This was my very 1st cruise, and all I can say is it was Awesome! We sailed on Elation, on June 18th - 25th, with the Eastern Caribbean itinerary. We went to Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas/St. John, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Grand Turks & Caicos. Our trip, was the week of my birthday, what a present!
The only negative thing, and I do mean the only negative thing was that they need more for the 14 year olds to be able to do on the trip. They don't want to be in groups with 12 year olds, and they feel awkward being thrown in with 16&17 year olds. My daughter shied away from the whole kid's program for those very reasons. She didn't want to be with a bunch of strangers, and she's not fascinated by arcades anymore, that ended at about 13. At the same time, she didn't want to be made to feel like a "child" by 16 & 17 year olds, and as I remember being 16 and 17, we didn't want 14 year olds hanging around us, they were a "pain" if you will, and she didn't want to feel that way.
This was most certainly an awesome experience, and I cannot wait to do it again!
Pre-night: We (my fiancee, daughter & I) booked a pre-night with transfers when we booked the cruise. We left the airport at 8am with beautiful weather, and arrived as scheduled for a connection in Atlanta to Miami. Flights were on time, and arrived in Miami around 12:30 in the afternoon. Finally found our luggage at baggage claim, but not before a Carnival employee had stopped us insisting we must follow her. We politely told her we would get together with her after we found our luggage. After we had collected our luggage, there was a gentleman from Carnival that saw our document folder in our hand and said right this way. We followed him to a line where low and behold the same Carnival employee from earlier was standing. When she saw us, she insisted we follow her. By now my fiancee was getting shall I say ill with her, and I won't repeat what he said. I followed her to a counter that had another Carnival rep there a much younger, nicer young lady, who took one look at the docs while the older lady was saying "There's how many of you?" to me, and then nicer young lady said please take these stickers, and they will get you to the correct place. I thanked her, and went on.
The line for the shuttle wasn't that long, we only waited about 5 minutes, and they told us when we got in the shuttle, we would be dropping off the passengers at the cruise terminal who were sailing that day, and then going to our hotels. Well someone forgot to tell the driver, because things were done just the opposite. That did not bother me any, it just helped out the anticipation a little more. I was tired anyway, we had been up most of the night, too excited to sleep, and on the road by 5am.
Check in at the Hyatt was quick, and with the help of a porter, we were to our room in no time. We dropped the luggage, and looked for food. We ate at the little restaurant in the hotel. Big mistake, $10 for a hamburger that wasn't that great. My fiancee and daughter went back up for a nap, and later we all enjoyed the evening at Bayside. I strongly recommend it, lots to see and do. We turned in around 12am.
Sunday, June 18th..Embarkation- We left the hotel around 11:30 and got to the terminal around 12. Embarkation was very quick and very smooth for us. There was hardly any line at all, we had our cruise docs in our hands. Went through security with no problems, then to a counter where a very polite carnival employee checked our birth certificates, asked how we were paying sail & sign, and we got everything checked, verified, and done. We got our s&s card, our embarkation photo taken, and we were on our ship. All I could say was wow. I have home video from the time we stepped on the ship, to setting up our s&s account, getting into our room, and well you get the idea. I couldn't do anything but take pics and video because I was thoroughly amazed. For the whole trip, we took over 800 pics, and over 3 hours of home video.
The ship was beautiful, and it what I thought being a first time cruiser, extremely good shape considering how many people are on the ship at all times. The decor was beautiful, and I was thrilled and in awe. We only had our carry-ons with us, so we got a bite to eat, and after 1, we found our room.
We did the ever popular muster drill, which was hot, but didn't last that long, only long enough to make ya wanna jump in the pool lifejacket and all. After muster drill, we met up with some people from our roll call and the Lido Deck pool bar. It was wonderful putting names with faces, having a drink together, and getting to know one another. Was fun running into one another all week also.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the ship, and my fiancee the casino, and after unpacking late that evening, called it a night.
