This was our first cruise. Booked through Carnival and then over the phone. Paid for an 8A (Balcony on Upper Deck-level 6) and left the room location open. Got an 8D (Balcony on Lido Deck-level 9).
dropped off wife at the terminal with all our luggage and parked the car at EZ Cruise Parking (prepaid $50 in advance over the internet). They have a free shuttle to the terminal. This was much easier than trying to haul all our luggage on their shuttle.
Slow. Arrived at terminal around 11:30. Boarded the ship around 2:30. As it turns out, every few months the entire crew has to disembark and go through Customs for routine screenings. This is known and scheduled in advance. Carnival never bothered to explain this to us while were waiting. The Captain apologized for the inconvenience later. Other than the long wait, it went smoothly.
ON THE SHIP:
Layout of the ship is fairly well planned. You figure it our after a day or two. Decor is a little gaudy, but elegant. Our cabin was a basic motel room. Steward Alfondo was reserved but very courteous and helpful. We ate dinner in the Renoir dining room every night. Our servers Veronica from Peru and Monica from Hungary were wonderful. The rest of the crew were courteous but not the most friendly. Cruise Director "Wee Jimmy" was amusing but equally annoying. Shows were OK. The dancing was high school level at best. Comedians were funny, but not hilarious. Carnival will nickel and dime you to death if you are not careful. Drinks are $5+ and then they add %15 gratuity on top of that. We bought a drink and a souvenir cup the first day and then refilled it from our own stash every night. There is food all over the ship at all hours of the day. Plan on gaining weight.
We took a cab for $3 each to Sunset Beach Resort and paid $40 each for a day pass. The water was rough so they closed the beach. The pool was open and so was the bar! Everything was included. Food was pretty good. Drinks were strong. The water slides and the lazy river were fun. Good value for the money. Took a cab downtown to buy some souvenirs. Barter on everything and don't pay full price. People are somewhat rude and pushy, unless you are buying something from them. Most prices are listed in USD if they are listed at all. 70 Jamaican dollars = $1 USD. USD is widely accepted. Overall, Carnival could pick a better port of call.
Went snorkeling with Captain Marvin's for $40 each. I highly recommend them. It was amazing. Water was clear but rough. Stingrays were interesting. Got some good pictures. After that went shopping for booze (I recommend Tortuga rum and rum cakes. They have stores everywhere), and Cuban cigars. Plan on paying full price as this island does not barter. Most prices are in USD. Pay attention though as 1 CI (Cayman Island dollar) = $1.25 USD. Tendering was painless, although the wait to go back was around 30 minutes or so. Overall great port.
We rented a car and drove around the island. Drivers weren't as bad as I thought they would be. Ate at Punta Bonita Restaurante at the South end of the island. Great combination plate and strong drinks. Dropped the car off and went shopping for tequila. and cheap souvenirs. Plan on paying full price if you ship on the main street. If you want better deals, walks a few block off the main drag. Barter and you will get better prices. $1 USD = 10.25 pesos. Overall, fun port.
We were in group 6 out of 30. We ate breakfast in Monet dining room and got off the ship around 9. The line for Customs was long, but to be expected with 2000+ people all getting off at once.
Loved it. We are already booked again for the same ship and same date next year.
Feel free to check out our cruise pics at: http://members.cox.net/nickandtonya/pages/cruise1.html