We just returned home from a carnival cruise in alaska.
All in all, I think a lot a of a cruise experience has to do with your state of mind and expectations. We tend to roll with the punches (we hung out at a bar while a lot of passengers just stood in line and fumed about a long embarkation process in Ketchikan). The food was good but I wouldn't rate it 5 star. Our service was great because I didn't expect personal valets when our staff were assigned to 10 other tables or 10 other rooms.
Just pick a cruise with the itenerary you want and the price you are willing to pay. Then expect some inconvience since you are on a floating Sheraton where there are hundreds of other guest on virtually the same schedule as you.
From what I understand Carnival's food has improved in recent years because it was getting a black eye in this category. Our evening meals were nice (I'd compare them to meals we might pay $30-35 for here in high price San Diego), our lunches in the main resturant were very nice, breakfast was good but I was disappointed that we had only one standard menu with no specials on it for each day. We ate all our meals in the main resturant so I can't comment on the food on the lido deck.
Bashing of another line and it's passengers is rude to say the least. It seems that a number of those that diride Carnival have never actually taken a cruise on one. We have cruised on HAL, Ren, NCL, RCI, Celebrity, and CCL and the average passenger is the same on almost all the lines overall. Yes you have often older folks that prefer HAL and older average on Celebrity that 'consider' themselves in the upper class but many in truth aren't. I have not seen any fights on CCL but I did hear of one from a crew memner between two older ladies at a slot machine. I have seen a couple with too much toi drink on CCL but I have seen a bunch on RCI and Celebrity that were flat out drunk! I have also seen kids that were total spoiled brats on RCI quite often who thought their parents were big shots or something. NCL had some very crass people onboard and the food was the worst we have had on a cruiseship.Ren had the next worst food followed very closely by Celebrity with CCL having the best food of any line overall!
Basically what I am saying is no line is all bad or all good and to make statements like the food is horrible on such and such cruiseline is just not right. The food we had on NCL was bad but that was on THAT ship and does not necessarily reflect the other ships and also to our tastes and not necessarily to yours. The snobs we saw on Celebrity do not mean Celebrity has nothing or mostly snob on thier ships or even that one, just that they were there on our cruise. The next week it could have been wonderful, who knows. There are some overall demographics and targets that the cruiselines try to attract with thier line, ships, intinaries etc and you can best learn that through a good TA or by reading the professional reviews posted right here at Cruisemates by Anne Campbell.
Personally, I think people who cruise Carnival have cooties and people who Cruise Celebrity give me the heebeegeebees. People who cruise RCCL smell like fish and people who cruise Costa are all compulsive gamblers and alcoholics.
I think a good comparison would be Carnival is like a staying at Doubletree and Celebrity is like staying at an Embassy Suites. Dont let the suite thing fool you. You still get what you pay for. Celebrity does a great job marketing itself as something special but it all really turns out to be like it came right out of the mass market cookie cutter in the end.
"Personally, I think people who cruise Carnival have cooties and people who Cruise Celebrity give me the heebeegeebees. People who cruise RCCL smell like fish and people who cruise Costa are all compulsive gamblers and alcoholics."
I always pick a cruise based on the destination and the ship. By ship I mean the physical ship. I spend very little time worrying about all of the variables that are out of my control. If im not getting good service or if the food is bad I let them know about right there on the spot. I dont come home and whine about it and tell everyone how horrific it was that the lobster tail was like rubber or how inappropriate it was that the cabin steward made the towel into the shape of a dog turd one night.
I travel to San Francisco about eight times a year and have not been able to find good food for several years now. This was once a magnificent city but, with the air pollution and traffic, it has become a vacation nightmare.
Class without stuffiness. Feeling comfortable always. Good food and the dining room service was superb. Sailed on CENTURY and INFINITY. This line is my first choice. So please with the company bought some shares in it.
