We just got off the Carnival Destiny this morning. We were on a 5 day cruise with ports in Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. The odor problems (as mentioned in previous reviews) must have been solved as this was not an issue at all. Generally speaking, the customer service was very friendly and efficient. Overall, we had a wonderful cruise!
Embarkation - Waited in line about 5 minutes at security. Waited in a long, winding line for about 20 minutes to use one of the boarding kiosks (we had pre-registered online). In retrospect, instead of waiting in line with my husband and 2 young sons, I would have sat and waited off to the side with the boys and then joined my husband when he reached the kiosk. The kiosk then gave us a receipt and we were directed to a counter (no wait) with a friendly Carnival employee who presented us with our key cards (Sign & Sail cards). We then boarded the ship. Upon boarding the ship we were told that our rooms would be ready at 1:30 (it was 12:45 at the time) and that we could proceed to the Lido deck for a buffet lunch. Although the buffet was quite busy, we only waited in line for a few minutes and then found a table for 4 immediately. At about 1:15 we headed to our cabin on deck 2. The fire door adjacent to the stairs was still closed but my sons ventured down a short hallway near the fire door and that door to the cabin hallway was open so we proceeded to our room (no one gave us a second glance) and found it all ready for us. All 4 of our checked bags were at our door by about 5:30.
Cabins - Our cabin was clean (interior, 1 king bed, 2 bunk beds) and the layout was a little more spacious than our similar cabin on the Carnival Glory last year. There was little storage space though so I was glad I brought my hanging toiletry bag. A few other things I brought to make our cabin more functional for our family: extra hangers (disposable wire)—there were not many in the closets, a small lighted digital clock (the cruise lines we've been on have never had them in our level of cabins), an extension cord (only 2 outlets in the cabin and only a shaver outlet in the bathroom), door decorations (not only festive, but makes it easier to find our cabin), post it notes (cabin provides a pen but no note paper). We also brought my laptop for checking email in the cabin but apparently, there is no Wife in the cabin, one must go to a public space to access the Wife. We purchased a package plan—60 minutes for $24. Our cabin steward was very friendly and after asking for extra towels that first day, she made sure our cabin had more than enough towels each day thereafter.
Moving around the Destiny - On decks 3 and 4, the Galaxy dining room (in the middle of the ship) blocks the entire deck, therefore, you cannot walk all the way through the length of the ship on those two decks. Also, the elevators take a long time arriving. We found it much easier to take the stairs (except when I was in my dressy high heels on Elegant Night). It was not only much faster than the elevators but good exercise too!
Camp Carnival for children - Although my two sons (ages 7 and 10) were in two different Camp Carnival groups, they were together (although sometimes engaged in different structured activities) about 90% of the time. You can pre-register your children for Camp Carnival on line before departing. We did not allow our 10 year old to participate in the unsupervised ship-wide scavenger hunts that were scheduled for his age group at least once, sometimes twice a day (absolutely ludicrous in my opinion). A change from our Carnival cruise last year is that Camp Carnival closes for an hour at lunch (on sea days) and a couple hours right before dinner (on all but one day) so if you are scheduling any adult activities (like spa treatments) you will need to schedule around these closed times. A couple times during the cruise, bathing suits and towels are required for water games, so watch for this on the schedule. My sons thoroughly enjoyed their time at Camp Carnival and thought the counselors were very friendly.
Dinner - We were assigned the Galaxy dining room and chose the early dinner time slot (6pm). Our table for 4 was in between a table with twin baby boys who cried a lot (and whose parents never took them out when they cried) and 3 children whose parents were at a table with their friends in another section of the dining room (we offered to switch with those parents the first night but they declined :-). At the end of the second evening (of our 5 day cruise), as we were leaving, the Maitre d' stopped us at the door and offered to move us to another table. Although we did not request this, we quickly accepted her offer! Our new table was in a quiet corner at the opposite end of the dining room. Upon our inquiry, the Maitre d' assured us that our gratuity would be pro-rated between our original waiters and our new waiters. As with your cabin steward, your gratuities are automatically billed to your Sign & Sail card—you no longer hand your servers or cabin steward an envelope. The only exception is for the Maitre d' to whom you do hand a cash envelope to. This envelope is placed in your cabin on the last day. Both sets of servers were extremely friendly, personable and efficient. There was a nice variety of dishes to choose from on the menu each night but the food was not always as hot as I would have preferred. In any event, it was better than anything I would have cooked at home and that coupled with the fact that I didn't have to wash the dishes kept me satisfied!
