Stayed at Gaidos on Sat. night and met with some of the members from here. Had a great dinner at Caseys restaurant and got a 10 dollar discount. The other restaurant was very expensive and we decided against it because we would be eating well on the cruise. Gaidos rooms are clean and comfortable. I wouldn't book here if I were going to stay a week for vacation but the free parking (which is lighted, fenced and in view of the office) makes this an excellent bargain. Went to the aviation museum Sunday morning before boarding the ship. It was good and had an excellent restored Blue Angel plane and old Continental DC3 passenger plane. Well worth the drive over. I took DW and kids to port around 10 and then caught a cab back from Gaidos. Split it with another couple and only cost me 6 bucks plus tip. DW already had baggage checked in and we went thru and were on board by 11:30 or so. Typical Carnival boarding process except this time we went to room to put up carry on around 1 and room wasn't ready. They let us put stuff in room, safe, etc and we went on to explore ship, etc. Also ate Sur Mer for lunch and it was OK. Got to eat octopus for the first time. The food wasn't good enough for us to go back (except one night at 8 and it was closed already) but it wasn't bad either. Everyone should at least try it during the trip. Went to a CC meet n greet and again had a great time followed by the muster drill. This time we got to go straight to the muster stations and not sit in a lounge or other area until called. Went to dinner. We requested 8pm but got 8:30. Didnt request to be moved but later in the week we wished we had as 8:30 is just a little too late for us. Carnival usually does a good job of assigning like families, couples, etc. to tables but the first night we got assigned with some people from a totally different life style than we are used to. It was ok but a little tense at first. We had accepted this but the next day there was a large table shuffle among alot of people and we wound up with 2 couples that were from our walk of life and shared our interests. The food, as we remember, wasn't quite as good as the past probably because we have eaten the same menu more or less on every cruise but the kids were happy this time since there was an alternate menu to select from. The service in the formal dining room was top notch and our waiter Roland did a great job each night. Sea Days (Mon/Tues)
Monday we laid by the aft pool on Lido Deck. The hot tub labeled "adults only" was full of kids and I have picture to prove it. Nothing was done but also noticed less kids thru the week. The label was in English so it is possible that many of the Mexican kids didnt know but the guards did nothing. Ate dining room breakfast and the grits and coffee are definitely better here. Also had coffee delivered for room service in AM. Didnt do much but relax today. Got in bed and kept hearing the " Spanish Train" ( a bunch of kids running up and down the hallway) going up and down the hall until well after 1AM. This seemed to get better later in the cruise or maybe its because we just stayed up later than them after that. Our room was cold and I guess this is because we were getting all of Jims (KC FANs) air. Seems like it was either hot or cold as Carnival uses volume dampers controlled by a thermostat on this ship. Your room temp is regulated by the volume of air and there is NO way to turn heat on...To us most of the ship was cold especially the first couple of days but it got better later in the week. Also went to Captains party tonite (i think) and drink service was slow but didnt really want all that. It was a good party and the band was pretty good.
Tuesday..Woke up this morning sore from sleeping on the "Carnival Comfort Mattress". DW and I both agreed this was worst bed of any cruise ship and we had never slept so badly on a cruise. We reported this to our room steward and he said yes he could take care of it. If he did we never knew it. Seemed like tonite he did flip the mattress or something. I began practicing my Espanol today. I was looking forward to going to Cozumel to do this but I had plenty of opportunity on the ship. I began talking ( in Spanish) to many of the Latinos on board. At first I was a little upset thinking we had so many Americans who were either citizens and didnt practice English or who were illegally on board. Well after talking to a couple of people I found out that there were 1000 Mexicans on board and 80% of them were from Monterey MX. Having been to Monterey a couple of times and having friends from there made it very interesting. It seems that it was Spring break there and it is just a short plane ride to Houston for them. I was so glad to have them on board and really enjoyed getting to talk to them. I found that every group had at least one person that spoke English well. Towards the end of the week hearing all the Spanish wore on me mostly as I found myself trying to understand what they were saying and I was working myself to death trying to get an education instead of relaxing. I could, however, see how someone who knows no Spanish could get tired and also run into issues. The crew all (or mostly) seemed to speak the language but it really did keep alot of people from meeting and enjoying each others company due to the language barrier. Ate lunch at the buffet and made our way to the CC party. It was great and our CC host did a great job of putting it together. Got to meet everyone. Found out past guest party was after this...oooops our slip/pin said 330 or something but that