We boarded the Carnival Glory on January 10th for a cruise of the Western Caribbean. Our trip was booked through AAA Northern new England and our thanks goes out to Ruth for the shipboard credits, the champagne and chocolate fruit platter we discovered in our rooms upon boarding.
We flew into MCO a day early, luckily so in hindsight considering the abysmal weather in the northeast soon after. We stayed at the Quality Inn Airport for the night. While the hotel was nothing fancy, it was comfortable and clean though the toilet was mysteriously slow in refilling in spite of excellent water pressure in the sink and shower both. The bar prices were also quite reasonable and the hotel brought us to a delicious German restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was located approximately a mile and a half from the hotel.
We chartered a private shuttle through Around the Clock USA to bring us to the cruise port on Saturday morning. There was a hitch getting the shuttle to arrive but everything was straightened out in the end and we made it to Port Canaveral just fine. Embarkation went as smoothly as embarkations do however the baggage handlers managed to ruin our garment bag during loading. A garment bag without a functioning zipper is just a lumpy rug.
The Food: We ate all of our dinners in the dining room and enjoyed the meals greatly. The escargots were particularly delicious. However, the real joy to our dining experience can be attributed to the wait staff we had during this trip. Marie An and Wibawa were two of the best waiters we have had on any cruise. Though professional in their work they were also friendly and outgoing, showing us magic tricks and sharing with us details about their lives. I suspect the level of interaction is probably based on how the servers are themselves treated.
One shortcoming of the food service had to do with seating times. Though we had requested early seating when we booked in May, we ended up at the late seating. There should be a way to assign seating at the time of booking.
In addition, we were saddened to discover that Beef Wellington was no longer on the dinner menu. It had been one of our favorite entrées and its loss was greatly missed. I'm not sure if this is a fleet-wide removal or just from this particular ship/itinerary.
The food in the Red Sail buffet was pretty typical of what I have come to expect from buffet food. It is good and tasty but hardly exceptional. Perhaps I have just a lower expectation of buffet food than other folks. The Cajun octopus salad available at the fish and chips joint on deck 10 is worth the trip up the stairs. The battered fish was pretty good too, come to that.
The Entertainment: I quite enjoyed the stage productions featuring the house band and Glory dancers. The comedians were also particular entertaining. The hypnotist show, however, seemed somewhat lacking. I guess there is only so much of watching hypnotized people think they are hot or cold that I can stomach in any given five year period. To me one hypnotist show is pretty much the same as the next.
I do wish the Bingo games started on time. When you slap down $20 for a single game I expect that it will start on time and, to my recollection, it never did.
The Accommodations: Having sailed with Carnival three times prior the room was pretty much what I had come to expect. Unlike the Destiny, however, and likely because she is slightly newer, the Glory did have an in-room fridge and the TV account access feature from other ships I have sailed. Again I cannot but praise the housekeeping staff for their courtesy, ready smiles and efficiency. Our steward was Sami, though I understand he has left the Glory to return home for the birth of his child and as such will not be on future sailings. His assistant Daniel was equally friendly and helpful assisting us with general information and towels as needed.
Cozumel: This was our first scheduled stop. We had booked a private fishing/snorkeling combo and were not disappointed. Tres Hermanos is a company we have booked with previously and this trip was just as good as the last. Not only did we reel in some nice Mahi Mahi but we also enjoyed snorkeling among the colorful fish and reefs south of san Miguel.
Belize: We again opted for a private tour electing to go cave tubing with Major Tom. Our guides, in addition to Major Tom himself, were Mike and Junior. These young men provided us with wonderful insight into the culture of their country in addition to a thoughtful and well-organized river tubing trip. It is a shame that Carnival has discontinued the cave tubing option but, fortunately, there seem to be enough independent operators who still offer this tour.
Costa Maya: This continues to be one of our favorite stops. We booked a tour of the ruins at Kohunlich (ko-hoon-litch) through Native Choice. Having toured Chacchoben with NC previously, our expectations ran high. Our guide Enedina was every bit as informative and gracious as David from our prior tour. Though the trip to the ruins is long (about 2 hours each way), the opportunity to sample fresh pineapple with chili powder remains a distinct highlight of the drive.
Nassau: This was perhaps our least favorite stop. I'm not sure if it is because we didn't have an organized tour or because the island seemed entirely too commercial for our tastes. The Straw Market was particularly disappointing. It appeared to consist of narrow alleys under a giant tent packed with vendors selling the same knock-off handbags and T-shirts. I had expected to see more local crafts and artisans. The Coke-can toys were a pleasant surprise, however. Another draw-back to this stop is the relatively high cost of goods and services. Food and drink were priced well above any comparable goods at our other stops. While Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee was available, the $33 price tag for a 12-ounce bag of coffee was disheartening. The Caribbean rum tea, however, is very good if somewhat pricey too.
Disembarkation: Without a doubt this was one of the worst disembarkations we have ever had. I'm not sure if the problem lay with having folks clear Customs or what, but when our zone was finally called we discovered that zones called two allotments earlier were still packed in the atrium awaiting disembarkation. The actual clearing of customs was itself quick and painless even though we ended up being nearly an hour late meeting our return private shuttle, again through ATC USA.
All in all, though the weather was overcast through most of the trip, it was a fine cruise and whetted rather than diminished our appetite for more.