On this trip was myself, 25, and my boyfriend Dan, 25. It was my third cruise (Inspiration 2004, Western, and Valor 2005, Eastern) and Dan's first cruise. We were anticipating going to the Western Caribbean, to all the ports I had ... Read More
On this trip was myself, 25, and my boyfriend Dan, 25. It was my third cruise (Inspiration 2004, Western, and Valor 2005, Eastern) and Dan's first cruise. We were anticipating going to the Western Caribbean, to all the ports I had visited on the Inspiration. We were a bit disappointed with getting our itinerary changed as we had already booked our excursions for Western and were really excited about what we had chosen. In the end we were just happy that we were still going on a cruise, and found cool excursions to do in the ports we did go to.
We started the trip on Saturday the 18th, flying from Boston to JFK then to Tampa on Jetblue. Both of our flights that left from JFK were horrible. Well actually, just waiting on the runway for 45 min and 80 min and arriving over an hour late to both destinations was horrible. I will never go to JFK again.
We stayed at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza. It's a beautiful hotel, with good sized rooms, extremely comfortable beds, and beautiful bathrooms. We would definitely stay here again. It had free airport transfers (just call then when you get your baggage and they'll pick you up). It took only 3 minutes after we called the hotel for the shuttle to get to the airport to pick us up. They will shuttle you to anywhere within three miles. Unfortunately, the Port was more than six, so we had arranged for Carnival to pick us up at the airport.
We left the hotel at 10:30 and were on the first Carnival shuttle at I think 11:00am. We got to the port at about 11:20, and immediately checked our bags with the porters and got into the line in front of the "B" door. We were pretty close to the door, maybe about 60 people in front of us. However, the line behind us was getting extremely long and starting to get in the way of where the dropoff area was, and a Carnival Rep. came and moved from about 10 people in front of us to the end of the line over to the "A" door. We all stood at this door for about 20-30 minutes, until a guy that worked for the Port came over and was basically like, what are you guys all doing at this door? He was told that Carnival had moved us over here because the line was long, and he then told everyone to get back in the B line. WHAT??? Everyone was upset because now we were back in the B line, behind more people than we were when we were originally in it. Whatever. At 12:00 they started letting people through the B door. They looked at everyone's passports and Funpasses I think (I know the passports for sure), and then we were allowed in. Once we were in the building it took maybe 15 minutes to get on the ship. This part was very organized, but outside, not so much. By 12:30 we were eating lunch on the Lido and smiling like fools.
After we ate we went down to see if our room was ready (1:30), but was not allowed in until after 2:00. We immediately were trying to find out about booking excursions, and were extremely disappointed to find out our remote control was not working with our tv. It was working with other tvs (had the steward check it out), but for some reason the signal wasn't going to ours. Anyways, I had to run around for about an hour trying to find the room steward to try and get the remote fixed by 4:00 (the time you could start booking excursions on the tv) and never found him. When I finally gave up and decided we'd just go to the excursions desk, my boyfriend opened our door to go look for the steward and there he was, right outside our door. Go figure. Anyways, we couldn't get it fixed in time, so right after the muster drill (really smooth, no issues, took maybe 15 minutes) we went right to the excursions desk and booked our excursions with no problem.
Our Room: We had booked an oceanview guarantee, and got upgraded to an 8G extended balcony. On top of that, we got the handicap accessible room. This meant we had a larger bathroom and shower, and a TRIPLE BALCONY, which I found crazy. It was my first balcony, and while it was nice to have, I don't think I've become one of those people who absolutely need a balcony once they've had one. The only thing we didn't really like about the room was there being an emergency button right above the headboard on the bed. It was in a place where if we put our arms up, it kept getting pushed and we'd get phone calls from the info desk. The first time this happened we asked if they could just ignore it, and they said the were not allowed to. So we got quite a few unnecessary phone calls to make sure we were okay, when it was just an accident. Also, there was chair that folded down from the wall in the shower, which was nice to put your leg on to shave. One bad thing about the shower was that it's suppose to allow for a wheelchair to roll in, so there's no rim on the bottom to hold in water. A result of this was our bathroom floor being flooded every time we shower. There was a squeegee on a pole to clean it, but it didn't work too well.
Dining Room: We were seated at a table from two at the first seating, table 180. We had awesome servers, Erceg from Croatia, and I Ketut from Indonesia. Erceg was dreamy and my boyfriend is probably still upset about my thinking this. You know Luka from ER? How charming he is? So was Erceg. We ate in the dining room every night except for Tuesday when we went to the Golden Fleece. Everything we ordered in Truffles we enjoyed, though there were a couple consistency issues. One night Dan got two filet mignons, one was really good and cooked perfect, the other was not that good (kinda tough). Also, I got two lobster tails on the first formal night, and one was a little chewy and the other was awesome. I've heard people say on the boards that the lobster can be salty, I didn't think this at all. Being from New England we have high standards for lobster, and I thought the lobster on the ship was very good (it was Florida lobster in Truffles, Maine in the Golden Fleece according to Erceg). I highly recommend the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. Once I had it, I ended up having it almost every night afterwards. Especially good if you eat the top off, then mix the vanilla ice cream in with the rest.
