Sailing date: 25 November 2006
This was my 14th cruise, and my 4th on a Carnival ship. My group comprised 11 adults: 3 married couples (30-50yrs), a 35yr old couple, and three single adults 28, 26 and 21yrs. I selected this ship because it was new and I loved the itinerary. I had read so much about the Noro virus that was prevalent on this ship on its trans-Atlantic crossing, but I was not concerned in the least as I figured Carnival would not want folks to get sick and would do all it could to rectify the situation.
Embarkation: The normal mass confusion, but I was standing in the shade, and once I got inside the main building processing moved quickly. Carnival needs to invest in a microphone system for a few supervisors so they could make announcements instead of shouting at the crowd. We got to the port about 11:30 AM and were on board by about 1:00 PM.
Cabins: I always book the cheapest inside, but this time I got a great price on an outside cabin and went for it - it was nice having the extra space and window. The rest of my group except for one other couple had inside cabins and everyone was happy. I had read stories about the small size of the bathrooms (I am average size person and so is my wife), but it was never a problem for me. Do not expect a large bathroom - this is not the Ritz after all. The rooms were nicely decorated with a few new features, like ordering pay per view TV movies, checking your ship charges, previewing the different dining menus, plus you get a sports channel. The room is well laid out with lots of storage space, a small couch, and a dresser. The bathroom had a nice soap and shampoo stocked dispenser as well as some nice complimentary toiletries.
Dining/Food: Overall, dinner food in the main dining room was my biggest disappointment. The meat dishes were very tough and overcooked. Even lobster was tough! The quality of the other dishes was fair (I heard the fish dishes were quite good) but nothing to write home about. Appetizers were average, but after experiencing so many fine meals on my other cruises (including my Carnival cruises) I was highly disappointed. I ate breakfast at the Lido buffet and got so fed up with standing in line that I switched to the dining room. Service was commendable and you do get a few items not served in the buffet. Lunch included a variety of buffet stations on the Lido deck, but I still preferred the main dining room over the crowds at the buffet. The lines at the LIDO buffet were excessively long and moved slowly, perhaps this was due to all the excess sanitation everyone had to go through? I did not eat at Supper Club as I thought the $30 price tag was steep per person, but maybe I should have spent the money with the food I was served in the dining room...
Public Rooms: The ship was decorated in a garden-like atmosphere and the atrium was fabulous. The ship is designed with its 4th and 5th decks serving as the main hub of activity, i.e. with shops, a casino, lounges, photo, library. One of the newest on board attractions is a HUGE TV screen on deck #10 overlooking the pool. This screen displayed various scenes of aquatic life during the day, but in the evening it featured movies and college football games. They also served popcorn and provided blankets - a nice touch on windy seas.
Entertainment: In the evening, a variety of music was offered at several locations throughout the ship. There was a piano bar, variety music in the Victoria Lounge, and karaoke at the Stage Lounge which was jam packed each night I attended (due to my singing?). In addition, the Atrium featured a band that played into the wee hours. The disco was disappointing - too much rap music played. I was disappointed in the shows offered at the Venetian place which consisted mainly of mediocre dancing. There was one comedian, but that was it. The last night was the usual legends show where passengers dress up as music legends and do karaoke. It was entertaining to watch (it would have been more entertaining if I was featured in the show).
Excursions: We embarked at three terrific ports. Some of the best ports I have been to on a cruise yet! Panama, Costa Rica, and Costa Maya - I did my own thing at each port once again.
Activities: The variety of usual ship activities (trivia, bean bag toss, newly not so newly wed games, etc.) are offered, but not much in terms of athletic or ‘survivor’ type games. This area could stand to be improved a bit. Even the "bar hop" event was REALLY lame and disorganized.
Disembarkation: You can take your own bags off during the first hour, otherwise it goes by deck and numbers, no real issue, expect the normal hassle getting a cab.
Overall: Decent ship with a terrific itinerary. Still too many times where Carnival tries to sell you something, and the lack of activities made for a less-than-friendly passenger base. I would sail the itinerary again, but it would be hard to get me on the ship again.