This is rather long, but, hey, it's a long cruise. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors.
Day 1 9-30-12
This is our 2nd cruise, going to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. Our 1st was on the Triumph, to Progresso and Cozumel last year. We are not cruising veterans.
We parked at Galveston Park & Sail. It is in a warehouse across the street from the terminal and very reasonable. We handled our own luggage since we had only 3 suitcases.
Passing through security and boarding the ship is what it is. It was not unpleasant. I have never tried to put 3200 people on a ship, so I give Carnival all the credit in the world for getting everyone on board as quickly as they did.
Once on board we headed to the Lido Deck, Deck 10. The bars and buffet were open and doing a brisk business. A note here for smokers. There is normally smoking on one side of the Lido Deck midship, but smoking is not allowed until the ship sails. We grabbed something to drink and a bite to eat and waited for our room to open.
Our room was ready when I went to check about 1:15. I was pleasantly surprised. We booked our cruise a bit late, so the only balconies available we "cove balconies" on Deck 2. I looked at pictures and feared that the balcony opening was kind of small. This is not the case. The cove takes up maybe a foot on each side of the opening and helps block some of the wind. Also, being on Deck 2 put us under the lifeboats so this was a concern. This turned out to be a great advantage. When the rain came, we had our own overhead canopy. It was great sitting on the balcony watching the rain and staying dry. Another plus is that the boat does not rock near as much on Deck 2 as it does the upper levels. In the future, we will always book a cove balcony. The rooms have the network TV channels and pay per view movies, along with the various ship info channels.
We chose "our time" dining and ate in the dining room. I was not too impressed with the food or the service. I think our waitress was a bit overwhelmed and the "tangy sweet & sour shrimp" was fried shrimp with sweet & sour sauce on the side. It was pretty plain. I did have the melting chocolate cake and, as always, it was excellent. We sat with total strangers and had a great time with them. After all, everyone is on the ship to have a good time.
After dinner, we headed to the casino. I played poker and my wife hit the slots. Not much to say here. It is a nice casino, but still just a casino. Drinks are not free. Not coke, water, liquor, etc. They do not even serve coffee. Part of one side is smoking. I am a smoker and it was a bit much for me. After we left the casino, I put my shirt on the balcony to air out. The smoke was overpowering. If you enjoy casinos, you will enjoy this one.
This is Day 1 of 2 full days at sea.
We went to the Comedy Brunch for breakfast. This really is just an opportunity for the comedians to introduce themselves and plug their shows for the cruise. It was okay, but I think breakfast will either be in the dining room, if we are up early enough or the buffet on the Lido deck from now on. We did order room service for 6:30 am to get some coffee, juice, danishes, etc. to get us going.
During the day we ate the buffet lunch and explored the ship to try and learn our way around. It is a daunting task. I recommend learning where the front and rear of the ship is when leaving your room to help with this. Some decks do not run continuously from one end to the other, but they are few. I finally figured out that our dining room is on Deck 3, the casino, shops and theaters are on Deck 5 and the buffet and other food is on Deck 10. We did not need anything else, so this simplified things greatly.
When evening came, it was time to hit the shows. We want to see them all. We saw Grooveline in the Showtime Theater at 7:00. It is a 70's type dance musical show and it was very entertaining. It sounded like the male singer was hoarse or losing his voice as the show went on, but he did a good job of keeping it together. The female singer and the dancers were lights out! 2 drinks during the show were about $13 and very good, so I can live with that. After this show we hung in the casino for a bit and went to the adult comedy show featuring Mutzie. He does a real good show without a bunch of foul language, which suited us just fine. He also never does the same show twice, so he is good to see every night. Cowboy Bill Martin is the other comic. He and Mutzie alternate show times. We will see him tomorrow night.
After the comedy show, we realized we better eat before we go to bed. Where to eat free at 11pm? Good question. The pizza place and the deli are the 2 options. There are other places if you want to pay. We chose the deli and it was very good. A couple hot ham and cheese sandwiches and we were off to the room, having enjoyed a very nice day.
This is our 2nd full day at sea
Morning brought room service and laziness. We ordered breakfast and lunch through room service and didn't leave our cabin until noon. I guess the various drinks last night made a pretty good sleep aid!
We spent the afternoon in the casino. My wife reached 1500 points on her card, so now all her casino drinks are free. WOO HOO! This is no small cost.
We decided to give the dining room another shot. We got a new waiter, Anand, and he was great! The food was much better, also. We went about 7pm and got to see the little show the staff puts on. Anand was worried that we didn't like our meal because we didn't eat it all. We explained that there is so much, it is too much. We ordered dessert and Anand brought us another dessert that he wanted us to try, just because. It was a fig cake and it was pretty good, though not near as good as the chocolate melting cake. We sat with strangers again and had a wonderful visit.
