Background: Myself and DH (early 60s). First Carnival cruise - several RCL, Celebrity, and Azamara cruises. Cruise only for the ports, not for the ship. The only reason we vacation in the Caribbean is to snorkel.
Mostly take land vacations but use cruises as a way to see places to which we have never been and check them out for future land/snorkel vacations. Selected this cruise solely on the fact that it went out of the US and stopped at Belize and Roatan. Have always wanted to snorkel in Belize and would not consider a land vacation there as shore snorkeling is pretty much non-existent in Belize. Wanted to return to Roatan (had stayed on the east end for a week a few years ago and had amazing snorkeling) to check out Infinity Bay Resort as a place to return for a week this June. Never been to Caymans and thought that would be interesting. Second time in Cozumel, both cruise stops.
TAMPA: Stayed two nights precruise and one night postcruise at the Embassy Suites Westshore/Airport. Good choice. Used the free shuttle to go to the International Mall for dinners; walked across the street to the Westshore Mall for lunches. In retrospect probably should have stayed precruise downtown just for something different as we had never been to the Tampa area. However, my research showed nothing that spectacular about Tampa - aquarium didn't interest us - and we didn't want to rent a car and go outside of the area. Once I saw the port downtown area - Channelside - from the ship, doesn't seem like much there anyway.
EMBARKATION: Took the Ship to Shore shuttle for $10 each. In retrospect would just take a taxi. We had to wait about 15 minutes for people to board, etc., but since this was our first time in Tampa decided to take the shuttle as we weren't sure how confusing the port area was. The driver tried to talk us into taking the shuttle back after the cruise but we opted for a taxi - only $5 more total. To take the shuttle back meant calling them, locating them, and then probably waiting around for all the other people to board. Arrived at the port around noon, got in a short line, and very shortly thereafter were on the ship. This was by far the fastest embarkation we have ever experienced.
SHIP DECOR: A lot has been written about the urn motif. Personally I like the glitz and gaudiness of cruise ships - reminds me of a mini Vegas hotel. However, this ship isn't so much about glitz and sparkle as darkness. I found all of the urns to look like cheap plastic and somewhat strange. However, who cares, really? What I noticed the most were the dark ceilings everywhere. With the lower ceiling height on the ship anyway, the dark finishes made for a very depressing atmosphere. I noticed it throughout the week - never got beyond the feeling that I was in a cave-like environment. The ship looked to be in fine condition to me, although I don't wander around looking for rust and peeling paint like some people seem to do. I just don't care as long as things are clean.
DEMOGRAPHICS: I selected this cruise date to specifically miss spring and Easter breaks. I know there were children on the cruise, but never noticed them running amok, etc. Variety of age groups with, as usual, 50s and older making up the majority. All I will say is that the majority of the people on this ship made for some interesting people watching.
STAFF: Absolutely no problems but didn't interact with too many of the crew. We don't drink, so we don't go to any of the bars. Wait staff were friendly enough and efficient. I can't exactly say why but I didn't have the same feeling of "happiness" or eagerness to please the customer as I have felt on our other cruises. Maybe part of that is that I have never had a cabin steward that I rarely saw. Our cabin was kept immaculate at all times and that is all I need or want, but usually we get to know the steward and I guess that just gives a feeling of knowing the staff in general. Always extra tip the steward but this time I didn't - never felt a connection - never even saw him at all the last day to give him a tip. Maybe it is to his credit that he didn't hang around the hallways hoping for tips or maybe the passengers on Carnival don't extra tip so why spend the energy getting to know people. Was strange.
CABIN: We were in 7251. Great location. Quiet, quiet, quiet. But, that can depend on your neighbors. Great location just steps from 6 midship elevators. Elevators always fast and usually empty. I'm not fussy about cabins. In fact, I love this standard size balcony cabin. I would never pay to upgrade for more room. I find this type of cabin very cozy and comfortable for two people. Yes, it would be nice to have a larger balcony with loungers but I wouldn't pay more just to have that. Now, we are smaller sized people so that might make a difference. Storage, bathroom, etc., same as in most other ships. Cabin steward, Ritho, was pleasant but didn't actually see him much. After the first day of noticing our habits - spend a lot of time in our cabin - when we left for our breakfast and dinner we always came back to a clean cabin.
