Mardi Gras Trip Log Day 5: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise – Amber Cove – Dominican Republic

Trip log, day five. Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. A ‘NEW TO US’ PORT OF CALL!!!
7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida 
March 15, 2023

CCL Mardi Gras Stateroom Map


They say, the early bird get the worm. Today, the early bird was rewarded with an opportunity to watch the sunrise.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove Sunrise

I walked with Emily to the gym, then headed over the JavaBlue Café to pick up the morning puzzle and a breakfast sandwich, which was not an extra charge! Day 5 and I am loving the variety offered onboard for breakfast above and beyond the typical breakfast buffet standards. The food has really been outstanding.

On my way back to the room, I stopped at Guy’s Pig & Anchor to grab a cup of espresso, and to peruse the breakfast offerings. Fairly standard breakfast buffet set up. However, there was very little foot traffic, definitely a great option to avoid the crowd in the Lido Marketplace on a port day. This is where Emily grabs her eggs after the gym on the way back to the room. Isabelle enjoyed it as well – same offerings, and way less busy. They will also make you an omelet made to order if requested (although not advertised).

We were still steaming towards Amber Cove, so there was no rush to get ready to head ashore.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove Arrival

Amber Cove, is located in the Dominican Republic on the Bay of Maimon near Puerto Plata in the country’s North Coast which was developed by Carnival Corporation for a reported $85 million dollars, and is visited by the corporation’s numerous cruise brands.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove

Well before sailing, we booked a Hillside Cabana for our day in Amber Cove. The Cabana experience was booked via Carnival’s Shore Excursions just like you’d book a Port Adventure with Disney Cruise Line. There is however one major difference. You pay at the time of booking the Shore Excursions with Carnival. There were 2 other cabanas to choose from; a poolside cabana (which sounded like it could be loud with the pool music), as well as over-the-water cabanas. An envelope with our shore excursion ticket was delivered to our stateroom with details on where to meet on the pier. For the cabanas, it was an information booth where we checked in, received our wristbands. Then we were ushered to our assigned cabana by our cabana host who was also working the zip line. We chose this because we could invite everyone in our sailing party, as the cabana hosts up to 8 guests, and it looked to be in a nice, quiet location.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove Hillside Cabana

The Hillside Cabanas at Amber Cove are as you’d expect up on the hill above the pool.

Hillside Cabana: Take in the sweeping vistas of the beautiful bay and surrounding mountains while kicking back in your private hot tub on the back deck of these luxurious cabanas. This is the perfect backdrop for the ultimate selfie. Cabanas are tucked high into the hillside, which offers a stunning 360° view of “Cordillera Septentrional” or “Northern Mountains”. A server will always be close at hand to take food and drink orders. 

Water Sports: Choose two water sports (kayak, stand up paddle board or aqua cycle) to enjoy for one full hour.

What’s Included:

  • Snacks.
  • Water and soda.
  • Cabana Features: A/C, fan, Wi-Fi TV with HDMI cable, showers, mist cooling system, refrigerator, two lounge chairs, living room seating and hot tub.

Requirements & Restrictions: Minimum age to zipline – 8 years. Maximum weight – 265 lbs.  

What to Bring: Beach towel and cash or credit/debit card for purchases.  

Good to Know: This is an all-day rental and guests can arrive at their leisure. The price accommodates up to 8 guests and only 1 person needs to purchase the excursion. A deposit of $20 cash is required, which will be refunded when the cabana key is returned.

Carnival’s Hillside Cabana – Amber Cove Description

This was actually a wonderful spot spend the day. The location was far enough back from the pool that the music wasn’t intrusive. The cabana itself was roomy and we actually had 1 more guests join us over the listed capacity, which our host just gave us an additional wristband without any problems. Carnival’s website shows the Hillside Cabanas start at $480, but we were able to book it for $310!

Not sure if this is a seasonally thing or not, but the hot tub was not hot water, which given the day was perfect as we had our own little pool with jets, anything warmer would not have been enjoyable. Just mentioning this for anyone visiting in a cooler month and looking for a true hot tub. There was a button to make the water warmer, but not sure how hot it would get.

The combination of the air conditioner, ceiling fan, and open wall was odd, but it did offer a cool escape when the sun started to beat down in the afternoon. There were no doors on the patio side, which would offer little protection if it is a rainy day. Again, just things to consider, as we had great weather during our visit.

The view is lovely from the hillside cabanas. It is a bit of a walk down to the pool, but again, this comes with the benefit of a bit quieter and more relaxing atmosphere.

As mentioned in the description above for the Hillside Cabanas, there is a server available to take orders for both food and beverages. No one in our party ordered food from the Skybar, but the drinks were always ice cold and refreshing.

The Hillside Cabana did have a TV with some of the stations listed on the channel guide pictured below. The Wi-Fi was provided via individual one time use access codes on a sheet of paper. If were are booking this experience with thoughts of working remotely with the included internet, think again. That is, unless the access point coverage issues are resolved. We gave up, but the kids were able to finally connect by waking out of the cabana and back to the walking path. Finally, there was a selection of cold water and soda in the mini-fridge which was all included.

