This sailing was our 5th in a row with Carnival and our 5th different ship. It was by far the most beautiful. We began our trip via car in Southern New Jersey and drove straight through the night till our arrival in Miami at 3pm Friday afternoon. We had book the LaQuinta Motel Airport East on Le Jeune Drive. The neighborhood doesn't offer much but all we really needed was a bed for the night. The hotel was adequate and clean. They offered a free continental breakfast in the morning and also free parking for our rental car for up to two weeks. So all in all it was quite economical. There was a Bennigans restaurant adjacent to the hotel for dinner which was very convenient to walk to. The hotel also supplied free transportation to the port on Saturday on a first come/first serve basis. You sign up for the shuttle upon check-in.
We were scheduled for the 10:00am shuttle, so we came down for breakfast with our luggage at 9:00am. We were on the bus by 9:45 and on our way at 10:00 sharp. There were people on the bus for 4 other ships. Ours was the last in line.
Embarkation in the new terminal in Miami is a breeze. Number one it is air conditioned and indoors with bathrooms and a water fountain and seats. Due to a lot of "spring breakers" on the previous cruise who self-assisted disembarked, we were delayed for embarking until almost noon. But once they were off, we were on in no time. We were in zone 2 so we got on pretty quick.
The ship is beautiful and we were quite familiar with the layout as we had been on the Liberty the year before. Our rooms were on the Lido deck cabins 9268 and 9270. We love this deck since we are so close to the buffet and midnight pizza and ice cream. It's also convenient for getting those deck chairs in the morning. We had the balcony divider opened between our cabins and that was great too. Our room steward Santana was excellent. He snuck in so quickly and cleaned the room. He was visible and very friendly
Our dinner was at 6:15 in the Chic Dining Room. The maitre'd Elvis was the most personable we have had yet. Actually it's probably the first time we left a tip for the maitre'd. We were on the lower level which we like and were right between the two sets of stairs. So we were right in the middle of the nightly entertainment. Our only complaint here was the service from our waitress. She had no personality at all and was extremely slow. We always in the past got so friendly with the waitstaff that you wanted to take them home with you. They learned your name and by the second night would know what you liked and disliked. Never felt that this time.
Our cruise director was John Heald and he lived up to all that we had read about him prior to the cruise. He was a riot, eyepatch and all. Although he was not visible the last two days, we did find out it was due to the fact that he would be leaving the ship on our last day and immigration laws prohibited him from working prior to disembarkation. His staff was just as entertaining. The stand in cd on the last two days was James a young social host we had met on the Liberty last year. He is definitely cd material. The other hosts, Adele, Mel and Jeremy were fun to watch as well. The shows were all great, most especially the Tribute to the Beatles.
Our kids, okay well us too, were a little disappointed that they didn't have the colors teams (red, white and blue) on this cruise. It was explained to us by James that since the ship was only in the Caribbean for a short time and then returning to Europe where they most definitely do not play the colors game, they didn't institute it for the short time there.
As far as shore excursions we booked one in Grand Cayman and one in Cozumel throughout the ship. In Ocho Rios we just went to Island Village right by the port and went to the beach and Margaritaville. In Grand Cayman we did the Stingrays, Turtles and Hell tour. That was fun and worth the trip. In Cozumel, we did Race Fantastique and highly recommend it to everyone. We had a blast running around the town looking for clues that the whole town seemed to be in on. We learned about the city while having fun. It sure beat sitting on a bus, listening to a description in broken english.
Sadly on Saturday, we had to get off the ship for another year. Disembarkation went very smoothly. We were off the ship by 9:30am and back to the hotel for our car by 10:15. We were on the road by 10:30am headed back to the cold. As always we thoroughly enjoyed the trip and are already planning next year. We have to keep going or we will never get that coveted Platinum status.