We drove down to Galveston from Memphis the night before our cruise departed. Stayed in a clean, affordable hotel on the seawall and spent the next day doing some sight seeing around Galveston. We parked our car at the hotel free for the week and took a cab from the seawall to the port of Galveston ($10 plus tip).
We arrived at the port at 1:30 and encountered absolutely no lines. We never had to sit in any chairs, we breezed right through from security, to a Carnival employee who took our documents and gave us our Sail and Sign card, then onto get our photo, no line there either. We were in our stateroom by 1:45 -- a real breeze.
Our stateroom was clean. The bathroom was efficient, small, but certainly usable. We never met our room steward the entire week, but our towels were always replenished and the bed turned down, our capers and chocolates on the bed. The only complaint with the steward is that he/she was very spotty with providing ice on a daily basis. At least two days, the ice bucket was never filled. This was our first cruise, and honestly didn't feel like ringing up the steward to tell her/him that we needed ice, so we went to Lido deck and filled it ourselves. As a non smoker I was concerned with the possibility of smoke odor in the stateroom, but absolutely none was evident and I'm pretty sensitive to cigarette smoke. The bed was comfortable to my husband who likes a firm mattress, I on the other hand woke up with a back ache every morning, I prefer a softer mattress.
The ship was immaculate. We always saw someone cleaning something. The exception was the windows which were pretty dirty. Although I imagine that it would be difficult to clean the windows while at sea.
There was no evidence of deck chair saving and hogging and always seemed to be plenty of seating on deck for everyone. The weather was perfect and the decks were full, but not crowded. I thought the pools were small, and we didn't utilize them all week. They were also filled with salt water, this may be common on a cruise ship, but not desirable to us. There was not an excessive amount of cigarette smoke anywhere on ship with the exception of the casino, where I would expect it to be pretty smokey.
The food was hit or miss. We dined in the Renoir (6:15) and had some items that were outstanding (Chicken Carnivale, Flourless Chocolate Cake, bread pudding, Tilapia). However some items were not very good at all, for example, no matter how I ordered my beef dishes they always came back to me well done. We could always find plenty to eat however and never left hungry. The salad was always fresh, the bread always plentiful. Our wait staff was outstanding, they truly made dining a delight.
The Lido deck buffet was again hit or miss. Cool to lukewarm at best. Some items were good, some not. Lots of fresh fruit and fresh salads and bread so can't complain about being hungry!! The breakfast buffet was monotonous after a week. They need to work on switching it up a bit. The omelette station was good and served hot omelettes on a consistently good basis.
The alternative dining choices were all quite good. We tried the Grille, PC Wok, Sur Mer and the pizzeria. All were hot and quite good. We also dined at The Point, Supper club. This was outstanding. My filet was cooked to perfection, my husband's surf and turf was outstanding. The baked onion soup was delicious beyond any I've ever tried. The Chocolate Tarte for dessert was a meal unto itself. I would highly recommend The Point, make reservations early. Well worth the extra $30 per person.
In addition, ice cream is available 24 hours as is room service and pizza. Although we did not try room service.
The shows were entertaining although the production numbers lacked enthusiasm and professionalism. It was almost as if they thought dressing the girls up in thongs would distract the audience enough not to notice the bad dancing. It must have worked, my husband enjoyed the shows more than I did. The professional talent, Ron Joseph, Phat Kat, Deva of Deception, were all outstanding. Highly entertaining.
There were always activities onboard to participate in if you desired. But also plenty of places to find a quiet place to read and lay out in the sun if you chose to.
Ports of call were Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Playa Del Carmen. Our excursion in Montego Bay was the Appleton Estates Rum Tour -- a long drive up into the mountains. Don't do this tour if you're prone to getting car sick. Grand Cayman swimming with the stingrays was amazing, also snorkeling a coral reef, truly wonderful. There were seven ships in port that day however, and shopping in town was next to impossible. Tendering in was a lot easier then we had thought as was catching the tender back to the ship. Flawless, no lines at all. I think a lot of people chose to stay on ship because of the 7 ships in port. We stopped at Playa Del Carmen instead of Cozumel, courtesy of Hurricane Wilma's visit two weeks prior. PDC was wonderful, beautiful despite the evident damage from Wilma. We toured the ruins of Tulum and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Mayan culture. The tendering to and from shore was efficient and comfortable. No problems.
Debarkation was also a breeze. We did self assist, left our cabin at 6:45 and were through customs, off the ship, and back at our car at the hotel two miles away by 7:30.
Overall a truly enjoyable trip. I'd highly recommend this cruise to anyone.