We flew to Miami 2 days ahead (having experienced weather probs on other cross country flights to cruises) and had a great time in Miami at the Conrad Hilton on points. Most other Hiltons were booked with cruiseline groups. Great hotel, a bit quirky. I loved the water cooled glass roof of the porte cochere. Minimalist modern. Wierd having concierge on 1st floor and main lobby on the 25th floor. Absolutely great staff, rooms and cuisine.
After hearing that kids & grandkids had made it standby to Fort Lauderdale & we would meet at the ship we relaxed and enjoyed the view of Biscayne Bay.
Although the port was only 1 mile away, because of a Miami Heat game the downtown streets were a bit blocked so the taxi was more than expected, but....
Embarkation was quite organized and not bad. Our 20 year old grandson & his buddy had their liquor confiscated at check in (snicker) but otherwise everything went well. Our cabin was an oceanview (as we booked late, not much left) but midship. Although basic, it actually had more closet/storage space & was bigger than a similar on the RCCL Radiance OTS we were on the month before. We noticed the cabins were not as well sound proofed as the RCCL ships. The ships were all built by Fincantieri in Italy, but this was a MUCH noisier ship from the cabins next door & the hallway. Lots of talking, giggling & horseplay in the hall every night around 2:30 AM. Wished I'd brought ear plugs.
The ship, however was difficult to navigate and because of the busy decor a bit claustraphobic, with 2 atriums and midship Lincoln dining rooms that pretty well break up the flow of the ship on decks 3 & 4. I have a tobacco allergy and didn't like having to go through the casino to get most places or the trivia being in the Winston cigar lounge. Also walking into dinner on the 4th deck from by the cigar lounge and being bathed in before dinner smoke from there. We actually went down to deck 3, walked into the Washington dining room and walked up the internal stairs to avoid the smoke. I learned on this ship to always keep the inhaler handy as there is a much laxer smoking policy on Carnival.
The food was actually better than Royal Caribbean, and we enjoyed it. The first 2 night our table of 6 family members had a great waiter from Nicarauga who was really super. Unfortunately, on the 3rd night we found out we had a new waiter and service deteriorated from then. We went from timely service to being the last table in our area of the dining room to get served with the previous waiter's tables ( which we could see by us) having dessert before we had our main courses.
The buffet area, Rosies, was fine for lunch or snacks and I liked the 24 hour ice cream & pizza.
There were plenty of activities, unforunately as mentioned many were is smoking area and although smoking was banned during the activities the residual smoke was enough to make a lot of folks complain and made it necessary for us to avoid them. Also, some were outside in the pool area (trivia by the pool in 90 degree high humidity weather????) so those were out. My husband, son & grandson had a mini golf tourney and almost ended up with sunstroke.
There was quite a varied group age wise including the heavy drinkers one expects on an end of spring break and caribbean cruise. However the sex in the hot tub was a bit much.
The outdoor screen by the pool was fun for movies after dark when it cooled down a bit. Sitting on the lounge chairs and feeling the balmy damp was an experience. Kinda fun! During the day, the temps and humidity were such that we avoided that area and stayed in the adults only stern Prometheus pool which had large covered ares, a breeze and the pizza place. The kids/grandkids knew where to find us.
Because of the heat & humidity - which even the folks from Miami on the cruise said was unusually high - we didn't do any excursions and just stayed on the ship. We had thought the Prometheus pool might be covered sometimes as it has a retractable roof, but the only time it was covered was during a rain storm one morning.
The evening entertainment was good solid cruise line stuff, nothing much different. Didn't go to the X rated nightly comedian. Not our thing.
Disembarkation was easy and worked well. We spent the night at an airport hotel to get an early flight out next day.
Will we do Carnival again??? Probably if that's what the kids want to do, but not the Caribbean with the long cross country flight, and NOT during any part of spring break!
They then went to a village where the driver's family lived and bought cashew wine and had great juices like cantaloupe and tried some exotic native fruits. They had lunch at a local restaurant and really enjoyed the friendliness of the people. They then snorkeled from a beach close to the ship and came back hot, exhausted but happy.
They had lunch at a local restaurant and said the food was great.