Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Glory
Sailing Date: November 18th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Glory Cruise Review
This cruise review is based on
the experiences of our entire group that consisted of my parents (ages 67 & 61),
my wife and I (ages 43 & 41), my wife’s mother (age 60), and our two children (a
daughter age 15 & a son age 12). My parents have cruised over a dozen times on
all of the major lines including Carnival before. My wife and I have 5 previous
cruises on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean. My wife’s mother and our children
have had 2 previous cruises, both on Carnival. At the conclusion of this cruise
it was unanimous by all persons that this was the least enjoyable cruise we had
taken. That doesn’t mean that it was terrible but that it didn’t stack up to
previous trips. We all are avid cruisers but found this one lacking. We booked
this cruise for its schedule, price and ports of call. None of us had ever been
to Belize and most of us enjoy Cozumel, which made this a no brain-er to book.
We drove to Cocoa Beach the day before and stayed at a local hotel that offered a special that allowed us to park our cars at the hotel for the week and they arranged a shuttle to and from the port. We attempted to book with the Hampton Inn (which had a couple of favorable reviews) but found it booked. We settled on the La Quinta Inn, which is a mile or two farther down the strip. The room for the night cost $89 + taxes and included the week of parking, shuttle rides for everyone to and from the port and a mini breakfast served in the morning. Parking at the port costs $12 per day, which adds up to $84 total. If you are planning to stay the night before, I recommend one of these packages as they save a bunch of money. The La Quinta was nothing special from a facility standpoint but the staff was excellent and very helpful. The staff had us park right in front of the registration window with our cars in sight, this made us feel good about leaving our cars here for a week. The breakfast is primarily continental with a couple of hot items that you can warm or make yourself (warm up pre-cooked egg patties and sausage and cook yourself waffles). The shuttle was scheduled for an 11:30 am pickup and was provided thru Cocoa Beach Shuttles. The shuttle arrived at exactly 11:30 and the driver loaded our luggage. With one other stop to pick up another couple, we arrived at the port at noon. It was already busy. We unloaded our luggage with the porters (this is an additional cost of $1.00 per bag in cash only). You can only take small bags thru the port yourself, the same size that will fit as carry on luggage at the airport as they have to go thru the x-ray scan at the port also. I recommend that you take at least one bag as a carry on. You may not get your luggage until after dinner, so pack this bag with things you might need in the first 12 hours (toiletries, swim suits, sun screen, dinner clothes, etc.).
Embarkation: This was by far the worse embarkation we have had ever. The port building was simply overwhelmed. We usually arrive about noon and never have had a problem but this time there was a line to enter the port that moved very slowly and each stop in the port had a slow moving line. The line to get in was to have carry on luggage x-rayed; this was as slow as an airport security station. They only had one scanner at the entrance nearest to the porters. Later we found out that there are 2 scanners at the other end and they moved a bit faster. Then we entered the “main” line to check in. This lasted almost 50 min. We finally arrived on ship at 1:35 after over an hour and a half in lines. This cruise had over 800 children as it was over Thanksgiving and this added to the overall number of people. This cruise had a total of over 3400 cruisers and the normal number is about 2800. I imagine that Christmas cruises are also like this, you may want to plan accordingly.
Cabins: Our group had 2 inside cabins and one balcony cabin. The two inside cabins are listed as the same size as the balconies but seem much smaller. They seemed smaller than other inside cabins that we have had in the past. The design seemed poor and didn’t maximize space. The balcony room had the same size bathroom but also had a sofa and more open space. My wife and I never pay the additional price for a balcony as we spend very little time in the room. The price is at least 50% higher per person for a balcony so don’t pay for one unless you plan to use it. The bathroom is closet sized with a shower, stool and a counter with a sink. The shower had shampoo and body wash dispensers filled with Dove shampoo and Lever 2000 body wash. We have seen these before but the products were always generic and of poor quality. The bathroom was also stocked with a male and female blade shaver and other travel toiletries that are not restocked during the cruise. The room has plenty (maybe too much?) closet and cabinet space.
