Carnival Freedom - Western Caribbean - June 12 - 18, 2011
I'll be boarding the Carnival Freedom for my eighteenth cruise. This will be my eighth cruise with Carnival and first on the Carnival Freedom. I've also been on its sister ship, the Carnival Glory, in May 2006. I'll be meeting up with some friends who I last cruised with on the Serenade of the Seas in April 2008.
In response to people asking for more details, I have been typing my review while on the ship. I also have photo editing software so that I can post pictures with my review (on the main board - all I can do is link to the pictures with the review in the review section). So, with nothing else to do except to wait for the boarding call for my flight, I shall begin ...
Saturday, June 11 - Travel
Here I am in LAX waiting to board my flight to Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. I'm not a big fan of very early morning flights. However, with the three hour time difference, leaving at a more reasonable time means arriving in a strange city at night. I've been busy at work, so I did not pack until last night. I use a packing list so that I will not forget anything. After four hours of sleep my alarm clock woke me up. I shower and dress and I'm out the door just before 3:00am.
I stop at Jack In The Box for a quick breakfast and arrive at the parking structure about 3:45am. The shuttle picks me up around 4:15am. I asked the driver how long one full circuit takes and he says five minutes. Well, I've been waiting for twenty minutes. He said he thought the other driver was coming to my location. No matter, I've still got plenty of time. It takes more than five minutes just to get me to terminal five. Then he still has to go to the lower level to do his pickup round. I figure a full circuit takes closer to twenty minutes. Nonetheless, I am through security before 5:00am for a 6:00am flight.
These new x-ray machines sure slow things down. I know they are expensive, but I wish they had more of them. I would pay $1.00 more per flight if they would double the number of these machines. I doubt that they get three people per minute through these machines. Two carryon luggage scanners feed to one body scanner, so the line moves really slowly.
In my left ear I hear the announcements for the flights to Salt Lake City and Detroit. In my right ear are the announcements for the flight to Atlanta. Do they have to play them all at the same time?
I've seen two small children pulling a carryon roller bag behind them. The reason I notice is because the bag is bigger than the kid. It looks kind of strange (and cute).
I've got two new toys with me for this cruise. A Canon D10, which is an underwater camera that I'll use in Stingray City and a Nikon D5100 for taking pictures on the ship. I also have a Canon A590 which I use off the ship. I've had the A590 for a while. It is small enough to fit in my pocket and thus much easier to carry around than the DSLR.
Well, with less than one hour to go before boarding, and nothing else to tell, I guess it is time to shut down the computer and get ready for boarding.
Now I'm in Atlanta waiting to board the flight to Fort Lauderdale. The flight from LAX to Atlanta was uneventful. However, before we took off they had to play musical chairs. Someone brought a small dog on the flight and it would not fit under the middle seats. So they had to move the couple to a window seat. However, when the people with those seats showed up they wanted those seats. So they had to move a few more people around. Those that moved got a coupon for a free drink.
The flight from Atlanta went off without any problems. The taxi to the Riverside Hotel cost less than $20 before the tip. The Riverside Hotel seems like a nice hotel in a great location. It even has free high speed Internet connection. I have no complaints, but something just didn't feel right. However, I can't put my finger on it. There is no reason not to recommend the hotel, but for some reason something just didn't feel right to me. At any rate next time I'm in Fort Lauderdale I'll likely get one of the two hotels with a great view of the harbor.
I am dead tired but I want to do a little exploring. I walk around a bit and then end up eating in the hotel's restaurant. It is an Italian restaurant and the food was fine. Then back to my room and with nothing on TV I decide to get the long rest I need.
Sunday, June 12 - Embarkation
The hotel has a small elevator, which as it turns out is just large enough to fit three people and one suit case (guess how I know that). At any rate I check out at 10:20am. The hotel has a shuttle that will take me to the ship for a flat $20. That is a little more than a taxi will charge, but at least I get to arrive in style, so I take it. To get into the port I have to show my passport. I don't know what people cruising with a birth certificate do. But here is the kicker. I am asked if there are any weapons in the car. I don't have any weapons, but I have no idea what is in the car (actually it is a SUV and I am the only passenger). I stutter for a second and then answer no.
I'm at the terminal by 10:40am and I'm all checked in before 11:00am (but I'm not on the ship yet). I actually cheated a bit. There was a long line to check in, but I have my Carnival Vacation Club card which allows me to join the VIP line. So here I am in the terminal waiting for the ship to be ready for us (we get to board first).
There is supposed to be free Internet access, so I'll check that out. Well, there is an unsecured network available with a very strong signal. However, from some reason Windows cannot connect to it. No big deal, I don't really need to worry about Internet access until I get home.
