I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – life is an adventure. And sometimes, in order to fully enjoy it, you just have to go where the adventure takes you. That is especially true with cruising; wherever that boat goes, it ... Read More
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – life is an adventure. And sometimes, in order to fully enjoy it, you just have to go where the adventure takes you. That is especially true with cruising; wherever that boat goes, it takes you. Choose to enjoy all the little “firsts” that cruising has to offer. But since this was our 16th time cruising the Mexican Riviera, I really had little hope that there were any more firsts to be had. It was the hottest part of the summer here in Phoenix, and I knew that Mexico would be no better, just more humid. I am so glad that I was wrong. In fact, my thinking was so far off base, the left fielder could have tagged me out.
One of the best parts of a Mexican Riviera cruise is finally arriving onboard to the constant smiles of Carnival’s cruise. And there is no ship on which I feel more comfortable than on Carnival’s Spirit-class ships. Feeling that familiar décor around us, watching “virgin” cruisers as they see the glass elevators racing up the 10-story atrium in the center of the ship, and hearing the staff welcome us “home.” I don’t think I will ever get enough of that. But this time was different. As we walked down the hallway on Lido deck, I suddenly heard a booming voice, “It’s my brudda from anudda mudda!” I recognized the familiar banter of one of our favorite waiters, Noel, with whom we had sailed several times. Noel is from the Phillipines, and has been with Carnival many years, and consequently has sailed with us off-and-on for many years. After a round of handshakes and hugs, we caught up on each other’s lives in the intervening time, and then we headed on to lunch.
Sitting on our balcony afterward, we loved feeling the California sun drenching our bodies as the cool Long Beach harbor breezes wash away all the wear from the long drive across the desert. We know that the interminably long “muster” safety drill is still ahead of us, but just this short couple of hours is enough to reset us into a cruising mood. As the time approaches for the muster, we begin making our way down to our assigned station with the rest of the ship’s passengers, arriving with plenty of time remaining before the ship’s horn assembles everyone shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-front on the deck.
After we are released from our forced conscription, we are in no hurry to join the horde clogging the few elevators not set aside for baggage delivery, so we take a few minutes to enjoy one of the best features of the Spirit-class vessels – a wrap-around deck traversing almost all the way around the ship. This is the area to which we will retreat at night during the voyage, as it is completely removed from all the photographers, ‘looky-loos,” and shops. It allows us to walk, hand-in-hand down the boarded deck, gazing across the railing out into the darkness of the ocean, the wind in our hair as the wake of the bow crashes against the ship’s sides below us. But for now, we are content to let the hordes evaporate around us as the harbor breezes prepare us for the evening ahead as they gently skip small sailboats across the calm Pacific waters.
Dinner on any Carnival ship is a special time, especially if you love food, and even more if you are willing to take the time to enjoy the Main Dining Room (MDR). Looking back through the photos of our meals (yes, I’m THAT guy), I am amazed at the time devoted to presentation of these excellent mass-produced meals. The plating is perfect, colors and flavors are amazing, and the aroma hits you before the plates can be carefully laid before you. And if you are truly adventurous, make reservations for Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse where, for a nominal extra charge, you can revel in the most succulent choices of beef, or enjoy tender, flaky, filleted fish and the most wonderful desserts this side of the North Pole. And if the MDR is not your cup of tea, there is always the multiple flavorful offerings in the Lido deck buffet.
Evenings onboard; so little time, so much to do. There are stage shows, karaoke, comedy club, karaoke and the Piano Bar, if you happen to be a Piano Barbarian. By the way – there’s karaoke, in case I didn’t mention it. I love Carnival Karaoke. I love the music, the amazing displays of talent – and lack thereof – and I love the camaraderie of this group who, by the end of the voyage, become a small, close-knit family of friends and admirers. While the selection in Carnival Karaoke can be surprisingly sparse at times, depending on when the karaoke machine was last updated – if at all – at least the quality of the songs they do have is good, and the karaoke host, Jess, was amazing. Not only did she actually work tirelessly to ensure a good time for all, she actually seemed to enjoy herself in the process. In addition, at least on this cruise, the cruise director, Adam, who was subbing for his vacationing Entertainment Director, made an extra effort to provide a good karaoke venue each day or night, even it meant singing before dinner.
Speaking of Adam, he was given an opportunity this cruise to show just how much experience matters when things go south. Just before one of Carnival’s amazing stage shows, the stage broke – and when I say broke, I mean it became completely unsafe to be used by dancers, which of course made it impossible to stage their production shows. Adam pulled in favors from across the nation, providing other variety acts who could safely maneuver the precarious setting, while keeping his guests thoroughly entertained throughout the cruise with jugglers, magicians, special comedians like Jon Dicrosta and Brad Tassell, along with a thoroughly fantastic Detroit inspired show with Marcus Anthony.
We were blessed to experience another first, at least for us, when Yousef, the Maitre ‘d, invited us to the galley for a private tasting of the upcoming meal. Standing there surrounded by officers and staff, we went down the line with them to sample and comment on the numerous dishes that would be laid shortly before our fellow guests. Many were standard fare that we had experienced – and enjoyed – in the past. But little did I know that in that atmosphere I would venture out to try dishes that I never would have ordered before that night; dishes such as beet carpaccio (that’s right – I said BEET). The subtle flavors of thinly shaved fresh beets marinated in citrus juice and spices burst into a cacophony that hit every single tastebud all at once in the mouth. Amazing! Definitely NOT from a can.
The staff onboard were so friendly, and we had a wonderful time just getting to know them. I previously mentioned Noel and Jess, but since we never really left the ship, we spent a lot of time with entertainment host, Leon, formerly of Nickelodeon fame, as well as Cheyenne, the floor manager. They were truly delightful to just sit and talk with about their lives before cruising, and life onboard. If any of the Carnival beards are reading this, I suggest keeping your eye on Leon – the man is truly Cruise Director material.
As mentioned briefly before, we never really got off the ship. I guess that could be because this was our 16th trip on the Mexican Riviera, so we’ve pretty much seen and done everything possible. We would love for Carnival, our line of choice, to come up with more varied itineraries, but at this point, at least off the West Coast, we have the Mexican Riviera, or we have the short 3- and 4-day party cruises. Of course, it could also be that we see the ship as our destination, with plenty to do and experience, and that never gets old. The fact that it was hotter than blue blazes in Mexico probably was a factor, too. So we enjoyed the respite of not having to dodge all the other guests, and instead had nice, long walks around the Miracle, almost like it was our own private yacht.
The sea is a wonderful place to experience God’s glory in person, and this trip was no different. At sea, all the muggy heat on land is gone, and cooling breezes waft over your slightly damp skin as you relax on your balcony taking in the views. On one of our last nights, we experienced another first – an electrical storm at sea. I can’t even begin to describe the beautiful light show that nature put on for us. The purple skies suddenly lit by crackling lightning emanating both from the clouds, and between them, followed by bursts of thunder, just seconds – or in some cases milliseconds - after. In a past life, I designed lightning protection for land-based structures (in fact, most of the largest buildings in downtown Phoenix have our systems), and to this day I still like to close my eyes when the lightning crashes down, and see dollar signs reflected in my eyelids. Some things in this world are just too beautiful to be feared.
So there it is; the beauty of the sea, the sparse beauty of Cabo’s arches reflected in the rippling water, and the excitement of the jungle area around Puerto Vallarta, and all the amenities of the ship came together to form a wonderful experience of firsts that proved over and again, cruising is an adventure. Live the adventure and enjoy, regardless of what the adventure brings. Read Less