I maintained the Roll Call list for the Cruise Critic forum and noticed that MANY of our fellow cruisers were travelling solo, since Carnival had chosen to forgo the single supplement fee. I had been planning to travel solo, until the Sunday before the Tuesday cruise, when my dancing companion decided that she wanted to come!
This cruise was my first experience with FTTF (Faster to the Fun) option. From the moment I entered the doors at Pier 90 until I set foot inside my balcony cabin, only 28 minutes had elapsed! I was very impressed...and pleased! And one of the checked suitcases actually followed us to our cabin! Something wasn't tagged right on my larger checked bag, so I didn't receive it until after the Muster drill. That was mildly annoying, but I was just happy to be on-board, enjoying the lunch buffet and meeting some of the Cruise Critic friends who had been actively posting. I had organized a sail-away gathering and was host for ALL the Karaoke events onboard.
The sailaway was attended by a dozen or so fellow CC members and it was a great start to the cruise. The New York weather was overcast, but a bearable 45 degrees. The temps dropped that night as we sailed into a winter blizzard which covered the aft deck with snow. Someone had built a crude three-ball snowman, which was fun to see!
Karaoke the first night was the best attended I have ever seen in my eight cruises, and it was a sign of the enthusiasm and participation of karaoke singers and attendees throughout the 8 days! I auditioned for the part of Frank Sinatra in the Carnival Legends show, and was excited to have won! All the other singers were great for the parts they ended up with as well! Auditions were held during the karaoke events, which were nightly, and sometimes in the afternoons on Sea Days. So attendees got to see their fellow passengers win the parts, and then perform in the show! It is one of the things I like most about Carnival...how it involves the passengers in it's entertainment, making memories for both those who participate, and those who watch (knowing that some the performers are not paid professionals, just average folks). My only reason for holding back one-star in the rating (1 to 5 stars) is that Carnival is still on the old karaoke disk system, and has a very limited collection of songs. I've heard rumors of upgrading and going digital, and it is the best move that Carnival could make for it's karaoke passengers.
As I am an active cruiser, it is important to me that Carnival doesn't "roll up the sidewalks" at 11pm, and there are plenty of choices for late-night entertainment (after karaoke, of course!). Dancing, bars, movie, live-music events, casino, 24-hour pizza and ice cream.
The first MDR dinner offered a flat-iron steak, which was as tender and succulent as any which could be prepared in the specialty dining room. Personally, I do not feel the extra expense of the specialty restaurants is worth it, but that's just me. I found the MDR menus were nicely varied nightly, and our table wait-staff were attentive, accomodating, friendly, and entertaining at "Show Time". They greeted us by name by the third day, which was a nice touch. We chose early dining and sat with eight Cruise Critic friends. We had arranged the dinner seating group ahead of time.
The room steward for cabin 6441 (balcony 8B) Juan, met all my expectations for great service and I tipped him often for all the extras I requested, like removing all the "bar" ingredients from the fridge so I could use it for waters and juices and milk. He earned extra by keeping my ice buckets full, to chill the wine, and for the mixed drinks that I would make. Again, he greeted us by name, everytime we met in the hallway.
Breakfast and lunch buffets got a bit boring by the fourth day, when we chose to do the MDR brunch. THAT was a pleasant surprise and we enjoyed that a couple of times. Also to spruce up the breakfast buffet a bit, we discovered that we could get fresh eggs "over easy" from the chefs behind the grill, instead of the omelets, which were cooked with a bit too much oil for my liking.
By the time we reached Florida, the sun was shining brightly and felt SO warm and wonderful! We chose the Kennedy Space Center, as neither of us had toured it before. We were both impressed with the well-done exhibits and made it through as much as we could, skipping through some things to take in others. We'd need another day to see everything. I'd highly recommend it.
In Nassau, I went on a solo snorkel and cattamaran excursion. Found another solo member of Cruise Critic onboard as well. The rum punch was awesome, but needed a $1 tip to add a little more rum to the punch! Worth it! Another reduction in rating point (this was a Carnival excursion) is because the sea trip to the snorkeling site took longer than the actual time we had to snorkel...and only at ONE site. More snorkeling time, less travel is best. The sun co-operated, however, and we had perfect conditions, not too hot.
The great weather continued in Freeport, and we enjoyed the day at the Taino Beach resort. Spend the first part of the day on the ocean beach and in the water a bit, before curling up for a nap. After a great lunch, I grabbed a tube and floated around the lazy river three times, with drink in hand! Perfect day! Oh and the drinks were awesome!
Some of the formal pictures on the second elegant night were even better than the first, and we bought some to treasure. I missed the famous "watch sale" for the first time in 8 cruises, due to rehearsals for the Legends show. I'm tough on watches, so 2 for $40 is a bargain for me. The rehearsal went smooth, and I knew it was going to be a great show! I didn't like Frank's "costume" and opted to wear my own tux and had, borrowing only the untied bow-tie for the show.
My biggest point deduction was given for the really poor video and audio quality of the Legend show DVD which was given free to all the performers. It was awful, and I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It was much better watching backstage on the monitor and hearing the sound live. The DVD could have been great, but was just slapped sloppily together. With so many professional photographers onboard, it would be easy to produce a better quality video.
The most exciting moment of the cruise was when my dancing partner won the pre-show Bingo game for $1,000! It was an awesome last night onboard! We drank a toast to a great night, then danced until we were too tired to continue. Debarking from the ship was even smoother than embarkation was, as part of the FTTF plan and we carried all of our luggage with us.
Overall, my cruise experience was greatly enhanced by meeting new friends through Cruise Critic, the attentive room steward, Juan, and MDR wait-staff, the karaoke host, Antoinette, and the enthusiastic crowd that showed up on karaoke nights, then greeted us warmly at the cast-gathering after the Legends show. It's friendly people that share and care, who make great memories!
Can't wait for my next cruise! Enjoy yours!