Embarkation- We hit the rush (12:00-1:30) and had about 1½ hour wait. The terminal is south of the parking garage, and taxis dropped us off in a 3-lane drop off point where porters took our luggage (and tips). Then everyone waits on the first floor to take an escalator up to security. A guy is there pre-selling return tickets to the airport for about double what it costs afterward. All guests wait in the line through security, then the Skipper Club (most expensive cabins) split off to a short line. We noticed that as we checked in at 1:30 the line was significantly smaller than when we arrived at noon. Once checked in and your credit card is run as a deposit, you go and get your picture taken and recorded onto your sign and sail card and then it is on to the ship. Tip: Either come early (before 12) or late (after 2) to avoid the wait.
Cabin-We had cabin 5130, (which is right down the hall from Camp Carnival) with an extended balcony. We put our 2 older boys with the grandparents in 1157. We considered a Category 11 Suite so we could put the kids to bed and still stay up, but the extra room was not needed as the balcony gave us a "2nd room" to relax, read, etc., while our 3 and 4 year old nodded off to sleep. The extended balconies are about 50% larger than regular... plenty of room for 4 adults to hang out on when my parents joined us for a visit. Highly recommended. The balcony comes with 2 chairs and a little table. I am not going to go into details, but the table only holds the weight of one person (yes, somehow we actually broke our table). We also brought the recommended bungee cord, so we could keep the door open and hear the ocean all night long.
Details on the room: lots of storage, 3 closets (2 with hangers, 1 with shelves), and several drawers, etc. We had a queen bed then there was an upper and lower bunk. The TV was a new Panasonic with one audio and one video RCA plug in front. (Most video games from home use the red, yellow, white plugs.. so I am not sure if you can use your home systems on board with this TV set). The TV had several channels that can enhance your cruise. One is front camera, next is back camera, both with music backgrounds. The aft cam allowed us to check to see if the slide was open before we went up to deck 10 (times of operation that were listed in Capers was not always correct). CNN and a few other broadcast channels like TNT were on, plus 3 on-ship movie channels (1 for kids.. like Dr. Doolittle, Garfield, etc.) Another channel showed ship location and nautical information.
There are 2 hardcover books in the desk drawer about Carnival and the Miracle along with a Bible placed by the Gideon organization.
The in-room safe locked and unlocked with any credit card or sign and sale card, using the magnetic strip on either. There was no clock, and just one power outlet (bring a strip) - there was an additional "razor only" plug in the bathroom that only worked when the bathroom light was on.
The shower had both a shampoo and soap dispenser, and they give you several samples of other shampoos, soaps, razors, etc. The shower was the best we have seen on a cruise ship - lots of pressure and a lot of hot water!
The room telephone is a Nortel Meridian set with several speed dials to services (like room service and auto wake up calls), and is a speakerphone (monitor only, no microphone). The voice mail allows you to change your greeting (nice for groups to make sure you got the correct room).
Tip: We followed earlier posts and tipped $10 to the room steward and asked for a deck chair and to clean out our fridge and filled it with bottled water and soda pop we brought from home. We brought an old hard side suitcase that was bought at a thrift store which we transported the water and pop in, then left it at the end of the cruise with a sign that said "trash." All suitcases fit under our bed for storage during the cruise. Tip: If you have a choice in booking your cabin, select a room on the starboard side of the ship. You will get better views out of Tampa including better views of city, air base, dockside upon departure, better city views in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Tip: To me, there is nothing like sitting on your balcony at night and having a full moon reflect upon the water. It is my drug. So, before we booked I looked up the lunar cycle on the net and made sure there was a full moon and it was at night. Luckily, the clouds were clear and we had two excellent nights staring at the moon reflecting upon the water. Awesome.. I fell asleep both nights on the deck chair we had brought down.
First day Sunday
We first checked out our room, then ate with everyone else on Deck 9. There are 8 food serving areas on the Lido deck, some with changing options each day. The first two serving areas are outside mid-ship by the middle swimming pool, starboard and port sides. Mostly burgers and hot dogs are served here. The next two heading aft were inside. The starboard side served Chinese food the entire cruise, the port side rotated different menus each day. (Caribbean, Indian, etc.). The next dining area back had four serving areas. One had hamburgers and hot dogs, another upscale food like roasts, turkey, ham, etc. Another was the 24 hour pizza area, and the last had salads the entire cruise. Between two serving areas was a dessert area, where they had great choices like cheesecakes, fruit, and pastries. There were several drink areas with juices, milk, water, tea, coffee, ice, and a large number of plastic cups.
