Embarkation: Carnival was extremely efficient in the boarding area with more than 20 ticketing agents checking people in. Didn't wait more than 10 mins in line to get to one. By the time we were finished with this process we were able to just get our sail & sign card w/no wait & then walk right on without waiting because the huge lines were already gone. We went immediately to our room & dropped off our carryons. The pool was filled right when we boarded on day 1 & in use. I was surprised about this. I swear we were told that the lunch buffet was on the Lido deck by the pool & so we went there where hamburgers & hot dogs were being served. When we finished we walked toward the Brassiere & what a surprise they had this huge buffet. So we did indulge in all the delicious desserts they had. So be sure to go further inside when you first arrive on the Lido Deck. I then thought to look at my card to confirm we had the early seating (6:15PM) for dinner as that what we requested & it also appeared on the screen when I had checked 'My Reservation' online. Well we had been given the latest seating at 8:30PM.
We went immediately to the Matre D'. He informed us that the boat was completely full & there was absolutely no openings in the early dining room. I asked to be put on a waiting list in case someone else requested a change. I knew we would have late seating the 1st night but hoped we could get changed for the remainder of the cruise. We checked back the next day & no luck. So we just decided to make the best of it & plan our days accordingly. The Lifeboat drill was scheduled for 4:30PM & we still had not sailed away by that time. The drill went very smooth. I don't think we waited more than 10 minutes after we arrived at our Muster Station. So after we returned our life jackets we went up on deck to await departure. Even though the itinerary online says departure would be at 4PM, it did not happen until 6Pm. We were disappointed that we were sailing down the channel in the dark, but we remained outside to watch the ship go under the Sunshine Bridge & it was quite impressive. Then back quickly to our room to change & get to dinner at 8:30. We were at a table for 10 w/3 other couples & these people pretended that no one else was at the table. It was the strangest thing I ever experienced. Fortunately that was the only night that they were all there & it seemed like each night we had different people & that was fine with me as they were all way more pleasant. Our female wait staff was very efficient & we were always done with dinner each night by 9:30PM. I thought that must be a record, because I had heard others state how long their dinners had been. We went to the Welcome Aboard Show. The CD was Marahscalh Stanton & he did grow on me after awhile. We then retired for the night, it had been a long day.
Day 2: I woke up very early & ordered room service coffee & danish. It was delivered very promptly & I tipped the young lady extra. Later we decided to just do the breakfast buffet, but the seas were very rough that day & I stuck to just eating cold cereal & an apple. The staff was very nice & always asking how we were feeling. Dear husband & I both took Bonine & it helped. We spent the rest of the morning laying by the pool & sleeping off the effects of the Bonine. I looked for evidence of lounge chair saving by the pool & never saw any abuse of it. We always found a nice lounge chair the entire cruise. Also, we never used the beach towels in our room. I preferred to use the pool towels & return them after we used them each time. We ate all our lunches in the Mardi Gras dining room. The selections were always good & we had some of our best dining companions at these meals. We basically spent a very lazy day at sea & when we found out we didn't get the early seating dinner, we got some pizza to tide us over for dinner. It was very hot & very good. We finally visited the Casino & over the course of the cruise I ended up losing all of my mad money that I had squirreled away. I did enter the Slots tournament & made the final 10, but placed 4th overall, so no dough for me. We got ready for Formal Nite & attended the Captains party. The drinks were plentiful & they brought the snacks around quite often. I have heard others say that if you don't like what's on the trays of drinks you can get one at the bar. I didn't see a bar set up in the Paris Lounge, so I am not sure about being able to do that.
Dinner was delicious. I would sometimes order the Veg entree in addition to the meat entree. There was a delicious baked vegetables in a puff pastry that I got with my Lobster. I also would order 2 desserts most evenings so hubby & I would share the extra one. I can't think of one complaint I had about the food. It was always delicious. I also ordered a cappuccino each evening w/dessert that was no charge. I did hear a few tablemates complain on more than one occasion that their soup was too cold, so when they asked the waiter to micro it, the waiter said they didn't have microwaves! I was surprised about that. So they would just bring them another one. We then attended the Late show "El Nuevo Caribe" that was very nice. I'd like to say we never had a problem finding a nice seat in the Paris Lounge the whole cruise & I didn't see any evidence of chair saving. We were too full & too tired to go to the Gala Buffet or Late Nite Comedy Show so off to bed we went.
