We drove straight thru from Michigan in 19 hrs and arrived at my sister's who lives near Tampa on Friday night. We spent Saturday on her boat and went swimming, water temp was like bath water...89 degrees!
Sunday- we arrived around 2pm, and was a breeze getting in, very little wait. Luggage was delivered to our cabin around 4pm, just in time to change for dinner. Loved the cabin! 80% of the cabins have balconies! (I had portholes on my last 2 trips). Even the ship included complimentary toothpaste, his and her diposable razors, and various shampoo/conditioner samples. One disappointment: one electrical outlet in entire cabin....be sure to bring adaptor for mutiple plugs. Also be sure to bring bug spray, you'll need it on the island, (the ship sells them for 7.99, and they smell bad).
Monday- Fun day at Sea...I was hoping to see the shores of Cuba, like I did on the Jubilee that went to Cayman and Cozumel. Went to the shows and relaxed all day. Probably gained 2 lbs that day.
Tuesday- Grand Cayman, we went on Soto tours to Stingray City and snorkel tour, $30 per person. There were only 4 of us on that tour, it was perfect as the guides were able to grab the stingrays and place on our arms, instead of waiting in line on the ship excursions (these ship excursions had as many as 50 people on their boats). Afterward, we headed over to the Turtle Farm, we had a good time before on the Jubilee trip (stingray was cancelled due to high winds), I had taken pictures there before on a 1.2 megpixel camera, but the pics didn't turn out very clear. This time, I got myself a really good digital SLR camera, so I got the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures. Now, the worst part, Hurricane Ivan destroyed the island and washed away more than half the Turtle Farm, and the big ponds that carried large sea turtles are gone, even the ponds are gone! It will take many years for the farm to recover what it was back in 2000, and even their website didn't disclose any info on the hurricane aftermath.
Wed- Costa Maya- We booked the Koyumich Maya ruin trip thru the ship (internet didn't offer any). Bus ride was 2 hrs each way..too long for us. We learned that Mexicans do not like Corona beer much, they ship them to America. After visiting the ruins and boarding the bus, the guides provided us Sol beer, it was so good that we even asked for more beer. Day was very hot and humid. Bus was air conditioned, but not cold air. We will not do that excursion again due to long bus trips.
Thurs- Belize---We booked the cave tours thru private tours, $60 vs $99 ship excursion. The guide took about 10 of us in the van and took us a little over an hour to the site. Ship tour took a big bus, took longer to get to the same site, the bus cannot handle bumpy dirt road (last 6 miles of the trip). Our private tours go thru 2 caves, (ship's only one cave). We walked thru the jungle carrying our tubes until we reached our site up the river. I would say river temp is about 75-80 deg and going thru the cave was absoluting breathtaking! Best excursion we have ever made. Stingray at Cayman was second. Be sure to order yourself the barbeque chicken complete lunch with good punch for only $5 after the tubing, very good. If you are not planning on any excursions at Belize, stay on the ship! THere's only a small area at the pier to shop, many areas outside that area are not safe to go.
Friday- Cozumel..note that the Carnival website shows Cozumel on Thursday and Belize on Friday, that switch was made several months ago, and did not update the website. This switch was a good move, allowing us to stay longer at Cozumel. We booked the eco-jeep and snorkel trip and spent the rest of the day shopping there. Buy your booze on that island, the prices there are slightly cheaper than on the ship. (Tortuga rum cake is more expensive at Cozumel, get them at Cayman -- fresher -- or on the ship -- same prices), although you get to sample different flavor rum cakes at Cayman. I like the key lime rum cake best!
Sat- Fun day at sea (actually sad day that we are going home the next day). Could use a stop at Key West.
Sunday- Debarkation---We had 7 bottles of booze we purchased from Cozumel, we took our luggage with us for faster departure, the ship arrived at Tampa at 6am, we got off the ship at 8am. Customs didn't even bother to charge us for liquor duties (limit one duty free per person), as there are 2000 people leaving the ship, I believe they would rather have the ship clear in a breeze than search for booze and line up to pay.The Carnival staff and shows were excellent. Food was excellent, I must have gained at least 10 lbs that week, though I did not weight myself when I came home, but I can tell by needing to loosen my belt a notch.
Here are some suggestions I would bring up obout the cruise: The prices on the drinks were the same when I paid on my 1993 cruise. (pop still 1.50 a can, and sell Coke products -- Coke, Diet Coke, lemonade, and Sprite. This time I didn't buy any souvenier glasses with the drinks. I never used them at home, just collected dust. If you prefer Pepsi products, bring them! One note, Mexican Coke uses real sugar instead of high frutose corn syrup, and their Diet Coke is labeled as Coke Light, wife says it tastes better.
Coffee- really dirty dishwater. My wife had to buy latte every morning ($3.25). Game room (Wizard), some of the games don't work, they just take your money and there's no staff around to assist you. More outlets to plug in cabin. Could use a small fridge to keep drinks cold, although the steward fills ice in the ice container (only can fit one can of pop in it at time). Would help if you can bring a small cooler from home. Bring one or 2 32 ounce water bottles. Ship water at Lido deck is very good, I fill them with ice to the top and fill with water. This is better than buying 32 ounce bottled water for $5 each sold on the ship. We used them for shore excursions. If you plan to do some snorkeling, bring your mask and a special snorkel that purges out saltwater, you'll be glad you did. All excursion will provide mask and snorkel, but their snorkels are basic and you will be sucking in lots of saltwater. Don't bother bringing in your fins, unless you want to carry them around.
Before going on the cruise, it would really help to find some private excursions to book, the services are better, more perks and far lower cost. THere is a 25% cancellation fee if you cancel a ship excursion, so be careful if you book one on the ship. Try some Sol beer, I drank 3 bottles with lime at Cozumel (you can drink them around while you shop).
Also, one last thing, if you happen to need to go potty at Hard Rock Cafe at Cozumel (restroom on 3rd floor), be sure to sit on the toilet and read the note posted on the door, you'll be suprised to read what it says! (You'll have to find that out yourself!)