The following is part of a blog that I did for our trip... if you want to see all the pre-cruise planning go to my thread entitled Making Magic - Cruise Review October 19 - 26, 2014. There are pictures there if you're interested.
Once we got to the Galveston port it only took about 5 minutes to drop off our suitcases with the porters. That taken care of ----- OH WAIT ----- DON’T FORGET! If you have FTTF make sure you see the porters put the orange tags on your bags, otherwise they might not make it into the bins for earliest delivery! So back to our story, I drove with DH to the parking lot and then we both walked back across the street with our carry-ons to the cruise terminal.
We waited about 45 minutes in the FTTF line to go through security. They check EVERY bottle & can to make sure you aren’t smuggling booze.
Carnival check in was quick and easy. We have our passports as proof of citizenship. As Canadians who became American too, passports are the easiest way for us to prove citizenship, since I really don’t want to carry around my 8x10 official Certificate of Naturalization. Our birth certificates won’t help, therefore avoiding that whole ‘Do I really need a passport?’ debate.
We made it upstairs and got our Sail & Sign cards (S&S) after completing a more robust health questionnaire (but really, does anyone tell the truth on those things?). We sat down to wait for boarding about 10:15 and they started boarding around 11- even though we’d been told it would be delayed! YAY!!!
So off went the wedding parties- 3 of them- one bride in her dress, one in her veil, hair done, carrying her flowers… but wearing shorts and a button up shirt! Once they were onboard came the VIPs- Diamond then Platinum. About 10 minutes after they started boarding, they called FTTF. And we were close to the area where they boarded us so off we went.
Take your picture, walk up the ramp (and up the ramp, and up the ramp- if you have health issues or trouble walking, get assistance because it’s a haul when you’re lugging your carry-ons!), Bong- read your S&S card for the first time and you’re officially ON A CRUISE!
So we were on board in our cabins by 11:15. Our meet & greet is at 2 so we have some time to kill. Met Chris, our awesome, stupendous room steward, who promised to keep our cooler and ice bucket full all week, and brought a sharps container for DH’s insulin needles. He was always on hand when we needed him, he was so pleasant and helpful! Needless to say, DH gave him a little sump’n extra at the end of the cruise!
While waiting for our suitcases we decided to have lunch at Cucina del Capitano on the 11th floor. They give you a card to fill out your selection of pasta, sauce and food choice (shrimp, chicken, sausage). You can also order lasagna, bread and Caesar salad. Salad was meh, not great. Bread neither. DH had the lasagna and said it was tasty but room temperature. That would be a recurring theme for the food the entire cruise… good or bad, most of the food arrived lukewarm instead of hot. I ordered pink sauce (marinara and alfredo mixed) with bowtie pasta but got just alfredo. I also noticed it wasn’t hot, but pointed out the mix-up to our waiter and when he returned the corrected dish, it was not only hot but absolutely yummy!
That also started our love affair with the iced tea on the ship! I planned to get Bottomless Bubbles (unlimited soda package, $6 pp per day plus 15% gratuities) but never got around to it… we liked the iced tea so much that I never bothered to. One of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks onboard was about two thirds iced tea, one third lemonade, one package of sweetener. Oh YUM! It’s only available at the Lido buffet so I’d fill up my big Tervis tumbler and bring it with me!
After lunch we explored the ship a bit, found the Red Frog Pub where out M&G would be, checked out a few other things on the ship and went back to our cabin. We looked at our account on the TV in our room (great feature!) and had a few questions about our account so we made time before the M&G to go to Guest Services. Anyone who tells you that FTTF isn’t worth it has never had to go to GS when it’s busy! I went there 4-5 times throughout the cruise and didn’t feel guilty one bit about bypassing those dozen people in the regular line to get served next!
The only concern we had was as we were leaving our cabin around 1:45 everyone’s luggage was arriving, but ours wasn’t there. I spoke to the girl delivering the luggage and she said all the FTTF luggage had already been delivered. YIKES! She called her supervisor and they started looking into it right away. Thankfully, when we got back after our M&G our luggage was inside our cabin.
The time had arrived (after months of planning and anticipation) for our Meet & Greet in the Red Frog Pub (RFP). We also had the gift exchange and I think everyone who participated really enjoyed getting something from a different place! DH got a bunch of stuff from Stillwater OK and I got a cool t-shirt from Arizona!
It was really crowded and pretty hectic in the RFP but somehow we all managed to find each other and I think everyone had a great time.
After the M&G we went to the muster drill, which was long but painless, since we were seated in the upper level of the Showtime Theater. Back in our room we watched sail away- DH kept commenting that there was a strange ship following us the whole way (RCCL Navigator). We then unpacked (suitcases all fit under the bed thank heaven!) and were just in time for dinner in the steakhouse.
PRIME STEAKHOUSE – FIRST NIGHT
We had dinner planned in the Prime Steakhouse the first night. I made reservations online several months in advance and got an email confirmation that our reservation was for 6:30. Make sure you confirm that when you get on the ship because we found out that our reservation was 6:00 PM according to their records!
