We left NJ for Ft. Lauderdale on Friday and stayed at the lovely Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Beach hotel. Had dinner at Lulu's nearby and it was very good. Spent Saturday morning between the beach across from the hotel and the hotel pool.
Early afternoon we turned in our rental car outside the port and got a ride to the ship. VIP embarkation had only a few people in line so very quickly we were at the check-in counter. Carnival has a new computer system and you need only hand over your passport at check-in; no other documents needed anymore.
We had an aft balcony cabin and also two balcony cabins all near each other on deck 7. I liked our large balcony and the cabin was good as well.
Having sailed this class of ship several times already, we skipped our front to back on every deck walk-around.
Muster was around 4 I think. Sailaway was after Oasis and Constellation, around 5:40pm.
My toddler nephew was traveling with our family and he spent a little time at Camp Carnival for the younger kids. He seemed to enjoy it.
Dining room food (we had aft Posh restaurant early dining) was very good; we always found something we liked though we skipped a few nights of dinner there. Lobster was very good. The waiter does make an effort to address you by name every time. Our dining room bar waiter learned I like extra limes with my mojito and made sure I got them each time, which I appreciated. The buffet had good food for the most part. Tried a burger from the grill too, yum. We had Indian food the last sea day and wished we had eaten there sooner. Pizza is just ok. A few in our group liked the chocolate melting cake, which has a good flavor but I prefer my cakes fully baked. Had breakfast at the buffet, dining room, and via room service and all were good.
Doing laundry costs $3 for wash and $3 to dry; the dryer cycle is very long at 90 minutes.
We went to the food demo in the Sun King Steakhouse and the samples ended up being sufficient for lunch. Also in the SK was a wine pairing/tasting which we attended and enjoyed as well.
Others in my group frequented the coffee stand and liked the various coffee drinks they had (not free).
Only a couple production shows; we went to the first night's variety show only. Saw 2 of the comedians; 4 different ones are on the ship at various times. Other music venues around the ship in the evening too. Trivia games, and of course bingo. Enjoyed the outdoor movies a bit too.
I like the photo opps. Not only on formal night but other nights as well various backgrounds are set up and we have gotten some informal photos done that were great. Try a couple backgrounds though as sometimes the photos are not quite clear. Also there were guys taking photos at Grand Turk so we got a nice one with the ship in the background too.
Carnival TV has a lot of stations. Though the directory shows CBS, it is actually CW on that channel. CBS not to be found. My favorite channel is the bridge cam! A movie was usually playing, I remember seeing Harry Potter and also Meryl Streep as The Iron Lady a couple times as I surfed through the channels.
Ports of Call:
Grand Turk. Planted ourselves on the beach near the ship in the shade. Water was wonderfully warm and clear, though the sand and beach is a bit rocky. We did wander down the beach a bit and buy beer and soda at the nearby stand on the beach. The couple margaritas we got at Margaritaville had the artificial sweetener aftertaste. Lots of people using the pool here too.
Dominican Republic. We had a tour through Seavis (thank you Magda!). We met up outside the port and 2 vans took us to 2 boats. After all of us squished onto these boats I have to say I was wondering what I had agreed to. The seats are 2x2 across the boat width and very small seats with not a lot of legroom. We boated off to some cliffs and a nature preserve (viewed from the water) and the guide explained about the wildlife. Stopped by some mangroves and then headed to Saona to the beach. Snorkeled, swam, lunched. Note there are shops nearby but the packaged coffee prices we paid there were about the same as the shop at the port shop (I'd buy it there next time). We stopped at a sandbar to check out the many starfish and then headed back for our ride back to the port.
Aruba. (2pm-11:30 time in port) We took a taxi to Palm Beach. Note when you arrive at the Radisson you walk down an alley to the beach. A man approached us about renting chairs to the right, telling us we cannot use the hotel's chairs. (We later learned you could use the hotel's chairs if no other guests needed them.) $25 to rent an umbrella for a few hours! Around 6pm or so most people had left the beach, and it was just lovely there as it got quieter and the sun started to set.
Curacao. We rented an Avis car in advance. Got off the ship and found Avis booth at the dock area, but still had to wait about an hour to get the car as there was only one person in the office and each person in line to rent took at least 15 minutes to fill out the paperwork. So if you have 3 people ahead of you, you'll be there an hour. We had limited time in port and had just lost over an hour since there was already a line when we arrived. Once we got our vehicle we drove around a bit (trying to follow a detour to the main road) and eventually (and happily) ended up at Cas Abou beach which was a beautiful sight after a trek down a dirt road! We were greeted by a large iguana in the middle of the road. $7 entrance fee for our party of 6. We ate at the restaurant there too and had some cocktails. Chairs are $3 to rent and include a ticket for a one minute outdoor shower. A bit rocky on the beach and some rocks in the water, but the water was beautifully crystal clear. We also stopped at a supermarket and picked up some water, Coke, snacks. We like to check out local items. They had the coffee I had bought in the Dominican Republic for less than I paid there! A day nicely spent and I wished we had some more time there. A quick rain shower just as we got into the car to head back to the port.
Then two glorious days at sea.
Issues with Carnival:
Balcony doors slamming. If my balcony door doesn't slam (I was so happy it didn't), why can't all be reset NOT TO SLAM!!! Or perhaps people could be more MINDFUL of this and not let their door slam!!!
Bacon police. I will eat the 2 pieces I choose myself; I won't eat most of what the "police" put on my plate. How is this not more wasteful?
Chair hogs. BUT this is the first cruise ever where I saw an attendant take things off a chair and heard them say that they knew the people had not been back for an hour. Maybe the start of a trend?
Mongolian Grill takes way too long.
Loved the cruise, our balcony, the waterslide, the itinerary, time with family and friends. Sadly got ready to leave the ship. Cleaning out the fridge I found a Turk's Head beer and not wanting the hassle of packing it, we popped it open and 3 of us shared it. Debarkation seemed a bit delayed; I think the first groups of self-assist headed out around 7:30, and the first numbers were called around 8:30. Didn't want the trip to end so I had a margarita at Chili's in the airport around 11am!