Better than I expected, too many sea days overall.
5 out of 5
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
The food throughout was much, much better than I had anticipated. The bars frequently (if not always) offer doubling the liquor, reasonable to begin with, for $3 more. I might have one drink a night, if any, so this was appreciated when indulging.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
14 days is a long time to provide entertainment. The stage shows were mixed, I enjoyed most of the special entertainers cycling aboard at different ports. The ships on-board stage performers were all talented but after the first 2 shows I had enough, especially when the shows started getting campy degrading to musical reviews. The comedians where better at the beginning of the cruise and quickly went downhill as the days went on. The PG comedy was extremely better than the R rated comedy (I'm not a prude but fowl language alone does not make poor comedy any funnier). The piano bar was mostly fun but often empty and again for a 14 day cruise it might have been nice to circulate some of the other musical entertainment (3 pairs of rotating musician/singers & a single guitarist) into this quieter venue for those of us who would have liked a chance to hear them without the noise of the guests as an impediment to the performance.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
The staff and service were all excellent. My only suggestion is for the cruise director 'Cookie' to modulate his constant amplification with gravel effect of the last 3 words he is saying (it gets old fast), and, for Ken, the Normandie Dining Room manager to better regulate his nightly singing (although he does have a very good voice - very Sinatra like) to maybe every other night (14 days is ALOT), and to reduce the nightly wait staff parade from 14 DAYS! to maybe.... 1?
4 out of 5
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
The cabin location was conveniently located starboard forward on deck 6, in the first third off the intersecting elevator/stairs access down a 'dead end' corridor so there was little passenger traffic going passed our door. There was easy access to the Lido deck (9) for the gym, pools & buffet dining (in that order going from forward to aft). The cabin was comfortable and spacious, however, there was only 1 outlet within the cabin itself (there was another 'switched' outlet in the bathroom that was for all purposes unusable. The balcony was provided with two upright sling style chairs which took up the entire space.
There are basically two main buffet areas that constitute the Mermaid's Grill (in addition to the specialty Guy's Burger Joint & a taco/burrito station that have limited set lunch hours) aft of the pools. When they switch meal service from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner they shut down the entire buffet for 1-1/2 hours for each transition at the same time! Plan accordingly although very tasty personal size made to order pizza is available 24/7!
Embarkation/debarkation only. The parking facility (operated by the Port of Maryland, not Carnival) is very convenient, directly adjacent to the ship making the debarkation and accessibility to walk to your car with your bags worth every penny of the $15 per day they charge!
The port at Grand Turk was unique in that Carnival basically owns the port. The beach is literally at the end of the warf the ship docks at, you walk to the beach! Walking to the left there are lounges and umbrellas available to rent 15 feet from the water for $25 for 2 lounges for the day. I heard a rumor, but was unable to confirm, Carnival has free lounges/umbrellas to the right. They also built a restaurant/bar/pool complex called Margaritaville 50 yards or so down on the beach that I wasn't even aware of (little noise on the side facing the beach) until I got hungry and followed my nose. I was surprised how big a facility it was and how crowded and noisy! The back side is the restaurant centered around a large pool area with lounges and umbrellas (which may all be free). They were in the middle of a dance off with loud booming music and general 'what the hell' party atmosphere! Food was OK and not terribly overpriced although the ship was right there if you really wanted a free lunch!
Purchased a Shore Excursion on board ($39.98 for the 2 of us! for roundtrip transportation to a nearby (Eagle) beach that included a brief (3 minute) tour of the Hi-Rise hotel area during the bus U-turn to get to the beach. Eagle beach is beautiful powder sand straight down into the water as far as you can touch bottom! Expensive lounge/umbrella at $45!!! Suck it up, you want to be comfortable and you need the umbrella - it's hot if the sun is out and it's shelter if you get one of those 10 minute rain showers!
Purchased a City, Caves & Beach tour from United for $65 pp. Visited Hato Cave and was then dropped off at Cabana Beach Resort which is either a 4 or 5 star resort with it's gorgeous reef protected private beach. Food was available for purchase, lounges w/umbrellas or tree shade were included. A short tour of the city was included going to/from the venues.
Purchased the Harrisons Cave and Beach Day from United for $196 (for 2). The admission price to Harrisons Cave alone would have been $30 per person alone. The guided cave tour is via a tram that takes you down approximately 170 feet into an incredibly beautiful cave system replete with stalactite and stalagmites, running rivers and tranquil pools all illuminated and ventilated for comfort. The tram stopped twice along the approximately 2 mile tour allowing photo-op walk about in the large open areas with a chance to touch, and taste (if desired) the pure running stream water. This was an awesome experience! We were then transported to the beautiful Copacabana Beach Club in Bridgetown which included lounges/umbrella.
Purchased an all inclusive excursion to the Bay Gardens Beach Resort in Rodney Bay/Reduit Beach from Resort For A Day for $95 per person. We have vacationed here previously and knew exactly what to expect so did not hesitate to spend the money for this glorious day. Aside from the fact the property is beautiful and not overwhelming, is sitting directly on the beautiful sheltered bay beach with lounges, palms, umbrellas and also has a pool with a hot tub/jacuzzi as an island in the middle of the pool with direct eye sight to the bar the 'excursion' also included a delicious lunch at their covered/open air beach restaurant (off of their regular extensive menu!), FOUR (4) drinks (alcoholic included - delicious pina-colladas!!) and a 20 minute back massage in their on-site spa!!! Heaven!
My least favorite of the island's visited. We have been there before, last time we didn't even get off the ship! St. Maarten is a very popular port. There were FIVE ships in port when we docked making it SIX!! Took the water taxi ($7 pp roundtrip) from the warf across the bay to the Philipsburg beach, got very comfortable pad over webbed lounges and umbrella for $20, 15 feet from the waters edge. The 'concessionaire' also provided a beach runner refreshment service for cold beer and a full menu from one of the restaurants at very reasonable prices (burger, grilled maki-mahi, Guiness & tip $25!!) I think the fact that it is always crowded and not especially beautiful and you are directly adjacent to a commercial tourist shopping area put me off a little. It was particularly annoying to have the nearby jewelry store attendant standing outside ALL day non-stop with a microphone and amplifier offering a running commentary to the passerby's interspersed with accompanying the songs and music drifting down from the St. Maarten Hard Rock Cafe (2 doors down) even though she had a soft Allison Steel voice!!!!
3 out of 5
Long, unnecessarly arduous waiting to queue into debarkation (too many privileged gold and platinum members given priority), however, it was extremely easy was we were actually walking off the ship, straight trough customs directly to our car.
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