The Prime Steakhouse is on the 5th floor aft, next to the Spotlight Lounge, where the comedy shows are. So we arrived at 6 PM, were greeted by name and seated immediately at a table for 2 with a view of the water. We selected our free bottle of chardonnay (it was okay, but then I’m no wine connoisseur).
We both really enjoyed the meal and the service, although a couple of the items were surprisingly not as hot as we expected. But most things were spot-on and delicious. We both had the cowboy rib eye steak and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I couldn’t finish mine. DH is diabetic and was trying to be a good boy this cruise so he skipped dessert (he ate the rest of my steak instead!) but I ordered the Chocolate Sampler- YUMM!!!
We didn’t finish our wine so the sommelier corked it for us and we took it back to our room. We ended up pouring it out the last night, not having had a sip of the rest.
We skipped the Welcome Aboard show and enjoyed some lovely time on our balcony, til we both decided to turn in early. The bed was firm (perfect for me, not so much for DH!) and we always travel with our own pillows, so sleeping comfortably wasn’t an issue for me!
At this point I need to mention that the weather wasn’t awful, but very windy going to bed. Being on the top floor in the front, the movement was unnoticeable until we went to bed, then it was a gentle rocking no worse than I’ve experienced much lower in the ship.
But at 3 in the morning, we turned hard to port for some reason. I know this because we tilted so much that I fell right out of bed! It was pouring buckets outside (remember, no cover on our balcony!) and there was heavy thunder and lightning so maybe the captain was trying to get around the storm to calmer seas. The tilt lasted about a minute, just enough to make me nervous but then righted itself and the normal rocking continued… DH slept through it all!
CRUISE DAY 2 – MONDAY, FIRST SEA DAY – RELAX!
I ordered coffee from room service the night before. I ordered 2 pots of coffee and extra creamer. They brought mostly sugar, not sweetener so I grabbed extra from the Lido deck to have on hand, since I was pretty sure this having coffee delivered to me before I even get dressed was going to be a recurring theme! And it was! The coffee wasn’t great, but it was hot and contained caffeine which is a requirement for me to function in the morning! We tipped the lovely lady a few bucks each morning.
We went to the Sea Day Brunch in the Southern Lights dining room. I had the Eggs Benedict (with the hollandaise sauce on the side- it’s fresher that way!) and a side of hash browns and bacon. Everything was perfect. We sat at a table with a bunch of people, some of whom I knew from our pre-cruise planning, some of whom were new friends!
At 11:30 on the first sea day (check your Fun Times) they usually have a cooking demonstration for foods offered in the steakhouse. I went and had a great time! Met with friends from Vegas, and enjoyed watching them make the dishes.
• Mushroom Cappuccino
• Baby Leaf Spinach & Fresh Mushrooms (a salad)
• Broiled Supreme of Chicken with Red Potatoes and Macaroni & Cheese
They give you a little recipe book containing all the recipes they make, and you get to sample each one.
After lunch we went to the Showtime Theater to watch the Game of Love. I’ve heard tons about this but had never seen it so we decided to watch it. We got there at the tail end of the Turbo Trivia event, full of interesting adult content!
We stayed and watched the Game of Love and James, our CD, was a hoot! I know a lot of the answers are canned responses designed to be funny, but he carried them off well… and he reads people so well that everything appeared natural. The middle-aged couple were a hoot! I saw the husband around the ship several times being razzed with calls of ‘Oooooh, TJ!’ just like James instructed! I’m glad we took the time to watch it… it was funny.
Since we were still full from brunch, we decided to hit the spa to check out all the amenities. First we tried the Thalasso therapy pool- like a big whirlpool but not very hot as I mentioned earlier. I don’t know if it helps much but I felt better afterwards. I have chronic back issues and travelling always makes it worse so anything that helps is welcome. We enjoyed the steam rooms and the heated loungers for a while, then decided to use the showers in the locker rooms- much larger than in our cabin! As we were leaving I asked about the body scrub and picked it up.
Back in our room we laid down for what became a cruise ritual- our afternoon nap! I read on the balcony for a while then snoozed beside DH for an hour or so! Of course, this meant I completely forgot about tea time! I’ve wanted to do this every cruise, and somehow, I always miss it! It is announced in the Fun Times some time around 3 every sea day… and of course, I missed it every day of this cruise too!
Since we had Your Time Dining we decided to eat around 6. It was elegant night but we didn’t want any pictures taken so we headed straight for the Northern Lights Dining Room. I’ve mentioned this earlier but we were surprised that the food, while good, was only warm, not even close to hot. But that wasn’t my first disappointment of the meal…
Since it’s elegant night, that’s the night for lobster and prime rib. I’ll skip dessert for those two items!! So you can imagine my surprise when I asked my waiter Aquino if I could have the lobster AND the prime rib, only to have him tell me ‘no- you can only have one.’ I said I was okay if they brought me 2 full meals, as I’d share some of it with DH and he still insisted it wasn’t possible. But then, DH ordered the prime rib and THEN he asked for the lobster… color me surprised when the waiter just said sure! So the bottom line was that we got what I wanted since we were going to share anyway, but only when DH ordered it!
