Carnival Dream May 29, 2010 cruise review for Western Caribbean itinerary.......
This will be a long review but a very thorough review. My husband and I are new to cruising but we researched for months before we went on our cruise. I will address a lot of the issues that we read about before we cruised. I will try to include information that I would have liked to have known before I cruised on the Dream, little things that will make your trip more pleasurable. My husband and I are in our mid 30's and have no children. This was our first week long cruise and enjoyed it very much. We had a Spa room on Deck 12. This was great!!!! We were able to upgrade our room to a spa- balcony room about 2 months before the cruise for only $100. They seemed to not be selling at the regular price and when we saw that they had them reduced, we jumped on it and paid to upgrade. Best decision we made!! We used the spa facilities every day, but one. We really got our money's worth!!!
We drove from the Orlando airport and arrived in port around 12pm ... Embarkation was painless and quick. The only confusing part was that when you arrive at the port, you follow the signs to the dropping off place for luggage and you pull into little marked off areas to unload your checked bags, then back track to the parking lot or the parking garage to park your car.
We picked the parking garage because of the shade our car would be parked in for the week. The confusing part was that you follow the signs to the drop off area and don't really see signs for the parking area, so this is confusing. We saw several people trying to do U-turns and weren't sure where to go. They don't have it marked as well as it could be, just know that when you follow the signs to Carnival Dream, you are going the right way , just follow everyone else, just don't do the U-turns, they are unnecessary.
After having our cash put on our sail and sign card (we prefer to do this as opposed to using a credit card, this prevents overspending and the company overcharging for anything they shouldn't), we had our photo taken for our card and were on our way thru the doorway of the ship.
We went to the Lido deck first for lunch. It seemed to be the thing to do, because everyone was doing this, however we have determined that this is NOT the place to go on the first day. Really really hot!!! All of the people in this area increase the temperature and I would say it was close to 100 degrees at our table. Not the best choices of food either. Actually we were not impressed with the buffet food at all on this cruise. We ate buffet lunch the first day and then again for breakfast one day and neither lived up to our expectations.
I will say that the Pasta bar which is pretty hidden in the back of the boat is great and so is the outside Barbeque on the Lani with the burger sliders and hotdogs. The chicken soft tacos there were fabulous. The ice cream-soft serve was very tasty and I made a point of eating this almost every day. Grab some cookies from the desert section of the buffet and crumble them over your self service ice cream!! Also, bring extra zip lock bags with you and grab a few cookies when you are in the buffet area and take them to your room. This makes a great snack at night or early in the morning when you just want something small to eat but don't feel like going to the buffet area. Great late night snacks!!
We bought the Soda cards that allowed us to drink as much soda on the whole cruise as we wanted. They were $96.60 for 2 adults and this included gratuity. The boat serves Coca Cola Products and they pour soda from cans instead of fountain sodas. We found this to be great because you know you are getting quality soda every time. If you bring your own thermal drink container from home, they will not fill it, this was disappointing but we used the ones we brought from home for ice water daily. We chose to buy a "Carnival" thermal drink container from the bar on the Lido deck by the pool and large TV screen. They were ONLY $4.95 each!!!!!! Bargin!!!!! This was the best thing we bought on the whole cruise. Every time we went out and about on the boat we took these with us and filled them with coke. It kept our drinks cold longer and was great for taking to the pool or to Serenity to sit in the sun. * A great Tip is - If you buy similar drink containers at the Carnival fun shops they are $15 each... so the ones at the bar are the best bet. Best part is that we can take them with us on our next cruise.
We were able to get into our room at 1pm and dropped off our carry on bags which were heavy after bringing 24 bottles of bottled water with us. You can bring 12 bottles per person. We were smart and put them all in a rolling small suitcase to it wasn't overly difficult. We took small bottles and larger bottles, saved a lot of money. The bottled water on the ship is outrageous! We took bottles with us on our excursions on port days and after being in the hot Mexico sun, we were very glad to have the water with us. They no longer make you wear your life jackets during the Muster drill. We found our area to report to and we went to the theater and sat and listened and watched the explanation of how to use a life jacket. Not overly thrilling but hey, it might come in handy some day.. Hope not!!
