February 22, 2003
Well, the cruise started out a disaster, but turned out great. We missed our flight out of Detroit because Northwest was overbooked and understaffed. They finally got us on a flight scheduled to get to Miami at 3pm, but it didn't arrive until 4:05. I had been keeping Carnival abreast of the delays, and called them as soon as I exited the plane. The rep said to get our luggage and meet the bus. I told her we didn't purchase Carnival transfers, but she said it shouldn't be a problem. The Carnival greeters at baggage said we couldn't take the bus, so get a cab - fine. Then about 5-10 min. later, they came up to us and said the ship left, we'd have to catch it at Grand Cayman. I about flipped, since there were lots of people who missed flights and were on their way to the ship. I asked to see a supervisor. 20 min. later 3 show up and I tell them the history and they say, "Why aren't you trying to get a cab, the ship hasn't left?" I about have a fit then. Mind you, I have 3 kids including a toddler and tons of luggage and have been up since about 3am. So, they and us haul all the luggage outside and try to get a big cab (although I keep saying get 2 cabs, I don't care about the cost). We finally snag a cab, but the biddy won't take us because my 20-mo. Old doesn't have a carseat. I tell her to take my husband and older kids, she won't even do that. Finally one of the Carnival supervisors decides to get a shuttle, but it will take 10-15 min. about 10 min later, they said the boat wasn't going to wait, we were out of luck (although I found out later the boat didn't leave for another 10 min). Carnival puts the whole blame on Northwest, so they take me to the NWA counter and eventually, after many tears, the NWA supervisor hooks us up with 2 rooms in Miami, tickets to Grand Cayman on Sunday, 2 suites on the beach at Grand Cayman, meals, cabfare. However, we realized as we were checking out of the hotel in Miami, that our camera bag disappeared in the luggage shuffle at the airport, with the brand- new $500 digital camera, camcorder, 35mm camera, all the accessories, smart media cards, etc. Disposable cameras, here we come.
On Monday morning, the Port Authority sends cars for us and the other people who missed ships (about 15 of us total). We wait a few hours because the waves are high and they aren't sure the tenders can dock against the ship. Eventually, they get us out there and the ships leave. Nobody on the ships got to see Grand Cayman (their loss!) because of the high waves. However, we didn't get to do Stingray City, which I had booked through Captain Marvins for port day. Kids were disappointed. Guess I'll have to go back to Grand Cayman. It's a beautiful port, the sand is amazing (that sounds weird, but it's true). CI money is worth more than US money, so be prepared to pay a lot. The shops right at the pier are somewhat pricey, though not as out-of-line as I have heard. I could have done better on gold charms in Ocho Rios.
The rest of the trip was much better. They got us checked in fairly quickly. The food was great in the Spirit dining room, I had lots of fish dishes, which were all great. My husband Mike ate the steak dishes. He wasn't thrilled with the beef in the puff pastry, but liked the chateaubriand and the prime rib. The breakfasts in the dining room were much better than the first cruise I took. Our head waiter, Jude was nice, very professional, not as chatty as others I've had. The last night, though, I felt the service went downhill, kept having to ask for stuff (ketchup, fruit cocktail for the kids) multiple times. Maybe they felt the tips were pretty much a guarantee by then.
I liked the grill by the main pool, very convenient to have food that close.
Bar service was quick, and I took advantage of it the first day especially, since I had had a pretty rough first few days. If you like big drinks ,buy 1 in the souvenir glass, then keep it with you and get it refilled, it's almost $2.00 per drink cheaper (Bahama Mamas were $6.75 in the big glass, $4.95 for a refill).
Carnival gave us 50% credit per day we missed (before taxes and port charges), but it specifically says valid as first and second cabin member, which may pose a problem on a future cruise I am planning (Carnival rep said I have to talk to guest relations, since those were issued that way for my kids, who were 3rd, 4th and 5th cabin members on the cruise). Hopefully, I'll win that battle, since I've let them know how pissed I am at them for their greeters telling me the ship left when it didn't.
Kids loved the Carnival Kids Club. The staff is very caring toward the children. The after-hours babysitting worked out great.
Ocho Rios was beautiful (prettier than Grand Cayman), but the vendors were obnoxious. We tried to book Dolphin Cove through the internet, but they are very strange. If you need details on that, email me. Bottom line, the Dolphin Encounter ($89/person) seems like more hands-on interaction than the Dolphin Swim ($145/person). This price includes Dunns River Falls also. Dolphin Cove has a small beach and a tiny pond with a very lethargic sting ray and 3 small nurse sharks you can feed, if you can get them to come over). They take pics of the dolphin stuff ($12 each). They also have a small eating area, food was pretty good and reasonable. Dunns River Falls was beautiful, very photographic place. Mike and the older kids had fun climbing. You need water shoes, which they rent for $5 if you don't have any. BEWARE of the vendors in the craft village on your way out. They asked my kids their names and then carved their names in these stupid statues (while I was being kept busy by another vendor), then told me they were giving it to the kids, but I should pay them. I said alright, $5, and they said, no $10. Mike paid exorbitant prices for stupid things, said he felt bad for the guy cuz he said he had 5 kids he was trying to support. T shirts seemed reasonable ($10), but if you go downtown, same shirts are like 3 for $10.
Our room steward, Pak, did a great job of keeping the room tidy, and did cute towel animals all 3 days. He didn't respond to pages the first time, though. He also kept insinuating I was stealing the beach towels, because Mike put 2 in the dirty laundry bag outside our door, didn't realize we had to leave them in a heap by the door so Pak could count them and give us clean ones for the next day. I finally said, hey, I'm not stealing them, search my luggage and check. Just give me 5 beach towels!
by the way, the robes in the room were a great idea, one less thing to pack.
Debarkation went smoothly, although we had to do the 7 am Immigration thing because we joined the ship in a foreign port. We had early debarkation tags for an early flight, got out about 9 -9:15 am.
All in all, we enjoyed the cruise, although I feel like I went for a 3-day trip, since the first 2 days were so screwed-up. One complaint Mike had (and I agree with) is that you don't get to sleep in, since you get to the ports so early and have to be up and fed and ready to go. We were exhausted by the time we got home.
We're looking for a fall cruise, so we can use up the credit, so it must have been a pretty good cruise!