I was traveling with a Future Cruise Credit of $100. That was applied to my booking months ago. According to Carnival's records, this is my 25th cruise, which means I get 25% of my purchase price as On Board Credit for this "milestone cruise." This is really my 38th Carnival cruise, but I couldn't produce evidence for all my cruises since I started cruising in 1989. How was I supposed to know to keep my receipts and booking numbers. Anyway, 25% OBC is welcome anytime. The problem is that this credit never appeared on my online Carnival account. It was supposed to appear a few days prior to sailing. I called 4 days before my sailing and I was informed that I should wait until two days because sometimes they don't apply it until then. On Friday, I called again and was informed that even though I can't see it on-line, the 25% Milestone OBC has been applied. I asked for a total and my future cruise credit of $100 was now gone. They told me to call back in 30 minutes. I called back and was informed that when the Milestone OBC was applied, the FCC was deleted. They added it again, so I have both OBC, Yeah! I just hoped it was really done since I didn't want to spend a single minute at Customer Service fixing this problem again.
Saturday The Flight
I had a 6:00 am flight directly from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest Airlines. I got up at 2:00 am to get ready. I got to the Airport a little after 4:00 am. Since I had a boarding pass, I quickly turned in my checked in luggage and flew through security. I was at the gate ready before 4:30 am. Flight was overbooked. They made an announcement that if anyone was willing to give up their seat, they would be compensated in the form of a voucher worth $300 plus the cost of the flight and would be getting to Ft. Lauderdale today through different flights. A $502 voucher was too tempting to pass up, so I took their offer and flew to PHL, then FLL and got to Ft. Lauderdale 5½ hours later planned. I got airfare for next cruise.
I had reserved a car from Alamo. I picked it up at FLL airport. No compact car, so I took a midsize at no additional charge. I stated at Extended Stay Deluxe Suites in Pompano Beach. This is definitely a two star hotel. It was clean, but not perfectly clean. What appeared as cracks on the bathtub tiles were actually long hairs. The bath tub and rest of the bathroom looked very clean. The bead spread did have a burn, but I inspected the bed and mattress (am terrified of the idea of bed bugs) and it had fresh clean linens and no signs of bed bugs on the mattress. Room did have a little strange odor, but nothing that opening the windows couldn't fix. I would stay here again.
Sunday - Boarding
I drove to MIA and returned my Alamo car there around 9:30 am. It was about a 40 minute (not sure of time) wait for the Alamo Shuttle. It was a quick ride to the Port of Miami, first dropping passengers for NCL, then Carnival Glory, then finally Carnival Valor. I handed my check-in luggage to a porter with a tip and walked right through the line, checked in and on board all within 10 minutes. Of course, I had VIP check-in because I'm Platinum with Carnival. I was one of the first to board before noon. I was the first one to order a scrumptious sandwich from the Deli (Turkey on Country Roll). Got delicious lemonade and a bed of fried with hot sauce from the Burrito Bar.
Your Time Dining. I was my first time doing it on a Carnival Ship. I did it on Holland America and loved it. I got to the dining room at about 8:30 pm. I was not seated until 8:55 pm. It was only a 25 minute wait, but it seemed like a long time because I was used to Holland America, which sat me right away or no more than 5 minutes. Elena, the hostess, was very pleasant when I went to the dining room. She had me escorted to my table and later went on to check on me. My waiter, on the other hand, seemed to be tired out. He wasn't terrible, but he seemed to have a " what do you want" attitude. He brought everything I ordered. It took a little while to get my food. I was out of the dining room by 9:45 PM with not dessert (my choice).
I wasn't very happy with the Your Time Dining, so next day in the afternoon I went to the purser's desk and asked if it was possible to change my dining to Traditional Late Dining. They said they would check and let me know. I was informed that my request for a change had been honored. The second evening, I went to Late Dining in the Washington Dining Room Table #557. My waited was very happy (apparently) to receive me. I had great tablemates and excellent service. Service was so good, that an additional cash tip was earned by the wait staff. It was much better arriving to dinner and sitting down right away with iced water, coffee and French bread. By the way, the French bread was soft and delicious. It was much better than the dinner rolls. I was so happy with this change. I have to say, it 38th Carnival Cruises, this was among the best service I received in the dining room. If the wait staff was tired, the sure hid it very well. It seemed it was truly a pleasure to serve me and my tablemates. My waiter's name is Antonio from the Philippines. I skipped dessert every night and usually left the dinner table by 9:05 PM every day. I didn't care to overeat nor watch the waiters perform. After so many cruises, the waiters performing is no longer entertaining for me. But I'm glad they still put on a show because my tablemates enjoyed the waiters performing.
