Celebration Reviews

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from 47 reviews

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47 User Reviews of Celebration Cruise Ship

Bahamas
Publication Date: March 31, 2005

I just returned from a 4 night cruise on the Celebration departing Jacksonville and going to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas.

Arriving at Jacksonville was good. I drove from North Carolina and getting to port was very easy. Dropping of luggage at terminal went smoothly. It costs $10. per day to leave your car parked at Jax terminal and you pay up front.

Checking in make sure you have your paperwork that was sent with your tickets filled out. If you arrive early, you won't be able to board the ship until around noon. Even then your cabin won't be ready until between 1:00 - 1:30 so whatever you carry on board, you keep with you until allowed in your cabin. During this time the ship is serving lunch on the Lido deck (deck 10) and it's crowded. Long lines waiting for food, my son waitied 45 min in line. Food offered is burgers, hot dogs, french fries, pizza, etc.

Soda cards - they are available to purchase for both adults and children. Adults run around $25 and childrens are $16 each. You go to any bar, give them your sign and sail

card and state what you want. This soda card allows any soft drink to you at any time during your trip. Free drinks are only juices & coffee.

This ship - Celebration is quite small in comparison to others. This was my 3rd cruise and it was the smallest of my other cruises. The elevators most of the time during the cruise were not in service so the only way to get anywhere was to take the stairs. It really gets to you after awhile. When the elevators are working, you are waiting forever to get on and then they are so small that you're lucky if more than 5 people can be on.

My cabin was on the Riveria deck (#4) and I got an inside cabin. It had a bunk bed for my son that he was thrilled about. The room was actually better than I expected. Note: Carnivals inside rooms are larger than other cruise lines smallest rooms. Only drawback to this cabin being on the lowest deck was the noise. There were a lot of noises of the ship you could very easily hear.

Dining room - I was in the Vista dining room and had a late seating. Seating times are 5:45, 6:15, 8:00, and 8:30 (Vista times are listed 6:15 and 8:30, the other times are for the Horizon dining room) On formal night it's best to have the late seating so that you do not have to rush back onto the ship (you are in Freeport for the day) to get ready for dinner. My experience in the dining room was fair. The food was good for the most part but nothing exceptional. They did offer Lobster tail on formal night and it was quite rubbery with no taste at all. Other foods throughout the nights were good. If children aren't into eating the "better foods" than a childrens menu with pizza, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc is offered. The dining room staff I was a little disappointed with. They didn't even ask anyones name at the table (mine anyway). On previous cruises, they know your name, what you like to drink, etc....very helpful and trying to pamper you. Not this cruise. Which brings me to the next subject,

Cabin stewards - the whole time on this cruise, I didn't even meet my room steward 1 time. I couldn't tell you what he or see looked like. The room was made up everyday very nicely and it was taken care of but I didn't meet the poeple responsible for it. Disappointing there.

Entertainment - I enjoyed it. The shows were like a small Vegas production. The singers and dancers were quite good. The comedians were quite funny but the shows only lasted about 30 min. Too short in my opinion. Then the other little shows like Who wants to be a millionaire, the not so newlywed game, survivor, bingo, dance like John Travolta, they were entertaining.

Camp Carnival - my son is 12 and he took part in this for his age group. Disappointing this time around. 2 years ago on a Carnival cruise I couldn't keep him out of there. This time, there wasn't much going on in his group to participate in.

Also need to mention this bad factor. Sunday was a seaday. The weather, sunny but very windy and the water very choppy which made you feel like being on a roller coaster all day! Half the ship must have suffered motionsickness and I mean all day. You could always find people in the hallways doubled over and lying on the floor trying to keep themselves from throwing up. I love good roller coasters but this was terrible. Dramamine, the patch you put behind the ear, it did not work! Sure, ships have stabilizers but you wouldn't know it about this ship. I love to cruise but this day I actully could say would be my last cruise.

Freeport - You can definatly see signs of hurrican damage everywhere. Damaged building, uprooted trees, debris...it was sad in some areas.

Nassau - taxis are always ready to take you anytime. The water taxis are a great way to get to Atlantis or where you're going. The weather was hot so make sure you have sunscreen, etc. Strawmarket - if you plan on just looking, keep walking. You will be hounded if you express the slightest bit of interest in anything and some vendors even get annoyed if you say no thanks. That happened to me and made me dislike this experience.

Overall - Celebration is an alright cruise. I'd rate it a 2 out of 5. If you've been on Royal Carribean and then go to Carnival, you will be diappointed. Carnival is cheaper by far from Royal Carribean but then again, you get what you pay for.

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Bahamas
Publication Date: December 27, 2004

The Celebration is older ship, built in 1987 I believe, and is showing it's age. The ship is very small by today's standards. Service was very good. We had two days at sea, one in Key West and one in Nassau.

Food in the dining room was very good while the buffets were disappointing. We enjoyed the cruise but the pool was very small and closed many times, probably due to weather as it was overcast, windy and cool for much of the trip. This was my fifth Carnival cruise and 19th overall. Did I have a good time? Yes. Would I take this ship again? Only if I needed to so that it would fit into my schedule.

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Bahamas
Publication Date: October 23, 2004

I sailed from Jacksonville with my husband and my two year old son. Jacksonville is a beautiful port and the check in was well organized and speedy.

I was saddened to find out there was no exercise classes on board, and very few organized activities. There were only 3 members of the cruise staff including the cruise director so that may have been why. My son refused to go to the camp carnival activities. We had to pick him up with in a few minutes and we were not allowed to stay with him at activities, so we did not utilize this service.

The food was great. The staff was very friendly. I would reccomend this cruise for those who plan to drink and use the casino most of the time. If you are someone who likes a lot of varied planned activities, you would not enjoy this ship. The ship it's self is old, but very well kept up. It was always clean, though the common rooms felt very small.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: July 26, 2004

This was our first cruise and we just loved it! We had read some good and not so great reviews of the ship, and we want to tell ya'll what a blast we had and how great the ship was. We don't have any other to compare it to but here is what we thought! My sister just got back from Rhapsody on Royal Caribbean, we knew it wouldn't be that extravagant but we were very impressed with the Celebration. I will try to give a brief overview of our 5 day cruise to Mexico. This was the best vacation since our honeymoon 5 years ago! we are planning to do a cruise again in Feb 05 cause we just had way too much fun!!

Sunday 25- We were cruising with another couple, our best friends, so we drove to Galveston together and stayed the night before at the Holiday Inn Express on Stewart beach. Very nice place, had a good free breakfast the morning before we left. You can leave your car there and they provide a free shuttle to and from the cruise terminal. that left out at

about 11:15 and dropped off all us cruisers! Staying there was very convenient, they have a wonderful pool area as well if you had time before you left!

