EMBARKATION: We travelled from Canada to Tampa Bay via Delta. We ended up camping out in Tampa Bay aiport overnight since our flight arrived early on the morning of departure for the cruise. We took a taxi which was much cheaper (as a family of 4) than the Carnival shuttle bus. It costs $22 each way via taxi. We had activated our fun pass on the carnival website, and things went smoothly from the time we go to the port till we got onto the ship. There were no line-ups, and everythign was organized. Before we knew it we were on the ship, heading up to the 9th deck to eat a much needed meal! It took a bit longer for our luggage to arrive, approximately 4-5pm. The first night on the ship was busy getting used to our surroundings, so we kept it low key.
FUN DAYS AT SEA: We had 3 fun days at sea, since our first port (Progresso, Mexico) did not happen due to rough seas. The first few days our ship was rocking a bit, which caused a few people to feel uneasy, but it was not unbearable. The weather was not crazy hot, which I was hoping for, and it was very windy the first few days. The pools are not too big at all, in case you were planning on swimming some laps. There were always a lot of activites to do on the ship, whether it be raffles, games, FOOD, FOOD, and more FOOD!
EATING: WE had most of our dinners at the first seating in BAcchus REstaurant. Our main waiter, Ioan, was great! My family highly recommends him, and his assistant Johnny!The food was always well put together, tasted great, and was well presented. If you are a chocolate fan, try to melted chocolate lava cake for dessert! On days when we were too tired to get to our seating in Bacchus, we had dinner at Horatio's on the 9th deck. They always had a huge selection of food, so they never disappointed. Overall I think we gained some weight, because there was always so much food to eat!
FORMAL NIGHTS: EVeryone was very dressed up for both formal nights. It was a nice atmosphere, however, there were a few in casual wear. There were probably more people in formal wear than normal due to the fact that our first formal night landed on Christmas. However if you choose not to do the formal nights you can always go to Horatio's and eat in casual wear.
PORTS: WE did not do any excursions, as we had a family friend in Grand CAyman who took us around. We did not get to experience Progresso, Mexico since the port was cancelled, but we did get a $25 US credit/per person added on to our sail and sign in account. Cozumel was great! We had the most time to spend there. My parents did a lot of shopping, as there were many stores, malls, and flea markets nearby the port. My sister and I decided to venture off and walked all the way to Playa Azul where there was a beautiful beachfront talapa, and beach chairs to use. WE relaxed on the beach, sipping on large pina coladas, and eating quesadillas. The taxi ride back to the port was only $6US, and was well worth it. Unfortunately the tendering process in Grand Cayman took very long, plus we didn't dock into Grand Cayman till much later in the day, i.e. 12noon, which made it for a very short day. Belize city was the unexpected good experience. WE had nothign planned, and once we got off teh tender, we walked around and my mother found a gentleman by the name of Maurice Bernard. He gave us a private city tour of Belize City for only $15US/pp. It was well worth it, because he would stop the van for us to take photos, and he was very knowledgeable about Belize, the wildlife, and vegetation. He had binoculars for us to use, and books about the various exotic animals we saw. He also took us to Cucumber Beach, however, you had to pay $5/pp to use the beach and all its facilites. If the weather was much warmer, we would've done it, but instead he took us to the flea market area right beside the tender dock.
SHOWS: The shows were great, fun filled adn action packed for one hour. We don't recommend teh comedian who starts off on the first show night. I can't remember his name, but has a bald head. Lots of work and prep go into these shows, and they usually have 2 times for which you can view the show.
ROOMS: We all shared one cabin to cut down on costs. EVen though we were a family of 4, we all managed to use the one room with out much chaos. There was one queen sized bed for my parents and a set of bunk beds for my sister and myself. the closet space was big enough for the 4 of us. They always changed our towels, and the room was cleaned very often. Plus we had a balcony on the 4th floor, which gave us more room to move around. The A/C worked well, and we didn't feel disturbed with the initial days of rocking of the ship.
GYM: The gym is not large enough for everyone to use on the "fun days at sea" because with all the eating you are doing, everyone wants to work out. Plus with the ship moving it was hard to keep steady on the treadmills. We were not allowed to use the jogging deck on the first 2 days because it was so windy. They had treadmills, elipticlas, rowing machiens, free weights, weight machines + spa(which we did not use).
LOUNGES: The whole family enjoyed teh music in Frankie And Johnnie's by "music boardwalk". They were a great band, that played all types of music. We also checked out sam's piano bar, which provided a nice change of scenery, plus they had really comfy chairs. My sister and I checked out Dr. Frankenstein's lounge, which was a nightclub. EArlier in the night the tweens were in the lounge, and by 11pm, the older group entered.
GETTING OFF SHIP: Since we had an early flight on the day of departure, we packed the night before, and decided to do self-assist. We had to do US customs really early in the morning, at 6:15am, and were able to have one last breakfast before getting off the ship. EVen though we were ready by 7:30am, there were a few families (non-Americans) who did not go to the mandatory US Customs Immigration Stop in the mad hatters lounge, which made us wait for at least an hour near the exit. We got off the ship at 8:30am, and dashed to the airport for our 10am flight out of tampa bay airport. We got there in time, but beware of the possible delay in getting off the ship for this very reason.
OVERALL: This was my sister and my first cruise, and my parents 2nd cruise, and it was a good experience. We both love going to the beach, and I wish we had more time at the ports, as opposed to the extra days at sea. Teh food was great, the shows were entertaining, and all the carnvial employees were very helpful and enthusiastic.