After some research and discussion on the what's, where's and when's Karen and I decided on taking the Carnival Magic Caribbean cruise in April 2012. We had cruised before but chose the Magic because it was a very new and large ship. We also liked the idea of leaving from Galveston TX instead of Miami so we would have less travel time from California. We wanted an outside room and got one with a balcony as we had never had a balcony on a cruise ship and it sounded like it would be nice. We also decided to upgrade to a Spa Room on deck 11 since it was only $30 more per person at the time we booked and had unlimited access to the spa facilities. We picked a room on deck 11 instead of 12 because people from the open deck above 12 could see down on your balcony if they looked over the side. No biggie but we liked deck 11 better. Also, I read that on deck 12 near the front you might hear people above you in the weight room when they drop the free weights.
We decided to fly on Saturday and stay overnight at a Springhill Suites hotel near the Hobby airport. I had met a lady named Sharon the Cruise Critic Roll Call and she and her friend Donna were staying there. We had also booked the shuttle from the HOB airport to the cruise port on Sunday morning. It was a Carnival shuttle (highly recommended) that we booked through Carnival and was $30 per person each way. We looked at the shore excursions and decided to book non-Carnival excursions based on the reviews we found online. We booked the Jamaica Water Sports party cruise here: http://www.jamaicawatersports.com/cruise.htm and the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion here: http://www.nativewaywatersports.com/tour_details.htm#Rays,%20Reef%20and%20Rum%20Point. We did not book anything in Cozumel but ended up finding a really fun spot there as well at the all inclusive Nachi Cocom resort.
Preparation and packing. I packed two pair of shorts, two bathing suits, two pair of Dockers, two short sleeve collared shirts, five T-shirts, two dress shirts, as well as underwear and socks. I had dress shoes, water shoes, sandals and wore jeans and tennis shoes on the plane so I had those when I got there and wore them too. I also packed a collapsible ice chest, a book, Magic Bullet blender, toothpaste, nail clippers, electric razor, blade razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, deodorant, plastic raincoats (from the dollar store), Dramamine, extension cord, Laptop, iPhone, iPad, iPhone charger, laptop charger, baseball cap, sunblock, packing tape, small swiss army pocket knife (less than a 4 inch blade is the rule), duffle bag, reading glasses, small ice chest bag, corkscrew, dollar bills (for tips), a dozen straws, plastic cups (18), trash bags (I put the champagne bottles in them for the flight and used them on the way back for wet clothes), watch, GPS, AA batteries, pens (2), dental floss, passports (and photocopies), wallet, money and empty water bottles (4). I used everything except for the raincoats, corkscrew, Dramamine, the AA batteries, and the photocopy of our passports. I decided not pack a jacket or bring an umbrella, which had been suggested to me but wasn't ever needed. We brought a backpack as a carry-on that was also a must have since we could use it to carry things on shore excursions and such.
Many years ago you used to be able to bring your own alcohol on a ship. I was known for bringing my own complete bar for not only saving on the cost of drinks but also the convenience. Several years ago when they no longer allowed you to bring alcohol I went on a weekend cruise and packed some wine and champagne in my luggage, which was delivered to my room as I hoped for. About a year ago a friend of mine put wine and champagne in his luggage but when it arrived they had been taken with a note saying he could pick them up on the last day of the cruise. They do X-Ray the luggage an apparently they look for wine shaped bottles and cases of beer. My Mom and Dad cruise all the time (upwards of 50 cruises) and they always put wine and some adult beverages in plastic water bottles, never having a problem. I read though that they were now looking for water bottles in the luggage so I did more research and found that you can buy alcohol in bottles from Bon Voyage (here is the menu: http://www.zydecocruiser.net/menus/bv_liquor.htm) but I also discovered rum runners. They are plastic flasks that you fill with your spirits and put them in your checked luggage. I know you can spend a ton of money on drinks and when my neighbor reminded me that he had a $1,200 bar bill his last cruise I decided to sneak some adult beverages in and as it turned out only one of the brands of booze I ended up bringing was even available from BV. Shame on me... but that's what I did.
I wasn't sure if I should try to buy my bar contents in Texas when I got there or bring it from California but I decided to do my packing at home and just pack the liquids in our four checked bags on the plane. That was certainly the correct decision since it would have been hard and time consuming to do that in Texas. Besides, I found out that they stop selling alcohol at 10pm on Saturday and I don't think they sell it at all on Sunday. I packed some a 32 oz and 16 oz flash of my favorite spirits. I put two in each bag, making sure that I did not have two of the same kind in the same bag in case they were found. I had talked to someone on the ship who put a boxed wine in their bag and it made it through but I had decided to only use rum runners. Worse case they open your bag (as long as your luggage is not locked), remove your booze and leave a note in it that it had been taken. If your bag is locked then they supposedly leave you a note telling you to come down to some naughty room and open it so they could inspect it. I personally have never known anyone who that has happened to though.
