What a wonderful way to start the new year! Great itinerary! Beautiful ship! Wonderful weather! Gorgeous islands! What a fun week! This was my 8th cruise and my husband's 6th cruise. But it was our first cruise with Carnival, and we were very impressed with Carnival. The decor on the ship was very bright, with lots of lights, and decorated in ocean themes. (But we never had problems with the seahorses on the stairs-like some CC have written about. ha!)
My husband and I flew out of Atlanta and arrived in San Juan at 3:30-the day of the cruise. We caught the Carnival transfer and were on the ship by 5:00. (Note to self- next time we WON'T take the Carnival bus. It took too long and cost more than a cab.)
We headed to the dining room around 6:00. The first night is open seating and cruise casual. (jeans for us) We weren't able to unpack and settle in our room because our bags didn't get delivered until 11:00 p.m. (which we thought was ridiculously late) But we found plenty to do. After walking around and exploring the ship a while, we figured out the layout. (a little confusing at times) We went to the 9:30 Safety Drill, and stood on a crowded deck for 30 min. (Carnival needs to take notes from other cruise lines on how to expedite the muster drill.) However the 10:00 Bon Voyage party on the Lido Deck was fun!
We were up late unpacking, and getting settled in. But our suite had plenty of storage room. We each had a closet. We had plenty of drawer space. I had a separate vanity. We had a huge bathroom with a wonderful tub and shower. We had a refrigerator and a mini bar. We had a double balcony. Our cabin location was wonderful and very quiet. I recommend deck 7-forward. I thought paying extra for the suite was well worth it. We had VIP embarking and disembarking. (great perks!)
We loved the your time dining in the Atlantic Dining Room. Teck and his team were wonderful, and we were able to sit in his section 3 times. We arrived for dinner around 7:00 or 7:30 each evening, and never waited more than 15 min. for a table. We had dinner with our daughter and her husband, and we all thought the food was wonderful. Our daughter and her husband liked having breakfast and lunch in the Mediterranean, but my husband and I preferred eating in the dining room. As everyone on CC says-the lido deck needs to be more organized-so that people are not standing in line so long. Days we were in port, the dining rooms did not serve lunch. But there is plenty to eat on the lido deck. (buffet, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) Not to mention 24 hr. soft serve ice cream! (just like home made ice cream- YUM!!!!!!!!!)
The entertainment was good. We liked the dancers, singers, and the comedians. However I thought the magician was boring. We loved walking around and hearing all the different music. We loved "Music and Magic"-a guy playing the keyboard and a lady singer. They were wonderful-and could sing anything! Our daughter and her husband enjoyed the Arctic Club, since they love to dance. The lido deck always had fun music going and a great band! There is absolutely something for everyone! Sorry we were too busy to make the BINGO games- because I love BINGO! There's just so much to do-you can't do it all!
On St. Thomas we rented a taxi and did our own tour. Yyvonne was our driver, and she took us all over the island for a 2 1/2 hr.tour (in her air conditioned van) for only $25 each! We saw all the beaches, stopped for a banana daiquiri, and had a wonderful tour!
Our day at sea was very nice. We enjoyed the sun and entertainment on the lido deck. We enjoyed sleeping late too!
We enjoyed our private tour at St. Thomas so much, that we did the same thing on Barbados. Cameron was our taxi driver, and he did a great job showing us around the island. But we found Barbados to be much more expensive than St. Thomas. (Taxi cost us $125) We wanted some time at the beach, so Cameron suggested the Harbor Lights Beach. We got 2 chairs and an umbrella for $15. Hamburgers were $12-but I questioned what kind of meat we were eating. So I filled up on French Fries. There were plenty of cabs for the short drive back to the ship. ($5 each) Nice day at the beach!
On St. Lucia we had the Whale and Dolphin Safari booked through Carnival. This was a fun boat ride around the Pitons. It took a while before we saw ANY wildlife-but on our way back to the ship we did see quite a few Pilot Whales. This was a nice boat ride, but I wish the driver had told us something about St. Lucia. We didn't learn much about that island. After lunch on the ship, we went souvenir shopping near the port. The shops we found were not impressive at all. (worse than a Big Lots or a flea market) Merchandise was dirty, so we gave up on shopping and spent the rest of the afternoon on the ship. (Maybe next time we'll take an island tour.)
We LOVED St. Kitts! We booked tickets through Carnival for the train ride, and enjoyed that very much! This train goes around the coast of the island. You see several villages-and can see how the people live there. We saw fields of sugar cane, banana plantations, grapefruit trees, papaya trees, lemon trees, and remains of old windmills. There were beautiful views of the beaches and coast line from this train ride. A wonderful narration on the bus and train really taught us a lot about this island! We spent the afternoon shopping at WONDERFUL shops in port. After our experience in St. Lucia, we felt we were in "Souvenir shopping heaven"!
Our St. Maarten excursion was cancelled. So we decided to spend the day at the Moho beach (otherwise known as the airport beach). WHAT A FUN DAY AT THE BEACH! After our previous experience with lunch on Barbados-we decided to take our lunch. So we ordered some sandwiches from room service, and took them with us to the beach! (saved us money too!) We caught a cab and enjoyed our 30 min. ride from the port to the beach. St. Maarten is a beautiful island! When we arrived at the beach, we rented 2 chairs and umbrella for only $10. (Arrive by 10:00 to get a chair, because they have limited availability.) This airport is 20 ft. from the runway of the airport. Every 5 min. a plane was either taking off, or landing right over our beach. THIS IS A VERY FUN BEACH-unless you are looking for a quiet place to rest and read. (If that's the case, there are lots of other beaches to choose.)
We put our luggage out our last night of the cruise , so that we wouldn't have to worry with lugging our big bags on the escalator in San Juan. Disembarking was an absolute breeze! Since we had a suite, we were in zone 1-walked right off the ship-found our bags, caught a cab, and were at our hotel- all in 30 min.
(Our daughter and her husband had no trouble catching their 9:45 am flight. I had read several reviews of long lines, etc. on the day of disembarking- but they had no problems at all.) Disembarking was on Sunday, so that may explain the quick transition.
We spent the last day of our vacation at the Caribe Hilton, in San Juan. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL RESORT! We had an ocean front room in the Hilton Honors Towers- and had a great view on the 19th floor! We highly recommend this hotel! There is a beautiful private beach, with lots of Palm trees over hammocks and lounge
chairs in the shade. (No need to rent an umbrella and chairs here.) There are several restaurants on the site, and even a Starbucks! We will definitely return to this hotel someday!
The next day we flew back to Atlanta, then drove to our home in Tennessee. As soon as I got home I downloaded all our pictures, and we're still enjoying our vacation. BE SURE TO TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES WHEN YOU GO! Enjoy!