And any time I ordered anything extra Aquino acted like he was having to pay for it! I wanted soup and the shrimp cocktail and he just stared at me… when I asked for 2 scoops of ice cream he acted like he was my personal dietician! Okay, so I know I’m not the smallest person on the cruise (nor the largest, either!) but I’ve never had a waiter make me feel like a pig for ordering multiple appetizers or some such! He really put me off! So much so that the next night I asked to be seated in a different section, but that’s a story for tomorrow night.
One notable thing from this dinner (other than the lobster was great, small but great!) was that for the second time, I tried Warm Chocolate Melting Cake… and I didn’t hate it! The first time I tried it it was just warm cake batter with a hard crust, too gooey, too rich- I didn’t like it at all! So I decided to try it again and it actually wasn’t half bad! Not my favorite by any means, but like I said, I didn’t hate it! So if you’ve sworn off WCMC, maybe give it another try!
After dinner we caught the show Grooveline in the Showtime Theater. We’re not live performance/show/concert kind of people, so we kinda enjoy this when we cruise. This show was good, even if DH kept arguing with me that Carol King recorded You’re So Vain- when we ALL know it was Carly Simon! The female singer is much more powerful than the male… so while she was nailing every song, he was better when he hit those songs that suited his voice best. And of course, I think the dancers are awesome!
After the show we wandered the ship a bit, checked out the gift shop to buy me a tshirt (I know- with the extensive list I have HOW could I possibly have forgotten my pj’s? Note to self- don’t pre-pack items unless you cross them off the list first… I was sure I’d packed them!). Then we decided to hit the hay early. DH watched the football game til we fell asleep.
CRUISE DAY 3 – TUESDAY, SECOND SEA DAY – RELAX SOME MORE!
Once again, Room Service brought us coffee at 7:30 (I’d asked for it each day at 7:30 to 7:45- it never arrived before 7:20 and never later than 7:30!). This time they didn’t bring enough cream so I made sure to write that down on the order from now on…
Today was pretty much a repeat of yesterday- brunch in the Southern Lights MDR, followed by some quality time in the spa… today we actually ate lunch a bit later on the Lido deck. While we were there, the ship hit another squall and it was raining buckets. The aft pool emptied out and some minor flooding was happening out on the deck near the deli and Tandoor spot. There was also some water in the aft part of the Lido buffet area because of it.
Just as we were deciding to leave to give someone else our table, the ship took another hard list to starboard… we leaned for about 30 seconds, just long enough to make you nervous! But then it righted itself and we had smooth sailing after that. We figured that again, the captain was trying to get us out of that squall and back into drier weather. But the unfortunate part of that hard turn was that we tilted so badly that many plates and glasses slid off the tables onto the floors, other cruisers, etc!
The table closest to the window at the very rear was the worst- the cruisers had just set down their plates, glasses etc when the tilt happened. Four peoples’ plates slid across the table, smashed into the window and left bits of food and drink all over the window, the ledge, the floor! I felt sorry for the staff, they had quite a mess to deal with!
After lunch we wandered the ship again, then went for our nap. Here are a bunch of photos from around the ship.
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner! Cruise casual was the mode of dress. So off to the Northern Lights dining room we headed.
Now, as I mentioned I wasn’t very happy with our surly waiter from the night before, so when we got there I asked for a different section. They complied- and sat us in another section waited on by the same staff! I mentioned it to the hostess, but DH didn’t want me to make a fuss (of course he didn’t! He GOT what he ordered!) so I let it go. But she must have said something to him, because his attitude was a bit better that night- he was still surly but at least he didn’t act like I was being piggish because I wanted the Caesar Salad AND the mango soup! Part way through our meal the hostess stopped by to make sure everything was okay and I just told her it was fine… complaining wasn’t going to change anything, but I made sure we sat in completely different sections after that.
On that note, I’ll mention here that I found most of the staff throughout the ship to be friendly, helpful and smiling… so much so that the odd exception made them stand out even more (like Aquino!). All of the wait staff for the rest of the trip were great.
The weather was still pretty iffy and outdoors on any deck or our balcony was not an option, so we watched TV & read in our cabin until bedtime. Tomorrow is Jamaica!
CRUISE DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA – YAH, MON!
Again, we got our Room Service coffee on time. It’s horrible stuff, but the caffeine’s there so I dealt with it. The best coffee of the cruise was actually in the dining room each night after dinner, which is weird! You’d think that they would use the same brand of coffee all around the ship! Anyway we sat on the balcony for over 30 minutes but never seemed to get any closer to the shore of Jamaica we could see in the distance… finally we went to breakfast in the Southern Lights MDR. While we were eating breakfast we (sort of) watched the docking process.
We went back to our cabin to get a few things and headed down to Deck 0 to get off the ship. We’d waited about 30 minutes after the first crush to let those with excursions and planned outings to get off, so we were able to just walk right off.