Unlimited use of the zip line was included with the Hillside Cabana. We were given the option to keep our gear on and walk back up for repeated rides, or drop it off at the landing zone. This was my first time on a zip line and I had a blast, as did Emily. The kids in our group took advantage of the unlimited ride opportunities. Plus, it was never really that busy so the line was alway short or non-exisitant. I would recommend riding early in the day before it warms up as you are fitted with a harness and helmet.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove Hillside Cabana

Below is a video tour of the Hillside Cabana at Amber Cove along with some video of the zip line. While I mentioned the cabana’s location was away from the pool DJ music, it was in close proximity the the now all too familiar zip line sound. After a while, it just became background noise.

The Sky Bar was located just up the walkway from the Hillside Cabanas and this was the location of the restrooms. Well worth a walk over to get some great views of the port area.

Before heading back to the ship, we walked around the port shopping area, but as destination developed for cruise passengers, the shopping was not anything to write home about.

Amber Cove Points Of Interest Map

Over in the shopping village are of the port, there are some infographics providing visitors with a bit of history of the Dominican Republic.

I wouldn’t skip over this area completely, as there is a great Amber Cove photo op with your ship in the background; well, maybe if your ship is tied up on the closest side. You cannot see it from this picture, but Holland America’s Rotterdam was tied up on the other side.

CCL Mardi Gras Amber Cove

You can see the Rotterdam in the photos below which were taken on our way back to the ship. We spent the majority of the ashore time in our Hillside Cabana, but from our vantage point on the hill, it appeared rain was moving our way. Rather than stand on the pier in a line with a crowd rushing back, we opted to get ahead of the other passengers.

We had a decent amount of time before we needed to get cleaned up for dinner so we hung out, yup, you guessed it, on our balcony reading. The rain never materialized more than a passing sprinkle, but all in all we had a fun day and would not hesitate booking a Hillside Cabana again. The only thing I wish the Amber Cove cabanas included would be beach towels. We didn’t pay close enough attention to the Shore Adventure ‘what to bring’ information, and figured there’d be towels available just like at the Castaway Cay Cabanas. It really makes me appreciate the towel service offered by Disney Cruise Line and the ease of access to towels as you disembark for a Port Adventure, or just a day on the beach at Castaway Cay.

CCL Mardi Gras Stateroom

We interrupt our regularly scheduled trip report to bring you an important cruise update: The weather we spotted earlier was actually foreshadowing what was to come. An announcement was made onboard. Due to a cold front that moved through the southeastern United States that was continuing to move into the Bahamas brining high winds, the Captain announced our scheduled of arrival at Grand Turk in the morning would be pushed up to 1AM. We were also informed that our snorkeling Shore Adventure was cancelled due to the forecasted weather conditions in the morning. Now back to our regular scheduled trip report.

After a couple days away, we returned to the Palm Restaurant for dinner where we had front row seats our evening sail away.

Tonight’s menu has some unique offerings, or should I say, a rare find such as alligator beignets.

CCL Mardi Gras MDR Menu Day 5

Day 5 and the first bit of dissatisfaction with the food. Overall there were some ok dishes, but overall tonight’s selections did not break the bar set earlier during the first two main dining room dinners. The corn, chili, quinoa baked tomato looked great, and that is the nicest thing I can say about this dish. The accompanying planks was where the flavor was.

After dinner, we spotted a few friends excited to meet guests. Throughout the cruise, there were Dr. Seuss themed activities and tonight was a character meet and greet photo op with Sam I Am, The Cat in the Hat, and Thing 1 & Thing 2.

After dinner plans were up in the air, except that we all wanted to head up to the Dive-In Movie at Carnival Seaside Theater for the 7PM showing of Top Gun: Maverick. Initially, we were just going to watch the opening scene, then find something else to do. However, by the time Pete Mitchell walked into the diner, we were comfortably in our loungers locked in for the duration.

CCL Mardi Gras Lido Movie Top Gun Maverick

That last part, a simple spontaneous decision to just do what we wanted to do in that moment is why I do not like to over schedule activities and events when I am on vacation. The one thing I learned from the great Martin Harvey, it’s inherently impossible to plan a spontaneous adventure no matter how hard you work at it.

As we close out another day on the Mardi Gras, I want to leave you with yet another time lapse. This time it space from seconds after the sun breached the horizon (while I was up to see the sunrise, I did not have the camera set up yet) to a sunset at sea, including the arrival and sail away from Amber Cove.

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4 Replies to “Mardi Gras Trip Log Day 5: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise – Amber Cove – Dominican Republic”

  1. ktbos

    This was your first time on a zipline anywhere? Not that everyone should have done it but given all the cruising you’ve done, I would have assumed that you would have ended up on a zipline somewhere before! Glad you finally got to check that box.


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