by Kimberly Yeaton
November 24, 2001
Background: This is my 5th cruise and my cruise buddy's 4th. It's actually our fourth together. We've been on both the Fantasy and Ecstasy for 4-day cruises, and the Paradise for a 7 day cruise. Obviously this was a much bigger ship than the usual and it would prove to be interesting.
EMBARKATION: A: Increased security was very evident here. Every bag that you were carrying on with you had to go through scanners, as well as your person. This was a definite change from previous cruise check-in. They also checked that all paperwork was filled out before they even let you get in line to check in. Personally, I rather liked that, kept the lines moving quickly.
SHIP: A-: It's very well decorated, and the Capitol Bar in the Atrium is very striking. But the darn ship is just too big. And maybe it's not the ship itself that is too big, but the fact that there were 3000 + people on board that made it frustrating. Lines for everything all the time. I'm used to having 3 or 4 people in front of me for food, not 24.
FOOD: A-: I really enjoy the food on Carnival. Starting with our Paradise cruise in 1999, the food has improved tremendously and our favorites are the lobster tail, filet mignon and the grilled tiger shrimp at dinner. The lido lunches are also improved on this ship with a whole lot of variety from grilled fish to carved pork sandwiches. There was also the deli line and the pizza line. Both of which were constantly full with people.
We again opted for late seating dining. We were assigned to a booth this time, and it was a disappointment. First, no one showed up to eat with us for the entire week. Well, until the last night. Turns out we were assigned a single male table mate, who we would have preferred to never meet. He was kinda creepy, and his teeth were rather black from about the 1 zillion cigarettes he had smoked over the years. It was just not what I'd call a good job on the match-up. I really wish Carnival would take age more into consideration when assigning tables. Our last table was great, all 20 something's and single. This guy was nowhere near late 20's, early 30's. Just seems that would make for more fun than the usual "single", "couple", "married" distribution.
SERVICE: A: Our dining room staff was outstanding (probably the best we've ever had) and our room steward was great. Also we were lucky to have John Heald as the cruise director. He is as terrific as I'd heard, and definitely spiced up the trip.
PORTS: San Juan: Old San Juan is beautiful, but we took the San Juan scenic and shopping tour. I don't really recommend it. There isn't much to see in New San Juan (or at least our driver only pointed out the fast food franchises) and the shopping time is about 45 minutes. Not that there are really any shops open at 8pm.
St. Thomas: Our excursion was changed, we had scheduled a snorkel trip to St. John's and Trunk Bay. They took the group to a different beach/snorkel area and we decided to not go along. The whole point was St. John's and Trunk Bay and not the snorkel with us. We went shopping in Charlotte Amalie. It rained off and on all day, though we managed to stay dry while eating lunch on the ship. We did take the Tram trip in the afternoon and the view was beautiful. You can see all of the city and the port as well as some of the outlying islands.
St. Croix: With a hurricane out to the opposite side of the island, our excursion was cancelled again (it was a catamaran sail around the island). We opted to find a cab to Christiansted to shop. Instead we hooked up with some people from the ship and took a tour of the island. We drove through the rain forest, went to the Cruzan Rum factory and did get a little walk down the boardwalk. It was a great time, and included seeing a beer drinking pig. Pretty impressive stuff.
MISCELLANEOUS: We did meet some fun people on the ship, and found the Venezia lounge with Brad and Cleo to be great fun. I was also disappointed in the disco. Usually that's the place to hang out and meet people. For some reason this trip it was empty every single night EXCEPT 80's night. Hmmmmm....
Spa: The spa staff was excellent, as we enjoyed manicures, facials, massages and I had my hair color done. It was a bit of a pamper yourself vacation, and the people here were terrific. I also used the gym a few times, and found all of the equipment to be very up to date, and easy to use.
DISEMBARKATION: A-: This was handled very differently than in the past. We were allowed to stay in our cabins until they called our color tags (we really liked this...not so much hurry up and wait). Though, clearing through customs definitely took longer than it has in the past. We were off the boat by about 10:15, and in Miami Beach by 11:15 (a very quick stop at the car rental place).