I hope you don't fall asleep reading this as it is pretty lengthy.. I would like to start off by saying WOW! Since this was my first cruise, I spent hours and hours reviewing the boards, on the internet, talking to past cruiser's and felt I was ready for the time of my life! I wasn't wrong! I traveled with (3) of my best friends and we took the Carnival Shuttle from the airport. Even though we live in Orlando, we decided to take it so we could start our vacation off relaxing. The trip over lasted 45 minutes and we never saw our luggage again until we got to our rooms. We got to the Port around 11:00 and was on the ship by 11:30! The whole process was very organized and we were sipping our first "Foo-Foo" drink by noon. We were told that we would not be able to get to our rooms until after 1:30 (due to previous passengers being "extremely" unruly)! We were able to drop off our luggage and met our wonderful Room Steward Romano. There wasn't a time when we didn't come back to our room that it was not clean, had ice or fresh towels. I even took pictures of the towel animals (don't laugh!) Actually, no matter where you went on the ship at any time during the night or day, they were always cleaning something! We had an inside room and it was plenty big enough for 2 people. I took binder clips for the shower curtain and never had it stick to my body (yuck). The shampoo and body wash are not the best quality and will dry out your hair and skin. I would recommend bringing a conditioner. The hair dryer in the room is a little awkward because you have to keep the button pressed down for it to stay on. I will bring my own next time. I did bring an extension cord and were able to keep our phones charged (used it in St. Thomas with no problem and no extra charge through Cingular) and my small portable fan (need the noise). The air tended to be a little on the cool side (good for me, too cold for my friend Heather). The beds were standard, but I wanted to pack the down comforter and pillows in my suitcase! The room had a vanity with lighted mirror which came in handy with 2 women in the room. There was also plenty of storage place and room to put the suitcases under the bed. As suggested, we used an old credit card to open the safe because if you use your sail and sign card (it's also your room key), your steward will have access to it. The only problem I ran into the whole time on the ship was the Purser's desk. Since I didn't want to use my credit card, I was told I had to go to the desk and put cash down. After getting lost 2 or 3 times (remember, I was new to the ship) finding it and waiting in line for 20 minutes, I was told they were not accepting cash at that time and I would have to come back! How was I supposed to buy my "Foo-Foo" drink???? Luckily, I traveled with friends and they kept me well supplied until I went back to the desk. I put $250 down, which seemed like enough and was, and went on my way. Later that night after I had used my card a few times (4 more "Foo-Foo drinks), I was told I did not have any money left in my account (pretty expensive drinks)? After going to the purser's desk for the 3rd time, I was told only $25 was put on my account, instead of $250. Since the person was not there that did it, I was told I had to come back the next morning (UGH..4th trip down)! Luckily, his cash drawer did not balance the night before and he had my money put to the side. Problem finally solved! As far as the ship's layout, it was as confusing as everyone said. We were always getting lost, but you know, that was half the fun! I loved the colors of the ship, very bright and welcoming. Our favorite spot on the ship was the Azure Bar. We met 40-50 friends from Cruise Critic the first afternoon and ended up back there many times. The pool and Jacuzzi were supposed to be for adults only. Though it was not enforced, we did not see too many children there and the ones that did come were never unruly. We never had any problem finding chairs; the most we ever had to wait was 15 minutes. We just parked ourselves around the corner of the pool and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The only negative thing I can say about the Azure Pool area was the music. It was the same soundtrack, over and over and over again. Our favorite bartenders (Edwin was the most entertaining) and waitress's (Marianna) knew our names by the second day and the drinks were never watered down! As far as the activities, we made it to the Hairy Chest Contest, Watermelon Eating Contest, So You Think You Can Dance Contest, and the Deck Party (it was a blast). We always seemed busy doing things and never made it to anything else. There always seemed to be something to do! The 12:00 Adult Comedy Show was hilarious (made it to that 2 times) and the grand finale "Carnival Legends" was the best! 3 people out of our Cruise Critic group were chosen. Try outs for Brittney Spears, Ricky Martin, Elvis, etc. were at the Karaoke Bar, and was always packed. Mark Price "Cruise Director" was absolutely the BEST!!! We lived in the disco and usually ended up back in our rooms around 4-5:00 in the morning. Since there are few clocks on the ship, you totally lose track of time. Oh yeah, they even had a movie "Rocky Horror Picture Show". We had a blast doing the "Time Warp". We usually ate breakfast at the buffet in the Red Sail. Your usual fair, bacon, eggs (omelet station was the best), hash rounds (usually cold and hard), cereals, etc. I only wish that they changed it up a little, it was the same choices every morning and got pretty old. We did eat in the dining room 2 times and it was not much better, same omelet choices, same hash rounds. Only difference was their