Day1 Monday 26- we got to the terminal, there were people there to tell us where to go, we went through the metal detectors and proceeded to the check-in line. Not too long, but after we got our Sail & Sign cards and stuff they still weren't letting anybody on. No one knew why for awhile, people were piling up everywhere. One security guy said any other day we would be on the ship eating lunch already, it was about 12:30 now. She finally came out and said something about a random check from Coast Guard etc.. We finally got on board at about 1 and went to our room. We were next door to eachother on the Upper deck, cabins U11 and U7. I must say it was bigger than we thought, lots of closet space, drawers, a safe, and our beds were already pushed together and made up as a king. there was a bowl of free bathroom goodies. We made our way to the Wheelhouse Grill, had some lunch & started exploring the ship! It was very clean the whole trip, we saw them constantly cleaning, shampooing carpets in our hallway, they were re-staining the hand rails before we left Galveston, on Friday they were re-painting the railings around the pool area white again. We hung out the pool until time for dinner. we had the Vista dining room late seating at 8:30. We were seated with 2 other young couples are age who were both on their honeymoon. We all got along great, and hung out with them a few times during the week at shows, chillin', etc..Our waiters at table 106 were Sean and Josey, they were great, always helpful, got us anything we needed and would offer recommendations when we couldn't choose what to eat!We did go to the Welcome Aboard Show where they did the Spoon Game, very funny! We made it to all the shows but the Talent show. We headed to bed about 1:30 excited for a day at sea.

Day 2 Tues 27- We slept late till 11, got up ate some buffet lunch, the pizza is excellent! Ate that several times for snacks all day all week. They always had hamburgers, hot dogs and salad bar, plus all kinds of hot lunches. I has some very good beef tips and rice one day. We did the pool thing, slid down the slide, played some shuffle board, saw the newlywed not-so newlywed game!Very funny, I taped the whole thing! Tonite was the Formal night, we got all dressed up, went to the Captains cocktail party, had some free drinks before dinner. This night we all ordered the Lobster and an entree! Dessert was always soooo good! and we always ordered the Cappacino also. the show was a variety of different songs from Broadway shows. I enjoyed it alot, they did a Cabaret performance, the Full Monty complete with guys in thongs! Chicago, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story etc.. We went to the midntie Adult only Comedy show, very funny!

Day 3-Wed Cozumel!!

I Actually got sick about 3:30am with AWFUL stomach ache. Our friends called us cause she was throwing up everywhere. the boat was moving a little more as we got closer to land, and it was not fun. Our Catamaran Sail and snorkle tour leaves at 9am and we didn't know if we would make it! We ate very little for breakfast, enough to survive, we got on the Catamaran, and headed out to sea!! This was the funnest part of the trip! our favorite part!! We snorkled for about 45 min.lots of fishies everywhere! We had never done this before and it was great! They then opened to bar for free beer and Ritas as we sailed to the private beach party! We were there for an hour, enjoyed free rafts,kayaks which was so much fun, volleyball. Then we started sailing back to our ship! THey cranked up the music and we all did line dancing! our video and the Carnival

video that played the rest of the week on the tv's, is hilarious! Wathcing my husband try to do the Macarena drunk, when he doesn't know how to sober, is so funny!! We had sp much fun!! People were coming up to him on the Ship to comment on what they saw, it was great! We ate lunch on the ship and took a taxi to Paradise Beach for 12.00 fo all 4 of us!I read alot about this beach and we loved it! the boys really enjoyed climbing the iceberg and we all jumped off the trampoline. How my husb. climbed up that iceberg as drunk as he was, we still don't know!! I got a massage for $20 for 20 min-WONDERFUL

It did start to rain on us later so we headed back to the ship for dinner, cleaned up and headed to Carlos-n-Charlies to party for the night!! It is nice that is it right at the end of the pier, the Punta Lagosta Pier is where we docked! We did catch the magic show later -kinda corny but had some neat tricks!

Day 4Calica/Playa del carmen

We didn't do an excursion, I wish we did now, but we still had a great day! we took a taxi to Playa for 10.00 total. he dropped us off in town, we walked through all the cute shops, very cute around there. Head down 5th Ave till we saw the water! BEAUTIFUL!!Much prettier than Coz!! we found a bar and rented an umbrella with table & chairs for 10.00, they brought us drinks on the beach. the water is an amazing blue!! There were a few topless girls I will warn you of If you have kids, but our guys had no problem! Just my husb and me rented a Hobie Cat for 35.00 for 1 hour and went sailing! It was gorgeous, so much fun. we saw huge sea turtles! Our friends went shopping. It was great day at the beach. we had to be back at 3:30, we left Mexico at 4, so sad. Didn't want to head home. watched the beautiful sunset, so many colors! The show that night was the Extreme Country, very good!!we all really enjoyed the performances! The Festivale was tonite where they make all the neat food creations-amazing and very good to eat! you won't how much we have eaten this week!

day 5-friday day at sea!

we slept late again, had some lunch in the dining room for the first time today, very good! saw an ice carving demonstration, very interesting! he made an eagle in 15 min!

We saw the hairy chest contest, hilarious, hung out all afternoon by the pool. Went to dinner for the last night with our new friends from San Antonio, Kevin and Katy. we all really enjoyed getting to know them. Carnival does a great job pairing people for dinner seating. Our friends went to the talen show, said it was pretty good, but we were so tried, we just relaxed in our room and started packing up our stuff to put outside the door. We did not want to leave!! we decided to appy for a job there and stay forever!!

We all met up at the back of the ship and drank some coffee, looked at the moon over the water, and chatted away, it was nice.

Last day-sat July 31st- Today was actually our 5 year anniversary, so we decided to get up by ourselves and watch the sunrise. We got up at 6, got some coffee and went to watch. Too bad it was over Galveston, but it was still pretty. We docked and went to breakfast, made sure we had all our stuff to leave the room and waited to be called for immigration. We were off the ship at 9:30, headed back to hotel to pick up our car and head home. We were all so tired, we had a wonderful time. and can't wait to go back!

Oh! I forgot- Our room steward was Lilya-she was great!! made us cute towel animals all week, our bed was made like everytime we left the room! We carried on our own ice chest and she refilled it twice a day for us-we gave her 20 bucks cause she was awesome, so nice! and we did sneak on all of our own alcohol, we still bought drinks at the bar. but we had our own as well plus a bottle of wine for our last dinner and were never charged a fee. we did have everything in our checked luggage. saved alot of money on the ship that way. We are so jealous of my other sister who is going on the exact same cruise for their honeymoon sept 18! Hope this reviewed helped anyone who was interested in the Celebration!! We loved her and would go again in a heartbeat!

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: July 3, 2004

This was my first cruise ever, so I was SO very excited to actually be on a cruise ship to celebrate my 40th birthday! It was just me and my boyfriend, Ken, and the first time I had EVER been on vacation, so you can just imagine my excitement.

Embarkation went very smoothly. It took us only about 20 minutes from start to finish. We arrived at about 11:00, which was sort of early, but they let us board early anyway. We rushed onto the deck, into the sun, grabbing our first fruity foo-foo drinks (note: you have to pay for these).

After muster, we took a tour of the ship, which was rather pleasantly sized. Not too big to get lost in, yet not too small to get bored in. One item of regret, I wish we had packed our swim suits in our carry'ons, since we didn't see our luggage until well after 8 p.m.

