This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.)
We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things!
As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time).
I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :)))))
All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :)
Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
My wife, a vet of cruise lines, and myself and our 2 kids[ ages 14,16] went thru a painless Embarkation, and we were on board ship in the hurricane-ravaged port of Galveston for Thanksgiving week. My first impressions were this- ... Read More
My wife, a vet of cruise lines, and myself and our 2 kids[ ages 14,16] went thru a painless Embarkation, and we were on board ship in the hurricane-ravaged port of Galveston for Thanksgiving week. My first impressions were this- clean,tight ship,populated by extremely friendly and helpful waitstaff.Small cabins,on the bargain deal,was expected. They served their purpose,as we spent most of our time outside of them enjoying the food,which was excellent,and the entertainment,which was better than expected. I am a performer,musician,with a national release,so I was especially scrutinizing on that level. The food was always ready when it was supposed to be, the dining experience in the upper scale areas was handled fluidly by a warm,friendly waitstaff,and did not disappoint. We hit the Port of Progresso,and went to see the Mayan ruins just outside of town, a mere 35 minute drive. Our guide, Jose, was a genial fellow,personable,well- knowledged about his Mayan ancestry,and the ruins were beautiful,and worth the short trip,which fueled our ambitions to explore more ruins deeper inside Mexico in a future vacation. Folks,if you are shopping, BUY HERE! Seriously cheaper prices than our following day stop, which was Cozumel.40-60% price differences on some items. Cheaper alcohol,especially. Hit the small city for best deals. Cozumel was beautiful,as expected...the merchants friendly,helpful,and almost too much.We did zip-line and scuba combos, the kids loved it. Island dining was a recommendation we followed up on ,and were not disappointed with. The 3 rd night on our cruise offered up the best star-gazing I have seen in years,spectacular in scope. some areas I will now point out on ship- the gym was populated by a smart staff, and it offered up needed exercise to combat the influx of calories. The shops had friendly,attractive staff,and were always willing to chat about their hometowns,countries. The casino staff was as good as Vegas, the ever-watchful eye made sure it was legit,legal,and respectful. Drunk idiots were escorted out quickly, thank heavens. My wife is a card sharp, and she spent many hours at the Casino, and loved it. The drinks were great,though,we don't drink to get drunk,but to appreciate. Last day it was sad to leave. It was quick,painless to go through customs.
only negative comment would be directed to the paying clientele,some of whom were destined for the gaol. My experience overall was an emphatic Yes to wanting to do this again, we plan on hitting this at least once a year, but likely twice a year. Read Less
I will write a quick review from our cruise over the New Years week on the Norwegian Star. The cruise was on the "Mexico Riviera" route and included stops in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We had an extended family of 10 ... Read More
I will write a quick review from our cruise over the New Years week on the Norwegian Star. The cruise was on the "Mexico Riviera" route and included stops in Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We had an extended family of 10 from ages 8 to 82 that included first time cruiser, occasional cruisers as well as experienced cruisers. Overall, everyone had a terrific cruise and we all found the Norwegian Star to be first rate. The food was terrific, the staff was awesome and there were very few negatives from the cruiseEmbarkation: took us about 30 minutes. There was a long line to register, but it moved pretty quickly and once through the initial line, the rest of the waits were minimal. We had about 1 hour on the ship before our rooms were ready, but the buffet was available and we enjoyed exploring the ship, hitting some golf balls and playing a quick game of ship deck chess. Staff: From the minute we got on the ship and throughout the cruise, the staff was terrific. They were especially fond of the 4 kids 11 and under and helped them have a great cruise. The staff was all very friendly and we only met a couple that did not seem to enjoy talking and joking around. Food: We all though the food was great. We ate at Aqua and Versailles for all of our dinners and typically the buffet or blue lagoon for lunch and the buffet or Aqua for breakfast. We originally were planning to pay for some dinners at the specialty restaurants but found the food at Versailles and Aqua to be so good that we chose not to go to a specialty restaurant. Versailles was especially nice for early dinners close to the back windows at sunset. The variety of the dinners was excellent. The buffet was very good for buffet food and we did not mind the same breakfast menu each morning since there was a lot of different options. The only issue with Versailles was that there was too much time between courses and the dinner usually took 2 hours.Staff: The staff was terrific. They were all very friendly and available for all of our needs. Entertainment: This was GREAT. Paul Scalley, the cruise director did a great job as host and kept the mood lively. The entertainment was top notch. The only thing I did not think was great was the Second City over 18 show. It was as if there were trying to be raunchy since it was an over 18 show, when in fact, they were much funnier in the family shows. The