Me and my wife had never cruised before, and my mom offered to pay for a honeymoon cruise, so we booked through Priceline and went with Carnival, which seemed like a good value. AND they sailed from Galveston, which we are about 310 miles east of. We drove there, and used Galveston Park N Cruise; $35 if you book online.
We got a balcony stateroom. 100% worth the extra money, the cruise would've been much less enjoyable without the balcony to hang out in and get away from the crowds every now and then. Yes, the ship was very full during what I thought would be a slower time (early October). At least there were relatively few kids, due to school being in session, and no holidays falling near our trip. I'll break this review down by area, rather than by day, since a by-day review would just get repetitive.
FOOD: Food was plentiful and is part of your cruise fare, with the exception of soft drinks, alcohol and items at the coffee shop by the casino, among others. The dining room felt a little
cramped to me and the wife, and the first night we got seated with another couple. We're not big talkers and would rather be on our own, so we only ate at our assigned dining room (London Dining Room) twice during the 5-day cruise. The food was okay, but far from great. The brisket tasted weird and the steak ended up needing some A-1 Sauce pretty badly. Not awful, but for us, the buffets and room service were a better and more flexible option. Room Service serves little more than sandwiches and snacks, so we only hit it up if we were really tired (so, almost every day, lol). The service was shaky and they often forgot to bring sides or drinks. You can pre-pay tips, which I recommend ($11.50 per person, per day). However, this doesn't include Room Svc staff, which you tip separately.
DRINK: A big water bottle in the room was $4, sodas were $2 each. You can pack a certain amount of non-alcoholic beverages to bring on board. We forgot to do this and it cost us about $25 extra to buy water/soda on board. Not a big deal, but you might as well bring stuff with you and save some $$. Check with Carnival as to how much you can bring. You CANNOT bring hard liquor on board from home (you can, but they confiscate it and you get it at the end of the trip, same for booze bought at port). You can, however, bring one bottle of wine per person. A reviewer on this site, SOTX55, gave me a great idea: fill up empty wine bottles w/ whisky, re-cork and re-seal them and bring them on. We each brought one bottle of "wine". I did a decent job of making them look like new, SEALED wine bottles, so we saved ourselves maybe $100+ by doing this. We still drank quite a bit on board, and at $5-$9 per drink, believe me, it adds up. All drink purchases will have a 15% tip automatically added to the bill.
ACTIVITIES: First thing I have to mention is the Big Easy Piano Bar. We both loved Frank, the pianist/singer. Very witty, plays some good stuff, but he won't pander to his audience, which I
appreciate. So don't just throw him a five and expect him to play whatever tacky song you just have to hear, the guy isn't a jukebox. He will be more than willing to let you grab a mike and do the singing if you want to sing a song he knows. And it is a "sing-along" piano party, after all. The bar itself is nice and cozy and rarely got crowded, so we were there at least a couple of nights.
The casino was fun, but the slots are not loose at all (somebody supposedly won $25K, but I wasn't convinced), so don't expect to walk away with money and you'll have fun. We don't play table games, so I can't tell you about those. The casino is one of the few places where you can smoke, if you're sitting AT a machine. Otherwise, go stand by the right side of the casino bar.
We saw one show, the New Orleans-themed one on the last night of the cruise. My wife used to be a professional singer and stage actress, and she thought it was awful. I had to agree with her, I almost fell asleep. We did the Art Auction, which I really liked because you got free champagne, and got to learn quite a bit about modern art. We didn't bid on anything, since all the art had high reserve prices, but it was still a highlight of the trip for me. Didn't have time and/or energy for the comedy shows, and we missed the formal night, which was on the 2nd day of the cruise, which for some reason I wasn't expecting. Wouldn't the final night make more sense? Ah well, no loss, really. Did we really want to dress up to sit down and eat dried up lobster with a bunch of rednecks? Who cares.
The salt-water slide was really fun, although the pools seemed awfully small. The hot tubs were okay. Didn't even check out the spa. If you do, bring at least a couple of big sacks of money. Or just get a much, much cheaper massage in port somewhere.
SHOPPING: There's really two main shops, plus a few smaller ones, but I'll deal with the two main ones here. They're a mixed bag. Super-expensive for some things, but they have decent sales during the trip on jewelry and watches. A carton of cigs will run you about $30, although you can get one for about $25 in port. Still, $30/carton beats $50+, which is what you pay where I live. I would really just shop at the ports of call and not bother with the shops. BRING DRAMAMINE. Motion sickness remedies are pricey on board.
PORTS: Progreso was the first one. I heard there wasn't much to do there, so I booked us an excursion to the Dzibilchatun mayan ruins, about 30 mins by bus each way. It includes a museum and access to a crystal clear swimming hole. Completely worth it and the guides were great.
The shops right at the cruise terminal are pretty awesome (I believe Carnival owns them, but are run and operated by locals). Definitely haggle for anything $5 and up, you are almost certain to get a better price if you can be a little persistent without being rude. Stuff below five bucks I wouldn't haggle for too much. The town is obviously poor and not as developed as Cozumel. If you're hellbent on saving yourself one or two dollars on a shot glass, haggle away, but these people obviously need the two bucks much more than you do. It's all about finding a balance between getting ripped off by nearly desperate salespeople just to hold on to a dollar or two. But on more "expensive" items, haggling is expected and encouraged. I wish we could've spent more time there than 6-7 hours, the area by the pier alone was a lot of fun. The only bummer for me was that I bought a carton of Marlboros at the duty-free shop for $24, and then stupidly left them somewhere. D'oh.
Next day, we went to Cozumel. First, we hit 7-11 for some $2 packs of mexican cigarettes. I almost left my debit card at the store, but a nice gentleman reminded me to take it. Very honest of him and it gave me an excellent first impression of the place. The vendors complained to me (I speak Spanish) that Progreso -- which is a newer port -- undersells them on souvenirs, as the cost of living and merchandise in general is higher in Cozumel. I found this to be true, as souvenirs were generally cheaper in Progreso. After looking at a few shops near
the cruise terminal and 7-11, a cab driver corralled us and tried to get us to take the whole island tour on his cab. We weren't interested in that, so I didn't even ask the price, but he agreed to take us to the San Francisco Beach Club, about 7 miles away, for $15 (the official rate; I checked online before the cruise). The SF Beach Club was GREAT. Beautiful beach, an inflatable trampoline in the water you can jump off of, and delicious grilled lobster, seafood kabobs and guacamole. The frozen drinks felt pricey at $8 each, but _very_ strong and well-made. Many vendors prowled the beach, but were generally friendly and not too pushy. Service was super-friendly and we got 2 free tequila shots at the end. You can eat right at your beach chair. Admission and chairs are free as long as you were consuming. Spent about $120 for one grilled lobster, a seafood kabob, about 5 frozen drinks (I think, LOL) and a $20 tip. All money well spent, IMO. We got to ride a cab back to the ship for $13. Me and the wife did some light shopping near the pier and had a few drinks before leaving.
That's about it, folks. All in all, a really great trip (being in good company helps ;) ) and an unforgettable honeymoon.