We are a 39 year old couple cruising with our 5 year old daughter. This is our 6th cruise on RC, and we have cruised 3 times on Carnival and once on Holland America. We flew into NOLA late Thursday night, and had a very nice stay at Days Inn N.O. Airport, then moved to the French Quarter to stay Friday night at Ursuline Guest House. It was conveniently located to all the sites, but not a very impressive hotel. Cab from airport to FQ was $14 per person, and from FQ to terminal $7pp, and they did charge for our 5 y.o. We arrived at the terminal at 10:00am, intending on dropping our bags with a porter then walking to the aquarium, but there was no line to go ahead and check in, so we did. The entire process took about 10 minutes, and we were told we could board around 11:00am. The terminal is very nice, and actually had vending carts with sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc for sale. Boarding was quick and easy, and we were at the empty Windjammer at shortly after 11. I don't know where the usual mad crowds were, but we walked right in with no waiting, and there were plenty of seats. The food this cruise was excellent, with the best buffets we've experienced on a cruise. Lunch for me was honeystung chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and a cookie. We explored the ship, then let DD play in the great kids pool. Open house for Adventure Ocean was from 1-3:30, and muster was at 4:10. We then enjoyed an egg salad sandwich, fruit cup and cookie from Promenade Cafe. We used the Cafe every day after DD would leave Adventure Ocean. The sandwiches and pizza are great, and the tiny fruit cups were a great way to make sure she was getting a little something healthy. She loved being able to pick out her own cookie. And I must say, the reviews are correct about the ranger cookies. Yum! For dinner, we had My Time dining, a first for us. We found it to be simple and just as good as traditional seating. It was a nuisance to have to check in every evening, but no big deal.It appeared that most people thought "my time" dining meant "casual", as jeans, shorts, and t-shirts were more prevalent in this dining room than dress clothes. We even saw soccer shorts and flip flops on most of the teens. Our waiters the first night were Francis and Jaromey, and we asked to be seated with them each night. Their service was outstanding. They went out of their way to make our daughter feel welcome and entertained, made sure she had a fruit plate and chocolate milk right away, and brought her meal with our appetizers. They were just fantastic. We were leery about how the service would be on this cruise, as there are only two more sailings before the ship repositions, and we had heard that much of the crew was being phased in/out. Tired crews are not happy crews! However, we actually had the best service ship wide that we've ever had. Even in the WJ, they could not do enough for us. One night, we were having a late snack in the WJ, and the waiter came to ask us what we wanted to drink, and DD said "Sprite." We did not have a soda card, and frankly, she is rarely permitted to have soda, but before I could correct her, the nice waiter winked at her and said "just for you, I'll get you a Sprite." We had service like that all week, just above and beyond. Dinner the first night was tortilla soup, spinach salad (both excellent), prime rib with baked potato, and chocolate cherry cake (both just okay, I will order something different next time.) DD had a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit, chicken fingers and fries, and the "special" dessert Francis said he'd bring her, a delicious brownie sundae. We then went to AO registration, which was from 7:15 to 9pm. Tonight's show was the Welcome Aboard show, with a featured comedian.
Sunday, DD was impatient to get to AO, so we had a great breakfast at WJ, then dropped her off, and went to the busy basketball court. This is usually our favorite place to hang out on Voyager class ships, as DH can play ball while I read next to the court. On this ship, there are no chairs on deck 13 at all. I really missed this, plus, being a Spring Break cruise, there were so many teenagers onboard, that the Bball court was packed, and DH could not even get on it. AO was open today from 9am-noon, 2pm-5pm, and 6:45-10pm at no charge. They also offer dinner at 5:45 for kids at no charge. DD LOVED this. The menu stayed the same all week, and was a choice of hamburger, cheeseburger, hot dog, and grilled cheese with fries. I wish they had offered fruit or vegetables, but they didn't. We had to make sure she was getting enough to drink and enough healthy food in the short amount of time that she was actually with us. Those fruit cups at Promenade Cafe came in handy! Lunch today was tacos, rice, veggie medley of corn, broccoli and carrots, and mud cake and creme caramel. The food was so good! DH played in the BBall tournament, but there were so many people entered they only let the teams play to 4 points. That was pointless. We tried out the pool (cold!) and ended up just taking DD up to the warmer kids pool. The waterslide was open today, and she loved it. Dinner tonight was formal, with shrimp cocktail, scallops au gratin (not usually on the menu, but Francis advised that they were unable to get escargot this cruise, so this was the substitution. It was fabulous!), beef filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus (all outstanding), and chocolate souffle (just okay). Francis brought out a platter with slices of the beef to give us extra if we desired. After this meal, I don't understand how people say the food isn't good. The beef was so tender, and delicious. Tonight's show was Music in Pictures.
