Recently divorced, I chose to go on my first cruise alone. I felt like I needed to do something just to please me. What a great choice this was. From the embarkation (a fun photo just before boarding), finding my room, exploring the ship, the endless food, casino, exotic ports and friendly fellow travelers, I had the time of my life and become addicted to cruising. I truly enjoyed the solo cruising but couldn't help thinking over and over again that I wish my grown children and grandchildren could experience the wonders I was taking in. This cruise was in April and by November of the same year I went on my 2nd cruise taking my son Robert, his family my daugher and her boyfriend (seven in all). AND AGAIN in the spring of 2010 took my other son and his family (seven of us in all). Wow I love it so much I wanted everyone else to have the same fun and share it with them.
Now back to this trip...The ship is just overwhelming, in a good way! The first sight of it made my heart skip a beat. I had never seen a cruise ship (only in pictures) let alone cruise on one. The embarkation was a breeze but I was on a high from seeing the ship and anticipating the fun that lay ahead. My photo taken in the terminal before boarding has me smiling from ear to ear! Once on the ship it was one wonderful new thing after another. The room was tiny but perfect. The night before cruising a fellow worker who is an avid cruiser talked me in to upgrading to a balcony and I am so happy I did. There is nothing like having your own slice of paradise when you want a moment alone by not cooped up in an inside suite. I am a forever balcony fan!
The muster drill was even fun as a first timer, but I must admit I find them nothing more than a necessity now that I have four cruises under my belt. Once the muster drill was completed it was time to find food, drink and make myself familiar with my surroundings. That was more than I could ever have imagined. It actually took me several days to find my around, I got a map of the deck plan and lived by it the first few days.
There is always something to do. Every morning you get a newsletter delivered to your room called the Fun Times. There is a list of all the 'happenings'. Bingo, trivia challenges, scavenger hunts, card games, crafts, movies, drink mixing contests, jeopardy, newlywed game, male v.s. female contests etc... Just too many to name. Some I watched but many I participated in! I found myself many days having to choose between a few that over-lapped on time. I hate to admit it but I even got back on the boat early at one of the ports so I would be able to make it to a commercials trivia game! I had so much fun and even won a couple of plastic 'ship-on-a-sticks'!!!
Room 8125 is on the Starboard side with a nice view of the bridge, I could even see the navigational monitors from my balcony. The next room midship Rm 8127 set back a few feet not allowing them to see the bridge so I felt priviledged to have the view that I had. A balcony is a must. I truly believe the few extra dollars are worth it.
Now on to the Excursions and Ports!!! Our first stop was Colon, Panama and the Panama Canal. I was in awe at the sight. It was interesting to hear all the information surrounding the history of the canal and to actually see a ship pass through it with literally only a few inches on each side, seeing all the ships waiting for their turn at navigating the canal. After having studied it in elementary school and high school it was incredible seeing the whole process and putting all that information in perspective.
I signed up for kayaking (my 1st time ever, at age 52!) on Lake Gatun, the lake at the top of the Panama Canal. I had so much fun and only capsized once! It was only minimally difficult righting my kayak and getting back atop. I can't fully describe what a great experience it was. I can tell you I have kayaked twice since then an anticipate doing more times!
In Puerta Limon, Costa Rica it was Easter Sunday and the predominately Catholic community was very quiet, most shops closed down. I took a bus tour to some ruins/caves and nature habitat that was entertaining then went back to the ship early to partake in my favorite activity, trivia. I don't feel as if I can give a fair evaluation of the city/port due to the religious holiday.
BTW, I went to mass on board the ship on Easter Sunday and enjoy it. I always like to attend mass when on vacation, it broadens your horizons to see other takes on this time honored rite. (FYI: My favorite being mass in Kauai, Hawaii.)
Our last port was in Belize. Again I stepped all the way out of my box and ziplined through the rainforest tree tops. It was exhilirating! We first had group instruction and then climbed to the high point and proceded to zipline about 8-10 times and 1 40ft rappell back into the cave that we started in. I have to assure you I never felt so safe. The guides were very good, I was never afraid. I can also tell you I was most afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it due to my age and size (I'm no Barbie) but neither of those factors ever entered into the equation. There as even a couple in their 70's who completed the excursion without any untoward occurances.
Since this was my first time on a cruise and I didn't have the security of another person with me, I booked all my excursions through Carnival. I didn't want to be stranded alone in a foriegn country. Plus the fact I had never travel to any of the port and was in unfamiliar territory so wanted the comfort of knowing I was in competent hands. Now that I have been and have seen the types of tours that are available outside the cruise ship realm I would be comfortable taking a non cruise tour, but I would recommend doing some research ahead of time on tripadvisor.com or on your specific cruise ship review forums.
As for the ship, I found the main showroom entertainment to be a bit cheezy, the comic show were good, the activities were varied, something fun for everyone.
I ate dinner one night Nick and Nora's Steakhouse, I found to be a bit pricey. But then again I was alone so the experience would have been more fun if I would have had someone to share it with. The food was good, the service was slow but then again if I had company it probably would have been perfect timing.
And as a side note, I had a good time by myself but would not recommend it to most people. The price of a cabin is based on double occupancy so the room was quite expense considering.
In closing I can't possibly say enough good about my 1st time cruising! Carnival made it so good that I have gone on 3 since and am always planning a next trip. :-)