November 11, 2002
Past Experience:Two previous Carnival Cruises on the Tropicale and Sensation.
Itinerary:Key West, Belize, Cozumel, Progresso/Merida
Getting There: Getting to Port Canaveral itself was easy, but finding the right road that leads to the ship is not easy once at the port. They do not have signs telling which cruise lines are where. You can see the ship you want, but may have to take one or two roads to get there so be warned. Dropping off luggage is easy and parking was no problem at all. No matter where you parked, it was a short distance to walk into the cruise terminal. Much better setup than the port in Tampa.
The Ship Itself: Very nice and elegant. A little more refined than the typically flashy Carnival ship. Lots of wood, marble and tile that accentuate each other nicely. Glass elevators gave you a view of a 5 story tall Renaissance mural and also a view of all the decks which from there resemble the floors of a skyscraper. Never felt crowded. Lots of private areas to sit on deck and read or have a cup of coffee.
The Staff and Crew: Everyone was extremely helpful and pleasant, from room stewards to wait staff. They would all say hi and smile as you walked by, even if they weren't the ones that served you. They really made you feel welcome to be there.
The Food: The food in the Main Dining Room was adequate. It did not have much flavor overall. I had only 2 meals that had any flavor at all in the Main Dining Room. Desserts were also adequate: same problem of no flavor. We've had better food on other Carnival ships. The Mermaid Grille on the Lido Deck however always had excellent food, from made-to-order omelets to Chinese food, fresh made pizza, and hot deli sandwiches, everything here was good.
David's Supper Club: This is an exclusive restaurant on board that cost $25/each (not including wine). To spend this kind of money for the kind of food we ordered was disappointing to say the least. I ordered a filet mignon. It had no flavor at all. My wife ordered a porterhouse steak (medium well). The first one they brought out was rare. The second one was barely medium, but to return it by this time would have been futile. The best part of the meal was the $40 bottle of wine we ordered. They have a dress code for this restaurant, but they should also have an age limit as well. This is supposed to be dining in an intimate setting. We purposely chose to leave our 2-year-old at Camp Carnival during this meal, so as not to disturb other patrons. I wish the family that sat across from us would have had the same courtesy. They brought their 2 children that were under 5 into this supper club and hence we had to listen to their kids' screaming and crying throughout most of our "quiet and intimate meal". So be warned that you may not get the quiet evening you were hoping for.
Entertainment on Board: Lots to do and see. There is something for everyone. A little disappointed that the music played around the ship did not seem scheduled well with the dining schedule. We would finish eating dinner and would want to sit and listen to music somewhere, but nothing would be playing again for at least another hour on most days. On previous Carnival Ships we would have High Tea everyday, but this ship only had it once, which is surprising considering the Renaissance/Victorian theme of the ship. There were 2 Broadway Shows, a magic act, and a balancing act. There were no comedian shows except for the midnight adults only show. Somewhat disappointed in that respect. Guess it's hard to find clean comedians.
Camp Carnival: The staff here are fantastic. We left our 2-year-old for a couple of hours to see how she would do. Went to pick her up and she did not want to leave. They have lots of activities for the kids to do and one night the whole family gets to participate. If you wish to have dinner without the kids, I would suggest a late seating for dinner (8:15 to 9:30) because Camp Carnival is closed from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. If your kids are at Camp Carnival during lunchtime and you are not on an excursion in port, you have to pick up your kids during lunch.
Excursions: Key West - Friendly people for a tourist place. The island is nice and clean. You can find some shopping bargains here. Would not recommend the Glass Bottom Boat tour of the coral reef. Too many people crowded around the glass to be able to see very well. Trip is in a 30 foot enclosed boat that gets hot and rocks a lot while hovering over the reef. Some people got seasick. The glass boat in Cozumel is better. Maybe the city tour would be better.
Belize - Economically depressed, new port being built there will be nice by next year. Myan Ruin and Belize City tour was worth the $39 but it's a bumpy ride because the roads are not very good. Not good for young children because the trip is long and might not be interesting to a small child.
Cozumel - Nice large duty-free shop. We've been there 3 times now. Port is being renovated as well. Will be nice when it's done. The Dolphin Encounter was excellent. My 2-year-old even enjoyed it. You stand on a platform in waist deep water in the lagoon and the dolphins will come up to you and you can pet them and they will give you a kiss. This is not a "swim with the dolphins" deal, this is only touching and petting setup. Very nice park to snorkel or just swim at. Nice lagoon just for this. Next time we will spend more time at the lagoon and park.
Progresso/Merida - Took the Chichen Itza tour. Did not take our child because the tour is 7.5 hours. Nice tour, excellent tour guide. Ruins are magnificent. Tallest structure is a steep climb. Not good for people with hip, knee or heart problems. Don't have to climb anything if you don't want to. Setting not as nice at the ruins in Tulum, but from an archeological standpoint, Chichen Itza is better. There is limited time to shop before and after the tour. No time left after the tour to see Progresso.
Getting Back: Leaving the port and collecting luggage was no problem. There is a long wait once you have to be out of your room before you can leave the ship, so grab a cup of coffee and book and wait on the lido deck. Takes about 2 hours to get everyone off. The lower your room is on the ship means the longer you have to wait to get off the ship.
Overall Impression: Enjoyed this cruise as much as our last one. Food could have been better, but where the food was lacking, the staff more than made up for it. Weather was the best we have had so far. We enjoyed eating in the Mermaid Grille more than the Main Dining Room not just for the food, but also that it was more comfortable and aesthetically more pleasing. You could eat while staring at the ocean through floor to ceiling windows. We will probably do this particular trip again in a couple of years once all of the ports have finished their remodeling. Four ports are a lot to do in one week and Belize, Cozumel, and Progresso are all back to back within a 3-day period. It would have been nice to skip one of these ports and maybe had just a day at sea in between ports. Overall, it was still a very nice vacation.