I hate to say it, but I was dissapointed in my Carnival conquest cruise. It was my first cruise and I was thinking of not trying again, until I read some of the reviews about celebrity. I had done a lot of research and thought I knew what I was getting. but I was mistaken. The food was really better than I thought it would be . dinning room very nice. I did'nt think the entertainment was much. It did feel like a Howard Johnson. or Best western type vacation. The ship was much too big for me. I also think if I try again I would like a smaller ship
For those that talk about "Celebrity" vs. "Carnival" clientele I saw an interesting poll on a HAL forum of why people choose cruises. Almost 3/4 of them said it had to do with either itinerary or price. Brand came in as just 17 percent. HAL used to be a line featuring the most repeaters of any of the mass market lines. I do believe that this is representative of the current cruise customer. I think most of them look at price or itinerary and then choose the ship. So you'll find plenty of these types of folks on any of the lines, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess, RCI, it doesn't matter that most to the majority of cruisers. The days when you found cruisers that favored one or two lines as most of your fellow passengers are over. So, I think that any basis that Carnival's clientele is that much different than any other line is baseless. I think there *is* a Carnival clientele for short cruises 3-5 days, but for 7 night average cruisers most cruisers are "swing" cruisers, by swing I mean that they shop itinerary and price first, and then choose out of the major lines.
I've been on both lines and you really can't compare them. When I have been on Celebrity I was very comfortable. It was quiet and relaxing. Just about perfect. I took a Carnival cruise with my teenage neices this summer. I was a reluctant Carnival cruiser. I wanted Celebrity but my cruise specialist highly recommended Carnival because of the girls. And she was right. I was expecting it to be far below Celebrity and it really wasn't. Oh it was way more crowded and some of the people traveling didn't seem to know how to act and were very annoying but overall if was a very nice experience. Both a very good at what they do.
First I should state that the travel agent who booked this cruise for us cautioned us against booking on Carnival as she felt that we might find that the party atmosphere was more than we might enjoy. I can say now that we should have taken her advice. Not because of the party atmosphere but for numerous other reasons. Below is a blow-by-blow account of what we like to refer to as the cruise from hell.
OK, it wasn’t that bad. We flew from Seattle to LAX on Monday morning with no major hassles. We were met by the Carnival folks at the airport who efficiently got us on buses to the ship where we didn’t have to stand in line for too long before we were allowed on the ship. Embarkation was handled very well. From there on, just about everything was downhill.
You should know that we had cruised before to Alaska with Holland America on the Westerdam, which is owned by the same parent company as Carnival. I will use that as a comparison for this cruise. What a difference!
Upon boarding the Ecstasy, we found our cabin (slightly bigger than on Holland America) and as our luggage had not yet arrived we went to have lunch in the Panorama Grille. More about the food below.
The first sign that this would be a bad experience was the lifeboat drill. All passengers were informed that there would be a lifeboat drill at 4:30 pm (the ship was set to sail at 5:30) Much was made of the fact that there would be no smoking or drinking at the drill and that we were to proceed to our muster stations at that time.
Upon arriving at the muster station we found that the members of the crew who were supposed to be running the drill were not willing to take any initiative in controlling the groups. We were about halfway back from the crew members (part of the Cruise Director’s staff) making the presentation and giving directions of what to do in case of emergency but we could not hear a word that was said due to the party that was going on behind us. Numerous passengers were already inebriated and many had drinks in their hands the entire time. On Holland America, roll was called to make sure that all aboard were in attendance and a crew member checked each and every life jacket to make sure that we knew what we were to do in event of an emergency. On the Ecstasy, I may as well have stayed in my cabin. No one would have known or cared and I would have known just as much as I know now as I could still not tell you what was said during the drill. It was just window dressing for the Coast Guard. This is totally unacceptable in our post 9/11 world.
Dinner on the first night was good but it would have been nice if it had been a little later or at least the ship had embarked earlier. Many of us at the early seating wanted to see the ship leave port but as it did not get underway until after 5:30 and since we had to be in the dining room at 5:45 we basically missed it.
When we first boarded the ship we were hungry after flying for 5 hours. The ship advertised that they had 24 hour pizza available and that sounded good to me. Right up until I ate it—cold. From the pizza guys’s hand to my hand and sitting at a table in the dining room took all of 90 seconds and in that time, it was cold. Shades of things to come.
