Background - This is our first cruise, my boyfriend and I our both 26 and from the Philadelphia area. We had read a lot of reviews from Cruise Critic and were excited about the vacation but were getting a little leery from some of the bad reviews. We booked the cruise directly through Carnival and had no problems. We also book most of our excursions through Carnival and had most of them booked early has well. Being our first cruise we wanted everything has hassle free as possible.
Embarkation - We flew direct from Philadelphia on US Air to San Juan Sunday morning and landed around 11 am. We took a taxi take straight to the airport and went right into the lines for check in for the ship and security and so forth. They started boarding the ship at 12:00 but did not allow access to the rooms until 2:30 but you could go to the Lido deck and get lunch. By the time we got checked it, got our sign n sail cards, got through security, and ate lunch it was 2:30. We went to our room, took a little nap and showered and then ventured back into San Juan around 5:00. We browsed around the town for a few hours and returned to the ship around 8 and crashed early for the night. We even missed the shipped sailing away.
Cabin - We had low expectations but were pleasantly surprised. We had an inside cabin and were expecting basically a bed with about a foot of walking space around it. We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of room we had. There was tons of closet space, a few drawers, and a huge medicine cabinet in the bathroom. The room was very clean and everything in it was in good shape and looked brand new. The bed was extremely comfortable, the air conditioning worked well. We could not have been more pleased!!
St. Thomas - This was the only day we did not do a Carnival excursion. It was my boyfriend's birthday and he has always been dying to go to Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. So for his gift I rented a powerboat with a captain to take us out and about for the day. This was probably our most favorite day! We went boating around the islands, stopped in West End Tortola, Great Bay-JVD and then spent most of the afternoon hanging out and drinking at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. I would recommend everyone going there at some point in there life!!
Dominica - We did the Wacky Rollers Rainforest thing. This started off very odd and cheesy but ended up being great. You ride in open jeeps and the ride itself is quite interesting. The roads there are very steep, unsafe and winding! You get to see a lot of the island and you stop in the botanical gardens and a sulfur spring. However, at these stops we were only out of the jeep for a few minutes and the guide did not let you wander off and he just pointed trees and stuff. There were vendors and stuff but you didn't have time to look at anything or take a lot of pictures! There was also a point where you are supposed to see some local parrot but when we got there and the cages are behind an 8 foot tall chain link fence with a tarp covering it. So he talked about the parrot but we didn't get to see them. However, the trip ended by going to some natural spring pool that you got in. It was freezing cold but very refreshing. And you swam through is cavern like thing (which apparently was where they filmed some part of Pirates of the Caribbean) and at the end of it there is a waterfall. Next to the waterfall is a little ledge that you can stand on and dive off of. This half hour swimming/waterfall thing was so incredible that it made the whole rest of the odd trip worth it. This island was naturally beautifully but probably the least developed. After the excursion we did a little shopping but then headed back to the boat.
Barbados - We did the Sea Turtle & Shipwreck Snorkel Trip. This was fun and very cool. The turtles are much larger than I expected and really do swim right up next to you so you can touch them. It is breathtaking. However, we only had two turtles when we were swimming so all 30 of us were hoarded around them so it got kind of crowded, but it was cool none the less. The shipwreck was fun also. Tons of fish but nothing to spectacular as far as fish goes. But seeing the whole shipwreck thing was fun. They gave you rum punch and soda to drink on the boat. After that they took you to a beach to swim and relax for about a half hour. The crew on this boat was great and fun.
St. Lucia - On this island we did the deep sea fishing excursion. We did not catch anything which is the risk you take with fishing so what can you do about it? They did have beer and other beverages for you on the ship, the crew was nice. If we would have caught something it would have been a great excursion, we didn't so it was just alright. Since we were out fishing we did not really see the island at all.
Antigua - We did the See Antigua by Sea excursion. On this day it was rainy so the trip wasn't as great as it could have been but it was a good trip. Due to the rain the snorkeling wasn't as good and at some points it was a little chilly on the boat. But the boat was nice, the crew was great, and there was open bar. Antigua was beautiful. The trip was nice and you got to see tons of stuff. It covered everything from beautiful landscape to famous houses to historic sites. I would highly recommend it. There were even some parts of the boat ride on the open Atlantic that was much like a roller coaster ride.
Food/Service - The food was ok. The food in the main dining room was definitely the better food that the rest. However, due to exhaustion and the fact that it took about 2 hours to eat in the dinning room we skipped that meal about 3 nights. So by the end of the cruise we were completely sick of the buffet food, burgers and pizza. The food was not horrible, there was nothing that I wouldn't eat, but it was by no means gourmet and by the end of the week you were tired of it. Even some of the stuff in the dining room wasn't the greatest. But at least eating there you got some more variety. However, portions were much smaller than I anticipated. So you definitely had to order more than one entrée if you were really hungry. The room service menu is really small and not great. The service was good but not great. The staff was not mean or rude but I had a hard time getting beverage service and I found that no one really went out of their way. It was impossible to get a soda with dinner and if you got one good luck getting another!
Ship - The ship was in great condition. I did not notice at all any sign that it was old or in bad condition. The casino was very small but we did spend a few hours in it. We did not attend many shows, only Destiny Idol which was pretty good. We played some Bingo which was interesting. The activities on the ship were ok. They seemed to go by very fast and if you weren't there the moment they started you completely missed everything. We got liquor at the duty free store in PR but ended up not really drinking much at all and crashed early every night. We would walk around the bars a bit at night but never really found much that interested us. The piano bar guy was not that great and talked too much. My boyfriend is not a dancer so I could not intrigue him into the club thing. We did watch karaoke for a bit but the room was so crowded that you couldn't get a seat so we didn't stay long. I heard the shows were pretty good but we didn't make to any.
Overall - Overall we had a great time. The itinerary was amazing. We saw and did so much is a week and had a blast. We actually did so much on the islands that we really didn't do too much on the ship. We slept tons and got really caught up on sleep that we came home completely relaxed. The ship was in great shape. I thought the food was lacking but I am not sure how much better it is on any other of the cruise ships. I would definitely cruise with carnival again and would even go on this cruise again. It was a great vacation.