Also, if you like sushi, the sushi bar (they make about 3 different kinds each night) is located next to the casino and opens from 5 - 8:15 each evening. You can request glasses of water at the adjacent bar if you don't want to purchase a drink.
Breakfast and Lunch - We ate about half our breakfasts and lunches in the open seating of the Universe dining room and half in the buffet/grill/Deli areas. The Universe dining room was quiet and beautiful but although the waiters were efficient, they were not particularly friendly (perhaps because their tips, the bulk of their income, comes from their regular dinner guests, not from the open seating breakfast/lunch guests?). For the most part, we never stood in the buffet line longer than 5 minutes or so. The exception to this was the 2nd day at sea when they had the chocolate fondue desserts (at lunch time) CONNECTED to the regular buffet line. On this day, the line was exorbitantly long and even if you got your lunch somewhere else, there was no opportunity to sample the chocolate buffet without standing in the super long lunch buffet line first. Side note: At the Grill, where they serve hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, ect..., there is no bbq or any other type of sauce for your chicken tenders—they told me I had to use ketchup :-).
Ocho Rios - Before leaving home, we booked a private tour with the highly praised Peat Taylor Tours http://www.peattaylor.com or http://www.ochoriosjamaicatours.com. We didn't pay any money until the very end of the tour when Peat dropped us at the pier. The ship docks right at the pier in Ocho Rios so getting off was a breeze. At the end of the pier we asked someone which way to go to meet our Peat Taylor tour and were directed to proceed through the small building to our right (where others meet their shore excursions). Security personnel at the exit door escorted us to Peat's van located just outside this small building. There was a white sign in the window of Peat's van that identified him. There were already about 3 other families in the van with Peat. We had booked the Dunn River Falls tour and the river raft tour. Everyone else had booked the Dunn River Falls tour as well so we all went there together. Peat's son, Oneil, escorted us to the Fall's entrance, paid for our tour (entrance fees are included in Peat's tour fee) and arranged for a guide for our group. We were told to meet back at the van in 2 hours (more than enough time). We left our bags in the van and I wore a fanny pack with our cash (in case we wanted to buy anything) and Sail & Sign cards (wish I would have put the cash in a zip lock bag as everything got soaking wet!). Others rented lockers on site ($5 after deposit return). The falls was a great experience (make sure everyone's in good "hiking" shape as some of the climb was very steep and slippery), my 7 and 10 year old boys absolutely loved it! Be sure and take your beach shoes as this is required (if you forget, you can purchase a pair there) and your water-proof camera. At some points along the way we were up to our waist in water, so I wish I would have simply worn a one-piece swimsuit and swim shorts instead of my board shorts, T-shirt and swim suit under. A cash tip for the guide that led the climb is expected (he was very helpful and friendly). There are lots of merchandise stalls to browse through and although the sales people are quite verbally assertive and tenacious, none were rude. The trick is to keep on walking if you're not interested. When we exited the Dunn River Falls, Oneil, Peat's adult son, was waiting for us.
After Dunn River Falls our group broke up as some went back to the ship or to the Blue Hole for swimming. Peat dropped us off at the river raft tour (the White River) as pre-determined and arranged for our raft ride. Our raft guides (Noel and Charles) were a couple of the nicest gentlemen I've ever met. They were very informative about the river and treated our active sons so very kindly. We stopped at one place in the river where my husband and boys got off the raft and swam and again at the ocean entrance to the river where we all got off and walked around and swam. Our raft guides communicated with Peat via cell phone and at the end of our raft ride, Peat and Oneil were right there to collect us. Oneil paid for the raft ride and we tipped the 2 guides. My younger son was thrilled to purchase a model of our raft from our guides for $5.
