Carnival Cruise Lines
December 18, 2005
Just back from our first cruise. (two adults, two children 4 & eight). I broke my comments down for an easier read:
EMBARKMENT: Arrived at embarkment in Ft Lauderdale and was ovewhelmed by how many people were in line. However, it moved well with us getting on board the ship in about an hour.
CABINS: We booked two outside adjoining cabins antipating them to be small. It worked out to be only about $1000 more since we had to pay adult fare for the kids. It was worth it! The rooms were a good size and nicely decorated. Very impressed with the housekeeping. The housekeeping staff kept our rooms in good order. The beds and bedding were the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. (I'm considering buying the bedding package they offer).
The towel animals created by housekeeping kept our kids (and us) amused everynight. We even bought the book on how to create them.
The showers were powerful and it was nice having two bathrooms since we are use to 4 at home.
The only problem was the noisy people in the hallway. I wish people would think of others before they shout down the hallway at someone. Did not hear anything from adjoining cabins. The sound of the ocean at night drowned out most sounds and if you are like me, the white noise makes for good sleeping.
FOOD/SERVICES: We didn't do any formal nights mostly eating in the alternative areas. The grill and deli were awesome! The 24 hr pizza was good too. The buffets were good but were busy at times but we were able to find a window seat everytime. Found the staff in the buffet areas not too helpful. The language barrier grew a little tiresome after a while. I have a hard time believing they don't understand English considering how may people they deal with. On our last full day at sea after the Debarkment/Tipping presentation from the cuise director, it was funny to see the staff suddenly learn English and socialize with the passengers. This was in contrast to the other days where they looked at you like deer in headlights when asking for peanut butter or directions. We even tested it; on the last day, my wife asked one of them for margrine and I said, watch, you will have it in a flash. I was right! Any other day, they would have sent us on a wild goose chase to look for it ourselves. If you are going on a cruise soon, watch for this, it can be entertaining to watch them avoid helping out the passengers. This is not to say all of them were like this, there were some that were helpful but that was the exception.
The scheduling for the food was hard to understand. Pizza was easy, 24hrs. The grill I still can't figure out, just that it closed at 6PM and reopened late at night ( I think?) The Chinese food, I don't know the hours. It would help to have signs posted with the open and close times.
We only ate in the formal dining room twice for breakfast, once for lunch and once for dinner. Nice place but not really a good place for our active kids.
CAMP CARNIVAL: We took advantage of Camp Carnival The kids loved it so much that they kept asking to go. This told us lots about the great staff at the camp. We were so comfortable with the staff, we went on an excursion in Mexico leaving the kids at the camp. This was a huge step for us to leave them.
They had a Christmas concert that included the kids on stage and gift giving from Santa Claus. Overall, the kids acitivities were great! Perfect vacation for a family if your kids are willing to go to camp.
Overall, the kid program is top notch with the best staff you could hope for. They demonstrated they were there to make the cruise fun for the kids and giving us peace of mind they were in good hands. EXCELLENT STAFF!!
EXCURSIONS: Can't do much on the cheap
BAHAMAS: It cost us $40 return for taxi to get to a beach. It was nice to swim in the ocean for the first time and enjoy the warm weather
GRAND CAYMAN: Watch out for this if you are planning excurisions with the kids. Booked the Coral & Stingray snorkal for all four of us. They have a price for adults and kids. We were told by the Carnival Excursion staff they would have equipment for our kids and any print material they have says that a child is considered 4-12 yrs. When we arrived at the stingray site and everyone was jumping in, the boat captain told us they don't have kids snorkle equipment and said "I need to get the company to get some" indicating they never had it. We paid over $200 and I was the only one that got to enjoy it while my wife stayed on board with the kids. Once back on board the Liberty, we went to the excursion desk and he seemed concerned and would look into it for us and will get back us personally before the cruise was over. After two days, ( our last day) we had to go back to him and he seemed less concerned redirecting us to customer relations. I guess he was hoping we would forget about it? We now have to chase carnival guest relations to make up for this. I don't expect they will do much considering the flipant attitude of the excursion desk. Beware, the desk has weird hours, this makes it difficult to chase them if you have a problem.
COSTA MAYA: Despite the issue with our Grand Cayman excursion, we booked the Blast Speedboat Snorkal at Jungle Beach. What a BLAST!! it was worth the $190. We left the kids on board for the day so we could take advantage of this. This was by far the most beautiful spot we been to. It was the best value too. It included the bus ride, boat, snorkal equipment, all your drinks (good if you drink) and beach facilities. I would recommend this to anyone. The local staff were funny and very helpful. They work hard to make your stay worth it.
OVERALL: Despite the "convenient" language barrier on board and the excursion issue, this was by far the best vacation we ever had. The food, ship, kids camp, entertainment and ports of call were worth the money. We will consider carnival again for our next cruise especially because the kids camp made it easy for us adults to have a vacation too.