This was a cruise for our Honeymoon. We were married in February and because of work schedules were just able to take the vacation. We had a very nice time on this cruise. Neither one of us had been to any of the islands we would be visiting and we were very excited about all of them. She and I had only been on 1 cruise each before this one. The thing that made this cruise attractive was it was basically all inclusive and we got to see multiple islands.
Our cruise dates were June 16th - 24th. We left on a Saturday afternoon at 4 and returned early on Sunday morning at 6. This was an 8 night cruise.
We flew in to Fort Lauderdale on Friday night and spent the night at the Cruise Port Renaissance (20 dollar cab ride from the airport). Nice hotel with a comfortable bed. It is also very conveniently located to the port.
Getting to the ship through the Port was a breeze. We had a friend drop us off. We pulled up at the ship at about 12:00 for a 4 pm departure. Dropped off our luggage with the Porters, walked through the security station (15 minute line), and checked in. All together it was a simple process and went efficiently. As soon as we got on board food was ready at the Lido deck. We ate lunch and went to our cabin once it was ready at 1:30.
We were on the 7th floor at the aft of the ship. We had a balcony room on the starboard side. Room number 7417. It was a nice enough room. Not really spectacular but nice. We were glad to have a balcony room. It let in a lot of light to the room and was great to sit out on and read or relax. It was also nice to stand outside and watch when pulling in or out of port. For the most part the balconies are very private. Both of us were glad we spent the extra for the balcony.
In our room we had a wall unit for our clothes and luggage, a decent little flat screen TV, a small sitting area with table and loveseat, and a king sized bed. The bed was 2 full size mattresses pushed together but it was comfortable enough. The pillows and bedding were clean and comfortable. My wife and I did sleep very well at night. There's nothing like the ship rocking you to sleep. Even through a couple of small storms we slept well. The bathroom was about like a good travel trailer bathroom. A lot of the materials were plastics and composites. It had a 1 person curtained shower stall and a small wall mounted toilet. The ship did have unlimited amounts of hot water. I like to take extremely hot steam showers and this was a good place to do that. We did put all of our stuff away in the beginning and kept a clean organized room. Our steward kept the linens fresh and the place tidied up well. He was a really friendly guy that always had a smile and greeted us by name. Even though we paid for gratuities up front I gave him a little extra because he did a good job.
The food on the ship was solid. Not all of it knocked our socks off but it was consistently good. At times it was great. (Sun King Steakhouse). We ate on the Lido deck for breakfast every morning. It had enough variety that we could find something we liked every morning. I ate a lot of different breakfast foods. For lunch I ate at the Fish and Chips spot upstairs 4 days. Very good Fish and seafood. I also enjoyed the Deli. It had great sandwiches. I was particularly fond of the corned beef and pastrami hot sandwich. My wife liked the sushi bar on the 5th deck. We had Lido Buffet for dinner 3 nights. They had the same things as the dining room (not all the same choices but a lot of the same). We wanted to eat in a more casual setting sometimes. When we did eat in the dining room it was nice. The service was good but since we had anytime dining we didn't really get to know the service staff. On formal night it was packed (7:30), and we did have to wait in line to get a pager and then wait some more. All in all we waited 30 or 40 minutes before we were seated. Once we were seated the food was very good. I had prime rib and she had shrimp and lobster. They were both quite good. Once again, not the best I have ever had but good. On the other 2 nights we ate in the dining room it was nice. We met a few other couples in the dining room and visited with them about the ports we were vising and what not. I cant complain about the food too much. I did gain 8 pounds during 8 days. Ha.
I would like to write a special mention the the Sun King Steakhouse. We ate there on the first night and it was outstanding. There is an additional charge ($35 per person), but we really liked it. Also note, there is an additional gratuity option (we did the standard 20 percent). Our servers were just fantastic and the steaks were fabulous. I am a steak fanatic and this was a top 5 steak I have ever had. I got the Cowboy 18 oz Ribeye (medium) and my wife got a filet(also medium, I taught her about steak when we started dating). They had a special on Day 1 that they threw in a bottle of wine with dinner. It was a nice touch. We watched the sun set from the steakhouse (In the back top of the boat) and it was quite pleasant. I highly recommend at least 1 night at the steakhouse.
We had 4 port days and 4 Sea Days. The 4 ports were Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten, and Saint Thomas.
