We are first time cruisers. We chose this cruise line more for affordability and the itinerary as we had to take our teenage children with us. Next time we will definitely upgrade our cruise if only paying for 2 adults.
There was a need for more affluent company. We boarded the ship in Barbados with fellow UK cruisers. Our holiday package included 2/3 days in Barbados, which we recommend before boarding the ship to help adjust to the climate and change of time in the Caribbean. If we had not done this we would have wasted valuable time sleeping on the ship and not enjoying the initial ports of call.
We were overwhelmed with the large number of loud Americans on board the ship who clearly had difficulty in controlling their children and themselves. On a few occasions parents would be trying to discipline their children in the hallway when we were trying to lap up the comfort of our staterooms. By the way these rooms are very nice and clean. The Stewards were fantastic! On one occasion our room was freshened up and cleaned 3 times in one day due to us returning early from a port of call visit. Our teenagers can be very untidy. The stewards took this on board and regularly called in on their room and tidied up. Our stewards would make animals out of the brilliant white towels. Eskimos, frogs and bears we had. You really need to book a stateroom with an Ocean View as a MINIMUM. The second floor Grade 6 is good. Waking up to the view of the ocean and watching the approach to the islands is a highlight.
We had paid our gratuities in advance of the cruise and felt a bit sad to leave without giving the stewards any tips. We are not sure how they actually receive this but we made a point of telling them what we had done in order not to appear mean.
The reception from the Embarkation staff was not exciting. Our officer appeared very tired and lacking energy. After opting to do the 'Behind the Fun Tour' of the ship we learned about the hours the staff work and the very basic conditions they live in on the lower decks of the ship. This would clearly contribute to the tired appearance of some of the staff.
The tour of the ship is interesting but at a cost of $55 pp. You learn a lot of what makes your cruise enjoyable. Food preparation, the maritime qualifications of the staff, meet the captain, see the crew's living quarters, where the ship is steered and much more. Our teenage children cannot wait to go back to school and tell their friends.
There is no Welcome Aboard Party on the cruise ship for us embarking in Barbados. However there is a big party for the Americans embarking in San Juan. We know this is the main embarkation port but we all pay for the cruise and should all reap the same benefits.
ST LUCIA: We had a great day on this very hilly island. We pre- booked a tour from the UK on recommendation. If you have the opportunity to do so for all of the islands it will be time well spent. We felt like royalty. Our driver was waiting for us with our name on display. We had a mini bus to ourselves, the price had been negotiated in advance. Our driver was happy to change the days itinerary within reason as he was going to receive his fixed fee at the end of the day.
The Sulphur Springs is a pleasant experience. Try to purchase some of the natural soaps and sulphur. Like with all the islands many of the locals will approach you to purchase their hand made jewelry. If you are interested take time to barter with them and pay the price you want.
This island has snakes. We had the opportunity to take pictures with a snake around our necks. Something we would never do in the UK but on this island these men really know their species.
ST KITTS: Again our tour was pre arranged on recommendation from the UK. We strongly recommend Island Paradise Tours. Our driver was Rosevelt Taylor. He is fantastic. He is funny and very knowledgeable. He has a good relationship with all the locals which made the tour very interesting by mixing with the natives. This island is beautiful with great scenery and history. The original beach Rosevelt wanted to take us to was a little rough after the left overs from hurricane Issac. This was a shame because we do not recommend the Reggae Beach he had to take us to for lunch. The beach was very nice but the service for lunch was diabolical! We waited over an hour for the meal to arrive. The delay was noticed and we were offered free punches and no service charge as a consolation.
ST MAARTEN & ST THOMAS very good for shopping. ST Thomas has some very classic watches at reasonable prices. Ladies you will want to die for the handbags and shoes.
SAN JUAN: This port was one of the high lights of the cruise. Is is very clean, the people are very good looking and friendly. We ate at a Caribbean restaurant as there was no caribbean food on the ship even though it was cruising the caribbean. We suggest the Carnival sources one or two caribbean chefs. The ship catered more for the Americans.
BARBADOS: Although we disembarked we had a whole day to further explore this beautiful island. The beaches are lovely and clean. The disembarking process did not take long at all. It was well organised which gave us another whole day from 10.00am to explore the island until our late evening flight back to the UK. Be prepared to travel with your suitcases in a taxi if you want to maximise this opportunity without worrying about your suitcases coming off the ship and following you to the plane. We understand that some local hotels will allow you to use their facilities for the day and look after your luggage for a nominal fee.
The whole experience of the Carnival ship is more positive than some of the reviews we have read. Use the reviews as a guide but do not rely on them to decide on whether you should book this cruise ship or not. We are really pleased we did not take the reviews we read too seriously before deciding to book with Carnival. It was an affordable cruise for us and we are glad we followed our own instincts and went went with it.
If you do not have a large budget and want to experience a cruise in your life time, we would recommend the Carnival as a good starting point.