Monday we ported in Cozumel. We decided to stay onboard for awhile, as we've been to Cozumel many times, and only planned to shop for a little while. We had a leisurely breakfast. I should say how impressed we were with the buffets all week. Our last few cruises have been with Carnival, and their buffets are terrible, so to be back to RC, and see how great the food was, made us very happy. The breakfast selection was fantastic, and even had made to order eggs, biscuits and gravy, a different specialty scrambled egg daily, made to order toasted breads, and every fresh fruit you could want. There was grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi, plums, and even bananas left on day 7! My daily breakfast was a freshly toasted bagel with cream cheese, a vanilla danish (these are so good!), bacon actually made crispy, hash browns, pineapple, strawberries, and grapefruit. Doesn't get any better than that! Apple juice and water was available. Chocolate milk was not set out on the buffet, but was available if we asked. DD loved having a tiny box of Rice Krispies every morning (all that great food and that what she wanted... :) Throughout the week, various chefs would come out behind the buffet and ask her if she wanted chocolate milk, and twice a chef told her to wait, then brought out a plate of chocolate covered strawberries just for her, and then a special donut with jelly beans on it. That is such great service! After breakfast, DH tried the basketball court again, and was happy to see that most people were in port, so he had the court mostly to himself. He had a great time playing, while I read in the shade of the golf themed bar area above the court on deck 14. We left the ship at noon and walked to the (much nicer) Puerta Maya pier to shop. I had a $5 margarita at our pier, and was not allowed to bring it on the ship since I hadn't finished it yet. No problem, I can't really complain about standing on the pier looking at the beautiful turquoise water while finishing a cool drink! We had lunch back onboard, of tacos again, nachos, crab and asparagus soup, and white chocolate mousse ( delicious, like a chocolate covered homemade marshmallow). AO hours today were 7am-5pm, and 5:45 dinner to 10pm. AO will take the kids to WJ for lunch, but again choices are limited, and the only option each day was pizza and fries. She really enjoyed this. The dinner menu tonight wasn't appealing (it's the menu with the crab cake appetizer), so we went to the WJ, but didn't see much here that appealed to us either. We decided to go to Johnny Rockets. Now, I don't like to pay for food when I've already paid for food as part of my cruise fair, but I must say JR was worth it. For the two of us, we spent $18 on the cover charge, 2 sodas, and tip, but it was fun, and good food. We both had burgers, the fries/onion rings and ranch that is served automatically, and split an oreo sundae. "Everybody say hellloooo, everybody say goodbyyyyyye." Love that guy! After AO, we took DD to WJ for a snack of jello and vanilla ice cream. (one of the desserts that night was apple cobbler, so they actually had scooped ice cream available.) Be advised that WJ closes at 9pm, so that limits the snack options to Cafe Promenade after picking up from AO. Tonight's show was the Headliner show, the Drifters.
Tuesday we ported in Grand Cayman. Our tender number wasn't called until 11:30am, which was also when the call was made for anyone without a number to board. While we didn't rush down to get a tender #, a 3 hour wait seemed excessive, and half the day was gone by the time we hit the shore. DD wanted to stayed onboard in AO, and we took a $4pp taxi to 7 mile beach for a wonderful swim. We walked back to the pier, which wasn't a bad walk at all, and passed several free public beach accesses. (we were charged $2 pp to enter where the taxi dropped us off.) Along that walk, we passed a Pizza Hut, Wendy's, KFC, and Burger King. 2 combo meals at BK set us back $18.80 US$. Yikes! The shops were very expensive here, and in Jamaica also. I'd advise doing any souvenir shopping in Cozumel. Dinner tonight was jalapeno potato soup (delicious), seasonal salad (okay, it has mesclun greens it it which I don't care for), beef should filet with mashed potatoes and yellow squash (very good), and creme brulee ( I love creme brulee, but this had been sitting too long and was soggy). I asked if I could get just the chocolate portion of the choco-chino trilogy dessert, as I don't care for the other two portions of the trilogy, and of course I was served the whole portion. I was glad to have the little bite of chocolate since my creme brulee was disappointing. DH asked Francis if he could get just a plain iceberg salad, and Francis said he would make something wonderful for him. He came out with a pretty lettuce wedge that my husband loved, and each night after, Francis asked DH if he'd like his special salad with bleu cheese dressing. Also, I never had to ask for iced tea after the first night, and Jaromey never let our glasses or our bread plates get empty (who really NEEDS more than one dinner roll, right?) After dinner, we discovered the hot tub in the gymnasium, which was completely empty. All the tubs on the pool deck were packed. We had this one all to ourselves. It is HOT though! We had the best time relaxing in here. As a side note, there is some "interesting" decor on the top floors of the forward part of the ship. It became rather like a scavenger hunt for us, and we renamed the ship the "Voyeur of the Seas." Discover it for yourself. To stay on that theme, if you want to have some naughty fun, order ice cream in the MDR. It's a "happy" dessert. AO was open again today from 9am-5, and served lunch, with dinner at 5:45 and open to 10pm. Tonight's show was the ice show, and late night comedy.
