I am 42, hubby is now 50, hence the reason for the extended cruise :) The first week we spent with good friends and their family. We were a group of 11, three teenagers included. Oldest in the group was 75. We had all cruised before. The second week was just hubby and I and we traveled on the Eastern leg. I am a big "planner" and like to have everything in order. We decided to choose an aft (back) balcony cabin as the balcony is a bit bigger and we thought we would enjoy a different view. We've done most of our cruising in balcony cabins and love them. Two weeks is a long time (although it just FLEW by). If anyone has questions, feel free to ask. I receive so much great info from the CC boards, I just wanted to give back a bit. Sooo here we go...
Fri., Jan 7th~Flew into Orlando. Stayed at LaQuinta, Cocoa Beach. We made arrangements months in advance with a Limo/shuttle service for the transport from Orlando to Cocoa Beach. I was NOT happy with the service, so I will not recommend them. The rest of our group came in on a later flight and had issues with the transport also. Issues on the return trip after the cruise :( LaQuinta was right on the beach, by Cocoa Beach Pier. Free breakfast, clean/nice room with a view of the ocean, pool, bar. I would recommend for a stay before a cruise. $109+tax $130 total. Street view was $10 less. Grocery and liquor store one block away. Several dinning options in walking distance. Shuttle to the terminal was $5pp.
Sat., 8th~ I can honestly say that this was the easiest and quickest boarding I have ever experienced. It helps that we had all done it in the past and knew what to expect. We arrived about 11 and where on board by noon! Ray and I choose to carry on most of our luggage because I want to put it away ASAP. I don't feel like I can really start my vaca until all my stuff in put in drawers, ironed and hung. We snuck past the closed doors to put our luggage in our room. If you know where your room is and can get to it without wandering in the halls, you can normally drop off your luggage without getting yelled at. It depends on where your room is (close to an entrance door?) and how "guarded" the halls are. It's worth a try. We dropped off the luggage (stuck between the bed and the window) and ran. Returned at the approved time (1:30) and started unpacking. I was only waiting on one piece of luggage and it arrived about 3. The room steward came and introduced himself. He scolded me for dropping off my luggage early. He explained that nothing could be left on the balcony because of the fire hazard and the ash that comes from the stacks. He said I must be sure to wipe off the chairs before setting down?!? WELL, this was news to me. So, Carnival knows it's a problem. Now, let me explain my TWO issues with this room/balcony. As the days went on, the ash/soot problem got worse. Quarter sized pieces of black ash. It was gross! The stewart didn't clean it unless asked. It was on the deck, chairs and railing. Some friends made the mistake of leaning on the railing (in their good cloths) before I could say anything and the stuff just doesn't wipe off. We carried it in on our feet in the mornings when we went out to see the new ports. If I wanted to sit on the balcony I had to wipe things down. Some days were worse than others. This really sucked and took away much of the enjoyment of the balcony. SECOND BIG ISSUE: the dividers between these balconies is slanted at an angel, I guess to give the back of the ship a more streamlined look. This means that your neighbors can see your entire balcony without trying to snoop!! I was unpacking the first afternoon and looked up to see my "neighbor" watching me. This became an issue. Not only could he see our balcony, but our entire BED. On past cruises, I would leave the curtains open at night so I could wake up and see the sights from bed in the morning. This was just not possible in this cabin. I found the man watching a few other times :( unnerving. My husband spoke with the pursers desk and security. We wanted to move, it was that bad! They offered us a different balcony cabin, but that cabin wasn't available for the second week of our cruise and we would have had to move BACK to this SAME cabin the second week. In the end, I just didn't want to move twice. SO, let me make this very clear: WE WILL NEVER BOOK AN AFT BALCONY AGAIN! and we are not picky or complainers, really, I swear. I hate to say it, but this put Ray in a foul mood and was not the way we wanted to spend the first day.
Sun, 9th~ Sea Day Nice weather always help on a sea day! We managed to get 8 chairs together in the sun on aft deck 11 by the stairs. Fun day with everyone coming and going enjoying the activities and food. Put-put is nice. Sushi @ 5 was one of my favorites on sea days. I would work out and then get a snack before dinner @ 8:15. We had a table of 11 for dinner, so dinner was a little slow, not because of the service, but because the the number of people being served.
Mon., 10th~ Cozumel We booked a deep sea fishing trip for 6 with Island Marketing. Not a very fun experience in the end. Our boat was not at the marina when we arrived (early, btw). When we found someone who spoke enough english to help us, they said that Thomas's boat was gone for the morning?!? The man made some phone calls and got ahold of Oscar, who was a contact on our reservation. Oscar finally showed and found someone at the marina who would take us out. The two man crew of this boat spoke very little english. We only caught two small fish. Some of the ladies went shopping and found LOTS of knock off purses, they where happy. Two in our group did the dolphin swim through Carnival and enjoyed it. $30 for a one person picture with the dolphin. They would not let the Mom & Daughter take a pic together. It's all about the Benjamins!
