My wife and I took our first cruise August 11th to the Western Carribbean on Carnival's Destiny ship (5 days). We set sail from Miami with stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Now I understand why so many people enjoy cruising! This was our 10 year wedding anniversary and our first trip away from children...ever. I can't decide whether to start with the good or the bad. Let's start with the good...then the bad...then close with more good. ?
We decided to get a room with a balcony. Since we were spending time away from the chaos of children, we figured to spend a lot of time relaxing on the balcony. This was money well spent! We also were given a fruit basket with wine, flowers, and a liter of bourbon (my idea) via the Bon Voyage program. Ahh, my favorite moments were relaxing on the balcony, listening to waves and having a nice drink...chatting (interruption free!) with my wife. I can't imagine ever cruising without a balcony. This is the way to go for us. There is always a lot happening on other parts of the ship, but we much preferred the quiet of our balcony.
The food! We really enjoyed the food. Not having to cook it ourselves was bonus! Other than the scrambled eggs (tasted like powdered eggs), I didn't have a bad meal the entire cruise. Our dinner companions (randomly seated with us) were great, and we enjoyed their conversation. We tried the "Didja" menu featuring lobster, escargot, and alligator! Enjoyed it all. My favorite was the ChateauBriand steak. I was a bit worried when it was only offered in medium-rare or medium-well. I got it medium-well and it was perfect... melted in my mouth. We ordered multiple entrees and appetizers...and desserts. All for the low low cost of free! How fun to be able to completely ignore the price on the menu and order what you want and as much as you want.
Excursions - We didn't see much of Jamaica other than Dunn River Falls. It was beautiful but crowded and dangerous. We talked with one person whose husband fell and split his lip wide open. IMO, he was lucky to get away without breaking any bones. Lastly, it was a little creepy walking out through the huts where they try to sell you their wares...luckily we knew to just say, "no thank you"...and keep moving. We just decided to do our own thing in Grand Cayman and went to 7 mile beach...spent a few hours there. Beautiful sand beach, gorgeous water...but unlike North Carolina beaches. I took off into the water not realizing that there was a sand/rock shelf. Where I expected sand to be, was 2 feet of extra water, with my feet landing on hard, sharp rocks. No injuries...but a little embarrassing due to the awkward plunge. ? Grand Cayman was expensive! Holy cow. We thought about eating at the hotel, but figured it would set us back a good chunk of change and we had already spent $20 renting beach chairs! After a couple hours...and a bit of shopping, we went back to the ship for all you can eat, awesome, free food.
So now you may be asking, "What went wrong? What did you not like?" First off, we loved cruising. We would definitely do it again. But I would try a different, more expensive ship for a change in clientele. After discussing with my wife, we agreed that 80% of the people on the ship were great. There are probably more politically correct ways to say this, but why mince words. There was some serious ghetto/trailer folks on this cruise. I kept thinking...these folk have money to go on a cruise?
The pinnacle of bad was when, after coming back from Jamaica excursion, we went to our balcony to relax and have a drink. We were greeted by really loud, horrible, Miami mix music blaring from someone's balcony destroying the peace and serenity of our favorite part of the cruise. Eventually, my patience wore thin and I called security to see if they could do anything about it. I had my cabin steward come out to my balcony to help track down the source of music. Nothing was done to fix the issue that day (at least before our evening dinner). They did call me the next day to tell me they had fixed the problem...which was true...no more loud music. The offenders were identified. Thank you Carnival for fixing the problem. One of the offenders (Hispanic/Cuban gangbanger looking guy) gave the stink-eye to my wife from his balcony. We settled back into our balcony chairs and ignored him though as we resumed the enjoyment of the sounds of the ocean. I guess justice was served in the end. When we were ready to debark, Miami police had surrounded his room (2 doors down) and were entering/exiting. I'm curious what they got busted for...I doubt it was the music. ? I have another crazy story which further illustrates my point about the clientele. Maybe some responses will prompt it out of me.
In terms of demographics, I would say that white Americans are a minority on this cruise (maybe accounting for 30%). I don't mind culturally diverse groups of people, but thought some folk might find this interesting. It can be a bit unsettling depending on where you live, and if expect this cruise to be "like home". This cruise definitely breaks the "Love Boat" image. ? Might be a Miami thing though...as that is one of the most culturally diverse cities I've ever been to.
Carnival does have a few things within their power that they can change to improve the experience. First, provide ice machine access to the passengers! We were given the white wine, cheese, and bourbon, but no way to cool it! We were constantly having our cabin steward bring us more ice (we tipped him an extra $10 on top of the standard gratuity). But during key times, like right after excursions, his line was busy and we had to have hot drinks. The alternative was to go to the lido deck and use that tiny dispenser and haul ice back to the room. But there were signs saying not to fill containers with that ice. So really no "within the rules" alternatives. Also no room refrigerator to keep things cool! This combined with a Bon Voyage program that delivers "keep cold items" is unacceptable.
The room temperature was a little warm. The thermostat was a dial on the roof which when dialed up to max, couldn't get the room temp below 75 (guesstimate). This was fine for us, but some folk from up north might not find it cool enough. We slept with just the thin bed sheet on us and we were perfect....but I'm cold natured.
The boat was in pretty good shape...not bad for a boat expecting to be renovated next year. The drink stations on the Lido deck looked beat up...and often were out of ice. Maybe ice machines on the room decks would help with this problem???
There was also an awful smell on deck 4 outside near the life rafts (at muster station). It smelled like rotten garbage. I think maybe garbage had been hauled off the ship, and the stench from the leaking juice had permeated the surrounding floor. It got a bit better once we set sail, but it never went away fully. We would catch a wiff of it from our balcony from time to time.
I spent several evenings in the casino. Most of the dealers were very nice. I even got lucky and won a few bucks! Gotta like that! We attended one comedy show that we both enjoyed. One downside is that the shows were jammed. We had to leave the first comedy show we wanted to attend due to lack of seating. Guess that is to be expected when the entertainment is free. No complaints though, that just meant more balcony time for us!
Hopefully this review helps. I wanted it to be as candid as possible. Overall, we were impressed with the crew. Everyone was super nice..even when communication proved difficult due to language differences.
Happy to give candid responses to polite questions! Thanks Carnival for introducing us to The Cruise!