July 12-19, 2003
We decided to take our family on a nice vacation before we lost our boys to summer jobs. They are 13 and 15 and so we looked into Carnival Cruise
Line because everyone said they have the best children’s programs. After pricing on the internet, travel agencies, and AAA, we booked a cruise through Costco because they gave us by far the best deal. We booked a room at the bottom of the price scale of rooms that included private balconies. Due to the fact that Costco is not a travel agency, we called Carnival and a travel agency to make sure we knew what to pack. We couldn’t believe
our boys would have to wear dress pants to dinner every night. (Do you have teenage boys? If you do, you’ll know dress pants is not in their vocabulary!) We promptly went to Target and bought a few clearance Docker style pants.
The big day arrived and we were at the ship dock in Miami at 1:40 pm. After waiting in 2 different lines, we boarded the ship at 2:50. The picture they took of us boarding the ship was one of the best priced and nicest of all the ones they took. Our cabin was great. The couch made into a bed and another top bunk folded out of the ceiling for the entire week. Tons of storage space plus put empty suitcases under the bed. Unpacked all our cosmetics into the bathroom and still had lots of room left over. OH! Did I mention cosmetics? My cosmetics bag must have had every other piece of luggage on the entire ship hammered on top of it. Almost every container in it was ½ empty-and guess where all the contents were? Guess how many rolls of toilet paper I used cleaning that up? So, lesson of the day: carry the cosmetic bag with you. Found out later that one lady at our table had trouble because her luggage was black with grease and ripped. She complained, but they said it wasn’t their fault. She could take it up with the Port of Miami after the cruise. Yeah, right. We found out that night that the mattress was awful lumpy, which surprised us since it wasn’t that old of a ship. There wasn’t any shampoo etc. in our shower or anyone’s on our floor, but there was at a lady’s at our table, and our rooms were higher and more expensive than hers. Go
figure. Never figured that out. We could have complained, but we brought our own. Our balcony had 2 chairs and a small table on it and we loved it.
By the time we opened the newsletter in our room, we realized we missed the buffet on ship that went
until 3 pm. Since we didn’t get all our luggage by dinner, they announced that dinner was casual-our boys were so disappointed-ha ha. It was assigned seating and none of the others at our table were there. The food was out of this world. We had about 4 choices from each section of the menu and I made sure I got at least 2 deserts the first three nights. By the 4th night I decided to take it easy. Out comes the head waiter with 2
deserts for me! Our head waiter and waitress were awesome! Such nice people, and fun too. In fact we felt everyone on the ship was wonderful, courteous and we received the nicest treatment the entire trip. Every night at dinner, the waiters put on a show dancing on these little tables used for them to put their trays on that were only 2 feet wide. The first night a few crazy passengers got on the tables too and we thought we were going to see a strip show, but the next night they announced it was only for the waiters who were “trained” for it. (Dancing that is, not stripping.)
The ship was gorgeous. They spared nothing building it. Only negative was that there were water lines in all the cabin hallways on the carpet. I think the showers leaked? No other complaints. I always got a chair by the pool and I always went at the busy time. There was a waterslide. Course you realize that you’ll get a face full of salt water when you get to the bottom!
Our boys went up to a teen disco room for the teen program (ages 13-15) orientation the first night. The lady walked around the room handing out schedules and that was the orientation. So our boys opted for the “Computers, Movies, & More!” which was on the schedule for 11pm-12:30 am. We walked up with them about 11 and waited until 11:15. But there was no staff, no movies and no computers turned on to use. That was our introduction to the Teen Program and about par for the course of the entire week. The boys went to about 4 other scheduled events that never happened. Then the few events that did
happen were combined with the little kids. I guess someone complained because the next event, the staff said they got in trouble for that and would all the little kids leave. So some 11 and 12 year olds left and some 8-10 year olds stayed. Having little kids in a teen program doesn’t go over real well with teens. Anyway, we had fun with our boys on our own all week, but if you want help from the cruise lines, DON’T pick Carnival for the teen program. That was a joke. If you do bring your kids, walkie-talkies are a ton of fun on a huge ship!
