We booked this Carnival Cruise for a few reasons. 1) We are from DFW and Galveston was close 2) We wanted to bring our kids along.
EMBARKATION DAY: We drove to Galveston from DFW, leaving at 5:45 a.m. and arriving at Galveston around 10:30. We were in 2 vehicles and used Galveston Park 'N Cruise. http://www.galvestonparkncruise.com/ We pre-paid online and opted for the indoor parking. We were very close so this wasn't a problem. After figuring out the terminal for a few minutes (Drop off luggage is on the far south side, and check-in is on the far north), we proceded to our check-in. We went through the scanners and security. They weren't checking every single backpack, BTW. Got the Sail and Sign cards and went to the waiting room. After about 15-20 minutes, our zone was called and we were heading to the boat. (Tip: If you want a 'get on board' picture, keep going, there were 2 more photographers around the corner that we didn't see. We waited 10 more minutes to have a picture). On the ship by 11:30! There were several crew members directing everyone to the Lido deck for lunch. Most everyone goes to the buffet. Thanks to another post, we proceeded to the Cucina del Capitano for lunch. NO WAIT!! Another good tip for everyone. Great lunch to start of the vacation. Our rooms weren't ready, so we went on deck to check out the 'lay of the land'. We also took a ship tour, which was very helpful to before we sailed. Decks 5 & 10 are where most everything is at. Sail Away party was fun. Many drinks and dancing! Before dinner we went to the Camp Carnival orientation. Our kids enjoyed the time in there, although they weren't there every day. Just too much to do!
DINNERS IN MDR: The wait staff makes or breaks your evenings without a doubt. We were VERY lucky on the first night to be assigned the BEST WAIT STAFF ON THE BOAT! Elpedio and his assistants Randy and Sebastian absolutely made our evenings. They were great with the kids, making animals the the napkins, folding origami with paper, and doing little magic tricks. Always smiling, and great to be around. Also props to Toshi and her team, as well as Damir and his group. We ended up requesting and sometimes waiting a bit for Elpedio on 5 of the 7 nights.
FOOD: We enjoyed everything in the MDR. We encouraged our kids to stay off the kids menu and try new things which they did. We even got two starters or two main dishes when we asked. Some of the same items could be found in the Lido buffet as well when we walked past. For lunch, we all tried to go to different spots every day. Mongolian Wok lines were LONG everyday. I skipped here by one person in our group waited 40 minutes for lunch. Tandoori Grill was good, Burrito Bar was excellent. Lido items were good too. Oceanside BBQ was excellent as well. We frequented the Red Frog Pub often, but never got around to trying the appetizers ($3.33). We never had a problems finding seats for breakfast (kids had waffles, and pancakes everyday found at the burger bar area), and we almost always at the pool area for lunch. (Didn't see much chair hogging until the final day at sea).
ACTIVITES/ENTERTAINMENT: So much to do! The kids loved the sports deck. Pool, mini-golf, and soccer/basketball were the top attractions.) The ropes course is cool, but it was shut down for wind quite often. We never tried any trivia or day shows, and we frequented the casino quite a bit. The evening shows were average, with the magic show and juggler being a hit with the kids. They also enjoyed the PG comedy show.
ROOM: Our balcony and room were spacious enough for our family of four, as well as for our other parties. They were cleaned during the day, and turned down for us after dinner. Great job by our steward and his staff. When anyone went out to their balcony in our vicinity, we could hear the doors slamming, but it didn't bother us. What can you expect when your so close to everyone!
PORTS: In Jamaica, we hired a private tour guide through Marva Shaw's http://knowjamaica.com Avril was great. He took us shopping, (even stopping a grocery store for 'local' prices on a case of Red Stripe), we went to roadside produce vendor (a hit with all of us.), a beach park (Aqua Sol), Jerky's for lunch, and Margaritaville after. We had a great time and the individual attention by their company is HIGHLY recommended.
In Grand Cayman, we book the Cayman Turtle Farm directly through their website- http://www.turtle.ky/ We procured a taxi for a round trip fare. We had fun here as well. We played with the turtles, snorkeled in their lagoon, watched a shark feeding, and played at the water park (just one slide and swimming pools). After returning to town, we went shopping and had a local Caybrew and conch fritter at Breeze's.http://www.breezesbythebay.com/
In Cozumel we again booked a day at Chankanaab through an independent company. We chose a dolphin encounter as well. http://www.cozumel-tours.com/ Due to Tropical Depression Debbie, it was raining the whole day here. Several excursions through Carnival were cancelled and refunded. Not us! We were getting wet anyway. We got a couple of taxis and on we went. We enjoyed the day snorkeling (still very clear in the water, spotting a barracuda that was very close to us), saw the sea lion show, and had the dolphin encounter. We even got in the tank with the manatees. Everything is geared on getting pictures of you to sell. The prices were outrageous!! We opted on the 'mental' pictures. We ate lunch by the beach. One of the only negatives happened here. We were initially told they took credit cards at the restaurant. When the waiter shows up with the bill, we wanted cash. After a bit of arguing, we agreed to put the whole bill on one credit card. We got another taxi back to Puerta Maya, did some shopping, and got back on the ship. It looks like Three Amigos and Fat Tuesday's were hopping, but we were pretty tired.
We relaxed on the last sea day and really didn't do too much.
DEBARKATION: We opted for the zone debarkation and not the self-assist. We were one of the last groups to get off and it was pretty smooth.
Overall, this was an excellent vacation! Everyone in our group had a blast. The boat did rock some, but not enough to make anyone in our group sick. I would do this itinerary and cruise again in a heartbeat. I truly think a vacation is what you make it and the attitude you have going in is the experience you will have during the trip.
If you have any questions, I would love to answer them! Take Care!