Finally we board. There were people in front of me, but most stopped for the embarkation photo (I have plenty of those so I walk on past). As we head up the ramp to board the ship there were three people in front of me, but they stopped to ask someone a question. So, I was the first one to board the ship (this makes three times I've been the first one on the ship).
Once on board I snuck into my cabin to put away my computer bag. I let the cabin steward know I put it in the closet. Then I had to make a decision. Normally I like to photograph the ship (without people in the pictures), but the chance to eat without having to look for a table was too good of an opportunity to pass up. After lunch I started taking pictures of the ship. Just as I was headed to the forward observation deck (deck nine just above the bridge) my friends called. They are on the ship. So we met at the forward elevator. I showed them how to get to their cabin to drop off their stuff (a skill learned from six ship tours). We then explored the ship together.
After that we both headed to our cabins. My luggage arrived shortly after I went back to my cabin. I had a present in there for my friend's son, so I brought it to him. They are in a suite. I'm not sure what it is called now, but it used to be a side facing category 11 suite. The last two cruises I was on with them they were in balcony cabins, so they are impressed with the larger cabin and bathroom (which includes a tub/shower combination with water jets in the tub).
About this time the muster drill horn went off. Fortunately we do not have to take our life vests to the to the muster drill. When I got back to the cabin I realized it is a good thing I can swim, because I couldn't find my lifejackets. At any rate the ship was starting to move and I wanted to take pictures. Being on the lido deck meant all I have to do is walk down the hall and I'm there. Except there are a lot of people around the door just standing. This is not good and it is worse once I realize the reason. Apparently it is raining.
Well, I manage to get outside and take a few pictures, and then it is back inside to cool off and dry off. I also take the time to unpack and to look for my room steward. Once I find him I ask him where my left vests are. Naturally he says they are in the closet and that is the first and second place I looked. I'm pretty sure I didn't miss some bright orange uncomfortable look garment in the closet (after double checking myself) so I tell him it is not there. Naturally he looks in all the places I looked and then he looks under the bed. Sure enough that is where they are. I would not have found the lifejackets there unless some pirates started shooting at us.
I finish unpacking, put the one suit case under the bed (now that the life vests are in the closet where they belong), upload my photographs to my laptop computer and work on this. Then it is time for dinner. I decided to change out of my sweaty shirt and put on my tux t-shirt, which gets lots of compliments (and its not even formal night).
I'm the first to arrive at the table. A little after 6:00pm my friends still have not arrived. It is not like them to be late. I check my Sail & Sign card. I'm in the right place. Still they don't show up. I ask the waiter to check my Sail & Sign card. I'm in the right place. Finally they show up. Seems they forgot about the warning I gave them. You cannot get to the Posh Restaurant (the aft restaurant which is located on decks three and four) if you are on decks three or four. You have to be on deck five or above and take the elevator down. This is the reason the Spirit class is my favorite class of Carnival ships, as you can go from bow to stern on any deck. The Freedom is a Conquest class ship.
Also, both of us used the same travel agent and neither of us told the agent we wanted a large table. As a result we have a table for four, which means it is just the four of us for the week. Oops!
Dinner is good. I've cruised with my friends on Royal Caribbean twice. This is the first time on Carnival so I introduce them to Carnival's world famous warm chocolate melting cake. Both parents order one. Their son (thirteen years old) and I are saving ourselves until we are really hungry.
After dinner the thirteen year old challenges his father and I to a few games of air hockey (Dad wins - I lose). Then we watch the first half of the NBA Finals game six outside on the big screen (the Seaside Theater). Most of the people are Miami fans, which is not surprising since we left from Fort Lauderdale. However, the four of us, and at least one young boy, are rooting for Dallas. The young boy is rooting for Dallas even when Miami makes a good play.
I realize many people don't like Dallas because of the owner. But I don't like Miami because of the show its three (in my opinion - classless) stars put on, especially James, when they joined the team. Dynasty? They had not even had one practice together has a team yet. They can talk about a dynasty after they win three in a row - and this year will not be their first. As you know, Dallas won, and perhaps the Miami stars will learn a little humility and show a little class in the future.
Monday, June 13 - Key West
I wake up at 3:00am because I am so hot (anything over 70 is hot as far as I am concerned - any yes, I've set the air conditioning for as low as it can go). I go to the ice bucket for some cold water and the room steward did not fill it when he turned down the room last night (he did fill in yesterday afternoon). I drink some tap water and a use a wet wash cloth too cool me down. Then I am able to go back to sleep. I wake up again right at sunrise. Too late to take any pictures as the camera lens would fog up if I ran outside and took any pictures because the cabin is much cooler than the outside air. With all the humidity the camera needs time to reach the same temperature as the outside air (about thirty minutes or a few minutes in the sun will do it). To bad too, because it was a really pretty sunrise and I would have loved to have a picture to remember it by.
