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Bruce Wedding

Age: 39

Occupation:Software Engineer

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Celebration

Sailing Date: March 11th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

The lines moved fairly quickly and the process to get aboard was well organized. You will make 4 stops. The first is where you show your ID and birth certs/passport. The second is to get room keys and Sail and Sign cards. The third is for you boarding pictures, the fourth is for you Sign and Sail picture. They take a photo and it is matched to your card. They will use this to ID you each time you get back on the ship. We found our cabin easily and the luggage arrived very quickly. I was disappointed at having bought lunch because they were serving lunch at the Wheelhouse cafe.

We departed within 15 minutes of the appointed time and were quickly out to sea. On our previous cruise, my youngest was seasick the first morning. This time, we gave him, as well as my wife and I, meclizine HCL. This is the over the counter non-drowsy motion sickness med. As we entered the gulf, there was a definite roll to the ship but we all handled it fine. An acquaintance took this trip in February and they said it was very rough. We had 6-8 foot seas the first day yet I found it smooth sailing.

We stayed in an outside Category 6 room aft on the Empress deck. There were four of us so the room had two beds positioned in an L, a "cot" type bed under a fold down bed on the wall. The upper bed is up and the steward lowers it for you at night. We quickly arranged my wife and my bed together. The room was adequate in size but I'm glad our youngest was small. Two teens would definitely be less roomy. This room had a window, but it does not open. The curtains are thick and will block the sun for an afternoon nap. The TV has about 6 channels and they roll current run movies on 2-3 channels. On this trip, they were showing Shallow Hal, K-Pax and a few others.

The bathroom is small. The shower was adequate and the water was hot and the pressure was excellent. You can not run out of hot water. The toilet is not only small for a big person but there is simply not enough room in there. I like to do a little reading in there :) and you can't sit straight on it and do that because your book would be in the wall. They really need 6 more inches of room. There were adequate towels at all times.

The storage in the room was adequate for all four of us and that includes a couple of jackets and my wife’s 8 pairs of shoes :) I read another review that complained of being able to hear the band while trying to sleep on this deck. I never heard music, but I did hear other things. This was probably my biggest complaint. This ship had a definite knock when it was underway. I don't know if this was the engine or prop or what. My brother in law got a tour of the engine room and he said he could pinpoint the noise to one cylinder on one of the engines. He said it was quite obvious down there. This vibration was just enough to make it hard to sleep sometimes. The second problem was a buzzing noise from somewhere. The first night, I woke to it at about 2:00 am and thought it was the ship horn. It stayed on for about 5 minutes and would do this periodically the entire trip. Really irritating. The last problem was a metallic banging we heard about 3-4 times during the trip. I mean it sounded like someone was hitting the ship outside our room with a sledgehammer. I was awakened 2X by these noises. I have no idea what they were because there is nothing outside the ship. This is my worst complaint about the ship. The noises and vibration never allowed any of us to get good rest.

The general condition of the ship was "ok." The carpets were well stained and there is a locker room type odor in most of the cabin hallways. The linens were clean and the cabin was also clean. We did have one of the night-lights short out leaving us in the dark for a while. The electricians came that morning and just removed the light. It was never replaced.

The layout of the ship was easy for us to learn. I think first time cruisers would like the ship. I have to admit that I missed the Grand Atrium from the Ecstasy. If you visit Carnival, you will see what I mean.

I found the service on the ship to vary from adequate to excellent. Our cabin steward was friendly sometimes, terse others. We did get the towel animals and mints, but no cookies for the kids. I had a bit of a run-in with him over some towels and it wasn't quite right after that. When you disembark at Cozumel, they give you special beach towels. We wound up carrying my brother in law’s towels to our room, giving us 6 and him none. Our cabin guy claimed to pick up only 4 and my brother in law had to pay $22 dollars for one of the "missing" towels. My advice is to leave the towels in the room and "steal" some from the pool. I did this inadvertently and had no trouble getting on or off with them. Just dropped them off when we got back. No big deal.

The rest of the help on the ship was good. Our waiter, all the deck wait staff, and bartenders were great. Our assistant waiter had a memory problem, forgetting coffee orders and such, but nothing terrible.

The food on the ship is excellent. I have absolutely no complaints about the dining. Our waiter allowed us to have whatever we wanted in whatever quantities desired. My brother in law ate two entrees every night :) I did when it was prime rib and lobster. The food upstairs in the Wheelhouse is good also, but I hate the lines and it is usually hard to find a table. I really don't understand why someone would pass up a 5 star meal for the buffet. We ate nearly every breakfast and every dinner at our dining room. If you are a wine drinker, buying a bottle is the way to go. It was $6.50 per glass for Mondavie's Fume Blanc but a bottle was $29. This wine is over $20 in the store so that was pretty good.

