We live in Minnesnowta- or this year smack dab in the middle of the polar vortex zone.
Our daughters spring break was scheduled the first week in April.
With a forecast showing highs in the 30's and snow several days, my husband told me to pick up the phone and call carnival. Thank god! as we did get another foot of snow while we were gone.
We booked direct with Carnival. Received a great rate.
We flew in to Houston IAH on Saturday and stayed at the Hilton North for the night.
The hotel did provide a free shuttle from the airport, however, please know that you are smack dab in the middle of an office park area so there is not a ton to do. There is a shopping mall across the street, however, it's pretty run down and not too desirable. If you do arrive early, I would suggest staying on the south side of Houston by the Galleria area- Hitlon Post Oak much more to do and a ton of restaurant choices. (we changed our hotel for our stay after the cruise as we flew out on Monday and enjoyed our stay here so much more)
A side note- Bayou City Seafood and Pasta was amazing!
The last challenge of this cruise is transportation to the port. IT'S CRAZY EXPENSIVE! for a family of 4.
Every taxi, shuttle, car rental place has figured it out and there is no way around paying $90 a head for round trip transportation so add that to your cruise cost. We did get lucky and met another group traveling to the port at the hotel and they had enough room in their van for us. It saved each family $200.
Arriving at port was easy and we were on the boat quickly.
We headed to Cucina del Capitano for lunch. It was good. I would'nt say outstanding.
Our bags arrived in front of our room quickly and we explored the ship.
We've been on several carnival boats- this one the largest. Lot's to do- I do wish however, that Carnival would add a dedicated movie theater or use the main showroom to show movies during sea days.
I enjoyed every mite of sunshine and a good book, but it would be a good option for many.
I was a bit nervous before the cruise started as we have never been on a boar this large, but we never really felt like the ship was that crowded. Even the lido deck was manageable.
Note that the 5th floor has a ton of lounge chairs as well and the adult serenity area is nice.
We missed our first port of Mahogony Bay as it was too windy for the captain to get the boat into the cove. My husband watched the captain try several time. He said the flags we flying straight with no give.
I guess we didn't need another costa incident.
Belize was wonderful. Ships do anchor quite a ways out and it takes roughly 40 minutes to get ashore once you actually get called to tender. We booked a trip to the Mayan Ruins thru shore trips.com (VIV Tours)
Lewis was great. We had a van for the 4 of us and Lewis all to ourselves. We saw our fellow carnival passengers on huge buses- right there with us, but we had Lewis and no large group.
Carnival does say that they have a price guarantee and will refund you the difference if you find a tour for less- did not know that- our price was $8 less per person for the trip.
I would suggest getting up to the coffee bar area immediately and getting tender #1- at 9:45 ship time, I visited Ginger and told him there was no way we were going to make our excursion in 45 minutes with our current number- he promptly gave us a #0 tender number and we were on our way- thank you!
(if you don't roll with the punches and are easily agitated, it may be best to book a shore excursion thru carnival in a port with tendering)
Cozumel is always an easy day- a little shopping and finding an authentic cantina with cold Corona and chips and salsa- we have our favorite. We go back every time we are in Cozumel.
The ship and staff were great- for the most part, the crew was on top of everything.
Our girls had a great time in Circle C and Club O2- they met many friends and never complained of being bored. Note to Carnival- the wave phones like Disney has would be great for any family- not just the pagers given to families with tots.
Upon boarding our tender to Belize, I saw the entertainment crew and told Drew that I thought the shows were great. He said his favorite would be presented that evening (70's). He said he was a bit leary when he heard what they would be doing, but absolutely loved the production as it came together- he was spot on!
As always- a cruise is what you make it. You are on a large ship with lots of people. Don't expect everything to be perfect all the time and you will thoroughly enjoy your trip.