I'm surprised the sun is pointed at my balcony, since I figure my balcony should be facing north. However, we are now headed north toward Key West and thus my balcony faces east. The travel channel (really the ship information channel - channel fourteen) says we are moving at ten knots, however, it seems more like five knots to me.
It is 7:40am and we are here. The captain is spinning the ship, so we will be docked soon. I have nothing planned for Key West or Ocho Rios (except to get some jerk chicken in Ocho Rios). So I am in no rush. As a result of the spin, my starboard side cabin is facing away from the dock.
The nice thing about being on the Lido deck is I don't need to use the elevator or stairs to get to the pool or the buffet. My plans for breakfast were just a banana and something to drink. However, I was shocked at the lines. Long does not really describe these lines. Eighteen cruises and I can honestly say I have never seen breakfast lines as long as these.
Usually I eat early and don't have to put up with the lines. However, today I'm going to hang out with my friends and our plans are to go out at 10:00am, so I eat a late breakfast. Fortunately I found a cook to order omelet station with only one person in line - I think. When the person in front of me got her egg and left someone one line over tried to get in front of me. However, she was stopped by the rope between her and the omelet station. I don't know which one of use was, or was not, in the line for the omelet station. The person cooking the eggs cooked eggs for both of us. I never got within an arm's length of a banana (or so I thought).
I met up with my friends at 10:00am. They also mentioned the long lines for breakfast. They ended up eating in the dining room. The cruise director said that since we are docked at the Navy yard it would be easier to get into town if we booked a shore excursion. Getting into town without a shore excursion was easy, fun and free (who would have thought the cruise director would mislead us trying to get us to purchase a shore excursion?). We ended up on one of the Conch Tour trains that was running every ten minutes or so. Because we are docked in a naval yard, security is fairly tight. We were told at least five times that everyone needed both their ship ID and a picture ID if they were over eighteen or we would not be able to get past homeland security to re-board the ship. By about the third time I kind of got the impression that they really meant it. Sure enough there was a security check point when we reentered the dock area (under eighteen only needed their Sail & Sign card - no picture ID was needed). Of course the obvious question is, what do you do with a seventeen year old that looks nineteen and doesn't drive? The Sail & Sign cards do not list ages.
As we left I noticed the Carnival Triumph (out of New Orleans) was docked behind us. I have no idea how the ship slipped past me unnoticed, but it did. Once in town we ended up taking the 90 minute Conch Train tour. It was $29 per person. The one hour version of this tour cost $36 from the ship. The tour is very interesting and covers a lot to almost too much. Just as you are trying to absorb what the tour guide just told you he is pointing out something else that is interesting. It is the first time I've been on a 90 minute tour without any dead spots and be able to keep my interest the entire time.
The weather is hot (88 degrees) and humid (87%). This of course wears on someone like me who is used to the dry heat of California and thinks anything above 70 it hot. So we headed to an air conditioned restaurant for lunch. We ended up at Jack Flats for a nice lunch. Just under $60 for the four of us including tip. Since my friends bought the tour tickets I bought lunch.
After lunch we did some souvenir shopping and then headed back to the ship. The last train back (again free) was at 4:15pm and we were on the 3:15pm train. The line was long but the train hold a lot of people and the wait for the next train was only a few minutes.
Back on board I relaxed a bit then went up on deck to take a few pictures. That is when I realized that while I've got a good cabin, I could have done better. Mid ship cabins cost more than cabins near the front or back with rear facing cabins costing more because of the extended balconies. When I was on the Glory I had a rear facing balcony at a time when there was no extra charge for the extended balcony cabins on the Conquest class ships. This time I opted for the rear most cabin in the forward section as it cost less then the cabins that are mid ship. However, what I should have done was to book the forward most cabin on the port side. Then it would be a short walk out to the observation deck which would be like having a semi-private forward facing balcony. Next time I am on a Conquest class ship that is what I am doing. I had a forward facing balcony on the NCL Jade (when it went through the Panama Canal) and I had the forward most side facing cabin on the Caribbean Princess, so being all the way forward doesn't bother me.
As I am typing this I realize it is 5:55pm. Fortunately it is casual night, so I can just head to the dining room. This is the first time in eighteen cruises where the evening of the first full day was not a formal night. Tomorrow is a day at sea and tomorrow night is elegant night.
Once again my friends are late. I cover for them by telling everyone that they fell overboard when the ship started up. Turns out this time they headed in the wrong direction (forward instead of aft). Dinner is good. One of them orders the warm chocolate melting cake again. I opt for an after dinner drink and it turns out it comes in a souvenir glass, which I donate to my friend's son.
