There were a total of 4 of us on this trip. Wife, me, 10 year old Son, and my Mother. My Mother and Son had a separate room next door. Wife stayed in the room most days sick (she's only about 8 weeks pregnant) This was our 2nd cruise for the wife and I. Both have been with Carnival. I am 33 and my wife is 34.
Flight: Flew non-stop from Indianapolis to Miami. Check-in was very easy and quick even though it was a busy day (Thanksgiving week) We arrived in Miami a little after 10:00am and were greeted at the baggage terminal by Carnival. We only waited about 30 minutes before the bus was filled and we headed off to the cruise terminal. I will say this...Miami airport is VERY complicated to navigate and extremely disorganized.
Check-In: Carnival did a great job in this area. We arrived around 11:00am and we were in line for only about 10-15 minutes. Lines moved quickly and very organized. The only ID they asked for was our drivers license. We proceeded on to the ship and had lunch on the Lido deck. We must have been one of the first few people on board because we saw only a handful of people at the time. It was a good time to eat, explore the ship, and take pictures. After the mandatory life boat drill, we set sail at 4pm sharp (life boat drill took about 45 minutes)It was nice to see all the people on deck as we left Miami. It was a sunny day and Miami was just beautiful!
After leaving Miami, we headed down to our room and our luggage showed up about 5:30pm. We changed for our first dinner in the dining room. We ate in the London dining room, first seating (6:15pm)Our waitress was from Thailand (her name was Sudi)and Asst. Waiter was from Peru (his name was Nilo). Both had been with Carnival several years and had worked on several ships. Both were very friendly and always took very good care of us. Ok, now let me break everything down....
Cabin: We had an Ocean view room. It was a large room and was always kept very clean. Our room stewards were Manuel and Kadek from Indonesia. They always remembered our names and my Son loved talking to them each night. They would always do extra little things for my Son like leave extra chocolates, special towel animals just for him, etc. Since our room was far forward, we did hear the waves hitting against the boat at times. I didn't mind this as it actually helped me sleep. Our room was also close to the elevator which helped getting off for shore excursions and debarkation. I would definitely stay in this room again.
Public Rooms: Even though this ship is a little older then most of Carnival's ships, it certainly doesn't show it. The crew was constantly cleaning every bit of the ship day and night. While in port, they were always painting the outside of the ship. I did not see any worn carpet or dirty walls. Actually, the crew shampooed the carpets a couple times during the week and cleaned the decks nightly. Pool areas, lounges,etc were nice and clean every day. One area of improvement would be the photo gallery. It's a small, tight area and it was always packed with people. You could tell the staff was stressed, but they were always friendly to me. You just have to have patience.
Fitness and recreation: I was on vacation, so I had no desire to exercise. Several people made use of the jogging track in the mornings though. Wife did get her hair done and it looked very nice. She said at no time did anyone try to sell her anything. I did think it was a little pricey though at $65. The Spa did have specials while in the different ports.
Dining Room: What can I say...the food was EXCELLENT!!!! Each night, the food was prepared perfectly. We tried to eat in the dining room every night. Carnival still does the corny entertainment in the dining room, but we loved it. As for the alternative dining options...the NY Deli, Hong Kong Noodle Factory, and the Coney Island Grill were all excellent. Lines can be a little long at the grill at peak times, but moved quickly. Son and I loved the 24hr ice cream station and pizza. We had room service a few times for breakfast and they always arrived quickly and it was good. Most mornings we ate breakfast on the Lido deck. I just love eating outside on deck. Food on the buffet line was always well prepared and very tasty.
Entertainment: The shows were absolutely fabulous!!! The magic of Kevin and Caruso was amazing! The Carnival dancers were also great. The shows are not to be missed! Most nights the Rome Lounge was full (that must tell you something) I still enjoy the entertainment of the guests. The hairy chest contest and the Newlywed/not-so-newlywed contest were great.
Service: Staff was very friendly and most would say hello to you as you walked by. It appeared they love what they do and were always willing to do whatever they could for you. Several of the crew have been with Carnival 10+ years.
Shore Excursions: Arrived in San Juan earlier then expected (4pm)Wife and I took a carriage ride through old San Juan then wandered around on our own. San Juan really is a beautiful town. It was actually better then I expected. People were very friendly and I would love to spend more time there. St. Thomas...were were originally going to go to sapphire Beach on our own, but decided to book an excursion through Carnival to St. John. I'm glad that we did! St. John was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. We did the snorkeling trip at Trunk Bay. The beach was not that crowded and the water was perfect! We saw several different types of fish and wonderful coral reefs. This is a trip not to be missed! Next it was on to St. Martin. We went to Orient Beach and this was a clothing optional beach. The beach was fairly crowded, but didn't really feel crowded. The beach was beautiful and had several water sports available. While sitting on the beach, peddlers were constantly trying to sell you something. If you kindly told them no thanks, they would move on and not bother you anymore. Besides the beach, St. Martin was very run down and looked like a 3rd world country. Homes along the road looked like they were built with whatever they could find and trash littered the roadside. Although I loved Orient Beach, I have no desire to visit St. Martin again.
Camp Carnival: My Son really didn't enjoy Camp Carnival that much. He wanted to spend most of his time with me, which was fine. The staff was very friendly and the activities were very organized. There were almost 900 kids on this sailing and you could certainly tell it. The pools and hot tubs were always full of kids. I expected this as it was Thanksgiving week and it didn't bother me at all.
Overall, Carnival did a great job for us. For what you pay, you certainly get your moneys worth and more. I'm definitely going with Carnival again.