This was our first cruise and it was fabulous! I am 23 and my husband is 29. I spent A LOT of time on Cruise Critic researching and talking to other people on our sailing through the roll call board. I am VERY glad we met up with the folks we met on the board. It made our experience 1000 times better.
We flew in the day before and stayed at the downtown Radisson. I'm glad I got it through Priceline... I was not impressed and would have been upset if I'd paid regular price.
Embarkation was a BREEZE. We were expecting a long wait since we didn't get there until around noon. There were several lines in the process, but they all moved quickly. They never asked for my FunPass, not sure why.
We were assigned a two seater table in an isle in the Pacific Dining room. We went the first two nights and didn't go back. I wish we'd have checked on our assignment right away so we could try to change tables, but we didn't.
The food in general wasn't spectacular. Not what I expected. It was certainly better than cooking myself, but not what I'd heard about. Hence, only two trips to the dining room. It was too much effort for mediocre food. However, that didn't stop me from eating 4 or 5 times a day.
We had in inside cabin, which was just fine for us. I'd take a balcony if it was free, but the inside was plenty. Lots of closet space, big COMFORTABLE bed, decent size bathroom. Blah Blah Blah.
In Costa Maya we did an all inclusive beach party with Island Marketing. DO NOT BOOK WITH THEM. Our Cruise Critic group booked with them together to get a discount. It was kind of a hassle, long story. But we got in with the discount. Part of our group went on their charter fishing boat. IT CAUGHT ON FIRE. There were NO FIRE EXTINGUISHES ON BOARD and the crew was clueless. Fortunately, everyone was okay in the end, but one of the passengers had to spend the day in the ships infirmary.
We had to tender into Grand Cayman. We were instructed to go to the Lounge if we had an early tour booked, which we did. When we started that way, we saw people going down to the gangplank already, so we went down also and they were letting people go. We didn't wait at all, I don't know if those that came later had to or not. We booked our tour with Soto's. We went snorkeling and to stingray city. It was fun, but not super fabulous. It was way cheaper than the Carnival version. We shopped when we got back. We stopped at Tortuga rum factory which was cool. Picked up a sampler rum pack for $15. Getting back on the tender took much longer of course, but it still wasn't that bad.
Ocho Rios was FOR SURE my favorite port. We booked with Phil Lafayette. We did just the tubing. Some of our group did the Falls also. We didn't go to the falls so we'd have time to shop and go to Margaritaville. Margaritaville was GREAT. Make sure you go to the website and find the "Lost Shaker of Salt" You can print a coupon for a free margarita. They were STOUT. The food is delicious, but the spicy stuff is no joke. We couldn't eat the chili. We went shopping at Island Village. It's a shopping area with security at the gates to keep the locals from hassling you. I didn't realize what a service this was until we went to a craft market near the pier and it was CRAZY. They are very very aggressive and will try to make you feel guilty if you don't go to their booth and buy something. The Island Village area is beautiful, kind of feels like a mini-town, like in the movies. It's cool. Lots of cool shops. It connects to Margaritaville. there's a beach there also, for like $5 or so, but we didn't have time to stop there.
We spent a lot of time by Siren's Pool in the very back of the ship by the pizza bar. It was never crowded and our group was always able to get a large table to sit at, and there were only a couple. We had so much fun hanging out together we didn't really do many activities. We did go to all the comedy shows, which were great. And we saw VROOM. That was cool too.
The "Shop Talk" or whatever they are before the port days are a waste of time IMO. They are just a long commercial for the stores that pay carnival to push them. The one before Grand Cayman was a 1/2 hour commercial for Diamonds International, it was a little transparent. Kind of annoying.
Order a BLT from Room Service, even if you don't like BLT's.
Our whole group was able to bring on alcohol. My DH and I didn't have a lot, but one couple in our group had like 9 bottles and got them on fine. All was in checked luggage. I also saw people coming back onto the boat with booze from ports with no problem. They just passed it through the scanner and handed it back. ours came from Tortuga, and they deliver it to the boat, and you get it on Saturday morning. Rum mixes really well with the lemonade in the dining room.
Eat before you leave the boat. Food in port is expensive, especially when you are starving because you forgot to eat breakfast and you go to the first restaurant you come to. Trust me.
We had a FANTASTIC time and are already planning the next one.