This is our 17th cruise, however, first and likely the last with Carnival. We were "warned" that this is the Wal-Mart of cruises and I have to grudgingly agree with the hearsay.
Day 1: Flew in from Vancouver BC, Canada, to Orlando, took the Meares shuttle from Orlando airport ($25 one way - 45 min.) to Port Canaveral to board the ship. Embarkation was smooth and we were having lunch on board by 12:30 p.m. First impression of the vessel was that it was beautiful, glamorous, glitzy, very Las Vegas and loved what we saw. Although the stateroom still needed tidying up when we entered the room, we felt it was on par with Princess and Royal Caribbean. We expected the cabin steward to pop in to introduce him(her)self but this did not happen.
As we familiarized ourselves with the ship, the "marketing" started. The teeth whitening service$, the spa service$, the $10 fitne$$ cla$$e$, the special dining @$25 per, the drink of the day special$, the photo special$, Diamonds International and the infamou$ Bingo, etc., etc.
Day 2: Arrived Key West -- took a conch train tour of the city ($22 if you buy in town) $29 if you buy the same trip on the ship. This was an enjoyable way of getting a guided tour of the city.
Day 3: Sea Day -- very limited activities unless you were a Bingo fanatic. This was another day of marketing. You will find that the cruise director is constantly at your throat to buy, buy, buy. It became very intrusive.
Day 4: Belize -- you were encouraged NOT to venture on your own as it could prove unsafe. We decided to walk around the kiosks and little shops that were set up near the pier. The vendors in the shops were somewhat firm with their prices but if you venture out to the kiosks, they were a little more lenient and were willing to barter with you. I managed to buy a couple of large colourful and beautiful towels for $8 US ea. There is a jade museum nearby the pier that looked interesting but we had no time to go to. This is the 2nd time I've ever snorkeled, so we needed something "tame" so upon recommendation, we bought a "Goff's Snorkeling" expedition. We had a guide take us out about 15 ft and saw beautiful coral and fish. We later learned that the Rendezvous Snorkeling excursion ($75) had no guide and was for more experienced snorkelers. It was a good day.
Day 4: Progresso -- this port has the longest pier in the world at 7 miles, and you are not allowed to walk it. Shuttles are provided. We went on the ChichenItza ruins excursion. It is 2 hrs each way to and back, the bagged lunch provided is gross, but the ruins are magnificent. To climb 91 steps to the top of the castle and be able to view the other ruins in the distance is quite breathtaking. Our guide spoke good English -- it was very informative. Just don't turn around and look down as you climb up. It was a challenge to come back down, though. A big thick rope is provided for your guidance to help you down. Very exhilarating once you reach the top. Again, you should barter with the vendors. Our friends paid $9 for some wooden mask carvings and learned later that he could have gotten the same thing for $1.
Day 5: Cozumel -- wow, it is totally built up with a million kiosks and Diamond Internationals. They tell you the max you should pay for a cab is $6. We are fitness buffs, so we walked from the pier into downtown (3 hours one way) There were 9 cruise ships in port that day so you can imagine the numbers. As we walked along the main street, we noticed there were a lot of snorkeling excursions for around $9. Very competitive. This is a fun place to buy trinkets and things.
Day 6: Sea Day -- we noticed the relentless pressure to consume ship's services, be it spa services, teeth whitening, Bingo, we became sick and tired hearing about it thru the PA system.
Carnival does not seem to do "theme" nights. There are no rock n roll nights, no disco nights, no Western nights. The dance venues are so-so, the major place to dance to techno-rap is in the White Heat Disco. The Ebony Lounge has a dance floor big enough to hold 8 couples and the Ivory Lounge has no ventilation so you will have to gag thru the thick cigar smoke.
We've been on 3500+ passenger cruise ships before so we can make a fair judgement that this ship is not user friendly. It's chopped up in many places. For example, if you are in the Platinum Dining room, you have to go thru the Spectrum Dining room in order to get to the Platinum.
Overall, we were impressed with the number of eating venues, there is the deli, the Oriental, the fish n chips, the grand buffet, nations of the day buffet, the pizzeria, the burgers n chips and the Emerald Room at $25 per. I also like the self-serve McDonald's style ice cream. We were NOT impressed that in order to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary, you have to PAY for a little cake to be brought to the table and be sung a birthday (or whatever) song. Other cruise lines don't charge for this service. You will find that you are constantly reminded to buy this and buy that. After awhile, you will find it extremely irritating. And we NEVER did know nor meet our cabin steward. He simply never showed his face. First for us in 17 cruises that we've taken.