We were a little bit worried about taking a Carnival Cruise after all the mishaps they had had recently, but it was a great time on a beautiful ship. We went as a family of 4 with mom/dad (40s) and two boys (13 & 8). We took the 6-night Western Caribbean cruise that broke down like this.
Day 1 - Miami: We had stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay the night before and got to watch the ship come in that morning. By the way, this is a good choice for a pre-cruise hotel with a nice view of the bay and a great pool, bar, and hot tub area on the roof all at a pretty decent price. We had a few things left to do at the hotel before we left though, so we ended up leaving here about 10 in the morning by cab and were there in no time. The check-in process was pretty quick and painless. Right when we got on the ship, we headed off to buy the unlimited soda cards for the kiddos and the unlimited drink cards for us adults. See more on that below. After that, we grabbed some lunch at the buffet. We mainly spent this day having some drinks and snacks and just checking out the ship areas trying to get oriented to everything, as well as checking out the kids clubs for the boys. Things seemed really congested but I think that was because everyone was all in pretty much the same areas this day.
Day 2 - Sea: Things seemed to be a bit more spread out as people were exploring different parts of the ship this day. We checked out the water park, rope course, swam for a while, enjoyed our balcony, and just relaxed.
Day 3 - Grand Turk: Amazing beach and water! We went to Jack's Shack and loved it. See port review.
Day 4 - Ocho Rios: We love Jamaica and have been many times. We went to Mystic Mountain to ride the Jamaican bobsleds and loved it. See port review.
Day 5 - Sea: Day to explore the ship more.
Day 6 - Nassau: Super fun! We went to Atlantis for the day and loved it! We would go back and stay there. See port review.
Day 7 - Miami: This day was pretty much just breakfast and leaving. We should have stayed in our rooms until the last minute because we ended up sitting on loungers for a really long time waiting for customs to okay everyone to leave the ship.
DRINK CARDS: Okay, the soda cards were probably worth it for the kids since we did not want to give them full charging privileges on our cards; however, it is for soda only. You could get juice and water at the buffet area, so that was not a biggie. However, my kids were on vacation, on a cruise, and wanted some of the smoothies with umbrellas, which were not included. I actually ended up getting them a few on our cards as I was really not up to paying for them since we just spent a small fortune on drink cards for all of us. As for the drink cards for the adults, I'm not sure these were such a good deal, but my hubby liked them. They were convenient for not having to wonder how much you spent each day on drinks, but I just didn't like having to feel like I needed to drink 6 (enough to break even) to 15 (max per day) just to make it worth it. I never worried about this at all inclusive resorts I have been to in the past, but with the drink limit, I think it makes people feel like they have to drink that much. I was actually ordering drinks with alcohol way more than I otherwise would trying to get them all in. Anyhow, since I was mostly drinking spiced rum and coke and my hubby was mostly drinking beer, I think we would have done better paying as we went. The few mimosas, Bloody Mary's, and drink of the day drinks that we ordered were not enough to make the cards worth it in my opinion, but I heard others who thought differently and even seen people buying them the second day saying they would save compared to what they spent the first day.
OUR CABIN: We were in cabin 2262, which was a cove balcony room. The room was amazing and as close as you could get to the water. We loved being that close!!! You could actually feel the spray of the water on occasion and it was so peaceful at night to just listen to it splashing all around you while the moon glistened off the water. Having a balcony also makes your room bigger and gives you that bit more space in an otherwise pretty small area, which is common on all cruise ships. If you are a smoker, you can smoke on the balconies. Also, it seemed that the balconies in the other cabins just kind of looked down to different areas on the ship, not so much out to sea.
ACTIVITIES ON THE SHIP: Tons - just about anything you could want on vacation.
* They have a daily activities sheet that explains all the things going on around the ship. Bring a highlighter with you and use that to mark favorites for the day, do what you can, and don't worry about what you don't have time for. You will never be able to do everything. We enjoyed dance lessons one afternoon (open gangnum style for us, but they have all different types). They have bingo, art exhibits, mixology classes and drink-making contests, hairy chest contest (um, the guy that won had no hair on his chest? lol), trivia, scavenger hunts, poker and slot tournaments, etc., etc., etc.
* The kid's club was fine, but for some reason, our boys hung out with us more than they have on other trips where there was a kid's club. Maybe they are just getting older? They both said they really liked them and did happily spend a few hours on a few days here!!
* The Hasbro Game Show was an extra special treat for my 8-year-old. We got there early, about half an hour, and got seats up close. We then told him to be really bouncy and energetic to try to get up on stage. He got picked for a question, answered it, and got to be on the show. He was too excited to even put in words. Even though he only made it through one round, he received a consolation gift of a Hasbro card game, and was thrilled with that! Of course, we had to buy the CD of it to take home and show everyone, which was a few more $s, but worth it.
* The casino. It's a casino. What is there to say? I seen a lot of people not winning at all. We even had a group pull thing with 12 people at $10 each and did not win a single thing. However, I did see a very few hit it pretty good. One lady we met the first night won a couple thousand dollars! Same thing happened on our second or third day with another lady we had met!
* Miniature golf: Fun. However, some little kids (7 or 8) were running through the course and hitting everyone else's balls and running off and just being terrors. Oh well, that happens with a bunch of kids in a small area, but I have an 8-year-old, and he was even like getting mad.
* Water park: Fun. Closes earlier than I thought it would. Make sure you don't wait in line right before closing.
