Carnival Cruise Ships in Port of Miami
Left to Right: Foreground - Carnival Triumph, Background - Ecstasy & Jubilee
Photo by Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Lines
This short Cruise was planned as a family reunion to celebrate my father's 75th birthday. There were eighteen in the group, ranging in age from 75 to 1½. Cruise experience ranged from my parent's 20-odd cruises and our 14, to eight of our group being first-timers. We had a group of six coming from New York, five from Richmond, and seven from Las Vegas. Because of differing schedules, we were arriving on six different flights -- the Las Vegas and New York groups the day before, the Richmond group on two flights on the morning of departure. Not one flight went off as planned, leaving us scrambling. We got everyone there, but it was interesting for a while.
This was one of two places where Carnival fell down badly. We arrived at the check-in area about 1:15 for a 4:00 departure. The check-in area was divided into three lines, with no apparent difference between them. The signage was minimal and the only Carnival person in front told us to just get in any line. As we had half of the suites on board for the cruise, I felt some consideration would have been nice. The line we ended up in was absolutely the slowest possible: we waited over an hour and a half. (I have to take part of the blame, as the other two lines seemed to be flowing fairly smoothly. I just picked the one that moved at a snail's pace.)
When we got to the counter we realized why the line had gone so badly. There were three clerks working the line, and they had absolutely no clue. It was laughable. Parts of our group ended up with each clerk because they just could not process us as one group. We were checked in one cabin at a time. When I wanted to put all the ship charges for my children's cabin on my charge, they said it was not allowed. They had to have their own charge account with their own credit card imprint. One of these idiots even started to say we could not use my credit card for the kids. At that point I almost lost my composure. I am usually very patient and easygoing, understanding the problems of working with the public, being from a tourist-dependent economy in Las Vegas. I insisted on a supervisor to solve these problems. One came over from one of the other lines and the problems were solved immediately. The supervisor was quick, knowledgeable and pleasant. It is unbelievable, with this vessel departing twice a week, and all the other departures Carnival has out of the Port of Miami, that this could occur.
With all the reviews of the Fantasy class vessels available, I'm not going to describe the ship other than to say it was clean and well maintained.
We had six of the twelve suites aboard, and they were more than adequate. The layout was pleasant, roomy, and comfortable. There was plenty of drawer space, a nice small walk-in closet, and an adequate bathroom and tub. (One aside: I'm right at 6' tall, and I could barely stand in the tub for a shower. Anyone over six foot is a might cramped.) The reason we all had suites was that that they were the only cabins aboard with verandahs. We all really like having private open deck space.
The cabin steward was pleasant and efficient. The only out-of-the-ordinary service he did was to get us a large tub for ice. We had brought aboard a case of Asti Spumante, as we all planned to meet in our cabin for before-dinner drinks. He kept the wine chilled and no one said a word as we brought it on board.
We had First Seating for dinner and they divided us into two tables, of course: one of 10 and one of 8. We had the waiters confused, as we had different seating arrangements every night, but they were good-natured in sorting us out. The service was quick, efficient and pleasant. The menu was adequate and varied. Carnival must have upgraded their kitchen, as the food was on a par with a nice shoreside hotel restaurant.
The buffets were adequate for breakfast and lunch, but eating there was the only time we felt the size of the passenger list. There was always a line, most of the time we had a difficult time finding an open table (we were eating in groups of four to six), and there was an ungodly amount of noise. It was noisy enough that it was difficult to carry on a conversation.
As this was a three-night cruise, the only port was Nassau. All the previous cruisers had been there before, so there is not much to say. A group of seven signed up for the "Dolphin Experience" and had an excellent time. No problems, no complaints.
When I was planning this trip for the group, I felt that a group of eighteen was pretty good-sized. Was I ever wrong! When we got aboard, we found a number of groups doing the same thing we were, combining either a birthday or anniversary (or both) with a family reunion. One group had over 60 members.
There were all the usual activities, but it was possible to find a quiet corner when we wanted one. On two nights, we kind of "took over" one side of a nice quiet lounge outside the smaller showroom. There didn't ever seem to be a show going on in the 8:00 to 11:00 time frame, so that's where we conversed. A nice spot.
The second place (in addition to check-in) where Carnival needs to make an adjustment is their bartenders. We had been told about the "soda pop cards" -- for $10.00 (I think), the kids could get unlimited soda from any bar. A nice idea, except we had a hell of a time getting any of the bartenders to serve the kids. They would not only ignore the kids if anyone else was there, even if the child was there first (I can somewhat understand this -- tips), but even if no one was there they would be ignored. Bad, Carnival -- tick off the next generation of cruise customers, why don't you? The only way the kids would get served was if an adult would go with them, or when the older teens knew enough to be vocal after being snubbed repeatedly.
We were told as usual to vacate our cabins early, but we compromised by vacating five of the suites, and the other two cabins. We all waited in our suite until we were called; the cabin steward did not seem to mind. We were all off the ship and through Customs by about 10:30. It was efficient and quick.
Carnival did a good job. Was it as nice as Holland America or Cunard or Crystal? Of course not. Was it pleasant and a good value for our money? Yes. It accomplished what we wanted and, except for check-in, did it well.
Dr. William L Carpi is an Optometrist and Mary J. Carpi is a Pediatric Audiologist. They live in Las Vegas, NV with their three children and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please