Day 3: Cozumel When I woke up 8AM Sat morning & looked out my window I saw we were already docked in Cozumel. I never heard a thing when they actually docked at 7AM. We went to breakfast & then back to the room to pick up our things to take for the day. I had ordered an Avis Car Rental & we walked one pier down to the International pier to pick it up. It cost $44 plus $22 FULL insurance plus tax, total $73. I had ordered a Ford Focus, w/automatic trans & air. All they had in the parking lot were jeeps, so we had to wait about 10 mins while someone went to a different location to get the car. That wouldn't deter me from using them again. They were very nice people. The weather was beautiful & sunny, so off we went to Chakanaab (cost $12/pp) to do the sights & some snorkeling. When we arrived there, this was the 1st we heard that the seas were too choppy for snorkeling, El Norte had arrived w/26 mph winds & they didn't recommend it to be safe. Our tablemates told us later they had a BOOKED cruise w/Carnival & went all the way out to the pier & then found out their tour was cancelled due to weather.
They went back inside & regrouped & decided to rent a car as we had talked about the night before. In total Carnival had cancelled over a dozen excursions due to weather. I think they could maybe do a better job about making even a general announcement of the weather conditions. Especially for novices who may not realize what is happening. Anyway.... we enjoyed walking around Chakanaab & then back in our car headed for the lighthouse at Punta Sur. We went on a pickup truck w/benches for the balance of the drive to Punta Sur. You cannot go all the way to the lighthouse in a regular car. Cost $6/pp. We walked all the steps up to the top & then to go outside at the top, you have to get on your hands & knees to walk around. Not for the elderly or those w/back problems. Beautiful view at the top. On the way back we stopped at an area where alligators are. There is a rickety walkway out into the lagoon & we saw more than half a dozen man-eaters. After we were done, back in the car to head north along the east side of the island. Gorgeous views & we stopped at Coconuts for lunch. I had one Pina Colada & ordered the nachos as an appetizer. If we had known you get free chips & salsa, we probably wouldn't have needed to order the appetizer. I had the shrimp quesadilla & dear husband had beef fajitas w/dos xx beer. Everything was delicious & bill came to around $30. I'm thinking the view from the cliff might be worth that alone.
After lunch, we walked down to the adjacent beach. There we found a big cave carved out by the ocean, where you could sit out of the sun & just watch the waves crash over the rocks. Heavenly. Then back on the road, it will curve back west toward San Miquel & off to do our shopping before returning to car at 6PM. After returning the car, we went for additional shopping at the International Pier. We wanted to use the internet here, there is an internet cafe very cheap, but the lady said the internet was totally down the entire day. Is it possible the windy conditions had something to do with this, don't know. ALOT of shops here. A little tip: we took a suitcase w/ wheels to carry some packages back. The walk back to the ship is mostly sidewalks, so that can come in handy. When we arrived back at the pier, there was the Imagination parked right next to us. It looked so impressive as you walked down the pier to see those 2 sister ships side by side. This night the late dinner seating came in handy. Plenty of time to change clothes & shower before dinner. After dinner we headed to the Paris Lounge for our 1st try at Bingo & then the Mexican Folkloric Show. The show was great. After the show it was up to the Lido deck for the sail away party. I was surprised to still see the Imagination in port. They didn't sail away until Midnight, & then we left 10 mins later. Anyway it was loads of fun as all the passengers were waving & yelling across to one another. It was very impressive watching them sail away. We stayed up on deck & had a sail away drink while listening to the music. Then off to bed. Day 4 At Sea....
Misc: We had room E-147 Empress Deck. I had been a little nervous, because according to the shop plans we were under the ship's galley. Not sure if its true for all rooms along where we were, but we heard narry a sound to disturb us from above. We loved the location. We were determined to try & take the steps as much as possible, but we were located near the photo galley, the pursers desk, the internet cafe all without taking the stairs. And dinner was just one set of steps up. We had cabin steward Nicholas. He introduced himself within an hour of our arrival. We asked him for some ice to chill a bottle of champagne we brought aboard & he did it for us after dinner, so we would have it for late at night. He did a great job the whole time & we tipped him extra above our already posted tips.
