Day 1, 7/13/08, Embarkation Day: There were 5 of us in 2 cabins on this cruise. We purchased airport transfers from Carnival. We did this because we wanted to be sure there would be no problem getting 5 people & their luggage to the correct terminal on time. Carnival's people were set up next to baggage claim, so no problem there. Our flight was on time, arriving about 11 a.m. I figured we would jump on the bus & be on board fairly early. Wrong! They had a line for Triumph pax & Valor pax. As we were waiting for our 3rd piece of luggage, the bus left for the Valor. Naturally, our suitcase came down the carousel within seconds of the bus leaving for the terminal. The next bus came, but only took Triumph pax, so we continued to wait. They finally called for us & we followed the CCL rep out the door, expecting to see our bus waiting for us. But no, we only went to stand in line outside. At long last the bus came for us, loading up both Triumph & Valor pax. It was a Greyhound bus, so all the luggage was put underneath & we rode in air-conditioned comfort. First stop was the Triumph. Everyone had to stay on the bus until all the luggage was unloaded. Then, the Triumph pax were able to get off & collect their luggage. So, this was repeated at the Valor terminal. Once at the terminal, you had to get a new luggage tag for each piece of luggage & leave it there among the bajillions of other suitcases. From there, we lined up to go inside the terminal. The line was long, but it moved pretty fast. That is, until we got up to the check-in desk & the computers went down. And, they went down right as we were having our cabins re-arranged. So, there was more waiting, as we chose to wait until they came back up so our keys would be correct. I know, we could have done that on board, but once on board, I really wasn't interested in waiting in yet another line. What's odd to me is that the check-in people say you can't book a minor in a room with siblings if no one is 25 years of age, yet they always change everything when you arrive. Would it not make more sense just to allow people to book that way in the first place? We're not talking about small kids, ours are 15, 20 & 23 and were booked in the room next door. Anyway, we ended up getting on board the ship around 3 p.m. So, we missed meeting our Cruise Critic buddies. We made our way up to Lido to get some food & were finally able to relax. Yeah!!!!
We had 6pm seating for dinner in the Washington dining room. When we arrived, we noticed that 3 of us were at one table & 2 of us were at another table. We were part of a group booking, so all that booking was seated in close proximity to each other. The maitre d read off names of our tablemates, whom we didn't know, then told our waiter to go ahead & seat us all at one table & he would take care of the rest. Nino was our waiter, his assistant was Imade & our cocktail waitress was Zofia. They were all wonderful. We ate in the dining room every night. Zofia had our sodas ready quickly. My son had the chocolate melting cake every night. It became a joke when Nino passed out the dessert menus, as there really was no point in giving one to my son - his mind was made up. The food was very good, service was good. Some things were better than others, but I never had to send anything back. On one occasion, my son didn't like what he got. He never said anything, but Nino noticed he hadn't eaten much & immediately offered to bring him a steak.
Our rooms were 9235 & 9239 on Lido deck. Both were interior, so nothing exciting to report about that. I did notice that our sink & shower in 9239 were very slow to drain. In fact, the shower got water on the floor of the bathroom. We had plenty of towels & rolled them up around the shower. It helped somewhat. I kept meaning to say something to our steward, Pedro, but always forgot. I know Carnival brags about its comfort bedding & yes, the linens are nice. However, the beds are very hard. I sleep on a sleep number bed at home, so it was a bit of an adjustment. Just so you know, though, I had no trouble sleeping at all. The hairdryer in the room was fine for us. My girls brought their own, as it would not have been adequate for their long hair. The amenity basket had a couple of razors, pepcid complete, fiber chews & toothpaste. You'll still want to bring your own toothpaste, as it's really not enough for 2 people for an entire week. There was plenty of closet space.
Day 2, 7/14/08, Nassau, Bahamas: We were only in port from 7am to 2pm, so not a lot of time to do much. We walked around & shopped. Hubby & I had done the Pirate Museum on a previous trip, so we didn't do it again. We did enjoy horsing around with the pirate guy, though. This was the first formal night - the Captain's cocktail party & dinner. The kids were all asking for their wristbands & the girls were taking the ginger capsules by this time. It seemed a tad bumpy, although I have seen worse.
Day 3, 7/15/08, Day at Sea: This was the only day that I had to wear my wristbands. The kids all needed them as well. I think this was the day I made a $10 donation to the casino. Attended the shopping talk & got some good info, but it was waaaaay too long. All the maps & bracelet coupons were given out before leaving the ship, so I'm thinking I won't waste my time next time.
Day 4, 7/16/08, St. Thomas: Took a bus into downtown for $4 per person & did some shopping, then headed back to the dock to meet our excursion bus. We went to Coral World for Snuba. Hubby & I are scuba divers & wanted the kids to experience what we see when we dive. They enjoyed it, even the daughter that wouldn't snorkel with us 4 years ago.
Day 5, 7/17/08, St. Maarten: Went on the Galion horseback ride. They took us in an air-conditioned bus to Orient Beach (I didn't realize we would be going there). An open jeep picked people up there in groups of 10 to go to Bayside Stables. So, we had time at the beach before & after our ride. We didn't pack swimwear, so we just waded out a bit. The beach was beautiful with some nice waves - I really wish we had our swimwear. Anyway, we went to the stables for our ride. It was about an hour long, winding through a really brushy area down to the beach. We only went in about to the horses' bellies. They do not give you any time to take your shoes off, so we all just held our feet up. If you are not comfortable taking your feet out of the stirrups, you'll want to wear shoes that you don't mind getting wet. We wore shorts & had to be careful not to get scratched, but it worked out pretty well. St. Maarten is really rocky, as was St. Thomas. They weren't really what I had expected. The beaches were nice, though. After we got back to the ship, we had lunch & decided to walk to the beach & shop downtown. My flip flops wore a blister on 1 foot, so that was a bit of a problem. Fortunately, they give out Band-Aids at the purser's desk. The downtown beach is simply a place to sunbathe & play in the water. There are no activities there like at Orient. We just went there because there was not a lot of time left in port.
Day 6, 7/18/08, Day at Sea: Played 7 game bingo, making a $20 donation to Carnival. The highlight of the evening was watching the G-Force dancers. These guys were amazing, doing a 2nd interactive performance in the lobby after the main show.
Day 7, 7/19/08, Day at Sea: Got some sun, basically did nothing. Played Family Feud, just not sure which day it was. I felt like crying at dinner, knowing it was the last one.
Day 8, 7/20/08, Debarkation Day: Got up early for breakfast & last minute toiletry packing. Funniest thing - I was checking & double-checking all the drawers, closet & safe when I found 5 sheets of Cruise Critic nametags on top of the safe. So, whoever had cabin 9239 on the Cruise Critic group cruise, I have the nametags! We had decided the night before to take our own luggage off the ship. Naturally, our deck was one of the first to be called. So, we finished up breakfast & left. I think we were off the ship by 8am. The Greyhound bus was there when we walked out. It was loaded up fairly quickly & we got to the airport with about 5 hours to kill. I played cards with 2 of the kids while hubby & other daughter read books & played solitaire & speed.
Overall, I loved the cruise. The entertainment did not seem up to par with what we had on Elation 4 years ago. The singers' mikes were up too loud. Hubby is an old rock n roll guitar player, so if it's too loud for him, you know it's too loud.