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!