We are a family of 4 -husband 50, myself 49, daughter 26, and daughter 22, from Nova Scotia, Canada. Our daughters' first cruise, our third, all on Carnival. This cruise was booked in July 2006 using a local travel agent who booked with Carnival using the Fly Aweigh Program. The cruise was good/not great, but the flights and ground transfers arranged by Carnival were very disappointing. We wanted early morning flights, got noon flights putting us in Miami at 7pm. At the Miami airport, the bus driver, helpers and airport porters got into an argument over who was going to handle the luggage of us, 100 Carnival guests, thus who got the TIP. The 2 Carnival reps apologized for the scene, but it sure left a bad impression. The whole experience with the fight times, bus transfers, and the complete DISORGANIZATION of getting to and from the airport/hotel/ cruise terminal, we will NEVER do the Fly Aweigh Program again. Part of the Fly Aweigh Program is an overnight pre-cruise hotel; ours was the Hilton Miami Airport. The Hilton has nice dEcor, very clean, easy check-in/out (15 minutes for 40 people), not bothered by airport noise, nice cafe for a hot breakfast ($12.00 per person). The hotel is 20 minutes from downtown, resulting in a $26.00 taxi ride each way. We went to the Bayside Market which is open till 11pm. The next day we waited in lines for over 1 hour to board the buses to take us to the pier. Carnival does this every week and we expected them to be super organized but they were very lacking in organization.
Embarkation: Left our bags with the porters and headed inside for check-in around 12:45pm with about 100 people in line. Fill out the Fun Pass in advance- it saves time and results in a shorter line. Carnival now makes you line up on the outside of deck 3 to pick up your Sail & Sign card, then line up again in a HUGE line to give your credit card info for your Sail & Sign account. Too many lines, it would be a lot easier to do everything at check-in like it used to be. By 2:20pm we were done with all the lines and heading to our cabins, which had been upgraded by Carnival from inside to outside.
Cabins #2270 and 2272: Plenty of storage (2 hang closets, 1 with shelves, 4 drawers), nice desk/vanity area, sofa, chair, table, tv (view tours, menus, web cam, Sail & Sign account), and a compact but adequate bathroom. Our cabin steward was very friendly. He cleaned the room in the morning and evening when he turned down the bed covers, left a towel animal and candy.
Dining Room: We had requested early seating (5:45pm), was given 8:00pm in Washington. The first night we sat at table 415 (table of 4) with headwaiter Oscar) very friendly, attentive, smiling). The next night we were moved to table 534 (table of 12) for the 5:45pm sitting. This time, our headwaiter was Oman and assistant Juilleno. Oman had zero personality, barely understood English, and made NO conversation. Juilleno was the opposite of Oman and kept us informed and entertained. Oman rushed us through dinner, not waiting for all the table members to finish one course before giving other table members their next course. We did not enjoy our dining experience at all. The food was ok, but not great, and the variety of food has changed a lot from our previous cruises.
Rosie's: We ate breakfast and lunch in Rosie's. We tried one breakfast and one lunch in Lincoln dining room, but the service was bad so we preferred the buffet. Lots of variety at the buffet. The 24-hour pizza, ice cream and beverages are great for snacks. The hamburger, hot dogs, and fries in the pool areas are good, but are open limited times. The Lido staff does a great job keeping the area clean.
Room Service: Our daughters had it one morning for breakfast. It arrived on time, but it has a limited selection and small portions.
Spa: Our daughter had a pedicure which she found very good, but more expensive then you would pay at home. The service was $65.00 with an additional minimum $15.00 tip.
Entertainment: There is lots to do like game shows, galley tours, ice carving, deck parties, Bingo, casino, etc. There were 3 shows with the Carnival dancers and singers, 3 comedy/singing shows, and the last night were guests portraying famous entertainers. We liked the cruise director, Chris Jefferson, and he gives an informative talk on debarkation and customs. The super shopper, Andrew Brown, gives talks on the ports of call and good shopping advice. We are not gamblers, so can't comment on the casino.
Ship In General: - Life boat drill mandatory (lasts 15 minutes) - Didn't find the dEcor gaudy like some reviews mentioned - Ship very poorly laid out, can't get completely around some decks - Found the ship rocked a lot (we took medication) - The tables in the dining room shook when the ship increased speed or changed course, as it is located when the rear propellers are - Thought the cigar lounge was too close to the dining area, and should be used as a pre and after dinner lounge - The piano and guitar player outside the casino area was in a poor location, couldn't hear him over the casino noise - Few quiet areas to have an after dinner drink - Nice shops on board with good last day deals - Ship was clean, staff was always cleaning the public areas - Enjoyed the captain's Welcome Aboard party on Monday, Formal night - Special midnight buffet on Friday, great chance to take pictures of the carvings done by the chefs - Chocolate buffet on Saturday at lunch time in Rosie's
Nassau: We did the Atlantis Historical Dig tour. It consisted of taking a ferry from the pier over to Paradise Island. The whole Atlantis resort area inside and out was gorgeous. The underground fish tanks and caves were awesome. A lot of upscale shops near the Atlantis resort which were very expensive, so we did our shopping in the market near the cruise ship.
St. Thomas: Our daughters did the parasailing and loved it. This is the port to do lots of shopping. Jewelry prices are good. There are lots of open-air souvenir markets. It is $4.00 per person for a taxi to the downtown area. There are lots of souvenir and jewelry shops in the Havensight Mall located next to the cruise pier.
St. Maarten: We did the St. Maarten Island tour which took us by bus from the Dutch side to the French side. The French side is very picturesque and a different atmosphere than the Dutch side. We had 45 minutes to do shopping before heading back to the Dutch side. There are lots of souvenir shops and jewelry stores here, but the prices were better in St. Thomas. We bought chocolates are the Belgium Chocolate Shop and they will deliver them to your ship.
Debarkation: Debarkation was a NIGHTMARE. We didn't do self-assist, so we put our bags outside our cabin the night before (pack an overnight bag). We had breakfast, then went to the Ivanhoe Theatre at 8:00am for people with Miami tours or flights before 1:00pm. When we arrived the self-assist people were still in the theatre, as the ship hadn't cleared customs yet. By 9:00am, the self-assist lines were moving, then it was our turn. We picked up our luggage in the terminal, went through customs and onto the bus, by 9:45am. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport at 11:30am and the lines were horrendous. We got checked in by 12:40pm but our flight was at 1:00pm and the security line was huge. The Air Canada agent took us through security and we ran to our flight only to find out the flight was delayed 1 hour. Could someone not have informed the Air Canada agent of the delay we asked? Our response was a blank face from the gate agent. A word of advice, have late flights after a cruise, book your own flights and ground transportation, and never use the Fly Aweigh Program. It was a good cruise, bad airport transfers, and huge line-ups to get on and off the ship. I would travel Carnival again but we will definitely be trying another cruise line for our next cruise.