I was on this cruise too. My second on this ship, first since the renovation. This time it was with my husband and granddaughter and not the "girls". We had a great time. Lots of kids but this was the tail end of the 18 and under spring break season, with a lot of Tampa area families onboard but it wasn't mobbed. CC was doing their job with all of the age groups and the last night, the older cc group was doing their farewell jaunt around the ship and kept it to a low roar considering there were at least 30 kids in the group! Our granddaughter thoroughly enjoyed the few hours she spent at CC each day whether it was daytime or just for a couple of hours at night. She loved Sanji (who also mans the slides).
We did my time dining which we loved, we ate in the dining room a couple of nights, once alone and once at a large table with some teachers from NY and their sister from FL. The chateaubriand was wonderful. We booked our own catamaran excursion with Island Tours in Grand Cayman (you can even book this trip as soon as you get off the ship but remember that GC is one hour earlier than ship time but they will have you back in plenty of time to get back on the ship - we went to sting ray city, then we snorkeled a little and then we went on a turtle watch - best hint I learned on this excursion if you have a little one that doesn't swim yet, take an old fashioned life preserver (provided) and fit it around their waist and it acts like a noodle - thank you Orman! and from a Reading, PA teacher when taking photos with the sun behind your subject, put your setting on sport (the runner) and press the lightning bolt to force the flash - it worked!!). FYI from a fellow cruiser, go to Cemetary Beach if you want to snorkel. They were told to move rocks around and they said they saw fish galore and even an Octopus! By the way, our cruise lucked out for the day in this port, the following day there were supposed to be 10 ships. Whether that was true or not, I don't know.
When in cozumel, our granddaughter was in CC in the morning and for lunch. Then we went to Mr. Sanchos' Beach around 1pm. It was great. A lot of cruisers had already gone back to ship from our ship and other ships, the beach was quiet, there is a floating water park with iceberg ($12) and you can snorkel if you want. The best was the pool adjacent to the restaurant. It was perfect for children while you enjoyed a meal or cocktail. Taxi to get there is $15 per car. We didn't have to be back on the ship until 7:30 but we got back on around 5:30 or so...
Our days at sea were beautiful even if the last sea day was breezy in the morning. There were new pool contests each sea day. New contests on stage. Quarters is a hoot. There are new bingo games. Be sure to put your comment card in the night before disembarking because they draw and announce the winner just before debarkation starts the following morning!
The karaoke MC was phenomenal, kind of reminds you of Kathy Najimy. We wish we had watched karaoke earlier in the cruise. Unfortunately, becaue of traveling with your four-year old granddaughter, we couldn't get to the comedy shows.
I got the distinct impression that this ship rocked until the end. Because I decided to go to the casino earlier in the evening one night, I found out it was practically smoke free around 8pm! Doing my time dining allowed me the freedom to do this. We used both the Mardi Gras dining room and the grand buffet. All of our meals, no matter where were delicious. The buffet chicken parm was my favorite. We didn't get to use the serenity deck but it is just that quiet with hot tubs, the perfect place to read or watch the sun set. I got to see serenity while a couple was enjoying a last evening cocktail in the hot tub with no one else there. How much better can that get!
My only disappointment was that for some reason, when we got back from Cozumel, the water park was not on, just the slides so my granddaughter only got to enjoy the park one day because we were near the pool the other days. By the way, the pool water is COLD!!!! It seemed to warm up once we hit Cozumel but it was still chilly.
The only downside to our trip was our cabin. Our steward was great though. Unbeknownst to me, when the ship was renovated, the area below empress deck was modified and we had a terrible noise below our cabin E166 that sounded like thrusters or machinery in a large plant. On the third night I finally asked the front desk what the noise was, they wanted to hear it themselves and they did hear it and that's when I found out about the renovations. The following day we had a letter offering to move us to U53 but since we were already unpacked and were three days into the cruise, we didn't want to pack again. Carnival has now documented this issue. We also noted it on our comment card because this cabin should be one of the last to be offered unless this was a one-cruise issue. We now know that as much as we love Empress Deck, port side, we will now request a cabin on a different deck or starboard side. Maybe we'll get lucky and receive a future onboard credit!
Otherwise, we loved this cruise, it was relaxed just the way we wanted it. As the poster indicated, for this cruise, take half the clothing you are planning to take. It is extremely laid back. As a sample this is what I wore: two swimsuits, one cover up, one skort, one dress for elegant casual night, khaki capris with the same top I wore at embarkation because I was cold one night and we flew in from NJ the morning of the cruise, red capris, black top, neutral sandals, black capris, a dressier top, a neutral top, same neutral sandals, dressier pair of flip flops, gym capris and a sport top, lingerie and hygiene products inc my hair dryer and I don't remember seeing a hair dryer in our cabin. My tankini tops acted as tops over the skort during the day. I could have left the balance of what I brought with me at home. My husband and me have made a deal that we are going to try to pack for the three of us in one suit case for our next cruise. There is always a washer/dryer to use onboard if needed or use the laundry service.
Word to the wise, the sun reflects off the water. Make sure you use a high spf sunblock on your lips, nose, chin and ears and take something like coppertone sport 30 or 50 with you in addition to a 15. If your companion is bald, find some bald head sunscreen before you leave home and take some aloe, solarcaine and bayer aspirin (lowers body temp when you have a sunburn) with you just in case as well as hats, not just visors!
And before I forget, with or without kids, you have to have enjoy the guitarist near Violins. He is awesome!! If you have the magician come to you table, you should be honored. He was a highlight of the trip for many.
Finally, although this is a laid back cruise, they did have the Captain's reception and past-guest reception. The only reason we didn't go was that we like late afternoons on deck and the events took place starting at 5pm. This was my 8th Carnival cruise since 2006 and I still like the C atmosphere and CC can't be beat (except maybe by Disney).
Have a great cruise. This is one cruise we wished we had booked a back to back! Say hi to Sanji if you use Camp Carnival. Faith loved her. She also mans the slide during the cruise. This is a cruise that we definitely will three-peat!
(sorry for the novel)