After dinner, we went to Mutzie's family comedy show at 8:30. He is funny. He builds his entire show around people in the audience. It is only a 30 minute show, but it is fun. We had every intention of going to Cowboy Bill Martin's adult show at 9:45, but ran out of gas. We went back to the cabin and called it a night. We land in Jamaica tomorrow.
Day 4 on shore in Jamaica
Again we did room service for breakfast and watched all the people leave the ship. We did not plan an excursion, so we were in no hurry to leave. We figured we would find something on shore that would show u a little bit of everything. Good idea with a less than stellar outcome.
When we got on shore, I saw a "Hop On Hop Off" shuttle that went to the Rose Hill Shops, Cave Beach, Margaritaville and the Old Fort Market. This sounded right up our alley. You get off the shuttle at the stops you want and get back on to proceed to another stop when you are ready. Yeah right....
Rose Hill Shops were very nice. It had everything from t-shirts to fine jewelry. It was a good place to start. We spent about an hour and then moved on.
Cave Beach is a nice beach. What they don't tell you is that it is $6 each to get in, $6 each for a chair, $6 each for an umbrella, however much to go snorkeling, etc. You get the picture. Also, I was asked at least for times if I wanted to buy some weed. This is a regular occurrence and, from what we were told, very illegal. The police around Jamaica are very active and well armed. The staff was not too friendly, but we splashed around in the ocean, took some pictures and picked up some seashells. Not too bad of a time. Again, we decided to move on.
Margaritaville was next. We rolled to a stop with 30-40 people standing in line to enter and saw a sign for $10 to enter. I have no idea what the food and drinks cost because we didn't get off the shuttle. We moved on.
Next stop was the Old Fort Craft Market. We were both looking forward to this. We passed it earlier in the day and it looked like our kind of place. We both like to wander, browse and generally look at everything there is to offer. I was looking for some sleeveless t-shirts and my wife likes the long mumu type skirts. She saw one at the Rose Hill shops for $30, but thought she could get it cheaper at the market. Literally, after 5 minutes at the market, I told my wife it was time to go. She wanted to walk a little more. She found the mumu. It was $35 here. The whole experience was very unpleasant. The shop owners were very, very pushy and would pull at you to come in their shop. A shop consisted of a maybe 8'x8' box with no lights. We could not stop and talk without 3 or 4 shop keepers surrounding you and telling you to come see their goods. It was a bit scary for my wife and very irritating for me. We couldn't stop, talk, browse, etc. at all. Even while finally getting out of there and waiting for the shuttle the borderline harassment continued and we got offered a chance to buy some weed again. After this adventure, we were ready to get back to the ship. I'm sure there were better excursions, I just didn't choose one.
Once back on board, we grabbed some lunch at the buffet, relaxed and watched the people head back to the ship. The local kids rolled out a marching band that played on the pier for about 1-1/2 hours. People were throwing money off the boat to them. Towards the end, the kids started asking for candy. This made perfect sense to me, since I'm sure they don't get the money. People started throwing candy, especially the little chocolates that get left in the room each night. If you come this way, remember to bring candy. The kids loved it.
Oh yeah, remember the insulated cooler bag I mentioned earlier? Our room steward filled it back up while we were gone. That is service!
A "new" show is playing tonight, for one night only. It is an illusionist show called "Destination: Unknown". I say "new" because we sailed on the Triumph December 5th of last year and saw a show by the same name. It is the same guy, minus his sidekick, with a new glitzed up rendition of the show, with lots of fog, lights, singing and dancing. In my opinion, his new show isn't half of what his old show was. Don't get me wrong. He had some great illusions, but with all the fog and lights it was difficult to see clearly. The one thing missing this time is that he had no connection with the audience. He did not speak a single word the entire show. Maybe David Copperfield or Harry Houdini could get away with this, but not this guy. This is just my opinion, but I didn't see anyone sitting around clapping or looking for an encore, either.
After the show we went to "Our Time" dining in the dining room. Honestly, they should call it "All the Time" dining. I am getting tired of eating! Dinner was very good. I had shark for the first time and it was very good. It tasted like salmon to me, but I'm no seafood expert.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands tomorrow for some snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays.
Day 5 in The Cayman Islands
We had morning room service and the order was so messed up it wasn't even close. I didn't check it before the waiter left, so shame on me. I will next time. We didn't have time to mess around, because we had a full day planned.
CI doesn't have a cruise ship dock, so we were shuttled to shore on boats that hold about 300 people. Try and sit on the upper level. Those that do, get off first. We booked the Coral Reef snorkeling and the Stingray Sandbar thru Carnival from 11:00-2:00, so we wanted to visit the shops first. The last shuttle back to the ship left at 3:15. We left the ship about 7:30 for a 10 minute ride to shore.
