Sunburned and content—back from the Glory
EMBARKATION We only live an hour from Port Canaveral so this part was easy! Arrived around 12:15 and dropped off Grandma, Dad and 12-year old son with baggage. Then parked in garage as Dad had porter check all our bags (NOTE—help others by putting on ALL your baggage tags before you get to the port!). Parking is $70, payable upfront by VISA/MC or cash for the week. Back in line with family by 12:45. No discernible difference between FunPass and non line—line snaked around for 20 minutes or so. In our cabins by 1:30 and eating by 2.
The Cabins and Packing We couldn't do a guarantee/upgrade cuz we needed rooms near each other. Had oceanview (with a little porthole) 1216 and 1220 on the fore of the Riviera deck. This turned out to be terrific—two floors to dinner and the floor runs the whole ship so easy to maneuver around. Rooms are perfect for two (and glad we got two cabins!). One room was very stinky from smoke but Sonya, our cabin steward, had ozone cleaner in the cabin within 20 minutes of our concerns. Turned out the nightlights I packed wouldn't go in cuz of the location of the outlet didn't leave room for the air freshener portion. Otherwise there is PLENTY of shelf and drawer space. The beds are very comfortable.
FOOD I gained only 2 pounds—my husband gained 8!!! But he ate constantly and I limited myself to a light breakfast and lunch and judicious choices at the most excellent dinners in the Golden Restaurant. We had late seating which worked out well for us most of the time except for days we were completely exhausted from the day's activities (more on that later!). The Coquilles St. Jacques was the best I've ever had and every lamb dish was exquisite. Portions are not huge and there was SPA selections—you could easily eat well and still consume less than 8 or 9 hundred calories. Amazing. Even the coffee was good. And the SERVICE was respectful and attentive, never cloying or overbearing (thanks to Mirella and Melvin!) Breakfast in the Platinum Room was relaxing and a great chance to meet other cruisers but the Lido Deck buffet is also a good choice. The omelet station chef was willing to throw whatever I brought him into an omelet for me (apples and sausage from other stations, for example). The pizza is also excellent—try the spinach and goat cheese. The crust (along with all the breads and sweet rolls were delicious). I had VERY meaty spare ribs (Cajun-style AND teriyaki) and the Oriental station served up excellent Chinese food. I could go on and on about the food but I can't recall one thing I selected that wasn't good except for the stupid hash brown pucks for breakfast (Carnival has thousands of pounds of real potatoes—USE THEM!!!) I got soda cards for my son and me. My husband and mother-in-law drank tea (which is free all day, along with apple and orange juice) at the Red Sail Restaurant. It turned out to be a bargain for us.
EXCURSIONS Thanks to all of you out there who posted reviews and helped us out here! Costa Maya—We took the internet advice and rented a golf cart when we got off the boat—wandered through the small, very poor town and ended up at a small bar on the beach closest to the ship (Tequila's I think it was called—sorry). We had purchased all new snorkel equipment before we left so we spent the day snorkeling and swimming in the bathtub temperature water and reading in the shade. No cover charge for using the facilities and VERY NICE folks with very limited English running the place. The taco lunch was cheap and excellent. Cost for the day? $60 for the cart ($15 an hour) plus $30 for drinks and lunch. An excellent beginning.
Belize Again, we took internet advice and booked online before we left. My son and I went cave-tubing with Xtreme cave tubing. My husband and mother went to Maruba Resort Jungle Spa (he to horseback ride, she to sit by the pool and relax). Because we didn't book through the ship we had to get a tender ticket (but I was third in line and got on the first tender). The tour folks waited for us and snatched us when we got off the boat (there was a little confusion at first cuz we had arrived so late but it was very quickly fixed). We had paid a 10% deposit via Pay Pal online and then paid the remainder in cash onsite. The cost is about 2/3 of the ship's cost. We ended up with one other couple, in a nice car NOT a huge van! Our guide was Colin Gillette, a native Belizean who is VERY knowledgeable about history and medicinal plants and a very sweet guy who kept us in sight the whole trip as he tubed with us. As others have said, this is a don't miss experience. After 40 minutes of walking through the jungle, I was very happy to splash into the water. The walk is not REAL rigorous but the heat can get to you. Paddling is pretty easy though there are places you have to work a little. And don't worry about the 2-hour time difference. We made it back in plenty of time for the tender back to the boat. My husband also reported a terrific time—my hard-to-please 80 year old mother-in-law raved about the pool and spa. Cost for the day for all four of us: $200! Plus $60 in tips.
Cozumel Grandma stayed on the ship—our son went with other Camp Carnival kids to horseback ride ($71) and my husband and I took a $7 cab ride to Dzul Ha beach club, a prime snorkeling spot. No cover charge but a minimum of $15 of food/drink to purchase to spend the whole day under a tiki hut with a fabulous view. This is a rocky beach with steps into the water for snorkeling. All day we saw boats anchored just beyond us for folks who paid a lot of money to snorkel there and we just entered from the beach! The ceviche was cheap and plentiful—my husband's burrito equally good. We could easily walk to other beaches but ended up staying put! Cost for the day for the two of us: $47 plus $6 in taxi tips!
Dzibilchaltun and the Mexican Rodeo ($303 for the four of us). Didn't think the family could handle two hours on a bus each way to go to Chichen Itza so went for the smaller but very impressive closer Mayan ruins. The museum was very well laid out and very informative. The guides were also excellent. We had a buffet lunch at an American owned horse ranch followed by an hour of Mexican folkloric dancing and very skillful cowboying. We used to own horses and my husband's done some penning and roping—he was most impressed with the roping exhibitions.
Re: formal nights—I have to go to a lot of formal events for work so it's no treat for me. I wore simple long skirts and my husband wore a dark shirt and sport jacket, my son wore a dark shirt and tie. We were among the underdressed but didn't feel uncomfortable in the crowd. Re: entertainment and activities—didn't catch any midnight shows but saw the cruise talent show (really good) and magic show (Justin Illusion) which was glitzy but too much hype for my taste. Scottee at the piano bar is extraordinarily talented and a lot of fun. Loved the dance lessons. Lounge singers are mellow and relaxing. And the galley tour is a great behind the scenes look at how the ship works (wish there were more tours like that). My son loved Camp Carnival (for the 12-14 old group—which is a great grouping by the way). The casino is pretty good. Never too crowded. I played black jack with a limited stake set aside for each day of the cruise and each time I ended up ahead, I went to pay the purser. Lost on three nights but won on four and ended up paying off $1225 of our $1360 bill (including excursions and tips) which was great! No credit card surprise this month. But, boy, did that bar bill add up! RE: the spa—my one of two less than positive experiences. The hot tub wasn't hot—the sauna wasn't hot and the steam room smelled musty. After showering there were no hairdryers or hair gel, etc. in the ladies room. None of the things you usually find in a spa. The last few days of the trip they'd have a 50% off special (the first ten people, etc.) which seemed like a great deal. RE: The cruise director and Nicole the shopping expert—the second problem. While I appreciate that high energy and personality count in these jobs, these two (especially Nicole) are just over-the-top and phony in their presentations of self. Way too much hype. We already need the information you have and we WILL listen to what you have to say—you can ratchet the hype down a notch or two and be a little more HUMAN! It's not a bad quiz show or the shopping network. It's people giving people the information they need. If this is a cheap cruise I can't imagine what you'd get on one of the fancier lines! It's great for singles and for families. Every day there's something for everyone. Everyone in my family wants to do it again!