DAY 1 - Embarkation
We managed a nonstop flight from Norfolk to Miami, and got to the cruise port just after noon. Embarkation wasn't as bad as I had feared... all of our waiting took place inside the cruise terminal building. We had to wait in line to be x-rayed and metal detected, then wait in line to have our Sail and Sign account approved, then wait in line to have our Sail and Sign photo taken, and then wait in line to have our boarding photo taken, and THEN... we made it onto the ship!
I had read reviews and seen pictures of the colors and decor of the ship, so I was prepared for the abundance of blue-green. It really is a beautiful ship, and we found everything immaculately clean the whole time we were onboard. Once we boarded, we walked through the nine-story atrium in the lobby, past the waiting trays of daily drink specials, and went in search of our cabin. We had booked a guaranteed inside cabin, and were upgraded to Deck 7, Empress Deck, in the rear of the ship. The cabin, number 7-418, was very nice, very space efficient, and not cramped-feeling at all. I'm 6'4", 300+ pounds... not a small man by any means, so my finding the cabin roomy is really saying something!
We decided to go up to the Lido Deck to have lunch at the Mississippi BBQ restaurant, where we had a wonderfully big juicy hamburger and fries, followed by a cone of ice cream. After lunch, we decided to go explore the lobby area, and wound up out on the open deck in a lounge chair just in time to watch Miami sail away.
While waiting for our late seating dinner time of 8:00 pm, we hung out in the Ionian Lounge to listen to a jazz ensemble. The Ionian Lounge is a cigar bar, and the smoke got to us a little, but it didn't ruin the experience.
We ate dinner that night at our reserved spot in the Atlantic Dining Room. We met our tablemates, a couple from New York who were on their 11th cruise (and were planning to remain on the Victory the next week for its Eastern route), and a couple from Minnesota who were on their 1st cruise as well. Dinner was wonderful, and our waiters, Calixto from Colombia and Martin from Slovakia, were absolutely remarkable.
After dinner, we headed to the Caribbean Lounge for some bingo, and the Welcome Aboard Show. We met our cruise director Dana Hodson, and the social hosts. I made the mistake of sitting on the end of a row, and got selected to come onstage during the show. I just decided to be my goofy self, and introduced myself as being on my honeymoon with my wife. When asked what I was most looking forward to, I put on my serious face and answered, "the honeymoon". The volunteers then had to play a crazy game involving a spoon on a string that I won't get into... My team won, so I decided to celebrate and swing the spoon around and act quite silly. My introduction and the crazy game left me famous for the rest of the cruise, and people kept stopping us all during the week to ask if we were the honeymooners.
Even better, the whole show was videotaped and became part of the Carnival Travelog, which was replayed all week on everyone's cabin television, and was also available for purchase, which we did.
DAY 2 - At Sea
Adrift somewhere north of Cuba, we decided to spend some time on our favorite open deck after breakfast. We headed back to the Caribbean Lounge for morning bingo, and then to the casino to try our luck with the slots. My wife had not wanted to gamble on the cruise, but after I won $25 with the very first quarter I put into a machine, I think she was hooked... :)
We spent most of the day exploring the boat and admiring the very colorful decor along Neptune's Way near the video arcade. Since we don't drink, we grabbed a virgin pina colada at the Triton Bar and sorted out our plan for the day.
After being bribed with a free $95 work of art just for attending, we opted to check out the art auction in the Adriatic Lounge. After registering and realizing that we were going to miss out on so many other fun things, we bailed on that idea and went to the Ionian Lounge to hear the Dixieland band. From there, we hit Name That Tune in the Irish Sea Piano Bar, and tried to get to Beat The Cruise Director, only to find that it had been rescheduled. This was the first of two formal nights, so we headed back to the cabin to get ready.
After dressing to the nines, we made an appearance at the Captain's Cocktail Party where we got to meet the captain and all the senior crew members. Dinner came next, again at our assigned spot. This was prime rib and lobster night, and we ate until no more eating could be done!
After dinner was Carnival's Vroom show, a musical revue somehow tied in with a motorcycle ride through the country. Musical revues always entertain us, so we had a blast. My favorite part was the costumes for the Beatles tribute. After the show, we headed back to the cabin to find our first of Carnival's famed towel animals, a rabbit, waiting for us on the bed.
DAY 3 - Costa Maya, Mexico
Being that this was our first time out of the country, we awoke excitedly and grabbed breakfast in the Mediterranean Buffet Restaurant before heading down to Deck Zero for debarkation. Costa Maya has a dedicated cruise pier, and we decided to go well after the masses, so the process was quick and painless.
We spent all of our time in the shopping complex at the foot of the cruise pier and picked up a lot of nice souvenirs. We caught the end of a dancing show in the outdoor pavilion area, and were tempted by the salt-water swimming pools, but headed back to the boat for lunch instead.
Back onboard, we found that it was "Taste Of Nations: Japanese" day and ate as much Teriyaki Salmon and sushi as we could stand. We did several trivia challenges and got a few medals for our trouble. After a quick swing back through the casino, it was time for dinner.
We enjoyed Calixto and Martin dancing the Cha Cha Slide for us, then headed to the Caribbean Lounge for bingo, followed by the evening show, a hypnotist named Asad. After the show, we did a little dancing at the late night party on the Lido Deck, then headed to bed. We had a little towel friend in the shape of a dog waiting for us when we retired for the evening.