We went back and forth about what to do in Jamaica and finally decided to just check out the port shops then spend the day back on the ship. We picked up some souvenirs for the family watching our fur babies and were back on board by 10:30! We changed into our bathing suits as the weather was finally sunny and headed for the first time up to the Serenity Deck. It was deserted and we were able to claim both a clamshell lounge and a hammock! I tried the hot tub there and it was nice and hot! We read and napped there for the whole morning and when we left there were only 2 other people in the area.
Docked near us was the Norwegian Pearl- interesting paint job on their ships.
We went to lunch on the Lido deck- the food is okay, not great. But since we didn’t find anything else to our liking we got sandwiches from the Deli… they’re the best! I tried the Tandoor spot the day before… I like Indian food but I found it wasn’t very fresh- the naan was hard and crusty, instead of soft & pliable like it’s supposed to be! So we had our reuben sandwiches and sat there in the Lido buffet area for a while, enjoying the AC (it was actually surprisingly hot and humid, considering the sun wasn’t out very consistently).
Before we knew it everyone was getting back on the ship. We watched sailaway from our balcony… it’s funny to watch people saunter toward the ship at a few minutes to 6, knowing that we’re supposed to be leaving at 6! I’d be too terrified of the ship leaving my butt behind to leave it that late, yet tones of people showed up well after the 5:30 return time and didn’t seem at all concerned.
So this was when we experienced our second negative experience with smokers- other than the guys on the balcony beside us we found smokers to be a very considerate bunch, no rogue smoking where they weren’t supposed to, grabbing an attitude about where they can/cannot smoke. (although I did see a few folks using the e-cigs in the dining room and theatre, but since it doesn’t smell, doesn’t give off fumes, why should I complain?).
The exception was the group beside us. On sailaway someone a few doors upwind of us was smoking a cigar, until someone below us yelled that there’s no smoking allowed anymore on balconies. I noticed the cigar smell stopped immediately. But waiting for sailaway from Jamaica I was sitting on our balcony and all I could smell was cigarette smoke. There were 4 cabins in a row all travelling together and they had their dividers open.
The lady in the cabin beside us was very nice, and I don’t believe was the culprit. But everyone congregated on her balcony as we were waiting for sailaway. Someone (or ones) started smoking heavily. To make sure they knew they were busted, I asked others from balconies around us ‘does anyone know where that cigarette smoke is coming from?’ The guys beside us started laughing and said ‘uh oh- we’re busted!’ But they didn’t stop!
So since I didn’t want this to be a recurring issue I ratted on them. Called Guest Services and told them what was going on. Our steward Chris and his boss came by to ask for information and I explained that they basically admitted to smoking out there, but didn’t stop. I made sure to let them know that it wasn’t the woman beside us but her friends. Funny thing is, a few minutes later the smoking stopped so I guess the message was delivered. Thankfully there were no more incidents for the rest of the cruise, at least while we were on our balcony.
So I thought I’d mention something that happened at this point that convinced me I’ll get FTTF each time I cruise, if possible! I needed to go to Guest Services to check on a lost & found item. During the whole cruise I probably had to go there 4 or 5 times for different things. Each time, in spite of a long line up I went to the VIP line and was served almost immediately. Definitely worth the money!
This evening there were maybe 10 people lined up in the regular GS line, and 1 person waiting in the VIP line in front of me. A guy near the front of the other line was really vocal about the fact that one of the GS staff helping on that side stepped over as soon she finished with the person she was helping to ask the person in front of me how she could help.
This guy started getting louder and louder about rude people not waiting their turn, about why was this person served before him… the GS staff closest to him explained that that was the VIP line and those people had earned the right to be served first. (I didn’t bother to correct her, that I’d paid for the right!) Well everyone else in the line was okay with that, but this guy wasn’t happy.
When the person in front of me finished and walked away I was called to the counter next and this guy totally lost it! He started yelling about people who think they’re better than others, about how he paid as much for his cruises as we did… no one from GS could get this guy to calm down! Finally this very tiny Guest Services Manager (like, 4’10 tops!) came out from behind, walked right up to the guy and told him to please calm down, keep his voice at a normal level and he would be helped shortly. If he opted NOT to follow these directions she would be more than happy to call security to explain it to him again- in their office! Wow! What a firecracker she was! Yet not once did she lose her cool, raise her voice or be anything other than professional and friendly with him. It was great to see her diffuse the situation so easily!
That night we went to the magic show Destination Unknown in Showtime Theater- maybe I’m just not that into magic shows but it was just alright for me… I wasn’t crazy about it. But heck, I didn’t have a lot else to do so it worked.
After the show we went to dinner and were seated in a completely different section. Waiter and staff couldn’t have been nicer! Again the food was just okay, good enough but nothing was hot.
After dinner we walked around a bit then went back to our cabin to sit on the balcony. Unfortunately it was really windy, even though it wasn’t raining. So we had a soda on the balcony then went to bed early again.
CRUISE DAY 5 – THURSDAY, GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS – OH HELL! OR MAYBE NOT!
Since we didn’t have plans for Grand Cayman we decided to have Room Service coffee again today. It arrived right on time, even though I figured they’d be really busy, with everyone else ordering breakfast before getting off the ship. We drank our coffee as we anchored offshore at Grand Cayman. The Breeze was beside us and we decided to hang out there watching the tenders for a while before going for breakfast. But it was still really windy and it was obvious they were having problems getting the tenders working.
