I want to make a personal remark here so that you understand why I was so happy on this trip. Before we left, I decided that my mantra for the week would be to take it easy, do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and solve every problem with a fruity, umbrella-accented drink. LOL. In other words-I wanted a REAL vacation.
Travel To Port of Embarkation- We are all Houstonians and live in various parts of the city, so the drive is only about 50 minutes long. We used my brother's friend's Yukon since it was big enough to fit the 6 of us and our luggage, although it was a tight squeeze. We left a little later than we wanted to, but still arrived at the Port of Galveston by 11am. After dropping off the luggage with a porter, 2 of our party went to drop the truck off at Lighthouse parking ($50 prepaid). We tipped $2 per bag, and $3 for my "bag of bricks" as it was not so affectionately called. It only took about 12 minutes for them to get back to us from the lot to the Port. Once together again, we still had our carry-on bags, 2 cases of water and 2 -12-packs of soda to lug through the embarkation line. THANK GOD we were there early enough for there to barely even be a line. There were probably about 30 people ahead of us and the line was moving very quickly. Security was a breeze and they did not find the 7 "water" bottles of vodka that were mixed in with the cases. And if they noticed the flask of Tequila in the emptied snack cake box, they didn't bat an eye. It took about 10 minutes to get our sail and sign cards, and then we were on the ship!
We entered the lobby area and all stood wide-eyed at the beauty of it. You really wouldn't believe you were on a ship. Then we were escorted to an elevator and sent to the lido deck for our delicious lunch. We all had food and I and my BFF had our first cocktails by noon. Advised by my mother, for whom this was her 2nd cruise with Carnival, we wore our bathing suits underneath our clothes so that we could lounge by the pool until our rooms were ready. We explored the Lido, took lots of pictures, and lay out on the chairs after we ate until my brother called my cell and told us the rooms were ready. It was right at 1:30pm and we already had 4 of our 6 bags. I had also already had my 2nd drink! Colin the drink server was the 1st person we got drinks from and wonderful (more on him later)!
Stateroom- I have no complaints whatsoever about our cabin. Our room was on the 6th deck, Upper, at the aft (back) end of the ship. The Degas lounge was below us and there was karaoke every night, but it didn't bother any of us. Our dining room was 3 floors down and easily accessible, but we did have to learn the hard way that we would have to go to the next set of elevators at mid-ship in order to get through to the other end of decks 3-5. We did have a minor issue of needing keys to be traded due to the age restrictions of the rooms (you need 1 person 25 years or older in with anyone under 25 OR all occupants must be over 21). If you refer to the ages in the intro, all the guys were under 25. We booked with my mom, brother, and I in one room and hiss 2 friends and my BFF in the other room since she was 25. We decided to just avoid any trouble that getting a key traded would cause and just decided to stick close to each other. We didn't have any real issues, but plan on making an effort next trip as no one wants to depend on anyone else while on vacation.
Dining-As reviewed by other members, the dining was hit and miss. It didn't deter me, but the disappointment was apparent. We just took advantage of the unlimited amounts of food we could get and ordered multiple appetizers, entrees, etc. There were some excellent dishes, though. I even loved the chocolate melting cake, which is a feat in itself, as I am certainly not a fan of chocolate. You could say we have a love- (but mostly)hate relationship. I just don't come a family of chocoholics and I guess I am a sad excuse for a woman. What can I say? I also enjoyed the tropical fruit cocktail most nights, along with multiple servings of bread and butter. I could live off of the stuff, and even had it for dessert some nights. Can you tell I go easy on the carbs when I'm home?
Entertainment-The shows weren't that great. I've seen High School performers with better singing and dancing ability than they had, maybe even some middle schoolers. The welcome aboard show was fun though. Every marriage show I saw was hilarious! What I saw of Point and Click was horrible-I walked out after 5 minutes and this was with me being tipsy. I also played Bingo twice and lost. Hands down my favorite place to be was the Tahiti Casino. This was my first time in one and my first time ever gambling. I had brought lots of disposable "fun money", and had planned on shopping with it, but used most of it there instead. I would have just lost or forgotten about anything I bought anyway. I ended up hitting a few small jackpots and played in the slot tournament. Unfortunately no wins, but I had a ball. Everything I did win went back into the casino and was lost. I played nothing but slots until the last day, when my BFF and I decided to learn Roulette. Why didn't we do that in the first place!? I had been scared because it looked hard, but I caught on quickly. I started with $10, made $85, then betted back down to $20. The casino closed soon after that. My first love will always be slots, just something about the sounds but I will divide my time between them and Roulette next time around. I plan on doing the same thing next cruise and advise anyone gambling to do the same-set aside a portion of money that you are okay with losing and STOP when it is gone. I had a great time and am not remorseful of the losses because of this.
