We just got back; had a Blast!
Background: This was my (43) first cruise and my wife's (43) second cruise. We took her 2 daughters (13, 17) and my daughter (14). Yes, 1 male, 4 females. We had a Great time and I am so glad my wife talked me into going. I was in the Navy and always swore I would never pay to go on a cruise. Believe me, Carnival's and the Navy's ideas of a cruise are two different worlds apart. Because it was my' first cruise, I found Cruise Critic on the Net and appreciated all the good advice.
Embarkation: Do arrive before noon or after 2p. This means show up to park around 11am. Don't decide to port all of your own bags unless you are super light packers. We were not light packers; remember 1 male, 4 females. We did port our own bags and looked silly and it also allowed me to drop our passport info prior to ever reaching the gangway. Yes, I found it, No the hits I received from the 4 females did not leave any bruises.
Ship: Clean! French impressionist paintings everywhere throughout the ship. No Navy haze grey. Staff represented 57 countries and all were courteous and helpful. Do use the spa steamroom, sauna, jacuzzi, fitness equipment every day at sea.
Staterooms: Had 2 inside rooms on lowest deck. We switched, on our own, to my wife and I in 1 room and the 3 girls in another without any problems. Plenty of room even for the over packing. Ramone the room steward combined the beds in our room to 1 queen sized bed. Mattress is super comfortable, enjoyed how dark the room got, and really was not bothered with any hall noise, but we are both deep sleepers.
Dining: Do frequent your scheduled main Dinning. Do Dress up, kinda. Do order 2 Entrees. Don't miss the Fish and Chips above the Aft Buffet line. I have been told I am a picky eater, I liked most everything. The girls loved the short line to the made to order omelet's each morning. I worked out every day at sea and still gained 4 pounds.
Entertainment: Do attend anything in which Cruise Director Mark Price is speaking. Funny! Don't expect much from the Magician. Don't be swayed by earlier posts of the risquE dancers (pg, somewhere between Disney and Vegas). Don't blow your money in the Casino, many complaints about tight slots. I did slip off for a few hours one day and tried my luck at the Texas Holdem table. It was Poker Pro, a computerized table and I won $200 and was happy with that. I resisted urges of being sucked back in to lose my winnings as everyone I talked to did on their second day. It would be neat if they would have an actual organized TH Tournament.
Ports: Don't book through Carnival. Do plan what you're going to do ahead of time. Jamaica: We went of the advice of CC members and took a taxi to sunset beach (2$ person) loved Sunset Beach, then we took a taxi to margaritaville, Taxi driver honored our request to stop by a shopping area that he was OK with and then waited outside margaritaville 1 hr and took us back to boat (8$ person). Jamaica was our unanimous favorite port. Tropical feel, Yea Mon! Please note the slides' dividers at Sunset are a little rough on the back, take an extra t-shirt.
Grand Cayman: Do book ahead of time on the internet. We used Island Marketing ltd and went on Capt Bryan's Buccaneer Catamaran Boat. They were good, but no food or rum free. 3 Snorkel stops and "motor/sailed" back to the dock. We paid 39$ person and had plenty of room on the boat. Great Snorkeling, but if you have someone not thrilled with the taste of saltwater (as we did) modify your excursion, but don't miss the rays. If they have a glass bottom boat out to the ray sand bar, that would be great. Rest of island to me looks like Florida (where I'm from). Flat, a few palm trees, and buildings. Do get to the water.
Cozumel: Shops, shops, and more shops. We shopped and then we rented a Jeep (45$ and prices varied), then went to paradise beach, ok, but no Sunset, however free entry. If we would rented the Jeep earlier in the day it would have been more worth it, but the females shopped and shopped. I tolerated the shopping with all the free shots of Tequila at various shops. Don't drink the free shots of tequila sitting previously poured in little cups. You can easily choose to book a excursion at the end of the pier or as you walk towards the shops. Go left.
Disembarkation: Do carry bags off if you have flight or a long drive ahead. My daughter had a Noon flight. We were off at 730am. Printed our flight info and they never asked for it. We had to get off at the 0 level instead of level 3, no problem. Porters met us at the end of the gangway and lesson learned let him carry all the bags. Customs was a breeze which segways into "Other" note below.
Other: Don't take every warning and scare tactic Carnival as concrete. I'm sure they have to cover their own butoots. They never asked to see our flight info, Cubans make their way without problem, Liquor in water bottles easily makes it on the boat, self booked excursions go fine, deck chairs get saved...
What to bring; all are Do's and most are compiled from ideas of other posts: 1. power strip 2. wine, sodas, and rum in a water bottle (so I hear) 3. seasick pills for start of trip- free on boat deck 0 4. alarm clock 5. clothes pin for shower curtain 6. underwater camera 7. digestive aids 8. sweater/sweatshirt- females were cold in parts of ship 9. magnets for post of activity schedule on metal walls 10. backpack for excursions 11. cheap towels for marking deck chairs 12. wine corker/screw 13. tie/jacket/shoes/slacks/shirt/belt 14. night light-we didn't use,but enables less disturbance of bunkmate 15. snorkel gear- if already have 16. alcohol hand gel 17. plenty of sunscreen/lip balm