This was our fourth cruise. Our family is myself (46) , husband (40) and twin boys (10). We have cruised 3 times with Carnival and once with Disney.
We drove from Waco to Galveston the morning of the cruise. The drive takes about 4 hours with stops in various small towns in Texas. We arrived in Galveston at about 11:30. The weather was overcast. When we arrived at the port the prior cruise was still disembarking and it was very hectic. The baggage porters are great. They know exactly what to do and keep everything straight. We dropped off the luggage and proceeded to parking. We waited in a very long line for security and check in. Wait time for all of this was 1 hour. We were onboard at 1:15. They did not allowing entry to the cabins until 2:00. We went to deck 9 and had the first of many buffets.
We had an OV cabin. The layout of the cabin was better than some. The 2 twin beds pushed together next to the window. Plenty of storage space. The cabin was always kept very clean. The bed was firmer than I prefer. We told the room steward and he put an extra duvet on my side and it was perfect. Embarkation was almost an hour late. The muster drill was hot and crowded. We quickly forgot about all of the unpleasantness. Our dinner time was at 5:45. We were in the monet restaurant. Our waiter and fetcher were both from Peru. Once he forgot my appetizer and once he never brought our coffee and tea but mostly he was great. We ate at the restaurant 4 nights.
We spent the first 2 sea days doing mostly nothing. It was great. My favorite spot was in the shade in the sky grill. This is located on deck 9 aft. The boys really loved camp carnival. They were old enough to sign themselves in an out this year. We had them check in with us at certain times throughout the day. We would check on them unannounced to make sure they were not causing trouble or roaming about. We have cruised before so we had seen all of the Newlywed not so Newlywed games. The hairy chest contests are all the same. We take advantage of this time to find quiet spots on the ship. You can always find a spot in the shade. One of my goals for this cruise was to avoid sunburn for everyone. I am proud to say that the goal was reached. We used 2 cans and 1 tube of sunblock. The hot tub is empty at night during the show. The kids went to the shows with camp and several nights they ate supper with camp.
Jamaica was my favorite port. We planned ahead to go to sunset beach. We held back a little leaving the ship until about 9:00. The taxi line is clearly marked and they get a cab for you. We rode with another family. It was $2 a person. That's a little high because it is only a mile but it made it stress free. The resort cost was $120. $40 for adults and $20 per child. This was a fun day. There is a lagoon for snorkeling with plenty of shade. We rode the paddle boats and kayaks. The kids favorite part was the water park. There are 2 slides and a lazy river. It was very well maintained and clean. Once again there were great shaded areas. The people were very friendly. The food was not so good. We had the buffet for lunch. Later in the afternoon we got food from the grill. None of it was very edible but it staved off starvation for the day. We also got all the drinks. We took the taxi back to the ship for the same price. The port to get back on the ship was hot with a long line. This line took 45 minutes to get thru Jamaican security and then back on the ship. There was a little Jamaican marching band entertaining us while we boarded. I forgot I was annoyed. They had tip bags. We threw a few dollars in.
Grand Cayman got off to a bad start. We purchased the island stingray city excursion through carnival. I had prepurchsed these online. This cost $270 for the 4 of us. We didn't read the tickets which clearly stated that we needed to be on a tender at 7:15. We arrived at the tender at 7:45 and of course we missed our tour. They kindly agreed to put us on the 10:00 am tour. We walked around the shopping area. Grand Cayman is beautiful but the bus was cramped. We saw the turtle farm and hell. I wouldn't recommend this. We did learn some interesting history from the bus driver/tour guide but you can learn this from reading a book. The stingray city was better. The operator was Frank's marine. The crew was very friendly. There was rum punch and regular punch. They also sold bags of chips for $1. The sandbar is beautiful. I didn't like the stingrays as much as I thought I would. The kids liked them. One of my kids was not feeling well. I thought he was acting up but later that night he had a fever. I felt awful for fussing at him. The tender back to the ship was horrible. We waited in a long line around the corner in the baking hot sun. I've already talked about how much I love the shade. Luckily we had slathered on the sun screen. It look us 1 hour and 5 minutes to get back on the ship.
Cozumel was stress free. We have been here before so we knew what to expect. This port is very easy access on and off. We could see the terminal from the ship so we waited until the crowd dissipated to disembark. We took a cab to Paradise beach. It was helaciously hot. The beach and facilities are very clean and pretty. We got chairs and an umbrella. They want you to eat or drink to use their umbrellas. We bought arm bands for the kids and my husband for $9 each. This includes use of the floating iceberg and trampoline, snorkeling etc. I stayed firmly in the shade. I ventured out a few times to cool off in the water. We ate lunch and took a taxi back to the pier. Total spent $99. We shopped a little at the port. Getting back on the ship was extremely easy.
I recommend going out on your own in port. It is so much simpler and less crowded. You spend so much time in crowds on the ship it's nice to get some breathing space.
The decorative style of the ship is impressionist. I liked it but my husband didn't really get it. It was cute. The lounges had names such as Vincents, Monet, Renoir etc. It was in good repair. There were crew every where you looked and they were all friendly. I thought the cruise director Mark Price was annoying but I think all cruise directors are annoying. They did try to sell you merchandise during the entire cruise. There was jewelry, photos, art etc etc. This is typical of all cruises. I mostly ignore it.
I did have a major bone to pick with carnival. When we checked in we told them not to allow charging privileges for the kids. On day 6 one of them decided to try his card at the arcade and of course it worked. His brother decided to try his as well and it worked. They charged $25 before we discovered this. We made the boys pay us back and we yelled at them a little. The purser refused to do anything about their mistake. She said it was the port agents mistake and "bummer for us".
I went to the spa the last port day for a pick 3 special. I had a facial, foot massage and a manicure. I liked it. I felt like I got close to the price for the services at home. She didn't try to sell me anything.
We chose to self assist for disembarkation. Our level was the first called. We ate a quick breakfast and headed down. We walked right off of the ship but waited 45 minutes to get through customs. My husband and the boys got the car and we were on the road in 15 minutes.
We had a great vacation. I got home relaxed and I did not want to go back to work. In the future I think I will pick a smaller ship with fewer people. That is just my preference. I prefer smaller resorts as well. I would recommend this cruise. You will have a fabulous time.