Half Moon Cay- We didn't do any excursions here, but the island is beautiful. Half Moon in my opinion had the prettiest water out of all the ports. Now don't get me wrong, all the ports had beautiful water, unlike any water I have ever seen, but to me Half Moon Cay had the clearest and the most beautiful. We were in this port from 9-4. We headed out on the tender around 10:30, got us a lounge chair, and went for a swim. There was a live band playing and they were planning activities for everyone on the beach. We just kind of relaxed, and enjoyed the day, I had wanted to go parasailing, but could not figure out where they were at so I could do it. After we were done swimming, we went to get something to eat. The food was great, done as an outdoor bbq type of buffet. I had forgotten silverware, and after getting it, I got lost trying to find our table. Took me about 10 minutes, but I got there. It's almost like a little maze with all of the tables they have for everyone. It started thundering as we were finishing eating, and sure enough there came the rain. We decided to tender on back to the ship, by then it was around 2 I believe, so my fiancee and daughter could get a nap. We got on tender, got back on the ship, all got hot showers, and I went off exploring while they slept. I watched the last of the tenders come in, and got some great shots of sailaway as we left.
This was our first formal night, so I started getting ready for dinner around 6:30. My daughter was too wrapped up in the World Cup to care about dressing up, so she selected to stay in and watch it, and order room service. My fiancee had enrolled in the blackjack tournament, which was all he had talked about since we booked the cruise, so I had told him to go ahead and have a good time. We had 2 formal nights on the cruise, and only 1 blackjack tournament. There would be another chance for me to see him all dressed up later in the week. I didn't let all of this spoil my fun, I love getting dressed up, so I did, and went to dinner alone. When I saw on the menu they were having the lobster tails, I knew my fiancee would hate that he missed it, because he had looked forward to those too. Just as I was about to order, here came my fiancee. He was still in the tournament, but was to go back later, and pick up playing from there. So he got his lobster, and I got my date! Even if he had not have shown up, I still would have had a wonderful dinner. I was having the time of my life, and wanted both of them to do the same. After dinner, we had some pics made, got changed, went to the casino, and wound up not getting to bed until around 2 am, but we had a wonderful time.
Tuesday, a Fun Day At Sea- We slept in of course, and pretty much spent the day exploring the ship some more, and doing a few activities. I played name that tune, went to the Saturday Night Fever Dance Class, didn't participate because we were a little late arriving, but we did sit and watch them, they did a great job. We then watched the newlywed, not so newlywed show, only to find out after we got back home, that one of the couples on the show was supposed to meet us at the roll call meeting after muster and didn't make it. My fiancee, and daughter then went for naps and I had a drink or 2 and relaxed by the pool. Before ya knew it, it was dinnertime, and after dinner, my daughter and I went to play bingo, and see the show after the bingo game. A performer in the show by the name of Marc Anthony was there and opened up by singing Motown. He led off with a song from the Temptations-Ain't too proud to beg, which is one of my honey's favorites. I ran to the casino and told him, and he came to join us for the show. We had front row seats, and got called up onstage to dance with 2 other couples while he performed, and had pulled up a lady from the audience to dance with him. It was great. We got a free bottle of champagne for participating, and had our pictures made with him after the show. We went to Romeo & Juliet's for dancing, and at midnight, he had the band sing Happy Birthday to me. They were joined by some fellow passengers in the lounge, it was awesome! Then we went to the casino for a while, and then to bed.
