Arrived two nights prior to embarkation and stayed at the Wyndham, Westport. We booked through Priceline and won a $45 bid. The hotel was convenient, good quality, and had an attentive staff. I had reserved the Embassy Suites at $93 for Sat and $103 for Sun and found that to be the average in Westport. The Wyndham was more than adequate and nicer than expected for the price. Unfortunately they discontinued the M&M's at the desk. I asked about it and the manager told me it cost on average $5,000 per month to keep M&M's on the front desk. They still have bags, all you have to do is ask.
Recommend against the "Stay and Sail" package. The transportation folks will pick-up and drop off at the airport and the cruise port without the package. Save your money. The drivers don't see any of the $ from the package deal anyway, so our party of 6 tipped $30 each way and they were very appreciative.
Standard porter haze, they won't let you check your own bag, so porter/tips are part of the deal. I guess $2 isn't too much to ask, I just don't like not having the option. Most of us did the "roll on" option and it was painless.
The "Platinum Class" process looked very quick and efficient. The regular folks (us) were in line about 45 minutes. We've have definitely seen less efficient and comfortable operations.
The Cruise itself:
Ship- adequate, but lacking in many of the modern facilities of the newer ships. The ship only had a small pool and two hot tubs, no "jumbotron" for MNF or movies for the kids and an older somewhat inefficient design for traffic flow. Overall the ship was in decent shape but showed a very hurried dry dock where many of the finishing/cosmetics were rushed or incomplete. The carpet for example was not trimmed properly in areas or was left uneven. This is not a big deal but something that even a casual observer would notice.
Our daughter was in the 9-11 year old kids program and quickly bored with the program. They do more babysitting than actual programs. Not terrible though, but anticlimactic after our last cruise on Disney.
Hit or miss. The dining room fare vacillated between above average to totally uninspired. The Lobster, prime rib, and chocolate melting cake were all good. The rest was mass produced and lacked inspiration and freshness. The Eggs Benedict had a hard crust every morning on the hollandaise sauce from sitting under the heat lamp.
The service was polite but often deplorable. I use the empty water as a metric of service and we had to ask for more water every single meal. The servers are spread very thin and appear harried and undermanned. The days of personal service and building a report with your service staff are apparently over on the big box lines. JMO
We never did room service, our daughter enjoyed the pizza and it looked fresh and good. The buffet on the Lido was often overrun with guests loading up on platefuls of medium quality fare.
The comedians were fine, not to my taste but my wife laughed at Valerie Storm's show. The Variety show was actually well done. Not to Disney standards but well above the amateurish NCL star crew we saw last year on the Star.
Grand Caymen- Walk outside the fence and book your own excursion, you end up at the same place and in our case the very same boat, at half price or less.
We took a taxi to Palancar, I dove a single tank (Columbia, and Palancar gardens) and my wife and daughter snorkled. It wasn't cheap but very relaxed and low key. The dive was first rate ($60) and the snorkel equipment for the girls was $10 each.
Mario the beach server was a genuinely nice man that doted over our daughter.
Have fun but manage expectations before time so there are no major disappointments. Carnival is better than we remember but it's still very entry level.
The rooms at 185 square feet are better than most and our steward Gabby was first rate. he definitely deserved the extra gratuity. The only negative comment I have about the stateroom was the dirty exterior of the window.
Enjoy your vacation!