Art experts had excellent education events and fun auctions. Everyone had a lot of fun with the variety of art events they hosted. Ports: Cabo - we just took a water taxi to Medano beach and then to Lover Beach, which was quick, easy and fun. You are not in Cabo long, so this worked out well. Some of our group did the bus tour to Todos Santos, which they were not thrilled with since it is a long bus ride and not much of a destination. Mazatlan: We went to the north side of Mazatlan for horseback riding with Ginger's horses which was fun. We rented a car and driver for the day at the port for $150 for all 10 of us and he took us on a tour as well as up to the horses and back. Mazatlan is not a great destination and definitely far behind Cabo and PV for a stop. PV - We did the Wildlife adventures tour to see Humpback whales and also swim with the wild dolphins. This was a great tour and definitely the best tour of the trip for us. Then we spent some time on the beach and in downtown PV, on the boardwalk which is very nice and feels more like Manhattan Beach, CA than Mexico. PV was a terrific stop and it was great that we had the most time there. Ship: I felt the ship was in good shape. The only issues were the water slides at the pool were VERY slow and not that much fun for kids. They were also closed quite a bit. The main pool is also very small and is salt water, which our kids do not like much. So because of these two things, our kids - who are typically big swimmers - did not want to use the pool much at all. The hot tubs were nice and rarely too crowded to use. I never felt over crowded on the ship even though we were at a peak time with a full ship. Kids club: The kids club staff was great, but the room was very small and was just a normal room - not customized for kids. It was hit or miss for our kids - at times they loved and at times they were bored - depending on the schedule. We also have one daughter who was 10 in 10 days, but was not allowed in with the 10 - 12 year olds, so had to stay with the 6 - 9 years olds, which made kids club much less fun so she did not go after the first night. Overall, I HIGHLY recommend the ship, staff and itinerary. It was a GREAT cruise and Paul Scalley and the rest of the staff, entertainment and chefs really made for an excellent vacation for all of us. Read Less
Valor Eastern Sailing Date 12-28
Pre-embarkation. Stayed at Embassy Suites near airport, booked over 6 months prior to cruise. Was hugely disappointed in the Embassy Suites and cannot honestly recommend it at all. Carpeting in the ... Read More
Valor Eastern Sailing Date 12-28
Pre-embarkation. Stayed at Embassy Suites near airport, booked over 6 months prior to cruise. Was hugely disappointed in the Embassy Suites and cannot honestly recommend it at all. Carpeting in the suite was filthy. After DD walked on the floor for about half an hour, the soles of her feet were nearly black. Turning off the shower made an LOUD hammering noise. Maintenance didn't seem concerned enough to come check it out. Was initially told, when booking this place, that parking for cruise patrons was free. It was not. Found out we would be charged 10 dollars per day. Was told that the shuttle to POM was free for guests. Nope. Add another 30, plus 30 for return trip from POM to retrieve car. Add in gratuities for bell service, and shuttles, the cost was more than parking at POM ($ 140). And, had we parked at POM, we could have been on the road much sooner.
Embarkation. Easy as pie. Took about 40 minutes from drop off to entering the gangway. Porters were quick to offload the shuttled bags and take to drop off for Valor. Porters were grateful for tips. Embarked at 12:30 and headed to Rosies and Fish and Chips. Spent the afternoon showing DD (her first cruise) around the ship and orienting her as to where our cabin was, Camp Carnival, etc. Bags arrived by 2 and we went into cabin then. 90 days prior to cruise, we emailed Carnival for special dietary needs for DD, and to ensure refrigerator for her meds. At cabin, finally got into the minibar/fridge, but had no room because of soda's and beer. Removed beer and sodas and placed on counter top, used fridge for meds. Got charged for a bottle of water that mysteriously was unsealed. Note to self. Next time, have steward remove all items from fridge immediately. Cabin steward was ok. Previous Valor cruise, same itinerary, the steward was like Antonio, the butler in the movie, Mr. Deeds. Not in the sneaky-sneakiness department, although he always seemed to be in the hallways when we were coming in or going out. He was always there to help. This time, cabin was kept clean, etc and serviced efficiently. But, there seemed to be no desire to connect with us as guests, by the steward.
Ship appearance. Immaculate. Was always being cleaned, polished.
Dining: late seating, Washington ballroom. Food was excellent, and service was good. Vishnu and his assistant, Michael went to great lengths to keep the table happy. Table mates: Couple with their 8 yr old son from Fl, We three. DD made dinner most nights. After first night, we were joined by a delightful Mom and her precious daughter from Virginia. We had a extended family table by third night. Menu was good, portions were great. As previously mentioned, we notified CCL in advance of specific dietary needs for DD. Agnetha, in the DR gave us the next days menu's at dinner, so we could preorder for daughter. She went out of her way to make DD happy. Can't brag enough about how they extended themselves for DD.
Rosies was always good. Fish and Chips excellent. Mongolian grill at lunch incredible, with Mr. Huang cooking. Deli..indescribably delicious. With as much meat as they put in sandwiches, I'm certain there's going to be a corned beef and pastrami shortage soon.
