WHO WAS IN OUR GROUP -- 7 ADULTS 4 KIDS AGES OF KIDS 10,11, 14,15 ADULTS RANGED FROM 35-67 EMBARKATION: Tampa was great. I arrived about 10:45 paid a porter to take my bag and I had one carry on as suggested. (never needed it my luggage arrived soon after I did.) It took about 10 min to get through security and on to the check in. no line at all. I did my sign and sail and was in group 1 to board. it was so easy. they started boarding the ship about 11:35 and I went on board. I was meeting my other family members who drove up from there homes in fl. they were about 1 hour behind me- same wait time just a few people in line at check in in front of them. this process was quick and easy. I went right to my room to drop off carry on. (they told us to wait until 1:30) I tipped the person bringing ice to my cabin $5.00 for any inconvenience and was on my way to meet my family as they boarded.
FOOD -- We went to eat the buffet lunch they had for us and it was surprisingly good. It was not crowded and was very clean and tidy. Dinner the first night was great! we loved our waiter/s they were fun-tastic!!! Radu and Vio. I can't say enough about them and how much we really enjoyed them. we all tipped extra at the end. we even seen them in Cozumel and they recognized us( by name of course) and Radu bought my brother in-law a Corona. dinners were better than I had anticipated. a bit rushed. (early seating) the food quality was very good. the desserts were not that great. some were good and some were just okay. I did like the grand marnier souffle. We all loved the little singing shows they put on especially the kids. Breakfast needs some improvements. they had the same thing everyday. okay for 4 days but 7 would have been tough. We did afternoon tea one day and that was better than I had expected as well. Pizza was a favorite for the kids. 24 hrs. The appetizers at the captain's party were not that great.
COZUMEL: This was our only port. We liked being on the ship for 2 days at sea and 1 day in port from 7am -midnite. it was just the right mix. we got to fully enjoy cozumel and fully enjoy the ships activities as well with out feeling rushed anywhere. We all went to Paradise beach early in the day and spent the whole day enjoying all it had to offer. I can not say enough about this beach. thanks to all the info on these boards we found the perfect spot. The chicken burrito was the best I have ever eaten, and they brought it to you on your lounge chair. The kids and some adults had a ball on the Ice burg, even doing back flips off the top of it. It was well worth the 5.00 to get in and the cost of drinks and food. all of which was well worth it. We met people who bought the Beach excursions to other beaches for 75.00 per person and got hot dogs and open bar. we ate and drank like kings. for about 40.00 per adult. We went back to the ship and showered,changed and went to the buffet dinner on deck, then back into town. shopped a little, stopped for 1.00 corona's at a little bar in town (they were Ice Cold) and then on to Carlos and Charlies. that was much fun to be had even with Kids. we stopped by Fat Tuesdays (that's were we saw the waitstaff and crew having fun) then back to the ship. the kids went to a Camp Carnival slumber party. We went to The Lido Deck Party. it was a blast. (the Mexican midnight buffet was not that great.) The Mexican mama drinks were great. Then on to the casino. this was our best night by far. I brought ( from back home) lite cubes for our drinks and glowstick bracelets. We gave out the bracelets to people we had met and it made the out door party even more fun.
On a side note. Camp Carnival delivered the kids 10 and 11 yrs old to there cabins at 3 am after there slumber party. the fee was only 26.00 per kid from 10-3am it was wonderful. the kids enjoyed it very much and made new friends to play with on board during the day. they only did the camp at night. and enjoyed there new friend during the day on deck with all of us.
OVERALL GOOD THINGS: We loved the size of the ship and how easy it was to get around. The cabins were roomy enough and had lots of spaces to put things. The staff was great most of the time. (see below) Camp Carnival was a great tool for anyone with kids. Although the ship was full it never really seemed over crowded. The kids on board were well behaved as far as we could tell. never in the way or out of control. The casino did pay out. I personally saw a 1000.00 jack pot on wheel of fortune and a few 500.00 dollar ones on the same type machines. One guy got 4 of a kind on let it ride and 2 royal straight flushes on 3 card poker. the minimums were only 5.00 and it made it bearable to lose my money Much better than when I was in Vegas in January. Much more fun. The two shows were much better than I expected. They must have changed the lead in Shout from the boards I had read. The lead male was great!!!! he was as all American as you get! And the Latin American lead female was wonderful as well.
SOME disappointing ITEMS: The bar service in the Paris Lounge and some of the other lounges, was extremely Slow. If you didn't want a big bar bill it was great but if you wanted a drink it was very bad. I was surprised I thought they would be pushing the drinks at you. Breakfast was very weak, they needed more variety. Our friend's cabin steward was a slacker. Most of them were good but you can get some bad ones I suppose. The overall desserts on board were not that great. I couldn't get a bag of potato chips anywhere to go with sandwiches. Also the biggest thing they need improvement on is the sandwich area and pizza area should have more than one person working at a time. with 2000 plus people on board they should have more staff at these areas. There were only 6 -10 people in line but it went very slow due to only 1 person working. My family got there food and had it eaten by time I got a sandwich.
BEST CRUISE CRITIC TIPS: The dry erase boards. These helped so much with a group of 11 and 4 cabins. Not one board was stolen. Paradise Beach. AWESOME BEACH. (TOM WAS OFF BUT WE DIDN'T CARE.) Duct tape. I took it just in case and I actually used it to secure the magnets to the back of the dry erase board. they kept falling off. I was so glad I packed it. The clothespins for the shower curtain. The highliters for the Capers Lanyards for the sign & sail cards (although you can buy them in the gift shop.) Plastic ziplock bags.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: The beds were much more comfortable than I had expected. I didn't notice the ship to be as gaudy as others have described it. It was bright colors in some areas but it was not very noticeable or offending to us. Also as far as the elevators went. They were not that bad. somewhat worn and some scratches but I probably wouldn't have even noticed if people didn't point it out here on these reviews.
OVERALL: We had a great time. I would go again in a heartbeat. No vacation is ever perfect. But Carnival was better than I had expected and would cruise them again. It is a perfect family vacation. If you are looking for a romantic cruise for 2 this may not be for you. but it is definitely a Fun ship and I needed to sleep all day the day I returned.