This was our 4th cruise with Carnival and second leaving out of San Juan. We flew in the day before and stayed at the Embassy Suites by the airport. which was your basic Embassy Suites. Crowded and it seemed older. We left the bags at the front desk and explored San Juan a little before embarkation.
We arrived for Embarkation at about 3:45 and there was no line at all in the terminal- which was a relief as our prior embarkation we waited in line for about 2 hours. Upon boarding we went to the pool. My 9 year old nephew was excited about the waterslide but it wasnt going to be open until the at sea day. The pools are all salt water.
Our bags were delivered within about 2 hours. We met our steward, Lilie within 10 minutes of being in our room. I was taken back a little when she told me that there were to be no curling irons on board and that she would confiscate it if I were to use one. In 8 cruises I have never heard that- and I was thankful that I did not need one. But she warmed up after the first day (thankfully!) Muster drill is at 9:30 and it is performed in English and Spanish so be prepared for a 45 minute event. something new that we had not had before was when they released from muster they let one side of the ship go first then the other- so our side waited for another 5-10 minutes under the lifeboats. some people looked like they werent handling the humidity very well after standing still for an hour.
Dinner was in the buffet the first night- Chicken fingers and pizza are the best!
Dinner we did the your time dining option- where we met the our waiter Jean. Jean had a son around my nephews age so he was drawn to him immediately. His smile was infectious and every night we could not wait to see him and he wanted to know what we did and made sure my nephew had all he could for dinner. My nephew would get up and dance with him during their nightly performances. I thought it was cute that he couldnt wait to tell Jean about what he saw that day. It was hands down the best part of our cruise. on the last night Jean was so emotional he was choked up when we said goodbye. he had 4 weeks to go before he saw his son again after so many months and told us that we did more than we knew just having my nephew in his station that week. it was incredibly touching.
The food overall is average. We sailed the Spirit last October with the same exact menus on both cruises. I think this is where Carnival just needs to change it up a bit. The breakfast menu while the pancakes and waffles and french toast switched it seemed to be the same thing every morning.
the hot chocolate is superb. couldnt get enough of it. while quite the opposite for the ice cream- it seemed like they were always closed after dinner and the one that was open at the back pool was ransacked. Why does Carnival do a Mexican buffet at 11:30 at night? And we missed the fact that they had a midnight buffet every night- we did have the breakfast room service for the lox and bagels- which wasnt on the buffet. it was good, we laughed at the 4 capers on the plate for the entire bagel.
The ship is older but kept very clean. It is definitely a Caribbean theme. Every crew member we encountered was friendly. In reading about the hours that they work and the not so nice pasengers on the ship that they have to endure- we try and talk to everyone.
The shows were ok. the juggler was pretty good, funny. The dance party was so so- having a port almost every day we were pretty tired when we came back from swimming and walking and felt like we didnt get to see alot or do alot at night because we had to get up and do it all again the next morning.
The cruise director was lack luster and seemed bothered in the morning. Also the announcements seemed excessive. Movies under the stars was a joke- the night we went the movie stopped playing and never came back on. And then I think the movie was Casino Royale and all they had were older movies- Princess definitely does this better.
The rooms- we had a balcony room and an interior room with a window on the lido deck. the interior room had 2 air conditioner vents while the balcony room had 1- our room never seemed to get cool enough while the interior was blowing like crazy. our room the bed was shoved against the window so you had to crawl out from the bottom of it. there was plenty of storage space for all the luggage. the best thing about it was having the secret entrance to the top of the bridge- where you could have a birds eye view of the front of the ship.
Disembarkation- we opted to do the self assist- which was great on the Spirit but the problem we incurred was space in the select elevators that went to 0 deck to dissembark. Being on the lido deck 9 the elevator traffic was crammed with people trying to get to the buffet with their luggage- so we were trying to get all of our luggage down while others had carry on luggage and not disembarking- it was a mess. But not waiting for your group to be called is very nice indeed.
we stayed 2 additional days in Puerto Rico at the Hilton- which was very nice. great beach, and shower if youre in the Hilton Honors Tower.