Celebrated DW's birthday in Scarlett's. Food was good. Atmosphere felt crowded with tables placed too closely together and the place was never more than half full. Props to the Scarlett;s hostess for enduring a verbal blasting from 4 ill mannered people, complaining that they had been allowed to wear jeans in the supper club on the Liberty, that they were platinum cruisers, and wouldn't sail CCL again (I hope not, as they really showed their rear ends.) Older couple just being mouthy, younger couple with wife using language and tone that made me, (ex-military) embarrassed for the hostess. If you google the word "A** wipes", I'm fairly sure their picture will be found on the first page. Husband dressed in jeans and a biker shirt. Most definitely inappropriate for Scarlett's, or even the DR. FWIW, DW and I ride motorcycles, so it's not a case of class warfare, here. They were just showing no class at all.
Ports of call Nassau....no excursion, just walked into town to see Pirates Museum and see old friend Captain Blah Blah, who is featured on the Nassau pirates excursion info on the cabin tv info channel. Took DD to straw market, also. Constantly yelled at by vendors to braid child's hair, buy this, buy that.
St. Thomas. Excursion through CCL for parasailing. Met outside the ship dock area, got into boat, family of 5 and us 3. Our DD went up with both DW and me. We all had at least 12 minutes in the air. Boat named "Holy Chute"..great crew of two. They offer excellent photo's, as their camera is better than the one we had. They sell you the memory card. I recommend that they add a motion video component. Pics were GREAT. Shopped at Havensight.
St. Martin. Excursion through CCL for around the island tour. Will not repeat. Dutch side is pretty, good shopping. French side seemed 3rd world as compared to Dutch side. Most shops were closed as it was January 1. 4 ships in port, so some shops open.
Ship entertainment: Comedians were not really hot. Seemed like they had just gotten of the "who wants to be a comedian on a cruise ship" line. One was comical. None was gut splitting funny. Best non musical entertainment was Tejas, the dining room magician. Simply outstanding and mystifying card tricks. Musical was ok. Karaoke was fun. Karaoke singers selected for the "Legends" show were good. Stage shows are revealing their age and need revamping. Chris Jefferson was the CD, and kept things going. Special shout out to Amy, the Social Director who is simply, FABULOUS!
Camp Carnival: great staff, and activities. DD's transition into a experienced cruiser made easy by the staff. DD made some good friends aboard.
Disembarkation. Cattle call because people with higher numbers for debark came earlier than called for. We had # 11. Got up and went to breakfast, enjoyed leisurely breakfast in comfy seats. First time all cruise that deck chairs were available, and not taken over by chair hogs. Debarkation/customs/luggage took 15 minutes once you got off the ship. Customs was a breeze.
Lindy Hop/Piano bar was advertised as no smoking. Don't believe it. Smoke and odor kept us out of there.
Should consider 1 more port of call, in lieu of three sea days. Consider alternating between Nassau and San Juan, PR.
Formal/elegant night. More tuxedoes than I thought, after reading the back and forth about denim and elegant nights. 2 formal nights on this itinerary. I wear tux, DW dresses accordingly. Tuxedoes garnered attention. Too many tshirts at dinner. Thankfully no wife beater shirts in DR. Scarlett's upholding their dress code-YAY!! Read Less
Let me preface this with the fact that this was the second of two short cruises in the same vacation (see my review of the Carnival Inspiration) and any bad day on a cruise in the Bahamas is better then a good day at work! Also, I do not ... Read More
Let me preface this with the fact that this was the second of two short cruises in the same vacation (see my review of the Carnival Inspiration) and any bad day on a cruise in the Bahamas is better then a good day at work! Also, I do not expect caviar at a popcorn price. I give credit (good or bad) where due. With that said, let's continue.
Embarkation - Everyone was dressed nice and looked very professional but we were assisted by a woman that had to be VERY new. Had it not been for the employee next to her it would have taken FOREVER!
The Norwegian Sky - Very nice decor. Looked clean but there was a smell of sewage when you walked past public restrooms. I had not experienced this on other cruiselines (Carnival and RCCL).
Accounting - Onboard credit was not on account. Was told it would be put on the next day. Had to ask again the next evening to have another credit to be put on account. Crew member working the desk was pretty much a jerk.
Room - Nice and roomy. Well maintained. TV was terrible.
Food - More options for special diets than past experience but quality left a lot to be desired. Small portions. Hope you like to drink water or unsweet tea (pretty much the only non-alcohol options). Service at sitdown meals was SLOW, SLOW and SLOW. We dined plenty early prior to a show and had to leave before desert was served so we didn't miss the show. The unlimited soda purchase was a joke! We waited over 30 minutes for our sodas during a meal (even after reminding them 3 times). Those purchasing drinks were served promptly. Another issue is they close some of the bars so you have to walk around searching for a place to get your unlimited soda. On the private island only one bar (farthest from the snorkeling area) honors the unlimited soda. Last but not least, we could find no place to get soda the morning of disembarkation. BBQ on private island not much and ice water tasted "fishy". Room service was prompt, nice menu but food was basic and sub par.
