While not the most experienced cruiser in the world, I have cruised on Carnival ships for three of my six cruises. Although each ship and cruise is unique even if it stops at some of the same ports, there are some things that Carnival cruises have in common that are worth mentioning in a review.
Online booking or using a Carnival agent are both relatively hassle free.
Having used a travel agent for booking my first two cruises, I have some experience in both the traditional and more advanced methods of travel booking. The reality is that doing a little online research will uncover the best prices available in a relatively short time. Heading to Carnival’s website will usually reveal that the same low rates are available that are advertised by online agents like Expedia.com, Hotdeals.com, and other popular online travel sites. If you are a past guest, Carnival makes it very easy to get the discounted rates offered to previous customers. Simply going to www.carnival.com will be enough to get you started in the process.
If you get lost online, calling Carnival’s “888” number will connect you to informative and helpful booking agents.
Whether you book through Carnival’s website or one of their own agents, you will eventually be assigned an agent who will keep in contact with you during the period leading up to your cruise to answer questions that may arise. I found Carnival’s agents to be more customer service oriented than the travel agents that I had previously used. The phone number is easy to remember if you are away from home and need to call Carnival. It is 1-888-Carnival.
Although Carnival used to send out a nice package with you tickets and information, this is no longer done.
Customers who book now directly with Carnival will be responsible for printing out their own tickets, excursion information, and luggage tags along with any other information that is needed for the cruise. This is a bit of nuisance compared to how they used to operate, but it is doable and not difficult. Personally, I felt it was a step back, but in this day of declining customer service, it is not as bad as some businesses.
Carnival works to make sure that you can get safely to the ship.
Carnival will help guide you to parking garages and lots for your car if you need it. They will also work as much as possible to assist you in travel arrangements if you choose to fly to the departure port city. Carnival does not recommend or book hotel rooms. When leaving the ship, Carnival and every other cruise line will do their best to get you off of the ship in time to make your flight connection.
The cabin attendants are generally efficient and helpful.
Although all cruise lines hire much of their staff from distance countries, those who take care of the cabins tend to be able to speak fairly fluent English. The attendants are rarely seen working in your cabins because they learn your habits by the second day of the cruise. They are easy to access when needed by the ships intercom phone system. Special needs of guests are usually met within an hour or so of arrival on the ship. The rooms are perpetually clean, bright, and well maintained.
Those who work in the dining rooms are not all created equal.
On my first Carnival cruise, the waiter and his assistant seemed like miracle workers. We rarely saw those who were actually in charge of the dining room, but it was not really an issue. On later cruises, I have had servers who were extremely difficult with which to communicate. However, any complaints have been readily addressed and corrected by the management staff. On larger ships, the dining room does not seem to run as efficiently as it does on a smaller ship like the Holiday.
The quality of the food is uneven.
Both the quality and the variety of entrees in the dining room are sometimes lacking on Carnival ships. While you should not go away hungry, the steaks are rarely cooked to exact specifications. Picky eaters may end up with only one or two choices per night from the menu. However, since the dining room offerings are posted ahead of time, guests can elect to eat at the buffet line on the Lido deck or go to one of the fast food offerings on most Carnival ships. Alternative dining rooms are available for a different style of dining, but these will cost you several dollars per meal to enjoy.
Carnival ships are generally in a constant state of being cleaned and maintained.
Painting, cleaning, and repair work are non-stop on Carnival cruise ships. This keeps them looking in new condition all of the time. This work is seldom an inconvenience to guests. State rooms are well-lit and everything functions properly. It is rare that you find something not working on a Carnival ship. If you do find a problem, it will be fixed quickly after you alert the crew.
Even in smaller state rooms, there is a reasonable amount of room and storage.
You should have enough space to put away everything that you brought along for the vacation. This makes your state room take on a home like feeling during the cruise. There are never enough electrical outlets, but this is true for every cruise line.
Carnival ships tend to arrive and depart on time.
Like all cruise lines, Carnival realizes that being on time is critical to having happy guests. The ships arrive in ports enough ahead of time to get their passengers off the ship in time for all activities. The cruise line works hard to offer a nice variety of excursions in every port, but they tend to be a little costly. Carnival also assures that guests have as much security as possible when leaving and returning to the ship.
All staff tends to be very customer oriented and helpful.
Whether it is to pay the bill, buy some duty-free merchandise, or ask directions, I have rarely had a Carnival employee by anything but kind. I cannot say that of every cruise line. Even the bar staff has been very helpful. Those who bus the tables at the buffet and events do so without being intrusive or noisy. Overall, employees on Carnival ships are well-trained and ready to serve.
Other amenities seem to at least adequate.
While I do not gamble, the casino always seems to be clean and well ran. The library could use a few more books, but these have given way for more computers to allow Internet access. The ships offer a variety of special interest choices like a cigar room, Karaoki lounges, and a host of other choices. A daily paper describes what has happened that day and lists the choices for the next day and later in the cruise.
Embarkation and debarkation could be a little more streamlined.
Other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean tend to be a little better at getting people on and off the ship at the beginning and end of the cruise than Carnival. It can take up to two hours to get onto the ship and a similar wait happens at the end of the cruise. Part of the problem may be the terminal operators, but since other cruise lines from the same port seem to operate better, Carnival probably needs to address this area.