Food was absolutely delicious. No, it wasn't 100% perfect, but it was great. I'm easy to please, so I would say it was excellent. The coffee was a little to bitter, but it was okay. Some nights the coffee was better than others. I can't comment on dessert because I skipped it every single night.
Lido Food was great. I got a Sandwich from the Deli 5 out of the 7 lunches. I then added potatoes and other fruits to complete my meal. The Caesar Salad with Garlic Bread from the Pizza Place was absolutely delicious. I only got it one time. The Garlic is strong, so I didn't want overdo it on eating it several times. Even though I only had one burrito, I visited to burrito bar everyday for some delicious spicy salsa to add to whatever I was eating. I have to say, the hot chocolate was more watered down than on other cruises. I tried it a two different times using different machines. I didn't even try the coffee from the Lido deck because on my two previous cruises, I had found the Lido Deck Coffee not suitable for my taste. Perhaps it's even better than before, but not for me. Keep in mind, I don't like strong coffees like Starbucks; so you might enjoy it.
Ice Cream. They had delicious Frozen Yogurt 24 hours. I must have had at least two cones per day. The Frozen Yogurt tastes just like Ice Cream.
Serentiy. I loved the Serenity Decks. The Cabanas were very comfortable. The best thing there were the hammocks. Fortunately for me, I don't like the sun and I visited in the afternoon. During the day, that place was packed. Even the whirlpools in the Serenity place were overstuffed with people during the day. Once evening rolled in, there were plenty of lounge chairs, cabana's and even hammocks available. I enjoyed the hammocks quite a bit. I have to say I must have spent a total of at least 7 hours on the hammocks. I have to add one more thing about the Serenity whirlpools. I loved the view from the whirlpools, but the water was way too cold for a "hot" tub. It was more like a "luke warm" tub. I don't know if it's the location with the wind, or they simply have it on way too low.
The Spa. I didn't use any of the services. I did use the men's steam room and sauna. The steam room could have been better. It was not working two days and other days, it wasn't hot or steamy enough. The sauna was very hot and relaxing. I did not use the gym because I was on a walking mission to walk at least 15,000 steps per day. Mission was accomplished, especially on port days.
Shows. No review here since I did not attend any shows except for one small magic show in a small lounge. It was amazing, but then again, most magic shows leave me with that impression.
Clubs. I love going to the dance place. It was a good crowd most of the time. Music was good, but repetitive from other evenings. I wouldn't expect anything different, I'm just mentioning for those who require new stuff all the time. Latin Dance music by the Casino was awesome. Also, at the American Atrium, this gut played his guitar and sound machine to bring great music.
Activities. I participated in a few activities. Among them was the mini-golf tournament. I won a second place medal (only two of us showed up because it was a port day). I enjoyed the trivia, even though I was always got a low score, but it was fun to participate and learn. I enjoyed twisted scattegories. There were plenty of other activities including 3 dance classes (Disco, Micheal Jackson & Country). I only participated in two of those and they were okay.
Cabin. I had cabin #2211. It was very clean, but not spotless. I checked for bed bugs, no sign. The Cabin Steward did a fantastic job cleaning it and respecting my wishes. I requested service only once a day in the evening. This eliminated the making of the bed only to unmake it myself during the afternoon naps and I wasn't worry about a knock on the door during the day when I was napping for servicing cabin. Due to being solo traveler and great service, I gave and extra tip to make up for lost revenue from single traveler for the cabin steward. Service was great, or I wouldn't have tipped extra. This cabin is a category 1A, but has two porthole windows, a single bed and a convertible sofa. It was plenty a room for a single traveler or even two people.
Laundry. I got free Laundry because of platinum and took advantage of it once. If I didn't have platinum, the costs would have been just $15 for the bag I filled up.
Casino. They now have Black Jack and 21 on electronic tables like they do for PokerPro. I lost $40 on one electronic table (minimum is $3 versus minimum $5 of human table). I then played Texas Hold'em on the PokerPro. You can use your sail and sign card on both of these machines with no surcharge. Minimum buy in for Black Jack is $20 and for Texas Hold'em is $50. A guy next to me went all in and I called his bet. He had two pairs and I had three of a kind, so I won. I then won another hand and was up to $150. After losing $20 more, I decided to walk away with an $80 winning from Texas Hold'em. The casino was great. Though I only did the electronic betting, the staff was nice and bar tenders were plentiful and attentive.
Drinks. They are pricey. I thought this was the cruise to get drunk since I had so much OBC. But liquor simply did not seem appealing. I only had three alcoholic beverages the entire cruise. Sprite was $2.24 with tip and Virgin Pina Colada's were $5.41 with tip. A tequila shot was like $7+ with tip. A Blue Mararita was over $8 with tip. I decided not to bring my own wine on board since I couldn't easily find my favorite "cheap" wine: Arbor Mist.
