Prior to sailing, we decided to fly out to Orlando a day early in order to a account for the unpredictable Michigan weather. New Year's Eve was spent at Orlando Airport's Hyatt, a very nice hotel literally located inside the main terminal. The next day, we took Carnival's transfer shuttle to Port Canaveral where we began the Embarkation process. The line to embark was quite lengthy and travelers should expect to sit and wait at least an hour before they board the ship.
We were very impressed with our balcony cabin. It had a a large window that allowed plenty of natural light to shine through as well as a balcony that was a pleasure to be on and watch the Atlantic. The room featured two beds that could be converted into one queen and one couch that could be turned into another bed. we met our steward, Sami, on the first day and he was incredibly friendly and attentive throughout the cruise. The room was cleaned twice daily and was always spotless when we returned.
The food on the cruise was great. Breakfast was served throughout the ship with the usual staples of the traditional breakfast including, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, fresh fruits, toast and bagels. There was also an omelet station.
Lunch was the main eating event of the cruise, featuring a grill serving hot-dogs and burgers, a pizza station that was open 24 hours, an Indian Tandoor station, a burrito station, a pasta bar, a sushi bar, a Mongolian wok, a traditional lunch buffet line, one line featuring a specific foreign cuisine and a dessert line. The food was always delicious and never got old.
Passengers had two options for dinner, either the formal dining room or the more casual alternative dining room. We went with the alternative dining option, which was in the usual cafeteria on deck 10. The dinners featured incredible selections and was probably the best meal of the day. One night featured prime rib, duck and steak. Dinner also featured different pastas and salads as well as cold cuts like salami, ham and prosciutto and a nice selection of beautifully presented desserts. Few, if any, restaurants could compare to selection and efficiency offered aboard the ship.
The service while dining was simply unbelievable. When finished with dinner, we would walk to the dessert area (which was about 20 feet away) to look at what was offered for dessert. By the time we reached the area, our table was totally bussed. The individuals serving food were also very friendly and incredibly efficient.
The shopping on the ship featured some great deals as well as a few annoyances. We went to the shopping lecture, where we though we would actually receive relevant advice. Instead, we had Diamonds International (DI) pushed down our throats. The shopping representatives spent a great majority of the time pushing either DI or tanzanite, which they falsely claim can go up in value 20-30% per year. From what I've researched, the increase in the price over the last few years is due to an increase in the demand curve and not a decrease in the supply curve. The only positive of attending these lectures is that you receive coupons for free items like tanzanite earrings and loose 1 carat sapphires. Although pushy, we did find good deals on many things (surprisingly, the cruise ships stores had most of the best deals). In terms of diamonds we were able to purchase a ring at $400 off (not surprisingly, we didn't get this deal at diamonds international). We also received great deals on watches aboard the ship as well as a great deal on a pair of Gucci sunglasses. Alcohol was arguably the best value on the ship, where Absolut Vodka ran at about $12 for a liter and a liter of Grey Goose ran for about $30. The rum was also incredibly affordable, running at about $9 per liter for Cruzan.
The entertainment on the cruise was phenomenal. There were nightly shows that featured either the professional dancers and singers performing a musical or some sort of guest entertainer (we had a magician and a juggler perform, both were great). There were also comedians performing nightly as well as a few live bands, a piano bar, a hip hop dance group and several night clubs.
The cruise was phenomenal with great shopping on board, the best service we've ever received, great food and beautiful weather.