This is yet another Thanksgiving Cruise we've taken and it's nice to see how the crew will decorate for the holiday. We were 2 adults and two children under 10 in an inside cabin. We traveled with family in a balcony cabin. I'm probably used to inside cabins but aside from the balcony, the usable interior space found in the balcony seemed quite comparable.
We flew in the night before and stayed at a local FLL hotel before taking our pre-arranged shuttle to PortMiami.
We received an email from Carnival saying that boarding would be delayed by an hour and not to arrive until then. I did switch out my shuttle reservation for the later time but they called that morning saying there were a lot of delays from others and that if we wanted to leave a half hour earlier than the new time I chose, we could. We took them up on it since they were saying it could further delay if we waited.
We got to the port just after the time that was originally selected on the Carnival.com site during online check in. Check in was a breeze and so was security. We sat around waiting for our number to be called for about 15 minutes and were finally onboard just after 12pm.
We signed up for communication package through the Carnival Hub App for $5 pp. On iPhone, you need to keep it open in the background in order to receive the text message through the app. A battery drain for those that use iPhone.
We had a great steward Mauricio. He was able to sneak in and out of the room to tidy up during some short stints out of the cabin. I found it odd that the towel animals were done during the morning cabin tidy rather than the turn down service.
The Your Time Dining option was really poorly run. Someone from your party will need to go to Deck 5 JavaBlue Cafe in order to let them know you were ready for dinner and then go down to deck 3 to be seated. No one mentioned that you can do it in the app until after we switched to a 5:30pm dining time. That's all we really wanted to begin with.
We were then lucky enough to be waited on my Olimpiu from Romania. The nicest guy you will meet and full of great stories and experiences. His whole Team was quite helpful and had enough attentiveness to feel like you weren't neglected or waiting too long for anything. Even repeat entrees or replacement entrees were brought up quickly.
Food tasted great and at the right temperature. I wish they had more Indian food to offer. There was one vegetarian option that stayed all week in the MDR but absolutely NOTHING in the buffet at all.
Generally, lunch in the Lido buffet was the disappointment. There was one section of the buffet open and in each of the four corners was the same 7 or 8 items. On other lines I've sailed, the lunch buffet would have a number of different cuisines and variety for each. The alternative was to eat at the pasta bar, Mongolian wok, Guy's burger, Pig and Anchor. I know, I know... the horror of eating at those places. But it would be nice not to have to wait for a table at the first two, or in a line for the last two.
Pig & Anchor didn't disappoint on sea day lunches. A little fatty with the brisket but so tasty. Guy's burgers was/is my favorite and I was looking forward to them as soon as I booked the cruise.
Pizza was great!! Enough said. Desserts could have been better. Ice cream was plentiful so that filled the gap.
Guest Services would take folks standing in the Platinum Diamond line first but when they realized the people were not either status, or, they were standing beside a friend that was that status, they continued to serve them.
Another cruise where the Sky Ride wasn't working. Apparently there was a short period of time where there were two workers in there looking at the bikes. Though it still wasn't fixed for our sailing. Apparently, it was probably a better use of your time to just go to the gym rather than wait in line for the Sky Ride. They did have Sky Fitness for some basic elliptical, hip, walker, pull ups, abs and triceps exercises. I thought it was better than even going to the gym since when can you say you were working out on the deck sailing on the seas.
My kids who were in the penguin and sting ray groups seemed to have enjoyed themselves the 3 or 4 times they did go to Camp Ocean. I can't comment much beyond that.
Ports of call in order: Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao, Aruba. We did not take any ship sponsored excursions.
The first two were new for us and the last two were return trips from a cruise 17 years earlier.
I go into these ports oblivious to what to expect. Grand Turk was great. We are not beach people but still stayed on the island for 2-3 hours and had fun swimming by the beach as well as in the large, expansive pool in the back.
La Romana was more of a walk around and back to the ship.
We took an open air bus ride around Curacao for $20/adult. We got into Curacao after 1:30pm and by the time the tour dropped folks off at the beach, it was closer to dusk. We went back to town and walked along the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge at night and there were nice lights to look at as well as a tall Christmas tree at the other end as well.
We took a similar tour as Curacao in Aruba but in an AC van. Great driver and tour of the area. Apparently Eagle beach is the place to go for all you beach lovers.
Entertainment times were odd. There were many shows that only ran once an evening. So if you missed it, that was it. No 7:30pm or 9:30pm showings. Comedy in the Limelight was great. We had two comics leave mid cruise and replaced with two others which weren't as great.
We had an early flight out of MIA. 11am. So we did the Express Disembarkation program they offered. This has been far and away the most efficient and well run disembark I have ever had in 20 cruises. We were told to meet in Liquid Lounge by 7am. By the time we were there a few minutes after 7, they were already calling decks to leave at the starboard side entrance to disembark the ship.
They have a Global Entry line in the terminal but if you're off that early, it seemed that the regular line was SLIGHTLY quicker since there were more officers vs the 1 Global Entry officer. This line works for those that carry Nexus as well.
The ship seemed "older" than it really was. There were some stalls in the restrooms that you would need to pull extremely hard in order to close. Then you feel like you can't get out afterwards. This is the men's room near the Blue Iguana.
There was no push to sanitize your hands before entering the buffet or MDRs.
I like the fact that they're not announcing that bingo is about to start each and every day.
We were 2 adults and two children under 10 in an inside cabin. We traveled with family in a balcony cabin. I'm probably used to inside cabins but aside from the balcony, the usable interior space found in the balcony seemed quite comparable.