We weren't sure what to expect on this cruise from two fronts: We had always thought Carnival was too much of a "party" ship for the relaxation that we usually seek, and this time we decided to bring our four year old son along for the adventure.
I want to start off by thanking Carnival, and especially Margaret, at the Carnival Embarkation point in Port Canaveral. Due to mechanical problems, our flight was delayed for so long that we were over an hour late arriving to the ship, according to the 2:30 PM deadline. We called Carnival from the Detroit airport and ended up speaking with Margaret. She calmed us down and said that she would have the Carnival Airport Transfer van wait for us (we did arrange this originally, but we were so late we figured it had left), and they would hold the ship until we got there --at 3:45!. I actually hugged her when I got there. She was very nice and we are so appreciative of her great customer service!
Carnival exceeded our expectation on everything. Beautiful ship, plenty of activities and entertainment to choose from, really good food, clean, not hectic with rowdies as I had wrongly thought, and the kids club was fantastic! Our room was quite large, although this was the first time we booked a balcony room so perhaps they are typically large. If traveling with a child, we would definitely recommend springing for the balcony if you're able. Ours slept on the couch, and we brought foam bumpers so he loved his own little "cubby". The balcony allowed us a chance to relax on the balcony while our son was sleeping in, or after he went to bed we sat out under the stars. Wonderful!
After two nights of our son falling asleep on my lap during our late-seating dinner, we decided to check out Camp Carnival for the next night's dinner. It was perfect. We had a nice dinner together, and our son enjoyed the kids club until we picked him up after dinner. After that, he begged to go to the kids' club every evening. Camp Carnival was organized, secure, safe and fun (coming from a family of police officers, I'm a tough critic on security and safety).
We visited Cozumel, Belize and Roatan. We didn't stop in Costa Maya due to high winds that morning. Routan was by far our favorite out of all of our travels through the years. I felt safe, it was friendly, and absolutely gorgeous. Here's what we recommend: Get off the ship early and grab a taxi to Frenchy's 44 Restaurant for about $20 roundtrip each (toddler was free). Once there, ask to go over to Little French Key, a private island a short boat ride away. Absolute paradise. We were the only ones on the island for 2-3 hours. Then only two other families came over. I can't even explain how beautiful this place is. Hammocks, wooden loungers, white sand with shells, beautiful decking, monkeys and tropical birds in a little "zoo" area, jet-skis, kayaks, water trampoline (in its own little cove) a nice bartender named Mark making Monkey La-La's (lookout - potent!), and fresh shrimp and chicken cooked on an outside barbeque. It was a tropical paradise that beats any place we've visited. It was $18 per adult and $10 for our son for the entire day. The food and drinks were extra and although we didn't check it out due to time constraints, the jet-skis and kayaks might have had a rental charge. Nevertheless, so reasonable for what you are getting - off the beaten path, quiet, gorgeous, and experiencing Roatan the way it should be experienced - and we did the entire day, including taxi and tips, for $200 for the three of us! Next year I think we're going back to Roatan for the whole week....and we'll be heading over to Little French Key often!
In Belize I would highly recommend an organized tour of some kind...through Carnival or pre-arranged ahead of time. It's not a fun place to wander around in our opinion. I didn't feel as safe as the other ports, and this is the 2nd time we've visited. Do the zip-line tour, or this time we did www.cave-tubing.com. Very fun! We had originally arranged to go with "Nacho" at NCQ Adventure tours, but we didn't get off the ship early enough (like he asked us to do), and we missed our ride. Luckily, he had arranged for us to go with the cave-tubing.com guys. It was a great time!
In Cozumel we had a wonderful time doing our own thing: renting a jeep without the top, cruising around for a while, and ending up at Paradise Beach. Only about $14 each for the whole day, and included beach loungers, beautiful beach, kayaks, inflatable climbing wall/slides and trampolines in water, gorgeous pool, and two restaurants - one poolside and one beachfront. Go to the poolside bar and order the Ceviche and the guacamole and chips. Heavenly!!! Relaxing, fun, fantastic day!
Cruising with our four-year old was so fun, and yes, relaxing too! We enjoyed lounging and watching him go down the water slides 150 times (42" and they can go down even the big ones)! One of us went with him on the big ones, so we took turns relaxing on the lounge chairs!
I hope this review helps!