I am Lauren's husband, Brian, and, as Lauren mentioned, I'll be tagging on to her review with some thoughts of my own as I'm too lazy to write my own review. Lauren and I really think the same, for the most part, so I won't have too much to add, I'm sure. Isn't that always the case...
Cruise Critic was quite valuable to us as cruising really is a bit complicated when you look at it as a first-timer. As it turns out, it isn't really, there is just a lot to know. This really was one of our favorite vacations, and that being said, we loved our honeymoon at an all-inclusive in St. Thomas. That is probably a close second now.
The waiting area's free WiFi really was a nice thing to have. I was also surprised they didn't sell anything to eat or drink...seems like an easy way to make a buck and keep everyone happy. They probably could have used another bathroom or two, as well.
We got there quite early but were more than happy sitting there getting things organized, browsing the Internet, people watching, and just waiting. I was much happier getting there and waiting than if we would have come later and had to wait in that insane line. I must say, though, it kills me that everyone crowded by the start of the line thinking they were going to get on first. In fact, they knew they weren't since they had their assigned numbers. So, was their thinking, "Oh, I'll be first to enter when they call zone 876"? Why crowd this area and make it harder for everyone to pass by? And this wasn't just folks who has no one else to go.
This is similar to how I can't stand how, when a plane pulls up to its gate, everyone automatically stands up and walks in to the aisle. This just makes it more crowded for everyone else and more chaotic to get off the plane. Why not sit down for another five minutes and make everyone's life easier? But I digress...
The Bottomless Bubbles program was great as we both aren't big drinkers at all. In fact, the only time I actually drank was later in the trip when we went to an all-inclusive resort and it was "free." Just not worth the expense for me when soda does just fine.
Side note about the szechuan sauce at the Mongolian Wok: it is HOT (and I like hot). I still got it every time and, in fact, usually asked for extra, but I was impressed Carnival would have a ballsy sauce like that.
When we were at the buffet, I encountered my first negative person of the trip (and there weren't many at all). I'm not sure of "buffet protocol," but I had already eaten and just wanted to grab some pasta as a snack. When I arrive, I usually walk past the entire buffet to survey what I want before getting in line to actually get it on my plate. Anyway, I saw the pasta and decided to get it, went back to the start of the line with my plate, and inched my way down the line through everything I didn't want. About 3/4 of the way through the line, there was just one person in front of me (and no one in front of him at all) and my plate was still empty as I hadn't yet reached my pasta. I realized I could just jump in front of this fella as he is grabbing his next selection instead of standing here waiting with an empty plate like an idiot, grab my pasta, and be on my merry way.
So anyway, I did just that, and the champ in front of me stops plating his food to look at me and tell me that I can't just cut in line. Not sure if he thought I hadn't waited behind him the entire time and just jumped in out of nowhere or if he saw what I did and still didn't approve, so I just ignored him and quickly finished scooping to avoid a confrontation over something so trivial. He told me again that I couldn't just cut in line, and in a really nasty tone, so I looked at him and said, "Looks like I just did" and walked away. Not sure if I broke buffet protocol or upset the buffet **** or what. I can see his point if I had just cut in line without waiting, but I was behind him the entire time. Regardless, and this is obviously thinking way too much about something so stupid as a buffet line, if someone wants just one thing and it's further down the buffet line and someone else wants many things that are located at various parts, should both wait in line? It's a good question.
I didn't do it again so as not to upset anyone, but did see others doing exactly what I did to grab a quick scoop or something or a few cookies or whatnot (and no one said a word). Anyways, that was entirely too much writing about the buffet.
Lauren and I realized it was well past 1:30 PM (is that the official "rooms are available" time?) and hadn't heard any announcements, so we ventured to our hallway. Others were walking to their rooms, so we did just that. The doors were open and all was set out, as I read it would be. We were looking around when we heard a low voice in the hall say something in a rough tone that we later figured out was something like "you can't be in there...the room isn't ready yet." We both looked at each other and didn't know exactly what the deal was, so we ignored it. A few minutes later, the drive-by happened again and we realized what the message was and left. I was confused at this point as to when the rooms would be ready and also a bit peeved the person who said that twice couldn't have just knocked on the door, explained the room wasn't ready yet and asked us to come back in a bit instead of doing it the way he did. I'm not sure who it was...it wasn't our room steward who we met later (who was outstanding). Anyways, we waited a bit for an announcement, didn't hear anything, then asked someone who works for Carnival if the rooms were ready. They looked at their watch and said, "Of course!" as if they had been ready for some time. When we went back, our door was closed but nothing had been changed from when we were there before. So who knows.
This is getting way longer than I anticipated, so a few bullets:
- I loved having the balcony, as Lauren mentioned, and used it a lot. I ended up running out there first thing every morning and spending some time winding down out there before I went to sleep every night (and obviously used it in between). Even if I didn't use it as much, I think it'd still be worth the money for us so we could run outside if need be and have a little more useful space. There's no way an inside room would ever have worked for us and I'm not sure a window would have been much better, but this is obviously our preference. It's money well spent for me (and us). One thing I loved doing was leaving the balcony door open (we used the door stopper the room steward uses when cleaning the room), turning the TV to one of Carnival's channels with music in the background, and turning it up for some music on the balcony.
- The laundry facilities were better than having none at all, but as I read here, the water definitely discolors the whites. There also isn't any stain remover in the laundry facility for purchase (we brought detergent but I didn't anticipate spilling the pepto on some of my clothes which then dried). We ended up finding some in the gift shop later that week for $6.99 or something ridiculous and it didn't do much to help the situation). Also, why not have coin dispensers or, better yet, enable the machines to take your Sail & Sign card as payment? We brought $10 in quarters for the laundry ($3 per machine and we were going to do one load of wash and one dry), but with the spill, we needed to do an extra load ($6 total) and I needed $2 more in quarters that I didn't have. So off to Guest Services I went since we were in port at the time I was doing the second load and the casino was closed. By the way, the laundry facilities were always open and always mostly empty when I was there.