FOOD: We are definitely not gourmet or snob eaters. Actually, to us a meal is not an event but just something we have to do. We just like simple good tasting food. At home, we eat at Outback, Ruby Tuesdays, local seafood places, etc. We usually prefer the buffets on ships due to convenience, variety, and the fact that a meal can be as quick as we want it to be. However, this ship had the absolute worst buffet of any ship on which we have sailed. Breakfast: Omelets were fine. Other than that, scrambled eggs were powdery and disgusting. Fruit all week consisted of cantaloupe and honeydew with pineapple occasionally making an appearance. We didn't have time on port days to eat breakfast in the MDR, but did so on every other day. The MDR breakfast was much better, scrambled eggs included. Still no fruit variety. Lunches: Only had one lunch in the MDR and it was good. Buffet lunches: good salad bar. Deli was very popular but had limited selections, IMO. Other choices were hit or miss. Really didn't have too many lunches there as we were in port four days and snacked around the other days. Dinners: After two nights in the buffet area, gave up and used our anytime dining to eat in the MDR. I felt that the buffet was terrible. I never was on a ship with such limited dinner buffet selections and all of the ships on which we have sailed were this size or smaller. So disappointing. We liked the fact that in the MDR we could always get a table for two along the railing which guaranteed that we would not be sitting on top of the next table for two as they can be lined up inches apart on some ships. In general found some of the food to be very good and then some so very bad. Stay away from anything that they call jumbo shrimp, for example. Looked and tasted like frozen popcorn shrimp. Ice cream machine: I do love ice cream. Never any ice cream in the buffet area - just this dreadful tasting 24/7 machine stuff. I kept wondering if no one on the ship had ever been to a DQ because people were eating this stuff like it actually tasted like ice cream. Was a watery ice crystal concoction. Didn't try the yogurt - maybe that was better. Pizza was pretty good. Used room service three times to get cookies and cheese cake and it arrived within five minutes.
SPA/GYM: Never go to the spa. Did use the gym twice. Really liked the layout of the exercise weight machines. The gym is in this three tier arrangement which at first seemed strange, but I liked that it made the machines appear to not be so close together. Had an area for three benches and free weights. I use dumbbells to do an upper body routine and was excited to see a 12-pound set of normal size dumbbells. It is difficult for me to use the typical black ones with such large weight plates at each end. Take your own bottle of water; water fountain didn't work, but I try to never use a water fountain anyway. Didn't see any water dispenser with paper cups. I always went in the mid afternoon on the sea days and it was very empty.
ACTIVITIES: Rarely attend ship activities but always read the daily schedule just in case something catches my eye. Seemed like the usual cruise ship stuff - but that is to be expected. I know that we always say we are bored on sea days; but really what else could they possibly come up with as activities? On some of other cruises there were enrichment lectures, etc., and we always found most of them interesting. Nothing enriching on this cruise. Didn't attend any activities.
CASINO: Only play slots a little each night for something to do. Took a limited amount of money and left at the end of the week with an empty envelope. Found the machines to be tight (nothing new, really) and therefore no motivation or fun to play. I don't expect to actually come out ahead at the end of the week, but it would be nice to win here and there to make it fun while the machine takes your money. To put $20 in and see it go in 2 minutes with rarely even winning $5 makes for no fun at all. The exception was one night where I got up to 85 credits ($1 machines) but cashed out at $60. Normally, I would have probably played it out for fun but with our experience with such bad odds the other nights, didn't bother.
ENTERTAINMENT: Went to the early Motown show as we are from that era. Found his song selections to be all pretty much ballad type songs - good singer - but just not very much fun, based on song choice. Said the second show would have different songs so maybe that was livelier. Jazz Hot (or something like that) was okay but we got bored two-thirds through and left. I felt the singers were above average for a cruise ship but the dancing reminded me of a high school production. Didn't bother to go to any other shows. Didn't go to see any of the comedians as they are later in the evening and I had read about the lines one has to stand in just to get a seat. We would like to go to listen/dance to 70s 80s music but we find on every cruise the music that we would like never starts until around 10. We are in bed by that time.
