When we decided to cruise this year I booked the RCL Liberty of the Seas then got cold feet when it turned out that it was going to be almost $3000 more than Carnival. We booked the Valor but then switched to the Glory because we liked the itinerary better. We have previously been on both the Valor and the Glory.
My husband and I cruised with our 3 kids (daughters 20, 18 and son 14) and two of my daughter's girlfriends aged 18 & 19. We booked 3 cabins on deck 6. A balcony for us and 2 inside cabins across the hall. Our cabins were 6294, 6296 and 6298. The location was pretty good. We liked being midship, even though in the past we have been closer to the back.
Pre Cruise - stayed at the La Quinta FLL which was a TOTAL DIVE. Avoid it if you can. Way over priced for what you get and really not close to anything. Airport shuttle was the only good thing about that reservation.
We used SAS transportation and had made arrangements via email with Steve the owner that he would pick us up at 11:30 am. At 11:00 am the driver called and told us he'd be there on time and he was! We made a quick stop at another hotel to get some other guests who were travelling on the Valor and off to Miami we went. The ride was only about 25 minutes and he stopped at Walgreens for us to pick up some wine, since I found out that you can't purchase wine in Hollywood before noon. We arrived at port and the lines were pretty long (longer than I remember the last 2 years). The new self serve kiosks were not working and everyone had to fill out a flu questionnaire so I think that is why it seemed to take longer. No big deal...
I can't remember what time we got on board, but we went right up to the Lido deck and got a chair and something to eat. The weather was partly sunny, but not overly warm. This was by far the BEST sail away and one we will never forget because we were able to watch Canada win the Olympic hockey Gold Medal on the big screen. It was so much fun and we celebrated with our fellow Canadians. It was also my son's 14th birthday .... what a day!
SHIP: The ship was in great shape. We were on the Glory last year and didn't have any major complaints, but you could tell the ship had just come out of dry dock. Everything was clean, shiny, painted. Overall we found the service much better this year compared to last year. This was our 3rd consecutive Carnival cruise and by far this was the best service in the dining room. We had two waiters from Indonesia and they were fabulous. They interacted well with all of us, danced with the kids and were so much fun! Our room steward was awesome too. Every single Carnival team member we interacted with was friendly and helpful.
We had the late seating for dinner which worked out perfect for us. We would do dinner and then go to the late show. Shows were "somewhat"" the same as the last two years. Welcome aboard show was the same. The juggler/comedian was new - he was so funny. I missed Justin Illusion because I wasn't feeling good, but the kids really enjoyed the show. Even though we've seen the shows before, we still go - because the dancers and singers are generally different. The Carnival Legends show was good this year - much better talent than last year. The kids loved the Carnival Colours Ultimate Lounge Hop - that was a lot of fun except it rained when we got out to the Lido deck which was disappointing!
FOOD: We can never understand when people say they don't like any of the food. We are not foodies by any means, but everyone enjoyed the food very much. With 7 people in our party there was only 1 meal in 7 days that someone didn't like in the dining room. The prime rib was delicious!! The Mongolian Grill was new this year... it was very good. The deli is always good. Lunch buffet was good and lots of variety. I'm not sure people realize that the food is different at each buffet line so you really need to walk around and see what's there before getting in line. Third time in a row and we still didn't make it upstairs for the fish & chips..maybe next year. Breakfast can be a little monotonous for 6 days in a row. We only did breakfast in the dining room one morning. It was fine but we liked the buffet better.
PORTS: Half Moon Cay - it's everything everyone says it is. Paradise! We were really lucky and had very good weather. We debated on a cabana but in the end decided against spending the extra money. They were not sold out and we actually sat beside an empty one and checked it out. They are very small and don't really provide a lot of shade so you really have to decide if it's worth the money. There were tons of places to sit in the shade for free. We started off near the bar area but found it very loud, so we took a nice long walk down the beach and found a whole empty section, tons of chairs, trees, etc. I took some great photos of the beach and the ship in the background. We didn't rush back as the lines were very long for the tenders. We took our time, sat in the bar area then lined up. There really is no rush to get in line...might as well enjoy the island for as long as possible - they won't leave without you! My husband and kids had the lunch and said it was ok.
St. Thomas - I had emailed Henry from EEE Tours previously about taking us to Magen's Bay (we used him 2 years ago). Even though we never did connect and finalize our plans (my fault, not his), he was waiting for us when we got off the ship. We paid $16 PP to for round trip transportation to Magen's Bay. Two years ago we went to Sapphire Beach which was nice but we wanted to try something different. Magen's Bay was pretty but it was very busy and we had to walk quite a ways down the beach to find a less busy spot. It was nice but it didn't blow us away. We made arrangements for Henry to pick us up at 2:00 pm which was too early. You don't really need to make advance transportation plans. There is tons of taxi's available to take you to/from the beaches. I almost booked Coki Beach, and now wish I had because my son wanted to snorkel ... but I just had to see Magen's Bay. Next year hopefully we'll make it to Coki.
Puerto Rico - we had no plans for this day and ended up taking a short island tour for $10 per person. It was well worth the money. We didn't make any advance plans, just found this guy when we got off the ship . He had a small tour bus about ½ full and the passengers were very happy when the 7 of us showed up because they had been waiting a while for the guide to fill his bus. We toured around the city, the beach and hotel districts. He stopped at several of the forts and we were able to get out and take pictures. At the last fort we had the option of staying there and taking a tour and finding our own transportation back to the pier or he would take you back to the pier right away. We opted to take the $3.00 tour which was interesting (self guided) and then walked back to the pier after. It was an easy walk back - about 20 minutes. We stopped and shopped along the way and stopped for a cold one. It was very hot and sunny. The sail out of PR is very pretty and very scenic - great photo ops.
Grand Turk - one of the reasons why we changed cruises was so we could go to Grand Turk so we were very disappointed because the weather sucked! The boys had a snorkelling excursion booked which was not great because of the cold wind and lack of sun! The girls ended up going back on the ship and I sat bundled up in a sweatshirt and towels waiting for the boys to return from the excursion. We walked around Margarittaville and checked out the shopping. The pool, beach and facilities are very nice and it would have been a very fun day had the weather cooperated. Oh well.. what can you do? We ended up going up to the Lido deck and watching Michael Jackson's This is It on the big screen.
Days at Sea - chair hogs were horrendous on this cruise! Last year we cruised during spring break and there were tons of young people. This cruise the demographics were definitely older, but let me tell you the older cruises hog the chairs way more! On both of the sea days we just found chairs we wanted and if there were towels on them... we moved them to another chair. Neither time did anyone come back to claim their chairs and we were there for HOURS. We heard so many people walk by and grumble about not being able to find a chair. New on the Glory this year was the Serenity deck with nice new patio furniture and clam shells - but I think you would need to be up at the crack of dawn to get one. There was never any available when we went up there. There was an empty clam shell one day with towels, books, bags etc., on it... and we were so tempted to take it.... but we didn't. I think Carnival should let guests sign up for a spot in the Serenity deck - maybe for 2 or 3 hours blocks. That would give more guests an opportunity to enjoy the area. Overall days at sea are not our favourite (we are all about the ports)... but we enjoyed exploring the ship, played some games and did the galley tour.
Overall this was a great holiday. We had decent weather and the kids had a lot of fun. It definitely felt different than last year - the crowd was much older than last year. We had better waiters which made the dining experience 100% better. This was our 3rd Carnival cruise in a row and next year I think we will try something different just so we have something to compare it to. For the money, Carnival is a great deal. I'm worried about spending more money and not having as good of time. We are already researching next year and this site is so much help.