Entertainment - The Magician/Comedian was the highlight of the cruise, AWESOME! There is also a guitarist/singer named Leo that was equally entertaining and also a highlight! All other shows/events were at a high school class play level and CHEESEY!
Kid's Stuff - Not very appealing to the kids. Very few kids participating.
Disembaration - Easy. Read Less
We have had a family cruise before on the Elation (our first one during the infamous Valentines day storm of 2007). We decided to do it again to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary year. Due to College and organized sports schedules, ... Read More
We have had a family cruise before on the Elation (our first one during the infamous Valentines day storm of 2007). We decided to do it again to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary year. Due to College and organized sports schedules, we needed to book it January 3rd and keep the younger kids out of school. We flew to Tampa a couple of days before due to the problems we almost encountered with delayed and cancelled flights the trip before. We were traveling with two adults, two 19 year olds, two 16 year olds, one 14 and one 12 year old. We cruised before, so we new what to do. We took a paid shuttle, reasonable price for the 9 of us $140.00, round trip from motel to port and then port to airport, with the number of us he gave us a deal! The porters took our luggage, and from past experience we did not tip the workers, as they are employees of the port and should not be tipped. We got to port fairly early so we could embark early, we wanted to enjoy ourselves every minute of this trip. We did the fun pass prior to traveling to Tampa, the passports were with the fun passes, etc. It took us about 10 minutes to register all 8 of us, my niece registered herself. We sat a few minutes, realized they were calling groups to load the boat, well, we entered the line and even though it was not our group, we left anyhow, they took us right on the ship. We entered the lido deck and had a buffet lunch with the other 5 family members we met there. You are allowed to bring a limited amount of your own drinks aboard, sealed,I believe one per adult, so we had 3 bottles of wine to enjoy over the next several days. We opened the first on the lido deck. The kids explored after lunch. We were able to enter our rooms about 130pm. Our luggage was there. My daughters one bag lost its tag along the way and we had to obtain it later in the day from the information desk. Of note, my mother in law was in a wheelchair due to her walking difficulty, the staff escorted her the entire embarking process and up to the lido deck. The kids went up to the lido deck, my husband and I took the tour of the ship at 2pm. Smitty, the fun ship team member was very funny and showed us the layout. He was very good at helping us understand the spacial layout on the ship between what is always found in what areas, aft, midship and forward. Before leaving port, we had the lifeboat drill, very informative, seemed however to drag on for a while, I think it was because there were people not following directions and that slowed the process down. Even a new bride and groom, in gowns and tux showed up like they were supposed to. What a site, a life vest on a gowned bride. What a memory! We were looking forward to our first dining room experience. We always book the early seating, as we like the evening shows and my husband and mother go to the casino. We ate in the Carnivale dining room, our waiter Sarwar from India, what a pleasant, professional and extremely friendly staff person. He was obviously very comfortable with what he was doing. My husband ordered several appetizers and entree's. We all sampled each others, as our family always does. The food was very delicious. I have read several review's stating that the food was horrible, I cannot understand why. My kids tried several things that were new to them, one my daughter really did not like, Sarwar got her the other entree. All you have to do is tell someone, and they make it very right. My sister in law has celiac's disease, she registered that on her fun pass and each night at the diningroom, the dietician came and had her order the next meals dinner and she tailored it to her dietary needs. My strong belief, if you take the efforts to communicate your needs, others will make the effort to accommodate. I am sure if someone is diabetic, the carb or calorie content can be calculated for you. I have found Carnival very accommodating to people with special needs. We had George the Greek as the Maitre d', he was entertaining, but you can tell he was very programmed after working in that field for over 40 years. We had 13 in our group, tables hold only about 8, therefore he placed an extra table on our table so we all could sit together. He has trained his staff in that dining room very well. The serving was very professional. Each time we saw either our waiter, assistant waiter, or George the Greek throughout our travels aboard ship, they all stopped, said hello and called us by name. This trip we ate breakfast in the diningroom a couple of mornings instead of the Brasserie buffet. That was enjoyable. The menu was the same each day, but if you wanted the service, and other items not included in the buffet, it was nice. The Brasserie buffet was also the same everyday, but it still had a large variety. We took in the Welcome Aboard show, that was okay, Not quite what I expected. We watched some of the comedians, some were good, some borderline, the shows were good, the Last night show, "Fiesta La Tina" I believe it was called, was fantastic. Over the 5 nights, we got to meet many people who fill many rolls. The cruise director, Filipe, was very nice, my husband spoke to him about getting a tour of the communications room, as he has a ham radio license, is an examiner, holds the highest license, is a civil air patrol and red cross volunteer, he really is interested in that stuff. Filipe said he would ask the captain, but it may not be possible due to the increase in homeland security. He followed up with us and stopped us in the hallways and called us by name the entire trip. My husband never got the tour, but at least we felt he made an effort to get one. We had two fun days at sea, nice weather on the first fun day at sea. We sat on the deck, relaxed, read, etc, most of the day. The Inspiration has the Serenity deck, we took in some of that too. Despite booking the trip during usual school time, the pool was a little too crowded. The hot tubs also. I found on Lido, the