Our 8 day cruise left Ft Lauderdale on Feb 8th - but as we had a long and weather ridden journey ahead of us we elected to spend 4 days in Fla. prior to sailing...so we left Calgary Canada on Delta (via Minneapolis) on Feb 4th. We arrived late into Ft Lauderdale on the 4th and spent our first night at the Best Western Ft Lauderdale Airport - a 3 star hotel with 5 star service! Even though we arrived well after their last published airport shuttle time, I called the hotel from the airport calling board and they arranged for another hotel nearby to pick us up to deliver us to our hotel! The BW Airport hotel is small, older but our room was immaculately clean and quiet. The next morning we had arranged with Enterprise car rental (located about 3/4 of a mile from the hotel)to pick us up at the hotel to take us back to their rental location to get our car. Again, never before have we had such prompt, courteous and efficient service from a car rental! We then drove up the coast to Melbourne Fla. as we wanted to try and watch the Space Shuttle launch. The drive up was about 2.5 hours - traffic was nuts - drivers were even nuttier on I95 - good thing hubby has nerves of steel. Closest hotel we could get to Kennedy without spending a fortune was the Days Inn West Melbourne - we paid $52/night - clean but older 3 star motel style...5 minute walk to Denny's (if you show your room key they gave a 20% discount off the food bill) We spent 2 nights here and toured Kennedy Space Centre - my 12 yr old son loved it! Too bad it was rainy and cold (only 50F ). We drove back to Ft Lauderdale and stayed at the Best Western Airport/Cruise Port - and booked their 10:45am free shuttle to the pier for the next day. We arrived at our pier at aprox. 11:30am as we had multiple pier stops for other cruisers. Check in at the pier was organized and fast - we were checked in and given zone 4 for boarding in less than 20 minutes. By 12:30pm our zone was called and we were on board - up to the Lido deck 9 for lunch. Our cabins were off limits until after 1pm due to cleaning.
After lunch at about 1:30pm I left my son in the pool (he had is bathing suit in a carry on) my husband in the lido bar and I went to our room to drop off carry on etc. By 3pm our luggage was delivered so I put everything away (bags under the bed so that we had more closet space). Our cabin was deck 6 number 6317 - inside for the 3 of us. Normally in the past we have done balcony cabins but thought we would save the few hundred by doing an inside - very small space for 3 large people as our 12 yr old is adult size now. There were 2 upper berths which folded down for 3rd and 4th passengers. Even though they say that the cabin interior space is the same - it wasn't - compared to our previous balconies. Nonetheless we made due - at least it was very quiet and dark so sleeping in was a breeze and our cabin steward was amazing!!!! But I would spend the extra $400 to do a balcony next time. Our cabin was aft and on the first 2 sea days we had pretty rough seas. So bad that our night stand drawers would roll open and then slam shut back and forth. Good thing we had the ear patch for motion sickness as I would not have survived!
The ship itself was nicely laid out - similar to the Legend in design. I wish Carnival would tone down on the decor a bit as it is a bit over the top at times like in the disco and dining room. Our dining waiter and his assistant were polite but very reserved - I missed the exuberance of previous waiters. The food in the main dining room was 3 star on average. For the most part beef dishes like the Fillet Mignon were iffy at best and I wouldn't bother ordering the lobster ever again!! But any other seafood dish like the grouper or snapper were very good. Surprisingly the Prime Rib was excellent!!!! We did not do Nick and Noras this time. Food in the buffet on the lido deck was decent although we only did dinner there one time. But their salad bar, sandwich bar were excellent as was the pizza stop. The one night that we did dinner it was mediocre but we were too tired to care. We did formal breakfast twice - just to say that we did it and I was surprised at how busy it was! One down side of the formal dining for breakfast is that both times it was very very slow! Food was ok though and it provided a change from the Lido buffet breakfast. More and more people were using the omelette station to custom order eggs ie : over easy etc....so it was usually very busy.
Entertainment: the pool side duo were decent and Carnival had an amazing Filipino band on board doing poolside one night and show lounge other nights! Generally the entertainment was first rate and our cruise director Malcolm is THE BEST! We've had him on one other cruise and I think he is the best in their fleet. Captain Volpi too was very engaging! I would recommend going to all of their shows - we even did a couple of them twice we enjoyed them so much!
As all of our ports were pierside it made port visitations easy and stress free. Port of call details below.