We chose to do the "My Time Dining". We loved this feature!! The dining room was good most nights. We did find that there didn't seem to be a lot of variety with choices and some nights the entrees weren't as tasty as other nights. The last night was actually the best. Our first elegant night was Sunday, (first at sea day) and the 2nd was on Thursday -(Costa Maya day)... With the My Time Dining, we only had to wait maybe 5-10 minutes a couple of times. We ate in the crimson dining room and had good service there. We only sat with a large group on the 2nd elegant night. We prefer to sit alone but on this night we got there pretty early and decided it was okay to sit with other people. It was fun and we were glad we tried it. However, I think we still prefer to sit by ourselves; it gets you in and out of dinner quicker and more efficiently.
We ate at the "Chef Art steakhouse" one time. It was great!! VERY VERY LARGE PORTIONS!!!! Don't eat a big lunch before you go to this specialty restaurant. It was $30 each adult and it included gratuity. We made our reservation a month or so before the cruise and then about 2 weeks before the cruise we received a confirmation email of our time and date for dinner. Then they called us when we were on the boat to confirm we were still planning to dine. The fee is automatically charged to your sail and sign account after you eat. You don't have to pre-pay for it when you book on line. This was a little confusing to me when I made our reservation so hopefully this answer those questions. My husband tried Escargot as his appetizer and he said it was good but not something he would eat a lot of... I stuck with something I knew I liked and had the French Onion soup. It was great!!! We also had Caesar salads which were good and then 18 oz. Rib eye steaks with a baked potato. All very good!!! The dessert was fabulous, we each got the chocolate sampler, very good....
*One tip is that if you have a soda card, you can use it in any dining room, breakfast, or dinner in the main dining rooms or even at the Chef Art steakhouse. You just have to show them your sail and sign card with the orange soda sticker on it. Some people may not realize this because it isn't advertised; you just have to ask for your soda...
The shows were good; we saw the "Country music" show called "8 Seconds". It was good and the dancing show called "Dancing in the streets" was even better. The break dancers were great!!! They were called "Fun Force" and put on a break dancing show in the Atrium earlier in the week. We never made it to the comedy shows but heard from a lot of people that the comedy was very good. We also don't participate in some of the funny contests they have like the hairiest chest contest or the other pool deck contests. They just don't seem like fun to us, we would rather enjoy the sun or spa and our private balcony than to watch fat old men jump in a pool...
We thoroughly enjoyed our visits to the Spa and totally felt that we got our money's worth. We used the Spa facilities every day but one day. If you don't purchase a spa room, you can buy a one day pass for the Thalassotherapy pool or thermal suite for $20. A one day pass to both is $35. You can buy week long passes the first day you board the ship for $150 per person or two adults for $250. These passes go fast; they only sell 40 of these per cruise. So if you want to use the spa for the week, you need to go there as soon as you board the boat for a free tour and purchase your pass. I suggest the spa room though, it includes everything and if you stay on deck 12, they only have 20 rooms on the whole floor. So no running kids in the hallways!!
The spa had a Thalassotherapy pool that was great. It was covered by a glass dome featuring jets of water that massage your body as it soaks in ionized water. The pool is set to a comfortable 91 degrees which allows you to soak for as long as you wish. There were two faucets at one end of the pool and then a large bed like thing with steel poles forming a chair like structure the length of the pool. You scoot back across these so that your entire body is massaged by the water jets. Please don't take glass into this pool. Someone broke a glass in it the first day and they had to drain all of the water before we could use it the first sea day.
The dry heat and steam saunas were great!!! We have never really been Spa people but I think we are hooked now. We did have one suggestion to Carnival, they need to have signs in or at the main entrance to each spa room or area that explains what it is and how long you should stay in the sauna room. The only explanation I had of the saunas was something I found on Cruise Critic before the cruise and brought with me. The quick 5 minute tour they offer you the first day doesn't really help you to understand how to use the rooms. We figured it out but I think it could be dangerous for people to stay in the steam saunas to long. Instructions would be great!!
They have the most awesome tiled, and heated lounging chairs that look out over the ocean as you sail. They are located in a room called the Tepidarium/ a relaxation/rest area with ergonomically shaped heated loungers for intensive relaxation. This is referred to as the classic transition area of the spa where you complete the process of regeneration. The temperature is around 100.4 degrees in this room. The other dry heat chamber is called Laconium and is a large dry heat bath/sauna like chamber, wherein body circulation is stimulated, thereby facilitating the elimination of metabolic waste accelerated and mobilizing the body's own defenses, while reducing stress. Body circulation is stimulated at a temperature of 131-149 degrees which facilitates the elimination of metabolic waste accelerated and mobilizes the body's own defenses while reducing stress.