We did see a tender go ashore from Breeze with people on it so we figured that soon they’d be under way, but after about 30 minutes the captain announced that it was too windy to allow the tenders to dock beside the ship so we’d have to cancel Grand Cayman. For us, no big deal because we’d only planned a day of walking around anyway, but I was sure a lot of other people would be really disappointed, with excursions planned etc.
I heard after I got back home that the tender we saw from the Breeze was the only one that got under way that day, and only because they had a medical emergency involving a crew member. Just before we left, Breeze headed out and we followed her for quite a while. I also heard that once underway there was a lot of chaos, upset passengers and near-rioting (I heard a lot of conflicting info on this!) on the Breeze. Apparently they’d had issues with delays in Cozumel, and now were missing Grand Cayman. Because of the discounts & OBCs Carnival gave the Magic passengers the week before due to missing Cozumel apparently some passengers felt they were entitled to more than just the port fees of $20 pp.
Now here’s the way I look at it… if I’d had excursions planned that day, sure I’d be disappointed, but I’d far rather the captain erred on the side of caution if the tendering process would be dangerous. Once on a cruise in 1998 I almost lost a set of golf clubs during dangerous tendering (wind kicked up after we all got off the ship, made getting back on board interesting!). They couldn’t get the gangway in place so they had to time it just right as the tender bobbed up and down beside the ship and reach out and grab each person, dragging the passenger back on board… I had my golf clubs with me from our excursion and the crewmember who took them dropped them between the tender and the ship- he caught the bag by the strap to avoid them going to a watery death. I looked at him as he brought my clubs onboard and said ‘please don’t do that to me!’ Ever since I’m appropriately respectful of the tendering process!
So now they planned another sea day for us… a new Fun Times was published but I didn’t notice a lot of changes… a few more trivia games, lunch in the MDR instead of just the Lido…
So for us the biggest disappointment was that the ship was a lot more crowded than we’d expected. But the day was sunny & warm, even though it was windy. We spent the morning sitting reading on the 11th deck, just above the Lido pool, in the shade. We even too advantage of the bar and had the DoD- called the Cruiser- it was peach and pineapple and other flavors… pretty good!
This was the second and final encounter with a Carnival employee who didn’t love his job… the bartender at the Lido pool was obviously planning on an easy day too, what with everyone in Grand Cayman. When he realized that wasn’t going to happen he adopted a real attitude. I asked him a simple question- do you accept the free drink coupons for return cruisers. He snapped ‘what does it say? Can you read? It says dining room only, right? So no, I don’t take them here’. Needless to say he didn’t get an extra tip!
I wasn’t the only one who he treated rudely... while I was waiting, a young woman was in front of me, waiting for a soda. He kept going around her, serving people who’d arrived after her. He asked me what I wanted and I pointed out that she was first. He rolled his eyes at me (OH YES HE DID!) and asked her what she wanted… she handed him her S&S card and her Carnival cup and asked for Dr Pepper… he flat out lied to her and said he didn’t have any left... the guy beside me, who already had his drink said ‘look buddy, don’t be an a&&h*)@, I can see the can sitting right there on the counter. Get her her drink!’ The whole time he waited on people he scowled and muttered to himself. Obviously not a person who loves his job! But fortunately, as I mentioned, the 2 employees were the only ones I encountered who were not smiling and happy to help.
We then had lunch in the dining room- I finally got my favorite dessert- crème brulee, which they seem to only offer at lunch, not brunch!
That afternoon we spent some time in the Fun Shops, checking out what they had… I’m not sure if it’s the new direction or just the Magic, but we found that the shops were a lot smaller than on some of the Fantasy class ships we’d been on. The duty free alcohol section was basically one wall of the shop, but the jewelry and perfume section was a lot larger than the alcohol section.
We spent some time in the spa and watched the Thriller Dance class in the Showtime Theater… it was kind of amusing to watch totally uncoordinated people try to emulate Michael Jackson!
That night was the second elegant night but we didn’t feel like getting dressed up so decided to do the Lido buffet that night. We tried a little bit of a bunch of different food. A lot of it was awful, some was okay, some was delicious! Hit or miss but hey, we didn’t starve!
There was a show in the Showtime Theater called WIN! that we wanted to see. But we miscalculated times somehow and missed it altogether. There was only one instance of the show at 7:30, not the normal early & late seating version, so we completely missed it. We could have caught the last 20 minutes but decided to take our time at dinner in the Lido instead.
We stood in line waiting for the great free watch raffle! Every time we walked by the Fun Shops they were having a ‘fantastic’ sale on something… watch sets, necklace sets, bracelets, Invicta watches… I guess if you’re into that sort of thing you can get a good deal, but I don’t wear costume jewelry, DH has a very expensive watch already and I refuse to buy anything other than my Timex Indiglo watches for about $40… so most of the time that we were around that area it was an opportunity for people watching! I saw a woman who bought 8 boxes of a necklace set for $20 each… I figure daughters and nieces are all getting a variation on the same gift this Christmas!
