This was my first cruise so I wasn't sure what to expect (although I had a good idea with all the reading I did on this site). Went with my boyfriend to celebrate our anniversary. We are both 22, and neither have been to the Caribbean or on a cruise before, so we were pretty excited. One thing we were worried about was there being too many older people or families, but there were other young couples/groups so it was cool.
Embarkation- We took the first flight out of BWI to FLL via Southwest. Could not beat $79 each way for a N/S flight. Flight left a little after 7AM, we were on ground at 9:30. Took a shared shuttle to Port of Miami from Floridalimo.com and arrived around 10:45 at the cruise terminal. There was a short line of people to check in (probably 40 ahead of us), but the ship was not ready for boarding yet so everyone was just standing around. The line started getting longer, and they finally started letting people through security at 11Am. However, still no people to check you in. My BF was a little annoyed, but I just reminded him that we weren't SUPPOSED to be there that early anyway. Finally, check-in lanes started opening up one at a time (maybe around 11:15). We were already sitting down on the Lido deck with food by noon. It was cool to be one of the first on the ship.
The Ship- I was surprised to be approached by waiters with drinks as soon as we got to Lido. I don't drink, so it was easy to pass them by. We had some burgers from Coney Island grille because we thought that was all there was open. They were actually pretty good. After we ate, we decided to explore and take pictures before things got crowded. We went inside on Lido and saw the huge buffet we missed. Oh well. Plenty more days left for that.
I thought the ship was very pretty. The atrium where you walk in is amazing to someone like me who has never been on a cruise. The elevators in the atrium are a strange shape when you get inside though, like a pear. There is marble and lots of glittery walls everywhere. We got on the elevator with a family with a teenage girl who said oohhh, pretty! as soon as we got in.
We went to every floor and finally ended up in the spa. Had an embarkation day couple's massage for $199 I think. Nice way to start off the trip. The ladies tried to convince us in the end that we needed $500 worth of other treatments. Whatever! It was BFs first massage so it really made his day. He did say he felt bad for the woman though, since she had to touch his feet. LOL.
The show the first night was ok. The cruise director (don't remember his name, but he was English) was HILARIOUS. Love, love, LOVED him! Dancers I was not impressed by the whole trip. Singers were just OK. But it didn't bother me because I didn't come expecting them to be amazing.
Other shows were cool too. Comedian was pretty funny. Magicians entertaining. I though the Bingo was too expensive at $10 a card. Not for me! They must be making millions off of that since there were hundreds of people playing each round. I preferred playing Blackjack in the Casino- much better odds. Had fun. I was in awe of the people betting hundreds per hand. I am just not that bold or rich I guess.
Hairy chest contest was funny. Showed all my friends at home a picture of a hefty, hairy, Italian guy from Brooklyn doing a cartwheel INTO a SPLIT. Shocked us all. He also did some breakdancing. Awesome. Go white team!
Never got in the pools though because of too many children. Did do the hot tub in the gym because it was more quiet. They should have an adults only pool on this ship. They supposedly had adults only hot tubs, but there were kids wherever I went. Not that I hate kids- the kids on the boat didn't bother me except for the pool thing. The director said there were about 600- but it didn't feel like that many to me. I really only saw them in the pool, arcade, and around the dance club when there were teen events. They seemed to be having a good time.
We played a lot of the trivia games. I won a ship on a stick. He won one too (thanks to my coaching from the audience), but his came with Champagne. He also got a medallion. I can't believe the White team didn't win with all the points we got for trivia games! The ones played in the Rome Lounge were really fun, especially Battle of the Sexes. I also got a kick out of the Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed game. There was a couple who had been married over 60 years and still described their cabin on the boat as having fireworks the night before.
After lunch, we went to the room to drop off carry-ons (we knew it would not be ready yet). The room Steward told us it wasn't ready, but he didn't object to us leaving the bags. After we toured the ship and had massages etc we went to the room and it was ready, but no luggage. Went to muster drill. No luggage. Went to deck for sailaway. Still no luggage. Ended up not getting our stuff until after dinner.
