Let me start by giving a little preface. We are a family of 4. Myself (34), DW (28), DD (7) and DS (4). DW and I have been on 2 carnival cruises prior to this one. We decided to leave the kiddos home for this trip and they were happy to stay with nana and pap for the week. Nana and pap were happy to take them and make sure DD got to/from school with no problems. Nana and pap have 3 german shepards and 13 puppies. Ds loved the oppurtunity to "help" with them care for the dogs.
Being in the cold and snowy northeast and with vacation scheduling being stricter this year at my job I was forced to take vacation earlier then I had hoped. If I'm going to be on vacation when it's cold I want to cruise! I started researching cruises in January and booked this cruise at the end of January. DW knew nothing about it until it was booked so she couldn't object LOL. It made for a nice surprise and a great chance for the 2 of us to get some "us" time. With working 2 different shifts and the kiddos we don't see much alone time and value every second we can get.
Since we were flying I packed and repacked about a dozen times to get our luggage down to JUST carry on size. I have a phobia of cruising with no clothing! We managed to go with 2 carry on luggage bags and a back pack! Packing for the kiddos wasn't so successful. I'm sure nana and pap's neighbors thought they were moving in.
We had planned on leaving on the 28th of Feb. but since we were blessed with a storm right before that, United put out a voucher allowing travellers to change their flights with no charges. They made a big deal of the "snowicane" since it packed with it 40-50 mph winds and up to 2 feet of snow in places. We were on the good side of it and only got about 4-5 inches but the winds were TERRIBLE! I had been playing weatherman on our roll call and was keeping an eye on our departing city and connecting cities. Much to the dismay of the airline, As soon as the waiver came out I called and changed us to the 27th. I knew they were forecasting a flurry in the am in Harrisburg and sunny skies the rest of the day. WE were originally scheduled to go thru DC but with the change we had to go thru Chicago. This had me worried since they can get a storm and delays at ANY given time. We aren't experienced fliers as this was only our second time. I've read horror stories on here and felt that 2 days early for a cruise gave us more than enough of a buffer with problems.
All packed and ready to go we made the fast stop at nana and pap's to drop off the kiddos and headed out on our about 2 hour drive to the airport. The drive was uneventful and scenic. Due to the high winds there were places where there was no snow on one side of the road and over a foot on the other. I was glad to have my black friday special guiding me on my way (tom tom for $40!). I don't know how I lived without one! I guess I'm spoiled now since I doubt I'll ever purchase another paper map.
Arriving at the airport(MDT) at about 11 for a 3pm flight was a tad early but gave us time to sit and relax and watch the planes take off. We almost got lucky enough to leave as soon as we got there but they had only 1 seat for a connector. The ticket guy gave us the option of leaving and going standby in DC but we declined and nestled in to watch the planes and chat on CC (me) and Facebook (DW). The airport's not very big and was a breeze to negotiate. After chatting it up on the laptop with roll call members and DW's facebook it was time for our flight. Oh no!! DELAYED! after a few minutes we found that we'd be there for another 45 minutes. The plane had a small mechanical issue in Chicago before it left for Harrisburg. I wasn't too concerned since we had a scheduled 3 hour layover in O'hare. Once we boarded they took the roller bags and stowed them under the plane which was nice (or so I thought until one was slightly ripped in the process). As we taxied to the runway I spotted some military planes and piles of snow. It was good that the brunt of the storm was a thing of the past and cleanup was done long before our arrival.
After an uneventful flight we made our approach to Chicago. The area from the sky was beautiful and busy looking. Dusk was just starting to set in and the street lighting being on gave the area a nice little touch.
