The price was too good to pass up so we booked a 4 night cruise to Key West and Cozumel from Miami. I heard mostly negative things about Carnival so we weren't sure what to expect. We've only sailed on one Royal Caribbean cruise in the past so you can say we are still new to cruising. We thought, why not give it a chance? We are sure glad we did.
We arrived in Miami the day before our cruise and spent a night in South Beach at the Park Central Hotel, a historic boutique hotel right on Ocean Drive. It was inexpensive, right across the street from the beach, and near all the action. It wasn't anything too fancy but appropriate for our short stay in Miami. We LOVED Miami. If you love shopping definitely walk over Lincoln Road Mall (a little far but doable) or along Collins Ave.
We took a short cab ride to the port. Embarkation was very easy and organized. We used Kiosks to enter our passport information and credit card. Not to painful. We waited about 15 minutes then were called to board.
The ship decor was not my taste but that really didn't bother me much. We went up to Lido for lunch and was able to find a table pretty easily.
I thought the food was pretty good for a buffet. My husband loved the cheeseburgers and I loved the stirfry. Lines can get long at times. We pretty much ate most breakfasts and all lunches there. Loved the omelets! There are nice outdoor tables to sit behind the pizza station.
We chose late seating in the Spirit dining room. We like meeting new people and we met some great couples at our table. Our waiter had the personality of a doorknob but our assistant waiter was a sweetheart. The maitr'd was hysterical! We loved him. The dancing and singing waitstaff was definitely alot of fun. I really didn't care for the food in the dining room. I liked RCI's food more. Desserts were great but food was pretty boring and tasteless.
Activities were pretty sparse on this ship. They had the usual trivia, shopping talks, art shows, etc, but that was pretty much it. I'm not a gambler (hubby is and was very disappointed in the casino). For entertainment there is a Punchliner Comedy Club with 2 comedians. Eddie Capone was pretty funny, especially the second R-rated night. I can't even remember the other one. He was funny the first night but pretty much used similar jokes the second night. We watched the second show, Shout, on the ship. It was pretty good. Not great but full of energy. We enjoyed it.
Ports were alot of fun. Key West was our first stop. It was raining most of the time we were there but we still explored. More shopping which we love to do. We also went to Hemingway's home and took the guided tour. It was informative but my husband was bored. We did the Mayan Ruins at Tulum tour in Cozumel. We were glad we did since it was cloudy the entire day. The ruins are amazing and was made even better by our colorful tour guide Marco Polo. There is a great beach you can swim in if time permits. We definitely recommend this tour. It takes all day but well worth it!
My only complaint would be the lack of relaxation space. I was never able to relax in the Serenity Area as lounge chairs are already taken by early risers who pretty much hog the space all day. Don't know why there are 30 lounge chairs for 2000 people. More chairs could fit as there was alot of open space. It is not planned very well. Deck chairs around the small main pool were also hard to come by. The only ones available were the ones on the balcony but you would probably blown to sea up there with all the wind. Combined with the LOUD music playing most of the day it was difficult to relax with a book and nap up there. Window seats along the Promenade were a nice alternative but I prefer to be outdoors.
Service was overall good. Our stateroom attendant was great. You already know how I feel about our waiter, not too good. Lido service was good until my husband asked for a new utensil set as his wasn't even washed and the reply was, "that's not my job sir, you have to get it yourself". I had a wonderful bamboo massage on embarkation day because of the specials offered.
Disembarkation was a breeze for us. We didn't choose the walk off option but we did notice that it didn't matter. Don't choose that option as your only allowed to walk off by deck. We were disembarking at 9:00am with walk off passengers from the riviera deck. Doesn't make much sense.
Overall we had a great vacation for the price we paid. We will definitely cruise with Carnival again hopefully with our children so we can share cruising with them.