we (my parents, sisters, niece, & nephew) have cruised in the past, but always on Royal Carribean. We love it. The chance to see a different location each day, the onboard activities, but, mostly, the value for a family.
This time we chose a Carnival cruise. We have never been to New Orleans or the gulf side of Mexico. we couldnt pass this one up.
We flew in from Phoenix 2 days before our cruise to see the city. outstanding people, food, and things to see. We stayed at the Maison St.Charles in the garden district and were very pleased. after reading mixed reviews, I called the hotel directly to request 1st floor (no elevators) and nonsmoking rooms. when the room we checked into smelled strongly of smoke, the very kind staff moved us without question.
we took a cab to the the cruise terminal the morning of embarkation, having come in from AZ, we did not have a car to park with us. The boarding process was amazing, easily half the time of Royal Carribean. We boarded, found a table on the deck off the back of the buffet and had some lunch. I tried the asain stir fry, but hated it, I could only taste salt.
The next day was a day at sea. I got my trusty highlighter out and read the funtimes, but was a little disappointed by the activities (we have done little craft classes on Royal Carribean) but I can get over that when there is a serenity deck, a place to put my feet up, and a book. we went to early dinner, but was seated at a table for 10 at the base of stairs that led up to a sports bar. there was a game that night so our dinner entertainment was screaming, wooing, and a lot of cursing. on this cruise with my parents and my 80 yr old aunt, this was uncomfortable and annoying. table conversation was impossible. we spoke to the maitre'd about the noise & moving to another table, aftering interupting his flirting with the photographer. we were told the dining room is full, maybe there wont be another game (our tablemates never returned).
Carnival cruise food is, uh, well the cruise line is a great value and you get what you pay for. it is not disgusting, it is edible, but, again, I am used to Royal Caribbean. The food was ok at times,pretty good more times, but I did have to pass a few times to.
The ports are my favorite part, a chance to see someplace new. I love researching the area online. we loved Progresso (Xcambo mayan ruins) and Cozumel (snorkeling). You will see Autoprogresso reviews on CC, and I would definately recommend them. the tour guides are friendly, the busses are comfortable and new, and the cost is a small fraction of a cruise operated excursion.
another day at sea relaxing, then back to New Orleans. Disembarkation is not the highlight of any cruise, however Carnival does make this easier. Royal Caribbean is usually long waits to get into long lines before wandering around a wharehouse sized building to find your luggage. On Carnival we waited in the theater until our group was called, a short line through customs, and then my bags were right around the corner. My complaint of that day was that we were told we must leave our staterooms by 8:30am, so after breakfast I went down to the room (around 7:45) to brush my teeth & gather those last things together. I was shocked to see a stateroom attendant (not our ususal guy) in the room & throwing my things in the trash. When I asked about my toothbrush she went and got it out of the trash, I explained that I no longer wanted it, I wanted her to not be in my room for another 45 minutes. the pursers desk gave me a toothbrush and an apology, but I did not appreciate being rushed nor having all of my toiletries and waiting reading material thrown out.
That said, most of the crew are fantastic, (I'm having a little seperation anxiety from our waiter).
This cruise line has it's pros and some cons, but all things considered, this was a vacation I hated going home from.
we took a cab (about $12 for 4 of us) to Chankanaab park. I dont care about swimming with dolphins, so we paid about $20/person for entrance to the park itself. there was good snorkeling, beautiful grounds to stroll through, and a tequila place where we were shown how tequila is made and given plenty of samples!
the price of the park entrance is a little high, but it was an uncrowded, peaceful, beautiful day.
absolutely go to the Autoprogreso website and choose an excursion. it is a very small and poor town, so some are not comfortable wandering through town but DO NOT hide out on the ship. it would be a shame to miss out on the Mayan ruins or Merida. we chose a short visit to Xcambo, only 45 minutes away and a smaller site because travelling with my 80 yr old aunt, We did not want to sit out a 2 hr drive to some of the (possibly) more impressive sites. we were not disappointed, it was still a great experience. their buses are new and comfortable, the staff is friendly, and it costs a small fraction of cruise operated excursions.