Our 8 day cruise left Ft Lauderdale on Feb 8th - but as we had a long and weather ridden journey ahead of us we elected to spend 4 days in Fla. prior to sailing...so we left Calgary Canada on Delta (via Minneapolis) on Feb 4th. We arrived late into Ft Lauderdale on the 4th and spent our first night at the Best Western Ft Lauderdale Airport - a 3 star hotel with 5 star service! Even though we arrived well after their last published airport shuttle time, I called the hotel from the airport calling board and they arranged for another hotel nearby to pick us up to deliver us to our hotel! The BW Airport hotel is small, older but our room was immaculately clean and quiet. The next morning we had arranged with Enterprise car rental (located about 3/4 of a mile from the hotel)to pick us up at the hotel to take us back to their rental location to get our car. Again, never before have we had such prompt, courteous and efficient service from a car rental!
We then drove up the coast to Melbourne Fla. as we wanted to try and watch the Space Shuttle launch. The drive up was about 2.5 hours - traffic was nuts - drivers were even nuttier on I95 - good thing hubby has nerves of steel. Closest hotel we could get to Kennedy without spending a fortune was the Days Inn West Melbourne - we paid $52/night - clean but older 3 star motel style...5 minute walk to Denny's (if you show your room key they gave a 20% discount off the food bill) We spent 2 nights here and toured Kennedy Space Centre - my 12 yr old son loved it! Too bad it was rainy and cold (only 50F ). We drove back to Ft Lauderdale and stayed at the Best Western Airport/Cruise Port - and booked their 10:45am free shuttle to the pier for the next day. We arrived at our pier at aprox. 11:30am as we had multiple pier stops for other cruisers. Check in at the pier was organized and fast - we were checked in and given zone 4 for boarding in less than 20 minutes. By 12:30pm our zone was called and we were on board - up to the Lido deck 9 for lunch. Our cabins were off limits until after 1pm due to cleaning.
After lunch at about 1:30pm I left my son in the pool (he had is bathing suit in a carry on) my husband in the lido bar and I went to our room to drop off carry on etc. By 3pm our luggage was delivered so I put everything away (bags under the bed so that we had more closet space). Our cabin was deck 6 number 6317 - inside for the 3 of us. Normally in the past we have done balcony cabins but thought we would save the few hundred by doing an inside - very small space for 3 large people as our 12 yr old is adult size now. There were 2 upper berths which folded down for 3rd and 4th passengers. Even though they say that the cabin interior space is the same - it wasn't - compared to our previous balconies. Nonetheless we made due - at least it was very quiet and dark so sleeping in was a breeze and our cabin steward was amazing!!!! But I would spend the extra $400 to do a balcony next time. Our cabin was aft and on the first 2 sea days we had pretty rough seas. So bad that our night stand drawers would roll open and then slam shut back and forth. Good thing we had the ear patch for motion sickness as I would not have survived!
The ship itself was nicely laid out - similar to the Legend in design. I wish Carnival would tone down on the decor a bit as it is a bit over the top at times like in the disco and dining room. Our dining waiter and his assistant were polite but very reserved - I missed the exuberance of previous waiters. The food in the main dining room was 3 star on average. For the most part beef dishes like the Fillet Mignon were iffy at best and I wouldn't bother ordering the lobster ever again!! But any other seafood dish like the grouper or snapper were very good. Surprisingly the Prime Rib was excellent!!!! We did not do Nick and Noras this time. Food in the buffet on the lido deck was decent although we only did dinner there one time. But their salad bar, sandwich bar were excellent as was the pizza stop. The one night that we did dinner it was mediocre but we were too tired to care. We did formal breakfast twice - just to say that we did it and I was surprised at how busy it was! One down side of the formal dining for breakfast is that both times it was very very slow! Food was ok though and it provided a change from the Lido buffet breakfast. More and more people were using the omelette station to custom order eggs ie : over easy etc....so it was usually very busy.
Entertainment: the pool side duo were decent and Carnival had an amazing Filipino band on board doing poolside one night and show lounge other nights! Generally the entertainment was first rate and our cruise director Malcolm is THE BEST! We've had him on one other cruise and I think he is the best in their fleet. Captain Volpi too was very engaging! I would recommend going to all of their shows - we even did a couple of them twice we enjoyed them so much!
As all of our ports were pierside it made port visitations easy and stress free. Port of call details below.
At the end of our cruise, we had a late flight out of Ft Lauderdale at 5pm. Friends of ours on the same flight opted to do the Ft Lauderdale post cruise shore excursion which gave transfers to the airport but en route did a Florida Everglades tour with air boat ride. They paid $49 US per person for this option which is a decent price as the Everglades Tour alone is $20 (we did it on our own the second day in Florida)...but they were at the airport by noon so had a long wait and there was nothing for shops and little for restaurants in our Delta terminal!! My family and I took a $15 cab ride back to the Best Western Airport and paid the $90 day rate for a room and slept, watched TV went for a walk and to Subway for lunch so we felt great! At 3:30pm the hotel took us to the airport so by the time we checked in it was about 4:15pm.
Our flight home was again with Delta via Minneapolis (which is a lovely airport by the way) but it was well after midnight MST when we landed. Long day!
One thing I did do - was purchase a certificate for a future cruise while we were on board. As we know we are going again - just not sure of the date, the cost of the voucher was $100. The $100 is applied to your next cruise PLUS they give you a $100 ship board credit (applies to a 7 day cruise - different SBC for different durations). Will see how well it works next year!