Carnival Glory Christmas Sailing Dec 23/06 Our family of 5 (my husband and I early 50s, sons 16 yr and 18 yr, and daughter 15 yr)and my in-laws (mid 70s) decided to let Carnival take care of our Christmas meals/plans. It was a good decision, and none of us will forget what we did for Christmas 2006
We flew in from Toronto, Ontario (daughter and I: 2 days ahead of time/ husband and sons :1 day before) and my in-laws flew in from NJ one day before the cruise. We all stayed overnight at Hawthorn Suites Orlando Airport. This hotel provides free pick-up at the airport and free shuttle to area stores and restaurants. Also provides free breakfast buffet (with made to order omelets included) and free eve cocktail reception that also includes soup/salad/crackers/ Pretzels/popcorn and wine and mixed drinks every night. We will gladly stay here again if in the area. We had arranged transportation through Tiffany Town Cars (pick-up at 10 am) and the driver was prompt and courteous even saw alligators in ponds in fields beside the road on our way to the airport. Great start to a great vacation
Arrived at the port before 11am so ship was not ready to be boarded (previous cruisers still leaving). We were in the first 50 to be processed so we didn't have to wait too long before having sail and sign picture, group photo, and paperwork completed. Up to the Red Sail buffet before noon (rooms not open until 1:30) so enjoyed the first of many great deli sandwiches and soft serve ice cream. The Reuben sandwich and ice cream became my choice of lunch eat day on board. Waiters were walking around with free champagne and drink of the day(not free). The ship was tastefully decorated for Christmas (wreaths, garlands, Christmas village set up in the atrium, and decorated Christmas trees.) Took a brief tour of the pool areas and Lido deck. I did not use the pools on the cruise (was content to sit on the balcony) but others in our group did try to find chairs on the Lido deck on sea days.They found many to be unoccupied but saved with towels or a shoe. Some were left this way for hours, and the pool staff did nothing to correct this problem. If chair saving for long periods of time is advertised as not allowed, it would be good if the staff would enforce this rule so we would all learn to be considerate of our fellow-travellers. This was a full sailing, so perhaps that is why seating was limited. In light of that, the kids on this ship were well behaved and we didn't see a single incident of any acting out in a bad way.
ROOMS At 1:30 we went to our rooms (3 balcony cabins on deck 7 - empress), requested that the balcony dividers be opened (this was done the next day) and freshened up. Luggage arrived in batches throughout the afternoon , and had all arrived by dinnertime. One piece was minus 2 wheels, so my husband took it to the pursers desk, was given a form noting the damage, and we were instructed to have it fixed and send the bill to carnival for reimbursement. (We did as instructed, so are now waiting to hear from Carnival.) Our rooms were across the hall from the laundry room and I worried about noise not a problem at all, in fact very convenient. I wouldn't hesitate to book rooms in this area again. Plenty of storage in the room (kept luggage under the bed). Our room steward was quiet, but efficient and the room was always clean. Hung up used towels to reuse, but they were always replaced anyway.
FOOD Our group of 7 all agreed that there was plenty of variety to satisfy our different tastes. I loved the deli sandwiches, my daughter the hot dog/hamburgers from the grill, my sons the fish and chips and calamari, and the rest sampled various things on the buffet. The lineups for the oriental counter always seemed to be the longest, so we never tasted that perhaps the long line is an indication that it is good! The eggnog (with or without liquor) at the red sail on Christmas Day was a nice touch. We had requested 6:15 seating but were assigned 5:45- went to see the maitre d' but everything was booked. We were glad we hadn't changed we had table 308 with Julio(waiter) and Tomas (assistant) to care for us. These guys were the best workers I have ever met. Constantly refilled water glasses, repeatedly offered bread and delivered our meals promptly. The best service we have ever had. Julio would make suggestions and they were right on as far as what was the best. Of course I became addicted to the melting chocolate cake (and all the other desserts for that matter). One meal my husband got was luke-warm so it was promptly replaced. Naturally, they both received extra tips at the end of the cruise- they earned it. We are not really big fans of midnight buffet, so quite often my husband and sons would order room service (roast beef and brie sandwiches from the deli) before retiring. I think they got addicted to them on the first night home from the cruise, they suggested calling room service for their nightly sandwiches!!! I enjoyed room service in the am (always prompt). I loved sitting on the balcony as the sun rose and especially as we pulled into port in Nassau. Don't miss the afternoon tea on sea days in the ivory lounge with the classical trio (piano, cello, violin) This was done well in a beautiful setting : cucumber sandwiches, salmon toast points,meringues and cream puffs, with your choice of tea. White glove and silver service very relaxing. The chocolate buffet is done at noon on the last sea day. Lots of scrumptious treats for chocolate lovers, but only one chocolate fountain. I was the only one in our group to wait to dip fruit in it (it was a slow, long line) Rather than one large fountain (that only 3 or 4 could use at a time), A few smaller fountains placed throughout the buffet area would have likely been more practical for the huge crowd.
