Background History: We were traveling with a group of 10, all family. Ages ranged from 77 to 16. This was a first cruise for our entire group. Let me begin by saying all of us absolutely loved it!
I read several reviews before our trip so I somewhat knew what to expect. I was designated as the family "Cruise Director" so I had to do research and report back to everyone. All of the reviews I read were very helpful. One tip I would like to add before beginning this review is if you are traveling in a large group, have everyone paired up by room assignments before you enter the terminal doors. We made the mistake of not doing this and it caused confusion. Also, have your tickets already passed out to the appropriate people. I had 4 tickets in my bag and had to hurry and get them passed out before going through the door. I could not find the ticket for my mother and daughter. We frantically searched in our bags for it, thinking I had misplaced it or accidentally left it at home!! Ended up my husband was holding it thinking it was our ticket. I had our ticket! After chewing him out and beginning our journey on a bad note, we were able to enter the terminal. We did kiss and make up before boarding and yes, I did apologize!!
Galveston Hotel: Had major, major problems with our hotel reservations in Galveston. I had made reservations 2 months in advance with Ramada Limited with a rate of $119 and we reserved 3 rooms. I called 2 days before leaving our home town to confirm our reservations. Everything was a-okay. When we got to the hotel to check in we knew there was a problem because the desk person immediately got the manager. We were told there was a problem with the credit card we submitted for the reservation. I don't know what the problem was on their end but we had been using the credit card everyday and had no problems. It is a credit card that is for our checking account and has an overdraft protection on it as well. If the account showed there wasn't any money available it would have gone into the overdraft without any problem. Anyway, the manager said our reservations were cancelled! She did have rooms available but with only king size beds and the rate of $119 would not be in effect but the rate of $153 would. Needless to say we were ticked, to put it mildly. How are we going to find rooms the night before a cruise leaves and to find 3 rooms?! My thought was why tell me the reservation was good when I called if it in fact was not? Why include a phone number with the reservation if you are not going to use it when there is a problem? Anyway, we were able to find rooms at the Red Carpet Inn. Not the fanciest motel but was okay. The rooms had just been remodeled and were adequate. They were very courteous and pleasant. Won't be going back to the Ramada Limited again.
Embarkation: We arrived at EzCruise at around 11:30 and had to be taken to the second parking lot. The first was full. It took a few minutes before we had enough people in the line before we headed to the 2nd parking lot. Once there, we had to make sure everyone had their tags on their luggage. Good thing I picked up a thing of scotch tape the night before. That took a little while corralling 10 people! The bus finally came to pick us up to take us to the terminal. Boy was it hot!!! We had a minor mishap while waiting for the EzCruise bus. Someone in our party, not naming names here, had set a 12 pack of DrPepper on top of one of the rolling suitcases. Well, it was too heavy and ended up falling over. We had cokes spraying everywhere. We ended up with only 3 cokes out of 12. Oh well, it made our carryon that much smaller. Arrived at the terminal, found a porter, and headed to the door. Recall the previous statements about handing out tickets to your party ahead of time... Okay, we are finally in the door now and waiting in the line to be screened. I don't remember how long this took but it seemed to be going pretty fast. One note to include, my mom used a rolling cart to assist her in walking. She was sent through the VIP line instead of waiting in the longer line. I thought that was nice. Next was the line to get your sail and sign cards. There was no wait here, went straight to the window. We had our group picture taken and then to the ship. I was totally amazed at the size of the ship and the decor!!! I have read where people were not impressed with the decor, that it looked like old vegas. I thought it was just fine. Very colorful! By the time we put cash on our sail & sign, added a shore excursion for one member of our party, it was time to find our rooms. We were all together except for one room. It was on the same hall but on the other side of the elevators. Still close enough. We all had inside rooms on the floor Main. I felt some vibration in our room but it was not terribly rough. I was nice being rocked to sleep every night.
