Carnival Miracle - February 7 - 15, 2011
This is my seventeenth cruise, seventh on Carnival, third on a Spirit class (my favorite class of Carnival ship) and first on the Carnival Miracle. At the request of someone for more details, I now write my review while on the ship. At the request of many for photos, I also bring photo editing software so that I can post pictures with the review on the main boards. All I can do is link to the photos for the review that goes in the review section.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Today I am flying from Los Angeles to Miami non-stop (I'm not sure how I'll get off the plane if it doesn't stop) via American Airlines. I'll rent a car and drive to a hotel located about midway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where the ship will dock. Tomorrow I'll enjoy the sights and take in the Super Bowl (go Green Bay). Monday I board the ship.
The drive to the pre-arranged parking spot was unremarkable. I arrived at the airport at the time I planned to (two hours before departure). For some reason the airport seemed a little empty. The first class security line was short, but not as short as the economy line. Yet things were moving very slowly.
I soon found out why. These new scanners are slower than the old metal detectors, and you have to remove your belt (I was wearing a belt that I didn't have to remove for the metal detectors). Then the real fun began. I have everything the well equipped computer geek needs in my computer bag (lots of cables and extension cords). That triggered a secondary inspection of the bag. That I didn't mind. What I was not happy about was that EVERYTHING was removed from the bag. The inspector must have checked the bag at least five times for explosives. Now the gentleman was professional about it, and even offered to put everything back, an offer which I refused. I have everything where I want it and I wanted to put everything back the way I want it, especially since he was trying to force the GPS unit back into its little carrying case (I had to ask him to stop - I would take care of it).
So, what normally takes a few minutes ended up taking a half hour. Fortunately there is still plenty of time until I have to board, and in fact I even found an open outlet so I could type this (LAX needs to at least double the number of charging stations it has in this terminal). Unfortunately the outlet I found is no where near the plane, which is already at the gate. Still, at least I have time to write this.
Well, it is getting close to boarding time, so I'll be back at you tonight.
Good evening. I made it to the hotel in one piece. The airline seat was amazing. It had more power controls than a power car seat. And, because of the design reclining the seat didn't intrude into the space of the person behind you. First class passengers get a portable DVD player that runs off the seat's DC power supply. If you ever have a chance to try out an American Airlines 767 first class seat, do it. For the first time I actually felt the first class seat was worth the additional cost.
I have a reservation at the Diplomat Hotel that I obtained through Hotwire. It is a four star resort next to a golf course. It has a sister property on the beach with a free shuttle between the two properties. The room is huge. The bathroom alone is almost as big as a cruise ship cabin. I even have a balcony, and tomorrow morning I'll get to see what outside my balcony. The only problem is the only choice for parking is valet, and I don't like valet parking, even when I have a rental car. Also, why is it the more expensive the room, the more they charge for Internet access. They want $13 per day to access the Internet. I don't pay that much per week at home, and I have cable. I guess I will not be using the Internet until I get home.
For dinner I decided to try the restaurant in the hotel. The food was good, about like Black Angus or Claim Jumper, but about twenty percent more expensive and they included the tip (18%). So, what is up with that? The way I see it, how exclusive could the place be if they let me in? I've got a car; the rest of my meals will be off the property.
Super Bowl Sunday
Good morning. It is Super Bowl Sunday. However, the Super Bowl comes on three hours later in Florida than in California. If I wanted to make a little extra money, I would call back home, find out who won, and then place a bet. At any rate, my plan for today is to go out, enjoy the beach a bit, catch a late lunch, then come back and watch the Super Bowl.
So, now that it is day time I can check out my room. In the entry area is a table with coffee and tea and bottled water. The tag on the water says it is $7.00 plus a twenty percent gratuity plus tax (six percent). That works out to $8.82 for one bottle of water! Unless it came from the fountain of youth, I'm not interested. Still the six percent tax rate is nice - where I live sales tax is about fifty percent higher.
To the right off the entry is the bathroom. It is quite large with a marble floor. The water closest is a separate room (and includes a bidet) and there is a double sink. The shower is as large as a tub shower combo, all enclosed in marble. It would be quite dark in there except the shower has a separate light. One important discovery I made, the towels are hanging on a rack over the bathtub behind the door. That makes the second time I found something important behind a hotel bathroom door. In the Intercontinental Hotel some of the showers are behind the door. You have to close the bathroom door to get into the shower.
The show has two options, you can have the water come straight down as though you were showing in the rain (which I hate) or come at you from the wall. I prefer handheld shower heads. At any rate, it takes several minutes for the hot water to reach the third floor, where I am located.
Continuing straight through the entry you come to a very good sized sleeping and sitting area. This room could easily handle a family of four. And just outside is a good sized balcony for, in my case, watching the sunrise. I assume others get a view of the golf course and the sunsets.
Well, I spent a few hours at the beach, and then because I was not real thrilled with the in house restaurant, I stopped at a KFC on the way back and had a late brunch. Now I'm back in the room and waiting for the Super Bowl to start. Go Packers!
Monday, February 7, 2011 - Embarkation day
Wow, that was a good game. And just in case you think there was some post game editing going on here, I took a picture of me wearing my Packer shirt. I am a Packer fan and have been for 44 years (I saw the Packers play the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1966. It was a good game even though the Rams won. The Los Angeles Coliseum was also the site of the first Super Bowl, where the Packers beat the Chiefs.
