Embarking - We flew into San Juan on Sunday morning and took the pre-paid Carnival shuttle to the ship. There had been some trouble earlier in the day, and the ship was late in boarding passengers. Lines were long and there were few seats in the terminal. We waited almost three hours to board. One of the carnival employees noticed that I am handicapped and moved my wife and me to the front of the line and provided a chair for me to sit while waiting. Once on board, it was a one hour delay until we could go to our stateroom. Lunch in the Grand Buffet on deck 9 was well done and surprisingly not crowded.
Stateroom - We had a balcony stateroom which was spacious and looked as if it was new from top to bottom. The views from the balcony during the cruise were great.
Ship - Very nicely appointed, but hard to travel through.
Elevators were not in synch, with passengers able to override calls to each floor, often skipping people who had been waiting. People learned the trick of hijacking an elevator very quickly. For example, while a huge crowd waited for elevators on the bottom deck after an excursion, some would walk up one flight and get on an elevator going down, but press an up button, thus reversing the elevator, and riding up alone while the others below waited for elevators that didn't come.
To get fore and aft to the various lounges and shops, you had to walk through the casino.
Dining - The food was always good, sometimes very good. The service in the main dining room was terrible. Our waiter and assistant seemed over-loaded with too many tables and both seemed inexperienced. Bringing the wrong order was common, forgetting to refill water or iced tea was constant. We often had to request simple things like spoons for soup or knives for meat. Quite often dishes were not removed from the table between courses, making quite a mess when the main course would come. Our assistant waiter was sweet and friendly, but seemed to have trouble speaking or understanding English. Service at the buffet on deck 9 was always excellent, as was the bar service around the ship.
Entertainment - The first song and dance show Monday night was really good and we thought this was a omen of good luck. No way. Except for the comedian, the rest of the entertainment was very bad. The juggler kept dropping things and tried to cover it with lame jokes. The magician/illusionist clearly didn't want to be there and did two illusions and two half-hearted audience participation stunts that didn't work.
The big song and dance show, "Vroom" was arguably the worst I've seen on a cruise ship. Other than using a Harley Davidson cycle as a prop, "Vroom" had no relevance to the show whatsoever. It was a review of Motown, Beatles, Elton John, and other rock standards, with the two carnival vocalists singing along with soundtracks while the dancers did the same dance routines, over and over and over, but in different and overdone costumes. The worst was the female singer dressing as Tina Turner, doing a Dianna Ross tune, while the dancers did a dance routine from the '50s Happy Days show. The show was so bad, it was groaningly funny...almost.
St Thomas - We wanted to go to Magen's bay beach, and found a taxi driver to take us there. Instead, he took us to Coki beach (which was small, crowded, and dirty) because "I thought you would like this better. We locals know these things." The ride was local NASCAR all the way, with the driver clipping off the mirror of a parked car on the trip back
Dominica - We went to try the Champagne snorkeling from the public beach instead of the ship excursion. Local teen-age guide gave us a beautiful tour of the reef (works for tips and really earned a good tip). The champagne bubbles were disappointing, only apparent in one small section, but there was a lot to see in the formations and fish life.
Barbados - We taxied to the Malibu Rum Distillery and beach and had a great time. When it was time to pay, the taxi driver doubled his agreed price claiming his poor English was the problem.
St Lucia - We had booked a day with Cosol Tours. This was the highlight of our week. This guy is the best host and ambassador St Lucia could have. We had 50-55 people in seven air-conditioned vans and a bar van following behind. We visited a water fall, a fishing village, the drive-in volcano, and a banana plantation. We took a water taxi to a private resort beach for the best snorkeling we've had outside of Cozumel. Our van driver, Bumpy, was a wonderful tour guide, explaining everything we were seeing, answering and anticipating questions, and was a superb driver on the narrow mountainous roads. Mid way, we stopped for a buffet all-you-can-eat brunch that was a delicious collection of local dishes from fish and chicken to plantains, Johnny cake, fruit breads, meat pasties, and on and on. There was unlimited beer, rum punch, and ice water on request throughout the trip. At one stop on the way back, Bumpy stopped at a local bakery for small bread loaves hot from the oven and provided huge chunks of local cheddar cheese to melt in the sliced bread. This trip was fun, full of humor and excitement and definitely one to be repeated. It made St Lucia our favorite stop on the cruise.
Antigua - We went to Logan's beach for snorkeling and rum punch. Beach was clean and uncrowded, with some good coral formations, but few fish.
St Kitts - Cockleshell Beach was really great for snorkeling. Again problems with taxi driver taking us there and then doubling the agreed-upon price before agreeing to take us back to the ship.