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Shannon

Age: 23

Occupation:Marketing

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Destiny

Sailing Date: January 9th, 2005

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean


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. I’ve sailed to San Juan, St. Thomas, Key West, Half Moon Cay (HAL’s private island), Belize, Roatan, Cozumel, Cancun, Grand Cayman

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.

The embarkation staff was friendly and helpful in showing you which way to go next.

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.

We had some problems with the water temperature. It seemed to be just our cabin. We could never get cold water out of the sink faucet and the shower temperature always shifted from ice cold to scalding about half way through each shower. We learned to live with it and didn’t want to complain (the ice cold water felt good after we sunburned). We commented on it in the comment cards given to us at the end of the cruise. It was no one’s fault because we did not tell our cabin steward and he wouldn’t have noticed the problem unless he ran the shower for 15 minutes and monitored the temperature, which we of course, did not expect him to do.

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 and remembering the types of foods we liked. 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.

We planned on spending some extra money on a massage, but when we saw the prices in the spa we decided not too. It was $75 for a half-hour massage and all other services were over $100 each. There were some specials throughout the week. For example, on the last day, the first 10 people to call the spa and make an appointment got 50% off.

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. We were saddened that we didn’t have a longer day in this port. Short bus ride to town from the pier. 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 beaches are amazing and my mother said the snorkeling was the best she’s done (we previously thought Grand Cayman had the best snorkeling). The people outside the city were very friendly and since the island is so small, you can see everything if you rent a jeep and do it on your own. 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.

My mom and stepdad did the Rhino Rider and Aruba Sunset Sailaway excursions through the ship. They truly enjoyed both of them and said the snorkeling in Aruba surpassed that of Grand Cayman, which we found to be the best. I suggest snorkeling through a guided excursion because we didn’t find any reefs off the beaches on our own.

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 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. Overall, I think the staff should try to clean the windows more often, especially in the Sun and Sea Restaurant, but they did a wonderful job of keeping the ship clean. I always saw crew members mopping, painting and scrubbing down counters and the teak decks. 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.

For tanning, we found the best spot to be in the back, top deck of the ship, just below the topless deck. It was quieter (if you want to be further away from the band) and we always found available chairs. There was always a waiter coming by with drinks.

For the whirlpools, we found the two in the back of the ship near the Grille to be the best. They were always a comfortable temperature and are Adult Only whirlpools and children stayed out of the area.

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 didn’t see many kids, probably because they are in school, and I didn’t see too many retired individuals. There were lots of teenagers who seemed to spend most of their time near the pizzeria and in the dance club.

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 delaney@historicthirdward.org .

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