Getting to the Cruise -
My DW, 2 DDs, and I were part of a group of 4 families with a total of 19 people traveling down from Cincinnati to Miami for the cruise. Three of the families drove down and 1 flew. The 3 families that flew stayed at the Ramada Inn because they were very reasonable, provided transportation to the port for free, and they would allow us to park there for free as well. The ride was long, but not too bad. The hotel was not great, but acceptable for the price.
Day 1 - Embarkation
We arrived at the port at about 10:30 AM and were on the boat before noon. The check-in process was much quicker than that, we just had to wait for the boat to be ready to allow passengers on board. We went on board and ate lunch at the buffet, hung out by the pool, and explored the ship a bit. By 2:00 PM or so, our rooms were ready, but I was in the casino getting a free demo of how the electronic blackjack and Texas holdem tables worked. More of that later.
When our bags arrived at the room, all the adults in my party, but me, had tried to smuggle on alcohol and all of them got busted and confiscated except for a bottle of vodka that my wife got through. They are really cracking down on that.
We got dressed that evening and went up for the 6:00 PM dinner seating. It was my youngest daughter's 11th birthday and they made a fuss over her and sang happy birthday. She loved that. We enjoyed a nice dinner and then had to figure out what to do that night. One of the couples and I all really enjoy karaoke, so we decided to go do some karaoke that night. The neat part about that was the Superstar Live that they had for an hour during the karaoke which allowed me to sing with a backup singer and a full band behind me. That was really cool. We karaoked for several hours and then all headed back to our rooms to bed.
We had an interior room on the Riviera deck. It was really dark and quiet that first night.
Day 2 - Day at Sea
We slept in late because of how quiet and dark our room was. We eventually headed upstairs around 10:00 AM to eat and find the rest of our party who already had some chairs up on the lido deck. We ate and joined them. We spent that day hanging out by the pool, watching the hairy check contest, working out a bit, eating, and primarily just relaxing. The kids enjoyed the pool, the hottub, and the slide. A couple of the kids went to Camp Carnival for tee shirt coloring and a scavenger hunt. Interestingly enough, that was the last time any of our kids did anything with Camp Carnival.
Dinner that night was formal night so we got dressed up and went to dinner. I have been cruising with Carnival for about 6 years now and it seems to me that they have become more lax on their dress codes for dinner. Most of the men didn't have jackets or ties that night. They primarily had on long sleeve button down shirts and dress pants. The non-formal nights were much more lax as well as many men those nights wore nice shorts and a golf shirt. I am fine with that, just suprised. I remember the last trip on the Splendor being told shorts nor jeans were allowed for men.
After dinner a few of us decided to go to the 80s show and it was very good. We didn't stay out late that night because we had to get up early for Grand Cayman in the morning, so we headed to bed around 11:00 AM.
The boat was rocking a bit and when we got to our room one of the walls made a creaking noise every time it rocked. We didn't sleep well at all that night.
Day 3 - Grand Cayman
We woke up early because we had a non Carnival excursion booked through Captain Marvin's. The Cayman were on a different time than us as we arrived at 7:00 AM our time, which was 6:00 AM island time. We were supposed to be at Captain Marvin's by 8:00 AM island time. We were afraid it may take a while to tendor, but we got on a boat very quickly and were on the island by 8:00 AM boat time. We walked around a little, took some pictures of the ship, and then went to Captain Marvins. We had a great excursion with them for a very reasonable price. We paid $35 per adult and slight less for the younger kids. We got a short bus ride to our boat and then took the boat out to Stingray City. This was my 3rd time there, and it was better than the last time. The water wasn't choppy and there were a lot more stingrays there than the last time. I had read it is best to go on the early boats and maybe that was the difference. The kids all really enjoyed swimming with and feeding the stingrays. We then went out to Coral Gardens to snorkel. Everyone really enjoyed that as well. We got back from our boatride at about noon and had Captain Marvin's drop us off at 7 Mile Beach. We hung out there, grabbed a bite to eat from a street vendor, and just enjoyed the crystal clear water. Unexpectanly for me, our Captain Marvins driver told us another driver would come back and pick us up and take us to the dock for free whenever we wanted. He came right on time at 3:30 and took us back to the port. We did tip him nicely. I highly recommend that company if you are looking for a Stingray City trip.