Nonetheless, today is embarkation day. It's 9:00am and I'm packed and ready to go. I'll check out a little before 10:00am, head over to the pier and turn in the rental. Then meet the rest of the roll call group on board. Until then, I'm hanging out in the room killing time (hopefully they will not realize it was me until after I am out of the country).
Checkout contained a surprise. Parking cost an additional $50. There was no warning about this on Hotwire. That aside, I checked out just before 10:00am and with only about fourteen miles to get to the Avis rental office at the port, I expected to get there around 10:30am. However, it was closer to 11:00am because I took time to set up my GPS (this is my first cruise out of Fort Lauderdale) and stopped to fill up the tank.
Then I was hoping for a quick ride to the port, but that was not going to happen. First of all the first shuttle (free) to the port doesn't leave until 11:30am. Then the draw bridge that we had to go over was open to allow a sailboat to pass underneath, or, because of the mast, the bridge was open to allow the sailboat to pass through.
There were four ships in port (Celebrity Equinox, Navigator of the Seas, Silversea Silver Cloud and Carnival Miracle), and passengers on the bus wanted to go to three of the ships. I was the only one going to the Carnival Miracle and I was the last one dropped off.
So now it is about noon and I arrived about the same time as three buses, which means, for the first time today (so the Carnival people claim) there is also a line. Nonetheless the line moved fast and after about thirty minutes I was checked in, my embarkation photo had been taken, my security photo has been taken and I was looking for my room steward so that I could drop off my carryon luggage and start taking pictures of the ship. One concern I had, there was no ice bucket in the cabin.
By the time I finished photographing the ship, the cabins were available for the passengers to occupy. This emptied out the buffet enough that I did not have to wait in line to get my food and there were open seats so I could sit down an enjoy it.
I then headed back to the cabin and find my luggage is waiting for me. I guess there is one advantage to not being the first on the ship. In the past, being early on the ship meant not getting my luggage until after the muster drill. So while I was putting everything away the room steward shows up with the ice bucket full - good! I made a point of telling the room steward that I liked having ice, and I told him I had late seating.
After putting everything away I wanted to relax for awhile. However, I was in for a rude surprise, because no sooner had my head hit the pillow than we were informed that in ten minutes the muster drill would begin. One nice thing is that we don't have to bring our life vests to the muster drill. About 4:00pm the drill was over and soon after we departed to the sound of one of the other ship's call to muster.
After the muster drill our roll call group agreed to meet at the aft pool bar. It was nice to put a face to all the people I had been corresponding with for the last year. After the roll call meet and greet I decided to do the relaxing that was denied to me before the muster drill.
Apparently because early seating was so popular on this cruise, dinner time had been moved up. Early seating was now 5:45pm and late seating was now 7:45pm. I showed up at 7:45pm and there was a line forming. So I decided to look for my embarkation photo, which I ended up buying. The line was getting bigger so I decide to take the picture back to the cabin rather than keep it with me at dinner.
On my way back to the cabin one of the passengers noticed my shirt. Because it has the word critic on it people assume I am a professional writer. However, I can't complain since the shirt kept me out of trouble once while photographing one of the ships docked in San Pedro, California. A security guard saw me photographing the ship and began asking some pointed question, but stopped when he read my shirt. It was clear he thought I was photographing the ship for a story I was about to write. I said nothing to make him think that way and I said nothing to make him think otherwise. All I said was I had photographed lots of ships, which is a true statement.
So I told the Miracle passenger that I belonged to an online forum and answered a few of her questions. Then I headed back to the cabin to drop off my embarkation photo. I managed to make it back to the main dining room in time to join the end of the line, which had just reached the entrance to the dining room. I don't know what caused the delay, but things were obviously running a little late tonight.
My tablemates are three women all wearing the same dress. There are typically four of them that cruise together, but for some reason one of them could not make it to this cruise. The one thing we all noticed was that we were sitting at a table with nine chairs, five of which were empty. According to the waiter, there should be eight people at our table (the other four never showed up).
For dinner tonight I had the lasagna, which was excellent. After dinner I decided to check out the shopping. And once again my shirt attracted attention, and once again I explained who I was. When I returned to my cabin it was obvious that the room steward had not been in the cabin. I wonder if it was because I forgot to put out the make up my room sign. Since I wanted ice, I headed to the buffet and the ice machines. Then back to the cabin to finish watching a move that I had started watching before dinner.
Then I typed this. It is now early Tuesday morning, and so it is time to say good night. At least tomorrow is a sea day, so I don't have to get up early. See you later in the morning.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - Day at Sea
Good morning everyone. With no clouds in the sky the sunsets and sunrises are not very spectacular. At 10:00am is the roll call group's meet & greet. So, I've got to shower and dress, and this time remember to put the "make up my room" card out.
The meet and greet was the best organized and attended meet and greet I have been a part of. After the meet and greet I went back to the cabin too switch cameras, and then head out to take some more pictures of the ship. I notice the cabin steward had not serviced my cabin yet.
