Background Information As a lifetime traveler, I began cruising before I was even born. Now at age 27 I consider myself and my family seasoned cruisers. Royal, and Carnival have always been my staple lines. Once again I've fallen in love with yet another Carnival ship and it's crew.
Hotel Info (if any) We made a flight in from Arkansas to Puerto Rico the day of embarkation so we did not stay in a hotel this time, however I always recommend the Sheraton there across from the port.
Ship Info Well here we go, we're into the meat of the review now. When I began researching this vessel, I became somewhat concerned at the quality of the ship itself based on many many negative reviews. Now don't get me wrong, it would have to just be absolutely falling apart to really scare me off from a ship.
To my surprise, the ship was in a fantastic shape, cleaner than many I've been on. Was there normal wear and tear of a ship introduced in 1996? Sure. But the Destiny has been designed with a decor that has kept it from looking outdate for a ship of 12 years.
What didn't I like? Well there is a bit of an odd layout that has been much improved upon by the ships that came after the Destiny. I can say though that the > shaped doors and bars made it easy to maintain my directionals to forward and aft, port and starboard. By the end of day 4 I was completely at home.
Did we have any problems with the ship? We did loose hot water for one and a half hours in port in Dominica, however, I've never ever taken a cruise where there was not some temporary disruption of some kind and this didn't bother my partner and I in the least.
All in all this ship is worth the experience.
Activities With so many days in port (everyday a different island) it's hard to take in many day time activities, but on occasions that we got back on the ship early enough there was always something wonderful going on, and starting the moment we threw off the moorings, the night life kicked off with a party on deck and didn't end until five am when we shut the disco down!
The day activities are the regular type found on most any line or ship, sexy legs, hairy chests, battle of the sexes, dance classes, pool games and the like.
When it's time to set sail every afternoon, the live music started on deck with drinks flowing as the shops and casino started prepping to open as we headed out to sea.
With nightly shows that have really taken the quality of the entertainment up a few notches, the vegas/broadway style shows were always impressive and high energy enough that I was able to enjoy them without pause.
There is also a great piano bar with the always wacky and ever so lovely Laurie Gardner playing at the piano. She takes requests, keeps you entertained and the night fly's by before you know it. Have a special request? catch her about 9:00 - 9:15 pm getting her piano setup and she'll likely find that special piece of music and have it ready for the next night. (I asked for some pretty off the wall songs and the next night, BAM, three songs I requested plus several more just because.)
The disco with 500 TV's creating a wall to wall video experience to enhance the music and dancing is hosted everynight by Renaldo the assistant cruise director. Some entertainment and activities staff are great MC's for games and shows, but ignore the guests once the gig is over, but not Renaldo. If you weren't having a good time, he made sure that was going to change.
The Criterion Lounge is the happening place to be if you are Latino/Latina, Hispanic, or just love a great time. Salsa music and activities for all of the spanish speaking guests took place here and I couldn't make it out of that place with out breaking a sweat moving my hips to the lively music.
Not to be missed either as you pass thru in the evenings is the Destiny bar adjacent to the casino, more live music and lots of Margaritaville style music that makes you want to get up, move and sing along.
Service As I mentioned earlier I started traveling over 27 years ago and I remember the days when service was more than outstanding. It was down right Amazing, you were treated like kings and queens with no request ever being an issue.
Today we live in a world, with rising gas prices, food prices and an undervalued dollar that forces guests and cruise lines to balance providing as much as they can and not going broke making sure that each cruise is as memorable as the last if not more.
That said, sadly the bar staff throughout the ship shocked me with bland personalities and disinterest in the passengers to downright irritation at a request for a mixed drink. (Now I would like to temper this with a quick commentary. Bar staff on this ship make in all likelihood 60% less tips than on other ships due to no days at sea and the ease of bringing alcohol on board, which I personally am against) There were several shining lights in the waitstaff that I will hope to run into again and again as I sail with Carnival in the future. the waitstaff in the Apollo Piano Bar, the bartender at Cheers wine bar, and the barrista's in the coffee shop, All of them were EXCELLENT! I truly thank them and hope that carnival is reading this review for how hard they worked each and every night.
In the dining room it was somewhat frustrating as our waiter at table 402 in the Universe Dining Room, Mario rushed around with two too many tables and NO assistant waiter. To Mario's credit he managed to handle keeping all of our drinks filled and communicated with us at all times the status of our dinner each and every night, while it still took an average of an hour and forty-five minutes to complete the meal, his dedication to service made the difference.