* Rope course: Another super fun thing, especially for the kids. I thought I would try it, but I never made it. Make sure you have closed-toe shoes. It only operates when the wind cooperates. If it is windy, which happens a lot on the ocean, it is not open.
* Basketball court: Fun!
* 5D movie theater: Extra $. We really wanted to try it, but again, we just ran out of time...
* Exercise equipment, boxing bags, running track, etc.
* Arcade. Obviously, extra $s.
* Tons more....
POOL: We found the main pool was a bit crowded on the first day, so we headed to the Tides Pool and that ended up being our favorite place to swim. It had two nice hot tubs on the side and a bar and bathrooms near. The Pizza Pirate was right next to this area too! The main pool was a favorite for our 8-y/o at the dive-in movies. Otherwise, we didn't use that one too much because I think it was really way too chlorinated. I know they have to keep it clean, but his eyes were always so bloodshot and he ended up with shiners one night because he was rubbing his eyes so much! Maybe they chlorinate more right before the movies since it is at the end of the night? I don't know. I just know it was pretty irritating to him, but he did it more than once cause he loved swimming while the movie was on. There was hardly ever anybody else in there when we went, so it is a good time to be able to enjoy the pool more.
FOOD: For our first meal directly after getting on the ship, we thought it was way too crowded and a little limited, but we thought that on our Disney cruise too. Maybe it is just something about that first meal because, after that, we really enjoyed the buffet for the most part. We actually ended up eating at the buffet and pizza place a lot because of the boys (hubby included) not really wanting to stop and get ready for dinner. They just preferred to grab food and go most of the time, which was very easy to do. Pirate's Pizza was delicious and conveniently located next to Tide Pool, which we loved. The boys and I loved Guy's burgers, but the hubby thought they were just okay. We did do the Punchliner's Comedy Brunch at Blush and would highly recommend that. I had steak and eggs, which were delicious. Everyone else had something different and all loved their meals here too. They also had an amazing Bloody Mary bar set up right outside of the restaurant. We every took an extra to go after our meal since they were so yummy! We also had room service delivered to our room most nights, which is included, with dessert to end our night. You definitely won't go hungry here.
OVERALL: We really really loved this cruise. We probably would not do it again because we like to try different things, but I am so glad we went and would recommend this beautiful ship to anyone!
So, after reading a lot of reviews, we knew we wanted to check out Jack's Shack. We love being able to check out more local places than touristy, although touristy can be fun sometimes too. Anyway, we walked down to Jack's Shack (go past Margaritaville [get a photo op in the swinging seats on your way]), go to your right off the ship and just keep walking until you see all the laughing, relaxed people up at a bar off the beach and this crazy little sand-loving dog running around and making everyone smile. We enjoyed some jerk chicken here that was so tasty that we had to buy a bottle of the sauce before leaving. It was delicious. The owners of this place are just an amazing and welcoming couple. The water is so crystal clear. The sand is powdery soft. Our boys played in the sand, dug like dogs, and had an amazing time on the beach. We enjoyed the beach too, but we also enjoyed the company of the people at Jack's Shack and the amazing drinks, food, and relaxation. If you are heading this way, bring some un-inflated balls. Topher loves them and, subsequently, chews through them. :) We loved this place!!!!
We decided to suck up the cost and take the family over to Atlantis. It is pretty expensive for an Aquaventure, but we all loved it. They have so much to see and do here that you probably won't even scratch the surface. We spent most of our time on the current. It was amazing to just be lazy and float for a bit before entering rapids or having a giant wave come crashing down and then ride the wave for a while. We also checked out some of the other slides but not a lot of them. The ones we tried were fun. The food was actually pretty good here for this type of establishment. One tip, get a soda early on and refill at any of the number of spots around the resort for no charge. I didn't see any signs saying you could not do this, and lots of people were, so I'm assuming that it was okay. Make sure you check out the digs and the aquarium at the hotel. There were also sharks, dolphins, stingrays, and lots of other animals to see. Both are amazing. The beach was very nice and relaxing. It was practically deserted when we went, which was nice. You can actually just stroll the property and check out amazing things everywhere. There were plenty of places to sits. Umbrella's were a little bit harder to find as the day got hotter, but you could find one if you looked a little. We brought a beach bag that comes with a lock to attach to the loungers (Kyss Bag) at one of the areas along the river, but lots of people left things laying around on the chairs, and no one really seemed to mess with anything. They also have drink service that comes around quite a bit. I'm sure I'm missing a lot here, but you just have to see it for yourself. We are even thinking about coming back for a week to enjoy all it has to offer.
Jamaica is our favorite place in the world. We were married here and have been back many times. Our kids wanted to try the Mystic Mountain bobsled rides, so we thought this would be a fun activity to try. It was awesome. You go through this forest and out onto a ski-lift type of ride to the top of the mountain. It can get a bit scary because it is so high, but it is beautiful the whole way - concentrate on that. lol. Once you finally get up in the line for the bobsled (you can spend some time exploring or do it after), it seems to go really slow. When you finally get to go, it is awesome. I went with my husband and my sons (13 & 8), and they loved it. However, you can also hang out at this amazing infinity pool with a fun slide. They also have a great hummingbird garden, some walking trails, offer ziplining, and have a restaurant.
They have vendors selling delicious jerk chicken and coconut milk at Island Village right before you come up on the ship.