After dinner we check out the ship's store and then head to the theater for BINGO and the show. I was one square from winning $500 (isn't that always the way it goes?). The show was pretty good. Chairs were used as props and one of the dancers almost took a spill. The dancers are wearing high heals and when they jump off the chair they need to push off very carefully, or the chair will go one way and they might not land on their feet going the other way (she did land on her feet - this time).
After the show we went back to our cabins. Mine has ice but is missing the Fun Times and the pillow mints which I also donate to my friend's son. So back out I go and since I'm out I decide to look for the pictures that were taken at dinner last night (I didn't find any). Then I check out the $10 bin in the jewelry store and pick out some cuff links for myself. Then I head to guest services for the Fun Times and back to the cabin to finish this. Then it's good night for me. I also decide to throw the thick comforter off the bed and just sleep with a sheet (which is how I sleep at home during the summer time).
Tuesday, June 14 - day at sea
Sleeping with the sheet only (no comforter) worked out great. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. I woke up a little before 7:00am and set my camera out on the balcony to warm up. Then I decided to throw on some clothing and see what's doing on the observation deck. The TV says it is 88 degrees with 93% humidity. No way is it that warm - yet. So I decide to see what the lines for breakfast are like. What a difference a day makes. There are no lines. I don't mean there are two or three people in line, I mean walk right up, take what you want, and then eat. Also, I found out that if I want a banana I have to set my sights a little higher. I saw a tray full of bananas just out of my reach. So I asked a crew member for a banana and he reaches for a spot just at about my head level about one foot away from where I was standing (note to self, the bananas are just above the rest of the food).
And of course I saw a chair hog. Thing is she is doing it a little different than most chair hogs. Most just set their towel on the chair early in the morning and then go back to their cabins to sleep. This one set her towel on the chair, then got between the towel and chair and was sleeping there when I came by at 8:00am to eat, and was still sleeping there at 9:00am when I took her picture. I guess it is one way to make sure you get a prime lounge chair and not worry about someone moving your stuff or stealing your chair.
I was going to take my breakfast back to my balcony to eat, but I ran into my friends and we ended up eating our breakfast outside by the pool - on the wrong side of the ship. Apparently the starboard side is for smoking and the port side is supposed to be smoke free (another note to self).
After breakfast I went back to get my camera and the cabin steward was already working on my cabin. I just grabbed my camera and headed for the forward observation deck for a couple of pictures looking out over the bow and also looking back along the sides of the ship. Then it is off to the sun deck for pictures of the pools. While there I notice that only one person is using the waterslide, so I call my friends and let them know that this would be a good time to use the waterslide.
It has warmed up quite a bit and now I'm a sweaty mess. So I figure I'll go back to my cabin, upload the pictures, update this, don my swimsuit, cool off in the pool and perhaps try out the waterslide.
The pool was great. The water temperature was perfect. I spent about two hours in the pool, a few minutes in the hot tub and went down the waterslide once (just so I could come back here and say I did it). The line for the waterslide was not too long, as there were maybe fifteen to twenty people were in the line. However, since they always wait for each person to completely clear the slide before the next person goes down, they can only run about three people per minute.
After an hour or so of pool time I had ice cream for lunch and came inside for a nap (this has been my first day of rest since a week ago Sunday (June 5) and I don't do too well in humidity. After my nap I did a little more exploring and picture taking. I was able to take some pictures in the Sun King Restaurant (the optional extra cost steakhouse). For one picture I put the camera on the floor and pointed it straight up. One of the waiters saw what I was doing and was quite interested in seeing the picture, which turned out quite well. Also, since today is Flag Day the American flag is hanging in the main atrium.
I then went down to deck five and found a few more souvenirs to purchase. Then down to deck four where I found three of the four pictures that were taken at dinner the first night. Speaking of which, our waiter is going to be headed in the same direction I am on Saturday night. He'll be joining the Carnival Splendor (home ported in Long Beach California) on Sunday, June 19.
At dinner I gave two of the pictures to my friends and kept the third for myself. I had the prime rib, as did Mom. Dad had the lobster and their son had spaghetti (which actually looked very good). My friend's son and I had the warm chocolate melting cake for dessert.
We decide to see the comedy show tonight. While waiting for the show to start I was in their cabin and decided to see if I could check my folio from their cabin. No, I cannot. However, they then decided to check their folio and Carnival has everything screwed up. They have been charged five gratuities instead of three and their son has an $85 dollar balance against a $60 cash deposit (apparently his account is linked to theirs). Unfortunately this seems to be a weakness with Carnival. Whatever is filled out on line overrides anything done on the ship. This is the third time I have seen this happen. No matter what you want to change on the ship, what you did on line will override it. Mom will take care of it on Thursday (like many others, they are not interested in getting off the ship in Jamaica. I have a restaurant I want to check out in Jamaica.
