I flew in the morning of the cruise, arrived at the Tampa Airport around 8:30A.M and easily grabbed a taxi to head to the pier. Yes, it's early I know. It was $25 flat rate from the airport to the pier. I arrived in about 25 minutes and the port was not yet opened until 9:30A.M so I waited then they opened the doors an still I waited because the check in counter was not ready for guests. The waiting area is large and accommodating, music and ice water provided. At about 10:00A.M the check in counter was ready for guests to check in, so I checked in and waited for my number to be called. There was a large wedding party, and large Travel Agent site inspection group there for just that first day. Embarkation started around 11:30A.M and it was quick and easy to get on board. Everyone of course rushed up to the Lido deck for lunch it was an overcast day so everyone was inside.
Rooms were ready by 1:30p.m my cabin was on deck 4 room R8. I booked an Inside guarantee and this room had 2 port hole windows and was larger than I expected. I usually like to pick out my room on deck 7 or higher and midship. This room reminded me of why. Deck 4 is the lowest cabin deck and R8 is all the way forward. Lots of motion and noise. When the waves hit the ship it sounds like cannons going off. Other than the motion and loud noises it was a nice room with good size, and my room steward Mary Ann was great.
This cruise hit Superbowl Sunday, which was great that they played the game in the main theater with a large Wings and other goodie Buffet. We also were at sea during Mardi Gras which so happened to be the Cozumel port day. Fun dancing, costumes and parades in Cozumel was fun to see and the ship had a fun Mardi Gras deck party that night. The main entertainment on the ship was just okay, the lights and stage decor was great but the singing was not so great. I liked the George Lopez Comedy shows.
I wasn't impressed with the Lido Deck Buffets, there was plenty of variety and plenty of places to sit I just didn't like the food quality. Pizza and Ice Cream 24/7 that many would enjoy. I did love the Sunday and SeaDay Brunch that was offered in the main dining room. I wish they offered that everyday. It was very casual but the food was delicious with a lot of choices of either Breakfast, lunch, or dessert.
Our first stop was Grand Cayman, which is a Tender port. We were unable to Tender at the original destination because of the Waves being so high, so we Tendered at Spotts Bay which is on the opposite side of the Island. Carnival says to go up to the Lido Deck at 7:30a to get an assigned Tender number and then wait for your number to be called. I was first in line so had Tender 1. Because we tendered at a different location we were about an hour behind schedule and we were only scheduled there until 3:00P.M. Carnival first allowed their Excursion guests to go on the first tenders. I was able to casually join their line and got on the Tender over to the island. There were locals set up with their merchandise and Taxi "Vans" waiting. I had already booked an excursion with Resortforaday.com to spend the day at the Westin Grand Cayman so found a taxi van that was taking other guests to Seven Mile Beach, it was $7 per person. The other guests that were dropped off at the public beach called Captain Jacks, I noticed this beach didn't have the shaded lounge chairs and wasn't as nice as what I was expecting for Seven mile beach. I asked the driver to take me to the Westin, and they were very nice and dropped me off. I walked in and checked in at the front desk and was very grateful that this beach was exactly what I was looking for. There was Beach Ambassadors that set up my lounge chair and umbrella right where I wanted it. And was accommodating all day getting me anything I wanted to needed. I had about 4 1/2 hours at the Westin relaxing and enjoying the day. They also had 4 shops on site that I was able to pick up some souveniers. The Tortuga Beach Grill did not accept US Cash so I had to pay for drinks with my Room Key, but the shops and cafe inside does accept US Cash. When I was ready to return taxi's were waiting right outside. I asked the driver to drive past the normal pier, and it was less than 10 minutes away from the Westin. So if I would have Tendered at the original port, I would have had about 5-6 hours at the Westin which would have been well worth the amount paid. It was a great option.
