My husband and I have cruised 13 times before on various cruise lines including Carnival, Holland America, Royal Carribean, Princess, and NCL. This was our 4th Carnival Cruise and so we sort of knew what to expect. The embarkation from Ft Lauderdale was fairly easy. We arrived at 1:30pm and it took less than an hour to be aboard the ship.
Our cabin was spacious for an oceanview room. We love having a balcony but they were all sold out by the time we booked this cruise pretty much at the last minute. Our oldest daughter went with us. She is 26. She slept on the pullout couch in the room and stated that it was not bad at all. The room was spacious and had plenty of storage. However, the air conditioner did not work well in our cabin and it was hot most of the time especially at night. Some technician came in to "fix" the problem but there was no difference after he left. I had a problem getting my luggage delivered to the room. My husband's and daughter's luggage arrived by 5pm, but at 10pm, I still did not have my luggage so I went to guest services to inquire about my bag. There were several other passengers as well who had not received their luggage by 10pm and they were pretty upset. Finally a customer service represenative ushered me and another passenger to the luggage holding room on 0 deck. I found my bag in there, somehow the luggage tag and my name tag had been ripped off. The holding room was still full of bags at 10pm. I have never been on a ship where at least 1/3 the passengers didn't have their luggage by dinner.
I had read many of the reviews about the ship's decor being "gaudy". It wasn't the most beautiful ship I've been on but it didn't bother me. I don't pick a ship for its decor. We chose to participate in the any time dining and since we mostly went early to dinner, we were given a table right away. The food in the dining room was OK. Both Holland America and Royal Carribean have better food to me. There were some highlights and some misses. The Mongolian Wok was good but there was a long line to wait to get your food cooked in the Wok. The fish and chips were good although a little greasy. The pizza was OK. I liked the omelet station in the morning, but it also had a long line. We did eat in the dining room for brunch on sea days. It was nice (love the macaroni and cheese) and it was nice to have a change from the buffet. My daughter and I did attend the cooking demonstration on the first sea day (better get there early if you want to get in bceause they limited the number of participants). The food was pretty good. We did not eat in the Sun King resturant.
The entertainment was pretty good. I liked the comedian shows both the family versions and the adult versions. Get there early to get a seat though as it fills up fast and they had to turn people away. I did not see all of the variety shows and for some reason I missed the Ticket to Ride show that everyone else said was awesome. We did have a Russian magician come to our table at dinner and perfom magic for us at the table. That was fun.
The room steward and dining room staff were great. I had no complaints about the service on board. Everyone was friendly and accomodating.
The ports were great which is why we booked this particular cruise. Grand Turk was nice. One just walks off the ship and you are at the beach with lounge chairs for no extra cost. Beware that there are rocks in the water so wear water shoes. We went on the reef and rays excursion. It was awesome. We saw several sharks while snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays was cool. Normally I don't book excursions from the cruise line but there are not that many independent operators in Grand Turk since it is such a small island. We stopped by Magaritaville after the excursion. That was crazy unless you like the wild and crazy party atmosphere. I ran into a family who told us that they took a private tour of the island and loved it. Another family told us they rented the golf carts outside the port area and toured the island on their own and they loved that as well. The next port was La Romana Dominican Republic. I had contacted Seavis tours before we left via email and booked their excursion to Saona Island. It was cheaper than the Carnival excursion and included lunch. It was great. (There were two boats full of Carnival passengers and some guests from the local hotels) We even went to swim with the starfish on the way back to La Romana. Just a word to the wise, the vendors in the Dominican Republic are pushy. Think Jamaican vendors times 10. A lot of the cruise ship passengers were unhappy with this port because there is nothing to do right off of the ship and the shopping is not great. Some passengers took a taxi to the beach areas or the recreated medieval villlage (Altos de Chavon) and liked their excursions. Curacao was great. We had contacted a private ATV company called Eric's ATV's and took an ATV tour of the island. (It was $80 a person) He even came to the port and picked us up in a taxi to get to his shop with the ATV's. It was a wonderful way to see the real Curacao and the local guides were awesome. (We even climbed up in a cave and got breathtaking views of the island) After the 4 hour tour of the island, he dropped us off back downtown for shopping. Most of the shop's were getting ready to close though. Aruba was great. We rented a car for $50 for the entire day and drove ourselves around the island. We went to all of the tourist spots including the lighthouse, natural bridge, etc and then went to Palm Beach and then Eagle Beach. It was nice to have the car and be on our own timetable.
Overall this was a good cruise mostly due to the ports. We tried to swim on sea days in the adult pool, but it was always packed with people. We are not wild "partygoers" and there were a few of those but not too many. Since it was June/July there were a lot of kids on board. You could find some quiet spots on the ship like the adults retreat area and some lounges during the day. The casino is the casino. Slots are tight but you can do OK at blackjack. Debarkation was easy as we carried our own luggage off the ship. We were off the ship and in our car by 7:30am.