I knew a Carnival Cruise was likely to be more of a booze cruise than some of the others I’d been on, but since I would be sailing in the Mediterranean instead of the Caribbean I thought there would be a little less ridiculousness. I was right, the group of people we were sailing with were great. Very diverse, not too much of any one age group to get annoying. Beyond that I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was the cheapest cruise we had ever done, and the longest. So to sum it up I can say you get what you pay for; but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Ship – Notably more tired and not as lavish as the other ships I had been on, but better designed. It was not as fancy, and the room and bathroom were remarkably small, but the layout of the ship was good and the public spaces where great. This ship has higher quality space and enjoyment level than any other ship I have been on. What I mean is they have gone out of their way to create cozy seating arrangements in every space on the ship so there is no wasted space. So while each spaces’ décor is not as fancy it’s actually more comfortable to spend time in because of the layout; to the point that it didn’t even feel full. It is also very much set up for groups of all sizes. You will have no problem find a seating area or table for parties from 2 – 12.
Dining – The food was good; again not as fancy, but a fair variety and quality. The main dining room was nice but not as formal as some others I have been in, which was a little disappointing on formal nights; which there were only 2 of over 12 nights, also disappointing. However, the buffet which I usually avoid at all costs was the nicest I had seen on several levels; and we ate there often for lunch. The seating area again was awesome, there were not rows of cafeteria style tables but quaint seating areas for your party. The tables and ocean views made the seating so comfortable that you would forget you were in a buffet and not a nice restaurant. The food was also spread throughout the area and not centrally located, again making you feel that it was a restaurant with stations versus a buffet. Even though we heard other people complain about the spread layout I preferred it. Also, not a French fry in sight! I’m sure they were there somewhere if you wanted them, but all their food was so good and the variety was so high I wasn’t sucked in by the junk food options, (which I’m easily susceptible to, and usually requires me to skip the buffet all together).
*Cheers – On both our other cruises we did a wine package, you prepay for x-number bottles of wine and have them as you please. I didn’t mention it because they have all been comparable. This cruise offered a similar package as well. Instead though we did a Cheers package. Which you should absolutely do if you are on a short cruise and (if you drink) you should think about doing on a longer cruise. The package includes nearly everything: sodas, wine, beer, and liquor; all by the glass under $10, which is nearly everything they serve. We did the math for what a bottle of wine at dinner plus a drink before and maybe a drink after or by the pool would cost and decided to go with this. The sticker shock was a lot, but at least we got it out of the way at the beginning of the cruise rather than when seeing our bill at the end of the cruise. It’s an expensive option, but we’ve been very happy with it. And you don’t have to be 22 and drink a dozen beers a day to make it worthwhile, you can be 30 and want to drink something nicer than Budweiser and it can still be worth it.
Entertainment – Not really noteworthy, unfortunately. Some of their performers were great, but they were few and far between and some of the lounge singers/musicians were some of the worst that we have seen. The other disappointment, and really the only down side to the cruise were the show times. The main shows were at 8:30 and 10:30 meaning that regardless of dinner time you were limited to seeing the show after dinner. In the past we have seen shows staggered so that if you have the early dinner you see the show after and if you have the late dinner you can see the show before; which works out great I think. What they did do really well were all their activities. They were planned well, organized well, executed well, and because of that had a large number a participants which only made them more fun.
Port Calls & Excursions – We were generally pleased with all the port calls, they were as expected; and the excursions were comparable to what I have seen on other cruises. What was missing though was any information outside of what they offered for excursions. Some basic information about the layout of the port and how to get into the town would have been great.
General Merriment – High! I mean we bought the drinks package if it wasn’t a great cruise we certainly didn’t notice. The ship was dated and not as fancy, but it was so well laid out that, it more than made up for it. There was also such a variety of lounges to visit with different music or low-key entertainment and activities options, we were never at a loss. Also, and this piece is hard to quantify, it was just a fun ship. All the employees seemed to generally enjoy what they were doing and made our experience more enjoyable through every step of the way, the other cruise goers were all friendly and having a fun time and enjoying each other’s company as well as all the cruise had to offer. From a general Merriment standpoint this is the most fun I’d ever had on a cruise.
Note – Problem Solving! A+ Our cruise ended in London and we have purchased a transfer into the city through Carnival. After exiting the ship and gather our luggage we located our bus, all seamlessly. The problem; there was more than enough room for all the people on the bus, but not for all the luggage. The Carnival personal immediately started problem solving to come up with a quick solution. After some maneuvering they were able to get everyone aboard but not the luggage of our group of 2+toddler and another family of 4. The solution they worked out for us was to have the general manager, who worked out of London and was heading back there after everything was complete, hand deliver our 2 parties’ luggage to our hotels and we would take our hand luggage and ride the bus. Since none of us were actually stay at the hotel we were being dropped off at it was actually a big convenience having the luggage delivered directly to our hotels. The luggage arrived without a hitch about an hour after we did; and I thought this was a great solution.
Unforeseen problems (or mistakes) like these are always possible, what matters to me is how it’s handled. And I think Carnival did a good job coming up with a solution that would work for everyone and doing so in a timely matter. The whole ordeal probably only caused about a 20 minute delay; 33 minutes after exiting the ship the bus pulled away from the curb.