8-day family cruise, mid-50's couple with 19yr old son. Sailed out of Miami with port stops in Aruba, Curacao, La Romana (DR), and Amber Cove (DR). This was our 10th cruise as a family. We've sailed on Disney, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. This was our 2nd cruise on Carnival. The first Carnival cruise was likely our worst - we weren't sure we would sail Carnival again, but the itinerary and timing of this one called us back and we are ever thankful. Our BEST cruise ever.
WHAT MADE THIS ONE DIFFERENT?
First, I think timing of the cruise made a huge difference. For our prior cruises we were always relegated to choosing times that fit a school year which meant we were cruising during incredibly busy family times (Christmas, Spring Break, or early summer once school was out). For this one our son was done with college a little early which meant we cruised before schools were out. Less families and kids, no spring break ravers, just people looking to get away. It was a fun cruise without any boozy rowdiness or running children. I think the timing was favorable for us.
The variety of excursions available in Amber Cove was outstanding. We ended up doing the Zipline and 27 Waterfalls combo excursion and it was incredible. We got to drive a little of the area, passed through a village, hiked at the national park where the Damajagua waterfalls are located, slid down 6 sets of waterfalls into cool pools of fresh water, drove to the Mega Adventures zipline area and had a very good lunch. Upon returning to the port area we perused the variety of shops at the port and enjoyed a cold locally brewed beer. We would certainly return to Amber Cove. Thoroughly enjoyed the day.
We REALLY were looking forward to a day in Aruba but were left disappointed. The beaches are as incredible as you've heard. We took the bus to Eagle Beach and had a very nice day at a gorgeous and well kept beach. What we learned though is the wind blows in Aruba continuously, so we did get sand blasted a bit on the beach with wind gusts (but it wasn't terrible). After an enjoyable day at the beach we returned to downtown Aruba to do some sightseeing and market shopping. This is what was disappointing. The city is rundown, many of the shops were closed (maybe victims of pandemic shut downs?) and it just wasn't a real pleasant city to explore. Bottom line, beach was excellent, city not so great and the port area itself had NOTHING to offer other than a gate in and out. We will be in no rush to return to Aruba.
We went in to Caracao with no expectations. Our plan was to walk the city and markets, walk the Queen Emma bridge, and if we had extra time, head to a beach. To start off our day the port area was very nice with a wandering pathway into markets and the RIF Fort area. We passed through headed to the Queen Emma bridge only to learn that it was closed for refurbishment (sad we missed walking it). We rode the (free) ferry across the water to the city center and more shopping, restaurants and markets. It was very, very nice. Quaint narrow streets, unique Dutch architecture and a great variety of shops to wander through. After taking some photos near the HUGE Curacao sign we hailed a cab and headed to Mambo beach. We had no idea what to expect at Mambo beach, but were surprised to see a very nice shopping and restaurant area overlooking the water. Several restaurants back up to the beach with ample lounge chairs and umbrellas scattered among shady palm trees. What was really a surprise was the tropical lagoon set along the beach. With heavy seas crashing on shore there is a narrow peninsula that protects the lagoon at Mambo beach. It was BEAUTIFUL. We swam in calm turquoise waters, did some snorkeling and swam across the lagoon to the peninsula. The whole area was so nice and relaxing. We had a pre-set pick up time with our taxi driver and he was right on time to return us to the port area. In our last hour before departure we wandered the shops in the port area and RIF Fort, stopped for a cold drink at the "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere Bar" and wrapped up an unexpectedly enjoyable day in Curacao. We hope to come back one day!
This port was a hard one to judge. They are building up a nice port area with pool and other amenities but we headed off to an excursion so didn't get any time at port outside of the excursion. We took a boat over to Catalina island for our day trip. Catalina was GORGEOUS. We swam, snorkeled, and lounged under the shade of an umbrella on a sugar sand beach. We loved it. Didn't want to leave! For us the only downfall was the boat ride out and back. We were in a fairly large boat with 2 levels but the seas were rolling heavily the day we were there. A 40-minute boat ride in heavy seas made for a tough trip to and from the island. Had it been a calmer day it would have been more enjoyable for all. Catalina was outstanding though. Bottom line, we wouldn't mind checking out La Romana again at some point to see more of what the port offers.