Overall: Wonderful vacation!
Transportation. We drive to Galveston from Corpus Christi so we set out early the day of departure. We parked at Galveston Park N Cruise which is directly across from the cruise terminal and is an easy walk. They do not offer transport to the terminal, FYI. We choose this one for proximity and the choice of inside parking. It has very good prices!
Arrival. We arrived and had no lines. For new cruisers, read all the warnings about proper paperwork, name changes, bookings and minors. This is our 4th cruise and it still surprises me to see people trying to talk their way on without all their documentation! We have minor children, but with the new travel policy they are not required to have a passport. This saves us much $$! We brought their birth certificates AND their government military IDs. No problems. Once you get your Sail & Sign, that is all you need to get on and off in the ports. We arrived in the holding area and did have to wait for a few minutes for our boarding group (7), but otherwise were on the ship by 10:45am despite warnings that there would be a delay from the previous cruise to get through customs. The rooms for the spa level and several other elite packages were not ready. They just can’t get them all done at once no matter what level or FTTF you have!
It was a cloudy day and actually sprinkled on us a little on the Lido deck. We opted to eat at the Italian restaurant so we could sit down inside. Our balcony rooms (7209 and 7215) were ready about 12:30 pm. We had connecting rooms and open the balcony doors so we have multiple access to the rooms, yet the kids get their own room and we have ours! ïŠ Most of our bags arrived within a few hours. One bag arrived later in the evening around 6 pm, but we were set for the first day.
Ship amenities. The ship was great. The boys enjoyed the rope course and sports court (so did I)! I had a pedicure at the spa which was VERY relaxing. I thought the price with 20% gratuity (I add) was comparable to any other day spa (aka Woodhouse, etc..). My husband and I use the fitness center 3-4 times per cruise and he runs on the deck although you have to do this very early or it is too crowded. Of course, the Waterworks is the big hit and the kids spend their days on the slides when they are open! My husband and I ride them too, but we prefer the Serenity Adult Area! We all enjoyed the Dive-In movies at night. They offer free popcorn and blankets.
Dining. We usually eat at the MDR because we never know our schedule for the specialty restaurants and we eat at private clubs at home regularly so it isn’t something new. The food was good. Not bad and not spectacular, but definitely good. We like to order something different each time. The staff is always accommodating if you can’t make up your mind and allows you to order one of each! By the second night, they knew my youngest son so well, that without asking they always brought him a side of fries and ketchup! We do like to eat in the MDR for brunch on lazy days and definitely the day of departure! It is a nice treat. We also enjoyed the Red Frog Pub. Try the beer and the coconut shrimp! We don’t usually eat from the buffet except for salads and maybe cookies! The pizza place is awesome as is the deli! The Ocean grill on sea days is excellent as well. I like the specialty coffee place. My husband and I also purchase a wine package to supplement our own supply.
Entertainment. On recommendation from other reviews, we only went to the shows that had dedicated entertainers (i.e. little audience participation). I hate karaoke and talent shows. The 70s song show was wonderful. The illusionist/magician was also terrific. My husband and I went to several of the comedy shows and enjoyed the late night burlesque routine. It was very little burlesque and you get more on TV, but the show was good.
My kids were both registered for the kids groups. The 11 year old was still in Camp Carnival and was basically bored. He is at the dividing line of too old for one group, but not old enough for the other! Not enough video game time for him! He did make one friend and just wanted to hang with him. He did go to a Night Owl party and enjoyed watching the movie. The 13 year had a BLAST in the Circle C club. There were not a ton of kids on board due to the time of year, but this group was always out and about doing something. We only saw him during port calls and dinner!
Port Calls. The ports were Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We have been to these ports several times and were really only interested in Scuba Diving. Montego Bay did not have scuba close by, so we hopped a bus and went to Doctors Cove to sun and snorkel. We spent a few hours there and then back to the ship. We went scuba diving in Grand Cayman on our own because the one son was too young for the Carnival excursion. However, the dive shop we use is the same as the ship excursion. We have been at Don Fosters before and they set us up for a great two tank dive from the shore. We beat the crowd by walking over on our own. It was a great dive and we still got back to the ship for a late lunch! In Cozumel we did go on the Carnival 2-tank scuba excursion and they were very good as well. Prompt and courteous. The dive master was very good with the two boys as well.
Departure. We used the assigned departure for most of our luggage. It was very prompt and we walked off by 9:00 am without a huge wait. We used a luggage concierge to help hail the luggage through customs and this paid off in that he knew the lines and the officers and got us through faster than if we waited to stand in line! Once outside my husband retrieved the car then had to work his way back to pick up. This took the longest amount of time and we may have to re-think that!
Helpful things to bring:
-First Aid kit with OTC remedies, band-aids, cold meds, pepto-bismal, aspirin, etc…pack a little bag with possible necessities and save yourself time and money if you need them. Enough said if you have read about Norovirus.
-Extension plugs. The six plug ones for all those digital devices…
-Hangars. Plastic hangars are easy to pack and there is more hanging space than drawer space. I pack 10 per person.
-Foam soap. Pack an inexpensive foam soap dispenser (.99 c) for each bathroom. The kids will use the pump and wash their hands before they will pick up a bar of soap...
-Rum runners. Use your imagination….
-Travel Insurance. Go through anyone else but cruise line. It is relatively inexpensive (about $100 total for a 7 day cruise for all 4 people. Depends on age, length and amount of trip.) and provides you with peace of mind if nothing else.