levels and they take up most of the 3rd and 4th deck. The rear dining room can only be accessed from the rear staircase/elevator area. If you are on the 3rd or 4th deck in the front and want to go to the rear dining room, you must go up to the 5th deck walk to the rear of the ship then descend to the 3rd or 4th deck (depending which deck your table is on). Of course we had the rear dining room and had to do this multiple time. Not a smart design in our minds. The ship is large and even with the large number of children, it didn’t seem over run. There were available deck chairs on sea days and the buffet lines were long but not excessively so. There are adult only hot tubes but we found children in them frequently, especially after 9pm as the hot tubs open to children closed at 9pm. Carnival has a “strict” no saving policy for deck chairs and lounge seating but we found saving going on all the time and Carnival did nothing about it. Go to the Captain's party, there is plenty of free drinks and finger food. The wait staff drop full glasses on your table when your current glass is less than half full as long as you want to drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available - you have to take what they serve, no orders). Previous cruisers also get invited to a similar party on another evening, take advantage of this if your invited.
Camp Carnival & Club O2: These are the kid and teenage group’s setup by age. My son was in the 12-14 year old camp carnival which he didn’t enjoy much. He said the activities were “lame”. He did try the PS2 games which he said were old and boring. They had a foosball table but they couldn’t have access to it much as other ages were booked in the room that had the table but they didn’t use it. He spent a lot of time with the ping-pong table when it wasn’t too windy (tables are on an open deck with only partial covering and wind block). Club O2 is for teens age 15-17 and my daughter did many activities with them. They had contests with prizes and she won a number of these. She did say that some were boring but she could and did leave them if she didn’t enjoy them. They have both been in Camp Carnival before and enjoyed it a bunch. This time they didn’t but this may be because they are getting older or there were too many children for the staff.
Entertainment: Here was a major disappointment. The shows and singers were at the best mediocre and at worst horrible. Our entire group usually enjoys most of the cruise entertainment but we found ourselves leaving early or sitting through a mildly entertaining show. The first “Broadway show” called Living in America was nothing special and the singing was mediocre if not poor. My kids and parents left early, my wife and I held out thinking it would improve. It didn’t. Another night featured an “illusionist” called Justin Illusion. His “illusions” didn’t fool many and my 12 year old son figured out how most tricks were done and in one we could all see a hidden door open behind a screen as a woman “disappeared” thru it. His show did feature loud music and some impressive dancing. If you came for the illusions, you will be disappointed but if you like music and dancing, you will enjoy. Again, my wife’s mother left early but the kids, wife and I held out. My parents didn’t even go. Another act featured a juggler/comic. My wife and I were the only ones who went as the previous experiences had discouraged the rest. This act was pretty good. The juggler was impressive as well as a decent comedian. His show should be rated PG-13 as he used some adult language but nothing too racy. Another show featured a comic named Greg Ray. His show was good and he came back the next night for a midnight adult’s only show. We usually skip the adult comedy as it typically is a string of 4 letter words and not very funny except to the intoxicated. His adult show was better than the family show and we found ourselves laughing frequently. He never used an expletive but the subject matter was very adult. The second “Broadway” show was called “Rock on Broadway” and this one was good but not great. The songs favored the singer’s talents better than the first. The dancers were good for both but that only carries one so far. The cruise director (Dana Hodgson) didn’t impress us either. He was only present for
the major shows and frequently left things to his assistant (who was more animated and dynamic). He has a professional voice and sounds great as a presenter but didn’t have that infectious attitude that we were used to from previous cruise directors. He seemed to be just doing through the motions. Most cruises have frequent announcements that become annoying. This cruise went too far in the other direction. The most common announcement was calling people to contact the purser’s deck. We found a number of confused cruisers who didn’t know what was going on from a lack of information and this related to the lack of announcements. We came into ports late a number of times with no announcement that we were late or why. This was followed by the usual 30 minute delay before people could disembark with no announcement. As experienced cruisers we expected the delay but others didn’t and became frustrated.