Safe Deposit Box. It is the type that you lock with a magnetic strip. They say not to use your Sail & Sign Card, so I used a Dunkin Donuts gift card to lock it up. I usually hid the Dunkin Donuts gift card in the room along with my 13 other gift cards and credit cards that were hidden all over the room. Nothing was ever missing.
Deck 3. Deck 3 has a nice quite area outside on both sides. You will see one of these sides when you board since that is the boarding deck in Miami. There were hardly used by passengers. I used to lay out here because there were plenty lounge chairs and plenty of shade. I also did a lot of walking on this outdoor deck to help me reach my walking goal. I looked a little crazy walking because I had my MP3 with headphones and was walking (almost dancing) to the beat. But who cares, I was on vacation and I was enjoying every minute of my walk with the nice wooden deck, ocean breeze and scenic view along with my music.
Deck 10 Forward. Another great hidden secret is Deck 10 Forward. No, it's not really a secret, but hardly anybody goes there, so it was a great big balcony for myself, especially in the evening and night. It also got nice and windy.
Movement. Out of all my cruises, I have say that as best as I can recall, this was the smoothest cruise I've ever been on. Only one night of a little, and I do mean little, roughness. I really like to see the ship rock, but it didn't rock much this time.
Grand Cayman. Not much to say. I got up very late and didn't get off the ship at this port. It was a tender port and noon wasn't the best time to get ready and get off. I will mention that a nice walk from where the tenders dock to the left is a nice quiet beach area with hardly anyone there. There are some rocks getting in the water, but to lay on the sand, it's a great beach. I've been to this port many times before.
Isla Roatan. I got off and went to Mahogany Beach close to the ship. It's a nice beach, but crowded with ship passengers. I was going to get a lounge chair and a drink, but the hot sun was too much for me, so I went back to the ship right away. I decided the ship was more relaxing then the crowded beach with the hot sun if I was in the water. The chair lift charges $12 per adult and $7 per child for unlimited use to take you to and from Mahogany Beach. It is close by and a short walking path will get you to the beach for free. Since I was on my walking mission, I skipped the chair lift, which looked kind of like fun.
Belize. I went for a walk into town. It was a good experience to meet with the locals. There are many Koreans, Mexicans and Blacks in the city. The official language did seem to be English. A local guy from Belize told me some history about Belize. I expected to see poverty, but there was a lot of poverty in this city. I went walking into town without a tour. Many of the shops had the merchandise and owner locked up and you were served through a opening in the cages. I felt secure walking into town. Some may not find it very safe, but it depends on what happens. The shacks by the river were very poor. There was also too much garbage by the ocean. It seems nobody is responsible for keeping the area clean. There was also construction on many sites by the ocean. The US dollar gets you two dollars from Belize. It still appears to be British Currency even though Belize is now an independent country.
Cozumel. I went for a long walk into town. I didn't find all the spices I wanted, but I got some great grounded cinnamon and two Liters of Rompope. Scooters rentals are readily available for as low as $30 for the day. I was going to rent a scooter, but I didn't because I needed to walk. I was so regretting not getting a scooter, but later I was happy that I walked because I did over 34,000 steps that day. They have very nice beaches in the north part of the island, but I didn't visit any this time. Shopping and walking was all I did in Cozumel. Carnival did take away my liquor I purchased in town and told me I had to pick it up Sunday morning. They gave me a little sticker with information on it to claim my "liquor." It was Rompope and it had never been collected from me before until this cruise. Rompope is something like eggnog with very little alcohol content.
Debarkation - Painless and quick. I got up at 5:40 am. I had a 6:30 am wake-up call. Who needs a wake-up call when you are in a forward cabin on a lower deck. There was so much noise from the ship getting ready to arrive and dock that it was enough to wake me up. I stayed in bed until 6:20 trying to nap and checking my texts, e-mail and voicemails. At 6:30, I went up to Club O2 to pick-up the liquor I bought in Cozumel. The line was huge, but it went pretty fast. I had to get it so I could start packing as I had to pack it in my check-in luggage. I then went for breakfast and headed back to my cabin. I started packing and when I was almost done, I jumped into the shower. The I finished packing and walked off the ship at approximately 8:30 am.
Carnival Transfer. I decided to purchase a $30 carnival transfer to FLL since I had all this OBC to spend. I am so glad I did because I didn't have any arrangements with SAS or anyone else. It was nice to walk of the ship, pass through immigration and customs and go straight into an Air Conditioned bus directly to FLL Airport. I'm so glad I didn't rent a car for the return home because all I wanted to do is rest and stay cool because Miami was rather warm. It was a quick smooth ride to FLL, straight to check in with Continental and freedom to roam. I loved it that Continental took my luggage at 10:20 am even though my flight was not until 4:30 pm. Other airlines do not take check in luggage so early.