We booked this vacation close to a year in advance. Six months later, we booked our airline tickets through a popular website. We brought a newbie with us, my husbands cousin, and he shared our first ever inside stateroom. My parents also came, and they had a balcony suite. My husband, his cousin, and I are late 20's early 30's. My parents are late 50's, early 60's. None of us had ever left from San Juan before..... Now that you have a little knowledge of us, on to the review.
Flights to San Juan We decided to fly in the day before, and stay the night in San Juan.... or so we thought. We arrived at Chicago O'Hare about two hours before the flight. We walked up to the counter at the Continental Airlines check in, and they only had our names in the system.... no tickets for us. We had booked our flights through a popular website, and even checked them on line the day before. They had no record of us on any flights, and there were no flights to San Juan for the rest of the day.We had taken a limo, and had no way home. The very nice gentleman at the counter was very helpful, and got us on a flight to Newark, New Jersey, where we had to stay the night, and fly to San Juan on an early flight the next morning. All I have to say is I will never fly anyone but Continental again. Everyone was super friendly, you could actually hear what the captain was saying over the intercom, and even on a two hour flight, they fed us a snack, and handed out complimentary ear phones. We were greeted with smiles from all the flight attendants. It was a great flight!
Boarding in San Juan We arrived at the pier, and proceeded to check in. We were probably the third group to check in. We had to wait about an hour and a half before they opened the doors to let people onto the ship. Then we noticed that everyone had a slip of paper with a number on it, and they would only let you on if they called your number. By this time, we had been waiting, and people who had checked in after us were able to board. I went up to a lady and told them that we had not received a slip. She gave me one, but we had to wait. It really was a stupid system. No one really knew what was going on, and everyone was just standing in lines... it was really unorganized. Part of the problem was close to 70% of the other passengers didn't speak a lick of English. This was problem number one. Everything took double the time because everything was first announced in English, and then had to be repeated in Spanish. We finally were able to board after a two and a half hour wait. I have never had to wait, and was a little irked by this point.
First Impressions When we first got on, we noticed a pretty strong smell, it was very musty and moldy smelling. The carpets were very stained, and you could see paint chipping from the walls. I'm not one to complain, or let it ruin my vacation, so off to the room we went. It was our first time having an inside stateroom (which we ended up loving!). As we walked in, the smell of dirty feet filled the air..... how gross! We then noticed that all Shawn (my husband's cousin) had to sleep on was a broken cot. Had I know that he was going to pay $300+ to sleep on a broken cot, I would have gotten a balcony room so he would have more room. I would have thought since we booked almost a year ago, we would have gotten a room with a bunk bed. Also, the two twin beds that my husband and I were to sleep on where on opposite sides of the room. I moved them next to each other, and that worked out fine... sort of. We had no room to move if Shawn had his cot out. I was slammed against the wall, and if I had to get up to use the bathroom, I would have to walk over DH, and then jump over the cot. This really wasn't my idea of fun, or safety in case of emergency! The room itself was in poor condition. There were chunks missing from the wall, stains on the carpet, stains on the sheets and comforters. The tiles in the shower were coming off, and looked like they had already been fixed before. The way the toilet was put in there, you had to have your feet in the shower to fit on it correctly. The air didn't work correctly, and I will get more into detail about that later. Again, I really didn't let it bother me, we laughed it off, why ruin a vacation with the little stuff?? We were still away from work, and we were still determined to have a blast.
Dining Room Food Since we didn't leave port until 10 pm, we had open seating dinner the first night. Four of the five of us ordered the New York Strip Steak. I think I've had better meat at Ponderosa! It was fatty and tasteless. My dad had the talipia, and loved it. Night after night, the beef just wasn't up to par. However, my father loved all the fish.... and boy was there a lot of fish on the menu. I cannot eat seafood, so it was hard for me to have anything but beef. Most of the time, I took a couple bites, watched everyone else eat, then a couple hours later, went up to the deli for a ruben. The deserts were yummy as always. Our waiter, Christian from Peru, was awesome. The staff in the dinning room are always fantastic, and I have never had any issues. I was very disappointed in the dining room selections. But hey, I was on a cruise, and not at work, so I'm not going to complain.
Food Elsewhere The deli was great!! I had to eat there many of times. The buffets never looked appetizing, so I only had salads. My father had the buffet everyday for lunch, as with any buffet, some of the food he thought was great, and others left something to be desired. We were excited to try the pizza.... then horrified when we put it in our mouth. It was way undercooked, and soggy. My husband did like the burgers, and I did try one, and enjoyed it. As you may of guessed, I lived off the deli. Other Carnival cruises, I have loved all the food, and had no issues. I was a might disappointed..... again, I wasn't going to let this ruin anything!
Overall Condition of the Destiny I found it to be pretty dirty, and falling apart in many areas. The pools were old looking, with rust visible. All the windows looked very dirty, and the carpets just need to be replaced. Most of the games in the game rooms didn't work, and they wouldn't change in the tokens. The elevators had issues too. Several were closed through out the cruise. Nothing to ruin my fun though!!
Inside Staterooms I'm not sure if I would ever spend the extra money on a balcony suite. We loved our inside stateroom. We were at the back of the ship, and loved it. My parents were across the hall, and they said they were nearly rocked out of the bed. Since we were in the middle, we felt nothing. We were able to sleep in because there was no window to let the light in. We loved it!! We did have some issues with it along with the ones stated above. One issue was the air was not working correctly, and it was darn hot in there. We called down the the pursers desk, and they said they would send someone up to look at it. We waited about an hour in the room, and no one came. We finally left for dinner, hoping that someone would come while we were gone. When we arrived back, nothing had changed. It was now going on 10 pm, and we wanted to sleep. The next night, I called the pursers office again, and they again told me someone would come to check it. I was in the room for the rest of the night, and still no one came. A day went by, and the purser called the room. She wanted to check to see if the air was better. I told her that it was the same, and no one came. She proceeded to tell me that some one had come up when I had called, and they fixed it. When I told her I had been in the room the whole night, she told me that they had come. She didn't seem to understand that I was in the room, and no one had come. She continued to argue with me that someone had come. I gave up, and said “Never mind, I will just write a letter to Carnival when I get home.” I then hung up on her. I don't like being called a liar. Two days later I got a letter under the door from her, saying that she was sorry I was disappointed. What a joke! Another issue was the cot. It was missing springs, and sagged to the floor. I still don't understand why we weren't given a room with a bunk. It was really hard to have three people in there. My last complaint about the room was the sheets. They didn't fit the bed. By the time we woke up, we were sleeping on bare mattress....EWWWW! When I asked the room steward about it, she said it was all they had. Again, not enough to ruin the cruise.The Ports
St. Thomas ~ Beautiful. This was our second time there, and we would go back in a heartbeat. We didn't do an excursion. We went off by ourselves. We took the sky tram to the top, and what a view. We did lots of shopping, and some geocaching..... for those who don't know what that is, it's like a giant treasure hunt.
Dominica ~ Gorgeous! My parents took a tour, and said it was their favorite place on earth. They saw the falls, and the rain forest. My mother has MS, and is on a walker. Their guide was great, they kept the air on high, and made sure to take my mother places that were accessible for walkers. They would love to go back again. We didn't do an excursion, and walked around town. It really would have been better had we not been offered drugs every 5 minutes. I would go back in a heartbeat! Next time I would do an excursion.
Barbados ~ It was beautiful, but I don't think I would go back. We took a taxi to the shopping area, and we hadn't even stopped before people were sticking their heads in and asking if we wanted a tour. The same guy asked us 4 times if we wanted a tour. I felt like I was getting bombarded. We shopped for a couple hours, then went back to the ship for swimming.
Aruba ~ This was one of my favorite islands that I have been too. You can really tell the dutch influence. It was gorgeous! We did not have an excursion their either, we just walked to the shopping areas. The prices were great. I was able to get my husband a new wedding band for far less than what I thought. I can't wait to go back there!
Closing Thoughts Would I cruise Carnival again? You bet!! I still think it is the best bang for the buck. Would I sail on Destiny again? Nope! Would I sail out of San Juan?? Doubtful. We loved all the staff (accept that purser). Everyone was very friendly. The cruise director was great (Steve Knisley). Overall, I felt the cruise was geared towards the locals of Puerto Rico. Most of the music played was Latin, most of the buffets had Latin food, and most of the deck parties played Latin music. Not a big deal, but I felt out of place. With so many people that didn't speak English, there was defiantly a language barrier. Kids were in the adult only pools, and they didn't understand why they were being asked to leave.... or they would just ignore the people asking because they didn't speak English. Plus everything took double the time (like the life drill) because it was repeated in Spanish. It was nothing that would ruin a vacation, but it still made us feel out of place.
I never let anything ruin a vacation, we paid to much, and waited to long to have a bad cruise, we just took everything in stride, and made jokes out of it. We had a ball, and can't wait to get on a ship again!
We just got back from our cruise on the Destiny (09-03-2006 to 09-10-2006). This was our fourth Carnival cruise. This time it was just my husband and I cruising (left the kids at home) and we booked our first balcony cabin. We found we used it much more than we thought we would. It's going to be hard to go back to an interior cabin after this!
AIR: I booked the air on my own. While we live in NH and the Manchester, NH airport is close to our house I ended up booking a flight out of Logan in Boston. American Airlines had a great deal when I booked back in March 2006. I booked roundtrip air on a non-stop flight for $283.00/pp. I would encourage anyone who has several airports within driving distance to them to check flight information and price at each airport. As we booked our own air we did fly into San Juan a day early to avoid any potential problems with airline delays, especially since we were traveling during hurricane season.
HOTEL: I booked the San Juan Beach Hotel for $100 per night through Hotwire. Whileit was fine for one night, I wasn't impressed. When I booked it was rated as a 3 star. In reality it was more of like a 2 star. While it was clean, there were holes in the bedspreads, the carpet was stained and the bathroom had chipped tiles and a cracked sink. There were plenty of restaurants within walking distance and it was right on the beach, so, for the price it wasn't too bad. If you're planning on staying in San Juan for more than one night, I would look at a different hotel.
BOARDING/DISEMBARKING: We arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m.. We checked in and were on board and eating lunch by 1:00 p.m. Disembarking was fine, except our luggage tags were the last ones called. We didn't get off the ship until about 12:30 p.m. As our flight out wasn't until 3:00 p.m. we weren't in any hurry. I was a really nice day so we just hung out up on the Lido deck until it was time to go. The first luggage colors weren't called until about 9:00 a.m. so I would be careful of booking an early flight from San Juan. Once we got the airport check in was a breeze. There were only about 10 people ahead of us in line and no crowd at the airport at all.
ROOM: As I mentioned earlier in this review we booked our first balcony cabin. We were in cabin 8319 which was in the rear of the ship. I loved this location as we were just one deck under the Lido. Neither my husband nor I noticed any noise. Our room steward did an excellent job. No complaints here. I did read on other reviews that some people had issues with the air conditioning in their cabins. While our cabin was very comfortable throughout the cruise, I did notice that the halls could get very warm at times. Also, we did have breakfast with several couples who were also on our deck who did have issues with their rooms being very warm, so it appears this is still an issue in some cabins.
ENTERTAINMENT: My husband and I both agreed that the shows on the Destiny beat every other cruises hands down. The production shows were fantastic. The comedians, juggler and magician were also great. We both enjoyed seeing and hearing Duke Daniels (from the Platters). Overall, we couldn't have been happier with the shows. We didn't really hang out at the Lido deck pool so I can't comment on the pool area entertainment other than to say that we saw it in the Capers and they are still doing the Hairy Chest contest, Fear Factor, Survivor, etc.
CAMP CARNIVAL: Can't comment here as we didn't travel with the kids this time. I really didn't see many kids on board.
DINING ROOMS: We had the early seating (5:45 p.m) in the Universal dining room. While the service was great (as we expected from previous Carnival cruises) I must say that the food was a letdown. We both agreed that the quality just wasn't there. Our impression was that the food in the dining room was on par with the food normally found at the buffet. The only exception to this was the prime rib, which was excellent. The desserts were very good and on par with other Carnival cruises. While we didn't go hungry, we were disappointed with the quality.
