Getting to the ship: We live in Katy, Tx, about 1 1/2 hours away from Galveston. We had no problems getting to the ship. Traffic was heavy due to rain. Hubby dropped us off with the luggage at the port and we waited for him to park. You must have correct change in the parking lot. They would not change a $100 for him there. He had to drive around and find somewhere to break it before he could park. We arrived at the ship about 12:30, and it took about an hour for him to park and get back to us. I had intended on carrying our luggage onto the ship ourselves, so I did not pack any carryon luggage. However, the porters told us we would not be allowed to carry on our large bags cos they wouldn't fit thru the scanners upstairs. So, reluctantly, we handed everything over. They said the bags would probably be on the ship before we were since we were early, but they were wrong. It took 2 hours before the first bag arrived, and hubby's bag never did. The tag had come off, so he had to go to the Purser's Desk to look for it.
Embarkation: Check-in went very smoothly. Since we had all of our paperwork filled out prior, the whole procedure took about 5 minutes. There was a Camp Carnival representative waiting where you picked up your keys to invite Kayla to their activities.
Muster Drill: We had a very abbreviated muster drill. It occurred about 3:30. Our station was in the Astoria lounge. A staff member stood up on the stage and demonstrated how to put on a life jacket. No one came around to make sure we had done it correctly, and we did not have to go outside to our lifeboats. There were no photographers coming around to photograph us, and the flash on my camera would not work. So we missed out on that photo opp. The whole boat drill took about 15 minutes.
Departure: The ship left about 30 minutes past the scheduled time. It was very cold and rainy up on deck, but we suffered. There were about a handful of people on shore to see us off. Everyone had fun yelling at them! We called all of our family from the deck on the cell phone to rub it in that we were on a cruise ship and they weren't!!
Luggage: Like I said before, we were not allowed to carry on our luggage ourselves. The porters were very friendly, but insisted on taking our bags for us. They were very efficient, and there were plenty of them. We tipped about a dollar a bag.
Dining Room: We were assigned to the Vista dining room, table 138. It was a booth for 6. We were a family of 3 seated with a family of 4, so they pulled up a chair for the 7th person. Our waiter was Sylforde Dennie and our assistant waiter was Darma. They were both very nice, but not as outgoing as our waiters had been on previous cruisers. We didn't get the napkin folding demonstrations or other games that other waiters had provided for us. They were very efficient, and our food was always still hot and prepared just as we ordered it. We did get them talking a little about their personal lives a little bit. They didn't volunteer much, you had to ask! The Head Waiter was Pierre. He was great with Kayla. He came around each night and flirted with her. She was embarrassed! :) The maitre d' also came around each night to talk to her. He didn't come around on tip night, however. We were surprised by that! We gave him his tip on the way out of the restaurant.
Dining Companions: We were seated with a family of 4, with a 16 year old daughter and an 8 year old son. It turns out that they also live in Katy, about 2-3 miles from us! That was kind of neat, but we were looking forward to meeting other people from other places. They were a very quiet family. This was their first cruise, so they didn't quite know what to expect. We had a good time with them, but I doubt we made lifelong friends.
Cabin: We were on the Riviera Deck, cabin R52. This was a 6A cabin. Very spacious. It had 2 upper bunks, one directly over the lower bunk by the window, and the other abutting the bathroom. There was not much noise or movement in our cabin. We did receive an amenity basket, with all of the usual items in it. We also received the 2 bathrobes. They were very comfortable. They took them away before the last night of the cruise.
Cabin Steward: Johnson was our steward. He spoke English very well. He was nice and did an excellent job. We had the towel animals almost every night, and he always 'fancied up' Kayla's stuffed animals. The only time we called him, it was by mistake. Bryan thought he was turning on the cabin lights. But Johnson was there in a flash.
Dining Room Food: I never got up early enough for breakfast in the dining room (except on the last day), nor did I ever eat lunch in there. So I can't give a firsthand opinion of the food. The food for dinner was great. I had the steak on the first night, and it was actually prepared the way I ordered it!! The second night (formal night), I had the lobster. Both were delicious. Chocolate Decadence was one of the dessert choices the first night. If you've never had this, you need to try it. Especially if you're a chocolate lover. Dennie was even good enough to save me a piece for later during the cruise! We had cherries jubilee on the second night. They flamed them in the kitchen and then brought them out to us. One thing I don't understand is, why do they serve flaming desserts when they aren't allowed to be flaming when we see them? Isn't there another dessert they could serve that can be presented in another way?
WheelHouse Food: The food was good, but still about what you'd expect to find in a cafeteria. Breakfast selections were always typical American breakfast foods. The 'fried egg' station served up eggs that had already been scrambled. You could not get an actual yolk here. You had to get that in the main dining room. If I hadn't seen it for myself on the last morning of the cruise, I would have suspected they used powdered eggs or something. The pizzeria was very good. I didn't eat any of the desserts offered in the WheelHouse. The hot chocolate was very good.