At any rate we took in the comedy show tonight rather than the production show. The comedian, Smiley Joe Wiley was pretty good. Not great, but still pretty good and this show was family friendly (the late night shows are restricted to eighteen and above). Afterwards my friends went back to their cabin and I took in about half of the movie Secretariat that was showing on the big screen (Seaside Theater).
Tomorrow I have to be onshore at 8:30am, so for now it is good night.
Wednesday, June 15 - Grand Cayman
Today is my only ship sponsored shore excursion. I am going to Stingray City, which I have been to two prior times (it is by far my favorite shore excursion) and the Turtle Farm for the first time. I woke up at 6:30am and stayed in bed until 7:00am. I'm dressed and out the door by 7:30am and this time score a banana for breakfast with a minimum of trouble. There are lines, but they are short. Given my limited menu selection, I just reach over someone shoulder and ended up with exactly what I wanted for breakfast.
Even though I could see from my balcony that the tender was not filling fast (meaning no line) I'm at the tender station at 7:45 (and there is no line). I'm on shore by 8:00am for an 8:30am shore excursion. I agreed to meet my friends on shore and they arrive about 8:15am. We were all here about seven years ago and my friends' then six year old was not too keen on getting in the water with the stingrays. Today he is looking forward to it.
We are the third boat to arrive at Stingray City (at least half a dozen more boats arrived before we left). First was the handling, petting and picture taking with the stingrays. I had my under water camera and got a couple of good stingray pictures and several good pictures of my friends' son holding the stingrays. The reason the food is last on this tour is once the food comes out the stingrays show up in large quantities and the stingrays get right up to the people. Some people panic when this happens. That is the last thing you want to do, because if you step on one you are going to get the stinger in your leg, and that will hurt.
Once we were done feeding the stingrays we headed back to shore and then it was a short bus ride to the Turtle Farm. But first they stopped the boat in deeper water so that people that wanted to could jump off the second deck. There were a lot of volunteers for that. Also, if you wanted to buy any of the pictures they took, it was $25 US dollars (cash) for a disc (which included all the pictures of your group).
At the turtle farm we got to pick up the turtles, and even swim with them, though while swimming I only saw one (we don't swim with the turtles in the holding pens). The area where you can swim with the turtles is huge and there are only a few turtles in the pond. However, I was able to get lots of good fish pictures. There is also a fresh water pool with a couple of water falls (one very kid friendly) for swimming without the turtles. I highly recommend the turtle farm tour. We saw turtles of all sizes, from seven month old ones weighing a few pounds to a 75 years old weighing over 600 pounds. My friends' son had fun feeding the turtles, one of which he named "Fatty".
After the turtle farm tour we were taken back to town where we did a little shopping and then returned to the ship before the big crowd arrived at the tender station. Because we ate a late lunch we skipped dinner in the dinning room and ate in the buffet. Since the guest services line was short, Mom decided to clear up the on board accounts. Apparently there is one main account for everyone and two sub accounts (father and son). Only Mom's account will be charged (I think a "we shall see" approach is the best to use here). Also Carnival claims the son cannot charge more than the $60 he has been allotted (even though his balance is over $85 because of the $60 gratuities listed on his account).
After dinner we went to the main theater were my friend's son won a metal in a Fact or Fiction trivia contest. I also won one contest, but it was the last one and only the first two were given any prizes. Then we stayed for the Gender Showdown. The men won round one but the women won rounds two and three and thus were the champs. We then stayed for two rounds of Game Show Mania which is another trivia challenge which requires a good knowledge of old movies, TV shows and music.
After all of that it was back to the cabin to upload the photographs and update this. And now, since it is after 11:00pm, it is time for a long nap. See ya in the morning.
Thursday, June 16 – Ocho Rios
I wake up at 6:00am and look outside. It doesn’t look like the makings of a very good sunrise. So I check the TV and the forward facing camera is showing a sunrise. According to the Fun Time that should not happened until 6:33am. The sun is a good twenty minutes early. It is too lake to take any pictures of the sunrise since my camera lens will just fog up. Nonetheless, I do put my camera out so that I can take pictures as we approach the dock round 7:00am. Then I hop back into bed until about 8:30am.
My plan today is to get to a highly recommended restaurant near the dock for a lunch of jerk chicken. I have nothing else planned. So at 10:00am I off the ship with my map headed to Scotchie’s.
