My Husband and I enjoyed our honeymoon aboard the Carnival Glory starting May 1st, and cruised back-to-back for the May 8th sailing as well. We had originally planned a Hawaiian Honeymoon Cruise aboard NCL's Norwegian Star, after being disappointed when our cruise was cancelled just a few weeks prior due to a ship malfunction we returned to CCL, for what would be my 4th and 5th cruises with the line. Having Cruised in on the Victory in November 2000 and 2 weeks on Destiny (in September 2001, having to extend our trip due to 9/11 difficulties), I was confident of the quality and caliber of cruise vacation I could expect onboard the Glory.
Our travel agent arranged our airfare from Toronto through the Carnival booking agents, this made for fewer worries related to scheduling and delays. Though neither my husband nor myself are a confident air passenger, we had no problems and arrived at Orlando airport, found our luggage and located the Carnival Shuttle service agents. We did have to wait at least 40 minutes before boarding the shuttle, but once aboard the ride to the ship was a fairly pleasant hour or so.
Embarkation: At Port Canaveral we quickly learned that the time we took to carefully fill out the on-line 'Fun Pass' boarding passes was basically wasted, we had to hand fill out all the same paperwork with the Carnival Embarkation Staff, perhaps because we are Canadians. In any case they were very pleasant and efficient, and we boarded approx. 20 minutes before Life-Boat Drill. We were able to find our room fairly easily, and met our first week room steward Mara (Unfortunately we were not able to maintain the same state room back-to-back). Our Cabin was an Oceanview Stateroom, Main Deck Forward. For the Week of May 8th, we had another Oceanview Stateroom, Main Deck Aft. Both rooms were well maintained, but that is to be expected when cruising on the fleet's newer ships, something I would recommend highly.
Dining: Meals in the Platinum Upper Dinning Room (late seating) were excellent, the food quality and wide range of selections make for an enjoyable gastronomic experience. The Team waiters as always are superb, and really make you feel welcome every time you join them for dinner. My only complaint was that we were assigned a table for 4, and were told that another couple was scheduled to join us, but they never did. This makes for an awkward amount of seat shuffling, as my husband would sit beside me in the booth each night, and after waiting half an hour slide over across from me so that we could dine face to face. I would advise people who do not intend on eating in the main dining rooms to request to dine alone, out of courtesy to other passengers and/or call the Dinning Room Maitre D' early in the cruise to let them know you will be forgoing your assigned table for the week. Luckily during the second week of our cruise we were seated with a really fun couple that were married in Cozumel during the cruise, we became good friends and we hope to keep in touch in the future.
We also enjoyed many a meal in the 'Red Sail' Cafeteria, Fish and Chips, Late Night Pizza, and Burgers and Fries from the Grille were favorites. We ordered room service for a few breakfasts, but found it faster and easier to line up at the 'trough' or visit the dining room a few times. A little tip, If you order room service, order extra brownies, we saved ours and made brownie sundaes at the 24 hour soft serve ice cream machines, we topped them with m&m's brought from home. Yummy!
Dining in the Emerald Dining Room (Reservations Only Supper Club) was also a treat not to be missed, and well worth the 25 dollar cover fee, though they claim to book up almost instantly for the length of the cruise by the first night, we had no difficulty making an early reservation on the 2nd formal night, especially when we told them it was our honeymoon. I am not sure how the lines got crossed, but at the end of the evening they presented us with a cake celebrating our 'Happy Anniversary', we laughed it off and told them it was our first anniversary (first month!) he he. But further to my claim that you can dress me up but can't take me anywhere, when we got up to leave I promptly dropped the cake on the lovely Emerald Carpet (I swear we hit a really big wave!), the staff scrambled to clean up my big mess, and even gave us another cake, which my husband carried back to our cabin. PS. The cake was awesome and well worth it!
Ports-of-Call: I have very little to say about the various Ports-of-Call, though I can offer a unique perspective because we sailed both the Eastern and the Western Itineraries. I would say that if you love to shop go for Eastern, If you like adventure try the Western... both offer a variety of great beaches for those inclined to frolic in the surf.