Golden Fleece: We made a reservation on the first day for Tuesday at 8:30. Going at this time, there was hardly any one up there. The Golden Fleece was beautiful. You have about 3-4 different people waiting on you, and all are very helpful and informative. There was a live band playing that was okay. Dan had the beef capriccio, filet mignon, and chocolate dessert. He liked the filet so much that he talked about it for the rest of the cruise, said it was the best he'd ever had. He kept saying that we should eat there every night, but it wasn't feasible with the cost. I had the crab cake, lobster tail, and citrus cheesecake and loved it all. The warm potato salad under the lobster tail was soooo good. Also, the bread in the Golden Fleece is to die for.
Entertainment: We didn't end up going to any of the shows. The last sea day we went to all the trivia and game shows and enjoyed them. We tried really hard to get a ship on a stick but didn't ;(. At the Battle of the Sexes game Dan was the spokesperson for the men and those buggers won by one point! We played bingo a couple times but never won, oh well.
Casino: We went to casino most nights (addictive place). We both only played slots. I've had a thing for the Money to Burn game since my first cruise, and Dan played the Lucky Leprechaun game almost exclusively. Maybe it's him being Irish, but he loved that game and did pretty good on it. We played the first slot tournament but didn't get on the leader board. I never really found it smoky in the casino, and it was never really that crowded. The first sea day I had an issue with a bunch of kids being in the casino, screaming and jumping all over the games next to me. These kids were terrible, and it looked like their mother was just sitting playing a slot machine. She eventually came and took them out of the casino after about 15 minutes. These kids and their family sat one row over from us in the dining room every night, and every night the kids were rowdy and sitting on the platform behind the booth seats. What appalled me the most was that on the second formal night, the kids came in wearing shorts, tank tops, bathing suits, and one had no shoes on. And the staff did NOTHING about it. Enough about them.
Key West: We booked the White Knuckle Thrill Ride. This was awesome. It was run by a really laid back couple who were originally from I think Michigan and they were really cool. You take a 20 minute ride from the pier to Cow Key, where you get in this crazy boat that holds 11 passengers. You go for about a 45-60 minute hour ride in the ocean, where the driver spins and drives really fast and gets you soaked. The only thing that I would do differently on this excursions was either wear my sunglasses or bring some goggles, as the salt water is constantly going into your eyes and boy does it burn. After we were driven back to the pier we went on the ship, changed, and ate lunch. We went back into Key West for a little while and did some shopping on the street behind the pier. All the stores seemed to have the same stuff, like in any port, so we didn't shop for long.
Nassau: On my last cruise I had gone over to Atlantis to go to the Dig and wanted to go back. Dan had looked online and found out they have a pass called Aquaventure for $105 each adult that gives you full access to the park and the new water park, so we did that. We realized that it was costly, but we were saving a lot on our excursions compared to what the Western ones would have cost us. Others have said to go book at room at the Comfort Inn next door for less money, and you get 4 passes to Atlantis, but we figured going right through Atlantis was easy and didn't cost much more, maybe $20 more. We had a great time sitting in the lazy river for a couple hours and doing the water slides. I got pretty burnt on my face (used a different sunblock on my face then body), but other than that it was great. We took at taxi to Atlantis, it was $4 a person one way. When we were finished there we took a taxi to the Straw Market and bought some gifts. Overall, it was a great day.
Half Moon Caye: It was beautiful, but we only got off the boat for maybe an hour. We didn't want to go in the water since I was so burned, but figured we should get off to look around at least. If I go here again I would definitely spend the whole day in the water as it was very pretty.
Grand Turk: This was Dan's favorite port. We did the Reef and Rays excursion and it was great. You take a 15 minute boat ride to a reef where they let you snorkel for 35 minutes. In the water is a barracuda named Harry that one of the staff scubas down to and feeds. It was awesome. It was low tide so we didn't get to swim over the reef but it was still cool. They then take you right to the beach, where you can swim with, feed and hold the stingrays. Took me about 15 minutes to get off the boat for this (fish freak me out and stingrays do even more) but I ended up getting in the water and held one of them. We did a little shopping at the pier and that was about it for that day.
Overall, this was a great cruise. Dan loved it so much, that he was already talking about going on another one before we even got off the ship. I found the ship to be really smooth, not really much motion. On my last two cruises I did get quite seasick a couple days, even with taking prescription Dramamine and using the Scop patch. This time I just took the Dramamine and I had no issues at all. I really liked the layout of the ship and found it really easy to get around. I thought the service we experienced was better than my other cruises. I would definitely cruise with Carnival again and go on this ship again. Read Less