Grand Turk - We arrived in Grand Turk on Monday. Because it is a small island (7 miles) and another cruise boat ported at the same time, excursions sold out fast. We wound up just winging it. Most times when we do this it we have fun. Keep in mind Grand Turk is pretty much just a Carnival Port. Once you get outside the gates it gets pretty seedy. We didn't realize this until we were driving around the island in a jeep. We wanted to rent scooters but the scooter guy was not there. 2 scooters were 60 each. We were offered a Jeep for 80 so we jumped on it. In our minds we could save a little cash and have a spot to hold our stuff. About 5 minutes up the road while we were looking for a private beach the Jeep died and wouldn't start back up. I have nursed some crappy cars in my life so I knew how to play with the ignition and gas pedal to get it to start back up. It did toke about 10 minutes in a pretty crappy part of the island. My wife was concerned, you might even say scared. As soon as it started back up we drove back towards the Port. Right up the road from the Port (literally withing walking distance), was Governor's Beach. It was a good place to hang out, swim, and snorkel. We had our own snorkel gear. We did buy 2 small glasses of Rum Punch (8 dollars each) at the Tiki Bar. Governor's Island was a cool spot. There were some small lightly colored fish swimming around. We did find a perfect sand dollar which I dove down and grabbed. We hung out here for about 3 hours. I decided to try the Jeep again (risky I know) and it started right up. We were brave or stupid enough to drive it again and go a different route around the island. I hate to be rude but this island sucked. It was extremely disappointing and very poor looking. My advice: stay in the cruise port or at Governor's Island. Carnival has a 30 dollar excursion to Governors Island. I think it includes transportation and snorkel gear. You can walk to it easy enough and bring your own gear. Don't expect much from Grand Turk unless you stay at the Carnival Resort and have a very canned experience.
Puerto Rico - I was excited about this port but didn't know exactly what to expect. Once again we didn't book an excursion and did our own thing. The cruise port is right near Old San Juan. We got off the boat and started exploring around. She wanted to go see an old "Mission" that sounded boring to me. I agreed to go and was completely blown away. It was one of the coolest historical sites I have ever been to. Amazing engineering and just massive. The views were just breathtaking. It was the San Cristobal mission. We took a lot of pictures and explored this mission for about 3 hours. I was completely captivated by the history of the mission and island. We watched a short film on the history. The mission was one of the highlights of the trip. After we were done we walked around Old San Juan. They had street vendors, restaurants, and shops. We stopped in a little dive and had a Puerto Rican beer (Magna). Then we stopped at a street vendor that made my wife a set of earrings and a ring out or aluminum for only 10 bucks. It was cool to watch him make it. After that we walked around Old San Juan and la Pasea de Princesa. Lots of pretty architecture and sights. We stopped in a Tapas bar and had some Tapas and drinks. Then we stopped at the Casino. Nice casino and my wife walked out up 100. We absolutely loved Puerto Rico. I want to go back and take some time to check that place out. Pulling out of port at sunset was amazing. The island was just getting all lit up and the lighthouse was spinning. It was just gorgeous. *On a side note the US Coastguard is awesome. They sped around our ship in a little response boat with a machine gun on the front. If a boat got too close to us on our way in or out the Coast Guard would zip in and cut boat off. It was cool to watch.*
St Maarten - Once again we didn't book an excursion. We woke up early on this day and were very pumped about this port. We just knew it was going to be good. We rented a Jeep again (much nicer and from a more reputable agency). We added a GPS so we wouldn't get lost. This island isn't huge but is much bigger than Grand Turk. We drove around the whole island and it was just marvelous. Our first stop was the Famous Orient Beach on the French side. We parked and walked down the beach. We had a blanket and our gear so we picked out a spot and set our stuff down. I love playing in the ocean waves and these waves were quite large, powerful, and breaking. It was fun to swim in and body surf. Orient Beach is somewhat famous for being a topless (or fully nude depending on who you ask). I did see 2 sets of old saggy racks walking down the beach. It gave it a little more authenticity. We stopped at a beach bar and had some drinks. I think it was $20 including tip for 2 Large frozen drinks at the bar and 2 bottles of cold water to go. Not too bad. The island takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to drive the entire way around. After Orient Beach we went to Mullet Bay to snorkel a little bit. There was a good spot next to some rocks, reef, and coral. We saw some good fish and pretty coral. This is the same spot the Catamarans come to snorkel from the ship. We snorkeled around for a few hours and then drove back toward the ship. We stopped at a Restaurant / Bar in Philipsburg called Air Lekkenbek. It's an old jet airplane that's been painted green like a Heineken. There is Heineken branding all over it (Keep in mind Heineken is a Dutch beer and we were on the Dutch side of the island). We went in and were the only ones there. This was a little concerning at first but we gave it a shot. We were so glad we did. The cook and the bartender were both so friendly. We really enjoyed visiting with them. They had extremely cold and cheap Heineken beers. She and I split a conch sandwich. They gave us shots of their local rum blended with guava berry. It almost tasted like Jaeger. We stayed at Air Lekkenbek for 2 or 3 hours. We loved it! We had probably 10 beers between us and a sandwich. Our bill was $19.50. Once they told us how much we owed I ordered more Heinekens ! I highly highly recommend this little spot. We stopped at one more beach near the ship and got our last bit of beach time. We turned in the Jeep and got back on board. St Maarten was fantastic. Maybe even our favorite.
