This was our 4th cruise (2nd with Carnival) and our first cruise with the kids (11 & 13 yrs old).
We drove to NYC the night prior and stayed at a hotel across the river in New Jersey. We arrived at the port around 10am and checked in with no lines/hassle whatsoever. However, we did have to wait until about 12:30 before we were allowed to board the ship. Luckily since we were there early we sat in chairs while we waited. As more people arrived, many people waited standing in lines for a long time.
Our rooms were not ready yet but that was OK because we were ready to eat up on the Lido deck! Our rooms were ready after we had finished lunch.
The ship is very ornate and greatly detailed. Very interesting to look at. The formal dining room was not nearly as ugly as some people had made it seem.
There were many common areas to sit and relax. Many of them are pretty secluded so there was always a place for peace and quiet if you wanted.
The ship did seem alot smaller than others I have been on. Im not sure if the size had anything to do with it or not, but immediately I noticed that this ship rocks back and forth ALOT. The whole time. We had calm seas and great weather the whole time so Im not sure why there was so much rocking but if I hadn't been taking Bonine I would have been sick the entire time. I heard many other passengers commenting on the rocking as well.
We had a balcony room and it was awesome! Very spacious and tons of storage for luggage. I LOVED the down comforter and duvet cover. Im thinking of buying one for home!
My main complaint for the ship is the casual dining. The set up is very confusing and even after you figure it out its annoying. The way they have food stations in various locations seems to create alot of congestion and we found ourselves doing "laps" around the stations trying to figure out which station was serving what food. It was often hard to find a table and my daughter kept getting lost trying to figure out where our table was.
The food was average, nothing we had was great and the variety didn't seem that good. The deli was nice and had good food and the pizza was good.
The outside food stations (located by the pools) served hot dogs/hamburgers every day but sometimes we noticed they did set up a speciality bar (like taco's/nacho's) but I never knew what/where/when it was being served. One day they had the tacos as we were walking out to the pool. By the time we got our chairs and went back for food they were shutting it down. It was 1:20pm. So I have no idea what schedule they run on.
It would be helpful for these food stations to be more clearly labeled as to what they are serving and the hours (this may be in the Capers but it would be more convenient to post it at the stations).
We are not big into fancy foods so we only ate in the formal dining room twice. Service was VERY slow and food was not all that great. Son had to send steak back because he ordered it medium and it was tough as leather. We did not care for the waiters singing and dancing in the middle of our meal either. The strobe light effect with waiters doing the Macarana should be saved for the casual dining area.
We attended a few shows but never made it to the disco or bars so cant comment on those. The shows were OK. I was disappointed with Ticket To Ride. Seemed like more "fluff" than an actual show. The dancers were OK but not great, same with the singers. I was really disappointed that they had two shows of guest talent. A talent show and Legends. Neither were good and it was a let down that Carnival lets the guests provide the talent (or lack of)for two nights.
There was something going on pretty much all the time but we mostly laid on the pool deck during the days and attended the main show at night.
I did some shopping in the gift shops and was happy with my purchases there.
Ports of Call:
San Juan - Have no idea why this is a port of call to tell you the truth. Its really just a bunch of tourist trap stores crammed into very narrow and congested roads. We didn't get there until around 4pm and some shops were getting ready to close. The forts were closed by the time we got there too and frankly it seemed a little seedy. We visited the forts from the outside, went into a few shops and were back on the ship before dark.
St. Thomas - This was a beach day for us. Took a cab to Coki Beach (paid $9 each there and $7 back). We rented beach chairs for $5 each and were lucky to get a spot with some shade. The beach is beautiful but also rather small and not alot of shade. The kids brought their own snorkel gear and were thrilled with all the fish and sea life they saw. Very excellent day at the beach.
We did go next door to Coral World. Sorta small and cheesy but it was something to do and the kids did get a kick out of petting the stingrays.
Tortola- We had booked the Dolphin Experience directly with the dolphin place and not through the cruise line. Save lots of money and had no problem getting a taxi there on my own. This was the highlight of our trip. Worth every penny to see the look on my kids faces during this experience.
I agree with the previous review about the yucky vendors here as you get off the ship. They were selling very generic stuff and were rude and not willing to barter AT ALL. It was way too hot and humid to deal with that so we just got back on the ship.
Daughter age 11 seemed to have less activities than son age 13 and hers seemed more childish for her age. I saw my son about an hour of the entire cruise because he was gone all day and night with his new friends. I think he had a very good time.
Overall it was a pleasant vacation. I probably wouldn't sail this ship again due to the rocking. I was also not happy with the food/dining set up. I wasn't that crazy about so many days at sea either. I was starting to really feel like I wanted the vacation to end and thats not good. If we cruise again we would probably choose a larger ship and maybe a different cruise line.