Arrival - The plane ride was great, the stewardesses on board our Air Canada flight offered us their row at the back so we could have an extra seat. We put our 9 mo old DD between us and she slept the whole way to Toronto. From Toronto to Miami, we weren't so lucky, but she people watched and stayed amused the entire flight, managing to nap for about an hour of it on me. (This is a sacrifice all Dad's must make as my leg fell asleep. My DD fell asleep while I was in the worst position )
*** If you are looking to come to Miami Early and Rent a Car, Check out EZ Rent A Car at the Embassy Suites near the Airport of Le Jeune Blvd, They were pretty reasonable. We took a Grand Caravan for 3 days at $35.00 per day.
Embarkation - This was the nightmare I was not looking forward to. We arrived a little later than expected around 12:00 noon. I hoped to be earlier around 11:00 AM. There was no real lineup outside but once inside it was apparent we would be waiting. There looked to be at least 2000 people ahead of us (not quite, but lots of lines). To my surprise, the lines moved fast and in all honesty, we walked onto the ship about an hour later. Even though the lines looked deadly, it was very painless. Our DD had fun people watching and everyone in line enjoyed talking to her and admiring how happy she was. All in all, A+ for Carnival for getting us on the ship as painless as possible.
The Ship - Our first impression when walking onto the ship was WOW. You are immediately greeted by a hostess who hands everyone a little map of the ship. Looking around you can see just how beautiful the ship really is. Very patriotic with many aspects of American history taken into account. Every little detail has something or another to do with an event in American history and is very well done. I heard a few people say it was overdone but not in my opinion. My DW broke into tears when she walked onboard and she normally isn't that emotional, just to give you an idea of the impact. From the Eagles lining the Elevators, to the American Flag laden tiles on the floor, to the Lincoln and Washington Dining Rooms, everything was well designed and decorated. Glass elevators ran up 9 stories in the Atrium While outside, top deck, the waterslide was always being enjoyed, and to my surprise, there was always room in the pools and hot tubs. They were never over crowded. A++ to Carnival on a Majestic Ship.
Dining - The dining room experience is wonderful, we enjoyed the food every night and always tried a bit of everything. Captain's night (Monday) was Lobster night. We enjoyed the lobster and filet mignon. Food was always the right temp and service was fast and friendly. Never an issue to have 1 , 2 or 3 entrees (Never had more than 2 though). You will find that after the starters, salads, etc... you want to save room for the desserts. The Grand Marnier Souffle was excellent. Prime Rib was delicious as well as the French Onion soup. The Song and Dance routine done nightly was my highlight. Very fun and sometimes funny. Our waiters continuously entertained our DD, we used a high chair the first night and it worked out well. The next night after a day in nassau, she was asleep at Dinner time so we wheeled her in her stroller. They quickly took the high chair away and made room for the stroller. (we were in a great table... hard to explain it but the stroller fit in well). From then on we took her stroller into the dining room and she either slept or ate, or merely watched everyone go about their business.
You will find yourself most often than not in Rosie's Diner. This is the buffet style eatery located on the 9th deck Lido. This is by far the most popular eating venue. There is of course the wide selection buffet, from soups and salads to hot and cold dishes. There is a deli style kitchen as well on Lido deck serving up delicious reuben sandwiches as well as others. There is an Oriental deli serving up all your favorite oriental dishes. Ice Cream machines are located all over this deck with both Soft ice Cream and Soft Yogurt, both vanilla and Chocolate. And of course, there is the Pizza parlor. I have to admit, the pizza is very very good. One spot I knew about but didn't find until late was the fish and chips and i am glad i did. The Fish and Chips are amazing. Soooo good. The Calamari is quite good too as well as the oysters. As far as the Lido deck goes, lots to eat, little time to do so...
Above Rosies is Scarlett's, a very fancy dining experience. There is a $30 pp cover charge but is is well worth it from what I heard onboard. I did not actually go but people we knew did go and said it was very intimate and romantic. Just like you, I will take their word for it however never heard anything bad from anyone about Scarlett's.
