This was my 2nd cruise in 2 years. Last year my wife and I went with the Holland America line for a 12 day trip in Europe. My teenage kids felt left out so we booked this Carnival cruise for 5 days to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We live within 2 hours of the Port of Tampa so we parked offsite at Premier Parking. It is only about 4 minutes from the port and the cheapest parking around. Use this link - http://www.longtermparking.com/COUPONS/cppremierportparktpa.htm to get 2 free days. It shows that it is expired, but it works. I dropped the family off first at the port (about 10:45 am) so I didn't have any luggage when I parked the car. The boarding process went very fast.
The food on the Holland America ship was 5 star quality. The food on Carnival was closer to a 2 or 3 star. That's not to say it wasn't good but don't expect to get jumbo shrimp or quality steak. There was a lot of food which is what my kids wanted. There were usually lines at every food station. The Mongolian wok usually took the longest, but it was very good. The Pizza station was open 24 hours. They had a station to get hot pastrami and corn beef sandwiches. I would put the meat on one half of the sandwich since they didn't exactly stack it on. It was very tasty. We had the early seating for dinner. There was no problem with ordering multiple appetizers or main courses. I was not overwhelmed with the choices, but you could always order the steak or salmon. Some of the sides included with the meals were small, but you could order additional sides which were larger portions.
The pools were generally crowded. They had a nice area called Serenity which had cushioned padded lounge chairs. Best of all, you needed to be 21 years to enjoy this area. The only negative at Serenity was there was no pool to cool you off, just 2 heated whirl pools.
If you liked sports, you could play basketball, ping pong, shuffle board, or miniature golf. You always had to check out any equipment which usually had a line.
The entertainment was non-stop. If you like to karaoke, you had plenty of opportunity. They had karaoke with a live band and karaoke from CD's. The Filipino band was great. Like the previous review, the band was fabulous. We were a little disappointed with the piano bar which usually is a highlight of our trip. He was an excellent musician, but he didn't seem to connect with anyone. To be honest, we only went in there once, but sometimes first impressions can do that. The comedians were good. They had family shows and shows for the 18+ crowd. They had 3 stage shows. The first was an introduction which I would suggest skipping. We missed the 2nd show which was a country themed show. I heard it was excellent. We did make it to the final show. It is definitely a must see. All the shows fill up quickly so I would suggest getting there early.
We booked a 9:30am excursion with Captain Marvin's to go to sting ray city and snorkeling. The cost was $35 per person. If you pay by credit card, it is an extra $3 per person. You need to book this ahead of time since it fills up fast. We all liked this. We brought an underwater camera and got some nice shots. They have someone taking pictures and will give them to you for $40. Also, you need to remember that you gain an hour at the ports of call, but the ship is always on east coast time. We did the most shopping in Cozumel. The locals are a little pushy, but you need to just have fun with them. Our family had a good time bartering down the price. We walked to Margaritaville restaurant. It is right on the ocean and you can jump in and cool off. They have a roped in area in the ocean with some fun plastic toys to climb on. The food was very good but a little pricey. We had a nacho appetizer which was stacked very high. We also had a free 9oz margarita. We did the ATV jungle and snorkeling excursion which picked us up right outside the restaurant. It was $85 per person and well worth it. Again, we booked this ahead of time with Orbitz.com. They only charged you $2.00 to rent a large locker. They will give you goggles for a small deposit. It is best to bring some sunglasses since the goggles were a little scratched. Also, bring a scarf to cover you face and old shoes that you can throw away. Make sure you bring a little camera to take pictures. Like the first excursion, they have someone taking pictures and will give them to you for $50. After we finished with the ATV, they took us to a beach to snorkel. They supplied the snorkel gear. It was like having a nice dessert after the main course. There were lots of fish right off the beach. On both excursions, we took some bread from the ship to feed the fish. (Bring plastic ziplocs from home) Take the croissants instead of the white bread. It holds up better in the water.
This cruise ship might not be a good fit for everyone, but for our family it was just what we needed.