While taking the pictures I noticed how few children there are on this cruise. Typically Carnival has quite a few children on board, even during school time. However, in this case, a child would have to miss seven days of school to attend this cruise. I would estimate the number of children on board to be less than 50. For a normal one week cruise during the school year on Carnival I would expect the number of children to be 100 to 150 (which it has been in the past).
Then I head to the shore excursion desk to check on two things, but the line is too long (for me - I don't like lines). So I head over to the guest relations desk. They tell me to expect my pre-bought tickets to arrive in the morning. As for the shore excursion back to the airport I can buy it from them. Oops, no I can't. I have to go to the shore excursion desk. But they can answer my question. It is for flights leaving after 1:30pm. My flight is a 3:00pm, so I'm good to go. This is a real shore excursion that goes to the Everglades, not the $15 bus transfer to the airport.
I go back to the cabin and again notice the cabin steward has not come yet. Just as I finish booking my shore excursion via the TV he arrives. He is willing to come back later but I want him to clean up now, so I leave and have lunch.
There is nothing really interesting (to me) going on today, so I go back to my cabin to update this and then I'll do a little swimming. The room steward is finished and the ice bucket is full, so I'm happy. After swimming I'll go back to the cabin to get ready for the captain's reception.
Unfortunately given the direction we are headed (southeast) and my cabin being on the starboard side, my balcony is full of sun, which makes it unusable for me. However, tonight, after the sun goes down, I'll update this out on the balcony where it should be more to my liking temperature wise.
The swim was very refreshing. I followed that up with a few minutes in the hot tub. It was all a little strange. I was in the pool between three and four. Yet there was only one child in the pool. Actually he was in the hot tub with his father. And yes, I checked all three pools, which had the side benefit of bringing me to the Sunday station on the aft deck. There was hand scooped ice cream, plenty of toppings and four different flavors of syrup. The lack of kids during a prime pool time got my curiosity, so I even peeked into the kids clubs. It was fairly quiet there also. So, either I just witnessed the largest group naptime in cruising history, or it is time to ask the chef about the source of the meat in the hamburgers. This is all a little strange for a Carnival cruise.
When I returned to my cabin I decided to go out on the balcony to make sure I can correctly identify my balcony in a picture I took. To my surprise one of the chairs is missing. I assume the room steward removed it for some reason, and not that it jumped overboard with most of the kids.
I decide to sneak in to the captain's reception with the early group. The second person I saw was the captain. The captain gave his noon time announcement (we are on course) and I thought his voice sounded familiar, so I approached him. I asked him if he was recently on the Spirit. He was. Thanksgiving? Yes, he went on vacation December 6 and this is his second cruise back. He thanked me for coming back and I thanked him. I am sure all the captains on all the lines are well skilled, but they don't all have a winning personality. Captain Volpi does, and I am more than happy to sail with him again.
So, with that out of the way (I posed for one picture) and more than two hours until dinner, how about I describe my cabin. I am on the starboard side of deck five, just slightly forward of the forward elevators. Across the hall from me is a crew only door. I have an extended balcony cabin. Now as cabins go, the standard size cabins (inside, ocean view and balcony) are all the same on the inside. I am using a little more than half the closet space, but none of the drawer space. My two empty pieces of luggage fit under the bed.
Most of the side facing extended balconies are in the indent, so that if one looks straight down one would see the life boats. Also looking directly forward or aft one would see the side of one of the standard balcony cabins, as they stick out a little further then the extended balconies do. Now if I look straight down I see my feet. Okay, so the railing is angled in a bit. It is still an extended balcony (six feet deep), which basically allows one to comfortably sit facing the ocean, instead of having to sit at an angle as you do with a normal balcony (four feet deep). And, I can look directly forward or aft without anything blocking my view. And if I lean out a little and look straight down, I do see the water, not the top of one of the lifeboats.
Oops, I should have kept a better eye on the sun. It is halfway down, but without a cloud in the sky, and all the haze on the horizon, it is not even worth a digital picture (and digital pictures are free).
Dinner is over and I am back, sitting on my balcony, in my only remaining chair, looking at a beautiful one quarter moon floating just a little above the horizon. Unfortunately, there is not enough light to take a hand held picture, and I didn't bring a tripod.
Well, this time I remembered to put out the "Make up my room" sign and the cabin steward took care of everything. He turned down the bed (and of course I had to turn it right side up so I could sleep on it), left me a towel animal, my shore excursion tickets (including the one I ordered off the TV) and left me a bucket full of ice. So, other than my missing one of my balcony chairs, what more could I ask for?
There were only the four of us at the dinner table again. I had the prime rib, which was good, and the world famous Carnival Warm Melting Chocolate Cake for desert. In nine hours we should be in Grand Turk, so until tomorrow, good night.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - Grand Turk
I woke up at 5:00am and decided to take a peek outside. There was another ship very near us all lit up. I knew right-away that that is was the Carnival Destiny, since it was scheduled to dock next to us in Grand Turk and we were only two hours from docking. The ship was all lit up, but taking a handheld photograph in low light at that distance is difficult. Still, some of the pictures turned out pretty good.
Later as we were approaching Grand Turk I went up to the observation deck because I wanted a picture of the "Welcome to Grand Turk" sign without anyone in front of it. Unfortunately access to the observation deck was locked, and all the other forward facing decks have seven foot tall tinted Plexiglas, which would make shooting the sign impossible.
