We had a great time on our first cruise. Here are the details!
Day 1: Embarkation took less than an hour from arriving at Miami Port to getting on the ship. We went to Deck 9, Lido Deck for lunch and had fish and chips and the buffet in Rosie's restaurant. We then went back to a family members stateroom with a balcony for sailing. I highly recommend the balcony staterooms!!! Suitcases arrived after dinner, so we unpacked and then went to the first show. Dinner was great and our waiters were very nice and professional. They were great all week! The show was good but I did not think the performers were as good as Broadway, like the cruise line claims, but they were good. Walked around the ship to see what there was to do then went to bed.
Day 2: Day at sea. Plenty to see and do on the ship. Shops are OK and prices are pretty good. Breakfast at Rosies, lunch and dinner in dining room. Show at 7:30PM. Went to the pool during the day. Did not see a lot of people saving chairs as was noted in other reviews. There is a "no save" policy, though I don't know if it would actually be enforced. I did not like the pool being salt water, but there was a fresh water shower right there, so at least you can wash off right away. The slide was really fun too, but also salt water. Views from the top decks are very good. Chairs are all over the upper decks, so there is no lack of seating space.
Day 3: Grand Cayman. Island is more crowded than I thought it would be, but the water is crystal clear and the people were not pushy in trying to sell us stuff. We took a tour with Moby Dick tours to see Sting Ray Island and go snorkeling. I highly recommend this tour. The tours are less crowded than the cruise line tour and less expensive. Book before you go to get a discount. They provided snorkel equipment and food for the stingrays. They also had water on the boat, so you don't have to take your own drinks unless you want something else. There is also a fresh water shower on board the boat, so you can wash off the salt water. Ate at Hard Rock Cafe for lunch then returned to the ship. Dinner in the Lincoln Dining room and then a show.
Day 4: Roatan Island, Honduras. This was probably my favorite. Not a lot of tourist traps and the most "untouched" of all the ports of call. Took a tour of the island through a private tour company, not the ship tour. The island is just beautiful and since there is not a lot of shopping, I recommend taking an island tour. Ate lunch back on the ship in Rosies and then dinner in Lincoln Dining room. Show at 7:30PM.
Day 5: Belize City, Belize. The cruise director will say there is a lot of shopping here, but it is really just the shops the cruise line promotes. Diamonds International and other jewelry. I would recommend taking a tour of the island rather than focus on shopping. Go outside the dock shopping area for better deals and more locals. Lunch back on ship in Rosies and then dinner in Lincoln Dining room. Show at 7:30PM.
Day 6: Costa Maya, Mexico. Rained the whole day off and on. There are free chairs and huts on the beach to lounge in, so if weather is nice, this is a good place to sit and get a tan. You can't swim in the water but there is a big pool right next to the ocean and all the shopping, so you can swim here. Lots of shopping in this area. You can also get a massage on the beach for about $35, but sign up early since there are only one or two people giving the massages. My husband went on the dolphin swim booked at Costa Maya rather than taking the cruise line tour. Again, it was cheaper. Time with the dolphins is not long, but it was a great experience. There is also another beach where the dolphins are, so if you purchase the tour, you get to use this beach too. Lunch back on ship at Rosies and dinner at Scarlett's Supper Club. Delicious food and well worth the $30/pp charge. Show at 7:30PM.
Day 7: At sea. Again lots of activities on board. Show was not until 10:30PM, so before the show we went to the Caboose game room and played air hockey. We paid $1 and got to play endless games. The show that night was performed by cruise guests who auditioned earlier in the week.
Day 8: Debarkation. You can debark two ways...take all your own luggage in the early morning or put your luggage out the night before and debark when your floor is called. We decided to put our luggage out the night before and stay and eat breakfast the next morning. Breakfast was in Rosies. Stateroom had to be vacated by 9AM. Debarkation was smooth and luggage was arranged by floor and easy to find. Customs was a breeze. Whole debarkation process took less than an hour.
