First let me say that CruiseCritic helped me prepare for what to expect on our first cruise and I highly recommend reading as many reviews as you can. There is great information to be found here.
This was just a fabulous cruise for myself and daughter(17) and son (14). We are not from the Florida area or anywhere with such great year round weather so Sun, Beaches and warm nights were a must for our vacation. I admit I was one of those parents that let my kids have the run of the ship at night. That seems to be the best place to start. Carnival glory is a 'fun ship' and they sell it as such. If what you are looking for in a vacation is upbeat fun and a friendly relaxed atmosphere then this is for you. For those who prefer a more elegant cruise experience I would have to think you might want to look elsewhere. There seemed to be a high percentage of families on board and the general attitude was its all about fun and relaxation.
The one thing I am most thankful for is that we had great weather the entire cruise. My one fear was that we would miss ports and be stuck in our cabins due to bad weather. Aside from that possibility the only way to not enjoy this cruise was if you chose not to.
Pre-Cruise - we stayed at the Radisson Hotel in Port Canaveral. Beautiful Hotel with a great pool and on-site lounge. Free shuttle service to the port. My only complaint was that it is not within walking distance to the beach. Luckily we had a rental car and spent a day at the 'Jetty Park' in Port Canaveral. Nice beach and picnic area and I recommend a day there if you can.
Embarkation - We took the shuttle from the Radisson hotel scheduled for 12:00 (left closer to 12:40). Upon arriving at the port we were a little lost but following the lemmings we quickly figured out the process and although the line took a bit it moved at an ok pace and I think we were on board by 1:45. We were able to go straight to our rooms and luggage started arriving about 3:30 with our last piece arriving just before dinner. Setting up our documents and sail and sign cards on-line saved a good deal of time in line.
Main Dining Room - This was a highlight for our cruise. I give Carnival full marks for setting us up with a family of 5 that had kids the same age as mine and we got along exceptionally well. This made for a desire to share dinner with them nightly and compare notes on the different daily excursions we did. For my kids this also helped them to quickly relax on the cruise having found some friends(who were on their 5th cruise) . The first night was come as you are with most nights cruise-casual and a few nights cruise-elegant. I wish we would have packed a couple outfits a little more formal to get in the spirit of things on the elegant nights, but our more casual attire was not a problem. Food was great and the parents from the other family took a night to pamper themselves at the more formal Emerald Room for a small charge.
Ship in General - I thought the ship was in very good condition. The staff were all polite with our dining room staff and room steward being exceptional and the Cruise director Ryan did an outstanding job. We purchased fountain fun cards the first day and neither myself nor the kids had any problems throughout the cruise with getting service from the bar staff for non alcoholic drinks. Every night there was an itinerary left in the room with ship activities for the next day and for anyone who wants to be out doing something there is always something to do. Room service was pretty good. Deck chairs could be hard to find in the main areas but if you weren't too picky you could always find one somewhere on the upper decks with sun. usually late afternoon they became easier to find. The kids loved the 24/7 free ice cream and pizzeria at the back of the lido deck. We never really utilized the Red Sail restaurant/buffet although it looked busy. Most of our meals other then dinner were at the grills which served a great basic hotdog/hamburger with chili/fries or at the pizzeria. You will be constantly approached to have your pictures taken. Go For it. There is no real pressure to buy but if you get some great pictures the option is there. They post them all the next day and you get the chance to look them over at your leisure.
Club O2 - Was a great place for the kids to meet and stay busy. We received a weekly itinerary when we boarded the ship which was great for me to keep tabs on what my kids were likely doing when they weren't with me. My 14yr old was allowed to join because of his older sister. I wasn't a big fan of the activities scheduled until 1:00 every morning when we had excursions the next day but it wasn't that big a deal. The kids said Brianna did a great job and although they spent most of their time with their group of 8 friends outside Club O2 they always checked out its daily activities. I quickly learned that the kids mostly spent their evenings going from photo spot to photo spot taking pictures with each other and in the later evening I found them in the aft pool/hot tubs on the lido deck. Late night the kids spent either in Club O2 dancing or just outside talking in groups in the booths along the wall.
Entertainment - I didn't partake in the night life as much as I could have although there were always places to go. Every night the cruise had different lounges set for things like singles meet/greet or karaoke and the Ebony Cabaret had comedy shows running every night both for family and adult entertainment. The amber palace had bingo every night and a show every night with great dance performers and although one might get tired of them after a cruise or two they were a nice addition for my 1st cruise. I forced myself to stay away from the casino but it looked well laid out, had a number of 'poker training' sessions and events and did not smoke up the near vicinity that bad. Throughout the cruise there were events held either on the lido deck or various lounges/areas of the ship that were all geared to fun and gaining points for your Team. (every cabin was assigned to 1 of 3 teams). This added a friendly competition to the cruise and although you didn't win anything other then bragging rights it was hard to not get involved at some level.
Debarkation - we chose self-assist and was fairly painless although the line took awhile. The ship was fairly organized about it calling people by decks and if you weren't in a rush it was fine. Ports of call - Finally I get to see my kids!!! We didn't do much shopping so can't help you there.
Cozumel - We walked off the ship, went straight to the cabs and asked for a beach. We were shown a couple brochures, chose Paradise Beach and for $13 we found ourselves at a great beach where for $10 each we were able to use Kayaks,water mattresses, the floating slide and the floating iceberg all day long. Plenty of deck chairs and umbrellas. Massage tents were nearby, We went parasailing for $55 each and for $5 I got some great pictures of my daughter holding a monkey, a snake wrapped around her head and a tarantula sitting on her shoulder. Was a great excursion.
Belize - Definitely a country in transition. We booked an excursion through CAVE-TUBING.COM for $45 each and I highly recommend this. We got a bus-ride through the city (cheap tour) followed by a 45min walk through the tropical rain forest and then a nice leisurely 1hr trip down the river on inner tubes through 2 cave systems and a nice section of tropical forest. Bringing a camera is iffy but can be done. (Bring a Ziploc bag) I never did and am glad I never had to worry about it on the river but missed some great pictures. The guys who ran the excursion were the MOST appreciative people I've ever seen.
Costa Maya - We walked off the ship with the idea of finding a nice beach. Instead we walked into a shopping plaza that was walled off from the local people and actually had some armed 2 man patrols walking the area. In the middle there was a LARGE swimming pool with deck chairs around it and a swim-up bar. Consider our excursion found. Was a great relaxing afternoon free of charge except drinks/food.
Nassau - We booked the deep water dolphin excursion through Carnival and although it was a great excursion and one my kids will remember for life I found it pricey and it took us an hour to get a picture package after (again pricey). We barely made the last buses back to the ship. HINT: Dolphin Cay is inside a multiple resort development and cash is basically useless. Don't forget your credit card. Worse case you can find a couple places to purchase a Gift Card with cash that will allow you to buy food.
Awesome vacation and I can't wait to plan my next cruise!!