This was my 9th cruise, but this is my first member review on cruisecritic.com. I was traveling with my sister and a close friend. We travel together often and booked one triple occupancy cabin as we always do. We drove to the Port of Miami, and parked in their self-park garage, which turned out to be quite easy and convenient. The parking cost $12/day. We are local to South Florida.
This is the oldest Carnival ship that I have been on, but clearly they have done some updating. Our cabin was in excellent condition, complete with flat screen TV. The bathroom was brand-spanking-new! The floor was shiny new. There was a sparkling white pedestal sink and brightly lit vanity mirror. And, of course, there were the Carnival comfort beds! Even the pull-down bunk is a Carnival comfort bed. Our cabin stewart introduced himself to us and was extremely friendly.
My sister and I always carry our luggage onboard ourselves--we pack light and don't like to wait to get our bags. Our friend always checks hers with the baggage handlers portside. Because we booked with an online agency instead of directly with Carnival this time, were were not sent luggage tags in the mail prior to the cruise. So, at the port, she told the baggage handler that our cabin was on the Riviera deck. He put the appropriate color bag tag on, and she filled out her name and cabin number. Hours after the ship pulled out, she still hadn't received her bag. Our cabin steward suggested that we go up to the information desk in the lobby atrium to inquire. The representative at the desk told us that the luggage delivery was finished and asked us what color tag was put on the bag. We told her PEACH and found out that that color was not for the Riviera deck. The baggage handler put the wrong color tag on. She told us which deck number did have peach tags. We took the elevator to that floor, and, sure enough, there was her bag, sitting outside the same cabin-number but ON THE WRONG FLOOR. We felt like it was a credit to Carnival's accuracy.
We had the Late seating dinner. We always dine late, because with 3 of us sharing a bathroom, we need time to get ready. We were at an 8 person table. We always have nice tablemates, and this cruise was no exception, except for one individual. There was a man at our table who was traveling alone, and no sooner than my friend sat down next to him, he began staring at her chest and pawing all over her. He seemed quite intoxicated. She was extremely uncomfortable. In fact, myself and the other ladies at the table, as well as the only other man at the table all bristled at his behavior and off-color remarks. Hoping that tomorrow would be better, we didn't want to complain.
Our waiter, Raj, was awesome. We always have a lot of fun with the wait staff. They are always so nice to us. Nela, the hostess (the head hostess, I believe) was also wonderful. The second night at dinner, our intoxicated tablemate brought a woman whom he'd met on Day 2 to our table. My sister was mad at first because now we were 9 people squeezed into an 8 person table. I thought it was good, because at least his attention would be focussed elsewhere. Nela asked us if we wanted her to talk to him, but we said no. It turns out that having this woman there did the trick, and he no longer bothered us--though how she was not embarrassed by his behavior I'll never know. She seemed very nice.
The other young man at our table was also traveling alone and was a complete and total gentleman. He hung out with my friend at the disco and with all of us at the pool deck several times--a total class act.
Our first port of call was Key West. We docked at the naval base and had to take a 10 minute trolley ride from the base to Old Town--not a problem. I had been to Key West before, and we basically just walked around sightseeing and shopping. The weather was beautiful. It was my sister's first time there, so we made sure she saw all the points of interest--Southern Most Point, Hemingway's house etc. Then we settled in at Sloppy Joes, enjoying the band, some appetizers, and some drinks. A good time was had by all.
Our second and final port of call was Calica, Mexico. I've read a lot of reviews trashing Calica, but Calica is just the place where the ship must dock. The real destination is Playa del Carmen, a lovely town minutes away by taxi. I've been to Playa del Carmen before, but not on a cruise. We used to vacation in Cancun for a week, and take the public bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen as a day trip. It's a very user-friendly place--easy to walk around. The beach, shops, restaurants are within steps of each other. We walked around, shopped a little, then went to the beach. We rented chairs at a little hotel on the beach. They had a restaurant there and served the food to us right at our loungers on little tables. When we had enough sun, we did more sightseeing and shopping, stopped at a little bar for a couple drinks, then went back to the ship.
The entertainment on this ship was especially good. The pool deck Calypso band, DETOUR, was excellent!! They had a much larger repertoire than other pool deck bands on previous cruises. The lead singer was unbelievable. He also performed at the Captain's reception in the showroom one night. My sister and I went, while our friend was getting showered for dinner. He came out on stage with so much energy!! All the lights in the showroom were on unlike during the stage shows. When he started singing "Stand by me" the crowd really got into it and started clapping in time to the beat. He motioned for everyone to come up on stage. We were all dancing and singing right along with him. The room was electric--everyone was just feeling the music and singing their hearts out. I've never felt anything like it before! Awesome good time!
The band MUSIC ASIA, which performed in the Passage to India lounge was equally good. They could perform music of any genre. On the last night of the cruise, the crowd would barely let them stop playing, calling for encore after encore. We thoroughly enjoyed them.
I felt the food on this ship was quite good. It may not be super-gourmet, but it's very tasty. If you had to pay a la carte for everything you get, it would probably cost more than the cruise itself. Obviously, I think it's a good value. This ship was smaller than some of the other Carnival ship's I've been on, and it was nice not to have to wait in line as long at the Lido buffet as I have on the larger ships. I also enjoyed the sushi bar every night before dinner--another real treat.
I have no real complaints about this cruise, and I look forward to our next cruise in December.