times past...well just got in line for the next one and they let us right in. We had never went to one of these before. The drink service was way better than the Captains party and you were almost forced to take drinks. Watched some kind of movie. Did some kind of elevator tour of the ship??...or was that before...hmmm...well didnt make it to dining room but ate the buffet...gotta get up early tomorrow for shore excursion so went to bed. Tonite or maybe it was Wed nite we went to see a guy sing in the Toulouse lounge. He was ok but not that great. Most of the entertainment was that way. Not as good as past Carnival trips but ok. I did discover Randy in the Casino tonite or maybe Wed. Good ole country music. My son was complaining about no country onboard so I told him Wed. he needed to hear him Wednesday-- We booked the Dunns River Falls thru Carnival because it is a 2 HR drive to the falls from the port and having been to Jamaica before we felt best to be guaranteed that we would be able to get back on the ship. DW and I have been to falls before via a resort tour but felt the kids needed to see Jamaica both for its beautiful countryside and poor living conditions. We got off the ship after waiting in line a while but went directly to the tour bus and left. We had an excellent tour guide and driver. The roads were alot better than they were in 01 when we came before and there were some nice new resorts being built. Arrived at the falls and did the tour just as we had expected. Thankfully because we had to get back to the ship we were not herded thru the "shopping village" but did have a guy harass everyone to buy beads. Never once offered dope but we didnt stray far from the group. Stopped at a jerk joint on the way back and got to eat some good jerk pork/chicken. Also got to stop at one of the gated shopping malls and got coffee, souvenirs, etc....Arrived back and discovered the true meaning of Carnival CruiseLINE...The LINE was soooo long to get back on the ship. Only one gate was open at the ship. A guard came about 5 people ahead of us and said go to the second gate as it was opening to form a new line...well the idiots behind us began to run to the second gate as they saw it opening cutting us off...masses of people were running to this gate. Talk about no common courtesy. Anyway this was one of many lines we had to wait in on this cruise...After boarding we went to the 3rd deck and stood on the balcony and watched the local band play/dance. We enjoyed our short stay here and look forward to our planned return to one of the resorts this winter. Next time we will do another excursion on the cruise as we have all done the falls now. It is worth going to but after twice its pretty much the same. Ate in the dining hall with our new dinner guests. Went to the casino after. I discovered I could play 1 1/2 to 2 Hrs on 5bucks at the nickle video poker. Im not a gambler and have better luck working for money but this was cheap entertainment and the music was good. Also as a side note we purchased 100min. on the internet to contact home, etc. We didnt use all the minutes but only checked email and thats about it. In the past on shorter cruises we used the 100 min. up but this time didnt. Thursday-- As we had to tender DW was worried sick we wouldn't get off the ship on time for our excursion. We booked Capt. Marvins all day Conch dive, snorkel, sting ray and beach lunch. Well we went to the lounge early and got on tender boat #1. Got off, walked 3 or so blocks to left and there was Capt. Marvins. Got in line, paid and sat around for an hour or more waiting for 9AM. Called home on one of the pay phones (dont know what that cost yet). Got coffee, GC dollars and promptly at 9 AM boarded the tour bus to the dock which is in a residential area. This was probably the best or second best shore excursion we have been on for any cruise, especially for the money. We left the dock and arrived for the conch dive. Capt. Marvin himself piloted the boat at the young age of 90 or 91. He was such a nice man and was very alert and agile for his age. The crew told us right before the conch dive that conch had been hard to find lately and dont expect much....well while snorkeling around i was sorta mad asking myself why did they book a conch dive knowing there are no conch...well after seeing someone get one and seeing that they were under the weeds it made them easy to spot and we began to bring them up. I think every group found one big enough to keep and they began to clean them on the boat. Went to the next stop which was a snorkeling reef and saw alot of fish, rays, coral, etc...probably second to bahamas for fish and better as far as coral/plants...even found a few big starfish and sand dollars. the crew also found more conch...From there we went to the stingray swim and that was an experience. Got to hold them, touch them, kiss them, etc. I was thinking they would be close to shore in a tourist trap type atmosphere but they were actually way off land and for sure wild and free (although fed regularly by all the boats of people). Our last stop was at a beach resort with coconut trees on the beach. We ate an appetizer of conch salsa using the conch we caught. Then we got an awesome meal of fish/chicken prepared by Capt. Marvin himself. It was served buffet style on the beach and sort of like a picnic but hearty & tasty food. Returned to the dock and was thinking what an awesome trip this was and how special it was to be able to go out with the captain himself. He personally greeted everyone on board and went out