Our last cruise was 10 days on the Miracle so this cruise of 5 days seemed very short in comparison. We have not cruised on a ship this size in awhile and were surprised to discover that we prefer something larger. Perhaps it was because we were travelling with family and the one swimming pool is really way too small for even this smaller number of people. Luckily the boys preferred the water slides anyway and spent hours on them. The pool was elbow to elbow with people because the weather was very hot. We did not use the pool or hot tubs at all. Just too crowded. We spent very little time on lido deck either as it was also very crowded. The library was a nice place to sit and read a few times. We had chosen an interior room with porthole this cruise and since there is not couch it is not conducive to sitting in there and reading. But who wants to spend a lot of time in the room anyway. The porthole room, U18, was comfortable and had enough room for us. Other family had two connecting interior rooms and they were very pleased with them.
We had spent a week at a resort in Kissimmee prior to the cruise and drove to Jacksonville the day before. We stayed at the Candlewood Suites, Merrill Rd. It was very close to the cruise port and was an excellent choice. Don't bother with their cruise package, just get a regular room and they'll keep your car for the duration if you wish. We ended up using the $8 parking at the port gates. It had been closed and previous owner has taken off for parts unknown but reopened before our cruise. Well worth trying. We were there around 10 a.m. and at 10:30 they had word from the ship that everyone was offboard and they could start bringing people in to embark. We were on one of the first shuttles in. We found embarkation to be very smooth and we were onboard and on the Lido deck before 11:30. By 12:30 we were in our cabin and our luggage all arrived by 2 p.m. Can't see why people would pay extra thinking they will get on any sooner. The VIPs were going on at the same time as us.
We noticed that there was a smell of cigarette smoke outside our cabin and my husband's pillows smelled of smoke. The pillows were promptly changed and the room steward gave us an explanation of the smoke smell in the hall. He said there is a vent which seems to bring the smoke in from an outside area the crew uses for smoking. So nothing can be done about it but I advise anyone with a smoke allergy not to book these forward porthole rooms.
Entertainment: We attended the Welcome party in the theatre. The theatre is small and it is difficult to get a seat when there is only one show for the whole ship. That happened several times. There are quite a few pillars obstructing views plus a waste of space because of the layout of seating into curved couches which force some people to sit on an angle and take up a lot of space as well. We did not attend any other shows in the theatre as it seemed to always be titled Divas so we thought it was just more of the same. We realize Carnival caters to a younger crowd so the music is not to the liking of us as seniors. They did make some comment about a person who is in charge of all the music on the ships and how they try to cover all the age groups but we didn't find it covered music we are familiar with. We did go the second night to the adult comedy. Again the room "Putting on the Ritz" I think had couches with curves, a very odd manner of seating and we ended up having to turn sideways on the couch to see the comedian. Uncomfortable. As well, although it was announced twice that it was an adult show and those under 18 had to leave, this was not enforced and I saw several young children there. No worries though because we didn't find the show to have much content of 'adult taste'. It was just plain not at all funny! There were a number of people there from Alabama and his jokes seemed to be for them because they were laughing but no one else was. Just all went right over our heads.
The food was okay. Same as our other Carnival cruises. We always found something we enjoyed and had most of our meals in the dining room. We were pleased that there were no Punchliner Brunches which we did not like when we were on the Miracle. There was so much agreement about disliking the brunches that they finally stopped them near the end of our 10 day cruise on Miracle. The boys switched back and forth between trying some of the kid's meals and having appetizers from the adult menu.
All in all we had a nice time doing our own thing. I always enjoy the casino and ended up getting the certificate to play in the slot tournament on the Dream in November so another Carnival cruise is coming up.
Disembarkation went very smoothly. A lot of people opted for self-assist but after that all zones were called right away and we were off the ship, back to our car and driving home by 10:15. Immigration for non-US citizens at 6:45 makes for a long day but it went smoothly too. Not many non-US citizens this cruise.
We went to Little Stirrup Cay (Cococay) and had rented a cabana. This was an excellent choice as it provided needed relief from the sun. The snacks and water provided were plentiful and excellent and the bottle of champagne was appreciated. Would rent a cabana again.