Flew direct from Milwaukee to Tampa on Saturday and stayed at Days Inn Rocky Point. The rooms we were in were pretty dated and on the second floor with no elevator. If you are planning to stay there, request a room on the ground floor. We chose this spot for the free shuttle from the airport and to the port. We had dinner at Bahama Breeze which was a short walk down the street. There was a very small market right down the street where I was able to buy a couple of bottles of wine and some beer for the cruise. They can not sell liquor on Sundays until 11 A.M. so plan accordingly. The shuttle would not/did not make its first run to the port until noon. It was perfect timing as the ship was late getting into port anyway.
The port seemed really hectic when we first got there but once in line things went like clockwork. We were in the skippers club and were able to get sail & sign cards and check in without any wait. We were in the first group to board and got on the ship about 1:30. Dropped our carryons in our cabins and headed to the Lido Deck for our first (of many) buckets of beer.
The ship and our cabins:
I was somewhat worried after reading several posts about the 'older' condition of the ship. I thought she was beautiful. It only took us a couple of hours to get the lay of the land. If you really want to get out your magnifying glass and LOOK for flaws, you will find them but for an eight year old ship I was very impressed. We had four adults and four kids. We were on the Verandah deck and had two balcony suites for the adults and two inside cabins across the hall for our kids. We were just steps away from the large viewing area on Verandah deck. I must say that I am very spoiled with the luxury of having a balcony and will find it very hard to go back to portholes. It was GREAT being able to wake up and walk outside to check the weather and our surroundings. I did have light breakfasts there many a morning rather than going to the dining room. I did not fee much motion or vibration throughout the whole trip. As a precaution, we all took one bonine each morning but I really don't think we would have needed it. Plan well for your days at sea. We had one of our adults get up real early and snooze by the pool with a couple of chairs. You will not find a chair after 8 A.M., especially right near the pool where the band and deck games are.
Activities on board:
We are really not show type people so we didn't actually attend a full one. I did peak my head in on the talent show and the 60's/70's review night and wished I had taken the time to watch a little longer. Three of our four kids are awesome basketball players and I wish they would have scheduled games earlier on in the cruise as when they finally organized something my kids met other basketball friends. The ages were 12, 13, 14 and 15. We had them go to the meet and greet the first night but found that there were not many kids that age that showed up. The other couple with us spent some time in the casino and said it was fun. We loved the sushi bar and even got the kids to try it. Watch out for the wasabe sauce though! Cleared my sinuses up real quick!!
We booked Stingray City with Captain Bryan on our own. It was awesome! This was the most favorite tour for all eight in our group. We were on the trimaran with about eleven other people. Our captain found a ray and we all took turns holding it. I'm not a real big fan of underwater creatures but this was incredible. If you are even considering this tour, book independently as the ship sponsored tours are WAY too crowded. Our second snorkel stop was Coral Gardens. It felt like we were swimming inside an aquaruim. Our captain again got in the water with us and coaxed three eels out of hiding for us to see and take pictures of. We returned back to port in time for a little shopping and tendered back to the ship.
Docked right at the pier - this is the best way to go. We immediately caught a cab to the fishing village. The three girls had their hair braided and my son learned the fine art of haggling. We got a table and beach chairs at Tapas and proceeded to have a few Coronas. Took the cab back and hung aroung the port shops and pool for about an hour before heading back to the ship. My son did get stung by something while snorkeling at the village but we put some cortozone creme on it and it went away immediately.
We were supposed to dock here as well but were informed the night before that we would be tendering. I really don't mind tenders but I feel they eat into your short time in port. We tendered to Punta Lagosta and were able to walk downtown to do our shopping. Around noon we grabbed a cab to Paradise Beach. This was my favorite destination! I met Paradise Beach Tom, had more buckets of beer and the kids loved the iceburg and trampoline. A few went snorkeling and saw quite a few fish. The nachos and guac are out of this world. The beach was somewhat crowded but with ten ships in port that day we expected worse. In fact, a 'cruise passenger helper' that we ran into soon after getting off the ship said that Paradise would be too crowded and suggested we go to a resort property and use their facilities. We did not take her advise and had excellent service at Paradise. We left about 3:30 and found a glitch in the tender situation at the pier. Seems that one of the tenders servicing our ship had broken down. That left a lot of people waiting in the very hot sun for about an hour. I heard that a couple of people passed out and a lot of people were VERY irate. We just got in line, sat down and when we saw it was going to be awhile, one in our group went back and bought water and beer for our wait. Everyone on the ship received a $25 credit on their cards. I take the attitude that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. I thought that for our group of eight, a $200 credit was pretty cool. This stuff happens, maybe Carnival could have done more or handled it differenly but we all just took it in stride.
We were an hour lat getting into this port due to the confusion in Cozumel. I was a bit worried about our cave tubing tour with X Stream but it all worked out. They are very aware of when you MUST be back to the port. They wouldn't be in business very long if they brought people back late. We enjoyed this tour and really needed a day out of the sun but if I ever get back to Belize I'd like to do some snorkeling here. I heard it was fantastic and we would have liked to do more snorkeling on the cruise.
The ship was in Tampa on time. Again, I think they really made this a priority after Cozumel so that no one would miss their flights home. Our flight to Milwaukee didn't leave until 7 P.M. wo we had made arrangements to go back to the Days Inn and hang there until airport time. This time we had a newer room on the first floor poolside and it was great. We heard that they will be demolishing the resort and building a five star in its place. It's a great location and has jet ski and boat rentals. We had an Easter brunch at Landrys Seafood House across the highway that was fantastic. Got to the airport and back home with no problems at all.
This was a first cruise for all but my husband and I and everyone had a great time. The week flew by. My only regret about the entire cruise was the lack of activities for our kid's age group. They spent a lot of their time in their cabins playing cards and watching TV. At their age I guess this was how they wanted to vacation but I really wanted them to enjoy the ship more and I think they would have if offered. I will also look for an itinerary that affords more time in ports as I love to explore different locales and I didn't feel we had enough time on this cruise. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise though, and I think Carnival does a fabulous job of pampering you!!
Sorry this got so long - if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.