Family of 9 travelled on the WC June 9-16 itinerary. Our group consisted of Grandma, my DH and 3 DD's (ages 5 and two 4 yr. old twins), and my DH's sister, husband and 9 yr., old son. Overall satisfaction was a 7.
EMBARKATION: We live 2 hrs. from the port so the embarkation process was very easy for us. However, it was sheer madness going right up to the lido deck to find food. We finally found a few tables out by the Sunset Pool at the aft end of the ship right between the Tandoori and the sandwich stations. Once our staterooms were ready at 1:30pm, the crowds dissipated and my stress level started to decrease.
STATEROOMS: We had 3 balcony rooms adjacent to each other on the 7th floor, starboard aft. Our steward, Inman, was great and he opened the balcony partition so we had a very long balcony. I got spoiled quickly! Our room was kept clean and there was tons of storage for my family of 5. The kids split up and stayed with grandma and aunt so the sleeping arrangements were not too crowded for us.
COZUMEL: We did the Everybody Loves Rays and had a blast. Lots of interaction with the stingrays and my 3 little ones were fascinated. We were pleasantly surprised that our 4 yr. old twins were free even though we paid through Carnival for this excursion. The staff of the Stingray Beach told us they were free and that we could get a refund at the Shore Excursion desk. I thought that was very honest of them because we would not have known had they not told us. We did get a $50 credit after all. Good thing because that paid for our picture CD that we bought from Stingray Beach photographer.
BELIZE: I stayed on the ship for this port. The rest of the family, sans my girls, did the zip line and cave tubing. I enjoyed having the ship to myself (practically). I took the girls to the pool and just chilled. It was perfect.
MAHOGANY BAY: Gorgeous place and easy debarkation. We did the Dolphin Encounter and Tabyana Beach Day. Dolphin Encounter was awesome. Since we were such a large group, we had the shuttle van to ourselves and once at the Dolphin place, we got paired up with our trainer Zach and Dixon the dolphin. Again, they had a photographer and yes, we bought the pictures. After the encounter, we were bused over to Tabyana Beach. At first, I thought, oh great, we are not going to find chairs for 9 people. However, once we reached the beach area, we were greeted by a "waiter" named Terry and he dragged over the chairs to a PERFECT shady spot and took our drink orders. He was like our personal concierge the whole day. Whatever we needed or wanted, he got for us. I did have a beach massage while there. It was $25 for 45 mins. A very large, strong Honduran lady with massive hands gave me the best 45 mins. of my cruise under the palm trees and strong breeze.
COSTA MAYA: My only agenda for this port was to go to Fernando's 100% Agave. We took a shuttle bus to the Malecon where it dropped us off right in front of Fernando's place. It was very "rustic", meaning a hole-in-the-wall. The food was awesome! We ordered, shrimp ceviche, fish tacos, beef tacos, and nachos. After we ate, we went down to little beachfront access in front of the restaurant for a few minutes. Since we were only in this port until 2 pm, we headed back and looked around the shops and watched the 18 yr. old kids get drunk at Senor Frogs.
Ok, here is my perspective on some of the ship's particulars:
FOOD: Many people talk about the quality, or lack thereof, of the food. Here is what it boils down to. The food is good, but it very different than what "we" are accustomed to. Keep in mind, that the chefs and food staff are not of US origin. Many foods we are used to eating are prepared with different spices. You are not going to get down-home southern grits and eggs. You gan get grits, but prepared by an Indonesian who has never had a grit in his life, let alone served with butter or cheese. A hot dog will not be a Ball Park frank. They do not serve Bubba burgers or Tostitos. The best meal I had was in the dining room. I ordered the filet and braised short ribs. It was awesome but not how my mama would fix it. If you expect to get that kind of meal, you will be disappointed. Chef's Art Steakhouse was very good. I was impressed and surprised to find Rosenthal Versace dinner plates. I wanted to smuggle some home in my purse, but they frown upon it. LOL. Pasta Bar was decent, but the pasta is served al dente, and I like mine cooked more thoroughly. Last word on the subject is Chocolate Melting Cake. Period.
POOLS: Small and not enough. Oddly, the hot tubs far outnumbered the pools. Weird.
SHIP LAY-OUT: Choppy. The Ship was at full capacity but never seemed that crowded because the ship is configured in a way were people were sort of tucked away here and there. I missed having a long inside promenade like RC has.
CAMP CARNIVAL: My kids were a little freaked-out the first 2 days, but by the end of the trip, they loved it. They had lots of activities and were given free t-shirts and hats to decorate and a nice hard cover book the day Fun Ship Freddy came to camp to visit. There are paid activities too, like build-a-bear, but I didn't get sucked into that.
STAFF: I never encountered any rude or unhappy staff. Being from the south, I am used to very friendly and talkative people. We call that Southern Hospitality. Again, because of the mix of ethnicities and some language barriers of the staff, don't expect too much. The "Hey Ya'll" and "tell your Mama I said hello", kind of reception or attitude is common among the heavy southern demographic of the passengers but not the staff. Rest assured the staff work like dogs to make sure the ship is clean, decks aren't slippery, and food is plentiful. I have the utmost respect for them and appreciate all they did to make sure I didn't have to lift a finger.
SUMMARY: This is a large ship with lots of people on it from almost every walk of life and every age. There will be kids running down the hall, people yelling and arguing in the cabin across the hall, smokers and drunks, college kids, old people and chair hogs. If you want a luxurious and quiet cruise, then either book a private yacht or sail HAL. If you can handle a week away without phones, cooking, cleaning, emails and laundry, then go for this cruise and have a great time. We did.