Background: DH (39) and myself (39), DD (9) and DS (7). This was DH and I's third cruise all with Carnival (Fantasy (1998 honeymoon), Glory (2008)), the kids' first cruise. Also with us, my best friend (37), her DH (38), DS (7) and DS (6). The parents' second cruise and kids' first.
Pre-Cruise: We flew down from Chicago Midway on Southwest early morning on June 25. We picked up our rental car from Budget and were to Cape Canaveral around 1 pm. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. Beautiful hotel with beach access. Highly recommend it. Very nice pool area. We ate dinner at Rusty's, our favorite place. My family saw us back home on the webcam. Breakfast the next morning was at Denny's with our friends.
Embarkation: A breeze! We arrived at 10:45 and were at the counter getting our Sail and Sign cards at 11:00. We were given Zone 6 and they called Zone 1 as I handed over our passports. We were on board by 11:15.
Ship: We mastered the layout with no problem. It was very similar to the Glory. So, we knew not to try to get from one end to the other on Deck 3. Loved the Lower Dream Street on Deck 4. We used that a lot to check on photos after dinner. Quickly discovered that the elevator bank by our cabin would take us directly to the Chambers on deck 4 where my daughter had camp during the day. I checked out Serenity on the first sea day. No chair hogs at 9:30 am and a lot of lounge chairs available. The clamshells were all taken. Liked that there was no wind due to the glass screens. We didn't spend much time on the Lanai since we had a balcony. Mini-golf was great! We played a round while docked at Belize after our excursion. My kids liked the aft pool better than the main one. And they tried the smaller waterslides. Preferred the pools. Never caught the "smell". I thought I might have during our meet and greet at the aft bar but it smelled like burnt food from the Tandoori behind us. And was only a few seconds if that. By the way, the atrium bar would have been a better location since it's air conditioned. Very humid back there!
Cabin: We were originally supposed to have cabin 6390. But, I was offered a $40 upgrade to Vista deck. So glad we did this!! We were in 9358, directly at mid-ship port side on deck 9. My friends were in 1297, starboard side almost at the same place we were. Up one flight from our cabin and we were at the grill/pizzeria. Wonderful location with kids!! We were also 2 flights up to Camp Carnival. Hardly ever had a problem getting an elevator to go down to dinner. We usually caught the elevator up from Deck 5 in between seating times so no wait. I decorated our cabin and door. Use lots of sticky tac especially if they are heavier decorations. The cabins are very humid when you first board. Our room steward, Rai, was phenomenal!! He was so efficient and learned our schedule very quickly. Thought it was cute that he knew my son's name by the second day. He'd say hello to him every day in the hallway. He had a list with all of our names when he introduced himself shortly before sailaway. The kids loved the towel animals! We got a swan Friday during the day. We had rough seas on Thursday and felt hardly any movement. My daughter has had motion sickness in the past and had no trouble at all. Slept through each night even though my DH and I woke up a few times. If you enjoy watching the ship dock or sunrises, pick the port side. We saw two sunsets as well from our balcony. Including one over Miami.
Food: Amazing! We had 6:00 seating in the Scarlet restaurant aft. I had linked our booking numbers so we all ate together. Every meal was delicious. My friend only had one sub-par meal in the dining room. It was Wednesday night and I think it was the Seafood Newburgh. Our waiter, Antara (or Yogi) and assistant Luis were wonderful. They were great with the kids. Yogi got our four plus the other kids around us to dance with him each night that there was a show. And, he taught some magic tricks too. Big hit with my friend's oldest since he loves magic. I'm a huge WCMC fan and had it almost every night. Yogi made me try the Bitter and Blanc but brought me a WCMC as a backup. I was so surprised!! And, the Bitter and Blanc is delicious! You must try it. I'm not a white or dark chocolate fan, but the sweetness of the bread pudding was a perfect match with those two types. We went to the buffet, grill or pizza right when they opened on sea days. Hardly any wait. We also tried the pasta bar and deli. My friend loved the Mongolian! Always were the only ones upstairs. We had breakfast in the dining room every day except Wednesday since we had an early excursion in Belize. Love the dining room breakfast! The eggs are so much better than on Lido. And, it's very relaxing and the perfect way to start the day. I also ordered room service one day. It was okay. I had the roast beef and brie sandwich. I don't care for condiments and they put mustard on it which was not listed. I had thought to ask for no mayo since they seem to put mayo on everything. Chocolate cake was everything I had read. Delicious!