Anyway, the food was simply lovely, the drinks were heavenly, and we had absolutely no complaints about the entertainment. This cruise, as in all cruises, is what you make of it. If you go

into it with a joyful, optimistic demeanor, that's just what your're going to get out of it.

Cozumel was our first port of call, and we decided to take a taxi to the state park there and snorkel. Oh my goodness!!! I had never seen fish so close up before! I was truely frightened, and was equally amazed at my interwater backpedaling ability as we swam across a school of innocuous-seeming jellyfish (heretoafter unidentified in any manual I can find). Anyway, I must say that it was absolutely invigorating. I plan on doing so again at my next cruise.

The next port, we took in the mayan ruins, 5 hour bus ride, with a forced exodus into some jewelry store. This "store" made us quite nervous, probably due to the guards standing by with their fingers twitching on the triggers of their machine guns. I must say, though, the ruins were nice...if you can stand standing in 100+ heat for hours at a time with no breeze. I've never been so grateful to see a ship at the end of the day as this!

Anyway, the 5 day simply just FLEW by, and I'm so grateful for the experience. I highly recommend Carnival for their efforts, and I must say I have another cruise schedule for my 41st birthday, but this one with one of my best girlfriends! Maybe I'll see you there?

Wendy

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: June 10, 2004

Sailed on Celbration June 10-14. Here's how it went! We live in Clear Lake, only about 30 miles from Galveston. We left at 1000 Thursday morning. We pulled into EZ Cruise Discount parking at 10:45. We were in the security area at the pier a couple of minutes past 1100, just as they opened up the line. We cleared security and check in by 11:15. The young lady at checkin told us that since we had sailed twice before, we would receive a special invitation to a Captain's dinner but we never received it. Another member of our group (actually, the group leader) was told the same thing but she never received this invitation, either. They opened the ship right at noon and by 1205 we were eating lunch on the Lido deck. After lunch we walked around the ship, getting reacquainted with her after having sailed once before in 2001. We went to check our cabin, which was prepared. We had a 6a guarantee and had been upgraded to 6D Empress Deck, E10, ocean view. Our bags were delivered and actually in our cabin before the life boat drill. David,

our steward, was a nice, friendly man from Costa Rica. He was polite and efficient but never actually did anything 'above and beyond.' For example, we asked on the first afternoon about getting ice in our collapsible cooler. He asked his assistant to get it. I asked David to refill the cooler each day. He never did. I always had to go looking for ice. One of his assistants, a young Asian woman, got it for me once. She was astonished that I gave her five bucks for her efforts. I think I got a bigger smile from her than anyone else on the crew. I also reported to the steward that our dead-bolt safety lock on our cabin door would not work but he never had it fixed.

The food was terrific! I had two entrees at each dinner. Our waiter insisted that he bring the second one out when I was finished with the first. I would rather have had them at the same time. Lobster/Prime rib night was great. I had one of each. Wish I had order a second lobster tail. One thing that was strange is that one night, when I ordered the chateaubriand, I was told that it only came in 'medium rare' and 'medium well' rather than the 'medium' I wanted. I wore my tux on formal night. There were several tuxes at our dinner--early seating in the Vista dining room. The majority of the rest of the men had on suits or sports coats with ties. There were many men with coats over sports shirts. A few were in just short sleeve pants. Most of the ladies were dressed in very dressy dresses. Some of the younger ladies had prom type dresses. There were a few "my comfort is worth more than my dignity" types. We enjoyed our dining room experiences. We were traveling with a group of 18. Five 50ish couples and eight 17-upper 20s, including some newly weds. We had two large window tables with great views. My bride and I ate all of our meals in the dining room. Open seating Breakfast was only held in the Horizon dining room, the larger of the two. Lunch was assigned by your table and seating. It seemed that very few people were eating lunch in the dining room. The Wheelhouse Grill on the Lido deck looked okay for a buffet. The pizza was fantastic.

On the first night, after dinner, we went to the kareoke bar. Several in our group sang. I finally got up the nerve to try the Beatles "When I'm Sixty four." It started off way too high so I had to stop. The hostess lowered the pitch five notches and I was able to sing. I dedicated it to my bride. We were celebrating our 30th anniversary. It was fun.

We then went to the "Welcome Aboard" show in the Astoria Lounge. I was selected, along with nine other adults, for an 'icebreaker' activity. We were put into two groups and had to run a spoon, attached to a rope, down our pants (or dress/blouse, etc) and back up the clothing of the person next to you. We won the first round. The second round required pulling the spoon in the opposite direction. We won again. Everyone was given a bottle of champagne for participating. We had a late night snack and retired.

Our second day was a sea day. The sky was a bit overcast. The wind had been extreme since we left Galveston. We were on the edge of a tropical low that gave us a very strong headwind all the way to Cozumel. Fortunately, the seas were pretty smooth.

We went to the art auction and had a few glasses of champagne but did not buy anything. I went back to the auction on Sunday. This time I bought a piece that my wife had admired. She did not attend this auction so the purchase is a surprise. (If you see her, please don't tell her!) I also won a print in the 'early bird' drawing.

It was very rainy in Cozumel. The ladies in the group took off to go shopping. The younger set went on a snorkle/party catamaran trip. The gentlemen went on a pub crawl, going from one dollar beer sidewalk cafe to the next. The ladies met up with us at noon and had a couple of beers with us. Some of them had done some buying. They were upset that the ship's "super shopper" had promised they could get authentic designer purses- Dune Bourke, or something like that. (sorry, can't remember the name-it's a guy thing.) but when they got there, the purses were of a style of about ten years ago and they were fakes. Not even a decent quality knock-off. They were cheap fakes. I thought Carnival was supposed to be good about not misleading its customers re: shopping. The rain let up mid day and we went to Carlos and Charlies for a while. Crazy place! We were fortunate to avoid shots! It was raining very hard when we got back to the pier. We went up to the Wheelhouse and had pizza and desert. The youngsters in our group did not make it back to the ship until about ten minutes before sailing. There were two very concerned moms waiting for them.

We sailed pretty much on time out of Cozumel. The seas were unbelievably rough. The ship was pitching and rolling terribly until about 0200 the next morning. This made it very uncomfortable for many people. A lot of folks never made it to dinner that night. Combination of the rough seas and the partying in COZ, I suspect.

The nightly entertainment was of a pretty high quality. The second night at sea, there was a Broadway type review. They have two lead singers and several male and female dancers. The next night, there was a tribute to the "Blues Brothers" which was very good. It starred Chris, the cruise director and one of the ship's dancers who is a great singer, too, though not their lead singer. The last night they had the "X-treme Country Show. Again, a very good show, but the highlight was their guest fiddler. This guy was fantastic. We were wondering why he was doing cruise ship gigs. He blew us away with the classic "Orange Blossom Special" and Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Came down to Georgia."

