Two cabins, 2415, Cove Balcony and 2455 Inside double
Boarded 12/26/11 Western Carib 6 day
Arrived at the pier 10:30 am, used Lighthouse Parking. Easy drop off, porters widely available, dropped off luggage and went inside terminal. All but one of us were Platinum, escorted quickly through security and into Platinum lounge. There was a small delay to boarding but enjoyed the new lounge and the time went quickly. By noon we were escorted through the terminal and were on the ship! Champagne was being handed out to all and we climbed the stairs for our first buffet lunch.
The three kids (ages 20, 19 and 17) headed directly to Mongolian as the line was short. I helped myself to the Indian buffet (my favorite!) and hubby headed to the main line. No lines or crowds this early and we were handed our second glass of champagne, we were on the ship and ready to enjoy!
After lunch we found our way to Red Frog Pub, to say hello, lucky for us we were the first to arrive, so had our picture taken and posted to John Heald's blog. All the staff in Red Frog are so friendly and helpful, quickly learning our names and making our favorite drinks. They even named one for me, the Spicy Magic Mojito! Wish I had one right now....
Rooms were ready by 1:30 and we made our way down to our Cove to drop off our excess baggage. The Coves are a nice surprise, very roomy and well thought out, and even though there was a slight rain, we were able to sit outside and enjoy watching the pier activity. Normal storage, desk area, and bathroom, but updated and very clean. We had a sleeper couch for our third person and two standard chairs and table as found on all our previous Carnival cruises. In fact, I will say that the decor in our cabin could have been from many other cabins we have frequented over the years. Very familiar and comforting!
I was slightly worried as the Coves are located on level 2 and the thought of all that stair climbing early in the a.m. to get my coffee was going to be a downside, but I was pleasantly surprised the next morning when there was coffee and continental breakfast on deck 5 by the Ocean Plaza! This became my early morning hang out as it was never busy and was a short climb while blurry eyed and on the hunt for my caffeine jolt. Also offered was juices, water, fresh mini-waffles, plus fruits, cereals and various egg dishes. Another plus in this area every afternoon was sandwiches (around the corner is a salad/sandwich bar) and in the evening martinis and munchies with sushi being served in the same area at 5pm which is right near the Red Frog.
The buffet was typical Carnival food but with added additions of many more stations, plus the sandwich grill, pizza station, Indian station, and a grill. Plus on sea days, on 5 there is also an outdoor bbq, a nice alternative again in a convenient mid-ship area. No one will go hungry on this ship as there are so many offerings!
I think Deck 5 was my favorite deck on the ship, what with the entertainment, food offerings, hot tubs and Red Frog all in one place, plus a Fun Hub and Casino, so much going on!
As we had already dined in the steakhouse in November on this ship (highly recommended with wonderful service) we tried the Italian resturant which is upstairs from the buffet. Again we were presently surprised, great service and good food, a nice combination and declared very yummy by the entire family!
The staff on the ship made a big effort to make sure everyone had a wonderful time. Our table in the Southern Lights was serviced by Ovidiu, Mircea and Adrian, three great waiters who made our dining experience over the top, and I felt the new menu items were a nice touch. We also enjoyed the table magician that stopped by most nights, he made us laugh and we enjoyed his "magic" tricks!
One of our big disappointments was the football games that seemed to overtake the outdoor big screen, as on our previous cruise we enjoyed munching on popcorn under the stars while we watched movies, most nights two or three football games were played and the announcement were that a movie would be played "after the game was over". I didn't mind football being played, I just wished it wasn't being played so much on the big screen, and would have liked a little variety in that area.
The Serenity area is a great addition, the downside is that when the ship is full, so is this area, so most days it was a long wait to get a chair or lounger so didn't get to spend as much time up there as we wanted.
We are not "show" people, so didn't spend anytime in those, we did visit two of the comedy shows, which were good, but very packed, there was a lot of people standing to watch them.
The guitar players Timmy and Will were great and played requests as much as possible. Singing along with Timmy was another fun highlight in the Red Frog and we enjoyed our times in there with familiar songs.
The pools were over run while we were there, but to be expected over a holiday and at full capacity. It was nice to have the hot tubs in Serenity for some quiet time away from the kids. I thought even though there were 1400 kids on board, they were kept happily entertained and there was lots to do for many ages. Our family enjoyed the slides, putt putt and were going to try the ropes but had not brought the required closed-toe shoes, be aware that those are needed if you are looking forward to that adventure.
New Year's Eve was an extra Formal plus party evening, with different music being played all over the ship. Hats and noisemakers were handed out in our cabins during the dinner hour and champagne was handed out in every venue. I really enjoy the family atmosphere while cruising over NYE!
All in all the cruise was very restful and enjoyable. Not even being delayed for disembarkation by fog could put a dent on how peaceful we felt as we left the ship. Although I feel Carnival and the Port staff will need to change how they handle what happens when this large of a ship is delayed and people trying to leave the ship rush to make their flights as this did make a mess at the end. We luckily only had a short drive and found our shuttle quickly and were on our way home quickly and without problems.