We viewed the midnight buffet, but did not eat it. I have a problem with eating food that has been sitting for 2 hours with 1700 people passing by it poking and who knows what else. It is a sight to behold. On our cruise, the viewing opened at 11:15 while the talent show was going on. We bailed on the talent show and had the dining room to ourselves to view it. 15 minutes later, the lines were a block long.

The Pizzeria has some excellent pizza. While they offer some excellent specialty pizzas, you will almost never get one. The guy told me that 80% order pepperoni so 8 of 10 pizzas made are pepperoni. My young son was in heaven. There is also a free ice cream and frogurt machine up there. My oldest ate over 30 ice creams :)

If you have kids, buy ONE drink card for $17 and have them share it. It will pay for itself. Unless you are a sodaholic, do not buy the adult one for $25. You will not get your money's worth. There is tea, coffee, punch and lemonade available at all times for free at the wheelhouse.

As for alcohol, it is expensive. Look for the happy hours in the paper and take advantage of them. I'm a beer drinker and found the bargain to be the large Fosters can. It was 24oz for 5.75 plus the 15% tip. This works out to around $3 a beer when the Coronas are $4 something. If you like fruity drinks get the souvenir cup and use that, though it isn't a great bargain.

There is non-stop entertainment on the ship. We attended every comedy show and Vegas type show. If you want a good seat, you must get there about 45 minutes early for the big shows. Many people will try to save a large booth. Don't put up with it. There is no saving allowed; it is in the paperwork.

We were in Vegas about 2 months ago and saw 4 shows so I had a good base to compare against. There is no comparison. These shows were entertaining enough but they would never make it at a major casino in Vegas. One of the comedians was quite funny, though much of his material seemed to be stolen from Jeff Foxworthy. I saw his family and adult show. Both had me laughing hard. The other did an adult only midnight show and I found him just NOT funny. The talent show was quite good. There were some very talented singers and dancers amongst our passengers.

We enjoyed Endless Summer, the karaoke bar. The guy playing at the Bourbon Street bar was also excellent.

I love to play craps and I did play on the ship. I also observed some of the other games and wasted some money in the slots. The craps table has $5 Minimum $100 Max (I think) and 2X odds. The dealers are professional and friendly. I was paid wrong once and did have to gripe a bit to get my $5 but other than that, it was fun. There is only one craps table but I didn't have trouble getting on. It was not always open, but it seemed they would open it if you asked.

I saw blackjack with $5 and $10 minimums. The $10 table stayed empty. I do not play the other oddball poker and blackjack games so I won't report on them other than to say they stayed busy. The ship has an adequate number of slots from nickels to $1. I don't play very much but I will say that the payout must be horrendous on these ships. I never saw any big winners and I consistently and steadily lost money in them. I put $5 bills in nickel machines and $20 bills in quarter machines and was NEVER up. Not once.

They hold a daily slot tournament and one blackjack tournament. It is $20 to enter either and you are playing for a chance to get in a box of flying money and grab up to $500 with a guaranteed $250. I did not waste my money on either.

Being a Spring Break cruise, there were TONS of kids on this ship. I have to say I expected more problems with them then I encountered. I actually had no problems with noise, rudeness, misbehavior or anything that you normally associate with Spring Break. My 16-year-old quickly made numerous acquaintances and hung out with them the entire cruise, mostly in the disco. He had a great time and met some pretty girls. There are numerous organized activities for the teens and he attended a few, but not all of them.

My 7-year-old attended Camp Carnival and had a good time, though he wasn't in it as much as he was on our previous cruise. We did take advantage of the baby sitting, which is $6 per hour from 10pm to 3am. I must say that the kid program is excellent and it is broken down by age with appropriate activities scheduled for each group. The ladies running it were really nice. We missed the kid’s talent show because we didn't read the paper and didn't sign up in time. Read your paper every morning for the scheduled activities.

This was our second trip to Cozumel. I was glad to have a lot of time there this time. The 5-night cruise gives you from around 8:00am till midnight there. My son and I chose the discovery scuba excursion for $78 each. We were taken up to Playa Corona in taxis, paid for by the provider, and had an excellent time. The instruction was good and the scuba was great. Previously we did the snorkel and I would beg anyone considering it to do the scuba. It is worth 2X the money to be able to stay down there and get up close. We went to 30' and stayed under about 35 minutes. I really felt this was the best money spent. It was a bit scary for all of us, but the instructors are quite good, speak English well, and are quite patient.

