February was our first time on Carnival Cruise lines, on board the Carnival Splendor, visiting the Mexican Riviera. Carnival, I believe, is well known as the "Fun Ship." Some would interpret that as a "party ship" or "Booze Cruise." Where the majority of cruisers are 20 something college students looking for an alcoholic binge.
While there appeared to be plenty of adult drinks being consumed and served, I never ran into anyone who was slobbering drunk. I never heard anyone shouting at anyone with a slur. There were lots of fun poolside games being led by the entertainment staff. One included alcohol.
What I did find was lots of families with lots of kids. More than 650 under the age of 14 on board. Because of that, the kids programs we bustling with activity and the kids were really having a great time. My 9 year old never wanted to do anything but Camp Carnival. My 13 and 17 year old daughters wanted to hang out at their clubs all the time. I was very impressed.
I would cruise Carnival again, knowing a few warnings. The shows with the dancers and singers was Las Vegas style. Meaning adult men will enjoy seeing scantily clad women dancing and bouncing around. Those that don't want to subject their kids to this will want to avoid it, or insure they are at their activities while you enjoy it. If you lose one of your children, go hang out at the ice cream machines. They'll show up within the hour, no matter the time. Don't book a balcony underneath the buffet. You will never sleep. Don't bother showing up at check in early. The lines to get in, led to another line, which ended at another line. Patience Brother! It'll all be good...eventually.
In mid May, We boarded Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Checking in was what I expected. A short wait in a line, go to a desk with a friendly person who checks my passport and gives me a room key, then up a couple escalators, on the ship, and WOW! Royal Caribbean's ships are really beautiful. When we got to our Jr. Suite...Oh My Heck! This is huge. All things are relative, but the extra 3x10 feet made a huge difference in the size of the suite.
On this cruise, we were with 150 people who earned this as a reward for a company sales challenge. What we did not anticipate was that before we disembarked, we would have 150 new friends. The Serenade of the Seas made it very easy to be together when we wanted and privacy when we didn't. The group and wait staff were excellent, just like we wanted. I climbed the rock climbing wall, ate a sandwich at the Sea Side Cafe, REALLY loved the food in the dining room, and never missed a show in the theater. These shows were what I wanted. Broadway shows that were not too loud and were perfect. I will really look forward to sailing on Royal Caribbean again. Here is what I learned to avoid, though.
Like Carnival, our Jr. Suite was right underneath the Windjammer Cafe (Buffet). Really hard sleeping at 1am. I am used to ships having elevators and stairs forward and aft. On this ship, almost always, you have to go to the middle of the ship to go up or down. It made for easy navigating and I never had an issue knowing what side of the ship I was on, but sometimes it was out of the way to go through the Centrum to go anywhere. Many of RCCL's ships have limited Internet access, meaning not available in your stateroom, but if you are willing to drag your laptop to almost any level in the Centrum, the wireless works nicely. The library is one of those places, but it is not quiet, as there is always music playing on the bottom floor.
November will bring our 3rd new ship. The Norwegian Epic is NCL's newest ship. Our first cruise was on NCL, but that was 11 years ago, so the memories have faded significantly. But we are really stoked about being on this very innovative ship. Why? How 'bout an 85 Min performance by the Blue Man Group? Their typical show as seen in Las Vegas, which you will pay more than $100 each for. It's free! Go Bowling! Maybe a Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show. The only funnel slide at sea. So much that 7 days may not be enough time to experience just the ship.
If you are going on a cruise soon, let us know where you are going and share your excitement and experiences. We would love to compare notes.
We are here for you.