This was our 6th cruise. We cruised on the Carnival Paradise twice, the Carnival Miracle twice and a Royal Caribbean ship once. We think Carnival is the best. My husband and I went with our son (22) and two daughters (20 and 18). This was our youngest daughter's graduation present. Several other families joined us. Before the cruise, I researched alot to help the group plan excursions and give them cruise tips. I started about 10 months before the cruise planning it-several had never cruised before and I wanted this to be the best vacation they had ever had. Day before cruise: We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale and spent the night at the Best Western Airport Hotel. They had free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. Our room was $99 and had complimentary breakfast. Sunday: I searched on the internet 4 months before the cruise and called several shuttle services and found SunandMoonExpress to have the best price for round-trip tickets. Edwin was very helpful and provided excellent service. We were picked up in two vans at 11:00 on Sunday morning and arrived at Port of Miami in about 30 minutes. We were on the ship eating lunch by 12:30.
Monday: Our first day at sea was very relaxing. One of our friends had a terrible toothache that evening at dinner and was in terrible pain all night. He ended up getting a root canal in Grand Cayman the next morning. We were glad that was our first port. After the root canal, he felt good the rest of the cruise. On Monday night, one of the members of our group had a bad reaction to the patch. She fell down 3 times and was not herself. The doctor onboard made her check in with him before she could get off the ship for several days. He said she should have taken the patch off some. It took about two days to wear off. At Grand Cayman, she spent her whole day in a wheelchair on the ship.
Tuesday: Grand Cayman was our first port. Our family had been there 2 previous times. This was my least favorite port. Some of our friends took a taxi to the Black Pearl Skateboard park. It is the 2nd largest skateboard park in the world. They had a great time. Our son doesn't skateboard but had a blast riding the waves there. Because it was a rainy day, there weren't many people there besides them.
Wednesday: Roatan was our favorite port. The reason I chose this particular cruise was because of Roatan. We had been there several years ago and had told everyone it was the most beautiful place and they all agreed. We went back to Tabyana beach. There is alot of good shade there for people like me who don't like to bake in the sun. This is the only excursion we booked through the ship.
Thursday: Belize is another pretty place. We had been there twice before and had gone to Goff Caye and the Belize zoo. This year I read alot about Belize on cruise critic. I got great responses from the people who answered my questions. Before the cruise, I emailed coralbreezetours several times but didn't book because I wasn't sure how many in our group would want to go. I ended up booking the excursion on Monday on the ship. There were 14 in our group that did the Bannister Island/Manatee watch excursion. You can also add snorkeling to this trip for a few dollars more. This excursion is listed as Private Island Beach through Carnival but it only goes to the Beach. We saved money booking through coralbreezetours. They have alot of different excursions in Belize to choose from. If you have 6 or more, you can get a group discount. Everyone thought this was a beautiful place-pretty beach, good activities and plenty of shade.
Friday: Cozumel is my favorite place to shop. I wish Carnival would stay at the port a few hours longer. Our youngest daughter wanted to swim with the dolphins, so I booked with dolphin discovery before we left home. I saved over $60 booking directly with them. There is a toll free number to call and book. I just wish the lady had told me that her 10:00 swim was not with ship's time. They are one hour behind ship time so we got there an hour and a half early. We could have been shopping in town before the swim if she had told me. Our daughter loved the swim. The swimmers can take water cameras with them in the water. I had to pay $16.00 to go in Chankanaab Park and watch. To get close to the swimmers, they charge $5.00 extra but they won't allow you to take cameras with you so I tried to video and take pictures from a distance. They want people to buy their video and pictures. I only bought one of their pictures-our daughter kissing the dolphin. After the swim, we took a taxi back to town and ended up being one taxi behind others in our group going to Playa Mia beach. Our children had been there 3 times before and liked the beach but today it was too hot and not enough shade. I stayed in town and shopped for about an hour before going back to the ship. If you are a coffee drinker, be sure and buy the Mexican coffee in Los Cinco Sol. I think that is the name of the store.
Saturday-Our last day at sea. The excitement for the day was a small boat of Cubans wanting to get to the ship. Chris, the cruise director said that we would be stopping the ship and waiting on word of what to do. We were stopped for about an hour and a half until the Coast Guard arrived and took the people.
Ship: This is a beautiful ship and everything was very clean. The people working on the ship were very nice. Most of them work very long hours but I never heard anyone complain. We had early dining in the Lincoln Dining room. Our kids especially liked Sumartha, the head waiter. He was great! Our room was on the Riviera deck. There was noise below us the last two nights. The oceanview rooms on the Main deck would have been quieter. Anthony was our steward. He was very nice and did a great job cleaning our room and making the towel animals. The only part of the ship I didn't like was trying to get to certain places on deck 3 and 4. It took a few days to figure out which stairs to use to get to Purser's desk on deck 3 and get to internet cafe on Deck 4. I did not like having to walk in the Cigar bar to get to the internet cafe. I would try to hold my breath till I got inside.
The ship had great food!!! My favorite for lunch was the oriental food on the Lido deck and all the delicious salads. At dinner, I had salmon every night but one. The grilled salmon was my favorite. My husband and son had 2 entrees several nights. Service was very good except the night we had lobsters. Alot of people wanted lobster and it slowed the waiters down. My husband and son got the prime rib and the lobster that night.
Entertainment: We went to all the shows. Most of them were very good. Our favorite was the Legend show on the last night. One of our friends was Elvis. Last year on the Miracle, he was Elton Jon.
For our next cruise, I am looking at the Carnival Valor again-Eastern Caribbean. Other possibilities would be Carnival Glory or Carnival Freedom. Carnival is great for a fun, family vacation!!! Before I go on any cruise, I will do my research again on Cruise Critic-the best site on the internet for cruise information.