Speaking of the shows... If you are in the forward Empress deck, pretty much the front half of the section that runs from the most forward elevators to the front of the ship, you will be directly under the Astoria lounge. Because we went to the early shows, we were sometimes in the cabin while the late show was still going on. The noise is pretty loud. The base resonates through the ceiling of your cabin. Don't plan on doing any sleeping while the show is going on. Fortunately, however, the shows are always over by 11:30. There was also the occasional loud, unidentifiable bump in the middle of the night. We always wear ear plugs, plus we brought along a pretty powerful table fan, so most of the other noises did not bother us. The famous Celebration 'vibration' still exists even though the ship has been renovated. We could always feel it, mildly in our cabin or forward part of the ship, but it was very pronounced in the rear of the ship, even on the upper decks, like in the "Islands in the Sky lounge. In our room, it was not bothersome and actually felt like a motel's "Magic Fingers." By the way, the beds in the cabins are fantastic! I heard many people comment on how comfortable the matresses are.

The people-- well, the staff were all very polite and gracious as is expected. The Celebration staff consistantly rates at the top of the fleet in customer satisfaction. As far as the passengers, there were very few problems. There were many teens on board, including a couple of high school music groups. They were all great. There were a few of the typical ten year old boys who ran down the halls. We always stopped them, explaining that there were many older people on the ship and that they (the boys) would feel very badly if they knocked down someone's grandmother. Saw a few toddlers but don't believe I ever heard one except for breakfast on the last morning when we were already in Galveston. I don't believe there were any infants on board- wise parents! Smoking was not too much of a problem except for the ones who left a smoking area and carried their lit cigarettes through the non smoking parts of the ships. None of the cabins smelled of smoke. It looked like the cleaners sprayed "Fabreeze" or something similar on the carpets as they were vacuuming. No loud, obnoxious drunks, either, except... there was one 18 year old who stayed drunk the entire four days. She was traveling with her step-mother who was also plastered all the time. The step-mother was about 40 but was a teen age wantabe. She hung around the kids all the time. One morning she was bragging about going to her room with one of the guys she met the night before and was asking the step-daughter if she remembered the guy's name. They were both loud and foul mouthed, their only known adjective being an 'f' word.

After our rough and stormy departure from COZ we were relieved that the early morning overcast burned off to a beautiful sunny day for our day-at-sea. The seas were smooth but we now had a fairly strong tail wind. Because the wind was only slighly faster than the ships, the relative wind was almost non-existant, meaning there was hardly the slightest breeze to cool you off.

We arrived in Galveston and were sitting at the dock right around 0700. We went to breakfast and waited in our cabin for our number to be called. I think this is a change from our previous cruises where we had to get out of the cabin and were required to wait in one of the big lounges or theaters until our number was called. We were about the last group to be called to immigration, which was held in the "Islands in the Sky lounge." The line moved very quickly and we were allowed to immediately leave the ship. We found our bags immediately and were out front waiting for our parking shuttle by 1000. We were in the car by 1015 and in our driveway by 1100. I strongly recommend EZ Cruise Parking. They charge only $30.00 for a four day cruise. They are located about two blocks from the ship. This is small family owned company just starting out. We got to meet the owner, Cindy. She is assisted by her son and her brother. Beware that Dolphin Parking is ripping EZ parking off by having signs that say "Dolphin/ EZ Cruze Parking." Dolphin has also been stealing signs that belong to EZ parking.

We had a wonderful time with good friends. Celebration is a wonderful ship. Jacksonville is going to love her. But we are also looking forward to having the larger 'Ecstacy' come to Galveston!

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 4, 2004

Travelers: Two Adults, 50 year old Two 14 year old girls

Port: Galveston, TX

Cabin: E158 (yellow) Outboard port side, all four in the same room

We chose this trip for the dates and departure port. It was a test cruise to see if liked this "weekender", both from a price and time perspective. If you are local to Houston, you only have to take a couple of days off. Half day Thursday, all day Friday and half day Monday). I get paid by the hour (I'm a technology migrant worker, actually more commonly known as an IT contractor), so missing a week can be costly. We did get a military discount.

Getting onboard in Galveston:

We got there a little late because I work in downtown Houston and didn't leave until 1:00 PM. We decided to park in the Dolphin parking. It's $45 cash. They bring the shuttle to your car and load your bags. They drop you off at the terminal where porters are waiting. This is worth it. It's only $5 more than the self-service lots and saves you a lot of hassle.

We had gray tags (no room designated)

in the hope we might get upgraded. We were informed that they tell everyone that, but in our case, we were upgraded, or at least we were told that. We still ended up in an outside room on Deck 7 towards the stern.

Our bags were retagged and we were off to the real line. We pre-registered on the Web, which was supposed to speed our embarkation. The line we were directed to was three times as long as the people who did not bother to do this. I thought the time per transaction would be slower in the non-pre-registered line, but this did not seem to be the case. Everyone has to show documentation and review paperwork prior to receiving there sail and sign cards and room keys. I switched lines and got through much quicker than the people I left in the "speed line". A word to the wise, if the "speed line" is twice as long, get in the shorter line. There was no one in the "foreign nationals" line. It seemed that the more astute (or rude depending on your point of view) would just step up though the empty queue for foreigners and get serviced right away. I found this pretty irritating. Our whole wait was about 40 minutes.

Hint: Make sure all your paperwork is done before you get there and have all your documents available. There are several forms inside your ticket book that need to be filled out prior to boarding. Save yourself some hassle and get it done before you get there.

You will have to go by the photographers, but by the time we boarded (about 3:00 PM), there was no wait. Total time from downtown Houston to onboard in the restaurant was 2 ½ hours. Most of our bags were waiting outside the room when we got there. The last bag was delivered by the time we got back from fire and boat drill.

Hint: You can board as early as 10:30 or 11:00. You should take advantage of this if you can. Go right to the Lido deck and Wheelhouse Grill. There is food available cafeteria style, Pizza, burgers, fries, salads, deserts and the like. By the time we got on board, we only had a half hour until they closed at 3:30 for the fire and boat drill (required by law).

Hint: There are two lines for the hot entrée's, one for the salad bar, one for the desert bar and one for the pizza. There was almost no line for the pizza and long lines for the hot food lines. I think most people just saw those lines and got in them without realizing other food choices were available. Also, there will be waiters running around with tall alcoholic fruit drinks. These are not a free welcome drink! They cost about $6.50 with the glass, a 15% auto tip if you are on this program. The next drink is $4.95 for a refill. This drinks pack a punch, even thought they taste like fruit juice. Be careful.

The Room:

The room was clean and good sized. I had the privilege to share it with my long suffering spouse and two fourteen year old girls, so when I say we had adequate space, I know what I am talking about. We spent almost no time in the room except to sleep and change clothes. My wife did spend some time reading in there because it was quiet during the day. There were two single beds, on opposite walls, a Pullman bunk and this curious sled device with a short mattress that was about 4 inches off the deck. I didn't realize that a trundle was available, or I would have ordered one. As it was, one of the girls used this and she seemed fine.

The pillows were great. The mattresses were comfortable. It took us a while to figure out the A/C. The room was very cold. You need to spin the dial on the ceiling vent to cut airflow. Once we figured this out, we got things to normal.

