EMBARKATION: We arrived at the terminal somewhat early about 12:00 p.m. The security screening line moved pretty quickly. The terminal staff handed out letters to the early arrivals stating that the cabins/staterooms would not be accessible until 1:30p.m. , to give stewards enough time to clean them. After the screening you wait in another line to show your passports/birth certificates & ID. This line moved fairly quickly also, but then again we were early. This is also where you will receive your sail & sign card and present your credit card or cash deposit for your ship account. Our check-in person was very friendly and personable. She did suggest that if I were to cruise again (not having a passport) , I would need a document that had both my maiden and married name (marriage lic.). She said this time it was not a problem, but to be aware that I would need it for future cruises. I have also just heard that passports will be required by 2008 I think. Then on to have our "welcome aboard" photo taken and then to have an individual photo (by machine) taken with your sail & sign card. This is the way they are able to ID you as you reboard in port.
SHIP: Very nice and clean, bar staff in the atrium very friendly and helpful. We purchased 2 of our boys a 'soda card' shortly after we were on board. There was a bit of wear in areas; elevators, carpeting, cabin windows & bedding are all that stick out in my mind, but these ships run constantly. Found it a little confusing trying to get to the Inspiration dining room. Pool is kind of small, my kids hardly used it....too salty!! Most of the bars/lounges are easy to find and nice. We did not spend a lot of time in them, except the Mikado Lounge where the shows were. We got a drink and wandered around until 1:30 when we could get into our cabin. Luggage is not delivered until evening time, so take with you what you will want when you board (carry-on). Nothing too big as you will have to lug it around until you get access to your cabin. I noticed some brought or wore their swimsuit to take advantage of pool time. This was great for kids!! The 'muster drill' (with life vest) was okay, just put them on (YES....ON) and follow instructions as they are announced.
CABIN: We were in R57. It was clean, just a few smudges here & there, nothing major to grip about. They are small. We had a window, which was great, a little rusty with hard water/salt deposits. It was awesome to watch the ships wake and the waves. Closet/Storage space was sufficient. I was not impressed with the safe accessibility for locking. Who ever locks it with their 'sail & sign' card is the ONLY card that will unlock it. A little inconvenient sometimes.
CREW: Almost all were very pleasant and helpful. Our steward 'Sentana" was awesome, very friendly and personable. He went out of his way for us several times and made it a point to remember the kids' names. Cruise Director and activities staff were funny and entertaining. Most of the bar & cook staff were nice too, did not talk too much. Dining room servers were also very nice. Here & there were a few staff that were not as personable. My only complaint is with the purser's desk. One evening, about 6:30, my youngest began to run a fever and I wanted to take his temp. before giving him any meds. I had not brought along a thermometer and asked the desk if they could help me find one. (I even had to explain to her what a thermometer was) They did not have one and could not help me, told me the doctor was gone for the day. They would call him for me, but he might charge me, so we left. I realized later (after 8:00) that the infirmary was open until 8:00p.m. Don't know if they had a thermometer or not. I recommend you take one with you.
FOOD: For the most part it was good. Burger & fries from the poolside buffet were excellent. Inside buffet meats were good, side dishes were okay as were desserts. They were kind of bland, I'm sure because so many people cannot have much sodium/sugar. Ice cream was always popular and very good. Dining room food was a little too fancy for our liking, kids found it hard to find something they liked. Pizzeria was good and had a great Caesar salad.
ENTERTAINMENT: We went to almost all of the Mikado lounge shows. They were good, but a couple of them put me to sleep (maybe it was just me). Daytime activities were fun & entertaining. We did not go to any of the other lounge shows, not sure why.
PHOTOS: There were a lot!! I felt there were only a few photographers that were a little persistent/pushy or hurried. Most were very polite. We purchased a few and also the 'travelog' video.
PROGRESO, MX: We did the Reef Club all inclusive beach, March 22nd. If you choose to do this, purchase your pass as soon as you get off the bus from the ship. If you wait too long and try to make up your mind other folks will be loading up the buses and getting there sooner. Only so many chairs, tables, loungers..... at the beach. They will tell you that the jet skis and kayaks are included.... we only saw one water craft and two kayaks, did not look worth the wait, they were always busy. Booze is FREE (watch your teens, they won't) if you choose, make sure the under age kids get the correct wrist band. Almost 30 minute ride and not much for scenery. The guide had some good info about the area, sit toward the front of the bus to listen. Very run down area and trashy on the way, but the resort itself was very nice. Nice beach to play in the water and sand, no waves to speak of. All in all still better than the public beach, no peddlers. $30 per adult $15 per child (not sure age cut off) ****See other postings on the Progreso board, we added more to this there.
COZUMEL: We did the Chankanaab Dolphin Swim, booked it through .....cometocozumel.com ....for $99pp, plus the entrance fee to the park of $12pp. I had decided to purchase & bring our own dry snorkels, although the ones they provide you are in sealed bags. This is a large and beautiful park, I wish we would have had more time to see it. DH chose not to do the swim so he was going to take video and pics. Of course the camcorder would not work right, so we purchased the DVD that they took of us. Pictures that they take are great (large & close-up). We purchased some of these as well. The staff shows you the signs to make to the dolphin for a 'kiss', 'dance' & 'belly ride'. Each person in the group gets to do all 3. After this was done by everyone they instruct you to swim out and form a large circle. The dolphin then swims along the inner circle so you can reach out and touch her as she swims by. Our group has a little difficulty staying in a circle (wind & waves). It was hard too for some to touch her as she swam around the circle and as we floated closer together, she swam to the outside of our lopsided circle. All in all the swim lasted for about 1 hour, and I was a little disappointed. I think my expectations may have been a little high. The taxi ride to & from the park ranged (for us---family of 5) from $12-$15 each way. We chose not to see anymore of the park (all were tired, hot & sticky) and head back to town to shop & eat. Shopped at the stores by the pier and ate at Burger King.
BELIZE: Snorkeled at Goff's Caye. It was GREAT!! My whole family, including my teen boys, loved it. We booked through carnival and the guides we had were awesome, Francis was our main guide. They were all very helpful, polite, and friendly. We did choose to first snorkel off the boat, after dropping those that wanted to beach snorkel off first. It was fun off the boat, saw quite a few fish and the coral beds are fascinating. They then take you back to the caye where there is time for you to snorkel off the beach, this was even better, not as many fish but still good. You can go where you want at your leisure and everything is very close. If you go and snorkel at all from the beach, pay attention to the little brown eraser (or smaller) size objects floating around. If you stop in the water long enough to really watch them you will see them pulse through the water. It was interesting to see something so little swim! Also if you snorkel from the beach where there is more sand than coral and gently flap one of your flippers on the ocean bottom fish will come. We found this out by accident and continued to watch the fish appear and feed on what we were disturbing in the sand with our fin. What a treat!! We did the morning trip and had time to go back to the ship get cleaned up and go into the city to eat & shop. Whatever you decide to do I'm sure it will be fun.
DEBARKATION: We chose the "Self-Assist" way to get off the ship. We were among some of the first to go through customs and get off. We did not have to search for our luggage inside the terminal either. With "self-assist" you keep your luggage and take it off yourself otherwise you have to put it in the hall the evening before. They will announce the color of your deck tag when it is your turn to go to customs, unless you are doing the 'self-assist' way. After we were done in customs we got our luggage from the cabin and our group was already heading off the ship.
HOPE YOUR CRUISE IS A GREAT ONE!!