This was our first cruise but certainly not our last. We were hooked just hours into the cruise!! What a great first experience.
EMBARKATION: The port and Carnival facilities in New Orleans are in bad need of upgrading. Although the process was quick and easy, the building housing Carnival seemed like a cavernous, rundown warehouse. Also, the "ground" crew that corralled everybody into seats prior to boarding were quite rude to most passengers. Having said that, we were onboard the ship by 11:30 a.m. and everything changed after that.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The ship is vast and overwhelming for a first timer. As you enter on the Empress deck, the seven story atrium is breathtaking. The ship is beautiful, spacious, and alive. I was concerned about all the talk concerning the neon and bright colors of Carnival but we found it to be tasteful.
OUR CABIN: We were pleasantly surprised to find our stateroom not too small. We had a standard category 6B which a bed (two twins pushed together), a vanity area, closet with safe, and small bathroom. The bed was really comfortable. It wasn't until the last day of the cruise that I finally figured out who our cabin steward was and introduced myself. However, he did a great job of keeping our room fresh and well supplied so I had no complaints. Our one complaint about our room is that it was in the very back of the ship which gave us a great view of the wake, but also was right above some mechanical things that created a GREAT deal of noise on port days. I don't recommend M265 for that reason.
FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD: What more can I say? The food was so abundant and delicious. We ate at the Seaview Grill most mornings for breakfast but also enjoyed the Fantasy Dining room one morning for eggs Benedict. Lunch was served in the Seaview Grill or the Lido Deck grill. We never ate lunch in the Dining Room. The evening meals were spectacular with amazing service. I really enjoyed being able to splurge on more than one appetizer or even entree if I so desired. (Needless to say, I haven't weighed since getting home!) Our dining room time assignment had been changed to the late seating despite being confirmed for the earlier seating. However, we paid a visit to the Maitre 'd and he was able to move us back to our desired time. The 24 hour pizzeria and room service were also nice touches that we took advantage of.
ONBOARD SHOWS: Lame. Off Broadway quality at best. Was not impressed with any of the shows.
COZUMEL: Had a great day in Cozumel although not long enough. We arrived at Puerto Maya pier around 8:00 a.m. We had a quick bite of breakfast onboard and then headed out. We caught a taxi to Chankanaab Park for a day of snorkeling, sea lion encounter, and sunning. The taxi ride to the park was $10 per cab. Very easy excursion to book yourself rather than through the ship. Saved big bucks through CozumelInsider.com. Plenty of shopping right at the pier so we didn't venture into San Miguel.
DISEMBARKATION: Very smooth and quick. We were off the ship by 9:45 a.m. Plenty of instructions given in the Carnival Capers the night before, so we felt like we knew what we needed to make a smooth exit.
FINAL THOUGHTS: All in all, we had a great time. Can't wait to go again anywhere anytime on any ship!