This was my 10th cruise overall, and my 6th on Carnival. I've had great cruises on Royal Caribbean and Princess too, but we keep coming back to Carnival because you just can't beat the value. We are South Floridians, so we drove to the port and parked in the self-park garage to the tune of a whopping $20 per day. In May, earlier this year, the parking was only $12 a day (off-season, I guess). Luckily there are three of us, so naturally we split the fee three ways. We arrived at the terminal on December 2, 2007 at 12:30 p.m., and the line seemed quite longer than usual. Indeed, it was a full 2 hours before we set foot on the ship, however our departure from Miami was graced with the most beautiful weather one could ask for.
I was traveling with my sister and our close friend. We booked a standard triple occupancy inside cabin as always, and since we cruise together frequently, we get along just fine under these arrangements. The cabin, in the signature peach/tan Carnival motif, was comfortable and clean as always. The TV was not a flat screen like on the Fascination, however. The bathroom had adequate counter and storage space, the toilet worked fine, but the shower had less water pressure than I recall on other ships or even on THIS ship (this was my 2nd cruise on the Victory). Our cabin stewardess was Delia from St. Lucia and her assistant was Ne Komang from South Korea, I believe. What can I say, they were wonderful!
FOOD: The Lido buffet, while not gourmet, offers up tasty fare that I quite enjoy. Notable are the deli sandwiches--specifically the corned beef rueben, the Asian selections from Yangtze Wok, and the "Taste of Nations" Indian and Mexican selections. I prefer breakfast in the dining room over the buffet. The only disappointment was the Eggs Benedict--instead of Canadian bacon, they use two halves of a too-thick slice of ham steak and too little hollandaise sauce which is thick and congealed and kind-of burned (as if it has been sitting under a heating element for some time). Enough complaining--we had late seating dinner in the dining room each night. Our head server was Santosh from India, and his assistant Iwayan was from Indonesia. Santosh--a 7 year Carnival veteran--was a true professional. This is his career, and he takes giving excellent service seriously, as did Iwayan. I really enjoyed talking to them about their countries and a myriad of other topics as well. The food was good as usual. Notable dishes were the Indian entree, the lobster tail, escargot, veal parmigiana, the warm melting chocolate cake of course, and the sushi from the sushi bar on the Promenade Deck 5.
CRUISE DIRECTOR: Usually, the cruise director is not a huge focal point for us, but I must say, we absolutely loved Butch Begovich! His upbeat and comical personality, his enthusiasm and charm, and his "Butch's Shake Your Groove Thang" dance class were a big hit with us. I hope we get him again on another cruise.
PIANO BAR: We really enjoyed Eric the piano bar singer too. He sang songs from different genres quite will and like Butch, had a very entertaining personality. The only detraction was that there was a number of underage teenagers in the piano bar late and they were drinking. Their childishness in an adult arena was a bit annoying and I kept hoping that security would make the Romper-Room-set vacate. No such luck.
COZUMEL: This was our first port, and we had a great time there as usual. Did a little shopping near the port, then took off in a taxi to Mr. Sanchos Beach, where there is a nice beach, free use of the lounge chairs and restroom facilities, and a restaurant and full bar under a large thatched-roof palapa.
GRAND CAYMAN: We went to Royal Palms beach--a $5 shared taxi ride from the port in a minivan. Royal Palms charges a few dollars for lounge chairs and there is a nice outdoor restaurant with a full bar and clean restroom facilities.
OCHO RIOS: We got a shared mini-bus taxi at the port and headed to Dunn's River Falls. Entrance fee to the Fall's is $15 and well worth it. The beauty and crisp, clean, therapeutic mountain air shouldn't be missed. We don't climb the falls, however (i'm not that adventurous), we just make our way down the path and stairway alongside the falls to the beach at the bottom.
SHIP: The big screen TV on the pool deck was a nice addition, but sometimes the volume was way too loud. The ship was kept very clean--I always saw someone cleaning or mopping something. I like the decor--especially the jade green motifs in the atrium and the blown glass sculptures on the walls of Promenade Deck 5.
ACTIVITIES: While we played the bingo several times and didn't win, it was very enjoyable albeit a little pricey. The Captain's repeat cruiser reception was nice with complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.
SUMMARY: Another great cruise with excellent service, good food, and fun. A superb value that any other form of travel just can't seem to beat. I can barely wait for my next cruise in November 2008!