Pizza, the NY Deli and the Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) were all good. The Asian place (can't remember the name) was hit or miss. The buffet was ok. Some things were better than others, but again, the quality of the food was not was it's been on other ships.
While it didn't ruin our cruise and we didn't go hungry, overall we were disappointed with the food quality on this ship. SHIPS CONDITION: This is an older ship and I found it to be in good repair, clean and comfortable. Everyone I went there was someone cleaning something. I didn't see any stained carpet or disrepair. I know some people have commented that they felt the ship wasn't at its best but I have to disagree.
EXCURSIONS: St. Thomas: We grabbed a taxi and went to Coki beach. Taxi was $9/pp each way. Beach chair rentals were $5/pp and an umbrella was $10. The beach is gorgeous and really wasn't crowded. The snorkeling was great. We brought our own masks and snorkels and just rented the fins ($5/pp). There are restaurants and bars right along the beach and there is a restroom and fresh water showers. We had a great day there and would go back again.
Dominica: We booked the river tubing directly through Wacky Rollers. It was $60/pp and we had a blast. The river was moving pretty quickly and the water was about Class II. We had about 14 people in our group with 6 guides. I felt very safe doing this excursion. Everyone had to wear a life vest and we all had a paddle. After we were done we went back to the ship, got cleaned up, had lunch and still had time to shop at the pier. I found the people of Dominica to be very friendly. While people tried to get you to come into their stalls, they weren't at all pushy about it. A simple no thank you was fine.
Barbados: We booked a 5 hour Catamaran trip through Heatwave. It was $60/pp and included lunch and open bar (they had a full bar). There were 10 of us on the Catamaran (6 from the ship and 4 from a resort) and we all agreed that this was the best excursion we've ever taken. We went swimming and snorkeling with the sea turtles and snorkeling over two ship wrecks. We then went to the Boatyard where we had full use of all of their equipment. It was best day of the cruise! Aruba: We had another beach day at Palm Beach. We went to Moomba Bay and relaxed for the day. It was $10/each way for the taxi and $5 for beach chairs. They had restaurants and bars there was well as restrooms and a fresh water shower. We stayed there until about 6 pm, went back to the ship, had dinner and then walked around downtown Aruba until 9:30 when we had to be back on board.
WEATHER/SEAS: Weather was great the entire week and seas were calm. While there was a shower in St. Thomas it blew over very quickly. We couldn't have asked for better weather. If there are any other questions or other information you would like to get about the ship or my experience, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. Put in the subject line Carnival Destiny so that I don't accidentally delete it.
We again had a great time on the Destiny. We both loved the itinerary and even with the food quality we would sail her again.
Reality check here. The ship is nice the service good, and the food good. Then why would I not recommend the cruise??
embarkation- a joke. Disorganized and a horrible start to a vacation type of people attracted. First off, understand that this cruise draws a large, and I mean large minority population. That is a good thing, re diversity. Problem is the P Diddy wannabees, the rappers, and thugs, those that would urinate off the balcony, those that dress in Doo-Rags for formal night, and the people who have a talent of making themselves out the fool. Barbados- beautiful but overpriced Island. Just not fun disembarkation- bigger joke.
Carnival-you want repeat cruisers, take care of the four problems. You want one time spenders, keep doing what you are doing.
Next time: Royal Carribean. I have cruised before, and probably will not do it again on a 'not so much fun-ship
Please forgive me if this is too long. It was my first cruise and it took a while to write all the things down I wanted to remember.
Saturday - San Juan San Juan Puerto Rico is a lovely place. The hotel we stayed at was in a section called Coronado along the north coast of Puerto Rico. We walked around the area and along the beach. It was hot and lovely. The area is actually on of the ritzly areas. We ended up at this little place called Place of Angels. We tried native dishes. Most of them I couldn't even name. HAHAHA Everything was wonderful. We ended up the evening at an outdoor lounge call Moorings. I didn't realize until later that the mosquitoes had chewed my legs up. *scratch scratch* When we got back to the room and got into bed, we couldn't get to sleep. Iâ?Tm TOO EXCITED to sleep. heheheh
Sunday - Launch day from San Juan We took a cab to the docks and checked in at the dock. We were a bit early but were able to drop off our stuff and wander aroundOld San Juan. If you love historic cities then this is a must see place. The cobble stones were an amazing blue in color. I've never seen the like. I found out later that many of the stones were ballast (iron) from the many ships that came to the island. These are the forts that we walked to while wandering through Old San Juan. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/60sanjuan/60sanjuan.htm We wandered all over town looking at the lovely architecture. You are steeped in history here.
We went to Senor Frogs before getting on the boat and had Yards of Margaritas. HAHAHA We wobbled back to the boat and picked up our carry on luggage. We were lured into the Duty Free store and Klaus saw bottles of goodies that he could not pass up. We were told that you can't bring booze on the ship. The guy at the duty free store said put them in your backpack and they never check it. Sure enough... they didn't. We had a closet full of booze. HAHAHA
Our suite was wonderful. Our bag was waiting in our cabin when we got there so we quickly unpacked everything and did some scouting around the ship before dinner. We ate dinner in the Galaxy dining room, we were seated with a nice couple. Come to find out it was their first cruise as well AND they are from Windsor (right across the river). HAHAHAHA So we had much in common to talk about. I had a lovely chicken dish the first night. After dinner we had our safety drill and we pulled away from San Juan at 10pm. We wandered the ship for awhile enjoying the view and the people. We knew we were going to have an early day the next day so we headed back to the cabin around 1am. Most of our traveling on the ship was at night. We were rocked to sleep that night on our way to St. Thomas.
Monday - St. Thomas We woke up in the morning already docked in St. Thomas. I opened up my curtains to a lovely large bay. We took a cab to a place called coral world right next to coki beach. http://www.coralworldvi.com/ Here's more pictures: http://www.pbase.com/2112/st_thomas_2005 The water was soo clear and in the park I was able to touch star fish and other sea creatures. After the park, we walked to the beach for a swim. The water was so clear and it was amazing how many fish I saw just walking through the water. We showered up after swimming with the fishes. hahaha The salt water makes me itch when I get out of the ocean but I love going in there. We caught a cab back into town. The drive to and from the beach were amazing. Its so lush and green. A short walk from the beach is a tram ride up the side of a mountain called Paradise Point Skyride. Its looks over the bay where the ship was docked. http://www.stthomasskyride.com/ We took in the view which was spectacular and had a beer. We took the skyride down the mountain to the shopping area. I'm not a big shopper but I did want to pick up a few trinkets and t-shirt if I could find one. We had to be back on the ship by 4:30 so we strolled back to the ship to drop off treasures. I say strolled because it was HOT. hahaha No fast walking at all. It was pretty much that for the entire trip. We got back onto the ship and went to the lido deck to watch us sail from port and watch the sun go down. It was spectacular. That first night we went to the dining room for dinner. It was our first night with the people who we would be eating dinner with the rest of the trip. At our table was the same couple from Windsor HAHAHAHA, a couple from further north Canada and a couple from San Francisco on their honeymoon. The conversation flowed and we all got along. Our head waiter, Vladimir, was great. He was very knowledgeable as well as entertaining. Everything looked amazing. I dove into the lobster. MMmmmmm After dinner, we wandered up to the Lido deck (pool area) where they had a big party going on. All of the people were very happy and making fools of themselves. It was great. We hung out on deck until the party ended. We had another early day in Dominica so had to get to bed.
Tuesday - Dominica Happy Valentine's Day. We woke up in time to watch us pull into port at Dominica. What a magnificent island. It's a volcanic island so it's all mountains and lush forests. This island is not one of the commercial ones with resorts and all of the tourist trappings. You could see how much it was raining at the tops of the mountains from where we were. We purchases our only ship excursion here. We picked the Ariel-tram thought the rainforest. We were able to catch a small breakfast before having to leave on the tour. The ride up to the tram was an adventure in itself. HAHAHA The roads were very narrow and only one vehicle could drive on them at a time. When one van met another, I don't even know how they picked who had the right of way. The roads were etched along the sides of the mountains. When I looked out my window, all I saw was sheer drops down. EKKKKK! hahaha The drivers would honk before every curve because you couldn't see around the corner on the one lane road. We get to the tram (our ears popped) in about 45 minutes or so. We had our own guide in the van who told us all about the history of the island as we made our way up the island. I brought rain ponchos with me and put it on before boarding the tram. Hey.. its a rainforest.. it rains. hehehee The tram sat 8 people, two side by side and the guide in the back. It was amazing how much care they put into constructing this. Little to no harm to the rainforest but then it does grow very quickly. We had to keep our hands in the tram because of how close to the trees we would get. Our guide was so friendly and knowledgeable about all of the flora and fauna. We rode over a huge gorge and saw one of the many rivers. The plants were amazing. We rode through the bottom part of the rainforest on the way up and through the canopy on the way back down. I've always wanted to see this. It was amazing. The ride back down the mountain was just as fun as the ride up. When we got to town we walked through the market place and stopped at this one place to have a local beer and some rum punch. We boarded the ship and stood on the Lido deck watching us pull away from Dominica and went to the other side of the ship to watch another beautiful sunset. Tonight we had a formal night for dinner so we got all dressed up. For dinner, I had roast duck. OMG! It was so good. We went to one of the shows after dinner. It was a Vegas type show and it was great. After the show, we got changed. I stayed in the casino a bit but I'm not much of a gambler so I went up to the Lido deck to watch all of the fun and listen to the band. I wandered back to my cabin when the band finished playing. I really don't know what time it was. HAHAHA
I realize I haven't spoken much about the ship. I'll give you my impressions of it after I go through all the stuff I did.
Wednesday - Barbados We were a bit undecided before arriving at Barbados where we would go. We decided to go on a natural cave tour. http://harrisonscave.com We grabbed a cab just off of the terminal. The cab driver was great. He was very friendly and told us a little about the island as we drove along. Barbados is not a volcanic made island so it is very flat. It actually sits on coral. You ride through the huge cave on an electric tram. It take about 45 minutes to take the whole tour. Harrison's is rated one of the top caves in the world and I saw why. There were natural fresh water streams running through the cave system so there was water everywhere and it rained on us inside the cave. HAHAHA It was truly a magnificent natural wonder. There was a large pool with a water fall that we were able to stand next to and I was able to put my hand out and feel the water. I'll never forget it when the driver showed us how dark a cave can be. We sat in the tram when she turned off the lights and I've never been in anything that dark. Not even the darkest night is not THAT dark. You see absolutely nothing. *shiver* Our cab driver waited for us until we got out of the tour and drove us back to the ship. Every place we've been, the cab drivers had been like this. It didn't cost us any extra but they would always either wait for us or come get us at a particular time that we set. When we got back to the ship it was early so we decided to try to catch one of the booze cruises. That didn't work out so we went to Malibu Beach which is right next to the Malibu Rum plant. We didn't take the tour but ate at a cafe on the beach and went swimming and walking along the surf. The sand was like fine powder. I picked up several pieces of white coral that washed up on the beach. I think Barbados is more on the poor side. There were people all over the place trying to sell you something. The sun was HOT. I spent most of my time in the water. I don't like to bake. We ended up getting a afternoon snack at the cafe. A fish sandwich and this dish called Bajan fish cakes. MMMmmmmmmmm They were spicy and wonderful. After that it was back to the boat to get cleaned up. Every night we watch as we left the docks then watched the sunset into the ocean. Dinner that night was so much fun. The waiters sang and danced for us. HAHAHA I had sea scallops on a very light pasta. MMMmmmmm.. I can't say that I had a bad meal at any time on the ship. We went down to watch the jazz band after dinner. It was sooooo damn cold in there that we only stayed for one set. To warm up, I spent time up on the Lido deck as the party raged on. We knew we could sleep in the next day so I stayed with the party until the band stopped playing then it was off to bed.