At the end of our cruise, we had a late flight out of Ft Lauderdale at 5pm. Friends of ours on the same flight opted to do the Ft Lauderdale post cruise shore excursion which gave transfers to the airport but en route did a Florida Everglades tour with air boat ride. They paid $49 US per person for this option which is a decent price as the Everglades Tour alone is $20 (we did it on our own the second day in Florida)...but they were at the airport by noon so had a long wait and there was nothing for shops and little for restaurants in our Delta terminal!! My family and I took a $15 cab ride back to the Best Western Airport and paid the $90 day rate for a room and slept, watched TV went for a walk and to Subway for lunch so we felt great! At 3:30pm the hotel took us to the airport so by the time we checked in it was about 4:15pm.
Our flight home was again with Delta via Minneapolis (which is a lovely airport by the way) but it was well after midnight MST when we landed. Long day!
One thing I did do - was purchase a certificate for a future cruise while we were on board. As we know we are going again - just not sure of the date, the cost of the voucher was $100. The $100 is applied to your next cruise PLUS they give you a $100 ship board credit (applies to a 7 day cruise - different SBC for different durations). Will see how well it works next year!
Inside cabin - 6317. Will accommodate up to 4 people but I would recommend only if guests 3 and 4 are small children. My son is 12 but the size of an adult and we were on top of each other. The cabin was very quiet though and being an inside cabin it was nice and dark so sleeping in was easy.
We knew before we left home that the one thing we wanted to do in St Maarten was watch airplanes land - so off to Maho Beach we went. It was a long ride by taxi and as other people were heading their also, our cost was $7 per person US. Taxis were easy to get off the ship and I would highly recommend spending the few extra dollars on a cab rather than take the local bus. At Maho Beach there is the Sunset Beach Bar on one end and they rent lounge chairs and umbrellas - $20 for the day for 2 chairs and an umbrella - well worth it! They of course also sell beverages and have decent food. The beach at Maho is lovely! and the water was gorgeous. But watching the airplanes coming into land and only a few hundred feet above your head was breath taking - check out You tube Maho beach for examples. We left Maho about 2 hrs prior to sailing time to ensure that we got back in time as traffic was very busy.
We chose to book a sight seeing tour of St Lucia with Serenity Tours - a locally owned and operated tour company. The one we did was called Land and Sea and they charged us $95 per adult and $75 for our son. As soon as we walked off the ship we were greeted by smiling, uniformed and with signage tour reps who directed us to our guide and driver. It turned out that for the first part of the tour it was just the 3 of us so we had the large sedan to ourselves. Traffic in Castries is crazy so if you are taking a private land tour back to the ship give yourselves lots and lots of return time! Once we got out of Castries we took the winding road to Souffrier...stops included, banana plantation, casava bread factory, stop for snack and cold beer, cheese and bread, and to the lovely Beacon Restaurant for a delicious lunch and spectacular view of the Pitons. We continued on stopping at the water fall for a quick plunge, and a quick view of the bubbling volcano mud. We ended at about 1:30pm pier side in Souffrier for our catamaran and snorkel back to the ship. The catamaran left at 2pm for our 1.5 hour ride back to the ship - and our snorkel stop was superb...we even sailed into Marigot for a quick view. Serenity gave us an excellent tour and was well worth every penny...we all loved St Lucia and plan on going back sometime for a few days of R and R...it was a stunningly beautiful island!
We opted to do a shore excursion through Carnival as I could not find too many options online for private tours and as we love to snorkel did the Fan Ta Sea excursion. Upon disembarkation we walked a short 5 minute walk to our Catamaran for the excursion - the Irie Lime. This crew were THE BEST!!!! Overall, the snorkeling sucked! - vis was poor and the seas were rough - not the crews fault though. Carnival needs to rename this tour as I wouldn;t call it a snorkeling adventure....party boat yes and tour boat yes but snorkeling - no. We were served a delicious lunch on board - lots of food and tasty but the best part was the bar! The price included all you could drink and most of us did our best - lots of great music and dancing too. We did stop for about 45 minutes at Reggae Beach - it was nice sand but the water dropped off drastically so I wouldn't recommend for little kids. 45 minutes here was plenty long enough. We sailed past Nevis - Captain did a nice blurb on the history etc. The crew were the most professional sailing crew I have ever seen in the Caribbean - I'm not sure if this is the same Catamaran that Carnival uses for each of their Fan Ta Sea shore excursions but this would be the only way I would recommend this particular excursion to anyone...as they made up for the snorkeling fiasco.