Miami needs to revamp their loading and unloading zones. We arrived about 10:30AM to the port bust waited in the traffic lines for 2 hours just to drop off bags and park the car. They have no clear path to load and unload and its just mass craziness with people debarking and others arriving. Anyhow, went to the VIP check in which was quick and smooth, took us to a waiting area and we were on board with-in 15 to 20 minutes.
We have sailed many Carnival cruises before and found this ship to be as wonderful as the rest. It is very clean and beautifully decorated with a sea theme. Fish mosaics and statues. The lounges are great. We loved the band Simple Friends, played all kinds of music from Jimmy Buffet to 70's /80's tunes. We didn't see very much of the lido deck band Cool Runnings, it seemed their equipment was always broken or it was raining. Carnival needs to do something about this, perhaps designing covered band platforms on the newer ships.
The lido deck is wonderful. Never had a problem finding a table or lounge chair which has been a problem on other ships. The dining room was great. Our waiters I-Katuk and Shaun were fantastic. They made sure we had everything we needed. They even let DH take an A-1 sauce with us for the steak sandwiches on the lido deck.
Food was wonderful in the dining room. Ate lots of the famous chocolate melting cake. The Neptune platter "fried seafood" was also delicious. The tilapia was fantastic also. The buffets were OK, on par with other ships we have been on. I was disappointed in the organization of the food stations though. They seem to stagger the opening of the buffets. There are 4 total with only one opening at a time so lines are always very long. AT noon, there is only one line open you wait a very long time. It wasn't until 1:30pm that they opened the last section. With that many people on the ship, it would be better to have them all open at once. The staff also get very upset if you try to take food before it is "open". We traveled with our 1 year old daughter and the first sea day we went up for breakfast at 7:15am. No food was available so I tried to grab a box of cereal for her from a bowl sitting out and was scolded stating the buffet didn't open until 8am. What kind of ship doesn't have food available at 7:15am?
Cabin was nice, spacious. We didn't have any furniture on the balcony to start off. I figured it was in response to the recent jumpers but by the second day our cabin steward delivered brand new balcony chairs and a table. Cabin was kept very clean and are steward was prompt.
San Juan, we didn't even get off the boat. We had the baby and we have been there twice already so nothing new to see.
St, Maarten, did some shopping and hit the beach by the pier. Great deals on liquor, perfumes and souvenirs. This is our favorite port so we enjoyed going back.
St Thomas, did more shopping, great deals on Jewelry. We ate at Cuzzins, a fodors recommended restaurant. It was very crowded but we were served very quickly. Good caribbean type food. A bit pricey though.
Sea Days, I found this ship didn't have as many activities as others we have been on. Still, dancing classes were fun, ice carving was neat. Pool games were the same "survivor" type contests. The last day the spa has a massage table set up outside and you could get a back/neck massage 15 minutes for $15 ...not bad since they charge 100-150 in the spa. It was great, very relaxing.
Camp carnival, Our daughter was too young for the camp but we did use the "under 2" time twice. Once I stayed and played with the toys with her. The second time we dropped her off for babysitting 12-2pm on sea days. She did great. They gave us a beeper but we were never paged.
Debarkation was a nightmare. Not only did you have the traffic problems with nothing clearly marked but it was pouring down rain. They got 5 inches of rain in 1 hr! It took us another 2-3 hours to get the luggage loaded into the car and leave the port.
All in all, it was a good vacation. We are looking forward to the next cruise.