Thursday - at sea on the way to Aruba. I didn't realize that Aruba was only 15 miles from Venezuela which is why it takes so long to get there. We got up and knew we were going to be by the pool most of the day so we took our stuff and headed up to the pool. All of the lounge chairs were claimed around the pool. We found some behind the band under the running track. In hindsight, this was the perfect spot to be. I had shade the whole time and being behind the speakers, I could listen without it being blared in my ears. Through this whole trip, I had been slathering up with 30 SPF and I'm glad I did. OMG!! By the end of the day, people were lobsters who where out there baking in the sun. This day was actually very relaxing. I would read, listen to the band, sip cocktails and get up to watch the goings on over the balcony. They had contests pretty much most of the afternoon. For lunch, they had a mini-buffet of Indian food (Gandi not Geronimo). It was great. In the afternoon, I decided to go down to the lounge for high tea. I spent some time in the hot tub and the slide was open so you know I had to try that. I got on it and I screamed the whole way down as I was whipped around. I had my hands over my eyes it was so fast and when I hit the bottom I got a snoot full of water. HAHAHAHA The guy in charge of it was laughing so hard. I've never seen anyone do THAT. I came up sputtering and laughing so hard. That night was the next formal dinner. It was also the Grand Gala midnight Buffet. I ate this seafood Newburg that was outstanding. We walked around the ship and I ended up taking a stroll around to the back of the ship and watched them close up the moon pool. At midnight, we walked through the Grand Buffet and took pictures. Everything was made from edible things. If I wasn't so damn full from dinner, I would have dove into the buffet. HAHAHAA Everything was so beautiful. I give the chefs two thumbs up for display. I do have pictures of that as well. After that we knew we would have a early day. We went back to the cabin and sat on the balcony watching the moonlight on the water and had a final cocktail for the evening.
Friday - Aruba I woke up as we docked in Aruba. I wasn't sure what to expect here with all the news and everything. As soon as they let us out, we caught a cab to this place called Moomba Beach. http://www.moombabeach.com/web_new/index_2.htm We wanted to catch this snorkle/booze cruise that was located there. Jolly Pirates.. Arrrrrrr http://www.jollypirates.com We were not part of a large group so we were on the smaller ship going out which was great because the other ship was crowded. Our captain was Jolio http://www.jollypirates.com/crew1.htm and he really deserved this award. He and his crew were so much fun. They made awesome rum punch (Pirate Poison). We weren't sure about the weather but it cleared up nicely. We went to the first site which was a very easy snorkle site. It took me a minute to remember my scuba lessons on how to breath right. After that I was all over the place. It was amazing. They let us stay there for about 30 minutes then we went to the next stop which was a bit deeper. There was a rope swing off the side of the boat and they let us swing off the side. Jolio swung off the side and did flips. He also took a couple of the girls on his back and swung off to do flips with them. It was great. Of course, you know I had to swing off there. hehehe After all of the swinging fun, we got to snorkle around there as well. Then it was off to our last spot. It was over a sunken WWII freighter. This was a bit further out to sea and was a bit rough. I went right in and the ship was amazing. I did take pictures at all three sites so when I develop them you'll get to see them. The whole time on board the booze flowed freely. We sipped punch and had a nice little BBQ lunch that was brought to us via a little inflatable boat by the ship wreck. After lunch, we sailed back to land. It was a wonderful way to spend part of the day. The whole thing started at 9:30 and we got back to land around 2pm. The cab driver who brought us there said he would meet us back there when the ship came into port since cabs were hard to find there. And when we got there, he was waiting. I can't imagine an american cabby doing this... EVER. We decided to go back to the ship to shower up. The shopping area for Aruba was right off the dock from our ship so we decided to wander around there. Aruba is filled with upscale shopping. I was pretty much interested in little trinkets to bring home. In Aruba, we had a long stay from 8am to 10pm. They were getting ready for Carnival and people had already saved up space on the sidewalks for the parades. You could see the Dutch influence everywhere but this is a very latin island. We stopped at this little cuban place and had a local beer. It was very hot out. We wandered through this resort that was right off the water and there were iguanas everywhere. hahaha We stopped in at this little place to have a snack at 5. I just had chicken fingers because I was still full from the lunch we had on the ship. We didn't plan on having dinner on the ship this day since we were going to be there the longest. We got to our ship to drop off our stuff and went out after sunset. We went to this little place called Cafe Bahia. There was a singer and she was great. We stayed there through one set and then walked around town for a bit before getting back on the ship. As was now our habit, we watched as we pulled away from Aruba. We knew that the next night was going to be at sea so we were going to be up late. I went up on the Lido deck and watched all of the people having fun with their compititions. It was bathrobe party night. Some of the men were wearing their girls bikini's under the robes. OMG!! Men in thong bikinis. I'm sure I wasn't suppose to see everything I did. HAHAHAHA During the voyage I met this guy from Detroit down river area and we would talk for a bit. That night we had a few beers together and watched the other people loose their minds. HAHAHAHA
Saturday - At sea back to San Juan. I woke up to the gentle sway of the ocean. It was our last day. We went up on deck to claim our chairs. Today the wind was brisk where we picked out seats and I was cold. We decided to spend part of the time wandering the ship and exploring. There was a debriefing for all of us on the procedures we had to follow to get off the ship the next day. It was mostly information but partly comedy act. One couple got a prize and were from Michigan. They happened to be sitting next to us for the briefing. I guess they had so much champagne all ready. They gave us one of the bottles they got at a prize. For lunch we went to the buffet. We hadn't been on it the whole trip. It was outstanding. I had veal tidbits with a side of rice, a fried chicken leg, bread and a small cesear salad. MMmmmmmm In the afternoon, we found a spot on the Lido deck and warmed up then spent some time packing and enjoying our balcony sipping the champagne we were given. That night before dinner there was a magic show and the guy was really good. Dinner was great as usual and the waiters sang to us. I had seafood pasta this night one of my all time favorites. All of us at the table lingered over dinner. We traded emails. After dinner, I went up and changed my shoes and went to the bars on the ship that I hadn't had the opportunity to go to before this. I sat at the piano bar and sang along with the group then popped into the disco. I danced for a while then headed up to the Lido deck for one last look before heading back down to the cabin.
Sunday - San Juan.... sigh... We woke up docked in San Juan. I was trying to think of some way to barricade myself in my cabin so I wouldn't have to leave. HAHAHAHA I couldn't believe how fast it went. We watched along the side from our balcony as a refuel ship came along side to get her ready for the next people. We had already filled out our customs forms. There really wasn't much to declare. After we got off the ship, we found a place to store our luggage so we could walk around Old San Juan. We wanted to go to the other point of the Fort that we hadn't seen before. It was just amazing. The fields leading up to the Fort from the town was alive with people jogging and families flying kites. All kinds of kites with brilliant colors. The Fort guarded the entrance to the bay and you could feel the history all around you. We found out that the Bacardi plant was right across the bay. One of the park rangers stopped by us and told us the history of a little stretch of land on the other point from the Fort. It was the leper colony. O_O He also told us the best way to get over to the plant. Old San Juan is all hill. We were walking up and down all morning. HAHAHA We wandered back down to the bay and caught the local public ferry across the bay for $1 and caught a cab for $3 a piece to the Barcardi plant. It was very cool. The tour was free and they gave you two free drinks. This was the cheapest thing we did ALL trip. HAHAHAHA The tour was detailed and amazing. After the tour and getting back to Old San Juan, we stopped in at Carlos and Charlies to grab a late lunch. I had a chicken chimmi but the fajitas were so much better. Yummmmm We picked up our luggage and headed back to the hotel. This one wasn't too far from the other place we stayed at so we knew the area. My feet were killing me from the workout I gave them in the morning. I wore comfortable shoes but they don't usually see this much action. We relaxed at the hotel and decided to go out for a bit after the sun went down. We ended up at the same little place we were before. People started wandering in and we would over hear conversations. Come to find out, most of us had come off of the same ship. *LMAO* We all talked about who was flying back to where and when. The guy behind the bar was making killer drinks. He made this very tasty Sangria that was not the normal wine and fruit mix. I'll have to try it at home. We had one final authentic dish between us and headed back to the hotel. I didn't want to leave.
Monday - Back to reality We got up and took a cab to the airport. It was going to be a long day in the air. We left San Juan at 10:15am and arrived in Detroit at 8:30pm with lots of time changes and miles. By the time we got home it was getting right into bed since we had to get up for work the next day. We didn't even unpack.
Let's talk about the ship.....
It is a huge ship. Since I knew I was going to be eating my fair share, I actually spend more time taking the stairs between decks then not. By the end of the trip, my feet were getting pretty tired so I would take the elevators if it was more then three floors either way. The hallways through the cabins were just like any other hotel but I did get to peek into other cabins while the stewards were cleaning up. I'm VERY happy with my suite. The inside cabins looked very tiny with no windows. I realize that I'm totally spoiled by my first trip. Getting dressed for dinner was always a nice ritual. Dinner was at a set time and if you got there a little early you had to wander around a bit to wait to get in. Convienently located next to the dining room are the walls of pictures. You got your picture taken at EVERY port getting of the ship at multiple stations. They had photographers at both formal dinners taking pictures at the table and there were more photographers taking pictures with all kinds of different backgrounds. People could have 6-9 different formal sittings for pictures if they wanted to in one night. O_O We only did ONE. I'll be the first to admit. I do not, in general, take good pictures. We did pick out two pictures from the trip that we thought were the best of the lot.
I thought our cabin was in a great spot. I over heard some people complaining about the temp in thier cabin but ours always seemed just right. Only one night I got to use the jacuzzi tub. HAHAHA Just down the hall was the staircase and elevators. Going up two flights was the Lido deck. Going forward and down from our cabin was the dining room. The large atrium by the dining room was all lit up and the floors were marble. It was a bit of a hike to get all the way around the ship on the upper decks. Unlike being on the Titanic. The very tip of the front of the ship is not open to the public so there were no "I'm the king of the WORLD." moments to be had. HAHAHA The back of the ship was square and there was a retractable roof over the pool and two jacuzzi's. I watched them close it one night and it was cool to see. At the very top of the ship, there was a small topless deck. I never did go up there. During the days at sea there were just too many other things to do and I'm not one to lay out and bake much to begin with.
I didn't meet one crew member that wasn't very friendly and wished me a good day. My cabin steward was great. He always kept the ice bucket full and made the most amazing towel critters. They were always sitting on the bed before getting ready for dinner. HAHAA you know I took pictures of them.
Our head waiter, Vladamir was a young blond god from Slovenia. He was very funny and did his job fantastic. Our dinner was always great and never late. One night at dinner several of the waiters did a backstreet boys routine. HAHAHA They were great.
At the first night at dinner, the dining rooms were split into three teams(Red, White and Blue). My table was on the Blue team. Every night the matre de would report on how many points each team earned that day so far. All of the competitions through out the day and night were between people on the three separate teams. It was a riot. People where carrying these wooden ponies on a stick which they decorated with various stuff and carried those damn things everywhere. So whenever you saw the pony with your color you yelled out. GO BLUEEEE! hahaha And thats how you cheered for your team. When we got back and were sitting at that little place in San Juan after we all realized we were from the ship... GO BLUEE.. GO WHITE!!! HAHAHA Come to find out the Blue team won the competition.
I'm very glad we didn't buy bunches of tours through the ship. They ended up being very expensive and we did save money doing it on our own but I can understand why people would be intimidated by it. One of the things I was always on top of was making sure I was back around the ship in plenty of time before departure. The ship WILL leave without you. We heard through the ship gossip vine that one couple did get left in Barbados. They got trashed and fell asleep on the beach and didn't wake up in time to get back on the boat. They had to fly to Aruba from there and catch the ship.
On the Lido deck, there were guys serving up people drinks everywhere. I swear this is how they really make their money. Drink prices are pretty much the same as if you would buy them at a club or bar. We had our own stash but still ended up paying a hefty bar bill but then I expected it so I wasn't surprised.
