I have been on three cruises; 2 of those before I turned 21, and two of them not with my family. The first one was an absolute disaster for reasons that are way too personal for this blog. The second one was with my dance team-we got to perform on the ship and got to cruise as well. The third one was just this past week with my friend, Jessica. It was one of the best vacations I've ever been on. This could be attributed to the fact that we were both over 21 and not with our families; it could have also been that we went with no drama and came back with no drama. It can also be majorly attributed to the fact that Carnival's cruises have some of the best employees, programs, and amenities associated with their trips.
First of all, their service even pre-cruise is amazing. You can actually call them if you're stuck in major traffic, or had a delay that might cause you to miss your boat. We did not run into this, but I thought it was really cool that they offered this. I don't know how it works, but it seems to be a good option, especially when unforseen issues can pop up whenever, wherever.
Jessica and I kind of slacked on printing out documents. Basically, we decided to print out our luggage tags too late, and could not access them, and did not print out our funpasses. This was no problem as when we checked in, they used our passports to look up our names on the list and gave us the proper luggage tags using that. We also were able to use our passports even though we didn't have the funpass to check in and get our room assignments and Sail and Sign cards. This was a huge load off since we were kind of freaking out that we had not received anything and did not print out our funpasses (yes, I called customer service before that, they said it was fine, but still we were a little worried about it..)
The actual check in and boarding was tedious, but no matter what you're doing, it's always going to be like that. One of the cool things about Carnival cruises is that if you are of age (21), you can bring one bottle of wine that you can bring to your dinner and drink with a $10 corkage fee. We ended up bringing one bottle each to enjoy with our dinners.
The cruise itinerary while at sea was filled with many great activities for everyone. They had Camp Carnival for those younger than 11, and plenty of bingo, karaoke, contests (like men's hairy chest, bartending mixology, and the newlywed/married game to name a few), comedy, and dance shows. Along with all of that entertainment, the ship has a pool, waterslides, miniature golf, and an arcade. There are also plenty of bars, an over 18 and an under 18 dance club, as well as several lounges with different types of music, entertainment, and mixers.
The cruise that we took left out of Galveston, TX on a ship called the Ecstacy. It was a five day cruise to the Yucutan which included stops at Progreso, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico. Another great thing about Carnival is the amount of approved (meaning safe and will not rip you off or take advantage of you) excursions that they have created in conjunction with companies at the destinations to help you experience these cities in whatever way you desire. They offer everything from beach parties, boating, ziplining, tours of cities, tours of ruins, cooking, dancing, hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling; basically anything and everything you'd want to do in these cities. There is always shopping near the port, or downtown. If you plan to take a cab downtown, I would ask someone who works the excursions what a good company to hail down would be, and how much the average cost would be so that you do not get ripped off; I'd recommend this in any city and country as tourists are usually easily recognizable.
For our excursion in Progreso, we chose something called "Salsa and Salsa"; a fun day that included learning how to make authentic Mexican salsas and guacamole, as well as a mini Salsa dancing lesson. There were about 15 in the group for this excursion. We found the sign for our excursion, and then after signing a waver, were taken to a bus that took us to Merida, a city about 40 minutes south of Progreso. Merida is gorgeous and full of Mayan history. We ended up at a restaurant called Pancho's (named for Pancho Villa). Here, we took seats at a long table with all the ingredients and tools necessary for making salsa and guacamole in front of us. After getting our first round of complimentary drinks, we learned how to make their margarita, which uses curacao instead of triple sec. We then began to make our salsas and guacamole. We made two salsas; Chiltomate and Salsa Boracha. Chiltomate is a standard salsa while Salsa Boracha has a bit more and adds in a shot of beer mixed with tequila. We then made the most amazing guacamole that I have ever tasted. After enjoying more drinks and our salsas and guacamoles, we got to have our mini Salsa dancing lesson. We moved to the patio of the restaurant and met our Cuban Salsa instructor. He was legit as legit can be. It was really hot outside, but learning the moves was so much fun. We learned 5 moves, but Jessica and I could really only do 4 of them.
On Thursday, we arrived at Cozumel and got ready for our second excursion. Jessica and I had chosen a ziplining and snorkel combo adventure. We thought that this was going to include ziplining through the jungle of Cozumel and then snorkeling and relaxing on a beach. We got the last part right, but the ziplining was actually that and a ropes course that was basically an outdoor rock climbing/ropes course. We were pretty disappointed, but tried to make the best of it, and doing the ropes course was fun even though i suck at rock climbing. After the ropes course part of it, we went snorkeling in the Carribean Sea. The water was so clear and blue, and even though I kept swallowing salt water (my body just did not want to get a hang of the concept of snorkeling), we saw some pretty awesome fish and sea creatures including some eel, barracuda, and black sea urchins, as well as huge schools of fish and gorgeous coral. After the end of our excursion, we decided to take a cab back to downtown Cozumel instead of straight back to the port (FYI the cabs are pretty legit there and for 2 people to get from downtown to Puerto Maya--the port where we were docked, it was $7 flat). We walked around a little bit and then went into the Tequileria to see all of the different types of tequila they carried.. After that, we wandered and found a restaurant called La Mission. We both had fajitas, chips and guacamole, and tortilla soup for $8. The food was authentic and fabulous. If you find this restaurant, do yourself a favor and skip Margaritaville and Senior Frogs and try their cuisine instead.
We spent the next day relaxing at sea as our trip had come to its end; we arrived back in Galveston at about 8 am on Saturday morning. Between self debarkation and relaxed debarkation, we decided to take all of our luggage off by ourselves. We were one of the first groups off of the ship, though it still took a couple of hours to get to us. This happens on all cruises though, so it's not a big deal.
Carnival is a fantastic cruise line. They have things to do for the whole family, and for every type and group of people cruising. The food, whether it is served formally at dinner, or through the buffet is always so delicious, and you are never left with no choices. The drinks are a bit over priced, but they're made well and pretty much worth it. I had such a great time on this cruise, and would have no problem going on another one. If you're thinking about cruising, remember, the earlier you book, the better your prices will be.
For more on Carnival, or to book a cruise, check out their website. We booked our cruise through Cruise.com, and I know that our friends did as well, so be sure to check them out for great discounts and prices as well.