My family consists of myself, 35, in very good physical health, my wife, 35, good physical health, and our daughter, 8.
Saturday 4-28 (Arrival in Ft Lauderdale) - Windy and Chilly
Sunday 4-29 (Embarkation) - Heavy rain and cold
Monday 4-30 (Key West) - Warm and sunny until 12pm, then heavy rain on and off
Tuesday 5-1 (Sea Day) - Perfect, 85 and sunny
Wednesday 5-2 (Grand Cayman) - Perfect, 85 and sunny
Thursday 5-3 (Ocho Rios) - Warm and sunny until 930am, then heavy rain on and off
Friday 5-4 (Sea Day) - Perfect, 85 and sunny
Don't stay at the Extended Stay America on 17th Street. The shuttle service is a joke, we ended up taking a cab from the airport to the hotel because the shuttle "wasn't available". The next morning, we were scheduled to be on the 11am shuttle to the port, but it didn't arrive until 11:45am.
Embarkation - We arrived around 12:15pm. Traffic was a mess, but the terminal was pretty simple. There were a lot of people there, but the lines were moving rather quickly. We were on the ship and eating lunch by 1pm. We finished lunch, headed to the room to check it out, then explored the ship some more. Our luggage arrived before the muster drill at 4pm. Nice relaxing evening after dinner.
Ship Layout - Odd. You have to constantly go up a deck or down a deck to get to certain parts of the ship. They could also do a better job with the signs. They used a fluctuating LED sign for the room names which was hard to read. They also need to mark the decks better near the stairs. We used them a lot and were constantly confused as to which floor we were on. The pools were also very oddly laid out. Let me explain. There are 4 pools. A kiddy pool near Camp Carnival, a pool near the bottom of the slide, the main pool, and an aft pool (adults only). The only pool that was covered during inclement weather is the adult pool. If your child wanted to swim during bad weather, you are out of luck.....
State Room - Our Ocean View Room was very nice. Plenty of storage and a nice layout. No clock of any kind, no iron, and only 1 small laundry string to hang wet clothes were our only complaints. If you wanted to use the iron, you had to go down to the laundry room and use a community iron, which was in pretty bad shape. There was only 1 plug in the main room and 1 plug in the bathroom.
Camp Carnival - We were a little disappointed with Camp Carnival. Let me explain..... I was told by the staff that there were only 600 kids on our cruise. They said that on average there are 900-1300 kids on that ship. Our best guess was that they made an adjustment to all of the ship's activity schedules accordingly. Not only was the Camp Carnival schedule funky, the whole activity schedule seemed skewed towards an adult's liking. We took our daughter to 2 planned activities at Camp Carnival during the first 2 days, neither of which were done. After that, we just took her there when she knew some of the other kids she played with where there. A lot of the activities were planned during our dinner schedule or just too late in the evening. It was really odd. Camp Carnival really just seemed like a mediocre day car that had a bunch of gaming systems set up and some coloring books for them to use. (6-8 age group).
Food - Something else we were pretty disappointed in. We had dinner at "The Posh" every night thinking the food would be better than the Lido deck (buffet). Sure, you could order 3 starters, 5 entrees, and 43 desserts if you wanted to, but when they were all bland, what's the point? We are not food snobs at ALL, but I know the difference between a New York Strip and a Fillet. On the "elegant nights" the food was rumored to be better than the rest. We had the exact opposite thought. The lobster was pretty bad and the steaks were tough. The breakfast buffet wasn't bad, but the only way to get real tasting eggs was to wait in the long line to get an omelet. The rest tasted like powdered eggs. Lunch was OK, but it was way too busy. It took 45 minutes to get your food and sit down, once you finally found an empty table. After finding the deli that made the paninni type sandwiches, I was marginally satisfied.
The 24 hour ice cream cones, pizza, and cheeseburgers was actually pretty cool.
Drinks - The OJ, Lemonade, and Iced Tea were all VERY good. I was afraid they would be cheap and undrinkable, so I purchased an "Endless Bubbles"' card (free soda). $43 waste of money, I drank lemonade the whole week. Alcohol was EXPENSIVE. $7 for a beer, $10 for a martini, and $6 for a kids smoothie. Wow.
Entertainment (Movies) - The sea side theater movies were a joke. Tina Turner Concert? Lord of the Rings (part 1)? Field Of Dreams? The first Superman? Seriously? What a waste of a good opportunity.
Entertainment (Music) - For the 2 sea days they had a Jamaican band playing on the Lido deck (pool area). I can only handle so much of that genre of music. It would have been nice to mix it up a bit. In the evenings they had a Latin group playing in the casino, which was a lot of fun. The 70's club played all kinds of music depending on the schedule.
Entertainment (Shows) - DO NOT MISS THE SHOWS. Jump, Jive, and Wail was great along with Ticket to Ride. The comedians were hit and miss.
Entertainment (Activities) - They did do some fun stuff throughout the day. Bingo (pay to play), battle of the sexes, hairy chest contest, Mr. and Mrs. Freedom contest, dance lessons, digital picture scavenger hunt, etc. Good time if you could make it to the event, but we were usually either eating or had something going on.
Staff - AMAZING. Tip well, these people do one hell of a job. We were blown away by the service we received. Everyone who we interacted with new our names after the first day and remembered everything about us.
Ports of Call:
Key West - We did a Jet Ski Tour with Fury Water Sports first thing in the morning, I absolutely recommend it. They do a fantastic job. After our tour, it started to rain on and off. We jumped in a cab and headed to the Southern most point for a cheesy picture. We then walked up Duval Street to catch some lunch at a quaint little French spot, which was fantastic. It started to rain pretty hard as we headed up Duval back towards the ship. We were suppose to go para-sailing with Fury Water Sports, but the rain ruined that so we just headed back onboard.
Grand Cayman - Our favorite day of the cruise!! We booked Stingray Sailing to take us to Sting Ray City and snorkeling. When we got to Sting Ray City (a sand bar) we saw the other tours booked by the cruise line. 40-60 people herded like cattle. We only had 7 people on our tour!! My daughter and wife were little scared of the sting rays, so they stayed on the catamaran while I jumped in the water with the rays. After the rays, we went snorkeling at a near by coral reef. My daughter LOVED it. We had some much fun as a family. After the tour, they dropped us off at a recommended Caribbean restaurant for some authentic food. We then walked on 7 Mile Beach to the Royal Palms Hotel and swam a bit before hopping in a cab back to the ship. ($4 per person) Our next cruise will absolutely go back to Grand Cayman and will for sure include a tour with Stingray Sailing.
Ocho Rios - We hired Courtney Taylor as our guide in Jamaica. He did a fantastic job. You can read my review in his thread here on Cruise Critic. We did the Dunn's River Falls and Calypso Rafting. DRF was beautiful and fun. The girls loved it! After the falls it started to rain, which pretty much ruined the rafting. The river was cold and murky. It was also in a bit of a scary part of town, so I was instantly not impressed. After the rafting, we were all cold and just wanted to go back to the ship. We were back on board by 11am. We will probably not make any plans to go back to Jamaica. Just not our thing.
Over all it was a great vacation. It had it's good times and disappointing moments. Don't get me wrong, we LOVED the cruise and will absolutely go on another one. We may end up trying a different cruise line just to see the differences. Since we will always take our daughter with us, we would like to explore a ship that is more catered to kids.