After a shorter resting period our flight was called and we boarded. The temp outside Harrisburg was about 35 but when we landed in Chicago it was only 30. Five degrees doesn't sound like alot but it was noticeable. After a fast boarding and a short taxi to the runway, we took off with no delays. WOOHOOO NOLA here we come!! We landed in New Orleans a tad earlier than expected but still in the dark. After leaving the plane, I asked a local employee what it was like outside and got the answer "chilly". Boy what have I done! As we walked toward the exit with our bags different thoughts of cruising in early year months crossed my mind. As soon as the door popped open I instantly thought I met the crazy guy of New Orleans. It was great outside. A nice balmy 65ish degrees, and chilly? I was ready to change into shorts on the curb! A nice sign led the way to the taxi stand and a pleasant woman to radio the awaiting vehicles. I guessed that they couldn't sit on airline property due to security? Either way it arrived in seconds and took us to the drury inn on Poydras. Taxi ride took only about 15-20 minutes. The cost was $33 for the 2 of us. After a quick check-in at the desk we headed for our room. When I saw the airline had allowed the waiver my first call was to the hotel. New Orleans had a marathon going on the 28th and I knew hotels were booked almost solid. They had 4 rooms left so I told them I'd call right back as soon as I got the airline changed. BIG MISTAKE! After fighting with united not wanting to allow me to change (even with a waiver) I finally got everything taken care of 3 1/2 hours later. I immediately called drury inn back and found they had one room left. Of course I grabbed it but was a little disappointed. We had a 1 king jacuzzi suite for sunday night (111/night plus taxes) and would have to do a 2 double standard room (139/night) for saturday night. I figured that the comfort of not having to check out of one hotel and into another was worth the difference in price and rooms.
The room was spacious enough with what I believe was 52 inch flat screen TV and a beautiful view from the top floor. We ordered a "classic" pizza from reginelli's(sp). I expected something just edible after reading review on here. Boy was I wrong! The pizza was great! After a quick bite and a run outside for a smoke we retired for the night.
Up bright and early we headed down for the free breakfast that came with the hotel. They had the usual spread of eggs, sausage and pancakes along with some "southern" food like grits. The coffee was more than plentiful. The breakfast area is held in the main lobby area but wasn't very crowded while we were there. After a quick run to our room for necessities, we headed out for the day.
We had gotten a local map from the checkin desk and planned on doing our own little tour. We headed out to jackson square. It was a nice little walk that forced us to cross the marathon area a few times. All of the runners looked to be enjoying themselves more than competitive. I assumed we missed the first group of runners! After a nice walk we arrived at jackson square. After a quick walk around the inside of the square and admiring the flowers we walked around the outside looking at the vendors. Most of the artwork was gorgeous but pricey. Some had 8x10 paintings ranging in price from $80-150. I found it interesting that the all had signs stating no photos please so that people wouldn't attempt to duplicate their work. After a leisure lap around the outside and many offers of self portraits (30-50 per head), we headed across the street to see what we could see. They had a band playing which was a nice touch. On top of the hill allowed you a great view of the square.
We found it interesting once we got to the water that they had steps leading right down to the water. I instantly thought of it as a prime spot for night fishing. I'm not sure what it's intent actually was other then maybe a resting place on the bank. A local that was sitting there gave me a little bit of trivia info LOL. The west bank area is actually on the east side of the river right there. Also the river flows both upstream and down stream in that location. There's a sharp bend and not all of the water can make the turn. The shore and a sandbank force about half of the river to go back upstream a few hundred yards before it's sucked in with the current and pushed down for another chance to get to the gulf.
On saturday the NCL Spirit was in port loading and unloading pax. We shopped for a little while once we left the square picking up some souvenirs for our 2 little ones at home. I missed them (don't tell DW lol) and knew they'd be disappointed if we didn't return with something for them. We ran into some pax that were doing last minute shopping boarding the Spirit later that morning. They were excited about the weather since they left a cold and snowy canada to head for belize, costa maya and cozumel. I wished them a good trip and headed for the hotel. We were starting to get hungry and I wanted to make a pit stop before deciding on lunch. With the recommendations of the hotel staff in hand we headed out for lunch. A few places had no lines, or tables either. I was beginning to see that New Orleans is a busy city during the day. The marathon was coming to a close which made things that much more crowded. We opted to go to dine in at Reginelli's which was only about a block from the hotel. I don't remember what we ordered but the food was great and plentiful. Neither of us could finish our plates even though we were starving when we arrived. I tried a local brew that had raspberry in it but wasn't too raspberry. It was good but not something I could drink on a daily basis. As we were finishing up a member of our roll call called saying they were in town and ready to get the party started! We met up with them and started bar hopping our way to Bourbon street. After a few drinks, a little USA/Canada hockey, and a stop for some alligator, we headed back to the hotel for some free "kickback" food and drinks. They gave us a card worth 3 free drinks each and while they weren't big drinks it was great to not have to pay for them. I had snagged a few extra cards the previous night when we checked in.
