by Mike Newburger
March 13, 2004
Our enbarcation process was smooth--we had arranged our own air, and the taxi was only $21 from the airport. We arrived after 3:15, and while the ship was sailing at 4 pm, we were not even close to the last passengers to check in. We were on board under 15 minutes from start to finish, which was a nice change from our previous Carnival cruise a few years when it took over 2 hours to 'snake' our way through a line to get on board.
The ship holds over 3,000 guests, and is mammoth in may ways. The decor is quite modern, and a bit garish by my tastes--in the dining area up by the pool there are hundreds of 'eyes' on the walls, etc, which reminds me a bit of 'big brother' but that's just my opinion!
Our ports were San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Martin. I would like to advise any future guests on this itinerary that San Juan is a major disappointment as far as a stop. We got in at 5:30 and by the time everyone who wanted to get off the ship made it through security, it was 6:30. There were no stores open, other then the 'preferred' ones the ship recommends. We walked around for a few hours, and tried to eat at Senor frogs, a very popular watering hole, but there was an hour wait to get in. We ended up having a quiet dinner on the pool deck on the ship.
St. Thomas was indeed the soppper's paradise (just ask my wife!). Since we have been there a few times before, we knew which shops to go to and again, relied on previous experiences and did just fine. Havensight shopping is also quite good (right next to the ship) and they have alot of items you can find in town as well. Jewelry is the big seller on the island as well as liquor, and we were successful in both areas.
St. Martin was nice. Because of the demand, they added a 3rd catamaran sail to a beach, which was nice. The waves were quite high on the way over 5-8' and a few guests got ill partially because they were drinking the rum punches on the way over! It was a nice beach just to walk down and swim in the Caribbean.
The days at sea were the most relaxing. We enjoyed sleeping in and the amount of activites available are too numerous to mention here. If you get bored, well, it's your fault! We had 4 days at sea out of 7, and it was great.
The cabin was nice and had adequate closet space. The small verandah was nice, and we were able to use it alot just to sit and watch the ocean. Our steward did a very nice job keeping it clean, though we never did meet him. As far as dining, we ate in the late (8pm) seating, and shared a table with 3 other couples. We all got along very well, and it was a very pleasant experience.
The food was OK--we've been on over 12 previous cruises, and we gave the food a 'B' rating. We were at sea over St. Pat's day, and I found it strange that there was no 'special' meal (corned beef and cabbage) to celebrate this holiday. Every night our waiters did a 10 minute dance show, and on St. Pat's evening, they danced the Macarana. Go figure! Not only that, there was no 'green' beer being sold (they tired to push every other drink when they could).
John, our M/C was simply fab! If I mention the name 'Dotty' and you were on board, you know how much we laughed this week. Between John and 'wee Jimmy' (he's from Scotland!) it was a non stop laughathon. You couldn't have paid a comedian enough money to hear and see what happened this week--let me just say that there will be a 'Dotty Reunion Cruise' next year on March 13 on the new Carnival ship, and she and her husband Steve are going to be guests of Carnival. The other nightly shows were good--Broadway reviews, a juggler, etc. There's something for everyone at night.
Getting off the ship was easier then I thought. If you've got your own air arranged as we did, you can get off between 7:30 and 8:30 IF you have your luggage with you. It worked out fine for us, and while we had a 2 hour wait at Miami Airport, it was better then the alternative!
Overall, we enjoyed the week. Carnival does the basics well, and while being with 3050 of my closest friends was a bit frustrating at times, the week did recharge our batteries. I hope they can work on the San Juan stop, but other then that, we had a relaxing fun week--that's what a cruise is suppose to do for you!