St. Thomas/St. John-Happy Birthday to Me!! We had booked the Ultimate Island Experience through Carnival and had to meet on the pier early that morning. Our port time here was from 7-3:30. We were up by 7, because everyone had to meet at 8 am to go through immigration. We went to the Cole Porter Lounge, where they had lines set up by which deck you were on. They moved fairly quick, we showed immigration all of our documentation, and received a sticker we had to wear to show we had been through immigration. Fairly quick and painless. From everything I've read before, I was extremely surprised. We took the documentation back to the room after getting our stickers, went to Tiffany's for breakfast, and got ready for our day. We got out to the pier, and were told 2 different places from people of where our group was supposed to meet. That could have been organized a little better, we were just afraid of missing the excursion. We didn't, we finally found where we were supposed to be. We got on the tour bus, which was an open tour bus, no windows, and started the excursion. We headed to Magen's Bay but not before we stopped for a photo opp along the way. Gorgeous view, and a shop there for souvenirs, as well as a little refreshment stand. Magen's Bay Beach.....simply beautiful. We were there 2 hours, and then taken to Blackbeard's Castle. That's where the tour ended. We went through some historical homes and down the famous 99 steps, although my daughter thought she had found a quicker way out, when we got to the bottom the gate was locked, and we had to climb all the way back up the steps, and go out a different way. Sore muscles for almost the rest of the week, but we had a great time. After we got back into town, I believe the name of the shopping mall there is Havensight, we did a little shopping, and headed to ride the tram at Paradise Point. That is what I was most excited about. I had wanted to do that when we booked the trip, and was truly my favorite part. It had rained before the tram ride, even rained while we were walking from Havensight to the tram station, but not enough to stop us. By the time we got up to the top, it had stopped raining. We stayed there, had a drink, got some beautiful pictures, then headed back for the ship.
Once we got back onto the ship, of course the other 2 took their daily nap, and I watched/taped sailaway, then relaxed by the pool. That was a daily thing all week. We had dinner later that evening, then spent another night at Romeo & Juliet's doing some dancing, then off to the casino again. I had already had a good bit to drink, and was feeling no pain. I tried blackjack, and won, wound up getting ahead. Then quit while I was ahead. We cashed in, but then my honey told me he wanted me to try roulette. I had no clue what I was doing, I just put chips a little bit of everywhere, and wound up winning. Beginner's luck I'm sure, I even hit 36-1 odds the first time around. Should have bet more! I won at that table also, and once again, we decided to quit while we were ahead, and turned in for the night. For the whole week, between us, we wound up winning $1,000 between us, so we did ok.
San Juan Puerto Rico- No excursions booked for this one, when had already decided to just shop and look around on our own. We had to go through immigration, and once again, it was quick and painless. When we got off of the ship, we got a taxi to take us to Fort El Morrow. Beautiful, just beautiful. A long walk to the fort from the road, but the history and scenery is well worth the walk. We got some great pics, great video, and beautiful memories. After we got done seeing Fort El Morrow, we headed into Old San Juan to do some shopping. We shopped, and shopped. Got some great pics of the cobblestone streets, which are very narrow, and some great pics of the colorful buildings on each side of the road. Their streets is almost equal to our sidewalks, truly amazing. After we had spent most of the afternoon shopping, we found Senor Frogs. That was also one of the must see things on my list, from cruising the boards on Cruise Critic. We then got back on the ship, had something to eat, and did our daily routine of naps for them and exploring for me.
Tonight was our 2nd formal night. Around 6:30 or so, we all, daughter included, starting getting ready for dinner. We went and ate, had some pictures made after dinner, then got changed. Of course he went to the casino, and she back to the tv. I spent the evening just kind of people watching on different decks. I did go to the casino for a bit, by then my honey had found a texas hold'em table and that is his favorite game. Getting in on the game was a hard thing to do, they only had 1 table open, and I promise it stayed full. Seems to me that for such a popular game, they would open more than one table, and advertise it. Also seems they would have it in or close to the casino, instead of way down the hall past it, in front of the Cole Porter Lounge. If you didn't run up on it by chance, you would have never known it was there. I did get to play some, enjoyed it while I did. After we were done gambling for the night, we called it a night around 1am.
