Overall, our experience was very positive and I am looking forward to booking my next trip with Carnival. The cruise director Felipe was quite funny and energetic and I felt like he added to the fun atmosphere. Embarkation and debarkation were very smooth. From what I had read on the message boards, I was expecting worse, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The food was fantastic overall. I loved the breakfast buffet, and enjoyed the crispy bacon and a bowl of Lucky Charms every morning. For lunches, I ate mostly pizza or fried fish, the pizza was decent, but the fried fish was very tasty. My very favorite was the chocolate buffet, I had two plates of sweet desserts and chocolate covered fruit. We both enjoyed dinners in the Main Dining Room, I had fruit appetizers most nights and they were always a fresh and healthy option. Our favorite appetizer was the thai marinated chicken tenders. For the main dishes, I typically got the chicken dish, never a disappointment. My favorite in the MDR was the panko crusted shrimp and hubby's favorite were the ribs. I had the chocolate melting cake every night after the second and obviously loved it. It is now my favorite food.
For activities, there is never a lack of things to do. We managed to see four separate comedy shows (2 adult, 2 family) with two different comedians, Allyn Ball and Happy Cole and enjoyed them tremendously. We saw part of a musical show with Jamie Fraiser, and while he was talented, I didn't really enjoy it as I don't like big band. My husband enjoyed it though. We also went to the marriage game, which was very funny even though we just watched. I also enjoyed the movies on Lido deck, we saw both the Proposal and Up, and I have to say that movies are far better enjoyed on a warm night outside on the deck of a ship. My biggest disappointment for activities was how cold the pool water was. I should have been prepared, but I always try to be optimistic. Next cruise will definitely be during a warmer month. I enjoyed the songs by Music Boardwalk, a fun band that I learned to seek out wherever they were playing.
Ships amenities, no complaints. As it was a six day cruise, I didn't get nearly enough time to explore the ship. The gym is great, they even had a scale so I could monitor my weight (only gained 1/5 pound due to the gym and the stairs).
Ports were mixed, I would take a different itinerary next time. Key West seemed like it would be fun without rain (poured all day), though I did get to tour Hemingway House and shop a bit. I would go back with hopefully better weather. Cayman Islands were beautiful. That was probably the nicest place I've ever been, loved the beach and Margaritaville. Finally, Jamaica was beautiful, but the aggressive sellers really put a damper on the otherwise good experience.
Finally, as a first timer I have to say how different it was than my expectations. When I booked, I was looking at a cruise as the cheapest way to get to a variety of islands to check out where to book my next land vacation. I actually had more fun on the ship (other than Cayman Islands) and am now planning more cruises! I know some people look down on Carnival as being low end, but I think it is great, especially for younger people wanting a good time without going bankrupt.
We did a sightseeing (land only) tour with Captain Marvin's. Much better price than the comparable Carnival tour, and there were only three other people with us. The tour took us to Seven Mile Beach, Hell, and the Turtle Farm. It was only a two hour tour, so each stop was very brief which suited me just fine. Hell was cool if you have never seen it, though I probably wouldn't go again. I especially loved Hell Post Office. I have a few mail carrier friends, so I took some pictures for them. The turtle farm was interesting, but definitely hot, even in February. On our cruise, this was the only point I got remotely overheated...keep hydrated here, as there is no escape from the sun. Hubby and I both got to hold baby turtles, which was fun and a cool photo op.
After our tour, we went back to Seven Mile for some swimming. I normally am not big on swimming in the ocean, but here it was incredible. The water was warm enough, with gentle waves. It was aqua, like you'd see in a postcard. I would book a cruise that went to this port just to go back to the beach.
We ended our time in port with some shopping and Margaritaville. I looked in quite a few stores, they tend to be very pricy and carry mostly jewelry/rum/etc. I bought a few things at the Margaritaville store. Margaritaville here is amazing. It is really expensive, but if I went back, the appetizers are huge and can be split by 2-3 people. There was a DJ spinning music and encouraging drinking games. He was great and remembered where we were from. He played a good mix of music, varying from tropical to dance music. And of course, there is the water slide. I went down once, very fun. I would have gone more had I been with someone else who wanted to do it (Hubby declined).
We walked down to the Southernmost Point for the obligatory photo, not much to say about it, other than the pictures are cute. One good thing about Key West is if you are in decent shape, you can walk just about anywhere. Very helpful when I ate a chocolate covered frozen key lime pie slice! That was extremely delicious if you love chocolate, so ladies, it is a must try.
I was a little disappointed by the gift shops in Key West, I guess I have spend too much time shopping in Florida to really be impressed.
If I did this port in the rain again, I think I would take another tour or do a pub crawl. In clearer weather, I think my plan to walk Key West would turn out much better.
We took a Carnival tour as I had heard the port could get scary. First we went to Prospect Plantation. It was my husband's choice, I wasn't very excited about it, but the tour guides were entertaining, and I learned a few things, much to my disappointment. I couldn't find much about this tour on the boards ahead of time, but I would highly recommend it. It is informative and you see a lot of natural beauty.
Our second leg of the tour was Dunn's River Falls (my choice). I was prepared for the vendors as we were leaving, but not arriving, and husband got bilked out of $30 prior to making it to the falls, and as a result, he was ready to leave before we started. He has bad knees so he photographed my climb. I was surprised by how scary it was. I love roller coasters, flying, etc., so I thought it would be no big deal, but looking up at that thing, I was terrified. I was a bad climber, I didn't hold hands very much and kind of spider like scrambled my way up ( I wasn't confident enough to be that high up and standing). Once I got near the end, I was more exhilarated and really enjoyed the last bit of climbing. On the way out, my husband about freaked out on some of the sellers, so I just told them " we left our money on the ship" and dragged him away (he felt bad just walking away).
We shopped a bit at Taj Mahal, but I didn't really care for it. Not as bad as the sellers at Dunn's River, but still a bit much. We ended our day at Island Village, I definitely wish we would have been there more. I bought some things at Margaritaville, and it was interesting. Even though they weren't aggressive like at the other places, the sales staff still were very present. I liked the girl helping me, she was very sweet and helped me find whatever I needed. I would have liked to have enough time to go to the beach there, I think if I went back to Ocho, I would hang out at Island Village and the beach.