I have been sailing on Carnival for a number of years and am a gold member. I agree with other cruisers that the quality of the food is less than what I have experienced in the past. Despite, this, I had a great time. I like to read these reviews to get some tips and will share some of my experiences. We flew in the night before from Atlantic City on Spirit Airlines. We flew to Fort Lauderdale as it was far cheaper than flying into Miami. There is a train that runs from FLL to MIA for about $5 per person each way with a short free shuttle when you get to FLL. You can also rent a car for $25 for the day and take it to MIA and leave it there. We chose to rent the car as it gave us the opportunity to purchase a few items including the bottle of wine each that Carnival allows you to bring on the ship. I had arranged to stay at the Hampton Inn near Miami's Doral Mall. It is a little further out but they offer a free shuttle to their hotel and to the cruise port. It is a very clean hotel that offers a free breakfast as well. In addition, the mall is within walking distance. There is a Cheesecake Factory and other nice restaurants close by where you can walk. The area seemed safe as well. I have stayed near the airport and was afraid to leave the hotel in the past.
We bough the Faster to Fun pass for the additional $50. My boyfriend hates lines and this got us onto the ship immediately where our cabin was ready. Our bags were delivered within a half an hour. Having immediate access to the room allowed us to bring out own soda, water and wine without having to drag it around the ship waiting for our room to be ready. In addition, I was able to change immediately and start my vacation. We were also the first ones off the ship and made our way through customs very quickly at debarkation.
In the ship, I highly recommend going to brunch. The pork chops and cheese grits were the best things that I ate all week. Yummo!!!! In addition, you can not go wrong with the warm chocolate melting cake in the main dining rooms. In the breakfast buffet, I found the salsa to be amazing.