Back at the port we had to wait in a very long line to tendor back to the boat. However, it went rather quickly, but it was very hot when we were standing in line in the sun.
That night we ate another fabulous dinner. Everyone loved the melting cake as almost everyone got it each night. After dinner some of us headed up to the Lido deck to watch the movie that night on the big screen, Iron Man 2. After the movie a couple of us went to catch a comedy club act for an adults only show. It was pretty good. We had a few laughs, although the show only lasted 30 minutes. Myself and 2 other guys decided to go play some Texas Holdem on the electronic holdem game. It was a very frustrating night as I started off by winning a couple hands early, but after that I couldn't get any good cards. I ended up losing about $50 that night. One of my friends won $400 and another lost $100. I finally went to bed around 2:00 AM.
Again the movement of the boat caused a creaking sound in our wall. Another tough night of sleep despite taking Tylenol PM.
Day 4 - Isla Roatan
We slept in since we didn't arrive into Roatan until noon. We ate a late breakfast/brunch and got off the boat right around noon. We had booked a tour with Bodden Tours. All 19 of us went on the tour. We had to walk out of the port area and up a hill and then down again to meet them. It was hot, and I was sure my DW was going to start complaining, but no one really did and we met our tour guide and driver. They took us to a very nice bus and off we went. They took us up the west side of the island and it was just beautiful. We stopped for some scenic pictures and did a little shopping at some roadside stands. We got back in the bus and headed to the east side of the island where we stopped at Victor Bodden, the tour company owner's house, to go see his monkey farm. All of the kids and my DW were dying to get to play with the monkeys. For $5 each we got to spend a lot of time with these small monkeys. They climbed on us and played all over us for about 30 minutes or so. We then moved on to see a few of the other animal Victor had before we left. For many of the kids, and my wife, the monkey farm was the highlight of the whole trip. They then took us to the beach and we hung out there for several hours. It was an absolutely gorgeous beach. After hanging out at the beach, our driver took us right back to the cruise ship. It was a great day. I think this island may be my favorite island I have been to in the Carribbean. It isn't very commercialized and it is very mountainous. The people are extremely friendly. For our tour we paid $25 per person plus an extra $5 for the monkey farm. It was worth every penny. I highly recommend Bodden tours. They will take you wherever you want to go.
Back on the boat around 6:00 PM, we missed dinner, so we just ate at the buffet that night. After dinner we went to see a magic show. It was decent, but I have seen better. We just kinda hung out the rest of the night at took it easy. However, we called guest services to tell them about our creaking room. They had someone up within 5 minutes. She heard it and then called up a maintenance man who came within 5 minutes. He heard it felt the wall and said it was a problem inside the wall and he wouldn't be able to work on it that night. He said he would come back the next morning. However, when he did, we were anchored in Belize, and it wasn't making the noise. Eventually we got a letter giving us a 15% refund and 10% off of a future cruise. That was nice.
Day 5 - Belize
Another early morning and another port requiring tendoring. That is alway a pain. Because of the reef, the boat has to anchor 4 to 5 miles from land. So, the tendor ride is rather long. We were supposed to arrive at 8:00 AM. We needed to get off the boat early due to our excursion and I was told to go the the Eagles lounge at 8:30 to get a tendoring sticker and that my entire group had to be there. We got there at 8:15 AM and were already in a long line. We got tender number 8. It was well around 9:30 before we finally got on a boat and close to 10:00 before we were able to meet our excursion company. We had booked a zip line and cave tubing excursion through cavetubing.bz. We got on a nice bus for our entire group and road about an hour to the park. The tour guide we were given, David, was a wealth of knowledge about the country. He was very informative and engaging and made the ride go quickly. Once there we suited up and started to zipline on the 7 different lines. The longest one is about 700 feet and about 100 feet off the ground. None of us had ever done this before, and it was a lot of fun to fly through the rainforest. After zipling we got our tubing equipment and took the 30 minute hike to where we get in the tubes. We were running a bit short on time, so our guides really pushed us through the tubing to make sure we got back in time. Nonetheless it was a lot of fun. We stopped to pick up lunch provided by the tour company of beans and rice with chicken. It was very good and we ate it in transit back to the boat. We got to the port 15 minutes prior to our scheduled time. We got in line to be tendered back. Suprisingly, this didn't take nearly as long as the Caymans. It was another great day.
