Trip log, day one. Port Canaveral, Florida.
7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida
March 11, 2023
This is not a typo, the site was not hacked, this is actually the beginning of a 7-night Eastern Caribbean trip report from our Spring Break cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras which sails from Port Canaveral, Florida.
In reality, this was actually going to be the second non-Disney Cruise trip report, but there was this whole worldwide event that cancelled the first one less than 48 hours before departure. A bit of a background, the master plan was to sail on 2 separate spring break cruises from Port Canaveral on different cruise lines for a bit of a comparison ahead of the debut of the Disney Wish. Why you might ask did the Disney Cruise Line Blog venture out to sea on another cruise line? Well, there are a number of reasons. This particular cruise was my 33rd cruise and my very first on a different cruise line. I wanted to expand my cruise experience and see what other lines offer to get a better perspective on the cruise industry. Additionally, we sailed with close family friends all staying in close proximity to our Excel Aft Suite (more on that below), and frankly, the itinerary offered some new port experiences at an overall savings compared to the Disney Fantasy’s March 11th Western Caribbean Cruise.
This trip report will range from what we did each day to direct comparisons to our Disney cruising experiences. Now let’s embark on this trip report.
We were fortunate to have a family member drive us to Port Canaveral saving us on the parking side of the cruise experience. However, we immediately encountered a “We’re not in Kansas anymore’’ moment. The arrival process over at Port Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal 3 (CT3) is not at all like the well oiled machine at Cruise Terminal 8 used by Disney. Traffic backed up George King Blvd, not much unlike the backup that occurs at CT8, but the way the line is triaged at CT8 helps the traffic flow a little quicker.
We entered the priority check-in line, where the representative used a small handheld scanner to check-in our party, then we proceeded to a typical security screening. Unlike Disney, Carnival does not permit guest to bring water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages that are packaged in glass or plastic bottles. However, on embarkation day, a small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, energy drinks, juice, and milk), packaged in cans or cartons, may be brought on board and must be in carry-on luggage. According to Carnival’s policy, a small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12-ounces/354-ml each or less, per person. Additionally, at the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750-ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne, per person, in their carry-on luggage. We saw a good percentage of guests arriving with 12-packs of cans as the soda is NOT included at the drink stations around the ship. We brought a 12-pack of sparkling water just to have a favorite that we enjoy.
Port arrival times are selected upon check-in, unless you are a VIFP Club Diamond & Platinum members, suite guest, or pay for priority check-in which Carnival calls Faster to the Fun. The best perk is the ability to drop your carry on items off at your stateroom as soon as you board the ship!
We booked an Excel Aft Suite, which included priority check-in and there is even a waiting area inside the terminal, but boarding was already underway by the time we entered the terminal. CT3 was recently built and debuted with the Mardi Gras’ arrival at Port Canaveral.
Fortunately, but unfortunately for the sake of a comparison, we spent very little time in the terminal. There was an areas for suite guests, but boarding was already underway.
There is no fanfare when you board more akin to The Love Boat where crew members are there to say hello and to answer any questions guests may have upon boarding.
It was suggested by the welcoming crew to go immediately to our muster station and complete the self mustering in the app. Upon arrival at our muster station, a crew member demonstrated the proper fitting of the life jacket, and provided some additional safety information.
We took advantage of the wonderful suite level perk and headed to our stateroom to drop off our carry-on luggage. Upon arrival, our stateroom keys were found sealed in an envelope just like Disney has been doing since the restart.
Our room was completely ready, and our stateroom host welcomed us and said we were more than welcome to stay or come and go even though it was well before the time guests were permitted in the stateroom hallways. Having the opportunity to drop off bags in the stateroom made for a much more pleasant embarkation day experience walking around the ship. The faster to the fun add-on option sold out for our cruise and it appeared a lot of other guests took advantage of this perk, as did one of the other rooms in our traveling party did.
Before we get into this trip report, Carnival offers their version of a Personal Navigator called the FUN TIMES which was delivered to our stateroom, and available at a few locations around the ship!
Here is a look at the fitness schedule for the week.