The bathroom was OK. Don't expect a pounding shower. Water pressure was barely adequate. They use the detachable hose/showerhead setup. There was plenty of hot water. There were some toiletries including toothpaste, floss, shampoo and bar soap. There were also shampoo and body gel dispensers in the shower. The toilet uses a vacuum flush. It is very loud. If you go late in the night, you will most likely wake your roommate and the people next to you. If you drop toilet paper in the front of the bowel (as the women almost always did) you needed to use the brush to get it to a position to flush properly. Just a word to the wise.

There were three large closets. One had a small electronic locked safe suitable for wallets and passports. One of the cabinets was shelved, the others were for hanging clothes. There was a desk with four shallow drawers. There was room to store bags out of the way. There was only one straight backed chair and a small stool for the desk. Like I said, you don't spend a lot of time in the room. The port (window) was good sized and provided a nice view. I'm glad we had it.

There is only one electrical outlet in the room, so if you have multiple items to charge (i.e. camera, cell phone, video camera, etc) your will have to do it in shifts. I know a phone sounds crazy, but I have a Pocket PC phone which I carry e-books on. It was a constant battle for charger time vs. curling iron time.

One last note, the walls are thin. We had some women next to us and at times I could hear their entire conversation without really straining. I could also hear their TV. We like to sleep late and this was distracting in the morning. If you are a light sleeper, this could be a drawback. Bring earplugs or a bottle of brandy.

At Sea:

Our departure was unceremonious. We quietly slipped the lines and we were on our way. Coast Guard regulations require that everyone attend the fire and boat drill. You have to put on your life jacket and report to your assembly area, usually one of the lounges or the dining rooms near your stateroom.

Some of the 'self entertainment' (i.e. guest talent shows, guest game shows, etc.) were mildly amusing. Only three people did the talent show and they were so-so. They get points for trying. They also had a game show and some other odd's and ends. If you need to be entertained every minute, this may not be the cruise for you.

Weather shut down a lot of activities on the way to Cozumel. There was no volleyball tournament and the pools and water slide were shut down. They do have protected areas outside where you can still get sun and there are tables and chairs in this area for card, domino's and other games. This a noisy area where they play music over the loudspeakers with the emphasis on loud. There was also a calypso player at random times. If you like the music, this is a good thing, if not, then you will have find a quieter spot.

Caution: Don't ask me why, but there were a lot of sunburned people by the end of the first sea day. It was overcast almost the whole time, so I think it threw some people off. My daughter got burnt and she knows better. She has never had a sunburn before because we are cautious and liberal with the sun block. It ruined the trip for a lot of people. So use that sun block.

Going to meals and shows:

Hint: You don't have to be the first at the door. There will be a line. We ate at the late seating (8:00). Plan to arrive around 8:05 to 8:10. Since seats are assigned, you are assured a place to sit. The line will be gone and you will glide to your table. Allow a little extra time on the first night as everyone will be trying to find their tables. The extra 5 or 10 minutes will not affect your experience in a negative way.

The shows were not overcrowded. If you want good seating, go about 10 minutes early, but we found that there was ample decent seating for just about everything.

Cozumel: This is one long tourist trap. Don't ever pay the asking price. The cab prices are fixed and non-negotiable for the standard trips. Prices are listed at the cab stand. If you hire a cab for the day, you are on your own. Expect to negotiate.

Town is a couple of miles to the left and the state park is a couple of miles to the right along the same main road.

The shops faced out onto the bay. Everything was overpriced. There were a few places that offered bottled beer for $1, the only decently priced thing I saw. Items offered were mostly in the way of silver, gold and the usual tourist junk. You'll get pretty bored after the second block as offering repeat. We really didn't see anything that was unique or attractively priced.

Channcannab State park has a reef, dolphin encounter and other things to do. It was very well maintained and attractive. There are places to change and lockers available. No one bothered us. A problem in some places we have been in the Caribbean. The locals aren't hassling you for handouts. It costs to get in the park, so this keeps them out.

We rented snorkel gear from the first booth. Bring your own snorkel. They make you buy a new one and these snorkels are very cheap and very hard to use. The masks and fins were fine. If you are serious, bring your own mask and decent snorkel, they are small and easy to carry. You will probably enjoy your experience more.

There was a young man there who offered to show us the reef. He worked for the shop. He said there was no charge, but if we wanted to tip him at the end for good service, that would be fine. I usually don't do this, but I did this time. I didn't regret it. It was a wonderful tour of the reef. He had a life ring to hang onto if we got tired. He had fish food to attract the fish. He knew where the lobster was living and took pictures with of us with our underwater camera. First he would throw food, then swim down under the fish and take a picture of our merry band through the resulting cloud of fish. He also carried several extra good snorkels. This was a life saver for my wife and daughter and made the difference between a great experience and a disappointing one.

We have snorkeled all over the world. I would rate the park as above average. The water was warm (early March), the visibility was excellent. There was a nice variety of colorful see life. The water was deep enough to keep most of us tourist out of contact with the reef, so it was in relatively good condition. We spent a wonderful hour and a half in the water. It was relaxing and fun. We were practically by ourselves. We ran into a few other divers and snorkelers, but for the most part, we had the place to ourselves for the afternoon.

By the time we got back, it was time to go back to the ship. The cab was $10 again, even though it was half the distance back to the ship. They know they got you, so have cash available.

Hint: I have traveled a lot internationally. Have correct change based on the prices I have given you. Don't expect them to have correct change or even admit they have US currency. I can almost bet that the exchange rate will not be favorable to you and you will stuck with worthless peso's at the end of the day with nowhere to spend them. Have a couple $10 bills, $5 bills and about 10 $1 bills and that should cover most of you transportation needs. Don't pull out a wad of cash or a wallet stuffed with cash, you're just asking for it. We did not feel threatened at any time in Cozumel, this is just experience talking.

Debarkation:

This was the worst. You are wired up to go home and then you hit the hurry up and wait mode. Just so you know, we were literally the last group to get off the ship. Had we known that in advance, we would have planned our morning differently (see the hint below). This is not the fault of the cruise line. Since 9/11 Immigration has to see everyone. The good news is that since everyone is moving in a single line through Immigration, there was no wait at Customs. We went through to the shuttle as fast as we could walk and collect our bags.

Caution: They say you arrive in back in Galveston at 8 AM. That may be so, but we were not off the ship and into our car until 11:30. Don't plan to be back in Houston before noon. If there is an Immigration problem, you could be there until Tuesday (just kidding), but seriously, it's their show and they can really slow things down if there is a problem. There must have been a problem because they did not start call groups until about 8:30. The told us they would start at 7:15. Just a reminder here that Carnival has no control over this process.

Hint: They pick up you bags the night before. Keep a small roller bag to carry all that last minute stuff. You will have to drag anything you have left all over the ship and down to the pier. You have to vacate your room by 9:00. So you have to find a place to wait. The line is also long, so anything you have with you is dead weight. That medium sized shoulder bag will get pretty heavy after a few hours. Rollers are the way to go.

