Cruises are about two things; entertainment and food. Yes, you get to stop at lots of great, exotic locations but considering that most of your time is going to be spent aboard ship, the cruise line has to excel in both those areas. If I had to rate Carnival on it's food, it would be a sorry C-.
There was food, and plenty of it. It just didn't meet my expectations in quality. Breakfast, in particular, was a let down. Choosing to eat in the dining room meant being seated at tables with strangers if you came alone or with a small-ish party. That in itself would not be a problem for me but on one day I was seated with people who were clearly not getting along and another time with a family of five - three children under the age of 4. Not that the kids were a problem, but I wanted a bloody mary with breakfast and didn't want to make the little family uncomfortable. The food was bland, presented poorly and, if Mrs.Unhappy was to be believed, the pancakes were previously frozen and then thawed in the steam tray. Most laughable were the hash browns - small disks deep fried into what I thereafter referred to as "potato pucks." One morning I asked for nuts with my oatmeal and was told there were none. Yet when I dumped my raisins into my bowl I could see small pieces of pecans. That's not only lazy but dangerous. Later, I saw bowls of pecans on the breakfast buffet. My large family was routinely frowned upon as we all arrived in the dining room without planning ahead. That's obviously a no-no.
Lunches were offered at the buffet or outdoor grill only, so the day I spent aboard while we were in port at Catalina I had to do the buffet. Did I mention that the worst dining option on a ship is the buffet? I honestly can't think of a single item I had that was worth writing about.
I tried the sushi bar one afternoon. After locating it in the corner of the casino I stood (wheeled) in line with everyone and got my order. It was awkward trying to get condiments and the little dishes for wasabi while scooting/hopping/dragging myself along the counter. The girl behind me was too impatient to wait or help me, so she cut me off by reaching around, helping herself to condiments and causing my wheelchair to block everyone else from ordering. I hope she got sick. The sushi was fine but unremarkable.
I did not spend a lot of time attending the onboard entertainment. My sister and I wanted to play one of the trivia games but when we arrived it was clear we were the only two participating so we left. My aunts and mom said the shows were wonderful. We spent most of our time on the Lido deck. Even though I couldn't walk, with assistance I could get into the pool. Imagine my surprise when I was lowered in by my brother - the water was ice cold and salty! We later found out it was ocean water, pumped in through a filter. I noticed not many adults swimming in the pool and that might have been why. It was too uncomfortable. Since I wasn't going to use the pool there was no reason to have a lounge chair in the sun either. Two things I was looking forward to the most, sunning and swimming, were huge disappointments.
The casino was one of the deciding factors in selecting this ship because my dad loves to go to the tables. Unfortunately, it wasn't open all the time and the one game we all wanted to play - Texas Holdem - was computerized. No dealer. Took the enjoyment right out of having a casino on board plus no free drinks! With the price of alcohol aboard ship so high I was hoping to score a drink or two if I played the slots a bit. No chance.
The two pre-teens in our party had a ball at the childrens parties and activities. The lone teenager, Amy, tried to make friends at the teens club but found it hard to infiltrate the small cliques of girls and boys so she gave up and entertained herself by reading and swimming. My four year old niece didn't want to spend any time at the youngsters area; consequently it was very difficult to keep her occupied. (She loved pushing me around in my wheelchair though, so we did that a lot.)
My two aunts and my mom made good use of the on board shows and entertainment and loved it all. I went to a comedy night which was fun but skipped the rest of the nighttime shows.My brother Bob and his friend Hans reported that somewhere on the ship they stumbled upon a band playing music and during the show all the drinks were free! We looked but never found it again.
The cruise newsletter could have done a better job of promoting the different activities on board. I think we may have attempted to go to more if we had more information on where, what and when. For instance, I really wanted to hit the library first thing and get a few books for the cruise. I went several times but all the cases were locked. It was only on the second day that I found out the short one-hour time that the library would be staffed.
I took advantage of the spa several times during our cruise, in spite of (or maybe because of) my limitations. On my first visit I booked a pedicure, explaining up front that I had a severely swollen foot and sprained ankle. To my surprise, they were more than willing to accommodate me and the technician took extra care to rub my foot with an anti-inflammatory cream. The next morning my foot was much improved and the purple bruising on all my toes didn't clash too much with my new pink toenails! On our last day at sea the spa greatly reduced their prices and offered packages at deep discounts. I went back for a massage, exfoliation and facial. Again, the therapist took a lot of time to work on my foot. One sour note - they tried to sell me very pricey items from the salon that I felt were way out of my budget and made me uncomfortable to try and deflect their sales tactics. My sister in law and niece both went to the spa for services and reported good experiences.
The activities aboard ship were available if we wanted them, but ultimately all we really wanted to do was sit together and talk. On one such evening we parked ourselves on the Lido deck and proceeded to play a game Paul and I devised some years back. Starting with the letter "A" the challenge is to recall a song that features a girls name corresponding to the letter. Once you come up with one, you must sing it - or at least as much as you can remember. By then everyone else joins in and you have a small chorus. The game was such a hoot and my family so enthusiastic about it that eventually all the other cruisers sitting near us were playing along. Imagine the surprise of the couple seated behind us who were secretly playing along and came up with a song we hadn't thought of yet. My entire family turned and pointed, shouting, "SING IT" to the hapless man, with the rest of the Lido deck erupting into gales of laughter. Oh, and woe was the person who shouted out a name with no song, because we then chanted "chug, chug, chug" until he or she drained (or at least, gulped) a drink. Good times!