After dinner we headed back to Bourbon street to do a ghost tour. The 4 of us had pre booked this and were hoping to see some ghosts! While I found the tour to be interesting and informative, I doubt I'd do it again. Our guide made sure to mention about every movie that was filmed at least partially in NOLA and every famous actor/actress that has a residence in the city.
After the tour and a few more drinks we headed back to the hotel for the night. In the morning we woke early and headed down for breakfast. We had scheduled a time to meet up with Terri and Aaron to ride with them to Cafe De Monde too meet up with other roll call members for a beignet and coffee.
After a little chatting and enjoying our yummy food we headed for the machu picchu parking lot and then the shuttle to the pier. While I'm not sure of the price of the parking I found the lot to be nice. The workers seamed like a family run place and were VERY friendly. After a fast ride to the terminal (maybe 5 minutes), a tip to the driver and a tip for the porter we headed inside to get checked in and wait our turn to board. I noticed it was about 11am after we cleared security. There was only 1 couple in front of us at security and maybe 2 couples in front of us at check-in. The whole process was extremely painless. I noticed that there were quite a few people already sitting in the waiting area as we headed for our embarkation photo. We got handed a boarding #6 and waited for Terri and Aaron to be finished. I scoped out the area a tad and saw where they let you go and headed for 4 open seats where we could get on fast once they called #6. After maybe 5 minutes of sitting and saying hi to the people around us they called for the handicapped and special needs people to begin boarding. A minute or 2 later they started with #1 and then a "oh yeah by the way" announcement. They taped SIX #1 boarding passes under the seats. check to see if you have one and can board now. Low and behold...I HAD ONE!!! Woohoo total wait time of less than 10 minutes!!! We breezed right on the ship with very few in line ahead of us at the boing machine! With that we headed to the lido for a bite to eat and snagged a nice booth just inside the sliding glass doors. We chatted for a spell and eventually Abby and Gary spotted us and joined us. I had an important call to make to the boss and my food got cold while the others ate. I ended up eating my cold food and then headed for the room to drop off our backpack and then explore. We didn't have to do much exploring since we had just been on this same ship in June so we headed for the dining room. I noticed a wedding that was taking place on the way there and even helped some visitors find their way. Too bad they weren't going and had to get off the ship once the ceremony was finished. The DR didn't have any table numbers on them like the last voyage so we were still clueless as to what table we were at and decided to let it be a surprise. I was just happy to have gotten the dining time we requested as early.
After a little walking and looking for the person to punch our card and a free lanyard we headed back to the room to see if our luggage had arrived. It had not but one surprise had. Roses for the DW.
We lounged around for a spell and then headed for our informal m&g in the aft area behind the pool. We had a nice turn out and nice conversation with everyone we had been chatting with on our very busy roll call. During the roll call meeting I noticed how they bring things up the river and found it interesting. They only use one tug for about 15 of these container barges. The skill it must take to negotiate the current and not run into anyone!
After our little meeting we all headed out for our life jacket free muster stations. We like getting there early so my 6'4 behind isn't stuck in front of some shorter person. We weren't so lucky this time and as a result some poor 4' lady was stuck behind me not being able to see. I tried my best to accommodate her when they showed the jacket part. It was quick and painless and afterwards we headed topside for sail-away. Around 3ish it had started to rain. I was hoping it'd hold off till we left since they were forecasting 11am. Sail-away party was nonexistent due to weather but they may have moved it inside and I wasn't aware of it. We had a pair of first timers on our roll call. I suggested they go up on the slide entrance deck or the funnel deck and brave the rain to experience a ship of this size spinning around 180 degrees. We ran into them and experienced sail-away in the pouring rain and wind all alone on the funnel deck. Definitely a highlight of the voyage for me. Even after 3 cruises with this happening I find it amazing how much grace the captains have at maneuvering a ship this big. After we set sail we headed back to our balcony to relax, dry off and get ready for dinner.
When we booked we did a pack and go gty balcony. We snagged a great room around the area of the hong kong noodle place. the extra long roof hanging over us protected us great from the rain and made a dismal rainy start into a pleasant one. Once back to the cabin DW found yet another surprise. No luggage yet and these strawberries from our TA.
As soon as we got back I got the "oh no my luggage" thought in my head but figured it'd be ok. after all I had an extra outfit and swimwear in the carry on as did DW.
