I had the opportunity to take a cruise on the Carnival Destiny to Cozumel, Mexico, leaving from Miami. The cruise was a five-day trip, we left Miami Thursday afternoon and returned early Monday morning. After departing on Thursday, the ship spent Friday at sea. We docked in Cozumel, Mexico early Saturday morning and spend the day there, leaving early Saturday evening. We then spent Sunday at sea, returning to Miami Monday morning with everyone off the ship by about 10 A.M.
It’s a standard itinerary for the ship and the same basic cruise is available almost every week. The weather was perfect, this was the last week of January, with warm sun every day and a bit of wind at night. The nights were windy, but the temperature remained just under 70 degrees making it comfortable the entire trip.
I’ve cruised on several Royal Caribbean ships in the past, but this was my first experience with Carnival. I found the two lines very similar, most of the time I would not have known which I was on without seeing names and logos. I think Royal Caribbean feels a bit more high-end or upscale, but only just by a bit. They are both aiming at that casual cruising market and are not ships to sail on if you seek first class luxury. The ships are great for romantic or fun getaways and both also provide excellent services and activities for children. Both lines offer camp-type activities and babysitting, allowing parents some time alone.
Overall I had an excellent experience and would recommend both the Carnival Destiny and the Miami-Cozumel itinerary, as well as Carnival as a company to cruise with.
The ship had a party atmosphere and was a lot of fun. As I was on a rock and roll-themed cruise, it probably was a bit wilder than the usual Carnival cruise. All the entertainment was provided by an outside promoter, who organized the cruise. The ship has a large theater and showroom, along with a disco and two big lounges, every night they were packed.
I had a balcony stateroom and the room was spacious and well attended by my cabin steward. Everything was clean and in working order, although the design is getting a bit tired. I’ve never sailed on a brand new cruise ship and all the ships I’ve sailed on seem to have that same early-1990s decor. The balcony was large, with a table and two chairs. I don’t like how the balconies are only separated by a metal wall, with openings around it, like a bathroom stall. There is a lack of privacy between the balconies that I also found on the RC ships. I do think a balcony cabin is necessary to really enjoy a cruise and have a (relatively) private space to get away from the crowds.
The shower and bathroom were a bit bigger than I’ve had in the past on RC ships, but still small. The finishes were nice with a lot of faux marble that gave the space a luxurious feel. The Carnival cabins had fairly good sound insulation, especially from the outside. Like on my RC cruises, I do have a problem with the noise that transfers through the walls, I don’t want to hear my neighbor’s television set. Also the cabin doors have large vents in the them, which allow noise to easily pass through.
The food on the ship was good, I was especially impressed by the all-you-can eat lobster tails and steak they had frequently. I mainly ate in the buffet and found all the food to be a tiny bit lower quality than I found on my RC cruises. For example, I love fresh fruit and found the Carnival fruit was not as fresh or good as what I found on RC ships. In addition to the buffet, the ship had a New York-style deli on one side and a Chinese restaurant on the other side.
I ate two meals in the ship’s Universe Dining Room which was fun and classy. The food was excellent, noticeably better than what I had in the buffet. The staff is very attentive, it seems like each diner has two personal waiters, but it can get overwhelming. We were paired with some fun people as dining partners but sharing a table with strangers can turn out very badly if you don’t get along.
Everything went very smoothly. I’ve run into some long lines and delays when disembarking from other RC cruises, but found none of the that on the Destiny. The food lines were small and moved quickly and there was never a long wait to get a drink at a bar. Even the guest services desk was well staffed throughout the day, making for short waits. Check-in was also fast, with a long line that moved quickly. I also liked being able to book a van back to the airport easily right at the cruise ship terminal, especially when I saw the huge taxi line.
The Destiny is a large ship and there was always space to find some privacy. Even during a sunny day at sea, it was possible to get a lounge chair on one of the upper decks. At night, I found the 4th floor deck, the main floor, was deserted and a great place for some private time leaning on the railing and watching the ocean roll by.
The ship offered a very wide range of excursions while we were in Cozumel. The prices for snorkeling, island tours and other activities were comparable to those I found myself, online. There was a good range, from beach club relaxation, party boat catamaran rides, Mayan ruin tours, dolphin swims and many snorkeling and water sports options.
One thing I really liked and wanted to experience, but was not offered on the RC ships, was an available behind-the-scenes tour of the ship. For $55, guests were able to tour the bridge, engine room, kitchens, crew quarters and other areas not seen by the public.
Shipboard internet was both expensive and slow. Modern cruise ships have their own mobile phone services, travelers have no choice when the ship is at sea, as all calls are routed through it. The service is extremly expensive, with roaming charges that can exceed $5 per minute for calls and equally high data rates. I had to do some work while on the ship and it made it very inconvenient and expensive.
Carnival seems to know its demographic very well and delivers what they seek. The ship was clean, fun and the cruises really do offer great value for your vacation dollar. Most cruises on Carnival cost passengers under $100 per day, excluding alcohol, offering nice accomodations and unlimited food. Carnival delivered a seamless cruise, no problems, no hassles and everything really did run very smoothly, which is exactly what I seek on a vacation.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog travel4people.com. You can follow him on twitter, @thefredsherman
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(Disclosure: the author received a complimentary cruise from Sixthman, the promoter of The Weezer Cruise. He received no compensation or consideration from Carnival Cruises.)