This was my third cruise and my wife's fifth. All our cruises have been on Carnival with our latest cruise last year on the Valor also. We had several friends who were first time cruisers with us for this cruise. We all drove to Miami and several of us stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Doral near the airport. It was a very good hotel and close to where we parked (CBM Parking). I would recommend this parking to anyone driving to Miami. They provide shuttle service to and from the port and the cost is half the price.
We arrived at the ship around 11:00AM and met up with others in the party around 12:30PM on the Lido deck. The embarkation process was smooth and quick. We had some early problems with our dinner reservations but they were quickly rectified and we (9 in the party) had the same table for dinner. We went to our rooms around 2:00PM. Everyone loved their rooms. This trip, we decided to go with a balcony. My wife thinks we should always go with a balcony in the future. I liked it and would agree, the balcony is the way to go if you can afford the additional cost. The balcony room has more space than the interior rooms. We spent most of our time on the Lido deck with our smoker friends. When we got to our room, there was no soap in the bathroom. I had to hunt down the cabin steward and ask for it. The bed just wasn't as good as last time. It sank in the middle and needed to be replaced.
Our first day at sea was overcast, so we just explored the ship. Monday night was our first formal night and also the meet the captain party. We arrived a little late for the party and was escorted to the piano bar. We never did meet the captain. Some in the party were a little disappointed. I wasn't, we still got the free drinks. Our first port was Grand Cayman. I had reserved a van with Budget so we could go to Rum Point. That was a waste of our time. It took me over an hour to get the van and the drive to Rum Point was another 45 minutes. The beach was great, but the prices for food and drinks were outlandish. I would not recommend this to anyone on a one day visit. Next time, we'll go to Seven Mile Beach only because we have done the Sting Ray City before. That would be the excursion I would recommend in Grand Cayman.
Roatan was our second port of call. We booked with Victor Bodden and ended up with Ovania as our tour guide and Kim as our driver. They were GREAT!! Ovania knew the island and the history and gave a wonderful tour. We saw ship wrecks, the iguana farm (which is a must see) and then went to a beach next to Tabayana Beach. I got a massage on the beach but should have waited till Costa Maya. It was only $20 for half an hour but the lady just rubbed my back. I don't think she knew what she was doing. We ended back at the ship and did a little shopping. We all liked the little shops, but
the children will pester you while you are there. It is such an impoverished little island.
Our third port of call was Belize City. We booked a cavetubing adventure with CaveTubing.com. I didn't think I would like it, but it was really great. We had Keith, Tigre, Grito, Raton and Dirty Harry as our guides. They made the trip to and from a blast. They really know what they are doing. If you take the tour, take an old pair of shoes you can leave behind. We had a couple in our group who left their shoes (they will get soaked and smell) with a young lady at the marketplace once we got back to the port area. She was very appreciative. Also, don't forget to pick up some cashew wine.
Our last port of call (Costa Maya) was everyone’s favorite. The group split up with some going to the ruins and others (including me) going to Mahahual to lay on the beach and play in the surf. We took a taxi ($3) to Mahahual and found a spot in front of the Cat’s Meow. Hugo was our waiter and if we needed anything, he got it for us. He sat up a couple of tables for us to use and found us a couple of beach loungers which we rented for $5 each. He kept us supplied with very good chips and salsa. We had a couple (4 or 5 total I lost count) of very large margaritas for $4.50 each. For lunch, we ordered a seafood Cerviche (type of seafood salad) which was enough for all of us including the group that went to the ruins and met us on the beach around 12:30 PM . With tip, our total bill was $60 which included the lounge chairs. Several of the women got massages for $20 fro 45 minutes and raved about them. Time ran out before I could get one. I found the snorkeling to be OK. There were some fish in the area, but you probably need to find someone who can take you out a ways for better snorkeling.
Others things I noted while on the cruise were Camp Carnival worked well for the couple with a 4 year old. She loved it and it freed the parents to enjoy the evening dinners and shows which everyone loved. The drink of the day was reasonable if you did not get it in the souvenir glass. There was always someone cleaning something on the ship. The hot tubs are not very hot. Carnival needs to work on this and enforce the no children rule or have one specifically for the kids and post it as such. The water slide is a blast. There is always a photo op onboard. Overall everyone loved the cruise and we are already looking into where we are going next year. To sum up, 1 person in our group was sitting on the Lido Deck enjoying the day going by and stated, “I wonder if this is what heaven is like? All the food you can eat and not a worry to be found.”