I am not new to cruising and I am not new to Carnival Cruise Lines. I'll start out by saying that I have never had a bad experience on Carnival but there is a difference when you compare it to other cruise lines that offer more bells and whistles. I love a bargain though so I look to Carnival when bells and whistles aren't the primary consideration.
On this itinerary my family and I (there are seven of us in three rooms) will be departing Galveston, TX and visiting:
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and
This will be our first time visiting Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, but we (my daughter and I) have been to Cozumel on all of our previous cruises except for one that departed Miami. I love the convenience of cruising out of Galveston but am not opposed to flying elsewhere to cruise someplace I haven't seen before.
In this review, I will talk about check in at the terminal, embarkation, and our initial activities after boarding. I will follow up with a part 2 with details about our experience during the week such as dining, our staterooms, shows, and accessibility.
My daughter travels in a wheelchair (for long distance walking only) so we tend to travel in suites for the added space. Priority embarkation doesn't hurt either since we like to get on and get comfortable as soon as possible but it isn’t something we just have to have. We contacted Carnival six months ago to inform them of the wheelchair and my daughter's other special needs (she is mentally challenged and has a profound hearing loss) and they always accommodate her beautifully.
Every cruise line we have ever traveled on has been friendly and helpful when it comes to her special needs. We have been blessed to have interpreters available to interpret shows and other activities on board without any additional cost to us, and they even accompany us on excursions from time to time. Having an interpreter allows me to enjoy the shows and activities because I don't have to play interpreter although I would do it in a heartbeat if necessary.
Check In and Embarkation
We had an 11:30 check-in time but we arrived about a half hour early. The entire process was much better organized than the last time I cruised out of Galveston when everyone lined up when the terminal opened. We had a tiny issue come up because my daughters online check-in didn’t go through for some reason but it didn’t delay us. I think we the entire process took about 20 minutes and we were having lunch less than an hour after we arrived.
You no longer turn in the medical/health questionnaire at the terminal. In fact, I don't recall anyone asking any medical or health related questions so I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Your S&S card is left in the mailbox by your room instead of getting it in the terminal.
We didn’t pay for Faster to the Fun (I think it was $80 for all occupants of the stateroom) so our room wasn’t ready until 1:30. Not a big deal because we had already planned on having lunch first. It was 1:30 when we finished lunch so it worked out beautifully.
Lunch and Getting to Our Stateroom
There was an abundance of food available and it was crowded as you can imagine. The food was ok on the Lido deck.....not bad, not great. To be honest though embarkation day lunch is not the meal upon which I want to base my review. I’ll include more about food in the 2nd part of my review.
I recommend grabbing lunch somewhere other than outside on the Lido Deck if noise is an issue or if you want something a little less crowded. That being said, seating was tough inside because others wanted to escape the heat and humidity as well. There are tables that are labeled as wheelchair accessible but a lot of able bodied people didn't care and sat there anyway. We were lucky that we snagged one without hassle but I saw others that had to get staff involved to get the able bodied cruisers to move.
Overall I was pleased with the check-in experience. Staff at the terminal was friendly and helpful, and they made every effort to make sure my kiddo had what she needed. I am working on the second part of this review which will include more about the room, our room steward, and activities on board.
Until then......make this beautiful day count!