Prior to booking this cruise, we didn't know but 2 other couples in this group. Our group was a combination of family & friends. This group cruises every 2 years together. We were the only ones in our group that had never cruised before. We attended several parties & meetings prior to the cruise so we got to meet most of the people before we left. I would cruise with this awesome family again in a heartbeat. We had a blast! We booked thru a local travel agent. The group selects ship and itinerary over a year in advance. We chose to fly in a day early (most of our group did so) The travel agent booked for most of them but we chose to book our own airfare & hotel. I got better deals on both and even though I spent a lot of time doing the research it was worth it.
We flew from Dulles on an 8am flight to Ft Lauderdale and arrived around 10:30am. While waiting to board at Dulles, we met another group of family that was on the Liberty too. We flew JetBlue. I love this airline! It took us about 45 minutes to get our luggage due to the amount of flights landing around the same time. We took a cab to our hotel. The cab ride took about 10 minutes & cost approx
We stayed at Extended Stay America. This hotel is about 2 blocks from the port entrance. Our room was very clean and the air conditioner worked! (The lobby was very hot when we checked in so I was worried about the room temp.) Our room had a small kitchen, queen size bed, recliner and a huge bathroom. I would stay here again. There were tons of stores/restaurants within walking distance. We spent the day walking around, doing a little shopping. I hadn't had time to get a pedicure & manicure before we left but was able to find a place within walking distance to our hotel. DH even joined me in getting his first manicure & pedicure.
We had dinner at Carlos and Pepe's. The food was good & the beer was cold. It was about a block from our hotel. The only thing we didn't get to do was go to the beach but I got enough beach time in ports so it was that big of a deal. This hotel didn't offer a shuttle but the desk clerk told me that I would have no problem getting a cab the next morning. She told me to call her about 20 minutes before we wanted to leave. Even though we did call, several times a cab never showed up. My husband had to finally go to the road & flag one down. Next time, I will stay at a hotel with a shuttle or book a car service. Our ride to the ship was about 14.00. Most of that cost was due to the wait to get into the port since they were checking ID.
We arrived at the ship at 12:30 PM. The lines were long outside of the building but moved fast. We were inside in no time. The longest wait was to go through the security line. I carried on 4 bottles of wine and was questioned by a Broward Sheriff but a Carnival rep told him it was fine.
We were on the ship by 1pm. The lines were short at the purser's desk so DH stood in that line while I booked an evening in Harry's Supper Club. A member of our group was in the lobby as we boarded to direct us to the Lido where the rest of our group was to meet. After having lunch, we dropped our bags off & decided to head back to the Lido deck for our first Foo-Foo drink. Our dinner seating was 5:45. We don't usually eat this early but thought it would work well for seeing the shows, etc. I'll not eat this early again on a cruise. Some of the days we were in port we never made it to the dining room. We were at a table for 6. Everyone that was at our table was in our group. Our table was exactly in the middle of the boat in the back by those windows. There was some vibration that seemed to get worse when the seas were rough. Our waiters were Jesus' and Charles. They were wonderful! After the first evening, I don't think we had to ask for a thing. The food on this cruise was okay. We had a Crème Brule that was wonderful. We didn't go hungry and always found something that we liked. I guess I was expecting the dining room food to be along the line of an upscale restaurant. We ate all of our lunches, a few dinners and all of our breakfast on the Lido Deck except for a couple of mornings that we ordered room service. They had a huge selection of cold cereal and the usual stuff for breakfast. I ate a different cereal & fruit almost every morning. DH had a couple of omelets made for him that he enjoyed. He was impressed with the Steak & Cheese sandwiches and I really enjoyed the Reuben's and fish & chips I had a couple of times. We also enjoyed having ice cream whenever we wanted. Only 3 nights did our tablemates show up for dinner and we didn't mind a bit! The first evening almost no one was dressed for dinner. I'm guessing they had the same problem we did with luggage. We didn't get ours until late evening. They did make an announcement in the dining room about shorts, tank tops, etc. the first night. The night we booked at Harry's, we had to cancel our dinner. I forgot to put sun block on my feet when we were at the beach. I couldn't get my shoes on that night. We booked a balcony cabin on the Verandah deck, on the right side of the ship. (I can't remember which is port & starboard) We had plenty of room for all of our suitcases under the bed. Our room steward was Karoline. She was great. I know there has been some discussion about the pros & cons of tipping early in the cruise but we decided to do so. I can't say if that greatly improved our service or not but we never had to leave notes or ask for anything after the first day. She saw our wine when she turned our bed the first evening and put wine glasses & an extra ice bucket in the room. She kept clean wine glasses and the ice buckets filled the whole week. I saw another steward taking a plastic jug of water into a cabin so I asked for one as well. She told me they were not supposed to do that, bottled water was in the mini bar. I think it was 4.00 for the large one. She did unlock the mini bar even though I told her we wouldn't be using it. Actually the prices for the things in the mini bar other than the water wasn't that bad when compared to the bars onboard. We did smuggle some adult beverages but seriously, Carnival didn't miss the income. We still had huge bar tabs. I don't know if it was the movement of the ship or getting used to another bed other than my own, but I didn't sleep well the first couple of nights. After those first few nights, I slept great. I liked the pillows. We had one each of the down and poly. I like to read in bed & couldn't do that because of the height of the lamps. The side tables were to small for a larger lamp and propped up on a few pillows put you too far away from the light for it to be adequate to read. We had plenty of room in the bathroom. We had Dove Shampoo and Lever Body Wash. Other than the little thing with the lamps, everything else was great.
