This was our first cruise ever. We booked in September 2009. We had almost as much fun planning and anticipating over the several months before our cruise as we did actually being there.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise. We flew in with friends from KC and met up with other friends from CO at the airport. We used fortlauderdaletaxi.com for a shuttle service. It worked out really well. They took us from airport to hotel, hotel to cruise terminal, and cruise terminal to airport. The driver made a stop on the way to the cruise terminal for us to pick up sodas and water to take on board. I thought they were very reasonable and would use them again.
Stayed at the LaQuinta on West Cypress Creek. It was a little far away but worked out really well. Waffles are very important to several members of our party and LaQuinta lets you make your own. It was clean and comfortable. The pool was really nice too.
We got to the port around noon, checked our baggage with the porters out front and got in line. We seemed to move through this process pretty fast once the line started moving. We filled out a health questionnaire, went through security and got our sail and sign card. We stopped to have our picture taken and we were boarding in no time.
We couldn't get to our room until 1:30, so of course we headed to the buffet for lunch. We took our time at lunch and headed to the rooms afterward. There were 3 couples. All of us were on deck 6. We were in cabin 6438. I was surprised at how large the room really was. I must have pictured it really tiny. We had plenty of room. Our friends next door had a large balcony. We asked the steward to unlock the door in between and it stretched our balcony out and made a great place to hang out with each other in the evenings and even for a couple of naps on the fun days at sea. I can't imagine not having the balcony.
We had early seating for dinner- 6:00. However, I think I would like the anytime dining. Food was wonderful. We ate in the dining room all but two nights. The chocolate melting cake was heavenly. We ate at the upscale steak house one night. I had the surf and turf. My filet was wonderful. If I had to do it over, I would skip the lobster and just have the filet. Don't forget the 24 hour pizza! The pizza is really good. We had some almost every night. We ate in the dining room for breakfast one morning. It was ok. It was our first time eating breakfast in there and we were a little conservative. The dining room breakfast food was good, just all ala cart. At least that's the way we ordered it. After going our separate ways after breakfast, we later discovered that several of our party had a second breakfast in the buffet that day! Not me though. I was saving myself for the chocolate extravaganza buffet later that day. Hello De-licious!
We played a couple of trivia games. Some of us played ping pong. The thing we found most entertaining was the water slide. The adult only pool was great. We spent some time in the hot tub. We watched a couple of shows in the Victoriana Lounge after dinner. It was fun being there with friends and enjoying their company most of all. We made our own fun a lot of the time.
The service was great. I was afraid after reading some of the reviews that there would be issues. There weren't. They brought ice to our room twice a day. That came in handy since we brought sodas. The bar tender in the pool area in the back of the ship was great. They were all fast and friendly.
Excursions: It was fun to pull into a port and see the other ships. I really enjoyed this part.
Key West: We didn't purchase an excursion from Carnival. We rented scooters and had to walk a really long way to get them. We found a place on line that my husband thought would be good. The ad said it was a short walk. LOL! Key West is a very busy place. It seemed a little dangerous for scooter travel. If we ever go there again I will most likely shop a little and spend some time in Margaritaville and then head back to the ship. It will be more relaxing that way. However, if we hadn't had the scooters we probably wouldn't have made it to the most southern point in the US. This is a photo opt not to be missed. Love it!
Grand Cayman: We booked the Stingray Sandbar & Rum Point Beach excursion through Carnival. This was the best ever! The stingrays are amazing. We got several pics and underwater videos. We fed the stingrays. That was very cool. Rum Point Beach was great. We swam and played on the beach, bought some t-shirts. (They are more expensive than you think.) When it was time to go back, the boat sounded its horn and we all made our way back. I would recommend this excursion for sure.
Ocho Rios: We booked the Dunn's River Falls and Jamaican Bobsled excursion through Carnival. We greatly enjoyed Dunn's River Falls. I'm very glad to have made it out alive and I have a great sense of accomplishment. The falls are very slippery. Good water shoes are a must. Something with some tread is best. There is a path along the falls that you can walk, but who wants to be up there when you can be in the water? There are local craft merchants that you have walk through to get out of the Dunn's River Falls area. It's best not to make eye contact or answer their questions. The Jamaican Bobsled was fun. It was a little short. While I am glad we did the falls, we probably won't return to Jamaica. Most everyone hounds you for a tip.
We carried our own luggage off the ship. This worked well for us. We had an early breakfast all together, then headed back to our rooms to pick up our luggage and we made our way off the ship. I called for our shuttle. We had to wait a little while for our shuttle driver to get to us. She dropped us at the airport for our long wait for our flight. That was even fun as I remember it. We played cards and planned our next cruise.
This was definitely the best vacation we have ever had. I loved it. I can not wait until next time. We are planning on another cruise next May. We will stick with Carnival. We felt the price was good, food was good, service was good. Friends were great!