a key factor (we just used our balcony and could not hear a thing). The adult area is free, there is no equivalent to the Sanctuary.

Kids clubs seemed pretty similar, we didn't go in, there was a small 24 hour playground as well for younger kids plus a splash zone. For older kids there was a 2 level ropes course, sport court, etc.

Shopping and Spa no difference at all between the two.

Atmosphere:

This is the big difference. Carnival is definitely more high energy and far more casual than Princess. Elegant night in the MDR means no shorts and t-shirts (shorts except cutoffs are permitted on casual nights). There was no formal night this cruise, people did dress up for the elegant night, others did not. Activities routinely ran till 1-2 AM and the pool deck was officially open till 2 but apparently never really closed.

The common areas all seemed to be a bit louder, more boisterous. Not obnoxious, just...more.

And alcohol is more prevalent. Not in your face, it was not the booze cruise we had been fearing, but bars are more of a structural focus than on Princess.

I should point out we never felt nickeled and dimed. In fact the only time we were approached to buy anything was on embarkation day, where someone walked around the buffet selling wine packages. We also never felt compelled to try specialty dining, the MDR was just fine. There is an all-you-can drink package for $50 per day pp, and a soda package for about $7.50 per day. Taking into account Carnival fares tend to be a bit lower than Princess on many itineraries it does make a good budget option without giving up too much.

Summary:

Overall, if you look at a cruise ship as a place to eat, drink, and enjoy entertainment between ports, I think based on our experience you would be happy on a Carnival cruise. If however, you are looking for more of an upscale experience, you are probably going to be happier sticking with Princess.
I think your review is very accurate and fair.....if Carnival did more international itineraries we would be on them more too. Some of our most memorable and fun cruises were on Carnival ships.... like the Carnival Spirit (Honolulu to Sydney), Carnival Dream (Rome to Venice) and Carnival Splendor (LA to New York around South America). We found the passengers on those cruises to be very similar in backgrounds and travel experiences to the passengers we have encountered on 20-30 day Princess international cruises.
#37
Ontario, CA (The one WITH the Palm Trees!)
22,602 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Originally posted by PrincessLuver
I think your review is very accurate and fair.....if Carnival did more international itineraries we would be on them more too. Some of our most memorable and fun cruises were on Carnival ships.... like the Carnival Spirit (Honolulu to Sydney), Carnival Dream (Rome to Venice) and Carnival Splendor (LA to New York around South America). We found the passengers on those cruises to be very similar in backgrounds and travel experiences to the passengers we have encountered on 20-30 day Princess international cruises.


On both lines the low season cruises and the longer cruises have almost the same demographic.
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#38
1,116 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
Originally posted by Sillyjilly
Yes, but the late night comedies and entertainment choices on Carnival kick the snot out of Princess. IMHO



The Princess comedians just don't cut it. There have been a few good ones, but Carnival comedians rarely disappoint.


This +1,000, we loved the comedy on our Carnival cruise not only for the frequency but for the quality. Princess' comedy is a fleeting thought where carnival really does a great job.
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Carnival:
Miracle 2017 Mex Riviera

DCL:
Wonder 2017 Caribbean

NCL:
Spirit 2010 Caribbean

Princess:
Ruby Princess 2017 Mex Riviera, Royal Princess 2016 Eastern Caribbean, Emerald Princess 2015 Caribbean, Star Princess 2013 Alaska, Crown Princess 2012 Caribbean, Emerald Princess 2010 Caribbean, Caribbean Princess 2007 Caribbean, Caribbean Princess 2006 Caribbean

RCCL:
Oasis 2018 Eastern Caribbean

Windstar:
Wind Surf 2000 Caribbean
#39
Palmdale, Ca
33,637 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
Loonbeam;

Thanks for taking the time to post your review. I very much enjoyed reading it.....

Bob
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Pacific Princess Panama Canal Cruise 05/17 - 17 Days
Caribbean Princess Iceland/Norway T/A 09/16 - 17 Days **First Princess Elite Cruise**
Caribbean Princess Iceland/Norway T/A 09/15 - 16 Days
Golden Princess West Coast Getaway 04/15 - 3 Days
Royal Princess Med/Trans Atlantic 10/13 - 18 Days Inaugural T/A Crossing
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240 Days At Sea: 167 Days Princess , 42 Days Celebrity. 19 Days RCCL, 7 Days HAL, 7 Days Carnival.....

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