This was our 1st experience with Port Canaveral and we were very pleasantly surprised.
First a little about ourselves. We are sisters that live together in Dallas, TX. This was our 11th cruise, all with Carnival. We have been traveling VIP due to our CVC membership, but we just got our 1st 2 cruises added to our past guest history a few weeks before this cruise, so we not only were VIP for embarkation/debarkation but had all of the other Platinum perks for the 1st time as well.
We flew in a day early and stayed at the Best Western on Coco Beach. Clean neat hotel, right on the water with a great steakhouse (Durango's) for dinner. We rented a car through Budget since we wanted to do some running around. This was extremely convenient mode of transportation from the airport and they were very efficient in our transfers to and from the port.
We arrived at the port at approximately 11:30, and were directed to VIP check-in the process was smooth as usual. Unfortunately, the ship had gotten back a little late, so even though it only took about 15 minutes to get checked in, we sat outside the VIP office for another 45 minutes or so before we finally boarded the ship.
We went directly to the aft Lido deck for Pizza and a Bloody Mary. Both were great, as usual and we just relaxed on the fantail until we could get to our room. Our CC group had planned a meet and greet at 3pm so as soon as we could drop our carryon's and put on our crazy hats and lei's we headed back up to the Turquoise bar on the Lido. We met lots of great people and had fun just sitting, drinking and sharing for the next hour or so. It was time for the "drill" so we dutifully returned to our cabin and had every intention to head straight to our muster station but we made the near "horrible" mistake of just laying back on our beds for a "brief" moment. Well you guessed it we woke up about 25 minutes later to the sound of the announcement that everyone should be at their muster stations, so we grabbed our gear and dashed up 2 flights and outside we went. I was embarrassed to be so delayed, but all was good as we weren't in line (at the front) for 45 seconds when they blew the all clear.
Sis and I almost always cruise on an inside guarantee (unless it's something special like Europe) so our room was just as we've come to love on Conquest class ships. We like to be midship and actually prefer deck 6 but deck 2 on this trip was just fine.
So, for the ports of call:
Nassau - I would prefer not to go to this port anymore. I've been several times, almost nothing is open until almost noon, then you have to be back on the ship early. I treat it like a sea day and enjoy and relatively empty ship. I did get off long enough to buy a t-shirt for a friend, then it was back to my book and relaxing.
St. Thomas - The immigration process was very easy. We got a letter in our cabin the night before to let us know that we would meet in a lounge the following morning and be the 1st through customs then off the ship. And they were true to their word. There may not have been that many VIP cruisers on board because we only waited with about 20 other people. We were off the ship within 20 minutes. Again, having been to St. Thomas many times we shopped at Havensite mall (I was looking for perfume, which was cheaper on the ship), then we hopped a bus to go around to downtown and did a little shopping there.
St. Maarten - More shopping, the ship still had the best prices on perfume so no purchases in port for me. Sister wasn't feeling well, so we just went back to the ship for a relaxing afternoon.
As you can tell, we cruise for the ship not for the excursions most of the time. I love just being able to relax away from phones, and the demands of my job. Cruising is the only time that I get to read a book (and I read 2 this trip).
We spent quite a long time in the Casino everyday and we're able to pay about $750 against our S&S card with a couple of small jackpots. I thought the casino actually seemed bigger on this ship, but maybe it just wasn't as crowded. We didn't make any of the shows but perhaps that's where everyone was. They looked entertaining enough on the TV.
The food was excellent, our waiter and room stewards were attentive and helpful, just as I’ve always come to expect from Carnival. My only complaint if I had to make one was it seems that in the past few years communication with particularly the room stewards and cleaning people has become much more difficult. It just doesn’t seem that they speak or understand as much English as they used to.