hot tubs were full of kids. The Serenity was better to get into. Both the lido and the serenity music was a little to loud. I however know we had a large amt of older clients this trip and I often heard them say it was too quiet. The day in Grand Cayman was beautiful! We did the reef and shipwreck snorkel. None of us have snorkeled before, our guides were funny, helpful and very encouraging, a fun time was had by all. They even provided a cooler of ice to keep our drinks we brought with us cold. We paid about $44 each and found it worth the trip, cannot wait to see the pictures. We walked about Grand Cayman and went back to the boat by midday. (8-2pm was the docked time). Although the food is safe on the islands, due to budgeting for our large group, we went cheap and ate on the ship whenever we could.As for Cozumel, we just walked around, shopped, hit Senor Frogs, (our group split up). Where we docked at port, it was a cab fare to Senor Frogs and the main shopping mall. $7.00, each way. The roads are horrible, bumpy and dangerous. I would not want to walk it. I stayed with my Mother and pushed the wheelchair. We often felt as though we were being harassed by the people at the stands in Cozumel. Everyone wanted the American money. We were off ship about 2 hours, that was all my Mother could stand. After a frozen margarita at a local spot, we all returned to the boat. Very easy process with the correct identification. The last fun day at sea was nice but cold, we had a spot of rain and winds, cleared me off the deck, I like the warmth! Overall, we met some very special staff. Our waiter was great, he spoke with us often. We give the cruise ship staff credit, they are away from their families for long periods of time and their friendliness does not reflect some element of sadness being so far away from their families. Everyone smiled and greeted. I always say thank you and hello as I roam around the ship. We had the opportunity to speak at length with a Dancer. He spoke of how the cruise line had strict rules, but none of them were unfair. They were allowed to go to the hot tubs on their off time. He said the staff is happy with how they are treated. I give the cruise line kudo's for providing a positive environment for their staff. They all do seem very happy, it is reflected everyday with their interaction with cruisers. Through both my cruises, I noticed that noone was competitive with each other, they all work as a family and team. Our rooms were immaculate, always picked up. I find it amazing that with our strange comings and goings how the steward and staff know when we leave our room, when to replace the towels and open the beds. We were very lucky, we were invited to the Captains Cocktail party, the previous cruiser cocktail party. Free drinks and food. They were nice. We wanted to win a free cruise, no such luck. I did win a free DelSol bag at one of the shopping informative sessions. The photographers were great. We had a wonderful photographer who took the pictures on formal night for the 13 of us, then split us in families. She did a great job. Thanks. I think the photographers should offer a discount on the pictures if ordered in a group. I had such a large group, if I was able to get the pictures I really wanted, it would cost about $500, who can afford that these days. Now for the not so positive comments.... There was too much drinking done on board. I know that is how the ship makes money, and some people have to have fun only when drinking. Not a great example for the kids. There were waiters everywhere asking if we want a drink, a simple no thank you worked. Sometimes if I was in a conversation, a hand up worked well. The pictures were taken all over the ship plus the ones we took. A little overwhelming at times. People like Bingo, I found bingo to be expensive and out of reach for me. The sales pitches throughout the ship make everything seem like gold. I never met my room steward, I would have liked to have met him. I met his assistant. My other family members had the steward knock on the door to introduce himself. We had the gratuity taken off two rooms as they were minor children. Perhaps that is why. Disembarking was horrible. NOT like our last time. The non-US citizens need to go through immigration first. That is US law. The people needed to follow those directions. It held up everyone else from leaving the ship. We did self assist as our flights were not going out until 6pm. We wanted to stay on the ship as long as we could. About 930am my husband had enough and wanted to leave. Empress disembarking floor was packed, and I as the last in my group could not get out of the elevator. I rode the elevator up and down about 4 times. I went up one floor, carried my suitcase down one flight and joined the rest of my group. I think if we were to wait until our zone was called to leave, it would have been better. I would avoid Cozumel and Grand Cayman if you want beach scene only, both you need to sign for excursions to take in a beach. Overall, you get out of a cruise what you put in. Research, read, learn before you go. Prepare and plan your days. Review the Carnival Capers daily events, circle the ones you want to do. Review the layout cards found at the information desk and plan how long it takes to get from your diningroom to the Paris Lounge, etc. Always speak up if you don't like something, they want everyone to leave very happy, they will go beyond the call of duty to make it that way. If you don't like the food, tell them, they will make it right. If you have allergies or special needs, they do not read minds. Communication is a necessary component in satisfaction. I cannot wait to go again!!! Read Less
First, the ship is immaculate. I had no complaints about any smells, broken ACs, or anything else. The ship itself is pretty. It is not as "out there" as other Carnival ships in terms of decor, which some people may like better. ... Read More
First, the ship is immaculate. I had no complaints about any smells, broken ACs, or anything else. The ship itself is pretty. It is not as "out there" as other Carnival ships in terms of decor, which some people may like better. I thought the nicest rooms were the Universe Dining Room, the Casino, the Atrium, and the Criterion Lounge. Some rooms were not my taste, like the Point After Disco which looked like someone ate the Bacchus Restaurant on the Miracle and then spit it out (pepto bismol pink everywhere). However, once the lights are off in the disco, you don't notice it and it certainly doesn't stop you from having a good time.