Cozumel: We went to Chankanaab for the day. Cabs are $8 one way. Chankanaab is $10 per person. If this is where you're going -- don't rent your snorkel gear on the ship! Rent it here! It costs about half as much, and you don't have to lug it on and off the ship. We had a great time. Getting into the water was a little scary, cos occasionally the waves get rough coming up onto the rocks. It made my 8yo a little nervous, and she dropped her mask. It doesn't float. Snorkeling was unbelievable!! We saw so many different fish -- we even saw a barracuda. We had our picture taken underwater. After swimming we laid out on the beach. There were bar servers, but we were still recovering from the night before, so we stayed sober. We walked along the trails a little bit, they were very pretty. We saw a few iguanas. We also had our picture taken with some macaws. The guy said the money we paid was supposed to go for the care of wild macaws to help protect the species. Shopping here was very inexpensive, I thought. We got a souvenir for each of us, including 2 shorts outfits, T-shirts, and hot sauce, for only $30. I didn't bother trying to haggle cos I'm not good at it and his prices seemed so reasonable. We got back to the ship around 3 o'clock. The ship was to leave at 5 o'clock, but there was still a long line of people getting back on at that time.
Days at Sea: The usual at-sea activities took place. We had a great time relaxing and enjoying the sun. Kayla loved the frog pool. On the last day, we ran into a storm about noon. The ship really moved a lot. Kayla and I had fun wandering the decks enjoying the movement of the ship. She got a taste of what it felt like to be drunk!! We went to play bingo, and about halfway through, I began to get sick! I had to go lie down to get rid of the queasy feeling. A lot of people were affected by the movement on this day, but it wasn't too bad on other days.
Ship: Others on other forums complained about how old the ship was. I tried to be very critical in this area, and I honestly could not find many signs of wear. I saw a few stains on the carpet, but that was about it. It has been kept up very nicely. Crew were constantly painting and cleaning. Public areas on the ship were nicely laid out, and we didn't have any trouble finding our way around the ship. Even on the last day, however, we were still finding new ways to get places!
Crew: Everyone we encountered was fantastic!! People were constantly stopping to talk to our daughter, and calling her a little princess. Even people who would not be expecting a tip at the end of the cruise. Everyone in the Vista dining room was great, from our waiter (Dennie) and assistant waiter (Darma), to the Head Waiter (Pierre) and the maitre d' (David). This was the first cruise where I actually thought the Head Waiter and maitre d' deserved a tip. We loved Daniel at the Pool Bar. He was always great! He even helped us with a "Rescue at Sea" (Kayla lost her mask -again- at the bottom of the pool, and could not dive down deep enough to get it. He helped us by getting the pool skimmer out and rescuing it for her.
Fellow Passengers: A very quiet crowd. I think most of them were first-time cruisers and didn't quite know what to expect. We heard a lot of complaining over the drink prices and other costs on the ship. Most of the passengers were from Texas. Our table mates at dinner actually live about 5 miles from our house!! Everyone on the ship was very friendly and open. Good crowd, but sometimes it's nice to meet people from all over. It seemed like most of my fellow passengers were right in my own backyard!
Parties: We attended the Captain's Cocktail party on formal night. It was very nice. There was a nice selection of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. They played Big Band music, and there were a surprising number of people who were actually GOOD at dancing to this type of music! We also attended the Deck Party on Saturday night. My husband participated in the lip synch contest. (I made him) They were going to make him sing to "I'm Too Sexy," but took one look at him and gave him AC/DC instead. Much better choice! He actually enjoyed it, but said he would get me back for that!
Shows: We went to both Broadway style shows. Kayla loved the elaborate costumes. She got to meet one of the dancers after a show. We thought their dancing was excellent, and the shows generally were very good. They do need a wardrobe update on the second show, though. The sequined dress the lady wears during one part is about to fall apart! The hem is coming out, it is missing patches of sequins, etc. We also went to the Comedian's show, on the first night for general audiences, and on the second night for adults only. On the general audience performance, he was only so-so. But on the adult show, he was hilarious!!
Camp Carnival: We did not participate much in Camp Carnival. We went to the Welcome Party, and she went to the Pajama Party the first two nights. After that, she just stayed out with us. She went once during the day for a couple of hours. It seems they keep the kids inside that little bitty playroom the majority of the time and play games. She wasn't thrilled with it, and never asked to go back. I'm guessing they had an abbreviated program since there were only 70 kids on board.
Debarkation: The Riviera Deck was assigned to the Lido Deck to wait. I don't get this -- our deck is closest to the gangway, but we're given the HIGHEST deck to wait on, AND we're the last to get off. This must be one more area where it pays to get a higher level cabin. It was chilly, so most waited inside the WheelHouse. Breakfast was still being served, and coffee and hot chocolate was available. That made the wait a lot more bearable. Everyone gave out a loud cheer when our color was called, like we had won bingo or something. Everyone seemed cheerful and patient while waiting. As far as getting off the ship went, debarkation went very smoothly. Galveston, however, needs some practice. They did a poor job of directing traffic thru the terminal. There are 3 lanes of traffic, and only 2 were supposed to be used for loading. People were using the third lane for loading as well, and were never told to stop. This made the traffic back up considerably. It took the hubby an hour to get from the parking lot up to the terminal so we could load up. We were still home by 12:30, though, so it beats having to fly into a port any day!!
Wrap up: This was a fantastic cruise. We loved it so much, I went out already and got a new brochure so we can plan the next one!