We flew into San Juan the day before and stayed at Cervantes Hotel. This hotel is very nice, and is within walking distance (2 blocks) from the port. They also held our luggage the next day so we could tour the city before boarding the ship. By getting there the day before, we had a very relaxing start to our cruise. Getting through the airport was a piece of cake. Boarding the ship was also no problem. We have waited much longer on other cruises. The boarding couldn't have gone smoother. We found our room to be clean and perfectly comfortable. I also love the nice size bathrooms on Carnival.
Now, I will get the negatives out of the way. We usually cruise in May or October/November because these seem to be to "quiet" times. This was not the case. There were a lot of very loud, rude people on our ship. (could this be because of the departing port?) I also did not appreciate the "spanish only" announcements. The other negative had to do in part with the layout of the ship. Deck 5 is the only deck that you can go the whole length of the ship. So why do they have events right in the middle of the only pathway from one end of the ship to the other. This caused major traffic jams. I also felt the dining room food was not quite as good as usual.
Back to the fun-even though the ship got a little noisy for our tastes, it was ok because every day we could go into a wonderful port. Our first day (St. Thomas) we went to Megan's Bay. On other cruisers recommendations, we just went out to the taxi stand and took a taxi to the beach. I was concerned that it would be very crowded because this is the most popular beach, but if you just walk to your left a little, the crowd thins out.
Day 2 (day at sea)
Day 3 (Barbados) This was probably are best day. We booked an excursion on line with Silver Moon. This was a catamaran cruise and snorkel with the sea turtles. They met us right at the cruise port and we had the most fun and relaxing day on the boat. We snorkeled, sailed, had a fantastic lunch, all the drinks were included as well as banana bread and pina coladas for the sail back to dock. They have 2 boats. One for 12 people and one for 24. We went on the larger (24), but never felt crowded. We still had plenty of room to sun on the deck.
Day 4 (St Lucia) Here we did a zip line tour with another private company. We used "Treetop Adventure Park" This is a great tour. The guides did a fantastic job (they even took a lot of pictures with "my" camera instead of trying to sell me theirs)
Day 5 (St Kitts) We did the Volcano Tour with Thenford Grey tours. Thenford Grey tours is a great tour company. I would not recommend the volcano hike unless you are in EXCELLENT physical condition. The view at the top was breath taking, but the hike is very demanding. It is more than 5 miles round trip, straight up, then straight down. At places the trail (if you want to call it that) is only 10-12 inches wide, many rocks, roots, branches to continuously climb and crawl over. I could not walk for 3 days.
Day 6 (St Maarten) Thank goodness we had planned another beach day since I was not able to walk very well. We again took a taxi to Orient Beach. This beach is beautiful as well. It is both French and Dutch, so you will see topless. We heard there were parts that were nude, but did not see any (maybe further up the beach). St Maarten is a beautiful island, we had such a relaxing day. The fact that it only costs us about $35.00 for the whole day was another plus.
Back on the ship-We found the evenings on board to be fun as usual. We enjoy the shows, the comics, the games, sing-a-longs, etc. Found the food in the dining room to be a little less than the norm this time, but still very enjoyable. The staff was great, as usual.
We usually use the self-assist for debarking. We had to get going a little earlier to do this on this cruise, but to us it was worth it to avoid all the crowds. We were off the ship, in a taxi, and on our way to the airport in no time. Because we arrived before everyone else, we breezed through customs and security at the airport. We had to wait for our flight, but since we had to be out of our staterooms by 8:30 am, we figured we might as well get going instead of just sitting in the lounge waiting to be called.
Thanks, Carnival, for a wonderful cruise. Look forward to sailing again soon