We were able to do all the shopping we wanted by walking. The island is small and many of the shops are on the streets surrounding the pier. You get a map when you get off that shows many of the shops. Unlike our previous stop in Jamaica, the people on the island are so friendly. They were happy to see us and were not at all pushy. We were able to walk and browse all we wanted and, lo and behold, we bought some things. We went back to our excursion meet spot about 10:15, got something to drink and waited. Well, I waited and my wife shopped for a bit more.
Our excursion was fantastic! First we visited the stingrays. This was an exceptional experience. We sailed way out to a sandbar where the water is about 3'-4' deep. The ship's crew said the water on the other side of the sand bar is about 6,000 feet deep. Not to worry, it is a huge sand bar. There were 4 other boats anchored there, but there was plenty of room for everyone. The crew brought a bucket of food into the water and in came the stingrays. They were anywhere from 1' wide to 5' wide. I don't mind saying that, although we were well informed by the ship's crew, these things were intimidating. They pose no danger and are vey social, but anything that moves like they do underwater can be scary. After getting to pet them and hold them, all was well. We stayed here for about 45 minutes. Now this doesn't sound like a long time, but if you have spent any time playing in the ocean, the waves can wear you out. By the time were had to leave, I was ready for a break. Honestly, if all we had done was sail out to the sandbar and went swimming, it in itself would have been great. I did notice that a different excursion rode jet skis out to the stingrays. That would have been a blast. I will remember that next time.
Next up was snorkeling at the coral reef. This also lasted about 45 minutes. Neither my wife nor I had ever been, so it was a new experience. Although it was fun, it is not something I will do again. I swallowed to much saltwater and my wife doesn't like anything over her face. It was about a 45 minute ride back to the canal we left from and we even enjoyed that.
All in all, our trip to the Cayman Islands was great and we will definitely do it again. I wish we had sailed past Jamaica and spent 2 days in there.
Day 6 in Cozumel
We didn't book an excursion in Cozumel. We struggled with "should we or shouldn't we" and made the right decision. After being in the ocean yesterday, we were very tired. We walked and shopped and were just generally lazy. We ate lunch at Pancho's on the pier and it was excellent. It was the best food of trip. I guess that is a sad statement, but true. My wife is a butterfly nut and found a beautiful butterfly bracelet, so she was happy. I drank a margarita and people watched, so I was happy, too. We bought some Bacardi rum and Jack Daniels at Dufry, the duty free shop on the pier. It appears the store clerk was misinformed. I asked how much liquor we could buy duty free and he said 3.5 liters each. According to Carnival, it 2 liters each. We will have to pay taxes on the extra. Oh well......
Once back on the ship, we rested until dinner time. We have given up on the dining room, so we headed to the buffet. We would give up on this too if there were other options. We can't eat burgers and pizza every night.
After dinner, we went to see the Marcus Monroe. He is a juggler and comedian. He was hilarious! This was, by far, the best time we have had on the ship. We laughed so hard hurt and were still laughing an hour later. We went to our cabin after this. The drinks made us sleepy. We are heading for home tomorrow.
Day 7 Sailing home and Day 8 Debarkation
Another fun day on the ship with less than average food. We are some kind of tired. I hit the poker table for a while and my wife shopped, rested and packed. She had us organized and ready for getting off the ship. Getting off went very smooth. We ate breakfast and waited for our zone number to be called (#8). We choose to have our bags checked instead of carrying them off ourselves. Those that carry their own get off first, but we had a lot to carry. We were called at 8:30 in driving away in our car at 9:10. Customs was easy. I had too much liquor (2 liters allowed per person), but they didn't ask how much I had, only how many bottles. I told her 3 bottles and the agent said have a nice day.
The only reason I didn't rate the cruise 5 stars was the poor food. I was not a deal breaker for us and we had a wonderful experience.
1. Bring your own cup for drinks. Tea, juice, water and coffee are free, but the glasses are small and the tea is terrible. My wife got us 2 big insulated glasses with straws and we take them everywhere we go.
2. Bring your own sodas, Gatorade, red bull, etc. if you can. 24 - 20 ounce bottles each are allowed. It is cheaper and much more convenient. The free beverages are on Deck 10, so it can be a trip if you need something to drink.
3. You are allowed a small cooler, like 6 pack size, but try this. My wife bought a large insulated bag at Wal-Mart and packed items in it for the trip. After unpacking, our room steward filled it with ice for us.
4. We brought our own beach towels for the shore activities. Carnival puts towels in your cabin, but if you lose them they are $22 each to replace. Ours are $3, so we can lose them without worry.
5. Book a Carnival excursion in Jamaica or stay on the ship.