This was not the only case of cold food. The first full day out of LA we decided to have breakfast in the dining room where we could order what we wanted and have it served to us at our table as opposed to the buffet upstairs.
Everything we ordered that morning (with the exception of some very weak coffee—you can get espresso but you have to ask for it, it is not on the menu) was cold. I ordered eggs benedict, which should have been singular as they brought me one very overdone poached egg on a cold English muffin with a congealed hollandaise sauce on it. The sauce literally looked like a candy coating when you cut into the egg. I had also ordered toast, which came cold as well.
Dinners in the dining room most nights were mediocre. The first night was the best and the appetizers and desserts seem to be the best part of any dinner. High marks to the escargot and the Grand Marnier soufflé. The folks at our table ordered a variety of main courses during the week and no one ever seemed to be very impressed. As an example the lobster I had on the second night out was one tough lobster who had been in one too many fights. My wife had the pork that night which she found very dried out.
FYI: On a four day cruise there is one formal night, the second one out and the rest of the nights are classified as "casually elegant." None of this is enforced as even on the formal night there were people at our table in khakis and Izod shirts.
We ate the rest of our breakfasts and lunches in the Panorama Grille and the omelets were not bad but the lunches left much to be desired.
On Holland America we had been dazzled by the service. From our asst. waiter in the dining room to our cabin steward, every minute the staff was at our beck and call. On the Ecstasy, it almost seemed like the staff was doing us a favor to wait on us. It is sad to say that the best service we got all week was from the man who made our omelets on the buffet line.
Two incidents come to mind. The first was that fact that each night our waiter would tell us tales of woe about how poor the working condition on the ship were, how little money he made, how he hated his job. Made us feel really good about spending money on the cruise and we always felt like he was angling for a bigger tip.
The second situation kept happening all week long with our cabin steward. Whenever he would service our cabin he would just make himself at home. We always found the TV tuned to the Spanish language channel (and many times it was left on) when we returned from dinner or breakfast. And many times our personal things had been moved around even though they did not need to be. The final straw was the third night when we brought another couple from our dining table down to look at pictures we had purchased. When we entered the cabin, it was very evident that he had just left and had used our cabin’s bathroom to defecate. The toilet was dirty and the smell was overpowering. I am sorry and I don’t want to sound like an snob, but this is wrong. Needless to say we could not invite our friends in and had to turn on our fan and just get out of there.
I really want to find something good to say about this cruise so here it is. The shore stops were great. Catalina on the first day was very nice. We were tendered in early and were able to walk around the village, shop a little and then take a semi-submersible ride to see the underwater fish and their habitat. Beware if you take this tour. The pre-tour publicity says that you will be able to feed the fish. What they don’t tell you is that it costs you $1.00 per time you feed them. Some folks spent $20+ dollars feeding the fish. What a racket. But Catalina was nice.
In Ensenada we took the Shopping and Winery tour. It was very nice, the guide was good and we got an air conditioned bus ride around the town, a tour of some historic buildings, the offer of as many free margaritas as we could drink (at 10:00 am?) and a very nice winery tour complete with wine tasting (at 11:00 am?).
We then spent the rest of the day shopping and eating and drinking in Ensenada. We can highly recommend lunch at Los Brisos. Really good food and huge margaritas. Don’t worry about the Montezuma’s revenge thing as long as you eat in a restaurant as by law they have to serve ice that is made from purified water. Besides, there is so much tequila in the margaritas that it would probably kill any germs or bacteria.
Entertainment and Activities:
The third day was "Fun Day at Sea." What a waste. Partly due to the weather (cloudy and cool) but the real problem was a lack of any real activities or entertainment. If you don’t gamble, drink excessively or play bingo, you are just about out of luck. There was much more to do on the two "Fun Days at Sea" on the Holland America cruise.
And don’t plan on too much evening entertainment if you are an early riser/early sleeper. On two of the four nights the only shows on board started at 10:30 pm. Considering we had arisen at 3:30 AM to catch the plane to get to the ship, it was impossible for us to stay up for the show on the first night that started at 10:45. Other shows we would love to have seen that week started at midnight or later. Not our cup of tea but if it is yours, will be fine.
