We've sailed on Carnival ships twice now - more than on any other line - but I don't think they'd be my choice in the future. I've been wrestling in my mind with why, because, as noted two years ago, the Conquest was truly a gorgeous ship, the food was good, the service more than adequate. But it was just all wrong for me, and for a long time, I could not put my finger on a reason.
This is going to sound truly weird, but I think it's their repeated emphasis on "fun". Despite the very upscale appearance of the ship, the demographic it was catering to was not upscale - the activities and infrastructure were aimed at people who enjoy Vegas for the slot machines and shows and go to amusement parks and waterparks a lot, and who spend their "evenings out" at nightclubs or bars, drinking and dancing and singing karaoke. I'm not one of those people. When I'm in Vegas, I enjoy the neon lights and the utter bizarreness of the tourist offerings, but slot machines and gambling in general bore me, and I wouldn't go to Vegas as a destination; it's always a stop en route to somewhere else. I like an occasional visit to an amusement park - with kids; I wouldn't go for my own purposes - and I really don't get waterparks. My vision of an evening out involves music at a volume I can talk over (if necessary) - jazz or symphony - performed by other people, not me. With drinks included, maybe, but not as the central reason for being away from home. Perhaps I'm just getting old.
The weird thing is that I know for a certainty that both Royal Caribbean and Princess had casinos and pool slides and nightclub options - and I liked both of them better than Carnival. The only reason I can think of is that those things were not front-and-center on the other lines in the way they were on Carnival; other activities and venues were the "attractions" instead. The shows were different. Royal Caribbean fascinated our entire party with a quick-change-artist act, and we were vastly entertained on Princess by the hypnotist's act. We did see a fairly amusing ventriloquist on Carnival - I'm still wondering how he worked the whiteboard dummy - but everything else seemed to be aimed at another group; not us.
So our next cruise is on yet another line - Holland America - which has a reputation for being targeted at an older audience even than Princess. I don't know if we fit the demographic there or not; guess we'll find out. I do know that their Culinary Arts Center program is a huge magnet for me, and they are definitely downplaying the karaoke contests and things of that sort, which seems like a move in the right direction. I guess I'm looking for more of an educational slant on cruising - give me a lecture on the geologic origins of the rocks at Cabo San Lucas, or teach me about the migratory habits of the whales, or introduce me to new cuisines or art forms. (Wow, do I sound like a snob! But that's really what I would enjoy.)
I think our bucket list includes a Cunard lines cruise in some class above steerage (they really do have classes of cabins on their ships, although I'm not so sure about steerage). If we do go some day, I almost hope that they don't turn out to be the perfect match for us; I'm not sure I could sustain the wardrobe.