In Cozumel I tried out Cozumeldaypasses.com and booked the Occidental Grand Resort. I like spending the Day at the All Inclusive Resorts as an excursion because it's more private than the Beach excursions offered by the cruise lines. We docked at Puerta Maya, walked the pier through the international building where they have K9 security, turn left and walk past the shops and then right at the end of the yellow buildings, There will be a covered walk way that the taxi's are waiting at. There was a line, but again I'm impatient to get where I'm going so I just walked up to the director and let him know I was traveling solo and needed a taxi to take me to the Occidental Grand. He quickly found me a very nice woman driver name Carolina who spoke very well English. It was about a 20 minute ride that was enjoyable with me talking to Carolina about their Parade that was going on that night. It cost me $16 for just myself to go to Occidental Grand. I was able to check in and followed the sidewalk down to the pools and beaches where they were celebrating the Mardi Gras festivities. The first pool I came to was a more quiet adults only pool, and there was a beautiful Large Iguana just chilling by the pool. Then I walked through the beautiful nature reserve back to the beach area. There was another pool, and beach, along with activities and a DJ and Lunch Buffet restaurant. Drinks were readily available in Coconuts and other drinks to try. Beach Cabana's were available for no charge, first come first use. I used one of those for the day and it was perfect! The wave conditions where high but it was still a beautiful day. When I was ready to head back to the ship, which I did early because of the Parade I knew the roads were going to be closing downtown. The front desk called me a taxi and it was there within 10 minutes. This excursion was just $60 for an All Inclusive all food, drinks, and activities included. I met some friends on board who paid $120 per person to go to Carnivals All Inclusive Beach Excursion and they said it was crowded and loud.
The last day at sea I spent a lot of time in the Casino. The service there was wonderful and kind. I'm a non smoker so I wished there would have been a section in the Casino that was Non Smoking, but I'm not a big complainer so I toughed it out. I liked playing the slot machines and won 5 tshirts, racked up some VIFP points. Won some and lost more. Once you start doing well on a machine, people will gather around and just wait for you to run out or move from your seat.
Disembarkation was also easier than expected. We docked around 7:30A.M and I did Self Assist Debarkation as I only had 1 bag. I had a 3p flight booked but was really hoping to get on the 10a.m. They disembark by Cabin floor, miss impatient did not want to wait until 9:30A.M for deck four to be called, so again I casually walked off with the Carnival Early Flight Transfer that were disembarking at 8:00A.M grabbed a taxi and was at the airport by 9:00A.M and at the gate to fly home at 9:30A.M
The Cabin was larger than I expected. There was 2 port hole windows with a deep cubby that if one of my children were with me, they would have loved laying or sitting there. holes were nice to see the sun shinning and it had a curtain to close it if I wanted to nap during the day. Had a small seating chair, flat screen TV, and vanity desk with 4 drawers. Two closets and plenty of hangers. Bathroom was average with the handle shower, and short curtain.
I booked the Westin Grand Cayman that offered a private room for up to 4 guests. If there was 4 in the party it averages about $50 per person. The Westin was beautiful! They offer stand up paddle boarding, and many other activities. The beach was beautiful and not crowded. No loud much playing, just the sound of the waves. There are Beach Ambassadors that will set up your chair and umbrella where ever you'd like on the beach. It was perfect.View All 220 Beach Reviews
Not that I have any against the cruise excursions. I just do not like going where everyone else is going. I vacation to get away from crowds. So booking this day pass online was easy and I was able to easily grab a taxi after about a 10 minute walk from the ship to the taxi's. Occidental Grand is a beautiful All Inclusive Resort that you can enjoy. Pools, beaches, activities, lunch, and great friendly staff. I had a beautiful Beach Cabana for the day and it was just perfect.View All 696 Beach Reviews
The Tampa embarkation took longer than I had hoped. There was wedding party, and about 100 travel agents were there for a ship inspection. So the port was busier than the cruise itself. It was large enough to accommodate everyone and everyone from the doors to the ship were all very friendly.