The Steam chambers are the Oriental Steam Bath area and is typically referred to as a large steam chamber called the Caldarium. The high humidity and radiant heat provides an extremely relaxing climate, which has a purifying effect on the whole body. The respiratory tract is cleansed, circulation stimulated, muscle tension relaxed, the skin becomes pliant and supple, the temperature is 104 -112 degrees... You should only use this chamber for 10-15 minutes. The other steam chamber is my favorite, it has the Aroma Steam Bath and is typically referred to as the small intimate chamber in the aroma steam bath that gently but thoroughly cleanses the skin and respiratory tract, with herbal stream (sweet odors such as cinnamon, orange or apple) can additionally support the cleaning effect. The circulation is stimulated, muscled tension relaxed, stress is reduced, limbs and joint pains relieved. The temperature is 104-112 degrees.
* My best tip is that they have locker rooms in the spa area that you can shower in and dry your hair and totally get dressed with plenty of room. The hair dryers in the locker room are a lot easier to use because they aren't attached inside a dresser drawer like the ones in the cabins. Just being able to move freely in the shower and get dressed without a shower curtain attacking you every time you moved was the greatest thing ever!!! This was something that we didn't discover until the next to last day. However, it was great to be able to have plenty of room to shower and dress and even dry my hair. The cabin showers are so small and compact even in a balcony spa room that the locker room showers were nothing short of a miracle in our eyes!!! LOL We actually took our things down to the locker rooms and got ready one day just to be able to have plenty of room to move around.
Oh one more BIG TIP. They have a special relaxing room that has 5 or so wicker/leather chairs overlooking the ocean that you can sit in and drink complementary ice water or hot tea or snack on apples and oranges. We found that people wear their wet bathing suits in this room and get the cushions of the chairs wet, so bring a dry towel from the spa area (all areas of the spa have white bath towels to use, no need to bring pool towels from your room). We actually took our carnival thermal cups to the spa with us and filled them with ice water in the spa relaxing room. The water seemed to be filtered and tasted better than the other areas of the ship. This relaxing area is located thru and emergency exit door in the Tepidarium chamber (relaxing dry heat chamber with relaxing loungers) I think you can also access it from the hall way where the locker rooms are located.... We opted to not pay for additional Spa services like massage or other things, they were quite highly priced, even on the port days, but the spa features included in the spa rooms were quite worth while.
*Another Tip, bring an extra $100 with you if you plan to ever cruise on Carnival in the future. You can pre-purchase a certificate that will give you a bonus room credit on a future cruise!!
We purchased a cruise certificate for $100 that will be good for up to 5 years and will allow us to get between $50 and $200 on board ship credit on our account depending on the number of days of the cruise you go on. Example -12 day cruise gets you $200 room credit and $100 on 9 day cruise. Plus the $100 you put down goes towards the total price of the cruise. You can book it anytime any way, with your travel agent, thru a website, what ever floats your boat so to say.. You just have to link your certificate to the cruise confirmation number to get your credits.
Here are a few things that we think Carnival needs to work on..... and a few Tips we suggest to future cruisers
-The floor in the Buffet area always seemed slick or greasy. It didn't matter if it was late and night and the whole area is closed, the hallway close to the ice cream especially is bad. My husband and I had on Croc Flip Flops most of the time that have a lot of grip to them, and we almost fell several times. A
-The buffet area always has an odd smell, not food, but just not a good smell. It was enough to keep me from eating in there.
-The Lazar show they have upstairs at night by the main pool is a little boring. There is a lot of before and during he event that makes you think it is going to be spectacular, but it just wasn't.
-They play information abut the excursions on the TV's in the rooms. However, they don't change the loop at all and you end up seeing the first few ports' excursions the whole trip. Once they have left a port, they should take the shore excursions from the places we have already been, off of the video.