Being only a year out of college, we booked the cheapest room we could find interior room, Riviera deck 1386. I was pleasantly surprised. There was room for all my clothes (and I brought A LOT), the bed was COMFY, and we didn't feel cramped. The bathroom especially seemed nicer than I thought. It even had a medicine cabinet and storage underneath the sink for cosmetics, blow dryers, etc. The line for drying was a nice touch. The shower was small, but it made up for it by having the moveable spout (you know, so you can take it down). The one thing that was strange though was the TV had Denver stations the WHOLE TRIP. Of all places, Denver?!?!!? BTW- You don't HAVE to go to their travel or shopping talks. They record them and play them on the in-room TVs anyway. Another nice touch was the movies that played, they were pretty recent like Failure to Launch and Big Momma's House 2. Never stayed in the room long enough to watch one completely though.
There were three small drawers (like desk drawers) and then three closets. Two of the closets had bars with hangers (maybe 12 in all), and then a shelf at the top I used that for shoes. The third had shelves and the safe. I bought way too many clothes so I used most of the spaces. It also came with bathrobes in one of the closets. Half of one wall was mirrors (over the desk space), but the lighting wasn't good enough there for makeup. The bathroom lights were bright though.
We went into one of the Oceanview rooms too. They were a little bigger, but I would not spend $100 more pp just for two feet of extra space. I would rather have money to spend having fun in ports. We will probably always book the cheap interior rooms now.
The room steward did his job. I didn't expect the room to be made up twice per day. We didn't have a chance to mess it up before they cleaned it again J. I was sad one evening when I didn't get a towel animal. I was taking a nap when he came by to turn down the bed. We didn't have a refrigerator, but he kept fresh ice in the ice bucket. That was good, because we bought a couple of our own sodas on the ship. We didn't purchase a single beverage the whole time.
Food- Overall good. Decent buffets on Lido, and better food than I am used to eating in the dining room. Presentation is everything. We went to dinner in the dining room every night, and were never disappointed. The portions aren't very big, but you can always just get two. I never felt the need to because there is always something to eat later. There always seemed to be a wait for pizza, however. They need to make them more than 4 slices a piece!
We requested late seating, but ended up with the first at 5:45. Didn't really feel like fighting to change it. It seemed early to me, but at least you will have room by the time the midnight buffet came around. It did seem like you would miss a few events if you had late seating, but not that many. Sometimes we were a little late, but that was OK too. We probably only took an hour for dinner since it was just the two of us. Service was pretty fast. I don't know what time they start kicking you out to get ready for the next seating, but you should have at least two hours.
We had a booth for just the two of us so he was not embarrassed to order two entrees every night. Waiters were great. Both from Columbia. They kept the bread and water/tea refills coming. Thank you Alex and Eddie! I made sure to leave them extra at the end, and take a picture with them. I felt bad for the drink waitress that kept coming to our table every night to ask if we wanted something to drink. After the second time we told her we didn't drink, but she still kept trying. On the last night, she laughed at herself for still asking and thanked us anyway for cruising and said she hoped we had a nice time. I kind of felt bad, but we were more than happy drink water and iced tea. We had brought a few sodas on board with us, I think 8, but only ended up drinking maybe 4 during the week in our room.
On Lido, breakfast lines tended to be long but steadily moving. Another thing I did notice on Lido is that the apple juice is VERY SWEET. It is like pure concentrate. I even mixed it half with water and it was still sweet. The fruit punch was heavily sweetened too.
Room service chocolate cake was delicious. BF would call and ask for 2 (just for himself!). We even ordered some on the last night and took it to the LEGENDS show with us.
Pictures- We took pictures at EVERY station on formal night. Some were pretty nice. I wanted to buy different sheets since they were only $10, but when we got to the register we were told you had to buy an 8X10 for $20 before you could buy the smaller prints of any single pose. I had like 8 poses picked out. What were we supposed to do with 8 big pictures of ourselves? We ended up only buying 2 because of that. If they allowed us to buy wallets of other poses, they would have made a lot more money.
Honestly, we had so much fun on the boat the first day and a half we didn't feel the need to even go to the ports. But, we were up for arrival at 7AM so we got to see the sunrise. Beautiful. Went Power Snorkeling. So much fun! The place where we snorkeled from had canopy beds on the beach. Looked very romantic. We arranged this through Carnival, by the way. It was a fairly inexpensive excursion for only $49. It was the only excursion we did through Carnival since we saved a lot of money on others by contacting vendors directly. Saw eels, lots of different fish, coral. Neither of us have ever been snorkeling (or in the Caribbean for that matter), so we had a great time. Did not want to go back to shore when it was over.