POOL: Never went to any of the pools; never even walked over to see the Serenity area. My husband is a smoker so sometimes we would sit on the Lido area for a while. I must say that the house band duo (man and a woman) were by far the worst cruise ship lido deck performers I have ever had to listen to. Her voice was okay - but loud and annoying. He stood there like he wished he was anywhere else. It was terrible. During sail-a-way I couldn't take it any longer and had to leave the area. I would have rather had canned music. One afternoon a guy with his acoustical guitar was singing some 70s and 80s songs and that was actually fairly enjoyable.
SMOKING: Great ship for a smoker. Once I decide on a trip/cruise, I spend way too much time each day on my computer reading CC or TA, etc. I check the boards several times a day for the latest posts. Interesting comment about smoking/smokers that I noticed. Most of our cruises have been on the RCL brand ships. If a person mentions smoking on those boards, the person is immediately blasted and most posters fervently hope that the person doesn't end up on the ship at all and flat out tells them to please not sail on RCL - very self-righteous attitudes. The person gets post after post of anti-smoking lectures. On the Carnival boards, however, if someone posts a question about posting, most people are right with them - no complaining - no anti-smoking posts, actually encouraging a "let's all smoke attitude." As a matter fact, people will actually make comments about how they will smoke and the heck with their neighbors. Well, I don't smoke, but my husband does so I like to book a balcony on which he can smoke, but he is perfectly willing to go up to the lido deck if balcony smoking isn't permitted. There were smokers on each side of our balcony and there were smokers everywhere on the smoking side of the lido which is the ENTIRE one side of the ship. To me, the difference in attitude in the CC posts tells you something about what to expect on board and I was very interested to see if I was right - and I was.
DISEMBARKATION: We were in zone 9 and were called around 10. Quick, short line. Got a porter which always ensures a quicker exit from the terminal. In a taxi right away and off we went.
PORTS: Primary goal was to snorkel in each port. Wanted to maximize our time in the water at each port. Have tried the ship excursion snorkel trips mostly to be stuck on very crowded cats and boats being kicked in the face by too many people with minimal time in the water. On our recent cruises have used mostly non-ship excursions with much better results - sometimes even paying for just the two of us to be taken out. That is where I prefer to spend my money as that is why I'm there in the first place. So, here is what we did:
COZUMEL: Booked a three-stop snorkel trip with Mystic. Almost was a problem because of the time differences. I had everything worked out and even had a buffer time due to Coz being one hour behind ship time and the Legend always stays on ship time throughout the cruise. BUT, the time to arrive was changed from 8 when I booked the cruise to 9 somewhere along the line that I didn't know about until the night before we arrived in Coz. We had to be at the marina by 8:30 local time, which meant I had to be off the ship at 9. All the ship excursions met in one location and all of the rest of us were strictly roped off and not allowed to exit the ship until all the ship excursion people were off (hundreds of people). It wasn't looking too good for us. I snaked my way up to the front of the roped off area and talked to one of the "guards" keeping all of us from not getting into the excursion line of people. I showed her my documents and explained how the ship had changed arrival times after I had booked my cruise, etc. She finally took pity on me and allowed us to merge in with the ship excursion people and we got a taxi and made it to the marina by 8:25 local time. I'm sure when she let us into that line, there was a minor riot as people were really not happy to be held back. Anyway, turned out that there were just three of us on this trip (one person from The Glory which was in all of our ports with us). We went to a nursery area and there was a lot of interesting fish life to see - we stayed for about 30 minutes. We then went to the Colombia reef and did about an hour drift snorkel. It was amazing. Great snorkel; great reef; too many types of fish to mention or remember. Then another 45 minutes at the Palancar Reef - different - beautiful reef formations but not nearly as many fish. Best part was that we never had to swim back to the boat. Roswitha just waved for her boat captain to come to us. Great snorkeling with LOTS of time in the water - 30 minutes in and out - 2 1/2 hours of snorkeling. This is definitely a snorkel trip - no drinking, etc. Just what I wanted.