-This is more of a tip, but we found this to be the best idea for cruise vacations. We may even do this on other vacations. We bought an over the door shoe bag that holds 14 pairs of shoes. It is clear plastic so you can see what is in the bag. It comes with metal hooks that you can hang it over a door. We chose to put it on the closet door and it faced out into the room. Yes you can see everything in it, but it is great for easy access. We bought it at Lowes for $10. We looked everywhere for one, and it ended up being the perfect style because it was clear plastic. We stored all of our cosmetics, hairspray, sun tan lotions, curling iron, hair brushes, bug spray, and other necessities in these compartments. LOVED the convenience of it and it kept our counters cleared off.
-If you think two entrees sound good at dinner, order both. You can share one with your spouse or if you are really hungry, just eat them both. We did this on elegant night and enjoyed two nice entrees. Usually the portions in the main dining room aren't huge, so sampling two entrees isn't a big deal. We saw a lot of people doing this. The best tip is to do this with deserts as well. Yummy!!
- The chocolates you get on your pillow every night, taste like chalk. Carnival needs to either forget the chocolates, or get some that actually have flavor!!
-If you like the beach towels and want to buy one; they will put an order form in your room a couple nights before the end of the cruise. If you would like to purchase a new Carnival towel to take home, just fill it out and leave it for your steward and they will put a brand new towel in plastic on your bed the next day and charge your account. We have a blue one and want to get the brown on one on our next cruise.
-Bring pre- packaged drink packets for water bottles. They were great to have on our excursions when we took our bottled water with us.
-They wont discount the photos they take of you while on board, so don't wait until the last night to save money, by that time, they have run out of space and just put the photos in stacks on tables. If you see the photo and like it, buy it.
-Take a color photo copy of your passport with you on the cruise. Lock your passport up in your room safe and take the copy with you when you go onshore in the ports. This will get you thru as well as your sail and sign card which you MUST have to get back on the boat.
- The elevators seem to be full all of the time, best tip is if you really need to get to another floor, and you have been waiting a few minutes, get on any elevator that has room, yes you may have to ride up to another floor before it starts to go back down to the floor you really wanted, but at least you are on a moving elevator. We saw a lot of people catching on to this trick about mid -cruise. -------------
We read on cruise critic that some people were complaining about the smell of sewage on the boat. I think it all depends on where you are staying on the boat. We were that lucky area that got to smell sewage every time we were in port. It was so bad at times, that we had to go outside on our balcony to get fresh air. We propped our balcony door open to air out the room and it seemed to get a little better. It was worse when we were docked, but it would also appear out of no where while sailing. It was like the smell was coming from the ventilation or air-conditioning in the room. This was very aggravating and people in neighboring rooms were out on their balconies when we were. They were all having the same experience. We mentioned it to the room steward and she said that she totally agreed with us. She has to work with this smell around her all the time. She said that she would spray some "spa air freshener" in our room every time she came into clean and straighten it for us. This would help for a little while but the smell would come back. We talked to people staying on other floors and they didn't experience this. However, we did smell it when walking in the main pool area of the Lido Deck at times. I'm wondering if the back of the boat would be better. We stayed at the very front of the boat so maybe this would be an idea. Basically Carnival needs to figure out a solution for this issue.
The cruise director was GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I also liked the staff that all seemed to be from Britain or some where overseas that gave them a fun accent to hear. The staff is very energetic and they make the cruise fun even if you don't participate in the goofy contests.
We enjoyed watching the TV shows they created every other day or so. They had a morning show and an afternoon show and it starred the cruise director Todd and James. (It has been a couple of months since the cruise, I'm loosing details like names, should have finished this review when I got home)...
Strong encourage buying travel insurance. There was an emergency evacuation on our last day at sea. Someone was picked up by helicopter and flown to a Florida hospital. They announced on the intercom to not go out on deck 11 because they were planning this emergency evacuation and needed the deck clear. They then broadcast the whole thing on the TV which was good; it kept people off the deck. They could watch it on TV. We still don't know what was wrong with the person they picked up, but it made us that much more confident in our purchase of $100 travel insurance. If it was me needing to be evacuated to a hospital and I hadn't bought the insurance, I would have been kicking myself for being cheap!
*So Tip is to buy independent travel insurance that covers emergency hospital and evacuation if needed.