Coming up behind us was the Carnival Destiny, and I got several great photographs of the ship. Then, as long as I was up on deck nine I decided to grab breakfast. I headed to the cook to order omelet station and then looked for a place to sit. Normally I would take the food down to my balcony. However, in this case what I had was a great view of the side of the Carnival Destiny. I didn't feel that view warranted the trouble it would take to get the food down to my balcony. After breakfast I checked the observation deck again. It was still locked.
So it was back to the cabin to upload the pictures and work on this. Also, I since I have a little extra time before my tour, so I decided it was time to back everything up (just in case).
The past guest party is over, the sun has set (again, without any clouds in the sky) and there are two hours until dinner, so I'm back in the cabin working on this. I finally did get a picture of the Welcome to Grand Turk sign without anyone in front of it, as we were leaving (nothing like a good telephoto lens).
My shore excursion was the Conch World tour. It was fairly interesting. The tour driver was great. He was born and raised on Grand Turk and really loves his island. He added a lot to the tour. One issue did pop up. One couple was late. After waiting a fair amount of time we left. Then a few minutes later we were called back. I understand wanting to give the people what they paid for, but everyone else on the bus was on time, and this was not fair. Even worse is when we returned the supervisor who called us back had made a mistake, the missing couple had not shown up.
Back in town I picked up a few souvenirs and headed back to the ship to switch cameras (I did not want to lug my DSLR around on the tour). I removed all the metal that was wearing, including the metal belt buckle and still set off the metal detector (so I ended up getting scanned with the wand). At any rate, I switched cameras and took all the photos I wanted. I also ran into my tablemates at the pool on the island. When I returned to the ship I decided that if I am going to set off the metal detector anyway, then I might as well make it easy on myself, so this time I left the belt buckle on, and guess what, the metal detector did not go off - go figure.
I tried the observation deck again, but it was still locked. So I went back to the cabin to cool off and wait until we started to leave. Once we started to back out I was able to get a good angle on the "Welcome to Grand Turk" sign and got the picture I wanted without anyone in front of it.
After that it was time for lunch, then back to the cabin to shower, cool off and wait for the past guest party to begin. One thing I noticed walking back to my cabin, it was about 3:15pm, I passed all three pools, and once again there was one child in the swimming. This is very strange for a family friendly cruise.
It seems half the passengers on the ship are retuning passengers, so they held the past guest party in the main show lounge. It was okay as far as large parties go. I've been to some smaller past guest parties that were a little better. The captain was there, and he was in excellent form. He was funnier than the cruise director. The captain said that tomorrow we would be in La Romana. This would be his first time there. Most people laughed. However, based on my conversation with him, he is not kidding.
So now I'll just rest and wait for dinner. Perhaps after dinner I'll try to take some nighttime photos aboard the ship. Or perhaps not. Access to deck ten has been restricted because of the wind. Even if I did go out to deck ten I would not be able to hand hold my camera, so I'll try another night. So, until the morning, good night.
Thursday, February 10, 2011 - La Romana
I woke up at 2:00am and saw lights outside my window. A quick check verified that the lights were land based. A check of the TV (channel fourteen) confirmed that we were very close to the Dominican Republic. We are scheduled to dock at 9:00am in La Romana. The big attraction in La Romana is a resort and there is also a sugar mill.
To be honest, I was not looking forward to this port. The main reason I booked this cruise is the next two ports. I reviewed the shore excursions online three times for La Romana, but could not find anything that really interested me. No matter, I have always wanted to skip a port and see what it is like on the ship on a port day, and that is what I end up doing today.
With no reason to rush, and no clouds in the sky, I don't even get out of bed until after we dock. A quick view outside confirms what I thought. To the right are three empty baseball fields and to the left is the sugar mill (they don't offer tours). Basically the town is here because the sugar mill is here. Santa Domingo is $120 and an hour away by taxi (to the west). However, a three hour round trip (which includes the taxi waiting for one hour) is $150. I received two unsolicited comments that indicated others were no happier with this port than I was. At the very least I wish we left two hours earlier so that tomorrow we could be in Curacao at 11:00am instead of 1:00pm.
I did get off the ship and like most port stops; the port area is a secured area. However, in this case there is nothing of interest just outside the gate. I'm not even sure they will allow people to walk out.
We are docked in a river; however, the back of the ship is even with the shore line. So even though we are docked, the waves hitting the back of the ship makes it feel just like we are moving.
At 10:00am I left the ship to see what was available in the port area. There is a Dufry where one can do some duty free shopping. I bought some coffee for my sister and brother-in-law and some souvenirs for myself and others. Upon returning to the ship one of the crew members (seeing my bag) asked me if there was duty free shopping in the port. So apparently the captain is not the only member of the crew to visit here for the first time.
Some cruise ships go to Catalina Island, which is just a few miles off shore. I believe there is a resort on Catalina Island also. Personally I would have preferred docking in Santa Domingo. I don't go on cruises to go to a resort, though I have enjoyed Labadee (Royal Caribbean's private beach on Haiti) the two times I was there.
As to the ship itself, it is heaven while everyone else is in port. I walked by the pools several times during the late morning and most of the time there was no one in the pools and just a couple of people in the hot tubs. Also, there are no lines for the food. It is almost like being on a very large yacht. However, while in port the casino and the onboard stores are closed.
