We are a couple in our late twenties who have lived all over the U.S. This is our third cruise, but our second with Carnival.
We chose to take the pre-paid transfers from Miami Airport to the Port of Miami. We will never choose this option again. Once our flight landed, we rushed to get our luggage, but we had to wait for 30 minutes for the Carnival representative to show up. Then, we followed him through the airport to a bus outside. Once we got on the bus, we expected we would have to wait for other passengers, but we didn’t expect to wait for close to an hour. In fact, we also had to wait for people who were taking a timeshare visit to board the bus. Even though we were dropped off first, it sort of got us off to a bad start to have to wait for people who were not even on our cruise.
The embarkation process was relatively smooth. The whole process was about 40-45 minutes, but it was split into three different stations. You first had to register (even with your Fun Pass in hand), get your Sail & Sign card and then you had to go on the ship to register your Sail & Sign card with a credit card. After that, you were able to get to your room.
We went to check out our room and found it was a good size – it appeared larger than our rooms on the Jubilee or on the HA MS Amsterdam. We were on the main deck, where most of the cabins are located, and we had an ocean view. Our luggage arrived soon after we got into our room, but we were upset to find out that someone broke our Delsey luggage between when we put our locks on it at the port and when it arrived in our room. The damage was so bad that we think it must have been hit with the forklift. We recommend lugging your luggage in with you so as to avoid this unfortunate problem. Carnival was not willing to do anything except tell us that they would be willing to refund us up to $50 if we bought new luggage on the islands. Obviously, $50 won’t buy you a large piece of Delsey luggage! So, we will have to take this up with Carnival later this week.
Onwards and upwards! We had three ports of call: Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios.
We had visited Cozumel on a previous cruise in 2003, but we found the stop to be very uneventful this time around. We did not do a shore excursion on this stop, but instead spent a majority of our time inside the beautiful Margaritaville. Margaritaville’s restaurant backs up to the water, and customers can swim in the ocean out to a float to sun themselves. You can also feel free to snorkel there. This is a great benefit and costs you nothing! The food is very tasty and is reasonably priced (around $14-$16 USD for an entrée). Also, the waiters brought all tables free orders of fried calamari since we came in on the cruise. I highly recommend starting out there.
When in Grand Cayman, we took the one-hour Trolley Roger tour. Steve from Canada was our tour driver. He was dressed as a pirate and playfully imparted a lot of knowledge of the local culture. He also gave a tour of the homes on the island. We booked this tour through Carnival. It was only $25pp, and I highly recommend it.
Before we headed to Jamaica, we looked up the driver Phil Lafayette (phil-lafayette-tours.com). You can find his tours online and book them in advance. Phil has a great knowledge and love of Jamaica and will definitely show you a good time. Bring extra cash in case you decide to do any side tours with him (for example, you can experience a real Jamaican barbecue in a beautiful setting for less than $6USD after seeing Dunns Falls).
Other highlights of the trip include listening and singing along to music in The Big Easy Piano Bar and watching the magic and comedy shows on board.
The magic show was incredible and the dancers and choreography were the highlight of that show. We saw the late night comedy show, so it was a bit dirty. Unfortunately, we were in the first three rows and therefore we got picked on a bit. If you bought the video, let us know if we’re on there. We forgot all about it and we hope to find a copy!
There were a lot more kids on board than we expected to find, but they were usually in Camp Carnival and we rarely crossed paths.
We met some really great people on board and on our shore excursions. We wish we would have met more people, but our dinner partners only showed up to dinner in the dining room on the second to last night. We had requested a large table, but we ended up at a table for four by ourselves! My advice is if you want to meet more people, go to breakfast and lunch in the dining room whenever possible.
We decided to do a tour on our way back to Miami Airport. We didn’t want to take our transfer and the debarkation process was terrible. Even though our tour was supposed to meet at 8:30 a.m. in the Oxford Lounge to leave at 8:45, we didn’t even leave the Oxford Lounge until about 9:30. It took us so long to get through the line, even with a porter for our luggage who didn’t play by the rules. We didn’t leave the port until after 10 a.m. to go on our 3 ½ hour tour. If you have an early flight, it might be best to skip this one. However, we had a lovely time in South Beach – even though our tour was relatively short. We spent two hours walking around South Beach on our own before we had to go to the bus. I do recommend the restaurant Fratelli La Bufala for some pretty decent Neapolitan pizza.
About dining onboard: we found the late service in the Paris Dining Room, Upper Level, to be extremely slow. Our servers were Fernando from Peru and Manuel from Venezuela (I hope I got those right). We would be seated at 8 p.m. and order by 8:10, but we would not have our appetizer until 8:50 every night. The dinners lasted until at least 10:15 every night… and we almost missed the shows as a result! We’re not slow eaters at all, and we could never find our waiters when we needed water or if something came out wrong from the kitchen. The food was decent enough, but even my husband didn’t gain any weight with reason.
Overall, the cruise was good. From conversations we had with other passengers, we will likely try Royal Caribbean next time.