I will run thru the ports and excursions that we went on. We pre-booked and paid for our excursions a couple months before the cruise, on the website. It was nice to know you were guaranteed an excursion and that you would be back on the boat each time by the time they set sail. Yes it may be cheaper to book with an outside company, but do you really know that they will get you back to the boat on time? What if they have a mechanical issue that causes you to miss the boat? Carnival approved excursions, will make sure you are on the boat when you need to be and Carnival will wait on your excursion if it is booked thru Carnival, if there is an emergency and you are lake getting back to the dock.
Cozumel We did the Cozumel Highlights and shopping- for $49.95 each and it lasted 4.5 hours. It had good parts and not so good parts. The first good part was the air-conditioned bus that wasn't great by American standards, but with the temperatures as high as they were in Mexico, it felt pretty good to be sitting in an air-conditioned bus. They picked us up at the pier and we all walked together as a group once our guide found us, to the bus area. It was a short walk thru the shops and restaurant area at the dock. Our guide's name was "Margarita" and we all wore stickers with the letter "M" on them to represent we were part of her tour.
They drove a short distance to the "Discover Mexico" museum. We all walked thru the tiny museum and listened to the information that Margarita told us. It was actually a pretty cute little museum and they had miniature replicas of Myan temples in Mexico, in the outside portion of the museum. We walked thru the area listening to details and happened upon a LARGE Lizard sitting on one of the temple replicas. Yes it was scary looking and Margarita told us not to touch or bother it, it was a wild creature and we should leave it alone. She didn't have to even explain this, I was definitely not going to get near the thing, let alone touch it!!
We were told we had 30 minutes to go to the rest rooms and shop in the gift shop and grab a Mexican Coca Cola at their refreshment stand. I bought a couple of $2 cans of Coke and grabbed a couple of straws and it was quite refreshing considering we all looked like we had walked out of a shower with our clothes on. It was the most humid place I have ever been!! Be sure to look at the Poinsettia bush/tree in the refreshment area. It is a peach color and MUCH bigger than any poinsettia I have ever seen in Ohio. I took photos of it and brought it home to figure out what kind of tree it was. I felt silly when I found out it was a poinsettia. But it is very pretty!!
Shopped in their gift shop, bought a tiny gourd that was painted to look like a jewelry box type container. Only $4 US, quite good!! I also bought a Small seed from some type of tree or plant that had been carved and painted to look like a turtle and it's head bobs around. It was only $2. Very cute as well!! I seemed to start a turtle collection on this vacation. Every time I bought something, it seemed to be a turtle.
We boarded the bus and then were off to what later seemed to be the worst part of the trip. They drove quite a ways to a little village type area that had the oldest church in Cozumel, we walked inside and took a few photos, it was really hot in there. Then walked thru a few stores that were all set up with people begging you to buy something. Our guide gave us a 10 minute explanation of "Black Coral" and passed some around for use to see. She explained that it was something that we should all buy, but no one on the bus bought anything from these people. We talked with a few other people on the bus after this stop and they all felt like maybe this stop wasn't advertised as a "stop" because it was family or friends of the bus driver and guide?? Basically there was about an hour wasted by going to this place. We then drove around the perimeter of the island. There isn't much to see. This island has had a lot of hurricane damage and after seeing the conditions the people live in, I felt really sorry for everyone I came in contact with, from there. (Definitely tip your tour guides, they need the money!)
We stopped for literally 10 minutes, (We all wished we could have stopped here for the hour instead of the area with the shops selling the black coral and tacky souvenirs) at a pull off area on the coast. We were allowed to get off the bus to take photos of the ocean and rocks and beachy area. The water is the most beautiful blue and turquoise colors I have ever seen!!!!!!!! I am a professional photographer, so to not be able to stop and take photos was killing me!! I managed to snap around 50 photos in 10 minutes and was back on the bus for the next stop. I had read about and saw a show about the Tequila plant so my husband and I stayed on the bus while everyone got off to see how tequila is made from the plants that surrounded this building. Not getting off the bus this time, was the best decision of the whole day. Just sitting in the air conditioning for 20 minutes helped us make it thru the day. Have I mentioned Mexico was HOT??? We drove into town and the guide pointed out school children walking in uniforms and explained that they go in shifts because the schools aren't big enough to hold them all at one time. Again, I felt bad for the people who live there. They have a really rough life. We stopped downtown Cozumel and were given exactly 1 hour to shop or eat lunch before boarding the bus to go back to the pier. We walked 4 blocks to the Hard Rock Cafe, bought a couple of pins and took a few photos of the worlds smallest Hard Rock Cafe, bought a hat at the Ron Jon Surf Shop store and walked back to the bus. In the 40 minutes we walked up and down the main street, we were asked at least 100 times if we wanted to buy jewelry in the stores that lined the streets. We were on a budget and didn't buy anything we couldn't afford on this trip. So we didn't really look at the jewelry. We are going to Hawaii for 2 weeks this year as well as another cruise in November, so we have to stick to our budgets and that made it easier to say no to the people who were really, really pushy about buying things in their stores!!