I packed my Magic Bullet blender, which seems like an overkill but it sure was nice to have. I even packed an 18-pack of clear plastic cups which was also handy as well. I wrote a single letter on the bottom of each RR with a sharpie so I knew what they were. I put each of them in a gallon size Ziploc bags in case any of them leaked. We had checked four suitcases on the plane each weighing between 20 and 49 lbs. Before I left home I also printed labels from my computer so I could label the RRs when I got them on the ship. My girlfriend thought I was a genius and said that having our own bar was one of the coolest parts of the trip.
What many people do not realize is that you can bring one bottle of wine or champagne each and up to 12 non-alcoholic beverages that are 20oz or less in size. You are supposed to carry them on so that's what we did. I mainly brought bottled beverages verses cans so that I could reseal them. I was worried about taking about 25 to 30 non-alcoholic beverages onto the ship including a number of them larger than 20 oz but it all went well. I brought those from California as well since I didn't want to have to shop on Saturday night or Sunday morning around the airport without a car. That is what made my airline checked bags so heavy.
One last thing I did was to email myself a PDF of the food menu for the main dining room so I could review it on my iPhone during the cruise. I suppose you could print it but it's like 75 pages. I found the menu here: http://www.zydecocruiser.net/menus/new_11_11/index.htm and it ended up being exactly what they had every day with one small exception. The first part of the menu was the breakfast and lunch, which was the same every day. For dinner we almost always ordered multiple appetizers and sometimes even two entrees. After the cruise I found the Fun Times information here: http://www.zydecocruiser.net/Bloggers2012/capers/index.htm. It was pretty much the exact same list of activities on our cruise. In retrospect I should have sent that to myself via email so that I would have it on my iPhone. That would have been nicer than having to wait for the paper copy left in the room each night and tearing off the itinerary to out in my pocket.
The flight had one stop and on the second leg we had our first cocktail on the plane. My sister always says that she starts a vacation when she gets to where she is going but our friend who drove us to the airport suggested that a vacation begins when you have your first cocktail. We were therefore officially on vacation! We arrived at the HOB airport just around 6pm on Saturday. As soon as we got to the baggage claim we saw our luggage coming down and grabbed it. I called the Springhill where we had our hotel reservation and they had a shuttle bus already on its way. We took our bags outside and in just a few minutes the bus was there. The ride to the hotel was about 5 minutes and we asked the guy at the reception desk if there was a sports bar with food around. There was a Mexican sports bar next door and that was about it. We had some dinner and pre-cruise margaritas while watching an NCAA football game and a soccer game that seemed to be quite popular with the locals.
Before going to bed I opened our bags and to check the liquids and all was well. Two of the bags had a notice that they were inspected by the TSA, but with all the liquids and a blender with small blades that was not unexpected. I unpacked all of the liquids except for the RRs and put them in our 12x12x12 ice chest and duffel bag. I repacked a few things, used my pocket knife to cut off the airline tags and attached the cruise tags to the bags using my packing tape. We hit the sack around 11. Even though the time zone change had us two hours behind we were tired form all the travel and excited to be getting on the ship in the morning.
Sunday - Boarding the Ship
We woke up around 8am and went down to the hotel breakfast around 9am. They had egg rounds, sausage patties, bagels, cereal, juices, etc. I made myself a breakfast muffin with an English muffin, egg, sausage and cheese. It was okay but the fast food ones were better. After a quick breakfast we went back to the room and grabbed our luggage. They hotel shuttle left around 9:45 and brought us to the airport just a mile or two away. In the baggage claim area we found the Carnival Cruise rep and they had our name on a list. They had two buses coming and about 75 people waiting. We got on the second bus and were on our way to the cruise port. The advantage of using the Carnival bus was that once you give them your checked luggage at the bus, you don't have to touch it again till it shows up in your room. The bus arrived just before 11am and they had us wait in the bus while they took our luggage off the bus and arranged them in rows by deck based on the tags. There was a guy with a stapler helping people staple any remaining tags on so that they would be delivered correctly. I had taped mine with my small roll of clear packing but asked him to staple them as well.
We left the bus with our carry-on bags, ice chest and duffle bag filled with drinks and proceeded to the check in area on the far left side of the terminal. We had to walk about 100 yards before going in the building. We checked in at the desk and got our sail and sign cards, which only took a few minutes. They also gave us a plastic card with a boarding group number. They called a group every 5 minutes or so and we were 3 groups out so we waited on an airline terminal style chairs for maybe 15 minutes. When they called our number we went in to the next room and there was a line for security about 6 people long just like at an airport security check-in. I had packed about 15 bottles and cans in a 12x12x12 ice chest from Wal-Mart which Karen carried on-board along with one bottle of Champagne in a backpack. She went through security first. When they went through the X-ray the person told her that she needed to take them over to the table for inspection. There were two tables up against the wall about 20 feet past the x-ray machine and each table had two security guards. The security guy looked at each bottle of water, coke and 7-up and shook each of them briefly to check the bubbles for booze. There was one 21 oz bottle of pina colada mix, which he picked up and read the label. He did not look at the cans of red bull, pineapple juice or soda. He looked at the bottle of champagne and waved her through. He spent about 15 seconds total looking at them and didn't seem to care that there was over 12 bottles or the sizes.
