Flew RDU to FLL, Carnival transfer bus to Miami. Flew in the day we sailed, so no overnight prior to embarkation. Carnival transfer process smooth, but slow and comparatively expensive versus quicker taxi service. Suggest that taxi would be quicker and less frustrating. Porter service was nonexistent. Porter expected tip ahead of moving any bags. At least the luggage made it on board.
Embarkation process was lengthy, but not a cruise killer. We had Funpass already filled out, with passports at the ready. Recommend you go ahead and apply for passport/or bring that, as having it eliminates need for having to obtain certified copy of BC, etc. Rec'd our gold S&S cards and boarded Valor. Did not have to have Bahamas forms. Have heard of others having to do so, but not on this cruise. Not sure why.
Went to cabin as assigned, and met our steward. Cabin service all week was outstanding. Additional gratuity at end of week. As I use vacuum pack bags, steward gave us his vacuum cleaner on Sat night to repack. Room was always made up by 12, if we were out of cabin.
Evening meal late seating in Lincoln DR. Table for four, and had the most charming table mates. Great conversationalists & humorous..looked forward to dinner with them all week. Heard good reviews of Scarlett's, but with great service from Reynaldo and Dennis, and good food, decided to enjoy the DR and not Scarlett's. Pablo was Maitre D' and came by most nights to ask if everything was ok, but was otherwise unremarkable. If a Maitre D' is judged by how well the DR functions, he gets full marks.
Lincoln DR has two levels, and off course, we went to the upstairs level (our table downstairs) farthest away from where we dined. Finally found our table and mates. Shout out here to our buds from DFW area. All week, the meals were good. Ate most breakfasts and lunches on Lido. Rosie's was good. 24hr Pizza outstanding (Calzone like in NYC). Deli Outstanding. Fish and Chips was good, but not as good at I had expected. Sushi bar was available, but hours didn't seem convenient or long enough. Maybe our cruise time clocks were off. Oriental food window was excellent.
FWIW, we don't see a need for the waiter's song/dance routine. If Carnival persists, have it for just one night of the cruise, and never on a formal night. We are sticklers for DR attire. Didn't see any shorts or non collared shirts at dinner. Waiters did stop some kids from cutting though dining room from pool, taking a shortcut to their cabin.
Buffet lines were long, but worth it. Suggestion here to Carnival to place bagels, cream cheese, and breakfast noshes in center table, so people didn't have to ride the scrambled egg line to get a bagel.
Warm melting chocolate was good, but not a rave.
Muster drill was effective and we sailed after the drill. Don't understand the thought process of people who advise waiting 10 minutes after the muster drill is called to leave their cabins so as to stand in the front, or not have to spend so much time one deck. The sooner everyone is accounted for, the sooner it's over. Your waiting in the cabin only causes others to wait longer. Amount of horsing around was surprising. I guess people think that there will never be a need for an evacuation, and they can fart around. And will probably be the most panic stricken passengers when the stuff hits the fan IRL. Two incidents occurred that should have brought the point home. We embarked ahead of Freedom of Seas (RCCI) and she passed us. The evening that the FOS jumper jumped, we were on the aft fantail. I saw the lights on the Coast Guard C130 and took a pic of it when it passed off to our port side. I saw that the tail ramp was down, and told my DW that they were on a SAR mission. Sure enough, we later found out about the FOS jumper.
CC Roll call plan was to meet at the aft pool post embarkation and later at Piano Bar. We were delayed to first mtg, and never did get to meet any of our CC webbies.
The itinerary was Miami-Nassau-Sea Day (formal night)-St. Thomas-St Maarten-Sea Day(2nd Formal)-Sea Day-Miami.
Nassau was friendly enough. We did the Nassau tour and Pirates Museum. Our guide was Mr. Leroy Glass, who had recently celebrated his 63rd WA. Mr Glass was a charming, friendly guide, who took us all over Nassau, gave a credible tour, and was informative to a T. The Pirates Museum was a good diversion. And the gentleman pirate portrayed on the Carnival DVD gave us some great pictures.