Also, I had the chance to observe part of a crew lifeboat drill. Only the port side lifeboats were in the water since the starboard lifeboats would have ended up on the dock had they been lowered. So I guess only half the ship was sinking.
Also while working on this I received a call from Nick & Nora. Actually, since Nick & Nora are fictional characters (the theme of the Miracle) I believe it was one of the people who work there, confirming my reservation for the steakhouse this evening. I informed my tablemates last night that I would not be at dinner tonight.
Mid afternoon I went topside again to see what was up. As people were returning to the ship the pools were starting to fill up. I didn't check out the lines in the buffet. Also the baseball fields are filling up with uniformed kids.
Just before we left one person's name was called over the loudspeakers three times. I guess we have one less passenger aboard as we backed out of the river into the bay. Since the river's width is less than half the length of this ship, the captain had to back out before spinning the ship. Unfortunately he spun the ship such that my side faced out to sea, so I had to head up to deck ten to get the last of my photos of La Romana. I'm sure everybody within ten miles knew we were leaving, since the captain really laid on the horn.
There are a few clouds in the sky, not much, but we will see what happens as the sun sets. Then I'll have to get ready for a nice steak dinner.
The sunset stunk, however, dinner was great. I had the 18 ounce rib eye marinated in seven spices. One of the best rib eyes I have ever had. Since I had a camera with me I went up on deck to take some nighttime pictures of the ship. There is not a lot of color on deck at night. I took one photo (I hope they don't want it back).
Then I headed back to the cabin to relax. I noticed our speed was high (21 knots) as was the wind. The ship was rolling (left and right movement) enough that I was starting to feel queasy. I get motion sickness easily, thought it has never happened on a cruise ship. So I took a drink of water and a ginger tablet and went to sleep.
Friday, February 11, 2011 - Curacao
Well, I survived the night just fine. The nice thing about ginger is that it works even after you start to feel bad, and it is not a drug. I woke up around 4:30am and took a peek outside. I didn't see any stars (meaning there are clouds in the ski), so I might get a good sunrise yet. I put my camera outside to warm up (coming from a cold cabin into the warm air causes the lens to fog up).
About fifteen minutes before sunrise I went up to deck ten, since my starboard balcony faces west as we are headed south. Well deck ten was off limits, but no problem. This early in the morning I knew I could grab a seat near an open window on deck nine and get my shot. Unfortunately I now had the opposite problem, there were too many clouds. There were some high clouds that had some nice color. However, they were blocked by the low clouds. Also, there were clouds on the horizon which blocks the sun until it gets higher. The higher the sun has to go to rise, the less color can be seen in the clouds overhead. I took a few pictures because I was up and on deck with my camera. However, the photos were nothing to write home about.
I returned to my cabin to sleep a little longer. About 9:30am I left the cabin and had breakfast. I then attended a watch seminar. I guess my views on watches are not main stream. I buy a watch to tell time, not as a status symbol or a fashion statement. One of the watches the lecturer passed around would have increased the length of my left arm had I worn it long enough - it was much too heavy to be comfortable, and too big to fit under a long sleeve dress shirt.
I had to leave the watch seminar before it was finished, as we had a group picture at 11:00am in the atrium. During the watch seminar it rained. It must have rained pretty hard, because as I look around, all I see is water (ha ha). However, during the group picture the sun came out and now it is looking like a nice day.
Then it was back to the cabin to finish this. As I type this we must be getting very close, as our speed has dropped into single digits, so it is time to go up on deck to get some pictures, then I have a tour at 2:00pm.
The dock for Curacao is basically out in the ocean. The port side balconies face the port, the starboard side balconies face the ocean (I'm in a starboard side balcony). We are just north of a river with a floating bridge that opens to allow ships to pass and closes to allow pedestrians to cross the river. There is a very tall bridge a little ways up river that cars can use to cross the river. The buildings are all very colorful; painted most of the shades of a rainbow (I didn't see any purple buildings).
My tour stopped at a place that makes and sells the local liquor. Judging by the number of buses in the parking lot, apparently it is a stop on all of the tours. There were four different kinds of liquor that one could sample, and of course they would sell you the entire bottle if you liked it. I sampled the chocolate flavored liquor and it was a little too sweet for me. There is also a souvenir shop here, but it was way over priced (I was not the only one that noticed that).
On the way to the bridge we passed a high point with a great view of the ship and the city, but did not stop for pictures. It would be nice if a spot could be created where the buses could stop and the passengers could take pictures of the ship and the city could be created. As for our tour guide I hope things work out well for him as a tour guide, because comedy is definitely not his strong point. But just so you know, he lives under a bridge, owns an airplane and the bus driver was sober (I wasn't laughing either).
At any rate, he allowed us too much time at the liquor store and we were late to the aquarium. We should have arrived in time to see the dolphin show, but we missed the beginning. After the dolphin show we had time to look around. The aquarium is small, and in twenty minutes I was able to cover it all.
Then we returned to town for some shopping. According to the tour guide, the stores on the cruise dock side of the river are more reasonably priced than the stores on the other side of the river. Curacao is one hour ahead of ship time (as is Aruba), and by the time we got back to town, the stores were starting to close. This is another reason I wish we left La Romana two hours earlier.
