12/23—3 PM bus to Boston from Portsmouth. $39/rt and free parking for the entire week. Sweet deal. My flight to Houston was supposed to leave at 6:50, but didn't end up leaving until nearly 8:30 because of weather in New York. Finally arrived in Houston at 12:30 AM. Missed my flight to New Orleans, but since it was the airlines fault, they put me up at a hotel for free. 12/24—After only 4 hours sleep, I got back up to get a 7:25 flight to New Orleans. Had baggage and went looking for the Carnival shuttle by 9:15. Nobody from Carnival was there yet. So I had breakfast and came back later on. Ended up on the 10:45 shuttle to the pier, even though they weren't supposed to start shuttle service until noon according to my docs. NOLA pier is VERY easy to deal with. Was checked in and on the boat by noon. On board there were people walking around with DODs and champagne. I avoided the DODs but ended up drinking 3 champagnes as they were giving out champagne for free. Later on, I had a Fun Ship Special, while it was good, Kiss on the Lips became my favorite drink. Had lunch on the Lido, walked around the ship, checked out my room and spa, and met up with my roll call after the muster drill (very painless). Everybody from the rollcall was wonderful, and I enjoyed meeting up with them all, especially since I had missed the meet up the previous evening. Checked out the Martini party before going to dinner. I tried to go to the singles' meet up but when I walked past the lounge it appeared to be filled with couples or older folks plus by then it was 11 PM and I had been up since 5 AM and was running on only 4 hours of sleep plus 4 alcoholic drinks, so I ended up in bed snoring instead. 12/25-- Lido for breakfast. Mostly hung about and read in a chair. I got a La Therapie facial at the spa. It was a good facial, though I didn't really notice a lot of improvement. I learned a lot about my skin though and did end up buying a night cream. I had wanted to buy a good night cream for awhile though, I haven't used it yet though. Went to a seminar on "How to get a flatter stomach", which was disappointing, the two gentlemen who ran it seemed to be wanting to sell their services more than providing some real life solutions (at least in my opinion). Formal night was this night and there was a special Christmas dinner. I definitely lamented the lack of hair dryer when preparing for formal night. Skipped the talent show as once again I couldn't keep my eyes open. 12/26—Cozumel. I love this port, seriously. Passed a RCL ship to dock at Punta Langosta. Caught a cab to Chankanaab Park where I had reservations for the Royal swim. I checked in, bought some sunscreen and changed into my swimming suit. Walked around the Mayan ruins for a while and looked at the garden before settling myself under a Palapa to read. I thought about snorkeling but by the time I settled in and rented snorkeling stuff, I would have had only about ½ hour. The Dolphin swim was simply amazing, I got to hug, kiss, be pulled by the dolphins and do the superman push. Definitely an amazing experience and worth every penny. The dolphins were terrific and I swear they live for fish, people and tricks. We got to see 3 babies, including one that decided to 'perform' for us. Bought the dvd and all the pics for $90. I ate lunch at the onsite restaurant, where I had 2 strawberry margaritas and chicken enchiladas with delicious mole sauce for $18. I would definitely recommend eating there if you're at Chankanaab. After lunch I took a taxi back to the downtown area to shop. I got a henna tattoo and went in search of Tanzanite, which I fell in love with on the ship. I managed to get a piece for $331 at one of the shops (not a ship recommended one). I'll eventually have it appraised but I like it regardless. Walked around a bit more before getting back on the boat for sailaway at 4 PM. Too short of a day in my opinion. 12/27—Progresso. World's longest pier definitely applies to this port. I went to Chichen Itza so I had to be off of the ship first thing. Even though Carnival says they don't stop on the way up, we stopped at a restroom/gift shop on the way up. Our tour guide was terrific, he knew a lot about the Mayans and Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza was packed. Our bus had to drop us off then park elsewhere and getting both in and out of the ruins there was a huge backup. Let me state that this was not Carnival's fault, it just happened to be very busy. You can no longer climb the ruins, which disappointed me, but I knew that before hand. Chichen Itza is...words can't describe it...it's amazing. Packed with people wanting to sell you stuff that is, "almost free" and "only $1". I managed to barter for some stuff that I wanted. The bagged lunch was unimpressive. Only one type of sandwich was offered and it had red meat which I haven't eaten in a long time, I was starving at that point, so I just ate it without complaint. Once back on the pier I did a bit of shopping and got back on the boat. 12/28—Last sea day. Really not much to say. I Loved the towel animal folding demo and the Newly Wed game. Attended the debarkation talk, and booked a New Orleans city tour, so I went from #20 to #1. Dinner and Ticket to Ride. 12/29—Got up early to eat. I was taking a New Orleans city tour so I got off very early, right after all the self debarkees were done. The city tour was amazing but very sad, especially considering all the devastation, they gave us about 2 hrs to walk around the French Quarter. I had seafood gumbo and went to Cafe du Monde. They got us to the airport at around 2 PM, where I had enough time to check in and hang around before catching at 3:30 flight. Got home around Midnight.
Ship—Even though it's my first cruise, I noticed it's "smaller" size. Big problems with chair hogs, but I guess that's to be expected on a Christmas cruise. I found it very easy to navigate and could make my way around the ship very easily. I only used the elevators 2x in the entire 5 days, so I appreciated the easy access by stairs to everywhere. One of my favorite places to park my butt tended to be the settees (?) on the Promenade deck with a Kiss on the Lips in one hand and a book in the other. I loved Cleopatra's lounge, but then anything tastefully decorated with any kind of ancient culture theme gets my thumbs up.
