The embarkation- as usual- was pretty painless and simple. A few minutes in line and that was it. We got on the ship later than I usually like to due to waiting at the airport forever for the bus. By the time we got our luggage and unpacked we were already moving, so we didn't get to stand on the Lido deck waving bye or any of that stuff like we usually do, so I was a little sad about that. But, my own anal retentiveness about unpacking was the problem, not anything to do with the ship.
This was our roughest trip by far. One of the couples from our group were physically ill the first night and I even got a little sea sick one night. My suggestion is that if you think you MIGHT even feel a little motion sickness get Bonine. It works great. You have to take it every 12 hours, but to not feel sick it is worth it.
Our first day was a day at sea. That was actually very nice because of all the traveling we did the day before it was nice to have a whole day of just relaxation. That was also our first formal night. Just a hint to those of you who may want to get any grooming done on formal nights (updo's, hairstyles, haircuts, barber shaves for men) make your appointments as soon as you can!! Don't wait! You can either call the salon or walk up and make an appointment.
Just a quick side note about the food- Carnival food is in no ways the best quality- in my opinion. I've been on Royal Caribbean, Princess and Carnival twice. There IS better food on other cruises, but it doesn't mean it's not good. It is still better than anything I can cook, so I am always happy. The nice thing about cruising is that they allow you to order anything and EVERYTHING you want. If you want to just try something new- go for it! You can always order something else if you decide you don't like it. That is one of my favorite things about cruising- trying new foods. That and I can order 3 appetizers, two entrees and 4 desserts if I really wanted to!!
Our first stop was Cozumel. My husband and I had already been there a couple of years ago so we knew what to expect- and knew the one thing that was a must was Carlos & Charlie's. Our friends didn't see any excursions that excited them there, so we decided to walk around (in the past we had done the Dolphin swim- which was a ton of fun. I highly recommend that). We did some shopping and then went to Carlos & Charlie's for lunch. This is not a place for kids or the easily offended. I don't want to ruin any of the tricks- but practical jokes are played (although, pretty harmless) and the waiters and waitresses can get a little touchy. But, it can be a ton of fun if you don't mind any of that.Our second stop was Belize. Belize itself isn't that great, so an excursion is almost a must. We had already heard from some friends of ours that Cave Tubing was the way to go. We had already booked our excursion before I heard about cave-tubing.com (or whatever it is), so we kept it through the cruise line. My husband and I feel much, much safer booking all excursions through the cruise line because they are approved through the cruise line, and if anything happens that causes them to cancel it we get our money back. I did see some people from the private company there and I will be honest- I am glad I booked it through Carnival. Yes, it is true the group was much smaller, but I am not big on group touching, so the holding onto everyone's ankles and making a chain thing they had going on did not appeal to me at all. There were a couple of times I was glad my friend and I were holding on to each other's tubes, but we didn't have to grasp feet- so I was much happier with going through the cruise line. Overall- the cave tubing is awesome. I do not recommend it of anyone who is afraid of the dark because the caves can get quite dark. They do give you lights, but they don't do much. Also- keep in mind that it is a 45 minute (minimum- we walked closer to an hour and a half) HIKE through the rain forest. There were a few people that probably shouldn't have made this trip, including one older (but very, very nice) lady with hip problems. It is always a good idea to read thoroughly the restrictions and follow them closely! I also wouldn't really recommend this for younger children. There were a couple that I saw, but one almost got swept away by the current and another got freaked out when she was separated from her chain (from the other group) and almost flipped herself in her panic. If you do this, make sure you save plenty of appetite for the lunch that comes with it. It is really good. If you like hot- try the salsa! We loved it!!
The next stop we had was Costa Maya. My husband and I had been there a couple of years ago and remembered there wasn't much to do, so we booked the Jeep Off Road tour. It was a ton of fun. We drove on the highway for about a half an hour and then went off-roading for about another 20 minutes or so. Then we came upon a small, private beach that was just for us. The food there was really good and we also got to try coconut milk and coconut meat right off the tree. The only thing I didn't like about it is that there were vendors at the beach who made me feel guilty for not buying anything.