Our room was actually a 3 person room which gave us a nice couch to relax on and attempt to collect towel animals on. Our steward took them daily and our collection never materialized but all was good. Speaking of the steward.... On our previous 2 cruises we were always greeted the first day with a "hi my name is" and that type thing. this steward did no such thing but did keep our room serviced and ice filled. Overall he and his assistant were efficient and about non existent. He even went out of the way to refill my bags I used to ice down my swollen feet later in the cruise but we'll get to that later in the review.
Once we were ready for dinner (with no luggage) we headed for the DR. As soon as we stepped outside we noticed our luggage sitting there and moved them into the cabin to be put away later. In the DR we had a 4 person table in the upper paris room. It was directly across the room from where we sat in June. Again, Like our sailing in June, we had no table mates :( I love to meet new people from different areas but was grateful for the extra large table with just DW and I. We made it a game as the cruise went on, sitting in different seats each night. Heehee
After dinner we went back to the room to unpack, relax and take in a few oil rigs before the welcome aboard show started. Before the cruise I did a little research and was happy that we were going to have Jorge as CD and knew the show was a must do. Jorge is an absolute hoot and hilarious. On our June cruise he was better IMHO than the comedian they had. Once at the show we saw we had some Jamie "squishy" guy instead. Dumbfounded over the change we enjoyed the show regardless. The comedian come out for a stint after squishy was done and found both to be entertaining. Squishy we later found out was a fill in intern for Jorge. It seams Jorge had to have an operation on his foot/feet and got off the ship in cozumel a few days before we sailed. I hope all will be fine with him as he's as good as they come IMHO.
After a few DOD's and capt n cokes we retired for the evening knowing that tomorrow would bring better weather. When we awoke (me several times in the middle of the night) we found that the weather hadn't changed much. It was a pleasant 65ish outside and no rain in sight but the gulf was restless from the after effects of the storm that came thru. With all the rocking there were a few that were resting in their rooms to overcome the sea sickness they were experiencing. It didn't effect much more than my balance and my sense of humor. I found it hilarious watching people attempting to walk and even more hilarious to watch people walk with drinks in their hands. I noted a guy in the morning walking on the lido with 2 cups of coffee. He started with full cups at the coffee machine but I'd bet they were closer to half way full by the time he made it to the sliding doors. Between the small spillage and him drinking some out so it didn't spill, I'd bet his whomever the coffee was intended for felt jipped with only a partial cup.
After breakfast in the DR, some lounging, shopping and our first lunch in the DR we headed to the Venezia lounge for our official meet and greet that Mach had set up for us. We had a nice turn out but wished that others would have joined us. Some of those that hadn't were in their rooms trying to avoid the seasickness and we ran into them later on in the cruise. Jamie The CD stopped in, taking time from his busy schedule, for a little Q&A session with us. It was nice to get a chance to chat with him. This is where I found out about Jorge. I asked (knowing yall would want to know) about the plans for the magic's home port. He didn't know, or didn't want to spill the beans. After some nice meeting time we headed out for some more relaxing time, a nap for the DW, and some good photo ops. I'm a picture taker and really enjoy looking for that perfect shot. You know the one, calendar or wall hanging material type of shot. I took a few nice sun ray pics and changed the settings a few times to capture 2 beautiful pics. Stunning I think.
Tonight was formal night in the DR. This is where I had the most trouble with packing. Only wanting carry on size to avoid lost bags and baggage fees I HAD to take my suit. We don't get the oppurtunity to dress up much in our daily lives and I thoroughly enjoy doing so when I get the chance. I made sure to stop at all of backgrounds we had previously scoped out and had a nice handful of cards to locate our pictures later. I knew we'd be there forever looking but I had promised DW that I'd no be so frugal and we'd purchase atleast one (at $22).
At dinner I had the prime rib along with some good shrimp sides. After dinner we had arranged for a pub crawl with a meeting place of Karaoke. Only a few showed and little interest was had for the crawl so we stayed and enjoyed karaoke. Later that evening we retired to our balconies and then to bed, praying for smoother seas in the morning.
We arrived in Progresso bright and early in the morning. I stepped onto the balcony to see the Ecstacy arriving and decided to grab a coffee to go from the room service and run up front for some photos.
