Food on Carnival generally tends to be better than RCL, and this has been my experience in the past as well.
My favorite port was Colon, Colon was the Panama Canal stop. Got to see the canal and the Gatun Lake and the famous little building we all see in our history textbooks and all that. I also got to see Panama City, which is very poor, however, the cultural experience was incredible, and that's what I think really made the difference. If you should venture into Panama City, expect dirty cheap prices on the street, though you should know that anything brand name is boot-legged. Fruit and other products you can pick up for mere quarters. Back near the port (its about a 40 min or so drive to the city), duty free shopping is available in a huge shopping complex, and I'm not talking just the touristy things, I'm talking everything from electronics to furniture, so I saw people boarding with new TVs, stereo systems, etc... If you have a chance the name of the place is Zona Libre.
I also enjoyed Puerto Limon, though it was not as interesting. Puerto Limon is more of a rainforest type stop. If that's your thing, then this will probably be your favorite stop. The climate is extremely variable in Puerto Limon, so expect passing showers should you choose to venture in to the wilderness.
*Small note on both these ports: Rough seas were a huge issue when I sailed. Like rougher than I have ever experienced in 14 cruises. The smaller ship docked next two us snapped a line while we were in Puerto Limon, and we docked with an anchor dropped in addition to the mooring lines just to be able to hold us in place, so that the ship was slightly tilted when we were in port. Colon was slightly better, though the night between Puerto Limon and Colon was hell. A ton of people got seasick, however, I also understand that the weather does change and your experience might be entirely different.
I didn't really write much about Cozumel. I'd been there many times before, so I kind of got off with the family, went to the public beach, swam around, canoed, then went back on the ship at around 1ish. Not really a huge port, the other two ports really make this itinerary though
I recall that because it is an 8 day cruise there are two formal nights as opposed to the usual one.
I did not try any of the excursions.
Teen Host Past Cruises CCL:
Fascination (8/26/00) (2/18/02)
Sensation (8/19/12) NCL:
Sea (2/22/03) PCL:
Crown (3/5/11) RCI:
Freedom (3/7/10) Future
Carnival Pride (12/16/12)
ok so i went on the same cruise back in 2006 on the legend and i have to say by far this was my favorite cruise as far as the ship layout and ports. except I didnt go to Cozumel we went to Belize..
Colon, Panama: We took an excursion to the Panama Canal which was quite amazing! The excursion we took wasnt through the cruise line so we done several things there.. After staying at the canal for little over 1 1/2 hours we left and went to this little zoo.. beware the monkeys will steal your sunglasses or anything within reach hahaha he still has my stuff =( and after that we went shopping downtown. I have to say that I bought alot of stuff for a little of nothing. Like Mike said though alot of the name brand stuff is knock off but I swear you cannot tell the difference.. It showered some while we were here but definitely wear sneakers or something because alot of the areas I went to were kinda muddy from the rain.
Limon, Costa Rica: We took an excursion through Carnival. We done the river rafting tour. This was by far the best tour we have taken in any port on any cruise. Our tour was the only one that was not cancelled in this port.. It was a pure down pour when we docked. We were the first ones off the ship and let me just say I was soaking wet when we got to our tour bus to take us to the river. We went to this little rest area where we could use the restroom or buy some snacks or little souveniers from this little shop there. There was a volcano behind this rest stop and I didnt even know it until I got home... honestly I just thought it was just a mountain but I thought it was pretty neat none the less. The river rafting was cold because I was wet from the rain but after a while it felt nice because then the water wasnt as cold when I fell out of the boat. lol. DONT wear crocs if you do this.. hahaha my parents both lost their shoes because crocs float and dont like being underwater lol. On the ride back to the ship we stopped somewhere and the little man climbed a tree and chopped down what I thought were mini banana's but they are called plantains(sp?) and they were soooo sweet! Really tasty after that long trip downt the river. =) When we got back to the dock there is this little shopping area. Its really nothing but posts for walls and tarps for roofs so it raining the tarps were dripping water over everything but you can buy cute little things for really cheap. My mom bought some really neat hand painted plates for like $5 a piece. I hope that kinda helps =))
Cozumel: definitely head downtown. eat at like margaritaville, carlos n charlies or senor frogs. do your shopping in cozumel because you can find some good deals in these really small shops. barter with them most importantly. if you want to take an excursion i suggest the jeep and beach tour. it was alot of fun going off road in the jeeps and the beaches there are gorgeous! if you dont want to do a tour through carnival go to CHANKANAAB its really gorgeous there and there is alot to see and do =)
hope you find these helpful
__________________ Past Cruises
Commodor Enchanted Isle of Capri-06.97
Royal Caribbean Sovereign OTS-4.16.07
Carnival Fantasy 4.28.08
Carnival Fantasy 10.27.08
Norwegian Pearl 3.13.11
Carnival Elation 11.14.11