Travel and Embarkation: We left Round Rock at about 6:30AM and parked at EZ Cruise Parking at 10:30. We were in line to embark at 11:00. Gave our large bags to the porters along with the tip. After a quick trip through a security line, quick issuance of our Sail and Sign cards, and a short wait in the reception area, our embarkation photos were taken and we walked the gangway to board the vessel. By 11:30 we were exploring the ship. A quick trip up the elevator to the 9th deck was rewarded with our first wonderful view of the Lido deck. There's fun and food all around. The first meal was at Sur Mer. The staff seemed a little confused and it took a little time to get our first feast. After this meal, we headed down to check the rooms.
Cabin: We had taken inside staterooms on deck 7 because we booked late and no cabins were open. Our cabins were ready before 1:00PM and we met our Steward Mike. Very helpful and unobtrusive. We had a problem with the safe one day and he straightened it out quickly. In case you haven't used one of these safes before, here's what i think i know. When you close the door and swipe a card, it keys itself to that card. Every time you open it, it can key a new card. We used a Bass Pro Shop gift card that we picked up at a grocery on the way to Galveston. One night i swiped the sail and sign card instead and didn't realize it. Steward Mike helped us open it. He made sure we always had ice and opened the refrigerator so we could cool our own drinks. We didn't really use anything from the minibar since we'd brought our own soft drinks. Towel animals (most nights), chocolates, and Carnival Capers were delivered nightly.
Food: We had breakfast most mornings on the Lido deck buffet. Fruit, danishes, (blessed) coffee, juice, hot chocolate, omelets, scrambled eggs, milk (regular, chocolate, 2%, etc.), cream of wheat, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, pancakes or french toast, and toast are available here. A couple of mornings we had the dining room breakfast and i loved the eggs benedict.
For lunch, we ate on the Lido deck. Hamburgers and fries are great. P.C.'s Wok makes good asian food, the Pizzeria serves pizza 24/7 (try the calzones), and Pauls Deli makes a delicious Ruebens sandwich!
Dinner. OMG! Ivan and Made were our wait staff. These two gentlemen made my evenings. Sorry, i don't get out that much but this is what i imagine it to be. presentation is everything with these folks and they do a wonderful job. The lobster was wonderful, escargots were interesting, game hen was tasty, the chateaubriand was excellent, and the deserts were fantastic. i would recommend the chocolate melting cake to everyone.
Common areas: The ship is starting to show her age but it's not too noticeable. Restrooms are plentiful and clean with little waiting. The lobby is impressive with the paintings and the staircases. The casino and lounges are far too smoky (and this from a former smoker). Some days i could smell them two decks away. This and an occasional bland meal are my only two gripes. The Toulouse Lautrec showroom was stunning. I couldn't believe it was on a ship. The Lido deck is constantly cleaned and was really much more appealing than i had imagined it would be.
Shows: We only caught four. Formidable, Ron Joseph, Deja, and Point and Click. All were very nicely done. It was easy to want to skip the shows but, do yourself a favor, go to the shows!
Excursions: Let the real fun begin! In Montego Bay, we took the Catamaran Snorkel and Doctor's Cave Beach. This was excellent with the possible exception of the goofy Jamaican dancer onboard (you know who you are!). The snorkels didn't fit quite right but were functional. The beach was beautiful and no one bothered us at all. This excursion picks you up and drops you off right by the Conquest. Then, we took the Montego Bay Highlights and Shopping trip. Although we had a wonderful staff to show us around, i wouldn't really recommend this to anyone. It can be a little depressing to see. Getting back onboard the ship was interesting. Long lines and frisking although not as bad as some have eluded to. At the terminal, there are good deals on liquor. i recommend the cream rums. have the blue mountain coffee flavor over ice. it will knock your socks off.
In Grand Cayman, we took the Stingray Sandbar, Hell and Turtle Farm Experience. This was really cool. The number and size of turtles is amazing. Hell is annoying. Just a waste of time i my opinion. The stingray tour is pretty cool but the boat operators were less than i'd hoped for. Trying to make a living i guess. A little pushy with the tip speech and a much slower ride back to the dock so they could push the pictures and souvenirs.
In Cozumel, we did a little shopping and a day at the beach. We'd previously planned a trip to Paradise Beach due to forum recommendations, but ended up at Mr. Sancho's because our cab driver pointed out that Paradise was dirty due to all the rain the day before. We drove to Paradise and indeed it did look dirty but also really busy. Mr. Sancho's was wonderful. One of our party parasailed, the rest had beers, margaritas and some really great snorkeling.
Debarkation: Smooth but a little time consuming. Left our bags out the night before. we found them quickly in the terminal and grabbed a porter. For ten bucks, i wouldn't have lugged around my own bags. After a nice little wait in the customs line, we were on our way home. now to book our next one...