This was my second cruise, the first having been on Celebrity. Unfortunately, despite traveling at what is typically considered to be the dry season, we had storms and clouds for four or five of the seven days. The high winds contributed to big waves that led to a substantial amount of motion on this smaller ship. However, none of this is the fault of the cruise company as I knew this was a risk of going on a relatively small ship. I'm going to review the cruise on a day-by-day basis below:
Day 1: Departing Tampa. Boarding was a bit slow as they did not let people onto the ship until late, this left people waiting outside the terminal area. However, to those of us coming from snow, this hardly presented a problem. Once the line got moving, we were checked in quickly, put our carry luggage away and began to explore the ship. Overall the ship is in very good condition for its age, other than a few elevators that malfunctioned periodically through the ship. When we got tired of exploring, we returned to our room to find out luggage sitting by our door ready to be unpacked. We were seated for dinner, and our waiter Gedi was very efficient and pleasant. To round out the night, we went to a show and then explored a little bit more of the ship before returning to our room.
Day 2: Key West, Florida. We arrived to Key West on time, however we did not dock at Mallory Square as scheduled. Instead we docked at the Navy Pier and had to take a tram to get off the base. Unfortunately, this shortened an already too-short stop on the cruise to less than five hours. We explored Key West using the silver CityView Trollies that we booked in advance. Unfortunately, we both needed to use the bathroom rather urgently, so we went into the closest restaurant for lunch, Eat it Raw. In hindsight, we should have gone to one of many other places that would have provided a more unique lunch experience, but Eat it Raw was a more than adequate tourist trap restaurant. We boarded the ship and everything went smoothly with dinner and the show.
Day 3: Sea Day. Being on a very small ship, there was not a whole lot of excitement to be had on the sea days. I had anticipated this booking on a small ship, however, I had not anticipated the weather during the Caribbean's "dry" season. Because it was overcast, windy, and at times rainy, the crew actually blocked people from being able to use most of the open spaces. I had planned to bum around outside on much of the sea days. Tea time was nice, even though I am not much of a tea person. Formal night was nice as most everyone actually dressed up appropriately who entered the dining room. The ship was rocking so hard at one point during dinner that our waiter actually fell into the wall in the corner of the ship. The nightly show was also nice.
Day 4: Roatan, Honduras. Once again, the weather was not great, but it may have actually helped to hold the temperature down. We booked a trip with Victor Bodden Tours. As there were supposed to be three ships on the island that day, we actually had an "overflow" driver named Homer(?) who drove taxi 303. As it turned out, the large Carnival ship could not dock due to the winds. Homer was tremendous! He showed us many different parts of the island from the east to the west. He took pictures of us together, bought us local fruits, gave us some of his story as well as the island's story, and explained and answered any questions we could throw at him. We got back to the boat in more than enough time but had felt we had seen the entire island! We had a couple hours so we boarded the ship, then got back off and went to the Carnival owned beach to hang out for a little bit. The food at dinner was great as usual. We were supposed to have the Vegas-themed show that night, but one of the dancers had injured herself so we were subjected to seeing the next night's show, Dan Bennit. I say subjected because we both thought he was terrible! His stunts took him several attempts to complete and his humor was dated, corny, and predictable at best (this comes from someone who laughs and makes jokes at ANYTHING, including things most would find very inappropriate). I actually felt like getting up to leave, but decided to wait it out in the false hopes that it would improve. It did not. It was as if there was a manic chicken running around with its head cut off, panting and making bad jokes. It appeared that many in the audience did enjoy his brand of humor though.
