Here's a little background. This was my 5th Carnival cruise, and my ds-18's very first cruise. We were on a 4-day cruise from Miami to visit the ports of Key West and Cozumel.
I booked this cruise as a pack and go special. I think I booked it about 3-4 weeks out. I got a super bargain on an inside cabin that CCL was to choose for me. It turned out to be a great location for us.
Our cruise departed on Monday, October 29.
We flew in the day before our cruise to MIA. By this time, Hurricane Sandy had already visited Miami and was getting close to wreaking havoc on the Northern Coastline. My prayers go out to all who are dealing with the destruction of Sandy.
The weather was cool, I was glad I had brought my jacket. Our flight from DFW to MIA was uneventful.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn near the airport using points. We did have to call twice for our shuttle at the airport to pick us up. But a nice apology was given and we moved on. The hotel was clean, and there was an IHOP next door that offered a discount by showing your room key. There also was a McDonalds along the way within walking distance and I noticed a Subway too. I had worked the night before so I was exhausted. After a quick lunch at IHOP, it was off to bed for me! We woke up very early the next morning and ds went downstairs to grab some breakfast. He brought me back a bagel. I am not sure of all the offerings for breakfast as I didn't go to the lobby, but there were several tables, coffee, juice etc I know for sure. It was free, so no complaints here. DS was satisfied. We purchased about 10 cans of cokes from the coke machine at the hotel for a buck each and loaded them in our carryon bag for the cruise. We signed up in advance with the hotel for a shuttle to the pier. It was $10 pp. At about 9:45 am the pier shuttle arrived, loaded us and a few others on to the van and off to our new home for the next few days.
On a side note, there were two couples traveling with us in the van who were originally booked and boarded the Glory. They were onboard for about 4 hours they said, soaking in the hot tub and drinking, when they had to disembark the ship because the cruise was being cancelled. They said the Coast Guard closed the harbor and the ship could not sail. Smartly thinking, one of the dh's got on the phone, booked flights, contacted Carnival and got another cruise in its place at a great last minute price they said. I was happy their vacation was salvaged and not completely ruined by Sandy.
We arrived at the POM at about 10:15 am, and by 11:00, I was eating lunch on the Lido. At promptly 2:30, we went downstairs to check out our cabin and it was ready. It was a great location. I had booked a pack & go rate so CCL picked my cabin for me. About a week out, I noticed that my cabin had been assigned so I knew exactly where it was. We had an interior cabin on the Empress deck, # E188. The ship itself seemed to be in great shape. My cabin was clean and tidy but a few things were certainly worn out. Even though I had requested twin beds, we arrived to have King. I mentioned it to our steward and he kindly fixed it later that night-after showing me his documents stating "couple" meaning we were a couple and wanted a King. I on the other hand had documents showing 2 twin beds. We had a flat screen tv mounted on the wall, but our bedside table was coming apart-literally with pieces sticking out. I took photos of it, but I am not posting any photos online here at this time. Also, the light cover over the nightlight was busted, and partially missing. This cabin was also freezing the entire cruise. We did turn the switch to blow on low but it was still cold. If we were in the cabin, we were under the blankets on the bed lol. Also, our phone did not work properly as we tried to set up a wakeup call. Was it a bad cabin? No. Just a few things we noticed. Our room steward was nice and kept a tidy cabin. Something I did notice on this cruise that I have never noticed before is that every night we got a new towel animal, our old one disappeared. In the past, all of our animals stayed, and we could line them all up together and photograph them. Not this time. We were satisfied with our steward, and left tips in place no adjustments either way.
Muster drill was late and sail away was late. I was glad they didn't sail away until after the muster was complete. We were scheduled to depart at 4pm but we did not leave until maybe around 4:30 or so. I'm not exact on the time however; I do know we were late.
Our luggage arrived within an hour or so. All bags including rum runners made it safely onboard to our cabin. Rum Runners-5- CCL- 0 ?
My only complaint I think this cruise would have to be regarding dining. In my previous cruises, we have dined at assigned dinging times. We have had early and late seating in the past. Depending on if our youngest is with us determines our dining time choice. This time I requested late dining as I was traveling with my 18 year old son but we were waitlisted and we were assigned Your Time Dining instead. YTD was awful. Our first night, we expect it to be slow as everyone is adjusting to it. I know to expect this. Two dancing waiter shows later, we are still in the dining room. We were seated at a large round table with other guests in whom I enjoyed as I'm a social person. This time was no exception. Our tablemates were all friendly. However our wait staff was not. There was no greeting, no smile, barely an acknowledgement of our existence. Water glasses were filled around the table. I placed my hand over my glass before the robotic waiter could fill it with water and I requested iced tea instead. There was zero personality to our wait staff. This is my biggest complaint about the tipping structure that most cruise lines have. This waiter who didn't even speak to me received full tips from me and my son for the evening for doing little more than writing my order on a piece of paper along with the other people's order. He did little to deserve his tip. I don't care to debate it so don't bother.