We got off the bus at the pier and walked back to the boat and grabbed sodas and ate at the lunch buffet. It was okay, nothing to brag about. The buffet just wasn't that great... Took some ice cream up to our room and collapsed. Went to the spa and enjoyed this time very much! Showered and took a nap before going to dinner. It was our first elegant night so we had to get a little dressed up and enjoyed our evening. (I think this was the Country music theater show night, not positive though)
Isla of Roatan -
We did the Relax on the Beach in a clamshell chair- 2 adults for one price of $39.95 which included unlimited use of the Magical flying beach chair lift. This ski lift type chair, takes you from the dock shopping area(really nice stores!!! And restaurants) to the actual beach. You board the chair and it lifts up about 30 feet or so off the ground and it takes around 10 minutes to get there. It is a slow moving chair but well worth the fee to use it. You can just pay $10 for the day (I think this was the price) if you don't buy an actual excursion that includes it. However, I suggest if you plan on using the beach, buy the excursion for $39 for two people and they give you a couple of chairs that have a clam shell to protect you from the sun and two beach floats that are really really nice!!. They had a restaurant/bar area with really loud music behind the chairs that you could get food or drinks from. They also come around to the chairs and take orders. We brought our water bottles from the boat so we didn't buy any food there. We tried to not eat food on the islands because we wanted to make sure we didn't get sick from something we ate. We figured at least on the boat we were eating food that is prepared up to food codes of the USA.
The beach was HOT!! We snorkeled a little with our own snorkel gear we brought on the trip. Not much to see there though. Just sea grass, but it got us a little practice for our upcoming excursion in Belize. We enjoyed a few hours on the beach then rode the flying beach chair back to the dock area and shopped in a few stores. I did buy a pair of earrings for $35 that was probably overpriced but they were really pretty. They were Turtles; yes the turtle theme is still going......
We went back to the boat and went to the pasta bar for lunch. It was GREAT!!!!!!!!!! A little confusing how the system works, but they have a stand in the back or the room that a lady gives you an order form and a pencil to fill out what you want. You can order any pasta, with any sauce with any ingredients. They also have Caesar salad and bread to order as well. I got a farfalle pasta with alfredo sauce, with chicken, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. It was fabulous!! My husband got something similar but had Italian sausage in his as well. You take your order up to the cooks and then sit down at any table and put a sign on your table with a number on it that corresponds to the number you wrote on your order form. They bring the food you ordered to your table when it is finished. This was a cool concept once we figured out what to do. A lot of the staff speaks with thick accents so we had a bit of trouble understanding things sometimes.
We went back to the room, and decided to go up and use the Serenity area for a while before getting ready for dinner. The sofas and shaded areas are really nice on the serenity all adults area. We read magazines and just relaxed for a while. We decided to use the spa before showering for dinner. Love the spa!! Tonight was the Dancing in the streets show. Get there early!! We went to the 2nd show and got there as the first one was letting out. So we got seats in the front. We don't mind sitting for 45 minutes to get a good seat. The show was great! The dancing and props made the show really good!! We were exhausted after the show and just grabbed a soda on our way up to our room.
This was our favorite excursion!! We did the Goff's Cay Snorkeling tour that was $59.95 per person. It lasted 3.5 hours and was worth every dime!! Since this a tendered port, the tour boat literally picked us up at the ship. The ship tenders about a mile from Belize and you can take a tender boat to the island. We never really saw Belize because we just did this tour and that filled up our day. They had everyone meet in the theater before their excursions. They called groups one at a time and as it was your turn for your tour, you would follow the group of people down the stairs to an area that you could walk out a ramp that connected to a small boat that whisked you off to your adventure. We realized our tour had 90 people, 45 people per boat. They explained that they needed everyone to try on snorkel fins and they handed these out as we flew across the water 12 miles out into the middle of the ocean to a tiny little 1.6 acre sand bar called Goff's Cay.