daily specials. We had late night (8:00) seating in the Platinum Dining Room. We made it there every night, except the night we had to many Banana Daiquiris in St. Thomas (will talk about that later). Most of the food was good (favorite was escargot, Asparagus soup and the souffle), I would give it a "B" rating. Service was a little slow at times, bit Carlos knew our drinks by the second day. We usually did not get out of there until 9:30 and sometimes as late as 10:00. Our favorite time was seeing the waiters and stewards sing and dance. They seemed to have a lot of fun with it. We never ate lunch at the buffet or dining room, but did have pizza (very good, especially at 2am) and ate at Fish & Chips. This ended up being our favorite place to eat. The fish and fried oysters were wonderful!! It's located upstairs above the Red Sail. There was also sushi (only during certain hours) and the line for the Deli was always long. We rarely saw a line at the Chinese Station (heard it was not very good). Now the excursions: We have all been to the Bahamas before and did not want to do the Straw Market (too hot and crowded). We took a water taxi ($6 a person, plus tip) to Atlantis. If you want to use their facilities, you have to pay for the tour. I believe it was $30? We walked around and enjoyed the huge aquarium, checked out the casino and asked directions to the closest beach, which was right next door to Atlantis. Not the best area. We were bombarded by hair braiders, children pushing "all you can drink" specials, jewelry sales, etc. It was actually very annoying and not peaceful at all. The water was clear and refreshing though, but watch out for the huge drop off's! Our next port was St. Thomas. We booked a Snuba excursion through VISnuba and had a tour guide through Paschal's Virgin Tours. Both were EXCEPTIONAL! Paschal picked us up at the port and took us to a little straw market to shop. He then dropped us off at Coral World to Snuba. Frank was the best! He took his time with us since we had never done it before and was very patient. Our whole experience lasted 2 hours (well worth $68, which included entrance to Coral World) and we had more time in the water and were less expensive than the ships excursion. Paschal took us on a beautiful tour of the island and dropped us off at a the Beacon Point Bar where Herbie (our bartender) made homemade Virgin Banana Daiquiris. A bottle of rum was put on the counter for us to pour as much we pleased (Herbie even added some more when we were not looking!). 6 daiquiris later we were toast! Needless to say, we never made it to dinner that night and barely made it back to the ship on time (would not recommend that). Paschal also took us to a local diner where the food was better than anything we received on the ship. We treated him and his 2 children (who he picked up from school on the way and were adorable) and our total bill was only $91, plus tip! If you ever go the St. Thomas, you must contact Paschal, he was the best!!! I believe I will retire in St. Martin! I wish we could have spent longer there. We had a tour guide (Bernard) through SXM Tours. There were 6 of us in an air conditioned van and our excursion included a stop to see the airplanes. Since I live (1) mile from the airport, I was not at all excited about this stop, but it turned out great! You can literally stand behind a jet taking off and hold on to the fence to be almost blown away (there are warning signs everywhere). I was not quite the dare devil as my friend Kim, but she said it was awesome and she was nearly lifted off the ground! We were then dropped off at a straw market on the French side of the island (Margot). We bought some souvenirs and lots of homemade rum (6 small bottles for $30, beautifully decorated) to give away as gifts. Bernard dropped us off at beautiful Orient Beach. Heather and I parasailed through SunSmileparasail (tandem was only $80). The scenery was beautiful and the water was crystal clear. It was not crowded at all. Kim and Cheryl went to the nude part of the beach. Yes, we went topless (except shy Heather) and yes, there are many who should not, but heck, you only live once! We had a few drinks at Pedros (Penis Colada, Painkiller ) which were only $5 and potent! There were umbrellas and chairs for rent ($12) but we did not use them. We were then dropped off on the Dutch side of the island, nearest to the ship, to shop and picked up a few more souvenirs. We found a small bar on the beach ($5 drinks) and relaxed until it was time to go back to the ship. Bernard was very courteous and always on time. I would definitely recommend him! At first I was not happy with the idea of having 3 sea days, but I know now the appeal. This time was spent relaxing by the pool and I never once thought about work!!! We chose to check our luggage (as we were not in a big hurry to get off the ship) and put it out the night before at 12am. We were all ready to spend most of the morning waiting for our floor and colored luggage tags to be called, but were surprised when right in the middle of calling for the people who chose to carry off their luggage, our floor and tags were called. We were off the ship by 9:30am and on the shuttle bus back to Orlando by 9:45! The only bad thing about this was we missed the shuttle going off. All in all, this was an absolutely wonderful experience. 2 weeks later, I can't seem to stop talking about all the fun we had and we are already planning our next trip in September 07 to go to the Western Caribbean. I can only hope that it will be as much fun!! Please feel free to email me for names and email address for Paschal, Bernard, VISnuba, Sunsmile, etc. at email@example.com .