We just returned from another wonderful Carnival cruise. We are a family of 4 with 2 boys aged 7 and 9 on this trip.
Embarkation- easy enough. From past experience, we decided to eat lunch first at Channelside and then board a bit later. This allowed us to skip the hectic Lido scene upon embarkation. We also only had to wait 20 minutes to get our room. The line to board was a bit long, but moved quickly. Once we got our sail and sign cards, the rest was a breeze. The port itself was a bit hectic as it was a small area to drop off luggage and passengers. Everyone was friendly, though.
Sea Days- there were 2 sea days. 1 at the beginning and 1 at the end. On these days, we spend our time sunning, swimming, eating, and just relaxing. The kids usually went to Camp Carnival for part of the day. More on that and the dining room service later.
Grand Cayman- we went to 7 mile beach, specifically SeaGrape Beach (public). We paid nothing to flop down our towels. The kids had a blast in the water and sand. The water was crystal clear and warm enough, though refreshing for a hot day. We got some beers from Calico Jack's, which was very busy as the morning went on. Tip- instead of paying $5 pp for a taxi, go to the bus depot area by the library (or just hail one down as we did) and pay only $2.50 pp. There is no difference in the vehicle- both are air conditioned minivans. They dropped us off right at SeaGrape Beach. On the way back, a taxi driver snagged us and gave us the bus rate to ride back to the port with him. In a taxi, they wait to fill up the whole minivan before moving (which is why it's better to get a bus for the price).
Cozumel- we did Paradise Beach after seeing good reviews. $2 per chair and $12 per bracelet. The bracelet allows you to use their non-motorized water toys: inflatable slides and trampolines in the water, kayaks, snorkel gear, life vests, paddle boats, a regular trampoline, and water floats. The water this day was not very good- it was murky and had a strong seaweed smell. The bracelets are optional and in the future we would only get them for the kids as my husband and I didn't want to get in the water. Even the kids weren't too thrilled with the water. The pool area is beautiful and next time we'd spend more time there. It's a huge pool with refreshing water. Taxis are $13 each way for a family of 4.
Belize- next time we won't get off the ship here. The tender process is ridiculously long. They wait for the tender to be full before they left either side, which took us 30 minutes each time. It's another 15 minutes to get to each side. So you're looking at potentially 45 minute tender ride each way, counting the wait time. We went to the Wet Lizard which is directly in the port area, as we had heard that Belize is not good to do on your own. The Wet Lizard was not a favorite. We didn't mind the semi-party atmosphere...or even the slow service...but the fish tacos are probably the worst we've ever had and we don't consider ourselves picky at all. They were tiny pieces of breaded fish with cabbage and a lukewarm mayonnaise dressing. The nachos were ok and the fries were good. Not worth taking such a long tender process for, however.
Roatan- we did a tour with Victor Bodden. Tex was our tour guide. Good price- $25 per person for a family of 4 or more. Tex took us around the different villages, took us to some lookout points for pictures, and took us to a dock where we could see a tourist place with trained dolphins that we could watch from a decent viewpoint. We also saw the monkeys at Victor Bodden's center- a highlight of our cruise. The tour guide was very friendly and made us comfortable with the animals. They will take you to the younger monkeys, who will climb around on you. They were very sweet and friendly. They also have some other small animals such as fox squirrels, parrots, etc. We ended the day in West End at the beach in front of Bananarama. We ate at the Thirsty Turtle, which had great service and food. The beach there is beautiful, though the actual beach (sand) was small. On the way back, Tex took us by a grocery store where I could buy a large bottle of vanilla and Honduran coffee for only $4. A great day! If you get motion sickness on winding mountainous roads, you might want to take something ahead of time. We felt a bit dizzy by the time we got back to the ship.
Dining Room and Lido Buffet- both were great. We rarely had to wait in a line at the buffet due to multiple stations available. We had Your Time Dining in the Truffles Dining Room (MDR). We sat with three different servers and especially loved Elmer, Budi, and Wilfred. Budi, one of the assistant waiters, went out of his way to talk to us and our kids. He was very sweet. We also enjoyed having William as one of our waiters for some of the breakfasts we had in the MDR. The food was delicious- we never had a bad meal.
Golden Fleece steakhouse- this is worth the $30 per person! The food was decadent. I had the surf and turf and the filet mignon was to die for...and I'm not a huge steak eater.
Room- Plenty of storage, even for a family of 4. A bit cramped, but to be expected. The shower was ridiculous- we could barely move in it, it was so small. The sink area was spacious and plenty of storage available. Our room steward, Fernandez, was nice enough, although rather slow on our first day. He did get us what we needed each day and we aren't picky. The extended balcony was 2 feet deeper than a regular balcony. We wouldn't pay a lot to upgrade to extended, but we were able to do it for $40 total, so it was worth it in this case.
Camp Carnival- Our kids *loved* Camp Carnival. They have been on previous trips, but seemed to like this one the best. They ate dinner with them twice and participated in their many activities. Rare was the day we didn't have a kid begging to go to Camp Carnival. The staff was very nice here.
Debarkation- Slow, slow, slow. We didn't get docked until 7:30 and it was 10 before our zone was finally called. We ate a large, leisurely breakfast on the Lido and then sat around the Serenity area until we were called.
Overall, this was a great cruise!