First things first....I just came back from Baghdad. My wife and I wanted to plan a "get away" vacation. Since I'm from Tampa and seeing as how my mom still lives there, it gave us a chance to take our little one to Grandma's while we went on vacation.
The night before we stayed at the Channelside Marriot hotel right down the street from the port - great choice. I remember when this hotel was built and have always wanted to stay there. I booked the room from Iraq and had no trouble checking in and they even provided transportation (yes, I know it was 2 blocks away) to the port the morning of.
Getting on the boat is a snap. We booked the cruise in late November and I did the online fill out thing the next day, so all we had to bring was our passports (or birth certificates - we actually didn't need any of these things we just showed our military ID) and our paper saying we completed the online thing. We waited for about 25 minutes and we were on! I think we got there about 1145 and we were finished with lunch by 12:15.
We booked a guar. 8A and were upgraded to 8G(?) anywho the cabin number was 7300 which was on the back of the boat with a balcony on the verandah deck - simply perfect view. Our cabin steward Amilia (aka Sparky) and her team were the best. The room was always kept clean with new towels and we had breakfast on the balcony every morning - smoked salmon and fruit with coffee. I'm not picky on room size - since all I had a couple weeks ago was a tent to live in.
The Dinning room:
Head honcho waiter Juan and his assistant Carlos were great - Juan was always singing some random song (i.e. brittany spears - madonna) and always had a smile on his face. They knew our names and what we liked to drink after the first night. AGAIN the food was perfect - I've been eating chow hall food for the past 137 days -- let's not be so critical of things people! ALSO the pink lights in the dinning room were ignored after the first time we walked in - if you let the lights ruin your dining experience, try going to Baghdad.
Amazing sums it up, everything is extremely well kept and all the staff are willing to help you no matter the request. The adults-only pool on the back of the boat was a life saver, we asked Sparky how many people where on board and she said 2400 - not bad all things considered, but out of the 2400 there were 930 kids on board. I don't think we saw the same one more than once - other than the drunk 16-17ish year olds (read further down).
We DIDN'T book one single excersion at all and had a BLAST at all of the ports.
Grand Cayman: The cayman dollar is more expensive than the US dollar so don't plan on trying to get a deal. We rented a scooter ($40)for the whole day and traveled the whole island in a couple hours. We sent up camp at a small beach on the north end of the island - can't remember the name of the place, but the corona was cold. The water was amazing and the people very friendly.
Cozumel: Again, we rented a scooter ($20) and did the same exact thing - only this time we did some shopping and found some really great stuff! Went to Senior Frogs --skip it if you have a choice.
Belize: Hmm....maybe we should have booked an excursion on this one...we got off the boat walked through some shops and came to "the gate", where everyone wanted to take us somewhere. We bypassed most of them and decided to explore on our own...that lasted about 10 minutes - we then met Roberto(?) and he took us to a small beach (cucumber beach) which was nice. No shopping here.
Costa Maya: This one I think was probably the best - the best shopping of the week, good food, great people...rented the scooter ($20) and took off. Saw some ruins, drank some very strong drinks. I think this was the one with the bar you can swim up to - I didn't though. They have a Mexican version of Wal-Mart here so if you need something "Wal-Martish" this would be the place to pick it up. We where a little delayed (10-15min) in leaving due to 2 young boys (16-17ish) who came stumbling to the pier, one almost fell in and the other was being escorted by carnival folks and local police - must make their parents proud! :-)
We had the best times of our lives, next time (yes, we will go on the miracle next time) we will bring our daughter now that we know and saw the programs that carnival offers for the little ones. On a side note - If you posted a negative review due to one small thing (i.e. dinning room lights, lobster too rubbery, naked statues (yes there are some - its art folks and if you weren't paying attention to them you wouldn't see them), waiter forgetting what you drink, then you should think about the people who read your reviews like me - I've been reading them since we booked - I read every single one of them sometimes twice when I was in Iraq and laughed at most of the complaints I saw. Sure, you pay good money to go on the trip, but let the little things slide. E-mail me if you need some more info!