We are in our early 40s with children ages 16 and 20. We also had our daughter’s boyfriend (19) along. This was our 3rd cruise with the prior being Carnival Triumph and Royal Adventure of the Seas. We flew into MCO the prior night and rented a van as I have many Hertz points from business travel. Because of this, we arranged for parking with the Radisson in Port Canaveral. Despite being shuttled to their overflow lot, that part was easy and seamless. The return was not. There were easily 80 people waiting for the shuttles so we opted for a cab to save a ton of time. They are not equipped to handle the whole ship (plus Disney) disembarking at once.
We had 2 balconies on deck 9 aft. We did not get connecting but only had one in between. The ironic part was the family with the room between also had the room on the other side of our room. Both families inquired on swapping one on the embarkation day but were told we could not. Being able to open the door between balconies would have been awesome. We had rooms 9456 and 9464. Rooms were great with one exception. The aft balconies on 9 are right below the Lido deck bar and outdoor areas. People are sliding chairs around early and you hear it all in your room. At first I thought it was my neighbor doing it on the balcony but then figured it out. Just a few staterooms towards mid-ship would alleviate this. One small room drawback is having just one power outlet. If you want to charge multiple devices, pack a power strip! There is shower gel and shampoo provided. Had we known of that, we would not have packed our own. Our Steward was Yudi, a 13 year veteran and it showed. He was awesome. Everything was 5 star service in our room.
Onboard activities were great. So many trivia options, music, games, deck parties, movies, meet and greets with Hennie (Cruise Director) and Sr. Officers. For lounge/public area musicians, we had Troy the guitar player whose voice showed signs of fatigue but was pretty good. Sarah and Phoenix were amazing. If you are onboard while they are there, you must go see them. They also perform in The Song Lounge for original song night. These two have a bright future. They are also very warm and friendly to talk to! The band (Celebration) that plays in Ocean Plaza is pretty good but the one guy singer is rarely on pitch. The woman in that band is really good and their instrumentation is right on. The only thing I would do differently if I was carnival would be to dump the other duo, Dana and Tony off at the next port. They are horrid. They ruined more songs and favorite artists of mine than I can count! We are not alone….we even heard some staff talking about it! They joked of taking up a collection to give them money so they would leave the ship! Pretty funny! The Encore theater shows were all very good. The variety by the house group was all very nicely done. The break dancing group was fun and the short-term act, Mike Tison – juggler was a terrific show. Comedy was also very good on the ship. Piano Bar Bob was just OK. I liked his variety and large options for songs but he relies on the “Look who’s here” schtick way too much. Hennie the cruise director is a floater (covers other CDs vacations). He annoyed me at first but really grew on me as the trip went on. His meet and greet was a great time. Some members of our group went dancing in Caliente one night and really enjoyed it, specifically the Latin hour. Lastly, the adult shows such as The Quest and Battle of Sexes were an absolute riot!
We love snorkeling and bring our own gear. For our ports, we did Chankanaab on our own. You can find a $2 off per person coupon online bringing the admission to $19 each. Snorkeling was nice but not a ton of fish. A locker was $5 for all of our stuff. Besides the snorkeling, the Sea Lion show was really fun and there were many other things to do on the grounds. Definitely do this on your own to save money. Cab was $16 each way for 5 people and is $11 for 4 people. Costa Maya is a very short port day so we just went ‘downtown’ and looked around. The $3 per person cab to downtown brings you to a very nice beach area. The port area is nice if you are looking for expensive drinks, food and a pool to swim in. Don’t expect to barter with people there since they have 8,000 people in port between the Dream, NCL Epic and NCL Dawn in port. For Belize we felt trapped. The city is not safe and with the ship being offshore and tendering required, we felt like we had to book an excursion with the ship. We spent $89 pp for a snorkel and beach break. First, the reef was good but the group “Chukka” was not my favorite. 45 minutes in the water and then rushed to their private beach for expensive food and drinks. I have been on many snorkel trips for half the cost that provide beer, rum punch and food post snorkeling. This offered nothing. We felt like we were completely ripped off. Isla Roatan was another story. We got off the ship in the beautiful Mahogany Bay. The private beach looked nice but clearly offered no snorkeling. We saw a Carnival manned ‘last minute’ booth at the ‘Y’ in the path and they said for $19 pp, we could go to West Bay but only for an hour. 20 feet to the left was a ‘Roatan Express’ booth. Same price and even took our sign and sail cards to pay but offered any return time up to 4:00 PM. They had a guy at West Bay that would take care of us. DONE DEAL! Once we got there, Gustavo was our ‘beach concierge’ guy. He arranged for the 5 of us to take a snorkel trip on a boat with Captain Andy (small boat). He took us around the corner to the best snorkeling I have ever had in my life. Do the math, $35 all in per person and a perfect experience. Food was moderately priced on West Bay but beer was $2. I am personally ready to go to Roatan for a week. Don’t miss this place. Definitely venture out beyond the private beach and lines (we heard about) at Mahogany Bay.
Dining could not have been better. We were in the late seating in the Crimson dining room, table 308. Francis and his 2 teammates were flawless. My wife is allergic to garlic and we quickly became close with Marketa. She secured menus for her to select food for separate preparation and even learned of my Biryani love and had some made for me the last night. Marketa is worth 10x whatever they pay her. She is sweet, friendly, hard-working and a diamond in the Carnival team. The food was always timely, tasty and hot for us. Buffets were as expected – and never without good options. The pizza was the best ever on the cruise. The kids ate their fare in ice cream with the 24 hour availability (which we greatly missed on Royal). The burger place was great for post excursion munchies. The sea-day Lanai BBQ was fantastic!! They hide a fantastic salad bar on deck 5 near mid-ship…don’t miss that for healthy options. Tandoor was delicious although I wish it had longer hours. The deli was perfect for my Rueben loving son. The Mongolian had lines that moved slow as others have mentioned. Our kids had it once. They either need to increase to 4 cooks or drop it entirely. The Pasta Bar up on 11 is hidden. Get it early because their lines increase as the word spreads of the goodness to be found up there. We indulged in a chocolate extravaganza one day in the buffet while at sea. So many delectable options to taste!
We found Adam in the Pixels gallery to be top-notch as well. His photos were some of our favorites and was very knowledgeable with cameras. Our old underwater point and shoot finally died and he steered us to a new one which was on sale and cheaper than anything online. We also learned from him of an awesome photo package which included two canvas prints and wallets to go along with the 10 pictures we selected and included the release and a jump drive with the photos preloaded for us. The cost was $280 but worth it for the many pictures we selected.
Sea day deck chairs are at a premium. They do not seem to enforce the 40 minute rule for ‘saved’ chairs. Aft spas were VERY hot but the lanai tubs were cooler. The cooler tubs were great for longer periods and very nice down on the side of the boat.
Disembarkation was simple. We kept our bags even though they were large as we wanted to get a start to Orlando for a day at Disney. We were off in quick order and through immigration without having to play hide and seek with our bags.
Overall, this reminded us of two things. 1) We love the ease and bonuses included with cruising. We forget this as most vacations have us using the many hotel program points I earn as a business traveler. 2) Carnival may not have as many on-ship amenities as Royal but the fun and activity list along with the overall fun atmosphere cannot be topped anywhere else. We will be back on a ship soon….and it will be a Carnival.