We have sailed before, twice on Carnival Freedom to the Bahamas and once on Elation from San Diego to Catalina and Ensenada. Those were good cruises, all in Ocean View cabins.
This time, we had been wanting to visit Jamaica. We booked a balcony and over the course of 12 months upgraded twice before ending up in a Grand Suite. The last upgrade was Carnival contacting us 2 weeks before the cruise to ask if we were interested. We jumped.
First, I'm no fan of Fort Lauderdale. The airport experience was horrible. FLL is in a hard competition for the bottom of the list of airports that can handle its use. San Diego is still the worst (Mostly based upon lay out and TSA section.)
This process was smooth. With the VIP, we breezed through and were on board within 15 minutes of getting off the bus.
We were on the Empress Deck, Cabin 7312. We dropped our carry on bags and looked out over the balcony. I poked my head out into the hallway and there was the best room steward in the world, Julio. Julio called me by name as soon as he saw me. Within 10 minutes our first 2 bags arrived, another 20 saw our third and last.
Dining was good. We were on a four top. Our scheduled table mates missed the port, and we had replacements for the first night, and then our scheduled couple made the boat in Key West, but we only saw them that night. Peter from Poland was our waiter. He was funny, given to mock outrage, and very attentive. The food was good.
We tried the Lido Deck a few times, but found chair "reserving" had pretty much locked up the opportunity. This was a problem through out the cruise. Although they say they work to eliminate this practice, they didn't appear to have anyone doing anything about it.
Port of Call:
Key West - This is a great port. Lots to do, lots of history to see, and plenty of trinkets. See the Hemingway House, take the trolley or the train tour.
Grand Cayman - I found this Port of Call just about useless. It is geared to 3 things: diving, offshore tax haven banking, and high end shops for the rich. The rest is generic Caribbean geegaw and T-shirt shops. Jimmy Buffets was a non-starter, as we approached, the volume of the urban music booming out was enough to tell us we weren't going to enjoy a meal. We went to Breezes and enjoyed a nice lunch.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - First, we had just about 8 hours. Why so short? Why not longer, or over night? Second, when the cruise director and shopping adviser tell you not to stray into areas other than those they tell you, DON'T. Jamaica hasn't embraced tourism like the Bahamas. Neighbors were taken, horribly so, while straying out for an 'adventure'. Read external recommendations for Ocho Rios and heed them.
We loved this trip. We only wish there were better ports of call. If they eliminated Grand Cayman and then had 24 hours in Jamaica, maybe Montego Bay, it would be better.