of his way to see that everyone was taken care of. The crew cleaned our shells for the conch and each group got to take home a conch shell as a souvenir...well return to reality...arrived back at the port and we were greeted with another cruiseLINE...The tender line was long (probably 1/4 mile) and wrapped from the tender boats, along the street and to the back of a shipyard loading dock. Probably took at least an hour to get to the tender boat. Also it was odd...there were several boats in port including the Carnival Valor but the only one with such a long line was the Conquest. We noticed on leaving that the RC cruise line had its own private tender boats and was not using the ones from the pier....Too tired to eat at formal dining...Ordered room service and this was a disappointment....We ordered some snacks and it took over 1 HR for them to arrive at our room. Never before on a cruise have we waited so long for room service. Around 7:45 we were very hungry from cruising all day and I was craving a burger...well got to the grill at straight up 8pm and it was totally cleaned up, closed and nothing to be had...wanted to go up to sur mer again but it was closed. Only one buffet line was open and the deli...I was glad to eat but a little ticked that your selection was so limited after 8 although our dining time was 8:30...surely wasn't going to call room service and we were just too tired to get dressed up for the 2nd formal night...Spent time in casino on nickle slots listening to Randy. Went back to my "Carnival Comfort Mattress"...when I got to the room there was an advertisement on the bed with towel animal, etc. trying to sell me the same mattress I was (not) sleeping on...what a joke..guess they were trying to sell them to get some new ones to replace these awful mattresses...anyway it was a great day at port and a bad day with Carnival Friday--Cozumel Got up a little late as ship didnt dock until 9am...went to dining room for breakfast and got the good grits and coffee. The ship did alot of shaking and vibrating while we were docking to the point of empty glasses rattling on the table. Took a few tries to get tied off but realized the winds were bad once we got off the ship. There were 6 ships in port today. Got off easily and caught a cab to Chakanab as that was our planned excursion on our own. Well the taxi driver as well as everyone else here went so far out of there way to try to speak English. They would rather talk English but I could understand their Spanish better. Anyway after finally getting the cab driver to talk Spanish I got out of him that Chakannab may be closed to snorkeling due to the weather (high winds) and we may want to go to Paradise Beach (although we couldn't snorkel there either even if winds were down). Anyway the fluent English speaking greeter at Chakkanab informed us snorkeling/swimming was closed (red flagged) due to the rough seas but may open later in the day. Not knowing what else to do we paid the $14pp (we printed the online discount coupons) admission. We had a great tour of the garden area and in the Mayan ruin area (artificial) we were invited into a Mayan kitchen and fed home rolled tortillas with salsa by an old Mexican couple that were so nice. I was going to put a tip in what I thought was her tip jar but her DH explained this was to keep the tortillas warm in. I guess they were paid by the park and saw no one leaving a tip but this was a great escape and a good snack....Went to the beach and laid in the hammocks...around lunch or so the yellow flag was put out and people began to snorkel and swim. We rented fins and went out for about an hour at most and the wind picked up and it rained...didnt last long but was about 2 before it cleared up so we decided to go back for shopping and lunch. Went to Casa Blanca where we had eaten before...this time we ordered too much...the waiter insisted speaking English and recommending stuff to us inspite of what we wanted...wound up it cost 92 bucks for 4 peoples food with 2 rounds of drinks...I left a 100 with him and would have ordered different next time..I think they use the language barrier to their advantage some places...The food was very good but would have paid half that in the states. We did some shopping and were worried about the cruiseLINE so went back to the pier about 1/2 hour before last call....NO line at all and walked right on the boat...imagine that....now this is how cruising was on our other ships and how it should be....Ate at dining room that night and wound up in casino again...kept doing good at nickle poker and next thing I knew Randy was done singing....I looked up and he was watching me play LOL...I talked to him a bit and told him how much my son enjoyed his music...he got his name and next night brought him a CD and autographed picture...seems he played with Andy Williams and this was his first cruiseline gig...He was very nice and down to earth...anyway about 1:30 I had enough and cashed out...decided I would see what happened on a "funship" after midnite...well I walked all over the ship and was surprised to see that only 2 places had any people and that was the casino and a place called Henrys (I think)...I went in there to ask where the older crowd went at night and the bartender was very rude to me and walked off...I kept standing there and when he came back I asked him again where the older crowd went at night (mostly 20s/early30s in here with rap type music) and he then said casino which I had just left. This was just one of the rude episodes by a waitstaff..First sea day