Sea Day was a sleep in day from all the crunch time leading up to the cruise. Formal Dinner was great and got to learn more about our dinner companions. Shout out to the Marines and the Army Sergeant, all resplendent in their dress uniforms. Great to have heroes in uniform aboard such a patriotically themed ship. We dressed formally for dinner, as did table mates. Most in DR were in dark suits and dresses.
St Thomas..did the Carnival excursion for Sea Trek at Coral World. Great experience. Driver who took us from ship to CW drove us back through the mountains and stopped at a great photo place. Driver's name is Ali. Great tour guide. Bought some libations for home that will be delivered to the ship.
St Maarten..DO NOT take the shipwreck cove snorkel expedition, if you want anything other than a CF of fins slapping you, and being able to see nautical trash. No real shipwrecks to snorkel. Mass chaos in the water. Water was not as clear as St Thomas. Vessel was a converted landing craft with drop bow. Best part was being able to "swim" aboard the ramp.
2 Sea Days, (2nd formal) again, we went formal, most diners in suits/cocktail dresses.
Saturday night at sundown, I noticed the ship begin to turn to port. We looked out the balcony (upper deck cabin above life boats) and saw crew in the lifeboats ready to deploy. Looking aft, we could see that the ship was turning for SAR. Didn't hear the announcement until later, which was puzzling, because with sunlight fading, the jumper needed all available eyes looking for his DA. He was recovered, and returned to ship. KUDOs to captain and crew and PAX for a combined SAR operation. Was told that he was first to debark, in handcuffs.
1..Shogun Casino. Luck was never a lady there for us. As soon as we sat down at slot machines, apparently the huge Dyson vacuum machine turned on and sucked us clean. Seemed to have ample card tables, but need one more roulette table. Was difficult to place bets at the table we had, as people had to crawl over one another to bet.
2..Piano bar player is 2nd rate. Arrogant. Didn't try to reach out to any except his peeps. Way too much smoke in casino and most of ship. Need better exhaust fans. Karaoke guy was just off the First Communion/quinceanna/bar mitzvah circuit, and was 2nd rate. Teens in karaoke bar at 1130, apparently drinking alcohol.
3. Shows...take or leave..some good, no great, some bad singers.
4. Comedian...painfully bad.
5. Kelli G, CD..WooHoo!. Hopefully she can clean out some of the ash and trash, and bring on fresher entertainment. La La Laura and Hurricane Nicole were a blast. Great team with whom we shared a lot of laughs.
6. Onboard shopping. If you can wait until later in the week, you get some better discounts. I guess Carnival realizes that if you spend all your money at excursion ports, you won't have any for the ship. Too much emphasis on Tanzanite...Nataliya in jewelry store friendly and helpful. Nigel didn't want to be bothered unless he thought you were going to drop serious coin.
7. Photo department...sometimes obnoxious at shoots. Couldn't find a few photo's (and know I'm not calendar material so no way anyone else would want pics of me) Monique from photo took some of her personal time to track down photos, and made copies from photo master files..Big Thanks..
Debarkation was not the CF we thought it was going to be. Did not self debark, but chose to eat at the Lido and wait. Customs wasn't onerous. Problem was that when we got to out luggage, one bag had the bottom seams torn out in two places, 2nd bag ripped in one. Was new luggage for trip. Grabbed the duct tape from bag 3, and attempted to perform a field expedient repair.
Took Carnival transfer to FLL, again slow. Called hotel from airport, and caught shuttle. Stayed at Springhill Suites by Marriott via Hotwire. Motel was a dump. We arrive to check in and was told of problem with hotwire confirmation. Finally got it straightened out hour later. Went to check pool. Hot tub looked like it was ready for lilly pads and frogs…GROSS.
Got to room, had no shower curtain, no hand towels or wash cloths, no ice bucket, one trashcan in entire suite, A/C didn't work, no desk lamp, phone missing replaced with non working model, replaced. Had to call on my cell to front desk to complain. FD asked why I didn't use house phone. I told them it didn't work. AVOID THIS HOTEL AT ALL COSTS.