Something for Everyone
We took this cruise with 3 other families as a celebration of my nephew's graduation from High School, so our ages ranged from teenager to grandparents. We were a little turned off at the outset by the big signs saying that tips for the Baggage Handlers were not necessary, while the baggage handlers themselves were asking for tips. The teen clubs seemed like a great idea, but didn't work out well for our particular group. One club was for age 12-14 and another for 15-17. The kids in our party were ages 14, 15, and 18, so they were not eligible for the same club and therefore didn't want to go alone.
The food was outstanding. We had excellent service in the Dining Room at Dinner, and our waiter was very fun and efficient. We were a little chapped about there being two "Elegant Dining" nights which had a formal dress code. We didn't bring formal wear and it wasn't clear up front that we would need to on something promoted as a family cruise. I didn't find the Carnival Q&A More
sight very user-friendly for finding this type of information. Even though the buffet food was very good, we were annoyed by this and felt we did not get what we paid for.
We did Shore Excursions at three of the four ports, and all were reasonably priced, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Cozumel was absolutely beautiful, with lots of exotic gardens and cultural fountains. We visited Gumbalimba park in Roatan which was also gorgeous, though the abject poverty witnessed on the drive there was a bit depressing. Our guide for snorkeling in Belize was outstanding, and gave us an amazing history lesson on the way back to the ship. It was unclear which beverages were complimentary on the ship. And we really felt that the prices for everything that was not included were unnecessarily high. ($8.75 for a Long Island Iced Tea) If they would just leave the Casino open 24 hours, they could knock about $2 off their mixed drinks, offer soft drinks as complimentary, and still come out ahead.
Video games in the arcade were from $.75 to $1.25. In the launderette, it was $3 to wash and $3 to dry. There was no bill changer in the laundry room. I had to go to guest services to get change, and by the time I got back, the washers were taken. The entertainment was mostly excellent. There were family-friendly as well as Adult Comedy shows every night, a magic/comedy show, a juggler, and several dance shows. The theater was very impressive although it had many obstructed views. There were plenty of free fun activities throughout the day such as Trivia games, Dance classes, Bingo etc. Our stateroom steward was meticulous, and our room was cleaned twice a day. Disembarkation was very smooth, well-organized and comfortable. The cruise was a wonderful experience overall. I would highly recommend it, but bring your wallet and be prepared to SPEND. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We did not actually visit Belize city. We were warned that there was very little to see and do there. Our excursion was Snorkeling along the barrier reef. Our guide Lucio was exceptional. He made us feel very safe and showed us lots of cool stuff. He also gave us tons of interesting information about the ocean life we were seeing as well as the History of Belize which was fascinating. After the excursion we stopped at a small private island that had a beautiful little private beach, a gift shop, surprisingly nice bathrooms, and even a simple little manatee museum.
This was our least favorite port. The shopkeepers were extremely aggressive to the point of making you feel very uncomfortable. The souvenirs were over-priced and the vendors did not seem interested in making any deals. The drinks were reasonably priced and there was a beautiful pool in the middle of the square with a swim-up bar. We did see some very cool rock pools in the beach area. We watched some street performers do some sort of traditional Mayan dance. Not one of them smiled throughout the ten minute performance. They showed no passion or signs of enjoyment. It was a bit of a buzz kill.
The port was very beautiful. It was immaculately kept. There were lush tropical gardens and many beautiful cultural statues and fountains that made for great photo opportunities. The stone streets and walkways were quaint and beautiful, but we saw two people have serious falls because of the uneven pavement. There were a variety of interesting shops and we felt that the shopkeepers were assertive but not overly aggressive. We enjoyed watching the Mariachis but didn't particularly enjoy the club music blaring from "Fat Tuesdays" I can get that in the states. We were hoping for something that felt more authentic, and less like a chain. The excursions were very well-organized. We went to Swim with the Dolphins at Dolphinaris, which was an incredible experience and very much worth the $125 per person. However, the prices for the photos and DVD were completely out of line, and what we ended up paying for them was our biggest disappointment of the entire trip. The kid gave us a deal that was $150 under the listed price, and it was still about 4 times what would have been reasonable. The van ride to the Excursion was a bit scary. Is it legal in Mexico to actually be watching TV as you drive?
The shop area was much smaller than in Cozumel. It was also clean, and felt pretty safe walking around. The coolest thing about the port area was all the artisans creating their wares right on the street: wood carving, leather work, rolling cigars. We took a bus to Gumbalimba park which was beautiful. We did an Excursion called Snuba which is a cross between Snorkeling and Scuba. Our guide was very good. All the people who worked there did a great job, and our photos were reasonably priced. If we weren't so exhausted, we would have loved to spend more time exploring the wildlife etc. in the park, and it was set up so that we could have stayed and caught transportation back at any time. The bus ride to and from the park was quite sobering because of all the ramshackle abodes and shabbily dressed children we passed on the way. There is literally a boatload of money pouring into that island. Where is it going?