I hope this helps future cruisers so there are less surprises and they know what they are getting.
- You can board as early as 10am (disregard the 12 embarkation on your paperwork and the bad info from the Carnival 1-800 people). You should board as early as possible to avoid the lines, the trouble finding a table and the overall craziness (1st hour on the boat did not give a good 1st impression)
- Take your wine/champagne that you are allowed to bring on board (1 bottle per person) OUT of your luggage before giving your bags to the luggage guys. You need to hand carry it through the scanners/TSA type security. If you leave it in your bag it will be taken and then given back the day you return home. We have 2 well travelled champagne bottles! :)
- Wear bathing suit, carry sunblock, books, etc... with you. Your bags may show up in your room by 4pm or later. You can check into your room @ 1:30 but it sure is nice to have the right stuff w/ you and not be waiting for it.
- VERY IMPORTANT! Boat times (eastern time zone) differ from local times! Only Caymans was the same, 3 other ports were central so were an hour earlier. Very important when booking non-Carnival excursions since local companies will use their local (probably central) time. Don't want to miss the boat!
- IMPORTANT! Tenders (boat ride) are in Cozumel and Belize and last tender time is one hour prior to boat time. You effectively lose an hour in these two ports. Also, in Belize the tender takes 20 minutes each way. Due to few tenders taking almost an hour round trip, it took us over 1 1/2 hours of standing in lines just to get off the boat, then another 20 minute boat ride. You will have difficulty making a non-Carnival excursion that is planned 2 hours from arrival time. Cozumel was a 5 minute ride and went much smoother.
- Carnival excursion people leave ship 1st but the prices are about double of local venders
- IMPORTANT - Do not book your return flight before 1pm. We were due to arrive at 8am, but got there at 11 and off the boat @ 11:15. Lots of stress and many missed flights!
- ID and bottled coke (aka transferred rum) never checked in the 4 ports
- Anytime seating worked best and avoided the 500+ people rush who tried to be fed all at the same time. Gives you flexibility, better service and food (on level 3 Truffles; before 6pm or after 730pm there were no lines
- On board activities cost extra: laser tag, yoga, wine tasting, etc..
- If you are a drinker, buy the Carnival alcohol from the ship store PRIOR to arriving. They will have it waiting for you in your room. If you buy it on the ship, you can't have it until you return to Tampa
- Best 2 nights food/entertainment wise were the formal nights (Mon-lobster/Hot Jazz;Friday-chateaubriand - Big Easy
- Can check charges on room TV w/ folio # (on room card)...adds up quickly when 4 beers = $25
- Can change the $11.50 per person per day tipping up or down @ guest services. We prefer to give the cash directly to the person serving us.
- Free alcohol (last night when you are out of money) - 5 to 5:45 pm in Firebird lounge; good live band too! Be sure to go!
- Serenity deck the least windy when moving or sea days. Go early for a seat. Nice quiet place for breakfast/lunch also
- Heard that the Cayman snorkelling tour swam w/ wild dolphins
- Coffee served 24 hrs in Unicorn cafe
- Overall it was OK, but we've decided cruises are not for us. The combination of the lines, trouble getting off the boat and hurry to not miss the boat and lack of good food were our main issues.
Hope this helped and enjoy your cruise