Well to say that things did not go as planned would be a major understatement. All in all I made three mistakes. And even though I’m going to look like an idiot to some, I’ve been telling it like it is for over one dozen reviews and I’m not going to stop now.
The mistakes in the order made are:
1) The address and thus the map I had did point to a place where I could get jerk chicken, but it was not the Scotchie’s Restaurant that was highly recommended. More on that in a minute.
2) I forgot about the time difference. This was just an inconvenience, but it added to mistake number three.
3) This was the big one, and a lesson to all. I did not negotiate the price of the taxi ride prior to agreeing to the ride.
So let’s go back to the beginning, which is when I was looking for shore excursions on line. I wanted to do the dog sled tour. However, when it came time to book it, the dog sled tour was not offered by Carnival. So I contacted the vendor directly. However, after an exchange of e-mails I discovered that while the vendor offered the tour, Carnival didn’t, and the vendor had an exclusive contract with Carnival, meaning the vendor could not book a Carnival passenger directly. Once the vendor discovered I was a Carnival passenger they would not talk to me.
Since nothing else was interesting, I decided to take the time to go get some jerk chicken which I really like. Scotchie’s was highly recommended and seemed to be about 3/4 mile from the port and about one block off the main street. However, when researching Scotchie’s location I remembered someone stating that it was on the other side of the falls (which as it turns out – it is).
So now fast forward to today. After dodging a few taxi drivers I ended up talking to someone who told me Scotchie’s was six miles away. I didn’t believe him. So he stopped a policeman and asked him to tell me where Scotchie’s was. The policeman said it was about six miles away and then said the magic words – it is on the other side of the falls. Okay, so I’ll take a taxi. Well in my mind it was a taxi, but this turned out to be an independent tour operator and he was looking at an all day tour (at an all day price). Oops – my mistake for not verifying that we were both on the same page.
At any rate we arrive at Scotchie’s at 10:30am and it does not open until 11:00am. Unfortunately it is 10:30am ship’s time, which is 9:30am local time. So my taxi driver/tour guide offers to take me on a tour before we eat (this should have been a big clue to the mistake I was making). He takes me to a place where I get a good picture of the town and the ship. Back to Scotchie’s for lunch and then to the shopping mall for one shot glass (I made it clear that all I was looking for one shot glass – his mistake to think I was looking to buy anything more).
Now done he wants $100 for something I viewed as a $40 dollar taxi ride. After realizing my mistake, and not wanting to create an international incident, I paid him $100 and returned to the ship. Lesson learned, and to be honest, fairly cheap also. It only cost me $60 plus the respect of anyone that reads this. From my point of view, I’m not awaiting trial like those people in Antigua. Did I feel taken advantage of – yes? Did I realize it was my mistake – yes? I knew better, but was focused on what I wanted, and not focused (thinking) of what was happening at the time it was happening. Next time I’ll be a little wiser and a lot more careful.
Had I gone where the map was taking me, I still would have gotten jerk chicken and I would not have been out $100. On the other hand, I would not have ended up a Scotchie’s, which in fact had very good jerk chicken.
There is some good news to report however. The street venders are one, mostly gone and two, those that are here are not nearly as aggressive as they were the prior two times I have been here. I’m wondering if all the aggressive street vendors have all moved to Falmouth (where the reviews are mentioning the aggressive street vendors).
Well, with that out of my system I’m going swimming. I took a peek outside my balcony first, and the line go get back on the ship is long. Everyone is supposed to be back on in 45 minutes and I have a past guest party to go to. Also, tonight is the second of the two elegant nights.
The past guest party was not well attended. It was held in the main show lounge, so obviously Carnival was prepared for a lot more people than actually showed up. It was pretty standard as far as past guest parties go. There are free drinks and snacks. The cruise director says how happy Carnival is that we have chosen to cruise on Carnival again. Then there is a slide show featuring of all the Carnival ships in the company’s entire history. Everyone is supposed to clap when they see a ship they have been on. So I was a little surprised when people started clapping for the Carnival Magic, which just started sailing last month and even more surprised when people clapped for the Carnival Breeze, which is still under construction. The cruise director also noticed this.
Since I had only one meal today, I was looking for something a little extra at dinner tonight. However, the only thing they had on the menu that really interested me was shrimp, and I knew that would not be enough, so I also ordered off the menu and had a side of macaroni & cheese. The thirteen year old then decided he wanted that and soon after Mom decided that she also wanted some (there are always choices available that are not listed - just ask).
Of course the conversation drifted toward what we did and I gave them the full story. Having cooled off in the pool (in more ways than one) I was okay with it, but still had to admit that I knew I had made mistakes. What I really needed was someone there to grab me by the shoulders, shake me and say, “Think!”. Oh well, lesson learned and it is one I will not repeat.