Our waiters were Deden and Noel, and they were one of the (if not, the) best wait staff I have ever had on ay cruise. Anything from our food, to providing seasickness remedies (eat an apple!), to making us laugh and making us feel at home, they were the perfect team. Our room steward was Sudy. He was almost hidden! We saw him maybe once a day from far away, but other than that he would do a great job at cleaning our stateroom and he would put everything in order. Bar waitress Yuliya was great. I never usually see my bar waitress during dinner after she brings my drink. It is usually hard to get refills or order something else. On this cruise, Yuliya was always around and very sweet. Always had my soda waiting for me at the table. Coincidentally, Yuliya was also a bar waitress at the casino and my family was in the casino A LOT. We saw Yuliya there every night, and she was as sweet and efficient even though she was busier.
The staff overall on the ship was one of the best I have sailed with. Not one person was ever is a bad mood (or showed that they were). The casino staff was wonderful, the entertainment staff made people have a good time, and the purser's went out of our way to help. I had an extra charge on my S&S on the last day, and they worked with me patiently to fix it. The Destiny staff truly made the cruise as enjoyable as it was, and this is one reason why we prefer Carnival to RCCL.
Another reason we prefer Carnival is the food. WOW! The food was outstanding. I hear the Lido Buffet is typical buffet food but I wonder what kind of buffet's people eat! Buffet's I eat at do not include as much variety where you want to eat everything and physically cannot. I learned that you need to take a little of everything just to taste it. the buffet is great because there are always safe and delicious options (deli, pizza, burgers, chicken tenders) that you are more than willing to eat if nothing else grabs you. However, that never happened. This week we were reminded why we take the late seating. We eat enough at the buffet at lunch that we are not hungry until 8pm.
The dining room food was even better. Every night it was difficult to make a decision and I was never disappointed with what I ordered (and usually there is a night or two where I am). I am not a fan of lobster, but I ordered one anyway to say I did. It wasn't bad! And my sisters loved it. Steak was always delicious, and the pasta dishes were excellent. I never order pasta dishes because I figure I can get most of them at home, but I am very glad I did. I got lasagna bolognese one night and grilled chicken with fetuccini alfredo and they were both very tasty.
The one thing I was not a fan of food wise was the dessert menu. They have 3 choices each night and most nights none of them appealed to me and usually I want them all. However, Carnival knows how to fix this problem. Every night they offer the warmc chocolate melting cake, and it is to die for! So good job to Carnival for knowing what people love and making it available!
Ports: We went to Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios last year with RCCL, so the ports were not the reason we opted for this cruise. Still, the ports were nice and we had decent weather. In Ocho Rios it was slightly overcast and rain for 15 minutes, but it was refreshing.
In Grand Cayman we went to Sting Ray City (even though we have been to Grand Cayman three or four times, my sisters never did it!). We booked with Mobey Dick Tours and had a great time. This excursion was much better than the sting ray excursion I did through the boat with my parents one cruise. There are less people on the boat, and the guides are very knowledgeable and friendly. In addition to seeing the stingrays, we learned about the stingray history and biology as well as the true story behind Steve Irwin. They also take you snorkeling by the reef which was nice. However, if you never snorkeled before you may run into problems sine they just give you the mask and flippers. I am sure if you ask them for help though, they will. While snorkeling we saw a 3 1/2 foot amore eel emerge from his coral cave, which freaked us all out at first. Our guide, however, said it is nothing to worry about. He then put fins on, went into the water, and fed the eel. He then grabbed ahold of it and let us touch it. You can't get that with an excursion through Carnival!
