This was our first cruise without our teenage son, who for some reason preferred to visit his uncle in cold Vancouver rather than join his old parents in the sunny Caribbean...Arrived on Saturday night and stayed on Hilton points at the Conrad Condado. A very nice property and certainly adequate for a pre-cruise stay. It was outside Old San Juan, but after 10 hours in airports and on airplane, we had very little interest in going out. We found the hotel to be very nice, as we received an ocean front room. We ate in the coffee shop and found the sandwiches quite good. Fortunately, we had $14 in certificates for breakfast because it would have have been quite overpriced without them. The exercise room was adequate, the grounds immaculate, and service uniformly friendly.
Sunday, after a rip off taxi ride to the port ($25)"bad", we arrived at the port at 12:30. For some unknown reason the baggage area was off line and we had to lug our luggage through the embarkation process "bad". Fortunately, it was a very easy check-in process. We were herded up to the expected Lido deck since the rooms were not made available until 2:30(though at 1:30 I did not see any activity in the halls). WE grabbed a quick bite to eat and waited for the 2:30 entrance into our room (inside cabin 7th deck). Once we got to the room and dropped our luggage, we took off for Old San Juan. We enjoyed our two or so hour exploration of old San Juan. We returned to the ship around 5:00 and by 5:30 we had our first dinner in the Atlantic Room. I must say this was one of the best parts of the cruise. The food in the Atlantic room was excellent. This was quite unexpected given the poor quality of the Lido buffet offerings (except for the pizza). As bad as the lines and quality of the food at the Lido "bad", the Atlantic room was the opposite "excellent". Throughout the cruise, were were served by the best waiter I have ever encountered on a cruise, or for that matter, in any venue, Alexander of Moldova. He made each dinner memorable with his humor, warmth, efficiency, and professionalism"excellent". That evening we spent exploring the ship and watching the ship depart San Juan. Incidentally, our room steward, William, introduced himself that evening. We never saw him again, though he was quite efficient in cleaning the room as well as providing towel animals.
The first full day began with the lamentable Lido buffet as we had slept in and missed the opportunity to eat in the Pacific room. The lines were long and slow as it appeared the number of people overwhelmed the Lido. The food was dorm quality. Our first excursion was in St. Thomas with the delightful, energetic Sunny Liston. A great tour! We returned to the ship around 3:00, rested and had another wonderful experience with Alexander in the Atlantic room. We took in the first show, which turned out to be identical to one we had seen last year on a different Carnival ship. The entertainers were adequate, with only the lead female singer standing out "good to average". Overall, with the exception of one comedian, we found the entertainment on the ship average, not memorable.
The second day was the regrettable sea day. I say regrettable because it replaced Dominica. We did not find a single person who preferred the sea day to Dominica. In fact, quite a few people shared their disgust with Carnival for cancelling the island. I worked out on the treadmill in the fitness center. The fitness center was fine except for the one treadmill that did not work and the two which had broken television monitors.I never had to wait for a treadmill throughout the trip. We spent the day relaxing (which we certainly could have done in our San Diego home) instead of experiencing another culture. Anyway, we did enjoy our evening dinner as well as our table mates who we met on the third evening. We attended the new comedy club and found the comedian okay, nothing special. We listened to some of the lounge musicians and also found them okay, but not special.
The third day began inauspiciously with my wife awaking with a severe toothache. We went down to the infirmary at 7:45 waiting for the 8:00 opening. The medical staff provided my wife with medication to calm the tooth and $115 later, she was much better though sedated. I went solo on the Barbados tour. Fantastic tour with Glory tours. I especially loved the turtle snorkeling. With my wife under the weather, we did very little that evening. I played some slots. I found the slots to be okay, especially the penny slot entitled Frequent Flyer.
The fourth day we both awoke with bug bites. We reported it to housekeeping prior to our setting out on the ST Lucia tour with Cosol tours. Another home run. That evening, another excellent meal in the Atlantic room. We took in some of the lounge entertainment. Incidentally, the in room entertainment, i.e., the television was on an ancient tv. The tv had poor reception, though the choice was adequate (CNN, network stations out of Denver, TNT, Discover, Cartoon network, though curiously no ESPN). That evening we received a call from housekeeping saying they checked for bugs but did not find anything. Nevertheless, we did not get another bite for the rest of the trip. I thought it was commendable that they followed up our morning call...
The fifth day was St. Kitts. We had a nice tour through the St. Kitts Tour Store. For some reason, that evening Alexander insisted it was our anniversary ( I guess we get two per year)and provided us with a desert and song. Incidentally, the waiters each evening sang a group song which was greatly appreciated by the diners (though I am unsure how happy the waiters were having to do it). This evening we saw the best entertainer of the cruise, a comedian named Seth Buchwald. We attended both his family and adult shows and loved both of them "excellent".
The sixth day was a long one with a cruise critic pen pal group doing a private tour of St. Martin with Bernard. A great time was had by all. Dinner was terrific. WE packed and placed our bags in front of our door before 10:00. We took a last whirl at the slots (broke even) and turned in. It turned out to be the only rocky/turbulent night of the entire cruise.
The final morning I went to the internet (I paid the high seas robbery for 100 minutes/$55 (that included an additional 10 minutes and one night where there was a two for one internet special) and discovered our flights had been cancelled in anticipation of the blizzard (we were re booked on separate flights Monday). We disembarked by 8:45 and raced to the airport to see if we could find an alternative flight home. The $25 trip to the airport was well worth it as Delta was able to accommodate us with a flight through Atlanta home to San Diego.
Overall, the ship was adequate with the food in the dining room superior, the Lido buffet way below average, entertainment okay, room efficiently cleaned(really liked the water pressure in the shower), crew quite friendly and accommodating. What makes the trip memorable, aside from Alexander, were the islands. I only wish I had a chance to see Dominica as well...