St Thomas - We booked the Champagne Catamaran cruise excursion. It was 95 dollars a person but looked like a lot of fun. We drove from the port to the boat dock to sail to Honeymoon Beach (pretty appropriate). The ride from the port was in an open air truck / van cab. The ride rattled a few weak stomached folks. The driver was pretty aggressive and the ride was pretty fast and furious but he did get us there safely. Once we pulled up we got on the Catamaran. It was a pretty vessel with a crew of 3. The captain was a cute female that really knew her stuff. We took off and motored about an hour to Honeymoon Beach. We got our snorkel gear, docked, and hopped in. It was beautiful water, coral, and fish. I swam next to a group of 3 sea turtles and watched them swim around eating. It was really neat. One swam up to get air literally 2 feet from me. We swam for 45 minutes or so before we had to get back on board. The ride back was mostly sailing. They did not let our cups go dry on the ride home. They nicknamed the Rum Punch "Caribbean Painkillers". I had several. They also had beer and champagne. They brought plenty of drinks and were good hosts. Keep in mind that the crew works on mostly tips so bring some cash. We had a great time and were glad we did this excursion. We bought a crew Tee shirt as a souvenir. The cab ride back to the ship was smoother than the ride out. This excursion altogether took about 4 to 5 hours. We re-boarded and had lunch on the ship. After lunch my wife left to shop at the strand next to the ship. I was sunburned and buzzed so I laid down to take a nap. We pulled out at 5. This was our last port and ended the port days on a good note. St. Thomas is very pretty.
Sea Days and Entertainment - Our Cruise Director was Brad Calabrese. I thought he did a fantastic job. He was funny, approachable, and had a neat personality. My wife and I definitely thought he and his assistant, Irish George, added value to the cruise. Brad was hilarious during the cruise shows but sincere and informative when he was talking about anything we needed to know (port times, embarkation, debarkation, etc). There were all kinds of activities to do on sea days. My wife and I were never bored. We went to most of the Comedy shows in the Comedy club. All of the comedians except one were flat out funny. We did enjoy these shows and had some good laughs. Once again, Irish George was a good host and emcee. Get to the Comedy Club 10 or 15 minutes early so you can nail down a spot. The casino was also fun. My wife and I aren't huge gamblers but she is pretty good at the Wheel of Fortune machine. She has hit some 1000 dollar spins in the past. We spent several hours in the casino and always had fun. I think we walked away down just a bit. We went to the tribute show for the Beetles. It was entertaining and very worthwhile. We were very glad we went. The dancers and musicians did an amazing job and the show sets and props were top notch. We cruised during the NBA Finals so they showed the games on the big screen by the pool. It was neat to watch it there. They also had game watching parties that were fun. We participated in a lot of events and activities. One of my favorite things was a Q and A session with Brad about life on the ship. They had live music a lot during the cruise. The singers were fun and played upbeat songs. We had a good time on the boat and could always find something to do. The entertainment staff did a great job and were on point.
Special Notes - You can buy bottles of liquor on the boat and at ports cheap. If you can find a way to transport it back home, the prices are quite reasonable. We flew on an airline that charged for extra bags and bag weight so unfortunately we did not participate. They let you have your bottles on the last night of the cruise. I did buy a watch from the watch shop. It was 40 percent off of retail and tax free. Drinks weren't outrageously expensive. They were about bar or restaurant prices in the US. We didn't drink a lot but once in a while we would have one. I think our bar bill was about 150. Bar Drinks have a 15 percent gratuity added automatically. The Mai Tais are strong and got my wife twisted. Ha.
Specific Areas of Improvement - I didn't love their scrambled eggs at the Lido breakfast buffet (powdery). I also didn't care for the breakfast link sausage. (Greasy and off flavor). The pizza, while available 24 hours, isn't outstanding. The cheese has a weak flavor, a weird melted texture, and was almost buttery tasting. Sometimes if you got a flavor that wasn't popular it would be burned and dry from sitting under the heat lamps. The calzones tasted more like Sloppy Joe's. There were lines in a lot of places. I don't love waiting in line, especially on vacation, but a lot of times there were crowds. A lot of times for the popular item stations there were longer lines (Taco Bar, omlette station, wok station, dessert bar, etc.)
Debarkation - Getting off the boat was a breeze. When we were pulling in there was a bad thunderstorm in Ft Lauderdale and the lightening storm was just marvelous. I woke up at 4 30 to watch us pull into port. There was a huge Royal Caribbean ship pulling in in front of us that was all lit up and gorgeous. It was a neat sight seeing all of the bouys lit up, the lightening, and the lights pulling into the harbor. We had our stuff packed up for self assist debarkation. We ate breakfast, went to the room, got our stuff and got off the boat. We were off by 8. It was literally pouring down buckets when we walked off. There was only one walkway spot that wasn't covered. We caught a cab to the airport (20 bucks) and flew back to Texas.
Overall we had a good experience. We were pleased with the cruise. In most areas it met or exceeded our expectations. On a 1 - 10 scale, it earned an 8 in my opinion. We had a lot of fun. I hope this review was helpful if you are thinking about taking this cruise. I would do it over again.