Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Destiny
Sailing Date: March 5th, 2006
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
My husband and I and three other
couples flew into San Juan from Syracuse, NY, via JFK a day before our cruise to
enjoy the sights of San Juan before departing on March 5 on the Carnival
Destiny. We got our baggage easily, received a ground transportation taxi
voucher from the booth by baggage claim, and taxied to the Holiday Inn Express,
where we were staying the night. I admit I was skeptical about the hotel (as I
didn’t make the reservation) but we were pleased with the service, cleanliness,
etc, and it only cost about $125, which was cheap compared to many of the hotels
in San Juan. As it was late afternoon by the time we arrived, we went and got
some cervesas, had a little happy hour in the hotel, and then headed for an
Argentinian steak house recommended by the hotel, which was located down the
street (sorry, can’t remember the name). It was very good and they served your
massive portions of beef sizzling on a hot plate right in front of you. Went to
bed tired and full!
Thought we could walk to Old San Juan but, luckily, the hotel clerk told it was too far and too hot so we took a taxi (like $5 per person) to Old San Juan and went to see the fort (worth going to for only $3 per person and great views of city, ocean and our boat, which was in port). Walked around Old San Juan but many stores were closed as it was Sunday morning. There are great little vendors down by the port that sell knock off purses, etc. We then went back to the hotel, checked out and put our luggage in the backroom, and hung out by the pool all afternoon (that was great coming from snowy NY!).
Around 2:30 we packed up and headed for the port. We were approached by a porter to take our bags. There was a line to get into the port building. He said for a few extra dollars he would take all 8 of us right into the building past the line so away we went past everyone and into the port building. Not sure how that happened but, hey, it worked for us. There were long lines at the sail and sign place but the lines moved very quickly. No problems checking in (I think the fun pass it a bunch of bunk – but I guess you need it). You can hit the duty free shop right before you go on the shop and they DON’T CARE’ if you bring alcohol on the boat as long as you can get it in your carry on so LEAVE ROOM. We bought a bottle of absolute, some run and some wine (don’t buy the wine there – it is terrible! Stick to the alcohol). Very cheap! Everything we bought came to $25.00. Then it was through security and onto the boat.
We were very excited to check out our rooms – upper level balcony on the back of the boat. This was recommended by our cruise agent and we were happy we went with his suggestion. The balconies on the back of the boat are a lot bigger. Ours adjoined one of the other couple’s so this became the official happy hour spot as we could fit all 8 of us on one balcony comfortably. We loved just sitting out there checking everything out. Miracle of miracles, our luggage was there so we unpacked and then headed to the Lido for celebratory pina coladas and, of course, some food! One couple had a balcony room on the starboard side that they were happy with. One couple opted for the upgrade to the Empress Level starboard and complained most of the trip that their air conditioning didn’t work. I guess a bunch of rooms around that area had the same problem. So they actually paid more and were more unhappy with their room. Carnival comped them four drinks for the inconvenience! Not worth it I would say! I was actually freezing in our room most of the trip. We had the air turned down as low as it would go and I still wore my fleece sweater to bed most nights (might want to bring warm jimmies for anyone else that gets cold like me!!).
I thought the room was good sized. The bathroom was quite big in comparison to the one other Carnival cruise we took. We didn’t get the balcony the last time – definitely worth it – I’d never cruise again without one. Our bed was comfy and the pillows and comforter were divine! I slept awesome – getting rocked gently asleep each night – except for one night when it was more like a rollercoaster. The other thing, which I might as well mention now, our rooms were located right over one of the nightclubs so it was quite loud at night when the bands were playing right under our rooms. We several nights slept with the balcony door open just to hear the swishing of the waves. Just a warning, they did hose down the back of the boat each night so we woke up to a lake on our balcony each morning so don’t leave clothes, shoes, out there to dry!! Our balcony had two chairs, a table and a deck chair on it. Plenty of room to sunbathe. The balcony dividers are lower on the back though so no privacy from the neighbors. We had fun though hanging out in our Carnival robes and pajamas each morning with all our “back of the boat” neighbors as we were coming into the different ports.
