Friday, March 15, 2013


Okay, home and rested!

So, this was my first ever cruise, and I chose to go with the whole family, as well as with my father and step-mother.  We had fun.

Because it was our first cruise, and because there were so many of us going, we decided to go with Carnival, as it provided the best value and the timing was best suited for when we wanted to sail.  If you decide to go, check multiple lines (I looked at Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, the latter of which did not have anything in the Western Caribbean, at least not in the time frames we were sailing), and different departure ports.  I was able to save about $800 by driving to New Orleans for our embarkation as opposed to the same cruise out of Galveston one day earlier.  Even factoring in gas, lodging, and meals, that was still over $500 less that we had to pay.

The cruise ship itself sort of felt aged, decor-wise, but it was about 15-20 years old, so that seems reasonable.  I would say the food was decent to fair; not outstanding, but with Carnival, I was not expecting 5 star dining.  I did buy the soda card, which was about $35 for me and $25 for my son - this gave us unlimited soft drinks on the boat (normally $4 a glass), but I drink soda pretty regularly, so I made out ahead by going this route. 

Alcohol is not cheap, but there's so much to do that finding time to have more than one or two glasses would take real effort. 

There is plenty to do on the cruise ship, yet at the same time, we found plenty of time where we were trying to figure out what to do "now."  We're not young, and I'm not exactly in beach shape, so hanging out by the pool trying to tan was not really in the cards for me - mental note, I need to drop about 25 lbs before my next cruise.

The shore excursions were pretty cool - we saw some Mayan ruins (Dzibilchaltun), which were impressive, and we hired a private driver for our tour of Cozumel, which was definitely money well spent.  We took a tour of a tequila factory as well as a chocolateria, where the kids got to grind their own cocoa beans for hot chocolate.  Definitely a good things for youngsters. 

On the cruise, there are kid's areas - Camp carnival for kids up to age 11, Circle C for ages 12-14, and O2 for 15-17.  These areas are full of fun activities for the kids, but there are limits on the hours of operation - I think we managed about 2-3 hours at a time with the kids in these areas.  My 14 year old more or less just had run of the ship, but the other two we kept closer tabs on.  There were some kids who were just left to fend for themselves, and in my opinion, shouldn't have been, but that's a different story.  All in all, we had a great time. 

One thing we did on the ship was a wine tasting/pairing, which was really good. 

Now, Carnival ships have had a rough go of it lately, with Costa Concordia, Triumph, Dream, and Legend each having varying degrees of calamities strike.  Unfortunately, our ship also had some problems, however, nothing so severe as to prevent us from getting to and from the various ports safely.  We had an issue with steering due to a malfunction on the starboard azimuth (I don't know what it does, but it apparently affects steering), which required a technician to be flown in to Progreso to work on during our shore excursion. 

We really enjoyed our cruise, and I would be more than happy to do another one.  I have already tentatively started trying to plan a family cruise for Summer 2014, hopefully somewhere new - maybe Jamaica and Grand Cayman, or, if I could swing it, the Mediterranean.  If you decide to take a cruise, sailing to Progreso and Yucatan is an absolutely great first cruise. 

Sorry I went on so long, but once I started recapping the cruise, I couldn't find a good place to stop - there's a lot more to share, but this covers the basics pretty well.

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