My husband and I went on our first Carnival cruise recently due to urging from our friends. We were a little hesitant because of the large size of the ship but we agreed. We left Miami during one of their cold fronts, so we were wondering if we would enjoy warm weather in the Caribbean. Not to worry, it was fabulous. In Miami, we stayed at the La Quinta Inn west and we would recommend it to anyone as it was beautiful, clean, and offers breakfast. We took off on a Sunday morning and check in was pretty easy, only to find that one in our group had forgotten her passport and had to get back on the plane and go home. On board, it was a zoo! We went up to Lido deck to the buffet lunch, which was not as good as I expected it to be. But it was food and we were hungry. After lunch, we went down to our cabins and got settled in. We were on the 1st floor, mid ship, and it was ideal - quiet and very little motion. Our cabin was surprisingly spacious and comfortable and we had an oceanview. We attempted to secure a spot on deck to watch as we sailed away, but there were too many people in our group to all sit together. The wind was chilly. One big disappointment: as we sailed away, there was no Caribbean music! NCL made a big deal of the sail away and Carnival did nothing but put a stupid football game on the big screen. Anticlimatic.
Dinner was in the Platinum dining room. Our waiters were ok, not stellar. The food was fabulous on the whole cruise but I grew tired of the richness of it by midweek. Too much! Portion sizes should be decreased because there were an awful lot of obese people on the ship.
We quickly found out that Belize was taken off our itinerary due to something to do with the tenders. We were all disappointed since we had scheduled an excursion to see the Altun ruins. Instead we signed up to see the mayan ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico.
We had 4 ports of call. Cozumel was nice. We got off the ship and got a man to drive us to a private beach. It was very quiet for most of our time there and had great shells! I thought it was too windy and the water too cold to snorkel but some did that and enjoyed it.
Our second port was Grand Cayman. We again hired a driver to give us a tour of the city. Big mistake. She was like a robot and gave us the flyby and we didn't get to really see anything long enough to enjoy it. Some in our group did the stingrays and they loved it. We will do that if we ever go back.
Our third port, and favorite, was Roatan Island, Honduras. Right off the ship was beautiful Mahogany Bay. Some of us spent a pleasant day sunbathing and snorkeling there and loved it. Others went to the zip line and Gumbalimba park. They loved the monkeys at the park. We wish we could have seen them! My husband jumped in a taxi and had a tour of Roatan, the real Roatan. It is very poor and they depend on the cruisers to bring money in.
Our last port was in Costa Maya, Mexico. They do not get as many cruise ships since a hurricane wiped out the port and area several years back. It is rebuilt now but beyond the port there is not too much. We saw the ruins 2 hours away. They were interesting but really a long drive. Others enjoyed the catamaran and snorkeling.
Overall, I am not crazy about Carnival. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the ship and by all the drinking. It seemed like it was far more about partying than our cruise with NCL. Most of the nightly entertainment was pretty good - we liked the physical comedy (juggler) and the PG comedians the most. The staff were all good. The ship was clean. As usual, I felt bad for the staff as they are separated from their loved ones for long months at a time. The weather? Fantastic. The Caribbean Sea can't be beat for beauty.