We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday to make sure we had no problems because of Tropical Storm Isaac and used our Priority Club points for a room at the Holiday Inn Express, Convention Center. The hotel was only a mile from the ship terminal. The rooms were very clean and the staff friendly and helpful. The location was great for purchasing last minute items for our trip. Lots of shopping areas and restaurants within walking distance from the hotel. An international liquor store to purchase your favorite bottle of wine is very close to the hotel. The hotel also offers transportation to the cruise terminal for $8 a person.
We are Carnival VIFP platinum members and embarkation was extremely painless. We were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. Our room was on deck 10. The staff was very friendly, with lots of Welcome Backs!. The crew did seem very tired and overworked. I don't think our cabin steward ever slept!!
One of the reasons may have been that the ship is supposed to accommodate about 2,970 passengers and there were 3,600 passengers for this voyage. Many were 4 to a room. The public areas around the Lido Deck buffet and pool areas were very crowded on sea days and when not in port. We did experience some rude people and felt very sorry for the staff, because there was a lot of cleaning up after some very messy guests. There were also a LOT of children and some of their parents were not supervising them. Use your imagination!
We are easy to please and this in no way ruined our cruise. Our balcony room was very clean, as usual, and our steward, Jose, took care of any special request that we had. A port side room gives you an advantage most of the time to enjoy coming into ports of call and watching all of the passengers getting on and off the ship (some even running to the ship because they are about to be left!!) The one problem with our room was that it was very hot! Our steward had maintenance check the temperature and it was 75 degrees, which was acceptable to him. Most nights we had a hard time sleeping because we were sweating and I am sure it was warmer than 75.
Carnival has really taken the life boat drills and safety very seriously. There was even a 4 hour drill for the crew when we were in port one day. Red tags were placed on every cabin door, signifying that each room had been checked and evacuated.
The ship was very clean and there was constant maintenance being performed.
Dining: One should be able to find something they like on the ship. Lots of options. We ate at the Fish and Chips restaurant and even tried the boullibase, which was good but needed a little spice. The stir fry station was fresh. The length of the lines depends on what time you go. Every night, there is a sushi bar, offering an acceptable variety. We ate at the Steak House twice and it was wonderful! The dining room menu was good as well. Sandwich station, good. Coffee bar had great desserts(for a fee). Room service was alway prompt (we tipped). Best drinks at Casino bar.
Ports of call: Grand Turk - Very small island. Nice beach next to the ship. Margaritaville. Dominican Republic - We went to the all inclusive resort with free drinks and lunch. The pool was dirty, but they had experienced Isaac before we arrived. Drinks were plentiful and the staff tried to get the guests involved. Curacao - We took a tour including the aquarium and sightseeing. This tour was unorganized and not very good. We would give it a low rating. Aruba - our favorite! Good shopping, beaches, casinos. We took the Kukukunukoo Party Bus to the beach and a resort. Very nice and a lot of fun! The water is gorgeous in Aruba.
We did enjoy our trip and will sail Carnival another time. Maybe we will make it to Diamond Status!!