I have been on one cruise previously, which was the Carnival Destiny last summer 2007. We had such a great time on that one that we decided to do it again this summer with Carnival.
We arrived in Miami the day before which was nice and stayed with a friend. If you want a good place to go for dinner, I would recommend the Knife in The Grove, all you can eat Argentinean style food for $29 plus everyone gets their own bottle of wine! Great way to warm up to your activities for the coming week! The ship itself was nice. I have to admit it was a little disappointing that the layout of the Destiny and Valor and I would now have to assume all the other Carnival ships, are pretty much the same. The onboard activities were also pretty similar to the Destiny so it was watching the same thing again, just different people.
The service on board the ship was average.Again, I hate to keep comparing but our servers on the Destiny were EXCELLENT ( David and Santosh) and the ones on Valor were good but nowhere as great as previous experiences. I must say that our room attendants were excellent and our rooms were always super clean!
Shore Excursions Cayman Islands was the only place that we did not book any excursions. We just walked around the pier area and were very happy when we got back to the boat. Cayman is only good if you need to buy jewelry or leather! Of course if you want to go swimming with the stingrays I am sure it is fantastic but we were not so brave!
Roatan Island My favorite excursion ! We rented scooters via www.captainvans.com which was great. 2 of us were on a scooter and it cost $51 including insurance. We drove about 45 mins around the island and went to jungle canopy zip lining which we also booked through captain vans. Brad at the Jungle Canopy was excellent and this cost us $45 compared to the really high prices on carnival for zip lining excursions. I would recommend renting scooters and going to the zip lining to anyone! After the zip lining, we had more time to go to the beach called West Bay which was really nice as well.
Belize We booked cave tubing through cave-tubing.com. If you are going to do cave tubing do NOT do it with carnival. They charge $98 vs $45 for cave-tubing.com We added on the ATV to our tubing package so the total was $75. The guides with cave-tubing.com were also excellent. We had Evan and Carlos. We had one little boy who was also on the tour who could not walk and Evan carried him the entire 20 minute hike! Also with cave-tubing.com, everyone is interlinked with each other. When we saw the other people going down the river, they were all separated and shouting at each other to wait up etc. CAVE-TUBING.COM !!
Cozumel This was also a great port! We did the dune buggy rental & snorkel through Carnival ( it was $10 cheaper to do it directly but because the tour is about 5 hours we would rather have been safe than sorry). The Dune Buggys themselves were tons of fun and we had a quite a long drive in them. The "ruins" that they take you to.. is one very very small ruin.. so please do not book this tour if that is a main reason! They also took us to see some alligators along the way before we got to the beach. The beach itself was beautiful and the snorkeling was decent. Note, to get to the reef where the fish and coral are, you have to swim there AND swim back. The water never gets super deep but it is quite a long swim so beware! We then had a mexican buffet and free sodas and water ( all included) Miguel and Miguel were our guides and they were also very knowledgeable and alot of fun! We got back in time to do so some shopping! Definitely a place where you can negotiate ! We also got a free drink coupon to use at Senor Frogs which, if your a drinker, is a great place to go for some entertainment before getting on the boat!
We had an inside cabin which was very nice. We rather spend our money on excursions and other stuff than on having a window in the room. You hardly spend anytime in the room anyway!
The food in the main dining room was excellent as always! Lunch on the lido deck is also good but always check for the times that lunch closes as sometimes its way too early ! Also the fish and chips that I have seen everyone else say is so great, was quite oily so I would not recommend. Warm chocolate melting cake for dinner however, EXCELLENT!
The entertainment on board was very similar to the Destiny. There were alot of dancing shows, comedians, hypnotists and a juggler. I recommend the midnight comedian shows as they are hilarious. Also the karaoke was quite funny to watch as well!
In a summary, I would have to say that we had a great time and the value for the money spent cannot be beat. However, the service was better on the Destiny and as I mentioned, would like to see some sort of variety in terms of shows and activities.
Disembarkation was a bit disorganized. They called people by their numbers that were assigned the night before. We did self assist ( took our own luggage off) so we could get off the boat whenever you want. Note you have to be out of your cabin by 8:30am regardless of the time you get off the boat so you might as well self assist!
Additional tips! Bring a bottle of water to refill at all the water coolers they have on board. Free alcohol - art auctions, captains cocktail party! Cheap alcohol if you do not get it in the souvenir glass ( you pay for the cup) Bring conditioner, they only have shampoo and soap.