After we ate we explored the entire ship and every public area, which took about an hour. Then made it back and had most of our luggage so we unpacked. Then we went to the mandatory muster drill at 3:30 p.m. The crew checked each cabin so you had to go. (We hid out on previous cruises!). Typical drill. But a little squeezed in as they have 2000 plus people in a relatively small area. Parents need to know that when they check their kids in at Camp Carnival the staff puts a wristband on each child that is to remain attached the entire cruise. These are labeled with your assigned muster station code so that if there was every an emergency the staff could bring your children to you at the correct muster station. My kids tore theirs off more than once, and luckily, Camp Carnival had a large supply of extra wristbands.
Tip: Come late to muster, just as they are starting, as they line the first attendees up against the wall and pack them in like sardines. The last ones get to stand up front, which with a 3 and 4 year old gave them room to sit down at our feet and do what 3 and 4 year olds do (roll around and fidget).
Next we went to the Casino desk and they punched a hole in our sign and sail card and attached a lanyard to each one. This worked very well for my 8 and 10 year olds as they looped them into sort of a necklace and never misplaced or lost them the entire trip. I just attached mine to a belt loop and kept it in my pocket. Since this card is all you need on board for services and purchases, I left my wallet in the room safe.
Even before leaving port, the pools and hot tub were open and well used. We were a bit disappointed to find that Camp Carnival did not open until 7:30 p.m. the first night. We were hoping to leave the 2 youngest ones there so we could enjoy the dining room.
I went to the internet cafe in the library several times to sign up for the giveaway but I never once found it staffed. Oh well, kind of expensive with a registration fee of around $4 plus usage at 75 cents per minute sold only in blocks of time. We found internet cafes way cheaper in the ports. (See below).
Dining Room: Well, many opinions have been written on the colors and amount of "grapes" all around. To me the dEcor was fine. We were in the back on the 2nd floor (deck 3 aft) and would strongly recommend trying to get a table in the back. Simply go to the dining room, and request a back table. Here is why: The views! The back tables have floor to ceiling views. Deck 2, the main floor of the dinning room, has the best windows. Deck 3 is still good. Depending upon the month you cruise, you may be delighted with a sunset at sea. Leaving Tampa and going under the big bridge is a sight also (happens during early seating.. a must with families with small kids because Camp Carnival is closed from 5:45 to 7 p.m. each night so you can feed your kids). At Cozumel as you depart you have one of the prettiest scenes out the back windows I have had at a meal... four fully illuminated cruise ships against a darkening sky... slowly shrinking away in the distance as we sailed south out of port.
The food was actually better than I had expected, based on other reports. It was still cruise food, but I have highlighted a few of the selections offered on each day below. Tip: Come 3-5 minutes late to dinner. The lines will be gone and you can walk right to your table. Avoid the long line of hungry cruisers that form before the dining room opens. Tip: They do not post the menus outside the dining room like some lines (so you can go by in the morning and decide how hungry to be for dinner!). But they do post the full menu including desserts on the inside, so as you enter you can see how much room to leave for dessert (they don't tell you what is for dessert until after dinner, unless you look as you come in.) Tip: Some of the best desserts are off the kid's menu, which adults can order all through the cruise. Tip: Carnival has added "low carb" options, which are modified entrEes off the main menu. Tip: The traditional seven day Carnival menu is listed at http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=39067&highlight=Menu. There have been a few changes, but this is pretty accurate. When looking at these menus just make Sunday day 1, Monday day 2, etc.
Camp Carnival: After dinner we attended the 7:30 p.m. opening program and found it to be very well planned and our kids immediately loved it. They had introductions of the staff and an overview of the week at the Mad Hatters lounge Deck 1 Forward. The ship's mascot, Funship Freddie was there and my 3 year old was mesmerized! Next, we went up to a reserved section up on deck 9 for family ice cream sundaes. We later learned that every time Camp Carnival feeds the kids they go to this same area. After the ice cream, we went to the family dance party in Frankenstein's Lab (the disco) on deck 2 aft. This was well worth attending as our youngest really enjoyed the balloon games, dancing with Freddie, and the closing "YMCA" dance. This dance party was the perfect arena for our youngest two to get comfortable with the Camp Carnival program, as they are normally a little shy with new things. By the end of the cruise, we could not pull them away from the program! My older two even missed breakfast the last few days to get to Camp Carnival to hang out with their friends and do the planned activities.