Since my husband and I brought our own snorkel gear, we just passed things to other people. After seeing the rough shape the fins and masks were in, we were extra happy we bought high quality masks and fins and snorkels from a dive shop. We are planning to snorkel this year in Hawaii and on our November cruise as well as a cruise next year, so the extra money was well spent. We bought the Dry snorkels for $50 each and they were awesome!!
I was okay as long as the boat was moving but when they were sitting still in the choppy water, I started to get a little sea sick, so if you get sea sick easily, (I do, but didn't on the actual cruise ship, just the small boat) you might want to take a Dramamine before going on snorkel excursions if you are going by small boat to your destination.
The one bad thing about this excursion, and there was only one bad thing, was that they have you put everything on and then walk BACKWARDS for at least 600 yards in the water that is only 2-3 feet deep. You can't walk forward with your fins but you can't really see where you are going when walking backwards. You have to be careful to follow the group and you feel silly walking backwards. I fell down a few times and after getting sand and shells in my fins; I cut my ankles a bit. But once we got to the area we could actually snorkel, it was amazing. Belize has the 2nd largest coral reef in the world and the largest "living" coral reef in the world. We saw lots of sea fans, corals and fish as well as a sting ray which at first scared me and I wanted no part of it. My husband grabbed our new Cannon D10 underwater camera and took a photo of it. This camera was around $300 but does take quality photo under water up to 300 feet. As I said earlier, I am a professional photographer, and I did a lot of research on underwater cameras before purchasing this one. This was only our 2nd time snorkeling so we weren't too sure of how the photos would turn out but we were amazed. You just have to be careful to tighten the strap around your wrist so you don't loose the camera. But if you need a good underwater camera, this is a great purchase!!
After snorkeling together as a group for about 45 minutes or so, we all swam back up to the shore, we were told we could relax or snorkel on our own for around an hour and a half before we would be leaving. I forgot to mention, you have the choice of snorkeling from shore like we did, or staying on the boat and they go out where it is deeper and you jump in from the boat and snorkel. Looking back on it, I wish we had done this; we could have avoided the walking backwards in the shallow water. We just weren't to sure about which one to do since we were new to snorkeling. I think we are prepared to jump in from a boat in Hawaii... It's just really shallow around the little sand bar and it makes it difficult to get to the water that is deep enough to see the coral. We spent time talking to a couple who were on their honeymoon. We sat at a picnic table and chatted about the cruise so far. We walked around on the little island and took a few photos. It was beautiful there!! The colors of the water were amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I bought a little $5 bracelet that a local was selling from a picnic table there. IM thinking she was related to one of the guys who drives the boats. The staff was very helpful and we tipped one of the guides $10 for taking a few photos for me with my camera. He was able to dive way down to the ocean floor and with us being new to snorkeling, we couldn't do this. So I felt he deserved the tip for going above and beyond the call of duty.
We were whisked back to the boat and made our way up for a quick lunch. We had a couple slices of pizza for lunch so that we weren't full when dinner time came. It was pretty good. Then we went up to use the spa before getting ready for dinner. We ate at the Chef's Art Steakhouse for $30 per person including gratuity. It was very good and very filling. I can't stress enough that you need to be very hungry when you go to this restaurant. The portions are HUGE.... Our steaks were 18 oz Ribeyes and they were excellent.
After dinner I realized the sun set over the ocean was beautiful, so I ran out and took a bunch of photos and yes they turned out awesome!! The brightest orange sky I have ever seen... We met a family who was taking photos as well and I ended up sharing some photography knowledge and how to shoot sunsets. We walked around the ship a bit just looking around and stopped and talked to the guy who sells the future cruise certificates. We purchased one and then looked thru the photo area of the ship where they sell the photos they take of you on shore. This was fun just seeing the funny expressions people have in their photos. There were a lot of photos from the first few days that were in stacks on a table because they were running out of wall space. So we flipped thru them until we found our photos. This was the only time I actually got a little sea sick on the ship. I think standing and looking thru the photos while the ship rocked a bit, just didn't agree with me. We bought a few photos and a few scrapbooking things including a pretty album and stopped and got a sprite on our way up to the room. I drank the sprite and took a Dramamine and went to bed.