Peat then took us to "The Ruins" buffet restaurant for lunch. We paid $15 per adult and $10 for each child. Oneil found us a table near the waterfall and set our table with ice water and silverware. The food was a mixture of Chinese and Jamaican dishes, desserts, and drinks. Although the food was "ok" (similar grade to perhaps, Denney's), the atmosphere was beautiful with outdoor and verandah dining, a waterfall and ponds near the tables. We paid for our own lunch and tip as this was not included in the cost of our tour. Oneil and Peat were waiting for us outside when we finished eating.
We not only paid the agreed upon price for our private tour with Peat, but tipped he and Oneil as well since their service was exemplary. If we ever dock in Ocho Rios again, we will definitely use their services.
Grand Cayman - In Grand Cayman we took the bus to one of the beaches, took the bus back to town and had lunch at Corita's Copper Kettle.
As we did not have a formal shore excursion booked I was a little nervous about being able to board one of the tenders to the pier in a timely manner as I had read that it can take hours before one finally boards a tender, but this was not the case at all. We had breakfast at 8am, returned to our cabin to collect our beach bags (took 2 Carnival towels for the 4 of us, 1 set of youth snorkeling gear, a few odd sand toys, sunscreen and some packaged snacks), and was on a tender by 8:45am (walked right on, no waiting at all).
Upon exiting the pier area, we jogged a little to our right and walked up Front street about 1 1/2 blocks. We turned right at the clock tower onto Edward Street and immediately saw the library on the left side of the street. The public busses (actually they're vans) were all waiting to the right of the library. It is $2.50 per person, US dollars. We told an attendant we wanted to go to Sea Grape beach, he escorted us to the correct bus and the bus driver took us straight there (about a 10 min. drive). Sea Grape beach has showers, bathrooms, chairs and umbrellas to rent (we paid $12 for 2 chairs) and an array of water sport equipment to rent (snorkeling gear, wave runners, banana boat rides, para sailing, ect..). We did not do any of these activities as it is so much cheaper in Mexico. After strolling up and down the beach, we decided that Sea Grape was the best for us as there were less people there than in other areas and also less coral/rock beds in the shallow part of the water where our boys played.
We stayed at the beach for 2 hours then crossed the street to the other side where we were planning on walking a few yards to the bus stop, however, as soon as we crossed the street a bus stopped and picked us up. (they honk at you if you're not near a bus stop and then you wave if you want them to stop and pick you up.) We told the driver we wanted to go to Corita's Copper Kettle for lunch. Coincidentally, it is just a few yards down the street from the library where we originally boarded the bus that morning, so he took us right to the restaurant's front door.
Corita's Copper Kettle is a small, local restaurant with reasonable prices. Lunch for my 2 sons, my husband and I was $50 US dollars including tip (prices are posted in Cayman dollars and US dollars). Each of my sons had a hamburger, fries, and soda. My husband had deep fried battered shrimp, onion rings, and a soda. I had the conch stew meal which included red beans and rice, a plantain and a piece of yuka with ice water. My meal was not so great, but my husband and sons enjoyed their meals and the price was right compared to other establishments. Also, the waiter there (he said he's Corita's brother) was very personable and efficient.
After lunch we walked around a bit to shop (a block or 2 towards the pier from Corita's), returned to the pier, waited about 5 minutes for a tender and were back on the ship in time to shower and change for our 3pm spa appointments.
Visit the spa immediately after boarding and find out what time the tour and raffle is (fill out a raffle ticket at the same time). After lunch and dropping our carry-ons in our cabin we attended the tour and raffle and my husband won a free sugar/lime body scrub treatment (I don't think he appreciated it as much as I would have!)
For spa treatments I had a manicure , pedicure, and 1 hour combination neck/scalp, ankle/foot, shoulder massage and facial ($75 on special plus tip).
