My husband, son (age 17), and I sailed from Port Canaveral on October 1st. We flew from Knoxville into Orlando International on the morning of Oct. 1st and took the shuttle that I had booked thru Carnival to the Port. The shuttle was wonderful. All our luggage was loaded into the motor coach at the airport, and !we didn't see it again until it was delivered to our stateroom. No hassling with the luggage porters at the port was refreshing. Even though my family and I have cruised 9 other times, this was the first time in 10 years that we have sailed from Port Canaveral. The embarkation process was a breeze! From the time we claimed our luggage at the airport until we finished the embarkation process was less than 2 hours. We boarded the ship before 1 pm, but weren't allowed in our cabin until after 1:30...plenty of time for lunch in The Gathering and the pasta bar. All 5 pieces of our luggage were delivered to our cabin before 3 pm. This is the 3rd Carnival ship we have sailed on (Sensation, January 2005 before it was refurbished and the Carnival Freedom in October 2010) and I have to say that carnival is finally catching up with the times. The ship ship is prettier and classier than the previous ships that we have been on. The furnishing are no longer the gaudy, bright colors, but deep, rich browns and earth tones.
Cozumel...this was our 5th visit to Cozumel and because of that we planned a Sail, Snorkel, and Beach excursion. It was rainy and overcast upon arrival in Cozumel. The ride out to the snorkel location was a bit cool due to the overcast skies and rain, but the snorkeling was nice. The water was warm and the dive master easily baited the fish with tortillas so there was lots of beautiful fish to see. We then sailed on to the beach area which had 2 water trampolines, giant blow-up slides, a water "teeter-totter," some ocean kayaks, and some floats. Even though there was no sun for our beach excursion, we had lots of fun. There was plenty of sodas, beer and watery margaritas for our trip back to the ship along with some dance music. I would love to do this excursion again.
Belize...wish that we had booked an excursion for this port. The tender to/from the ship took 20 minutes each way. Shopping was very lacking even when I was looking for some locally made crafts. We didn't spend more than a couple hours in the port. If we ever return to Belize, this will definitely be a port where we book an excursion or just stay on the ship. We chose not to leave the port area alone due the reports that I had read on Cruise Critic about the town of Belize City being unsafe.
Roatan...Carnival has invested a lot of money into this port area. The shops are in a new little "village" area and there are lots of local crafts to choose from. There is a beach area with some bar/restaurants that is accessible via a chair lift or a short walking path. The chair lift is $12/day for adults and $7/day for children. We learned from some other cruisers that you can pre-purchase the ticket for the chair lift on ship for 1/2 the cost of the tickets on the island. The view from the chair lift was nice and worth the ride. There is a rental shop for water sports on the island, but the prices were a little steep. The bar/restaurants are similar to Senor Frogs with lots of beer and margaritas for sale. We spoke with some other cruisers who had taken a tour of the island through a private company and reported that it was a beautiful, but poor island. I'm sure the locals are thankful for the money that this port and the cruise ships help to bring to their economy.
Costa Maya...First of all, this is not a real "town." The cruise line has created this stop. A large chunk of jungle has been cleared out and some shops set up. There's also a shallow pool in the middle of the shopping area and some lounge chairs nearby if you want to pretend that you're at the beach. There are 3 small pools along the coastline for the "dolphin encounter." Each pool had 1 or 2 dolphins in it. There is a Senor Frogs at this stop also...so plenty of beer and margaritas for sale here too. If you're looking for some local crafts, this is a good port. Also lots of silver jewelry for sale in this port from the mountainous town of Taxco. Be prepared to haggle over prices in this port...more like a straw market setting.
The ship activities were the ones that you usually find on a ship...trivia, ping-pong, basketball/volleyball games, art auctions, etc... Plenty to do for the adults. Our 17 year old son spent lots of time in Club O2. The club is a nice "hang-out" for the kids with lots of planned activities and room to be with other kids of the same age.
The food was very good. We did not try the sushi bar, but the pasta bar, the Mongolian Wok, the Tandori, pizza bar, burgers, hot dogs and the food in The Gathering was all very good and plentiful. This ship could use a better selection of food after 9 pm because everything closes up except for pizza and the sandwich bar around 9:00. We love the anytime dining plan. Our family has never been one to be structured as to our dining times when we're on vacation. The flexibility of this dining plan allows us to still have dinner in the dining room without changing our plans to fit into the dining schedule.
We have only 2 complaints for this cruise. First, the noise in the middle of the night from The Gathering above our cabin. I upgraded our cabin to a balcony cabin after I received a call from Carnival approximately 4 weeks before our cruise. The deal was too good to pass up, but our cabin (9383) was directly below the seating area in The Gathering. Every night around 12:30 am we were awakened by the chairs and tables being moved around and dropped on the floor above us. I'm sure the crew was just doing routine cleaning, but I will definitely book my next cabin in an area where there are only other cabins above and below us. The 2nd complaint is the fact that we were given debarkation #30 out of 35. I'm sure this would have been a perfectly fine # if the weather had been better. On our day of debarkation there was torrential rain at the port and everything was slowed wwwaaayyy down. We had a 1:00 pm flight from Orlando, and didn't even leave the port until after 10:45 am. We didn't arrive at the check in counter until noon. We got lucky because there was no one else checking in once we reached the check in area, and I had checked us in online from the ship. Security was quick and we made it to our gate by 12:20. Next time, I will be sure to request a lower debarkation number...better to be early than to miss our flight!
We can't wait until our next Carnival Cruise and are already looking online for another one!