I woke up feeling fine, so I now know I can't look at the photos if they aren't on the walls and if the sea is a little rough.
We did the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour that lasted 4 hours and cost $79.95 each. It was really fun to see the ruins and I am really glad we did this. However, I can tell you that going into the Jungle in Mexico in June are not the best idea. BUGS BUGS BUGS!!!!! HOT HOT HOT!!!! We read about the bugs biting really bad in the jungle excursions so we brought Off Bug spray with us. My husband and I used an entire can between us. We sprayed our clothes, our hair under our hats, our entire bodies. It was a travel size can but still, it was a lot of bug spray. Let me just say that I only had ONE bug bite after the excursion and my husband had none. There was a guy sitting on a bench in the parking area where the busses let people out for the tours and he had hundreds of bites. He said he had bug spray but it didn't help. He actually walked back in the middle of the tour. This scared us so I think we used more than we needed to but then again, we didn't get bit. A lot of people were complaining from bug bites on the tour.
Ok the walk is not bad, there is a gravel path actually that is nice. Our guide Jesus (yes he explained it isn't pronounced different in Mexico and laughed) was very good. He was the best tour guide we have had, so he received another $10 tip from us. He explained why the Mayans built the pyramid structures and how their culture basically diminished. His grandmother was Mayan so I think he was more into the information than someone who just did the tours to have a job. He seemed to know his stuff. We saw a lot of exotic trees and plants and a few birds up in a tree. We also saw some warrior ant hills (cones) in the dirt and yes I took photos from afar, the zoom lens is a wonderful thing.... There is a portion of this excursion where you can climb a huge wall of steps to see other pyramid structures. We opted for the sitting down on a stump and waiting on the tour to start back up so we could get out of the jungle!! We walked back to the parking lot and I bought a quick souvenir onyx turtle and we bought two Mexican Coca Colas at a refreshment stand and on the bus we went. AIR CONDITIONING!!!!! This was the absolute hottest stickiest most miserable day I have ever had. Yes I saw things I didn't think I would ever see and I am good with never going into a jungle again!! But we still liked the tour and thought the guide was great. We did manage to stop in a couple souvenir shops at the pier on our way back to the boat. I bought a few little things that represent Mexico and went to the Hard Rock Cafe shop. They have the restaurant built but there is some hang up with legal stuff and it hasn't opened. Not sure what is going on with this, but the shop to buy pins and hats was right by the pier so this worked perfectly for us.
Tonight was Formal or elegant night. So we skipped the Spa and grabbed burgers at the grill on the Lido deck and then went up to take a nap before showering and getting ready for dinner. We squeaked into the dining room at the end of the night. This is one reason we like my time dining. We were able to nap and take our time getting ready for dinner and still had a nice dinner. We looked in the stores after dinner and then called it a night.
Our last day on the ship was a Day at Sea. We got up early and packed our suitcases. This was great because we didn't have to worry about them the rest of the day. I decided to lounge on our balcony most of the day. My husband ran down to the Lani grill and picked up our lunch and brought it to the room to eat. We had small grilled hamburger sliders that were good, and chicken soft tacos. I sat outside most of the day and read magazines and listened to my iPod. Enjoyed just being on the sea. This was the day of the medical evacuation. We went to the spa for a while and then got ready for dinner.
We ate in the dining room and then shopped in the shops and went to bed early.
We were up early and were off the ship by 8:30am. We were on our way by 9am.
We loved the cruise; there were a few things that Carnival needs to work on, maybe the flow of people in the buffet area. The sewage smell in certain areas of the ship. They need more variety in the buffet as well as the dining room. I had some form of steak every single night on the cruise. The food was good, but not great. I wouldn't say anything was bad, just not spectacular. The Chef's Art steakhouse is worth the money and we recommend eating there. They need to give more explanation to the spa area and need to put more umbrellas up on the Serenity area. We will definitely cruise again with Carnival. We take a lot of vacations and enjoy seeing new things, so cruising is a whole new world to us with unlimited adventures.