In Ocho Rios we chose the Tranopy tour (bobsled/zipline/pool) at Mystic Mountain. It was fun but a very big tourist trap and would probably never do it again. You take a 15 minute ski-lift up 700 feet into the rain forest. This is nice since you can see the ship on the way up as well as some wildlife if you're lucky. But since you need to take it up and down a few times, it gets boring and repetitive. Once you get off the lift, there is the bobsled ride. This is basically like a rollercoaster with a lot of twists and turns. It was fin, but only lasts about 2 minutes. After that, you go on the canopy tour, which was also fun but kind of short. There are 5 lines, 1 bridge, and a "surprise." We ad a good time but we had a better time at Dunn's River Falls the year before.
Overall, we LOVED this cruise, the ship, the crew, the food, the sun, the activities, and cannot wait to get back on board with Carnival. If you have any other questions, just ask! Read Less
Embarkation and Debarkation were very smooth we did "walk off" and liked that they did it by floor - made it fast and civilized... We were pleased with our balcony cabins - on the port side of ship
forward on the Lido deck. ... Read More
Embarkation and Debarkation were very smooth we did "walk off" and liked that they did it by floor - made it fast and civilized... We were pleased with our balcony cabins - on the port side of ship
forward on the Lido deck. During a warmer time of year on this cruise I
would choose starboard because you do get sun most of the day on the
balcony. There was some motion but nothing unusual but we do not suffer
from motion issues. It was quiet having cabins both above and below.
The location on the Lido deck was excellent - no fighting for an
elevator to get to pools, buffet, etc... Also there are self serve
laundry facilities on this floor.Food was better than expected - we came in with low expectations and were pleased with the food. It's not Disney but we thought food was as good (though not as much selection) as what we have enjoyed on royal caribbean and the level of dining room service was also comparable to RC. Unlike others experiences the steaks we were served in the dining room were cooked to our order and tender and enjoyable. The buffet food was standard buffet fair, not the best, but much better than having to feed the family myself. I was impressed with the availability of good fresh fruit throughout the cruise. We did do the Emerald Dining Room for $60/couple. We were one of a few couples present the evening we did it. That meal on land would cost more than the $60 you pay but is not the wonderful deal that RC's upgraded dining is at $20/couple additional...The service was attentive but also not at the level of our dining experience on the RC Liberty of the Seas which was truly phenomenal. Camp Carnival was wonderful! The kids had a great time and I was very pleased with the variety of crafts and activities that they had planned. Having an 8 and 10 year old they were not in the same group which actually turned out to be a plus as they enjoyed each other more when they were not in camp. There were not that many kids on board as we sailed the first week that school was back in January - so I do wonder if it would be as fun when there are many more kids there during high season. We were pleased with our cabin and the overall cleanliness of the ship and cabins.. Seemed like a fair amount of effort was put into keeping things clean and disinfected. I liked that they had the hand sanitizers at the end of the buffet lines but would love it if they would make it more mandatory like on Disney. I heard one older man boasting to his friend - I don't use those and I don't wash my hands - and no I don't think he was joking around. We didn't do many activities but enjoyed the comedian, the marriage show, and another game show. We were disappointed that they only had one little sports bar showing the BCS National Championship. I do not understand how a ship built in 2003 cannot have big screen tvs. We asked at the pursers desk and spoke with one of the entertainment staff member but apparently the only "big screen" is in the amber palace where they do the evening shows. Even the sports bar just has a whole lot of smaller tv's - they also showed it on like an oldschool 42in tv at the casino bar and people were stacked 3 deep. We would have had a better viewing experience in our family room... The ship is smoky - smoking is allowed pretty much everywhere - the sports bar where our 10 year old would have liked to play sports trivia games available and watch sports on tv with Dad was also one of the cigar smoking areas so we stayed out. Overall the facilities did not seem well designed for a ship of it's size - it seemed like a rabbits warren of little bars which always seemed to be vacant. It would have been nice to have some larger more useable facilities like a good size sports pub... Also the pools are small - there are 3 and they are about the size of a good size FL resident backyard pool. Our kids didn't bother. And yes if you want a lounge chair get up early and go throw something down. We usually went to breakfast 7ish and there would already be many chairs with books etc marking that they were taken. Overall value - it was cheap and I think a very good value for the money. We actually had two cabins on this cruise but I think next time we agreed we would rather just have one cabin but go on a larger ship with more and better designed public spaces. Read Less
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise.
We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out ... Read More
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise.
We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out the French Quarter and had early dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, the food was pretty good, but we found Bourbon Street and the rest of the french quarter inappropriate for our children (nude ladies in windows, signs for "Big Ass Buckets of Beer" so we didn't stay for long
Embarkation: We packed fairly lightly compared to some other people we saw, so we got to the lines quickly. the staff were quick and we got through the whole thing in 20 minutes because we were latitude members and got to skip the long lines. When we got on the ship we were offered free fruit juices and wine.
