My best friend and I decided to go on a cruise, this being her second cruise and my first. We are from Ontario,Canada so we decided to drive down to buffalo and spent the night at Best Western and got the park and fly package. Her car stayed at an off-site parking lot for the duration of our cruise (4 days/5nights).
The hotel was going through renovations so it was nothing special to mention, it was just more convenient for us as our flight was at 6:30am. We flew with Southwest airlines and they had great service, our flight was on time and they offered a beverage and snacks on board in a timely manner. We flew into Fort Lauderdale as it was much cheaper and less busier to do so. We paid for a shuttle to take us to the Port of Miami as well as to take us back to Fort Lauderdale airport once we finished our cruise.
When we arrived at the port of Miami we gave our checked luggage to people who would later deliver it to our rooms. We only brought a backpack and a purse as extra as you are allowed a carry-on item and two checked bags for no cost on Southwest Airlines. We then went through security and stood in line gave the port our tickets and waiting to be called on board via numbers we received.
I must say I did a lot of reading prior to my cruise and I am thankful I did. I may have brought a bit too many clothes, some that I didn't even wear (but what girl wouldn't lol). On board the Carnival Ecstacy ship it is very retro and has lots of neon lights. Some people may not like the decor, but I didn't find it as big of a problem as I've read in other reviews. It was very pretty to be in the atrium (center of the ship where the information desk is located and where you arrive when you first board).
One thing I suggest for everyone to do is to bring an extension cord with more cord plugs! There is only two in your room and one in the bathroom (located at the top of the mirror so very hard to use properly).
Also, duct tape proved a very good product to carry as well. We used it for my suitcase as the back had a slight rip near the seem. As well as on the way back we decided to check our backpacks as we had bought a few more things and we used the duct tape to secure all the zippers in place.
The first night was relaxing, it was wonderful to get away from work and the stress of everything. Although, we didn't stay up too late as our excursion was very early the next morning. We were supposed to arrive at port in Key West around 7:30, although we didn't get off the boat until around 8am and were already late for our Excursion. We signed up for Jet Skiing (not through carnival). It costs around 110us, and we had to take an open book test before hand that gave us the license to drive them. (It lasts a year so if we go back in time we can use it again). This excursion was amazing! I honestly loved it more than any of the ones we did. We got to follow each other around the ocean, beside our cruise ship and to a sand bar and see amazing houses along the beaches. It was fantastic! We took a waterproof camera with us so we could take our own pictures, so glad we did. Also I recommend some good sunglasses, it gets a little windy and your eyes might water.
When we got back, we were very close to stores and where we had to be to get picked up to go back to our boat, but we still had around 2 hours left in Key West. I heard about this really great slushie place that serves then with alcohol called Fat Tuesday. We decided to ask around and find it and we took a Tandem (Two-person bike) to go find it. It was so difficult to ride I could only laugh as we made our way there. Fat Tuesday was amazing, tasted so good and you could mix different kinds. We bought a water bottle that had the Fat Tuesday label and got it filled for 10.5$ and refills were around 7$. We looked around a bit but wanted to do more shopping in Cozumel Mexico, so we went back to the ship.
The boat had great events going on, shows and karaoke. We loved Karaoke and the cruise directors were in great spirit always happy and wanting people to have fun! My friend was amazing at singing so we always went back. They're was wonderful talent aboard the ship! We also played bingo which was fun and they had this great game with Genders and it was hilarious, definitely recommend going. (Go Ladies!)
Our next excursion was the dolphin one in Cozumel, it was through Carnival and we received our tickets in our room as we paid ahead of time. This was a really neat excursion, although I found it very rehearsed and wanted to interact more with the dolphins then we got to. On a plus side there was an open bar and a buffet to feed everyone. As well as snorkeling and kayaking for free, gear included. We weren't up for much once we saw stingrays in the snorkeling area. I bought a photo with the dolphin, but the packages were pretty expensive, I paid 30$us for one photo.
We decided we wanted to get some shopping done before the day was over so we went back to the boat, grabbed our Fat Tuesday water bottles and went back to Cozumel. There was a Fat Tuesday right near the port so it was really cool to have the bottle already. We wanted to bring back souvenirs for our friends and family so we toured around. Everything is pretty close together and you do have a few people asking you to come see their shops. We just kept walking.. keep in mind you can bargain for things that you think might be too expensive. If they really want the money they will sell it.
Our cabin was fairly small, but good enough for two people. We had two separate single beds, good enough closet and drawer space as well as a nice window with an ocean view. The blankets were so comfy and the air conditioning you can control in your room. Anywhere in the ship can get pretty cold, I brought a couple sweaters and I'm really glad I did.
We only had one formal night and it was on our second day. The dining was amazing and the food was so great, especially for people who want to try different things like shrimp and snails, unless that is an every day for you. I on the other hand stuck with chicken and beef. I heard the lasagna was amazing, although I didn't get to try it myself. The pasta was a little harder than I wanted it and I would of preferred to have Parmesan cheese offered as well. Although everything else was amazing, the service was great, our waiters were wonderful and it felt great to be treated. If you get desert order the chocolate melting cake it is to die for!
We decided to do one more excursion because or flight was an evening one on disembarkation day. We looked at the desk near the information desk to see if there was anything we could do. We hadn't been to a beach yet and we wanted to get some more pictures. We saw one for the south beach tour and scooped it up for 49.99us/person. I was already burnt but definitely wanted to see a beach still. We decided to take our own luggage instead of checking it again, also because we were one of the first people off with this excursion and that felt good no waiting in long lines. We got off the boat at around 8am (so early and was so upset to leave). We then went on a bus and took the tour, we traveled around south beach and saw the old buildings that are apart of the city's art deco and was really neat to see! Then we stopped near the beach and got to enjoy the day there or go shopping and/or out to eat. We decided the beach first, although the sun wasn't completely out and it was cloudy, and apparently cold weather to Miami, but to us it was still very nice. The water was warm and we got great pictures.
We then went to a few stores got some more souvenirs and headed back on the bus that took us to Miami airport where we transferred to another bus and drove to Fort Lauderdale airport.
This trip was by far the best and I didn't want to leave. It has many things for children to do as well, although this was definitely great as a kid-free vacation as well. I want to go again asap, planning for next year already!