Landed in Miami from Toronto on Valentines day and rented a car for the day, went to a fabulous restaurant called Fleming (A taste of Denmark) on 136th St. (located in a strip mall) this restaurant is very quaint and elegant and the food is fabulous as is the waitstaff. We went to the Deering estate afterwards to a "Moonlight and Music" jazz concert on their 444 acre estate. This estate overlooks Biscayne Bay and was a stunningly romantic locale for Valentines Night. We had wine and dessert while being lured by the wonderful jazz talent of Nicole Henry. Because we rented a car we were able to drive around South Beach Miami for the day prior to cruise embarkation. Hertz rental at the Hilton is very well run, staff is very informative and friendly and the rental was really reasonably priced, better than taxi or shuttle prices (try to get this fee included in your hotel stay)
First Day: Cruise day on Sunday, embarkation was very smooth because we completed all the necessary documents online the week before the cruise. The timing on the luggage delivery was great, we had a chance to putz around the ship and get our bearings including our room while they were organizing the luggage. Our room (inside cabin) was really nice, not big at all but we didn't spend a whole heap of time there so it didn't matter. The housekeeping was always available to assist especially when they forgot to replace our shower curtain, they were very apologetic and accommodating. The ship is spectacular and had so many places to go and see, I didn't even get to everywhere in the one week. Our first day was a fun day as sea, David our Cruise Director always made sure he was heard and had different plans arranged.
Dinner/Food/Drinks: We had the late dinner seating and were with 3 other couples, we had many laughs and tons of conversation (having dinner with unknown people is all about what you make of it). Dress up evenings were so fun (a little too many photo opportunities) and it was nice to see everyone so elegantly dressed. Drinks are not free and because we only used the sign and sail card we were a little cautious of our drinking levels, still we enjoyed the specials of the day (small without the glass purchase was about 4.95US, otherwise it was 6.95US)or the bucket of beer which was 4 beer at about 17.95US. First day we purchased the 5 bottles of wine with dinner deal for about $110US and this did last us the whole week as we didn't finish a bottle every night and it was stored and on our table the next night when we returned. Buffet breakfast at Rosies diner was always awesome (omelettes made to order) but the last morning we discovered the sit down seating for breakfast and had we not had early morning adventures on port we would have attended these breakfasts/lunches more often.
See Port Comments
Disembark for Ports: We only had to get on a tender (small boat from our ship to port) at Grand Cayman and Belize, otherwise we were docked at the pier, either way with a little wait it was easy to disembark. (too many photos op's at each port)
Back at Sea: Our last day was another day at sea (got a bit sick of Ding Dong David, our Cruise Director by this day) It was pretty windy and it rained for about 15 min. (rain in +27 temps is much better than sunny -27 temps.!!!) We spent this day saying our goodbyes to our new friends and enjoying our last day of lying in the sun before disembarking in Miami.
Miami disembark: We were one of the last ones to leave the ship (which was o.k. because I didn't want it all to end) so we spent our time watching the others leave (some of us saw some dolphins playing in the water) and watching the hustle and bustle of the Miami port. By the time we were disembarking, there was naturally another line-up (there was over 3000 people on the ship) so we waited to clear US customs (which was easy as a Canadian citizen who didn't have to declare anything at this customs location)
Overall Ship Stuff: The pools were not big and a little disappointing, there were two plus hot tubs for the side with all the kids and then at the aft there was one adult only with hot tubs (all locations were packed with people) There were always two towels in the room for using on the Lido deck, and if you got one from the deck you needed to remember to return it so you didn't get charged for it. The photo purchases were fairly pricey one 8X10 is $22US and the 5x7 were $9US each. Considering they were snapping pictures like crazy of you, they all added up to a ton of money it would have been better to have had package prices available to recoup their fees, since they printed the pictures whether you bought them or not. We got a newsletter each night which highlighted the next days events and gave you information on the port excursions, everyone had to participate in a life-jacket safety lesson on the first day (this was incredibly organized and considering its a life saving lesson it wasn't a nuisance at all). They have a kids club (we didn't need it for this vacation, but good to know) and this club must have kept the kids entertained because we hardly saw the littlest ones much at all, I saw them only once in a hallway and they were in an organized outing. We danced at the club one night which was alot of fun, the music was up to date and the DJ was really good. We went to the Captains Cocktail social (free drinks on the Captain) this was a good time, we met the high level staff and had an opportunity to thank them for their good service delivery. The evening entertainment was full of talent, including magicians, dancers, comedians and even the Karaoke was good. The ships decor is all in US colors and imagery (very well put together and not too over the top). The stairs were just as handy (maybe more handy) as the elevators. The washrooms were a little hidden on the Lido deck, but I found them towards the end of the week. The Casino and bar/lounges were a little to smoky for me, so I mainly just used them as a pass through location to get to the other side. The shopping on the ship was pretty dismal in that there wasn't much, I didn't buy anything at all. The prices were a little over inflated and they try to lure you into believing that you were getting a 40% discount, but the prices seemed to be jacked up by 40% in the first place.
Summary: Overall, I would definitely cruise again, I would go on another Carnival Cruise as well, I enjoyed the organized atmosphere and the daily excursion. Likewise I usually enjoy my fly and flop AI vacations too and that is probably what I will do next and so therefore I will not likely cruise again for a couple of years.