Grand Turks/Caicos- We were in this port from 12-7. Our ship was a little ahead of schedule, we actually arrived around 11, but they did not change our departure time, so we got to enjoy an extra hour. They slept in on this day because we had the port all day, they weren't concerned about jumping up out of bed to get somewhere early, however I jumped up around 9 and went and got a full body massage at the spa that morning. What can I say? It was pure heaven! They got up I guess around 11 or so, and by then I was back, and we went to Tiffany's to find ourselves something to eat. We went ahead and got off the ship and headed for Margaritaville. It was huge and crowded. There were some shops there, but not very many open as the island is still developing. We just kind of people watched for a little while at Margaritaville, then we headed for the beach. That's all we did all day was hang out on the beach. We had decided it was our last port and that we were gonna do what you are supposed to do on vacation.....be lazy. We got up from the beach, went back to Margaritaville, which was right behind us, literally, and people-watched for a bit. Live entertainment, and loud, lots of fun. Of course at Margaritaville, I had a margarita, ya just gotta do that! We got us some shirts from the Margaritaville shop, and yes they are very pricey, don't try to buy everyone a souvenir here, you'll go broke quick. Normally I don't splurge that much, but I never have gotten to go to a place like this before, so I made sure I had a memento.
Later in the day, I guess around 5 we headed back for the ship, after we explored the island a little more. I was there for sailaway, while they, you guessed it, took their naps. We got ready for dinner, we ate, and then all 3 of us went to Deal or No Deal Bingo. None of us won, but we did have a good time. We came close, one more number and we would have won. Afterwards, honey and I headed for the casino, and my daughter back to the World Cup. I went back to the room a little later, and she and I headed to the Lido deck for the Deck party they were having that night. We must have timed it just right, because we got in line and got our food, and the line was minimal. Then she decided she wanted to go eat in the room. We went back to the room and ate, went back down for seconds, but by then the line was outrageous. She decided to go back to watch the World Cup, and I stayed and joined the conga line. Then my honey joined me, we had fun until they started going up steps, and being as we were still sore from the 99 steps in St. John, we headed a different way. We killed some time in the casino, and spent some time to ourselves on deck it was great!
A Fun Day At Sea- My honey got up early this morning to go to the debarkation information meeting. Not sure what time he got back to the cabin, because I was still asleep. He woke me up, we went and found us something to eat, and just kind of lounged around for a bit, as a matter of fact the first half of the day was spent just being pure lazy, and the last half of the day was spent packing to return home. I didn't even want to think about going home, I was in heaven, and I wanted to stay there. We went on and got changed for our last dinner. Headed out for dinner, afterwards last night in the casino, but didn't go there until we made sure our bags were outside of the door by 9 pm as they had requested. We had decided not to do self assist for our 1st cruise. After the casino honey headed for bed, my daughter was hanging out with some friends she had made, and I was , well, just roaming. Around mid-night, my daughter and I caught up with each other, and we went around taking pics of the ship at night, and headed for Tiffany's for pizza and ice cream. We went around taking more pics, and got in bed around 2am. We knew we would regret it the next morning, but it was our very last night on the ship, and we didn't wanna give it up at all.
Disembarkation- We got up around 8, and headed up to get us some breakfast around 8:30-8:45. We took our carry-ons with us, because we knew by the time we got done eating it would be time to go. We got done eating, and were sitting at a table on the Lido deck making sure everything was good to go, video camera and all, and we stayed until they made the "last call" for passengers to get off of the ship. We headed out for customs, and that line was no joke. Once we finally got through it, which luckily I missed half of it, I stepped out of line to use the restroom, and when I came out my honey and daughter had made it a good ways towards the front. I joined them, and after finding our luggage, and going through customs, which, they don't play, they almost took the people's camera who were in front of us, because they had taken a pic inside the pier terminal. The guy finally found the pic on their digital and erased it. We didn't have any worries, we hadn't taken any pics. We handed him our customs form, and he told us to have a good day. When we got past him, we sat down our luggage beside us, because we were in yet another long line. There was a horrible thunderstorm going on, and I wasn't in a hurry to run out in the rain anyway. A porter came up and my honey told him yes, we do need your help,......so much for waiting out the storm, haha. The porter said follow me, we did, and he whisked us right out of the terminal past that long long line of people. My honey tipped him $20 bucks for getting us out so quickly and onto the bus. We finally left, and after long delays at the airports, we arrived home a little after mid-night. Exhausted, but happy! My first airplane ride, and first cruise were truly events I will never ever forget, as well as events I'll be happy to do again! I loved it, and had an unforgettable time. So far, the time of my life!!