Tues., 11th~ Belize Tendering here stinks! Excursions booked through Carnival get priority tenders. The only way to get off the ship to catch a non Carnival excursion is for your entire group to be in the lounge and ready to go at 7:30. You get a sticker and then sit and wait an hour for your group to be called. Do you know how hard it is to get teenagers (and some adults) moving @ 7am on vacation?!? I will really be excited when we are Platinum and get priority tendering!! We booked Cavetubing.com It was a fun day, a lot of walking. An overweight woman and an older person in our group ended going back before the tour even started. I could have skipped the "tour" through the rain forest. Stopping at trees to hear their names. We where actually just going slow to give the people who chose the Four Wheeling option a chance to catch up so we could all ride the same bus back to the port. The guides were fun. Having to lock legs for 80% of the ride wasn't fun. It would have been much more injoyable to just float, but I guess it would be a nightmare for the guides to keep track of everyone. The kids enjoyed it, I guess that's all that mattered!
Weds., 12th Roatan CANCELED due to winds, Captain couldn't get the ship into the port. He did try, but it didn't happen and about 10:30 they announced that we would be going back out to sea. Funny thing was, we could see other big ships already docked?? Why couldn't we get in? Mad dash for chairs! I know how to undo the clamps that are use to tie down the deck chairs at night, so with some help form the kids, we confiscated the chairs we needed. Weather was nice most of the day. Rain in the afternoon and the announcement was made that we would not be stopping at Costa Maya.
Thurs., 13th Costa Maya CANCELED due to weather, we went back to Cozumel. It rained off and on all day, no sun. We received a letter from the Captain apologizing for missing two stops. We received a 20% discount on our next booking. SWEET! Carnival can't control the weather, so I thought this was a bonus.
Fri., 14th Sea Day Some sun, some rain. Our friends would be leaving tomorrow, so we spent the evening having fun. The 16 year old enjoyed Club O2, made friends and said she enjoyed it. The other two choose not to go to Circle C. I think they would of had fun, if they had tried. Water slides where fun! We did that today, no lines. Over dinner we discussed the week. For two of the couples, this was their first time with Carnival and they said they will probably NOT book with Carnival again. They felt the food, rooms and service were nicer on their pervious cruises. They are willing to spend a bit more $ for what they felt was better overall with other cruise lines. Once past the balcony issue, Ray and I enjoyed ourselves. Can't do anything about the weather and the canceled ports. Others felt Carnival shouldn't book ports that they may not be able to get a bigger ship into. Food was online with other cruises we've taken. Lines where a bit longer for EVERYTHING! I guess this is what happens when you increase the passengers. None of us liked the fact that lunch ends at 2:30. Buffets come down, pasta bar stops serving, BBQ ends. If you have been on an excursion and get back on the boat in the afternoon, your only option for food is Pizza or sandwiches till dinner. I don't think Sushi is even open on port days. Room service was hit or miss this cruise. Which is strange, because it's always been great on other cruises. Took over an hour a few times to get something in the afternoon and if you didn't put in an order for breakfast the night before, you might as well just forget it. It just never came. Everyone enjoyed the shows. Just a lot of mixed reviews from the people in our group.
Sat., 15th Port Canaveral We said good bye to the group and headed off to start laundry before we had to meet at the pursers desk. Unfortunately, washer didn't work, after I put laundry soap all over them. Cabin stewart had no idea, thought water may be off?? and he had rooms to clean. We had to meet customs at the pursers desk, so laundry would just have to sit. Carnival and customs agent looked over our paperwork. There where 6 other couples doing a Back To Back. We all had to walk off the boat, through the terminal, and right back on. Painless process which only took about 40 minutes. Went to the pursers desk to get a plastic bag to put my dirty cloths in (now full of soap). Let them know that the washer isn't working. We took wash from 7th floor laundry to 10th. Nobody on the ship now, stewards working hard to clean everything. We were stopped a few times, but just explained that we are doing a Back To Back, then allowed on our way. We peeked in a few rooms, just to compare. Felt like we where some kids "Home Alone" and trying to stay out of trouble :) FUN We made calls home. We took advantage of the empty ship and spent a few hours on the Serenity Deck in a hammock, very relaxing. Too bad they are always full or "saved" during sea days. I was unpacking/organizing the last time we left Port Canaveral, so this time we stood on deck and watched the sail away. We requested the same servers for dinner and had a table for two. Service was wonderful all week! They had the coffee on the table before we arrived! and the conversation with our waiter was enjoyable every night.
