We booked this cruise (with the help of a more experienced cruiser) to celebrate my 40th birthday. We opted to bring our two children, aged 5 and 8 AND some dear friends with a 6 year old joined us too.
EMBARKATION: After a long 24 hour journey by (car, ferry and two planes) we were dead tired. Luckily, we stumbled across the Carnival check-in desk at Miami Airport and thus we able to avoid some of the long lines at the cruise ship terminal. Don't get loaded before the safety briefing, they take this very seriously, as they should ... but don't sell me a drink and then take it away from me!
* a cab for 4 from the airport to the ship was $24 for the four of us, while transfer on the Carnival shuttle would have been $16 each.
STATEROOM: Our room (1274) was clean and spacious enough for the four of us. Our luggage wasn't brought to our room for several hours though ... I would have loved a refreshing shower but had to wait until after dinner for that. Emmanuel, our room steward was hard working and genuine. I've never felt more looked after in my life. I left him a big tip, knowing how hard these guys work and how little they make.
EMILE'S LIDO BUFFET: Standard buffet fare, lots of healthy options, something for everyone. Did not blow me away but was not disappointed either. We also enjoyed the burrito bar but I wish it was opened later than 2:30. Only ate at Guy's Burgers once but my kids loved the food there. Hubby really like the fish n' chips joint on the 2nd level of Emile's, bit of a hidden secret.
* the 2nd level of Emile's is MUCH quieter then the main seating area (shhh!)
GOLDEN OLYMPIAN RESTAURANT: We opted for 'Your Time Dining' at the Golden Olympian and never had to wait more than a minute or two for a table. Dining with young children here had it's challenging moments but staff were very understanding and we took this as a great opportunity to teach the kids a thing or two about dining etiquette. A little hit and miss with the service speed but for the most part service was excellent. As we weren't guaranteed the same table every night, we met several waiters. Francesco in particular was our favourite, such a nice guy, he made my birthday dinner a memorable one. I wish I'd tipped him over and above the pre-paid gratuity, they all deserve a little more in my opinion.
CAMP CARNIVAL: I was surprised to read some poor reviews on this site when it comes to Camp Carnival. We have nothing but praise for this childcare program. The room itself was impeccably clean and handwashing was enforced. Staff are professional and engaging, offering a variety of activities for kids of all ages. They take security and behavior very seriously. We took advantage of the late night babysitting a few nights. It was difficult to get the kids to leave some days!
EXCURSIONS: We were all disappointed to have our day at Halfmoon Cay cancelled due to bad weather but understood. In St. Thomas, we took the Champagne Catamaran to St. John for snorkeling at Honeymoon Beach ... that was worth every penny. The kids, while on the young side had an amazing time snorkeling and we grown ups enjoyed the open bar on the sail home! San Juan was my favourite stop. I heard the tours were good value but we walked Old San Juan and did the fort thing on our own. Take advantage of the free trolley here folks! If you ladies like nice clothing, check out https://www.facebook.com/PureSoulDesign in Old San Juan! In Grand Turk we did the Oasis kayak trip and eco-hike, which again was very enjoyable and educational. Maybe a little over-priced. Margaritaville was fun but not much of an escape from the party atmosphere of the Lido deck. If there is a next time in Grand Turk, I'm gonna opt for a more secluded beach and BYO snorkel gear!
GYM: I went to the gym three times during the week. It appeared well equipped and was never too over-crowded. My only suggestion here would be to put fans or improved ventilation in the aerobics room ... a 45 minute spin class is torture at the best of times but the Liberty aerobics room is like a greenhouse, I've never sweat so much! I didn't use the spa but really disliked the way the pushed spa treatments all week.
PHOTOS: They offer lots of fun backdrops and we had several portraits taken but only purchased one due to the price. It seemed like a huge waste to prints hundreds of photos, most of which I'm sure ended up in the trash. I don't understand why they don't offer digital images.
KARL WITH A K: Wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home, what a doll! A great cruise director. I swear they have more than one Karl, he was everywhere ALL the time. His team is lovely too, I want their jobs.
PUNCHLINES COMEDY CLUB: If Happy Cole is performing on your cruise, SEE HIM EVERY SINGLE SHOW YOU CAN ... died laughing. The other comedians were funny too but Happy's R-rated show was the best I've ever seen.
DISEMBARKATION: Seemed well timed and organized by zone. We opted to leave our bags out the night before and didn't have to leave until 9:30am. Our luggage was in our hands within minutes of entering the terminal. Customs line was about 15 minutes as was the wait for a cab. It would have been nice to have some ice water on hand outside as we did on embarkation.
As Karl with a K says, "see you soon, bye for now" ...