The rest of the evening was spent sitting relaxing on our balcony. The wind had died down, but there were frequent rain squalls happening due to the tropical depression/storm that was hovering over Cozumel. One of those squalls finally drove us inside where DH watched the rest of the football game, and after prepping for our day in Mexico tomorrow, we went to bed.
CRUISE DAY 6 – FRIDAY, COZUMEL, MEXICO – GOLF ANYONE?
We woke up to sunshine- sort of! It was sunny at the dock and cloudy all around us. Our one concern about the weather this trip was due to TD9, which moved from the Pacific, over Mexico into the Bay of Campeche. It ran along the top of the Yucatan peninsula and into the gulf, which was the reason for all the unsettled weather, high winds and rain squalls we’d been surrounded by and subject to throughout the cruise. The reason for our concern? We had a round of golf scheduled at the Cozumel Country Club for 11 that morning.
The captain announced before lunch on Thursday that due to missing Grand Cayman, we’d received permission from Mexican officials to dock early, meaning we’d be in Cozumel for 8 AM, not 10! Sweet! That meant we’d have plenty of time to have breakfast, get off the ship without rushing and still make our tee time! And also leave time for some shopping after the round.
We ate breakfast on the Lido deck as we were docking, got our stuff for the day from our room and headed off the ship. We waded our way through the Duty Free building, walked straight to the taxi area and caught a taxi. We asked in advance and were told it would be $16 each way for both of us (not each). We got into the oldest, most decrepit Camry I’ve ever seen! The shocks were completely gone, it was so cramped that my DH couldn’t sit up straight without hitting the roof of the car… but the driver was nice, gave us lots of info about what we were seeing as we drove through downtown and out to the country club. We gave him a $5 tip because God knows, his car needs some work!
We arrived at the golf course by a little after 9, almost 2 hours early. But they weren’t concerned- the weather had really hit the course hard and they were not busy at all so we were able to tee off pretty much right away. And we had no one in front of us, or behind us. If you’re a golfer, you’ll understand that this is pretty close to golfing nirvana!
They warned us about a few things. The condition of the course was bad- everything was VERY wet. They’d had 5 inches of rain the day before from our friend TD9. One hole was under water and the bridge to get to the tee was under water so it became a par 3. And they also had warnings about the water on the course- there are crocodiles everywhere and they strongly urge you to invest in a new golf ball if yours ends up in the water!
We saw a couple of baby crocs… and a few 8 footers. But having lived and golfed in Florida where there are gators everywhere on the golf course, this didn’t faze us. We’re used to taking gator mulligans when necessary.
The other thing they warned us about were the mosquitos… I was so grateful I’d bought a bottle of Deep Woods Off… DH & I sprayed each other down a couple of times on the course but we still got some bites. We could sit in the golf cart and hear the mosquitos moving in- a loud whiny buzz that would get louder as we sat… and they were huge mosquitos! Now we’re both from Canada and spent our summers in northern Ontario and Quebec, where the mosquitos were the size of small hummingbirds… but these mosquitos made those guys look ordinary! I can imagine how bad it would have been if we hadn’t had bug spray.
So despite the sloppy conditions and the humidity, we were golfing! DH had brought golf shoes but I opted to wear my running shoes… our feet were totally soaked by the 2nd hole. But I noticed by the 7th or 8th hole that my feet were getting wetter and I couldn’t get a good footing when hitting the ball. I looked at my running shoes and the soles of both were falling off! I guess it’s time for some new running shoes!
We were actually finished by about 1 PM. The course called us a taxi and we were on our way back to Puerta Maya. The cost was the same, but this time the taxi was great (a large mini-van) but the driver never spoke a word… so as uncomfortable as the ride to the course had been, we both enjoyed that trip better, with our chatty informative driver.
We were back at the port by 1:30 and had lots of time to shop. I had to be careful not to walk out of my sad, almost sole-less running shoes. We talked about going back to the ship, cleaning up and coming back to finish our shopping, but it was hot, sunny and humid now so we decided just to finish it, get back on the ship, clean up, have lunch and relax.
One stop I had to make was Los Cincos Soles… I had it on the best of advice- you fellow cruisers- that this shop is the best place to get the high quality vanilla from Mexico. You have to be careful- a lot of places sell the inferior quality vanilla or stuff with additives that can be dangerous… I was warned about this when I posted a question about it and was directed to this website http://gourmet.lovetoknow.com/Mexican_Vanilla which posted the following:
Things to Avoid When Shopping for Vanilla
Prior to purchasing vanilla products make sure they are clearly labeled "coumarin free" or "pure vanilla." In addition, always buy vanilla products from reputable suppliers. Often tourists visiting Mexico are tempted to buy bargain priced vanilla. The cheap price is usually an indicator that the vanilla is laced with coumarin. Pure Mexican vanilla is expensive. The synthetic version may smell and taste like vanilla, but it is not pure vanilla and should be avoided. Authentic vanilla is amber colored while synthetics tend to be dark and murky due to the coal tar from which they are produced or from caramel and red food colorings. To ensure you are getting pure vanilla from Mexico check the label, the price, and avoid large bargain-sized bottles found south of the border
So I got my vanilla, some gifts for the family, including maracas for my 7 YO GS (payback to my daughter- I couldn’t get a drumset so the noisy maracas were the next best thing LOL!) and then we made our way back to the Magic.