After dinner we went back to my friends’ cabin and they found out that laser tag was not listed, and had not been all week. Their son wanted to play and I convinced Mom to call guest services and find out why it is not being offered. Turns out that apparently the room that it is played in was damaged and needs to be sent out for repair (it is portable), much to their son’s disappointment.
After that we attended another family friendly comedy show put on by John Rathbone. I thought he was funnier than Smiley Joe Wiley. The production show tonight is a Ticket to Ride, which is a tribute to the Beatles. It is really pretty good. I didn’t see it here because we attended the comedy show, but I did see it on the Carnival Miracle (I understand that they are performing this show on all the Carnival ships). My friends had breakfast with someone who saw the show on this ship and gave my friends a positive review.
Friday – June 17 – day at sea
I wake up at 5:30am and set my camera outside to warm up. Sunrise is supposed to be at 6:20am but by 6:00am colors are starting to show up in the sky. Unfortunately there are clouds on the horizon which causes the sunrise colors to fade because the sun has to rise higher, which brightens the rest of the sky. Twenty minutes was not long enough for the entire camera to warm up. I guess the sun actually did appear above the horizon around 6:20am. I went back to bed and watched TV for a bit, finally getting up at 7:30am and out to breakfast at 8:00am. The lines were two or three people long, which is no problem. This time I went with some pancakes, bacon, some bread and a banana. The stores don’t open until 9:00am and since I have to leave the cabin so the room steward can do his thing, I save the final look see through the store and the photo gallery for when I hear the knock on the door.
Otherwise, I’m going to select which pictures to post with my review, reduce the size of the photographs (so they upload faster - which is why I need the photo editing software), do a little swimming and then unfortunately I’ll have to pack. Six nights did not seem as short as I though it would seem. I’ve been on three night cruises which are too short. I have not done a four night cruise yet. The one five night cruise I was on worked out well (especially since I combined it with a full day in New York - by arriving two days in advance of the cruise). I’ve done several one week cruises and three eight night cruises. It is surprising how nice that extra night is (which is why I thought the six night cruise would seem short). My next cruise is twelve nights. I’ve also done nine nights, thirteen nights and two weeks.
I’m back from the gift shop and the photo gallery. I picked up a few more souvenirs, but I didn’t find any new photographs. After a short rest I go out for lunch and a swim. There was a line for lunch, but I don’t know what the people were waiting for. There were four hamburgers just sitting there for someone to take, so I took one. On the way back to my cabin to change into my bathing suit two people stopped me and asked if they could take my picture. At first I was confused, but once I realized they had a list I realized this was a digital scavenger hunt and I was wearing a Carnival logo shirt (I assume a Carnival logo shirt was on the list, since they didn’t ask for my autograph).
I don’t normally swim on the last day because I don’t like packing wet clothing. However, since the bathing suit is nylon and there is a hairdryer in the cabin, I figure I can dry it by the time I pack. One of the ship's photographers is taking pictures with a one of the ship's life preservers as a prop. It ends up being the second picture I buy. I’m out of the pool by 3:00pm because there is a watch sale at 3:30pm and this time I am bringing my camera. No way am I getting into the middle of that mess, but I do get a couple of pictures of the mob. Then I go back to the cabin and wait about thirty minutes, after which I go back to the store and find something worthwhile. I could care less about the watch. But the set includes cuff links, a pen and something else (I don’t remember what else and the box is already packed). For $20 how wrong can I be?
After that I rest some more (the heat and humidity get to me and besides, it is good to just relax a bit). Soon it is time for our last supper, then back to the cabin to dry my swim suit (with the hair dryer) and pack.
Tomorrow morning I’ll see my friends again, as we are all going on the Everglades excursion and then we will be taken to the Fort Lauderdale airport. Then we both head back to the real world (or California – depending on your political point of view). I have a 3:15pm flight and they have a 6:00pm flight.
Saturday, June 18 – Debarkation
I woke up before the ship entered the port. This is not good, as I could have used an extra couple hours of sleep. I’ve got a long day ahead of me, and as I sit here at the Fort Lauderdale airport I’m expecting the day to get even longer (a flight to Atlanta, not mine, has been delayed – not a good sign). The lines to eat on the ship were not too bad, however, I was in no mood for any lines and there were no bananas in sight. I ended up making myself a salami sandwich for breakfast. The Oasis of the Seas beat us into port this morning.
At any rate my friends and I have all booked the Everglades excursion which takes us to the Everglades for an airboat ride, then takes us to the FLL airport by 1:00pm. Via text message I found out my friends met up with our waiter in the airport (they are in a different terminal than I am). He is taking a redeye to Los Angeles and will join the Carnival Splendor tomorrow. Turns out I'll be on a red eye also, but I don't know that yet.
