Minnesota family of four cruising the first time with Carnival. Hubby and I have sailed previously with Royal Caribbean once and Princess twice. Our party included me (37), husband (45), and our two girls (5 & 2). We chose this line because the Carnival Camp kids program grouped kids from 2-5 and it would let our girls stay together. Plus, Carnival will actually change kid's diapers!
We flew in the night before and rented a mini-van from Budget to get to Cape Canaveral. We didn't bring our own car seats but were able to rent a couple from Budget ($13/each). Much nicer than lugging your own! They don't put them in the car for you so you need to make sure to ask where to find them and then be prepared to put them in yourself. Trip to Cape Canaveral was uneventful and we stayed at the Country Inn & Suites right near Port Canaveral. They upgraded us from a standard to a one bedroom suite! The room was nice, clean, and quiet. For dinner we went to The Pig and Whistle which is an English pub style bar and restaurant that had that comfortable and well-used look. I had the fish and chips and hubby had the hand-dipped deep fried shrimp. Both were very good!
The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel, which had the usual suspects of scrambled eggs, sausage links, potatoes, waffles, cereal, yogurt, bagels, muffins and toast. It was a very decent breakfast.
We drove our rental car to Budget and turned the car in. A shuttle was waiting for us when we arrived and within 10 minutes we were on our way to the port. We arrived at the port around 10:40am, embarkation took about 30 minutes and was fairly painless although not sure what was up with the two security photos back to back? We took our carryon bags and hung out at the Waves pool under an umbrella and relaxed while waiting for our cabin to open at 1:30pm. We dropped off our bags in the room, met our room steward, then went off to explore the ship until the muster drill. Their Long Island Iced Tea's were pretty strong, so after a couple of those I was ready to nap with the kids back in the room.
Online we had been wait-listed for Your Time Dining but at embarkation, we were assigned the 6pm dining time. Hubby went to talk with the Maitre d' when he was available at 12:30 to request moving us to Your Time Dining. He was told that they would be able to let us know by 2pm the next day if they could accommodate us, so that evening we ate at the Gathering (buffet) with the kids. We were notified the next day that we had been changed to Your Time Dining - Yay!
We decided to forego leaving the ship during port days, so our days roughly followed this schedule -
7 - 8am Wake up and get ready
8 - 9am Eat breakfast in The Gathering
9 - 10am Take kids to Camp Carnival
10 - 11:45am Workout at the gym, shop the onboard stores, walk around, relax
11:45am - 1pm Pickup the kids from Camp Carnival. Spent time with them swimming, playing mini-golf, walk around, etc.
1 - 3pm Drop the kids off at Camp Carnival. Walked around, relaxed, etc
3 - 4pm Pick the kids up and have a light lunch
4 - 7pm Kids take a nap, usually the adults did too (or hung out on the balcony reading, listening to music, watching the waves)
7 - 8pm Get the kids up and get ready for dinner
8 - 10pm Take the kids with us to the Crimson Dining Room. We had their meals come out with our adult appetizers and then hubby would take them to Camp Carnival before we got our entrees.
10pm - 12am Depending on the night, went to see a show, watch a band, visit the Casino
12 - 12:30am Pick the kids up and hit the hay
It was fairly painless and went fairly quickly. I like how you were handed a zone number that they called to board the ship, which prevented others from sneaking on earlier.
We were on the Verandah Deck (Deck 8) cabin 8349. I loved the location because it was a very short walk to the stairs and elevators which brought us directly to the entrance to The Gathering on Deck 10 and Camp Carnival on Deck 11. The balcony was narrow but good enough for our needs. We were high enough that the extended Promenade Deck 5 didn't hinder our view of the waves when sitting down. The room was neat and clean and was kept that way by the Room Steward every day.
The Gathering had decent food and had a fair number of choices. I did like the different food stations that offered pasta, burritos, Indian, Pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs, and paninis.
The soft serve ice cream machines were also very popular with the kids!
In the evening we dined in the Crimson Dining Room on Deck 4. For the most part I thought the food was very good as were the desserts. It is true that the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake was very good and I'm not a big fan of chocolate.
We usually ordered either Tanqueray and tonics or Long Island Iced Teas and both were quite good. I did think that the bartenders for the most part weren't a very friendly group. They were efficient but didn't seem to smile much. The bar wait staff were much friendlier, however.
It seemed that there weren't enough of a variety of activities to fill the days and nights compared to Royal Caribbean, but we went with what was there. The Cruise Director staff was good and I liked Butch the Cruise Director - he had a ton of energy.
Don't miss the Love Game Show!
It was a younger, slightly rowdier crowd than other cruise lines but it also created a fun atmosphere.
Because our flight didn't depart until 3:30pm, we were one of the last to get off the ship which was called around 9:40am. We had to leave our cabin by 8:30 and made our way to the Encore theatre on Deck 3. The lines were a bit long to get off the ship and go through customs but it was waiting for the Budget shuttle that took the longest. There were two ships arriving that day so with all of the people being moved in both directions it could explain the delay, but it did seem lengthy. Something to consider if you're in a hurry to catch a flight.
Amy & Dave