The last subject.. I swear... REALLY HAHAHAHA. Food.... *burp* You can litereally eat 24 hours a day on board. No wonder people say they gain at least 10 pounds on a cruise. I gained two pounds but then I didn't indulge in everything they had to offer. There were the three main meals a day. Breakfast lasted until noon then lunch lasted until around 4. Main dinner was at what ever time your sitting was but you didn't have to miss out. The buffet dinner was open from 5 to 9:30. The pizza station was open 24 hours and on the lido deck there were hamburgers and hotdogs from 8pm to 11:30pm. *groan* The ice cream machine was on ALL the time. On the Lido deck, they would have mini buffet that features foods from around the world. I tasted Indian one day, Thai one day and mexican another day. The Grand Buffet I've already mentioned before. They only did one of these on this trip but I've heard that they use to do this every night in the past. I can only imagine and feel bloated. HAAHAHA From what I saw, you could dine any way you want. fancy, not fancy.. room service.. any junk you wanted. I usually snacked on a little something for breakfast on the Lido deck. They had scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, french toast, waffles, omelets, fruit, cereal and yogart. Just image what the serve at the BIG buffet and in the dining room. HAHAHAHA The pig in me wanted to belly up. The sane part of my brain wanted to fit in my pants when I got off the boat. :P~~~~~~ Oh the humanity. I did see people who never stopped eating and in the back of my mind.... I wanted to as well. *LMAO*
Mark and Stacey: Married couple mid-30's.Just got back from our Southern Caribbean cruise. This is our fifth cruise, all with Carnival; this one was
by far the best cruise. The food has improved 110% from two years ago and the Southern Caribbean and the Destiny were great. We took the taxi from the airport to the cruise ship terminal, 20 min ride and it cost $20 + tip. All the taxis were out front, we like the taxi because you do not have to wait for the Carnival transfer.
Embarkation was slow, as usual, about 45 min to get our Sail & Sign card and then another line for security to get on to the boat. We had a balcony cabin 7240, on the Empress deck. The Empress deck is great because you can walk down two levels and you are on the Promenade deck (casino, bars, dance club, shops, and theater) - up two levels and you are at the Lido deck (pools, Sun & Sea restaurant, pool bar). The balcony room was worth the money!
We had the late seating in the Galaxy dinning room. We had the bestserver Csaba from Hungary, AKA: Chubby. If you are taking this cruise ask the Matride for his section, you will not be disappointed! As I said above the food has improved on Carnival. We had great meals all week and if you try something and do not like it Chubby will bring you something else off the menu. The 24-hour pizza was OK, the pizza sucks but the Calzones were really good. The NY Deli makes a great Rubin; you will not believe the amount of meat on the sandwich!
The Casino staff had some nice dealers and some that did not want to talk. The three dealers we really enjoyed talking with: Gabriela from Romania and Javier from Spain and Tamas AKA: Dangerous! He will teach you any casino game; "you put the money down on the table and he will take it away, that is how you play" or his other famous line when you win "nice dealer". Out of all the casino games we won money on roulette playing just odd or even / black or red.
St. Thomas- we took a taxi to Sapphire Beach, about a 20 min taxi ride and $10 per person one-way. It was a great beach, sandy entrance to the clear blue water, beautiful views of St. John in the distance, a reef for snorkeling (I saw rays, turtles and tons of fish), clean rest rooms, a bar / restaurant and a dive / snorkel shop. Beach chairs are $5, plenty of sunshine and shade, not crowded. If you are snorkeling and want to see the fish real close take a box of corn flakes with you from the ship, open them in the water and the fish will be all over you.
Dominica - AKA: at sea day. No beaches in Dominica? We walked around the town, did some shopping, and then back to the ship for lunch by the pool. Beautiful looking island and the people were nice but they need a beach.
Barbados - OK here is your first Shore Excursion on a budget tip, I call it Turtle encounter and beach day. Take the taxi to Malibu Beach $3 per person, beach chairs and umbrella $5. If you do not want a beach chair just walk down the beach and toss you beach towel on the beach, save more money. Malibu beach is owned the Malibu Rum Company; they make the rum on site. They have a little gift shop, clean rest rooms, tours of the rum factory, a bar, a restaurant, and waiters on the beach. The only bad thing about Barbados is the beaches are all public; the wave runner, sailboat, and the banana boat guys will ask you if you want to take a ride. If you want to great have fun all of the rides are there at Malibu beach. Now turtle time: walk down the beach to the right of Malibu beach and look out into the water you will see some large barrels floating in the water and some boats anchored, you will be right in front of the Texaco refinery. You will see all the shore tour catamarans anchored by the floating barrels. It is about a 50-yard swim from the beach to the turtles. Do not forget the corn flakes! The turtles and fish like the corn flakes. For lunch get the Hamburger in BBQ sauce, very good. For under $15 pp you can do your beach, snorkeling, swim with the turtles and lunch in Barbados.
Fun Day at Sea - food, beer, sun, and a long nap back in the cabin. VACATION at its best. Plenty of room for sun or shade on the decks, I notice they moved the Lido deck stage to make more deck room.
Aruba - If you liked my suggestion and Shore Excursion in Barbados wait until you hear this one. You can do the world famous Palm Beach and snorkeling for under $5 per person. After you get off the ship go directly across the street to the main bus terminal, ask for bus L10 or 10 for $2 you get a round trip ticket or you can pay $1.50 on way. The bus will stop at Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, or it will take you to Malmok Beach. Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are nice in the resort area but nothing to see under water. We got off the bus at the first Palm Beach bus stop about a 10 min bus ride from the cruise ship. The rent chairs for $5 each or you can just sit on your Carnival beach towel for free. All the hotels have bathrooms, bars, and restaurants open to the public. After lunch we went back to the main street in the hotel zone and waited for the bus, they run every 15 minutes. We took the bus to Malmok Beach, this is where the bus makes it U turn and heads back to the terminal. Malmok beach is good for snorkeling, no sand just moon rock for the coast. There is set of stairs built into the moon rock to walk down to a little sandy area for entering the water. Just to the left of the stairs were very cool under water caves you can venture into. If you want a sandy beach walk down the beach about 50 yards and you will see some grass huts and a sandy beach area, look for the houses with the red roofs right off the beach in front of those homes is great snorkeling and a large coral reef with tons of fish, star fish, and octopus (yes, real live octopus). Make sure you eat before you head up to Malmok Beach, this is a locals beach with no facilities. While we were waiting for the bus at Malmok Beach we picked some Aloe growing wild right next to the bus stop. The bus ride back to the cruise ship was around 20 minutes and it cost use $1.50 pp. The people of Aruba are great and very friendly. We got back on the ship, cleaned up and had dinner; then went back shopping and drinks at the famous Carlos N Charlie's.
Fun Day at Sea - Get a lounge chair early or do what we did, go to the topless optional area; no one is ever topless but you have plenty of room, lounge chairs, and tons of sun.
Debarkation went very fast, they called our tag color before 9am. We had a late flight 4:30 back to DC so we did the island / shopping tour right out side the cruise ship terminal you will see the white vans lined up. For $25 they take you on a short tour of San Juan, shopping in old San Juan for two hours, and lunch at a local restaurant. Your luggage is locked in the van the entire time. After lunch they will take you to the airport. Sure beats taking a taxi and seating in the airport for 6 hours.
And now I am seating in VA, 27 degrees and looking at the Carnival book for our '07 vacation. Hope this helps. The Destiny was in great shape and looked good. I recommend this cruise and ship to anyone.
We just got home from a week on the Destiny and although the ports and excursions were excellent the ship itself needs lots of work. We were the second cruise since it left drydock but from what we encountered I'm thinking the ship could have used alot more down time.
During the seven days we sailed we saw more workers in coveralls than we have seen on all of our other five cruises combined. There was constant repair work being done and in some parts of the ship there were mounds of carpet rolls waiting to be put down. One night we watched guests trying to slip under, around, and through masking tape X's that were uses to block the entrances and exits from the dining area to the rear pool as the workers were on a break from their carpet job. We spent lots of time searching for coffee machines and ice machines that were working and most evenings it was a 20 minute walk to find a functioning ice cream machine. Some of the guests waited two days to get hot water and on some decks there seemed tobe a sewage smell that never went away. We saw many decks with wet vacs in the hallways and it was obvious that the ships crew were dealing with many issues. Also, air conditioning on some of the decks was non-existent and on the decks it went from cool to unbearably hot. In our hallway [deck 8] the overhead vents were always blowing warm to hot air but luckily our staterooms were bearable. The stairwells were like blast furnaces.
We felt sorry for the staff as they seemed to be doing whatever they could to solve any problems but many of the passengers were rightfully upset and venting their frustrations on them. Speaking of the crew, they seemed to be really understaffed and after talking to one of our waiters I got the impression that Carnival had sent many of them to staff the boats for FEMA in the Gulf Coast. I understand that the hurricane relief effort comes first BUT Carnival promises a trip that will exceed our expectations and after this trip I would be hard pressed to recommend this ship to my friends. Carnival owes more to their customers and their own staff. If the ship isn't ready and can't be fully staffed Carnival should take the responsibility and fix things so we get the quality of cruise that what we paid for.
We want to go back to the Southern Caribbean again but are researching other cruise lines. The islands and related excursions were the best we've ever experienced but the Destiny needs some major work before we'd ever take it again.
We just returned from the 2/20 sailing of the Destiny. Of all the cruises we've been on, 5 of which are Carnival, this was different. The ports of call were all very nice, especially Dominica and Aruba but what made this different were the people. The check-in was flawless and fast, the room was clean and ready, our dining table nr 332,early seating was fabulous ! Constantine and Stephen were a riot, the best wait team we've head.
The Casino - I ended up losing however the dealers, Monique,Patience and Matthew were pleasant and talkative. The Pit crew, Sara, Peter, and especially Michael Labus went the extra step each and everytime you sat down or walked by. Pleasant, outgoing ready to do whatever you needed. They were terrific. If I could duplicate this experience I'd leave again Sunday !
BACKGROUND I went on this trip with my boyfriend (his first cruise), my stepdad (his third cruise) and my mother (her seventh cruise). This was my fourth cruise, first with Carnival. I previously sailed the western Caribbean on the Celebrity Mercury (2000) and Norwegian Wind (2003). I sailed the eastern Caribbean on the Holland America Westerdam (1998). I am 23 years old and my mother and stepdad are in their 50s.
EMBARKATION We arrived in San Juan around 4:30pm, waiting a very long time for our luggage and stood in line for a taxi. If you take a taxi to the port, which was easy and cheaper than the ship's transfer service, you go to the Ground Transportation station right outside the baggage claim, tell them what ship and they tell you how much. They will give you a slip of paper with the amount and destination which you give to the driver (this helps to avoid confusion with the language). With 2 people and 4 large pieces of luggage (and carry-ons), it cost us $19.50 to get to the port, about a 15-20 minute ride. Our taxi driver was crazy- please wear your seatbelt.
The building at the port was very nice and roomy, we must have been lucky for the time we arrived because the lines were so short. The process is a maze, moving you from one room to the next and through hallways and up stairs, it was a little confusing but we were on the ship within 30 minutes.
We entered the ship on Deck 0, a crummy looking deck that is only used for the gangway, so don't judge the ship by first impressions.
When we received our Sail and Sign card, we saw we did not get our late seating for dinner, we instead got the earliest seating. We went to the Matier'd (sp) Babu and he quickly changed our arrangements so that we had the late seating we wanted. He was a wonderful Matier'd (sp?). We also wanted to manually tip at the end of the cruise instead of the automatic tipping. After standing in line for short time at the information desk, we asked them to take the automatic tip charge off our account so that we could tip on our own and they did, no questions asked.
CABIN We were on the 8th deck - the Verandah Deck with an inside cabin (8233). According to square footage, this was the largest cabin I'd been in, but it felt like the smallest. The bathroom was the largest I'd seen at sea, with a wonderful full-tile shower, lots of storage and a removable shower head. There is a line in the shower for hanging wet clothes.
No need to bring body wash, there is a dispenser of Lever 2000 Aloe Vera Body Wash in the shower as well as Shampoo, but I don't know what kind of shampoo it was. There was also a basket of other toiletries to use (I think it changes each cruise depending on which company's products are donated) but in our room, it included toothpaste (many different flavors), a toothpick, Pantene shampoo and conditioner, two nice shavers and some coupons.
The beds were very comfortable and each had two very fluffy pillows. One disadvantage to pushing the twins together to make a king size bed is that each bed has twin sized linens, so it is hard to get close and still stay warm with your loved one.
Luggage fits nicely under the beds, plenty of storage space but not enough hangars in the closets, about 10 total. There are nice reading lights above each side of the bed.
