Background information: This was my ninth cruise with my last five cruises on Carnival's Conquest and Spirit class ships. Previous cruises also include 2 on Celebrity and 1 on the Princess Grand class. This would be our fourth cruise to the western caribbean. This is my husband's seventh cruise. We are me (47) and husband (69).
Pre-cruise stay: Was at the Fort Lauderdale Holiday Inn at Sunrise Blvd. and AIA. One word: Dump. You can do much better than this place.
Embarkation: We arrived after a 45 minute ride from Fort Lauderdale about 10:45am. There was the usual chaos in trying to drop off your luggage while departing pax were still coming out of the terminal and the buses, taxis, etc. We finally got parked and got in line to get on the ship about 11:15am. Several lines later (not bad at all) we were at the line to board the ship. We were told we did not have a "blue dot" on our card and we had to backtrack to a line to get our picture taken for security. It took until 12:15pm to officially walk on board. They were very strict about not going to your room until 1PM. Went to lunch buffet which was extremely crowded, chaotic, and not that great of a selection. We managed to find something to hold us over until sailaway.
Room: 7408, the starboard side aft corner balcony. What a dream cabin! Finally able to see it for the first time in person after drooling over the pics for months! The cabin seems a little cramped for two, three would really be pushing it (there is a bed over the queen bed for a third person which comes down from the ceiling). The bathroom was the smallest I have ever been in on a cruise ship. You could sit on the loo and brush your teeth at the same time. I had to get creative and move the patio table into the bathroom to have a place to shave the legs. Oh well, the balcony more than made up for the small annoyances with the room. It was huge! about 15 X15 with two chairs, a small patio table and one lounger. The views out the back and the side were magnificent.
Room Steward and Packages Ordered: Our room steward was Kerwyn from St. Vincent and he was fabulous. Very laid back and very competent at keeping our room clean. We had ordered the bon voyage decorations package, the grand romance package, and a sailaway cake to share with some friends who were on board. When we arrived the room was decorated but there was no champagne, flowers or cake. Our robes were there and they were very nice terry (not the waffle type). I called guest relations about the other stuff and it arrived within thirty minutes. THe flower arrangement was beautiful, much more than I expected. The Veuve Cliquot champagne and the cake were thoroughly enjoyed by myself, husband and guests. The most popular item was the chocolate covered strawberries. I will skip the cake next time and order more strawberries. :}
Dining Room: We had second sitting and this was without a doubt the most gorgeous dining room I have ever sat in. We were at a table on the 4th level, Leonardo's, table for 8. Our tablemates were two couples from Colorado who were personable and funny and one couple from Tampa, Wayne and Sally, who were instant family. Our waiter was richard, our asst. waiter Isaac, and our head waiter Maurice. All of the dining room staff were friendly, warm and truly cared about our happiness with the food and service. The food was not really to my tastes but I managed to find something to eat every day. The rest of our table including my husband thought the food was pretty good. We also had breakfast in the dining room most days and lunch once. The breakfasts and lunches were excellent.
Buffet: I usually ate here around noon and then again at 4pm. At 4pm everyday they seemed to have a "junk food junkie" station which I loved. They would have nachos, cheese, spicy beef and stuff to make tacos and hot wings. I love this kind of junk and would enjoy happy hour everyday at the buffet. We also ate here for dinner one night when they had excellent chinese food.
Chops: Got to eat here once and it was fantastic. Had the french onion soup, the crabcake, NY strip and the chocolate mud pie. Best meal of the cruise! and the best service also. Hello to Jesus and Donna.
Activities: There were plenty of activities, too many in fact if you were burned out from work and just wanted to "chill." I spent a lot of time chilling on the balcony, at the martini bar (olive or twist) and the piano bar (schooner) also boleros. I did do the scrapbooking workshop on the last day and really enjoyed it. Be sure to bring your digital camera with you as they have two whole books of scrapbook layouts for you to photo and work with at home. There is no charge for this class and you get lots of free supplies. You don't need to bring anything with you but if wanted to bring a mini scrapbook to do you could probably get a lot of it done here. The class is held three times during the week.
Bars: During the day husband loved Boleros, so did I. Kudos to Adrian, Jimmy Carter, Manwell, and Jum at Boleros. You guys are great to hang with! The Olive or Twist is the best place for a pre-dinner drink. If you go before late dinner you get to film the sunset. The view is killer. We had the pleasure of being waited on by Donna there every night and she was sweet as can be. Great place to hang during the day also. Schooner: Thank you Akita for your great service every night. Peter Ritz, my new favorite piano entertainer. Thank you for a fantastic week!
Entertainment: Totally blew me away. THe best shows I have ever seen on a ship. I saw every single one of the nightly shows and they were awesome and all got standing ovations! The ice skating show was very good also. The magic show is so much more than a magic show - it is a full production show along with the two Broadway style shows. The best surprise of the week was the temptations tribute band in the middle of the week. The shows were so good I would have sat through them two or three times if I could.
Favorite thing: The piano bar and the family that was created there. I have never met such happy, friendly, warm pax in my life. We sang along together, laughed, hugged and just plain enjoyed ourselves the whole week. The last night we all cried and they had to kick us out at 1:30am. I have never felt that way before on a ship. It was magical.
Ports: Coz. Love it but didn't have much time here. Shopped for a pair of Tanzanite and Australian opal earrings. Found them plus a matching pendant for really good prices. Comparison shopping helps a lot in Coz. Keep going to different places until you get the best price. It was really really hot here today so we just shopped for two hours and got back on board. Hung at the adult pool with another three pax and one cocktail server all to ourselves. Beautiful, the water is nice and clean and refreshing at the solarium pool. Grand Cayman: Did the snorkeling with the stingray thing with a newbie "karen." She could swim but had never snorkeled before. I taught her how and she caught on real quick. We had quite an adventure and ended up "snorkeling with the barracuda." We were too stupid to know what it was so we just swam with it and took its picture. Every one else got back on the snorkel boat! THe snorkeling wasn't as good as I remember in Grand Cayman but it was still a beautiful day on the water. Jamaica; Doctor's Cave Beach. Go, you will be astounded at the water clarity and cleanliness and the extreme buoyancy of the water. It is like floating on a cloud. Drinks are cheap too; $1.75 for a soda, $10 for six red stripes in a bucket with ice. I could have lived here on this beach. Labadee: Beautiful but I guess I really wasn't in the mood. Went to the first beach for an hour and ended up back on the boat at the solarium pool for the day.
Favorite day: Thursday (Jamaica). We had our romance breakfast in bed. But instead we had it on the balcony and used our roll up table. Loved sailing into Montego Bay. Gorgeous greenery and mountains. Then we went to Dr. cave beach for the day. Upon our return I drank a bottle of champagne on the balcony for the sailaway and slept on the lounger for an hour or two. It was heaven out there that day, perfect temperature and breeze.
Debark: Took too long but we couldn't do the self debark due to one extra piece of luggage. On the road home by 11AM, didn't get home till 2:30pm.
Overall: My new favorite cruise of all time. If I could go again next month or next week I surely would. Total blast. If you have any questions please e-mail kim at: email@example.com
Thanks to the inaugural cruisers for all the important facts and such pre-cruising. You guys do a great recon. LOL :) Zotzer: I didn't know what you meant when you were talking about the curtain in the room, now I know. It is a pain. Another cruiser talked about being "large" and having a tough time in the shower. He was right about that too. It was sort of like being in a tooth paste tube!
That's all for now. I have the Compasses if anyone has specific questions.