First off, I want to say, I enjoyed myself and had a great time! I am writing this from the perspective of comparing cruise lines as I am trying to find the best fit for me and my family.
Little bit of info, I have sailed with Disney (Mediterranean Cruise and Western Caribbean) Princess (Alaska) and now Carnival (Eastern Caribbean). I enjoyed all three lines, but have some pretty serious issues with Princess and Carnival. Disney is not perfect, but the service is above and beyond better.
Generally we travel as a family, mom and two daughters in their early 30's. We did a few trips with long time family friends (almost family) around the same age group.
My first cruising experience was on Disney, which set the standard much higher than it probably would have been otherwise...
Oh, my serious issue - smoking. I have asthma so I am extremely sensitive to it, so be warned, this does cloud my judgment. Disney is by far the best when it comes to this! But again, I am biased... For health reasons.
So this trip was a girls only trip, 4 young professional women! Let the party begin. One of the group decided to book a suite (one of the girls has platinum status on Carnival), so I think we got a pretty decent deal. Pros: big room, nice size balcony, plenty of storage space, and a separate dressing area (con because it did not have a door). And as a comparison to Disney, when you get the suite on Disney, you get things, a dvd player, access to dvds, conceirge service, free laundry. All of this was missing. And the room was not nearly nice enough to compensate for these lacking amenities.
Cons: The lack of decent beds. We had 2 twins, a pull out (which was so bad we opted to just use the couch), and a cot, a short cot. I am tall, my feet hung off the end. For something called the Grand Suite, I would have expected nicer. The couch then posed a problem as that took up seating and there was only 1 tv not well placed in the room. Channels were limited and the movie selection was anything but good. Especially on our one day at sea.
Ports of Call
And a note for all the excursions. Bring along sun screen, lots of it and remember to reapply so as not to burn. We did this and did not burn which makes for a much more pleasant cruise. Plus, we all got tan instead!
St. Thomas - had a blast! Visited the gym this AM and it was a nice experience. I was early, so had my choice of machines. They were easy to use and I got my workout in while looking at ocean :) At dinner this evening, we had anytime, we got the worst waiter. I guess we were not as pretty as some others and so had super slow service. Other tables sat down way after us and were finished before us. Glasses went unfilled quite a bit as well. We ended up telling the hostess on the 4th day, as we kept saying not over there not over there. We ended up with Annie, who was a doll!
Day At Sea - Not enough on-board activities and movies were horrible. And the lack of channels made for a not happy me. So I sat out on the balcony, the rest of the ship was a bit crowded for my taste, but that's what you get on a cruise! I did enjoy serentiy cove for adults only, Carnival does know how to make you feel somewhat secluded and I loved the loungers! I walked/jogged the track for my exercise today, super beautiful. I did participate in some of the on-board things, but found of the few offered, I was not interested and since the casino was smoke filled, well, that was out for me as well.
Barbados - Walked/jogged the track again, love the view!
St. Lucia - So freakin' beautiful! More track time for me. I enjoyed this more than the gym, I think it was the fresh outdoors!
St. Kitts - so pretty. decent shopping, and monkeys.
St. Maarten - Dutch side (french side makes you pay taxes), lots of fun!
Back on board and back to San Juan.
Overall a fun time. Food was decent in the service dining rooms. Buffet left lots to be desired (lack of veggies and fruit choices, I can only take so many melons and canned fruit). Breakfast was a bit of a jumbled mess at the buffet, but I found that on Princess as well.
I did not take advantage of the shows, as we were doing other things.
So my overall rating. I still prefer Disney overall. Then Carnival, then Princess.
In grand suite room 7294. Not a great layout, big balcony, lack of adequate seating, quiet floor. Lots of closet space and storage!
We got in at about 3pm, cruise departed at 10pm. Dropped off luggage and then proceeded to walk old town and get in some celebratory shopping! Went to Sr. Frogs (bit disappointed in the lack of craziness), but enjoyable!
Went on Captain Nautica's snorkeling excursion, great team (JP and Lucas) and was pleasantly pleased! I will do this again! It took about 3.5 hours, fast boat took us to 2 spots, the first was more shallow, coral and turtles. The second had more coral and fish and a baracuda. Too super cool! Plus, we got melon which we saved the rind from to feed the fishes, way way way cool! Got back and went shopping and grabbed a bite to eat! Must say the shopping was great here, especially on jewelry! Ooooooh and there is a chocolate factory. Belgian. Yummmm. See exercise above. Oooh and this is where you want to purchase your alcohol. You can buy more here. Do research to make sure you are getting a good enough deal to justify packing it. The store will pack it up and send it back to ship and packed between clothes, made it back fine.
Fun here, although my least fave port. We were the only ship and the locals were very persistent in attempting to get us to do things. We finally gave up trying to have some peace just shopping and took a taxi tour of the island! It was gorgeous! However then we met up with our excursion, Pirate Party Sail and Snorkel. Wow, it needs to be removed. The staff made highly inappropriate comments to my and my friends. And we are not prudes. But there is a line. And it was not only crossed, but exceeded by a mile. Then, the excursion was from 11am-4pm and (yes, this is partly our fault for not reading more about the excursion) did not realize that no food would be served or even available for purchase and we had not eaten since like 7:30 am. The water they served us did not taste right, stale or something (I am used to sometimes having to drink mineralish water from my hometown, this was way worse), so it was also not good and with the lack of food, amount of activity and sun, the rum punch did not seem like a great idea. The snorkeling was amazing, but not enough time! I guess since they had 2 groups, we only had about 30 minutes of snorkeling time, and I like the 45 minutes to an hour ones better! And I know this is common, but I would have paid more for the excursion rather than to show up to the beach to be charged for a chair, just include it and pay the people taking care of it. I don't like unexpected nickles and dimes. Especially when the tour operator could have easily charged us 5 bucks more a head and been like, here ya go!
Arrgh Maties! We did a Pirate excursion on one of the ships used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean! How cool? It was super fun, we sailed out to Pigeon Island and had the opportunity to swim, snorkel, lounge, view some great ruins! Oooh and also got to experience a treasure hunt! My group ended up winning everything (so did not mean to). The crew was lots of fun, great with the kids and pretty knowledgable! Also, they served light snacks, lots of water, soda, and of course, rum punch! Back to the port for a light bit of shopping! The shopping is not fantastic here. Not horrible, just other places have better, cheaper, etc.
Went on a catamaran snorkel excursion! Great crew, lots of fun (rum and coke, yes please!) and great snorkeling! I will say this was a bigger group (about 40ish) versus our excursion on St. Thomas (18) and the St. Thomas crew was much more organized and helpful. Luckily we did not need much of an explanation, but getting flippers was more of an ordeal than it should have been. The crew did not believe many of us women when we said we needed size 10 women's flippers. I wear a size 10 shoe. Why are you debating with me? Finally got that situated out (after they made me try on a smaller pair that did not fit). Back to port, lunch over the casino (pretty tasty fare), pic with a monkey (only pay 3-5, they sometimes ask for 20, don't give it for only 1-4 ppl, if you have 6 kids, give them a bit more, use your judgment!) And shopping, it was ok here, I found the jewelry stores on some items high and others they were willing to give me a great deal! Research before you go!
Yacht racing? Yes Please! Too. Much. Fun. Fun, interactive, engaging and something different! Knowledgable captains and gets you into the team spirit! Plus, there is beer! Water and soda as well! They take you to the town, so no water taxi into town, just the way back! Good shopping here and we ate at the Blue B**ch, pretty tasty fare. Don't miss the chocolate shop.