Western Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Belize and Cozumel)
Couple in our late 40's early 50's with our teen son Hadley. Our
third Carnival cruise
Embarkation/Day 1 The Tampa port was easy to find. In1 ½
hours we were finally onboard. We'd eaten a big breakfast, so
skipped lunch on the Lido deck, a decision that would prove to be a
very bad one for me later. We met the teen cruise person, and my
teen was delighted to hear there were 28 other teens on board in
his age range of 15-17.
By dinner time I was really feeling empty. Our waiters were
friendly and prompt. Soups and appetizers would again prove to be
the best part of Carnival's menu. Midway thru dinner I was so dizzy
and light-headed I had to leap up and leave the table, much to my
embarrassment. Back to the room for a Bonine. After 2 previous
cruises in very rough water (hurricane dodging for one) I was
shocked to learn I COULD get seasick after all!
Day 2 - At Sea.
Visited the health club - nice 2 story facility. Lo and behold
my son and
4 of his new teen friends were in the spa hot tub. I was pleased to
see they were behaving nicely. We set his curfew for 1 am.
Midnight comedy show was hilarious. Probably the best comedian
I've seen on all 3 cruises, except maybe for Percy Crews.
We received a gift package from Carnival for booking a "past
guest reunion cruise" which consisted of a tote bag, 2 baseball
hats, 2 t-shirts, 2 pens, 2 key chains and some coupons.
Day 3 - Grand Cayman After breakfast my son and I head to the
tenders for a 5-10 minute ride. A 10 minute un-air-conditioned bus
ride with a friendly but STRANGE driver who sang religious songs
thru his microphone and we are at the boat. A 30 minute boat ride
and we are at a sandbar in the middle of the ocean - Stingray City!
Even though there were probably 6 other boats there, it's large
enough to not feel crowded. We grabbed a snorkel and jumped in
Nothing anyone every told me prepared me for this experience. The
rays approach silently and cautiously began to swim around us. The
1st few "brushes" elicited screams from the women and "Whoas!" from
the men. You quickly become accustomed to them and the guides begin
handing out chunks of squid. Listen to the instructions about how
to hold the squid and start feeding them! It's such an odd feeling
when they suck the squid out of your hand (they have no teeth). We
stayed for only an hour (I could have done this all day). We both
agreed it was something to put on your life list of things you must
do before you die!
We were quickly learning that the early dining time which had
worked so well for us on previous cruises was not working this
time. We decided to eat on the Lido deck and my son ate with his
Tonight we cruised all the bars and attended the art auction. We
were served free champagne, given a free print and thoroughly
entertained by the lovely art.
The piano bar (Sam's) was a bit disappointing - both because of
the talent of the performer and the sparcity of the audience.
Perhaps there's a connection? The Mad Hatter was karaoke. Off to
spy on our teen at Dr. Frankenstein's Lab - the weeklong hangout
for the 15-17 year old crowd. I'm happy to report that IMMEDIATELY
upon entering we were approached by a security guard to inform us
Dr. Frank's was, for certain hours, teens only! We were glad to
know Carnival was keeping out the 20-somethings.
On to McGuire's sports bar which was DEAD - nothing on but
soccer tonight - football nights would see a more lively crowd.
Day 4 - Costa Maya The length of the pier was greatly
exaggerated. It's ½ mile at most - we walked. You walk into
the cruise line constructed "village" which is a giant outdoor
mall/flea market. The large swim-up-to-the-bar pool had a few too
many people for my taste, so we passed. Ouitside to rent a golf
cart. They were all rented and we were told to come back in an
hour, but 10 minutes later one was available. They rent for
$15/hour. In the cart and the adventure begins! Easy driving
directions to Mahahual - follow the red brick road (Mexican Driving
for Dummy Americans.) until it ends at the lighthouse - turn right
and there's the village. Pedestrian traffic only. Restaurants,
bars, thatched hut shops (no air conditioning here!) are on both
sides of the street. We were ceremoniously escorted to the
restaurant/bar across from the Hotel Mahahual on the beach. The
sleeping dog under the table never moved. Swaying palms, toes
wiggling in the sand, cool drink on the way - I'm in Mexico! We
bought some beautiful jewelry, a gorgeous wooden bowl and vanilla.
The vendors are pretty aggressive, but will most definitely
On the way back we stopped in front of a building surrounded by
a low rock wall to take a picture of a huge iguana. Men inside with
BIG guns came running out shouting "Hey! Hey!" and waving their
guns. I don't really speak Spanish, but it was clear in any
language they did not want me taking pictures. As we were driving
(hurriedly) away we noticed a sign that said something about a
naval defense station. Yikes! The Mexican Navy! We all loved Costa
Maya - it felt as though you were in the "real" Mexico.
Early night - no shows for us - back in our room by 11 pm
Day 5 - Belize There was no question you were in a small Central
American country. We booked a tour thru the ship - Altun Ha/Belize
City. Our Belize City guide (Joyce) was born in Belize City and
there wasn't a topic she didn't cover (topography, politics,
religions, culture, currency, education, flora and fauna) or a
question she didn't answer for us. If you are looking for a
sanitized tour experience, then Belize isn't for you. It was our
favorite, tied with Costa Maya. After a fairly long tour of the
city (we were stuck in Belize City rush hour), we headed into the
countryside, on a narrow, rutted road with the jungle closer on
We arrive at Altun Ha and Janine, the other tour guide, took
over. We climbed to the top of one of the sacrificial towers for a
break taking view of the other structures and the jungle. The climb
isn't for the faint of heart, or weak of knees. The steps are
extremely steep, with each step being at least 12 inches high. With
the average Mayan being 5 ft or under, we all wondered how on earth
they climbed these towers!
