I have tried to convince my husband for years to go on a cruise. Our 3 children range from 5-15 and it was a great first experience for us.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale (cheaper than flying into Miami) the day of the cruise, landing at 10:30 am and took a cab ($72) to the Port of Miami. I thought this was reasonable to transport a family of 5 with lots of luggage. Embarkation was organized and easy and we were on the Lido deck eating by 12. We were able to get into our rooms around 1:30. I am not a picky person, but I was even surprised at the retro room. It really grew on me by the end though. :>) Since there were 5 of us, we had a king bed, 2 uppers and 1 small trundle. The beds were firm but very comfortable. Overall a very comfortable cabin with a good location.
Our two older children loved Camp Carnival and Club O2 respectively. As this was a family time vacation, they only went for 2-3 hours each evening to make friends but really enjoyed the activities presented. Our youngest did not want to go, so he stayed with us.
The second day, I was sea sick. I heard several passengers saying they had never had waves that rough. I was curious if it might have been due to the earthquake in Mexico as we were still in the Gulf of Mexico at that time?
The service was impeccable!!! The staff we met were so friendly and tried to hard to make it a pleasant experience. Our steward left little towel animals each night , which my children loved. Out wait staff, Gede and his second (I will have to find his name in my stuff) were incredible. We tipped additional to the gratuity that Carnival adds because they serve well and work hard with minimal pay in that profession.
I was disappointed in my excursion to Grand Turk. Oasis divers took us to see the stingrays, but after driving around 5 minutes decided they were not coming and took us to another part of the island where we were told we could snorkel in the open water. This was not intended as a snorkel expedition and I was very uncomfortable with snorkeling in the waves with my 5 yr old. It was raining on us and we basically received a pontoon boat ride for 1 hr 15 min and then 30 min snorkeling followed by a 15 min pontoon ride back to the pier. I enjoyed the FREE public beach at Grand Turk so much more for the rest of the day.
HOWEVER.....My husband went with Oasis divers on a certified dive experience while we were in Grand Turk and it was INCREDIBLE. I guess it just depends on the luck of the draw!
Our excursions of parasailing and snorkel by boat were cancelled on Half Moon Cay due to winds. However, we enjoyed snorkeling on the beach all day and Carnival refunded our fees to our sign and sail account.
On Nassau, we went to the Atlantis resort. It was nice, but not really worth what we paid. However, I am not sure that we felt safe in this port and were happy to have a nice place to go.
Overall, the ports were wonderful, debarkation was great, instructions were clear, etc. They were good experiences.
The food was good, bot really fancy except at night, but my children like buffets, pizza, hamburgers and ice cream. I like not cooking.
Debarkation was organized and the crew was already deep cleaning by the night before we left. I was satisfied with the cleanliness of the ship, as in the early am hours when I went for coffee, they were always cleaning.
This was a wonderful experience for a family that is not really particular who just wanted to get away for 5 days. I would definitely repeat this trip with Carnival.