A few years ago my family and I went on our first cruise with Disney. We had a great time and paid a ton of money for the experience. We had such a good experience, I was nervous how this cruise would compare for half the cost. Would this measure up to my expectations and were my expectations so high that it was doomed from the start? I am happy to report, all went well. Not having to fly saved a ton of money and was so much easier with two kids. I thought it would be less "fancy" leaving from Baltimore, but all it was was much simpler, faster and cheaper. Once you got on the ship- it didn't matter. The whole process was quick and easy. We turned in the bags we did not want to wheel around and kept those we did not mind wheeling. The port authority was more concerned with how many bottles of wine I was bringing on board than sharp objects- but hey it is what it is. If they screen bottles of wine or anything that looks like alcohol bottles- they will check. Please save yourself the drama and don't try to sneak. The welcome fruity drink was yummy and strong and expensive. Please be ready to pay and pay and pay. You will be whipping out your sail and sign card for everything. If this does not concern you- then you are in good shape. The drinks they make are yummy.
We had to wait about an hour for our cabin to be ready. The cabins are standard issue. Small, especially the bathroom. Ours had a funky smell, but I was the only one who smelled it so maybe it didn't. When I mentioned it to our steward, he got a little offended, so maybe I imagined it. Our bags arrived by 8 pm that night- no biggie- this is as expected.
The food on the ship is really good. There are lots of reviews around this topic. Some good some not. I am not picky so I enjoyed it. Here are some items I did not care for: bacon- too greasy and not crispy. Pancakes- frozen, so they get crunchy by 9AM breakfast. Beef stragonoff- chewy. Award winning fish dish- blah- not so much. Sauce is spicy and the rest is bland.
That's it- the rest was really good. There were times when the food was just barely hot, but it did not take away from the flavor. Most of the time it was hot enough to enjoy without blowing and waiting. The "entertainment" during dinner is pretty funny and the kids especially loved it.
The at sea activities are what you would expect. Raffles, bingo, contests and the such. We passed on them so I can't realy say if they were fun. We walked around, spent a lot of time on the Lido deck relaxing or trying to figure out the fastest routes to where we needed to go next. The pools tend to get very crowded and the lounge chair hogs start early. Don't be shy about chair sharing if you don't see someone in the chair for more than 30 minutes.
The night entertainment is good. The vegas style shows are cheesy and awesome all at the same time. The comedy is really good and the kareoke is what you would expect.
The ports are great. Grand Turk is wonderful. The beach is lovely, the square is great. We did the stingray snorkel adventure which was great. If you are not a strong swimmer I would not recommend this. You will not have fun. Half Moon Cay was the best. The beach is fantastic,there is no pressure to shop since Carnival owns it and all the same stuff is on the ship. The food is right there with you. Best day. Freeport is really for shopping. The pier shopping is so good. Its all the locals - bargaining is encouraged. We did not venture past the pier so I don't know what the beach or other shopping areas are like. I did over hear folks saying the beach wasn't great.
Getting off the ship was easier than getting on the ship. We were out in 15 minutes once we got in line. The parking is secure and we were home in two hours. All in all this was an excellent vacation and I would do it again. Once I lose the 10 pounds I gained of course. There will be things that annoy you- the smoking, the buffet lines, the wheeling of dishes around constantly, the up selling and some of your fellow passengers- but it shouldn't spoil it for you and the memories you create will be terrific.
I forgot to mention the kids camps- huge thumbs up. Circle C and the Carnival Camp were fun and my kids loved it. Especially Circle C- thanks to Dave for making my daughter have a great cruise. She is still texting the girls she met there.