A little lengthy, but here goes...I started out my day with an 8:35am flight on American out of LaGuardia with no problems. We landed 20 minutes early in Miami at 11:20am. After a short 15 minute wait for the luggage, it was a quick $24 + tip cab ride to the pier. The new Carnival terminal at Miami is a tremendous improvement over the old one. Although I am a Platinum Member with VIP Check-in, I could see the regular lines were moving smoothly and quickly. The new VIP Check-in Lounge is really comfortable. Plenty of couches to sit on and tables to utilize to finish that last minute paperwork like the Bahamas Immigration Form. There were 2 staff at the check-in counter and even with about 10 to 15 people in the lounge, the whole process took about 5 minutes. I was given my Sail & Sign Card and off I went for a quick embarkation photo and I was on the ship by 12:30pm.
As the cabins were not ready yet, I decided to go to the Lido Deck for lunch. Plenty of people already onboard, but the line at the buffet was short and tables were plentiful even for solo cruisers. The variety at the buffet was more than enough to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. One disappoint was that there is no longer Roast Beef available where they make the sandwiches. I was so looking forward to that as it has become a staple each time I sail. I easily found something else to satisfy my hunger.
After lunch it was off to the cabin to drop off the carryon and explore the ship. Since I've been on her before, I knew my way around pretty well and found my cabin easily. Inside Cabin Cat 4B. Since I was traveling solo, I booked a guarantee 1A and was upgraded. I was on Main Deck (Deck 2), not the most desirable place (right under the stage of the Rome Lounge), but to be honest, the only time I had noise was on the last night when they had the Legends show. As I placed my carryon down in the cabin, I could feel the tension leaving my body and the only thing I could think of was "It's nice to be home." I felt so comfortable already and we hadn't even left port yet. It was nice to have the whole cabin to myself, but for some strange reason, my cabin attendant did not want to push the 2 beds together for me. No big deal. I slept on one twin bed and used the other one to display all my towel animals throughout the week.
You can tell the ship is being well maintained. Signs of new carpeting, painting and good maintenance were everywhere. The ship was very clean and I very rarely saw room service trays layout in the hallways for any extended period of time.
Muster drill was the usual, went fairly quickly and then it was time to meet our CC Group for our informal Meet & Mingle. We had such a great group. A variety of people from all over the states and Canada. I had received a plate of 1 dozen chocolate covered strawberries compliments of Carnival and decided better to share than to eat them all and get sick. My fellow CC'ers were more than happy to help me polish off the plate.
Throughout the week, I enjoyed taking advantage of all my Platinum Benefits. It was even nicer since last year I went Platinum on this ship. Kind of a sentimental thing going on now. The priority embarkation, free laundry service, free $20 entry into the slot tournament and of course the canopies delivered to the room at a time I specified just added to the trip.
My dining room companions were 2 great couples in my age group. Always a pleasure to sit down to dinner with them each night. Our Team Head Waiter and Assistant Waiter were definitely not the best I've had on Carnival, but they were not the worst and they did make a big effort to keep us fed and happy. The famous Melting Chocolate Cake with side of Vanilla Ice Cream is a Chocoholic's dream. The entertainment, I for the most part skipped. Spent most of my nights in the casino, where the tables were hot and the slots were not. The Casino Host Raj was great. He and Elena were always very attentive, always warm and friendly. The must see is the magic show. The sea days were fun and relaxing. Brad, the Cruise Director always insured his staff kept us well entertained, even on a day or two when the weather wouldn't cooperate. The weather the whole week for the most part was pretty good. The only exception was in Grand Turk. It was grey overcast and kind of drizzly.
The ports: Half Moon Cay was outstanding. The beach was beautiful. The sand was like powder and the water crystal clear. Although there is not much in the way of sightseeing or shopping, this is truly the best beach day for beach goers. I booked the parasailing excursion and it was worth every penny. It was absolutely wonderful to see Half Moon Cay and the ship from the sky. You definitely feel like you're the only person alive when you're up there.
St. Thomas was beautiful as always. Very hot that day, so I made sure I was off the ship by 9:30am and got all the shopping and walking around town done by 12 noon. Since I'm not much of a beach person, I headed back to the ship after shopping. I purchased yet another beautiful ring, linen tablecloth, liquor and cigarettes. Lunch onboard consisted of plain and pepperoni pizza from the 24 hr pizzeria. Carnival has the best pizza at sea, so I make sure I have it once on each cruise. After lunch, it was time to work on the tan. Perfect day for it. In and out of the sun to the pool. Best part was the Lido deck was half empty, so chairs were plentiful and the deck was a little on the quiet side. Very relaxing. Ordered my Bacardi & Coke and soaked up the sun.
San Juan is really coming back into its own. There is a lot of construction going on in the pier area and you can see they are rejuvenating the waterfront. No tours for me here. I wanted to walk around on my own as I have not been in San Juan for a daytime stop in many years. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around, seeing the changes and soaking up the local atmosphere. I did hear the Bacardi Distillery Tour was great and at the end, there was free rum tasting or something of the sort.
Grand Turk was disappointing as the weather was gray and overcast. Grand Turk is very flat and not very populated. I took a walk to the prefab shopping area and then down to the beach. People were complaining that the sand was coarse and it was very rocky in the water. After a quick couple of pictures and a walkabout, I headed back to the ship within an hour and used the day as if it was another day at sea.
Upon return to Miami, things could not have gone smoother. We docked at 7am. Platinum and VIP were to be in the Rome Lounge for 7:30am. We were off the ship by 7:45am and I was at the Miami airport by 8:30am. Carnival now uses numbers instead of the colored luggage tags, so Platinum and VIP were numbers 1 through 5. If I were not Platinum, I think I was going to be 12. The new terminal does away with the free-for-all scavenging for luggage and now has carousels like the airports. Much improved. Customs is right there in the same area and taxis were easy to come by right outside the building.
I was sad to see this trip come to an end. I just look at it as though it just puts me that much closer to my next cruise. I really did enjoy the week and would sail this ship again.