Dining: We ate at Windows for dinner every night and almost every day for lunch, i don't know what other people are talking about the food was delicious and the staff were amazing! The kids went to Raffles for breakfast and lunch bythemselves, we went once for lunch and breakfast - for breakfast there is your typical food eggs, omelets, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, bagels etc, and for lunch there is salad, pizza, pasta, carving, vegetarian selection, meats, soups and a deli counter. The Bier garden had hamburgers and mashed potatoes and unfortunately we only figured out that Henry's Pub had soft pretzels and popcorn on the last day. Blue Lagoon was a comfort food restaurant, it was usually busy, we only went once for french fries and hot dogs. For christmas at window's for dinner we had turkey and mashed potatoes and yule logs for dessert - delicious! We missed the Chocoholic buffet because we were too tired
Entertainment: The Second City was funny, the Broadway and radio shows were okay and the magician was excellent! The christmas show was good too, the Kids Club did a performance.
The Ship: the pools were usually packed and at night the hot tubs were very popular, we only went swimming once, there is an Asian theme and the whole ship had christmas trees and big ginger bread houses around.
The Cabin: On the small side but cozy, our TV had problems, the bathroom was good, an actual shower instead of a curtain shower, our kids had a connecting room and their bed needed to be separated into two, we got an egg foam pad so our bed was really nice. Our stewards - Jovito and Herbert are amazing!!! They were always on time and made a variety of towel animals for us.
Disembarkation: We used express, a LOT faster, had dinner at Window's at around 8:30 and we got off the ship at around 9:30. It was surprisingly fast and only took us 10 minutes!!!
We loved this vacation, and the bad reviews are very untrue. It is an amazing ship and the staff are wonderful. Read Less
We traveled with 13 family members ranging from 1 - 81 years old! We flew from Logan Airport (Boston) to San Juan a day early to avoid snow delays. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel (priceline $150), this hotel is beautiful and is ... Read More
We traveled with 13 family members ranging from 1 - 81 years old! We flew from Logan Airport (Boston) to San Juan a day early to avoid snow delays. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel (priceline $150), this hotel is beautiful and is located right on the beach. We arrived at the ship at 11:30 and had absolutely no wait to get on board. Very smooth check in. Our immediate family of four (2 boys, 9 and 11 years) stayed in a junior suite on deck 10, very convenient to the Windjammer and the Kids Adventure Club. This was our 3rd cruise, the first one on a Radiance class of ship. We enjoyed this ship more than the Adventure and the Explorer due to the smaller passenger capacity and the beautiful woodwork and many glass windows. The ship never seemed crowded due in part to the five port days. Every day was sunny and hot, the weather cooperated perfectly.
We had early dinner at 6pm and the service and food was excellent. The food surpassed our expectations in comparison to our 2 previous cruises. The staff was very friendly and helpful. We played roulette most nights in the casino, and enjoyed talking to the dealers about the ports and the best places to go. Four of the children went to the Kids Adventure Club and they really enjoyed it. The staff was fun and the kids couldn't wait to go.
Here is what we did in port:
St Thomas: took a cab to Megan's Bay ($8 per person, plus a $4 admission)and then downtown shopping. We set up a time for the cab driver to return for us. (when you get off the ship, we purchased some bottle waters to bring with us ($1 each), cheaper than buying at the beach. We ate at the beach restaurant, the food was very good.
St. Maarten: took a cab to Orient Beach, rented chairs, ate ice cream for lunch at the beach, and then downtown shopping. Again we had our cab driver return for us.
Antigua: I wish we had gone to the beach, but the kids needed a break. We walked around in town, right where the ship is located. The kids were uncomfortable with some of the aggressive locals so we returned to the ship after 90 minutes.
St. Lucia: upon the advice of cruise critic, we signed up for the Cosol tour. It was wonderful and as good as everyone had said it would be. Price was $65 per adult and $45 per child under 11. For more info on this tour, look up St.Lucia in the port of call boards. The children said this was their best day in port due to the tour.
Barbados: we took a taxi to Harrison's Cave and then to the Boatyard Beach. Taxi price was $20 PER PERSON to go to the caves and then the beach. The driver waited for us while we toured the caves. The tour was good, and the kids did enjoy it. Admission price was $20 per adult, $10 for kids,so it did get pricey to go there. I would avoid the Boatyard Beach unless you are in your 20's. I had regretted going there since it is not really a family beach, however the kids did enjoy the water trampoline, ice berg and rope swing. The beach is noisy with names being called for lunch orders over the pa system, loud music and girls dancing on the bar. But the water and sand were clean and the water was nice. The $15 admission price got you a chair, drink coupon and a ride back to the ship. The food ordered was very good.
For entertainment we saw the Vibe-ology show, which was very good. Other family members said the comedy show was good.
Disembarkation was a breeze, we were off the ship by 8:40 and we were in the second airline group. We used the airport valet service ($20 per person), so our bags were taken right to the airport. Since our flight was at 2:45pm, we could freely walk around San Juan without our bags to fill up our time before our flight.
The cruise was perfect and I would recommend it to anyone! Read Less