Our cruise left Tampa on Feb 12. We arrived in Tampa on the eleventh and staying at the Quality Inn and Suites in Ybor City / Fairgrounds. This is a faily new hotel, so it was in excelent condition. They offered a "stay, park and cruise" package that included transportation to the curise port and a place to park the car for the week. Parking at the port is about $105 for the week, and the hotel offered parking and transport for $50 more for the week. The staff at this hotel was fantastic -we had several special circumstances and they went above and beyond to accomodate us.
The embarcation process was not too bad. We originally got there too early and couldn't unload. Once we were able to unload, the porters were very friendly and helpful. It took us about 90 minutes from the time we got in line until we were on the ship. My mother was in a wheelchair, so my parents were sped through the process and on the ship much faster. I do not have enough cruising experience yet to say if this is good or bad.
I will review each port individually, so this will just review the ship and activities.
The ship itself was very nice. Some of the art work / decor was not really my taste, but overall it was good. I did really like the atrium (i guess that is what it would be called) There is a giant painting of the Collus of Rhodes that is about 5 stories tall. This area that is open from levels three to eleven has glass elevators. This was my favorite part of the ship's decor.
The food was very good. We ate in the main dining room (Truffels) five of the six nights -the other was while we were in port and we didn't want to rush back to eat. All the meals were good or great! The dessert "Chocolate Melted Cake" was so good it should be illegal -by far the best dessert i've ever had! We ate at the buffet for all our breakfast and lunches -the food there was good, but not exceptional; it was very convenient, and that was our primary goal.
The main shows were pretty cheesy to me -Carnival is the "Fun Ships", we don't need to hear that over and over in every song! The comedians were all pretty good. I really enjoyed Scotty K's type of humor. The game shows and audience participation shows were a lot of fun, especially the Love and Marriage game!
I saved all my "Fun Times" schedules for each day so if you are interested in what is offered daily, i will be glad to share these with you.
The debarkation process went very well. We waited until the time we were told, and it did not take very long to find our luggage and get through customs.
My overall impressions: This was a great cruise for a group of our size and age / interest differences. The Caribbean cannot compare to Alaska for beauty and amazement, but we had a great time here and are looking forward to more cruise in the Caribbean in the future. On a scale of 1-10, i would say this cruise was about an 8.5. Friendly staff, good food, plenty of activities and an overall good time!