Back in town I walked half way across the bridge. Then I heard a horn and people started running. I figured that was the signal the bridge was about to open. It quickly became clear that this bridge was not in the USA. First they closed the gates, but people were still on the bridge (including me). Then the bridge started to open, with people on the bridge. Then the gates were opened to allow people to get out, but with the bridge now beginning to swing open, there was now a gap to cross to get from the bridge to shore. Once fully opened I noticed that there were people still on the bridge. While the bridge is open, there is a ferry system to take people back and forth. Both the bridge and the ferry are free.
The sun set as I was approaching the ship. Without any clouds in the sky all there was to see was a large orange ball going down below the horizon.
Back on board I cooled off and rested. My plan was to go back outside when it was dark to get some night time pictures of the ship. Unfortunately, while docked, the ship is not as brightly lit up as it would be in the open sea, but the photos are half decent (the last three Destiny pictures are better).
Back on board I got ready for dinner. I had the corn fed chicken from the alternative menu. The alternative menu is the menu that is available every night, in case you don't like any of the chef's selections. It tasted like, well, it tasted like chicken.
Back in my cabin I noticed the bed had been turned down and there was a towel animal. However, that was all that was done. The ice bucket was empty. There was a new towel in the bathroom, neatly draped over a used one. I'm wondering if this was my regular cabin steward's night off.
Saturday, February 12, 2011 – Aruba
I’m up in time for sunrise, but once again the only clouds were just above the horizon, so I didn’t even bother to take any pictures. We dock at 8:00am and I have an 8:45am tour, so after a quick shower, it is off to breakfast I go. I’m back on the observation deck before the ship docks. While there is a small harbor, and a small cruise ship from an unknown line is in it, we are docking at the ocean’s edge again. However, this time there is clearly a reef just off shore offering some protection from the waves.
So, I am going to down load the latest pictures and then get ready for my tour. See you later.
I was on the Aruba natural wonders tour. Of course one of the famous natural wonders collapsed a while back. However, right next to that natural bridge was a smaller one that is still standing.
What is really interesting is the bigger bridge had a crack in it and the experts knew it would collapse some day. There were warning signs, however, as everyone knows; most people ignored those warning signs. The actual collapse occurred at 4:00am. 4 ½ hours later the bridge would have had people on it.
The collapse caused a crack to form in the smaller bridge. So the tour guide told us to stay away from the crack. However, if one end of the bridge fails, both ends are going to fail. So that warning didn’t hold much value for me. I didn’t go on the bridge at all (it didn’t collapse while we were there).
We visited a butterfly farm. We were there for 45 minutes and someone was talking for twenty of those minutes. It would have been better had that been broken into two ten minute lectures with time to walk around in between. I managed to get a few good pictures of some beautiful butterflies. Other butterflies were not very cooperative as far as holding still for the camera goes.
We also visited an Aloe factory. That was interesting, though since it is a Saturday, nobody was working. No picture taking was allowed.
Some of the products were available for testing (all were available for purchase). Having been in the sun a lot, and not always wearing a hat, I decided to trying a product that was supposed to be very helpful for sunburned faces. And guess what, it works very well. Something I’ll keep in mind when I go shopping at home.
After the tour I when out of the port area and did a little shopping. One thing I noticed is that the prices in Aruba were considerably less than Curacao. As a result I spent more than three times as much in Aruba than I did in Curacao.
We approached the Aruba from the southeast and docked facing the southeast. The ship made a “U” turn around a reef before docking. As I mentioned earlier there is a reef that breaks up the waves so even though we are fully exposed to the ocean, the water is quite calm where we docked. We left straight ahead (moving southeast) and then made a “U” turn to head home. We will pass between Haiti and Cuba, head northeast for a short time, then make a left turn and continue northwest to Fort Lauderdale.
So, on this cruise the port side was truly the port side. In Grand Turk we docked where the Carnival Destiny docked the last time I was here. Basically it seems the first ship in docks on the left side of the pier and the second ship in docks on the right side (which is better than docking on the wrong side). As a result, the port side cabins got a great view of the port while the starboard side cabins got a great view of the port side of the Destiny.
In La Romana the starboard side was dock side, however, three hundred feet to left side of the ship was another dock, and to be honest, the port side had a better view. In Curacao and Aruba the port side was dock side and the starboard side faced the ocean. So I got the same view I get on sea days, except the water was not moving past the ship.
I had the exact same cabin on the port side a few months ago when I was on the Spirit and I don’t remember it being quite as noisy. It is not the kids making the noise – there aren’t any kids. I’m sure the noise is coming from the crew entering and leaving through the crew door across from my door. For now on I am booking a cabin across from an inside cabin. I don’t mind a little noise once in a while. But the banging noise was fairly regular.
Speaking of the kids, or lack thereof, this cruise is made up of a much older demographic than I am used to. The last time I cruised with a passenger mix like this was a two week cruise in February through the Panama Canal. The kids add a little character to the cruise – in my opinion. For example, the pools are dead. I go back and forth in the pool a few times and then I am board. At least when the kids are in the pool something is happening. Unlike most, I like being splashed while in the pool (why else go swimming?). This really hit home when I went to the disco after dinner to get a few pictures. I didn’t take any pictures because nobody was in the disco.