After breakfast this day we went to the morning "Mind Game" & dear husband won a ship on a stick, answering 16 of 20 questions correctly. We stuck around for the win a cruise bingo right after this, but did not win. We did not hang around for the debarkation talk, we opted to watch it on TV later in the day. We went to the Lido deck to spend some time in the hot tub. This day at sea was perfection, no movement felt at all. Occasionally you might see a child in the hot tub, but it was never crowded there. The pool was being used mostly by children, but the number of them was limited I think because of the time of the year. At NOON we treated ourselves to the couples massage seminar. The price of the seminar was $49 per couple & you receive free massage oil. There was only one other couple when we arrived there. The therapist said we had to choose one partner to give & one to receive the massage. Each couple chose the wives to receive the massage. The therapist was great & so patient as she instructed us on how to give your partner a massage. The class lasted 45 minutes & was well worth it. The oil we received was 100ml size of Elemis rebalancing massage oil. The oil is worth $49, so in actuality you are paying for the oil & receiving the class for free. It was the highlight of the trip for me, & I thanked my husband for giving me such a lovely gift. The other wife & myself both almost fell asleep it was so relaxing.
We then fit in lunch before heading off to see the Newlywed, Not so Newlywed Game. I know its been said before, but this show was hilarious. It probably just depends on the couples you get, but we laughed from start to finish. Afterwards I stopped by & entered the Slot tournament. I made the top ten by placing 2nd. I wanted to do the Galley Tour, but had to go back for the finals of the slot tournament & my husband wouldn't do it without me. Unfortunately, I should have just done the Galley Tour, I finished 4th, so no dough for me. They had an afternoon Comedy Show & the young man was excellent. The room gave him a standing ovation. Then I went to the Sushi Bar while hubby went out on deck to take pics of the sun setting. This was not the best setup. I thought they would have trays of sushi set out. They had one sushi chef making up each persons' order individually. Since I was already in line, I toughed it out, but it probably took about 45 mins to get to the front of the line. I wouldn't do this again, it was not worth it. They should have had either more than one chef or at least some kind of assistant to speed things up. Afterwards we relaxed in the bar outside the Candlelight Lounge.
They had a TV there, it had CBS & had football on, so my dear husband got a little football fix before we got ready for dinner for the evening & I got almost everything packed for the next day. It was our last night for dinner & the wait staff sang a parody of "Leaving on a Jet Plane". It was very funny. We tipped our wait team extra on this night & thanked them for their wonderful work. We went to the "Shout" show. It was OK. We also went to the Late Night Comedy show, same comedian, adult humor this time & he was still funny. Off to bed for our last night aboard. Starting to get a little sad..... I woke up early while the ship was still coming up the channel. The ship docked in Tampa as quiet as ever & I woke my husband up at 8AM. Showered, dressed & put last nights clothes in a plastic bag as all our suitcases were put outside our room at 10PM last nite. Went to breakfast in the dining room at 8:30AM & it was very full, so we were not the only ones that decided why rush to get off this ship. We finished breakfast at 9AM & went back to the room to see if I could stuff all the last minute items in every corner & crevice of my carryon bags. We then stopped by the internet cafe (BTW, we printed our online confirmations for our airline boarding passes the night before), to just check last minute email & to email home that we made it into port & would be on our way home later that afternoon. We had purchased the 60 min plan, that cost $24 plus a $3.95 activation fee.
After that we headed over to the Paris Lounge, we had yellow tags. Four colors were called before ours & we were finally called around 10AM. We walked down a few flights of stairs then off we went. We arrived in the luggage area & it was not difficult at all to find our luggage. We reopened a few bags so we could shove the extra clothes into our suitcases. Our airline, Continental, is very fussy about the number of bags you take on, they wanted to count my fanny pack as extra, but she let me thru. We decided we didn't need a porter & schlepped our bags over to immigration. I would have been fine, if I didn't have to try & hold the bags as well as the papers in my hands, but the officer took the immigration card out of my hand without so much as looking at it & away we went.... All in all, I would highly recommend this cruise & we would take it again.