After a fast room service breakfast and coffee we headed to the DR for a good breakfast. While I was getting the rest of the way ready DW snapped this picture of birds. We joked that the captain must have been eating and they could smell his food! We had no huge excursion plans for today. We ate breakfast and had great company from different couples from different states. After wishing everyone a good day, and a quick stop in the room for our backpack, we headed to the gangway to debark on dry land. Well I'm not so sure you'd call it dry land since it's a pier that's about 4 1/2 miles long. Either way, the mass exit of everyone that felt the need to be the first off the ship had passed and we walked right off.We grabbed a bus to the mainland and in minutes were at the marketplace area. We previously decided to do the double decker bus tour. When we arrived the bus sitting there was full on the top and they were gracious enough to allow us to wait for the next one. While waiting I got reminded of a first timer tip. BRING CASH ON LAND!!! A couple we met from the ecstacy had forgot to so they used an ATM. Not thinking, they requested 200 of which they thought were dollars and turned out to be pesos. I'm sure they laughed it off later but they were worried about what it'd turn out to be in american money (I think about $20?).
After a short 10 minute wait our bus arrived and we loaded. Up top and all the way forward, SCORE! A few minutes later a couple from our roll call surprised us by boarding our bus LOL (peekaboo rick!). Now I think I should mention the double decker is tall and the wires are low. You won't hit (in most places) but boy it feels like you will! The gentleman from our roll call was about 7 feet tall and I'm sure it was even scarier to him than it was for me.
Once we were done with the bus tour we had decided to head to the beach. While the weather wasn't perfect, it was still a nice 80ish degrees with a breeze. Surely better than the 30's and 40's at home!! We walked to the beach snapping pictures on the way. Once we started walking the beach I was in search of 3 things. A chair, a drink, and that $15/hour massage place. I located some chairs and after noticing a drink in the hands of a couple from the ecsacy I questioned where they got them.
There was a small place directly behind us on the street. SCORE! They informed me of what they paid for for the chair rentals so I went to have a go at my bartering skillz. A few minutes later I came away happy with 2 lounge chairs for $5 and for about 3 1/2 hours. Not too bad I felt since I had done slightly better than our beach mates did. We relaxed in the sun some and drank coronas(me) and margaritas (DW).
After some pleasant conversation and drinking with The beachmates, we bid them farewell and headed back to the ship for some lunch before sailaway. The 15/hr massage lady had come right as I was going for a refill. I promised her I was interested as soon as I got a refill and gave her a time to be back. She never showed which was a bummer. I guess it was a good thing though now that I look back. I need to insert a warning here for those from the north (and those that don't see much sun during the winter months). APPLY APPLY APPLY and then APPLY some more suntan lotion. DW has fair skin so we had 50spf sunblock. It's worked great in the past but that was after a base tan was already there. We had nothing prior to the cruise as far as a base and paid dearly for it. With a little too much coronas and fun in the ocean with the ecstacy couple's little ones I managed a burn. It surely was painful on the feet more than the back. The feet swelled up so bad I couldn't stand to wear socks or shoes!
A little while after lunch we went to watch the ecstacy sail away. As luck would have it I spotted our beachmate and exchanged a wave. He laughed and pointed, probably because of an earlier comment I made. I told him we were "allowing" them to get a head start from port since our ship had bigger motors and could outrun them. LOL After their sailaway, we headed to the balcony to relax for sailaway. With the peir being so far our, there's no one to wave to!! This is where I noticed how nice of a location our room was. We were directly above where the Pilot boards the ship.
By this time the burn was really starting to take effect on me! We decided (read: DW) to skip the DR for dinner and did the buffet. Nothing spectacular as far as food. Porkchops, salad and a small desert and headed back for the room. Neither of us burned cruisers were very hungry and regretfully were unable to finish our small meals. I was glad we didn't take the time to go the DR since I doubt we'd have made it thru the meal. We were whooped so we headed to bed early. I was asleep by 730! Oh and a note if it happens to anyone. You can order vinegar from room service in a coffee cup. I was straight forward with them and made sure to give the deliverer a nice tip. the vinigar helped to withdrawl the heat nice. By morning my back was feeling MUCH better like not much had happened. My feet on the other hand were still in bad shape. I atleast could still walk for a little while without them hurting. Good thing too, Cozumel was next!