I participated in 2 spinning classes on sea days (8am) which cost $12 plus tip as well as the free stretching class (7:30am). The spinning class was just as good as the one at my home gym. I also worked out on port days when the gym opened at 6am. We've been on Disney and Royal Caribbean as well and thus far, the Destiny has one of the best gyms. Their machines were state of the art, there were lots of free weights, exercise balls, steps, ect.. and it was very spacious.
Misc onboard activities -
Pool- Kids had fun in the pool closest to the twisty slide. Never really had trouble finding a lounge chair. Occasionally we would move to chairs closer to the pool as they were vacated. If you'd like a quieter pool area, go to the adult pool at the back of the ship.
Shows- The 2 big evening shows were very good (if you're taking children remember that the female dancers wear thongs for some numbers). If you arrive about 10 minutes before show time you will find great seats.
One evening vocalist "Rudy" did a one man show (live band) of oldies. We enjoyed this.
The rated PG comedy show in the Criterion lounge was hilarious and well worth our time.
My husband and sons attended the Fun Farewell show at 5pm in the Criterion lounge on the last day of our cruise and said it was one of the best shows yet!
Special events- Tea Time in the Universe dining room at 3pm was a nice respite from cruise craziness. It was quiet, there was a variety of teas to choose from (my husband had to make a special request for cream) and there was a yummy variety of tea sandwiches and sweets. Even though the sweets were small in portion, we split most of them (had to ask for a butter knife) so we could sample a variety without ruining our appetite for dinner.
Another fun event was the by-invitation-only reception for repeat Carnival cruisers. It was held in the Palladium lounge and included free beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and appetizers as well as a welcome from the cruise director and a short film featuring all the Carnival cruise ships from their very first one, the Carnival Mardi Gras, that started sailing in the early 1970s (a lady sitting behind us said she sailed on that ship for her 10th anniversary!).
We set out 2 suitcases and 1 small rolling cooler outside our cabin the night before to be delivered to baggage claim on debarkation morning. We kept a small roll-a-board and a couple other small carry-ons for last evening/morning needs and carried those off ourselves. We left our cabin at 8:15am, ate breakfast at the Universe dining room (they seat the last guests at 8:30am), stood in the debarkation line in the lobby for about 10 minutes and claimed our luggage. It was still a little crowded in the baggage claim area at that time and there were very few porters to help with luggage so good thing we didn't need any help. Remember to keep the little stub from your luggage tags (placed in your cabin on the last evening) so you know what carousel to find your luggage at. We presented our passports and declaration form to the customs officer, exited the terminal, crossed the street to our car and were on our way home :-(
Misc things we bring to make our cruises smoother-
Baby wipes (comes in especially handy on port days), hand sanitizer, small flashlights (Google the Carnival Splendor on 11-8-2010—engine fire, electrical black out for 3 days), stain stick, sunscreen, bug spray (didn't need it in Ocho Rios or Grand Cayman but really needed it last year in Belize), packaged snacks for port days, various size zip lock bags (can't tell you what I use these for but I use them never-the-less!), water bottles in a rolling cooler (Carnival's maximum dimensions are 12 inches on each side—bringing your own is much cheaper than buying them onboard or at ports and then you can use the empty rolling cooler to pack up items purchased—that you bought with the money you saved by bringing your own water bottles!), small bills for bargaining on port days, ear phones for the gym machines (cable TV attached to the elliptical and tread mills), blow drier (the cabin blow drier has no power whatsoever and it took forever to dry my hair), tide pen, highlighter and pens to make note of activities your interested in on your Fun Times schedule each day, camera charger, photo copies of your passport picture page, driver's license, both sides of your credit cards and both sides of your insurance cards (just keep this in the cabin in case you loose the originals), your personal contact info inside each suitcase and carry on bag. I also find it convenient to change my son's pocket money into small bills so that when they find something on board they'd like and I have to use my Sail & Sign card to purchase it (the only accepted method of payment on board) then the boys can pay me back with their small bills immediately before anyone "forgets"!
All in all, we had a great 5 day cruise on the Carnival Destiny!