This was my seventh cruise, my DH's sixth and our second sailing from Miami. There was a total of 15 of us, seven of whom had never sailed before. We flew into FLL, rented three mini-vans and drove to Miami where we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Coconut Grove. The hotel was nice, they had a great pool area and the bar, while not fully stocked, met our needs. They also sell Starbucks, which provided a light breakfast for us prior to leaving for the pier. The nearest supermarket was a Publix and was not within walking distance and some of our group found a liquor store but again, it was not close to the hotel. The CocoWalk outdoor mall was within walking distance where we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and a few drinks at Fat Tuesdays. On embarkation day, we drove to the port, dropped everyone off, took the vans back to the airport and a taxi back to the pier. Our group waited outside the terminal for everyone to return, which took about an hour.
This year, we purchased the Faster to the Fun program, which I highly recommend. We were able to get on the ship immediately, drop our carry-ons in our cabins and head to the Lido for lunch. We carried water and wine on board with no issues but one of our friend’s power strips was confiscated and we heard this happened to other passengers as well. We were never able to find out why but we had no problems with ours. It also got us off the ship in group 1, which was a huge help at the end of the trip.
Faster to the Fun also offers you priority assistance in several areas and at Guest Services. However, I had a bad experience where I stood in line and was ignored for quite some time. When I inquired if I was in the incorrect line, one of the guest services employees took the person behind me. When I said, "Excuse me but I was here first", she got nasty with me and said I was talking to someone else. I told her that I was merely asking if I was in the correct line and that person had just told me that one of her colleagues would be assisting me so I would appreciate it if she would help me first. She started arguing with me in front of several guests and told another guest that she was sorry she couldn’t assist him as she had to assist me because I absolutely needed her to assist me right this minute. I apologized to both guests for her and said, "I’m sorry but I have been waiting here for about 10 minutes" and to her I said that these comments were uncalled for. She resolved my issue, with another argument (this was about missing stickers for Faster to the Fun on our Sign & Sail cards) because she didn’t understand that one person in the cabin paid and it covered all the occupants of the cabin. Unfortunately, I was unable to get her name and never got back to find out who she was due to an injury I sustained in Cozumel. I really wish I had as her behavior as a Guest Services rep was terrible.
One note: If you do purchase Faster to the Fun and you are in a suite, make sure they put the stickers on your sign and sail card when you get it. We didn't realize it would be a sticker until the rest of our group got theirs (they were not in suites) when they got their cards.
We purchased the Cheers beverage program which ended up costing us $402 per person. In the end, this was a great purchase as our group did drink enough throughout the trip for it to be cost effective. However, if you do not drink a lot, I recommend that you pay as you go.
Guy’s Burger Joint was AWESOME! But dieters beware! The total calories in those burgers are 2200! The food at the Blue Iguana Cantina was also excellent. We ate here several times throughout the trip as it provided a very fresh offering of tacos, burritos and salsas. The pizza was terrible! The buffet was also a bit disappointing this year, the dining room was good and our steakhouse dinner was excellent.
Another area where customer service was lacking was in the casino bar where the bartenders argued with guests about the type of drinks they wanted and just simply ignored guests. Lastly, bar service in general was slow unless you got a bartender who understood that working hard and keeping the drinks flowing meant a good tip besides the one charged to your sign and sail account.
Our ports of call were Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. Due to being diverted by hurricanes, I’ve been waiting to do these ports for several years. Unfortunately, I caught my foot between a stair and wheelchair ramp outside of Senor Frogs (no booze involved!) and fell and broke my ankle so badly that it required a trip the hospital. They had to put me under to set the ankle and give me a temporary cast so I could continue with the cruise. I was rushed back to the ship in an ambulance with minutes to spare where the ship’s doctor, security and immigration officers were waiting for me to return and clear me for boarding. Luckily, the hospital sent a letter along with me to say I could continue on our trip and the doctor let me back on. Buy the travel insurance! It truly is worth it as we had to pay for everything up front, which the insurance should cover; I’m just waiting for my claim forms. Unfortunately, as of my writing this (3 weeks later) I've yet to receive the forms.
