Just returned from first cruise ever! We did the 7 nights/8 days out of Tampa on the Carnival Legend in July. I will try to organize my thoughts so it makes more sense for you!
FOOD: Great food, nice selection. Lido deck was pretty crowded for lunch. We ate in main dining room every night for dinner, and had room service for breakfast most mornings since we needed to get off ship as early as possible for excursions. Main dining room service was pretty good, except it took about 3 nights to get them to bring refills for our lemonade/ice tea. Dining room entertainment was cute/fun. The assistant maitre d (John from India) was very personable!
ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed most of the comedians, family and adult shows! Marriage show was funny. The other big shows were good, just not my "thing." Lots of fun things to choose from, but not enough time to fit it all in.
CAMP CARNIVAL: Our kids (3, 5, and 8) LOVED Camp Carnival! They begged to go there as often as possible. They never got bored. Even the couple of nights when they got to stay late, they were provided with a blanket and pillow if they needed to rest. :-) Sign in/sign out procedure was very strict and quick. For a sheltering parent who never lets her kids stay with anyone but family, my mind was quickly put at ease with their secure process and excellent team members working in Camp Carnival. My only suggestion would be that they coordinate their pick up/drop off/closing times with events on ship a little better. (For example, the first "adult" comedy show started at 9:45 and ended at 10:15, but Camp Carnival starts charging "babysitting" charges at 10pm. It would be nice if charges started at 10:30 so you could at least see one "adult" show). On the last day at sea, pick up time was at 3:45, yet there was an activity at 3:30 and at 4:00 that we wanted to do, so we were unable to. Also, when tendering in Belize, we had to get our tender ticket by 7:45 am and be ready to board the tender boat, but Camp Carnival only opened at 7:45 am too. It was the one day that we were not bringing our two youngest ones into port with us, so that was tricky.
Soda card: My husband bought the soda "bubbles" program, but you had to always go to a bar to get a soda. During shows and at dinner, they were not over eagere to serve you when you were getting a soda, because they weren't making extra $$$ on that.
Cabin: Our only real "complaint" would be our cabin. We paid an upgrade charge to go from a deck 6 interior cabin to a deck 1 cabin with a window. Having the window was GREAT! However, we inherited a cabin with bad AC. After several calls to guest services, various technicians pulling apart things in our room, the cabin temperature never got below 76, which Carnival says is in their "normal range." Even though we were still very uncomfortable and our cabin was "damp" most of the time, guest services didn't try to accommodate us in any way, which was very disappointing. Our cabin steward did an okay job, nothing impressive. Not the same service they enjoyed on deck 5, 6, 7, etc., where the rest of our family was located. Even though we were close to the lounge/area for shows, noise was never a problem.
Ports of Call/Excursions:
Cozumel: The only Carnival sponsored excursion we did was in Cozumel. We swam with dolphins at Dolphinaris with the Dolphin Swim & lunch program. EXCELLENT experience!!! Since our 3 and 5 year old were free of charge, this dolphin package worked out best for us. They included our young kids in every way possible and we all had a BLAST! Be prepared, however, if you want to buy any pictures or DVD. You'll need a second mortgage on your house!! In Cozumel, once you get to the back area of the shopping district, prices get cheaper. Shot glasses $1, t-shirts $4-$5, keychains $1-$2. My sister and her family got a cheap taxi to the beach and spent the day there. They also found great prices for shopping.