Tripadvisor recommended Huntes Garden- and we were all very happy they did- do yourself the favor and go there- it is a little far and takes about Mr. Hunte was very kind and funny and more than willing to show you around- its like Jurassic Park - amazing flowers and even the taxi driver was even impressed. then we went to Bathsheba and saw the rocks, then our driver took us to a beach which we were bombarded by about 4 jet ski people trying to get you on their jet ski- one even went as far as saying that he would 'do it' on the jet ski with my sister. we immediately got back in the taxi and went to Cockspurs beach club- which used to be Malibus beach club- great facility but the ocean had a ton of glass - which turned into a fun thing to collect. but we probably wouldn't return there again. The beach sellers were friendly and actually had nice things and were willing to deal. our taxi cost 90.00 for 4 people for the entire day- Joe was well worth more for the personal touch and knowledge of the island.
keeping with the Tripadvisor recommendations we went to South Friars beach- and a Carambola beach club and for 30 dollars got 2 chaises and an umbrella- which we didnt even need because we were snorkeling the whole time- sea urchins and lots of colorful fish and I saw a jellyfish which was alarming but it seemed to stay on one side of the reef there. oh dont forget to keep the toliet seat up or the bathroom attendant will yell at you until you lift it up. We noticed that the people really werent all that friendly- the cab driver, the beach club people and then when we got back to the ship dock the monkey invasion and tip dwellers began. we couldnt even get out of the cab without a person throwing monkeys on you wanting a tip. there were dancers in the square with a tip box. we watched one of the dancers go up to a guy at the bar who wasnt watching them by any means and the dancer banged his tip box on the ground and stood there until the gentleman gave him money.
There had to be about 3 people with monkeys that were constantly around which got really annoying when they would just throw the poor animal at you. even walking on the pier to the ship there were 3 boys singing for tips.
We didn't have any plans so we broke down and did a ship excursion to Pigeon point beach- which was way overpriced for the overlook and beach that they took us to. It certainly wasn't the prettiest beach on St. Lucia. we did some snorkeling. Should have just booked something off the ship. We had done a ship tour to the Pitons the last time- and wished we had just done that again. The shopping is pretty good right off the ship- The Rum shop used to not charge for the samples that you have to get at the bar next door- and the bartender there seemed annoyed with everyone.
We hired a taxi to take us to Maho Beach. they tried to sell us on the city tours but we just wanted to go to Maho- the driver didnt really say anything the entire time he was driving.
Maho Beach is famous for the airplanes flying above the beach- and YouTube doesnt do it justice! our driver let us out at the Sunset beach bar- which is pretty crowded. we tried to order drinks but the waitress never came back- so we walked along the concrete and runway to the other side of the beach which was less crowded than the Sunset Bar side. They have a chalkboard surfboard with the arrival and departures so you know whos coming in. what we noticed is that the water color is the most gorgeous blue green- we rented 2 chaise lounges and an ubmrella for 20 dollars which was fair. the ocean had a rock or concrete slab for about 10 feet into the water- which was slippery and dangerous with the waves they had there. so we couldnt really enjoy the water too much- some said that after the rock there was sand but a ripcurrent. but we were there for the planes- and they do not dissapoint. we met some locals there that told us about the pilots toying with the tourists and they did just that- small planes would come in so close to you and then stall the engines just as they crossed the fence and then there was the JetBlue plane that came as close to the fence as possible and then sat on the throttle and brake and blew the people off the fence and down the beach! word to the wise- dont stand at the fence- dont even get close- the sand has coral and shells that when it gets kicked up by the jet blast you get more than sandblasted. it was quite funny to see the people get tossed into the water. The best was having a 747 fly 25 feet over your head. The shopping in the ship area seemed small compared to other ports- but no people with monkeys or tip jars. Try the guavaberry drink in the pink cup- very tasty!
we had been to this port several times- but never with a 9 year old- so we went to Blackbeards Castle- we read very good comments in Tripadvisor- so we got in a cab for about 8 dollars a person and it was about 10 minutes from the ship- really cool statues of the pirates and you venture down the hill seeing historic homes and an amber museum. one thing they don't tell you is once you start going down the hill, you're not coming back up so do all the rum tasting and shopping while you are at the top.
We got in another cab and went to Emerald Bay. Great beach and no crowds and its closer than Magans Bay.