The deck party was my favorite night and we all burned off a lot of calories. My brother won the dance contest and got to lead the RED team the rest of the night. I haven't had that much fun since prom! We also spent a little time in Henry's Disco, but just as we all would be getting into a good playlist, the DJ would throw in something really old. The dance floor was cleared very quickly because of this.
Service- My BFF and I got the majority of our drinks from Colin from Guayana throughout the week, as he was almost everywhere we were! He worked the Lido during the day, our dining room during dinner, and the Toulouse-Lautrec Lounge during shows. Our room steward was Justin from Jamaica and he was fabulous. He was quiet, but very friendly. He made our rooms up 3 times a day and provided us with 2 copies of the caper after only asking once. He also gave us plenty of extra towels; after all, it was one cabin being shared by 3 women. By the end of our trip, we had enjoyed a monkey, swan, bulldog, stingray, and piggy towel animals. Our waiter was Iwan from Indonesia and his assistant was Rowena from the Philippines. They were both fabulous, but Iwan really made us feel welcome. He always had 2 shrimp cocktail appetizers ready for my BFF-and she had this every night we ate in the dining room, which was all but once. Feby (Thailand), a casino bartender, and Olga (Russia), a casino cashier, were also very friendly and helpful. All of the staff was amazing.
Shore Excursions-We got the news on our first day at sea that Montego Bay was cancelled due to Hurricane Gustav. Our excursion fee was credited back to our Folios in a timely manner. A $5 credit was also given. The itinerary change moved Cayman and Cozumel up a day and a stop in Progresso last.
Cayman- we did the Stingrays, Hell, and Turtle farm excursion. The water there is AMAZING! My BFF and I managed to lose our group at the turtle farm, but the drivers radioed each other and put us on another bus going to the same place. The turtles were adorable, and I wish I had known you can pay a little more and enjoy the farm all day. It also has music and a mini theme park with lagoons to swim in. Our Stingray excursion was through Kelly water sports. We loved our crew, which consisted of Delroy, the captain, and his assistants Daphine, Mr. Beam, and Coolie Coolie (he look so nice you gotta say it twice!). We held, fed, and played with the rays. Some people in our group found live conchs in their shells. On the way back in, 2 crew members dove into the water and brought up these GORGEOUS starfish to pet and take pics with. It was a wonderful surprise, but I had already used all the exposures in the 2 underwater cameras I had brought.
Cozumel-we had not picked any excursions, but signed on to do some snorkeling on a glass-bottom boat. I believe George was the Captain, and he took good care of us. The seas were a little rough, but I had a lot of fun. It was amazing to see a small jellyfish and a puffer in the wild. I also saw many other fish, but unfortunately also saw an orange soda bottle at the bottom of the ocean…We ate as Senor Frogs and had a blast. Two yard blue margaritas and a few shops later we were back on the ship.
Progresso-My mom got off and did some shopping, but my BFF and I stayed on the ship. We decided to make it our official "Drunk Day" and sat at the casino bar for quite a while. We were more than a little tipsy at dinner, but our waiters placed no judgment on us. They giggled and asked if we could read the menu or needed help. We did ok, minus the glass I broke. I offered to pay, but they wouldn't let me. I decided that next time I'll keep my drunken antics OUT of the main dining room.
Disembarkation Activities-Like everyone said, this took forever. However, my trip was so great that I would rather forget it and not mention it. It has to happen, so it isn't like I can tell you how to avoid it. I was nearly depressed to be leaving, but just listened to my MP3 the whole time.
Summary-I had a fantastic trip overall and recommend this cruise to everyone except moody pregnant women and those who do not want to have fun on the "FUN SHIP". I can honestly say that I happen to enjoy the sea days almost more than the destinations because there were so many things to do. They were relaxing or fun, whatever I made them. My main serious issue was the amount of smoke in the casino and bars, as I have very bad allergies, but I abided by my mantra and just had many a drink so that I could enjoy myself. I steamed out my lungs in the shower daily and used some menthol stuff I brought along called "Magic Mountain" that made it easier to breathe. We also took the advice of other reviews and brought along a highlighter, over-the-door clear shoe organizer, our own water bottles with straps, detergent, etc. It all came in handy. I didn't even need the earplugs.
Another note I must make is to take all your own pics or come prepared to pay $21.99+ for the professional ones. This is ridiculous! I took pics of my professional pics with my digital and got caught, but what are they really gonna do?
As you can probably tell from this long review, I had a blast. Any comments or questions are welcome. We are currently getting a large group together to do the same cruise again next May!