Who we are: Husband and Wife mid 30's with two children ages 7 and 10.
We have done a lot of traveling but this was our first cruise as a family. My husband and I have cruised together on Royal Carib and Carnival.
Pre-Cruise: We took the red eye from Seattle into Orlando, rented a car from Budget. Do not eat at Denny's near the airport. Cracker Barrel is just a few minutes further! The drive was short (approx. 50 min) to Cocoa beach. We were early so we found a beach and walked and enjoyed the beach, which was beautiful. Got our liquor supply in Cocoa beach as well which saved us hundreds! We put into water bottles and into our checked luggage. Budget was easy to find and the service was awesome. Shuttle to the ship took maybe 5 min.
Embarkation: We arrived around 11:00, no lines and walked right on board. One problem was that when my hubby tried to buy his first "Sail Away" beverage the bartender told him his card said he was 10 years old! The purser's desk was happy to fix it. We could not get into the room until 1:30pm so we sat at the pool and relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine.
Stateroom: Was what we expected. We had a balcony on the 6th floor. (we could hear the casino bells and announcement late at night) We never cruise without a balcony! Nothing fancy, although the beds were extremely comfortable. My kids slept on a single bed and a pull down bunk. Bathroom was huge compared to the Inspiration (CCL) and Vision of the Seas (RCL). Storage would be ample for 3 a bit tight for 4 people. The Steward was great, we didn't have any child life vests and only 2 beach towels but these were taken care of as soon as I asked. The Steward always called me by my first name which I thought was a nice touch. The kids loved the towel animals and mints. They also received cookies from Camp Carnival on formal nights.
Cozumel: We love Cozumel and will gladly go back anytime. We opted for the Dolphin Encounter this time. The kids loved it! We got to kiss, touch, dance and be kissed by the Dolphin. Ee-Shell was her name and she was pregnant! She put on a show for us and we were all smiles. Went shopping before and after. Not many places to eat near the cruise terminal so we ended up at Carlos and Charlie's… a bit noisy bur food was good.
Belize: We didn't get to go into the city because our snorkeling excursion left directly from the boat. We went on the Goff's Cay snorkel. AMAZING! The best snorkeling I have ever done. They take you to a little island (population: 7 palm trees 2 huts) that is on a barrier reef which runs from Mexico to Guatemala and travels the entire length of Belize. We got to snorkel on the reef for about an hour and then back to the island for snacks and local beer ($3). The kids played in the ocean. It is completely calm and shallow for about 100 yards out so no worries for the little ones! We were sad when it was time to go and even sadder when our 7 year old fell asleep and we didn't get to go into the city. Another port we will gladly return to!
Days at Sea: Personally, I dislike days at sea. We were supposed to only have two but Costa Maya was ravaged by a hurricane and so we ended up with 3 (2 in a row - yuck!) The pools were very crowded and everyone saved the deck chairs at 6am and just left their towels there all day, even if they were not there. Carnival claims that you can move peoples stuff after 30 min but the only time we did this the guy was so mad yelling and screaming and calling us names (yes in front of our children) that security came and he said he was only gone for 5 min when we had been at the pool for 2 hours already. What a jerk! Security let us keep the chairs but wow that was not fun. Pretty much ruined our whole day.
Camp Carnival: This is a great program. My 7 year old loved every minute of it, even asked to eat dinner there twice during the week. It seemed everywhere we went she had made a new friend and was chatting with them! My 10 year old only went a couple of times but said it was fun. It's great that the kids can choose to go when ever; there is no set time that they come and go. I can't say that I agree with the 9-11 yr olds being able to sign themselves in/out but you can request that they not be allowed to do this. There were quite a few 9-13 yr olds running around unsupervised but what can you do?
Nassau, Bahamas: UGH! That's all I can say. We were headed for Cable beach but the taxi driver talked us into going the Cabbage beach near Atlantis Resort. DO NOT DO THIS! The beach is shoulder to shoulder people, the vendors never leave you alone and the surf was so high I was afraid to go in much less send in the kids. There are no bathrooms, no way to wash off the sand, no food, no drinks (except watered down booze sold by the beach vendors out of a backpack) After a $16 cab ride we couldn't afford to go to Cable beach so we stuck it out for a couple of hours. We shopped in town later but everything was so expensive, much better deals in Cozumel so do your shopping there. We ate at Senor Frogs and I regretted it for several days!!
The Ship: It was a cruise ship! Lot's of people, some lines but not too bad. The food at the Red Sail was barely edible. We stuck to cereal and fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch. The deli sandwiches we loved so much on the Inspiration were not so good on Glory! There are a few options that were good. The pizza/calzone were excellent, the kids loved the hot dogs and the self serve ice cream machine. The juices were good. We highly recommend mixing the passion fruit juice, lemonade and rum! YUM!
Dining Room: The service was great except for the first night. They just didn't seem ready for us. After that we were finished in 1 hr 15 min tops. The lobster was surprisingly good as was the prime rib. The soups were outstanding and so were the desserts. The other main entrees were okay. The chicken breast on the "Spa" menu was very good. The kids can choose from either menu which is nice so they don't have to eat chicken nuggets the whole week! The maitre'd was great, Chubby. He talked to us every night about our day and made a funny mouse out of a napkin that the kids loved.
Fitness Area: This place was really crowded! My husband and I do circuit training but everyone else in the gym did one set then sat around and then did another set etc. It was very frustrating. Waiting for a machine is pretty much pointless and it took 30 min until a cardio machine was free. They do have a good amount of free weights and body balls but there isn't much room to do that type of workout. All in all we were disappointed with the gym. To keep the pounds off from all the delicious desserts we ALWAYS took the stairs and it worked! Debarkation: Carnival had this down pat. You get a number instead of a color and you can stay in your room as long as you want. We were 27 and we were getting into the rental car shuttle by 10:30am. The luggage pick up was perfect. It comes around on a carousel just like the airport and we waited about 2 min for it!
All in all we had a wonderful time. We have booked a more port intensive trip in Feb 2009 as that is really why we cruise. We are not "joiners" and pretty much avoid the ship activities. I cannot comment on the shows or the cruise director. We stayed at the Hyatt in the Orlando airport post cruise and it was well worth the money!