Wednesday was Jamaica. We again took our time getting off the ship, and enjoyed the deserted Bball court and reading time. We got off the ship around noon and walked around the port. The port area has been very beautifully designed, but we don't understand why RC would sink so much money into a port that few people seem to enjoy. Our previous experience in Jamaica was frightening and left us no desire to ever return. I wish RC would have invested the money into a new port/island that is safer and more appreciative of the tourists. We did not leave the gated area, and weren't interested in the RC owned and sanitized diamond shops. There is a craft/flea market area, and the vendors have been obviously told not to hound people, to the point that when we did want to know the price of an item, we had difficulty finding the right person to give an answer. All the booths seemed to sell all the same items, and prices were very high. ($10 for a childs straw purse and no offer to negotiate) The shops at the rear of the complex were a little more interesting, and I did buy a few wood carvings here. There is also a Quiznos restaurant here. We were back onboard quickly for a lunch of pizza, salad, corn chowder and creme brulee. We spent time exploring the ship, as we always enjoy finding the helipad on deck 4 (we watched sailaway here, from N.O. Fun place to watch the river go by) and the peek-a-boo bridge on deck 11 forward. We missed the usual interesting stairwell art on this ship. We didn't see anything very interesting. Dinner tonight was shrimp cocktail, spinach dip (both excellent) NY strip with mashed potatoes and green beans (pretty good) and key lime pie (excellent). Tonight's show was Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme.
Thursday and Friday were sea days, so AO was open 9-noon, 2-5, and 6:45-10. Dinner was offered on Thursday only, and the morning session on Friday ended at 11am because of the talent show. DD enjoyed the club so much. The staff was great, and it was nice that they took the kids out around the ship a little bit. It seemed like there were less "freebies" than on other lines. They gave out a small stuffed octopus or a lanyard during registration on day one, and an activity kit on the last day, but other than that, she mostly brought out coloring sheets. We were disappointed that the "dolphin" character never visited. I can't believe RC missed an opportunity to make $10 on a photo. I probably would have bought that one! Today's show was the Headliner show featuring Voices 3, and also the last showing of the ice show. I should mention here that on Sunday we attended the meet and mingle. The gift is still the passport holders. My husband was asked to draw a name for the raffle, and he drew his own, and won a great prize pack of logo merchandise. We met cruise directer Jimmy (who claims to read these reviews, so hi Jimmy, if you're really reading this)and he said to contact him if anyone needed help with anything, like if anyone needed ice show tickets, etc. Well, we had somehow missed the tickets being issued, so when we left the ship in Grand Cayman, Jimmy was standing near security, and I asked him how we get tickets, and reminded him of what he said at the meet and greet. He said to find him later on the ship, but also asked our stateroom #. The next day, he called our stateroom to see if we were "home", and personally delivered our show tickets. Pretty impressive! This was DD's first time seeing an ice show, and she was mesmerized. We enjoyed it, as always, and even got to talk to a few of the skaters that night in the hot tub. Lunch was a cheeseburger, fries,vegetable soup, and salad. Dinner was seafood salad, asparagus soup, lobster and shrimp with rice and broccoli, and the dessert sampler. Everything was excellent, except I didn't care for the rice, and only the chocolate portion of the dessert sampler is good. I wish they would change this dessert menu. It is lacking in comparison to the other nights, and has only 2 selections. Francis brought a second lobster and more shrimp and placed it on my plate before I could say no thank you (who am I kidding, I ate every bite!) I had also ordered a baked potato, of which he brought two because he said they were too small. Ate both of those too. (6 pounds in one week. I know you're wondering.) Friday we decided to go back to Johnny Rockets again for lunch. It was very crowded and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. There were groups of teenagers taking up tables just drinking Cokes since before we arrived that were still there when we left. The staff was trying to move them along to be able to seat other customers, to no avail. Today we had the grilled ham and cheese, the chicken club, and DD had chicken tenders (yes, they charged the cover charge for her.) We tried to use the BOGO free soda coupon from our Platinum book, but were not permitted to. Food was great again, but after so many fries and rings, I could barely eat half of my sandwich. Still got down that oreo sundae, though. Our last dinner was scallop risotto(the best item on any cruise menu, anywhere), insalata mista, garlic shrimp with asparagus and spinach, and warm chocolate cake. Francis saw me picking asparagus off of DH's plate last night, so had put some extra on my plate tonight, plus brought out (the very funny) vanilla ice cream which he recommended with the cake. Everything was outstanding. We tipped Francis and Jaromey extra in our "handshake", and they earned every penny. We informed them that we had mentioned them specifically in