After the scuba, we chilled on the beach with a Corona before taxiing back to the ship. We got the ladies and youngster and took a taxi back to Playa Corona beach. It was $8. This beach has excellent access to the reef as well as a nice beach bar with tables and such. The Coronas are around $3, which is a bit steep, but the beach is nice. We had some of our own gear and rented snorkel gear for my wife. The entire package was $12. It is $20 on the ship and doesn't include a snorkel vest, so remember that. Also, the underwater cameras are $26 on the ship. You can buy them at the dock for $20 and I got a Kodak instead of the no-name brand on the ship.

After this, we went back to the ship and cleaned up for the trip to town. We ate at the Hard Rock. It was loud, crowded and expensive. If you go there, get the nachos. They will feed two easily and are the best deal. DO NOT buy a T-shirt there, buy them on the street for 1/4 the price. We had an Attitube adjustment at Fat Tuesdays (Banana) that was excellent. We purchased T-shirts and other junk on the street. You have to bargain and look around, though they make it hard. As a guide, expect to pay $3 for cheap T's and $8-10 for really nice ones, though at the dock at Calica, just prior to departure, they are really ready to bargain. I got 6 great T's including a Corona with stuff on front and back, 6 for $20. It was the best deal of my trip. Try to get the woman’s wraps for $10-15, the chair hammocks for $22, fake Oakleys for $10-12 and the Tommy Hilfiger looking carry bags for $9 for the small and $15 for the large ones.

That evening, we just walked around and had a Margarita at an open-air bar that was on top of a store along the water. It was between Senor Frogs and Hard Rock. I can't recall the name, but it was a lot of fun and the Margarita was excellent and strong. Senor Frogs was wall to wall with drunken college kids so we bailed quickly.

The next day we were at Port Calica. We purchased the XCaret excursion, which was $175 for the family. In a nutshell, I did not get my moneys worth, though it wasn't a total loss. We were taken by air conditioned bus to the park. It is quite large and the problem is that there is not enough time to see it all if you plan to go to Playa Del Carmen also. We visited the museum and snorkeled the underground river. My little one had to get out early because the water was too cold. Do not pay the $10 for the snorkel equipment because you don't need it. There is nothing to see under the water except for two spots. Just get a life jacket and float it. The water is fresh, but brackish. I did not do the other river because we didn't have time. They do have a pretty beach and some neat sights. Be aware that they will give you pesos for change when you buy something, claiming to not have dollars. Read more about it hear: http://www.xcaretcancun.com/ One tip I found out about on the bus, they don't allow sunscreen in the park because of the water. Lather up before you go. I'm not getting skin cancer for a fish.

We taxied directly to Play Del Carmen for $10, asking him to take us to Senor Frogs. I found that most of the prices were cheaper than Cozumel, but not all. This town has the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. We had to go in :) We swam for a while then went to Senor Frogs for beer and nachos. It was open air right on the beach, really nice. After that, it was back to the ship. The merchants set up outside the ship and this was the best place to get bargains. They realize this is the last chance to sell you something and they work hard to do it. Just be ready to walk and they will deal with you.

Here are a few miscellaneous tips and information. Wait to buy Carnival merchandise on the last day. They will have specials and you may save money. Get to the shows early for a good seat. Read the paper every morning so you don't miss out on something. Forget the slot machines, or only play nickel machines for entertainment. The ship photos are very expensive. I have no tips for you but just want to let you know. I spent over $200 on pictures and did not buy them all. The 8x10s are $20, the 6x9s are 2 for $15 and the 5x7s are 2 for $10. Most of the nice ones you want will be 8x10.

My least favorite part is disembarking. They close virtually everything in port, you have to be out of your cabin and you just wait. Even though we were category 6, we were called last so we had to wait about 1.5 hours after breakfast to get off. I read here today, that you can just walk off because they don't check tags. I wish I'd have known that this morning :( The traffic is a real mess. If you have parked there, be sure to go left out the terminal and travel as far down the street as you can. One person gets the car via shuttle and comes back. Expect to spend 30-45 minutes here in traffic.

That is about it. All in all, we had a great time. My only real complaints were the noise and I don't know what to do about that. I didn't have that on the Ecstasy, but we were in a Veranda suite also, which is much higher. I would definitely use Carnival again.

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