We awoke in the morning to find that we still hadn't arrived into cozumel yet. Room service was right on time and after a tip and some advice from the deliverer, we did our normal morning routine. Balcony breakfast, showers, and then off to the DR for breakfast so we could get ready for Nachi Cocum. At breakfast we had a nice group of 3 other couples. After a small amount of chat and a good breakfast we headed back to the room to get our things. Being packed up for Nachi the night before turned out to be a great thing since we wanted off the ship as soon as we could to maximize our time at Nachi.
We had researched that we'd be one of 5 ships in port this day and wanted to beat the crowds. I saw 4 ships docked where we were and assumed tht the 5th (mercury something) was at the other peir. the other ships were the ecstacy from the previous day and 2 royal ships (indy and another one). We totalled all pax at around 18-19k people and had no desire to be stuck in the middle of it!
Ten other members from our roll call had booked the all inclusive and we were meeting on the pier to share Taxi's. After a little confusion of whee the meeting place was, everyone found each other and we headed out for a taxi. There were alot of helpful people offering rides (one way or round trip). We got our cab ($15 for 1-4, $32 for 5-10) and headed out. It was a short ride (maybe 10 minutes?) and we had arrived.
After the obligatory welcome to Nachi picture (which was available for purchase later that day) we headed in with reservations in hand to check in. This is where it got interesting for DW and I. I had read on here about deposits and paying the remainder when you arrive. Our deposit was different then what other CC members had stated but I figured the price had just gone up. It was only off by $2. I was wrong. When I booked, I believed I was booking NAchi but instead I was booking the Wyndham. DOH!! The checkin people were very nice about it and allowed us to stay for the full price of 49/pp. That was GREAT! Everyone else had arrived in their van only seconds behind us and when they realized we were all together they made sure to place us all together. We had 3 "umbrellas" at the end of the beach. It made for a long walk to the bathroom and a little more time for our refills to come but the extra peacefullness made up for that tenfold. The service was great. We arrived there around 945ish and the bar was already open. You know what they say...It's 5 o'clock somewhere! We got our first rounds ordered and were told the kitchen would open at 11. No problemo! There was adequete shade for everyone (including us sunburned 2). The sunburn turned out to be the only bad part of the day. The drinks kept flowing and the food was GREAT! The company of our fellow CC'ers was stellar and we all had a good time. Some of us guys relaxed for awhile in the hammocks that were about directly behind us. Some were in the sun partially and some were fully shaded. The weather was around 85 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky. Just an all around georgous day. I want to guess that of the possible 100 people there were about 65-75 there but it never felt like there were more than 50 even with our large group. There was an offer of massages and parasailing and snorkelling available but we opted for our loungers and hammocks in the shade!
The only "complaint" came when we were finished and STUFFED. I had the shrimp ceviche (sp). It was actually a seafood one that I asked for shrimp only. It comes with octopus and squid in it and I don't care for either LOL. They were more than happy to oblige with my request. It was VERY good and a little spicy. I'm sure it would have been great over something like fried rice or even nachos. I'll have to remember that for when we go back LOL.
All in all it turned out to be a great day. After a nice amount of relaxing the time was unfortunately winding down and the time had come to pack up our stuff and head back for a little shopping and then the ship for sailaway. Dw was stressed about missing the ship. Some of her favorite peir runner vidoes on U-tube are from cozumel and se didn't want to be the next featured person. The shops had many good things to buy but with luggage restrictions we opted to just pick up a few small things for the kiddos back home. One thing we got was a nice magnetic puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle is individually magnetic and they were only 5 bucks!
Once back on board we lounged for a few and then went topside to see if anyone would be the next feature on U-tube. We didn't see any and I noticed how short of a ride the pilot has when leaving compared to arrival. They about litterally pull the ship from the dock, get it pointed away from the island and then leave it up to the captain. I also noticed how effiecient the peir workers were since all 4 ships (2 carnival and 2 royal) all were departing back to back. We watched as each left until it was finally our turn. while waiting I saw the sub tour that's offered coming back and hoped that no cruise pax were on it since it was already past time to be back onboard!