I was going to buy some rum from the Dufry shop just outside the main duty free building you have to go through to get back on the ship. I got 3 bottles of flavored rum there last cruise and it was great. But this time the salesman was driving me crazy… he followed me everywhere, everything I looked at he told me I had to buy it and why, and even after I told him to leave me alone and I’d find him when I was ready to buy, he wouldn’t back off. Normally I’m a pretty placid shopper, I don’t let stuff like that rattle me. But I was tired, hot, hungry, bug-bit and probably a little cranky. OK, so I was a lot cranky! But hey, my shoes are falling off and I stink like Deep Woods Off- cut me a break! So I left without buying any booze.
Once on the ship, showered and with intact shoes on, DH & I went in search of lunch. We met several of our roll call gang who apparently all had a great time doing their various excursions ashore. After lunch we hung out in our cabin until sailaway.
At the next pier was the Navigator of the Seas (our #2 choice for this cruise) and the Allure of the Seas… that is one freaking huge ship! We were talking to some of our roll call gang and they were saying that they’d like to try it just once, but that they’d found that the people on RCCL are less inclined to strike up a conversation with a stranger, offer unsolicited advice or offer to help someone else, as his experiences were on Carnival. As a result, he said he’d probably never sail RCCL again, so the Allure wasn’t likely to happen. I know everyone has their own opinion, and we’ll probably try RCCL soon, just so we can form our own opinion on the matter. But if that’s what it’s really like on the RCCL cruiseships, we’ll be back to Carnival in a heartbeat. But then, I also think a cruise is what you make of it, so we’ll see.
Since we had a later lunch we decided to go to the early show in the Showtime Theater. Guitar Legends Features Edd Carr and the Magic Showband… The music was great, the guitar playing was terrific… he’s not the best singer, but his guitar skills more than make up for it.
After the show we went to dinner in the Northern Lights MDR. Again, new section, again, great service, again, food was warm, okay. But I got my 3rd favorite dessert, Bitter n Blanc. Only problem was, our waiter forgot to give me anything to eat it with, and promptly disappeared. When he reappeared about 10 minutes later with a refill on our coffee he asked why I hadn’t eaten my dessert- didn’t I like it? When he realized he’d forgotten to give me a fork, I thought he’d cry, he was so upset with himself! But I was enjoying my first cup of coffee and chatting with DH and our tablemates, and I knew he’d be back, so I wasn’t in a rush. It was pretty funny, actually!
Dinner wasn’t over til almost 9:30 so afterward we went to our cabin, hung out on the balcony for a while then went to bed.
CRUISE DAY 7 – SATURDAY, FINAL DAY AT SEA – LAST CHANCE TO DO… WHATEVER!
This was the first night that my back really troubled me while sleeping. The bed wasn’t comfortable (was fine the rest of the cruise), the room was too drafty (yet my back was covered with blankets all night), the bed was too soft, the bed was too hard- I couldn’t get comfortable at all… so I woke in the morning to our regular Room Service coffee, but shortly afterwards decided to make my way to the spa to see if the Thalasso pool would help my back. It was actually cold so it really didn’t help much. I then went to the thermal suites- steam rooms and loungers hadn’t had a chance to warm up yet either. The Serenity deck was closed because the wind had picked up again and we were rocking pretty hard (the water was splashing out of each end of the Thalasso pool while I was in there). So I made do with a really hot shower in the spa… they have one of those showers in the Laconium Thermal Suite where the water comes from every direction… but no soap or shampoo in there and they discourage you from bringing your own in… they prefer you to use the showers in the locker rooms for cleaning. This shower is just for the body massage aspects of it, I guess. Anyway, 10 minutes in there and I was almost good as new!
DH & I went for our last brunch around 10, in the hopes that if we ate brunch later, skipped lunch, we might actually be hungry for dinner! We met a great couple from Memphis and spent a good hour chatting with them. They were on the their honeymoon and were kind of bummed about missing Grand Cayman because they had a sub excursion planned, but were able to find the same one in Mexico, so they weren’t completely disappointed.
After breakfast we went to the shops to buy some final souvenirs- Carnival tshirts were 2 for $20… and they’re surprisingly good quality! They’ve held up pretty well to washing since we got home… they didn’t shrink much at all.
Unfortunately, while we were wandering around the ship taking some final pictures, we completely missed our Roll Call’s Slot Pull! I hadn’t signed up for it but was planning on putting in an appearance to cheer on our roll call, and maybe playing if they had room. But by the time I remembered, it was all over ïŒ
We spent a nice hour in the Red Frog Pub. Our waiter Lakeye (la-Kay-Yay) remembered me from the Gift Exchange on Sunday calling out numbers… we were joined by a member of our roll call and had a nice visit…
Before starting our packing, I checked our account at Guest Services and they told me I had $54 on account. I knew it was much higher than that, but she wasn’t including any of my cruise cash.