Food: Food was good and at times very good. There were very few things we tried that we didn't like. Rosie's breakfast was a big buffet though did get a little repetitive after 7 days! You can get omelets made also. For lunch there is a buffet or you can go to the dining room. We tried the deli, fish&chips, and pizza at least once. All were good. Deli was very good. Dinner was in the Lincoln Dining room first seating at 6:15PM. Our waiters were so nice and polite and got us anything we wanted very timely. Selections each night were good and there is always something for everyone. Steak, burgers, etc. were offered every night. One night we went to Scarlett's supper club for $30/pp. This was a 5 course dinner and well worth the extra $$. Ice cream and other snacks were available 24/7 as was room service. We ordered room service once and it was at the door in 5 minutes. Tips are appreciated for this.
Bar/Shops: We are not bar or casino people, so I can't say how this compares to other places service or price. We did order some non-alcoholic mixed drinks and they were reasonably priced. I would suggest if you want cokes or other non-alcoholic drinks you bring these on board with you. Carnival allows you to bring some in your suitcase. We brought 3 or 4 cases of coke and some extra snacks. Cokes are expensive on the ship. There is an internet cafe for .75/minute or you can buy a plan. Sometimes they have happy hour for half price minutes if you are on the pay as you go plan. We did buy stuff in the shops and everyday there is a special. Prices are good so take some extra money for this. There are also photographers on board to take pics during formal nights and at other times. Pics can be expensive but well worth it to purchase one or two. You are not allowed to use personal cameras where the professional's are taking pics, but anywhere else you can use your own camera.
Stateroom: We had an oceanview on the Main Deck. Our family members had a balcony room on the Verandah Deck. Our room was right by the aft elevator but that didn't bother us too much. Being by the main elevator might have been more noisy. The bathroom was small but well laid out. Just FYI...If you are a large person you may have a problem using the shower or the toilet. There was plenty of closet space and a free safe for valuables. We had a king bed that was very comfy and a couch that made into an extra bed if needed. The room was small but worked for us. Hair dryer is in the room. TV is by satellite and there are few channels, but who needs TV on a cruise?!?!
Negatives: There are by far more positives than negatives, but there were some things that we did not like. It can be hard to get around the ship on certain floors because you can't always use the stairways to get everywhere. Some floors you have to go up or down a floor to get where you want to go. This wasn't too big of a deal, but at times the only way to get places was to walk by the casino, which smelled like cigarette smoke.
Also, there are designated smoking areas but people would smoke in rooms and in places that are non-smoking. This was more annoying than anything, but while on the balcony ashes would be blown onto us. There really is a reason you are NOT SUPPOSED TO SMOKE OTHER THAN IN DESIGNATED AREAS!!!!!!!! I really didn't want our stateroom to catch on fire because someone had to light up. Be polite and courteous people. There are plenty of places to smoke on board, including bars and the casinos as well as a designated area in Rosie's when you are eating. The hall at times could smell like smoke and I really wish Carnival would fine the people who smoke in rooms.
This is definitely a ship for bar hoppers and gamblers. We would have liked some more variety in the shows, because there was only one show repeated twice a night. For us non-bar people, a couple of different shows a night would have been good.
What to bring: Definitely take a power cord. There is only one outlet in the staterooms. Also some clothes pins to hang up wet stuff. There is a line in the shower to use for this. Nightlight. Some ziplock bags. A waterproof bag or something to carry your sail and sign card and cash in when you go into the ports of call. You have to carry your sail and sign card everywhere. Any medications. There are very few places to buy tylenol, cough drops, etc on board and they are expensive. Several people got a sore throat or coughing due to changes in the weather, so it's best to be prepared.
This cruise was great. Staff very professional. Stateroom always clean. We tipped our steward and waiters at the end of the cruise a little extra, even though you are automatically charged $10/pp per day at the beginning of the cruise for tips. You can adjust this if you want, but it seemed a good amount. We are already planning our next cruise we loved it so much.