We went to every show the ship had except the Las Vegas show. We left because it was so boring. The Magic Show was awesome. Super special effects and funny too. Sunday night’s show was a Chorus Show and it started with the 1910 era and then moved forward in time. The first half was so slow and boring, but halfway through it got better. If I had to do it over again, I would have only gone to the Magic Show. The Mexican Show the day we were in Cozumel, and put on by natives, was also good. But since we live in Phoenix, we get lots of those. Believe it or not, we never did get to hear or see the captain in action. They introduced him the first night, but he didn’t even talk at all.
Well, we went to all the ship’s orientation talks preparing us for the next port and listened to all their sales talks on their tours. Then we booked our own after we got to port. At Cozumel, we took a taxi for $10 for the 4 of us to
Chankanaab Park. The entrance fee was $10 each and then our two boys did the Swim With the Dolphins for $119 each. It was 1 hour long and worth every second. They rode on top of the dolphins twice, were kissed by them, played with them and lots more. Only 8 people per group and it was awesome. We also had a wonderful time around the park where they had a sea lion show, bird show, and we saw amazing eels etc in the rocks on the shore. Total cost-$298. The ship charged $155 for that same program, but all four of us would have had to pay that (total cost $610) and we would not have had the freedom to roam the park. We also shopped in Cozumel. It was the best shopping of all 3 ports because of the variety and prices. Got both boys
nice T-shirts for $6 each.
The second port was Grand Cayman and we paid $30 each to go on a tour that included a bus ride, a boat ride, and snorkeling equipment to go swim with the Stingrays and then a coral reef where we snorkeled. The stingrays were so cool. They gave us squid to feed them, but you had to get under them to feed them. A guide picked one up and let it lay on his stomach! Oh, did I mention that the cruise charged more than double for the same exact thing? ($65 each) We booked our tour with natives right at the port where we docked. They had signs telling their Excursion and price. Great deal! Shopping was more expensive here, so we didn’t do much of it.
Our 3rd port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica which was where we had honeymooned 18 years ago. We remembered that it was
sooo cheap (Lobster dinner for $4). But the taxis were by the person and $10 each! Of course they didn’t tell you on the ship or at port that you are a 7-10 minute walk from the shopping market! We knew and took off walking, but
no one else did. This was by far the slummy port. Beggars with stumps and lots of offers for drugs. Market area are stalls around 4 feet wide. Kyle, our 15 yr old bargained them down on a mahogany turtle from $15 to $2! We got 2 t-shirts with embroidery appliqués for $7 each. Then we went and bargained with a native for a glass bottom boat to take us snorkeling. That was awesome. He went to the bottom of the ocean and got sea urchins and cut them in half and gave them to each of us. The fish came up and ate out of the middle of the sea urchins that were in our hands. He let us snorkel as long as we wanted. So cool! Total cost? $50 plus we gave him a $10 tip. And he drove the boat right back to the ship dock, saving us the walk back! Cruise had a $33 a head snorkeling tour (total of $132 for the 4 of us), which didn’t begin to compare to ours. Oh, one tip. Don’t pay
until the tour is over. There have been a few stories about their trustworthiness. Better safe than sorry.
Well, we really enjoyed our cruise. The food was amazing and everyone was so courteous and friendly. Our biggest disappointment was in the teen program. I wasn’t too impressed with most of the shows, but we had fun anyway. The “best of staff award” would definitely have to go to Romando who taught the Salsa dancing. He led the song every night in the dining hall and grabbed everyone in the audience who had learned his song that day. A fun and crazy guy. Our cabin steward made all the cool towel animals every night and then taught us magic tricks the last night. Compared to our last cruise with Royal Caribbean that was only 4 days, I’d say the food was fancier on Carnival, but the shows were much better on the Royal Caribbean. We’re going to try Royal Caribbean next time.
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