- Anytime dining is fabulous and I wouldn't do it any other way. We had a great serving team our first night and proceeded to sit with them every night (except one night when the hostess placed us somewhere else even though they said we would be with our normal team).
- One comment on the drink service in the MDR is that it was slow. The drink waiter would come over at some point after we sat down and ask us what we wanted, we'd tell him (a Coke for me and a Diet Coke for Lauren) and it would take a good bit of time for him to return with our drinks. Refills were the same. It wasn't just him...when we sat in the other section, it was even worse. Not sure if these guys and girls are covering too many tables for them to handle or what? Once we got familiar with our drink guy in our section, we got friendly and he knew what we wanted and kept us filled up at all times. We were sure to give him a tip at the end of the week. I wonder how many people tip the drink guys in the MDR? It was well worth it for us.
- Being on this cruise reminded me of being in Walt Disney World where the employees AND guests are are always in a good mood and quite easy to talk to. It's nice to be in a place where everyone seems happy to be there and is enjoying themselves. I thought about this many, many times during the week.
That's it for now!
This was the first cruise for my husband and I. We titled our journey 'Lauren & Brian take the Caribbean.' We joined Cruise Critic about six months before we were set to leave on the cruise. We found a lot of great tips and also found that a lot of posts from the forums were a bit over exaggerated I would have to say that this was by far one of the best vacations we’ve ever been on. I hope that my review will help others, especially first times, just like the previous ones helped us out. I warn you, my husband will interject with comments here and there haha. And yes, there will be pictures attached! I'm splitting up the posts by day, so enjoy!
Sunday 12/4/2011 – Embarkation Day
We caught the first flight on American Airlines at 6:00am out of Newark International and were in Miami by 9:20am. By 9:50am, we had arrived at POM, went through security, checked in the self-help kiosk, got our Sign & Sail cards and were given a Zone 1 card. I can’t being to tell you how easy it was….minus the taxi driver from Hell that we had. He drove like we were in the live version of Grand Theft Auto. There was free WiFi in the waiting area, which helped to pass the time. Once you go on the ship you couldn't use it. Since you're able to access Carnival.com's website without purchasing minutes, so we set up a forum there to keep in touch with family. Highly recommended! My only wish is that the POM had some place where you could get food and drink. Maybe something like a little café. By 10:30am the waiting areas were significantly more crowded.
We were on the ship by 12:30pm and got the ‘Bottomless Bubbles’ sticker as soon as we entered the lobby. It was $51 per adult and it was so worth it. I also bought a tumbler for $4.95 (which for some reason we were only charged $2.95). We may our way up to deck 9 and got a seat at the Lido Buffet (Rose’s). They had a good variety of food and it wasn’t too crowded at that point. I first went to the Mongolian Wok. They had nice variety of noodles and vegetables. You had a choice of three meats (you could do one, two or all three) and a choice of three sauces (for the week they had Black Bean, Thai BBQ and Szechwan). I chose to go with Soy Sauce whenever I was there. I also got a Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the deli, which was great. After lunch we walked around the ship and hung out in the back by the Prometheus Pool area. We went down to our rooms around 2:30pm to drop off our stuff. We had balcony room #7422. I could honestly never do an inside or ocean view room. The balcony was well worth the price. At 4:00pm, we met up with the Cruise Critic group at the Aft pool bar. It was great finally putting faces to the names! We went to the Sport Deck for sail away as we pulled out of Miami. It was so windy! At that time our phones were officially turned off for the week. I highly suggest taking your battery out of your phone.
Our luggage was delivered at 5:30pm. I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait too long for it. While unpacking, my husband found that a bottle of Pepto had leaked all over his shirts and shoes. So, laundry had to be done that day. One complaint I have is that they really should have a change machine in the laundry rooms. We had to go down to Guest Services (Deck 3 Forward) to exchange the dollars for quarters (we were Dec 7 Aft). We also had a slight issue with the faucet (it would spew water when turned up). We told our room steward, Jose, about it and it was fixed immediately. Jose was great the entire week! The movies of the day that were on repeat were Lincoln Lawyer, Arthur and Alvin & the Chipmunks. There were also channels that showed the map of where the ship was and camera footage of the front and mid-lido deck.
We had selected ‘Anytime Dining’ and we were assigned to the Lincoln Dining Room (Deck 3 Mid). This was the best option for us, because we didn’t want to have a set dining time to worry about. We liked the relaxed schedule of picking what’s best for you. Our head waiter was Wilbur and his assistants were Roy and Marija. They were fantastic. We asked for them every time that we dined there. My husband started out with Linguine w/ Peppers, Sausage and Mushrooms and I don’t remember if I had a starter (oops!). For dinner my husband had Beef Brisket with Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes. I had the Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Noodles and Vegetables. I also got a Baked Potato on the side. For dessert we each had the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. OMG that was so yummy. After dinner we caught the Game Show Mania and Bingo in the Ivanhoe Theater (Deck 3, 4, 5 Forward). By that time we were exhausted and went to sleep.
Carnival Vista: 1/22/17 to 1/28/17
Miami, FL > Ocho Rios, Jamaica > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Miami,FL
Carnival Valor: 12/4/11 to 12/11/11
Miami, FL > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Belize City, Belize > Roatan, Honduras > Miami,FL
Carnival Liberty: 12/8/12 to 12/15/12
Miami, FL > Nassau, the Bahamas > St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands > San Juan, Puerto Rico > Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos > Miami, FL