by Maria Korengel
April 4, 2004
As a preface, this was our 8th cruise (7 of the cruises were on Carnival).
We booked our trip thought a travel agent and didn't have any problems however the air add-on was $399 per person and we could get the air for $250, the savings was too great to not book it on our own. I know the whole "Carnival will hold the ship for you", etc. but for that kind of money, we booked our own. Flew in the day before as we're from Cincinnati and getting to Houston doesn't get us there in time for the boat on Sunday - so limited our risk a little since we booked air outside of Carnival. Others we sat with at dinner had booked air through Carnival and had to fly out at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday to make it in time, the timing we picked was much better.
Arrived into Houston at 5:00 Saturday and caught the Galveston Limo Shuttle service (had to wait about 30 minutes for the shuttle as it is not personal - they pick you up on their own set schedule running every 1.5 hours). Cost was $50 per adult and $30 for our 8 year old.
Stayed in the Holiday Inn on the Beach in Galveston. They have a free shuttle to the pier in the morning so we booked our time slot upon arriving and had no issues with the hotel whatsoever. This is a great hotel going through renovation and everything was very nice and clean. Very helpful front desk and the pool area was very pretty. You could walk to the Rainforest Café, etc. but their shuttle would take you there and back.
We booked a guarantee inside lower room (category 4a) and received an outside 4a - it was a nice surprise and the window was neat - for the first day or two, we didn't really look out that much but hey, never turn your nose up at an upgrade. This was our 7th Carnival and only time we received an upgrade. Room was definitely adequate for 3 people (2 adults and child). All Carnival rooms look alike so if you've been on any ship or seen pictures from any other ship - this room looks just like them all.
Our room steward was great, never saw him but we had a soft sided cooler that we kept in the room and he always filled it with ice and put additional sodas in the bag if we had run out - we brought on 4 6-packs of plastic bottle diet cokes.
Dinner time - we were in the Inspiration dining room at the 5:45 seating - since we had a child with us, we wanted the early seating. Nice table for 8 (they put a chair on the end to make it 9) and we were seated with another couple (who we met on Cruisemates) and it worked out wonderfully - they had 2 little girls.
First night we explored the ship, saw the shows (which were all great). However, the lead male singer looked a little like a grown Macaulay Calkin - freaky.
Progresso - There is a beach right off the shuttle if you just walk down two blocks. Lots to do there, restaurant, etc. Plenty to do there, don't believe what you've heard that if you don't get to Merida you won't have a good time. This is why, we went to Merida - took the $10 per person bus (which is a city bus) and got into the busy Mexican city. And that is exactly what it is, busy, busy Mexican city. No one speaks very much English and we could hardly find the "straw market" that was suppose to be there - the shopping in Progresso is much better. We only stayed about 20 minutes and got back on the 45 minute bus ride and went back to Progresso - waste of time! Unfortunately, we didn't see the beach until we were back on the pier shuttle going back to the ship - many people told us they had a great time at that beach. IF YOU LEARN ONE THING FROM THIS REVIEW IT'S TO SHOP IN PROGRESSO. It's hard to spend your shopping money in your first pier but believe me, this is the place to do it. Everything was much cheaper in Progresso. We bought our little on a $5 Mexican guitar which was $18 in Cozumel. Belize has good shopping too but Progresso is your best. Now, you're not going to get the jewels that you would in Cozumel but for souvenirs, etc. this is the place to do it. They even had those rope swings for $5 - these were $25 (same exact ones) in Cozumel - and you couldn't barging down but to about $18-$20 - believe me we tried.
Cozumel - we went to Chankaab park - unbelievable park - lots of people but it didn't feel crowded at all. We brought our own masks and snorkels and right there in the beachy area (little lagoon they made) you could see all kinds of pretty nice sized, colored fish. You could swim out of the little inlet they made into the open ocean and snorkel to your hearts content - all for admission into the park of $10.00 - this includes lockers, showers, facilities, there is a gift shop, restaurant, etc. everything you could want. You can rent all the water stuff there too.
In Cozumel we did the Royal Swim with Dolphin Discovery - this was amazing. We had the swim with the dolphins (which is more interaction than the dolphin encounter) and swim with the sea lions too - all of this was so amazing I can't tell you enough about it. We booked outside the boat directly with www.dolpindiscovery.com. The guides were top notch and the place was run by compassionate trainers. I'm not really that big of a dolphin person but once you do this you are just on a "high" from the experience that I can't even describe it to you - just amazing. The swim with the sea lion was just as great, this sea lion was like a dog playing with us.
Belize - everyone whines about the tenders but it wasn't that big of a deal. We had a tour scheduled (outside of the boat) that we scheduled for 11:00 a.m. as to not push the timing getting of the boat - maybe that is why it wasn't that big of a deal for us. Those in hurry or trying to go outside the "rules" for the tenders were whining up a storm. Seriously, just take your time and you'll be fine. Everyone said that there is absolutely nothing to do in Belize if you don't do a tour but this is not the case. Right off the tender is a great shopping area with an open air restaurant where you could get a bite to eat, drink, and an internet café for $4.00 for 15 minutes. You can actually see the water while you're answering email. We emailed our son at college and made him jealous - that's a parent's job! If you want to get to a beach, there are plenty of government run tours right there at that shopping village and you can get it much less expensive off the boat. If not, just hang out there it was a lot of fun. We grabbed one of those government tour companies to take us to the Belize Zoo - very neat experience seeing the animals up close but sorry we missed the beach here and it was so Blessed Hot that day - couldn't hardly take not being in a pool or water some place - geez if this is what it is in early April, what is it going to be in summer! We got our daughter's hair braided here for the full head $10.00 - you couldn't get that price in Cozumel.
Okay, so there you have the ports, we definitely wish we would have done some things differently - we really missed the fun time in Progresso but can only blame that on ourselves. Wish we would have loaded up on our gifts and goodies in Progresso and definitely either just hung out in the shopping village in Belize or grabbed the water taxi to a beach someplace.
Our dinner waiter:
Kids on the ship:
Getting off the ship:
We had a really good time on this ship but Carnival is getting a little routine for us. The menu was the same on the last 5 cruises - over 5 years. A little variation but for the most part the same. Everything looks the same, etc. So I think next time we will try a different cruise line just for variation however this ship was just fine and we had a good vacation. Any questions, just ask.