As stated in my subject line, I'm a first time cruiser, but prior to my cruise I did an extensive amount of research so that I made the best out of my trip. And thanks to Cruise Critic for a lot of good advice in my research.
I was a bit apprehenive about cruising on the Destiny as it had not received the best reviews. But my girlfriend's boss and family had already booked their cruise and they thought it would be a good idea for us all to cruise on the same boat.
My biggest beef with the Carnival Destiny was the lines and the food. Basically we stood in line for just about anything we wanted to do. Though because we cruised over NYE it probably played a factor as the boat was completely full.
The embarkation process was fairly quick as I had paid for the Faster to the Fun program. So if you're not a gold member or whatever, I'd suggest paying the $49 per room for the FTTF program. It allows you to bypass most of the lines and then you are also guaranteed to have your room done by time you board. We handed our luggage to the porter and we were on the boat in our room within 30 minutes. Which would have been shorter had they not held people up taking those family photos before you get onto the boat.
Our room was one of the recently remodeled rooms and it was a bit nicer than we expected. It was also very clean. Within minutes of getting to our room our luggage arrived. So we started to unpack and put everything away. We did bring one of those over the door shoe holders and that helped out quite a bit as it kept things organized. We also brought additional electrical cords and a surge protector. This was also a great suggestion from CC reviewers. So after we got everything unpacked we stowed our empty luggage under the bed and then we sat out on our extended balcony. Which was very nice and it had room for four adults to hang out comfortably.
My girlfriend likes to drink wine, so we bought a couple of big bottles to take on. Which we had no problem taking the bottles on board. I also like to only drink Diet Mtn Dew, so we packed about 20 bottles in our luggage with no problem.
I felt parts of the boat were older and not as nice/new as our cabin. I was disappointed with the food as everyone always raves about the food on cruises. I quite frankly had better food when I was in the Army. On one of the dinners in the dining room I ordered Shrimp cocktail and I received 5 extrememly small shrimp. I know you can order as many dishes / appetisers as you want - but the shrimp were ridiculous considering we were on a cruise. They also seemed to keep pushing you to buy drinks during dinner. The rest of the food during dining room dinner was also disappointing. So we decided against eating in the dining room for the rest of the cruise and we'd just hit the buffet lines and also order room service. Which the buffet food was not as bad as there were more selections. The room service food was not great and the portions were small. So I'd just order a couple of sandwiches at a time.
I saw some people complain about the various worker on the boat but we had a very nice experience with just about every service person on board. We had read that you need to make sure you take care of your room steward and we did just that by giving him a twenty the first time we saw him. And then we tipped him periodically for various requests. Someone on CC suggested bringing a cooler and I did just that. So every morning and every afternoon our steward would fill the cooler up with ice.
The extended balcony was one of my favorite parts of the cruise. I brought some battery operated fake candles to make the room and balcony more romantic at night. I also brought a Blue Tooth speaker system onboard so me and my gal could listen to our own music as we sat out on the balcony drinking our drinks and smoking cigars/cigarettes.
Our excursion to Jamaica was probably the best part of the trip. The Jewell at Duns River Falls has a $75 per person deal for cruisers. You get to eat and drink all you want at their resort. Which there were multiple bars and places to eat. We rented a cabana for $20 per hour and we had the time of our lives. Not only did we have our own butler to fulfill our every request, but they also gave us a fully stocked cooler with various juices, water, pop, champagne, and some beer. At least every five minutes someone came around to make sure we were alright. The private beach was awesome and they had security run off any pan handler.
The Cayman Islands was not as fun as we had a run in with a bus driver. We reserved a cabana at the Royal Palms which was a day resort with a private beach, a nice bar, cabanas for rent, an adult only pool with cabana rental, and a restaraunt. Apparently the bus drivers get kick backs from someone at the public beach and even though their sign says "Royal Palms" as one of the destinations - they try and trick you to get off at the public beach further up the road. Which this is apparently a major problem as I have been working with Royal Palms to make a complaint to the port authority. In a nutshell the driver got into an argument with us and told my girlfriend to shut her mouth when we demanded he take us to the Royal Palms. Word of advice, if you want to go to the Royal Palms, walk to the street outside of where all of the buses are and there are tons of taxis. They will gladly take you to the Royal Palms or anywhere else you want to go on the Island. And most likely they will be cheaper than the buses.
Last but not least, we did find the secret sun deck on the front of the boat on levels 6 & 7. So the last day at sea we hung out there sunning ourselves, eating/drinking, and relaxing. I read that some people were told they were not allowed on the deck. That was not the case with us and we were even waving at the captain as the pilot house was right above us. To get to the secret deck, walk all the way to the front of the boat on levels 6 or seven. And when you get to the very head of the boat there will be a door on either side of the boat. Walk out the door and there will be another wind door. Go out that door and you're on the deck. It's beautiful because you're in the very front of the boat.
Sorry for the book, but I wanted to share my experience with others as I gained a lot of useful information from fellow cruisers on CC.
P.s. Pay the $20 per person for the luggage to the airport option. You leave your bags outside your cabin as directed and you don't pick them up until you get off the plane back home.