If your goal is to cover a large chunk of the action, get ready to sacrifice a large chunk of sleep. From 7 a.m until 3 a.m., something is always going on, from casino play to cooking demonstrations to Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance classes to Champagne art auctions.
To accommodate such a packed agenda, lots of crew energy and ship space, both inside and out, is dedicated to keeping the crowds entertained.
Encore!, a two-level theater, seats 1,400 and presents two shows most nights at 8:45 and 10:30. The shows, most of them heavy on song and dance, change each night. A favorite on our cruise was the marquee Dancin' in the Streets show, themed as Broadway musical meets Cirque du Soleil. Definitely get to the theater early to snag a good seat that isn't behind a pesky view-blocking pole. Before the shows and during the day, Encore! is used for bingo, trivia contests and game shows.
The aft lounge, formerly known as the Burgundy Lounge, was transformed during the fall 2012 dry-dock into the Punchliner Comedy Club, which is associated with George Lopez. A rotating lineup of comedians offer family-oriented (early) and R-rated (late) shows.
Ocean Plaza, as mentioned earlier, is one of the ship's best new features. With its small stage, seating area and adjacent bar, as well as a specialty coffee cafe, it's a busy hub where scavenger hunts are launched, games such as "Scattergories" are played and live music is performed. Each night, a different drink/snack of the day, such as margaritas served with chips and salsa, is featured.
The atrium holds the large, but generally quiet Dream Bar, where drinks can be enjoyed while listening to a pleasant piano playing in the background. The best event we saw there was the Fun Force Acrobatic Show, a crowd-pleasing explosion of gymnastics and break-dancing that drew hundreds of onlookers looking down from the atrium decks' open railings.
Two new bars were added in fall 2012, as part of Carnival's Fun Ship 2.0 fleetwide refurbishment program. The RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar offer rum- and tequila-based frozen drinks and cocktails, as well as the line's signature ThirstyFrog Red beer.
The medium-size Jackpot Casino has an adjacent sports bar with a large bank of televisions, 189 slot machines, two automated Texas Hold 'Em tables and 17 gaming tables that cover roulette, craps, blackjack and poker. The casino runs the usual slots and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments. But what's different about the casino is that smoking is allowed at only 43 slot machines and six gaming tables on the port side, so the venue is much less smoky than most of its ilk.
The Caliente Club, with pulsating lights and music, opens at 10 p.m., with its closing time listed as late. Don't bother going until after midnight, when the place starts cranking. Sam's Piano Club, which also gets going fairly late, has nightly piano bar sing-a-longs and is a gathering place for smokers. A Latin band plays the Song Jazz Club most nights.
Just about all of the ship's educational seminars, which include "Secrets to Art Collecting," "Swiss Watch Seminar" and "Introduction to Acupuncture" are connected to buying something. If you want to learn about the native culture of Honduras or the birds of Belize, this is not your ship.
If you're not an outdoorsy type, daytime indoor activities are part of the mix, although it's slim pickings during days in port. Games -- such as Win Lose or Draw and Motown Music Trivia -- and bingo are the main events. Live music is sometimes performed in the atrium. The towel-folding demonstration always draws a crowd. Several open scrapbooking sessions are also held.
Hundreds of shore excursions on offer run the gamut from shopping to cave tubing. Prices also span a wide range, from $25 for a two-hour shore snorkeling excursion to $251 for a 5.5-hour tour assisting dolphin trainers. Special teen-only shore excursions are also offered.