We selected this cruise mostly because of the length and itinerary. We did not want to cruise one of the huge megaships. We last cruised on Carnival with the Carnival Splendor on a Spring Break trip to Mexico with the kids 3 years ago and loved it. My parents (whose 50th anniversary we were celebrating) are avid cruisers, but typically cruise more upscale lines. We had kids of all ages (6-20) with us, so we wanted something that would appeal to everyone.
Embarkation-we arrived the night before and stayed at the Hyatt House at the airport. With a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite for each family it was great. My parents had arrived a couple days ahead of time and shuttled us over to the port 1 family at a time on Saturday. By the time my family got there at 2:30, there were no lines and we walked right to check-in and on the ship! We had packed a variety of boxed wine, wine bottles etc...and had no problems getting it on in the luggage.
Cabins-we had 4 balcony cabins next to each other. I had one sister with an inside across from us. I didn't remember the cabins being so small! We did manage to get everything put away. My 3 boys were sharing the cabin next door and it was tight! Teeny bathroom, but it was fine.
We are avid excercisers and I was very disappointed in the fitness area. Only the treadmills had their own tvs and it was always packed in the mornings until at least noon. There was a paltry selection of small hand weights that I usually use for my workouts. The windows are placed below the equipment which doesn't allow for much visibility. Not my favorite workout area!
The itinerary of this ship was great. I wish we spent more time in Grand Turk. My husband and 2 older boys went on a catamaran snorkeling trip which they enjoyed. My 9 year old and I walked along the beach and got lawn chairs below "Local Tavern"-yes, that was the name, and enjoyed the crystal blue water and fine white sand.
Dominican Republic was raining when we docked. At first they announced that many excursions were canceled, but then they rescheduled. I had scheduled a day at "Dreams Resort" in La Romana. I had made arrangements for the resorts van to pick up our party of 12, but they were no where to be found. We got a taxi there and my lawyer brother-in-law negotiated a reduced day rate for us to make up for the higher taxi rate and mix-up. We had a beautiful day at Dreams-it's all inclusive with drinks, food, activities, great beach area. I highly recommend.
In Aruba, my parents and sister went exploring, my family and my sisters family took a taxi to the Hyatt (I'd been there before) we hung out at their beachfront and enjoyed Palm Beach. We took a really fun banana boat ride from a local vendor for $20 pp.
Curacao is one of my favorite islands. It is so clean and colorful. We went walking around, crossed the pedestrian drawbridge and saw some of the sights. We visited the synagogue there that is the oldest in the western hemisphere. My 9 year old was very interested in this. Great shopping in Curacao.
The kids all seemed to have a good time at the kids clubs for their respective ages. My 17 year old had fun in club O2 and came home several days in the wee hours. The activities for the younger set was good as well. My 20 year old had the most difficult time. There were no "mixer" activities for the very young adult crowd and he is shy about meeting new people. I wish there was some organization for that age.
We had anytime dining and we had a great table for 12 in the Lincoln Dining Room. Our servers were great and soon learned what everyone liked. They always had extra chocolate chip cookies ready for the little kids. They were also great about serving them first and accommodating our needs to get them to the kids club or to a show they wanted to see. Food was just OK. We're not big foodies, but some things were just not great. My 17 year old did try alligator fritters! Pretty good! Didn't like the every night singing by the wait staff, it didn't relate to the ports or the themes. There were also no "Grand Entrances" with flaming deserts or anything prepared tableside. Missed that.
Shows-OK-a little bit cheesy and worn out. My 9 year old son enjoyed.
Our family loves trivia, many times it was held in a long open bar area next to the casino. Never enough space and it was so spread out it was difficult to hear, especially with the casino noise. I wish it was in a more enclosed space.
Debarkation-my family had a 10:20 flight out of Miami. We did the self-carry luggage and got off the ship early at 7:20. Breezed through customs and were at the airport by 8:00 a.m. The rest of the family left later because they had later flights out of Ft. Lauderdale.
All in all, it was a good cruise. Our family had fun, the ports where great. Would I cruise Carnival again? Not sure? I think I like a bit more of an upscale experience.