Belize: Definitely do an excursion in Belize, as there is not much to offer at the port. We were warned by several not to venture out of the gates and we didn't. Some friends of ours did venture out on their own and had a good time. We did cavetubing with cavetubing.bz. We really did our homework and found the company who's main emphasis is safety. This company was so professional, safety conscious, and made sure we had a blast!! The owner of the company "Vitalino" accompanied us on our trip and made sure every detail was taken care of. "Junior #2" gave us a great tour as we headed out of the city, spoke very clearly, answered questions, had a great sense of humor, etc. There had been a lot of rain in previous days so the river was running high. Vitalino chose to send one guide for every four people, rather than 1 per 8 as required. Our group of 6 usually had 3 guides with us. Their primary focus on safety and information made this a very comfortable, fun experience. On our hike through the rainforest, a guide carried my dad's tube and my daughter's tube, to make the hike easier for them. When needing to cross the river in a strong current, all of the guides lined up behind the rope to make sure that each child and adult was able to cross safely. We also had the MOST time on the river and went through the most caves. We had the best, newest equipment consisting of a head lamp, helmet, life jacket, and bright yellow, well inflated tubes. Cavetubing.bz is the BEST company we encountered on our trip!
Roatan/Mahogany Bay: We chose the best of Roatan with Victor Bodden's company. It was a fair price to pay with a large group to have our own driver and vehicle. We enjoyed our tour guide Kemberly. She kept us moving so we didn't spend too much time in one place. We felt too rushed, but that's because it is a very short day in Roatan. We visited the Iguana farm...very cool to see, pet, and feed the large iguanas, but lots of mosquitos. We could have skipped this stop, even though it was pretty neat. We learned a lot about Roatan, which was interesting. The ziplining at Victor Bodden's was a lot of fun, as was the "Monkey Business." Interacting with the monkeys was fun but very rushed as we were running out of time. We only had about 40 minutes to visit the BEAUTIFUL beach!! I would have loved to have more time at the beach. The water was amazingly clear and warm. The vendors were somewhat aggressive, even approaching me in the water. With a little bit of negotiating, they quickly came down on prices. There were often 3 or 4 people trying to talk to me at one time trying to get a sale. We did get some great deals and I never felt threatened, just a few too many people in my "space" at one time. :-) I would have loved to have more time in Roatan!
Grand Cayman: Grand Cayman was absolutely GORGEOUS! Being much further developed than Belize and Roatan, it was a beautiful well manicured port. I expected everything to be much more expensive in Grand Cayman, but we actually found some good deals there. Just off the ship you could get a hot dog for $2.50 if you wanted a quick lunch. Just outside the cruise terminal area/shopping area, there was a nice shopping district. Right across the street from the cruise terminal, there was an "outlet" upstairs with GREAT deals on tshirts, key chains, etc. (Shop early though, because they run out of merchandise during the day). For our excursion, we booked the Buccaneer Catamaran through Island Marketing. We would have liked to leave for the excursion earlier, but we had to wait about an hour and a half for our excursion to begin (but it was just as it was stated in our confirmation). It would have been nice to have that extra time out on the catamaran! We visited Stingray City and two snorkel stops on the reef, which was amazingly beautiful. Touching the stingrays was very cool! The snorkel stops were very rushed, and the guides were not very helpful with snorkel vests. We had never used them before so we had to fumble around with them for awhile, which wasted valuable water time. I was not very impressed with the guides on this trip. They were just mediocre. However, the trip itself was great, with the most beautiful water I've ever seen. The water was a little choppy, so we didn't bring our 3 and 5 year old in the water on snorkel stops. Luckily grandpa didn't mind watching them up on deck. :-)
Overall cruise impression:
Keep in mind this was our first cruise, so we have nothing to compare it with. Overall we had a great time, because we make sure we have a great time...no matter what! The AC issue was a pretty significant issue, as there was no cool, refreshing room waiting for us after a hot day at the pool or in port. We were surprise out how much Carnival "nickels and dimes" you on the ship. They will try to get you to spend money any way they can. Casino, drinks, bingo, drinks, shops, extra babysitting fees, specialty shakes/desserts, art auctions, shopping specials, pictures galore, etc., and of course the $10 per day per person, which adds up to $350 for our family of five for the 7 day cruise. Just remember, however much money you've budgeted for this trip... you'll probably need/want to spend a lot more. :-) We have lots of happy memories from this trip and took a gazillion pictures along the way. We met up with our "cruise critic roll call friends" and had a blast too! Happy cruising to you!