I had three one liter bottles (38 oz) of daiquiri mixes (strawberry, banana and raspberry), a 21 oz pina colada mix, some pineapple juice cans, 2 cranberry juice bottles, 7-ups, cokes and some water bottles in a duffle bar. I had magic bullet blender in the side compartment of the duffle. Yes, I brought that mini-blender and it was a great thing to have. There was about 15 items total but I did not really count them. I too had a second bag with my laptop, various cords and adapters, the Steve Jobs book and our second bottle of champagne. I knew I would be flagged for inspection and was hoping for the best. The X-Ray lady simply told me that I would need to have my wine bottle checked and waved me over to the table with no mention of the duffle. I walked over to the table, set my duffle bag on the ground, opened the laptop bag and held out the bottle of champagne. I told him that I had a bottle of champagne and he replied that he just needed to look and make sure the foil was intact. He waved me through so I put it back in my bag, grabbed my duffle and was on my way.
I did not see them taking anything from anyone, even though I did see a number of people carrying on two or three 12-packs of soda. I even saw a guy with a portable hand truck rolling in with a case of water and several 12-packs of soda. They didn't seem to care about that. So if you are concerned about the number and size of liquids in your carry-on as I was, then I'd say don't worry too much. I may have pushed the envelope a bit with my drinks but everything and everyone was cool.
We stopped at the bottom of the gangway and they took our pictures so that security would know what we looked like when we went on and off the ship. We boarded ship on deck 3 and I asked the lady there what times the rooms would be ready. She said it would be before 1:30 so we took our carry-ons and walked up the circular stairs to deck 5. From there we took the elevator up to deck 10, the lido deck. We found a bar near the pool with empty seats and ordered the DOD (drink of the day). I spoke with some other people who had gone to their room and it was already available but we decided to wait. I had read that the Italian restaurant was free for lunch and since not many people realized that, it was usually empty on that first day. We went over there at the back of deck 11 around 12:30 and there were only a dozen or so people there. We overheard some people talking at the next table and realized that they were the ones I met on the Cruise Critic Roll Call and had been talking with. We decided to share a table with Sharon and Donna and had a great lunch together. Karen had the bowtie pasta with chicken, shrimp and alfredo sauce and I had the lasagna. The Caesar salads were very good as well. After lunch we went to the room and it was available.
Our room steward was there and introduced himself. Two of our four checked bags were there as well. I quickly opened them and the RRs were there so that was good. We unpacked those bags and I emptied the ice chest of the drinks. I went into the hallway to look for the room steward to ask him to fill the ice chest with ice. He took it and returned a few minutes later with it filled up. Throughout the whole cruise he always kept refilling it for us without me even asking. Very nice.
They then announced that there was a muster drill and that we should go to the Showtime Theater on deck 4. On every past cruise I had been on you had to take your life jacket with you from the room but this time they said you did not need to. We went to the indicated place and listened to the information about where to go in case of an emergency. Afterwards we walked backed to the front of the ship and up the stairs to our room. The ship had already left the dock and we hadn't even felt it move. We made some cocktails in the DOD glasses, watched Galveston go by from our starboard side balcony and then headed down to deck 5 to do some exploring.
We then decided to check out the upper decks and watched the kids going down the slides. My big kid Karen was ready to try the slides but since she would have been the only adult on the slides she thought she'd wait till later in the trip. We went back to the room to refill our drinks and our last two bags had arrived. We unpacked them and found that the RR's were okay in those bags as well. I labeled all of the bags and put them in a drawer.
The room had three closet doors and about 20 hangers. The desk next to the closet had five drawers, a 2-socket AC receptacle, a locked cabinet with a fridge, a cabinet with two small doors and two shelves. There was a couch, a small table, two end tables next to the bed and two lights on them. The deck had two chairs and a small round table. The top drawer of the desk had a blow dryer hard wired so it did not take up a plug. There was a safe in the room but it was not big enough to fit my laptop and actually was barely large enough for our iPads. Just inside the door there was a slot that you were supposed to put your room key (sail and sign card) in so that the lights would turn off when you took it and left. I had never seen that before and had brought along an old expired gift card to put in it. On the second day though the room steward must have taken the card so I put a business card in it. The next day the business card disappeared so we just went back to the room key. There was a timer on it so it was no big deal to just use your room key. We showered up and went to the main dining room (MDR) for dinner later that night. I had a Caesar salad, the linguine as a starter, the cured salmon didja (I think we tried all the didjas) and the sweet and sour shrimp along with creme brulee for desert. Sunday night's dinner was my least favorite of all the dinners in the MDR.
Monday - Sea Day
Monday was our first day at sea. It was nice being able to sleep in after having traveled Saturday and part of Sunday. It was our first time having a balcony room so it was also nice walking outside the room and watch the water go by 11 decks down. We decided to have breakfast in the MDR and we both had the Eggs Benedict. The lido deck had a huge buffet of breakfast food but we decided to avoid the hustle and bustle of the folks there and have a sit down meal served. It was okay but not great and I decided to try the French Toast the next time we have breakfast there. We ventured out to the Lido Deck and it was crowded and we could not find any open chairs. There were 4600 passengers and I heard that there were 1800 kids under the age of 18 on the cruise. I guess that is what happens when you go cruising while the younger kids are on spring break.
