This is my fourth cruise but my first since discovering Cruise Critic. I'm traveling with my husband and 2 sons. I applied many of the helpful hints on this site to enhance our enjoyment of the trip.
Sunday -- Embarkation Day
We arrived at the Galveston port terminal around 11:00am. It was early enough that the check-in line only had about 5 families waiting. We had completed all our check-in activities online so they just checked our passports, gave us our Sign & Sail cards and sent us on our way. We were onboard before noon. Went for lunch at the Cucina del Capitano. I was concerned that it would be packed since so many people recommend going there for lunch on the first day. Not to worry. It wasn't even half full. Great service and the food was delicious.
Back in our balcony stateroom, we unpacked. The over-the-door shoe organizer doesn't fit on the bathroom do but is okay on closet. This was my first time using one of these organizers on a cruise and it was helpful for me. With 4 people crammed into a room, I can't stand all the clutter that accumulates. Glad I brought. I bought the clear kind that they sell at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Next I decorated my door. I think we were the only ones on our floor to do any decorating. Many people remarked on it and some little girls really like finding the cabin with "Doris the Hula Girl" on it.
Monday -- Sea Day 1
I'm already planning my next cruise and want to determine which size ship I prefer. This is the largest ship I've been on but I can't quite tell where the extra size is coming from. The hallways seem just as long as the CCL Conquest we were last on. There is an added deck level so that probably accounts for added passenger count. The rooms are the same size. I did start my day in the Gym and was a bit disappointed. It actually seems small for this size ship. There are so many guest rooms on Spa deck the cardio/weight area felt crammed in at the front of the ship. At least the views are nice but the ceiling felt low and with every machine in use and a waiting line of people, it was a bit claustrophobic.
I recommend the Spa tour. It was good to see all that the ship had to offer. I participated in the drawing for the free Spa services as well as several other drawings throughout the cruise. I wish Carnival would verify the winners are actually the person whose name they draw. Unfortunately, I saw some not so honest behavior from a few guests.
Tuesday -- Key West, FL
We booked the Cityview Trolley directly from their website. Unfortunately, we did not see any signs for how to find them once we got off the boat. We asked a couple local people but that didn't help. We went to the address on the tickets but they are not there. The signs for the trolley stops are very, very small and the print is only on one side of the sign. Here's how to find them: When you get off the ship at Pier B, go to the left of the boardwalk between the stores and the red brick building with the unique statuary. Go up to the street and look for people standing in a queue holding purple and white umbrellas. Go there and check in with the staff.
Key West was uncomfortably humid, and all the walking we did just to find the trolley didn't make things any better. Still, I'm glad we bought our tickets direct instead of through the cruise line. The trolley operators were entertaining. Good value for the money.
Wednesday -- Freeport
I booked the Western Heritage tour through the cruise line. We were met right at the pier. I had read good things about Dewayne and Michael and we got them for our guides. The bus was a 30 person Toyota with jump seats that blocked each row when they were used. We stopped 4 times and got out. Leave something in your seat if you want to get the same spot when you reboard the bus. The tour includes a light lunch of a sandwich or fritters and a soda or water. If you want more, bring money. The conch fritters are very good. Try them! The bus is locked while you are snorkeling so you can leave your things there. However, as I found out, you will need to reapply sunscreen before you make the last stop at fern gully. I didn't see any bugs so insect repellent is optional.
More about the snorkeling: the trek out to the reef is very rocky and uneven. It was also shallow so you can't really swim over it. People were falling down everywhere. Once you got out to the reef, there was a lot to see. At one point, I was looking over my shoulder and turned back around to find that I was surrounded by fish. Some close enough to touch. Nothing big and scary so go and enjoy. This was the Best Excursion of our trip. We saw so much of the island and the guides were so funny. Not to be missed!
Thursday -- Nassau
We had a 11:30am excursion booked for Discover Atlantis. Nassau is much more cosmopolitan than Freeport. The people weren't as friendly as we made our way to the bus taking us to Atlantis. The driver doesn't talk about the island, just plays the radio. At the drop off, the instructions for how to find the bus to get back to the pier are unclear. You must return to the same spot where you were dropped off. When they say to go to the Coral Towers to get your bus, they mean look for the towers and then walk past them to get to where you were dropped off. The stores in Atlantis are filled with beautiful luxuries. There is a more moderately priced Atlantis gift shop area if you want touristy things.
Everyone walks through the casino to get to the Aquarium. The Dig, is the underground part of the aquarium. The shark tank is in a separate building near the food court. We had lunch there for $90.00 for 4 people. Our guide, Charlie, was great. We liked hearing about the hotel. Now that we've been to Atlantis, I don't think I would need to come back. I did hear good things about the Blue Lagoon beach. May try that next time.
Friday & Saturday -- Sea Days 2 & 3
We went to the comedian brunch both days. The comedy wasn't very good. After dinner, we caught a couple of comedians in the lounge. They were much better there. I didn't see any theater shows until the last night for the Legends shows. It features passengers singing with the Carnival entertainers providing some background. The passengers are very talented and brave but I wished we had gone to a show earlier in the week so we could see more of the paid entertainers. We did participate in the Who Dunnit Mystery. It was very good. To play, you must find different members of the entertainment staff and get clues from them. I felt much more involved this cruise and recognized more of the staff because we decided to play the mystery. Highly recommend it!
Sunday -- Debarkation Day
Completely painless. We had breakfast in the Southern Lights dining room and then made our way to the Theater on deck 3. After a short wait, we were called to go to deck 0. Very easy.
The Good -- Fun 2.0 is bringing lots of activities and well-known names to features like the comedy club with George Lopez and soon, the burger stands with Guy (from Food Network). I had funds set aside for shopping, gambling and drinking but didn't use much of it because there was so much free stuff to do. Get lunch at the Italian restaurant for a special treat.
The Bad -- Due to excursions and onboard activities, we missed lunch at least 5 days. When we would go looking for food around 2:30 -- 3:00pm there were few choices. Pizza and sandwiches are not appealing to me. The burger and sandwich lines are long. Sides are unhealthy or non-existent. I ate a lot of ice cream early in the week but they ran out of strawberry soft-serve by Friday so then we just waited until dinner. When the buffet was open, the lines were short. I wish the buffet was open all afternoon.
The Ugly - WEAR SHOES EVERYWHERE, especially to the pool. The Magic outdoor decks have fake wood planking that are actually made of metal. Do not put kids down on the decks in bare feet. Wear pool shoes.
So for my next cruise, do I want to go on the big ship Magic or opt for a smaller ship? I don't think it matters. The fun 2.0 concept is being implemented across the fleet so no matter what Carnival ship your next cruise is on, you can have as great a vacation as we did. Happy Sailing!