This is our 13th cruise and our 4th with Carnival. We have also sailed on NCL, RRC, Holland, Princess & Celebrity. We flew down the day before and stayed at the HyattPlace/Fort Lauderdale/Airport on 17th Street, nice hotel and area. This hotel has free shuttle from the airport and to the port along with free breakfast, so you can't go wrong staying here. There is a mall within walking distance for any last minutes items you need. We walked over to the Publix store for pop to take on board and had the BEST burger and fries at a place called Five Guys!! Loved it so much, we went back there for lunch when we returned from the cruise.
Now on to the good stuff; the cruise. The hotel starts the shuttle service at 11, we got down to the front desk around 10:30 wanting to beat the crowds, but luck would have it, only 1 other group was ready to leave at 11. The hotel is really only 5 minutes from the port. My hubby had upgraded with Carnival with out me knowing to a suite for my birthday, let me tell you, this is the way to go, we had VIP check in, no waiting in any lines to check in. We really were on board on the Lido deck by 11:30, this is even after sneaking to our room (which wasn't ready)to drop off our carry on's. This is the way to go. The room was awesome, had so many cubby holes for storage, I didn't even open them all. The best part of the room I say was the bathroom and dressing room area. The bathroom has a full size whirlpool full, double sinks and plenty of room for 2 and a small dressing room just outside of the bathroom. We had a full size sofa that made a bed, a small table & chair along with the desk area and chair. And this is the first time we didn't have the room steward remove any of the chairs or table to free up some space. If you are very traveling with 3 people in a room, this really is the way to go. I'll have a hard time going back to regular room. I do have to say the balcony was odd, it was the same length as the room but all the balcony's were skinny, the chairs had to be turned at an angle just to be on the balcony. As always the room stewards were on their game, had no problems.
The ship was nice, we had early sitting in the Posh with a table for 4 but never saw the other couple. The dining room food was fair, on the first formal night, hubby had the lobster tail & said it was probably the best he had ever had, I had the prime rib and is was no where near the best I had ever had. It sometimes was hard getting to the Posh, even though it was on the 3rd floor, you couldn't get to it, with out going up to the 5th floor go all the way to the back and then down to the 3rd floor again. We even ending up in the Chic one night trying to find our table. The over all food was fine, some things being better then others. We have had better food on other lines but it the same as being at home, you can have a great meal one night and go back there and it may not be great the next time. This was the first time that we have found there wasn't a buffet open all the time. At night the last buffet closes around 9:30 but the pizza bar & bistro sandwich station are open and only had 1 midnight buffet, which is probably a good thing. I did not care for the chocolate extravaganza being held at Noon on the last sea day and it wasn't like I have seen on the other cruise lines. Other cruise lines do a much better job with the chocolate extravaganza by far. But other cruise lines don't have lemonade & ice tea all day long either, so it's a give and take as to what you are looking for when you cruise.
Entertainment wise, Carnival did not live up to other cruise lines, a few nights there was only 1 show at 10:15 or 10:30 and one night the show was the passenger talent show, yes I enjoy the talent show but not as the only show for the evening. The nightly shows are something that we do look forward too and Carnival was lacking in this area for sure plus we had a brand new cruise director, Gayve and he SUCKED I hate to say. Neither my husband or I cared for him at all and based on what we heard the other passengers saying, he needs ALOT of work. We even heard people at the airport talking about how bad he was. Like I mentioned before, the entertainment area is something we really do count on and enjoy with our cruises and Carnival was by far is now at the bottom of the list. We did even take in a few movies out on the pool deck at night which we did enjoy. But when hubby found the popcorn and asked for 2 bags and was told it was $1.50 per bag - he wasn't happy. Remember we are about 20 away from an all you can eat buffett - that being said not many people were eating popcorn while watching the movie. The large movie screen out by the pool area is cool but they can work on that also, alot of times it was just showing landscapes and stuff, which was odd. You would think they could find better things to air then a waterfall or mountin top.
Port wise, we have been to these islands before. Key West is a nice island, we just got off and walked the town. Last Nov we did the trolley train tour, which everyone should do once just to see the whole island. I would go back and stay there, there was a lot of activity starting up along the shore/port as we were sailing out to our next stop.
Grand Cayman, we were set to get off and walk around here also, but we 4 other ships docked we just choose to stay on board away from all the crowds. It's nice staying on board, it's almost like being on your very own ship.
Jamaica, we did the Bob Marley tour - we had a good time, we traveled by the Zion bus into Nine Miles to the Bob Marley Compound which really takes you into the heart of Jamaica. This made me very thankful for what I have and how we live.
Overall we had a great vacation, had no issues or trouble but both the hubby and I agree that Carnival is not our favorite cruise line but given the right opportunity we would cruise on Carnival again.