BELIZE: Booked a snorkel trip with SeaSports Belize. My husband and I were the only snorkelers; there were about 9 divers. This is the trip that I agonized over the most as I was very worried about the two-hour time difference between ship and local time. I even took our passports and credit card with us in case we missed the ship. Linda communicated fast via email and did her best to reassure me, even giving my email to another person on my ship so we could meet and the three of us walk to the dive shop together as she was as nervous about the time as I was. Turned out that everyone on the excursion was either from the Legend or the Glory so I felt confident that we would be brought back to the tender dock on time but still it was on my mind most of the day. The snorkeling was excellent. Linda was our snorkel guide and we were in the water for at least an hour. Then the divers returned to the very little "deserted island" and we had lunch while the divers had their interval time. Then the divers went off for more diving and my husband decided to just hang out on the tiny spit of sand and relax. This meant that I went snorkeling with Linda for another hour. What a fun time I had locating things to see. It was wonderful. We actually made it back to the tender dock about 45 minutes before the deadline - so no worries at all.
ROATAN: We were really looking forward to this port. We hired a private driver through Victor Bodden. Walked over the hill to the spot where the drivers were waiting for their customers. Easy to find; my husband has some hip issues and he wasn't thrilled about the walk but it wasn't that bad - it was almost worse dodging the road traffic. We had Ronald as our driver and he did an excellent job. We only wanted to see the West End and West Bay areas as we were hoping to return in a month for a week's vacation. We were supposed to also have a one-hour snorkel boat trip, but Ronald couldn't find the boat. He did say that we could find one some other person/boat, but we declined. We asked him to take us to Infinity Bay Resort as that is the place we wanted to stay when we returned. He took us into the reception office and the extremely nice woman there took the time to show us three different units - beautiful place - would definitely stay there. BUT, we wanted to stay there because of the supposedly great shore snorkeling in front of the resort. We stayed two hours and snorkeled in front and all the way to the left of the resort down at Tabyana and to the rock wall. Absolutely terrible snorkeling; I was so disappointed. Now we are very experienced snorkelers and we know how conditions can change, etc. However, this was an absolutely clear, sunny, not windy day with excellent visibility. Also, with the cruise ships in, the cruisers are right next door and many are snorkeling and in the water naturally. We did swim quite a ways out past the kayak guards and still didn't have any decent snorkeling. So, we had Ronald take us back to the port, walked around the shopping area that Carnival built and made it back on board with a few minutes to spare. So, we won't be returning to Roatan.
GRAND CAYMAN: For this port I decided to go with a ship excursion just because it was our last port and another tender situation. Also I had difficulty finding a private excursion that didn't include sting rays and would work with our late arrival time. Booked the Wreck and Reef snorkel which was supposed to leave at 11. When our tickets arrived in our room the time had been changed to 2. We had never been to this port, so we decided to tender in and just walk around the area and do a little souvenir shopping. Found a few shops out of the immediate cruise area. Went back around 1:15 to wait for our excursion to start. Meanwhile we saw two other snorkel type Carnival excursions lining up ready to leave and there were just soooo many people in each group. We were told to wait until 1:45 and we would be on our way. When we went back, we were told that the captain had called with boat trouble and the excursion was cancelled. That was very disappointing because - no snorkeling! There was a Carnival person standing there with her sign saying "Reef/beach snorkel" but that excursion was leaving at 2 and was completely booked - no wonder with the huge group of people milling around. Then I saw another Carnival person with a sign "Shore snorkel" or something like that. I asked about that one and she said it was leaving at 2 and was available. We decided to just do that one. I was a little ticked at the Carnival shore excursion organization person, however, because she kept trying to get us to go on the "luxury yacht snorkel" that also left at 2 but cost about $100 per person rather than the $40 per person I paid for the shore trip. She never mentioned the shore trip to me I only noticed the person with the sign. Anyway, it turned out to be just 6 of us and the taxi drove us a few blocks away to Foster's dive shop. We snorkeled up to Eden's Rock and then snorkeled back. Our snorkel guide was fantastic and it was very good snorkel lasting over an hour with pretty much to see. We enjoyed it.
CONCLUSION: After being on the Legend I would never cruise on a Carnival ship again unless it was the only cruiseline stopping at the ports to which I want to go AND the fact that there are many places in which my husband can smoke - casino, balcony, huge area on lido deck, so that makes my life easier and less stressful. Nothing bad happened, but the atmosphere is depressing, buffet terrible and food in general very hit or miss, entertainment subpar, etc.