Embarkation - We rented a Jeep Liberty for $80/day from Budget at Orlando International Airport. It was quite convenient. We arrived at Port Canaveral at about 2pm. The embarkation peak was over so our embarkation was quite painless and not as crowded. We also carried most of our luggage on board by ourselves to avoid delay or loss. We were able to grab some food to eat at Red Sail Restaurant right before the 3:30pm cut off time.
Cabin - We had 2 cabins in the middle of the ship on the main deck (2nd deck, stateroom 2312 and 2378), an ocean view cabin for 3 and an inside cabin for 2. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the ocean view cabin. There is plenty of storage space including two big drawers underneath one bed. The inside cabin is much smaller. All the beds were very comfortable. The main deck location was perfect for us as our dining room was on the 3rd deck, so it was very convenient for us to walk up a floor to dinner. Amber Palace, the main venue for all the shows, was also on the 3rd deck.
Food - We were assigned to the Japanese-themed Golden Restaurant for 6:15 pm dinner seating. Since we had 5 people in the family, we always ordered different appetizers, main dishes and desserts. I have tried probably >90% dishes on the Carnival menu. Since all ships use the SAME menu, I have a pretty good understanding of their food. I would rate Carnival food to be 8 of 10. Beef tends to be overdone. Considering that they have to serve 1000 passengers within 30 minutes, I can't blame them for such a minor imperfection. The best dishes I had were: lamb chops, duck breast and free range chicken. There were many choices for desserts and they were wonderful. The evening Sushi bar only makes Americanized Sushi including Sushi roll with cream cheese. No Sashimi was offered. The oriental deli makes Chinese food but only available during lunch hours. Do not try to ask the chef to fix something special for you as they had to stick to the headquarter approved menu which caters to the mass diners. The lido buffet is convenient and had many choices. We had most of our breakfast there. Go over there early to beat the crowd. I ate at the Platinum for breakfast twice. The menu was identical to the lido buffet except for a few items that were not available in the latter such as smoked salmon and tomato juice. You have to share tables with other passengers but it was a great way to mingle with fellow passengers and hear their story. It does, however, take longer time to dine there. Room service is another good choice. You can order whatever is offered. The food was delivered to our room promptly. Two friends went to the Supper Club for extra US$ 30 plus tip. Their impression was that the service was impeccable but the food was not significantly better.
Entertainment - I watched most shows including the midnight R-rated adult comedies. The best show was the magic show by Justin Illusion. He was very good at what he did and the illusions were amazing. Besides, he was a great dancer too, a rare trait among magicians. The Glory dancers were very good and it was amazing they could remember so many different steps and put up different yet amazing performance every single night. The two singers Janae Longo and Jason Allen were pretty good too. The comedians were big disappointment. Happy Cole (rated 6 of 10) was quite funny at times but he was offensive. The other comedian was a 5 of 10. The last one Kenneth Miller was a 3 of 10. I think Carnival should contract better comedians for their shows. The last show, the Carnival Legends, was a joke, reminiscent of a chaotic middle school talent show. The impersonators of Elvis Presley, Madonna and other celebrities sang supposedly hit pieces, but so out of tune. It was so uninspiring that my daughter slept through the entire show despite of the 200 dB ear-piercing music.
Ports - We did not book any excursion through Carnival. Their price was quite expensive and I did not like the idea of bus-loaded people from ship to a place and then coming back. To be on the safe side, plan to come back to the ship 1 hour before the ship's scheduled departure time. BTW, if you use your cell phone to keep time, the local time may be different from the ship's time.
Cozumel - We took a taxi to the Chanknaab Park. All the taxis there were passenger vans. It cost $20 for 9 of us. It rained really hard that day. We did snorkeling in spite the rain. However, I was disappointed that it was all reefs with very little sand beach for kids to play. This park is definitely not for small children to snorkel as the water is rough and the stone steps that lead into the water are covered with algae and are very slippery.
Belize - We pre-booked cave tubing with Nacho. Cost is $65 person. Nacho was waiting for us at the gate with a sign of my name. His van was clean and he already had a cooler with cold water for us. The drive to the cave was longer and bumpier than I expected and it didn't help that nacho drove quite fast. He was very knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor. He answered our numerous questions about Belize. We parked at the Jaguar Paw Resort which was about 2 minutes drive past the Carnival tubing site. Then Derek and another guide took us to the caves. The walk was about 30 minutes in the rainforest.
Here is my comparison of several tubing choices in the order of prices: 1) My friend used cavetubing dot com. They were transported to the tubing site in a big bus. Walk-in was welcomed as well so a reservation is not needed. Cost was $45 with the option of purchasing lunch for additional $5. My friends bought some snack for $1 at a local grocery store they were taken to after the tubing. Their starting point is earlier so the walk to cave is longer (about 45 minutes). Since each group goes back to their starting point, they tubed additional short stretch of river after the caves to go back to their starting point. 2) Nacho's price was $65. You go with a smaller group, start to walk closer to the caves but you get back to shore right after the caves. You get a sit down lunch at the nearby air-conditioned restaurant with soft drink. You also get to see some butterflies, parrots and several other animals. 3) Carnival's excursion. I heard it was $95. I was told they only do one cave. To be honest, the cave they did, the 2nd cave, was much longer than the 1st one, so you don't miss anything by doing only this cave.
Island of Roatan, Honduras - By far it is our favorable port! We pre-booked with Juan Carlos. He was nice and took us to the West Bay for beach and snorkeling. I did not realize that Tabayana beach was just portion of the West Bay, closest to the coral reef. The only clue you can tell that this portion was different was that there were numerous chairs on the beach with cruiseship passengers. I assume that was the Carnival excursion. The offshore snorkeling was fantastic and we rented snorkel equipment at the beach snorkel shop. The most amazing thing was that you step 100 feet into water and there were reef and fishes. Kids played on the beach for hours. We also had massage on the beach half an hour for $15 after negotiation. But we forgot to watch our time so it was actually 20 minutes or so. Braiding of the front half of the hair was negotiated down to $5. The next woman who sat down to get a braiding job was asked for $60 and she paid the full price. There were several fresh water shower heads that we used before going back to the ship. Roatan was a beautiful and undeveloped little island. The only downside to our trip was that cramping 12 people in his van was not very comfortable. We each paid $20. We heard that other passengers hired a taxi at the port and paid $10 each.
Freeport, Bahamas - Spent several hours at the beach behind the Lucaya casino. The Sheraton beach chairs were $10 each. Tried to snorkel but the water was disappointedly cloudy and no fish was seen. The straw market there was not cheap.
Disembarkation - We were in no hurry to leave the ship so we did not pack until after breakfast. We were literally kicked out of our cabins by 10am. We chose "self-assist" and carried our own luggage off the ship. A Budget bus drove us to the office where we again rented a car to go back to the airport.
Overall - We enjoyed our cruise trip.