Chose this cruise as part of a crochet cruise. We had a group of about 100 on board, with daily meetings in the conference space. With only 1/2 the conference center available to us (Park West was permanently in the other side), it was a ... Read More
Chose this cruise as part of a crochet cruise. We had a group of about 100 on board, with daily meetings in the conference space. With only 1/2 the conference center available to us (Park West was permanently in the other side), it was a bit crowded using tables with all of us working, but it was manageable.
The cruise was originally an Eastern Caribbean but got rerouted to the Western route after hurricanes flattened all the eastern ports. We were on a back to back, so got to go to all the same ports twice. This review covers both weeks.
Cabins: Our first week cabin was an upgrade - an exterior view cabin on Deck 1. Carnival had offered us the upgrade for $70. The cabin felt much more spacious than our usual interior, with enough space for a couch (pull out), and the porthole right above the gangplank - fantastic for people watching. The cabin also had two bathrooms - with the second one having a "bathtub" that might fit a small pre-teen for soaking and a sink (no toilet). However, it made a fantastic shower, and it was nice having the two rooms.
Ship Info: Holds about 4700 people, but didn't feel massive. On sea days the Lido deck got crowded (as always), but there was always quieter space elsewhere.
Smoking areas - a definite drawback on this design. The casino is smoking and open to the interior in both the 10-story closed atrium and the inside of deck 5. That left no place un-smoked. The Vibe nightclub on 5 is also smoking, and when in operation, the doors are left open. If you have issues with smoke, this may be a problem for you - our group avoided the nightclub after the first 10 minutes.
Entertainment - not much to say here, as I skipped a lot of it. My favorite hangout was the Red Frog Pub on 5, next to the nightclub. The music there is predominantly country, and was mostly ignored by the patrons (good music, just not hitting the right mix for that gang). Reportedly the piano bar was fantastic, but I never got over to it. The various entertainers on the Ocean stage on 5 were ok, but nothing I found memorable. There was a classical duo performing in the atrium some evenings that was quite good, but more often it was over-amped singers or DJs.
Dining - the Pig and Anchor Smokehouse is FANTASTIC!!! Too bad it's only open on embarkation and sea days - the lines were long but worth the wait. On Lido, Guys burgers were always a big hit, as was the Blue Iguana tacos. For lunch, the Mongolian Wok did a great mongolian grill, but the pathetic ventilation required lungs of steel to be anywhere near it due to the burning peppers - find a friend who can't smell, and has solid lungs to fix you a bowl and eat it elsewhere. The buffet was, well, Carnival's buffet - solid, reasonable variety, but not something to dance about. The Deli is open 11-11 and offers pre-made sandwiches that are heated up in ovens (no longer panini-pressed). They were able to offer me gluten-free rolls for the sandwiches which were fantastic. Outside the Tandoor indian station makes a great selection of kabobs and curries daily - well worth the stop in (they also know and can tell you whats in each dish if you have allergies). The pizza was apparently fantastic for the regular pizza, but the gluten-free crust (as with most GF crusts) tastes more like cardboard than anything else.
The pasta bar on 11 was excellent - my preferred choice most days. You select the pasta you want, and the toppings and they're delivered to you. This restaurant was never over-crowded when I went, which provided a nice respite from the hordes.
Dinner I had in the main dining room each night. The selection in the American Table is considerably more limited than some other lines but adequate - 4 main dishes plus a vegetarian curry plate most nights, with 6 or so appetizers to pick from. There's also "standard" items including grilled chicken (rubber - don't bother), pork chop (good), and flat iron steak (good) every night as choices or you can splurge and spend $20 for lobster or fancier steaks from the steak house (I didn't). The food was well prepared, but if you have food allergies, BEWARE! This was my 6th/7th cruise with Carnival, and I have never had to worry about getting hit with allergens before. There were three of us at the table with allergies (we consolidated the allergy gang week 2 at one table), and it was a game of "how are they going to try to kill us now" every course. On previous cruises, Carnival has done a fantastic job assisting me - usually with the maitre d' taking the order and checking. This now falls on the way overworked wait staff - who have apparently no training or understanding about the menu and allergies. The final dessert course was the home run - each of the three of us was served a dessert (chef's choice) that contained the first allergen on each of our lists. This put a severe damper on our experience, although we did turn it into a game (and we spoke to the head chef multiple times - each time, the offenses got worse).
Embarkation was superbly smooth, as was disembarkation at Canaveral. We showed up at the appointed time, and moved swiftly through the various lines and onto the ship.
Onboard, I found plenty of places to hang out with my fellow crocheters - although we congregated on 5 near the pub and at the back of Lido most times due to the delightfully damp weather the first week and the stiff breezes the second week. The chairs and couches are adequate, but get uncomfortable after the first hour or so throughout the ship.
Cozumel - it was pouring rain week 1, so I stayed on board. The second week, we had reservations at Mr Sanchos' Beach Resort (the romance package, with chairs, a cabana and massages for two). We brought another couple along to share the cabana etc, and the four of us declared it was the best excursion ever - go for the grilled shrimp, best any of us had ever had.
Belize - Week 1 we had a ShoreTrips excursion to the Belize Zoo and Altun Ha. Unfortunately, a tropical depression decided to form, so we had a monsoon during the entire excursion, for which we were unprepared. The zoo was fascinating, although the cats were smarter than the tourists - they stayed inside and dry. The tapir and monkeys made the trip worth it. Given the state of the ground, about 1/2 the group, including us, decided to skip the ruins and head back to port. Apparently the deluge stopped once they got to the ruins, letting loose a plague of insects (of course, it's a rain forest..), but everyone enjoyed it.
Belize Week 2 - Carnival excursion Reef Snorkel and Starfish Island. Great excursion - they take great care to make us all feel safe snorkeling, and the rum punch flows liberally *after* the snorkel. The reef is beautiful, and many interesting things were seen. Starfish Island is 100% beach with a pay bar, and a hamburger stand, neither of which we took advantage of, choosing to sit in the comfy chairs and couches under the awning and read. The trip back to the ship featured entertainment by the catamaran crew, and was fantastic - worth the excursion fee by itself. (And that's not the free rum punch talking - I was drinking pure water, having taken Dramamine... the entire boat was rocking with most of the folks dancing along with the crew).
Roatan - Week 1 - had reservations at little french key, but the tropical depression had followed us so we skipped it. I stayed on board while my wife shopped the port. Week 2 we both shopped the port - good way to kill an hour. Others headed for the attached beach for sun. Beware, though - I saw at least one port shop taking peoples passports over to the credit card machine with the passport pages open, and a burnt out light above it - possibly being photographed for duplication (although I may be overly suspicious) - don't let them get their paws on your ID, and use drivers licenses as ID for safety.
Costa Maya - Week 1 - the depression was headed for Florida, leaving us with a nice clear day. Walked the port shops and back to the ship. This is a VERY short stop, so didn't do anything much. Week 2 we took advantage of the Carnival Beach excursion for $40 and were transported to a nice beach with free drinks, and beach chairs. Pleasant enough, except it got rainy, so we headed back relatively early. Probably would skip this stop in future.
This was our 5th or 6th time on the Western Caribbean circuit, so we'd done much of the stuff before, and our light excursion schedule is a result.
Cabin Week 2 - 7434 - Interior. Like every other interior :D Small, but only there to shower, change & sleep.
Overall review summary - nice ship, well laid out. Only awkward routing - can't get fore to aft on 3, and on 5 the smoker (casino) is not bypassable so to get to 3rd floor Southern Lights cross on 4. Read Less