DAY 4 - At Sea
This morning, we decided to try breakfast in the Atlantic Dining Room instead of the usual buffet, and met another nice couple. We spent some time lounging in the lobby before heading to the Caribbean Lounge for a day of silliness. My wife learned to line dance, then we watched a Family Feud game and Beat The Cruise Director, which is a word association game.
After that, we hit another trivia game in the Coral Seas Cafe, where I got a perfect score! My prize... a Carnival picture frame, and one of the most coveted prizes onboard... the Carnival Victory First Award, lovingly referred to as a "Solid 24 Karat Gold Plastic Ship on a Stick"!
There was too much going on, so we skipped the sit-down dinner that evening, opting for complimentary room service fare instead. The rest of the evening involved listening to a classical music trio in the lobby, watching a Weakest Link game in the Caribbean Lounge, and watching the What's In The Bag game. Much like a part of the old Let's Make A Deal game, contestants bring bags of random stuff, and the host calls out an item. If you have that item in your bag, you earn a point for your team. The game turned odd when they decided that they should go find some unsuspecting gentlemen and bring them onstage to dress as women and have an impromptu beauty contest. One of the teams dragged a Carnival employee in, who had been cleaning the glass elevators, to dress as a woman!
After this silliness was the Carnival Legends show, where five guests were picked from the Karaoke sessions to perform for the audience. No competition, just a nice display of talent that was very well done.
Our towel animal of the evening was a very cute elephant!
DAY 5 - Grand Cayman
This was the only port where we'd decided to book a planned excursion, a simple tour of the island. We grabbed some breakfast and headed down to the Lobby Deck to debark. Grand Cayman is a tendering port, meaning you have to get onto a smaller boat to take you ashore. Slower than the standard debarkation procedure, we made it through and found the spot for our tour to depart.
Our tour guide, Ice-Man, led us by the Governor's Mansion on the way to the town of Hell. Named after the strange, black formations of rock amid all the green, it offers such fun as sending "Wish You Were Here" postcards stamped from Hell.
From Hell, we hit the Turtle Farm, where we got lots of great pictures and both got to hold a turtle. We then went to the Tortuga Rum Factory to sample some rum cakes and browse their shop. The tour dropped us back off downtown where we decided to hit Hard Rock Cafe and Del Sol for some shopping. Del Sol makes products that change color in the sun... very unique stuff. We also perused a store called Richard's Black Coral, where they display a million-dollar sculpture of a lobster, done in black coral.
Back on the boat, we had just enough time for dinner and the evening show, even though I can't remember what it was at the moment... sorry! We had a lovely towel seal waiting on the bed for us this evening, even though after reviewing the pictures, my aunt thinks it was meant to be a stingray.
DAY 6 - Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We didn't spend a whole lot of time off the boat in Jamaica, mostly because the entire time we did, we were constantly asked if we needed a taxi, or if we wanted our hair braided, and whatnot. We made our way from the cruise pier to a little souvenir shop, and then over to an outdoor mall-type complex called Island Village. We hit their Del Sol store and spent a small amount of time walking on the beach before opting to get back on the boat.
Onboard, we caught the "Karl With A K" Show, led by social host Karl who likes to point out that his name is, in fact, spelled with a K. He sang a medley of songs from the 1960s, then brought volunteers onstage (again, I was one of them) to wear silly Beatles wigs while he sang "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
We walked through a small art gallery on the way to get ready for dinner... this was the second formal night onboard. We got dressed, then killed some time in the Ionian Lounge listening to the jazz band before making our way to our table. My wife hadn't been feeling too good all day, with mixed symptoms of seasickness and the flu, so we bailed halfway through dinner and skipped all evening activities to go back to the room and visit our cute towel pig.
DAY 7 - At Sea
Our last full day on the boat, my wife was still feeling ill, so I snagged us some breakfast from the Lido Deck. After that, she determined that I shouldn't have to sit in the room and suffer, so I went to an ice carving demonstration on the Lido Deck where a guy turned a 300-pound block of ice into a 150-pound swan in 18 minutes. I snagged a bit more food for my wife before returning to the room.
After eating, she found that she had enough strength to head to the Caribbean Lounge, where we watched a Newlywed Game type show, played bingo, and saw the Christmas Show.
We went for our last dinner in the Atlantic Dining Room to find that one of the ladies was also ill and decided to skip dinner. We went straight back to the room after dinner, deciding to pack instead of attend the Living In America show. Our towel monkey helped us pack and we turned in early for our long day in Miami the next day.
DAY 8 - Debarkation
Our last morning on the ship, we decided to try breakfast in the Atlantic Dining Room again, which was very nice. After breakfast, we waited in the Caribbean Lounge for our luggage color tag to be called, then waited in line to get off the ship.
From there, we waited in line to have our passports checked, then waited in line to get our luggage, then waited in line to have out customs declaration forms checked, and then we were free in Miami!
As soon as we stepped out of the terminal building, we were asked if we needed a shuttle to the airport, and we accepted. We finished the debarkation process at about 11:30 am and our flight out of Miami wasn't until 8:50 pm, so we headed to the airport to check our bags, then enjoyed the rest of our day in Miami!
Overall, we both had an exceptionally wonderful cruise experience. We have nothing else to compare it to, but we will definitely sail Carnival again, especially this ship. It was an extraordinarily smooth vessel, immaculately clean, lots of activities, excellent all around.
We want to thank Captain Rocco Lubrano, Cruise Director Dana Hodson, social hosts Felipe, Monica, Emma, and "Karl With A K", our waiters Calixton and Martin, and our room steward Scott for giving us the vacation of a lifetime!