This was my husband's and my fifth cruise together and the first we took the time to spend a few days in Orlando prior to the cruise. On Dec 3rd we went to Disney's Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I had not been to Disney since 1982---before Epcot opened, and my husband had not been since his daughter (now in college) was 5-yrs old. WOW! It was so much fun! We've asked his daughter about going in the spring while on her Spring Break. If she can't (or won't) we'll go without her.
My sister and her husband now live in the Orlando area and kindly drove us to and picked us up from port saving us $100+ in parking fees.
Embarkation was simple and a line was to be expected since it takes time to send 3600+ people through the security process. Once we had entered the building and passed through the xray screening it was up the stairs to check off the health screening then a relatively short line to show the boarding pass and get our S&S cards, around a corner to have our picture attached to the S&S card then to a new step where everyone gets their pic taken individually before crossing the gangway onto the ship. Ahh, that is when you know your vacation has offically started.
Now, on to the cruise:
My husband can be very impatient with waiting so I did have some worry about lines, so much so that I mentioned it to him on the drive to Orlando and again the first day as we left our cabin for the Lido buffet. I wanted to stop at the Mongolian grill but he didn't like having to wait for them to cook it so we made our way to another buffet which moved at a slow but steady pace.
Once our plates were filled it was no problem finding a table where he set his tray down and went to get us drinks. The next thing that happened made our trip---he ran into Tatjana from our cruise on Freedom in January (she was our Head Waitress) and pointed her my way when she asked about me. Looking up and seeing a big familiar grin was an exceptional start to the trip--so was finding out she had been promoted.
Of course, we immediately wanted her table at dinner and she directed us to the Crimson dining room to get our reservation changed where the M'D was very pleasant and helpful fulfilling our request.
Each night we had dinner in the Dining room and enjoyed every meal. If I had a question on any entree I'd just ask Tatjana if she recommended it. If she did I tried it, if not, I'd go with her choice.
Our cabin was comfortable with plenty of storage and everything I've come to expect from Carnival--wonderful bedding and pillows. I liked the TV being mounted on the wall which made the room feel even larger; however, it allowed good viewing only from the bed or the far end of the sofa.
As for entertainment, we made it to two shows which were well done but in all honestly we were very tired most evenings and the shows we did get to were just to meet up with friends we had made onboard.
We had enjoyed the Serenity Area on the Freedom and liked the area on the Dream also. We were able this trip to get a clam shell lounger but found them not AT ALL comfortable. The only benefit I could find is the cover offers some protection from the wind. We did, however, enjoy a hammock although getting in and out of them takes effort and balance. Another thing we enjoyed in the Serenity area is they offer a "boxed lunch." There are a number of choices but my husband chose the shrimp salad pita and, since cruises are for trying something new, I got the grilled eggplant sandwich which was surprising better than I'd imagined.
Finally, for a ship of it's size I found getting around it to be easy. That may be all because of the location of our cabin near the forward elevators. We could step out of the cabin, go up two floors and be at the Serenity Area (or take the hallway forward and get an elevator directly to deck 15 and be IN Serenity). We could, from our cabin, step into the elevator area, turn toward the pool area, go down one flight of stairs cross the pool zone and be at the buffets OR at dinner take the elevator to deck 3, cross the lobby and be in the dining room.
First port was Nassau however, we'd been there previously so did not bother getting off the ship. Being offered reefer on the street in 2008 is where I drew the line! I know Nassau is convenient but Carnival needs to find another port of call.
St Thomas--this was the second time my husband and I have been there and this time we ventured beyond the port shops. The taxi driver to town was rude and complained about giving change. The streets were crowded until it rained then the shops were crowded. The rain didn't last long so the streets were soon crowded but the shops, for the most part, were charming and the people helpful.
We caught a taxi back to the port shops and since we were the only passengers--and he was nice and conversational--we paid the $4 per person fare with $15 and told him "Thanks." (See, it pays to be pleasant.)
St Maarten--This is my new "favorite port." We paid the $6 per person for multiple trips on the ferry (otherwise, it's $4 each way) and the boat operators were fun and playful with each other in attempting to lure passengers to their boat. The streets seemed cleaner and I liked that the narrow roads were one way as opposed to the two way jumble we experienced in St Thomas. My husband agreed and we are planning a week long trip next year to enjoy the island at a relaxed pace!