Sun., 16th Nassau Nothing planned for this day. Only here till 2. Slept in (late night in the casino) and had room service for breakfast. (Ordered before bed) It is a good way to get woken up, a smiling delivery person with coffee in hand :) Busy day at port, lots of ships! Straw market was a fun experience. Not so much a market as a flea market. I smiled and said "no thank you" ALOT! but that's all it takes, vendors were pleasant. Beautiful sunny day!
Mon., 17th Sea Day Got up pretty early, around 8 and went down to save two chairs. Serenity was already packed. We had breakfast by the pool and lots of coffee. I did suduko and Ray just relaxed. This was the theme for the week. Just the two of us spending time together. In the afternoons, I would run about four miles either on the treadmill or on the track. Ray would walk. We ate at the BBQ, had ribs and really enjoyed them! Once again, the line was long, but moved along. Sushi @ 5:30, drinks @ 7, Dinner 8:15, more drinks and fun at the Craps table. Casino busy every evening. Ray was told that Carnival only rates table players who play at least $20 a bet. This is new and sucks! My initial bet on the craps table is normally $5, but once the point is established, I normally have about $30 on the table. Not good enough on the Dream to get rated :( But, you can sit on a penny machine and get comps?? Not fair. Dealers are all fun and not nearly as stuffy as some in Vegas. Without the kids around, we spent much more time in the casino and lounges listening to music, dancing, drinking and less time @ the shows and Bingo.
Tues. 18th St. Thomas A new port for us and it is just beautiful. We booked with Capt. Mike on the Fury sail boat. BEST DAY OF OUR CRUISE! Only 12 people on the boat, great crew of two from Michigan. Very informative. Sailed to Buck Island and swam with the turtles. Snorkeled small reef, Rum punch on the cruise back. It was great and I would highly recommend them. Price was awesome! Went back on board cleaned up and then looked around the shops in port. Ship was here till 8, we boarded at 7 to get ready for dinner.
Weds. 19th St. Maarten Six ships in port today! Oasis of the Sea has been at every port this week. HUGE and looks interesting. If we ever stray from Carnival, it would be to check out this ship. We booked an Island Tour with Benard Tours. They've gotten good reviews on CC, so we checked them out. Took a full trip around the island, narrated by the driver. Bus was clean, nice. Rum punch and drinks offered. A few stops along the way. Stopped at the beach right by the airport and watched some planes come in and out. Amazing to see them so close! Check out Youtube for videos. Spent few hours at Orient beach. With so many ships in port, the beach was Very crowded! We were here a few years ago and the beach was almost empty. They also dropped us right next to the nude beach, which was busy. The other end of the beach didn't look quite so packed, but we weren't given the option to be dropped there and I couldn't talk hubby into the walk. He just wanted a chair by the beach and didn't care which end. We paid $7 for chair, one drink and bathroom use. We enjoyed ourselves, but I wouldn't recommend for younger kids. Nothing too interesting for them on the buss trip and the buss was parked right by the naked people. Couldn't help but see it ALL.
Thurs., 20th Sea Day More of the same. After dinner, went to the Piano Bar. Honestly, I've been on a lot of cruises, and in the past, enjoyed the piano bar. NOT THIS TIME. Yes, he could play the piano, but he really didn't have much of a voice and more importantly, if it's going to be a good time, personality........ where the hell was his? I was really disappointed. We stayed for one drink, about four songs and left, never to return.
Fri., 21st BIRTHDAY!! and Sea Day, but more importantly: BIRTHDAY :) We had reservations at the Steak House for dinner. It was nice and worth the extra money. Food is great and very upscale. Service is perfect. Lighting could have been more romantic. I liked the Supper Club on the Miracle best, it had soft dinner music and romantic dancing, private booths. We enjoyed the food. Packing needed to be started, so after a last bit of gambling, it was back to the room. Moon was beautiful from the balcony, champagne (compliments of Carnival) was opened for a toast. Just be sure not to touch the rail and chairs and risk the soot getting on our good cloths. (wow, did I just say that?) Wonderful end to our cruise.
Sat., 22nd Port Canaveral Left room about 8:30 and to the car by 9:10. We do self assist so we can leave when we are ready. No problems with disembarkation.
Besides the above comments, let me stress: We feel Carnival is the best vacation for your money. The Dream is a nicely decorated ship. After spending two weeks on her, I would need a really good deal to book on her again. This is Carnival's biggest, but it feels cramped compared to other ships. Finding places to sit inside or outside the ship is hard. Lines always and only deck 5 goes all the way around the ship. To us, it felt like there was less room on this bigger ship. The service was great, but corners are being cut compared to past cruises. We all know you get what you pay for and Carnival is the least expensive cruise line, so it is now quality verses price. With this past cruise, we are now Platinum, so we look forward to the advantages that will bring us on our next cruise. With our 20% discount, I'm sure we will be at sea again soon, hopefully, on the Miracle.