After that, we did a little souvenir shopping. Then back to the boat for a late lunch since we were pretty close to it anyway. After lunch, we took a cab to Chankanaab for a dolphin swim. SO MUCH FUN! Would recommend to anyone. We were lucky to be in a group of only four people so there was plenty of personal attention. After that, we went to the beach at Chankanaab and rented snorkel gear and did some more snorkeling. The beach area was almost completely deserted so it was like having a private beach. Unlimited chairs and huts to choose from. Everyone who saw pictures thought we were on some private island. The park closed early in the evening, though, I think at 6 or so. We had a few hours left in Coz since the boat didn't leave until 10 or 11, but we were back on by 7 or 8 and satisfied with our day.
There was open seating that night so we hadn't missed dinner. We had a different table and waiters who weren't as good. It could have been just because they figured most people would not leave them a tip anyway. I missed my stellar waiting team!
Did the Capt Marvins Island Tour and Stingrays. Walked a block or two from the port to their building . Our early morning snorkel got cancelled, so we ended up doing Island Tour first (which I preferred from the beginning anyway). Went to Hell and Turtle Farm. Not much to do in Hell but take a picture and send a postcard, but it was at least interesting. Turtle Farm was pretty much empty, and Matlee (from Capt Marvin's) was a great tour guide there. Took pictures holding turtles. I felt bad that they would be eaten though. Would recommend doing this tour with Matlee.
The views from the boat on the way to our Snorkel Stops were beautiful. Our driver was Capt Marvin himself! Divers grabbed and eel for us, and got us close to a nurse shark. Despite everyone's insistence that the nurse shark was not dangerous, I went AWAY from it while everyone else went close for a picture.
Stingray City was pretty freakish at first- just standing there and feeling the stingrays rub against you as they swim. I stayed frozen in place for quite a while before venturing to feed them. And even then, I think I screamed. It was fun though. The Capt Marvin's crew lifted the Stingrays to give us a backrub. Very cool.
Arrived in Jamaica and started looking for our tour guide from A-Z planners. The port officials greeted us and told us where to stand to wait for them, but after a while I got impatient and called Belinda. A few minutes later we got a tour guide. It was a different guy than she had told us in the email, but didn't really matter. His name was Micky, and he was British (surprise!). He spoke the dialect in Jamaica perfectly though when interacting with locals (he said his wife was Jamaican). Micky took us to Dunn's River Falls first, which was almost completely empty. I thought it wasn't open yet, but we were just lucky enough to be one of the first ones there. We left the digital camera with Micky, and he took some pictures of us from the side of the Falls.
After that, we went on to ride ATVs. BF had a lot of fun. It was fun for me too, as long as I stayed on the practice course. I was scared to ride through the wild. BF said there were great views, but he was glad I didn't come because it did turn out to be a difficult ride. You have to be strong to steer those things.
Then it was on to tube down the White River. Again, NO CROWDS. We had our own personal guide for that. And I was glad too. He told us they take up to 15 people at a time. How can one guide keep up with 15 tubers? IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL. Saw a hummingbird. Also saw some locals bathing and kids playing very cool.
After that, a quick stop at a souvenir shop and back to the boat. This is one island I would have wanted to stay longer. I really don't understand why so many people criticize this port. It was our favorite. I never felt unsafe.
The last day was a sad one- knowing it was almost over. Watched the passenger talent show and it was BAD. Not too much talent on my cruise. If I knew that being able to sing wasn't required, I would have tried out!
Did the self-assist off of the boat. Crowded in the stairwell but otherwise painless. Was sad to drive away from the port in the taxi. Got to Marseilles Hotel on South Beach at like 9AM. We couldn't check in, but we got in the pool to wait for a room. The first one that opened up was a junior suite, so we lucked out big time paying only $99. Beautiful view of the beach and pool area from the 8th floor (I think). Went down to South Beach but it sucked in comparison to the Caribbean, so our beach time was short. We walked around the city that day, and flew home the next.
All in all, a fabulous trip! August cruise and NO RAIN the whole time. Had fun on the ship. Didn't really feel like we were cruising with 3000 people because there were really no long lines past the first day embarkation/Lido rush. Before we got off we were already trying to figure out when we could afford to go again. I think I will now become an avid cruiser. I even got a Carnival Seamiles card- LOL.