This is our sixth cruise with Carnival (Ecstasy 2007, Fantasy 2008, Conquest 2009, Ecstasy 2011, Magic 2011). We also sailed on Voyager of the Seas in 2010. We are a party of 4, including 2 boys (9 & 11).
Embarkation: I’ve got the arrival time down to a science for Galveston to minimize wait time while getting us onboard and vacation started the earliest. We only live ½ hour from the port so have decent control over arrival time. A week before the cruise, we received an email from Carnival to not arrive before 12:30pm as the return from Belize usually takes more time with Customs. Not wanting to sit at home staring at the clock, we were dropped off by a relative at 11am. No line at X-ray and no line at check-in for S&S card. There is a decent walk thru the length of the Galveston terminal so I’d say we had card in hand by 11:20am and was assigned boarding group #10. Boarding started at 11:30am with weddings, Diamond/Platinum and FTTF. Group #10 was called a few minutes after 12:00pm. Not bad at all.
I packed 8 soda bottles and 2 wine bottles in my carry-on. The Xray technician pointed me to the table for detailed checking. The person here did a quick inspected soda bottles for unopened cap and promptly waved us on.
We headed straight for lunch on Lido. The kids went to check out the room (#9287) at 1pm and came back saying it was ready so we proceeded to our state room to drop off carry-on. The room attendant, Joseph, introduced himself but we were never introduced to his helpers to know who they were.
Muster drill is the new standard of not having to take life jacket with us and our station was upper part of Northern Lights dining room so much more spacious than other stuffy areas as in the past. Drill proceeded fairly quickly and we were off to the front of the ship to watch the sail away.
We had early seating for MDR as we always do. We requested a table for 4 in the upper part of Southern Light and that’s what we got but it was away from the middle for viewing of the lower dining area so we could watch the nightly singing and dancing. There were a few booths that offered that view and was empty so we put a move request. Before the next evening, we received a note in the room with a new table (booth) with Antonio as head waiter and Gene as assistance. We also noticed that someone else was reassigned to our old table. Not certain how the Maitre’d did the magic but we got what we wanted so happy there. Ken “the singing M’d” was not on the sailing. However, singing was carried out by Darwin, a waiter in the lower area with a great voice. Antonio was great with entertaining our boys with magic tricks and napkin animal. The last half of the cruise, Gene took over with taking orders and serving. He did a great job with Antonio watching close by but his English could still use some improvement which will come in time.
Other notables from the cruise…
This is our first with balcony that we were upgraded to as our inside room price dropped and Carnival offered this as opposed to $ back. Balcony was certainly very nice but we don’t normally spend too much time in the room anyways so don’t know if we would pay extra for balcony again.
Evening shows on the first night was mainly CD James Charlton bringing passengers on stage to help with simple musicals. The official singers and dancer only performed 1 song. Second night’s show was “The Grooveline” by the singers and dancers and was great even though we had seen it in the past. Third night was show-less as the Red Frog Party was on Lido. Forth night was “Destination: Unknown!” by magician Jason Byrne. Jason also performed later that night in the Spotlight Lounge “A Kiss Goodnight” for adult audience only. The fifth night was “Win!” with 1 audience member and the singers and dancers. The sixth night was singing of Ron Joseph, the Soul Man of Bourbon Street. Ron involved lots of audience members. This must be a new theme with these shows to get the audience involved. I’m sure they sell more videos that way. The last night was “Legends” with singing and dancing by a dozen or so of the fellow passengers. So overall, only 2 production shows by the singers and dancers. Don’t know if this is part of budget cuts or what but I would prefer to see more of the production shows.
There were some rain and heavy winds on the sea days so most of the rope course and water works were closed. My kids were able to play to their hearts’ content on dock days with lower wind and sunny weather.
The sushi area was still there but sushi was no longer served. We always did enjoy a little snack while getting ready for early sitting in MDR.
A new (?) onboard activity that I had not seen before but might be just that I had not paid attention to perhaps is “Ship’s Life Q&A” by the CD and the Hotel Manager. The 3 S that we were not to ask about was Safety, Security, and Salary. Other than that, they entertained lots of good questions from the audience. I could easily hog up the whole hour with my questions but gave other passengers their chance. We’ll definitely look for this activity in future cruises.
For port of call activities, we didn’t see much interesting in Jamaica and hear many not-so-good stories so only got off to buy a few pounds of Blue Mountain coffee and then back on board to enjoy onboard activities with no lines. In Grand Cayman, we booked a snorkel and Sting Ray City excursion on our own and saved a few $ compared to Carnival. We have been to GC in the past so felt it was plenty safe to do things on our own. Water condition was immaculate and the smaller independent tour group had 23 passengers vs 5 tour employees so got plenty of time handling the rays. My 11 year old learned how to use a snorkel and had such a great time, we had to make him get out of the water. In Cozumel, we went to our normal hangout, Mr. Sanchos. Water condition was bad that day. Storms had moved thru a few days before and stirred up dead vegetation which reduced clarity greatly. Oh well, mother nature got in the way.
Now a major gripe… My 9 year old slipped on the Sky Course one day and skinned his shin. We met up in the buffet for lunch shortly afterwards and saw blood oozing down his leg so did a quick clean up then sent him to Guest Services after lunch for a band-aid. According to my son, Guest Services was going to charge him for a band-aid. Another customer in line behind him made comments to the employee and the charge was waived but my son was told a second band-aid would cost $. As someone else had posted that passengers can get as much food as they desired but little medical stuff like this costs $? Really? This will definitely go into the survey should I get emailed one.
Debarkation was great, we did the assisted route and assigned zone 20 out of 33. We waited in Ocean Café from 8am to around 9:30. A short but quick line in the lobby and we were off the ship. No line to get luggage, and no line at Custom. We were out and ready for pick up by 10am. Never been off so quickly before.