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Stephanie

Age: 37

Occupation:teacher

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Spirit

Sailing Date: December 17th, 2003

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

This was the first cruise we took the kids on and they didn't want to leave! We have 4 children: ages 15, 14, 14 and 12. They met so many new people and had such a blast!

Embarkation: was pretty smooth. Yes, it takes a while, especially with 6 people traveling. We arrived on board at 3:30. The Spirit was set to sail from Miami at 4 but we didn't end up leaving until 6:30. By then, the girls had crashed and we pulled out of port without them seeing the lights of Miami but it had been an exhausting trip getting from Iowa to Florida.

Our cabins: We booked kind of last minute so they couldn't guarantee that we would get our cabins together. But, Carnival did put us side by side (3 cabins) and we all had balconies! It was great!

Fun days at sea: we really explored the ship. The kids did karaoke, the disco, bingo and watched movies with others their age. Two minor problems: no basketball hoop or space on board (my boys are mid season and really needed to keep up their games) and the pools are very small (my daughters are competitive swimmers and they didn't get any workouts in). But, we all relaxed, got some sun, etc. I took gobs of photos and truth be told, Carnival's ship photo shop is just as cheap as the developing place back home PLUS they gave me free doubles so I had all photos developed on board.

Dining Room: my kids didn't like it. The food was too exotic. I guess they are burgers and fries kids. But, we made them eat with us every night and they were exposed to food they wouldn't necessarily try: caviar, escargot, etc. The desserts were great and once I actually left creme brulee on my plate and couldn't finish, a cardinal sin in my family!

We usually ate breakfast up on the Lido deck. I'm kind of picky when it comes to coffee but Carnival's was great and steaming hot. Eggs, bacon, etc were great and they had some raspberry Danish to die for! My kids ate lots of pizza at the 24 hour pizzeria. It satisfied them. They also seemed to eat a lot of ice cream.

Ports of call:
Just not enough time at each place. In St. Maarten we rented a little SUV and drove up to Orient Beach. This was a great beach where there was some nudity. I was surprised at my kids' reaction. I guess I've raised them to be prude Americans because they thought it was gross but, it did really add to the European flavor. We were hustled a lot here for hair braiding and we fell into the tourist trap of agreeing to something that ended up costing a lot more than we originally thought it would. Agree on prices before a service is provided: my daughter got her hair braided and the gal did 54 braids at $2 a piece! My husband talked her down to $75 but what a hassle!

EVERYTHING is negotiable, from the time spent on the ocean trampoline to the jet ski we rented. Kids got sunburned even with sunscreen on so be careful about this. Was good to drive through St. Maarten and see some poverty stricken areas.

Barbados: very pristine. We wanted to snorkel and they suggested Folkestone Beach. Great for Snorkeling but NO beach! So, after we snorkeled, we headed around the corner and found a very nice beach at a resort. I believe the beaches are open to everyone but you can't use the chairs without paying. By the way, within 24 hours of sailing, most of the excursions were sold out, so we were on our own! Very surprising. We were ready to drop $600 on an excursion for the 6 of us to snorkel and swim with the turtles but it sold out fast!

Martinique: By then, I was short on cash so didn't shop much. Took the ferry across the bay and snorkeled again at a resort area. These gals were walking around in beautiful bikini ensembles. Turns out, they were selling them and after they had paraded around for about 10 minutes they'd change right in front of everyone and put on a new one. Odd! Just not enough time again though. A person has to decide to beach it or shop, really can't do both.

Fun days at sea again: well, I read 3 books on this trip. Being it was 8 days long, we really tried to pace ourselves and didn't cram too much in.

My 15 year old kept late hours but I didn't worry about him too much because the environment is so controlled. Well, that and he was the biggest person on the ship. We had brought walkie-talkies but with 600 kids on board at 22 channels, they were nearly impossible to use. We used it once when my husband got off the boat and scoped out Barbados to see what we should do that day. We let the kids sleep late and then had the trip all planned by the time they got up.

All in all: a Great trip! Carnival outdid themselves. I had been on carnival before and felt hustled to buy stuff. Not on this ship.

One problem: I didn't sleep well because of kids running in the hallways. So, the acoustics were bad!

But, would go again anytime. Loved the itinerary too.

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