There was a storm so the ship arrived into port late on October 13th. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, and used the ship transfer system. We were held at the airport for a short while since we arrived early - 930am. Keep in mind, if you arrive well before noon, you will wait a short while since transfers don't officially begin until noon. We left FLL at 1145am to arrive at the Miami port around 1225. The line to board was a mile long due to the delay in arrival and debarkation of guests . Carnival gave travelers the option to take a free shuttle to Bayside Marketplace until 3pm and receive a $15 credit per person or you could wait outside the terminal - in the heat, humidity, no food or water. We took the shuttle, had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, and picked up a few items. Upon return to the ship, the line was gone so we were able to walk right into the terminal. Once inside, it only took about 20 minutes to check in, take photo, and go to our cabin. The cabin was a bit dusty. I thought it was because it wasn't cleaned well, but it seems the air system dumps the dust on the surfaces. I dusted myself twice that week. Also, the glass shield on the balcony wasn't very clean. There was quite a bit of salt reside from the storm left on the furniture, floor, and shield. Our cabin steward, Troy, was very friendly and efficient and made many great towel animals! Evacuation drill was standard except you did not have to take the life vest.
DINING: We were seated with a very nice couple from Pennsylvania (Rich and Julie) in a booth for four. Seating was comfortable. Decor in the dining room was just ok. Food - overall meh, just so so. Breakfast was good in the buffet if you used the omelet station and had your eggs cooked to order. There was variety but pretty much the same thing everyday. I used room service quite a bit for bagels, smoked salmon, cereal, croissants, and coffee. The room service menu seemed to have a pretty decent selection to choose from and was 24 hours. Lunch in the buffet was good overall - it had variety although "recycled" dinner items used in casseroles, etc. The sandwich deli was great - grilled and cold sandwiches made to order and open until 11pm! Also, Pirate Pizza open 24 hours with hot, fresh pizza. The pool grill had really good hamburgers also along with hot dogs, chicken bites, fries, and cold salads. I did not try the sushi bar on board nor the pastry stand. Dinner - the first couple of nights in the dining room started out good but went downhill. Not terrible, but nothing to rave about at all. We ate at Scarlett's Steakhouse two nights. My steak was perfectly cooked along with accompanying sides but the meat was a little fatty. The second night I had lamb chops. Beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. NOTE: If you have food allergies, let ALL of the table servers know promptly. There is little description of the ingredients on the menu. I am allergic to alcohol. Certain dishes that I know traditionally contain it, I ask just to be sure. But the Chocolate Sampler dessert did NOT contain a description including alcohol and nothing to indicate that it may contain it. I dove into the first selection only to have one of the 2 or 3 servers we had run over to stop me. He then told me which of the four "samplers" had alcohol but I think he was mistaken with one of them. Each bite I took left me with stabbing pains in the chest. I had to stop eating the dessert altogether. They did prepare me a plate of fresh tropical fruits in exchange.
PLEASE: Do not take cuts in line. Be courteous of those who were waiting before you for the same food! Also, don't have one person in line holding a spot for ten people. One person to join you is "acceptable" but, beyond that is just plain rude... ENTERTAINMENT: Was quite good! The cruise director was funny and engaging. We saw three out of five comedians - two were great and extremely funny, was was rather crude (we didn't care for his humor at all), and we missed the last two which were on the last night of the cruise. Marcus Anthony, singer, was brought on board to do a Motown review, and the Carnival entertainers did a production dedicated to the 80's. Very good and entertaining production! NOTE: If you have long legs or need to stretch out, sit on the first floor. Leg room is cramped in the balcony. There are also movies and concerts shown on the outdoor theatre screen. In-room: Carnival needs to upgrades their televisions. They must be the original tubes placed on the ship when built. Ours blanked out a few times. I had to use my "hammer" (fist) to fix it. You can view major stations like CBS, FOX, ABC and see sporting events (football).
CASINO: Like putting money in a piggy bank! Not much paying out while a lot going in! Be ware of the machines with the money hanging inside - you only have 30 seconds no matter how much you pay for chances to win so only pay for one chance at a time if you can't resist. Also, new to me, all wins on slot machines are loaded to your "player bank" on your sign and sail card. If you want cash, you have to take your card to the cashier's window to cash out. Also, make sure you cash out any winnings by or before your last night on the ship - or else!
PROHIBITED ITEMS: Carnival is strict with electrical appliances. Our dinner mates' steamer was confiscated at the screening station upon check-in and my boyfriend's iron was found under the bed by Troy! You will receive at claim check to retrieve confiscated items at the end of the cruise. I have no problem with policy but the laundry service needs great improvement. My boyfriend's suit was sent for pressing to wear on formal night and came back just as wrinkled as it came out of the suit case! Unacceptable, especially since the service isn't free! He sent it back to be done again - Carnival charged me instead of him for it - twice! We spent the last evening in line at Customer Service going over charges. Carnival ended up taking all of the laundry charges off both of our accounts.
PHOTOS: For us it was great! Lots of backgrounds to choose from. We buy photos since we don't have a bar bill (non-drinkers). I didn't feel the photographers were any more pushy than usual.
PORTS: A piece of advice, take an organized tour in Dominican Republic. Do not take a "taxi tour". My dinner mates took the tour "downtown". They felt unsafe - people walking with clubs in hand. A police officer watched them while they shopped to ensure their safety. Also, nothing of tourist interest there to see, strictly local life in town. We took the Carnival express tour to Santo Domingo. My boyfriend sat outside one of the buildings while the rest of us went in. He pulled his tablet out to check his email. He noticed a few guys staring at him. He felt uncomfortable, put it away, and came in to join us as he wasn't sure of his safety. Leave your electronics on board or out of sight and stay with a group.
Grand Turk: Use as a beach stop. We took a taxi, $25pp - NOTHING to see! Almost barren there once away from the port area. But at least we can say we've been there and saw it. We did have some good cracked conch though...
Aruba and Curacao: Beautiful and Great! The Dutch take care of their islands. Lots of nice sites and shopping! We took taxi tours in both places, $20-25 pp for 2-3 hours. In Aruba there is a multi-colored bus tour for $20pp that will take you around the island (ours had iguanas on the hood). Do not use the taxis for $90 per carload! You will see the taxis at the same stops the bus goes to. Also, at the old church, the bathroom at the restaurant nearby is .50ct pp person to use...
DEBARKATION: Went pretty quick and smoothly. I think a lot of people used express walk-off. We had transfers so we got off when our group number was called, which was right at the time specified. My only problem was the luggage retrieval system. It is like the airport - your luggage comes off a carousel belt. I felt this was time consuming as our bags were separated when picked up the night before. One took quite awhile to come out. So long we had to ask a Carnival representative if all of group twelve had been loaded onto the belt! Personally, I'd rather walk the rows of bags and find mine...