Our background: I'm a single mom and travel with my teenage daughter each year. This is her 7th cruise and my 14th. Mostly on Princess, Holland America, RC and NCL. This was our first Carnival. I was a little skeptical from things I heard about Carnival years ago, but the boards changed my mind and I decided to give it a try.
Embarkation: Arrived at the dock about 10:30. Hardly anyone was there so we got processed right away. Had to wait about 45 minutes to board the ship. But the wait was comfortable and we didn't mind at all. It did take our luggage until 5:00 pm to reach our cabin. I guess "First on, last off" applies here, but it wasn't a problem for us. Shorts are permitted in the dining rooms on the first day. If you want to swim right away, bring a suit with you in your carry on bag.
Ship: I really liked the decor of the ship. It is definitely "glitzy", but that's what I like. Lot's of color and shine everywhere, but I felt it was very tastefully done. Everywhere I walked, I enjoyed the atmosphere around me and I never tired of it. I did notice that there was more brass and wood on some of the other ships, but like I said, this ship "wowed" me. I like the happy feeling I got everywhere. My daughter loved it as well.
Cabins: When I first entered our inside stateroom (7244), I thought it was small. But after unpacking, I couldn't believe how much room there actually was for all of our belongings - we overpacked! Three large closets with plenty of shelving! Several drawers and two small cabinets as well. A desk and a mini bar (kept locked if there are minors in the room). The two of us never felt crowded. The bathroom was spacious (for a cruise ship) with six shelves for toiletries. Way more than we needed and we brought our entire bathroom from home! There is a safe for you valuables. You need a credit card to open and close it (no charge), but I suggest bringing along a "non-credit" card swiper to use. Our steward, Eric, was wonderful. A cute towel animal in our room each evening.
Food: The food in the dining room was good. Not fantastic, but good. It was presented beautifully and we always enjoyed the meals. The wait staff was better than on other cruises that we have sailed on that tips were automatically added. They tend to just do the minimum when they know what their tips will be, but our staff was very good. Carnival did a good job at seating us at a table with a nice family of five which also had two teens, so my daughter had friends.
Rosie's Restaurant was great. There was always something to suit everyone. I liked the deli. Don't forget the hidden secret.....upstairs above Rosie's in the back of the ship is the Fish and Chips place. Great fish and they have some unusual food there.
Entertainment: I saw most of the shows in the Ivanhoe Theater and found them to be very entertaining. I am not very critical and easy to please. Hey...I'm on vacation and I am not looking to be negative. The singers and dancers gave it their all. Happy Cole was very funny. He gave me his cd for talking to him.
Ports of call: Because of Hurricane Fay, we had to reverse the order of our stops, but that didn't affect us at all. We had beautiful weather because of the change. All of the excursions that we had booked online (off of the ship) were waiting for us when we arrived on the different day.
Let me mention that you should either book excursions online with outside companies before you sail or find a tour on the dock! The ships tours are nearly double the price and you get more for your money from the locals!
Cozumel: We disembarked the ship and found a glass-bottom boat snorkel tour on the dock.. They wanted $45/pp, but we paid $40. It was great. There were 12 of us on the boat. We went to two reefs with plenty of fish and time to swim. It included beer and soft drinks. They took underwater pictures of us and each costs $10 if you want to purchase. Not a huge amount and a nice souvenir. After, we had the choice of returning to the ship or getting dropped off at another dock which was close to a beach. We chose the second and took a 10 minute taxi ride to the beach. I believe it was Pleasure Island. No entrance fee and all the amenities you need from chairs, restrooms, water sports and food. A very nice excursion and day at the beach.
Belize: I booked a combo ATV/Cavetubing tour online with Cave-tubing.com before we left. Paid $75/pp. We had a great time. My 14 year old daughter was so pleased that she got to drive an ATV by herself! I must admit, it was a bumpy ride, but I enjoyed it as well. I liked the cavetubing even better. Very relaxing and cave-tubing really did an outstanding job keeping our group together. Their staff was entertaining and very attentive. There is a strenuous 35-45 min walk through the rainforest and the guides carried all of the women's tubes! I would have had a hard time hiking with the tube in hand. I cant say enough about Cave-tubing.com. They were wonderful and I highly recommend them.
Honduras: We pre-booked a zipline tour with Pirates of the Caribbean. Ziplining was FANTASTIC! We did the extreme and had such a great time. It's a little scary jumping off the platform the first time, but after that, you'll be a pro. It is well worth it. We went to Fantasy Island Beach after the zipline. Magnificent doesn't even describe the cove. Clear calm water and palm trees and we were able to use the facilities of the Fantasy Island resort. A wonderful day that we will remember forever.
Grand Cayman: By this time, we were very tired from our other adventurous tours, so we went to Seven Mile Beach and just floated in the water. It too is a beautiful beach with all water sports and amenities. There is actually some pretty good snorkeling right off the beach (we went to the first stop. There are about five beaches in a row) if you want to bring your mask. Only a $4/pp cab ride to the beach. Go early and then walk around town when you get back to the cruise dock. The beach gets crowded as most people go shopping first.
Sea days: There are lots of fun activities to do onboard during the days at sea. You wont be bored.
Here's a few things worth mentioning:
I contracted a stomach bug (probably the norovirus) the first or second day on the ship. I was pretty ill the 4th, 5th and 6th day, but I had to keep going for my daughter's sake. I didn't want to disappoint her. The virus wasn't widespread that I was aware. I didn't hear of any others that were ill. My suggestion is to wash your hand well and frequently!
Here's a few items that are handy to bring along: Lanyard for room key, nightlight (for inside cabins), small power strip - only one outlet in the cabin, big tote bags. There was no need for an alarm clock as there are wake-up calls which were great.
What not to bring: Shampoo, toothpaste, razors, hair dryer, soap (shampoo and shower gel dispenser in shower). These are all available in your cabin.
I also want to mention that because this was an inexpensive cruise compared to other fleets so the class of people on this ship reflected that. Most were sophisticated and pleasant, but there were those that were not. I will leave it at that.
Disembarkation: What a zoo! Good luck! I had ticket number 6, so we were off in plenty of time to make our 2:00 flight from Ft. Lauderdale. They fingerprinted all non-US people, so it took forever in the customs line. They should have had a better system down in the customs area. Maybe a line for US residents.
All in all, it was an enjoyable cruise. Not much outstanding, but no real negatives as far as Carnival was involved. But, I will probably sail with another line next time.