Day 5: Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala. We pulled up to Guatemala on time and got off the ship at a cargo port. The descriptions you read online are absolutely accurate; it is in fact a fully functional cargo port. We decided to take the much lauded "Go With Gus" Livingston Humanitarian Tour. I won't go on and on about how AWFUL of an experience it was here, instead I will post that separately in the Guatemala thread. But a quick summary of what happened: we left late, substantially ran behind schedule, sat at stops for far too long while he conducted other business, didn't eat lunch until almost three, the lunch was served room temperature, had our walking tour cut short, then had to literally race back to the ship once he realized we were running behind. He told us "I have never missed a ship in seven and a half years. Don't worry, the ship doesn't leave until 4:30 my time." Point in fact, the ship left at 4:30 our time. Once he realized this, we sped back to the ship across choppy waters (due to the bad weather) and arrived to the ship five minutes late; it was actually quite a painful ride. Luckily, the Captain's wife and two daughters were on our tour, so the ship waited for us. Perhaps, Gus should say in the future "I have not missed a cruise ship in seven and a half years, thanks to having the Captain's Wife and family." This led to a VERY stressful and unpleasant day in Guatemala. (To add to the fire, we ran into a couple in Costa Maya who had booked a "Go With Gus" Mayan tour on a previous cruise, and had a very negative experience as well. After catching our breath, we prepared for dinner, which was nice as usual, and then got to see the Vegas show that was postponed from the earlier night. Thank God, I wasn't sure I would survived if I had to see Dan Bennit after my day with Gus!
Day 6: Costa Maya, Mexico. We docked at Costa Maya on time and took the short, two dollar cab ride to Mahahual where we went to Tropicante. We enjoyed our beach time in the sun (the first truly nice day of weather on the cruise) and his faux Mexican food. We got back on the boat and prepared for the final formal night. It was odd that a port day was selected to be the formal night, but the only alternative would have been to have it the next sea day, but people are more worried about packing up than having a formal night on the last night of the cruise. It was this night that I encountered the most disrespectful passenger of the cruise. At dinner, we would frequently look at a six-person table a few over from us and quietly make fun of an incredibly difficult and pretentious couple. He knew more than anyone in any topic (or so he thought) and would tell the people at the table so. He would brag about his accomplishments and vacations all while sipping his wine and behaving in a way as to make the rest of his table feel like he was God's gift to man. His wife made it a point to show off that they had been on so many cruises that she has memorized the words to the Indonesian birthday song that is sung when someone is celebrating their birthday. She would clap and sing as if it was her own tradition. One of the other women at her table just rolled her eyes when she did this for the second time on our cruise. When the steak and lobster was served, the lobster was cracked with the meat out the top. He just looked at our waiter, Gedi, and just said "So are you going to get this out, or am I going to have to?" No thank you, no excuse me, nothing but a rude attitude; Gedi took this in stride. Unbelievable. The show was Droom. It was definitely a good show, but not as amazing as everyone else said it would be.
Day 7: Sea Day. This sea day was far nicer than the first. The weather was great so we could get out anywhere we like and relax in the sun and wind while smelling the ocean. Our Cruise Director had his going away speech, which was actually quite enjoyable as he put a real comedic spin on it with his anecdotes and imitation dancing. We attended another tea time that was enjoyed more so by my counterpart than myself. We also attended the towel folding presentation, which was more of a comedy act than the Dan Bennit show from earlier on the trip. The two stateroom attendants who took time out of their day to put on the show were funny and good at what they do. The other activities this day were adequate, but not superb. It was world cuisine night at dinner, I got burned on a few choices (maybe I stepped a bit too far out of my comfort zone), but thoroughly enjoyed a few of the others. The Dancing with the Stars show was a lot of fun.
Day 8: Leaving the ship in Tampa. Our luggage was all of the ship and in good condition. We left the ship exactly on time and made it through customs without a problem, despite the daunting looking line. HAL had this process down to a science.
Overall I really enjoyed this cruise. Our room attendant, Agus, was tremendous! We always had a towel animal and clean room anytime we would return to it. He was very personable and excited about traveling to Europe for the next leg of his contract. The food in the dining room was very good, the lido was acceptable, and I always enjoyed the snack bar by the pool. The night time snack was not so great, but I really didn't need that anyway. The entertainment, save Dan Bennit, was very good. The ship is a bit old and showing its age, but is still beautiful, clean, and in great shape. I had a good experience on Holland America and would not hesitate cruising them in the future.