The electrical outlets in the rooms seem to cause a problem as well. There was one in the bathroom that said "Shavers Only," and two on the vanity that said "No Hairdryers or Irons" The hairdryer provided in the bathroom was terrible so I decided to ignore the warning and plug my hairdryer into the outlets on the vanity. It worked fine, my hairdryer is 1875 watts and the outlet said 110V. I honestly don't know how Carnival can expect guest to use the hairdryers provided, especially for women with thick hair.
Each deck has a laundry room complete with coin-operated washers and dryers ($2 a load) as well as an iron and ironing board. There is also a coin machine for detergent ($1).
STAFF The staff was friendlier than I expected considering the automatic tips. We opted to manually tip at the end of the cruise and had no probably asking the staff at the information desk to take the automatic tip charge off our account. Our cabin steward, Fery, was wonderful, always saying hi and addressing us by name. Our dining room team was great as well, dancing and singing every night. We had no complaints about the staff and found them to be very courteous and always smiling.
FOOD I was very impressed with the food on this Carnival ship. Having sailed on Holland America, a cruise line rated very highly for their food, I thought Carnival was just as good. The breakfast buffet was just ok, so we had breakfast in the dining room and room service. It was great - you have a few more choices in the dining room such as Eggs Benedict. Room service is wonderful if you feel like avoiding the crowds and want some privacy in the morning.
We ate lunch at the Grille and the New York Deli. The Grille had hot dogs, burgers, veggie burgers, steak sandwiches and grilled chicken - the veggie burger was especially good. The New York Deli was also excellent, with hot and cold sandwiches. I enjoyed the turkey and tuna sandwiches the most and my boyfriend had the smoked salmon/cream cheese on a bagel. We found the Grille and Deli to be healthier than the buffet. Dinner was absolutely wonderful. I still think Holland America has the best dinner, Celebrity second and NCL's was ok. Carnival now takes second place. We ate dinner every night in the dining room, because you are silly if you don't take advantage of this five-star restaurant quality food. Large variety every night. There were low fat, vegetarian and low carb options as well. The appetizers ranged from Fresh Fruit in Peach Schnapps to Caviar and Smoked Salmon. Soups from Corn Chowder to Chilled Mango Soup. Only two choices for salads. Examples of dinner entrees were grouper, Beef Wellington, Weiner schnitzel, duck and quail. There were no dishes that we didn't like.
Dessert had its standards like sherbets and a low fat option like poached pears. Also the best Key Lime Pie I ever had.
FITNESS CENTER The fitness center was very large, machines modern and in great condition and the room well decorated and laid out. Panoramic view off the front of the ship and whirl pool as well as a sauna. Large enough that it never feels crowded. There were tons of treadmills, two elliptical machines, some stair climbers, free weights, rowing machines and a large variety of weight machines. One of the best fitness centers I've seen at sea.
ACTIVITIES I was surprised that the "fun ship" didn't have as many activities going on as was on our cruise with the Norwegian Wind. There was almost always live (and well-played) reggae music by the pool and sometimes a competition such as Destiny Survivor and the Hairy Chest Contest, but I didn't think it quite lived up to its "fun ship" reputation.
PORTS OF CALL CHARLOTTE AMALIE, ST. THOMAS This was my second time in St. Thomas and I fell in love with it all over again. The port of Charlotte Amalie is beautiful and the island is very clean. There are amazing beaches such as Sapphire and Coki and breathtaking views from the hills of the island. Shopping in St. Thomas is great and it of course has its fair share of touristy shops. The people are friendly and everyone speaks English. US dollars are accepted everywhere. Don't be hassled by the taxi drivers that tell you to get on their shuttle - it's not free! They act like they work for the cruise but they don't. There is a free shuttle that comes by (it says free on the side of it) and the driver does not get off the shuttle to hassle visitors.
ROSEAU, DOMINICA This was our first time in Dominica. Though it is apparent the city of Roseau is very poor, the rest of the island is beautiful. Don't miss the opportunity to see the rest of the island if you port in Roseau and don't judge the island based on this city. This was one of the friendliest Caribbean islands I've visited. US dollars are accepted everywhere we went. The shopping is not very good from what we saw; we only bought generic souvenirs in the warehouse shops on the pier (every table had the same stuff).
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS This was also our first time in Barbados. I didn't like the city very much because I didn't find the people very friendly, most of them very pushy, and the city was very congested. The shopping was ok but I suggest going to the vendor stands near the Independence monument, more unique items. We only paid $1 to take the shuttle from the pier to town, but we walked back and it was a half hour walk. US dollars are accepted, but you will get change in Barbados dollars. I heard land outside the city is very beautiful.
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA This was also our first time in Aruba. We loved the island because it is so different than the other Caribbean islands; dry heat and cactus everywhere (outside the city). The ship docks right in Oranjestad and you do not need a taxi to go into town to shop.
EXCURSIONS ST. THOMAS (Godfrey Tours) Wonderful informational tour for a cheap price. For only $20, you are picked up by a van at the ship, taken to downtown Charlotte Amalie to shop for 2 hours, picked up by an open air trolley, taken to a variety of stops throughout the island (I hear the stops change based on the weather). Out guide was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed the tour very much. We were taken to Sapphire beach instead of Megan's Bay because our guide said the rain at Megan's Bay stirred up the water. There was good snorkeling off the beach at Sapphire and it was a wonderfully clean and safe place to spend a couple hours. I highly suggest Godfrey Tours. A similar excursion through the ship was twice the price. Also, if you book Godfrey Tours by emailing them, they may not respond to confirm, don't worry, they will pick you up. I believe he only accepts cash on the day of the tour. You will stop at an overlook where they make the famous "Banana Daquiri," but I wouldn't waste your money; it was expensive ($7.50) and I didn't think it was very tasty.
DOMINICA (Ken Hinterland Tours) We booked a jungle hike with Ken Hinterland Tours at the recommendation of Cruise Critic members. We met two people through the message boards on Cruise Critic and booked the excursion with them so that we could all save money. The hike was $180 for 1 to 4 people, so with 4 people it cost us $45 a piece. We were picked up at the pier and taken up the mountains. We gathered at a small park with a bathroom and headed down the trail. DO NOT buy new hiking boots for this hike; just wear old comfortable running shoes with good tread because they will likely be ruined after the hike. You will walk through rivers, streams and fairly deep mud puddles. Always watch your step and don't be afraid to get dirty, you may need to use your hands to pull yourself up and hold onto roots of trees to balance yourself. This is a strenuous hike and it was more difficult than I expected. It is all worth it once you get to Middleham Falls, the tallest waterfall on the island. If you can handle it, it is worth climbing down and getting into the water. When we were there, the waterfall was running especially hard and it was like trying to battle a hurricane. Also, bring a waterproof camera! Once we got back to trail head, we were taken to Ti Tou Gorge, it's a 15 foot deep river flowing through a canyon to a waterfall. It is difficult to swim through since you are swimming upstream, but there are some rocks in the water that come up shallow enough to stand on. Out tour guide, who was a local, said he could not swim the entire gorge. Three men in our group tried and they could not get to the falls either. On the way back to the van, a woman was cracking open coconuts and selling the fruit along with sugarcane and bananas. For only $2, I got a half a coconut and 4 sugarcanes. I gave her $5 because she even went into the rainforest and got a leaf for me as a plate.
We were very glad we went on this hike; it was the highlight of our trip and quite a work out! Be sure to wear your swimming suit under your clothes.
BARBADOS (Jolly Roger) We booked this excursion through the cruise for $47 a piece. Free rum punch (50% rum, 50% punch). The schooner takes you out to a beach for 45 minutes of swimming and then you are allotted time to jump off the plank, swing from the rope and dive off any other part of the ship. It was great fun but I thought the crew were fake and didn't seem to like their job. It was obvious they do, and say, the same thing all day every day. Get in line for the rope swing right away, otherwise you might not get a chance to do it, I didn't.
ARUBA (George's Scooter Rental) Since Aruba is so small, we thought we could get the most out of our visit by renting scooters. About a 15 minute walk north of the pier was George's Rentals. For $40, we rented a two person scooter. The scooter was in pretty good condition, although the tire was low on air and we did not find this out until we were left in the middle nowhere with a flat tire. Be sure to have a map on hand, but also keep in mind that the roads are not marked and you will probably get lost, just keep going because the island is small and you will eventually find your way. Check the tires and gauges of your rental before you leave - there are no gas stations once you leave Oranjestad. We took the scooter up the north coast and saw the California Lighthouse (stop in at the restaurant up there - it's gorgeous), went to Alto Vista Chapel and to the Natural Bridge. The flat tire set us back so we did not get to see the Windmill or the Natural Pool. Although we had a lot of fun on the scooter, I highly suggest renting a jeep so you can see the places that are only accessible by dirt road. We had a very hard time driving the scooter to the Natural Bridge because the road to it was meant for jeeps and ATV's.
Since we had a flat tire, we had to walk to find a phone to call the rental store. Luckily we were within walking distance of a local bar called Bambu's. The owner happened to know George from the rental store, called him, and he brought us a new scooter with full tires. The owner made local food for us, it was good, but some of the local food is very bland. The chicken was excellent.
I highly recommend renting a jeep on this island, it is a great way to see everything on the island and still have time to get back to the ship for dinner.
PUBLIC ROOMS Although the Destiny wasn't as clean as other ships I'd been on, I thought it was very well kept considering its age. I found the décor to be a little too flashy for my taste, but that's what Carnival is about - kind of flashy Vegas style ships. The Palladium theatre was beautiful. The tables near the indoor pool were constantly sticky but I never figured out if it was just because of the coating on the table or if it was from drinks.
All the bars had a special theme such as a piano bar and a really neat dance club. Even if you don't go to the dance club at night, it's worth checking out the laser floor and hundreds of TV screens. We thought the mixed drinks in the dance club and most of the other bars were awful, such as rum and coke and 7&7. But the daily specials and other tropical fruit drinks were always good, especially at the bars near the pools. Try the "Kiss of the Lips," if you like fruity drinks, it's great.
DEBARKATION It was obvious that Carnival had a pretty well organized system for debarkation. You receive colored tags the night before debarking, attach them to your luggage and keep one so you can remember the color. Once your deck is called, you proceed to the theatre to go through immigration, which took a total of about 30 minutes. Then you wait for your color to be called and proceed to the gangway. When you exit the ship you will enter a building full of luggage separated by color, with a large sign above it indicating the color. Then you go into a line to pass through customs. We left our cabin at 9am and were off the ship by 11am. Pretty good for 3,300 guests. I suggest carrying as little as possible during the debarkation process. My boyfriend had his carry on, his backpack and our box of four liquors which was a pain especially when you are in line and only moving a couple feet at a time.
We had a 6:30pm flight out of San Juan, so we had time to explore. When you walk out to the street, cross it, turn left and head for the corner, there is a place to store your luggage for the day while you tour the city. For 6 bags, we paid $9. We explored on our own and walked to Fort El Morro (only $3 admission fee) with a map provided by the luggage storage place. The walk goes up steep streets but it is worth it and the fort is great for pictures, it's a must see if you have time in Old San Juan. We stopped at Senor Frogs for a margarita and I thought it was awful; the service was terrible and the margarita tasted like salt water. We stopped at the Brick House for a snack and a drink - the drinks were great and the steak fajita was very good too - wonderful service and a cozy little sports bar.
We picked up our luggage at 4:30pm (they closed at 5) and they called a cab for us. It was $20 to get to the airport. San Juan's airport is a little crazy and loud, the gates have very few seats and there were many people sitting on the floor; not an airport I'd like to spend much time in.
ENTERTAINMENT We were impressed with Carnival's entertainment although we thought the shows catered to men. The women were always scantly dressed and usually had thongs on. There were some parts of the formal night shows that I thought were inappropriate for children.
Besides that, the costumes were beautiful and it was obvious that a lot of money was put into the props and outfits. The choreography of the dancers was great and they were all very talented. I suggest going to the Newly Wed Show, the Destiny Idol show, Talent Show and the two formal night shows. There was a guest singer from The Platters and we left the show early because he spent most of his time on stage flirting with women and talking to the audience instead of singing.
OTHER GUESTS Again, Carnival sold many cabins at low prices to the locals in San Juan. There were some rude kids running around, but to say that they took over the ship is a major exaggeration (I've read this in other reviews). Maybe there were some bad crowds on past cruises.
