I went on this cruise with my wife and 2 girls (ages 17 and 22). We flew in on the day of the cruise because it doesn't leave port until 10pm. We arrived at the airport about 3pm and we were on the ship having lunch and drinks by 4:30pm. Embarkation was smooth with little waiting time.
First night on board was very active, as it was Super Bowl night and there were viewing parties all over the ship. Great eats at many different areas of ship to enjoy the game.
Our first stop was St. Thomas. We booked the Dolphin Discovery tour with carnival. It got good reviews and did not disappoint. While the travel to/from the sight of the dolphins is long, it is well worth it! Just the girls swam with the dolphins, as my wife and I went just to observe. Just a note that Carnival does not advertise the "observation only" ticket for this excursion but it is available at the excursion desk on board. It is a cheaper ticket and they do allow the observers to take pictures! Overall it is a beautiful place to spend the day and the girls had an experience of a lifetime!
The second day is a "day at sea". My wife and I hung out on the Serenity deck for most of the morning and the girls hung out poolside at the main pool where all the action takes place throughout the day. The Serenity deck is very low key and a great place to relax. The girls had a ball getting involved in the activities on deck. Plenty to do all day with bingo, shopping, casino, informational meetings and activities on deck.
Barbados was our next stop. Our waiter suggested the Boatyard Beach Club so we caught a taxi there for $20 for the 4 of us. There we purchased a package for $15 each that provided us with beach chairs, umbrella, free drink and taxi ride home. By far our best value of the cruise, and the beach was amazing with very few "hawkers" and it included the use of a water trampoline, ice berg raft, diving platform and a rope swing! A fantastic day had by all!!
On to St. Lucia from there. We booked Cosol Tours for this island. I had read many reviews about Cosol and they all were positive. Well this make one more positive review! I can't believe what a wonderful experience we had, and what a full day of activities that are included with this tour. Our driver's name was Sam, and he was very informative and fun! Check out their website, as it does a great job of showing what you get on this tour and you really do get it all!!! I cannot say enough good things about Sam and Cosol Tours!
St. Kitts was our next stop and we wanted to just hit a beach and relax. I had read about Cockleshell beach and we decided to give it a try. My wife just stayed on board this day, so me and the girls set out on our own. You do get mobbed by taxi/tour people when getting off the ship. There are many beaches to choose from and the drivers right at the port all want to take you to the closest ones so they can get back to load up again. CockleShell is one of the furthest beaches, so we had to be firm with them to find someone who wanted to to that far (20 minutes only). We are really glad we did, because the beach was very quiet and beautiful. We got introduced to James who had a little beach shack there and took great care of us. He had chairs and umbrellas, and all the beer and water/pop we could drink. He sent us to the Spice Mill for lunch where I had the best jerk chicken of my life. Unbelievable day!!!!
Our final stop was St. Martin. We didn't have a plan for this island so we just caught the water taxi right off the pier over to the beach near the port. It was a really clean and fun little strip of beaches and shops. We hung out all day there and relaxed in comfy chairs with umbrellas. Ate at a fun little beachside restaurant and had many cheap beers. The water taxi was quick back and forth and you can take it as many times at you want for $7.
Disembarkation always seems long, but I think it is because we don't want to leave! We hung out pool side for as long as we could since our flight didn't leave until 3:30pm. No need to rush to get off the ship as it takes a while and there are long lines for customs. It seems though if you have an early flight you can get off pretty quickly if you do the self disembarkation and carry your own luggage.
In summary, Carnival provides an excellent value for a cruise vacation. We just got an ocean view room on the Riviera deck and that was just fine as we spent little time in our room. Upgrades are available for everything, like rooms, eating at the Steakhouse, "Cheers" program and more. You can spend more and get more if you want, or you can do the basics, get a whole lot of fun, and be very, very happy like us!