Our group consisted of my husband, 62 and myself, 56. This was his third cruise and my tenth. We drove down the day of the cruise from Birmingham, AL which is about 5 hours. My plan was to avoid the rush and we did.
Embarkation- We arrived at Erato Street Terminal around 2pm. We dropped our bags with a porter and parked in the deck. Check-in and boarding took less than 20 minutes. We dropped our carryon and case of water in the cabin and we were on the Lido Deck for lunch by 2:30pm. Bags were at the door when we returned around 4.
Cabin- We had a balcony cabin on the port side of the Upper Deck. No problem with smokers until the last day and the people in the adjacent cabin ran me back inside. Cabin was clean and John, our cabin steward, stopped by early to unlock the refrigerator and to see if we needed anything.
Dining- We had late dining (our preference). Food was good and our wait staff, King from Indonesia, Marija from Serbia and another guy that I never knew his name, we're excellent. Always called us by name even when they saw us in the Lido dining area. By day 3 they replaced the small wine/tea glasses with goblets the size of the water glasses. Very generous with the bread and we were asked if we wanted multiple entrees. I believe my husband did order two on the lobster/prime rib night. We had multiple starters every night and one was usually the shrimp cocktail. Only 4shrimp so we didn't get stuffed. We tried several of the "didja" (as in did ya ever) selections. Alligator fritters were really good.
Lido dining was always busy but there were always seats available and the tables were cleared immediately upon leaving or while you were still sitting.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the main dining room a couple times. Much quieter than the feeding frenzy on the Lido deck.
We ordered room service for breakfast on the first morning and it arrived at the end of my desired time which was perfect. We also ordered sandwiches from room service the day before to take with us in Montego Bay. I always take a collapsible cooler and ziplock bags.
We left New Orleans prior to hurricane Isaac's visit. Travel down the Mississippi was uneventful. Monday was rainy and we were rocking and rolling. I think there were a lot of sick people because Lido dining was not as crazy. The evening show was cancelled for the safety of the dancers due to the rough seas. Neither of us suffered from sea sickness.
Montego Bay - We went on a horseback riding excursion that we booked online. Very enjoyable. We rode on trails and on the beach. We stopped, the saddles were removed, and we rode in an ocean pool. Very cool, once in a lifetime experience. The only part I didn't like was wearing the riding helmet. They didn't look very clean but I got over it.
Grand Cayman- Also booked online a Waverunner excursion to Stingray City and another snorkeling site. Waverunners looked brand new and guide was excellent. This was not a follow the leader, idle speed ride. He told us to spread out and have fun. Water was pretty rough but made it even more fun to jump the waves. I ran at speeds up to 32mph, did some spinouts, and crossed a lot of wake. I have been to Stingray City before but this was by far the most fun getting there.
Cozumel - Docked at Punta Langosta pier. I prefer the Puerta Maya pier but I think they spread the ships out for the benefit of the shops. Several ships had trouble getting out of port on time due to Isaac and cut short their sailings. This pier is nice and there are plenty of shops and restaurants. We waited for the rush to debark and got off the ship around 11am. We stopped by Carlos'n Charlies for an early lunch and a cool drink. We shopped for souvenirs and went back to the ship around 3pm. I spent the rest of the afternoon in the spa enjoying a little pampering.
It was hard to walk down the Promenade Deck because you had to hold your breath until you got past the casino due to the cigarette smoke. Didn't even try to go into the casino for this reason. I think Carnival may be losing a lot of money because of the smoke.
Final day at sea was very pleasant. Deck chairs were plentiful everyday unless you wanted to be by the pools.
Debarkation - We chose the relaxed debarkation where you put your bags out the night before. Self assist passengers were able to debark as soon the ship was cleared by customs and started round 7:15. They began by calling port side of deck one, then starboard, and moved up. After the self assist they started calling zones around 9am. We were zone 20 and scheduled for 10:30. Process went pretty quick and the zones really made it easy to find your bags. Fewer bags to search thru than with the old system.
I was a little worried about this cruise after reading the reviews. I can overlook the worn carpet and signs of age but I expect the service to be the same across the cruise line. We received excellent service from our cabin steward, the dining room staff, room service staff, and customer service. I won't hesitate to book with Carnival again. I actually purchased a certificate for a future cruise while on board. It's pretty much what you make of it. Expect the worst and hope for the best and you'll have a great time.