El husbando and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by booking this cruise. This was our sixth Carnival cruise (we've sailed on the Glory, Legend and Valor) and we chose an aft, extended balcony cabin (7462) after doing a lot of ... Read More
El husbando and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by booking this cruise. This was our sixth Carnival cruise (we've sailed on the Glory, Legend and Valor) and we chose an aft, extended balcony cabin (7462) after doing a lot of research on this site.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip and we both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. This will be a long review, so the short version is that we especially liked the Ocean Plaza Deck 5 because there were lots of activities, you can get across the whole ship on that floor, and you can also walk around the whole outside of the ship. The service was good, though we've had better on the other trips, and the food was consistently good (don't miss the s'mores dessert in the dining room!). This was the third time we've done this schedule (I'm from Puerto Rico, so try to book cruises that include a stop in San Juan).
Now for the more-detailed review for those of you who like to do tons of research.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived a little after 11 for an 11:30 a.m. appointment. We handed off our bags and were greeted warmly by port staff; Carnival staff gave us a card with a zone for getting on the ship. We quickly made our way inside after the usual security and passport checks (we had printed off all of the paperwork from the Carnival site, so that helped).
There are two large screens on the walls showing which zones are being boarded. We were in the waiting area no more than 15 minutes when our zone was called, and were on the ship within 10 minutes (we had to wait for people in front of us to get their pictures taken, etc.).
Once on the ship, we took the elevators to the Lido deck and got our first Guy's burgers. We were able to get some chairs right by the Beach Pool, and got a couple of drinks. We ate and chatted with new friends until about 2, when we meandered to our cabin.
Because they now leave your sign and sail cards outside your cabin, we used our boarding pass (that we printed at home) to charge the drinks to our cabin. We also downloaded the Carnival Hub app and used it a TON on this trip. We paid for the messaging feature, but never used it because it was just the two of us; I can see how it could be super helpful if our kids had been with us. I also got the social media package and felt it was worth every penny because I could keep in touch with our kids back home through the Messenger feature.
The cabin itself is very similar to every other balcony cabin we've been in. The balcony was indeed larger than a regular balcony and featured a full-size sun recliner, two chairs and a small table. I should note that we got a lot of shade on that balcony, even though there's nothing above you, except for during the afternoon after lunch. That changed, of course, once we started heading back north (and west) when we got a lot more sun.
We had ordered both bottled water and some hard ciders delivered to our cabin. The fridge was empty when we arrived, so we loaded it up.
Our room steward was fine. The cabin was kept clean, but he missed a few very minor things like providing additional bars of soap even when there was almost none left. His towel animals were on point! He frequently did one after his morning AND evening cleanings. He was also friendly and warm.
First day at sea was uneventful. I run, so I spent some time on the outdoor track (runners can get more details here: http://lachicaruns.com/?p=3584). Dinner was good every night. Our servers were friendly, the food was good, but the service was super slow. It didn't bother us. We still made the comedians and music shows we wanted to see.
We couldn't dock at Grand Turk because it was too windy. We were sad to miss this beloved spot, but completely understood it was a safety issue. Carnival automatically refunded the cost of our excursion, and we thoroughly enjoyed another day at sea. We sat in our balcony, reading and enjoying the soothing sound of the wake.
Because we missed Grand Turk, we were in San Juan from (I think!) 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. This was a bonus for us because we got to see family. We spent the day visiting El Morro, had lunch at El Patio de Sam (excellent food and service, albeit slow), saw the umbrella art installation on Calle La Fortaleza, and had dessert at a new-to-us restaurant Flor de Trigo by the pigeon park. Their flan was homemade and delicious.
Next couple of days were spent at St. Thomas and Amber Cove. We have been at both several times so didn't spend a ton of time in port. We shopped a bit and headed back to enjoy our balcony again.
Dinner service improved (we loved Lusca in particular) at about day three. Some especially good dishes included all of the shrimp, the sea bass, the dishes inspired by the islands we visited, and the aforementioned s'mores dessert and the baked Alaska.