Cozumel: We did the Sub-Ocean view excursion through Carnival. It was exactly what we wanted. We saw coral, sponges, tons of fish including a large barracuda, and a sea turtle. We were amazed at how close our boat got to the snorklers and divers. After lunch, we went shopping in the port area. My son found a snowglobe for his collection (by the way, don't try to take these on the airplane in your carry-on) and my daughter got her magnet. I also found t-shirts 6 for $20. Yay!! I have 6 nieces and nephews. Also, found myself a gorgeous Alexandrite ring and a dolphin ring for my daughter.
Roatan: As we approached the channel, we looked down and saw a pod of 15 dolphins. Beautiful! Our excursion was Pirates, Birds and Monkeys of the Caribbean, also through Carnival. Our tour guide was Ryan and he spoke perfect English. We crossed a rope bridge to reach the parrots and monkeys. Beware if you don't like rodents like me, their "rabbits" aren't like ours! Fortunately, I didn't see one but my son did. "Mommy, that was a big rat!" Also, there were black and green iguanas everywhere. I almost stepped on one on the bridge. The monkeys were well handled. They had a baby one that was born at the park that climbed on the kids. He really liked my son! Tip: Take video and pull the pictures off of that. Worked wonderfully! We had the option to stay and use their beach and pool or head back. We were really hot so we headed back. Their drinks were reasonably priced as well. We checked out the new Mahogany Bay port area after lunch. My DH thought it looked like a theme park. If you want a full photo of the ship, go further down the beach. I tried one at the end of the bridge and got almost all of it. The kids were tired and hot so I didn't go farther down.
Belize: We went to Altun Ha through Carnival. Our tour also included a drive through Belize City. Our tour guides were Merlene and Maud. Absolutely wonderful!! They were very informative and funny. Our driver was Richard and he lived up to the name "Best Bus Driver." He avoided hitting a teen on a bike who darted out in front of us on the return trip. And, none of us got hurt either! This was the highlight of our trip. We loved the ruins! Didn't even mind the intense heat and humidity. We saw two plazas and climbed the temple. Scary but breathtaking! There are handrails on both sets of stairs. Take bug spray and sunscreen. I only got three bites and you don't see the bugs. There are also several local artisan stands. We only got a magnet for my daughter, handcarved of the temple. My friends bought several carved mahogany animal pieces. And, a bottle of cashew wine. The tender was a little bumpy but was only 20 minutes. Be careful not to sit near an open window on the single deck ones. I got wet!
Costa Maya: We didn't get to dock here do to 15-20 foot sea swells and a 60 mph headwind. But, we didn't mind too much since we didn't have an excursion booked. The extra $9.50/person allowed me to get an extra formal night picture or two. Hint: The guy at the stairs is awesome!! He was so good with my son. Best photos he's ever taken.
Entertainment: We went to two PG comedy shows. Kim Harrison was great! Wonderful singing voice. Lewis Nixon not so much. We should have seen Allyn Ball. Guess we know why his was standing room only. And, I can't remember the guy's name for the first half. But, the clip we saw from the Welcome Aboard show was hilarious! We went to the Dancin' in the Streets and Motown shows in the Encore. Dancin in the Streets is definitely a must see! Our daughter went with the 9-11 camp kids so we took our son with us. He loved Fun Force! We also caught their atrium show on Monday night. The laser show was okay. We went to the Saturday night one since I had seen it on the webcam. My son saw the country show with his camp on Thursday night.
Camp Carnival: The kids loved it!! They were in two different groups but we managed to get them to their designated areas easily. I usually took my daughter and my DH took our son. DD made quick friends with a girl from the muster station. (This was also very easy! All of 10 minutes and no life jackets needed). DD enjoyed the scavenger hunts and swimming under the stars. DS loved anything where Funship Freddy showed up. They both enjoyed Wii time since we don't have one yet. They also got used to having to wear their neon green wristbands all week. We also went to the Family Welcome Aboard party Saturday night in the Caliente club. Lots of fun! And, my DH won a ship on a stick for the Best Dad Dancer. Yay!! I really wanted one!
Debarkation: Very smooth! We had zone 30 and a 2:00 flight. We got off the ship around 9:30. No problems at all. Breezed through customs and our luggage was on the carousel. Short 10 minute wait for the Budget shuttle and we picked up our car. We were at the airport by 11:15. Hint: Go to security at least an hour before your flight. Took us 30 minutes to get through! We had an hour to spare though.
I would recommend the Dream. And, we would sail on her again. We want to try some different ports though. We're considering Freedom or Splendor. Our next cruise probably won't be for a couple of years. We want to save up so the kids can have their own cabin.
Thanks for reading my long review!!