Camp Carnival is divided into several age groups, each with their own Camp Carnival Capers, which lists the entire week of activities. I brought them home and a Cruise Critic reader posted them for me at http://joephila.net/CampCarnival/. (Thanks!) If you are traveling with kids, these are a must read. The program appeared to be only about half full. At most activities for the 8-11 year olds, there were only four or five kids there. Perhaps families have heard about all the nude statues and paintings (see my comments below) and have steered toward more family oriented ships(?).
If you have kids in the 2-5 year program, the Miracle gives you a cordless phone. (The web page says a pager, but the phone was nicer!) This is actually very nice as it is a 4 digit extension on the ship's phone system, just like each cabin has a 4 digit intercom number (your room number). The purpose is that if your kid has an accident, or the staff needs you, or you want to check on your kid, you can communicate anywhere on the ship. The phones are a single line proprietary Nortel digital set and the Miracle has 8 transmitters per floor, visible in the hallways up high, appearing to be added after the ship was built. This Nortel product actually functions like a mini-cellular system, handing off calls to the nearest transmitter if you talk and walk around the ship. The sets only work on the ship, no range off. Now, here are the benefits: if you are going with a group you can keep in touch, especially on sea days. (e.g., I had left my wife and kids in the cabin and was looking at photos, they called and said the slide was open and to meet up on deck 11). Simply give out your extension number to those who are in your group. When you turn it on it gives you the ship's time, which is great for people like me who do not wear a watch. Some may not like having to carry a phone, but I actually found it helpful. One time I was waiting in a long line at the Purser's desk and the marquee said to call 7777 for info, which I did while in line, got my questions answered, then left the line. Also, being a balcony freak, I made calls to make dinner plans, ordered room service, and received calls from people in our group without leaving the lounge chair on the balcony. Hey, don't think I am lazy... I am just on vacation!
Monday at Sea
There are a variety of activities for every taste posted in the daily Capers.
We had a low activity day, lounged, took the kids swimming, ate, and used the water slide. The height requirement for the slide is 42 inches (one Caper said 48, but the slide has a marker at 42). The water in all the pools and the slide is saltwater. And the slide is a ton of fun. I found you can get flying on that thing if you arch your rear end off the slide, putting your weight on your feet and shoulders. The slide was not open all the times the Caper said it was, hence checking channel 13 (aft cam) will show you if people are using it before going up on deck.
Ice Cream. While there is 7 X 24 ice cream, on sea days from 3:00-5:00 p.m. the topping bar is open and is worth going to on deck 9 aft starboard. They offer a huge variety of toppings and sauces - which is a treat by itself. On one run my wife brought just a cup of nuts, candies, and cookies in a bowl with no ice cream!
Dinner highlights. Monday is the first Formal night, and by far the best menu of the week in my opinion. I had two prime rib dinners and two lobsters dinners (you can order as much as you can eat)! But be sure to leave room for the "chocolate flourless cake," which was to die for. I had two, but wish I had left room for more! It was one of the best desserts I have eaten on a cruise ship.
The Monday night show was "Generations." The program was basically popular music from the '90s, then a few songs from the '80s, then to the '70s, etc.... all the way to the '40s, then back up the decades to the '90s. So, everyone will know some music, and probably not other songs. Something for everyone, but also something everyone will think is boring. Well done though. And Camp Carnival brings the older kids to the show and the program ends with... what else, the traditional "YMCA" song!
Tuesday was the first stop (Grand Cayman) and the cleanest, safest port of the week. We tendered in and immediately noticed the hurricane desolation. On the dock we met a short, bald, British chap who ran Moby Dick tours www.mobydicktours.com (there were several tour operators soliciting customers at the dock). We signed up for his tour to Sting Ray City for $35 per person. Be sure when using a credit card here they write U.S. by the amount, other wise, you might get billed in Grand Cayman dollars which is about 25% more than US dollars. We had a very nice tour with Moby Dick. They took us by small bus to a private dock, on a 30-40 person boat (there was 18 of us) out to where the sting rays are, (there are already a lot of posts about this activity), then out snorkeling at the reef for a half hour. The snorkeling was actually surprisingly a trip highlight! They offered punch and water and took us back via a stop at the north end of 7 Mile beach if you wanted to stay and find your own $3 ride back to the docks later.
