After much pressure from the spouse based on numerous family recommendations we booked our first cruise.
Local cruise travel agent (fellow curler) listened to our needs/wants and booked us on the Carnival Dream out of Port Canaveral for a 7 day Eastern Carribean cruise.
Overall the experience was great and we will be cruising again (shortly i'm told!).
In no particular order here are my observations.
1) will fly down the day before sailing and stay local to the port. We had no problems flying in the day of sailing and driving to Port Canaveral but it required us getting up at 2:30 am to head to the airport. Made for a grumpy and sleepy family the first night.
2) Rented a car and drove to P Canaveral. Would recommend this over the shuttles but take the 13.95 gas if driving 75 miles or less option. its worth it and cheaper. Also get a Taurus - huge trunk for all the bags.
3) Boarding process was painless. Went as fast as can be expected and was well organized. Got on the boat at 1:30 and straight in to our room.
Saw all kinds of Noise warning posts about our room 11230. Gym is right above it. We did hear some thumping from the gym. I used the gym every morning at 6:30 am and most users were considerate. it is not the dumbells being dropped that make the big thumps, its the machines when someone drops the stack as opposed to lowering it slowly. Loved the room location and the Spa access. Wife and I used the steam room, heated recliners, therapy pool every day. Fantastic ! Room was great for access to the Lido deck pool. walk down hall to end and out sliding door then down the steps to the pool. Gathering buffet was right there along with pizza and hot dogs/burgers. No hesitation to book this room again.
1) buffet lines were fine. never had to wait more than 4-5 minutes.
2) buffet food was warm at best. Okay, filled you up but.....
3) Pasta bar was a favourite. food seemed hotter and was very tasty.
4) Wife loved the grilled rueben from the deli at the back of the boat.Good grilled ham/cheese also.
5) Main dining room was fine. Did dine anytime which is definitely the way to go with kids due to the flexibility. Same food as buffet but with a little more class. Alex was fantastic and people waited to get seating just to be in his area. By far the best crew member we experienced. Have a riddle ready for him !
6) Steak House - worth the 30 bucks each as a dinner without the kids. Steaks fantastic. Cheese cake "slice" was insane in size. Wife ordered cheese sampler and we had enough cheese for 3 people ! Waiters tried hard but need to refine their game to take it to a higher level which they seem to be promoting. Wine Steward should be engaging guests to recommend wines/pairings not just basically taking drink orders.
7) Breakfast was fine but nothing to get excited about.
8) Go for the barbecue on deck five if you want a fresh juicy burger or chicken burger. line up can be big but moves fast. Most people didn't find it until the last few days of the cruise.
Lots of tread mills and elipticals. Life Fitness equipment. Touch screens need to be calebrated on a lot of them. Only minor complaint is you can't see out the window right in front of you when you are on the machines. Your sight line is cut off below the top of the window level. Dumbells up to 50 pounds with rubber mat floor and two adjustable benches. Excellent selection of work out machines.
Took a while for the kids to warm up to it. staff was okay. Seemed to be tolerating the kids versus actively engaging/motivating them. Scavenger hunt was the big hit as was the 3 am night owl event (extra cost). Our kids had sign in/out privileges and used the camp every day.
Did not get off in Nassau. Made for quiet time on ship with absolutely no lines for anything.
Did the Snuba in St Thomas. Booked through Carnival. Shuttle drive to and from Snuba was disorganized but got us there. Blame the cruisers for most of it. Snuba was definitely better than helmet dive. Kids loved it. The other activities at the site were lame at best.
St Maarten. Wife and daughter got off ship to do shopping. Said the city was lovely and worth it. Jewelry very expensive. Chocolate shop way over priced. Water taxi way to get to and from the dock.
- did 3 loads of laundry on ship. Machines are 3 bucks a load and you use your sign & sail card so no quarters ! took tide pods and some bounce and it worked great. Only one other person used it that I could tell. Will pack less next time and just do a few loads
- We followed the Oasis of the Seas from port to port. Man is that thing huge. Rock climbing walls, zip lines, aqua theatre etc.. Maybe next cruise ?
- Saw 6 dock runners from the Oasis who missed the boat in St Maarten ! 20ish girl looked like she was about to dive in and swim after the boat. Hope they took their passports and some plastic with them. Bet it was expensive to fix that problem ! Was told by one of the Carnival staff we left someone in Nassau and it happens every cruise. Don't use your cell phone for time as it will adjust to local time while the ship stays on Florida time ! Good point to remember.
- Casino was fun but luck was not with us. Some guy hit for 22,000 on one of the slots one night so big excitement. half the Casino is smoking which is a bit of a joke as the smoke definitely doesn't follow the rule to stay on its half !
Thats a lot of words to say we had a fantastic first cruise and will be doing it again.