I am usually a very "glass half full" type of person, but having been on a number of cruises on several different cruise lines, I already had lowered expectations for this trip, my fourth Carnival Cruise (I prefer RCCL first, NCL second). However, the price was impossible to beat for a balcony cabin, and after having spent almost one year and a ton of money planning a wedding, the deep discount was impossible to ignore!
Being Tampa residents made the embarkation process a breeze. We live 10 minutes from the port. We dropped our luggage off with a porter at the terminal - buh bye, luggage! - and drove to the designated cruise parking garage, where we paid $120 (they make you pay up front, cash or credit card). We walked down the street, approx. 1 block, to the terminal and got in line, which moved pretty smoothly. We were beaming about it being our honeymoon to the check-in agent, who was less than impressed. They clearly get a lot of honeymooners (smile)! We were onboard within 30 minutes of parking the car. As soon as we walked on the ship, we were met by employees of the Golden Fleece. They were offering a free bottle of wine if you booked dinner in the restaurant that night, which we jumped on. In hindsight, having the best dinner on the first night of the cruise left us a little disappointed for the rest of the week. I kept salivating for their incredible filet mignon!
I must be honest - my DH and I literally gasped when we walked into the atrium of the ship..it was so UGLY! I understand the "legendary" theme of the ship, but there were these gold insignia all over the brown walls. Not quite a Fleur de Lis...can't really explain it. Just horrendous. And all over the ship. Nothing about the decor impressed me, and I was REALLY trying. The clear glass staircase leading up to the Golden Fleece was pretty cool, yet terrifying to walk on. I did appreciate the huge American flag that was hung from the ceiling of the atrium on Veterans' Day.
Our balcony cabin was very conveniently placed midship, only steps from the atrium elevators. It was the ideal location. Our cabin was port side, so we did not have a view of the Tampa skyline as we sailed out. We made sure that we made our way to the sun deck when we passed under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which made for some pretty awesome sunset photos. Our cabin steward was a phantom, but did an excellent job with our cabin. No complaints!!! I LOVE having a balcony cabin, it was totally worth the price!
I had a friend who recently went on her first cruise and the only piece of advice I had for her was: take some Ex-Lax! I wish I had heeded my own advice. The food was VERY good, but heavy. As I mentioned before, the best meal we had onboard was at the Golden Fleece, where I had the Surf & Turf. It was INCREDIBLE!!! The cheeseburgers at the pool grill were also very good, I probably had about three or four of those throughout the week. The buffet was a zoo during breakfast and lunch, as expected. I couldn't bother with the scrambled eggs after about 3 days - I wish they were real eggs instead of that powdered stuff.
As far as dinner goes, we had the late seating in Truffles. The food was good, nothing overly memorable. My favorite nights (on ANY cruise) will always be lobster night and baked alaska night. My DH is NOT a fan of assigned dining; this was his second cruise, and his first was on NCL with the Freestyle concept. Our tablemates, also honeymooners, only appeared at dinner a few times, so we were by ourselves much of the week. Our wait staff was efficient but not overly engaging. Toward the end of the week, however, we were surprised with a "Happy Honeymoon" cake and song by the wait staff which was impressive, since we never told them we were on our honeymoon! (Maybe the less-than-impressed check-in agent made a note on our folio, who knows?).
We made an effort to attend as many of the shows as possible. Our favorite shows were the Motown Revue and the Carnival Legends Show. And of course, the Marriage Show, which was absolutely hysterical! We also enjoyed the comedian who appeared on the last night of the cruise (I'm so sorry, I can't remember his name!). The rest of the shows were just okay...we walked out on one or two of them.
We were frequent visitors to karaoke, which is something I love to do. As with every cruise, there were the regulars present, most of whom appeared in the Legends show on the final night. We also visited Medusa's Lair on several occasions; the Michael Jackson tribute night was a blast! Our deck party was cancelled due to rain, so they moved it to Medusa's Lair. We opted not to go - we just imagined how crowded it would be.
Cozumel - it was my favorite port. We had just gotten married in Riviera Maya Mexico, so it was nice to be back in the country just 4 days after our wedding. We purchased the Amazing Cozumel Race excursion, which was INCREDIBLE! We had soo soo soo much fun on this excursion, I would highly recommend it. Afterwards, we browsed the port shops and stopped by Fat Tuesday for an adult beverage and some dancing. We really had a great time in Cozumel
Belize City - Our second purchased excursion was the Zip Line and Cave Tubing Adventure from Carnival. Again, just awesome. We had to ride out of Belize City into the countryside and our guide (forgot his name!) educated us about the country for the entire one-hour ride. He was so proud of his country and it showed. We really learned a lot, and although it isn't a prosperous country, it made us appreciate the people and how they lived. The excursion itself was really great. I'd advise that you bring an underwater camera (WITH A FLASH, this is where we failed), bug spray and some water shoes. We slept on the bus ride back to the port and took the tender back to the ship. The excursion didn't allow for much time to shop afterwards, which was okay with us. We were pooped.
Roatan - we didn't venture from the port during this stop. Went to the port shops and man-made beach, as well as another stop at Fat Tuesday for adult beverages and photo-ops. We probably should've booked an excursion, but wanted to just relax after two physically demanding days in the prior ports.
Grand Cayman - I was amazed at the beautiful water at this port, and talked non-stop about it during the tender ride! Otherwise, not much else to comment on. We just walked around and shopped. We were going to take a taxi to Seven Mile Beach, but changed our minds. My DH had been to Grand Cayman before and had a negative experience, so he wasn't making me excited about it at all. :)
I have to say, I've never been on a cruise and not met at least ONE other person or couple that seemed friendly. People were nice enough, but not overly warm, with one or two exceptions. I hope that we are able to connect with a Roll Call for our next cruise to avoid this from happening again.
We decided to take our luggage off ourselves, since our car was parked at the garage and we had to go pick up our dog from the kennel. We stopped for breakfast at the zoo/buffet and grabbed something to eat before they called for the self-assist passengers to come to the assigned deck. This option was INCREDIBLE; we were off of the ship and at our dog's boarding place before 930.