It was a first cruise for my family. We took our 17 year old son and 8 year old daughter. We flew into Miami airport and took a cab to downtown Miami for about 25.00.
We flew in the night before and stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown. We paid a triple A rate of $215. The room was nothing special. It was clean. Our room faced the street on the third floor which was quite noisy. However, the hotel provided ear plugs for those that wished to use them. Hotel was in a decent location. Was about 5 blocks from Bayside Marketplace. We had been to Bayside a couple years ago and were looking forward to going back. It used to be a popular place, but it looks like things have changed. The entertainment ended at 6:00pm. There were very few people walking around. We had dinner at Bubba Gump's. It was very expensive and was not very good. In fact, had to order Pizza Hut once we got back to the hotel as my husband and son didn't finish their meals. Pizza Hut was delivery was very quick and was the best I have ever had! Wish we would have just stuck with that. Next cruise I think I will choose to stay at an airport hotel and order Pizza HuT (will save quite a few dollars that way!)
The next morning, we took a cab to the port. I had asked our cab driver the night before what the approx rate would be to the port and he told me $6 or $7. However, the morning we went to the pier the driver did not start his meter and when we arrived he asked for $14.00! I didn't argue, but next time I will ask the driver before I get in. Or I will ask them to start the meter. Unfortunately, you can't trust everyone! We arrived at the port at about noon and were on the boat within 45 minutes. Things went very smoothly.
On ship, our room was not quite ready, but our cabin steward allowed us to go ahead and drop our bags off. We then went on up to the Lido deck for some lunch. We enjoyed exploring the ship and sitting around watching everyone come aboard. The ship was filled with mostly college aged spring breakers.
Very enjoyable cruise. The shows were great. The food was great. We did not get our requested dining room time, however, I did not request to change because we had a wonderful table with an ocean view. Our table mates never showed up all week. Waiter and assistant waiter were very nice and efficient. Not overly talkative, but very professional. (some of the waiters did magic tricks and told jokes).
The ship was booked full. However, we never felt crowded. never had too long of a line to wait in for food. The 24 hour pizza was wonderful. husband ate it every night.
Daughter used camp carnival. I was a little disappointed. We missed an activity because neither the caper nor the camp carnival newsletter gave the location for an activity. As a result, we were about 5 minutes late locating it on the ship. We we arrived, the counselor told us that she had already passed out the scavenger hunt sheets and that we were late as they were all gone. She could have easily made more copies, she just chose not to. I even told her why we were late. Daughter was disappointed and cried a little. On another occasion, daughter wanted to spend the afternoon in CC, but when we dropped her off we were told that they cancelled due to high winds. when I questioned her she said that they were planning to use the pool slide, but could not since it was closed. (One would have thought they would have planned an alternate activity). So all in all daughter only spent about 2-3 hours total at CC all week.
Cozumel- This is the only port in which we did not schedule a tour. We were going to shop and go to Paradise beach, but we got cornered by a time share company and actually ended up doing a tour with them. We did a 60 minute tour (60 min exactly) and they gave us bracelets to use at the all inclusive resort. We got 5 drinks each, food, pool, benches, snorkel equip, and beach use. They provided all of that plus taxi service for 11.50. (They also gave me a hammock, a bottle of tequila, and a mexican blanket also).
Grand Cayman- We booked a snorkel and stingray city tour through Capt Marvin's. Very reputable company. I was glad I had booked through them as carnival cancelled their tours due to high winds and waves. Water was a little too rough for me, but husband enjoyed it. The snorkeling was wonderful. Stingray City was different!
Ocho Rios- To me this was the best port yet! You have to use Peat Taylor. I was nervous about this port because of everything that I have read about it. But Peat made it perfect. I felt totally safe. He did just what we requested. there was only about 10 of us on the tour. We went to Dunns falls and then he took us wherever we wanted. My daughter and I brought school supplies for the children of Jamaica, so we requested to go to the village and see the school. They were so appreciative and gave us big hugs. It was an unforgettable experience. Peat can email you all of his options for stops. All he charged was 35.00 and that included the 15.00 admission to Dunns falls!
All in all, a wonderful cruise. I was impressed with carnival. We are already planning our next CCL cruise!