Contact Information

The Vacation Stop
1002 Red Harvest Rd
Gambrills, MD 21054
Local Phone: (410) 672-5859
Toll Free Phone: (888) 228-9113
Website | Send Email

My Certifications

  • Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC)

My Reviews

Carnival Destiny

by Stephen Mencik last updated on 07/25/2008 Disclaimer

This review is for the sailing of 9/26/2004.

We booked this cruise ourselves since my wife and I are both travel agents. Airfare was booked through the cruise line, since discounts to San Juan are rare. Our flights from Baltimore to Charlotte, NC and from Charlotte to San Juan were rather uneventful, though probably more crowded than usual because of people changing from connecting flights going through Florida to other connection points. Hurricane Jeanne was pounding central Florida that morning and all the major airports in Florida were closed. It was lucky for us that this cruise left from San Juan rather than South Florida. The flights Carnival booked for us had us arrive in San Juan around 4PM. If I did this same cruise again, I would go a day ahead of time just to avoid the rush and be able to board the vessel much earlier.

The meet and greet staff at San Juan airport did nothing but hold up a Carnival sign in the baggage claim area. They did not check a list of names of expected arrivals or anything else. Once we had our bags we waited in a line until enough people were there for a bus to take us to the port. Our luggage was put onto a separate truck and taken straight to the ship. We boarded buses and were taken to the departure area. Once through security we entered the FunPass line, which was longer than the regular line. It ended up taking almost the same amount of time to get through the line as if we had gone into the non-FunPass line, as they had more gate agents working the non-FunPass line than the line for those with the completed FunPass. Once we reached the head of the line, obtaining our Sail-and-Sign cards and completing check-in took less than 2 minutes.

Because we have a Carnival MasterCard and had accumulated sufficient points to get $1000 off the price of this cruise, we went for a balcony cabin on the Lido deck. This was our first cruise with a balcony. I'm not sure what I expected, but I was a bit disappointed with the balcony, particularly the size. However, it was very nice to be able to go out and take pictures of the port, view the flying fish in the water below, and just get some outside air. Whether it is unique to the Lido deck or to cabins with balconies, I'm not sure, but the amount of storage space in the cabin was truly impressive. We had no trouble unpacking everything we brought, and still had plenty of space left over. All in all, the cabin was everything we needed for a wonderful cruise. We did have some problems with the room safe at first, but quickly figured out that the problem was with the mag strip on the card we tried to use at first. Switching to a different card solved the problems.

We had dinner in the main dining room every evening except when we were in Aruba. The food was generally up to our expected standards based on previous cruises with Carnival. The Beef Wellington was a bit disappointing, but the Weiner Schnitzel, Chateaubriand, Prime Rib, and all the seafood was very good. As usual, there were no disappointments with any of the desserts. Our headwaiter, Samuel, was very efficient, despite training a new assistant, and dealing with some replacements on some nights due to crew illness. We were assigned to a table for 8 that was really broken into a 2 tables for 4 due to the placement in the Galaxy dining room. One of the couples at the table opted for a private table after the first night, leaving only six of us. I guess we were just not good enough company. On the other hand, they were on their honeymoon and may have wanted their privacy.

We ate breakfast on the Lido deck every morning except for debarkation day. Typical fare was scrambled eggs, pancakes or French toast, cold cereal, fruit, and omelet station. There was also a separate bar for pastries. Service in the restaurant was good, with servers bringing fresh coffee, juice and pastries right to the table.

We attended some of the main shows in the Palladium lounge, skipping the two featuring the dancers and also the guest talent show (watched that on TV the next day). I'm just not into that type of show, so we did other things. We also attended both midnight comedy shows. Geechy Guy was funny, but many in the audience didn't appreciate his sense of humor and walked out early. Gene Merola was terrific. If he is on your ship be sure not to miss his show. The juggler and magician were also very good, as was the singer (formerly with the Platters, but I can't remember his name and don't have the Capers with me). Cruise director Jorge was good, though he is clearly on this ship due to the large number of Hispanic passengers.

In St. Thomas, we did the Godfrey tour. After allowing my wife to have her favorite excursion of buying jewelry, we visited many of the main sights on St. Thomas, including Megan's Bay, Coki Beach, and Sapphire Beach. We drove all the way to the top of the mountain for a great view of the island as well as some killer banana daiquiri's. All in all, it was a very good tour for the $20 per person. There is nothing close to that price available through the ship.

In Dominica, we did the Champagne snorkel. Dive Dominica is the company that runs this tour for Carnival, and they did a nice job. The mates actually snorkeled with the group instead of just watching from the boat. One of the guys dove down and pointed out various things including a Moray Eel, and brought up a sea cucumber from the bottom. The geothermal vents that give the bubbles that created the Champagne name were neat, but not as plentiful as I was led to believe. Perhaps I just had too high of expectations. Given that we were busy all day in St. Thomas and had a busy day planned for Barbados, we went back to the ship after the snorkel and treated the rest of the day like a sea day.