Shore Excursions Currently in St. Thomas there is a lot of road construction on Havensight and Donkey Hill, That means that if you want to tour the island it will take some time to do anything short of sticking within walking distance from the port. However, we were able to make it to Sapphire Beach without issue and enjoy quite a bite of activity with sea turtles, sting rays', and a myriad of colorful fish that enjoyed the bleached and dying coral reef flanking the bay. Don't miss out on CoconutsVI a great New York style Pizzeria I've visited over and over again since we found this back street alley restaurant.
Dominica is a beautiful island that was the backdrop to many of the scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy. There we booked with Wacky Rollers for a river tubing adventure. Taking 20 people at a time, these guys worked HARD. Just as you were about to crash into the banks of the river or just about to get stuck on some rocks the five guys who lead this group made sure that we were on our way down and enjoying ourselves.
My family took a taxi tour of Barbados which they seemed to enjoy although the driver was quiet and not very informative. You may want to notes, this isn't the best island for shopping due to extremely high prices, and DO NOT wear Military or Camouflage clothing, as you will be arrested.
St. Lucia we spent recovering on the ship and only made it into the port for a brief time to walk about freely in the industrialized port.
Ah, Antigua. A nice island with unfortunately aggressive taxi drivers who will nearly force you into their cabs. Be firm but respectful that you will take a taxi when you get ready to and they will back down, otherwise they tend to follow you around. We decided to head to Hawksbill beach which you can enter from the Hawksbill resort. A "day pass" is sixty dollars U.S. but all beaches are public and you can still use the restrooms and dine at their restaurant and bar without paying despite such claims. the beaches are nice quiet at this resort which has four different beaches. The farther you walk from the resort the fewer people you see. There is a clothing optional beach at Hawksbill that is nearly a half mile long if not longer and when we checked it out there were 10 people including the security guard and we were five of them.
St. Kitts was another on ship day for myself as staying up until four a.m. each and everynight was really catching up to me.
Summary I am not a fan of such port intensive cruises, frankly I could go for all seven fun days at sea. However, this was a wonderful cruise that I will never forget and I would turn around and sail on again in a heartbeat. This is a beautiful ship for it's age, a great entertainment and activities staff, so many wonderful places to visit, the Destiny is worth taking a trip.
Travel To Port of Embarkation Our flight from LIT to IAH was uneventful, but a very full plane. From IAH to SJU we were again on a full plane that was extremely hot as if the air conditioning was broken. The landing was a bit scary, it seemed as if the runway may have been a bit short for the 737 to land on as we hit the breaks pretty hard to stop the plane.
I will be more specific in getting a taxi next time I cruise out of San Juan, our taxi driver took us all over instead of straight to the port in hopes of getting a higher fare. he was promptly declined and given the twenty-three dollar fare agreed upon before we entered the taxi. He wasted an hour despite protesting to take us directly to the ship, and I saw nothing of distinction other than a local beach.
Stateroom We were booked in stateroom 7105 a handicapped stateroom which made the layout a little strange as we couldn't have our beds pushed together, but it was quite large and roomy. I look forward to the upgrades they'll be doing in september when they upgrade to plasma TV's in all the rooms!
Our stateroom attendant Jose was just flat out awesome, he took great care of us and even managed to find me a bunch of rubber bands when no one else on the ship could get any for me. (i use them to hold my sleeves up when I push my long sleeved button down shirt sleeves up.) Also for an obstructed view cabin there was no obstructed view, right outside our room is the entry to the front of the ship and 4 forward the crew deck where we hung out with some of the entertainment staff. They were a blast!
Dining As I mentioned earlier they were understaffed, but the food was as expected each and everynight. a nice selection, although not a foodie cruise there was always something new to try. I do recommend the chatubrian'd if you enjoy steak, this is the best steak you will ever have.
Children's Clubs No kids so this didn't apply for anyone in our group.
Entertainment Great shows with the exception of the magic show, where the magician cussed the audience and walked off stage after an illusion gone wrong, I doubt he will be with carnival after that night. But the Dancers all did a wonderful job everynight and were fun to hang out with at the piano bar as they hammed it up at the piano any chance they got!
Again I can't pass up talking about Laurie Gardner the Piano Bar entertainment, she really did an awesome job keeping everyone in tears of laughter and hoarse from singing.
And of course there is Darcy the Cruise Director, she is a hoot to hang out with and always remembered everyone's name anytime she saw our group (about 20 people altogether so I was impressed)
Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze we have VIP status so we got express checkin and were the first to leave. In fact I didn't see any one else in VIP either time, so we may have been the only ones on the boat. But even for the passengers I spoke to that went through normal embarkation/disembarkation it was still a breeze (probably made easier by the number of free drinks all along the way!)