This was our first trip to the South. My children were the first to notice the cordiality of the people we encountered. We stayed at the Homewood Hilton Suites on Poydras Street. This hotel is awesome and for a family of 4, it makes you feel like you are at home with plenty of "space". We splurged and got a 2 room suite since we knew we would be cramming together in a cabin on the ship. If you stay at this hotel, you can walk to the French Quarter, however if the weather is hot, you may opt for a cab. Watch out for the concierge here (and all hotels there I'm told) as they booked me on a tour other than the one I asked for. Apparently they get "kickbacks" from the tour companies. I loved the French Quarter except Bourbon Street, that is a stinky place!
Well this went very well compared to my last cruise. We arrived at the cruise terminal at noon and were on the ship by 1:15 p.m. Two rooms of yellow chairs. Can't they just make a line for optional pictures? One problem we encountered is that when they issued us our sail & sign cards, they said there was a problem with being able to open our room with those cards so we would need to see the purser when we got on the ship. Well apparently, many people had this problem and the purser's line was very long. That took about 45 minutes to take care of.
This was my husband's first cruise and he was very excited when he saw the interior of the ship. It is very beautiful and clean. We had a category 8A balcony room. This was my first time having a balcony and my husband and I absolutely loved it. The first night sailing down the Mississippi we slept with the door open. He loved to go out on the balcony each morning and watch the flying fish. We even saw a sea turtle one day! We had a king-sized bed and I couldn't believe how comfortable it was! This bed was actually more comfy than my king at home! I didn't even miss bringing my pillow!
We had late seating in the Monet dining room and ate there 5 out of 7 nights. Our waiters Sergei & Tatiana were very attentive and made sure we always had what we needed. For the most part, I thought the food was excellent. There was one night that I had Beef Wellington that was tough as leather, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed the dining room and menu it had to offer. The buffet just does not compare. Friends of ours dined at The Point one night and said it was excellent. If your are first time cruisers, make the effort to visit the dining room each night. It's a culinary experience.
I didn't attend any of the shows except the Newlywed Game which was hilarious. The other shows always began 1 hr before dinner which would have made us get ready for dinner even earlier. Carnival used to offer an early show and a late show, but not on this cruise. I was told the comedians were pretty funny. Todd, the Cruise Director, was always entertaining, even during the debarkation talk.
Unfortunately none of the jacuzzis were operating during our cruise. I'm still not sure why. There were plenty of chairs available to sunbathe though.
My only complaints about the ship are minimal. The internet cafe is located next to Alfred's Bar which is usually smoke-filled. If your kids are doing the internet thing, they'll be second-hand smoking as well. It seemed like a strange place to locate the internet. Also, watch out for slipper floors. We witnessed a Carnival employee take a fall one day during lunch buffet. The floors near the pools are constantly wet and dangerous, especially if you have on flip-flops.
My husband played golf at White Witch. He enjoyed it very much, although the Golf Director from the ship was kind of flaky. My girls and I went with 19 other friends and family we were with to Sunset Beach. It costs $4 pp taxi ride there and $20 oo to get in. It's a very clean, nice beach with 2 lagoons, 3 pools and all the food and alcohol you can consume. It was well worth the price and the party I was with thanked me for recommending it! (Thanks cruisecritic.com message boards!) Jamaica is as scary as they say, and I would not venture out on your own there. Unfortunately, the government there has made it very difficult for these lovely people.
This is a lovely little island that was unfortunately hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Although many trees were devastated, it's charm is seen in its people, its shopping and its natural beauty. We did the Nativeway Watersports Rays, Reef & Rum Point excursion which was $55 pp. We were taken to snorkel a reef and then spent about 1 hr with the Stingrays. Very memorable. We then were taken to Rum Point beach. The water is what you dream of a tropical beach looks like and is very warm. A delicious lunch was included. I highly recommend this tour. I only wished we had more time in port to shop.
We didn't really see Coz, we took a ferry over to the mainland for an excursion to some caverns. This was interesting, along with the drive we took getting there. We got to see some of the real Mexico, ie., huts, women washing dishes outdoors etc. It really puts your life in perspective. We then had lunch at Xpu-Ha beach which, again, was very beautiful. This is another port I wished we had more time in. I did hear from some of our friends who did spend the day in port that the mosquitoes are abundant!
Do not buy the shore excursion on the ship for your return to the airport. We did and it cost $23 pp. We ended up finding out that you can take a taxi there for approx. $10 pp (1/2 the cost!) Debarkation is relaxed, and by 9 a.m. you could start leaving the ship, as long as you were off by 10:30 a.m.. This took us approximately 1/2 hour and was painless!
In the end, this was a wonderful cruise. We were lucky to have beautiful weather (we cruised one week before Hurricane Dennis) and calm seas. My kids ages 18 and 14 had a great time too, meeting lots of kids there own ages. I would definitely sail Carnival again and enjoy the high standards they set for cruising.