My family (myself, hubby, 15 year old, 17 year old) took this cruise with friends and their families. We ended up totaling 14 people. This was our second cruise but our first with Carnival. Our friends have been on Carnival 4 times and loved it. We chose this cruise because of their recommendation, the itinerary, and the fact that it fit with the kids' spring vacation.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise. Used a transportation service to take us to the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami. It was a great place to stay for the night. We watched the Saturday departures before going to Bayside Marketplace for dinner.
We arranged transportation from hotel to port with the concierge. He picked us up at 10:00 and we breezed through the check-in process. We had a low number (can't remember now what it was) and it was fun watching other people arriving and meeting folks while we waited to be called. We were onboard by 11:30.
We had a balcony cabin on the Empress deck and the kids were across the hall in an inside cabin. We had arranged (Bon Voyage Dept.) for the inside cabin to be decorated for one of the kids' birthdays. It was so cute! Well worth the money! The cake we ordered came shortly after we got to the cabin. Both cabins had PLENTY of storage space and were very clean. The balcony seemed a little small but it was fine for our needs. One family in our group was next door and we had the steward unlock the balcony divider. The Empress deck was a great location as it has cabins above and below so it is not noisy. We were in between banks of elevators and down the hall from the laundry. Two decks up or 2 decks down and you were in the middle of all the action. Our cabin steward was Anthony and he couldn't have been any nicer or more accommodating.
GRAND CAYMAN: We'd been to this port before so we just tendered ashore, walked around a little bit and then went back to the ship to enjoy the peace and quiet! Friends did the stingray excursion through Carnival and loved it.
ROATAN: My favorite stop on this cruise! It was the most beautiful place. We booked the Tabyana Beach excursion through Carnival. We were driven there in a 10-passenger van. The roads were quite hilly and curvy but we didn't feel unsafe at any time. This is a poor country to be sure but it is lovely and relatively unspoiled. The beach was very pretty and not too crowded. Some in our group snorkeled and said there were a lot of pretty fish. There were no rocks or seaweed or sea grass there—which is why we chose this excursion over some others. The people working there were very helpful. There are gift shops, bars, restrooms, snacks—pretty much whatever you want is there. You could also parasail and banana boat. We did use our bug spray as we had been warned about sand fleas. We were not bothered by people trying to sell us things. We were free to leave when we wanted to. There were buses and vans at the entrance waiting to take you back to the ship. There were a few shops at the pier that had some nice souvenirs. My only complaint about this day was that I wished we had more time to spend there. It was too short!
BELIZE: We did the Belize City and Altun Ha ruins tour (also booked through Carnival). To me, a tour guide can make or break excursions like this and we were very lucky to have Tiffany as our guide. She was excellent. We were on an air conditioned bus and she was just the right mixture of information, fun, and quiet! It was very hot that day so we were very thankful for the few clouds that came through. We were given bottled water as part of the package but make sure you have some with you—you will need it! It's a pretty easy walk around Altun Ha and you can take wooden stairs to the top of one of the structures. There is a small snack bar and a few booths to buy local crafts on the way out. We'd never visited any Mayan ruins before so we found it very interesting—even the teenagers liked it! After our bus tour of Belize City we went back to the pier where there were several places to shop and eat but we were anxious to get back to the ship. Did I mention how hot is was?!?!
COZUMEL: Fun, fun, fun! We were off the ship by 8:30 or so and we took a taxi to Paradise Beach. We were the first ones there so we had our pick of beach chairs and umbrellas. It is free to use the beach and chairs. You can purchase a wrist band for $10 to use their water toys—trampolines, iceberg, slide, kayaks. Two of the kids parasailed here. It was $55 per person and they had a ball. You could also get a massage and henna tattoos here. There was a gift shop and bar and food. We had Bloody Marys that were quite tasty. We also had buckets of Sol beer—very cold and tasty! We had fun here but the beach itself was just OK. The swimming area was pretty small and one section of it had a huge area of coral/rocks. It was a fun place but I think I might try another beach the next time. There were plenty of waiting taxis to take us back to the pier. At the pier area, we went to Pancho's Backyard where we met up with the others in our group. Excellent Margaritas, awesome quesadillas and the best guacamole I've ever had. Great place! The shopping area here is terrific. A nice variety and with some haggling, good prices. Others in the group took a taxi into town to go to Senor Frogs. They certainly had fun there too! We were docked next to the Carnival Conquest. When we were leaving we all went to have a champagne toast on our friends' balcony to celebrate a birthday. The folks on the Conquest who were on their balconies joined us in singing happy birthday. Cozumel is a very fun place!
We had early seating in the Washington Dining Room and ate there every night except for the day in Roatan because we got back to the ship too late. Our servers were Dewa and Yra. We have never been fussed over so much! They saw to all of our needs and went above and beyond the call of duty. Food is such a subjective thing and I have to say that if I'm not cooking it, I will pretty much like anything! But the food was really good. What I was most surprised at was the variety. I think it would be very hard not to find something that would appeal to you.
We went to the shows in the Ivanhoe Theater a few times. They were decent, nothing awful, nothing awesome. We visited many, if not all, of the bars and lounges. There was truly something for everyone's tastes. We especially liked the duo who sang in the Atrium. Our kids didn't really participate in much of the children's activities. They were content with each other but they did meet a few other kids along the way and hung out with them during the week.
Disembarkation was fine. We had to wait in line for about 20 minutes or so to get through Customs but that's to be expected. Our prearranged transportation to Ft. Lauderdale worked out great. He met us at the curb, loaded our bags, picked up 2 more parties at NCL and we were off. Painless.
This was one of the best vacations we've ever had as a family. Carnival really provides a great product at a great price. We would not hesitate to cruise with them again. I hope you have found this review helpful and wish you Bon Voyage!