Cabin: It was an inside room and was spacious. There were just 2 of us in the room, though. If there were more, it would feel crowded. We followed everyone's advice and brought an over-the-door shoe organizer. That is the number one thing on my packing list now! It is a must! It kept everything together and kept the desk from getting cluttered. Second necessary item on my packing list is a lanyard. This was so much easier to keep up with your sail & sign card as well as your room key. We hooked the key through one of the holes on the card but realized that was a pain to take it off before we could insert it into the door. If any of you don't know what the room keys look like, I will explain. They are plastic cards that insert into the door. They have holes placed strategically on it and I guess this is what opens the door. We hooked our lanyard through one of these holes but you had to take it off to insert it into the door. We asked at the Information desk if we could put a hole in it as well. They said yes and proceeded to do so for us. Glad we did not wait too long to ask. We had already asked them to put a hole in our Sail & Sign card. I guess they get this alot. The only problem I had with this particular room is I awoke every morning and could not see outside. Duh, it's an inside room with no window. I like to see what the weather is like, if the sun has come up yet, etc. It's not really a complaint about the room so much as I will book an outside room with a window next time. The room was just fine for an inside room with no window and yes, it gets dark in there. We brought a nitelight and only used it once. There is enough light coming under the door to not make it too dark. Also, bring air freshener for the bathroom. We unpacked, even our checked luggage. It came pretty early. We headed to our stations for the muster drill about 30 minutes early. This was our first time and did not know what to expect. Yes, they do turn off the elevators. I did not want my mom to have to climb the stairs so we went early. Luckily her station was in an air-conditioned room. Ours was on the Lido deck. Very hot but did not last long. Some people were blowing the whistles that were attached to the lifejackets. Do they really think their mouths were the only ones that have touched them? Yuk! When we finished we went to the front of the ship to watch sail away. We did not even realize we were moving until we looked out. Don't use the plastic ID tags on your lanyard unless it is a snug fit. My daughter lost her room key. We were on the top deck but luckily it fell to the lower deck and not out into the water. After that we punched holes in our cards and put them on it directly.
Dining: We ate at the buffet for breakfast except the few times we ordered room service. They were prompt in delivering our food, a plus, but the coffee was terrible. Too strong and had a funky taste. We also had the buffet for lunch, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and sandwiches. All very good! We made it to the dining room for dinner all but 1 night. I was intimidated the first night but soon got over it. I am a simple to please person and this felt like we were in a fancy restaurant. They put your napkin in your lap, arrange your silverware for you inbetween courses, etc. It was nice to be pampered so I soon got over it. Our waiter, Tudor, and his assistant, Arnold, were very good. They were bringing our next course immediately after we completed the previous. They remembered what bread we ate every night and also who drank tea with their meal and who just wanted water. Very efficient! It was a joy talking to them!
Entertainment: We went to a show every night and loved every one of them. My favorite was the Extreme Country. They sang the song "I am proud to be an American". That was very touching. Especially since we are at war and my nephew as recently joined the army. Also, loved the hypnotist. I laughed so hard! Very funny! We went to the shops on board and purchased tshirts. If you wait until the last day, they have shirts for 2/$20. Not the ones they have on sell now but different designs. We bought 2 each. The jewelry store will have good deals as well. They had a raffle the first night and my husband won! It was a diamond heart necklace with a small heart inserted in the middle. Beautiful! We also played bingo and he won at that too. Thinking he's pretty lucky? Wait until you read the next line.
Shore Excursions: We booked an excursion through Carnival for the Sail and Snorkel. Had a blast! The margaritas and beer where flowing freely!! Fun had by all, especially my husband. Let me just say we almost made a trip to the Infirmary. Too much beer, unsteady on his feet, and a door frame!!! Need I say more?! I patched him up and sent him to bed. Have you ever tried putting a bandaid on a forehead when the patient keeps raising his eyebrows up and down?! Me either, until now! We are still laughing about that!!! He is just fine now and remembers very little. He awoke hours later ready to go shopping in Cozumel. Had to inform him we had left the port 1 1/2 hours ago. No shopping for him! We just went shopping in Progresso and went to the beach. Not as clean as Cozumel but got great deals.
Debarkation: We carried our luggage off ourselves and it was a time saver. We were back to the cars pretty early and on our way home.
I did not want to go into great detail because each review tells pretty much the same things. But I will give you a few pointers that I had not come across before our trip: If there is a tshirt in the gift shop you like get it but on the last day they have a 2/$20 sale. Not same designs though but good shirts. The pictures Carnival took were really good. We bought 3 as well as 3 on the excursion. Fury Catamarans took some underwater pictures for us and of us snorkeling. Reasonable prices. The swimming pools and the hot tubs are salt water. Never a problem for us. There are plenty of places to curl up and read a book. I loved the windows along the City of Lights. You could just sit there and gaze out over the water or people watch. I never had a problem with the rocking, some did. The problem I had was looking out over the railing from the top deck after dark. It was very dark and you could not see the water. You knew it was there but could not see it. Spooky! You can not take candles on the ship. They sell them in the ports but it is a problem if you purchase one and try to carry it on. No one has mentioned you will continue to rock and sway once you are off the ship. It took me a few days after returning home to get over that. And, in conclusion, Yes-we did the crying dance when we had to leave!!!