When we first decided to go on a Carnival cruise, I joined a group on Facebook for more information on cruising with that particular cruise line. Joining this group (Carnival Cruisers Past, Present, and Future) was the best thing I ever did and was super informative.
For example, when you complete your online check-in with Carnival, you choose a time to get to the port. As a first time carnival cruiser, I wouldn’t have known about this without the information from the CCPPF Facebook group. I didn’t receive the e-mail from Carnival alerting me to go choose until about a week before our sailing date which would have caused us to have to end up checking in well into the afternoon.
We sailed out of Port Canaveral which I feel is a nice, easy port to sail out of. We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Titusville, FL the night before our cruise, so we were able to get a 40% port parking discount. However, that program has been discontinued as of March 2017.
Once we arrived at Port Canaveral, we checked in and waited for zone number to be called. Aside from one instance where a Holland America ship we were about to sail on needed extra cleaning due to a norovirus outbreak, we have never had to wait to board a ship after checking in. There was so much fanfare every time they called a new group to board the ship that it made me think maybe they are trying to make people want to buy “Faster to the Fun” for their next cruise.
Once we boarded the ship, I thought that it had nice décor, not too loud or garish which I have heard complaints about some older Carnival ships. There were quite a few areas (not on deck) that were available to sit, relax and gather, especially in the promenade area on Deck 5.
The one problem I had with the layout of the boat was the location of the galley area on Deck 3. With our cabin being located in the back of the ship and most of the activities that we were trying to get to in the front of the ship on Deck 3, we found it sometimes difficult to maneuver the ship (often forgetting we couldn’t get through and going all the way down to Deck 3 only to find out we had to come back up to 5 to get through to the other side). It was an annoyance for us, but for someone with mobility issues that is totally reliant on the elevators, this could be a major issue with the ship’s layout.
This was the first cruise I’ve ever been on where no one ever asked us to sanitize or wash our hands. I’m used to being bombarded on a cruise with people telling me to, at least, sanitize my hands. But on this cruise, not a single crew member ever asked us to sanitize our hands, even after getting off and on the boat in port. This isn’t really an issue for me (I know to wash my own hands) or the majority of the other adults on the cruise. I was more worried about the kids I saw running back and forth between the pool/slides area, the ice cream station, and the buffet with no adult supervision — touching everything along the way.
Disclaimer: I have a gluten intolerance. I do not have celiac disease, so I have a little more room for exposure than some other people. I would not suggest someone with celiac disease eat anywhere other than the main dining room (or a speciality restaurant) on this particular Carnival ship.
On the first day, I went to Guys Burger Bar for lunch. I waited 15 mins for gluten free bun and ended up with a burger with barbecue sauce and an onion ring on top (not gluten free). I believe, between the loudness of the sail away party and the language barrier, there was some sort of miscommunication between myself and the crew members. I tried again a few days later, however, I just ordered a burger with no bun and dressed it myself from the toppings bar. It was OK. Also, I am pretty sure the fries were not gluten free as they had a ton of seasoning on them.
The next day I tried the BlueIguana Cantina. The tacos were good but didn’t have much filling – same with burritos. I asked for corn tortillas since they are gluten free and the workers ran them through same warmer as flour tortillas. Once again, they had no interest in limiting the cross contamination. The salsa bar was substantial and offered lots of fresh ingredients. My big complaint — why no chips for the salsa bar? That would really have completed the meal and the experience.
For the rest of our sailing, we ate at the buffet. I do not recommend the gluten free bread from the deli. Yuck! It looked as though someone made cornbread (complete with corn kernels and vegetables) in a loaf pan and called it sandwich bread. However, he was the only one that changed his gloves, cleaned the surface, and acted appropriately for to limit the possibility of cross contamination. I do appreciate the effort. In the buffet at dinner, gluten free bread was on the bar but no one was policing the tongs so people were free to use them on the other bread. Again — cross contamination. I did eat the bread most nights and didn’t have any adverse reaction to it, but someone with a more pronounced intolerance than myself might not have the same luck. Otherwise, the food was just OK. There were a lot of the same options day after day and it got old — fast. I was pretty excited about the chocolate bar, but it was a big let down. The Ol’ Fashioned BBQ was excellent but hidden on upper level of buffet. It would have liked to have had a gluten free option at the pizza pirate.
Dining In The Main Dining Room
We didn’t go to the main dining room, because we didn’t bring clothes that were appropriate to wear. I have heard good things about the new American Table setup, and I heard good things about Carnival having gluten free options in the main dining room. But, I don’t have any personal experience to back up those claims.
I will say, however, that with every cruise line I’ve been on, they are wonderful about accommodating my dietary needs in the main dining room and the speciality restaurants. However, it is unreasonable to think that someone with a dietary restriction will only eat in the main dining room for the duration of their cruise — especially since not every meal is offered there. On that same note, it is unfair to make the other complimentary restaurants unavailable to us just because of our restrictions.
There was ice cream offered 24 hours a day outside the buffet at the aft of the ship. However, there was always a long line and it was broken a lot. It would never give me swirl!
After boarding the ship, the staterooms were available at 1:30 on embarkation day. This seems standard for most cruise lines. We met our room steward right away and he asked if we wanted a morning or evening cleaning. He did not offer both.
Our room was nice and we really enjoyed the L-shaped balcony room. It seemed to have much more room than a standard balcony room with the extra large balcony outside. On the first day, we had three regular chairs and one lounge chair. On the second day, our room steward stole one of our regular chairs and replaced with a lounge chair. We still aren’t sure why.
The only complaint we had about the room was its location. The room was on the 6th floor directly above the Stage Bar and Comedy Club. We could hear loud booming music at night that disturbed us when we were trying to get to sleep. When we originally booked our room on the Carnival Valor (before the Liberty switch), it was on the other side of the ship above the piano lounge which probably wouldn’t have been as loud.
I wasn’t a fan of how the entertainment schedule was laid out. Everything started so late at night with a lot of activities happening at the same time (AKA I’m a grandma and I like to go to bed early). So, we feel though we missed out on a lot of entertainment options.
We did end up doing a lot of trivia (our favorite cruise activity!) and it was fun, but same three people won every time. It definitely made it not as fun to play.
We only attended one show which I don’t think was good at all. The lead female singer carried the entire group. The male lead singer was horrendous, and I wasn’t super impressed with the rest of the cast as a whole. Also in the theatre, the seats were not comfortable and a lot of the tables between seats were broken. They flopped from side to side and made some of the seats unusable.
I’m sure that we had a cruise director, because I heard him making announcements over the intercom. However, I didn’t see him until debarkation day. He was standing at the door telling everyone goodbye.
We saw two movies – Sully and Jason Bourne — at the Dive In Theater on the pool deck. Movies on an outside deck was probably a good idea in theory, but on a cruise in the beginning of February, it was cold! Carnival was offering blankets that you could use by showing your sign and sail card, but you had to return the blanket immediately after the movie.
Overall, it was a nice cruise. It was, what it was — an inexpensive getaway to the Bahamas. Will I go on Carnival again? Of course. Will I go on the Liberty again? Sure, as long as it is still sailing out of Port Canaveral. Any day on a cruise is better than any other day stuck at work. Right?
Have you ever been on a Carnival cruise? What about the Carnival Liberty? Any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below!