This was our first cruise and we did a lot of research prior to making our reservations and sailing. We chose carnival since we were traveling with 2 young teenagers, and thought carnival would provide a better experience for them. One of the tips we got was to purchase faster to the fun, which provides perks that usually are reserved for long-time cruisers, like expedited check-in, expedited luggage and priority tender service. This was well worth the investment. The experience itself, far from perfect.
The first day started off rough. We arrived at the airport for check-in and found that their computers were down. Once at the port check-in was quick and we were soon in our room. We checked 6 bags and after about an hour we were surprised that we had gotten some bags... But only 4 of the 6. Hours passed and no sign of the other 2. These 2 contained all the clothes for 2 of our passengers. We finally received the others after 6:00pm due to a lot of complaining. Carnival apologized and refunded the FTF purchase price, which was nice. We settled in and began our journey.
Before I review the itinerary a few general things about the ship and our experience.
Our cabin was a balcony room on deck 11. It was very nice and has great access to the spa/fitness center, pool and elevators. Our room steward was awesome and took very good care of us. We had two physical issues in the cabin, the shower didn't drain properly, and the light was flickering over the vanity, both items were remedied within 24 hours after I called. The second issue was the phone, we received prank calls day and night, so much so that by the last full day we contacted security. The calls stopped.
We had an issue with one of our tenders, Being a faster to the fun member we were escorted down to the tender area by the security guard and placed into a line. Then after he left we were pulled out and they tried to place us on a later tender. We then had to argue our way back into the first line! This was very frustrating and should not have happened.
The food in the main restaurant was ok. Some things were excellent, others just so so. Plates were very inconsistent, the table would order the same dish and one would be perfect, the other overcooked and gross. The response from the wait staff wasn't "I'm so sorry, that shouldn't have left the kitchen like that" it was "can I get you something else". The wait staff was excellent and took very good care of us! The food in the buffet wasn't that good, and it was set-up to feel very cafeteria like. The hamburgers and burritos by the pool were very good. only basic food is included in the cruise fare... If you want an espresso, extra. A cookie, extra. Soda, extra. Even virgin drinks were extra. If you weren't careful you could spent a lot of money!
I know a lot of reviews comment negatively about photographer row, but we got through just fine by saying "no-thanks" every night.
The pools were so few and small they were like bath tubs compared to the amount of people on board and there are not enough deck chairs for all of the passengers desiring to be outside. By the afternoon on sea day the people were just standing in the pools shoulder to shoulder to get cool and people were like vultures hunting for chairs. On the second day A little kid had an accident that shut one pool down, which made the pool situation even worse! Our ship only had one lame water slide, some of the newer ships looked like they had better water play areas, pay attention to this if you have kids.
They don't have designated smoking areas, basically any outside area is ok, so we had to deal with people hanging out on the sun deck and on adjacent balconies smoking (yuck).
So, now on to the fun! We did not book any excursions through carnival. Their price is double what you pay direct to the tour operator. One important thing you should know if you go this route Is that carnival does not change the ship time to match port time, so you will need to understand the time difference.
The first day was an at sea day, so everything was crowded.... Everything!
The second day we were in Cozumel. We booked a combo dive/snorkel trip through grand cayman cruise excursions and were connected with papa hogs dive shop in Cozumel. They took us out for half a day and it was wonderful! We came back and had lunch at the cafe next door and had the best chicken burrito!
In Belize we hopped a flight to San Pedro via tropic air and spent this day diving and snorkeling the reef with heaven at sea. They even provided a home cooked lunch of chicken, rice and beans plus water, soda and beer. Catching a flight back to Belize city and then a cab back to the ship we caught a tender and headed back. If you are unfamiliar with Belize, please don't stay in Belize city... You need to go outside to see this beautiful country. Ruins, Cave tubing and zip lining, or zoo combos are good if you want to stay on the main-land.
The third day was roatan, Honduras. Here we hooked up with roatan Harry who booked us a horseback riding adventure and beach day. He escorted us all day and we always felt safe. The trip was awesome! Probably the prettiest place I've been. We spend the day in west end on the other side of the island from the cruise dock. While the dock is nice, you really need to leave it to experience this island!
Our last stop in grand cayman we booked a wave runner trip through grand cayman cruise excursions. Our transportation was prompt and after gathering the other riders took us to a resort on the other side of grand cayman. We geared up and set off on a awesome 6 mile ride out to the stingray sandbar and rum beach. This excursion was beyond amazing, The port was just ok. Very commercialized.
The last day was a sea day again, and like the first... Everything was crowded.
Overall we enjoyed the ports, but not the ship experience. While carnival was accommodating we found the issues we encountered off-putting and some of the other guests very rude. I don't think we will sail with carnival again.