It seemed the average age was late 30s to early 40s, not as many families as groups of friends and couples. I was very disappointed to see that the dress codes, or suggested attire, in the dining room was not enforced. Some girls were wearing inappropriate outfits, such as extremely short skirts and see-thru tops, short shirts with most of the stomach showing and even jeans and t-shirts. It was awkward to see some people in tuxes and gowns on formal night and other people in jeans, polo shirt and mini skirts.
IN SHORT The Carnival Destiny did exceed my expectations, especially considering that I went into it believing the bad reviews I read. The food, service and itinerary were wonderful and we were surprised anyone could have a bad experience on this ship. You have to keep in mind that this ship is almost 10 years old and will have minor wear and tear, but the crew did a wonderful job of keeping it clean and safe for the guests. I was very impressed with Carnival as a cruise line and would gladly sail with them again.
If you have any other questions about my experience, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The purpose of this review is both to provide details with respect to our very long and stressful trip from Toronto on Sunday December 26 to embark the Carnival Destiny at San Juan for a 10 p.m. departure and then to provide our feedback regarding the ship and the cruise experience itself.
Before I get into that rather long and unwieldy story, I would like to say that the Cruise itself was very enjoyable and relaxing. Our cabin (an aft corner with L shaped balcony) was exactly what we hoped it would be.
Overall, everything went well for us once onboard the ship.
Getting onboard the ship, however, was quite the test of endurance and perseverance for all of us.....
In advance, I apologize for the length of this review.. But, frankly, it was LONG day and we were in transit from 6:30 a.m. until 9:55 p.m. in our endeavour to board our ship for what was intended to be a relaxing family vacation.
We arrived at the American Airlines check-in around 7 a.m. Check-in and security went smoothly and we made our way directly to the gate to wait for our flight.We were scheduled to depart at 9:36 a.m. on AA #1561 to arrive Miami at 12:57 p.m.
All of our air arrangements for the cruise were made directly with Air Transat Cruise Vacations. Although I am aware that I could have found less expensive tickets from Toronto to San Juan, we felt it best to let Air Transit and Carnival make the arrangements since they would then bear full responsibility for getting us onboard the ship. I'm sure that passengers who make their own travel arrangements are "on their own" and not Carnival's responsibility if something goes awry with the arrangements along the way.
Sadly, things went very awry with OUR arrangements on departure day and Carnival provided us with no assistance whatsoever.
As we waited for our first flight of the day, we heard the gate agents many times call for volunteers to give up seats because the flight (on American Airlines) was oversold. Specifically they were looking for 8 seats and initially offered a US $250 travel voucher, meal voucher, and seats on the next available flight. Eventually they got the 8 seats they needed and began to board the aircraft. At this point I would guess we were 45 minutes late with boarding. I was somewhat concerned about our connection in Miami but not overly so since our connection was not too tight.
When the plane was pushed back from the gate, the cockpit announced that we would be going for de-icing (unsurprising since it was snowing lightly) before take-off. We proceeded to de-icing and probably spent about 20 minutes in total for this process.
The first really unusual event of the day occurred immediately following de-icing. For context, I will tell you that I am not truly a frequent flyer but I do generally fly 4-10 times a year with my children. In every one of those flights, I can remember the plane coming to a complete stop before going into the take-off roll. I am not certain what goes on up in the cockpit during this stop, but I've always assumed there are a few final pre-flight checks that happen at this point and usually I'm aware of increased sound from the engines as presumably the throttles are opened while brakes hold the plane stationary. In this particular flight, we literally came from de-icing onto the runway and accelerated into the take-off. In other words, we hit the runway running and then accelerated from there with no pause whatsoever. .
Now, I will fill in a bit of context here. My son Ryan is a certified computer technician and is experienced in building computers, networks, and websites. One of his major hobbies is to use flying simulation software and he has made some investments in this in terms of software and hardware. Of course this doesn't qualify him to fly anything "real", but it does mean that he has more than a rudimentary understanding of the process since to take-off, fly, and land even a virtual aircraft does require some skill and knowledge of the procedure.
In any event, at about the point in time where I would guess we were about a second from lift-off, there was a distinct change in the sound from the engines, the flaps came up, brakes came on, and it was instantly clear that the pilot(s) were now engaged in STOPPING the aircraft. When the aircraft (an MD-80 that Ryan commented "would be better employed with cargo" as he was rather surprised to find this aging aircraft servicing a busy route like Toronto - Miami) came to a stop at the end of the runway, the cockpit announcement indicated that only one of the two generators was functioning and that we could not leave the ground without 2 sources of electrical power. Therefore, it was back to the terminal for us.
While the plane taxied back to the gate, Ryan said, "Well, Mom, you've just experienced a Rejected Take Off". Only much later did I realize how unusual an event this is. Speaking with all of the frequent flyers in our office, many of whom have logged over 1,000 flights, I encountered no one who has experienced a RTO. Just as well that as it was occurring, I did not realize quite what a rare event it is to reject a take off.
By this time, I was becoming rather concerned about the possibility of missing our connection (AA 1099) in Miami and asked Ryan whether he thought this could be repaired or would we and our luggage be deplaned. His answer was, "There is another generator they can use, on the tail, but it requires fuel to run it. If they want to use it, they're going to need to add fuel before we can take off". Oh, to be a smug "I know everything" almost 17 year old! But sure enough, after about a 10 minute delay at the gate, the Cockpit announcement was to the effect that we would be able to proceed using this aircraft with a change of paperwork and the addition of 3,500 lbs of jet fuel. I hardly wanted to look at Ryan's "told ya so" expression, but in fact he was absolutely right.
By the time we took off, I would guess we were almost 2 hours behind schedule, more or less.
Lift-off this time was without incident and the flight proceeded normally to Miami. When we were about 2 hours into the flight, an announcement was made indicating that American had arranged for connecting passengers to be protected on later flights. For passengers connecting to San Juan, as we were, we were informed that arrangements had been made for us to be on the 3:38 p.m. flight and the gate number was provided. We were also advised that someone from American Airlines would meet the flight to provide additional direction.
Our seats were almost at the very rear of the aircraft and by the time we deplaned at Miami, there were no AA personnel anywhere to be found. We ran with our hand luggage to the nearest Departures board to see if there was indeed a 3:38 p.m. flight and that the gate information we had been provided in the announcement was correct. It was, so we headed off in that direction since we were about 1 hour until take-off of this flight.
Arriving at the gate for AA 2279, along with several other cruise passengers (cruising with various cruise lines, predominantly Princess), we were informed by the gate agent that he had heard nothing about our situation, had no record of our names, and that flight AA 2279 was oversold. Various among us (myself included) pointed out that our missed connection was due to technical problems and a rejected take-off in Toronto and that AA personnel onboard our aircraft had absolutely confirmed that we would fly on AA 2279. He didn't even look up or make eye contact during any of this time. Eventually 2 of us insisted that a supervisor be called. I did hear him page a supervisor, but no supervisor ever showed up.
When it became clear that this gentleman was not going to look at us or necessarily listen to us, I decided it was time to call Carnival. I remembered seeing a toll-free number in their booklet. Indeed, there was reference to calling this number "if you encounter the unexpected" so that their customer service people could assist.
I called the Carnival toll free number using a payphone about 30' from the gate agent's desk. The Carnival representative who came on the line listened to my story of where we were and how we had got there, asked for my booking number which I gave, and then asked me to confirm that I was physically in Miami airport at the gate of a flight soon to depart for San Juan. I confirmed all of this, whereupon this customer service representative said, "Ms. Holliday, frankly if you are at the gate then you are already better positioned than I am to deal with this. You're there and I'm not. I suggest that you go back to the gate agent and absolutely insist that you be issued a boarding pass for this flight".
With some surprise, I said, "Then what you are telling me, is there is nothing you can do to help and I'm on my own?" "I'm afraid that is just about the case", came the response. Another passenger from the Toronto flight who was also looking for assistance with this connection got pretty much the same response from Princess, or so I gather. There were also some RCI passengers from our flight trying to organize a new connection to San Juan but eventually I lost track of them and don't know how much assistance RCI provided to them.
After speaking with Carnival and being told they couldn't help, I decided not to waste time on the phone. By now, the boarding of flight AA 2279 was well underway and we didn't have boarding passes for it. Back to the gate agent I went and reiterated that we needed to be onboard this aircraft in order to connect with our ship. Again, the agent did not even look at me, but eventually just indicated to all of the cruise passengers who were waiting at his desk, "the aircraft is filled, I can issue no more boarding passes. There is another flight leaving for San Juan at 5:04 p.m. and I suggest you try to get on that." We watched as the door to the jetway closed and realized there was nothing further we could do at this gate.
Back to the departures board we went, only to discover we were about to have another geographic expedition to yet another terminal of the Miami Airport. Upon arrival at the appropriate gate, this time for AA 1299 departing 5:04 for 8:37 p.m. arrival in San Juan, we were again informed by the gate agent that the flight was full, that our names were nowhere to be found on the passenger list, and that she was doubtful she would be able to obtain seats for us. A second agent working at the same gate suggested to several passengers that they could be wait-listed for the 5:04 p.m. departure but issued boarding passes for the 7:36 p.m. flight .
It occurred to me at that point that if I accepted a boarding pass for a flight that arrived too late (11 p.m.) to connect with Destiny, American Airlines might feel they had done all they could while Carnival might feel we had made a poor decision and thus taken the responsibility for getting us to our ship out of their hands by our bad decision-making. With boarding of flight AA1299 already underway, I decided to leave Ryan at the gate agent's desk while again I tried to call Carnival from a pay phone.
This time when I got a customer service representative, I explained my situation, and indicated that we were standing at the gate of a flight leaving Miami for San Juan that would be the last flight to arrive in San Juan in time for us to embark the ship prior to its scheduled 10 p.m. departure. This service representative, at my request, located a supervisor (or manager?) by the name of Gloria. Gloria listened to the truncated version of the story and indicated that if I could give her 10 minutes, she had several telephone numbers of American Airlines managers and supervisors on the ground at Miami Airport she could contact to get an authorization for the necessary boarding passes. Since I did not have a way for her to call me, we agreed that I would call her back in 10 minutes.
Exactly 10 minutes later I called Gloria. At that time, she informed me that she had left voice messages on a variety of phone lines including cell phones, but not one person had returned her call. Therefore, she had nothing to offer me in the way of assistance. She said, "remind the gate agent that cruise passengers are supposed to get priority, go back and make your best flight, and do everything you can to get on board that aircraft before it goes. Otherwise, I imagine there will need to be a plan to charter a plane and get to St. Thomas to meet the ship while it is in port there". Since it was quite clear that again there was to be no help from Carnival, I decided to get off the phone and back to the gate agent as boarding of this flight was already well underway.
By this time I had been "in travel mode" since 6:30 in the morning and it was 4:40 in the afternoon. We had not been fed any meal on the Toronto-Miami flight and had been so busy running around the Miami airport trying to get a connection that we had not managed to connect with food or drink. I was certainly not willing to entertain the idea that we would either spend the night in Miami at an airport hotel, or in San Juan at an airport hotel, and then be AGAIN back in airports the following day looking for a ship in St. Thomas when we should already be snug in our cabins and sleeping soundly on that same ship.
Back to the gate agent I went and this time I was quite clear. "Carnival has informed me that absolutely you should give priority to cruise passengers. There are many of us here who are trying to get to San Juan and board ships that depart at 10 p.m. This aircraft that is leaving is the last one arriving prior to 10 p.m. (8:37 p.m.) and even then it will be tight. I'm sure that Carnival's agreement with American Airlines is that AA is to do everything necessary to get Carnival passengers onboard the ship before it sails. There will be no mistaking, when Carnival reviews today's events, that our missed connection was due to American's equipment malfunction in Toronto and then a domino effect from there. I am begging you .. I don't care if you put me in the lavatory and strap my children onto each wing, but we absolutely need to board this aircraft if we are to reach our ship in San Juan before its departure time. " All the time I was saying this, the gate agent was issuing boarding passes to waiting passengers who presumably were ticketed but not yet issued seats on AA 1299.