As I said- it had been a couple of years since we had been to Costa Maya, so we didn't know how much it had been built up since we'd been there last. If you don't want to do an excursion at every port- this is one I recommend skipping an excursion and just hanging out. There are a ton of shops and a nice restaurant next to the beach. This is a great place to hang out at the beach all day and enjoy drinks from the bar that the waiters bring right to you. You never even have to move!
The next day was another day at sea. Honestly, this day I got bored. There weren't enough activities to entertain us and there is only so long that I can sit in the sun without feeling sick or overheated. One of our friends was complaining because even though he likes to relax, this was a little too much relaxation for him! We ended up getting movies in our rooms.
The last stop we went to was Freeport. We had been to Nassau before, but this was our first time in Freeport. Freeport is nothing like Nassau. Were we docked is a shipyard, so that wasn't too encouraging. We were going to book the Tranquility Beach excursion, but it was mysteriously missing when we went to book it, so we didn't book any excursion here. But if you like the beach I have a tip for you. Go to the Westin (or Sheraton or any of those hotels). You can rent a chair for the beach for $10 a chair or rent a chair by the pool for $20 a chair. We rented the beach chairs for $10 and had a great afternoon of sitting at the beach. When we got hungry we just left our chairs and had lunch at the Prop Shop (great buffalo wings there!!) and when we went back our chairs were still there. The only thing is that the drinks at the bar on the beach are VERY expensive. They were cheaper in the restaurant. We heard the lifeguards turning some people away saying they couldn't rent chairs, but that may be because it was busier. So, I recommend getting there early if this is something you want to do.The disembarkation was horrible. We chose to carry our own luggage off because of the no liquids rule at the airport, and I had toiletries I wanted to use in the morning. It seems that just about everyone had this same idea. Getting off the ship took hours. They had shut off the elevators so we couldn't get on it from deck five so we ended up going up to deck 9 and then riding down to deck 3. That worked for us, but the rest of our party didn't want to do that, so we ended up waiting for them outside for over an hour. I don't know if there is much of a benefit to taking your own luggage off anymore. We are going to reconsider doing that next year.
The other major problem we had was the flight home. We had a scheduled layover of almost an hour and a half in Georgia. Our flight from Orlando to Atlanta was delayed over an hour. The people in Orlando were trying to get them to delay the plane in Atlanta, but by the time we left they said they didn't have an answer. By the time we got to Atlanta we had about a minute (literally) to get from one side of the airport to the other. My husband is the fastest runner, so he went ahead of us and got there just as they were closing the doors. The flight attendant tried to get him to get on the plane without the rest of us. He told them no, because there were at least 5 other people coming (there were really a total of 10 from the Orlando flight). She told him to get on the plane. He said he wasn't leaving without his wife so she rudely shut the door and just left him standing there. This whole exchange took place in about 30 seconds, because we weren't far behind him. When the rest of us got there we were told the plane was gone. My husband argued that there was no way the plane left that quickly. Anyway, long story short we finally got on the flight, but with a lot of problems and attitude. I wish the cruise line would book direct flights. It took us over 13 hours to get home and I was exhausted by the time I did get home.
The only other thing I want to mention is that there are illnesses that go around on ships. I forget the name of it (sorry), but there is an illness that causes diarrhea, stomach cramping, etc, that went around the ship and that myself and my husband got (I got it from him after we got home). This is what was recommended by the doctor on ship. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Wash them more times than you ever do at home, because other people don't. Also, those hand sanitizers don't do anything to this particular little bug, so still wash your hands. This is not a fun illness to have, so try to avoid it!!
Overall- we had a great trip and I can't wait to go again next year. I would not recommend going on the same ship two years in a row, though. Even though the ports were different all of the activities and the shows were exactly the same. Even the dinner menus were exactly the same. It is more fun and enjoyable when there are new things to discover and see.