Vacation is finally here! We drove in from N Texas sunday morning, prepaid for parking on line- I recommend this, plus you save $5. woo hoo. I dropped my wife, two kids and their two friends off at the terminal around noon. Parked and caught the shuttle back to the terminal and found my family and guests in no time. Embarkation is what it is- 2500+ people trying to get on the ship and start a great week of cruising. Yes there are lines, unless you pay extra for vip, but it all went pretty quickly and we were on our way. We checked our luggage getting on the ship- its much easier if you do this- tip the guy at the terminal a buck a bag and everyone's happy. Of course you have the safety drill- don't be the first to your muster station- they pack you in like sardines, it's hot and humid- some people in our group got sick.
After that formality- it's time to start livin the cruise life. Yes- everywhere you turn someone is trying to sell you something- it's up to you whether to buy or not to buy, drink of the day, pictures, excursions etc. Just have fun, and do it your way. My wife and i had been on Carnival before, our kids (17 and 18 yrs old) and there two friends (same ages) were first timers. We got a couple of soda cards and sent them on their way. My son (18) was pretty excited that he could eat 24-7, he is always hungry- on this trip he was always full! His friend Dave (18) is a vegetarian, and didn't have any problem find plenty of choices for dining. We ate early seating in the Monet room. Food and service were excellent. We did not attend the supper club- just didn't see any reason for the added expense. Our rooms were clean and tidy- Dala, our room steward was like a ninja- she was always smiling and greeted us by our names from day one. Towel animals were of course top notch- even the "pig-bear" thing we could not quite figure out. We attended the magic show and the comedian show- sure, there is some cheese factor- but, hey- it's a vacation, and your boss can't call you or make you do work- right? Over all everyone did a great job. Go see the marriage show - it is really funny learning about some of your fellow cruisers. Just for planning purposes- the "dress up nights" are on monday and thursday for dinner.
Wednesday put us in Jamaica. I highly recommend, if you go ashore, that you go to a resort for the day. Stay away from any of the "craft markets", or "tent cities" venders. These places can be scary! My wife got separated from us, and when I found her she was being pulled in ten different directions by people trying to get her into there "shop". These people wouldn't take No, for an answer. Just stay away. I do recommend you take a cab to the Pork Pit. excellent jerk chicken and shrimp- goes great with Red Stripe- Margaritaville is great too. Go down the slide and enjoy some time there.
Grand Cayman was amazing. Clean, friendly, and expensive- but, who cares, we are on vacation-remember? We booked an excursion- Discover Cayman, Hell, turtle farm and Sting Ray city sandbar- I think it was put on by Kelly's. We did prepay on carnivals web site- it shows up on your statement as a credit. This was a great time- the turtle farm was awesome. Our driver Kirk took care of us- after a quick visit to Hell for a shot glass and a couple of pics, Kirk dropped us off on 7 mile beach for a few minutes to dip in the water and take some pics- simply beautiful. Then on to the sting rays- Everyone must do this at least once in their life- it was sooo cool standing waist deep in the clear water with 4-5 ft stingrays swimming all around you in the middle of the ocean. wow. This was my favorite day.
Friday we were in Cozumel- we've been here before so we knew what to expect. Cozumel is the great compromise- the people are friendlier than in Jamaica, and the stuff is cheaper than in Grand Cayman. We ate at Sr Frogs and shopped downtown before we parked our butts at sunset beach (across from Villa Blanco) The kids snorkeled all afternoon, there were hundreds of tiny colorful fish everywhere. Equipment from Pap Hogs dive shop rented for $10 per person. Beer was cold and cheap.
Saturday was depressing- it was almost over. Oh well. Overall an excellent trip- service was outstanding, staff was friendly and attentive. We tipped dining staff and our room steward extra at the end of the trip.
PARENTS- if you travel with younger kids- PLEASE keep track of them or get them into camp carnival. There are no background checks done on guests aboard the ship. We don't know if there is a pedophile or a rapist in the next cabin. I was amazed at the amount of little kids ( approx 8-12 yrs old) just running around the ship at all hours of the night and day- screaming and stomping up and down the halls and stairways, not to mention clogging the elevators just riding them up and down. We said some things to a couple of groups of kids- some listened, some just laughed and dared us to do something about it. Again- either leave the kids at home with grand ma, or use camp carnival. Debarkation was fast- as before- we checked our luggage going, and self assisted on our way home. Customs was a bottle neck- but at least no one in our party got strip searched! I recommend this trip for people up to 50 yrs old. It has a party atmosphere and there is always something to watch, eat, drink, or participate in. Chris the cruise dir is awesome. Lot's of value for the dollar.