On another note...is it just me or did the food portions get smaller? Did the choices get smaller? I ordered the flat iron steak one night and I swear it was the smallest steak I have ever seen. Speaking of that steak, I had to send it back as blood was still running out of it-it certainly was not the way I ordered it. I had to flag down someone to send my waiter to me so I could as he did not come back to check on our meal after it was delivered. Once my steak was returned (actually a new steak) it was now cooked well done (not the way I ordered it either) and tough as shoe leather but I managed to eat some of it. Our overall experience in the dining room...a bust. I miss the assigned dining time and will be going back to that hopefully for all future cruises. I have never had a waiter walk away from me while I was in mid sentence trying to tell him what I wanted to order. Apparently he could read my mind. I must say even though we requested a different seating area and wait staff after the first night, it was only a slight improvement in service. At least I did manage to receive refills on my tea.
Unfortunately I left all tips in place, no adjustments either way. Which by giving them full tips, it tells the wait staff that their service rendered was acceptable-and in my opinion it was not but I didn't want to mess with the hassle. Which I'm guessing is why it's the way it is. If you tell someone that they did a good job, they will believe it. Tipping for poor service is just that. I should have reduced tips but I didn't. The people at our large table agreed it was poor service as well.
We ate in the dining room 3 nights. We ordered room service three times. Two of the three times they had our order completely wrong. Our breakfast on debarkation day was delivered just as we ordered it and on time. I do not know why it is so difficult to order a ham sandwich with no mayo.
We had fun. We did not do a lot of shows. Ds watched the marriage show, which I have seen in the past so I did not attend. He like it and thought it was funny. We both attended the late night adults only comedy show. We laughed and then it began getting raunchy and I was not comfortable sitting there with my son, so we both agreed to leave partially through the show. No complaints about it, but my son is 18, but still in high school so I chose not to hear the rest of it. Perhaps if my dh was there instead it would have been better for me.
Willie our cruise director was great I thought. Thank God he was not on the PA system every 10 minutes! I have been cruising when I swear the CD just wants to hear his self talk. Thankfully Willie was only on the PA with important info.
We participated in the Halloween costume contest, earning a spot on the stage. I was dressed as Flo from Progressive Insurance and my ds was Jake from State Farm Insurance. We had a lot of fun parading around and checking out everyone's costumes. We didn't win which was fine as there were a lot of fantastic costumes. We had fun and that was the goal.
I tried my luck at the tower building game...a.k.a. Giant Jenga. It turns out I'm no good at it. I think I knocked it down every time but once lol. I received a pity medal for participation lol.
I also tried my luck at Rock n Roll Trivia in which I scored myself a 24kt gold plastic ship on a stick. It turns out I know a lot about Rock n Roll...and the trivia isn't all about Rock n Roll (which I'm not sure why it's not called music trivia instead)
I also tried my luck at another trivia game, where cheaters won. All I'm saying is it's pretty pathetic if you have to cheat to win.
We visited the piano bar and the pianist was Marty. I have been to other piano bars where it's fun and hopping. This place was a snooze fest. Even a new friend I made onboard said that it was lame. So I'm not sure if we were too early (11pm) or what...but we ended up leaving there and went to the dance club. Great dj! He would judge the vibe of the crowd, and change the tunes as needed. We enjoyed our time here.
Casino-well well. What can I say? I lost all my gambling funds. I was playing Hold em (I'm a pretty good player) lost two big hands to a guy who on his first hand hit runner runner for a straight flush. His second hand he again hit runner runner and hit a 4 of a kind to my full house. I'll lose to those hands any day of the week. I know I got my money in first with the best hand. That's the best you can do. He got lucky. That's poker my friends. I did not go back to the hold em table. Instead, I went to play black jack the next night. My second favorite casino game. Of course my bad luck would follow right. Dealer has a 5 showing, I'm dealt 8 8. Of course I split. Guess what, I get a 3. Double down right? Of course. Guess what on the second 8...a third 8. I split. I get a three and double down. All in all I had three or four 8's split, and doubled on every hand but one. And of course the dealer ends up pulling a 21 lol...lost it all but $5. And then I pulled out a $1 to play one more hand of black jack and lost that hand too.
For those of you curious, yes, the electronic hold em table is there. Off and on there would be $2 black jack on the electronic bj table. Table mins on bj were $6. The highly addictive Vault game is there too. By the end of the cruise, about 5 prizes had been won.
All in all the staff was fun and entertaining and involved as they should be.
Our first port was Key West. This was my first visit to Key West. Honestly in my opinion, 7:30 am is too early for this port. Sure the typical port stuff was open. But having to be back on board by 1:00 just does not give you enough time to really enjoy the port.
DS and I had pre arranged online our parasailing with Fury water sports. If you order online you receive a discount. It was a great experience and wayyyyy cheaper than booking through the cruise line. If you want to parasail, this is the place to do it. Our crew was great. Due to the winds caused by Sandy, I was concerned that it may be cancelled but it was not. We were there on Tuesday and they said we were the first ones going out after Sandy. I was a bit nervous as it was really windy but that added to the thrill of it. Usually it is a slow relaxing ride. This time was a bit more exciting. We would not hesitate to book this again.