The shows themselves were Vegas style reviews, comedians and a juggler. The reviews were pretty bad by Vegas standards and even though they had larger casts and band than the Holland America ship we had been on before, they were of much poorer quality. The comedian was OK and the juggler was a joke. I think he performed for a whole 15 minutes. We stayed up late for that?
There were however two dancers who were part of the reviews who were outstanding. They did Cirque de Solei type dance and acrobatics and were astounding but don’t expect them to last too long on this ship as they are a lot better than anyone else and will probably move on to a better gig.
The Worst Part:
That about covers the cruise right up until we got to what my wife and I call our "worst travel day ever!" During the disembarkation talk on the day before we arrived in LA our cruise director (who spoke very fast and sometimes unintelligibly with a cockney accent) received a note that he read to us that informed him that "Upon arrival in LA, all passengers would have to be check by the INS (prior to this cruise only foreign born national were checked by INS and we sailed in March 2002) before anyone could disembark." He told the group, "This won’t be a problem." And it wasn’t—for him. For everyone else, it was a nightmare!
They decided to set up the 6 INS agents who would check the passports of the 2000+ passengers in a small lounge at one end of the ship. They then announced that everyone should get in line at a specific time and wait to present their papers. And then everyone associated with the ship disappeared. (except for the Vegas review dancers, dressed in sport coats who hardly spoke English who were seen running around doing nothing.) There were times when we felt very unsafe and that no one was in control of any situation. People would cut in the very long line and others would threaten them and yell at them with fist fights almost breaking out a number of times. No one from the crew was anywhere in sight. The lines grew so big that people were lined up in stairwells and even though we were docked at the pier at this point, if there had been a fire, surely many would have perished as there was no way to get through the huge crowd.
After we got through the INS part of the line (2+hours) we were told to wait in a lounge to be escorted off the ship after the INS inspection was done. The lounge we were directed to wait in had an occupancy sign that read a maximum occupancy of 100. I personally counted more than 160 people in that lounge. Not only was it crowded but there were people sitting in the doorways and again if there had been a fire or emergency, the consequences would have been horrific.
We were in a group that had early (prior to 1:00 PM ) flights from LAX. The majority of the folks in that group (about 100) missed their flights as the advertised time of disembarkation of the ship in LA was 8:30 AM and we were finally allowed off at 11:00 am. And we were in the first group off. Many of those folks ended up paying huge sums of money (which I am not sure if they can get Carnival to cover) to change their flights.
We fully realized that the INS inspection was not the fault of the Ecstasy crew but we were appalled at how they handled (or did not handle) it. No supervision, no direction, no communication, no nothing from 7:45 in the morning until 11:00 AM when someone from the crew finally came to lead us off. We felt totally unsafe throughout.
I want to also note that the area we were waiting in on line and after were designated non-smoking but since no one was there to tell people they could not smoke, they lit up anyway. Being highly allergic to smoke meant I got a whopping headache that took hours to go away.
I should say that since we had a 12:50 PM flight, we did make our plane but just barely with a lot of help from the security people at LAX. We do feel though that we will do our best to avoid LAX at any cost when flying into LA. Normally going to that area we fly into Ontario or Orange County, much better airports line and crowd wise.
To sum all this up, yes, we will cruise again but NEVER on Carnival. Not because of the party atmosphere but because of their lack of supervision and that for the first time in years of traveling, I actually felt unsafe.
DrKoob- I'm sorry you had such a horrible time on your cruise. Thanks for the detailed post. My family and I would never dream of sailing on Carnival, and your post only reinforced that thought. It sounds like a lot of the things that occured on your cruise were really uncalled for and something clearly needs to be done before passangers are hurt or killed due to neglect on the part of Carnival's crew. I won't be sailing Carnival anytime soon, or ever for that matter! Happy cruising!
