My husband and I (both mid 20s) received a cruise certificate for purchasing some cookware. It was for a free 4 night cruise, all we were responsible for was paying the taxes and port fees. After talking with our travel agent, we decided to pay the extra money to make the cruise 7 nights, and also to upgrade our cabin from interior to oceanview. Both were great decisions. The reason we didn't spring for a balcony room was simply because our travel agent assured us we weren't going to be spending a lot of time in our room other than sleeping, and didn't want to spend the extra $ for something we weren't going to utilize. We opted for the oceanview room because I tend to get motion sick if I can't see the movement (I know, it's all in my head), so the window afforded us that peace of mind, and it really wasn't too much more.
We live in the panhandle of Texas, and chose to drive to Galveston rather than fly. We broke our journey into two days, leaving Saturday to stay in Georgetown and driving the rest of the way to Galveston on Sunday morning. We arrived in Galveston around 11 a.m. so we had a little bit of time to grab some last minute things at the CVS (read: we forgot the camera, so we had to buy a bunch of disposables).
Embarkation was a breeze. We got to the port around noon; my husband dropped me off with the luggage and went to park the car. We decided to park at the official cruise terminal parking because it was only $70 and they had security patrolling the area to ensure no funny business was going on. There was another parking lot that was cheaper if you prepaid online, but we didn't think ahead enough to do that.
We stood in the security line for about an hour, but once we got our sail & sign cards we got right on the ship and ate lunch at the Lido deck grill. I think I had a hot dog and some Nachos, which were ok for those kinds of food. They let us into our rooms at 1:30, so we went to check that out and freshen up before heading out to explore the ship. Our luggage hadn't been delivered yet, so we just did a quick sweep of the room, and took off to get the lay of the ship. We ended up taking the intro tour, which was helpful but in the end we discovered more by just walking around ourselves. We went up to the 12th deck at 4:00 to watch as we sailed out of Galveston. We even had dolphins come out to wish us farewell. We decided that was good luck for a great vacation. And it really was.
The food was good. I will say, everyone I talked to about cruising, said the food was amazing and I would just eat all the time. In reality the food was what I would eat any day at home, and I stuck to a pretty normal eating schedule. Add to that, the fact that I refused to take the elevator, and you pretty much never sit down on a cruise ship, I actually lost about 6 lbs the week we were gone (Bonus!).
We had late seating for dinner and we were in the Monet dining room toward the butt of the ship. We had really great table mates, and we ended up doing a lot together outside of the dining room. Our wait staff was amazing, especially our head waiter, Charlie Brown. He was so funny, and he took really good care of all of us. The only down side to the dining room was the fact that our table was all the way in the back of the ship, and on the second and third nights we had some turbulent water. It made for a very queasy dining experience.
We had lunch on the Lido every day. We didn't do the buffet, but we enjoyed all the little specialty restaurants like Paul's Deli, Fish n' Chips, and the Mongolian Grill. We also enjoyed the 24 hour frozen yogurt machine, especially when they had strawberry and chocolate in the machine, yum! The deli had the best Rueben, and I think I had it at least 4 times. I'm not a fish person, but the husband is, so he really enjoyed the Fish N' Chips restaurant. We did try the 24 hour Pizza place, but the pizza just wasn't very good so we opted for the other choices available at meal time.
The room was great, even though I had different expectation being a first time cruiser. The toilet really scared me the first couple of times I used it because of the sound it makes when you flush, but you get used to it after the first day. Our room attendant was very quiet, and usually came and went while we were out and about, so we hardly ever saw him. But he did a great job keeping our room cleaned and always stocked with fresh towels.
Ports of call were absolutely gorgeous, and they just got better each day. We stopped in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Wednesday and did the Catamaran Sail & Snorkel. We booked it last minute, but it was worth it. We snorkeled in the Montego Bay Marine Park, so there was plenty of wildlife and coral. Part of the tour was a stop at Margaritaville, which was so fun; it also became a theme on our journey. The water slide was a blast, even though the husband lost his second pair of sunglasses on it. I wish we had more time to explore the actual port, but after our Catamaran cruise, we just stuck around the terminal and did some duty free shopping.
On Thursday, we docked in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Tendering was fun, and afforded a wonderful opportunity for me to show my grace and poise (read: I slipped and fell flat on my face). The water in Cayman was absolutely breathtaking, just the perfect shade of Caribbean blue and crystal clear. We did the Pirate Encounter. I was skeptical at first, but went along because this was the excursion the hubby picked. It ended up being fun. We sailed around the island, staged a pirate attack on the cruise ship, and got to snorkel off the ship. The only way to get into the water was to walk the plank or jump from the top of the ship. Being the thrill seeker I am, I opted for the higher jump. After the excursion we bumped it downtown, hit up Margaritaville, did some shopping, and got back on the boat. Again, we wished we had more time to actually explore the island, and if we go again, we probably won't do a Carnival excursion.
On Friday, we made it to Cozumel, which easily has become my favorite port in the Caribbean. I thought the water in Cayman was pretty, but Cozumel's turquoise waters were dazzling. I couldn't stop staring. Our excursion wasn't until later in the day, so we grabbed a taxi and went downtown to do some shopping and visit Margaritaville. This ended up being a really good decision. I feel like we actually got a feel for the island and actually got to explore a bit. The Margaritaville in Cozumel offered free snorkeling, so we spent the whole afternoon there. We saw a baby barracuda, and also watched some other people snuba, which looked fun and is definitely on our list to do now. We made it back to the terminal in time for some fun pictures in front of Fat Tuesdays, and then went on our excursion: Parasailing! By far, this was the best excursion we did. I was a little nervous at first, but it was really peaceful, just floating above the crystal clear waters. So great!
The weather in February in the Caribbean is sublime. We had low 80s the whole week. It was sunny every day, and we didn't see a single smidge of bad weather until we made it back to Galveston on Sunday morning. We had to weigh anchor about an hour outside the port due to heavy fog. When it was all said and done, we didn't get back out to our car until 2:30, well after the expected 8:00 am debarkation time. But we weren't complaining, we just got to spend more time on the ship.
All in all, this was the best vacation we have ever had and we are already looking forward to our next two cruises this year. We are going to Alaska in September on the Golden Princess, and we are doing the southern Caribbean on the Carnival Victory in November. It's going to be a great year for us.