our comment card, and they said that they had just won 4 hours of time off because of the comment cards. I always wondered what became of those comments. Good to know. They also said that today was their last day on the ship, and they were going home, and did not know where they would be reassigned to. I was especially impressed to hear this, because I know I am not working at my best during that last week before my vacation! They were fantastic. We also tipped the Adventure Ocean staff. Service and food was extraordinary on this cruise. Thursday night the ship came to a stop off the coast of Cancun, to evacuate a person with a medical emergency. In light of the recent Costa tragedy, it was a little frightening to be walking outside and suddenly realize that we're not moving. No one had any information, and it wasn't until we saw the coast goard boat meet us that we started to figure things out. We learned from an AO staff member that someone had had a heart attack the night before, and needed to get more medical attention than the ship could provide, and we got the feeling that she wasn't really supposed to have told us that. I feel like the captain should have done a better job of keeping us informed. During the middle of the previous night, we were woken by a page of "alpha alpha alpha," which we later learned is the emergency signal for staff, and must have been the heart attack victim. There was also an "alpha alpha alpha" on Friday afternoon, which we heard was someone falling down the stairs on the pool deck. Hope everyone is now alright. Friday night we saw 5 ships at once sailing near us. That was pretty neat to see. It was also obvious when we hit the mouth of the Mississippi river (around 8:30pm). The weather cooled considerably, and even in the dark, we could see the water turning browner and browner. That was depressing! The party's over.
Misc: We were leery of taking a spring break cruise. We never really saw the crowds on the ship except on the Bball court, and the elevators, of course. This was also a "quilting" cruise, so there were quite a few people taking the elevator to go one floor, and quite a few kids hitting a button to get off then running to the next floor to get back on again. That clogged things up quite a bit. (all the fun stuff to do on the ship and they played in the elevators?) We never saw crowds in the WJ, except the last morning of course, and we left the crowded hot tubs in favor of the deserted gymnasium spa.
We loved our cabin location. We had an inside, cabin 6445, which was located off of a main hallway, on the same end of the ship as the WJ, our dining room, the BBall court, and AO. It was the perfect location, and very quiet. Many thanks to our neighbors, who we never heard. There was very little door slamming on this cruise. Our cabin steward was adequate, and gave us towel animals 5 nights, and helped me send out a dress to get pressed (a bargain at $3.) We had "rented" beach towels and hung them to dry in the bathroom, and he folded them up wet and laid them on the vanity chair, which I found odd, plus there was mildew in the shower all week, which was unusual.
I always look forward to watching movies on the cruise, and love that these ships have a screening room. We had already seen all the movies playing on this cruise: Zookeeper, Smurfs, Cowboys & Aliens, Harry Potter/Hallows 2, The Help, Transformers 3, Larry Crowne, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Jumping the Broom, Green Lantern, & Captain America. We did not see any of the production shows, as they seemed to be all involving the staff singers and dancers, and we never particularly care for those, plus past reviews have steered us away. It was obvious that all the entertainment budget is going towards Oasis and Allure.
Debarkation was a little confusing, as we could not hear the numbers being called, so once we finally decided to ask someone, our # had been called long ago. We were unable to find one of our bags in the terminal, and were starting to panic, as we had an 11:35 flight, and I don't normally like to book flights that early. Our bag ended up being held behind the sliding doors of the terminal with many other bags that they just didn't have room for. We looked through all the other numbered areas, then received help from a terminal officer, who after about 30 minutes, finally got permission to open the other warehouse, and allowed us to go on back to look for our bag. We lost an hour to this process, but he allowed us to go through customs in the "porter only" line, thankfully. The line for customs was LONG! We tipped him for this and appreciated his help very much. We ended up making it to the airport in plenty of time, even with "race weekend" traffic. An 11:35 flight was no problem.
We've been sailing Carnival lately, mainly because RC prices have increased so much, and because we are tired of sailing the same old stale itineraries (like this one.) That being said, this cruise was the best spring break price we could find, and we couldn't be choosy on itineraries with the date limitation. We wish RC would sail to more of the exotic islands from continental US ports, like they do from port of San Juan. In comparing cruise lines, we liked the Carnival Dream, but none of the other Carnival ships we've been on. They just can't compare to Voyager class ships, and RC has MUCH better food. We were so pleased with this cruise, and we did purchase the "next cruise" certificate.
Many thanks to all you cruise critics for all the great information that helps us plan our cruises.