We grabbed a soda and headed back to our bus for the 1 ¼
hour drive back to Belize City. Never has a coke tasted so good or
air conditioning been so refreshing. My son and I both feel
Day 6 - Cozumel Last port! We hadn't scheduled an excursion, so
had a leisurely breakfast and headed off the ship. We walked thru
the ever present port shopping mall and caught a taxi into town.
Were dropped off in San Miguel and began a surprisingly fun day.
The contrast between a larger Mexican city (Cozumel) and a smaller
Mexican town/village (Costa Maya/Mahuhaul) was refreshing. We
veered off the main streets laden with the usual 15 Diamonds
International stores and found some interesting shops. Found a real
music store and bought a guitar for my musician son, walked around
a few more hours and headed back to the ship.
Day 7 Last Day at Sea I was determined this last day at sea
would be relaxing and I kept my promise. I finished my book,
napped, ate and did some final ship shopping.
Ship The ship is gorgeous. Less Las Vegas and more elegant than
the previous Fantasy class and Conquest class ships I've been on.
Easy to navigate, lots of out of the way spots to hide for a quiet
moment. Gatsby's Garden was a bit too claustrophobic with the low
ceilings, but quiet. The library/internet café was lovely,
with long sofas next to big picture windows. The Bacchus dining
room was every bit as gaudy as had been described (pink grapes -
guess they're Catawba, but YIKES!!). It was strangely out of place
on this ship of beautiful artwork and statues. I probably wouldn't
have noticed if I hadn't heard it on the boards, but there is
definitely a lot of nude art on this ship. It's pretty much
everywhere. We've spent lots and lots of times in museums and
galleries, so were unfazed, but if you are conservative and easily
offended by the human form this might not be the ship for you. Nick
and Nora's is the most beautiful dining room I've ever seen on a
ship. The huge atrium and skylight is stunning.
Cabin The aft balcony was 50% bigger, but the "bigger" came
vertically, not horizontally. The balcony wasn't any wider, just
deeper, and because of the slanted glass railing, the extra depth
was really only for your feet! While the wake was interesting for
the first day, not being able to see anything as you came into port
was a negative. Still, it was a balcony cabin and wonderful. I just
wouldn't pay the extra for an aft balcony again, unless it was one
of the wrap-arounds.
Food The dining room food was good, but not outstanding. Maybe
seeing the same Carnival menu for the 3rd time has something to do
with my dissatisfaction. We ended up eating on the Lido deck
several nights - something we've NEVER done before.
Lido deck food was surprisingly uninspired and lackluster. It
truly lacked FLAVOR. All the desserts tasted the same - vanilla.
You could close your eyes and not know what you were having - it
tasted the same as yesterday's dessert. Breakfast remained
horrible, with cold, dry pancakes one day, soggy French toast the
next, then back to pancakes. But there was a lovely fruit bar and
the pastries and granola were pretty good, too.
Lido lunches were better. My son loved the Chinese buffet and we
both enjoyed the burgers (delicious if you get one freshly made)
and grilled chicken from the grill. Sandwiches from the deli were
good and the potato salad is quite delicious. Pizza was delicious,
There was an odd lack of vegetables. One night the only
vegetable besides the salad bar was mashed potatoes!
Ship Activities Shockingly, I didn't attend many activities this
time around. I think the newness has worn off and I'm not quite as
"wowed" by the games. The art auction was tons of fun and so was
movie trivia. I skipped bingo and came out slightly ahead in the
casino on roulette and slots.
Entertainment Sadly, this is the area in which I am most
disappointed. The entertainment on the Fantasy was superb. On the
Glory it was downright fabulous. On the Miracle it was nothing
short of uninspired. The dancers looked as though they were simply
going thru the motions. The choreography was so simple it made me
wonder if these folks were singers first and dancers second, so
maybe the choreography had been "dumbed down" for them. The lead
female singer (name escapes me) was quite good, however. That being
said, we walked out of Ticket to Ride.
All of this is from someone who NEVER missed a single show on
her previous 2 cruises. I look forward to the entertainment more
than almost any element of cruising. Maybe I just got a bad "batch"
of performers, who knows? Carnival continues to pump lots of money
into it's entertainment. The sets are elaborate, the sound system
great. I'm hoping this was a fluke.
The hypnotist didn't really do it for me, but he seemed popular
and lots of people attended his lecture the next day.
Overall cruise experience I love cruising Carnival, but realized
on this cruise I'm ready to try another line. I'm not unhappy with
Carnival for the most part, but just want to see what else is out
there. The cruise struck me as being a bit more "Wal-mart" than
what I would have liked. I like the luxury part of cruising and I
suspect I might get a bit more of that on another line. I hope to
be trying Royal Caribbean in the next few months and Celebrity next
The ports were the highlight of this cruise for me and my
husband. Not going to all the activities allowed me to set a
gentler, more relaxed pace. I had read on the teen board that some
teens make "friends for life" on a cruise. My teen declared this
his best cruise ever. The teens exchanged emails and IM's and have
been happily "talking" to each other since their return! We all got
what we wanted and can't wait to cruise again - both on Carnival
and other lines.