First off we sailed two years ago and since then I know they did an "upgrade" on the ship as well as the itenirary has changed greatly. It now sails out of San Diego to the Mexican riviera, when we went, it sailed out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. First off we drove down to the port (I hate to fly) and I also enjoy the scenery you miss when you fly. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites in Cocoa Beach, just across from the ocean and just a couple minutes from the port- we could even see the ships from our room. On a side note- fabulous hotel for a low rate!! They even will let you park your car there and shuttle you over to the port for free. We did not take advantage of this opportunity and boy we should have. I didn't want to have to wait at the port for a ride as we were in a hurry to get back home (got a call on the way down our children whom we left back at home had fallen very ill). However I found out the hotel shuttle was there waiting even before passengers disembarked. Not to mention I dropped $60 to park at the port. All in all the parking for those who drive is very easy to get in and out of and is as close to the ship as you can get! A porter walked right up to us as we got our luggage out of our car and took care of it for us. We tipped him well since he was very nice, very helpful and carried it across the parking lot.
Embarkation: VERY EASY at Canaveral. We stood in a line of about 75 people, got there early, until the doors opened (12:30pm) which was only about 10 minutes later. Once the doors opened, we were inside, through security, checked in at the desk with our sail and sign cards and had a photo taken and on the ship all within 15 minutes flat. We were told our room wouldn't be ready until about 1:30, however we just wanted to get a feel of where our room would be so we walked by right after getting on board and found it already for us. So we dropped off our backpack we took on with us and headed to the buffet.
Food- Very good. I was quite surprised to find myself eating such great food during embarkation and before we even set sail! Before the sail off party my wife and I already had ate several things we never had before. The food was always visually stunning and tasted great. We hit the buffet everyday for lunch and breakfast. We also tried the pool side grill for breakfast once to see what it was like and found it was really just another smaller version of the lido deck buffet, but it did have made to order omelets. We ate in the dining room every night for dinner and were never let down. Our server was Cicero and he sure did a great job. By the end of the cruise- he had my wife laughing to the point she almost teared up. She ordered the melting chocolate cake every night- so on the final night, he didn't even give her a desert menu, just brought the cake straight out to her. All the food in the dining room was great, especially on formal night. We both had lobster and they also served filet minon. I never had had a minon, and was talking to another guy at our table when he mentioned, they allow you to order anything you want and as much as you want in the dining room- this I didn't know. So I asked the waiter and sure enough he brought me out a 2nd entree- the filet minon. As a side note- they'll do this for any course, so try a couple things if they both sound good. The only thing we didn't do was go to the dining room for breakfast and lunch. Another couple at our table went there each day for all meals and mentioned it was a great fresh breathe of air to go there instead of the bufett and most people didn't go to the dining room, also they said the food was 10 times better. This is something we are going to do on our next cruise.
Entertainment- OKAY. The shows were very good, especially the midnight adult only shows- laughed till we cried! However they do a passenger talent show the night before our last and it's well worth skipping. I didn't shell out $2000 to see a bunch of people try to be the next Carribean Idol- god help them all. As far as at Sea Days, we only had one as we were on a shorter cruise. That day we spent mainly walking around trying to find something to do. This was one of the very few let downs- they scheduled many of the activites (ie: ice carving, galley tours, dance classes, ect) on port days!! This we didn't understand. But we still enjoyed the mini golf and relaxing on the lido deck.
Activities- NEEDS IMPROVEMENT. The ship had several pools and a water slide- but we never could find when they were open. Night or day, the pools were always drained and closed. The two times (the evening of sail out, and the afternoon of the 3rd day) we saw them open, they were absolutely ran over by kids. There were so many kids in the pools that the ship actually stationed a crew member at the pool whom would then stop letting more in until so many got out. So needless to say we never got an opportunity to enjoy the pools, slide, or hot tubs. Every night we found all the bars/clubs empty. This was a shock as it was during spring break time, we figured the ship would be livlier, but that partying all took place on the lido deck by the pools. We aren't much for partying, but we left the kids at home to break out of our shell a bit. We did find one bar the final night that had a band doing rock and roll cover music- fantastic show!!! Our cruise director was awesome- very funny and always visable. There was a sidekick though that was a complete dork and annoying. The mini golf was fun, especially where it was located- on top of the ship with a view that is unimaginable! Cabin- Very surprised. We booked a ocean view room, as it was our first cruise as wanted to be able to see the ocean anytime day or night. We were quite surprised the size of the window- it was huge!!! Also the room was much larger than we thought it would be as we always heard the old stories of the tiny cabins on cruise ships- further from the truth. Also the tv played movies that weren't even out on dvd yet, which was nice late at night when we retired to the room- only suggestion: DON'T PLAY THE MOVIE "THE GURDIAN" about coast gurad divers rescuing people from sinking ships on a cruise!!! :) The movie was good though. Our housekeeper was very nice and attentive. He dazzled us with the famous animal towels of course and was always willing to do anything for us.
Final Suggestions: GET INVOLVED! Look at the capers (daily newsletter) delivered to your room nightly, and go participate in all the activities/shows/parties that you can. Get to know the other people at your dining table and make friends quickly- do this at the sail out party. The friendlier you are and the more outgoing, the more fun you will have. We were seated with older couples and still had fun and found many things in common. We also ran into another couple at sail out and ended up meeting with them several times at a bar just to chit chat. And finally pack light! You will find that you won't wear half of what you bring. Other than the dining room, we wore a t-shirt and swim suit the entire time.
Debarkaton- A NIGHTMARE! We sat in the show room from 7:30am until 10:00am waiting for our number to be called. We eventually gave up and just got in line as we noticed nobody hardly came in to announce the numbers and it was a complete mess. Waiting in line from deck 7 to get to deck 3 to get off and wait for customs as well. Once we got off the ship we waiting another 30 minutes to get out of the terminal. This was awful!!! I've heard much better and smoother debarkations at other ports- from what I can gather, this is pretty much a Port Canaveral problem. Also over the past 12 months, Carnival has imporoved their debarkation process and I've been told by fellow cruisers who've sailed just this year and report being off the ship by 8:30am. We are going to the Western Carribean in January and I hope that holds true.