A+ to Carnival for the Wide variety of Dining choices.
The Shows - Didn't see too many shows, however the adult shows (Comedians) we saw were very good. Shows ran at 8:30pm, 10:30pm & 12:00 AM.
The Room - We had an Inside Cabin on the Upper Deck (6) and found it to be plenty big enough. We had 2 uppers but never used them. We simply pushed both beds to the far wall to create a big king size bed to one side, with ample room on the other to walk around or whatever. There was lots of closet space with room to store a big stroller. Beds were VERY comfortable and you'll need time to adjust to your own bed after sleeping in theirs. The bathroom is big enough with lots of shelves to store products and whatever. The shower is great with shower gel and Shampoo provided by Carnival. The Dove Shampoo they use is really good. Water pressure is excellent as well. Not too many TV channels, 2 movie channels that play the same movie all day and a few channels like CNN. Best channels are the Webcam channels so you can see what the weather is like or how busy the slide is. You can also manage your whole sail and sign card account from your TV which is pretty cool. Only issue we had was that our Stroller was too big to roll through the door, so I had to collapse it every time to bring it in and out but no big deal. We also had a crib brought in but never used it, DD ended up sleeping with us every night.
Excursions - We never actually ended up going on any excursions, not because we couldn't with DD, but because we found we had no time. That being said, I would book with the Cruise excursions as they are no more expensive than the ones locally and you are guaranteed. Reasonably priced I thought.
Ports - We did the Eastern run so we saw Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
Nassau was a short stay and other than the few shops around port, there was not a lot to see in the time that we had. Going through security in Nassau was kind of weird to because you never quite knew exactly where to go. No biggie though, we walked around, took some pictures, then hopped up on the ship again for lunch. Not much to report from Nassau.
St. Thomas was nice, we took a taxi to Magen's Bay. We pretty much spent the day there. Did a little shopping but not too much. The main issue on St Thomas, besides it seemed too commercialized, was that you had to taxi everywhere. Taxi drivers were pushy and rude. Some would make you wait to fill the cab while others took off with only a few people. If you didn't have to rely on the taxies, it would be a nice place. Also, traffic very congested around the pier. Remember, you have to go through US customs for this stop. Pretty painless really. Expect about an hour in line.
St. Maarten was fabulous. The water was so clear and the beaches were white, white, white. What made St. Maarten so fantastic was not only the beauty, but the people. Everyone was so friendly. Beer was $1 everywhere and you could barter with almost everyone there. The shops were fun and lively. Always something to see. The best part, everything is located near the pier. You don't have to race off unless you want to. You need to take a water taxi to the main shopping area, and the crew of the taxi was more than helpful with us in that they took the stroller and carefully placed it in the boat while I carried our DD. After my DW shopped up a storm, we went to the beach where I held my DD in the water. She was so excited every time a wave came in. it was too funny. On our return to the ship, we hit a little local stand for some local Rum drinks. They were fabulous. We had 2 each and then boarded the ship.
Conclusion - If you plan on travelling with an infant, I agree that there is some give an take. You have to be prepared to "Switch off' when wanting to go out or you need to be prepared to use the babysitting services. We chose not to use the babysitting services, and instead took out DD with us to shows. She was very good and never fussed. We always had a bottle ready just in case. Afterward, my DW and DD would go to bed and I would be off to the Casino. This worked for us, but some mornings for me were tough getting up. The Ship's staff were exceptional in always willing to lend a hand. The ship was a little rocky and although it never bother uis, we did notice people leaving the dining room with motion sickness. I heard through the grapevine that the stabilizers had failed, which would explain the side to side rocking.
This ship had over 700 kids and you would never have known it. I think the Camp does a really good job entertaining the kids throughout the day, as I never noticed any issues with too many kids at any time. We would travel with our DD again without question.