First of all some info about us: Family of 4 (adults are 41 and 39 and kids are 11 and 9). This was our 3rd cruise (1st with the kids). We have done the Eastern Carib on the Carnival Destiny (in 2000) and a Southern Carib on the Carnival Triumph (in 2005). On this cruise we brought my Mom and dad (65 and 60) and my sister and husband (36/35).
Drove from London to Toronto on Dec 25th - no traffic and roads were perfect. Flew from Toronto to Miami and staying at the Miami Airport Marriott.
this hotel was amazing. we got it for $139 that included a $50 room credit for their restaurant. the rooms were very nice and clean. this play looks like they did a full Reno cause everything looked new. the Gym had great equipment if your into that (which our family is). the restaurant food was amazing and our $50 credit paid for everything that night. the wings were one of the best I've had. they also had a massive platter for $34.95 that our family of 4 could not finish (onion ring stack, cheesy fries, wings, and a few other things). we definitely needed a gym after that feast. in the morning they had a buffet that cost adults $9 each and kids were free. This hotel also provided a free shuttle to/from the airport. as for a shuttle to/from the ship, there is a $11/person/one way charge. a taxi will bring a cab full for $24 one way. we had a party of 8 so we took the shuttle. if it was only 4 of us we would have taken the taxi.
got to the port in 15 min's, and the porters were there to take your parties checked bags (and they expect a tip). once you drop your checked bags off you go into the carnival building and thru the first line which is security. then to the next line which gets you into the self-checkin machines that you will need your passports and credit card for. this prints out a ticket and you bring this to the next counter for your cards. then up the stairs for a picture and entrance onto the ship. this whole process took about 45 minutes so considering the amount of people i thought this was smooth.
since your cabins would not be ready until 3:30 ish, it was time to explore the ship and go for lunch on the lido deck. I asked and this cruise was FULL (which meant 3000 passengers and about 1700 crew). 5 pm was launch and everyone partied on the deck waiving goodbye. Diner was in the Platinum room (you get either golden or platinum rooms, no difference but the golden room was infront of the platinum so if you didnt know how to get to the platinum room, just walk thru the golden room).
day 1 = leave miami. was kinda windy because miami had a cold front that past week so you needed to be in the sun to stay warm. we played basketball, volleyball, mini-putted, went to the gym and continued to explore the ship.
Day 2 = day at sea, same as above..we used the ships facilities
Day 3 = Cozumel. partly cloudy so when the sun was out it was warm. we went to a place called "Paradise Beach". it was a $14 cab ride each way and took about 15 min to get there. adults paid 2 for a lawn chair and the kids were $10 each to use the facilities. they had floating trampolines, floating rock climbing that slides into the water, ice bergs, kayaks, snorkeling and a freshwater pool if you didnt want to be on the beach. the sand was white and soft. this place just got built so everything was new (there were still adding the final touches when we were there. i read a few reviews that got us to go there and we were very happy we did. its on the Internet so go and look at all the pictures.
day 4 = Belize. in my opinion belize was our least favourite stop. first you needed to be "boated" into the port since they didnt not have an official dock (which took about 45 minutes to get thru the line and onto the island). there they recommended that you didnt leave the compound unless were on a booked tour. i guess crime is high in belize. there was tons of shops but they seem to have the same stuff in every shop. if your looking for fake Gucci bags, this was the stop. they were very good fakes (all lines inside) and they were going for $35-40. on the way back, a lady had the same bag and we compared it to hers and other then hers having the serial number, they were identical. if we ever didn't another cruise that stopped in belize, i would stay on-board and enjoy the empty ship.
