My parents flew to Fort Lauderdale a few days before the sailing to visit with friends who had retired to the southern Florida area. Mr. Cruise Cat and I flew in the day before sailing. We all stayed at the Courtyard in the Weston area. It was nice and was located in a shopping area with plenty of restaurants.
Embarkation was fairly quick with the dedicated Platinum receiving area. It did appear the rest of the lines were also moving pretty quickly.
I had sent an email request for a table for four at the Supper Club (Nick and Nora's) at 6:00 for each night of the cruise. These reservations were confirmed prior to sailing, and we were all set.
Mr. Cruise Cat and I set a rather expensive precedent for cruising several years ago... We were on a sailing with over 1,000 children, and we couldn't seem to work out an acceptable table arrangement in the Dining Room. We opted to eat every dinner in the Supper Club. It was a wonderful experience and something we keep repeating. Anyway, we continued the tradition for this cruise as well. As always, each meal was perfect and the staff was wonderful. They also rotated our table assignment so that we had a different view each night. That was very nice!
The Sommelier at the Supper Club is worth mentioning... She was extremely knowledgeable and very personable. I tried some different sparkling wines and enjoyed them all.
The rest of the cruise we ate at the Lido Deck Buffet or from the Grill or Sandwich lines. As far as cruise food goes, all this was fine.
Our Cabin Steward did a fine job, and we hardly knew he was there.
We didn't go ashore at St. Maartens, as we have been there before. We did go ashore in St. Lucia and St. Kitts. St. Lucia is very beautiful, but it still developing. St. Kitts is more developed and has shops built very close to the pier.
The first two days at sea were pretty windy, and trying to lay out under the sun on the first day wasn't very easy. The last two days at sea were very nice! Overall, the weather was awesome and we were able to get plenty of sun.
We spent some time and money gambling in the casino. The tables weren't too crowded and we did okay. My parents attended some of the shows, and thought they were 'okay'.
We did notice that Carnival did not provide us with surveys at the end of the cruise. I was relieved, because I don't see the point of provided surveys to the passengers, and then having the Cruise Director tell everyone to give as high of marks as possible. If the cruise line is looking to make improvements, stifling constructive criticism isn't going to further that.
We learned about Luggage Express on one of our earlier cruises. It was so easy that we decided to do it again. We were provided with luggage tags and boarding passes the night before disembarkation. We put our suitcases in the hall that evening, and didn't have to hassle with them again until we collected them at baggage claim when we reached our home airport. This service is WELL worth the $20 fee.
As I go on more and more cruises, it gets harder to write reviews. Overall, we enjoyed this cruise as much as any other. We knew what to expect most of the time, so we were neither disappointed nor pleasantly surprised. We had the same old wonderful time we do on nearly all of our cruises! =)