My fiance and I just returned from the July 5th-11th cruise out of Tampa. Our main goal was to escape the reality of our professional lives during this robust economic boom (kidding of course). We are in our early thirties and live in Tampa, so it was an easy decision to leave out of the Tampa port. We decided on the seven day cruise because we both needed to get away for at least a week. Our decision to cruise was made last minute and we got one of the few remaining cabins on the ship. Being prone to motion sickness and never having cruised before I was a bit nervous. On to the cruise:
Embarkation: Pretty easy to get on the ship. Didn't take longer than 45 minutes or so to get out of the cab and be on the ship. We arrived around noon and were eating lunch by 1:15pm.
Alcohol: After much studying via the internet I took the risk and packed alcohol for the week in our "checked" bag. Didn't have an issue at all. Economy sucks and they know most people probably sneak something on. We still spent plenty on the ship so Carnival made their money. My advice is the bring vodka in Sprite bottles, whiskey in iced tea bottles, etc. You get my point. For further discussion just use Google like I did and all the tricks of the trade will be revealed to you. On a related note, you are legally allowed to bring 1 bottle of wine per person on to the ship. They charge you a corking fee at dinner ($10), but it's better than buying the overpriced bottle from them. The drinks are not cheap.
Ship: I didn't have anything to compare it to, but I thought the ship was very clean and very nice.
Staff: We can't say enough about how overly nice all the staff were. We got to know many of them over the course of our week and they treated us like royalty. Sandy the bartender knew me by name after the 2nd day. Your cabin steward will do anything you ask of them. We didn't abuse them on room service, unnatural requests, etc. They all work very hard and to many it is a way to send money back home to their families.
Food: Food was good, not great, but was always hot and fresh. Be prepared to put on at least 5 lbs. If you don't, it means you didn't enjoy yourself enough.
Grand Cayman: Have to do Stingray City. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with the stingrays. Before the trip, I had a fear of the ugly creatures, but that quickly changed once I learned more about them and spent an hour in the water playing with them. Sign up with Moby Dick Tours. Very reliable, very knowledgable and 1/2 the price Carnival will charge you for the same excursion. We used outside excursion companies when available. It is the same companies Carnival uses at a fraction of the cost.
Cozumel: We rented a Jeep for $50 and drove to Mr. Sanchos beach bar. It was a nice semi-private beach bar where we drank the margaritas and ate some quality Mexican food. They have small vendors there who want your money and are ready to barter. I picked up a couple of Cuban cigars that looking back at it, I probably overpaid for. After Mr. Sanchos, we drove around the back side of the island and headed back to the ship. Make sure you pick up some Tequila at one of the duty free shops before you get back on the ship. They carry special brands down there that are not sold in USA.
Belize: We paid $100 a piece and did the cave tubing/zip lining experience through Extreme Excursions. Belize is kind of dirty and not the safest country. I wasn't too worried at the site of police on the side of the roads with machine guns, but I think my fiance was a little scared. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the cave tubing camp. Cave tubing was okay, but the zip lining was very good. We have been before in other countries but this experience was far superior.
Honduras: By far our favorite. Only 2 ships a week come to the island, so the locals are very appreciate of your visit. I should have waited and bought my Cuban cigars there had I known the prices were better. Go to Tabayana Beach. The only way to book this excursion was through Carnival ($35), but well worth it. Unbelievable snorkling (make sure you swim way out there) directly off the beach.
All in all, we had a great time. Vacation, like life, is what you make of it. Sure, we could have complained about certain things that happened to us on the trip, but anything we expreienced was far superior than spending a week in the office trying to make a buck. Are we going to cruise again? You betcha........probably try to get some friends to go with us next time. Listed below are some observations from our cruise. I consider myslef a normal guy so feel free to use them or not.......
If you don't have kids, use the adult pool at the back of the ship.
The pool is a saltwater pool.
Bring Dramamine or get the patch from your doctor (saw alot of those)
Casinos don't serve free drinks while you are gambling???????
Go to the shows....pretty decent.....and FREE
If you have the time, eat breakfast in the dining room.
Have to order the Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert.
Do self debarkation.....we were off the ship and at my house in 20 minutes from the time we left our cabin.
Unless you drink a ton of soda, no need for the Soda Card.
Gym is pretty decent.
Jen the cruise director can be annoying at times.
Don't book your room in 4120 unless you want to be kept up until 3am by Billy's Piano Bar