Pre Embarkation: The night before the cruise we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton in Coco Beach. What a great place to stay! The hotel is new and it's connected to a surf shop. What a trip. The Ron Jon Surf Shop is also located next store. I think that this is one of the largest surf shops in the United States and it's open 24 hrs a day, no joke! Inside the hotel there is a nice bar/restaurant area and a Starbucks coffee. We explored Coco Beach on Friday before the cruise and we stopped by a great happy hour at Shuckleberry Fin's Oyster Bar. They had 45 cent oyster and wings for their happy hour. Knocked back a dozen and a few brews and the vacation started. After that we went to Rusty's for dinner.
Embarkation: We returned our rental car to Avis and they took us to the port on their shuttle bus. Easy peasy. No problem. We arrived at the port around 10:15 A.M. and we were on the ship by 11:30 A.M. Once we got aboard, we explored the ship a bit and then we went and had fish and ships above the Red Sail restaurant. They rocked! My husband and I both thought that they were great. Not greasy, hot, tasty, yum! After lunch we sat on the lido desk and watched other passengers come aboard.
General impressions: The ship is really, really nice and very clean. The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was the fact that at times there were glasses and plates that were not picked up quickly enough. This wasn't always an issue, but at times, there were a lot of empty cups on the lido desk and in the hallways.
Cabin: We had an Oceanview cabin on the main desk. It was quiet and very spacious. Our room steward Osneal, did a good job supplying us with ice and clean towels.
Food: My husband and I live outside of San Francisco and are very particular when it comes to food. Call us food snobs, it's OK! We liked the food on Carnival a lot. There was a lot of variety and we both felt like the quality was above average. We did NOT feel like the food was gourmet, but it exceeded our expectations. The deli and pizza stations are nice additions and the sushi station was nice, too, although the quality was mid-range at best. I enjoyed the eggs benedict for breakfast in the dining room and for dinner I loved the Panko encrusted shrimp and the penne in a sun dried tomato sauce. The dining room staff was quite good. We enjoyed our waitress Nilah. She was very attentive. One night we ate at the Emerald restaurant for $30 a person and I suggest everyone do this. The lobster bisque was killer. The ceasar salad prepared table side was good. The lobster in the supper club was above average. I also had the mac and cheese with truffle oil which was very bad. I've had this dish many times before in other restaurants and it's always been good. It was not good here. My husband had a steak and he raved about it. I also had the Cheesecake for dessert and it was tasteless. My husband got the cheese plate and it was great. All in all, Carnival did a good job with the food preparation both in the regular dining room and in the Emerald Club. Don't expect gourmet fair because you won't get it. But, it did seem to be above average, fresh and plentiful.
Entertainment: The shows were average. We enjoyed the opening show. We also enjoyed the magician. The production value was good and the costumes looked great. We enjoyed the rock group Music Sense. We visited the piano bar one night and would have liked to stay, but the smoke was too thick.
Ports O' Call: We skipped Nassau due to Hurricane Hanna. We went to St. Thomas and St. Martin. In St. Thomas we took a public ferry to St. John and went to Trunk Bay. Trunk Bay has a national park with an underwater snorkeling trail and we went snorkeling. It was absolutely great, except for the weather, which was wet, wet, wet. In St. Martin we booked a tour with Bernard of Bernard Tours. It was pretty good. We went on a general island tour, went to the french side beaches, did some shopping, etc.
Final thoughts: The weather on this cruise was really bad. We spent a lot of time skirting Hanna. It didn't ruin our trip, but in both ports of call we were met with rainy weather. This impacted our overall experience. I'm not sure I will cruise in hurricane season again. It's too nerve-racking. What carnival does, it does very, very well. We got a very enjoyable experience for a very cheap price. I felt like the entire staff went out of their way to create a fun experience for all. It was a nice vacation.