Day 5 - Roatan. we wanted to bring the kids ziplining so we booked the trip online at home with "Clip n zip". it costs $40/person know matter what the age. there are about 5 different ziplining companies that have their own courses but this one was right off the dock (2 minute walk across the st). this one we found on the Internet via face book which showed visitors filming themselves. i actually email led the owner for info (via their website) and he came out and greeted me remembering that i emailed him from Canada. they had all ages (60's to 7 years old). they had 11 runs that were included and it took approx 45 minutes to complete. i highly recommend this. go to clipnzip.com to view. after this we went to the private beach only for cruise lines. there was 2 cruises docked so it got a little busy so if you wanted to use the beach, go first thing to get your best spot. this beach was 3 minutes away and you can see it from the ship/dock. white sand all over. my daughter actually got sting by a jelly fish. the people said that last week there were storms that must have blew in some jelly fish. they claim that normally there wasn't any.
Day 6 = Grand cayman. This was our favourite stop and we would go back for a week. if you go to grand cayman, this is one of the only spots that you can swim/hold/kiss a stingray. my brother in law told us about this and we had to do it with the kids. again we booked online with "Captain Marvin's stingray city tour" and everything went as stated. it was $35/adult and 27.50/child. now that i did it i would pay allot more for the experience. grand cayman was another port that you had to take a water taxi into. once in there was a compound with shops and right outside the compound was a main street. you didn't have to worry about crime since there is alto of money already in cayman. right across the street and to the left was the captain marvin's store. we checked in and an air conditioned bus came. it took about 20 min to get to captain marvin's boats. i guess captain Marvin was the first to start the tour many many years ago and retired selling it to a company. he was still there sitting by the dock and i shook his hand. he must have been in his 80's. on board there was approx 20 of us and they provided punch/water to drink. the boat ride took about 15-20 to get out to the bay where the stingray swam. i assumed that these stingray were in captivity but this was not the case. they swam free in the huge bay. they told me that stingray
prefer the shallow water and did not like going into the ocean. there was about 6 other tour ships anchored around this one spot, approx 3-4 ft deep. all white sand. from the boat all you saw was these black shadows swimming around (approx 50-100 of them). the guide took the group in to a spot and they all swam around us. they are so used to human contact that the guide held one and let each family take their turn touching, holding and even kissing. they had their own photographer but we bought a underwater camera. even my 11 year old son held one. the top of them are gooey and the bottom is very soft like a dolphin. they have no teeth so they suck in their food. we were all given a piece of squid and they ate it right out of our hands. if you do go with their photographer they ask $25 /photo but we negotiated for all of pictures on a disk for $25 (which we had about 10 pics. since we had taken basically the same pics using our camera, we told him $15 when we were about the dock and he said OK. i think he pocketed the money...lol
all in all, the best experience ever!
we took the taxi boat from the dock to the ship and got ready for new years. what a blast having 3000 people partying on the lido deck with the new york count down on the trinitron.
the ship has a jumbo trinitrom that showed movies every night if you wanted.
Day 7, day at sea last day to use the boats facilities and pack up.
debarkation went smooth considering 3000 people.
Food on the ship:
the food was great, a little bit of everything.
breakfast you could formally site down in the dinning room or you could go to the buffets. we always went to the buffets so that everyone got what they wanted. food was hot and fresh. you could eat indoors or out on the patios.
lunches you could try several shops like: burrito bar (loved it), deli (loved it), fish bar,hard to find but worth it (favourite), stir fry station (loved it), 24 hour pizza (loved it) and the standard burgers, fries, nuggets, hot dogs were avail as well.
dinners, their menu changed every night and and they also kept some classics that was on the menu every night. i found everything tasty and here are my favourites: ribs, lobster, Salmon, prime rib, fillet minion and the best was the desert called warm melting cake. out of this world!
our cabin was 6265 and we had the 4 beds. a little small but your not in your rooms that often. there was a small hairdryer. they provided shampoo and body wash but NO conditioner. this was removed a few year ago and they don't even stock it. the first day they leave a 1.5L water bottle in your room which everyone thought was complementary but we found out that it was $4 after wards. i recommend bringing some water bottles to refill in the buffet. the casino was fun every night and the show were great. the illusionist was the best, the comedians were great and the dancing /singing were great. the only show i didn't like was when they pulled up people form the audience one night to perform...cheesy.
so to sum it up, our 3rd and best cruise to date. if you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org