This was my first cruise. I have always been a little leary, but agreed to go on this one since a group of friends was going.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal in NO at around 10:00. After we waited 15 minutes or so for a porter to find us, I walked to the gate between the ship and the building and got a porter for our luggage. We entered the terminal building, where we were given a flyer stating we would not be going to Grand Cayman. I had called Carnival that morning to ask if we would be going there, and they said we definitely would. Why must they lie to us? Anyway, no big surprise there. My husband and I went ahead to the skippers club, while our friends got in line for regular check in. It took us about 45 minutes to check in (thanks to some people in line who did not have their paperwork completed and had left their ID in the car). After a brief wait, the skippers club was permitted to board. We waited in the Cezanne dining area for our friends to board. It was about another 1 1/2 hours before they boarded. We ate some lunch and went up to our rooms at about 1:30. Most of our luggage was there already, the rest arrived by about 3:30.
Room: We had a suite on the empress deck. I highly recommend this. The room was large enough for the six of us to all hang out before dinner for drinks and not feel cramped. I had a BATH TUB - well worth the extra money in my opinion. It was a whirlpool tub, but I never turned the jets on. OUr balcony was spacious enouch for 3 chairs and a small table. We had 2 closets, 2 sinks, 2 vanity areas, fridge, bar glasses, several cupboards, and several drawers. Plenty of storage.
Food: I'm from Louisiana, so this might be the longest portion of the review. Let me first say that although it is rare that I find food outside of Louisiana that I think is exceptionally good, I am not a picky eater by any means. I can usually find something that I like. We did not like the food in the buffet or the dining room. We did enjoy the burgers, pizzas, dogs, and sandwiches. We did not try Sur Mer or The Point. The food at the breakfast buffet was extraordinarily greasy, the bacon was wiggly (not crisp) and the sausage was just odd. Pastries were tasty. We usually ordered room service for breakfast and enjoyed it on our balcony. Highly recommended.
The lunch buffet had a lovely salad bar that we did enjoy, but as for the rest of the food, two thumbs down. We much preferred the sandwich station or the hot dogs. Lunch service (except the pizza) began promptly at 12:00. Kind of aggravating. There is no "Beating the rush" as everyone is STARVING by then. Seems they could get the lunch thing going by 11:00. Also, no potato chips except through room service. Not a big deal, just stupid. Why not have them available at the sandwich place? So, you either had to order them from room service or go stand in the LONG line for fries at the burger place. Anyway, I recommend the Reuben at the Deli. I had this at least 4 times last week. It was my favorite thing on board.
Be advised, even though some of the literature says juices are free, they aren't. You can get fruit punch (sometimes) lemonade (sometimes) apple juice, and iced tea (which is nasty) at the buffet fountains. You must get OJ, Pineapple, cranberry etc from the bar, and you must pay. Unless, you go to the open seating braekfast or lunch, and then it is free. Again, not a big deal, just stupid. Why is it free one place and not free once you go outside? Many people also say the water on board is fine to drink. Maybe so, but it tastes metallic and needs a lot of lemon.
Dinner: we had late seating at the Monet room. OUr waiter was just okay. Not much personality. The food was below average on the whole. The pumpkin soup, tomato soup, and black bean soup were very good. Many of the salads were good as well. Entrees were bland at best, completely inedible at worst. I had some pan seared fish of some kind that was atrocious. I would not have served it to my dog. The beef entrees were generally better than anything else, although the last night I had some seafood and rice item that was tasty. Bring Tony's with you. Ask for Tabasco sauce. Salt and pepper everything, as they seem to have forgotten this step in the kitchen. The desserts were just so-so. I enjoyed the sherbet every night, but the other desserts ranged from really good (apple pie, bitter-n-blanc) to gross (summer berries over tapioca). We all ordered a couple of different entrees and desserts every night hoping we would fing something good.
The Ship: Lovely. Very large and spacious, and we never felt crowded even though it was booked to capacity. We did feel a lot of rocking, especially in the dining room.
The Shows: Don't bother with them, with the exception of the comedians. Fat Kat was the first one, and he was HILARIOUS. Can't remember the other ones, but we enjoyed them. Formidable was awful - it became one of our running jokes throughout the cruise.
We spent most of our time on the ship by the main pool people watching. This was fun, but by the end I was BORED. We had an extra sea day since we missed Grand Cayman, and I think that was just a little too much for me.
Jamaica: We asked at the information desk where we could go diving in Jamaica. The Carnival representative told us not to go, that there were no shops near montego bay. Pretty sure he just wanted us to book a Carnival tour. We called Round Hill Resort and scheduled a dive. A $30 cab ride for 4 of us, about 15-20 minutes. The resort is beautiful, but there did not seem to be a sandy beach on the premises. We did a one tank boat dive . It was OK. We enjoyed a tasty, yet pricey, lunch before going back to the ship. The dive staff was very accomodating. We did NOTHING. They set up our gear, washed it, hung it up . . .We sat down after the dive and enjoyed THE BEST pina colada we have ever tasted.
Cozumel: we booked the 2 tank dive through Carnival. If I were to do this cruise again (which I would not), I would just call Sand Dollar Sports directly and get a day pass to the beach club where the shop is located. The tour left 45 minutes late due to some stupid people without their dive cards. I did not feel that we should have waited that long for them to look for them They should have had all that together before getting off the ship! Anyway, the dives were lovely, and I would definitely recommend this excursion to anyone. We will probably take a trip to Cozumel sometime next year to dive and see a bit more of the island.
We had a fun trip, but I would not do this cruise again, nor would I take any cruise that stopped at Montego Bay. I might feel differently if we had been able to go to Grand Cayman. We had a great time relaxing, drinking, and hanging out on the boat, but by the end of the trip, I wanted to do anything but relax by the pool. I think that extra sea day was just too much.