Our group of three flew to Tampa from Boston on Friday November 8th. All went smooth as could be with our flight on Jet Blue. We had reservations for one evening at Sailport Waterfront Suites on Tampa Bay and loved our clean two bedroom/two bath "condo" and it's comfy beds. Really enjoyed the view from the balcony of the herons, ducks, blue crabs and fish below. We had to walk a long distance to our room from the elevators and parking was an issue. All staff was friendly and informative with the exception of the shuttle driver who picked us up from the airport. He was in no better mood when he was to take us to the port of Tampa the next day.
Check in at the Port involved very long lines and about a 40 minute wait. Even thought I had completed all information for our Set Sail accounts online (including Passport info, credit cards, DOB, etc.) the person checking us in was not able to access part of our reservation. She was perfectly pleasant, but needed assistance several times to complete our check in. I will assume she was new.
We boarded the ship around 11:30 and found our way to the Windjammer Cafe for a buffet lunch. It was crowded because guests could not go to their staterooms until 1:00pm. It didn't take us too long to find a seat and enjoy our lunch and by the time we were done our cabins were ready.
We had two cabins on the 8th deck. Room 8116 was a balcony cabin with a small table and two chairs on the deck. It had a single sleep sofa/love seat and one pullman bed. We only used the traditional bed for sleeping. Originally we had planned on three of us sharing that one room, that would have been way too crowded. Our cabin steward was Carl who was very friendly and thorough. I asked for ice one night and it was there twice a day for the balance of the cruise. The love seat was a little worn looking but everything else in the room was in tip top condition. I really liked having the curtain between the sleeping area and the seating area, made it easier if someone was up later watching tv or getting ready in the mornng while the other slept. I have sailed with Carnival before and was under the impression that Royal Carribean was going to be better/nicer. I did not find this to be the case at all. Carnival's rooms were bigger, food better and more in room amenities. I would not avoid Royal Carribean but I would not choose them over Carnival.
The other cabin was 8637 which was an inside cabin. It had a full sized sofa bed as opposed to the smaller one in our room. Mr. Christmas was the cheerful attendant for this cabin and did a great job, especially with the towel art.
We also were traveling with another couple, their cabin was 9652 and had a little more storage and the full sized sofa sleeper. Theirs also had a balcony.
Meals were fine. Wished the Winjammer had a few more variations to their sandwich breads and fillings at lunch time. The hot food and salad selections were all very good. Also had one meal from the Park Cafe. Soup was great.
Room service was not quite right. One day it didn't come until I called looking for it a half our after it was due. Another day, the order was incomplete and an hour early and they asked me to mark the order "correctly" in the future - which I had done.
We had our dinners in the Main Dining room all but one night and had one breakfast there. Didn't care for the My Time dining and found the dining room to be too loud for conversations with any one but the person next to me. Lucked out and the same awesome waiter 4 nights, his name was Veysi from Turkey. He always had a smile on his face and a great sense of humour. Loved the pumpkin seed rolls. Some of the food was fantastic and some just good. We had a great filet one night and the lamb shank was spectacular.
My primary reason for booking this cruise was for the music with performances by Kenny Loggins, Three Dog Night, World Classic Rockers, Nester Torres and one other rock band. The music and Q & A sessions with the bands were the highlights of the cruise for me. Just incredible. There were also two excellent comedians and all the onboard entertainment was fantastic. Just loved listening to the performers in the Centrum and also enjoyed the Old Colony Club for it's cozy and glamourus feel.
I am not a drinker, but part of this "theme/charter" cruise was the wine. Each night a different bottle was delivered to our cabin from a California winery. The wineries also were represented onboard and offered wine tastings. Clearly other guests really enjoyed this aspect of our themed cruise.
There was also a chef and author by the name of John Ash onboard who did a culinary presentation. I did not attend.
The ship was lovely, the Schooner Bar was very attractive and well visited. We played mini golf and went to a couple of "older" movies in the movie theatre.
Our first day in port was at Grand Cayman where we had been twice before and swam with the stingrays, went to the turtle farm and hell. This trip we opted to do something different so we booked our own excursion with Atlantis and went out on a large glass bottom boat to explore shipwrecks and reefs. There were only five of us onboard and our guide was wonderful.
The next day were in Cozumel, Mexico where we took a cab for $11 to Chankanaab Park. Had printed a coupon for $2 off admission so it cost each of us $19. We started with the Sea Lion show and then a gentleman named Manuel offered to be our tour guide for the rest of the park, no charge - but tips would be appreciated if we were happy. He took us through the rain forest/botanical gardens and explained about Mayan traditions, sculptures, the trees, etc. A woman was preparting traditional corn tortillas filled with chive and something else for us to sample. From there we went to the tequila tasting, then to the beach and had some guacamole, chips and soft drinks for $12 total. Manuel received a nice tip from us. We then walked to the area where you could have an experience with the dolphins, looked like great fun for the people and the dolphins. We finished up with a little no pressure shopping including a lovely mexican blanket for $20 and some coffee flavored tequila before cabbing it back to port. Really nice park, although we did have several downpours during our visit.
Our final port day was in Costa Maya, Mexico. We arranged our own excursion through Native Choice. It was a long walk to get to their office and their instructions had said we could take a taxi to get there, but at the port they sent us outside and down the street to get a taxi. I think Native Choice could improve the process by having their bus marked and waiting outside the port for people with reservations. Our guide Casey was very knowledgeable. We were provided free bottled water before boarding our comfy air conditioned bus to take us the hour ride to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins. On the way our driver stopped at a roadside stand selling bags of fresh pineapple slices for $1 including chile powder for those who wanted to try it. The pineapple was out of this world good! Another guide gave us the tour of the ruins with Casey always nearby answering questions and sharing information. We tasted the leaves of an All Spice tree and saw a few howler monkeys jumping through the trees. Another opportunity for snacks and shopping before we boarded the bus back to Costa Maya. Everyone on our tour opted to be dropped off at the seaside village of Mahahual. I enjoyed a one hour massage for $20 plus tip and got my Dad and boyfriend each a short back/shoulder massage for $5 each. They enjoyed some nachos and coronas while I got my my massage. I purchased a beautiful hand made hammock for $25 (after haggling down from $65). We then took a $9 cab ride back to port. Great day!
Disembarking was quick and organized. I was shocked that customs simply looked at our customs forms and passport and waved us through. No questions or inspections.
We had prearranged a shuttle from the port to the airport with Supershuttle and found a very helpful and funny employee to direct us when we got outside. We waited a little while in the rain and then were off to the airport.
Sad to go home, but all good things must come to an end. Thank you to other Cruise Critic contributors who helped us with their feedback when planning this trip!