Our anniversary was on Dec. 31 and we didn't know what to expect. There was no acknowledgment at dinner, which surprised us, but they seemed especially busy. There were hats and noisemakers on the tables, so don't worry about bringing your own.
There were two gift cards in the cabin when we got back from dinner. One was for a $100 discount for jewelry that we couldn't afford and the other was for $100 toward photos that we never scheduled. Even just a happy anniversary would have been welcome and appreciated, but the cards were a nice touch.
We did get a tiny (and yummy!) chocolate cake a couple of days later, which was very thoughtful.
I did laundry early afternoon one day. The room was very clean and I was able to use two washers and dryers, no problem, but there were several people who came a little later and things got a bit backed up. Y'all probably know that you can charge the washers and dryers on your sign and sail card; each load was $3 (so $6 per load). I brought a few Tide pods, which worked out great. The washers took about 40 minutes; and the dryers about 50-55. The iron worked just fine.
I went to guest services and shore excursions just once. Crew members at both were helpful and I didn't have to wait very long at all. Several areas on the ship were decorated for the holidays and there was a festive atmosphere.
The New Year's Eve party on Lido was amazing. The place was PACKED and loud, but orderly. The countdown was super fun and the crew served complimentary champagne. It was a nice capstone to our anniversary.
We never made it to the Showtime Theater, except for the "mandatory" meeting on the last sea day where they talked about debarkation. I could have just read the paperwork they left in our room, but I went just in case. There was nothing new that I didn't already know.
I mentioned the comedians. We saw four and loved all of them. We were disappointed that one of them repeated the same routine for all of his scheduled performances, so we didn't go to the comedy club as often as we typically do. No big deal. I had read that you had to get tickets before each show, but we never did.
The music talent was also pretty good. We especially enjoyed the Latin music (we celebrated our anniversary listening to salsa and merengue!) and a guitar/singer duo Kaleidoscope. Because this was a larger ship than the others we've been on, we noticed that there were more options for music/drinking/dancing.
We went to the piano bar a couple of times, but we didn't really enjoy it as much as we have in previous cruises. I genuinely think that James Quigley ruined all piano bars for us because he was so awesome, that I still follow him on Facebook. He was amazing. I should mention that we had one of the best bar tenders on the whole trip at the piano bar. I can't recall her name but she's from Bulgaria and she was awesome.
Again, we loved the Ocean Plaza and spent more time there, grabbing a drink and listening to the performers. We particularly enjoyed walking around the entire deck 5 at night. There is a spot where it was completely dark, so we spent a little bit of time stargazing. That was pretty sweet.
We passed by the Barbecue place outside Ocean Plaza on Deck 5, but never tried it. It sure smelled good, though! We also noticed on our last day that there was a decent salad bar inside Ocean Plaza that I wish I had known about earlier.
As for the pools, they were always very full, but they were also bigger than the pools in the other ships we've sailed on. I spent some time on deck 11 (I think!) in the pool. I liked that there was a very, very shallow area where I could sit and read.
I've seen a lot of complaints about smoke smell on this ship. Yup, you will smell smoke more than on other ships. The casino smells horrible, but you can avoid it for the most part, or walk really fast. There are also several spots (at least three that I saw) outdoors for smokers, including one right under the running track, which was kind of annoying, but not enough to be bothersome.
As for drinks, we don't drink much. Our entire bill for the trip was about $200, which included some drinks and a handful of toiletry purchases. El husbando especially enjoyed the frozen Margaritas; I had a pina colada, which was OK, but not great. Still very refreshing and the amount of rum was good, too.
On debarkation day, we left our room at 8:30 and hung out at Ocean Plaza until they practically kicked us out at 10:30. We only brought carry on (and we still brought too much stuff!!!), so we walked out to the Carnival charter bus, which took us to Miami. The bus was clean and the driver was friendly and helpful. He had our bags outside when we got to our terminal and we didn't have any issues at all.
In the end, this trip confirmed why we enjoy sailing with Carnival. There were no surprises and we felt like we got good value. I would definitely book the Magic again. Read Less