Feeling much better than the previous day, we headed for our room to get ready for dinner. Again no table mates and again we changed seats to keep our waiter on his toes LOL. I think I should note this for anyone that may experience it. I'm fairly laid back but was VERY dissapointed the first day. Neither the room steward or the waited introduced themselves or seamed to care about being there. Two things that help make the experience nice. The waiter seamed like he was pissed at serving us spoiled americans (yes I've read cruise confidential lol). Expressions tell it all. I was so dissapointed that before we headed for bed the first night I was tempted to remove our tips. I don't want to start any contreversy since I know this is a touch subject with some LOL. I know these people work much harder than 99% of the cruisers that they cater to. I figured that maybe they were BOTH having bad days and I'd see what the next day brought. I turned out to be right and both livened up some the next day and more as the cruise progressed. The "pissed off" waiter even was the served for breakfast our morning before Cozumel and playingly nicknamed me "mr. sunburn" and then asked how I was that evening at dinner.
After dinner we did more of the same lounging and shopping. We found all of our pictures we had taken. After much discussion and minimal damage to our S&S, we discarded the unwanted pictures and purchased the ones we liked.
Reality was beginning to take ahold as we woke our last sea day. I knew it'd be a busy day with packing and all so we stuck with our routine in the morning. Balcony breafast, showers, DR breakfast and then headed for the cabin to do a little packing. I know it was early on our last full day but we had a b-day party to attend and I didn't want to be packing last minute. We sorted out the things we'd wear for dinner and disembarkation (very important) and packed everything else. In no time at all we were all packed up. For those that may think of attempting carry on luggage only I have a tip. Make room in your luggage for a spare backpack. It came in handy with final packing and allowed us a little extra room for the sweatshirt, smokes and souveniers we had purchased.
After packing and a little R&R on the balcony it was time to meet for the lunch and b-day party. We all met infront of the Paris DR entrance and went in together. Regretfully one family from the roll call didn't make it until later and wasn't able to join us. After the b-day party we made arrangements to meet with one of the roll call member's kiddos for a game or 2 of cards. We packed uno cards to play but it's much more fun with more than 2 people. when the time came to play we met in the lido aft area behind the pool. They had the roof closed which made this area VERY warm compared to the rest of the ship. I enjoyed the warmth with the thought of the cold that awaited us the next day in the back of my head.
After a rousing game in which I was winning until the last hand (I still want a rematch!!) we parted with goodbyes not knowing if we'd run into them again before we left. The kids were great. I figured they'd be bored with a march sailing and not many other kids onboard but they didn't seam to show it one bit. They were VERY well mannered and respectful. I think their parents need to hold seminars to teach other parents how to get children to act this way. :)
The final dinner time had arrived and due to our long last hand we were pushed for time. The 6 of us scattered to our rooms to get ready for dinner so we weren't late. When we got back to the cabin we found our "you have to get off the ship" rminders already laid out on our bed (luggage tags). We'd be self disembarking in the morning so we didn't need them. I had previously (first sea day) talked with the pursars desk. I informed them of our earlyish flight (noon) and inquired about how we could get off the ship fast in the morning. I hate leaving before they kick us off the ship but knew New orleans was a long ways from PA and I didn't want to risk missing our flight. She let me in on some tips as to when and where to be so we could be one of the first off. EXCELLENT!
Right before dinner was over I had a scarey moment. No offence to anyone from the area or fans but.... They had a little parade thing with a follow the leader song. This nice lady brought all of her Saints stuff onboard and used it that night (umbrella included) to lead the group. A few "who Dat" phrases later and I caught myself starting to yell "who cares" after it LOL. A few near by people made the "champions Dat's who" comments and ofcourse in the heat of the moment (all in fun ofcourse) I made the remark "woohoo maybe it'll be another 50 years before they win a superbowl!" Boy I thought they were gonna throw me over the DR balcony or worse overboard. LOL Insert foot into mouth. I guess They really take their football serious!
After the final dinner and ofcourse the farewell song and dance we said our goodbyes to our waiters and headed for one final relaxing time on the balcony. I know it was starting to get "cold" by then (8pm) and thought of the NOLA people. I was turning into one of them since it was a pleasant 70 outside and I was actually feeling cold. I figured it was either being spoiled the last 2 days or my sunburn taking effect, musta been the burn LOL.
As the night ran down we started seeing oil wells and then an announcement came over that within the hour we'd be starting up the Mississippi. That was all I needed to hear to help me not sleep LOL.