I've sail on all but Princess and must disagree with many of the bad raps you are giving to Carnival. My last Carnival trip was on the Spirit to Alaska this past May. Everything about the cruise exceeded my expectations. The service was the BEST I've had, including Celebrity. The food was excellent, the ship beautiful, the naturalist exceptional. I don't think you can compare lines so generally - I feel a lot has to do with what specific ship you are on. I chose the Spirit because I liked the layout of the ship, I liked the ports and I liked the price. Also had a great experience on the Elation in 1998 to Mexico. FYI, we are in our 50's and early 60's so not exactly the young party-animals previously described.
I have been on three cruises with Carnival - Destiny, Triumph and Elation, and enjoyed them all thoroughly. We found everything to be clean, the staff were friendly and we could not find fault with any of the food (and I am a fussy eater!). We never witnessed any drunken brawls or anything like you experienced.
We want last year to Grand Cayman, mexico etc and did find that the entertainment was the same, more or less word for word in one "act", as 5 years previously and that it did have a bit of a Butlins feel about it (thats an old fashioned holiday camp, where you are roped into things in the name of fun) BUT we were never pressurised into doing anything we did not want to. Some of the female guests did get carried away in judging a Tarzan contest, but they ended up just embarrising themselves, and they were sober but I guess we can all do that when we are on holiday and no one knows us!
On the whole, we have had a great time, and met so many (mainly american) interesting people and the informality can be great, if thats what you want.
We are taking our first Celebrity cruise in December - Hawaii here we come - and I am looking forward to comparing the two lines.
I have only cruised once before, in August 2001 on the Carnival Jubilee. It was a five day western Carribean cruise.
There were four of us, myself, husband and son (15) and daughter (18). We had a wonderful time and I don't remember any complaints about that cruise! I wanted to go immediately again. Food and service were both good. We encountered no "rowdy" people even though it was a short cruise.
But next April we are sailing on Summit for the 10 day Ultimate Carribean cruise! I choose this ship first for it's itinerary, and secondly because I heard nothing but good things about Celebrity. I am really looking forward to this cruise!
But I would sail Carnival again *if* the right itinerary presents itself. It was a positive experience for us.
good greif! PICKY, PICKY, PICKY. i would not let a stains on the carpet or long lines ruin my cruise. i think some of you need to get a life. i'm just so glad that my finance, my family and my friends know how to go on a cruise and have a good time and not let stupid little picky things bother them. thank god i don't have to cruise with people who ***** about everything.
how can some of you say you'll never try a cruiseline if you've never sailed it? ignorant.
I have sailed both lines and I feel exactly the same about Carnival. We will never cruise with that lien again. Nothing against the line or the ships, but it's just not my cup of tea. I would HIGHLY recommend Celebrity, loved the service the ship and all the food. Best cruise experiance you will ever have
My wife and I have taken 5 Carnival Cruises, 1 Costa and one Celebrity. We sailed Carnival Spirit in January and the Galaxy in August. Carnival is much better in regards to activities and shows, cabins are also slightly better. As for food, I thought Celebrity was just slightly better, my wife preferred Carnival food.Service was comparable and excellent on both lines. We were some of the passengers bumped from the Miracle this year and that left a bad taste in my mouth, we consequently have booked the Horizon Repo cruise on Oct. 31. I'm sure that i will, however, return to Carnival. We've seen a few drunks and a few rowdy teenagers, but nothing unexpected on a ship with 2000 passengers and these few incidents were repeated on Celebrity as well as Carnival. I find it quite sad that most of the Carnival bashers have never sailed the line!!
Wow if people put as much energy in actually writing to the cruise lines and *****ing to them about all this mundane stuff maybe things would change. Just remember this, while your *****ing about stained carpeting and lobster that is kind of like rubber and waiting in lines and smokers and the list goes on and on and on, the people who actually live in most the ports you will visit cant even dream about such extravagance. Americans really are self-indulgent pigs. Why dont we expend the time it takes to ***** about cruising on trying to figure out how we are going to get out the mess in Vietnam.....I mean Iraq (sorry) or lets figure out how we are going to feed the millions of children starving in the world. Lets write to our congressman to ***** about the special interest groups who have hijacked our government. *****ing about the drunk party animals on Carnival is really not going to make the world a better place.