We stayed in Miami at the Red Roof Inn @ Miami Airport through ParkSleepFly so that we could leave our vehicles there and avoid parking fees at the port. This was fine for one night, but I definitely wouldn't want to stay there any longer. We got a free shuttle to the airport with this, but almost missed it because at the last minute they changed the shuttle time. When I checked in I was told the shuttle would leave at 1pm the next day. I was running a 5k on Miami beach the next morning at 6:30am, but would have plenty of time to get back for the shuttle. After running, we received a call from my great aunt, who luckily was in her room to get the phone call from the front desk... they had changed the shuttle time to 10am because of our group size! To say the least, we were rushed but made it.
The embarkation went very smoothly and quickly and I was impressed by the process. It seems that it went quicker than our previous experiences, so this was great. Once aboard the ship my family went straight for lunch and I headed to the spa. I had read that if you went and asked if they needed volunteers for the spa tours that you might get a free treatment and I did! They needed someone for their ionthermy procedure, normally 159.00 but supposed to make you lose 1-8 inches in one treatment by removing toxins from your body. I would never pay for this and I couldn't even tell a difference afterward, but it was free so why not?! After this, I went to find our stateroom. We had an inside cabin on deck 8. I hated our room. The pink metal molding around the ceiling rattled rather loudly. You could see where previous people had stuffed cardboard and toilet paper to try to stop the rattling, so we decided to try this. It worked for about 30 minutes, then the rattling would start again. This was especially annoying at night when I was trying to sleep. Also at night, my husband I would both wake up to what sounded like a wind tunnel outside in the hallway. We never did figure out where this came from, but it was noticeably loud. Another problem was the temperature of the room. We had our thermostat set as low as it would possibly go, and still I would wake up literally sweating at night. This was not just our room though, because the others in our group had the same problem. Okay, back to the first day... I then found some of our group and we went to the front of deck 7 to find one of our favorite spots... the decks out here are EMPTY! It is a great getaway spot, especially with a ship FULL of spring-breakers. Anyway, we watched the ship sail out of Miami from here and saw some dolphins as we were leaving. We had early seating for dinner, but had a problem with 2 people from our group not being seated at our table. I was the last to book our cruise and confirmed our dinner arrangement prior to sailing and everything at that point was correct, but once we had our Sign & Sail cards, it was wrong. So the first night we didn't get to all sit together, but it was corrected by the second night.
Dining room service - This part of the cruise is definitely not what it could be. On our previous 2 Carnival cruises we have been satisfied with our service but this is lacking on the Glory! It took 3 days of us asking for iced tea before they finally just brought it to us. Those first 3 days, we would have to ask several times, and by the time they brought it we were half way done with our food. And getting a refill took forever after the glass was empty. The tea drinkers in our group are also Splenda users and there would only be a few packs on the table, so then we would have to wait forever for them to bring that out as well. I will say that on about the 4th night, they finally got it and we were automatically given tea and they began putting more Spenda on the table. There were nights when things we ordered were never brought out... an appetizer forgotten, an espresso never served. There were also several times when everyone in the group would be served their appetizer or main course except one person. That last person would be served their food after everyone else had finished. We had several people in our group complain about food being cold, including myself. I ordered a steak 2 times, both times asked for medium rare and both times got a steak that barely even pink in the center. They were borderline medium well to well done. My husband and I prefer to do breakfast in the dining room and experienced poor service there as well. One day we waited 15 minutes after we were seated to receive any service at all. I had to ask twice for them to bring danishes and twice for them to bring me tea. Other than the poor service, we thought the food was great. One night the maitre-d came to our table after dessert and everyone was raving about the bitter and blanc so for the next 2 nights, they made that dessert especially for us and brought it out promptly after our main courses, so that was nice.
Entertainment - This was where I was really irritated by Carnival. Almost all of the entertainment on the ship was a HUGE disappointment. The shows at night that are supposed to be family oriented... they are NOT! Every show seemed to be about the dancers in outfits that didn't cover anything... in thongs.. doing sexually explicit moves. I could not believe these were supposed to be "rated pg" as they put when these girls are wearing thongs in almost every number and both the males and females are doing some sort of "dance move" that is a sexual innuendo. Totally inappropriate. We walked out of the 3 shows we attempted to see. If we had kids I would have been furious. My grandparents went to one of the family comedy shows and said it was pretty good, so the next night we decided to give it a try. It was a different comedian than before and he was NOT a family comedian. We walked out of that, too.