The Everglades tour was the same as the one I was on four months ago (off the Carnival Miracle). Unfortunately Florida is in a drought and the water level is very low. As a result we could not go to some of the prime spots. Also my friend’s son wanted to sit near the edge of the boat which cut down on my photo opportunities. Nonetheless I ended up with more alligator pictures than last time because there were several alligators near the shore where we board the airboats, giving me a lot of photo opportunities. The tour is great if you have a flight after 2:30pm.
So, as I sit in Atlanta waiting for my flight home I am taking this opportunity to wrap up this review. Since I didn’t fully describe my cabin, now would be a good chance to do so. I had a standard balcony cabin on the starboard side, just forward of the forward bank of elevators. It is a good location, but next time I’m going to get a cabin closer to the front on the port side (the door to the observation deck is on the port side). I didn’t use my balcony as much as I usually do. However, I have found I miss the connection with the sea that the balcony affords if I book an ocean view cabin. I don’t like inside cabins because you have to go outside the cabin to get any idea of what is going on around the ship.
Being able to just step out of the cabin and into the pool or buffet was nice. If I took the elevator down I would hit all the prime public areas except the aft restaurant, which is where I had dinner every night. However, it felt a little weird walking past the pool with a tie on when I went to dinner on the elegant nights. I could have dropped down one level I suppose, but I didn’t want to ride the elevators twice. The Posh dinning room (the aft restaurant) is on decks three and four. However, you can’t get from the front of the ship to the rear of the ship on decks three or four (unless you want to do a self-guided tour of the galley on the way to dinner).
As for the cruise it was enjoyable. Jamaica is Jamaica and my problems aside, the street vendors were less of a problem compared to the last two times I have been to Jamaica. Next time, if I can’t find a tour I like I’m walking to the jerk chicken place near the dock. If someone wants to know where I am going, I’ll just say, “I’m going for a walk.” Key West is of course part of the United States (more or less – it is also known as the Conch Republic and bills itself as the nation that did secede). Nonetheless, it is very American (so not all that exotic).
Grand Cayman has a lot going for it. It has a high standard of living, and thus almost no street vendors, and those that are there are not aggressive at all (you have to go to them - they don't come to you). Stingray City remains my favorite and the Turtle Farm is now in the top three. Grand Cayman is also well known for its great snorkeling and scuba diving. About the only negative for Grand Cayman is that it is a tender port.
The Carnival Freedom is a nice ship with the main negative being the Chic Restaurant that is mid ship. Putting the entire restaurant in the rear as Carnival did on the Spirit class is a much better layout as far as I am concerned. The Carnival Freedom does have something new; two ATM style kiosks where you can manage your onboard account or change large bills into smaller bills. You can check your onboard account on the TV, but apparently these two stations (one on deck five outside the port side gift shop and one on deck three next to guest services) allow you to do much more than just check your account. I can’t tell you everything you can do at these stations since I didn’t use either one.
And so I am wrapping up my review. I hope it provides some insight for anyone planning a cruise. However, in the end, a cruise is what you make it. Go with a good attitude and you’ll have a good time. Go looking for problems and you will likely find them. Of course cruising with good friends always makes the trip more enjoyable.
The weather in Atlanta has gone bad. The entire airport has been shut down because of a thunderstorm. This is one of the main the reason I bring my laptop with me. I can sit here and finish this and not care too much about how long the weather delay is (it is Saturday after all and I don’t work tomorrow). It is now 7:14pm and our plane is scheduled to leave at 7:15pm, which is doubtful, since it has not landed in Atlanta yet. Okay, Delta has just updated things. My flight is now scheduled to leave at 8:30pm – oops, now 9:30pm – scratch that, now 10:00pm. I sure am glad I have this computer with me. At the moment I am proof reading my review. If need be I can fire up my favorite game.
It occurs to me that the last time I had a big delay like this was a similar fight through Atlanta on July 1, 2007. That was after my cruise on the Freedom of the Seas. Summer is not the best time to fly through Atlanta. However, Delta has the best flights from Los Angeles to Florida except for the non-stop flights American offers to Miami.
Its Sunday morning (happy Father's Day) and I finally have my luggage (so much for priority luggage service - though to be fair it was one of the first to arrive in FLL). I call for the shuttle which I'm told will arrive in "a couple of minutes". After fifteen minutes I hop on the Crowne Plaza shuttle (so I have to walk an extra 200 feet - at least I'll be able to get to my car). I arrive home shortly before 2:00am local time (5:00am body time). I've been up for close to 24 hours and I'm tired. Good night. See ya next cruise.
Here is a link to my album - I'll add more photos as time permits ...