There wasn't much for us to do here. An 18 yr. old cannot bar hop here. After our parasailing, we walked through a few of the shops and did a little shopping and just headed back to the ship.
Our second port was Cozumel. This was also Halloween. We slept in, very late today after being up all night before. Once we finally got off the ship it was about 4 pm. It was fun to see everyone in port (the workers) dressed in their costumes. We did a little shopping, ate some lunch at Panchos backyard, ds had a XX and I did too. We did some more shopping and then we headed to Fat Tuesdays where ds decided he likes the mango margaritas lol. He also learned how stupid drunk people become-and loved watching "old drunk people dance on a pole". I also taught him about pier runners. But everyone was eager to get onboard for Halloween fun so no late night excitement for pier runners this time. I told him to search on you tube for reference lol.
We were back on the ship by 7 pm. We skipped dinner in the MDR and got ready for Halloween. We ran to the buffet and got a little something to eat and then headed to the Promenade to see the parade of people in their costumes. There were some really great costumes. As I stated earlier, I was Flo and ds was Jake from State Farm. We had a lot of fun with these costumes and enjoyed participating. Some people were really creative in coming up with last minute costume ideas. I enjoyed this so much; I think I would like to book another Halloween cruise.
I really liked this ship. I usually prefer the larger ships but for some reason I really "clicked" with this ship. I never had a problem finding a lounger in the Serenity area. The only negative I have to say about this area was there were never 2 hot tubs hot at the same time. Actually, there was never 1 hot tub hot...there would be one not heated at all, and then one barely heated, not even bath water warm. And it alternated as to which one would be "heated". I did love the serenity area, and spent quite a bit of my time here. There were not many children on the ship so no complaints about noise from the water area above. The only complaint regarding children I have is the horde of kids in the 3 cabins across from mine. There were several young children ages 6-11 I'm guessing and a toddler in a stroller. The stroller was parked outside all week long. No big deal for me, it helped me easily locate my cabin door. But they were loud. Every morning they (the adults) would meet outside the hallway about 6am and talk and laugh and cut up. I have no idea what they were saying as they were foreigners. It was not French and it was not Spanish. But I could hear every single word they spoke. It drove me crazy. I would just put the pillow over my head. I considered these people very rude as they allowed their children to run up and down the hallway early in the morning and squeal and laugh. Normally I don't mind kids so much, but have some common respect for other travelers at 6am.
The buffet lines never seemed long for me. I think the longest line I waited in was for the Mexican Fiesta line. And yes, there were trays in the buffet lines and straws too by the drink station.
I never spent time at the pool or the lido deck except to visit the grill once for a hamburger.
The photo ops were everywhere. Some were really good. I ended up purchasing 6 8x10 photos.
Debarkation this was the easiest I have ever experienced. However, this is also the first time I did self assist, and requested early off for an early flight. Let me just say this, DO NOT schedule a flight out of MIA before 11am. The ship was cleared at nearly 8:30 am we seriously were the first people in line going through customs, with our luggage in tow. We made it outside in record time. We were in line waiting for a cab. Two had left in front of us and there were none in sight. Seriously it was freaky. I don't know where they all were. A man from a "shuttle service" approached us. There was another man in line in front of us waiting on a cab who apparently had an early flight as well and he was freaking out a bit over the no cab situation. Anyways, there was a total of 4 of us struck up a deal with the van driver, providing he would leave right away-not wait for any other passengers and he offered it for $8 pp then he said $10 pp. We all agreed to it and he took us to his van. He tried to wait for more people but of course we put up a fight and he left and drove like a maniac to get us to the airport in a hurry. Seriously I felt like I was in Montego Bay as a passenger lol. Thanks to his crazy driving, we made it to the airport super fast. He received a nice tip from me and we headed in to the airport. We went and stood in line to check out luggage. Then we headed to the slowest security line ever. It's even worse than DFW and that's saying something! I asked the TSA agent standing at the entrance if she had any idea how long the line might be running and she told me 30 minutes. I thought to myself, no way! After 30 minutes, we had progressed through about 3 of the lines, she thankfully came and got us out of line and moved us up to a special line to go through. Finally we made it through and arrived at our gate just as they were boarding. Had this TSA agent not helped us out, we would have missed our flight. Our flight left out on time and we arrived home safe and sound.
Traveling during hurricane season is stressful, even when booking last minute.
Rum Runners are still awesome!
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Imagination. I tend to like the larger ships.
I can hang with an 18 year old!
Don't book early flights after your cruise.
Warm chocolate melting cake is still the greatest thing onboard (except when they overcook it and it's just cake)
I enjoyed meeting my CC friends.
I really enjoyed the Halloween cruise. I think I'll book another!
My thoughts and prayers go to all of you who were affected by Sandy in any way. I pray for a speedy recovery for all.