Our first sea day - NO chairs available on the decks outside! It was packed so we had nowhere to go. Even when we split up, there just wasn't anything open. In all 3 Carnival cruises I have been on, I have felt that there was nothing really going on the first sea day, then they try to pack in everything on the last sea day. We did find the karaoke very entertaining and probably the highlight for us. The host (Chris, I believe?) was great and we spent several days/night enjoying this. It was all we could find to do! Until the drunken spring breakers showed up later in the night and then it was just slurred shouting into the microphone and became our time to leave. If you like live music and are not a smoker, then good luck! There was a live band in an all smoking area, and a sing along pianist in an all smoking bar, and the night club is smoking. The Camel Club is basically a walkway by the smoke filled casino. I have NEVER been on a ship with sooo many designated smoking areas.
Cozumel - My husband and I went out on our own here and did a 2 tank dive. It was fabulous! We booked outside of the cruise line (we have never booked an excursion through any cruise line and have never had a problem). We have dove here once before with just an okay experience. This time, it was WONDERFUL! We used Pancho's Diving Adventures and could not have asked for a better day. The dive master was great. He checked out all the equipment, went over hand signals and the safety stops. It was one girl's first open water dive so he stayed with her. Everything went great! The coral and the reef has grown back sooo much since we were last there 4 years ago. We were amazed. We saw tons of marine life. We saw a turtle and a puffer fish... others in our group saw a shark, but I missed it. Between dives we were given fruit and water. A great day! We definitely recommend using Pancho's. One couple we dove with said they have been using them for several years and always had good experiences. They have a website if you Google it!
Belize - Just us 5 women today! We booked the snorkel, Bannister Island, manatee watch tour through Coral Breeze via Hammerhead Sports. This was a GREAT day, as well. We loved it! The snorkeling was a little crowded for my tastes. I like to go out on my own and see what I can find, but they break you into groups and you have to stay with the guide you are assigned. They also require you to wear a life jacket around your waste. At first I didn't like that either, but I understand because they are so protective of their reef and don't want to risk the damage. A lot of the snorkeling is very shallow as well, so I get it. The coral here is AMAZING! So many different types and colors. I was definitely more impressed with the coral than the fish we saw. Then we headed to Bannister Island. This is truly paradise! It wasn't overly crowded, so it was nice. We got some food (mediocre, but who complain when you look around!) and floated on the complimentary mats. They also had complimentary kayaks, but we didn't have time. Plenty of shade if you would like, and hammocks right on the water. I could have spent the whole day here! Next, we headed back to search for manatees, which we found. This was a great part of the trip. They let us get out on the very front of the boat and sit. We saw a momma and baby manatee several times, as well as a dolphin. They drove around for about 30 minutes with us sitting on the front of the boat and it is BEAUTIFUL! We were stunned to see a fish pop up out of the water and "standing" upright he literally ran across the top of the water. I had never seen these before, but they apparently get scared by the boats and they do that. Pretty neat. These tour guides were great. It is so evident that they are truly passionate about their country. They sat with us outside the boat and pointed out different wild life and told us about the history of Belize and answered any questions we had. It was a great day.
Roatan - My third time here and my favorite port! Was disappointed by Mahogany Bay. Carnival has totally taken away from the authenticity of the country by building this! I hate it. We booked a van and driver through Victor Bodden and had a great day. We were told that when Mahogany Bay was being built, there were promises being made that the locals would be able to take advantage of it and sell things within but once it was built, anything not owned by Carnival was not allowed within the gates! So if you book a tour outside of Carnival, you have to walk out of Mahogany Bay, up a hill, out of it's gates and then you can meet your tour. But when returning, they do allow outside tours to drop people off inside the gates. Makes no sense! Anyway, this is always a great day!! Love seeing the island and the beautiful views. We had brought things on the ship to deliver to a clinic here, Clinica Esperanza.. we had 10 backpacks full of supplies, as they rely heavily on donations and volunteers to help the people here. After that, we went and saw the monkeys. I love this part, but it was WAY more crowded and built up than it was just 2 years ago. Its great for business, but not as enjoyable for us. It was still by far worth the 5.00 it costs. Where else do you get to hold monkeys?! I love this stop! Following this, we went to a beach and snorkeled. Another great day! Our driver was Big Ald... he was really good and would recommend him, too!
