Just beat the storm! We flew out of CT on Saturday morning at 7:55, a few hours before they closed down the airports for Hurricane Irene. Arrived in San Juan in the afternoon and were met by our pre-arranged taxi with car seats for the kids (really wasn't necessary). We went straight to the Radisson Hotel in Condado, which was a nice location with plenty of restaurants and two Walgreens within walking distance. We stocked up at the Walgreens on diapers and wine (much cheaper there). The next day we headed to the port around 12:00 after a quick side trip to Baby's R Us for another stroller. I do not recommend arriving at the port at 12:30. The lines were longer than I've ever encountered. We were lucky to have two toddlers in strollers and they escorted us to the special assistance line (only one person in front of us). I estimate that it would have taken close to 2 hours to go through the regular line.
Once on board, they directed us to the buffet for some lunch. Once again, long, long lines. This was consistent throughout the cruise. The only time I ever felt like there were a lot of people on the ship, was in the Mediterranean Dining Room (buffet). We had a category 8A Balcony room. It was pretty tight with the sofa bed and the crib, but that was expected. The bathroom and the shower were the largest we've ever had on a ship. They had plenty of soap, shampoo, lotions, toothpaste, etc in the bathroom. The balcony was necessary, as we were traveling with our kids, ages 3 and 1. When they went to bed at night, we could go out on the balcony and relax without worrying about waking them up.
We opted for the anytime dining, which was in the Atlantic Dining Room on the Fourth Floor. It was pretty nice and the food was good. I only had one meal that I didn't care for and that was the Seafood Newburg (which normally I love). The service was very good on most days, but really depended on where you were sat. That's the only thing that I disliked about the anytime dining. You didn't have the same server each time, so you never knew how the service would be. They always greeted our kids by name (actually it felt like everyone who worked on the ship, knew our kids' names by the second day). We ate breakfast in the Pacific dining room on most mornings, unless we were in a hurry to get off the ship. The service in there was really slow. We waited 15 minutes one morning before anyone came over with coffee and water. This is not good when you have small children! If you went to the back of ship, behind the Mediterranean Buffet, there was an area that had hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers and another that had pizza. There was never a line here, so we ended up there most days for lunch. In the morning, they serve breakfast there, including an omelet station.
The kids club was a disappointment for us. We have two kids and only the older one was old enough to attend the activities during the day. We didn't bother dropping him off, because we would still have the other, so what's the point. We were planning on using the babysitting in the kid's club at night, which was an extra charge, but we could leave both kids. The hours were from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. Great! We'll be able to leave them there after they fall asleep and enjoy the shows, comedy, etc. The first night we brought them up there, already sleeping, there was a party going on in the room for the kids. These are little kids, not the older ones. The party was from 10:00 pm - 12:00 am. Loud music, dancing, lights flashing. They offered to put our kids in the corner and if they woke up, they would call us to pick them up. I don't think so! The next time we tried to leave them, I noticed a party scheduled from 10:00 pm - 1:00 am. Therefore we weren't able to enjoy any of the onboard nighttime entertainment, so I can't give my opinion on that.
I read negative reviews about the people on the cruise before leaving. I did feel this crowd was not your average cruise crowd. There were a lot of loud, pushy, inconsiderate people that we ran into all over the ship. The pool in the middle of the ship was consistently packed with people, jumping and splashing. We found another pool in the back of the ship, which was much calmer and my husband and older son swam in that one. My daughter wasn't allowed in the pools, because she's not potty trained yet. I did see quite a few other babies swimming in the pools with diapers, whose parents didn't listen to the rule.
All in all, it was a good time. Will I be cruising with Carnival again? Probably not and definitely not in the Caribbean. It's not the employees or the ships, but the other passengers that have turned me off. This was our second Carnival Cruise and 9th cruise all together. It was the ports of call that made me choose this cruise, but I don't think I will be as easily swayed to try Carnival again after this one.