If you buy Cruise Bar Cash, you have to spend it on drinks. You can’t substitute anything else.
If you buy Cruise Photo Cash, same thing… you must use it on pictures.
Whenever possible, buy just plain Cruise Cash- it can be used for anything onboard.
If you don’t spend your cruise cash, you lose it. But there’s a workaround I was counting on.
DH & I waited til we knew we had nothing more to spend, and yet we still had $120 in cruise cash left. We went to the casino and were able to get it all back, so if you have cruise cash left here’s what you do:
• Go to a slot machine in the casino, insert your S&S card and set up a casino account if you haven’t already (just need your name, DOB and your S&S card). Deposit the amount left in cruise cash into your casino account (it always uses cruise cash first before any other money on your account).
• Once the money is in your casino account, you can play some if you want. We didn’t bother after 1 turn each- but we still won $5! Then we just opted to cash out on the slot machine.
• We took our S&S card to the casino cashier and told her we wanted to cash out our account. They gave us the $120 cash (plus $5 we had won!)
So I can say that we came out ahead in the casino… plus I’ll never hesitate to buy cruise cash in advance again.
We spent the rest of the afternoon packing. We decided to go with Self Debark… which meant we wouldn’t put our luggage out that night for the porters to collect, we’d just lug everything off ourselves. Somehow, in spite of emptying one small suitcase of soda & water, we still had a ton of stuff to fit in… we barely made it! It seems we bought more than we thought!
So other than the last minute items we’d pack that night and first thing in the morning, we were ready to debark (but not ready to get off the ship boo!!!)
Before dinner we went to the lobby and watched a neat trivia show called Up, Up & Out… the entertainment staff member got couples to get on the glass lobby elevator with him one at a time. As they answered questions correctly they moved up a floor. If they got it wrong, they went down a floor. Once they ran out of questions they went all the way back down and the next couple was invited into the elevator. Once they got to the 11th floor, they won! Kinda cute!
We went to our final dinner after that. We heard the waiters sing ‘leaving on a funship’. Also, the Northern Lights Maitre d’ introduced a waitress each night after the waiters entertained… her name was Catherine and she was phenomenal! She sang Proud Mary by Tina Turner and Donna Summers’ On the Radio with equal ability! She needs to be part of the entertainment crew, not the waitstaff!
This night I had my 2nd favorite dessert (quick recall- # 1 fav –Crème Brulee, # 3 Bitter & Blanc) Grand Marnier Soufflé… I’m not a dessert eater most of the time so I take advantage of it at times like this.
One other comment about desserts. DH is diabetic… he would sometimes steal a bite of my dessert or even order his own, and just take extra insulin. But this whole trip he tried to be as good as possible with the sweets. He found this trip that almost all of the sugar-free desserts offered in the MDR and the Lido deck were very tasty, and not dried out like they were in the past. He was quite pleased with the sugar-free options… and didn’t even groan over me having an extra ice cream cone every time we passed the Lido deck!
Things we missed completely this cruise that we would have liked to have done:
• Trivia (other than the one in the elevator)
• Karaoke – I’m a fan, DH not so much
• Comedy clubs- family or adult version
But I guess that just gives us an excuse to go back!
CRUISE DAY 8 – SUNDAY, DEBARKATION – TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY’S OVER
About 6 in the morning we made our way into the Galveston harbor. Not a pretty port by any means, but in the dark, with the lights twinkling, it’s passing pretty! As we docked, DH & I finished up our last minute packing then headed to the Lido Deck for breakfast. I saw a man there with his arm in a sling… he said he fell on the Lido deck the day we were in Cozumel and broke it… ouch!
We were back in our room by 8 AM, and in the Northern Lights MDR at 8:15 for FTTF and Self-Debark.
So I was kind of confused… I thought that self debark was the fastest way to get off the ship. But when we went into the dining room they directed us a certain way and said since we had FTTF we had priority over anyone, except Diamond and Platinum. So the order of getting off the ship, as I was told, was Diamond and Platinum, then FTTF, then anyone else who’s doing self-debark, then they call you off the ship by floors. If you put your luggage out the night before it will be waiting for you when you get off the ship.
So we waited until about 8:40 for them to call FTTF off the ship. We were through Customs & Immigration by 8:50 (I love having a US passport). We lugged all our stuff outside, across the street to Galveston Park ‘n Cruise, got in our car and were on the way home by 8:55. We got home around 12:30 to Austin.
One more word about the Texas Alcohol tax… after we went through Customs, we walked down a short hall and turned right to exit the building. Standing there just before we turned was a lovely lady asking if anyone had any alcohol to declare. Straight ahead was a sign to follow to pay the tax… it didn’t impact us as we didn’t have any booze or cigarettes to declare, but I gotta tell you, you’d have to be pretty compelled to pay the tax.
That's it for this review... as I mentioned at the beginning, my review in the Carnival area has more info, including pictures...