Grand Cayman - My least favorite port of all! I'd just assume stay on the ship, which most people in our group did, but it was our last stop and the last beach/snorkeling opportunity, so off we went. The water was pretty rough, so we didn't tender into Georgetown, instead we were on the other side at Spots Bay. There is absolutely nothing there, but Carnival did announce that you could take a taxi over to Georgetown for "only 5.00". What they don't mention is just outside the gate there is a bus stop that will also take you there for 1.50! We didn't have any interest in going into town, so we headed up the east side on a bus to see if we could find a more secluded spot. The bus driver was great and pointed out different scenic spots and beaches. He drove us about 30 minutes to a public beach where no one was a dropped us off for 2.50 a person. For just lying on the beach, this was the perfect spot. However, if you wanted to get in the water, it was very, very rocky. I did get in and snorkel a little... saw some lobster and a barracuda. As soon as we got out though, my stepfather's foot was numb and he was in pain. I think he stepped on a sea urchin somewhere, so that was the end of that! We didn't want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere if he were to start having some weird reaction, so we headed back. We were there a couple of hours and it was a good day until that point! Next time I probably will just stay on the ship! If you do get off the ship and need transportation, I would definitely recommend looking into the public buses. We had no problem with that, and the locals were really friendly.
Last Sea Day - I spent a lot of this day laying out on the deck and reading. It was pretty windy out, so a lot of people stayed in. I guess this is why I was able to find an empty chair. At 3pm I made my way down to the formalities to donate my 10.00 to the Groove for St. Jude. They said 100% goes to St. Jude. Then I watched karaoke until 4pm. We then decided to go back to the room to get ready for dinner because at 5pm on the last sea day, they have a farewell "party" which is not announced in the Fun Times. Remember this, because this was not crowded at all and it was free drinks! I know if all those spring breakers had known about it, we wouldn't have been able to get in! Also, you don't have to take the drinks they are serving on the trays! You can order what you want! We had pina coladas, mudslides, long island teas. You name it! Anything you want! After this was dinner, then back to pack. We then went to watch Superstar! Live, which is karaoke with a live band. We only found this on the last night, and wish I had known sooner, because it was pretty good. This ended at 9:30 and the legends show didn't start until 10:30, with nothing to do in between. So we went to bed.
Other things of note -
-The big screen on the top of the ship mostly shows concerts. There were hardly ever movies playing! If you were lucky, they would show 1 movie a day. Some days they showed none, and the last day they showed 2.
-Fish & Chips is the least crowded seating area. If you get food at Red Sail, carry you food upstairs and sit here. It stays pretty empty, but gets more and more crowded as the week goes on.
-Be sure to visit the decks at the front of the ship on decks 6 and 7. If you walk down the the stateroom hallways to the very front, there are doors on the right and left. They are unmarked and you have to go through 2 doors, but it is worth it. They felt like secret decks... no one else out there except us! It was great for watching the ship leave the different ports!
-Go to the front of the Serenity deck at night. It was completely empty and we found at the very front on deck 11 the round couches they have. It was very nice to lay up there and enjoy the view of the sky and all the stars.
-At night there are no snacks! Just ice cream and pizza... which they keep them separate on opposite ends on deck 9. They close all the ice cream stations at night except one.
-On days we were in port, at night we could not find anything to do... except karaoke! The entertainment on the ship was extremely lacking in my opinion. I have been on Royal Caribbean as well, and that's who we will be going with in the future. Its worth it to pay more for what you get with them!
Sorry I made this so lengthy, but I had a lot to say! Hope this helps you in deciding on your next cruise. I will say that if you go into this cruise with the mindset that you will get good food, visit some great ports, and that's it, then you won't be disappointed. No matter how many things are "wrong" on a cruise, how much can you really complain when you think about it?! We have fun no matter what, and the point is for our family to get together. We had people from Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, and Tennessee. When you visit these 3rd world countries and see how they live, you realize how blessed you are to even be cruising, so I do feel bad complaining about a cruise when you put it into perspective. God has blessed us, so we are very thankful for our trips... the reason we wanted to give back to the clinic in Roatan. If you are interested in doing the same, I would be happy to give you more information! My uncle teaches public health at our local university and has a partnership with the clinic for students to do summer internships. This is how we were able to make our connection.
Thanks for reading and God Bless! :)