Background: My husband and I are both in our late 30s, have 2 kids, and are celebrating our 10 year anniversary. This is my 3rd cruise, my first with Carnival. We dropped the kids off with grandma early Sunday morning and off we went. We were on the boat by 2pm that afternoon and ready for relaxation.
My biggest fears: We had an inside cabin and I was worried that I go loopy. I actually enjoyed the darkness and had wonderful naps. I would joke that I wanted to look out the window and I would turn on the tv to channel 13 and see the livecam of the lido deck. I had the best view on the boat.
My husband also cruised on Carnival before when he was 23 and said he was drunk before he left port. The passengers we encountered were families, church-goers, or middle-aged and definitely not the party crowd from the 90s.
I'm sure you'll hear from us all from the 11/23 sailing of the Victory about the Puerto Rican invasion. I don't know the actually statistics, but more then 2/3 of the ship was local. It could have just been because it was a holiday week and the air was so expensive, but I heard more spanish in the Caribbean than I thought I would ever hear. The good thing (and bad) was they stayed on the ship, so the ports were easy on & off.
Here's what we did: St Thomas - Sunny Liston (FABULOUS!!). We had the man himself and he was a HOOT! We ended up at Secret Bay on the Caribbean side to swim because the Atlantic was way too rough, and it was quiet and relaxing and the snorkeling was actually the best we did all week. The bad thing is the traffic was so bad - we were 15 min late for the boat and I was stressed OUT! But they weren't even close to leaving and after I stopped shaking I was fine.
Dominica - We did the Antours Tubing Tour - had Yankee. We 1st went to the Emerald Pool (its not as cold as you think) stopped at Mr. Nice's, then went tubing on the river. The best was that there were 6 of us tubing with 5 guides. On the ship they had a tape of the "Carnival tubing tour" which was a bus load of 50 people all bumping into each other. I'm so happy we went with Antours.
Barbados - Went to the Boatyard. The sand was FABULOUS, the water was warm & clear, and the facilities were clean. The beach vendors were annoying, but we ended up moving down the beach a bit and they attacked the cruiseship staff and pretty much left us alone. The DJ was not too loud like I read and there was a great mix of ages, plus a lot of little kids too.
St Lucia - Went on Cosol, had Adrian as a guide. The roads are CRAZY curvy. It actually got pretty old pretty quickly. The food was the best part I think, and Cosol was a cutey trying to take care of us whenever we stopped. They did not take us to the usual beach which was a bummer, but we went swimming anyways in the rocky surf because it was unbearably hot.
Antigua - Bought a day pass at Hawksbill. For $40 from 11-4 included lunch, drinks all day, chairs, and kayaks. There were only 2 other couples from the ship there, and no kids!!! It was the perfect get-away to be alone for a day. The beach was a little hard to get in, with a lot of coral where the waves broke, but once in it was beautiful (not clear however).
St Kitts - Took a cab over to Cockleshell Beach. Fabulous beach with great shells to collect. We were having a great time until about noon when 3 catamarans showed up and dropped off about 100 people - right on us. Our quiet beach turned into a party and we were back to the ship to finish our last minute shopping at the great new pier shops.
Ship: The décor was pretty obnoxious - but the gaudier the better when on a cruise ship. I loved the dolphin carpet in the elevator shaft, the mermaids that joined us for dinner, and the naked couple painting outside the gift shop.
On the ship I went to 3 of the 10pm shows (Welcome Show, VROOM, and the Juggler/Comedian) - there was basically something in the ballroom every night. I also really enjoyed Ben the guitar singer in the lobby lounge, and the Piano Bar singer. We also caught the guitar guy in the Cigar Bar and the little duo outside the casino. I really thought all the entertainers were TOP notch. I did the slot machine tournament - made it to the finals, but then came in last, and my husband did the blackjack tourney and bingo one night . We made our donations to the casino (never won anything) a few times. I also got a manicure at the spa ($55 YIKES!) and the polish was so goopy and I waited the noted ½ hour before getting dressed, as soon as I slipped off my shirt the polish came off too.
We ate every night in the dining room (we asked for 8:15, ended up getting 6:15, but they changed it for us when we arrived for the 8:15). We were put with just one other couple in a booth, and luckily they were our age & we really hit it off. After seeing the HUGE line at the breakfast buffet the first morning, we opted for the dining room and room service after that. We ate lunch at every outlet they had everyday as we pulled out of port and tried to stay as far away from the buffet as possible. Every night before dinner we even had sushi.
Issues: My biggest gripe is that we never got to use the pool, water slide, or hot tubs because the Puerto Ricans did not get off the ship, so they made themselves at home on deck and everything was so full all the time. I wished I took a picture of the big sign at the hot tub that read "ADULTS ONLY" with a tub full of kids.
2nd problem was we had a charge on our bill for $4 for water which we never drank. The purser told us to have our steward take it off the bill, the steward told us he didn't put the charge on and to take it up with the purser. After a third attempt we decided not to stress about it - what's $4 in the grand scheme of life…but still, why couldn't the purser just take it off the 1st time, isn't that their job?
3rd issue was the spanish. Announcements: they would start off…this is for our "spanish speaking guests" then continue to speak in english and then again in spanish. Why? Also, the television stations in the rooms started the week in english (news out of Denver - don't ask me why) but by the end of the week, some of the stations actually changed to spanish stations. I know they never left the boat, but they also didn't pay full price like I did.
Departure: We chose self-assist and were off the boat and in a cab to the airport in ½ hour. I wouldn't do it any other way. I was a little stressed about our noon flight, but we ended up getting to the airport before we could even check our luggage. After a few hours in the airport we were back to Boston where there was SNOW on the ground.
Overall, the cruise was exactly what I wanted in terms of seeing a little bit of a lot of islands. I'm not sure if I'll ever cruise of out San Juan on Carnival again, but the amount of time we were actually on the ship we made the most of it. Our 10 year anniversary turned out to be just as magical as our honeymoon.