PORTS Nassau- since this was a short stop and we have done Bahamas before, we opted not to take a tour through Carnival. We just shopped in the stores near the ship and did a horse and buggy tour of the surrounding area. We were glad we were there the day before Christmas, since all the stores would be closed the next day. ST Thomas This is where the nightmare began in terms of customs and debarkation :the Cruise Director and customs weren't on the same page.The notice in the capers and in a separate form left in our room instructed us to be in the Amber Lounge long before the ship would reach port. My children and I are Canadian, my husband and in-laws American so we were sent to different customs stations (ours was the amber palace on deck 3 and theirs was on deck 5). Since we had booked a morning excursion through carnival, we were directed to an area on the left. Anyone without excursions was to wait in the middle section. By the time customs arrived, everyone was tired of waiting, so it was definitely not an orderly procedure. There was no verification needed to prove that you had an early booking, hence people without bookings jumped the line, and some with bookings were late for their tours. If carnival had been organized, proactive and assertive in their control, the situation would not have been so confusing. As Canadians, we were off the ship before our American relatives (and this is an American port) Everyone on the ship must go thru customs (or be fined) so it would be good if the process could be re-evaluated to ensure a more pleasant debarkation. We did the Pirates tour that took you to a few scenic lookouts on the way to the Blackbeards Castle tour. There were 3 pools for swimming at the castle, but since we got such a late start to the tour we skipped the swimming and went shopping downtown instead. Ended the day with the Paradise Point Skyride and famous bushwhacker- the view is beautiful, but quite expensive (and so are the drinks) but since we may not be there again we enjoyed the experience. The traffic was horrific at the end of the day and we were glad when we got back to the ship to enjoy the quiet of our balcony before getting ready for supper. A beautiful port, but if our experience with customs/debark is the norm, I cant say that I would be in a hurry to go back to St Thomas (driving is on the opposite side of the road and very busy, so I wouldn't be comfy driving here.)
ST MAARTEN This was by far our most favorite port! We rented a van from Best Deals on line. My husband had a great time driving those hair-pin curves and hills (and got quite a few gasps from me) The country side is a combination of beautiful and rugged. We went straight to Orient Beach since all wanted to parasail. Got a great deal ($45pp, single ride, not tandem) from the vendor closest to the nude beach (not sure of his name he and his son run the business) He took my husband, MIL and 3 kids out on a raft to the boat- they all rode on the boat while one parasailed and take off and landing was from the boat. I stayed on shore because of hip and knee replacement and knew I couldn't join in on the fun, but after watching them I'm sure I could have handled it no rough landing. I had to stay on the beach and watch the parade of prune-skinned nude men ugghh was glad my daughter was out on the boat would not want to sunbathe with family on this beach. Went on to Phillipsburg for shopping and found it to be better than St Thomas (even thou st thos is the port the shopper on the ship pushes) Husband was going to buy a Tissot (?sp) watch and when he finally got a deal he could live with, the store would not honor the $50 coupon from Carnival said it was for jewelry and watches aren't included. Husband told her when we got back from the ship and she said she didn't know that (she's the expert?) If you like Sheridan, this is the cheapest port to buy it in. We had bought some on the ship, and my husband cancelled the ship order (no problem doing that) and got it in St Maarten instead.
SHOWS I am convinced that the sound technician in the Amber Palace is deaf and was trying to do the same to us. Do not sit in the right and left wings of the main floor the speakers are just over your head and the sound level is quite painful. We did not think that either of the lead singers (Cassandra Swales and Ed Chen) were the quality that you expect. I could see them perhaps singing in a lounge (and I wouldn't go back to hear them a second time) but they did seem quite off key. The dancers did a good job, esp when you could feel the ship rocking while sitting in your seat. The kids enjoyed the magic show, illusionist and thought the hypnotist was the greatest. We aren't gamblers, father in-law did, but didn't hear that he did well so cant comment on that aspect of the cruise. We all enjoyed the captains cocktail hour and the past guest party (the band played and people could go up on stage to dance)
DEBARKATION Another nightmare (and one that makes me think that the CD and Glory need to work on this aspect of the cruise) Of course, Carnival blames customs and customs blames Carnival, and the bottom line is that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth as you are leaving the ship. We have always been led to believe that debark is done from the top deck and down (higher you go, more you pay, sooner off the ship) Not so with this CD- we were Empress (dk 7) and the absolutely last group off the ship. When we finally got to customs, the girl asked how many were left behind us (she was supposed to be done at 11) We got our luggage at 11;20 (definitely not a record for the glory to be proud of) When we embarked the previous wk the problem was the same with those debarking.
All in all this was a wonderful trip, with great food, weather, and experiences. We don't go for the shows, so the poor caliber of some of the performers did not ruin my cruise. We all thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience and the various excursions we took. The only down side was the chaos associated with customs and debarkation at St Thomas and Port Canaveral. This is something that really needs attention, especially if you leave your cruise remembering your final parting from the Glory. The CD was pleasant, but did not seem as organized or visible as others we have experienced. He was very vocal on loudspeaker re:sales in the shops, art auctions, bingo, excursion/shopping talks etc but not as visible for other very vital information (debarkation and customs) If that aspect of cruising the glory were to change I would book another cruise on her in a heartbeat. The ship was beautiful, the staff friendly and courteous, and the food was fantastic. All in all, a great way to celebrate Christmas!