The first morning at sea, the wind was so bad they closed the top decks. DH & I went up early to meet a few friends that were playing basketball. I don't know how people were running up there; I had to hold on to DH to keep from being blown into the railing. We finally gave up and went back to the Lido deck. The water was starting to get rough. That evening when we went to one of the shows, we sat all the way at the top at those tables with the stools. The boat was rocking so much side to side that I had to hold onto the table to keep from sliding off the stools. That was the only time I felt sick. The waters were actually rougher on Thursday Night and Friday but I felt okay.
We had planned to do more onboard but it was so relaxing just sitting on the Lido deck. We spent most of our time there when on the ship. We met lots of nice people. Maybe on our next cruise we'll get to the Bingo or other activities. Had I wanted to participate, there were tons of things scheduled. Sometime on Sunday we decided that we just wanted to relax and it didn't matter what was going on I guess. I read on CC that there was constant "hawking" of things to buy or things to do I really must have tuned it all out or maybe it wasn't that much of it going on. I did go to the casino a few times while DH was watching a football game in the Sports Bar but hit my loss limit very early in the cruise.
We got to San Juan a couple of hours early due to a medical emergency. I never heard anything more about it so I don't know what happened. About 16 of us took one of the vans cabs on a sightseeing tour. This lady was from New York but had been in San Juan about 20 years. She showed us the Old San Juan historical areas and then took us to a couple of the places they made rum. She told us to make sure we asked for "floaters". I'm guessing that the drinks didn't have much rum in them because when we asked for the floaters, they dumped rum on top of the frozen drinks. She then took us to a shopping area. A few of the ladies in our group bought purses at the Coach Outlet. They said they found the prices to be lower than the Coach Outlet in our area. We were all back on the ship by 8pm except for about 6 of the guys in our group. They wanted to check out Senor' Frog's. My DH was in this group and I was a nervous wreak until I saw him walk onto the Lido deck. I was so afraid they would forget the time & miss the ship.
We got up about 5 the next morning and went up on deck to watch us pull into St. Thomas. We had a quick breakfast of cereal, coffee & fruit. I got lots of pictures as we made our way into port. I think it was about 10:30 when we actually got off the boat. Some of our group got off much earlier and had their van driver come back for us. We went to Coki Beach and had a blast! The waitresses on the beach were a bit over powering at first but a gentleman that ran a bar called Mailman's Bar & Grill informed them that we part of another group that were his customers. The drink prices were much lower from him. A bucket of Corona's were 12.00 for 8 beers. The other girls were charging 16.00 for 6. There were ladies walking the beach selling craft items but I was more interested in the sun and didn't really pay attention to what they were selling. The water was beautiful & clear. We got pictures with our camera just standing in the water. The fish were so colorful & beautiful. Our van driver arrived back to take us to the shopping area. He dropped us off and came back later to take us to the ship. I know we stayed longer in one of our ports but I can't remember which one now.
In Antigua I don't remember which beach we went to. Same group of about 25 went. All I can say about the cab driver is She needs to come to the US to drive in NASCAR! She took us to a great beach that had tons of stuff to do. My only complaint here was that it was so crowded unlike the beach from the day before. Usual waiters & crafters. This is the beach I got so burnt. I spent most of the day in the shade so I'm not real sure how that happened. We met some of the locals here and a few hung around us part of the day. One old gentleman was smoking a HUGE cigar and had really long dreads (DH told me later it wasn't a regular cigar) He insisted that I needed some of his aloe he was carrying around. When I told him I didn't need that he wanted to sell me rum filled coconuts he was carrying around. DH bought one of the coconuts and he filled it with rum and included 3 re-fills for 5.00. Not too bad I guess. I asked him if I could take a picture of him but I handed my camera to DH. He said, "Man no take picture of me" I laughed & took his picture. Our waitress told us later he was afraid DH would blackmail him over the "cigar"
In Tortola I wasn't able to go to the beach. I'd had enough sun and looked like a walking ad for Solarcane. DH went with our friends and said I missed the best beach yet. I did get off and walk to the vendors that were close to the ship. DH was suppose to meet me at 1 for shopping but didn't get back in time. I'm afraid I missed the best island. Good excuse to go again!
Nassau was okay. We took the water taxi & then walked for miles it seemed. The water was beautiful but colder & rougher. I didn't get in the water here but I did drink the coconuts and a great time was had by ME!
We were off the ship and at the airport by 9:15am. I wasn't sure if we would make an 11 am flight when I booked our return, so I took the 5:30pm flight. I wasn't looking forward to sitting in the airport all day so I checked to see if they had seats on the earlier flight. We were able to change for a 25.00 fee (I had a 100.00 credit so I just used part of that) I walked in my door at 2:30 instead of 9:30pm that night. When we left for the cruise, the temps were in the 60's here. I came home to that too. A few days after we returned, Old Man winter visited DC for the first time. Gosh I wish I were back on the ship right now. Its 10 degrees here.
Our first experience cruising was excellent. I loved this ship and the itinerary. Thank you CC for all the great info before my cruise. I knew what to take, what to expect and had some great surprises. My first vacation without kids or family was a relaxing, wonderful time!