Except for the way the cruise director presented himself, this could have been a Holland American cruise. I don’t mean this in a negative or positive way. It is like saying the dining room is purple (it is – the theme is grapes). If you like purple, then that is good. If you don’t like purple, than that is not so good. And if you are like me, and don’t care one way or the other, then it is neither positive nor negative – it just is.
As for dinner, I had the beef stroganoff. There was plenty of beef, but no noodles. So it was okay, however, I would have preferred it, and liked it better, if the beef was served on top of some noodles.
One of my dinner mates asked me about the sunset tonight. I forgot to even check on the sunset tonight. However, I happen to know there were no clouds, so I didn’t miss anything. Also, we had a new assistant waiter tonight. I asked the waiter what was up and he said someone got sick, so our assistant waiter is helping out somewhere else and we get a rookie assistant waiter. Poor thing, she looked lost for most of the meal, but since this is a light section (at least for the late seating) she seemed to start to get the hang of things about the time the main course was served.
Well, since my disco photo excursion was a bust, and I’ve got two sea days to get everything ready, it is off to bed I go.
Sunday, February 13, 2011 – Day at Sea
I woke up before sunrise and put my camera out to warm up. Twenty minutes later I went outside to see what the sunrise would look like. Things could not have been much worse. There are low clouds overhead (high clouds are better) and there are clouds on the horizon. I just took the camera back inside and when back to sleep.
I am finally able to have breakfast on the balcony this morning. I like to go up to the buffet, get breakfast, bring breakfast back to the cabin and eat it on the balcony. However, for one reason or another, I haven’t done that yet this cruise – until this morning.
I leave the cabin at 9:00am to check the onboard stores for anything I missed and end up buying a couple of the ship’s key rings. To make sure the room steward has enough time to clean the cabin, I also check for pictures I missed. The two pictures I found I put in the recycle bin. I’ve collected several photographs over the years and have learned to limit myself (usually). This cruise so far I have purchased three photographs plus the group photo taken by a Carnival photographer. I keep track of all my purchases for two purposes. One is to catch any errors and the second is to make it easier to fill out the custom form on the last day.
When I return to my cabin too work on this I notice my missing towel has returned. Last night I notice one of the blue beach towels was missing. I never remove them from the cabin so that only left the cabin steward. He admitted he removed it. I didn’t ask why. As long as he admitted it was him I didn’t care. Well this morning it is back. I don’t know what is up, I realize I am single but I have never had balcony chairs and towels removed before (I still only have one deck chair).
Something I use cruises for is to try out new things. For the last two nights at dinner I have tried to order a drink I have never tried before. They are out. That is the first time I have had that happen also.
I was going to do a little swimming this afternoon. However, it clouded over and, well it is February in the northern hemisphere. So, instead I get to sit out on my balcony and work on this for a while. We are close enough to Haiti to see land, so I assume we will make it home on time.
Upon my return to the cabin to work on this I find I have received a first, a daytime towel animal. I am not sure what warranted such a gift. I sit down to work on this and once again have to move the trashcan from under the desk to next to the wall. Of course the room steward will stick it under the desk again, and I’ll have to move it again. All the room stewards do this. As for me, experience has taught me that the lip of trashcan lines up with my shin. Normally I put it under the table, but this cabin has no table.
Tonight is the final elegant night. Apparently I am a little more tired then I realize. I laid down to rest before dinner and woke up twenty minutes before dinner. I quickly shower and dress, but I am still about ten minutes late when I arrive. Part of that delay was leaving the room before verifying that I had my room key, which I did not. Fortunately the room steward was in a nearby cabin.
I had two main courses and no appetizer this time. I had the shrimp and the alternative steak selection. My shrimp order was turned into an appetizer and the assistant waiter seemed embarrassed by this. He made it a point (twice) of telling me that if I wanted anything all I had to do was ask him. Well, I really hadn’t done much during the day and the two main courses, or the one and three-quarters main courses, were enough to fill me up.
Tonight I decided to take in the production show. In the past I had always taken pictures at these shows, since the only restriction was to flash photography, and I didn’t use a flash. However, on my last cruise (a few months ago on the Carnival Spirit), I was told in no uncertain terms not to take any more pictures. When I double checked the wording I noticed that the word flash had been removed (instead of “no flash photography” it now said “no photography” – oops).
So, I didn’t bring my camera this time. As a result, when at first the cruise director said no flash photography, I was disappointed. However, he later added no photography of any sort, and he repeated this several times. The show, a Ticket to Ride, was themed after the Beatles and several of the Beatles songs. It was fantastic. I was glad I attended.
Monday, February 14, 2011 – Day at Sea
I wake up at 2:00am to the sound of Alpha Team over the public address system. This is an electronically created voice and it repeats four times. Finally the cruise director advises us that it is a false alarm. It was generated by the computer and the engineers were trying to figure out what happened. I was wondering why no location was given.
Later in the morning, at a more reasonable hour, a medical emergency was announced. This time it was a human voice and the cabin location was given. During his noon time announcement the captain explained the set of circumstances that lead to the early morning announcement. Though I did not hear all of the explanation, apparently while cleaning the deck some steam causes something to trigger. Since everyone knew what it was and knew there was no danger nobody did anything. However, apparently after enough time had passed, with no human reaction, the computer decided to act on its own. That got everyone’s attention, and I do mean everyone. I’m sure the computer was properly reprimanded.
