May 15, 2004
Our first Carnival cruise was on Celebration in September 2002. Since that was an older ship, we expected Glory to be much better - better design, better quality. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Granted, she's not a bad looking ship, but as a cruise experience she could have been better.
The quick review:
Carnival Glory is just not a passenger-friendly ship, in my opinion. To get to dinner each night, we had to take only certain stairways. Because of the ridiculous way the dining rooms are laid out and split up, finding the dining room was awkward from different locations. Nowhere inside the ship could you get from one end to the other without having to go up or down one or two flights of stairs -- very frustrating at times. And if at times a particular lounge or bar was closed off, you had to find alternate routes to get anywhere.
Speaking of lounges and bars, there are too many on this ship! Before anyone thinks I'm some kind of a teetotaler, what I mean is that because there are so many bars/lounges, each one is too small for any great function. Perhaps Carnival thought this would lend intimacy to these areas, but it's hard to achieve intimacy when you're packed into a small area with a bunch of loud, drunk people. Even the Amber Palace, the ship's theatre for shows, is on the small side.
The shows were OK -- nothing spectacular. They were not very well performed. Either the dancers were new or just not that good. Too many times, it was obvious that they were focusing more on getting their steps right than actually dancing and performing. The singers, on the other hand, were great - at least the female singers – with great voices.
Something that makes the Amber Palace even smaller is that if you sit in the balcony close to the stage, you can't see anything behind the plane of the curtain line. We made this mistake one night; we could see the performers out near the edge of the stage, but we couldn't see those who were towards the back of the stage.
Having been on other ships with beautiful open atriums, we were hoping Glory's would match that kind of space. It doesn't come close. The atrium is OK, but it's dark and not very open. There are very few windows that let natural light in, and that doesn't help the dark colors in the atrium. The few windows there are were usually covered. As a result, instead of being a gathering place that attracted people, many just avoided it as we did. Most of the time there were very few people sitting at the large bar there.
Upstairs, open to the atrium two levels above, were the onboard shops. Again, the layout failed in this area. The stores faced the open atrium, but there was only 8-10 feet of walking space between the stores and the rail overlooking the atrium. When you had to walk past the stores to a show in the Amber Palace, there were frequent logjams of people. Add to this the times when sale tables were out in front of the stores, and people were browsing through the items, and it becomes a messy mélange of bodies trying to squeeze by one another.
If I'm going to point out the problems regarding onboard space, I must point out the high points. The area where Carnival Glory shines is her deck space for sunning. These areas are expansive. If you couldn't find a chair to lay out, you weren't looking very hard. Granted, many were not near a pool, but there were still plenty. I wish other ships had showers available at almost every deck area that wasn't near a pool, like Glory does. Even the adults-only deck up top had one. It was nice not having to go all the way to the pool to cool down. The rear pool was nice, and it was nice to see the sliding roof being used to shield it from the elements (we had one half-day of rain).
The sports court area was a waste of space. Sure, there was a basketball half-court, but why they bothered to shoe-horn in a much-smaller-than-regulation-size volleyball court is beyond me. Better to have a full-size court and use it for both sports.
Another awkward layout example: To access the gym, you had to enter the spa and then go through the men's or women's locker rooms to get there. Once you got there, the equipment was good and modern, with the minimum number of weight machines, six or seven cardio machines, free weights, and about 10 treadmills.
The food on Carnival Glory was OK, but not at all what I'd been led to believe by some online postings on different cruise websites. Carnival, from what I'd read, was supposed to have the best food. In my opinion, that's false. It was no better than other cruise lines I've been on. I'm talking about dining room dinner food. As for the buffet-style Red Sail Restaurant/Cafeteria, the food there was fair -- not that good. And the layout of the Red Sail was awful. You had to stand in long lines for its mediocre food. I prefer a layout that has different stations for different types of food (salads, hot sandwiches, carving station, etc.), where you can browse and find what you want without waiting in long lines.
Our dining room wait staff was excellent. Ksenia and Sergei, both from Estonia, were terrific. We enjoyed their service as well as their company and conversation every night. The maitre d' we never met. Each night he just announced eating times for the next day.
As for other staff, well, it was a very disjointed affair. I say this because only after midway through the cruise did we realize that Mark Price, the Cruise Director, had not made any appearances since day one. We asked some staff who said he had gotten ill, but it was never announced. Something else kind of strange was that the Captain was replaced midway through the cruise with another
Something that set the tone for a not-so-great cruise occurred at sail-away -- that is, if we had seen it. It would have been nice to go up top and do the usual partying with friends as we embark on our week-long adventure. Instead, the muster drill was held at the same time! So while we were packed together with others, sweating in our life jackets, we were sailing away and missing a chance to wave at the people watching the ships leave. We heard more than a few comments about that.
A couple of Carnival's on-board policies - at least it's what they say in print - are that no smoking is allowed on the port side of the ship, and that pool chairs are not to be saved. Apparently Carnival chooses not to enforce these, or there were a lot of illiterate people on board.
Some staff had said that "some of the stabilizers" were not working properly on Carnival Glory. There was some motion, but I didn't think it was that bad. It was a little more than normal, but not enough to ruin anything.
Lastly, debarkation was horrible. We were told the day before that if we had a flight departing at 1:00 or earlier, we should ask for luggage tags to debark early. Two people in our group had a flight at 1:30, so we didn't bother getting these early tags. On earlier cruises we'd gotten off the ship in plenty of time. This wasn't going to be one of those times. We were finally called to
When we finally made it to the luggage carousels, we waited more than 35 minutes for our luggage to appear. During that time, one Carnival rep told me all the luggage was unloaded; another said our luggage might be on one of the other carousels (unloaded incorrectly); lastly, I was told by someone else that not all the luggage was out yet. By the time we actually got out of the terminal it was past 11:30 a.m. Since we still had to catch the rental car shuttle to the rental car place and drive to Orlando, our friends went ahead and took a cab to Orlando. They weren't very happy about it, and neither were we.
A cruise, like any vacation, is what you make of it. Overall, we still had a very good time. It's just that the ship could have added so much more to the experience, and it failed to do that.