Nassau, Bahamas - My second visit to this port, I am not very fond of it, Paradise beach is a nice one, and getting a cab is very easy, this time round we opted to wander around the port and save our excursion money for more exciting ports. PS. Ladies with long hair, unless you want those braids for formal night... wear a ponytail tucked up under your sun hat. The braid ladies are relentless, though they usually subside after a few firm 'no thank-you's'.
St. Thomas, USVI - My fourth visit, we were lucky enough to be directed by a crewmember to a private beach attached to a resort, we spent a few hours there and then went downtown for shopping, and to walk up to the Historical St. Thomas Synagogue, I have visited before and it is always worth the uphill climb. Talk to your cab driver about beaches that are a bit off the beaten path, or ask crewmembers on board (i.e. your waiters) they usually have some inside info.
St. Maarten - My first visit, we opted not to take an organized tour here either, though friends highly recommend Orient Beach, the port side shopping area was excellent and many bargains could be found. We also managed to bump into some acquaintances from Toronto who were aboard a RCCL ship. Small World.
Costa Maya - We mostly shopped around the Port area, once again. I found the salespeople a little on the pushy side, but mostly very pleasant. They have quite a plaza set up, with live costumed dancers, wading pools, restaurants and bazaars. One tip, avoid the temptation to buy things at the first store you go into, there are dozens of silver goods stores and places to buy Mexican handicrafts. Make the rounds before committing.
Belize - We didn't even get off the ship here, firstly you have to tender in to port and secondly, if you fail to book a tour we don't advise going ashore. It is a very poor port and several people on our ship were followed about by groups of 'shady' locals. We did hear very good things about the Rainforest hike/Cave tubing excursion though.
Cozumel - We took the 'Passion Island' excursion, the Beach was very nice and well maintained, the Mexican buffet was tasty and the limitless Coronas were fun, but I soon longed for Carnival fare again, also, our ferry was delayed and we only had a few minutes to shop in Cozumel afterward, but we managed to find some great stuff in the Port Area.
Yucatan - We opted for the Chichen-Itza Tour and the long bus ride that was to go along with it, but it was worth it, the Ruins are mesmerizing but the visit is cut short because of the long bus ride back to the port. We barely had a moment to buy a souvenir before re-boarding. Another tip, the tour makes a 'pee pee' stop at a souvenir stand, we found the same $20 t-shirts at the pier for $5 before re-boarding.
Ship Board Entertainment: Overall the entertainment is high quality, we found the comedians hilarious and the Cruise Director to be very good. His Jokes however did appear far less spontaneous during the second week, amazing that he got the same exact stupid question about a woman being 'trapped' in her stateroom 2 weeks in a row.
Art Auctions: Having never purchased Art at sea before, we decided to take our time and scope out auctions the first week before buying the second week. This worked out well and we bought 3 small framed pieces by Jewish artists, we were given a bottle of Champagne to celebrate our honeymoon and 'won' another three unframed items during the rest of the week. I have long been a art fan, and student of art history, I found the auctions relaxing and educational, but buyer beware, do not be tempted to purchase items outside your budget simply because they appear to be investment opportunities. Only buy what you love and you cannot go wrong. PS. Park West is no longer responsible for Actions aboard CCL, they now have an in-house Fine Art program run by some talented auctioneers. Hats off to hard working Eddy, Cindy and Jeff and the rest of the auction staff.
All other areas of our cruise were thoroughly enjoyable, the dedicated crew and staff mad our trip very memorable. Don't miss Renaldo's Latin Dance Class and get involved in the Carnival Color Wars... Bring a Red, a Blue and a White t-shirt so you can dress up and support your team. As I mentioned we were cruising back-to-back, the transition went fairly smoothly from week to week, we did have to get off the ship and go through customs, but later we found our purser had moved all our repacked luggage to our new room, we also received a fruit basket from the groups Coordinator and were invited to a VIP cocktail party, very fancy. Only one negative, as repeat cruisers we were supposed to receive invitations to the 'Repeat Cruiser' cocktail parties both weeks, but never did. After pointing out the oversight we were happily compensated with drink coupons and vouchers for photos from the photo gallery. So in the end no harm done, and we are looking forward to a future CCL cruise.