We flew from Buffalo NY to Fort Lauderdale on the day of cruising. We did not encounter any problems. We had booked the Carnival transfer and were met at the luggage claim by a very pleasant, helpful Carnival Team. We were hungry however were assured lunch was on the Lido deck before departing. We arrived at the Miami cruise dock in due time, however it took nearly 2 hours to embark as apparently the computers were down. We were handed customs forms for the Bahamas when we were almost at the desk and the forms needed to be filled in for each of us before we could embark. It might have been a good idea to hand those forms out a little earlier as we had plenty of time while waiting in line. At least we did not have to drag our luggage. By the time we got on-board, lunch was over. No more food was available until we left the port. Our departure time was supposed to be 4 pm. It was closer to 6 pm. as the life boat drill needed to be completed be for we left.
Immediately upon embarking we went to locate our cabin. At first we thought it might be too noisy so way back so far and close to engines. It turned out quite nice. Our TA has suggested mid-ship would be the best. As the days went by we realized aft was better. No waves smacking the ship, no traffic coming and going from the cabins.
Our cabin was roomy and clean. Much nicer than when we cruised on the Carnivale. This time the bathroom door stayed closed when we had rough seas! The bed was comfortable and everything worked including the TV and hairdryer. The cabin was made up twice per day, once in the morning and turned down in the evening all except for one morning. The day we stopped in San Juan, we came back to the ship to drop off some packages and change to cooler clothes and discovered the room was not cleaned. It still wasn't done until we came back from dinner. While we expected the service, we weren't there to worry about it.
There were plenty of activities on board to participate in if desired. People watching can be entertaining as well. The entertainment was fun. The cruise director was as good as the comics and the Legends show was very funny. We used the formal night to take advantage of the photo ops.
We ate in the dining room for breakfast and dinner every day. After all, we can go stand in a line for food anytime at home. We had the 5:45 seating in the Paris Dining room. We had a "good choice" of wait staff. They were fun and friendly and went out of their way to remember our names. They were even patient when we lingered as the last table to leave the dining room. The food was excellent; we tried new things and even though it might not have been to our taste, there was nothing wrong with any of the menu items. The portions were not so huge that you left much on your plate yet still room enough to try others. There were two formal nights however the second one was following the afternoon at Grand Turk. We had an early seating so it was tight to get back and changed in time for dinner. Maybe the second formal night could have been the day at sea. We enjoyed the pizza, juice, coffee and ice cream available any time. The Gala Buffet was beautifully presented yet the line-up was too long to bother partaking, especially after 1a.m. I remember a nicer buffet with hot and cold foods back in 1991 on the Carnivale. We enjoyed closing out our evening at the New World Pool Bar where we made friends with the evening bartender.Half Moon Cay was beautiful despite the torrential downpour. There were three tenders to take us to the island. Due to the rain anyone who had booked an excursion or paid for a clam shell or cabana was refunded their expense and everyone was encouraged to find shelter any way they could. Eventually the rain subsided and we enjoyed the BBQ. Kudos to the crew for all the work involved in moving all the food and drink to the island and back again, especially in the rain. Sure the nacho chips were a bit damp, but it was worth the effort.
St. Thomas is worth a separate visit. The only shore excursion we took was the Skyride in St. Thomas. The view was spectacular. We took a taxi into town to shop and our driver promised us an island tour for only $20. per person instead of the usual $25. however we lost ourselves in shopping, especially in the ship recommended shops.
San Juan was another wandering through the streets/shopping day. Grand Turk had limited activities and while margaritaville was noisy it was not so bad on the beach just beyond it. Again it was rainy upon our arrival, yet cleared in the afternoon.
After leaving Grand Turk, we experienced high winds. For safety reasons, higher outdoor decks were closed and the Captain announced he had changed course to try to find calmer seas.
Disembarking at HMC was tedious waiting in long slow lines until we understood it was due to the rough seas and the tenders having a bit of difficulty joining the ship. We did not experience any other significant delays in disembarking at any other port. Upon our return we chose Self-Assist to disembark in Miami as we expected long lines and delays at customs. It did not turn out that way. We could have enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and let the ship look after our luggage. We had a flight out of Fort Lauderdale at 1:30 and were worried about getting to the airport on time. We had plenty of time as we arrived there before 9:30, too early to even check in. Luckily we were able to book an earlier flight for a minimal charge and arrive home before our original flight even landed.
The only negativity was a comment or two we heard from other guests who had wished they had cruised with a different cruise line. They chose this one because of the ports of call. You can't compare apples to oranges any more than you can compare one cruise line to another.
We met some great people and had a fantastic time. My husband has already secretly started looking into another cruise with our Carnival Representative.