I think the staff on the ship must have been hand picked. They were way above expectations in efficiency, friendliness and willingness to serve. Our wait staff was the same through out. Bianca and Gil learned each person's individual tastes. They really anticipated our needs. We received the best table service I have ever had in my 35 cruises. Our cabin steward from the first leg stopped us in the hall during the last week to ask how our trip had been. We saw that same attitude in all areas... not just waiters and cabin stewards but even the purser's desk and Infirmary!!
We ate in the Black Pearl for 44 dinners. We ate on shore one night, at the Indian night under the stars once, had room service twice and at the Lido buffet once. I liked everything I ate! I never had a need to visit the specialty restaurant. Those who did said it was excellent.
We ate breakfast and lunch mostly on Lido. We especially liked the omelet station in the morning, At lunch we rotated between the stir fry, sandwich station, Indian, hamburger and salad bars. They were all delicious.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before sailing and stayed at a Comfort Inn near the air port. Our hotel was full of cruisers. On Saturday morning we found ourselves in the middle of about 200 people waiting for various cabs, shuttles and buses to take them to the cruise port to board a ship. We arrived at The Splendor at noon and were in our room at 2:00. We are Platinum so we avoided the lines inside the terminal but waited about an hour and a half out side. Embarkation was a fairly long process but we had fun while waiting in line talking to all the other people. We were among the lucky ones.
We first noticed that a Coast Guard boat was telling the small boats in the channel to turn around because the port was closed. It was almost time for departure. We thought they were clearing the area so all the cruise boats could leave without running over the small ones.
But out in the parking lot, I could see my suitcase still out there in the parking lot with lots of others and nobody loading baggage. Nobody loading supplies either. In fact there was nobody at all down there on the dock. All the baggage and supplies and trucks just sitting there with nobody around.
Over at the vacant cruise terminal next door we could see about 400 people milling around. We thought they might be the ones denied boarding because they didn't have the Brazil visa. We knew that was going to cause some kind of problem and it did for about 150 who were not allowed to board the ship because they did not have a visa for Brazil. Some may go to the Brazilian Embassy in Miami, get a visa and meet the ship in Barbados. But the people in the other terminal were not the ones needing visas. As we watched, the 400 turned into about a thousand. The next thing we heard was an announcement of a security breach. Boarding had been halted by the Coast Guard and all in Terminal 21 were moved to the terminal across the way.... all 1000 of them... passengers and crew.
We and many others watched as dogs sniffed the luggage. Five suitcases were picked out and the remote control robot handled each one. We never saw anything found and eventually the Coast Guard reopened the port and allowed other ship to set sail and The Splendor to continue boarding. There were some exasperated people who finally started to board the ship at about 8:00. They had spent 5 dreadful hours in an open terminal building with almost no food and limited water. Room service from the Carnival Freedom did deliver sandwiches, fruit and drinks to the terminal but passengers rushed the food taking much more than a share for one. Some people got none. It turns out that there was a package of paper tied together with wire that set it all off. Better safe than sorry.
We were glad we had made it on board to enjoy a pleasant evening. Many of our Cruise Critic friends were not so lucky. They filled us in on all the details at the Meet and Greet on Sunday.
We changed cabins each leg of the three cruises. It was cheaper for us that way. The move was easy. We just packed bags, left them in our room, went ashore and the cabin steward moved it all for us. Each cabin was just the same. We had a balcony cabin and it was perfect. It was comfortable and there was plenty of room for us and all our "stuff."
Thanks to Goose, the cruise director, the entertainment on board was outstanding. The best we have experienced on any cruise. They were creative in order to keep us entertained. There were all sorts of activities in addition to the usual cruise activities like trivia, pool games, art auctions, Bingo (about once a week... not everyday.), games and of course the Casino. * The singers and dancers were superb and very energetic. * Comedians, jugglers, singers and ventriloquist were the normal average sort. * The entertainment in the bars and lounges was great too. * Goose was creative by bringing some of the house acts into the showroom for performances. * The piano player in the piano bar had carpel tunnel though and had to stop playing at times. * The naturalist Dirk is fun, approachable and interesting. The ports would never have been as much fun without having first listened to his talks. * There were drawing lessons. * Picture taking and Photoshop seminars given by MickeyLive. These were very worth while. * There were crafts classes. They even gave you all the materials for the crafts. Lots of people were working on needlepoint. Even the men. I wish I had gone to the classes. * We went to Spanish and Portuguese classes. They were entry level but we always learned something. * We enjoyed going to the Writer's Workshop where they would share their writing and coach each other. * Bridge lessons and Duplicate Bridge sessions were been well attended. * There was a Super Bowl party, lots of deck parties and two Ecuador crossing ceremonies. * There were on board movies shown on the big screen by the pool and in the cabins. I would like to have seen a better variety of movies. We watched the same moves several times. New movies started to be shown but US TV was back on by then so it didn't make much difference. * Because there were a lot of sea days people brought lots of games and books. The Lido became a game area in the afternoon. Sometimes it was hard to find a table to sit at to eat. We usually just asked to join someone already seated.
The longest we were between ports was three sea days. I really liked sitting on the balcony with my book. Sometimes concentrating on the pages was difficult. I liked sitting out there and just looking at the sea. You had to look closely but once your eyes adjust you can see all sorts of sea life.
* Birds of all kinds flying, floating and diving. * Whale's spouts and whales breaching. * Dolphins traveling in groups looked like a cluster of white caps at first. * Sea lions swam along under water and then lifted their heads to look around. * The fish mostly stayed under water but some moved across the top of the water by propelling themselves with their fins. * When we saw kelp floating, we know other wild life ass close by.
We could sit out there for hours just watching the water go by.
The sun rising and setting was another treat. I will never forget how brilliant the orange in the sky as the sun set as we were leaving Puerto Madyrn and Arica. Or the way the sun burst out over the horizon arriving in Ecuador.
I would recommend a balcony cabin for a long trip like this was.
The average age of the passengers was 65 to 67. For the most part they were delightful to travel with. We met friends for life. Some though were very grumpy and miserable. They complained about everything. It was almost like they didn't want to be there in the first place. The complaining started the first day we boarded about things that might/could happen. If you are thinking about a long cruise be sure that is what you really want to do. Once you get started it is hard and costly to go back. There will be 3000 passengers and your specific wants may not come first.
On any voyage it is common for a passenger to bring a virus on board. On short seven day cruises there isn't time for it to spread through the ship. People may get sick when they get home but not on board. The virus came on The Carnival Splendor and almost everyone was affected with the cough. The Infirmary even ran out of cold medication. We shopped in port for antihistamines and cough syrup. People would cough without covering their mouth or cough in their hands and then touch serving pieces. I must have washed my hands 50 times a day but still got it. I was sick for five weeks.
The Captain and his Staff:
We made it safely around Cape Horn. There were 20 ft waves and winds up to 90 mph winds. I was never scared. The ship rocked and rolled at times but WOW what an adventure to sail around the cape. Thank you to the Captain for making it safe and Thank You to Carnival for making it possible.
We hoped debarkation would take a long time. It didn't. I cried as I walked off the Carnival Splendor in San Francisco. I had sailed over 16000 miles. I hated to leave.