March 10, 2002
Overall, this cruise was a great VALUE. The word VALUE is important here. It is a classic case of 'you get what you pay for'. My husband and I had a great time, and Carnival offered pretty good food and service. It is not, by any means, a luxury cruise line, so don't go into your cruise expecting to be pampered continuously. The name 'fun ships' is appropriate--they have a very laid back atmosphere, and provide plenty of activities and venues to have a great time.
Our biggest dissappointments were with our fellow cruisers. Given the price of Carnival's cruises, they attract a primarily lower to middle class crowd. Now I am not being elitist (I am a young professional and my husband is a student) as we are low middle class ourselves, and I am only talking about a small percentage of the passengers. But the small percentage seemed to ruin it for everyone else. We experienced rude and inconsiderate behavior throughout our cruise. Everyone was 'in it for themselves' and would push anyone out of their way to get what they wanted. I mostly experienced this with families that would teach the rude behavior to their kids and would make no attempt to curtail thier rowdiness in public areas.
Embarkation and Disembarkation took a long time, but Carnival did an OK job considering how many people they had to move. We were in the last group off and did not get off the ship until 12:15, so keep that in mind when you make travel arrangements. Show up early to get on the ship, and don't expect to get off until late. I suggest you find a comfy outside area to wait to disembark, that way you can at least enjoy the good weather and scenery.
We purchased some fun shore tours. During all the excursions, guides were 'pimping for tips' and would make you feel very guilty if you did not oblige. We did the Mountain River Rafting in Jamaica. The tour itself was fun, but the Jamaica experience is not great at all. We encountered ultra-aggressive souvenier selling and hair braiding. Our friends did Dunn's Rivers falls and said they were constantly hounded by the locals. If I had to do it again, I would choose the Wet and Wild tour. You get to encounter the natural beauty of Jamaica without ever really setting foot on the island and dealing with the people.
Grand Cayman was absolutely gorgeous. We did the stingray city and island tour. We appreciated the tour of the island, but wished we had bought the stingray tour with a local company ourselves. There were about 150 people on our boat and it was just very chaotic to really get time with the stingrays. Next time, we will find our own tour when we get to Grand Cayman--it is cheaper and more personalized.
We toured the Mayan ruins of Tulum in Cozumel. It is a 6 hour trip, and 4.5 of that is spent traveling to/from the ruins. After a nauseating boat and bus ride, we were hardly excited to see the ruins themselves. I am glad we saw them, but we really did not get to enjoy the day or see ANY of Cozumel besides the inside of a bus and a boat.
Our best times were on the boat, when we could find an area that was not over-run with rowdy children (some were well-behaved, others were not). They were aggressive in selling the drinks, but we were happy with that. The drink of the day specials were a good value at $2.95, but skip the souvenier glass! The casino was fun, but a little too smoky at times. Our cabin was spacious and we enjoyed room service immensely (although they got our order wrong 33% of the time). We had an outside cabin on the lowest deck, and were not sure the window was worth the extra money. I can't imagine paying a higher price for a higher deck--the view is the same, and you take elevators to everything anyway.
Overall, we had a great time. I was scared by other reviews. But just keep in mind that this is a 'fun' ship and you get what you pay for, and you should have a blast. I didn't mean to be overly negative in this review, but just a warning to future passengers on what to expect, especially on the shore tours.
We will definitely be cruising again in the future. I think I will try and save for a more upscale cruise line (preferable non-smoking adults only) if my husband and I go again. If we have children and want to bring them along, then we will be coming back to Carnival.Jennifer