We then went over to the Spa Therapy area on deck 12 that was included with our room. They had a really nice therapy pool that was probably 20 feet by 10 feet. There was one long bench inside made of metal that was like a reclining chair. We realized that we did not need to bring our Carnival towels from the room as they had white towels there. The water felt great and we relaxed there for 20 minutes or more with a few other couples as well. We then tried the other amenities such as the steam room and sauna. Very nice but they were not for me. I
decided to go to the cooking demonstration at the Prime Steakhouse at 11:30 while Karen stayed behind to nap and relax. They made a salad, an appetizer, an entree and a desert. They gave out samples of each, which were really tasty. The Mac and Cheese was absolutely delicious. At 1pm I went to the Master Mixologist competition on the Lido deck. It was entertaining listening and watching. One of the judges was a bartender from Hooters. Enough said.
We had lunch in the MDR and spent some time touring the ship some more. We had a Meet & Greet get-together with the Cruise Critic Roll Call folks scheduled for 2:00 in the Red Frog Pub. We went down there around 1:45 and ordered some beers and coconut shrimp. We met Jen and Brett, two people who I was chatting with on the Cruise Critic Roll Call site and we hit it off right away. It turned out that Brett and I had very similar work backgrounds and could talk about our experiences and such. Around 2:00 we realized that the rest of the CC M&G group were in the other side of the pub so we made our way over there. We saw Sharon and Donna again and met the others as well. Our group was 16 people and we had a good time over the next few hours. When we got back to the room, I asked the room steward if he could unlock the fridge so we could use it. He said that it was already unlocked and was stocked with mini bar type stuff. I asked if he could remove the items so we could use the fridge and he said to just put some of the beers and stuff up on the counter. On a cruise there is always an abundant supply of food and this ship was no different. We wanted to have dinner on the later side so we went over to try the pizza on the lido deck. There is a 24 hour pizza station where they mainly make cheese and pepperoni pizza. I had read that they make a good Caesar salad if you ask them, which we did and it was good.
We decided to put on our bathing suits and find a hot tub. I made some drinks and we went down to the tubs on deck 5, which we saw from our balcony were not very crowded. The tub was pretty big, maybe 15 feet by 6 feet and there were maybe 6 of us in there including a couple of kids. After about 15 minutes though a bunch more kids came in and before we knew it there were probably 8 or 10 kids. When some of them started swimming under water and using your legs to swim around we decided that was enough. We went up to the Serenity deck and found the tubs there to be quite peaceful with just adults only. There was a lady there who was very drunk and lost her top while drying off so everyone there was kind of cheering her on. After relaxing in the tub we decided to clean up and get ready for dinner. We had anytime dining so we went to the MDR again. I had the baked mushrooms (good), black tiger shrimp (kind of small), and the spicy alligator fritters (good). For a main course I had the prime rib (very good) and asked if they could add a lobster tail. They ended up bringing out two entries so I ate the surf and turf but left some of the side dishes behind. I had the cherries jubilee for desert. We hit the comedy show and sat with Sharon and Donna there. They had gotten there early and reserved some great seats for us. Thanks Sharon! It was really funny. We ended up on the Lido deck after the shows and the MUTS (Movie Under The Stars) was on. That night the movie was a chick flick called PS I Love You. There was a popcorn machine but it was empty as there were a lot of people around watching the movie. We got some pizza from the 24 hour pizza station and found some comfortable seats on Deck 11, one deck above the Lido but level with the screen.
Tuesday - Sea Day #2
Tuesday was pretty much the same as Monday, another relaxing day at sea. Breakfast and lunch in the MDR, lido deck for some snacks, ice cream from the 24-hour soft serve dispenser (nice), therapy pools again, and browsing the ship. It was a "Relax, have fun and eat" kind of day. I had brought my laptop along as I own my own business and had to check and respond to email daily. I found that outside the piano bar was a nice quiet and comfortable place to sit. There were several other tables nearby where people were playing cards. WiFi was available all over the ship including the rooms but it was nice to hand out on deck 5 to work on my emails.
Tuesday night was a formal night in the MDR, which we really didn't care for, but we were good doobies and dressed up somewhat. They were also doing formal pictures and there was a large line to get in the MDR. That was really the only line we were ever in that was more than a few minutes. We waited probably 45 minutes to get in the dining room. That was around 7:30 and we wished that we had gone earlier or later. I'm not sure when the lines were shorter but they had to be at some point. I had the French onion soup (very good), a study in sushi (so-so), the penne mariscos as a starter (good) and the short ribs (excellent). I had the strawberry cheesecake for desert (so-so as well).
We went to another comedy show and decided that we really liked them so we stayed for two in a row. We met up with Jen and Brett and Sharon and Donna at the show and we all had a good time. They had a huge fishbowl size drink at the Red Frog that they said was really good. The Thirsty Frog beer was also very good. Later that evening we hung out with Jen and Brett, talked, drank, laughed, drank, cabin hopped, drank and even had some Jagerbombs (Jager and red bull). It was late so we called it a night since we were due to arrive in Jamaica in the morning. We decided to get room service for breakfast so we left the order on our door before going to bed.
