We were on the March 17 sailing out of San Juan -- choosing this sailing for the itinerary mostly. We also like Carnival because the price of a suite is comparable to the price of a balcony on other cruise lines.
Despite being told to arrive at the port at 2:30 we arrived at 1pm. Since we had a suite we went through the priority line skipping everything downstairs and going straight to the Captain's lounge on the second floor where we waited about 15 minutes for them to process everything and print out our stateroom cards. Then they escorted a group of us to a smaller security line where you go through the metal detector/x-ray machine and then whoosh -- you are on the ship. Time from arriving at the port to being in our cabin: 30 minutes.
Lots of time in each port
good size cabins; well-appointed with LOTS of storage
good room steward service -- cabin was always clean and fresh ice
clean public areas
no smoking in most areas
friendly staff -- always seemed to try to help
mini golf and water slide were a blast
shuffleboard -- they could use more than one court however!!
Food in the MDR -- we ate five nights and were pleased -- especially with seafood dishes.
Not so positive
Ship layout -- that Lincoln dining room in the middle of the ship is a bit annoying/confusing.
No wrap around promenade deck -- we are used to walking all the way round the ship and not up on the jogging track.
No fresh flower bouquets on the ship -- usually there is one or two large ones in the atrium or near the dining rooms.
Decor in public areas is a little over the top.
Cruise director needs to turn DOWN the volume on his announcements -- I get that he's excited but tone it down a little!
Very crowded in some public areas -- poor layout and space planning
Some events are only held while you're in port -- i.e. -- mini golf tournament etc.
The specialty restaurants like Fish and Chips, Mongolian Wok and Chocolate buffet are only offered noon -- 3p. I would have liked to have Chinese for dinner one night --- oh, well.
Room service breakfast was always on the late end of the time scale and one day was completely wrong.
Smoking in the casinos -- yuck -- is this an Indian reservation?!
There is no assigned seating the first night in the MDR and our servers had barely passable English skills. I feel sorry for whoever their regular people were -- we had to ask them to repeat themselves over and over again. The next night we ate at our assigned table and by the second night the servers were automatically bringing us ice tea and spoke much better English.
They have self-service launderettes on the ship $3 for a wash and $3 for a dryer, $1 for soap (bring quarters--they don't take dollar bills). They also have an iron/ironing board in the launderette for you to use -- no charge!
We bought the aerial tramway from Carnival -- it's worth it for a nice view and pictures. We went up first thing in the morning and once more around 4p. We took a taxi over to Bluebeards cove next to the Marriot Frenchman's reef. They have kayaks and we rented a tandem for $15 an hour. Saw two very large iguanas on that beach! Getting back was a bit of a wait for a cab so arrange for your driver to come back and pick you up. Also, there is a liquor store across from the ship that sells good orange juice -- we bought three bottles and brought them back. The orange juice on the ship tastes like watered down Tang.
We took at cab to the downtown and managed to stretch that out to one hour -- spending half the time at a cathedral and cemetery which was pretty interesting. There isn't a lot to do here unless you are into shopping at all the 'name' jewelry stores. We caught a cab to the Hilton in Carlisle bay. If you go to the left of the Hilton property the sea has lots of big waves and surf. If you go to the right of the Hilton property the sea is extremely calm and very relaxing. We had a great fish sandwich here where all the taxi drivers hung out.
They will stamp your passport at the port -- just ask at customs.
We signed up in advance directly with Treetop adventures for the zip-lining. We paid $65 each which included transport to and from the ship. Nice air-conditioned bus to the park which is about 40 minutes each way. This was an absolute blast!!!!
We dove with Dive St. Kitts (booked directly with them) They were very nice to work with, new gear, saw great coral fans, pinnacles and lots of small fish. It's so close you'll return to shore for your surface interval.
St. Maarten/Sint Martin
We did our own version of the ships 'butterfly' tour. We paid $14 (for 2)for a cab to the Butterfly Farm, $26 (for 2) for admission. The nice people at the butterfly farm called a cab for us to get to the fort just above Marigot ($20 for 2) He drove us as far up the hill as he could and we walked the rest of the way to Fort Louis. It's free admission and you get a great view of the whole harbor and entire side of the island. We walked down the hill and walked around Marigot and caught a cab back to the ship ($20 for 2). We spent $2 more than the ship but got to spend as much time as we wanted at each place -- rather than being herded with 37 people and moving at the slowest person's speed.
Debarkation was smooth and we were off the ship about 8:30 and on our way to the hotel. I would definitely sail with Carnival again -- next time I think I'll look for a little bit smaller ship--3000 guests is just a lot people--no matter how big the ship is.