This was our 5th cruise…a much needed forced disconnect from the world. No phone. No computer. No email. No meetings. No kid drama. Ahhh…time to relax and create some margin in a busy life. Just 2 of us…wife of 23 years and I.
Our chiropractor told us about some good deals on Carnival. My wife checked it out and booked a cruise. With the hectic pace of a new job and busy life, for a couple months I looked forward to getting away and disconnecting. My wife is a cruise lover - Me? Not so much. My general opinion of cruises has been lukewarm at best. This one was different because I had a goal. A goal of absolutely nothing! Not looking forward to food, activities, doing things with the kids, shows, excursions. Just looking forward to a forced disconnect and avoiding the normal cruise annoyances.
With that in mind…this trip was a win!
Since we live in Tampa, the port of departure, the logistics of embarkation was smooth and easy. I arrived back in town from a business trip the night before. The morning of the cruise we had errands to run and wash to do before packing. We were able to complete these items and leave for the terminal by 2pm. A nice relaxing day. Our son took us to the terminal and dropped us off about 2:30pm. Uneventful. No lines. Friendly staff. Following a quick security check and the obligatory picture taking, we boarded. Once on board we went directly to our room and dropped off our carry on items.
We paid a little extra from the lowest fare posted for a room on the Veranda deck (11th floor - above pool deck) and inside room. We were a little nervous about being claustrophobic since this was our first time with an inside room. We found the room plenty spacious and clean. We had asked for a queen size bed which was made up when we arrived. The steward (Paquito) was exceptionally friendly and attentive to details.
Over the course of our trip, we had fun with the towel animals. One day, Paquitto would create an animal. The next morning, we moved the animal to the chair and dressed him up. Over the next few days we went back-and-forth with Paquito enhancing this first animal. We added sun-glasses, he added a robe. We added a hat and a bra, then he added a baby animal. We had fun with this.
No complaints at all about this room. It was quiet, cool, comfortable, and clean.
We had 2 sea days - Friday & Sunday. Saturday was in Cozumel. Our first night (Thursday) we turned in about 10pm, which felt early for this crowd. After waking up late (8:30am) due to no light in the cabin and quiet conditions, we grabbed breakfast on the pool deck before heading to the aft deck on the 11th floor for a chair. It seemed that most people were not up an about until 11 or 12 and made it easy to get our chair of choice. We grabbed a couple chairs and took them to the very back starboard aft portion of the deck - far away from the intercoms and pool party crowd. The wind from this side of the boat also keeping us cool in the 95-degree heat. This was a wonderfully relaxing day in the sun.
Remarkably, the drink pushers did not pester us every 5 minutes to buy a drink. The intercom didn't seem to be so annoying this time either. It probably helped that I had a good pair of noise canceling bluetooth headphones and was able to nod off several times in-between some good reading.
My advice, bring some good headphones and a good book. Get up at a respectable hour and you'll have no trouble finding your preferred corner of the boat and having a great relaxing day. Check which direction the relative wind is coming from and pick your spot accordingly.
Like the other cruises we have been on there seemed to be 3 distinctive crowds.
There is the party crowd, the ones where this was their first time away from home with money in their pocket and no authority in their lives…out to drink as much as possible. Of course there were also the want-a-be adult followers that never grew up and follow along with this crowd. From this crowd, one person fell off the 11th deck onto the pool deck and was seriously injured within an hour of the boat leaving. Three more were arrested in Cozumel and did not make the boat. We saw a girl fight and someone was arrested on the boat.
Then there were the Seniors who pretty much monopolized half the casino and the adult-only Serenity deck and stayed to themselves.
Finally there was everyone else, who were not heavy drinkers or gamblers and were there to relax, check out the shows, and enjoy the company of others. We met several couples that were very enjoyable to talk with.
Not much to say about this stop. We were at this stop at a previous cruise and went to Playa del Carmen…an all-inclusive beach. This is a nice place, but expensive. Only a good deal for the party crowd that gets their value by drinking all day. This time we did not go on an excursion and instead took a taxi to downtown to walk around.
The store owners are extremely aggressive (a huge turn-off) and offer free shots and gifts to get you in the stores. They don't realize that many people that would browse through their stores avoid them due to the aggressive pushy posturing.
We had lunch at Senior Froggs (recommended by people on the boat). It was dead, expensive, and seemed like not much to write home about. There was a fraternity of guys outside on the street insisting we buy something illegal from their "pharmacy". The local police showed up, but didn't seem interested in chasing off the drug pushers. We wondered if they were there to get their bribe and then leave.
We bought a few items…but there was nothing at this stop that has me wanting to return. In fact…it is a negative. Next time I would stay on the boat.
Normal cruise fare. Nothing too bad or offensive. Nothing too great either. Presentation and wait staff was very good. I had low expectations and was not disappointed. Each night at dinner both my wife and I ordered 2 appetizers and 2 entrees. Usually one item was good while the others were not good.
We liked: goat cheese pizza, beef brisket, flat iron steak, lobster, indian vegetarian, chocolate lava cake.
We didn't like: everything else, including coffee (watery), eggs from a carton (yuck), bland deserts (looked fancy but no flavor), bland soups (really watered down), appetizers, and main dishes.
This time we had a couple alcoholic drinks.
We liked: Teramisu martini and Bailey's white chocolate concoction.
Didn't like: Anything else. No good wines (read: no drinkable wines). No good beers. Nothing good enough to warrant the high prices. Together I think we had 4 drinks the whole cruise. I would have sipped a good wine or two before dinner…but there was nothing at all that could be considered a passable wine. The bartender said this was a common complaint. It seemed that most people were just out to get drunk…quality did not matter. Some others were out for the fruity overly sweet drinks…quality didn't matter here either. The rest of us were left drinking ice water, which was actually quite good.
We did see two shows on the boat - "Shout" and "8 more seconds". Both were really good. We also enjoyed the marriage show and a 70's and 80's trivia music contest. The PG comedians were not funny at all. They were probably much better at the adult shows, but we don't want to hear someone use the F-word 100 times in 30 seconds (nothing funny about that). We couldn't seem to catch the piano player before/after dinner so can't comment there.
We found the staff and crew to be very helpful and friendly. They went out of their way to provide outstanding service. We did walk through the casino a few times….whew…that place really smells bad! My wife and I stopped to watch a few games. I just don't see what the appeal is for this. Really…if people want to throw their money away so bad just hide it around the ship and make it a treasure hunt! One person we talked with lost $3,500. Mind blowing.
Would I do it again? Yes. An inexpensive get away.