Back on the boat, we got ready for dinner and had another great meal. Our servers were very good at their job. The head waiter did a good job, but didn't really have an outgoing personality. The assistant waiter connected better with the kids. After dinner a couple of us went to the song and dance show with night club type of music. I really didn't enjoy it too much. Then my friends and I hit the casino again that night for more Texas Holdem. We all lost a lot that night. I lost around $100, my friend who had won $400 previously, lost $250 of it, and my other friend lost anoutner $150. We all vowed that we don't like the holdem machine and that we would never play on one again. I didn't win a single hand all night and barely played any hands to see the flop. It was very frustrating.
Day 6 - Cozumel
On this day we weren't in any hurry to get off the boat as we were just planning to hang out at a beach all day. We got off the boat around 10:30 after a nice breakfast and headed to Paradise Beach. It is free to get in, but then you pay $2 per chair and $12 per person if you want to do all of the water inflatables, kayaks, and snorkeling. It was an overcast yet nice day. The resort had a nice pool as well. Paradise Beach was nice, but the water was not clear. It was actually rather nasty. I really regretting getting the water pass for myself. I didn't really even want to go in the ocean. Nontheless, the kids had a good time. Our group ate and drank quite a bit and ran up a pretty nice tab. It was a good day again though. We had found a driver at the port who charged us $8 a person to take us to the resort and then he waited there for us until we were ready to leave and he took us back. We did a little shopping and got back on the boat.
That night was another formal night, so we got dressed up and had another nice dinner. After that, several of us went back to the karaoke bar and sang quite a bit. At 11:30 that night there was a big deck party and Mexican buffet. We all enjoyed that a lot. The food was very good.
Day 7 - Last Day at Sea
I always hate this last day. It is sad to starting thinking about heading back to the real world and you have to figure out packing all such. I woke up early while my family slept and headed out around 7:30 AM to get some good chairs for the day. When I got up on deck to other guys from our group were already there with a big section of chairs. We stayed out there with the chairs all day and never left them unattended. That day, other then working out a bit and to get food, none of the adults left the chairs. It was a relaxing day in the sun soaking up those last few rays before the dreaded drive back to Ohio the next day.
That evening we decided to skip dinner because they were showing the Final Four games on the big screen over the pool. So we all stayed in our chairs and watched the games on the Lido deck. That is my idea of heaven. It was a good way to end the cruise.
Day 8 - Going Home
We got up early to self assist to get on the road for the long drive. We were the first group off and were off the boat around 7:45 AM. We found cabs and paid about $50 to get back to our hotel where our cars were waiting. It was a long drive home, but we had a lot of fond memories from an absolutely fabulous cruise.
I didn't comment too much on the meals, but I enjoyed all the food I had. The formal meals were pretty much exactly what I remember from my other 3 cruises and of the same quality. I really enjoyed the breakfasts and the made to order omelettes each day. I also loved the lunchtimes, especially the burrito bar and the Mongolian wok. I never eat a ton straight off of the buffet for lunch or dinner.
I was very impressed with the boat and its staff. I had read several times how smokey it was. I think I only really smelled smoke once and that was in the sports bar, where you can probably expect that. I didn't smell it in the casino or any of the other bars. I did get a whiff of cigar smoke one night when walking by the cigar bar. The staff on board impressed me with how hard they work and how clean they keep the ship.
If I ever go in a big group again, I would want to take a whiteboard that sticks to my cabin door for people to write notes about where they are and what they are doing, or use sticky notes.
Thats about all. Another fabulous Carnival cruise. Can't wait to go again. We did put money down onboard for a future cruise, but it might be 2 year before that happens.