It's Christmas eve and we just arrived home from our cruise. I wanted to write this because I received some much useful and fun information prior to our trip from all the reviews and the boards. This was my 17 year son and my first cruise. We left Charlotte NC a day early to go to Tampa and we caught a 9:30 flight out of Charlotte. We booked our hotel with La Quinta Airport because we wanted something close to the beach. We thought it was a dive, it was under renovation and had a sewage smell right outside the room. The good part was it was right next to dollar rent a car. We wanted to go to clear Water beach it was a straight shot from there. The car was only $32.00 and they gave us free shuttle to the port and then picked us up from the port and took us to the airport. After refilling the car we earned $3 by the $20 shuttle savings to and fro. Clearwater beach was very nice and it was great to have an extra vacation day.
We arrived at the dock around 11:00. It was very fast to get on the ship, we had already filled out our fun pass on the Carnival site, so we had no paper work. They took our picture and on we went. My one regret is not picking up our picture earlier, I decided to buy it as we were departing and couldn't locate it.
We went up to the ninth floor to eat. We had pizza, my son's staple on this trip, along with the hamburgers fries and soft serve ice cream. I had a salad also.
Then we went up to the room 6124 on the Empress deck. We booked an ocean view guarantee and got upgraded to a wonderful balcony about a month before our travel date. Our luggage came soon after and I took all four bags and unpacked. There was plenty of space.
I bought an over the door shoe hanger and never used it. I loved having our little flashlight, our battery clock and my son loved the small fan we brought because he's used to sleeping every night with a fan.
The air conditioning was good the weather was sunny with white puffy clouds and a slightly warm gentle breeze most of the trip. The water was amazing shades of turquoise blue. I wore sea bands and the loll of the ship was so relaxing.
The balcony had two chairs and a little table, I ordered room service twice and ate out there, I tipped $2 Once I ordered the roast beef brie and some vegetable sticks and ranch dressing, a salad, the brownie and cookie platter and some chamomile tea. I sat out there and read my book and ate with my feet up listening the ocean as the ship cruised along. The second time I had Smoked salmon, tomatoes, onion, bagel and cream cheese,With some chamomile tea while packing up the room on Saturday morning so I would not need to deal with it latter then just put the luggage outside the door at 8PM before dinner so it would be ready for the 11:00 pick up.
The first night is casual night in the dinning room, we were assigned a table for four with a father and daughter, I talked my son to come with me although he had already eaten on the Lido deck, the other people did not show up for dinner. I ordered the lamb and they gave me several pieces. Someone a table over had a rack of ribs that looked great. We wanted to play bingo, so no time for desert.
When we got to the Phantom room ( where all the bingo, shopping talks, game shows and the big evening shows were held) we got there in time for a quiz show that my son really enjoyed. Bingo was fun we got 3 cards for $20 and both looked for the numbers, as he bent them back.
That night I heard lots of singing and laughing at the piano bar and saw the daughter of a friend I had been corresponding with on our roll call for some time,she said they had room at their table and suggested I join them for dinners. I was happy to be part of the group.
The next day was our first sea day and I met a fun couple that were engage. We shared information on our Shore excursions and they didn't book one for Grand Cayman and wanted to see if there was room on ours. We booked on line with Native Way and did the Rays, Reef and Rum Point. The Tender was very easy and we got there 45 min. before we left. I was waiting for our new friends so I didn't go shopping before and we cut it close on the way back although Native Way kept a close watch on the time.
The water was so pretty, We took a van to the boat and had about 20 people on the boat with us. First we stopped on the barge with the sting rays. my son really seemed to like them, then we went to the reef. It was challenging to make it out there swimming. One guide on the boat took my hand and swam with me out there motioning to different sea life. There was not much and not very colorful, not at all what I expected.
Then we pre ordered our lunch on the boat included in the tour of $60pp.
We ate on the island, small with a restaurant and bar near the water. It's very expensive in Grand Cayman a $9 meal Cayman would be $13 or so American and no US change, a small glass of coke was $4. We had about an hour on the island and after eating only had a few minutes to relax.
That night we had sushi again and got right in line with my friends from the first sushi night. Later on during the trip they told me about the Vacation Club, they just signed up and they told me to go listen to the presentation and they will take $50 off you sign and sail card for it. They also were invited to a VIP party at Sams Club with free drinks from the bar and appetizers and invited me along.
Next day we went to Cozumel The tendering was very bad. We almost booked an independent snorkel excursion and we would have never made it in time.
We took a $12 taxi to Paradise Beach. We got a chair umbrella and table right in the front.
