Just returned from 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise, so am writing this while all is fresh. Please read to the bottom where the "be careful" part will be covered. I will be fair in reviewing the cruise itself.
This was my parents 50th anniversary cruise and we totaled 17 people on cruise. My immediate family consists of 5 people including myself, my wife and 3 children, ages 9-14. We flew to Miami and stayed 2 nights at the Embassy Suites close to airport which was convenient.
We took a taxi to the port the day of the cruise (around $40), and arrived about noon. I would recommend this as we got thru the embarkation process and had time to wander the ship and familiarize ourselves with where things were. They have the embarkation process down to a fine art and was very smooth.
Really took couple days as ship is really large to be comfortable locating places without a map. We ate at Rosies on the Lido deck which was quite good. Buffet style with various foods and good variety for the duration of cruise. I will say I was impressed with how nice the boat was and very clean.
First day was Nassau and with short amount of time in port. Just took taxi to Paradise Island to Atlantis and walked around in there for a while. The massive aquarium is really cool. Then we went to the public beach area and played there and this was nice. Took taxi back so had about an hour to look around town and markets close to where board the ship. This area was just OK and won't take long to walk around before everything becomes monotonous.
We had a relaxing day at sea, then on to St Thomas. There we took taxi to the ferry and went to St John to Trunk Bay for beach time and snorkeling. Quite nice, but crowded as a lot of excursions went there. Then we went back to St Thomas to town to shop for couple of hours and just walk around. We weren't looking for anything specific just deals we kept hearing about. Didn't find them, and you really need to know what you are looking at and how much that would cost at home as they are pretty high pressure and try to convince you that the deal is good, so I would caution about this.
Next day at St Martin, we just took a taxi tour of island, around the whole perimeter with a few stops to look around. This was nice as gives you a chance to see everything in a short amount of time (approximately 2.5 to 3 hours). Cost was $30/person for 5 and can get this not far off ship. Be careful at Orient Beach if don't want to have kids see Adam & Eve. After this went back to town to walk around and shop (I would suggest shop on Dutch side of island). Same with the deals here, just didn't find particularly good deals, for instance I have a Hamilton Frogman watch and I paid less in US than I could find there. A lot of reviews suggested eating at Blue Bitch Grill on the boardwalk and I would highly recommend this. Food was good and then after lunch we just stepped right out in front of grill to beach. Nice beach with good area to play in ocean and could get buckets of beer (5 for $10). We just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon here until time to get back to ship.
Next 2 days at sea. Plenty to do on boat whether want to relax on deck and get sun or a lot of activities to accommodate most interests.
Then back to Miami where debarkation process was again smooth. We were not in a big hurry as our flight was late in the afternoon, but they have a system to get you off early if have early flight. Only hold-up was customs, with quite a long line, but if you're realistic, you would expect this.
General info: We did not book any excursions, just did what we wanted on the fly. Plenty of taxis etc. to accommodate this. This worked well for us, but if you like a plan I would book an excursion as the ports are chaotic, but this doesn't bother me. Food on ship was good. I would eat in dining room as much as possible as food little better there, but I assure you that you won't go hungry anywhere. Fish & chips grill was pretty good, but early in week is less traffic. I won't go into the food any further as with all the grills and such your sure to find something to you pleasing. A MUST though is Scarlet supper club. Definitely worth the little extra money (I think was $30 per person). We didn't take the kids as we just wanted adult night, but the food was unbelievable. Just when you think surely you must be done, they bring more. Fabulous. We had ocean view room and was spacious with lots of storage. The stewards keep it spotless (they won't come home with you though). The towel animals are cool and the kids loved this. I really can't think of complaints regarding the cruise itself. The only thing bothersome was everywhere you go they want to take your picture to sell you. Some areas become congested. A little overbearing for us.
BE CAREFUL: As stated this was a big occasion cruise and we booked 1 year in advance to make sure got what we wanted and no problems. This was our first cruise and I only did what our "cruise specialist" recommended as I knew no different. Again there were 5 in my immediate family and we were to have adjoining rooms. When we received booklet with room assignments we were a significant distance apart. When spoke to "cruise specialist" he was extremely rude and acted like this was my fault and basically was absolutely disinterested in correcting his mistake. My brother had adjoining room just like mine but did not need, so I thought just switch, but this wasn't going to happen. I talked to his supervisor and then to his supervisor's boss with unsatisfactory results. They were nicer & more polished, but ineffective. They offered a free fountain pass card for the kids and a fruit basket. Whoopee. We found this to be very inconvenient as my wife and 2 kids stayed in one room and myself and son stayed in the other. If you like to vacation with your family split this is for you, if not (like me) I would seriously look at another cruise line.
I personally will not cruise with Carnival again, but because of the way I was treated and not the cruise. I think I have rated the cruise fairly and this is a good cruise and I liked it, but after what happened I cannot stomach giving my hard earned money to Carnival. The folks on the ship were very nice and all as they had no clue what went on, but the customer service in corporate office is pathetic. Again this cruise was booked one year in advance, we weren't slipping in at the last minute.