Embarkation: Group of 12: 6 adults and 6 children ages 14,11,8,7,5,3. Landed at Orlando Airport and met by two Mears 8 passenger vans, this was much cheaper than purchasing individual transfers. Got to port by 11:30 and had to stand in line outside until 12:30, apparently some inspection on ship held things up today. We were at the front of a line so once we were allowed in, things moved fairly quickly. I wouldn't have wanted to be at the end of the line. Went to Dining Room for lunch to regroup, service was slow this day for lunch. Headed to our rooms at 1:30 and immediately greeted by "the smell" on deck one. It wasn't overwhelming and comes and goes, worst on the waterslide stairs.
Ship: Our room was nice and clean and actually accomodated 5 of us pretty well. We didn't mind being on deck 1, it was quiet and the elevator was usually empty by the time it got down to 1. I wouldn't want to try to get on at 4, 5 or 6. If some people would learn to climb one or two flights of stairs, then the elevators would be a lot more efficient. I had read all the reviews and unfortunately everything is true. The ship is jammed with people. Only two small pools and unless you get up at 7:00 am and get a deck chair, you won't get one. We were lucky if we could find one chair for 5 of us to share, elbow to elbow with the other passenger next to us. Forget going to the Gathering during peak times, it was too crowded and chaotic. We enjoyed breakfast in the Dining Room almost every morning...no wait at 8:30 AM. We enjoyed Dinner every night in the dining room. Our waiters, Tata and Kar were FANTASTIC!!! This was the highlight of the trip. Dinner took 1 1/2 hours but we ate constantly from beginning to end and it didn't seem like that much time had passed. Most nights we went directly to the theater after dinner at 7:30 because you had to be there an hour early to get a good seat. The theater is poorly designed and there are few good seats. Lots of poles in the way and bad angles to the stage. Dancing in the Streets was the best show by far. Also, Bob Brisendine was very good.
Camp Carnival: Camp Carnival was terrible. We are previous Royal Caribbean cruisers and my kids couldn't wait to go to Adventure Ocean but they wanted nothing to do with Camp Carnival. The activities were boring and very immature for the 9-11 year olds. One night, they brought the 6-8 year olds down to the show, as soon as the kids saw their parents, the evening was over. The show wasn't even appropriate for these kids. If I wanted my kids to come to the show I would have brought them myself. You couldn't sign your child in if the group was doing an activity elsewhere, you had to wait until they came back and then sign your child in. We were late for several things we wanted to do because we had to wait for Camp Carnival. The 12-14 years olds basically just hung out in Circle C, they didn't really have any organized activities, no wonder people are compaining about kids just running around the ship out of control, they don't have anything else to do.
Excursions: The one excursion that we booked directly through Carnival, the Dolphin Encounter in Roatan was awful. They put us on beat up old school buses with no air conditioning. The bus was overcrowded and they wanted kids to sit on laps. We paid full price for my 8 year olds ticket, she wasn't sitting on my lap in 90 degree heat with no air conditioning. It took us 30 minutes to the Encouter where we sat and waited for an hour and a half because they had several groups backed up. We booked several other excursions on our own and they were fantastic. We didn't get to go to Belize because high winds in Roatan prevented us from leaving until the next morning. Many people were irrate about that.
Overview: I could go on about waiting 45 minutes fordrinks, the horrible vibration and noise when you dock at 5:00 AM, power outages etc. I read all of the reviews before our trip and thought to myself "some people just like to complain about everyrhing". We tried to make the best of it and we did have an overall good trip but I just wanted to warn people that all of the negative reviews are accurate. I wish they had been wrong. Sorry Carnival, this was my first impression of you and I have to say I'm going back to Royal Caribbean.
Cozumel: We met Fernando, from a private tour company just outside the port arches, we told him that we wanted to go to a beach and snorkel. He took us to the most beautiful, private beach. For snorkeling, you jumped in at one end and a current carried up to the sandy beach were you got out. We went several times. The equipment was all included for $25 per person and $10 for younger kids. There was a pool and a bar/restaurant there. You could get a massage on the beach and hair braiding. There were lounge chairs with umbrellas where you could just relax. On the way back, Fernando made several stops at stores in town at our request and also took us on a short tour of the city of San Miguel and gave us much information about the island and culture.
Roatan: We had a dolphin excursion planned for the afternoon, so we got off the ship in the morning and wanted to find a zip line tour since Roatan has lush, green trees. Right across the street from the port is Clip n Zip. It as exactly what we wanted. My 8 year old daughter was unsure about the idea and the guide took her through the whole adventure and she loved it. We zip lined through the trees from platform to platform. I think there were 12 platforms in all. It was so much fun. Roatan also has a private beach, Mahogony Bay. It is very beautiful. You could either walk or take the magic sky chairs. I don't recommend the dolphin encounter at Anthony's Key.
Costa Maya: We booked through Native Choice a tour of the Mayan Ruins Chaccoben. It was about an hour bus ride and it was very interesting. There is also a pool with a swim up bar and a private beach at the port if you just want to get off the ship and hang out.