Embarkation--We are second-time Carnival cruisers--50+parents, 13-year old son and 82 year-old grandma who were among around 80 people to embark in Aruba. We chose Aruba because we planned to extend our vacation in Aruba and Bonaire after the cruise. We flew in from Orlando the night before. Getting on was easy once we knew what we were supposed to do. A local travel agent rounded us and a lot of local Arubans waiting in the port and we just carried our own luggage to an area where it was taken onto the ship. We spent about 1/2 hour in orientation on board and were eating by 2. Our bags were in our room almost immediately. A lot easier than getting on with a couple of THOUSAND people. Getting off was just as simple
Dining--We had early dinner (5:45) in the Universe Room with a GREAT table overlooking the stern. We never missed formal dinner--the food and the service is, imho, one of the highlights of the cruise. I am amazed that some tables were empty the whole cruise. NEVER pass on the Coquille St. Jacques, Seafood Newburgh, Chateaubriand, orange soup, anything with lamb or duck, escargot, red snapper, and of course, lobster night. Ana and Roman, our servers were the best, gently nudging our uncertain palates to the perfect choices. A balcony was worth every extra penny--early coffee each a.m. overlooking the ocean and watching the flying fish. Then at mid-morning we'd grab a dining room breakfast of eggs or lox/bagels.
Excursions--San Juan--did our own thing--got off the boat early and headed for a local cafe for breakfast. Then walked to the forts and museums--ate a quick local lunch (don't miss out on eating fried plantains) and back on board by early afternoon. A simple guidebook with a walking tour is all you need to soak up the story of San Juan.