Wednesday - Jamaica
The ship docked in Jamaica so quietly we didn't even know we had stopped moving. Apparently the ship did shudder quite a bit on the lower decks when they use the side thrusters but on deck 11 we did not feel it. Room service knocked around 7am with our food and then we had another knock around 7:30. It was our new friend Brett and he told us that Jen was feeling sick and did not want to go in the snorkeling excursion (I think the Jagerbombs did her in... sorry Jen). Since they had prepaid for the excursion and we had not, Brett said we could just tell the folks on the ship that we were Jen and Brett and use their spots. He gave me their confirmation info and we thanked him for the generous offer. I thought it might be nice to have champagne later so I put one of our two bottles of Wilson Creek Almond Champagne into the fridge. When they announced that we could disembark we made our way down the stairs to Deck 0 and pretty much just walked off the ship. The security guards scanned our S&S cards very quickly and before we knew it we were were standing on land again. Our tour instructions said that we should not go through the gates and into the terminal and instead go all the way down the dock to the right and look for the boat called the Freestyle. At first we were hesitant to go down there as we were in a foreign country and there was nobody down there. We decided to be adventurous though and walked all the way down past the ship and beyond.
Within a few minutes we saw the catamaran called the Freestyle. It was maybe 30 feet long, kind of old but in okay condition. Our new CC friends Sharon and Donna were also booked on the same excursion and we saw them approaching along with a few other people. There were 4 crew people on the boat, all from Jamaica (obviously) and they were nice but not as friendly as I would have thought. They offered us some punch (no rum till later) and we waited for everyone to board. They had some t-shirts on-board and other trinkets and I ended up buying two shirts for $20. I later saw those same shirts at 5 for $20 but it was nice to support our shore excursion hosts. I think there were 9 tourists from the ship and 4 crew members. Another much larger catamaran sailed up so our captain moved our boat away. It was the boat that the Carnival booked excursion
people were going to get on. Probably about 100 or more people came walking down the dock and boarded it. It looked pretty crowded and I was glad we had booked the smaller boat from the web site
as it was much cheaper ($35 pp) and we ended up going to the same places. They put up the sails and we sailed out of the harbor and over to a reef about 20 minutes away which ended up being a few hundred yards off of Cove Beach, our next stop after snorkeling. The air was nice, the water was clear and the sun felt relaxing. We arrived at a reef and the captain tied us up to a buoy. They passed out masks and fins and we jumped in the water off the back of the boat. The reef was pretty nice and there were lots of fish. We saw the other large boat from the Carnival excursion nearby and there were lots of people in the water. One of the crew guys from our boat came in the water and was spreading out some food for the fish. There were thousands of fish around and it was nice swimming through them. They would not let you touch them but it was cool swimming through a swarm of them.
After maybe 30 minutes we were all snorkled out and went back on the boat. They then took us over to the dock at Cove Beach and tied up there. They told us that they going to pick up some other people and they would pick us up at 1:15pm. We saw Margaritaville and a place called The Twisted Kilt from the boat and they looked like they may be fun places. The crew warned us that the locals would try to talk you into taking a taxi there but it's only a few blocks and an easy walk. We walked around Cove Beach and got a table with Sharon and Donna to have some lunch. I had the jerk pork and we all had a cocktail or two. The sandwiches were around $9 and a cocktail was $6. After lunch Karen and I walked down towards Margaritaville, stopping at several shops along the way. We were looking for some souvenir shirts and there were tons of them. There was lots of cheap stuff, 50% off here, 75% off here, etc. We were offered taxi rides which we declined and at least 5 times were were offered to buy some pot or weed. It turns out our friends Jen Brett (who made their way into town later via taxi) were offered cocaine and even heroin there. I guess they were younger than us or maybe we just looked like t-shirt buying tourists.
Margaritaville ended up being a bust. It was crowded inside and we didn't see any seats at the bar. We walked outside by the beach and there were people playing in the ocean. They had a water trampoline and other fun things but it did not look that appealing to us so we checked out the gift shop and left. We crossed the street and made our way back to Cove Beach, stopping along the way at a few more shops. When we got back to the shops at Cove Beach we went back to the same place we had lunch and sat down at the bar. We saw Sharon and Donna there again so they joined us for another cocktail. They said they had seen Jen and Brett but we did not see them to thank them again. Shortly before 1:15 we walked back out to the doc and got back on the Freestyle. On the way back to the ship they had spiked the punch with Rum so we had a few. They also had local beers for $3 so we got one of those. I asked the one crew lady who seemed to be the friendliest if she had ever been to the USA. She was maybe 25 years old or so and told me that she had never been off the island. That surprised me but I guess that is the lifestyle there and probably not uncommon. They played Jamaican music and the one friendly lady danced with beer bottle on top of her head. When we arrived back at the main dock we could not go directly back to the ship. We had to go along the right side the terminal and then into the terminal where they had Jamaican security people. They had x-ray machines and were patting some people down who set it off. We went through quickly and then had the ships security and x-ray check too. We went to our room, showered, got dressed and decided to open that bottle of Champagne that I had chilled. Our balcony was on the starboard side which was the same side as the dock so we watched the ship pull away as we sipped our champagne.
