We took this cruise as a Spring Break family cruise. Our group included 34 people ranging in age from 52 to 6 or 7, with 12 being 18 year old )or very close to 18 year old)high school seniors, so we utilized every service Carnival had to offer. It's been 2 days now and I am still rocking which is not normal for me, but other than that I am ready to cruise again. (Which I will be doing in June.)
As this was my fifth cruise and second with Carnival I had some idea what to expect when boarding and found this to be pretty easy. However, I had printed the on-line fun pass for faster boarding and still needed to complete some of the forms in the boarding documents that were mailed to me. Also, once on-board the ship guests we required to activate their sign & sail cards with Carnival so I didn't really understand the point of doing it all prior to. But regardless, boarding was easy and activating the card only took a few minutes because they had lots of staff set up to help you do this.
The ship was a little broken up and hard to navigate, but by the end of the cruise we knew what decks would and wouldn't get us through to the other end and just avoided them. One downside was the whole smoking in the casino and where it was located. In order to get from the front of the ship to the back on the promenade deck you had to walk through a cloud of smoke. I noticed a lot of people who were not real pleased about it. This also happens on lido when you leave Rosies on the smoking side. The smoking section has no opening windows and is covered so the smoke seems to gather and stay right in that area.
Because of price I chose an interior cabin for this trip. My rationalization was I don't really spend time looking out the windows or in the cabin anyway so why spend the extra. Now I know. I never knew if it was daylight or not without getting my watch and a few days I slept in because I didn't have the sun to wake me so I wasn't sure even then. Regardless, our cabin was plenty big enough and although I only met our stateroom attendants once on the third day they took great care of us.
Our kids were pretty excited about Camp Carnival, but didn't end up doing too much with them. We had a 11 year old and two 12 year olds. We couldn't get them to allow the 11 year old in the older group because that age group had over 100 kids registered to it. There was never over 6 who actually participated but they still wouldn't budge. But they did enjoy the arcade, the whole area called the caboose and did a few of the mixed age activities.
We had early seating in the Lincoln Dinning room. Our group was separated the first night, but they managed to get us all together for the rest of the week. The staff was not as personable as I've had in the past and orders were not quite right a few times, but the food was great. Warm Chocolate Melting cake will forever remain on my list of favorites. My mom said it reminded her of her mom's homemade chocolate pudding with brownies on top. This is a must try for everyone. Besides dinner in the dining room most everyone in our group ate everywhere there was to eat on the ship. The pizza, burgers & fries, deli, and fish and chips were always great alternatives to the buffet at Rosies which always offered a good variety. Some of our group went to Scarlett's and enjoyed it. The only complaint was it took nearly 3 hours for the meal from start to finish, and that the cheesecake they serve isn't quite was you would call cheese cake. Personally my only complaint was the hours for the sushi bar. It's hours overlapped dinner and I never felt I could really enjoy one without missing out on the other. Sushi became my appetizer every night. I would've preferred to have it open during lunch hours but as the selection was limited this worked.
We visited Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, & Costa Maya Mexico. Grand Cayman we spent in Senior Frogs so I didn't see much of the island. I did a little shopping but much of what they had we can get right here at home.
Of the places we visited Roatan was probably my favorite. We took a tour of the whole island and it really made my 12 year old daughter appreciate the things she had. The people were humble and very gracious, but still proud and we learned a lot about their way of life. This was something we decided to do once we left the ship and it only cost us $15.00/person for the whole day. Our tour guide worked strictly on tips, and we made sure she was well taken care of because she shared so much with us. I wouldn't advise just venturing off on your own here and make sure you make your arrangements with the people with the shirts marked DISPATCHER. They can be talked down on their prices and will also pair you up with a reputable driver and guide who will tailor your tour to your interests. We also had some in our group use Victor Boden tours, which they booked in advance and loved, as well as some who just got a taxi and did some shopping. Everyone had a good time here.
Our next port of call was Belize City. This was a tender port and trying to get off was a huge hassle. Standing in line for stickers and not knowing if you were in the right line with the right sticker was CRAZY. They were also wanting to make sure the people who booked a Carnival Tour got off first and this was completely frustrating. Regardless we made it off and found our tour company, Cave Tubbing.com, with time to spare. Our guide Keith and his assistant Jeffrey a.k.a. "PG" were great. We had a 35 minute bus ride and they kept us entertained and informed the whole way to the park. They told us differences between their tours and the cruise tours that we should look for, and in the end I was truly glad we used Cave Tubbing.com. Cave tubing was really amazing, and because we used Cave Tubbing.com we got to see two cave systems instead of just one like the ship tours. We had to hike longer than they did which wasn't the most pleasant, but it made us appreciate the water that much more. Once in the water our guides had us stay connected through the tour so as to better control us. They kept us out of most of the shallows and cave walls and let us know when we needed to get our "Butts Up" before we drug them on the bottom. The last leg was open and we were allowed to free float, swim with the current, and just enjoy the scenery. Then we were headed back to the bus. Because it was "our tour" the guides offered us options and let the majority decide what was next. We decided we wanted to stop and eat. We were not given option as to what we could eat or where, but it was recommended by the tour before us. The meal was a $5.00 at a local place called Amigos and the guides were our waiters. We got sodas for $1.00 & there was also beer. The food, native fare, was probably the best meal I had to whole cruise. There were also so Mayan women outside selling some jewelry and crafts so we were able to purchase some souvenirs without the crowds we new we would encounter when we got back to the port.
Lastly we visited Costa Maya. tequila beach is where nearly our whole group ended up and fun was had by all. There isn't much to do for younger kids, unless they enjoy the water, but the older kids (52-18) enjoyed themselves. Good drinks, good food, good music, and a good price. Plus it was only a 3 minute walk down the beach to be in the shopping village. The only thing I wish I had know in advance is the port is kind of isolated, and you have to walk a LONG was if you walk or buy a ticket for the bus to get anywhere. Once in town you can get a cab, but you must buy the bus ticket to leave. This is pretty smart of their government, but it was a little aggravating to get through a crowd of people to the street only to learn that unless you wanted to walk you needed to stand in line with them. A lesson learned for next time.
Back on the boat after Belize was a 2nd formal dinner & the deck party. With our next day being a day at sea I thought this would've been the better day for both but we survived and almost everyone made it to the dinning room. Dinner was good, but the deck party was over before it really got started good.
Our day at sea was uneventful. There were a few planned activities but most in our group were wiped out and just relaxed. I divided my day between relaxing in the and then in the spa.
After dinner we packed up, put the luggage out and prepared to head home. Arrival back in Miami was uneventful and we had no trouble getting off and through customs. I would recommend this cruise and will probably take it again.