We flew into Ft Lauderdale from Myrtle Beach early on 11/29. That airport is disgusting and there was a taxi strike so we waited forever for a ride to port. The shuttle was $11 per person but a limo, which was readily available, was only $40 a car. After signing up for a shuttle I tried to change to a limo but got yelled at by the attendant with the cigarette hanging from his mouth. I strongly suggest the limo service, fast and dignified.
The port was like a scene from a zombie movie. There were passengers from 7 cruises (approx. 15,000) in the streets beating on cars and vans trying to catch rides. They looked so miserable with their sunburns and tiny knotted braids. I was impressed to see the Queen Mary II in port. That is one fantastic looking vessel. Most of our fellow cruisers were confused about which door to use because they kept switching from upstairs to downstairs. I just stayed keenly alert and got in the right door at the right time. We were on the ship quickly enough but being stopped every few feet for ID's was a bit annoying. We were all taken to Lido deck to await departure. The servers kept the fruity drinks coming and there was food galore. We were allowed in our cabins at 1:30. By the time it was muster call I was admittedly drunk and tried to hide in the closet but my daughter made me go.
The cabin was much larger than I expected. It was inside and I do believe I did not get my upgrades because I did not book directly through Carnival. It was my 3rd cruise with them yet they would not even answer the question, "Is there a Scrabble game onboard?" on the 1-800 line because they said I had to ask my agent. I will book with them directly from now on.
The ship is gorgeous!! I had always considered carnival ships to be a tad tacky but this one was beautiful. The glass elevators are a surprising treat of art viewing. The art deco lounge, Jeeves, is comfortable and cozy. Do not miss Tea Time there! It will make you feel so civilized. I do not like sports but Maguires Sports Bar is not loud at all. I wanted to bring Mr. "B" the bartender home to work for me! It became my favorite place to chill and have a cocktail or ten.
Our two days at sea were turbulent to put it mildly but sitting in Maguires helped calm my nerves. Everyone was swerving in the halls and giggling so I fit right in. Every elevator ride became an opportunity to make new friends. We were all from different regions, countries, income levels and religions but on this cruise we were all best friends.
Some areas I would like to comment on for your benefit are as follows: 1. The soda card is a bad financial investment. ($50) You cannot have a soda until the bars open at 9am and some of us need our Diet Coke at sunrise. Plus, I could never drink fifty bucks worth. 2. If you have an inside cabin take an indiglo travel clock. The first day I awoke and thought it to be 4pm. I quickly dressed, woke up my daughter and was ready to have a day. It was 4am but we didn't find out until we reached Lido deck. It will be the best sleep you ever get. 3. The digital TV's have a channel that shows the back of the ship that plays classical music. Keep it on all night and then if you wake up you can glance at the TV to see if it's still dark. 4. Do not be afraid of the water slide. I did not even slide. I had to scoot my way down. It is not steep enough. 5. Take a deck of cards, carnival no longer provides them.
The casino is an iffy subject with me. My daughter, being a first-time gambler, got into a bit of a pinch there and I had to have a sit-down with the manager, Jakob. He is a fair and reasonable man but I do question the workings of their system. Don't miss the Beatles show. It will make you cry and laugh. On Lido deck look for Rowena and order the beer by the bucket, it will save you money and stay cold. I met my cabin steward the second day but told him to leave my room to us. I am not the spoiled or pampered type and do not mind cleaning up after myself. I saw where this upset him so I gave him his tip right then. Later, in the elevator, a guests says that if you pay the tip on your sail and sign the help only get a small portion of it. So many of them took it off ($44 per person) and gave it to the workers in cash. It was reported that they only get $28 if you pay with your card.
We went to the dining room the first night, I never went back. It looks like a casino with herpes. The rest of the ship is so classy but this was nauseating. We had informed our agent that we are vegan but nothing was relayed to the dining room. We had white rice and vegetables and then hit the buffet at Horatios. That place is awesome. It is a vegan/vegetarian's dream. One day I did accidently bite into a lamb meatball because it looked like a mushroom. That was pretty gross. I do wish it was all labeled more clearly. This had an Indian name so I thought it would not have meat.
While we were in port at Costa Rica a ship pulled up beside us at lunchtime and the staff quickly closed all of the shades. My daughter said that ship must be better and they don't want us to feel bad. We decided to go out on deck for a look-see. It was a nude ship from Germany and being the immature girls we are we giggled and took pictures.
Now about the ports of call. Panama..Not being able to get a Diet Coke on board in the morning just about cost me my life. I could see the Golden Arches far from where we were advised to go. I asked a cab driver to take me there. He said since he is a Christian he could not take my money for such a short trip. He obviously did not want to bother. So me and my beautiful young daughter (also a Diet Coke addict) set to walking. No one smiles and everyone is in a hurry. There are bullet holes in most buildings and everybody drives like crazy people. We made it to the TropiMac and was served a CocaCola Light. We began to stroll downtown enjoying our sodas and admiring the beautiful school children. Before long we were running for our lives. Some were trying to kill us and others were trying to save us. We were chased through a slaughterhouse which was a scene from a horror movie and the smell made us both sick immediately. Finally, an armed policeman assigned us a bodyguard to escort us back to the mall,a walk of shame, we gave him $10. We met up with a guy there who said he would take us around town. He took us around alright, he wrecked three times and then we found out the car was stolen. Enough Panama to last me awhile. Do shop at the Super99 for sodas to take on board.
Costa Rica...Pouring rain. There is a park across from where you get away from the flea market that awaits you. It has a beautiful pagoda styled gazebo that made for some nice photography. There is an appliance store on every corner and they have magical washing machines. My next one will definitely come from Costa Rica. Belize...oh,Belize. I will go back there very soon because it is there that I left my heart. Being free spirited adventurists we set out walking. After making it through all of the hustlers trying to show you pictures of where they will take you we made our way downtown. There is a Mennonite settlement there and they were oddly placed among the villagers. We bought some weird groceries like D-Fense soap and more CocaCola Light among other things. Then we met up with a young gentlemen who invited us into an old Crown Vic. He showed us the city that he knew and loved. We met his mom, dad and baby girl. We visited people he knew and saw all of the sights. He explained everything about the area down to the altitude (2'ft below sea level). We took such beautiful pictures that are now hanging in my office. We went to the mangroves, the city, the ghetto, everywhere. Our charge for the whole day? $25 even though gas there is $6 a gallon. There were many stray animals roaming about and we were told there is no animal control. Yet as soon as you get off ship a woman tries to get you to contribute to the Humane Society. Our guide's friend laughs and says it is so she can live in Belize. How I wish I could. That night we danced and drank until the wee hours with our shipmates. We sang Karaoke and made up the words. We had a hard time getting the DJ to get off the eighties music. We needed some jam! That whole ship was 80's themed running the same tracks on Lido everyday. Where was Lil Wayne? The morning we were to get off the boat I walked down to A deck and there was a door open, the sun was bright, I walked out. Just like that. No good-byes, no searches, nothing. A taxi immediately pulled up and we were out of there. That airport still smelled gross and one of the male employees was throwing a screaming cursing tantrum in front of DunkinDonuts as security stood by doing nothing. After an agonizing wait for our flight we were finally back home and quickly realized our taxis are rude and expensive. I miss Belize!