In regards to the medical service in Cozumel, I can’t say I wasn’t scared because I really was. I’ve heard the stories about situations like this but let me tell you. The CMC in Cozumel took amazing care of me and made sure they did everything they could to keep me safe and get me back to the ship on time. I’m truly grateful for the care I received there and couldn’t thank them enough. It looks a bit scary but should you find yourself in this situation, you will be in good hands. The hospital here at home confirmed this for me.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to Belize or Grand Cayman as they are tender ports but Guest Services did call to check on me and to tell me they would be able to get me on the tenders. Due to the extent of my injuries, we decided to stay on board. I was able to get off in Roatan for a little shopping but had to cancel my beach excursion. This is where Carnival’s service exceeded my expectations! Every employee I encountered was helpful and kind and wanted to know what they could do for me. I went to the salon so I could get my hair washed and my stylist was careful and attentive. The pool waiters remembered me pre-injury and made sure I had everything I needed when I saw them. The CD, Josh Waitzman and his Assistant, Gaevey, were very helpful to us. Our room steward, Alfonso, made sure we had everything we needed each day. Even though I was stuck in bed, he still made me towel animals! The Steakhouse manager did everything she could to make sure I was comfortable during dinner. Security was very helpful in getting me off and on the ship and when we left the ship, the staff in the cruise terminal was extremely helpful.
Carnival was kind enough to work with us on my Cheers package as well. I received credit back for my portion of the program and they charged me per drink instead. My DH and our friend kept the program but we lost money on my DH’s package as he was busy taking care of me all week. We didn’t complain though. We were happy to have gotten the credit that we did. Please note that this was an exception they made due to my situation. If one person in the cabin buys the program, all over 21 must purchase the program.
All of our friends had a great time but also said the service wasn’t as good as on past cruises. Excursions were taken in all the ports, through the ship. Everyone said they had a great time except for the private cabana rentals in Roatan. Apparently there is nothing to keep non-paying guests from entering the area and they were finding that they had to tell other passengers that they weren’t supposed to be in their cabanas, hammocks and beach chairs. I did hear that the food they purchased there was really good.
Luckily, we had a suite for this sailing because we had three people in the cabin. The suite offered a little more room for us considering my situation. However, since I was unable to put any weight on my foot, my DH had to lift me up to get me onto the balcony and into the bathroom due to a step up and I could not get into the shower because it was a full tub. This is only a problem if you can't walk - otherwise, the bathroom arrangement was awesome with a separate dressing area. I was able to obtain a wheelchair and crutches from the ship for a deposit of $50 each. When we returned the items, we would be credited. However, there was a mix-up with the wheelchair because we couldn't leave it at guest services and we were not credited. We are still waiting for that credit. Crutches on a rocking cruise ship is not easy though; so be careful if you have to use them! One other thing to note was that it was a bit difficult to push the wheelchair through the ship. Not due to people but the actual layout of the ship. If you require a wheelchair, the smallest one you can get is going to be your best bet. If I did not have the crutches, I might not have been able to get into some areas.
Disembarkation at the Port of Miami has drastically improved since the last time we sailed from there. As previously mentioned, we were in Group 1 and off the ship within a very short time. Being in a wheelchair, I had to wait for a Carnival employee to wheel me off, but it didn't take too long. I love the airline style of luggage return as it is so much easier than whey used to just put everything on the floor in sections and it was a like a scavenger hunt to find them!
I always end my reviews by saying a cruise is what you make of it and it is so true. I always keep in mind that each ship is different and they are catering to thousands of different personalities and preferences. I'm not sure that customer service would have improved had I not injured myself but they did step up when I needed them. Despite some of the inconveniences on this cruise, we will continue to sail Carnival as they are affordable and suit our cruise needs.