Hint: Call the Purser and find out where your color is in the queue. Yellow was the last (somebody has to be). But knowing where you stand will let you plan your morning more efficiently. For example, had we known we were last, we would have slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and found a place on deck to hang out until we were called.

Costs:

So what does a short cruise really cost?

Cruise Price: $1,330 Credit Card when you place your order, not when you leave for the cruise. (Four people for four day cruise in one room - 2nd and 3rd person are discounted) Parking: $45 Cash - Dolphin Parking Pre-tip: $160 Sail and Sign account. ($40 per person for the 4 day trip) You can go to the purser and adjust these up or down. We did not tip the Maitre' de. That was a separate envelope. Tips: 15% for service related items (Charged on each bar item) Drinks: $174 Sail and Sign account (27 drinks including auto 15% tips) Kids: $88 Sail and Sign account. We gave the kids cards (mostly at the video arcade) Soda Cards: $ 28 (2 cards. Must have for the kids. Only juices, tea and tap water are free) Pictures: $20 Bingo: $20 Casino: $40 (Net cost. I lost about $120 to those lucky blackjack dealers, I should know better and my wife won $80 at the slots.) Cozumel: ($180 for the four of us, see breakout below) $6 cab to downtown $40 for Senor Frog's (2 cokes, 2 cheese nacho plates, 1 bear and one tea) $10 cab to State Park (beach and reef) $10 cab back to ship $48 Park fee (four people) $40 for snorkel gear ($10 each person. You have to buy a cheap snorkel for $4 + $6 for fins and mask. Recommend you bring your own snorkel) $20 tip for guide (he did a great job and made it worth the investment. This was optional)

Total Cost: $2,233 (not counting transportation from Dallas to Houston & back which was a tank and a half of gas)

The lesson here is that the Sail and Sign card has all the dangers of a normal credit card. We did not drink excessively. I had a drink or two with each meal (including Bloody Mary's for breakfast), and one or two at the show. I work in downtown Houston and live in Dallas. My wife drove down to meet me and we went on to Galveston.

Note that the minimum bet at most table games (except roulette, is $5)

Gripes:

- Tokens for the Video Games: Minimum $5 purchase. This can rack up some charges for the kids. - Pictures: You are in picture heaven on board this ship. They take every opportunity to take a staged picture. Only their photographers can use the backdrops and if you want any size other than the original 8 X 10, you are required to buy the 8 X 10 first for the princely sum of $20 per picture. They rig the pictures so that you can't copy them yourself, if you try, they will have a watermark all over the copy. No one makes you buy the pictures, but it may save you from your spouse dragging you to the local family portrait studio. The picture pricing and packaging leave a bad taste. - Ship vibration: I spent four years in the merchant marine as a third mate (deck officer) and I have never felt a ship vibrate like this one. The ship just has an inherent vibration when it is underway. It's always there when the ship is moving and although you get used to it, you are aware of it. - I really wanted to take my daughter on a tour of the bridge. I used to work on merchant ships and I wanted her to see what it was like. Since 9/11, this is no longer an option. There is a perverse sort of logic here, but escorted tours should not present a problem. If someone wanted to get onto the bridge to do bad things, I don't think they would have to wait for a tour. But then again, I feel a lot of the things we are doing aren't making us safer, just feeling safer. 'Nuff said on that. - The room steward seemed pretty scarce. We had our 'privacy' sign' up for a couple of hours which resulted in our room not being serviced until we went to dinner that night. We rang for service on several occasions and no one ever showed. (i.e. we need extra beach towels) - The pools were closed down most of the outbound trip. Mostly due to weather. It wasn't that rough, but unique motion of the ship made the water in the pools spill out. The hot tubs were full of kids and when the pools finally did open, they were full of kids. There was a kids pool, but it seemed to be used only by the very small kids. I love kids, but in this case, they crowded out the small sized pools. I saw a few adults use the water slide, but that was the extent of it. - Common area seating. The couches and chairs in the lounges and in the common area were very uncomfortable. They lacked padding and grew uncomfortable after only a short time. This is significant because there is really no seating in your cabin except your bed or the odd hard wood chair, so you have to use the common areas. There were two Lazyboy recliners, but these were massage chairs that had an auto-nag function if you sat in them without paying. Actually, this was pretty humorous. Most people have to be married for a while to get that kind of harassment. The deck chairs did not offer a full upright position (so you could sit and read). The best you could do is a 45 degree angle which is a very uncomfortable angle to read from. The outside chairs were plastic lawn furniture with no padding. If you just wanted to sit and read in a seated position, there were not a lot of comfortable choices. - Bingo - This was a rip. $20 for three cards for one round that was over in about 10 minutes.

Kudos'

- Food: The food was great and there was plenty of it. Something for everyone's palate. The presentation was excellent. We had such items as Chateau Briand, Baked Alaska, lobster, soufflé, etc. We ate almost all of our meals in the dining room. I only had one thing I didn't like, but that was not due to the preparation, just personal taste. The breakfast was good. The Eggs Benedict was a little dry, but the scrambled eggs were excellent. - Food service: The staff worked very hard. They were a mix of South African, Eastern European and Phillipino. They were pleasant, professional and accommodating. They had no hesitation in bringing "one of each" or multiple portions of anything you took a fancy to. There were sufficient staff to cover the floor for meals. The only drawback here was the drink person. There only seemed to be a few of these to cover the dining room, so it paid to anticipate ones drink requirements well in advance. Our waiter, Justin, was great. He was funny and helpful. My daughter and her friend would have gladly taken him home if they could have figured out a way to pack him up. We had a booth the first night for the four of us. It was a bit cramped and tucked into a corner in the back. We are more social than that and asked to be moved. They were very accommodating and the next meal moved us to a 10-top. The three young couples we were with were a delight. They were all in their early 20's and having a good time. My 14 year olds are very articulate and engaging, so everyone got along great. This really made it a nice trip. - Ship size: It bothered a lot of people that the ship was the smallest in the fleet. I like a smaller ship. We found our way around with no problem. We got to know the staff and there seemed to be plenty of room for what we wanted to do, which was relax and people watch. - Shows: We loved the Showtune Review. I was not as thrilled with the Country show, but it was entertaining. All in all, I found both shows worth my time to attend. I thought the comedians were great. They switch ships at Cozumel, so you get a different one on the way back. His midnight R rated show had the crowd rolling in the aisles. Well worth my time. - Tips - I like the tipping system. Some may say that an auto-tip discourages service, but you can adjust the tip at the Pursers office, so the crew has an incentive not to make you mad enough to go do that. I found the service to be excellent, so the system seems to work and it's no hassle for me.

Conclusion:

Would I do this again? Yes. Despite the list of gripes, they were pretty minor in the scheme of things. My whole family enjoyed themselves. Had I not allowed my teenager to bring a friend, it might have been a very different experience for her. As it was, I gave them the run of the ship with no curfew. They had a large crowd of boys in tow by the first day at sea. Teenage Nirvana. My daughter did say that she wished there were more things to do, but I didn't see her for most of the trip, so she must have found something.