At about 4:55 p.m., the gate agent handed me 3 boarding passes. Ryan, Lisa and I were all over the aircraft (I was in the very back row, Ryan much further forward, and Lisa somewhere in the middle of the aircraft) but we were ON it! For the first time since our rejected take-off, I breathed a sigh of relief. Still, I remained somewhat concerned that Carnival probably did not know we had made it onto this flight at the very last minute, we had no way of knowing whether our luggage had also made it onto the flight (or had gone on the earlier one, or was going on a later one), and whether we could get our luggage, out of the terminal, transfer to the port, and embark before 10 p.m. was by no means a sure thing. But I did know for sure that being in the air at that point was MUCH better than not being in the air!
Once we arrived at the San Juan airport, things smoothed out somewhat. Our luggage had made it onto #1299 so we were able to claim it. And, for the first time, we saw a Carnival rep who pointed us in the direction for the terminal to pier transfer bus. Check-in went quite smoothly (since there were many agents but hardly any passengers to check in at that time of night) and we stepped onboard the ship just a few minutes before 10 p.m., stressed, exhausted, and starving.
Now to talk about the ship and the cruise itself.
We thought Destiny was a beautiful ship. Yes, it is a bit "Vegas-like" and there's no question it is absolutely huge .... but we found everything to be in good repair, nicely put together, and very attractive overall. Although sometimes there was a long walk between one point and another, with our frequent visits to the pizzeria and the ice cream machines, we needed the exercise!
All of the ports of call were terrific. We did most of our souvenir shopping in St. Thomas.Dominica, the only port we'd never visited previously, proved to be absolutely gorgeous and definitely deserves it's "nature island" title (I highly recommend the aerial tram in the rainforest). We had a wonderful day in Barbados as well, with highlights for my 17 and 12 year old being Harrison's Caves and the Wildlife Reserve where there is no separation between humans and animals, including the charming Barbados Green Monkeys. Aruba we know like the back of our hand (this was visit #14 for us, and usually we are there for weeks, not just for a day), so we spent the day at the beach. The opportunity to be in Aruba for New Year's Eve was my #1 reason for booking our cruise on Destiny. We had dinner off the ship at David's Place in Barbados (right on the water, gorgeous!) and at Amazonia (Brazilian BBQ at Palm Beach) in Aruba, and it was a nice change from the dining room fare.
The food on a couple of nights in the main dining room was a little disappointing, but not in a way that was really note-worthy. It actually was about on a par with the RCI cruise we did at the end of 2000, but not as good as our experience with Holland America the previous year. All 3 of us agreed that The Sun & Sea restaurant buffet at lunch was pretty awful, but the Grill, the New York Deli, and the Pizza stand (all separate from the main buffet) were just fine so we certainly never went short of food. The breakfast buffet at the same Sun & Sea restaurant was quite alright every day ... we could not figure out how breakfast could be good and lunches consistently so bad. Go figure. The soft serve frozen yogurt and ice cream machines were very problematic, mostly because we couldn't seem to stop our feet from trekking to these machines repeatedly. One afternoon my slim 12 year old daughter consumed 7 ice cream cones, a record, and I'm reasonably sure that she is hoping we'll install a soft serve machine in our home sometime soon.
The shows each night were entertaining and varied enough and the cruise director, Jorge, is absolutely a hoot. I gather he was previously a stand-up comedian for Carnival before he became Cruise Director, and it showed.
Disembarkation on Destiny was extremely slow and cumbersome, which was not unexpected, so we decided not to let it frustrate us. We had read a great deal about the subject on various on-line cruise reviews. The problem originates with Carnival's decision when their ships are designed not to provide access to/from the ship via the Jetways that are available at virtually all ports. Instead, embarkation and disembarkation is via a gang plank on the crew deck (zero deck) which means that you enter and exit the ship via the least impressive, smallest, and most crowded location possible. The rationale for this completely eludes me.
I'm not aware of any other cruise line that does this. The others all utilize the available Jetways and embarkation/disembarkation is normally via the main deck which makes for a wonderful first impression since this is always a beautiful area (usually an atrium) on these ships with plenty of space to handle the number of inbound or outbound passengers. Having the passengers embark and dissembark via a skinny gangplank onto the crew deck represents a major design flaw on Carnival's part. This is the least impressive and least spacious location they could have selected. At least we were aware of this issue prior to booking and therefore psyched up for it. It does make the disembarkation process needlessly and painfully slow.
I wonder why Carnival designs their ships in such a way that cruise terminal Jetways cannot be used? They need to get with the program on this one!
Our Millenium Cruise on the 'old' Holland America Westerdam still remains our cruising highlight (and I know that my son is eyeing the "new" Westerdam with considerable interest) .... but this cruise onboard Destiny was a good runner-up. We were especially pleased by the service levels in the dining room and with our cabin steward (Oliver). Oliver always had a warm smile and genuinely friendly greeting for us and he kept our cabin impeccably from the first day to the last.
The dining room menu had its shortcomings sometimes, and some of the dishes that seemed overly complicated were not especially well-executed by the kitchen. It might be worth considering less complex dishes but doing a better job with them. Nonetheless, any shortcomings were compensated by the very capable and friendly serviced we received each time we dined in the Galaxy Restaurant. Everyone seemed genuinely to want to please (not just going through the motions) and we felt they enjoyed what they do.
Although I recall having paid quite a lot for our RCI cruise back in December 2000, I would rank Enchantment at the back of the pack, at least for our family. The food on board never impressed us and the service, while professional, didn't seem especially caring. I felt that Carnival delivered quite reasonable value for the money paid and with a few tweaks here and there could probably achieve exceptional value. We plan to cruise again in 12-24 months and Carnival would be on my list of itineraries and ships to examine.
This was our seventh cruise, six on Carnival and one on Royal Caribbean. We are 40+ business professionals, married 25 years with two children, but we cruise as a couple.
Pre-Cruise: We left Little Rock at 7:40 a.m. Saturday morning via Delta Airlines, with a stop in Atlanta, before arriving in San Juan shortly after 3 p.m. Our flight was timely and uneventful. We had no problems gathering our luggage in San Juan, although airport personnel were verified you were the owner of luggage before you were allowed to leave the terminal. We went to a counter in the transportation area, where we were given a document with our destination and the cost. A taxi was quickly hailed, and we were off to the Holiday Inn Express.
Our pre-cruise room at the Holiday Inn Express was very small, more like a sleeping room than a normal room at a Holiday Inn. But, it was clean and perfect for one night before a cruise. Check-in was a breeze, and we were given a free t-shirt. We settled our luggage in our room, and then wondered back downstairs to wait on another couple, Steveand Connie, who were meeting us there for the same cruise. They were just arriving, so we agreed to meet for dinner in just a little while.
We had dinner reservations at Baru at 7 p.m. with Steve and Connie, Jim and Bev, and Pete and Christine. Steve and Connie and Roger and I headed on over to Baru early to have drinks at the bar before dinner. I had a Mojito, while the others had Rum Punch. The Mojito was a refreshing mint drink. When the others arrived, we were shown to our table. We couldn't decide what appetizer to order, so we just allowed the waiter to choose for us. He brought out a Mahi-mahi cerviche, Plantain chips with a black beans sauce, and Yucca chips with a cream cheese and almonds dip, which we all loved. We then each ordered an entrée, which the waiter warned us he would be bringing out in the order the kitchen completed the dish. We ended up all eating a portion of each entrée as it came out, so we enjoyed a taste of every dish. We wrapped up the meal with desserts that were less than memorable. We highly recommend this restaurant, but reservations are necessary, and the meal is pricey. We caught a cab back to our hotel and wondered across the street to a small bar for a few more drinks and cigars.
We had a nice night's sleep, and a light breakfast in the morning. We decided to walk around the Condado area where our hotel was located before leaving. We found that we were just a couple blocks from the ocean, so we relaxed sitting on the pier looking at the ocean and the beach. Several people were lying on the beach or playing in the ocean in that area. We ran into Steve and Connie there, so we decided to go checkout to head over to the pier.
Embarkation: We caught a taxi van at the Holiday Inn for the four of us and our luggage at 11:00 a.m., and we were at the terminal by 11:15. A line had already formed near the terminal entrance gate, so we got in the queue. They allowed us to enter in just a few minutes. As we walked up the sidewalk, we noticed a kiosk where anyone with gray TBA tags was asked to stop and get other tags. (All of our friends and we had booked specific cabins but were sent TBA tags.) That exchange occurred quickly, with them ripping off our gray tags and replacing them with our correct tags with just our last names and cabin numbers written on them in black markers.
As we entered the terminal, porters were taking luggage to the left, grabbing tips as smoothly as they were loading the luggage. Our next stop was up the stairs where they asked if we had completed the FunPass. We had, so they directed us to the FunPass lane that was much shorter. Our paperwork was processed and we were handed our sail 'n sign cards right there. We then moved to the next room where there were bathrooms, then the first professional photographs. I strongly recommend using the bathroom before the picture, because that's the last bathroom before getting on the ship. We all snapped our pictures, and then were in line to have our security pictures made, which quickly started moving. Once our security pictures were made, we were in line to enter the ship. (We never saw yellow chairs.) In just a few minutes, security came by with several guests who we assume were Skipper's Club guests. The entire line moved on to the terminal ramp to enter the ship by Noon. They stopped the line at the ship deck to allow only the "special" guests to enter the ship first. We were all so excited!
Then security came on the ramp, telling us that somehow the ramp had separated from the ship deck, and they asked that we back part of the way back down the ramp while they attempted to fix the problem. We grudgingly moved back. Five minutes turned into fifteen minutes, until they stated we had to get completely off the ramp. So, we were backed off all the way to the security picture machines, where we were crowded in a very small area, with no chairs, no water, and no bathrooms. When an hour had passed, some of the crowd was becoming angry, while others of us simply needed a bathroom. So security allowed us to reenter the terminal a back way to use the bathroom, then get back in line with our friends and family. As I went to the bathroom, I noted a crew entrance that was being used and wondered why they hadn't considered allowing us to enter via that entrance. Within moments of returning from the bathroom, security said they were going to allow us to enter by an alternate entrance and asked that we follow them, and they led us right to that crew entrance. This entrance wasn't the best first impression for the first time guests, but we were all just so glad to be on the ship finally at 1:15 p.m.
The ramp problem was the Port Authority's responsibility, not Carnival's. That problem aside, this was the smoothest embarkation I've experienced anywhere!
We went to our cabin, 8152 on the Verandah deck, and then headed to the Sun and Sea casual restaurant on the Lido deck for our first slice of pizza and our first drink. We met the other three couples at the Solar bar by the Lido pool. We were supposed to share a dining table, and we had requested late dining, but we were all at separate tables, different dining times, and different dining rooms. So, the women headed up to speak to the maitre d', while the men settled in at the bar to make friends with Lloyd who became one of our favorite Carnival bartenders. Babu, the Galaxy maitre d', said the late dining was full due to a group of 400 who booked together, but he could get us all at one table at the 6:15 dining time in the Galaxy. We agreed that was the best of a bad situation. He said we would be notified of our new table number by a card in our cabin the next day.
After acquainting ourselves with the various places on the ship, we visited the Palladium Lounge at 4 p.m. for the Travel and Shopping Talks. We decided to book a ship excursion for only the port of Dominica, and Fun Vision wasn't working when we first boarded, so we got in line at the shore excursion desk to book our Champagne Snorkeling excursion in Dominica. We met new friends from Kansas City, John and Melody, during this talk and while standing in line to purchase our excursions.
The first night's dining is open dining with very casual clothes. When we boarded we were given a card telling us to go to open dining at 5:30 p.m. the first night, but we weren't hungry at 5:30 p.m., so we returned to our room to unpack our luggage. (One of our friends got a message to pick up one of his bags in security. They had removed his travel iron, promising to return it at disembarkation. Our friend met lots of nice people who too were picking up luggage that had travel irons in them.) We caught a meal in the Sun and Sea Restaurant, which was just so so. The muster drill at 10 p.m. was brief and painless. We moved to the muster drill area slowly, so we would end up in the front of the crowd, rather than the back, because I'm short and a little bit claustrophobic. We returned our life vests back to our room and found a place along the Spa Deck rail overlooking the terminal to enjoy the sailaway.