We decided to have an early dinner so we went down to the MDR again. I had the friend shrimp (ok), Yukon Gold cream soup (good), shark and langoustino fire cracker roll (okay) and assorted seafood entree (good). The tiramisu for desert was also good and rounded out the meal. After dinner we made our way to the Destination Unknown show at 9pm. I read on CC that it was very good and it was so I would highly recommend it. We again ordered room service for breakfast and hit the sack.
Thursday - Grand Cayman
We arrived in Grand Cayman in the morning and they anchored the ship in the harbor. There were several other cruise ships there and we could see tenders in the water coming from the port. I was concerned that it might take a while to get off the ship but everything went smoothly. There was a line going down the stairs but it moved fast and in less than 10 minutes we were on a tender and headed for shore. We had booked the Rays, Reef and Rum Point Excursion from Native Way Watersports for $62.50. Jen and Brett had also booked the same excursion (we seemed to be thinking along the same way when planning the trip) so we met up with them and looked for the guide. The lady at the info desk told us where to find him and we eventually found a contact person. The main guy arrived but then left again as I think he was trying to arrange for a bus. We waited probably close to an hour before we finally left to board the bus so that was kind of frustrating. I guess with so many people from all the ships the busses were in demand. They seemed a little disorganized as there were too many people for the bus and they asked if the kids could sit on their parent s laps. There were 29 people on the bus and tour but I think 3 of them were on the wrong bus and tour. They straightened that out later though.
I had read on CC that there was a liqueur store there called Blackbeards and that they had rum called Big Black Dick Rum. My girlfriend Karen really liked the name (she's that way) and we planned to try to find it while we were on the island. I saw a picture of the bottle on Google Images when we were at home and thought it would be a fun addition to our home bar. As were were leaving the bus area we saw a sign that said Blackbeards so we made a mental note of it and hoped we'd have time to go there when we got back from the excursion.
The drive to the other side of the island on the bus was interesting. The island was definitely a step up from Jamaica. Nice landscaping, sidewalks, palm trees, beautiful houses with boat docks, etc. We saw iguanas sunning themselves alongside the road and walking across grass fields. We could see spending several days or even a week in Grand Cayman. The bus ride was maybe 20 minutes or so and he dropped us of with the boat guys Andrew and Andrew. They were both really cool and fun, especially the boat captain guy. Karen said he was really cute and he sure was more of what we expected in a shore excursion host. He was talkative, funny, interesting and fun. The boat ride to the sand bar with the rays was about 30 minutes long. When we arrived there were literally 15 or more boats there around the sand bar with lots of people in the water. Andrew expertly maneuvered the boat around the reefs and into a spot near the sand bar between two other boats. He then set the anchor and we were in just the right place. We have a boat at home and there is no way I could have done that. I hate setting anchors.
They said you could not have any footwear on like water shoes or sandals as they could hurt he rays. We all got in the water and were
joined by Andrew and Andrew. They explained how the rays seemed to enjoy people, pointed out where the stingers were and told us what to do and what not to do. It was actually really cool being in there with the rays. We hung out next to Jen and Brett and saw a barracuda swim by a couple of times. The guys showed us how the rays would kiss you and I believe everyone on the boat had them do that. It really was a cool thing to do and Jen took some pictures with her underwater camera.
After maybe 45 minutes in the water we got back in the boat and proceeded to Rum Point. On the way Andrew passed around a menu from the local restaurant there, which was included with our excursion. He took our orders and phoned them in so that the food would be ready when we arrived. As we were cruising across the water the captain guy Andrew saw something in the water. He cut the engine, yelled to the other Andrew to take the boat, grabbed a mask and snorkel and dove overboard. We maneuvered back and he came up holding a large spiny lobster. That was kind of funny and added some more excitement to the trip. Rum point was very scenic and we hit a few shops there. They brought our lunch orders out (I had the jerk pork dish again) and it was very tasty but a little on the small side portion-wise. Maybe I was just getting used to all the food on the ship. We found four chairs near the water and Jen and Brett and Karen and I looked over the water while we ate our lunch. We swam in the warm water and relaxed.
Afterwards, we made our way to the (only?) bar there and ordered some drinks. It was yellow and I think it was called The Wreck. There was a line of six or eight people at the bar. Andrew had told us that the prices were in British currency and that it was about 20% more for US dollars. We were also told that is you paid with US currency that you would get change back in Cayman Island dollars. Our two cocktails were $28US so I have them 30 US with no change. Yikes! So much for spending a week there... unless you brought your own booze.
After an hour or so at Rum Point we boarded the boat and started on our way back to the port where we started out. They collected the money along the way ($125 for two people) and we gave them a $20 tip as they were really cool and fun hosts. When we got near the port, Andrew maneuvered the boat alongside some houses. There were a bunch of iguanas there and lots of plants and houses to look at. The bus ride back to the ship terminal was uneventful but we got back about an hour and 15 minutes before we needed to get on the last tender to the ship.