Food: The food was mediocre. Cooking for large numbers has its limitations but this was the poorest food over all that we have experienced. The dining room food looked impressive on the menu but usually failed to impress. It was generally tasteless or bland. The desserts, which have been good on previous cruises, were also bland and lacked imagination. My wife lives for the dining room desserts and she left disappointed most nights. The buffets were average but didn’t impress either. The most impressive food came from the pizzeria and the deli. We all would recommend either of these and we ended up eating at either or both of these for lunch and skipped the buffet lines. The deli serves a number of impressive sandwiches from hot turkey, pastrami on rye and Rubens to cold tuna and smoked salmon on a bagel. The desserts served at lunch were generally better and with more choices then at dinner. The last day featured a chocolate buffet at lunch and was very good. The dining room service was exceptional. This is a highlight for our group and our servers didn’t disappoint. Our headwaiter Vinod (from India) and waiter Carlito (from the Philippines) went above and beyond. As recommended in other reviews, we provided a tip on the first night ($20 to the head waiter and $10 to the waiter, from the entire table). We always received our service and food first (they had 3 other tables). The singing and dancing provided by the waiters always occurred in front of our table and my children got up and danced with them on a couple of nights. I don’t know if this was because of the first night tip but I will continue to employ this. We also tipped on the last night as they did an exceptional job as well as the tips included for each cruiser on our sign and sail account.
Cozumel: This port was beat up last fall by a hurricane. The original port built a few years ago with a large shopping area was completely destroyed and is being rebuilt. We landed at the international port which still shows heavy damage. It has a number of shops but not as many or as nice as the destroyed port. The shop people seemed more aggressive than if the past. It was very windy which caused the majority of the excursions to be cancelled. All of the water, scuba and boating excursions were cancelled and Carnival refunded them without any action needed on the part of the cruiser. 4 from our group had the dolphin encounter scheduled and this wasn’t cancelled but they were given the option as the platform that the program used was moving a lot in the 4-6 foot swells and all 4 decided to cancel and Carnival refunded this without question. We applaud Carnival for this. My wife and I decided to walk from the pier to town (which was 2.5 miles). We like to walk and found this to be a wonderful walk. We saw up close the damage done by last year’s hurricane. We shopped down the entire strip and found the shops here to also be more aggressive than in the past (which we hate). We ended up not shopping as much as we had planned and only went in the major shops. Don’t miss Los Cinco Soles or Viva Mexico down at the end of the strip. Both have great quality and prices. We paid more than some of the little shops but found the quality of the merchandise to be far better. If shopping in a small shop, don’t forget to bargain. Usually the price will drop 2 or 3 times on your more expensive stuff. Jewelry and items priced over $50 can most often be talked down 25-50% especially if you start to walk away after appearing interested. Know your prices also, we found many stores overcharging by 200-300% on silver and gold chains. The prices came down quick but an uninformed shopper could over pay easily. The best prices and selection we found at Cozumel.
Belize: This port is very shallow and requires a long tender ride (loading people onto smaller boats and riding into port). The ride was 10-12 minutes in rough seas, don’t port here if the seas are rough and you have a sensitive stomach to motion. We arrived late and again didn’t have any information ahead of time and we were left waiting for the ship to start unloading which was delayed further by Carnival unloading all of its excursions first. My mother and mother-in-law scheduled a Belize city tour (Sights and Sounds of Belize) and had to meet early in the Palace Lounge. They waited almost 2 hours as the ship was late and Carnival forgot their group and they missed their tender. Carnival did get them a tender and a tour once they recognized their error as well as refunding the cost of the entire tour for the inconvenience. They enjoyed the tour, especially for free. They did say it would have been worth the cost. We booked the Cave Tubing tour outside of Carnival as many of the cruise tours we have booked in the past failed to live up to the hype and/or cost. We booked with www.cave-tubing.com due to the positive reviews. We were not disappointed. We all agreed that this was the single best port excursion that we have ever done. The tour does require an hour bus ride to the site and a 40 min. walk thru the rain forest. The walk isn't difficult but it is over uneven ground and has a waist deep water crossing near the beginning. If you can't walk 1.5-2 miles carrying your own tube without a rest, this may not be the tour for you. We had a couple of people that had difficulty keeping up. The guides arranged us in groups of 5-10, linked us together on tubes with a guide for each group and off we went with lights on our heads. I would recommend a larger waterproof light as well as a waterproof camera. The water is cool but not cold and only fast running in a couple of spots. The guide points out things of interest as well as pulls you down stream in the slow spots. You will also learn the meaning of the term "butts up" very quickly. You exit the river after about 30 min at the same location as the waist deep water crossing and walk a couple of hundred yards back to the main area. There is a nice bathhouse and changing area but no lockers. After a 45 min stop for lunch ($5 for chicken stew on rice and beans) on the way back you arrive back at the Belize port. The guides were all very personable and had excellent stories to tell. Our group had Lionel and he was awesome, Thanks Lionel (and Keith, the main guide and Tigre, the very skilled bus driver). We saw a Carnival group at the caves and they had a group of about 50 people and no guides, just dumped in the water and left you to go by yourself with a few people pointing the way in the caves. The port area and shopping isn't very developed and not impressive. Don't think your going to spend the day shopping, book a tour here or you will be disappointed. The area is economically depressed and not cruiser friendly.