or so at the back of the Lido deck the barmaid waited on 2 people that arrived after me although I was sitting there with my card in hand. She asked who was next each time and I said I was but she went past me..got mad & asked for a supervisor and wound up talking to a guy under her...anyway the staff here was not as friendly as other cruises. Again walked all over the boat and other than a few teenagers "wind walking" on the track up high and those two places all was dead...Im not a party person or nite owl but if I were booking for a "fun ship" I would be thinking the nightlife would go on much past 1:30am....oh well went back to the "Carnival Comfort Mattress" with the For Sale sign on it and got a little shut eye but not much... Saturday--last Sea Day Woke up and DW/DS went to Lido deck and got plates full of breakfast. Ate in the room and laid around and watched TV as a family in our "Carnival Comfort" bed. Seems like it held 4 piled on each other better than 2 sleeping. Today we figured out you can check the menu from the room TV instead of going to dining room. Made our minds up what we were going to eat that night. This is a nice touch but didnt seem to be advertised much. Anyway finally made it to the gym and went into the gym hot tub. It was full of teenagers who were blocking the flow of the water. The smaller tub had a couple in it that seemed to be in a mood we didnt want to interrupt. The water was not real hot but no wind there. Went to the Lido deck in the back and found the adults only pool was just that. We got in the hotter of the two and relaxed a while. The hot tubs are nice for conversation, etc. but not really a true hydro therapy spa like we have at home. Very few jets for the size tubs and they may have been air jets but not sure. Ate lunch at the grill and finally got my hamburger. Also had some good nachos that my wife found somewhere inside. Went back to room and watched some DVDs my kids brought on our player. I finally slept thru this and got a good nap. Went to casino/dinner then casino again. The slots/poker machines were loose for a quite a few people this night and saw at least 3 jackpots hit around me. Played quite a while myself on just a few dollars. Randy, the casino singer, brought my kids autographed pictures & cds as promised. We stayed until he quit singing which was about midnite. Noticed a foul sulfur smell in the bathrooms/halls tonite probably due to the full sewer tanks for this long a cruise. Tried to sleep but DW set alarm for 6:30 so we could get off the ship early to get home at a decent hour....7am we are up and ready and ship is docked...Go up to lido deck and finally get an omelet (one day i got to the end of our buffet line and the omelette man was in the middle of where the 2 lines met. well he ignored me as i was on the left side and only waited on persons coming from the other side..no sign or anything but seems you had to be in that line although both met at the omelette station)as I knew where to go...heard them calling the top decks self assist and early flight people...we hurried back to room but to no avail...around 9:30 or so they announced there were a bunch of people on the ramp that were from decks that had not been called yet and there were delays in customs...well most of those folks must have been our neighbors as the rooms were all empty and doors open...asked our steward if we could go yet and he said no this deck has not been announced...finally around 10:30 they called main deck self assist (they had asked people that were clogging the deck to go back to their rooms about 10 or so). We went down immediately. Got off the ship pretty easy but came to a halt at customs. There were very long cruiseLINES going thru about 5 or so customs checkpoints. Instead of having a separate line for those with passports and another for those not from the US all were mixed together. There was a long delay for the Mexican Citizens as they had to be photographed and questioned as they were just passing thru our country from others. We finally got to the desk and they let all 4 of us thru in about 30 seconds as we had our passports, declaration form, etc filled out...well we were so happy to be out of that line and have never had such a time debarking. Went down to catch a cab back to Gaidos and guess what???there are no cabs...There was a man there from the port giving us numbers to call for cab companies and keeping the line in order. One of the companies wouldn't even answer the phone...finally got a cab about 30 minutes later. Asked the cab driver if it was a problem because of Easter Sunday and he said no that there were just alot of people wanting to go to the airport and the taxis were doing that. Looks like Galveston has a poor taxi supply. Looks like some of those people could have paid the $40 fare thru carnival to ride the shuttle to the airport. I think it was maybe 35 or more using a taxi from what we were hearing. Cost us $10 for a 5 min. ride to Gaidos. Got in truck, loaded up and headed home...got home after 6pm instead of 3 or so had we debarked based on past cruises....In general we did have fun and enjoyed the cruise but it was definitely below par for Carnival based on past cruises (and yes we have cruised spring break before). Seems this ship does not have enough staff to accommodate the extra people it carries compared to the other ships. We have decided that our next cruise will be on another line just to check them out. We most likely will someday cruise Carnival again but another ship and another port. __________________