That evening was just general seating for dinner so we ate in the Universe Dining Room just below us. Very good. We were disappointed to see that we were put in the 8:30 dinner seating. We had requested 8 pm, but 8:30 is just going a little too far! We saw the maitre de, who didn’t think he could accommodate us, but, luckily, we found dinner change cards in our room the next day so we got changed to 8 pm in the Universe Dining Room, which was nice because we didn’t have to travel all the way across the boat to get to the Galaxy Dining Room.
We decided to opt out of the Muster Drill and sat in the dark drinking cocktails on the balcony as they called everyone on deck in a million different languages. We had a lot more fun that everyone else. We also stayed on our balcony as we left port and had our own celebration with our friends.
Overview of Food
After fighting with the hungry and food frenzied hordes on the first morning for breakfast, we opted for the rest of the trip to go to the Galaxy Dining Room for breakfast. It was a lot more relaxed, better presentation, and, hey, why not get waited on whenever you can, right? Everything I had was great – especially the corned beef hash! Lunch was buffet on the Lido, pizza, deli. Lines weren’t bad if you waited a little later to eat lunch and with dinner at 8 pm, a late lunch isn’t a bad idea right? For the most part we just snacked on something. I recommend the deli if the lines aren’t long. I thought the pizza was awful – and I love pizza. Tried the Chinese once and wasn’t impressed. We went to dinner each night – prepared to be dazzled and pampered – and we were. We loved our waitress Ada from Indonesia. She was awesome! The bread was amazing. We ordered whatever we wanted from the menu – 3 starters, two entrees, etc. The portions aren’t big so this isn’t as awful as it sounds! It was so fun! The food was very good I thought and most everyone at my table was impressed as well. We loved the lobster and prime rib night!! My only complaint was the desserts were terrible! I didn’t have a good one the whole time I was there. Very disappointing for a chocoholic like me!
Overview of Ship
I thought the ship seemed to be in fine shape and how could it not when they are cleaning it nonstop!! They work very hard there. All the staff was very nice with the exception of most of the bartenders, who were surly and certainly not working very hard! Though the “drink runners” seemed happy and courteous. I tell you, we saved a lot of money on drinks by hitting the duty free before we came on board. We bought some of those insulated mugs and made drinks and brought them up on the lido. Although the boat was full, it didn’t seem obnoxiously so. There were always deck chairs though perhaps not on the Lido in the thick of things, were, of course, everyone saves chairs all day long even though they aren’t sitting in them. Went down the water slide once – always a big line – pools were OK but crowded and the hot tubs were always a big froth of humanity – ick. Best place to hot tub was in the gym where they have two big hot tubs that are never being used. I used the gym once to work out, which was nice but not hugely equipped. The sauna is very nice and looks out on the ocean (at least on the girls side).
The only other disappointment on the cruise was the quality of the entertainment. Many nights we were just walking around looking for something to do. The disco was always empty (probably because the DJ sucked), the piano bar was lackluster (the singer not so great and not engaging), they had a good band one night in the Criterion Lounge and just went everyone got up and started dancing and having a good time, they quit. There was kaoroke almost every night but that was also kinda lame. The shows were not great quality. There were a decent comedian on who was good the one night so we went to see him again for the adult-rated show and he got so bombed (girls were buying him shots) that he could hardly talk so we left. The cruise director Skippy was entertaining but we passed off on most of the “let’s make fun of the old home boy from Iowa-type” shows. They are doing this contest where they put all the people on the cruise on different teams (you get your assignment at dinner) and have contests all week to “get points.” Yeah, well, our team won at the end of the week but what did we get? Nothing. So it seems kind of a waste of time. Anyway, compared to the last cruise we went on the entertainment lacked A LOT. Even the daytime “fun” activities seemed like a lot of effort for the social team.
Did have occasion to visit the infirmary twice and they were very accommodating and nice. The seasick pills worked okay. We just had one day that was pretty rough, otherwise it was smooth sailing and the weather was great. We had rain one morning but then it cleared up. Wow, this is getting long! I’ll try to wrap it up.