We booked a Carnival Excel Aft Suite, which according to the cruise line, is one of the most spacious staterooms on the ship and features a wraparound balcony, which was perfect for hanging out with our friends. Waiting for us in our room was a bottle of sparkling wine and a fruit plate.
The balcony includes a private hot tub, dining area, daybed, and a few other comfortable seating options. The aft suite features a separate living room and bedroom with a spacious bathroom with large shower and double sink, plus a separate private room for the toilet and an extra sink. There is a TV in each room, a walk-in closet, a lighted vanity and sectional sofa that converts to a bed. This PDF, shows all that is included in the Excel Aft Suites and below is a video tour of the stateroom. I can tell you, the shower was the best shower any of us had ever taken in any cruise or hotel. The three of us missed that when we got home for sure.
I am not sure if this is the standard going forward or not, but the stateroom was only serviced once per day which was not an issue other than the couch was never available as it was always set up as a bed. Thankfully, the weather was fantastic allowing us to spend most of our time on the balcony.
One other thing you will find in your stateroom are beach towels for each guest. There is a location on the Lido Deck to exchange towels for a fresh one. If you choose to keep the towel, or lose the towel, or forget the towel you can simply pay $22. They were nice towels and I considered keeping one for use as a golf towel.
Now that you have seen our stateroom and watched the video tour, this seems like a great spot to discuss the cruise fare for the room aboard the Mardi Gras and compare that to the opening day (our typical booking day for cruises) pricing for 2 adults and a minor (2A/1C) aboard the Disney Fantasy’s March 11th cruise. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison as the Fantasy was on a Western and the Mardi Gras was on an Eastern. However, I am keeping the same date comparison as this was a big spring break week for schools in Florida. Admittedly, the cruise fare takes more than just the stateroom into consideration, but this is meant to be a comparison and I want to show the type of accommodations the same money would have been able to secure onboard the Disney Fantasy.
|Disney Fantasy – 7A||$7,559|
|Mardi Gras – Excel Aft Suite||$7,823|
|Disney Fantasy – 4A||$8,987|
|Disney Fantasy – 3A (Concierge)||$18,780|
After dropping our stuff off and taking a tour of our stateroom, we headed up to deck 16 for lunch. Isabelle and I couldn’t wait to try Shaq’s Big Chicken (menu). For those that are not aware, Shaquille O’Neil is Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer. The fried chicken sandwiches far exceeded the quality served on the Disney pool decks.
After lunch we walked around the ship. While I highly recommend to all new cruisers to study the deck plan of the ship you will be sailing, I did no such thing leading up to the cruise. I actually tried to go in with no preparation at all just to see if I’d sink or swim.
What I mean by that is, will my past Disney Cruise experience be enough to enable me to successfully navigate a brand new ship, will the way-finding be second nature, or will I be out to sea without a trusty compass.
I feel I did OK overall, but it would have been helpful if I familiarized myself with the various venues and area names. I still strongly recommend doing your homework and looking over the deck plan. In my case, I had others to lead the way with this being their second sailing on the Mardi Gras.
A criticism I have with the Disney Wish is also the same for the Mardi Gras; the ship lacks a traditional nautical motif, and there is a bit of a disconnect from the ocean when you are inside the ship. However, there is a jogging track and mini golf course!
Carnival offers a few internet packages which are similar to the new Disney plans where you pay for a level of service not per day or for the full length of the cruise. Carnival also pre-sells the internet plan at a discount and from time to time run sails. I paid $101.15 for the Premium Wi-Fi plan for the length of voyage versus the advertised $155 once onboard. Loved the ability to score a deal and also pre-pay!
While the internet was a deal, they nickel & dime guest to use the chat feature of the app for $5/person. Our group opted to do the traditional method and just knock on the door or use iMessage when it would work. One person in our group locked the phone away on embarkation day and didn’t touch it… What a life!
We spent a decent amount of the afternoon getting settled in and unpacking for the week. While our stateroom offered great views, we ventured out twice in an attempt to see Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, but after 2 attempts, the launch was scrubbed for the day.
An attempt was made to head up to the Lido Deck for the sail away party, but it was LOUD so we went searching for an alternative location to hang out before dinner.
