Embarkation was a breeze! This was my 9th cruise, and I have never had an easier time getting on a ship! My family and I arrived about 10:50 am and only stood in line for 10 minutes before the doors opened and we were being processed. We were on the ship and in the Lido dining room at 11:30 am. We took our time eating lunch because we were not allowed in our cabin until 1:30 pm. After lunch, we walked around the ship to get our bearings and then sat by the pool a few minutes until we could finally get into our cabin. I do want to mention that this is the gaudiest ship I have ever been on! The wall decorations are so large that they really minimize the open spaces. I'm not sure what the designer was thinking, but I think he was having flashbacks to the 1970's and this ship just started sailing in 2007!
Our cabin was on the Veranda Deck (deck 8) and was cabin 8-278. I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the room; it is definitely larger than the cabins on other cruise lines! As usual, we chose an interior cabin because we spend very little time in the cabin. The bathroom had lots of shelving and the shower was larger than on other cruise ships. Closet space and shelving for clothes was plentiful also. Our cabin was located just below the Lido deck (pool deck) and on occasion some noise could be heard up above (especially women's heels on the hardwood) but overall the cabin was quiet. The bed was comfortable and the linens were great! I appreciated the plush robes that were left for our use!
The food was incredible! We chose the "your time dining" plan and were seated immediately in the Chic dining room each evening. We arrived for dinner around 6:15 pm every evening, but I did note that people who arrived an hour after we did had to wait for several minutes to get a seat. My husband and I were disappointed to see that very few people actually took the time to dress for dinner. Every evening I observed people in shorts and t-shirts (and not the dressier kind) eating in the dining room. There was a high percentage of guests in their 20's on this ship, and maybe they were unaware of the dress code or just didn't care. I don't feel that people should go overboard to dress for dinner, but it would be nice to see something a little nicer than ragged blue jean shorts and an Arkansas Razorback t-shirt. Alcoholic drinks are pretty pricey compared to other cruise lines; a house Margarita was around $8.75 (tip included)! I could see paying $5 or $6 dollars for a standard margarita, but almost $9 was a little extreme. Standard American beers (Bud Light) is nearly $5.50 (tip included) for a 12 oz bottle. Come prepared to spend lots of money if you plan to drink more than a couple drinks per day!
Activities we somewhat disorganized. Activities were scheduled, but when my husband arrived to participate in some, no ship employees were present to do the games. On past cruises, the winners of the trivia and other games won luggage tags, tote bags, etc..., but not on this cruise. Small plastic trophies and maybe one medal (per team) would be awarded. The production shows were very good especially the Beatles show and New Orleans show--they were both amazing!
The pools were small. I believe that there were 3 total and one was designated for adults only. On the last morning of the cruise it rained and they closed the roof over the adult pool so we were able to still enjoy sitting by the pool. The movie screen above the middle pool rarely showed movies. Most of the time there were videos of waterfalls and the ocean being shown. Not sure what that was all about! New deck chairs were being loaded the day we boarded and they were wonderful! I can't really comment much on the children's activities because my son is 16, and other than "hanging out" in the teen area, there's not much one can expect to do with a bunch of 15, 16 and 17 year old kids if you know what I mean!
Our first stop was in Key West and it was a wonderful day. Shopping was convenient to the ship/port, but don't forget that you're still in the states and there is no "duty free" shopping there. The state of Florida is still going to it's tax money. I can't say much about Grand Cayman or Ocho Rios as this was my family's 3rd visit to each of those ports. We were forced to get off the ship in a totally different section of Grand Cayman because of rough seas. All snorkeling/diving excursions were cancelled along with Sting Ray City. We also had to take a taxi 6 miles into the town of Georgetown which cost $5 per person. Normally the ships tender takes you directly to the area of the port shops, but the water was incredibly rough in that area.
Debarkation was amazingly simple also. The luggage which was collected the evening before we got off the ship was in the terminal in very small numbered groups on Saturday morning. The small groups made it so much easier to locate our luggage. After our number was called we walked right into the terminal to claim our luggage and through customs and to a taxi in 10 minutes or less.
Overall, the cruise was a pleasant surprise and I would definitely sail with Carnival again.