I did a lot of reading and people watching, one of my favorite things to do. (Old age will do that to you.) My wife thoroughly enjoyed the shows. She was in a good mood the whole trip with no intra-family altercations for the entire 4 days. For those of you with teenagers, this is a singular achievement. People don't fight when they are having a good time. This is an accurate gauge as any on the success of the trip.

I found my fellow passengers to cover the whole gamut of what humanity has to offer. There were elegant couples, pretty people, old people, young and skinny or old and fat, loud people, families and couples. For the most part they were courteous, friendly and fun. The children were children, sometimes amusing, sometimes underfoot. But for the most part, they were a celebration of the variety of life. Sure there is always at least one loud drunk, but they are as inevitable as a spring storm. It will pass, or you can move out of the way.

So the overall rating is above average. Not perfect, but I felt I got what I paid for. We had a great time and that is about all anyone can ask. I would recommend this to anyone that is laid back and looking for a short fun experience. If you live in Texas and are within a driving distance of Galveston (4 ½ hours from North Dallas - Door to Door) this is a great little trip that won't eat your whole week.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: February 28, 2004

My wife and I cruised on our honeymoon two years ago aboard the Grand Princess. So that was our reference point for this cruise. We hadn't really planned on a cruise this winter, until we stumbled across the low fare for Carnival's Celebration and free airfare compliments of frequent flyer miles. So we booked it for a 5-day escape from snow.

Let's get some of the obvious out of the way first. The Celebration is a 17 year old ship. Its design is 17 years old; you'll see more painted steel bulkheads on the Celebration than you will on a new ship; no soaring atriums or glass elevators, etc. If you're expecting something comparable to the newer vessels, you'll be disappointed. And if you have an aversion to Texans, you may want to stay away from this cruise. Texans accounted for 75% of the passengers; and that may be a low estimate. I didn't find any problem with it, but it bugs some folks.

We flew into Houston, Bush Intercontinental. We were met right away at baggage claim by a Carnival rep who got us out to the bus quickly. The bus

made one stop at another terminal to pick up some more people and we were off to Galveston, about an hour and 15 minute drive. The bus pulled up in front of the terminal, the porters took the bags and we went inside. Airport & bus service gets an 'A+.'

Embarkation couldn't have realistically been any faster. We had completed the Fun Pass ahead of time and waited in line for maybe 10 minutes. The counter clerk checked our passports, imprinted the credit card to cover the onboard account, handed us our Sail & Sign cards and cabin keys and we were headed towards the boarding line. Another 10 minutes in line to have security photos taken and on to the ship. Let's face it, 1,500 passengers through one door, there is going to be a wait. But 20 minutes total is pretty good. Embarkation gets an 'A.'

We purchased an outside guarantee 6A. Our cabin was on the Upper deck (deck 6). There was plenty of room in the cabin. Storage was no problem at all; three closets, five drawers, beds were high enough to store suitcases underneath. The showers were bigger than on the Grand Princess, and the bathrooms had adequate space, but certainly not roomy. The cabin was clean and didn't show any unreasonable wear. This cabin is very comfortable even when compared to newer ships. The cabin gets an 'A+.'

The Wheelhouse Grill is the casual dining area/buffet. The ceilings are low and it's a rather dark room, even with windows along both sides. The buffet food was about typical quality for buffets. Breakfast was the exact same every day. Other meals had constants as well (burgers, fries, potato salad, etc.), but they also had a couple new items each meal (chicken stir fry, roast beef, etc.). The pizza at the 24 hour pizzeria was good; not gourmet, but quite tasty. We ate all evening dinners in the Horizon dining room (aft). I can't say enough about the dining room staff. Enjoyable, funny, pleasant, attentive, definitely top notch. The menu selections were quite nice, plenty of variety. Food quality was very good. Portions may have been a bit small, but I certainly didn't starve. Presentation was always attractive. Carnival has their wait staff do a little song and dance routine during evening dinners while everyone is eating dessert. It was fun, but it may be a turn-off to some who want a more refined and formal dining experience. Overall dining (both formal and casual) gets a 'B+.'

Open air decks were somewhat small. Our first day was a sea day in 12 foot seas and 30mph winds. All open air decks except the protected main pool area were closed for safety and the pools were not filled. Both pools are shallow (3') and small. The hot tubs were marked as 104 degrees, but felt cool and were barely filled enough to cover an adult's belly button. There was always a crowd and activity around the main pool. Bars are close by and convenient. No tile mosaics or dolphin sculptures like on newer vessels. Nothing special about the open air decks and the crew can't control the weather. I'd give the open air decks a 'C.'

Inside common areas were nice and well maintained. I actually prefer the design of the Celebration's Astoria main show lounge to that of the Grand Princess. Seating was set up in circular couches with a table in the center, and theatre style seating in the upper balconies. Comfortable and makes for easy conversation. The casino was laid out well and roomy enough. The aft show lounge was a little dated in décor, but comfortable. The other bars and lounges were nice. The shopping areas are considerably smaller than on newer vessels, but they do a good job with them. Overall the interior is clean and tastefully done, nothing fancy. Overall interior common areas get a 'B+.'

The crew was great. All were very pleasant. Always cleaning, tables were bussed quickly, never waited for bar waiters. The cruise director and social staff did a great job. Crew gets an 'A+.'

Comparing the two cruise lines, we found some things on Carnival we preferred over Princess. And there were some things where Princess has the edge. What did we learn? Each line is different, catering to a different crowd, with a different view of cruising. I couldn't say either was better than the other, but different.

I tend to believe ports are what you make of them. So I won't comment much on the ports. We love Cozumel and it was a great stop, and long 9:00am to midnight. Calica is a gravel quarry, literally. You'll have to take a cab or excursion to do anything. But it's conveniently located to most of the attractions in the area.

Overall I'll give the Celebration a 'B+.' Carnival does a really good job with an old ship. The crew makes it an enjoyable trip. You won't find a more affordable 5-day get away.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: February 9, 2004

My husband and I were first-time cruisers. We had been planning a cruise for our 20th wedding anniversary for quite some time. We decided on the Carnival Celebration because it left from Galveston and we like the five-day itinerary.

We thought the docks where you unload the luggage were not well-marked and hard to figure out. We had to double back after asking a police officer how to get around. We parked in the designated parking lot, and my husband wished he had parked in the Dolphin parking lot where they let you carry your luggage on the shuttle; that way we could of stayed together. (Also when we came back we could have taken the shuttle with our luggage and been delivered to the car.) I don't know what the Dolphin parking lot costs, but we would definitely check it out next go around. But all in all it was not too bad; I checked the luggage and met my husband upstairs.

Once we got on the ship, they sent us up to the 10th floor to the buffet line. I thought the food was mediocre at best. Everybody bragged about

the pizza. Trust me, I know pizza, and I didn't think there was anything that special about it. They were stingy with the ingredients, if you ask me. I realize how many people they are tying to feed at one time and I promise you I never went hungry. In the dining room it seemed more about presentation. We're just country folks and I wanted my potatoes and vegetables. Also, we're southern country folks and we love our iced tea. They served instant tea. Yuck! The food in both the main dining room and the buffet reminded me of the buffet on the local gambling boats: it looks so appealing, but when you get through you realize you're full but not really satisfied. That's just how we felt. It was just okay.