Awaking much earlier than I had hoped to I noticed we were back in port already and tied down. It was about 6am and room service wasn't scheduled to arrive for a little while. I headed for the lido for coffee for DW and I as she packed up our final things. The sun was rising on the "west bank" so I made sure to capture the moment. Breakfast arrived after a short time and I noticed some people getting off with luggage. WAIT! Had the pursars desk lady missinformed us? Nope, they were employees. I ventured down to the pursars for the DW and saw how much trouble they get to go thru first hand. They take all of their luggage and run it thru the x-ray machine. It's the same one we use for carry ons but they are running large luggage thru it. It was almost comical watching the security push and pull the luggage thru since the rolls didn't do anything but spin. I felt sorry for them having to go thru this but it's all in the name of safety right? I just wish I had had the camera with me to take a picture to capture the moment.
By the time I made it back up to the cabin the DW had everything (or so I thought) packed up so we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front lounge to wait like the pursar had mentioned. A few goodbyes later we got down to deck 3 and noticed people actually leaving early. GREAT! One final boing and off we went. No lines at all. Then the fun came. I noticed about half way out the gangway that I didn't have my jacket on. Having now really used it for a few days I had totally forgotten about it! DW stopped in the exit way and watched all of our bags as I made an attempt to go back to the room. Passport and S&S in hand I litterally ran back onto the ship. Security was gracious enough to allow me to re boing my way onto the ship and run to my cabin for it. I litterally ran all the way up to 5 via steps and then thru the casino and up to 8 via more step. Then right back down the same route running the whole time. Boy I thought Iw as in shape, WRONG! I had jacket in hand and made sure to thank the security guy again as I boinged my way off the ship again. By the time I excused my way up to DW the line had started to form. DOH! We were about 50 feet from the exit so no big deal and it was maybe 2 minutes and we were in line for customs. I loved how organized and efficient they were. This is where I got the quote of the trip. the gentleman infront of us was very honest. Even after the dog sniffed the luggage as we waited our turn he still told the customs officer he has 2 cuban cigars. The officer said....wait for it....LOL "if your ship didn't stop in cuba, they aren't cuban" He handed them back and sent him on his way. He asked us very few questions and away we went. Once outside we grabbed a taxi and headed for the airport. DW noted that as we left it was exactly 730. Not bad considering the ships arrival time was supossed to be 8am. We were at the airport very fast and had plenty of time to spare. After a quick smoke and security checkin we headed for our gate to wait for our flight. I noticed one of the couples from our roll call at the airport and even though we had different gates and times they came over to sit and chat while we waited. Time flew by (no pun intended) and before we knew it we were boarding the plane and heading to DC. I made sure to snap my mandatory window pictures as we took off (I know, no supossed to) so I had one last shot of NOLA. After a pleasant flight with a very demanding passenger we landed in DC.
Unfortunately we had kiddos to get home to. They had overbooked and were looking for people willing to give up their seats. In doing so 2 ladies we had sat next to on our NOLA to DC flight recieved a free hotel, dinner, round trip tickets to anywhere in the continental states good for a year and a morning flight the next day. I would have loved to do something like that so we could eliminate some costs for a future vacation and/or cruise. Oh well. After a few minutes and a bad announcement for departure time we boarded and made our way back to HArrisburg. A quick shuttle ride back to our vehicle we headed out for the 90 minute drive. After arriving home around 11pm we were exhausted from the 13 hours or so of travel. I'm sure glad we have another cruise in a few short weeks!! Look out Pride....here we come!!!
Overall it was a great cruise. Just what us frozen northerners needed to help push in spring. The service was good, not great but overall wasn't bad. The "do you want a drink" on the first day was alot less than we have experienced on previous cruises (except one guy). The one show we saw was very good but unfortunately cut short for the late seating people. Our balcony was much smaller than our aft but was perfect for the two of us. Thankfully our upcoming cruise has a HUGE balcony so there'll be plenty of room for us and the kiddos. The roll call was one of the best I have seen on CC. Ofcourse that's for not being a CC group cruise. Those ones get huge! We met many great people and are actually thinking of a reunion cruise next year. Hopefully that will materialize as it'd be awesome to sail with that group again.
If anyone has any questions about the ship, nachi cocum, or anything else feel free to ask. I'll do my best to help out. I have this same review posted on the boards with a little more detail and a ton of pictures intertwined. If you'd like to see it the address to it is http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1162447