Costa Maya: What a disappointment. This port is a pier and shopping port built in the middle of nowhere. The shopping area took us only a couple of hours to get through and we didn't find many good deals. Prices higher than Cozumel and only the flea market tent in the middle did any price bargaining. There were a couple of very talented painters; one with spray cans and the other with his fingers, selling paintings that were reasonable. I recommend booking a tour here or plan on lying on the beach.
Nassau: This is our third visit to this port but found it to be much improved over earlier visits. We haven't been here in about 4 years and the place looks better and more visually appealing. The shops and people didn't try to pull us of the street as in years past and the prices were still good (not great). We spent most of the day taking a walking tour around downtown and stopping in any store that interested us. The locals were very friendly. I did talk to some people who went to the Atlantis and were very disappointed. After the taxi ride, they had to pay to get in and couldn't do anything but look at the lobby unless they paid more.
Disembarkation: Another mess. I had purchased 2 liters of vodka from the ship gift shop during the cruise and was told that it would be delivered Friday night (they don't want you drinking the cheap stuff on board). Come Saturday at 6:30am, no Vodka. I called the pursers desk but was told no one from the gift shop would be available until 7am. By 7:30, still nothing. Another call but no help, "please wait" I was told. We had been told the night before that disembarkation would begin about 7:30. No word until 8:20 when they told everyone that there was a hold up (I think we figured that out already) and to leave your staterooms and wait in a public area. I called the purser again and was told to wait, still no response from the gift shop. Wait where, I am being kicked out of my room. At the purser's desk (if you have been on a cruise before you know that the purser's desk is a poorly controlled mob during disembarkation). Near 9am, with luggage in tow, I get a purser who informs me that my Vodka is waiting for me at the gift shop and to go pick it up (not very customer service oriented). I went up to the gift shop, doors locked and not one around. Waited and finally found someone in the clothing gift shop behind a locked door, guess what??? He has my Vodka, not in the shop I bought it in, but all the way on the other side of the ship. We arrive in the Amber Palace to wait for our luggage tag color to be called. Disembarkation began during my Vodka adventure but I don't know exactly when. At 9:30 our tag color is called with 2 others. We wait thru customs and finally arrive at the luggage terminal. The luggage is going around on an airport type baggage carousel but all the luggage in our group has a different color tag. I inquired about our luggage color and was told that when people take off the current luggage then more will be put on the belt and ours should come out then (huh?, why call our color if its not ready?). We waited about 20 min watching the luggage until ours started showing up. This seemed like a very unorganized system. We did like the luggage carousel rather than the old system of placing all the luggage in rows on the floor and let people paw thru it to find their own. At 10:30 we were out of the building an off to the shuttle loading area. Our shuttle was waiting for us and took us directly to the La Quinta where our cars where in perfect order and waiting.
Overall: We found the crew to be very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately the same can't be said of other cruisers. We found this cruise to contain a much larger number of rude and inconsiderate people than others in the past. People were rude to other cruisers, the staff and at port. At the elevators, people would walk up and get on an elevator if the door opened and not allow people who had been waiting longer to get on. My mother recently had both of her knees replaced and she can't do stairs and doesn't walk fast, a number of times she lost an elevator to an able body person/group that cut in front of her. Carnival has a motto to exceed your expectations and when adding everything up, they failed to do this. We have had much better cruises on Carnival and other lines than this one. It maybe that the cruise market is getting saturated and for them to compete on price they have to cut some corners. This was the cheapest costing cruise we have taken and we got what we paid for.