We then got to go to our cabin. What a pleasant surprise! I was really worried about the size. We had a 6A room, one with a window. If this is your first cruise, I highly recommend a window. It was well worth the little extra money. The beds had already been pushed together and made a very comfortable bed. Neither one of us had a bit of trouble sleeping. I thought there was plenty of room in the cabin. We had a desk with several drawers, four closets, and a big table to put out suitcases on. Lots of things would also have fit under the bed had we needed it. In the bathroom there was a little shelf, a nice sized shower, a sink and a toilet. If my husband of 6'7", 325 pounds had no problem with the size of the room and bathroom, no one should. The window also made a convenient nightstand for that side of the room. I'm also claustrophobic and had no problems.

Things we found we didn't need: the over-the-door hanger, nightlight (plenty of light came under the door), tape, clothespins, post-its, plastic bags and lanyards. Inside our room we found two bathrobes, two beach towels, hangers, and a bowl with a flosser, toothpaste, shampoo and Tums. Inside the shower was a shampoo and soap dispenser, and there were several bars of soap in the bathroom. Things I did use included plastic mugs and highlighters. They also have Cokes and water in your room for a price. I asked the steward to remove those so we could use that space.

We did smuggle booze on board. We brought champagne and wine in our carry-on, which was never opened, just x-rayed. Inside our checked luggage we carried lots of Cokes and bourbon. We left these out in room and the cabin steward kept us supplied with ice the whole cruise. We only bought two frou-frou drinks and carried around our own drinks in the plastic mugs I brought. Our sign and sail card only came to $50.

My husband is about as country as you can get, but even he loved the dining room experience, even formal night. He just wore slacks, a button-down shirt, tie and boots. The men mostly wore suits and the ladies had everything from formals to nice pantsuits. All the other nights it was slacks or jeans with nice shirts and shoes. Our waiters were out of this world. We had so much fun with them. We weren't sure we would like sitting at a table with strangers, but it turned out great. Carnival did a good job of matching us: We were all close to the same age, we were all celebrating 25 to 30-year anniversaries, and we got along great. I highly recommend everyone experience the dining room. The waiters put on a show several nights and it was terrific.

There is always something going on: games, seminars, shows or the casino. You can stay as busy as you want, or be as laid back as you want. We saw several groups sitting on the deck or by the windows playing cards. Every night your room steward will leave you the ship's schedule for the next day's event (here's where your highlighter comes in handy). Try not to miss any of the shows. We were never disappointed in any of them.

I paid for 30 minutes of Internet time; it was $20 for 35 minutes. I wanted to touch base with my kids. This was perfect.

I am prone to motion sickness so this was a real worry for me. I decided on the patch. I put it on the evening before we left, just to be sure I had no ill side effects. It did not bother me in the least. I may have noticed a bit of dry mouth, but the tradeoff was worth it. The water was pretty rough our second day. The swimming pool looked like a wave pool. I was so glad to have the patch on. I know I would have been sick without it. I did drink in moderation with my patch on and had no problem. There was a constant humming or vibration on the ship, some places worse than others. This did bother me a little bit. I would be very curious to know if bigger ships have the same hum and vibration.

Wednesday we called at Cozumel. We had hired Adrian Romero to be our private guide. What a great choice! He took us shopping and helped me find just what I was looking for and at the best prices. His family has lived on the island forever so he is very informative. He took my husband -- a fireman -- by the fire station and took us to a tortilla company. (YUM- wish I had had some butter and taco sauce). He took us to the ruins and hired a guide. Neither of us thought we would enjoy that very much, but we both found it very interesting. Then it was on to Coconuts, what a view! We then took a drive along the coast. From these boards I had an address for a real cheap place to call home and he helped me find it. I talked all I wanted for $2.25. Then he wrote a postcard to my daughter (2nd year high school Spanish student) in Spanish. I can't wait for her to get it. If you would like to have more information on Adrian please feel free to email me. We ended the day going to Senor Frogs. Everyone should go to Senor Frogs. Even if you don't want to drink, go to watch the people. What a hoot! We got such a kick watching the waiters and waitresses, not to mention the patrons.

I hoped I answered some questions. I know a month ago I couldn't imagine what it was going to be like. One thing that made our cruise was the people. Everyone spoke to you and asked where you were from, etc. I was in shock when I got back home and tried speaking to everybody at WalMart. Boy, did I get some looks. They're not nearly as friendly as our group on the ship. I wonder if all cruisers find that when they get home? Anyway, our cruise took a turn for the worse and I will continue that another time.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: December 25, 2003

This was our first cruise and it had its good & bad points. The problems were largely not Carnival's fault - I think I should have done more research first to ensure a good match for my family. Also, there was a serious illness on our ship that changed our itinerary.

Good points: the cabins were very comfortable, especially the beds, which we didn't necessarily expect. The food was very good, and the staff was all very nice and accommodating. The show we went to was good, but not great.

Less good: We didn't meet anyone on the ship who was not from Texas. We are from Texas ourselves, but got a little tired of hearing about it! Things were pretty crowded and people were not particularly considerate at first - lots of pushing, etc. My husband said, at the end of the first day, "I feel like I've spent the day at Six Flags!"

 

Also, my 14-year-old stepson was really disappointed that the cruise was so focused on little kids. There wasn't much for him to do on board, and he is a kid who requires a lot of action. His

dad played about 30 games of ping pong with him, and that was about it. The shuffleboard and golf pro were inaccessible for most of a day due to a guest's illness (see below). The gym was very small and was packed all the time. Most annoying, it wasn't open past 8 pm, and no one under 16 was allowed in. However, there were many, many, families with little kids who seemed to be having a great time! I think next time we will try a different line and really look into what sorts of activities will be available for him.

I was also surprised at how many smokers there were (I don't know WHY I was surprised!) Anyway, that was quite unpleasant, even though we stayed in the non-smoking areas as much as possible. I will definitely factor that in on future cruises.

It was very cold when we departed Galveston, and we were really looking forward to getting into some warm weather, and to the day in Cozumel.

However, another passenger had a serious heart attack our first night out, so the ship turned around and we went back to within 60 miles of New Orleans so he could be helicopter-lifted off the deck of the boat. This meant that our entire first "fun day at sea" was a COLD day. :( And we didn't arrive in Cozumel until 3 pm on the day that we were supposed to have the whole day there.

The crew was definitely doing damage control - first they said we'd get to Cozumel by noon - no way! Each announcement pushed it a little later, later, later. They rescheduled most of the tours (except the golf trip, which was cancelled altogether).

My husband went and told the purser that we wanted to get off the boat in Cozumel and fly home. With no argument and a minimum of delay, Carnival bought us air tickets home two days later, so that we would have some time there. Over all, it worked out well for us. We are supposed to get a refund of our unused trip portion, but we just returned yesterday so still need to see how that will play out.

I'd recommend this trip for families with little kids, and for people who love Six Flags. :) Happy travels!

Mary Beth

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