Having been out of touch with my business for a few days I found an internet cafe on the north side of the pier run by Cable and Wireless. Their internet was down due to the recent storms but I was able to call to the US for $6 for 3 minutes.
Wednesday was a day at Costa Maya. This is a unique port essentially built by the cruise ship companies. Three ships were in town when we were there. As ships pull in, they close the pier for around 20 minutes for safety while docking takes place. So we had to wait to exit the Miracle as another ship was pulling in. The long pier (there was a trolley hauling people who did not want to walk) leads to a plaza of shops, a small sandy beach area, and swimming pool, and an amphitheater. The internet cafe there was $3 for 30 minutes. Calls to the US were $1.50 per minute. We left the plaza area and around back rented a golf cart for $15 for an hour and left the gated and guarded plaza area. Upon return, you have to show your sign and sail card to the guard at the facilities gate to get into the plaza, which tells you a little about how safe the region is. We headed south toward Mahal (sp?) and actually felt a little nervous, as the golf carts' slow speed made us a sitting target for some thug (rich tourist slowly going down a desolate road). There is a huge amount of building going on but we found the locals, workers, and people we passed to be the most unfriendly we met on the trip. We waived and said hi to everyone we passed and frowns were returned. My wife said these folks need to learn that tourists are the lifeblood of the growth and the livelihoods of many of the people, and tourists appreciate friendly locals. We did pass a small local police or military outpost with people walking around carrying machine guns. Again, no smiles or waves returned.
The prices of things in the plaza were very high compared to the prices down in Mahal. The merchants at Mahal were friendlier, and we went from brick road, to highway, to very bumpy mud roads, but it was a ton of fun! An hour was enough time to make the trip, but only 10 minutes or so to shop and look around. Back massages on the beach were offered everywhere and appeared to be quite popular. They were running $20 for 30 minutes. (U.S. money, that is).
The water slide was closed this day, contrary to the info in the Capers. In the Mad Haters lounge they showed a movie called the "Big Screen Movie." This time it was " The Notebook." For dinner I chose the Beef Wellington and it was pretty good.
Thursday we pulled into the south pier (out of three) at Cozumel. A few words... this ain't the cheap part of Mexico! To get to shore you have to walk through a very long shopping mall, then get mobbed by taxi drivers. I heard people looking at booze in the store say the prices were higher than on the ship! The taxis are very expensive... more than we have paid in New York and other major US cities. The taxi driver told me they have one taxi company there...he called it a syndication... it sounded more like a monopoly. To take 6 of us about 4 miles to a beach and then return was over $50! (Compared to $20 from the ship to the airport in Tampa, about 3 times further time wise!)
There were lots of options for beaches in Cozumel and we chose the older and popular San Francisco beach. All the taxi drivers really pushed us to go to the next one down for just $6 more, Mr. Nacho's beach. We got the impression that the drivers got a kickback from Mr. Nacho's as they pushed over and over.
There are two "businesses" at San Francisco beach. Both are bar and grills with beach chairs. The north side's price was $5 per person for the use of the chairs. South side was free, but they wanted you to buy drinks, food, etc. It was called Paradise Beach and very well kept. Water was $2, sandwiches $6-9, etc. They also had a $5 activity wristband which you could purchase which my kids liked. They had a floating trampoline, a 20 foot climbing wall out in the water, and plastic kayaks. We had a really good time here, and weather was warm and sunny. The restrooms were some of the best kept and cleaned ones we have seen at any beach.
This is the only port where they asked for picture ID to return to the ship. All other ports just wanted to see your sign and sail cards. We did not bring ID, but after a second they let us on through anyway. The water slide was closed again this day for no apparent reason, as the weather was good. For dinner I chose the Filet Mignon, which actually was one of the poorer Mignons I have ever had, far below what The Outback or other local steak house serves.
Friday at Belize. As you may know, there is a great reef and lots of atolls in the waters outside of Belize City. So the ship parks a few miles out in the harbor and high speed boats shuttle you into port, about a 15 minute ride. You land at a gated, policed "Tourist Village" with lots of shops and tour guides available. There was a good internet cafe that charged $3 for 15 minutes in this village.
We met up with Douglas Gentle of Belize Taxi Tour Guide Association at the dock and hired him to take us to Alta Hu Mayan Ruins for $30 each. Doug is a former New York City resident who got laid off from his job at the World Trade Center a few months before 9/11 and decided to return home to Belize to care for his ailing parents. He gave a most excellent tour. www.bztaxitourguidesassociation.com or email Douglas at email@example.com.
