Weather problems made for a nightmare in getting to Ft. Lauderdale, but our group of 8 made it flying from three different directions. Stayed Friday night at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Marriott. Very Nice. Cute little French pastry shop behind hotel. Pricey, but good.
Economized with an interior cabin on deck 9 this time. Tiny, but sufficient. Our cabin steward, Skinner, was great. Efficient, attentive and friendly, without being intrusive. Only complaint with cabin would be the air conditioning. It was often uncomfortably warm in our cabin. We were all the way aft, so maybe that explains the problem. Friends in other cabins seemed fine.
Late seating dining. This was our seventh cruise, and our waiter, Christopher, was as good as we've had. Food and service were most enjoyable. The Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is divine, but order extra ice cream. As far as the entrees, Christopher's recommendations were always on the mark.
For the first time I left the tux at home. Cruisers are now so oblivious to the dress code, a tux feels overdressed. We actually had a group near our table in overalls.
Great weather for the entire 8 days. Ports of call were San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, Antigua and Nassau. No tenders at any port, a plus with us. San Juan had a problem; returning to the ship was a real hassle, a very long, slow line to go through security. Only two San Juan security personnel checking IDs for every passenger returning to two docked cruise ships. You'd think they'd want to be more hospitable.
We had a billing problem come up on our onboard billing card, but the customer service staff resolved it quickly and pleasantly. The staff was very pleasant at every occasion.
We enjoyed numerous excursions, no disappointments, but one stood out as especially fun. It was not a tour offered by Carnival, but it proved to be great. It was the Eco Tour by Adventure Antigua. The highlight was climbing Hell's Gate and traversing through the cave. Also, the Baths on Virgin Gorga, an excursion from Tortola, was somewhat of a disappointment, probably because we didn't enjoy the long tender boat ride. We had to wait a long time on a crowded, smelly ferry boat.
Carnival delivered an enjoyable cruise, plenty of activities if you wanted organized events, but easy to relax on your own if that was your pleasure. With our late seating, I only made one of the shows, the only one they scheduled before our evening meal. After a full day, a huge dinner and half a bottle of wine, I was ready for bed. Wish there were more early options.
We enjoyed several of the onboard musicians, and this leads to our only serious complaint. The pianist performs in the Havana Bar before dinner. He was wonderful, but this is an intolerable smoking bar. As much as we enjoyed his music, we couldn't bear the cancerous atmosphere. We were displeased Carnival chose to showcase the pianist in the smoking lounge, and worse, immediately next door to the dining room if you were entering from Deck 4. If anyone is to do without a piano bar, it ought to be the smokers.
Disembarkation was amazing! Because of an early flight, we used the "self-assist" option where you carry your own luggage off the ship. We ate breakfast and then left the ship around 8:00am. Wow! 10 minutes later we're in our cab on our way to the airport!
After having cruised on 7 different trips, you can start to take too much for granted. When you take the accomodations, service, food and entertainment into account, this 8 day cruise is a delightful vacation bargain. For sure, we'll be back.