We took our two grandchildren, ages 13 and 15 and our son on a spring break cruise. We choose Carnival because of the location, closer to our hometown in the Pacific Northwest and of course the price. If you fly to Houston, fly into Hobby airport as it is closer than IAH. We rented a van from Hertz which accommodated all 5 of us with our 8 pieces of luggage and carryons. It was cheaper than booking transportation. We flew in the night before and stayed in Tomball, Texas at a Residence Inn. I was able to book a room with two bedrooms and two baths using Marriott points, plus we had relatives to visit there.
The things I liked: Late breakfast the first day at sea. The food was pretty good, not five star food but pretty good. The Indian vegetarian dish the first night was exceptional as was the Indian buffet in the lido. The Gala Buffet was beautiful but too late at night for me to eat! The towels shaped into animals. The cruise director Wee Jimmy! The kids programs. The grandkids loved it. They stayed up late and loved the activities! The dolphin swim and snorkel excursion in Cozumel The stingray excursion in Grand Caymans The shows were pretty good...yes this is not Vegas but do not miss the ventriloquist or juggler. I missed the magician and heard he was great. The art auction was excellent. I loved the Impressionist theme on the ship. Be sure to watch the background of the design on your tv Room service breakfast..you can get bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese. The sushi bar, changes every night. The fish station which is second level on the Lido. Good pillows on the bed. Afternoon tea was nice.
Things I did NOT like: The touted comfort Carnival bed was not comfortable. I asked for an eggshell foam topper but one was not available. The breakfast menu in the main dining room never changed. It would nice to have a daily special. Ask to be seated alone if you wish to not make new friends or if you are grumpy in the morning. The Lido was always too crowded for me for breakfast. They allow shirtless guys in the Lido. The ship is worn and dirty in places. (At tea I ran my towel around the edge if the table..it was gross) Alot of the rugs are shabby. No seat covers in the public restrooms. Alot of the hand dryers didn't work. I am surprised they didn't have hand sanitizers for the buffet lines. Our cabin was noisy. The halls are a straight line and you hear the late night drunks coming to their cabins. If you are not a sound sleeper bring ear plugs. The exercise room does not have enough cardio machines.
You can smell sewage in parts of the ship, I had read this and couldn't believe it but it was true. We had a balcony room but instead of sliding doors you have a large window with a sort of a french door leading to the balcony. Our pneumatic tube was leaking oil on the deck and our curtain had broken curtain hooks so it was difficult to darken the room. They do not enforce their dress code in the formal dining room. I saw t-shirts, tank tops, shorts and flip flops. They do not enforce smoking areas. Someone was smoking at the sushi bar and in bars which were suppose to be smoke free. I preordered tuxedos and my grandsons tux pants were 6 inches too short. We had to wait for the shop to open to replace.
The screwed up our shore excursions which I preordered online. I had reserved morning and afternoon excursions in Grand Caymans but they booked both in the afternoon...because the morning one was rescheduled. It was a nightmare straightening it out. Lots of drunkenness, yes I know this is the fun ship but do these people never get out? I drink too but some of it was out of control, people not able to walk, on a bus ride in Jamaica my grandson had to endure vulgarity which I prefer not to describe. Lots of underage drinking. I saw passengers after Cozumel, giving the ship crew shots out of bottle.
We had some bad weather on our cruise. On Tuesday we were at an art auction and the ship listed to one side. About 50 glasses broke in the bar. We could see all ocean on one side and only sky on the other. The wind was terrific. Chairs were going overboard. We spoke to someone a couple of day later who where on deck 6 forward, balcony room and their room flooded with a couple of inches of water. That's how rough it was. The cruise line comped them. The next day in Jamaica they brought a new captain on. The talk was they canned him, because he took us thru the storm rather around it. Getting on the ship took us about two hours. We arrived at 1:00. The couldn't find our credit card I had preregistered.
Disembarkation was a nightmare. We took our own luggage which doesn't help you at all. Get a porter. They take you to the front of the line. They cleared us out of room at 8:45 and we didn't clear customs till 11:45. Hertz is right in the terminal for your rental car. What a way to end the vacation. I will not book with Carnival again.