There are licensed (and more expensive) tour guides inside the village, and you can leave the gated area and go with cheaper unlicensed ones. After driving around Belize, there is no doubt in my mind that the extra few bucks was worth it to go with a licensed guide.
A few words of opinion about Belize City: "Second World." It is poor, run down, and there are bars on nearly every window of every home and business that we saw on our 4 hour tour. Crime is high, and our tour guide said the bars on the windows are not for decorative purposes. We did not feel very safe in downtown Belize City. We have felt safer in South Chicago or East Los Angeles than here.
We took the nearly 4 hour tour which included a city tour in Douglas's older, beat up mini-van, and a ride out to Alta Hu, about 40 miles. The roads are terrible (full of potholes) so it took an hour and a half almost. The ruins are really neat. You pay a $5 tax at the pier for a ticket and take it to the ruins for admission. Douglas handled all this for us. Douglas acted our tour guide at the ruins (besides just our taxi driver) and told us all about the ruins, history, and local culture. There were several large buildings that were discovered in the 1960's by accident and have been partially renovated. He noted the similarities between these buildings and the pyramids in the Old World. It was as if some of the people might have traveled back and forth between the old and new worlds. A discussion arose about how some people believe an ancient record was found and translated into English that tells of such a people who left the Old World and came to the Americas accidentally and built cities here. The record is religious in nature so it is controversial, but a free copy is available at www.mormon.org and it is called the Book of Mormon. Anyway, back to the tour. We stopped and saw iguanas out on the side of the road and caught a giant tarantula in the middle of the road and picked up with a piece of cardboard and looked at it. Very interesting! Douglas was well worth seeking after as a tour guide.
We left our 4 kids at Camp Carnival for the full four hours we were gone and they did just fine. We came back to the ship, swam with the kids, and went to dinner. Friday was the second formal night and I chose the Prime Rib (2 of course) and it was pretty good.
The highlight of the evening was the show "Ticket to Ride." It was a tribute to the music of the Beatles. Tip: Come early as they play a movie about the Beatles before the show. This is one of the best shows at sea. Very well done, and I walked away with a new found respect for Paul McCartney and John Lennon, the #1 and #2 writers of the most number one hits of all time (I personally am in awe over Barry Gibb at #3). Paul and John produced so many hits ...and 20 to 30 of them were woven into this wonderful show. The costumes were great, the dancers gave out light sticks to the audience near the end as part of the show, and the band "Boardwalk" ended the show with an awesome reproduction of a live Beatles concert. "Boardwalk" played all week in Frankie and Johnnie's on the deck 2 by the way. They did double duty on Friday, playing in the lounge and slipping out to do the final number in "Ticket to Ride." Great band, and great show!
The midnight buffet was also on Friday night. They open the dining room up for pictures at 11:30 p.m. and for dining at midnight (duh!). Very long and slow lines and the food was just fair. Nice presentations, but middle of the road desserts.
Saturday at Sea
We experienced windy seas, which some crew said was typical for fall. Made it tough to be out on deck. But the ship it self was smooth. Very little rocking, and no one I saw felt ill or had motion sickness. Temperatures were still in the high 80's which made it bearable to swim and walk around outside in a swimming suit. The water slide was open, Ice Cream topping bar open again, and the big screen movie was "Napoleon Dynamite," a great comedy... a little dry. Live music on the Lido deck again off and on all day, and dinner in the dining room, with the sunset into the sea out the back windows, was worth the trip!
Camp Carnival is a must this last night. The kids all got shirts. The younger ones colored with special markers, the older ones all signed each other's. We could not pull the kids out of the camp the last night as they were having so much fun! Very well run program!
Saturday is also the day you prepare to end your vacation. They give about an hour talk about rules, forms, and how to proceed in the lounge, then repeat it on the TV. The show goes over rules like "just $800 duty free limit, no plants or food off the ship, etc." You also are told to put your luggage (non-valuables) out in the hall between 10 p.m. and midnight.
I walked around the ship and noticed the crew cleaning and sanitizing the pools. They said they do that every Saturday night. So each cruise starts with fresh saltwater in the pools.
