WHY THIS CRUISE: We chose this ship/cruise primarily for the varied itinerary and number of stops in interesting places. My husband and I (in our 60's) had visited all the ports; my daughter and son-in-law had the fun of some new ... Read More
WHY THIS CRUISE: We chose this ship/cruise primarily for the varied itinerary and number of stops in interesting places. My husband and I (in our 60's) had visited all the ports; my daughter and son-in-law had the fun of some new ports on this trip.
OUR TRIP TO MIAMI: We drove down from North Carolina on Friday and stayed in the Sleep Inn, Airport. We've been there before and the hotel offers a sweet deal if you are driving-- they participate in the "park and cruise" program where you can leave the car there for the duration of the cruise. The rooms are older, but clean and it's a nice facility with a good breakfast bar. They don't offer free shuttle to the cruise port, but contract with a third-party who charges a reasonable $10, driving straight to the port. On the morning we left for the cruise, someone came back from a cruise to find her car had been broken into, but our car was safe and sound when we returned (I did put everything in the trunk -- GPS, travel clothes, etc., to get anything of interest out of sight).
EMBARKATION: We opted for Faster to the Fun, but were disappointed that our cabins were not ready when we boarded the ship (at our 11:30am appointment). I have looked back on the website which continues to mention that Faster to the Fun includes this feature, so I'm a little puzzled about why it wasn't honored this time. We roll our luggage on, so we had to keep it in tow for a couple of hours. ::shrug:: not the end of the world, but just a little surprised. Embarkation itself was quick and uneventful. We did get priority embarkation and it was a breeze.
OUR CABIN: We had upgraded from an inside cabin at the front of the ship to a mid-ship balcony cabin, thanks to a special offer. Our cabin was 6375 (on the "Upper Deck," deck 6). It never occurred to me that things happening BELOW the cabin would affect the noise level, but as this cabin was directly over the little stage outside the casino oon the promenade deck (deck 5), we "enjoyed" music until the wee hours every night, whether we wanted to or not. Again, I'm a pretty easy grader and after a couple of nights, I was able to mostly disregard it, but that might be a deal-breaker for someone very sensitive to extra noise. The cabin itself was lovely, kept in tip-top shape by our room steward, Komang.
THE SHIP: the ship is looking a little shopworn, although staff keep it very clean. I noticed some peeling varnish, chipped bar in the bathroom, and other small signs of age. To me, this just added a little character. I noticed that it's due for a refurb next year and I'll be interested to see what happens there.
DINING: We enjoyed breakfast at the buffet and at the sit-down restaurant along with one of the two brunches offered. I felt the food was entirely acceptable, always tasty, served in a reasonable portion-size. Last year, I complained about the so-so desserts offered. This year, Carnival offered absolutely scrumptious cakes, individually served. That was a welcome improvement. I'm still yearning for more of that carrot cake! We ate dinner in the main dining room where Rodah, Ida and CrisJay were excellent and attentive servers. The food in the dining room was lovely, always served in an appetizing way and well-seasoned. I was surprised to get an extra lobster on that special night! Whoa! Unexpected, but very welcome!
CHEF'S TABLE: We participated in the Chef's Table -- first time for my daughter and son-in-law -- and it was delicious and beautiful. We especially enjoyed Chiang from Singapore, who gave a clear and most interesting explanation of the exotic foods presented. She also answered questions with honesty, grace, and humor. Whatever Carnival is paying this young woman needs to be increased because she is a fantastic ambassador for Carnival.
ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed the "welcome aboard" show in the Amber Palace, but did not make another show. We didn't go to comedy shows or participate in the on-deck events. When we have a balcony room, we tend to spend a lot of time out there. Because of the room acoustics, we did hear all of the bands in the Casino location. There was a horn ensemble that was especially good and a latin band that was terrific. A fellow playing steel drum was amazing. Others were not as skilled, but not completely awful. My cruise expectations for music are pretty low -- something pleasant in the background, or possibly to dance to is about all I'm looking for.
PORTS: • Grand Turk -- we planned no excursion this time, just shopped in the cruise port and enjoyed the pool at Margaritaville (where we also enjoyed touching base back home with some free internet access). • San Juan, PR -- we walked to one of the forts and got in FREE thanks to my national senior pass which I actually remembered to bring. We were in PR late, but we came back fairly early and just enjoyed the ship. • St. Thomas, VI -- this was a great day! We booked a wonderful cultural walk and food tour and it did not disappoint. Gerard, the guide, was wry and well-spoken and took us to some amazing spots for some great local and traditional food. • Amber Cove, DR -- a beautiful day made our time by the pool very enjoyable. We also shopped port stores, but had no excursion planned here. There are several places offering free internet and an earthcache if you enjoy geocaching.
CRUISING DUCKS: I have only recently learned about the cute game of hiding little rubber ducks for children (and others) to find while cruising. I brought a few to hide and posted the photos on FB along with a hint -- they were all found and it added a little something extra to the trip this year. I hope that Carnival will continue to permit this bit of innocent fun.
CARNIVAL HUB: This app has made great strides since I used it last year (or maybe I just learned to use it better). I never opened the highlighters I brought to make note of special events because you can do that on the Hub app. You can also check your account balance, chat with friends on the ship (for an extra $5 for the whole cruise), see what's on the menu, etc.
INTERNET: I usually just pay for a day or two of internet while on a sea day so that I can check in back home. This time, I opted for the less expensive "social plan" and found it entirely adequate. I couldn't check email, but could chat via Messenger, which was useful and fun.
SPA "PAMPER PARTY" -- I attended one of these on a sea day. I expected some hard-selling, but actually found it to be entertaining. I was astonished to find a medical doctor on board who provides more advanced procedures like botox and the like. I was not tempted, but very intrigued by the concept. Using a coupon from the Pamper Party, I enjoyed a 75 minute massage which was relaxing and skillfully done. Read Less