We bought a wrist band, my son wanted to try the ice burg and never could get up. The trampoline did not get much use either except when he went out with to two girls he met on the parasailing boat. They jumped a little while waiting to go out on the jet skis.
We had fun and made it back with little time for shopping. We met some nice people in line while waiting for the tender, they bought some very expensive jewelry and a pineapple wood folding basket and latter I bought a toucan one for my friend for taking care of our birds at home.
We played bingo again and I won a prize for my free space a del sol bag filled with goodies. A ship on a stick, the bag, a Frisbee, nail polish, a shirt all that changes color in the sun. During the shopping talk I won a raffle prize for a shopping tour in Cozumel worth $50 and sold it to some people for $25.
Belize was challenging, I rammed my toe on a big rock on the way to catch up with our group after putting on the water shoes, we were hurrying so as not to get stuck behind the huge ship tours. I almost got my hand stuck in the cable, my glove was stuck and so was I for a long time in the middle of the line until the rescue.
Then after maneuvering the trail in the slippery mud with our tube and our moldy life vests we proceeded into the river.
I assured the guide I could swim and none of us used the vests. My son went in first and I followed. Our guide called out stay to the left. I immediately drifted to the middle and my bottom smacked the rock and then headed straight for the huge bolder at break neck speed, as my tube was jerked away from me, the water dragging me under right before my body, forehead and knees slammed into the boulder. Hanging on for dear life as to not get sucked in the remaining rocks waiting yet for another rescue. This one taking a long time as I clung to the rock while the guide safely got the others past the rough spots.
After that it was pretty smooth. We had a nice lunch right there where we parked. Our group of about 10 was very concerned we would miss the boat, but we all made it back in one piece sort of. That night I spent icings my toe and knee instead of the bathrobe party.
Costa Maya was next, I woke up in the middle of the night on my cozy bed and with my flash light so as to not wake my son and got some more ice. When I a woke I could walk pretty good considering. This was my son's graduation present and he wanted a gold ring and found one he loved in the port shopping area. They said six hundred and something dollars at first, we left when they wouldn't take two hundred but after looking around and not finding anything he wanted except that ring we went back and finally settled on $310 and they insisted on $200 in cash. Then we bought our $3 pass and boarded the humid bus for the fishing village. We walked to the beach club at the end planning to stop on the way back to shop for our families Christmas gifts. At the beach we parked our towels in the front on the hard sand swam past the sea grass and looked for fish and saw a few, one interesting one and a few more.
Then we ordered some chips and salsa and guacamole for $6. My stomach has not felt the same since. My knee was starting to ache and Chris wanted to get back to the ship to enjoy watching movies in the room. First he wanted to find me a Christmas present. I choose a bangle with opals and a purple stone from the same shop for $250 after much bargaining. I love it. Then Chris and I went back to the ship, I showered and went back out for the last hour hoping to find the gifts. I didn't find any, to much pressure, all the store keepers calling out as people walked by and I really couldn't find what I wanted for them. I wanted to go to the hole in the fence but the taxi driver didn't understand me and my knee ached. So I returned to the ship with no time to spare.
Our room Stewart was great she did just the right amount of cleaning and straightening and replacing the ice. We picked up two six packs of Dr. Pepper and 2 six packs of water in Tampa the day before. I brought my own covers because of the down and she asked to let her know how she should make the bed. We would always find cute towel animals at night with our capers of the day's activities. Chris enjoyed the late night movies, Goldfinger and The Raiders of the Lost Ark in the Mad Hatters lounge. The Newlywed game was funny and the R rated comedy was pretty funny but raw.
Our last day at sea was raining, it was fine with me. We had plenty of sun and this was kind of a day to kick it. I packed most everything first thing in the morning. Then I went out to the Lido deck and had some spring rolls, rice and chicken. I sat down at a table with a lady and we talked for hours and then had desert. I had that chocolate pear cake, it was fabulous and some treats from the chocolate fountain. Then we decided to go to the spa to sit in the hot tub and steam room and use the multi facet shower. She was ordering a facial for later and I ended up getting a sea weed wrap and back and neck and shoulder massage, it was very relaxing but I am bruised as I write this. It was the last day special for $89 and the last massage of the cruise.
I pre paid our gratuities and tipped an extra $30 to our room steward. My son had a few coffee drinks and I got the $50 discount for looking into the vacation club, our final tab was under $100.
Dinner was very good and easy to order. I liked the lights and the dancing and getting to try all the options you wanted. We really liked the fig cake, stuffed mushrooms, fried mozzarella, prime rib and lobster.
The ship was sparkly, it was very clean, it was easy to get around and find every thing and not smoky, everyone seemed healthy and happy.
This was a wonderful cruise!