I donated just a small amount of pocket change to the casino. They had a few non-smoking slots to one side, but I used whatever I felt like using. I know the issue of smoking is a debatable one, but honestly I wish they would do something about it, even sitting far away from the casino on the Promenade deck I could smell the stench of smoke. Smoke doesn't bother me, but if anybody's smoking nearby my nose will pick it up. The gym and spa felt very small in size, but then again, I go to a Planet Fitness near me, which is huge. I ended up not using any of their machines as their equipment just confused me.
I walked through the shops, but I didn't buy anything so I can't really comment on them. Some beautiful tanzanite, but I ended up buying my piece in Cozumel. A small selection of make up and perfumes in the duty free shop. There was a large selection of liquor available to buy. As I had to fly home, I certainly didn't feel I could buy anything and safely transport it home.
Entertainment—Generally displeased. I had heard so much about the activities and 'fun stuff' aboard Carnival that in the end I was disappointed. I figured it was just my expecting too much, but I happened to be talking to a couple who had previously cruised on Princess and they were also disappointed at the lack of activities. The Hairy Chest contest and pool games I just kind of rolled my eyes at. Maybe it's just the Fantasy but I found the shows to be lacking. They felt like high school level productions to me. My two favorite things were the towel folding demo and the Newlywed Game, both of which happened on the last sea day. It usually doesn't take a lot to please me, but I guess in this case I was just unimpressed.
Dining— Celebration Dining room 8:30 PM. Maitre D' was Stan the Man. Walked around to every table the first night to make sure everything was alright. Loved the food. I personally didn't find the portions too small at all. They were a perfect size for me. But then again, I could make a full meal out of many chain restaurant's appetizers. Being a New England girl born and bred I found the lobster to be lacking seriously, but then again, I've had lobster straight off the boat before. It was chewy and by far not as tasty as what I'm used to. In the future I'll be trying something else. Loved the Strawberry Bisque, this was like melted ice cream and was soooo good. I limited myself to one bowl. I know A LOT of people love the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, but it was seriously too much chocolate for me. I've unfortunately been blessed with the chocolate "allergy" that runs on my father's side of the family. I can't eat chocolate straight, it has to have something mixed in or I end up feeling sick to my stomach and lethargic. Also the one night I got it, it was like soup. I may try it again, but we'll see. Tried the Bagel and Lox at breakfast one morning-to die for! Nothing else really stands out, but I didn't have any blatantly bad meals.
Lido buffet was good, nothing to write home about. Definitely liked the grilled chicken sandwiches and goat cheese and mushroom pizza, but otherwise I just went there for fruit or to get something to drink.
Actually the menus really threw me off, as the first night was the Captain's Night Menu. Our formal night happened to fall on Christmas so we had a special Christmas menu.
My table mates were terrific at dinner. Two very nice honeymooning couples and 1 other solo who was actually a New Orleans native and really fun to chat with. I don't think I'll ever opt for a late seating dinner again. I can probably blame my weight gain on the late dinner, too. By the time I reached 8:30 I was starving and then by the time dinner was over, I was just ready to go to bed. To stay up for the late show after that was a hassle. I think I've already requested the early seating on my April Legend cruise but I will make sure before I cruise. If I end up with the late, I will be speaking with the Maitre D'. Ayu, our waitress (?), from Indonesia was wonderful. She knew everybody's name by the second night, although she didn't impress me at first, I loved her by the end of the cruise. Very subtle in her jokes and not overtly hilarious.
Cabin-- I had M12, this is a 4B cabin at the front of the ship (upgrade fairy visited, I went from a 1A gty to a 4B). I noticed some movement, but then again, I noticed every turn the ship made and felt every wave that we hit. One big problem with this cabin. I for some reason heard a mysterious metallic 'clanking' noise at various times. The worst was on the second night of the cruise. The staff stairways were near, and sometimes it sounded like somebody climbing steps but not always. I searched the above deck (as it seemed to come from the ceiling) but didn't find an ice maker near by. So whether it was stairs, a very amorous couple or an ice machine I don't know. However, I thought I'd give everybody a head's up about this cabin. Also, the walls were very thin, often I could hear either talking or coughing or the tv from the nearby staterooms through the wall. Otherwise, it was clean and neat, the steward turned down the bed everynight and left a towel animal. I didn't meet him until the 3rd day when he turned up informing me about when they clean the rooms, but he seemed nice enough.
Overall opinions: Since I am a solo traveller, that arguably influenced a lot of my opinions. For example, maybe I wouldn't have found the entertainment perhaps so 'bland' had I been with somebody else. I sometimes experienced people who thought they could "push" me around because I was a solo, but it only happened once or twice. While I enjoyed my cruise and am definitely looking forward to my April cruise, I think I will end up combining cruising with land vacations. I see it as an excellent way to see a lot of different countries and get a flavor for them. I don't do sea days well at all, so that will influence what cruises I take in the future. My ideal cruise would be full of either port days or a sea day either in the middle of the cruise or just a sea day at the end. Yes there were a lot of kids on board, but as I'm a school librarian I didn't really notice them too much, and they for the most part seemed behaved. I never used the elevators, so I didn't see any evidence of elevator games.