We did this cruise via a casino coupon and we upgraded to a Junior suite from an inside room . Mistake but I will talk about this in my cabin review.
We were two couples in our early 40's and my single friend in her early 40's. The single friend was a first time cruiser and she loved it! The rest of us have been on 5 or 6 other cruises and thought it was up there in our favorite 2. We didn't go in with huge expectations and maybe that is why we had a blast.
Embarkation was a breeze. Because I upgraded to a Suite we had priority boarding which meant a really short line compared to the huge line for everyone else. They will let your non suite friends get in the short line with you. We were there at noon and on the ship by 12:20. We all bought the drink package and thank god! We like to drink and some of them got cut off by midnight because they reached their 15 drink max. But hey, drinks get warm, you set them down, you may not like one, they still count so we were glad we bought it. Lunch on the Lido deck we all chose guys burgers and fries and they were all great. We hung out all day by the pool, in the casino, walking around etc. We missed going under the sky bridge in Tampa as we were in the casino (woopsy) . Anyway this boat rocked alot more than other cruise ships I have been on. Sometimes you noticed it, but I just tried to not look out the windows as we moved and I was generally fine. I am also very sensative to sea sickness and I never heard anyone else complain about it.
We met for early 6pm dinner in the main dining room Destiny. We sat the 5 of us and 3 lovely ladies from Virginia. Our two waiters were great and our drinks and apps were on the table in 5 min. All our meals in the main dining room were very good! we did all pay $20 extra one night and got the filet and lobster and it did not disappoint.
Day 2- arrive in Key west at noon, I really wished we got here sooner as it is very close to Tampa???? I was confused why the itinerary didnt allow more time at this port. Anyway we had a few cocktails on board and waited for the masses to fight their way off. We walked off at 12:50 ish and no lines. It rained all day in Key West but we did a little bar hopping and had fun anyway. Irish Kevins was for sure our favorite spot with the live singer/comedian guy.
Got back on the little trolly thing around 3pm and went back to the ship. I will definately be back in Key West as it wasnt nearly enough time here.
Got back went to casino (after we were like 12 miles out of course) and made it to the main dining room again for dinner. I say made it because it was a long day of drinking and some people wanted to nap! Food great again!
Day 3- woke up around 8am, some ate breakfast (my husband and I don't really eat breakfast) Waited for most to get off the ship in CUBA, we got off around 11 am with absolutely no one in line. Customs took 30 seconds as did money exchange. Just to give an idea of how much you will need in Cuba, most of us took our $80 US and it was too much (for what we did).
First of all DO NOT get suckered into buying an excursion if you want to just walk on your own!!!! Carnival will try and tell you that you have to check off "people to people" and book an excursion. We being in Cuba last year knew to check off "support the cuban people" option and you can totally just walk off. We walked to the main square accross from the ship and you will get a few locals asking if you want to pay $1 each and they will walk you around. We said no, but one guy seemed to never leave so what the heck we let him walk us around. He took us to a local John Lennon bar (dive bar but very cool!!) we all go cubra libras (rum and cokes) and were surprised it was $10 a drink!! We had one, felt very buzzed and moved on to the next stop. We walked through beautiful streets, saw the market, other squares, local people living life. It was great. Ernest Hemingway bar right near the port was our fave as it had live cuban music and here a round of drinks for 5 people was $7.50 US. Or $7.50 CUC. Totally cheap and fun here. We danced and walked around some more. We all tipped our guy $25 US and he was more than happy I am sure.
Got back on the boat and only 2 made it to dinner....
Day 4 - Cozumel- We arrived at 12:45pm to port and we chose again to wait an hour before getting off to avoid the crowd. We had booked El Cid's for the twilight day pass as our ship was here 1pm to 9pm. No other day pass resorts were offering this late day pass. It was $65 each I think?? MAKE SURE you bring the printed piece of paper with your reservation or they will make you print it at the hotel. We had drinks, food (good food) towels, pool, snokeling, all included. It was a fun day! The shopping area right a the ship is awesome, I thought it was beautiful clean and lots to do. We were back on the ship around 6 as we are wimps of the sun and apparently cannot drink too much in the sun.
Day 5- day at sea, usual activities, silly games by the pool, lots of food.... I dont really know as I was burnt from Mexico and did not hang around outside.
We were mostly hanging around the casino area/American bar. Now 3 of us were smokers and even as a smoker I will say that this small one side of the bar and in the casino were always VERY smoky.. The air suckers in this area seemed to not work. This was also the area that they had the trivia games which we LOVED!! So much fun. But dang do something with the smoking vents!
CASINO!!!!- Ok we hung out here ALOT!!! Like every day for a long time especially at night. We usually go to Greektown Casino in our hometown near Detroit. We usually hit at greektown pretty much every time we are there so we think it is the loosest best slots in the world lol . This casino was pretty close. It is small but it pays good!!! Every single time you sat down people were hitting like crazy! My husband probably won $1000 a day on slots easily. I couldnt believe it . I loved playing roulette with our group. I won one of the pong games in the casino where they called my name and I had to throw one out of ten ping pong balls into a gift bag with money on it. I won $75 it was fun.
Overall the wait staff was fantastic, you always had a drink in your hand, we never waited once at any of the bars nor in the casino. Dinner service was fast, we never waited more than 10 min for dinner. I couldn't believe we were on the same cruise that people were ripping on the slow service and crappy food. We did not think this at all. Look , don't expect Ruth's Chris style meals, expect more like outback or Texas Road House lol. Then you will not be disappointed. This boat is small and therefore you won't get lost and everything is easy to get to. Having said that it is small and can sometimes feel like there is not much to do. There is not much craziness going on near the pool, which I like sometimes. We NEVER had a problem getting a chair, there were never any big drunks partying like it was springbreak. There was no more than 20 kids on the whole ship. It was just a great cool crowd of people. Cabin review is next....
So the free casino cruise was for 2 people in an inside room. I Upgraded to a V22 Junior suite and I think I paid an extra $1100 for this. What a mistake. The room is basically the same size as a balcony room on RCI or NCL cruises which we normally take. There is no butler like NCL, no snacks and special service like NCL. I dont think I went on the balcony one time as we had too much fun with our friends on the ship. I think I would have been happy in an ocean view room, hey maybe even the inside room.... it was a nice room, the shower was fine, plenty of storage etc. The TV was huge and great except the remote sucked and took forever to move between chanels, maybe they needed new batteries. Our room guy Andy was awesome and always popped up when we needed it. Just remember I guess when choosing a room, it is carnival, not princess, so keep expectations reasonable and you will be fine!