Drinks were plentiful, photographers were snapping shots, the band was playing, and folks were dancing. It was great fun! We met George and Kay, another couple on the cruise, for just a few minutes at sailaway. We danced with everyone around us until shortly after midnight, and then settled in for a night's rest. I kept waking up during the night, because our bathroom door was creaking as it swung from the ship's movement. Roger solved that problem by securing the creaky bathroom door to the shower with the bungee cord we'd brought along for the balcony door.
Monday, St. Thomas: We had breakfast in the Sun & Sea Restaurant before heading off the ship. (The made-to-order omelets are wonderful. But, it was very difficult to get a glass of tomato juice in this restaurant.) We had made arrangements with Jim and Bev, and Steve and Connie, to meet on the pier at 9 a.m. to catch a cab together to Secret Harbor for the morning. This beach was beautiful and uncrowded with a bar and restaurant, chairs and umbrellas. We relaxed there for the morning. The boys snorkeled, while the girls visited. Iguanas of all sizes, shapes, and colors were wondering around the beach and the open-air bar. We had lunch before heading back, the others to the ship, while we headed to the downtown. We got our shopping done and our postcards mailed, then headed back to the ship.
This was our first formal night and the Captain's reception. We dressed for formal night, and then headed up for pictures and the free liquor tasting at the gift shop. Unfortunately, our dining at 6:15 wrapped up at 8:15, and the Captain's receptions ran from 7 to 8:30. So, we missed the Captain's reception, except for getting a couple of drinks from Lloyd in the Point After disco between 8:15 and 8:30. Our dinner was good, but the service was slow, and we missed the Captain's reception - a big disappointment.
After dinner, we headed to karaoke with Michael. It was great fun, and we met up with three new friends from New Zealand - Mel, Angela and Lynn. After karaoke wrapped up, we moved on with our new friends to the Piano bar where Eric was playing. He preferred singing to us, rather than encouraging sing-a longs, so it wasn't much fun, and we slipped off to bed.
Tuesday, Dominica: We again had breakfast in the Sun & Sea Restaurant. Then headed off the ship to grab some postcards. As we were purchasing our postcards, we agreed to take an island tour with Mr. Able. We really enjoyed the tour of this beautiful island. The steps to the twin falls were steep and somewhat hard to climb, so I would advise anyone with leg or knee problems from attempting this climb. But, the falls were beautiful!
We returned to the ship to grab a quick lunch before meeting our friends again on the pier for our Champagne Snorkeling excursion. We had to walk a short distance down the pier to a boat taking us out. They offered us free water or we could pay for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Due to rough waters, we were unable to snorkel in the "champagne" area, so they took us a little farther out where they promised the snorkeling would be better. Visibility was not good on this trip, so the snorkeling was disappointing, but I think they did the best they could. Still had a great time in Dominica!
When returning to the ship, we slipped into the last of the art auction, where we had some champagne and picked up our free small art. Our dining time of 6:15 now conflicted with the past guest party, which ran from 7 to 8:15, so we took our leisure dressing for the evening, then headed up to the party. We found all our friends settled into a round booth, with an excellent band playing. The drinks and appetizers were plentiful. After this party, we headed up to the Sun and Sea Restaurant for dinner. I hated eating up there instead of the dining room. I was disappointed that the food was again just so so.
After our poor dining experience, we headed upstairs for the Pub Crawl. We were told this was the first week for a Pub Crawl on the Destiny. It started at the Destiny bar outside the casino. Shots for the pub-crawl were $2.50, and each bar had a specific shot for that price. We met our new honeymooning friends from Virginia, Dan and Jennifer here. When the social hosts, Holly and Calvin, showed up to start the event, they asked everyone there to get up and dance the twist with the live musician. Then they narrowed down to three couples to compete, and we were chosen. We weren't nearly as good as the other couples, but we all received a bottle of champagne for having fun dancing.
The next stop on the Pub Crawl was the Piano Bar with Eric. Eric played lots of requested songs, including Snoopy, Hang On, for the Ohio State girls, who taught us to spell O-H-I-O with the song. I enjoyed the shots of Woo Woo here the best, but I have no idea what it was. Then we were on to karaoke. They welcomed the Pub Crawl Crowd, by requiring us to sing "Summer Nights" from Grease, girls against the boys. It wasn't bad, considering we didn't need a mike! Then Calvin picked five of the guys to lead karaoke in "YMCA," including Roger, Pete, and our new friend, Dan. The Onyx bar was our next stop, and then our final stop in the Point After disco bar, where they played some male-female games on the disco dance floors. We headed to bed pretty quickly after our night's fun. Great pub-crawl, Calvin and Holly!
Wednesday, Barbados: We had a light fruit and coffee breakfast in casual dining, then headed ashore in Barbados. We picked up postcards and souvenirs in the port shopping, and then caught a cab to Crane Hotel for lunch and to see Crane Beach, at the recommendation of the Islander on the BB. It was a long drive and well worth it. The lunch was pricey, but we ate on a terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Crane Beach. I could have sat there all day; this was the most relaxing moment of our entire cruise. Our taxi driver waiting on us while we dined and snapped pictures, then he drove us back to the Boatyard for the remainder of our day. We ran into many of our old and new friends during the day there, as we lounged in chairs by the ocean. As the sun began to set, we headed down the beach to have dinner at Lobster Alive. They remembered us and treated us like royalty. We again loved our lobster meal and crab appetizers, as well as the excellent service and friends. Mel, Angela and Lynn, our New Zealand friends, joined us for this meal, so we snapped lots of pictures before returning to the ship.
Thursday, Day at Sea: We decided to start our first day at sea with breakfast in the dining room. This was so much more relaxing than the lines in the casual restaurant. I headed to the travel and shopping talks for Aruba, while Roger headed up on deck to catch a few rays. I then grabbed Roger for lunch in the dining room, another excellent experience. We attended the art auction again, drinking champagne, bidding on art, and getting our free piece of art. We then went to the Onyx Bar for a wine and cheese tasting, accompanied by jazz music.
The Destiny Bar had Martini Happy Hour, where they poured your selected martini into a funnel through an ice sculpture to chill your martini, before you catch the liquid coming out of the ice sculpture directly into your martini glass. This was really cool, so I encourage you to stop and see this process happening even if you don't drink martinis.
This was our second formal night, so we dressed for dinner, taking our bottle of champagne with us to share with our table. When we arrived at dinner, our maitre d', Babu, approached our table, asking why we had all missed dinner in the dining room several nights in a row. We explained to him that 6:15 was simply too early for our group for meals and that we were disappointed to miss the meals in the dining room as well. He spoke to our server, Muharrem, who agreed that we could arrive at 6:45. We appreciated this attempt to meet our needs. At the end of the meal, Chef Hans came to the dining room to speak, and we discovered that one of our friends at the table had met him earlier in the day on deck. Our friend stepped over to greet him, so Chef Hans returned to our table to visit with each of us personally, and Babu came with him. He was a very interesting and personable man.
Friday, Aruba: We didn't make any solid plans for Aruba before arriving, and this is my one regret. I wish we had booked a water excursion in Aruba, because the water was inviting, but the island was cacti and rocks surrounded by beautiful water. We enjoyed shopping, and we toured the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. This hotel has a "canal" of water coming directly into their lobby. A motorized boat drives right into the hotel to pick up hotel guests and day pass guests to take them out to an island. The boats arrived and departed every ten minutes. This looked like a fun way to start a day, and we may do that if we return again. After shopping, we stopped at Iguana Joe's for lunch.
We took our bags back to the ship, and then returned to the pier to catch a bus tour for just $10 that we had been offered by an independent tour operator. The tour took us to all the neat places on the island, but buyer beware - we were the only English-speaking people on a large tour bus. The tour guide spoke fluent Spanish, but very little English. He was clearly entertaining, because everyone around us was laughing wildly throughout the tour, but we had no idea what was being said. As we headed back to the ship, the tour guide sang the Aruba national anthem, then the Spanish-speaking guests sang the Puerto Rican anthem, then they asked us if we wanted to sing the US anthem. We passed! We enjoyed the sites, but we were disappointed with the tour.
We got back on the ship early and relaxed in the sun. We had dinner on the ship with our friends, before they headed over to Carlos 'n Charlie's, and we headed for our cabin. Our balcony cabin overlooked the town, and as we periodically stepped out on the balcony, we could hear the rocking music and shouts from patrons at CnC. About 9 that evening, we saw an ambulance pull up alongside the ship, and a man was carried off the ship on a stretcher. We never heard what happened and whether it was a guest or employee.
At 10:30 pm, we attended a wonderful Guest Talent Show in the Palladium Lounge. This was the only show we attended all week.
Saturday, Day at Sea: We returned to the dining room for breakfast - just a wonderful relaxing way to start the day. Then I headed to "Win a Cruise Bingo" and the debarkation talk, while Roger headed up on deck to catch some rays. I didn't win a cruise, and I didn't learn anything new about debarkation. We had lunch in the dining room and attended one last art auction. The Destiny Bar was having a Margarita Happy Hour today, with the same funnel running through the ice sculpture and wonderful margaritas. We had our final meal in the dining room, met friends around the ship to say goodbye, and then headed to our room to pack our luggage.
Sunday, Disembarkation: Announcements to go through US Immigration started at 6:20 a.m. We got up about 6:40 and headed up to the Lido just to grab a cup of coffee. As time passed and our color wasn't called, we decided to have breakfast there as well. We returned to our room after breakfast, still waiting for our color to be called. When our color had never been called, but they were calling colors to leave the ship, we called Information to see what to do. They instructed us to go on to US Immigration. Within moments of arriving there, our color was called, so I guess they just start letting people off while people are still clearing Immigration. After clearing immigration, we went up to wait in the Casino. Our color wasn't called to leave the ship until 10:15 am. We found our luggage quickly and headed out of the terminal. As we exited the terminal, we saw a table filled with travel irons that they were returning to departing guests!
At the curb people were fighting for cabs. We discovered that attendants were again filling out sheets with your destination and the cost, and then flagging a taxi for us. So, for speedier taxi service, find an attendant to get the sheet, and then get the taxi. Tour guides were trying to get us to take a tour, saying we couldn't check into our hotels until later, but we wanted to drop our luggage off at our hotel, before deciding how to spend our day.
We returned to the Holiday Inn Express, where we were checked in within fifteen minutes of arrival. Our room this time was a wonderful room, with plenty of space. We found that Steve and Connie had already arrived, because their color was the first one called!
The four of us walked down the street and found a marvelous Mexican restaurant with great food and margaritas and an outdoor terrace. Since it was raining, we returned to our cabins to relax and watch Sunday football. Sunday night, Roger and I walked back down the street to Orozo's for a wonderful Italian meal.
Monday, Post-Cruise: We enjoyed a light Continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, before heading in a taxi to Old San Juan to shop. The last time we were in San Juan, we had purchased a piece of Don Quixote art at the Gems and Pearls shop, so we wanted to shop there. We arrived as the shops were just opening, so we wondered through various shops waiting for Gems and Pearls to open. Once it did, we purchased another neat Don Quixote art sculpture, then caught a cab back to our hotel. I took a quick nap in the cabin, while Roger wondered across the street to the beach for sun and snapshots. Then we walked to another great Mexican restaurant for a late lunch.
We got a late checkout from the hotel, so we could head to the airport at 2 p.m. for our Delta flights home. When we arrived at the Delta counter, they informed us that we had to be checked at the USDA counter before we could check-in there. So, we had only our checked bags scanned at the USDA counter, and then we returned to quickly check-in with Delta. Our Delta flights were timely and comfortable, and we watched an in-flight movie, "I Robot", as we flew home.
Final Thoughts: While this wasn't our favorite cruise, it was wonderful. This wonderful itinerary kept us way too busy. We were disappointed that we were unable to enjoy our dining room experience more and even more disappointed that our mealtime conflicted with both the Captain's reception and the Past Guest party. Our cabin steward, Greg, was invisible but great, and Muharrem, our lead waiter, did the best he could with an unhappy table. It was wonderful cruising with old friends, while making new friends. Any day on a cruise is the best!
Pictures will be posted in the next few days at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest.