Let me start out by saying that we have cruised on Carnival before, both small and large ships. We went on this vacation to get away from work and were fine spending lots of time in our cabin. It was myself, my wife and my 2 year old son (his 2nd cruise).
When booking this cruise, I noticed that it would be the first cruise after dry-dock. From what I read, it was to receive upgrades for the new playlist productions, punchliner comedy club, red frog / blue iguana bars, new lighting and bedding. We chose this ship over one leaving from Tampa because it was closer to us (St. Augustine FL) and because it was to be "just refurbished". We did not see a punchliner brunch, or the red frog / blue iguana bars. We were told by crew that they ran out of time and that it was too expensive to do. Take that with a grain of salt...
On Thursday night, January 18th, we received an email alerting us to the fact that the ship would be very delayed leaving dry dock. It said that the ship should arrive in Jax at 3pm and we would be able to board at 5pm-8pm. Bummer, but no big deal. We made changes to our travel arrangements and went on about our business. The next morning we awoke to find out that weather would delay the ship even further, it would now arrive at 6pm and we would be able to board at 8pm-11pm departing at midnight. At this point, we cancelled our car service and decided to drive ourselves to the port and leave the car, just in case something else happened. Turns out we did the right thing.
We usually like to be one of the first on the ship, so we don't have to stand in line with the boy as much and he doesn't get as frustrated. We arrived at the Jax Port at 7:30pm. When we pulled up to the gates, Port Security informed us that "there had been a cross contamination of the luggage. We should not come back before 9pm." This sounded strange that we were being delayed even further, so I called Carnival who got on the phone with the port. They reported that there was NO cross-contamination of luggage. They told us to go back to the port and try to re-enter again. As this time we were just down the road with most of the people who would be sailing with us, in a Wendy's Parking Lot.
We loaded up at 8:30pm and tried again. This time we were told there was an accident and we were again turned around and told not to come back until at least 9:30pm. We did see the emergency vehicles heading in the direction of the ship. We called Carnival again from the Wendy's parking lot with all of our future cruising friends and were told that there was no reason that we shouldn't be let into the port.
At 9:00pm we tried once more and finally got through. We waited to drop off luggage and then parked the car and headed for the terminal. When we arrived, so did the rest of the ships passengers. It was probably the worst embarkation I've endured. We were in longer lines than we see at WDW. After waiting in line for 1 hour, it was 10:30pm before we finally made it to the metal detectors. There were 2. One was for VIP only and the other was for everyone else. Really?
We finally managed to get on-board around 11pm. We immediately set out to find the Maitre-D, because we had been signed up for Late dining and would prefer anything else (little one's bedtime is 8pm). We found the dining rooms closed so we went to guest services, where we informed that the Maitre-d was on duty until 9:30pm and that "we really should have contacted him prior to that time." We were further told that he would not be available until lunch the next day. I won't write anything else about that except to say that I tracked him down the next day at breakfast and was able to secure an early seating time.
We next went to the lido deck for some food, the buffet at the back of the ship was serving, but the food was not good. We were tired, hungry ready to go to our cabin for bed. It was midnight. But we still had one thing left to do... MUSTER DRILL. No one could tell us when the drill would be held. So we just wandered around the ship to keep from falling asleep. Muster was held at 1:30 am. I'm not kidding. Finally after receiving our lifesaving techniques from the crack squad of personnel, we made our way back to the cabin. We put the little one down and realized that we didn't have our luggage yet. It arrived at 3am. We were still sitting in port watching the guys unloading their trucks cursing and screaming at each other. We finally left port at 4am.
Embarkation was a huge cluster. I won't sail out of Jax again. Ever. Once we got moving things got a lot better. The poor staff tried very hard to make up for the problems from the night before. It wasn't their fault, but they did what they could to try and help.
Waking up on our first sea day, we went and had breakfast in the dining room. Some of the food was cold, but wasn't bad. We went and registered my son for camp carnival. We weren't too worried about him as he attends day-care back home. He ran off to go play with out even waving bye.
My wife and I went and participated in a couple of Trivia games and won the obligatory ship on a stick. At this time it was 12 and time to get the boy for lunch. Poor kid didn't want to leave! We had never used CC before and were surprised when he didn't want to say goodbye to the counselors.
We went for lunch in the MDR. Didn't really see anything that interested me, so I had a burger, wife had some sort of fish. After that it was off for naps in the cabin. I should mention that our cabin was an aft extended balcony. Our son naps 2 hours every afternoon, so we spent a lot of time in the cabin reading. After waking up it was time for dinner and we all got dressed for elegant night in the MDR. I was disappointed that the prime rib and lobster both came out cold. We went back to the room afterwards and had room service.
Afterwards we took him to night owls and went to the casino, where my wife hit a jackpot on one of the slots. We cashed out and grabbed the boy. It was time for bed for him, so we put him down and spent the rest of the evening reading on the balcony.
We pulled into Freeport the next morning. We took our time getting up and about. Hit the MDR for breakfast as my wife loves Eggs Benedict. It wasn't cold this time, yay! After breakfast we decided to just walk around the straw market and get some food from down there. We did just that, and bought a few small souvenirs. Jumped back on the boat and decided to explore the ship a bit. Looked at some pictures and then back to the cabin for nap time.
We attended the VIFP party that afternoon and enjoyed the apps and drinks. They even brought a juice for the little on. The entertainment staff seemed very very young and had a hard time relating to anyone over 24.
Later that evening we hit the MDR and I couldn't really find anything I liked so I ordered the flank steak. I've sailed Carnival a few times and have never ordered this. It had no flavor. I hate it b/c I'm a steak lover, but it didn't. We ended up going to the lido restaurant for some buffet pasta. We continue going to the MDR b/c it's the only place we find chicken nuggets for the boy.
We dropped him off at camp carnival and went to the trivia show in the theater. It was interesting, then we stayed for the battle of the sexes, which was pretty stupid. We were very bored after that, and went and picked up the boy and called it a night.
Next day we hit the lido breakfast as we were going into Nassau to walk around. We've been here several times before and really didn't want to do any excursions. We meandered around for a while and stopped for lunch at a fantastic Greek restaurant, "Olives Restaurant". My wife is Greek and felt that the food was very good. We met the owner who was very nice as well. I would recommend it to anyone in town.
After re boarding the ship, went back to the room for a nap until time for dinner. At the MDR, we had probably the best entree for the entire cruise, the Chateaubriand. As we were eating our table-mates, who were no stranger to Carnival either, remarked that they'd found the cruise dull and that there was not much to do. We were very thankful that we'd brought a couple of books each with us and plenty of toys for the little one. After dinner it was back to the room for us.
Last Sea Day. We began it at breakfast in the MDR, where they served burned eggs Benedict, no problem though, as the brought fresh English muffins. The captain found the sun and it was on. After breakfast we took little to camp carnival and we checked out the serenity deck. A bit later my wife tried out their spa. She received a hot stone massage and a few other treatments, which she enjoyed so much, I decided to try the massage. Unfortunately I got a different person than my wife and I'm still in pain from it.
After a 4.5 hour nap by the boy, we hit up the MDR for the last night. I had the Veal Parm, which wasn't bad, but wasn't the greatest. We dropped the little one off at the Camp and went back to the casino for some fun. We picked him up not too long after and packed everything up and set our bags outside of the door for Debarkation.
Debarkation was great, we got up and had breakfast and then at 9:30am walked off the ship to our bags. We went from ship to interstate in 30 minutes.
All in all it was a nice vacation. A bit of a rocky start but all's well that ends well. We had the BEST cabin steward we've ever encountered on this trip. He really took it to the next level for my 2 year old. I'm glad we had planned to spend a lot time in the cabin, because we probably would have been bored otherwise.