We sailed on Jan 13th, 2008 from Miami...or at least the SHIP sailed from Miami.
I purchased this cruise for my fiance...it was his first, my second. I had booked through Carnival.com, I was very satisfied with the assistance that my agent gave me in keeping the cruise a secret. She gave me no phone calls. She left no messages and all of the emails were directed to another account that my fiance could not access. The delivery of the surprise went well.
We live in Oklahoma City. Our plans were to travel from OKC to Kentucky, Kentucky to Florida and be taken by bus to the port. This did not happen. Our airlines screwed around long enough that we were only left with the option to be flown to Nassau at NOON (on a SUNDAY). So, we were flown from OKC to Dallas and Dallas to Nassau (a rather nice flight, actually, great photo op). Once in Nassau, we were absolutely clueless as to where we needed to stay. If anyone is presented with this same scenario, please do all you can to stay in an "American" hotel. Pay whatever the cost. In the airport (right after customs) we were greeted by a man that set us up with a hotel. Unfortunately, when I mentioned the word "reasonable" this was apparently synonymous with the word "ghetto" for him. I requested something near the port...ugh. Just one big mess. He set us up with a hotel 2 streets from the port. If you know anything about Nassau, you know this is not good. Once we finally secured a driver (that drove like a bat out of hell...in a car with no seatbelts!!), he hauled us across the island in record time. Once we were dropped off at our hotel, he promptly unloaded our stuff, took his money and he was GONE. Apparently even the natives don't want to be in that neighborhood. When I walked into our hotel, I almost cried. The receptionist sat behind a 4" bullet proof window with a slot just big enough for your credit card and a pen to be slid through. My "reasonable" room was under $100. I would gladly have paid 10 times that had I known where we were going to be staying. The elevator squealed and smoked as it went to the second floor. There were bugs in the room...AND NO FRESH WATER IN WHICH TO BATHE! In fact, when you turned the shower on...water shot out of the wall instead of the head. It was a disaster. The only blessing was the Hard Rock Cafe 1 block north of us. Bless the bartender who didn't cut me off even after I'd had enough.
At 6am, we were up and running. We were at the Port waiting for someone. We were told that if we crossed the boundary without permission, we would be shot. So, I tried to phone Carnival to let them know that we were at the port. All of the pay phones in the port were out of service (about 30 of them). So, I phoned my mother from my cell...and she did the talking for us (thank God for family). After we finally made it to the ship, we were told our luggage was lost. We knew it was running late because it didn't make our Nassau flight...but we never expected that we would NEVER get our luggage.
I am sad to say that the ONE excursion that my fiance wanted to do...we didn't get to do because of the problems with our luggage. Thankfully, Carnival did have a "sample" pack which had toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, etc. I nearly cried when I received this tiny amenities. Being without even a hairbrush can drive even the most stable of women over the edge.
Over the following few days, Carnival attempted to locate our luggage...but could not. Our excursions were great...we missed the one in Nassau. We went on beach excursions in St. Thomas (which included shopping) and in St. Maarten. St. Thomas was STUNNING. St. Maarten was COVERED in seaweed. I'd recommend checking out the beach you're going to be travelling to should you elect a beach excursion in St. Maarten. It's pretty...but it's not pristine as one would like a beach to be. Not nice to take some of the beach home in your shoes and bathing suit bottoms.
Overall, excursions were worth while. I do photography and had a fantastic time with the camera.
The cruise, however, was mediocre. The food? Mediocre. I was extremely offended that a cruise in the OCEAN did not have any SEAFOOD. The first cruise I had been on featured an all-time buffet with every seafood imaginable. I had planned to eat my weight in crab legs and shrimp on this cruise, as well, but failed to see nary a crustacean available for consumption. The food in the formal dining hall was repetitive and boring. I've served better foods at my own house. I did enjoy the cheese platter, however, which was a nice change...but available every. single. night. As were the tiger shrimp appetizers. Really, for a vegetarian, your food choices are limited on this cruise. My boyfriend wasn't impressed with the food either.
Our room wasn't bad (8431, I think). Center ship...rather quiet, a few decks below the promenade. Our room attendant was AWESOME...his name was Frank. And like most of these employees on the cruise, he remembers every name spoken to him. He will see you on another deck and promptly greet you with your NAME.
My fiance and I had a couples massage done while we were on the cruise. It was a pulsant experience but too expensive at $150. They also attempted to educate us post-massage and sell us some stuff that we weren't going to use. It would be nice if, at a time like this, they could have just let the end of the massage...end...instead of trying to make more money. We'd already tipped them graciously.
Sadly, we went the entire trip with NO luggage. Carnival was unable to find our luggage and the air lines apparently needed an entire week to realize that instead of making the 2nd Nassau flight of the PM...our luggage had been taken back to Ft. Lauderdale where it sat for 7 days. It was only when we were driven from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale that we were able to find it.
My fiance and I are going to give Carnival one more shot in January 2009. If this cruise is as mediocre as the last, we'll be going with another cruise line. Carnival is spot-on when it comes for affordability...but I cannot help but think that you get what you pay for. When it comes to choosing rooms, I recommend going for the cheap ones, center of the ship, middle of the decks. They're quiet, roomy and, well, affordable. You won't be spending a huge amount of time in them anyway...why splurge?
The best part about the cruise, hands down, was the sushi chef. I live to eat sushi...and was pleasantly surprised with their daily choices. The good thing about this is that anyone wanting to try it can. They do not (or at least did not on our cruise) serve FRESH fish. It was mostly rice and cooked shrimp or some variation. Very good :)
Note: If you are a jewelry, electronics or clothing lover and you're going to St. Thomas...take your credit card. They have TONS of amazing deals. Remember, "stones" are tax free...which means jewelry comes back to the US without an extra charge! Good time to buy some bling ;)