Ports of Call
St. Thomas: What a gorgeous island! After being on one cruise, we knew enough not to book excursions through the boat (a rip off!) and did our own thing. Based on a recommendation for one of the cruise review boards, we took a taxi to Sapphire Beach ($10 one way) for some snorkeling and beach time (FYI – we brought our own snorkeling gear). The beach was gorgeous but the snorkeling stunk!! I guess Coki Beach is the place to go for snorkeling and you can BET on that! I won’t lead you wrong like someone did to us!! Anyway, we had fun tanning, etc., and walked down the beach to the right to a resort where we swam in the pool and had some lunch – very expensive!! We then went back to the port, where we shopped at the stores – didn’t think the prices were that great but did get a pair of gold earrings for my mom.
Dominica: Just beautiful! The peaks were so high you couldn’t see them under the clouds. Had arranged a tour ahead of time via the internet with Reyno Tours. He was right there as promised and very courteous and professional. We waited a while for a couple that was supposed to turn up and when they didn’t he stuffed us all in one van, which was OK for us but not sure how it was for the family crammed in the back. Our guide, Mathilda, was wonderful. We wound our way up the mountain and into the rainforest, checking out the banana plantations, pineapple groves, different trees, etc. The stop at Mr. Nice’s fruitstand was the highlight. We went to Emerald Pool, which was pretty, but we’re from upstate NY, which has tons of waterfalls, so nothing new for us. There was also a ton of people there so we didn’t end up swimming in the pool, which also a little treacherous to get into. We left on the tour about 9:15 am and by the time we finished the first half it was close to 1 pm so we opted out of going to Trafalgar Falls and we didn’t feel like winding back up into the rainforest so we went back to the boat for a relaxing lunch in the dining room and some time by the pool. There was a little crafts market right there as you get off the ship – definitely the best place to buy little trinkety necklaces, ankle bracelets, etc. The cheapest prices.
Barbados: I had planned to go to Malibu Beach and snorkel from there with the turtles but friends convinced us instead to go to Folkstone Marine Park to snorkel. So we went there with the most disagreeable and snotty cab driver ever! I think her name was Elise – don’t ride with her!! Anyway, it was like $10 per person to get there. Let me just say this was about the ugliest beach ever so we decided to snorkel for a while and then take off. The snorkeling was pretty good but it was high tide and the waves were rough and there was a wicked undertow so it was pretty sketchy. Our friends had come to Barbados the previous Oct. so we decided to crash their resort for the remainder of the day – the Amaryllis Resort. Very nice. We then shopped in the port building – which was excellent. We got good deals at Columbian Emeralds. I bought a pair of topaz earrings and my husband got a watch. Definitely good jewelry deals here!
Aruba: My husband and I rented a jeep from Amigo Jeep Rentals (I booked this ahead of time online). They met us at the port and took us to their office. Very nice and professional. Cost only $77.00 for the day. Cute little Jeep 4x4. We spent the day exploring the windward side of the island, different beaches, etc. We had lunch at Brisas del Mar (wonderful but expensive) but would recommend also Flying Fishbones if you get a chance to go there – very cool! We had been to Aruba before so enjoyed revisiting Baby Beach (gorgeous! Softest sand ever and warm water!). We asked around and snorkeled at the coolest “local” spot where I think we had the best snorkeling we’d ever had. I apologize – I can’t remember the name right now – but it’s on the coast side of De Palma Island just north of San Nicolas – something like “Hole in the Middle” in Spanish. We then returned our jeep, showered, etc. on the boat and returned to walk around Oranjested looking for a fabulous restaurant we used to hang out at on our previous visit called Que Pasa. We had drinks and appetizers there (the people are just as friendly as always) and returned to the boat for dinner.
As we had booked a transportation return ahead of time from the cruise to the airport, we weren’t in a big hurry to get off the ship. You have to have all your big luggage out at midnight the night before so you just have your carry ons. We had a nice breakfast in the dining room and then hung out on the Lido or our balcony as people were called to disembark. We were one of the last colors called but didn’t have to wait to long in the “leaving room” and also breezed through customs, immigration, getting our luggage, etc. From the time our color was called to getting on the bus to the airport was maybe an hour. Had to kill some time at the airport and lines there were very long for food, etc., but did make another trip to duty free to bring home some cheap alcohol!
Overall, we were very pleased with the service, boarding (it was very easy to get on and off the ship at port), food, etc. While I wouldn’t go on the Destiny again (as I don’t usually go anywhere twice! Too many places to see!), I would certainly recommend it. The ports of call were awesome and cruising the Southern Carribbean is a good bet for smoother oceans.