Our first priority was to find the Big Black Dick Rum. It was apparently named after a African guy named Richard Le Noir. Both Karen and Jen joked about how fun it would be to have some in our respective bars. We found the Blackbeards sign across the main street from the terminal and a few shops to the right. Blackbeards was actually a small shop upstairs so we went in and looked at the different types of rum. We did not see it but then realized that there was a table right in the center of the room that had all kinds of flavors of it. There was light, dark, coconut, dark chocolate rum liqueur, white chocolate rum liqueur and I think a few others. They had a sign up that if you bought two bottles for $25 US that you also got a free rum cake. They also had free samples. We asked the clerk about it and she said that there was someone coming who gives out the samples and sells the rum but she was in the restroom . After 5 minutes or so waiting the lady came in and started pouring the samples. Jen and Brett and Karen and I decided to get the two bottles each along with the cake. They lady then looked at her watch and said oh sorry, it's too late. She said we had to purchase it one hour or more before the last tender leaving for the ship and it was now 55 minutes. They would not let you buy it and carry it on the ship. We tried to talk her into making an exception on the 55 minutes but she had no interest in helping us. We were certainly there in time and if she had told us about the deadline when she arrived we could have made the cut. It was disappointing to Jen and Karen that they had to go home without their Big Black Dick... Rum. ;-)
After stopping at a few shops nearby we made our way back to the terminal and waited in a line to catch a tender back to the ship. The line was long but only took maybe 10 minutes. Once back onboard we showed, cleaned up, had some cocktails and relaxed. We had dinner that night again the MDR. I had the seafood platter (okay), the cream of broccoli soup (good), grilled tiger jumbo shrimp and the chateaubriand (best entree of the whole trip). The menu I had downloaded said the didja was escargot but disappointingly it was not on the menu. We both had baked Alaska for desert, which was just okay.
I went to a bar on deck 5 that had an NBA game on. The second game is the one I was interested in (Lakers) but apparently it was on TNT and neither the bar nor the rooms got that channel (only the TNT Movie Channel). I decided to go solo to the Magic show in the Spotlight lounge as Karen wanted to nap and relax. Guess who I bumped into at the show? Go figure, Jen and Brett were there! We watched the show which was okay and briefly hung out afterwards. The ship picked two new comedians and we saw their back to back shows again that night with Jen and Brett. Karen and I had not planned a shore excursion in Cozumel and figured we would just take a cab to a beach or something. Jen and Brett had booked a reservation at Nachi Cocom, an all inclusive resort that they had been to before. They suggested that we join them and we decided to do just that. The four of us got along really well so we expected us to have a great time in Cozumel. The MUTS that night was a Batman movie so we watched the last half of the movie on our deck 11 chairs with some pizza and cocktails. I still did not get any popcorn as the machine was empty again by the time we got there. :-(
Friday - Cozumel
We again set the order on the door for a room service breakfast and the alarm went off all too early. We had docked in Cozumel and l called Jen and Brett when we were ready to leave the room. They were on the opposite end of the ship from us but we ended up meeting just a few people apart on the departure ramp. We went through the terminal and found a cab. Brett told the driver that we wanted to go to Nachi Cocom and asked how much it was. The driver said $100 and Brett just laughed. The car was an old Nissan sedan. It did not have a taxi sign on it anywhere and I noticed the speedometer and dashboard electronics did not work. The driver said it was 11 miles to Nachi Cocom and the driver was tailgating the van in front of us in a way that made us all nervous. There are actually three resorts along the same beach, Nachi Cocom, Paradise Beach and Mr. Sancho's. I heard that Paradise beach was where the famous Corona commercial was filmed. It does cater more to kinds though with water slides and such for the kids to play on. Nachi Cocom was definitely geared more for adults and I'm not sure about Mr. Sancho's. When we pulled up to the resort Jen pointed out that it did not look very nice from the outside but to wait till we got inside. Bret gave the driver $20 and he seemed happy.
Jen had only made a reservation for two but she asked if it was okay for four of us to get in. They said it was no problem and charged us $55 each. They gave us wrist bands so that the staff knew we were all inclusive and in we went. The beach was nice but the sand was course with lots of little sea shells. We found four lounge chairs in the shade near the beach and waited for a waiter to come by. Brett said that the last time they were there he tipped the waiter $20 and he was always coming by to take drink orders. He did the same this time and the guy brought us our first round of drinks but I don't think we ever saw him again. Some other guy came by and tried to sell us massages, parasailing, fishing tours, etc. The 30 minute massage was only $40 but none of us signed up for one. We ordered a bevy of food including tacos, enchiladas, shrimp cocktails, nachos and fruit. We had beers, pina coladas, mai tais and several shots of tequila shots each. We watched the sailboats and parasailers while relaxing at the beach.