We ended up heading down a few decks to what unknowing would be come our favorite area on the ship, Summer Landing on deck 8 aft. Summer Landing consists of the Heroes Tribute Lounge with big screen tvs and relaxing couches and arm chairs, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse which is actually a working brewery making most of the draft beer served onboard, and an aft patio and pool area with hot tubs which we could see from our balcony.
The exterior deck connects to venues midship, but does not offer a full walkaround experience. Guy’s Pig & Anchor had TVs spread across the space and a few table games such as shuffleboard and foosball, which the kids enjoyed many times over.
The area ended up being a great spot to enjoy sail away and to watch the third round of The Players.
We reconvened for dinner as we were seated together with our friends at a lovely table in the back center of the Palm Restaurant on deck 6 aft with an amazing dinner view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
We were assigned early dining and this was our table for the voyage. There is a second floor to the restaurant, as well as the smaller Flamingo Restaurant, which is also used as a main dining room venue. Dinner is different — n a good way which I’ll elaborate in the coming days. For starters, you will have the same serving team each night you choose to dine at your assigned restaurant unless you choose the “Your Time” open seating option allowing for a more flexible evening experience. When we sat down, we found a folded card with the names and roles of each member of our serving team.
Next were QR codes for the dinner and wine menu. The menus for all the venues across the ship were available in the app, online (free) via a QR code, and even physical menus upon request.
Overall, this evening’s dinner was enjoyable and the majority of our table ordered the Polo Parmigiana Della Cucina which is a good thing because I didn’t take pictures of everyone’s food the first night.
That about wraps up our first day on abroad the Mardi Gras, but first, please enjoy the following time lapse ranging from the early afternoon with a view of Port Canaveral from to our sail away with the sun setting over Florida as we head out to sea.
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I sailed the ship in 2021 when Disney started up was delayed. The ship was great and sailed the Celebration last January. Carnival at least gives out paper funtimes vs Disney doing away with the Navigators. Internet could prepaid
Glad to see a comparrison. we’ve been looking at other lines as well to see what the value difference may be. For Alaska i could book a suite for the same price as an inside cabin on the Wonder…
It’s great to see a comparison – Disney is getting so expensive and out of our budget so we have started cruising with Royal Caribbean and only doing DCL every 2 or 3 years.
Glad to see your traveling another company. I enjoy Disney last summer but Carnival new ships are very good and less costly. Due to cost, get money on longer cruises with Carnival. I wish Disney you could prepay your internet before you board.
We’ve done the Mardi Gras 3 times now. If measuring bang for the buck, there simply is no comparison. Does it have the Disney staples people love? No, but it has other wonderful options to make anyone happy. Can’t wait to go again!
Me to, I get more for my buck on longer cruises and mardi gras and celebration on b2b and prefer the newer ships. Could get a suite on Carnival $3,000 for a 7 day, if their a fare sail, coud be longer vs Disney $7000. price
Wow this is so timely for my family! We have cruised with Disney many times and also a few times with Royal Caribbean now (love their newer Oasis class ships) but for some sailings especially during Christmas and New Year’s Disney prices are crazy. We cruised on the Wish last summer and while we loved it, not necessary to do it again any time soon. Our next Disney cruise is Alaska this summer. Looking ahead to New Years (Christmas break) Disney Fantasy is more than double in price of the Mardi Gras (Royals Oasis class is also expensive but a little less than Disney). We were almost ready to jump on the Mardi Gras but wasn’t convinced! We have a 14 yo boy with us too.
So your trip report is so timely, but yes I thought your site was hacked 🤣
Was a frequent cruiser when I lived a half hour from Miami. Then a move and covid kept me on shore. Finally sailing again, on Mardi Gras. Haven’t ever sailed out of Canaveral but now that I have to fly to a cruise it doesn’t matter where I sail out of.
The one thing that has turned out to be a disappointment is it doesn’t seem that this ship has the Poker Pro table in the casino. I thought all new Carnival ships would have them so I never checked. I spend a LOT of time in the casino, both slots and poker. If it’s true there’s no Poker Pro I’ll be sad. So much fun to sit, play, talk and have laughs with other players, a few drinks.
I’ll still enjoy the cruise but in future I would only sail ships with Poker Pro.