We decided just three months from departure to travel over Thanksgiving. I had read so much about the Cove Balconies and wanted to experience one. We are two fifty something nurses from South Florida and are seasoned cruisers due to our proximity to several ports. We used a vacation planner from Carnival and he did a great job for us. We traveled to Cocoa Beach two days prior to the cruise for some beach time. I looked on several web sites for accommodations and finally selected the Best Western Ocean Front on Cocoa Beach. It was reasonable for ocean front and we were not disappointed. The hotel is older but very clean and was steps away from the local pier which had bars, restaurants and live entertainment on Friday night. They have a special before 8:00pm for a one pound Maine lobster for $10.00. My friend, who is from the Northeast, proclaimed it as one of the best lobsters she ever had. We were in cruise training, so had to order two...each! They were delicious. On Thursday and Friday we took a cab to Fishlips, a restaurant at the port, to watch several "sailaways" and it certainly gets one in the mood to cruise. We sat outside both nights and nearly froze to death. One must remember that we live very south in Florida and our blood is way too thin. I turn on my car heater when it is 65 degrees. I wished I had brought mittens.
We elected to use one of the local parking establishments instead of mortgaging our car for the week to park at the port. It worked out very well and we will use this option for all of our cruises in the future. We were finally Platinum and were able to use priority embarkation. We were escorted to a private office just off of the embarkation area, invited to sit down, given water and proceeded to check in. It was more than civilized, it was heaven. We were then given group #1 cards and lead to a separate area. Waited 15 minutes and were escorted onto the ship. It was now only 11:10 AM. Proceeded to to the Tandoori Grill at the aft and literally had the ship to ourselves. The Indian grill was outstanding. Be sure to try the pineapple and tomato relish. I ate there every day. We eagerly awaited 1:30 when the rooms would be ready as I just had to see how really close the Cove balcony was to the water. I was also hauling around many sodas and mixers in a rolling suitcase plus my other carry on. Felt like a bar on wheels. We had ordered liquor from the Bon Voyage dept. and I must say it certainly saved on our bar bill.
Well...the Cove was exactly as I had pictured it. Yes, I could barely see over the dock, as we were that low. It was very cozy and had plenty of space to put everything. I have to admit the beds were not comfortable and did not seem like the great beds we have had on other Carnival cruises. It was more like a rock and since we were in a "cave balcony" as I began to call it, it was appropriate I suppose. The bathroom was adequate and had ample storage spaces.
We elected to go to the Steakhouse on the first night as they were offering a free bottle of wine for embarkation night only. I assure you, we are lushes only on vacation. I was a bit worried as we ate in the steakhouse on the Oasis in May and were very disappointed. Well, this meal rivaled any upscale steakhouse anywhere. The surroundings were exquisite, service outstanding and the food amazing!
We had MTD in the upper Crimson dining room and the only time we waited was on Thanksgiving night. The new menu was excellent and the service top notch. We asked for a booth each night and received it most of the time. Most mornings breakfast was room service which we enjoyed on the balcony. It was served at the time specified on the card placed on the door before retiring each night.
The entertainment was varied and excellent. The Black Jack Band played on the Lanai most evenings and they are so talented and personable, too. Do not miss this band. I had read so much about the Lanai area on deck five, but I have to say I was not impressed. It felt very closed in to me. The outside portion had chairs, tables and loungers but the plexiglass partitions made it feel almost claustrophobic. The BBQ lunch here featured hamburgers and hot dogs. We felt like it was very overdone and only ate there once. There are plenty of other places to eat. Do not miss the Pasta Bar, which is actually an entire restaurant at the aft section and upstairs from the buffet. It was outstanding. Other cruisers do not find out about this place until the third or fourth day. Their Ceasar salad is fresh and tasty.
The comedy lounge is beautiful and the perfect setting for the shows. They were all very funny and definitely R rated. They also offer family comedy shows. Get there at least 30 minutes before the show as it was standing room only the entire week. Do not miss Dancin in the Streets and the Fun Force dancers. The casino was very accommodating and Dirk, at the casino bar, was the best bartender we have ever had. Hysterically funny and very entertaining.
I know many do not like the Jumbotron movie screen by the main pool but I really enjoyed our time there. On Thanksgiving morning seated in comfortable loungers, the Bloody Mary cart waiter making our favorite cocktails while watching the Macy's parade, priceless! I certainly do not remember a better setting for this time honored tradition. There were several who enjoyed the many football games here, as well.
The seas were.....rough the entire week, but this just made the cove balcony that much more fun. Maybe it didn't seem too crowded all week because people were sea sick. Whatever the reason, we encountered very few lines and the other cruisers were very well mannered.
We did not get off in Nassau but did the Carnival excursion "St. John Catamaran and Snorkeling in St. Thomas. I do not usually do ship sponsored excursions but felt traveling to an adjacent island required the assurance of the ship waiting for us if we were delayed. The catamaran was not over cowded and the staff was very accommodating. They had a dingy to take you to the beach that was very easily accessible. In St Maarten we did a private tour with Bernard's Tours and stayed with him for most of the day. Maho beach was beautiful, much better than Orient Beach, which surprised me. The jets landing over your head has to be experienced to be believed.
We had a fabulous time, the ship is beautiful, the service outstanding, the food unbelievably good and the holiday passed without a single dished washed by me. I would recommend this cruise to everyone and I'm usually a Royal Caribbean snob.