January 12, 2003
I just returned from a 7-day cruise on the Destiny from January 12-19th, and had a great time. There were a few minor glitches and negatives, but the overall experience with Carnival was just fine. At the airport in San Juan, the Carnival reps were there and told us to gather in one spot after getting our luggage. We did have to move our own bags from inside the terminal to an area outside where the buses were. But that wasn't too difficult. There were porters available with carts for the elderly or those who thought they had to bring their entire household along. At the pier, our bags were unloaded from the bus and we did have to take them quite a ways before they were checked. It's a joke to have to pay a guy a buck a bag after we'd already hauled them most of the way, but that's how the system works. The rest of the procedure went smoothly as we were given our sign and sail cards and directions to our cabin. The lines moved quickly and waiting was minimal. We had balcony cabins on the Veranda deck just off the elevator area. The cabins were fine. It was clean and there was plenty of room for storage. The balcony area proved to be a real plus during the trip and I would recommend them as well worth the cost. We were traveling with three other couples and our rooms were all together.
Our steward unlocked the balcony partitions so that we could open them whenever we wanted. This gave us the chance to visit back and forth during the day. The food on the ship was good. Evening meals in the dining room had a good variety and the quality was fine. Carnival doesn't serve 5-star fare, but it was as good as what you get in many nicer restaurants. We did eat breakfast in the dining room one morning and enjoyed that too. But most meals were at the buffet off the Lido deck. The breakfasts were usually the same with so-so scrambled eggs. But they'll make you an omelet or fried eggs on the spot. The noon and evening buffets were okay, with plenty to pick from. If you like sandwiches, be sure to hit the New York deli. Also, the pizza is good 24 hrs a day. Regarding our ports-of-call, we only did one shore excursion through Carnival. On St. Thomas, we caught a cab ride downtown and did a little shopping. I'm not much of a shopper, so all of the ports seemed the same to me. Hundreds of shops sell the same merchandise for about the same prices. We did the same at Martinique and that was a waste of time. The pier where the Destiny docks is a dump, so you get a bad first impression. The merchants in town aren't very friendly and seem cool to tourists. I wouldn't waste time on this stop.
At Barbados, I got off the ship and asked a local cop about a good beach to do some snorkeling on my own. He told me where to catch a city bus that would take me up to Folkstone Underwater Park. Cost is $1.00 and the ride took about 30 minutes. A fellow on the bus told me when to get off and I was able to walk one block to the beach. It was great snorkeling (I had my own mask & fins) with lots of fish and coral. There are public facilities there that you can use. After 1 hour, I rode the bus back to Bridgestone and walked a few blocks back to the ship. It was a lot cheaper than the Carnival snorkel trips, but I didn't get a catamaran ride or the "free" rum punch.
On Aruba, our group did much the same thing for a beach trip. We caught the city bus about two blocks from the ship, and rode up to Palm Beach. Cost is $2.00 and it takes 30 minutes. Once on the beach, you can rent a beach chair for $5.00 and use the beach towel that Carnival provides. I saw a catamaran pull up to the dock and unload a bunch of people from the Destiny. They had paid $35.00 and ended up on the same beach as us. They also took a bus to get back to the ship. So save some money and venture out on your own. The one excursion we did take was the Sunset Cruise at Aruba. Well worth the cost. We had a 2-½ hour sail on a big cat and they had open bar the whole time. I thought the Destiny was in good shape. Some have complained about wear and tear, but that's to be expected on a ship that 2500 people run over each week. Our air conditioning wouldn't shut down and it got very cold the first night. But I mentioned it to our steward Jasen, and it was fixed in less than an hour.
Our de-barkation wasn't any big problem either. Our deck was the last one to be called, so all most of the crowd was gone and we had no trouble finding our bags. The bus was right there waiting to take us back to the airport in a short time. I think we received excellent service from all of the Carnvial employees, and would recommend this cruise to anyone who is looking for a fun experience for a practical price.