In Barbados, we took the Natural Wonders tour from Glory Tours. We visited Harrison's Cave, the Orchid Farm, St. Johns Church and more, including the WildLife Preserve to see the green monkeys. This is a very good tour that I would recommend highly. While it appears expensive at first, remember that the price includes admission to all the sights, as well as the lunch that is provided. Both of us enjoyed all aspects of this tour, with the exception that they had a rather small van that packed the people in and was very warm. They did at least try to reseat people in the most comfortable arrangement at the first stop. However, they really needed a larger vehicle (which I am told they do have, but for some reason did not use that day).

In Aruba we did two tours. The first was the Town and Country tour that took us to the Natural Bridge (a place where the ocean had carved out a passage under the rocks, leaving a bridge over the water), Casibari (a large rock formation), the California Lighthouse, and past the Gold Mine ruins and the Ostrich Farm (though we did not stop at either). Not a bad tour for the $39 charged by the ship. In the afternoon we did the Sunset Sail and Beach Snorkel provided through the ship by Pelican Adventures. They packed about 75 of us onto their Catamaran that they claimed held 90. There were not enough seats for everyone, but it probably could hold a few more folks. The first snorkel stop was one of the local reefs. While it was nice, it was nothing compared to the second stop - the Antilla shipwreck. The snorkeling there was tougher due to the deeper water and stronger current, but well worth the trouble. If you have never snorkeled over a shipwreck, you will be amazed at the variety of and quantity of fish you will see. After the two snorkel stops we went to the Pelican Pier and Restaurant for a chicken and rib dinner. All the while the rum punch and other drinks (Sex on the boat was very popular - rum, vodka, and enough punch for color) were flowing very freely. Just before sunset we set sail back to the ship. What a gorgeous sunset. We got some great pictures. Between the full day and the alcohol consumption we were asleep by 10PM, before the ship even sailed from Aruba.

The two sea days were spent relaxing from the previous active days, spending time in the casino and spa, and not much else. The slots were not very kind at all, draining money from my wallet all week. A couple of straight flushes and a 3-of-a-kind at three card poker on the last day made the casino about break-even for the trip, which for me is a positive thing. We also only indulged in one bingo game, so that saved us some money.

We did not attend either of the midnight buffets, primarily due to scheduling. That is one area that needs improvement on this cruise. The Gala buffet was held at the same time as Gene Merola's midnight comedy show, which was also the night before a busy Aruba day. It would seem to me to make more sense to have that buffet the following day, so people could party all day in Aruba and then have the buffet during the midnight sail away from Aruba. With the next day being a sea day, you could sleep as long as you wanted to recover. There were other scheduling issues as well. For instance, the horse racing was done during late seating dinner one day. If you had late seating dinner, you had to choose. There was not a second session. Other events conflicted with each other too. There should be more things done consecutively rather than simultaneously.

Debarkation in San Juan is a bit more painful than other places, as everyone must go through immigration on the ship. You end up lining up and then sitting in the Palladium lounge until your row is called. Depending on when you arrive, you could have a bit of a wait. We were lucky in that it only took us about 15 minutes to get through. Both Immigration and Debarkation are done by luggage tag color, with the colors being called stating with those with early flights and tours, and then working down from the top of the ship. Since we were on the Lido deck, we were among the first called to both. In fact as we were leaving the ship, some folks had not yet been through Immigration. One change from previous cruises that I liked is that you needed to have a luggage tag on your wrist to ensure that only the colors that had already been called were allowed to proceed to the next step. On previous cruises you could tell that many people did not follow instructions and just cause traffic jams for everyone else. This system eased that pain considerably.

Finding luggage after getting off the ship was interesting in that we could not find one of our bags. Then after about 10 minutes of searching it appeared. I think someone took it by mistake and then brought it back, though I did not actually see that happen. Leaving the terminal and getting the transfer back to the airport was uneventful, though they did drop us off a bit far from where we needed to be. The line for USAir was quite long, but we had plenty of time to catch our 1:40 flight.

The flights back were very crowded and the leg from Charlotte to Baltimore particularly bad as the seat in front of me was broken and leaned back too far. This made a very small space even smaller. Thankfully that flight is only an hour.

Getting home to reality at 8:30PM on a Sunday is really horrible, knowing you have to go to work the next day. However, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the cruise enough that I did not think about work even once while I was there. As usual, the worst thing about this cruise was having to leave it.

Comparing last year's Triumph cruise to this one on the Destiny, I would rate the Triumph somewhat better. I'm not sure why, other than perhaps the crowd on the two ships was much different. The Destiny was much more sedate. In fact the main shows generally were only half full. The last night even less. On the Triumph the casino was really hopping on the last night, with hoots and hollers heard all the time, and I think every table was open. On the Destiny, the casino was very quite, even the last night. Only a little more than half the tables were open, simply because of the lack of demand. Even the lounges we looked into were not very full. I guess the people tended to stay in the rooms more than any other cruise I have been on. I don't know if this is typical of the Destiny or if we just had a bad week.

In any event, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. Now it's time to start figuring out where to go next year.

This review appears on Cruising.