This was the third Carnival Cruise for our family of five. We travelled with a two other families.
Getting to the Port/Checking in.
We flew into Orlando airport the day before. We stayed at the Staybridge Suites. We booked a private car through their recommendations for $250 there and back. We even got a stop at the Super Walmart for pop, water and misc. items on our way there. We left the Staybridge Suites at 9:30 and found ourselves eating lunch at the buffet by 11:15am. Checking in was a breeze and there weren't any lineups at that time in the morning. We were hoping the water slides would be open as we bought our bathing suits on board with us but we had to wait until after 1pm for them to open. So we bought our "bubbles" package, swam in the pool and explored until then.
We had two cabins although with booking rather late (a month before) our cabins were across the hall and four doors down. Our kids ages 14, 12 and 10 were fine with the independence. The downside is that since Carnival insists an adult must be in each room, we were unable to change their sail and sign cards to the "real" sleeping rooms. We had to get two other cards to let us in. Not a huge deal but meant that my daughter who has lost three other sail and sign cards on other cruises had to carry two cards with her instead of one. We were on the bottom floor at the back of the ship. The engines were very loud. We were unable to sleep the mornings that the ship was docking. I would suggest getting a higher up room to avoid the engine noise.
The kids missed the chicken nuggets at the poolside buffet they had on other cruises. They loved the design your own pasta bar restaurant. The deli disapointed our friends (who live in Montreal where they have famous deli restaurants). I thought the deli was adequate for my plain ham and cheese tastes. We never ate dinner in the buffet but found at lunch that it was worth walking around to find a buffet line with less of a wait. We enjoyed the steak house restaurant and found the portions huge and were delighted with our choices of meat. As mentioned we were travelling with friends, there were 9 adults and 7 children. We were assigned two tables of 8 which meant that an adult had to take turns sitting with the children each night. We asked to be moved but not until that first dinner time. If we had of come to the dinning room upon first entering the boat they might have been able to change us. So if you are travelling in a large party I suggest you check in with your dinning room right away.
In Cozumel we took a taxi to the Paradise Beach Club. It was beautiful. It cost $2 for a chair which everyone must pay. Then it you are supposed to order at least $10 worth of food and/or drinks. If you want to play in the ocean with their water toys it is an additional $14 a person. It is pretty deep out by their water trampoline and if your child is young I would wait to make sure they enjoy the ocean before shelling out the money. Not all of my kids enjoy the salt water in their face and so we did not all pay to play with their water toys. Tips are automatically added to your food and drink bill. The waiters seem to fight amongst themselves to serve you. We moved from the beach to the pool area and there was much arguing between the waiters over who we belonged to. My daughter got a couple minor bites on the hammock and some rugburn from climbing the water slides but overall we give it two thumbs up. They didn't skimp on the alcohol in the mixed drinks either.
In Belize we took an independant tour to a private island with included some snorkling. We got a bit mixed up with the time change and weren't sure if we were to meet our tour operators at 9am Belize time or boat time. Make sure to confirm this before you leave as the boat does not switch to the two hour difference that Belize follows. The tender service went smoothly and we were 90 minutes early for our tour. We found a small airconditioned cafe to grab a cold drink outside of Diamonds international. The island we went to was called Geoff's Caye. They aren't kiding when they say it is small. 11 trees and 6 picnic benches in total. The sand is mostly the small shells but there are areas of beach around the island that have smoother sand. Bring water shoes. The snorkling was difficult for members of our party as the boat really rocked while we were waiting to get in the water in our groups. If you suffer from sea sickness you need to take medicine or find another tour. It cost $40 for adults and $30 for children nine and under. We lied as said our youngest two were Nine. They never checked. The guides were lively and very entertaining.
In Isla Roatan we went to the beach that carnival developed. The water was cloudy as there were lots of people there but it was neat to be able to take pictures of ourselves in the water that close to the beach and since it was free to go there we really enjoyed it. We had brought blow up water loungers and were the envy of many people on the beach as it cost $10 to rent a mattress. We walked back to the boat to eat lunch so it was our cheapest day.
In Costa Maya I went in by myself to shop at 8:30am. It wasn't busy yet but the shops were open. They have a pool right there in the middle of the shops that I think is maintained by Senior frogs. I was told it was fresh water but I didn't go in it. I was afraid I would be bombarded by local sales people if frolicked there but I was told by others who took the time to folic there said other than Senior Frogs waitresses no one approached them. My husband took a taxi to the nearest beach that was 2.5 km away. There was a shuttle that took him there for $3 but shared a cab back for $2 a person. Our steakhouse waitress had told us about this beach and to quote her "It's just a beach. Nothing special." He concurred. But he did say it wasn't busy. The locals sold him some freshly made salsa, offered him a massage for $10 and rum punches 2 for $7.
We were blessed with gorgeous weather the whole cruise. Our kids had positive interactions with the cabin and restaurant staff. We always seemed to find a table at the buffet or a lounger by the pool even during crowds. The only time the crowds were a problem were finding a seat for the shows. We enjoyed ourselves and look forward to cruising with Carnival again.