I again woke up in time for a sunrise picture. However, when I put my camera out on the balcony to warm up, I could see the cloud cover would prevent any worthwhile sunrise photographic opportunities. Twenty minutes later this was confirmed.
So it is back to bed to sleep a little longer. Then I went out for breakfast and to take pictures of the art work along the stairwells. This gave the room steward enough time to clean my cabin. When I returned I found the general disembarkation instructions, plus the specific instruction for me, since I am taking a shore excursion to the airport, via the Everglades.
There is also an envelope for the maitre d’. Everyone else receives the auto tips. My table was near the entrance to the upper level of the restaurant. I guessed who the maitre d’ was. Later the waiter told us the maitre d’ was on the bottom level. I am not going to tip someone who did nothing for me, and in fact I could not pick out of a line up. Instead, I go down to guest relations and pick up three blank envelopes. I’ll add a little extra for the room steward, the waiter and the assistant waiter.
There is a watch set sail at noon today. Watch sets that normally sold for $80 to $100 were being sold for $20. I decided to check it out. I’m not sure I would have done so if I knew what I was in for. People were pushing and shoving (kind of like the scenes shown on TV around Christmas time). I found a watch set I liked, not because of the watch, but because of the wallet. There were people buying ten of these sets. I was happy to get out of there with all ten fingers firmly attached.
Since it is clouded over, I’m not going swimming. Besides, I don’t want to pack a wet bathing suit. So, after working on this, I grab a quick snack and enjoy it out on my balcony. Then it is time to pack and get ready for dinner.
For dinner I have the chicken. I also learn that my tablemates are on the same flight out of FLL that I am on. However, I’ll be going on a shore excursion first, they are just going to sit at the airport for several hours.
After dinner I return to the cabin to finish packing, work on this and then it is good night time.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 – Debarkation
We are docked and I’ve already had breakfast. I woke up in time to see us come into the port, though I did so via the TV, rather than from the balcony. We are the only cruise ship in port today. There is a freighter docked where the Navigator of the Seas was docked eight days ago. It has a cargo of yachts. I believe there is a boat show in the next week or two.
And so I reflect upon the cruise. It had its positives and negatives. The positives far out weighed the negatives. The noise across from my cabin was a little annoying a few times, but in the end no big deal I missed the energy the kids bring to a cruise, and as a result only went swimming once. Had the weather been a little warmer I might have gone swimming a little more. Had the pools been a little livelier, then I definitely would have gone swimming more. However, swimming was not the reason I booked this cruise.
Basically I go on a cruise to relax, have fun, and see new sights. This was my first cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Interestingly enough, my next cruise will leave from Fort Lauderdale also (on a day when one of Royal Caribbean’s new big ships is also in town). It was my third cruise on a Spirit class ship (my favorite class of Carnival ship) and my first on the Miracle. Three of the four ports were new to me, even though I didn’t explore La Romana. And it was fun, though I would have preferred a more active group of passengers. My next cruise is in June and I am going with friends, so that should make the next cruise a little more special.
Would I do this cruise again? Yes, but I would go later in the year, like April or May. This cruise was just like my last February (2008) cruise in the Caribbean. The last sea day is a little too cool for swimming. Well, it is 8:00am, the self assist people are done, and they have called zone one (I have zone three), so I’ll catch you later.
I’m in the FLL airport and there is an hour until boarding begins. As of now the flight is on time. This time it was my camera bag that required a second run through the x-ray machine, but that was all it needed. They didn’t empty it and check it five times for explosives.
The airboat ride in the Everglades was great. Some of the birds are rather friendly. In fact, they come when called. We also saw lots of alligators, and I got a few good pictures of the alligators. Also, I took a window seat on the port side of the airplane, and got some good pictures of the Miracle in Port Everglades, preparing to leave on another cruise.
Hopefully the flight home will be uneventful and I will not have much to add when I arrive home.
All the flights were on time and uneventful. However, there was at least a 45 minute delay between landing and getting our luggage, and I wonder if they was due to the crazy way airlines do business. And the first class seats in the Delta 767 were not nearly as nice as the first class seats in the American Airlines 767 first class seats. Basically the first class seats on the two Delta flights were just bigger coach seats with more legroom. The American Airlines first class seats were truly first class.
Back a few years ago it was sometimes less expensive to book a flight from point A to point C which passed through hub B than it was to book a flight from point A to hub B. Then there are non-stops, which as we all know actually does stop. Of course the favorite is direct, which means you could fly from San Diego to San Francisco to Seattle to Denver to St. Louis to Chicago to Pittsburg to Washington to Miami and as long as you don't change planes, that would be considered a "direct" flight from San Diego to Miami. And then there is what we have. Delta flight 17 goes from Atlanta to Los Angeles to Australia. However, though the flight number does not change, the airplane does, which means all passengers, and luggage, has to deplane. I wonder if that had anything to do with the delay in getting the luggage to the passengers.
At any rate, at 11:30pm local time (2:30am body time) I finally arrived home.
I've started an album with 66 photographs from this cruise. I'll add more later as time (meaning work) permits. The link to the album is ... http://community.webshots.com/album/579775898VIgvTI