The ocean water was a little warmer than Grand Cayman and we swam some to cool off. We then decided to go to the pool and realized that it had a swim up bar. Nice! We sat at the bar and ordered some more drinks. We had beers, mai tais, pina coladas, long island iced teas, tequila and kamikaze shots. Yikes! The bar tender kept pouring those kamikazes and we realized that the hot tub adjacent to the pool also had bar access. We moved to the hot tub and were talking with some other folks in there who were drinking kamikazes as well with is. There was one kid briefly in the hot tub but not really many kids around. We had talked about leaving at 4pm so we watched the clock worried that we might forget to get a ride back to the ship. About 3:30 we were all hammered and suddenly all agreed to head back. We asked at the front desk for a cab and within minutes a cab was there. I followed Brett's lead and gave the driver $20 when we arrived. We hit a few shops looking for shirts and stuff and made our way back to the ship. We went to our separate rooms and Karen and I all but passed out when we got there. We had a really really really fun time at Nachi Cocom so if you like the beach, pools and like to eat and especially drink then I would highly recommend it.
We woke up many hours later but still in time to have dinner in the MDR. After cleaning up we had a late dinner. Dinner was good. I had the wild mushroom cream soup, oysters rockefeller, petit filet mignon and brazed short ribs along with butter pecan ice cream for dessert. Went to see the 9:45 comedy show and stayed for the 10:45 one as well. Of course we ran into Jen and Brett at the show and we sat together.
Saturday - Sea Day
Saturday was our last day of the cruise and a sea day. We slept in late and had omelets for breakfast at the Lido deck. We bought some t-shirts in the gift shop (2 for $20) and some red frog pub shirts for $20 each. We also took the opportunity to take some photo shots at at the red pub bar. It wasn't till after the cruise when we exchanged photos that we realized Karen and I and Jen and Brett took the same funny picture at the Red Frog.
We bumped into (guess who) Jen and Brett and decided to leave a note for Sharon and Donna. We hadn't seen them since Jamaica and wanted to catch up. I still had a bottle of champagne so we decided to all get together outside the red frog pub and split our champagne. I also had brought down some red headed slut shots (peach schnapps, jagermeister and cranberry juice) in a water bottle with plastic cups. We had a few each and everyone seemed to like them. We hung out for a while talking and we decided to have dinner with Jen and Brett at Cucina del Capitano, the Italian restaurant. We went to a guys verses girls gender show in the main showroom and it was kind of a dud. The MUTS was E.T. so we sat in our favorite seats and watched most of it. I still did not get my popcorn. :-(
We realized that we had never laid out by the pool the whole week. Sharon told us that she went out at 7:30am that morning and all of the deck chairs around the pool already had towels and stuff on them. Apparently people got up really early and reserved chairs. I read that you were not supposed to do that but lots of people did... so don't give me grief and call me a smuggler for packing a few rum runners. ;-) We decided to hand carry our bags off the ship so we could get off earlier. They announced that the disembarkation would start at 7am for the people who were hand carrying their bags. Each night our room steward made up towels to look like animals and left them on the bed. This night he made a monkey and hung it from the desk light. That was pretty cool. We had a 1:15pm flight and were concerned that we might miss it if we got off the ship late. We packed up most of our bags in preparation for leaving in the morning and went to bed.
Sunday - All Good Things...
We work up with our usual room service coffee and danish and finished packing our bags. At 7am they announced we were cleared by customs and could start the disembarkation process. It turned out that we were off the ship by 7:15 and on our Carnival bus to the airport by 7:45. We had to wait at the airport for several hours as we began the realization that our vacation was coming to an end. Our trip home was uneventful but made more pleasant knowing that we would soon be seeing our dog and getting back to our normal life activities.
In summary we had a great time on the cruise. The ship was huge with tons of things to do all the time. The pool area was crowded on sea days but you could always find space in a hot tub, a deck chair or lounge somewhere. We never did go down the water slides or tried the rope course so if we ever go on the Magic again we'll be sure to do that. We found out that because of the wind the rope course was only open when the ship was in port. Apparently the best day to do it is the first day before the ship leaves port because it's open and there is no line. After the trip I read that there is an observation deck that sounded really cool. There is a small passageway between two hatches on deck 7 at the front of the ship. The one on the port side was open and the one on the starboard side was usually closed or used by the staff. We did not try the BBQ on the sea days on deck 5 so that would be something to try on a do-over. The food was good but not as good as our last cruise on NCL. We did not try the steakhouse but heard the food was good. Having my magic bullet blender and plenty of mixers was really cool and I would certainly bring it again. The room steward service was very good. He kept my ice chest full all the time and went out of his way to make up our room when we were away. Jamaica was our least favorite port and Grand Cayman the best. Meeting Jen and Brett was definitely a good thing as were seemed to get along very well. I'm so glad that I participated in the Cruise Critic Roll call as that enabled us to meet Jen and Brett as well as Sharon and Donna. Brett and I exchanged contact information and plan to keep in touch and hopefully do some fun things together in the future. Our bar bill was still a few hundred dollars as we ordered plenty of wine, beers, DODs and other cocktails. We did accomplish our goal of relaxing, having fun and eating. My challenge now is to lose the 4pounds I gained on the cruise and start planning the next one.