Two days before, yes two days before the cruise, I got an email from Carnival stating that they were changing our itinerary. Well, I booked my own excursions becuase I could not afford them through the cruise line. What did that mean, I had to call & cancel the Cozumel Jeep trip we had booked & paid for & change my parasail trip (completely change days). Our itinerary got changed to Miami, Day at Sea, Cozumel (7am-1pm), that is 6am local time, then Key West noon-8pm, Miami. Who wants to get off a cruise ship at 6am local time when the beaches & such dont open until 9:30am???
So in Cozumel there was NO TIME to do anything but shop in the local area. That is not my idea of fun. Everyone that tried to go do any shore excursions only got about a hour anywhere. So that port was a bust.
Then Key West, fog rolled in & the Cost Guard closed the Channel to get into Key West. I know weather is not the cruise ships fault, but we had alot of Non-English speaking guests on board. Since we went to Cozumel first & then were re-entering the states (Key West) immigration had to be done on the ship. EVERY person on the ship had to be cleared before a single person coudl get off the ship. People did not understand they were supposed to be at the DISCO at a certain time to start border patrol immigration. So instead of pulling into port at 12 noon, we got in at 3pm. I already had to change my excursion once to change from Tue to Thurs, now I had to change my time since we were 3 hours late. Then we of course had to be back on the ship by 8pm, which really means last train back was at 7:15pm. So 4 hours in port - woo hoo - again FUN TIMES.
We just felt rushed on the whole trip, never time to rally relax. Weather was great though, sunny & in the 80's almost the whole trip. That in January was fantastic. But the cruise expereince was horrible.
Kids camp was nice, but we had to keep checking her in & out every two hours. I dont wear a watch and had to buy one to keep from getting charged a late fee for not picking her up on time.
I wont swear off cruises altogether, because everyone on the ship said this was an unusually bad cruise. Even veteran cruisers were very dissapointed. Carnival just did not handle the changes well & had I had more time to make changes, would have changed trips to another week, or different cruise.
I don't regret booking my own excursions because where Carnival wanted $89 pp for para-sail, I found http://www.keywest-parasail.com/ - They were $35 pp & were so AWESOME. I would recommend them to anyone. For $40 you can get a CD with pictures & a video of your whole "flight". Then the Jeep Trip was $180 through Carnival, I got it for $70 pp, however we did not get to do it due to the time changes, etc.
So the ship was nice, crew was nice, loved the towel animals every night. Our steward was fantastic & they are good with kids. She had fun at kid camp.
The elegant evening was fun, oh ya & we only got to have dinner twice in the dining room because the Cozumel night we were too tired from all the walking & Key West we were in port. We chose anytime dining, but got forced to 6pm assigned table dining. Did not like that, would have preferred anytime, again had to watch the clock.
The water-slides were fun, but would have preferred they had a pool that my 7 year could have touched the bottom. It was water-slides or a 5' deep pool. Nothing shallow for the smalled kids to swim in. That is a little disappointing. They also closed the pools & hot tubs at like 10:30 at night. Was not expecting them to ever be closed, so that was a little dissapointing. They actually kicked people out of the hot tubs. Not nice.
Entertainment wise, there was alot to do, parties & activities alot. No one really used the dance club though.
The Miami Port Terminal was AWESOME & getting on the ship was easy, debarkation though, was not. We were first time cruisers & did not understand what to do. We learned about the TV channel too late & it was a bit frustrating.
I wont cruise Carnival again. I am convinced to try Royal Caribbean with everything we have heard & read.
Para-sailing via http://www.keywest-parasail.com/ - well worth your time & money. We had three people & they let us all go up at the same time so that was a nice family adventure. Some of the others only could accommodate two at a time.
Crazy how different life is down there. Also worth a cab fare down to the southern most point buoy.