Sunday was Disembarkation. The ship docks in Tampa around 6 a.m. Breakfast is served from 7-9 up on deck 9. "First off" seemed to occur about 8:30 a.m. You can request first off if you carry off your own luggage instead of putting it out the night before. Then passengers were let off by color of luggage tags which corresponded to different parts of the ship. We waited in our room and departed the boat around 10 a.m. As you exit the ship you go down stairs or escalators to a big room where you locate your luggage. Then pass through customs and turn in your declaration form. Then you go outside to taxis, buses, and the parking garage. You can purchase tickets for the bus right there ($9 for adults, $6 for kids) to go to the airport, or a cab for 4 people is $20. Porters will help you for a tip, but the distance you have to go is very short.
If you have a Sunday flight after 3:30 p.m. the ship does sell tours for the nearby Florida Aquarium and also a city tour. In the Capers which they give you Saturday night, they offer this information with instructions to sign up at the tour desk by Saturday at 6 p.m. A little late... no wonder the tour was almost empty! You can do the Aquarium by yourself, but with their tour they will store your luggage for you then bus you to the airport.
The ship. It was new, clean, and easy to find your way around with maps by each elevator. But it was very "busy" in the dEcor. Take Circus Circus dEcor and crank it up a few notches. Not as "brass and glass" like Princess and NCL and Royal, just busy artwork on every single wall and designs completely up and down the hallways by the cabins. Just unusual and gaudy more than anything, as every inch of the ship seemed to have some sort of theme. We prefer the more elegant brass and glass ships as far as dEcor goes.
As mentioned, the Phantom lounge was phenomenal. Three stories high, fabulous marble entryway, laser and fireworks in some of the shows! Must see room.
Service- Tipping for your cabin steward and dining room people is automatic, and you can adjust your charges up or down. We had a clean room all the time but hardly saw our cabin steward. Other cruises have started with a greeting and actually a min-tour of our room by our steward, which earned an extra tip. But cabin service was good.
The dining room service was fair. And this was not completely the worker's fault. When I started cruising we had a waiter, assistant waiter, and busboy. The industry has cut that from three people to two, which makes these workers very busy. We had a fair waitress.. .really kind of snippy and rolled her eyes upon requests, but our bus boy was super! Big tip for him!
The kids had such a good time we tipped the Camp Carnival staff at the end of the cruise (which was not part of the automatic tipping). I got an envelope at the purser's desk (next to the free extra post cards of the Miracle).
The Casino- We did not play, but just know these are not loose slots. Carnival makes a ton of money off the gamblers on board. (Thanks for subsidizing my cruise!)
Drinks- We are not drinkers, but most specialty drinks seemed to be about $7 plus tip, and the daily specials seemed to be around $3 bucks.
Nudity. Carnival has, in the past, really pushed the family fun ship theme. And they have some of the best kid's programs at sea (we did Disney, and the Miracle was better for our kids). But for family cruisers you must be warned there are naked breasts galore on this boat. Half clothed statues all over. For example, in the main show lounge, the most beautiful I have seen on a ship, there are dozens of bare-chested figurines in the design of the ceiling. By the hot tub, there is a statue of three mermaids bearing their (small) breasts to the world. The casino ceiling, just passing through for the younger kids, has many nipples hanging down at you. And Deck 3 portside forward on the door into the main showroom is a painting of female full frontal nudity, 100%. Some might feel this is just fine art, and they are entitled to their opinion. Likewise, I am entitled to my opinion and feel like it was not what I wanted my boys to be looking at. I would not sail this ship if my boys were teenagers. Too many naked breasts, and I am not even talking about the topless deck! (Which was for ages 18 and above.) Ironic, ain't it, that to go to deck 12 you have to be 18 years of age, but to see dozens of naked statue breasts there is no age limit!
Wizards Arcade had 30 or so standard arcade type video games for $1 per game (Camp Carnival goes there for the 8-11 kids on Monday and plays a few games for free for an hour or so).
Cell phone service: Had full service about 2 hours in and out of Tampa. In Grand Cayman, Belize, and Cozumel we had signal but to receive calls you have to have your provider turn on service down there (so I have been told). Text messages did not work. No signal in Costa Maya. In-room calls to the United States on the ship's phone system were $6.99 a minute.
Conclusion: Congratulations if you really made it through all these eleven pages! I tried to tell our experience in enough detail as to give some future cruiser a better idea of what to expect than the 2 or 3 paragraph "this was nice for us" type of review. I enjoyed this cruise. I enjoyed the balcony more than anything. And the full moon on the water at night was like morphine! While I did not like some things (like the nudity) on the boat, the overall experience was first rate and well worth the cost. Best Wishes.