We are casual cruisers from the U.K. and this was our third cruise, our first with Carnival.
We stayed a few days pre-cruise in Miami (Sofitel Miami airport) so we were able to get to the port earlier than we were meant to, however this wasn't a problem. We arrived at 10.30 am and were through check-in in 15 minutes, we were given a zone 3 card and then sat for about an hour waiting to board. When boarding commenced we were on within 15 minutes. We were able to get a drink at the bar and had lunch at Rosie's buffet which was still relatively quiet.
At 13:30 we were able to go to our cabin. We had an ocean view cabin on deck 6, the cabin was very roomy with a very comfortable bed. The shower has a curtain rather than a door which gave us much more room in the bathroom than we've seen before. The steward was very courteous and the room was always made up impeccably. We asked the steward to empty the fridge for us so we could use it and he did this immediately, even leaving us a bucket of ice every day.
Our cabin was immediately above the Eagle lounge so there was some noise in the evening but not too bad, worse was the incessant banging of doors from other less thoughtful guests throughout the evening and into the early hours.
We'd brought our own dvd player for movies etc which was just as well because the choice of channels on the t.v. was appalling- 4 or 5 channels showing what excursions Carnival were doing, a couple of news channels, TNT movie channel and boomerang. One channel showed the Carnival quiz 'Marriage show' all week! Jeez at least show something different every night!
We were surprised that some of the bars allowed smoking (i.e. sports bar) which was a plus for us as smokers but I can see why non-smokers wouldn't like it as there is a lingering smoke smell much of the time. We didn't attend any of the shows but the main theatre and the Eagle lounge looked to have plenty of seating. There is an internet cafe but this was very expensive and slow to load, we should have saved our money! There are a couple of nighclubs and one for teenagers, but these always appeared to be empty. The deck is well utilised, although there were always lots of people up there, there always seemed to be sunbeds available, and the pools weren't used very much.
We did try the sports quiz one day, but as expected was catering to a mainly american audience so wasn't much good to us as the token Brits onboard!
To my surprise there was a self service laundrette and I thought this to be a big plus as I havent been on a ship with one before.
We were assigned late seating on a table for 4, however we're not much into the cruise dining experience so we decided to eat every evening at Rosie's. This is where Carnival falls down for me. There are several dining options for lunch; the burger bar, 24hr Pizza, Burrito's bar, Sushi bar, the Deli, Fish and chips, however only the main buffet, Pizza place and the deli is open in the evening! Very strange!
This did seem to mean though that most people ate in the main dining room so consequently there were no lines in the evening. The food was good but in the evening there was little choice. We had room service one evening, a sandwich from the deli which was good and made a change from the buffet :-)
There is a speciality restaurant available at a 30 dollar supplement which we were going to try, however one night Rosie's did a flat iron steak which was so good we didnt feel the need to use the steak restaurant.
Ports of call:
We were so lucky with the weather which was beautiful and sunny all week.
Grand Cayman is a lovely small island where there was plenty going on. The port is tendered, the boats began at a little over 7:30 and the queue was very short so after a 10 minute boat ride we were on the island before 8am. We thought the prices of the excursions were reasonable, however you can arrange your own at the port for even less.
The tender boats seemed to be going back and forth all day and we had no problem getting back onboard.
Roatan is very beautiful, Mahogany Bay where the boat docks is right next to the reef so you can see plenty of wildlife right off the boat. We had a few drinks at 'Fat tuesday's' and a walk around. Everyone was really friendly.
I was really looking forward to going to Belize, however this is another tendered port and this time the boat ride is about half an hour. We decided (wrongly) that we would wait for the rush to die down, and headed down to the tender at 11am. The queue was still horrendous so we decided to come back an hour later- still a very long queue! This seemed to be because unlike Grand Cayman there were only a couple of boats doing the trip! We decided in the end to give Belize a miss. I was quite glad about this later when I saw very few boats coming back until about 15:30 when they of course were packed to the rafters! Sort it out Carnival! This was another big negative for me.
Cozumel was another walk off port of call. The area where the boat docked looks very new, and is full of lovely little bars and shops. We walked into town and got a taxi back, only 10 dollars. We had lunch in 'Fat Tuesday's', a huge plate of nachos and wings, very reasonable.
As already mentioned the cabin steward was spot on. Some of the other staff did look a little like they were going through the motions, unlike the other two cruises we've been on. We removed our gratuities for the main dining room as we didn't use it once, however instead of the usual hassle the staff at the services desk didnt give us any grief at all.
Disembarking (or debarking as Carnival call it!):
We had a late flight and wanted to do the Everglades tour out of Miami but a staff member on the Services desk suggested not to because the trip would be over by 12:30. We therefore decided to hire a car for the day and make our own way to the Everglades. so we chose to make our way off the boat with our luggage. We heard the call for zone 1 & 2 at 7:30 and made our way down to deck 3, and were off the boat within about 10 minutes. We were through security and in a taxi before 8am! A great decision.
Overall we enjoyed our cruise, the itinery was a good one but would have been better if we were able to get off at Belize, however you get what you pay for. We paid a three star price and got a three star cruise. Both RC and NCL who we've cruised with previously have great dining choices so we were disappointed with the limited choice on this cruise in the evening.
Also there didn't seem to be much arranged activity during the day.
But on the plus side we were on and off the boat extremely easily, and the laundrette meant no washing on getting home.
I dont think I'll cruise with Carnival again because in my opinion RC and NCL do it much better, but the price was really good and we feel we got a good deal.