Carnival decided to reposition my favorite ship from NYC to the West Coast...so a year ago, when I learned of this sad news, I had to book this rare treat of a 10-day! A little about myself: I'm a solo cruiser with a cruise history of 25 past cruises on Celebrity, Norwegian, one on HAL, 13 with Carnival (6th time on the Miracle). I cruise 2 or 3 times a year, usually out of NY.
Embarkation day for us had a storm brewing, and it definitely impacted our first couple of days. I'm from the Hudson Valley of NY so I drove to the port. I dropped off my luggage with the porters, drove around & then back up to park at the pier ($350) because it's extremely convenient to do so.
Check-in was a breeze & we were boarding before noon. I went up to Lido, had a light lunch, & happily met up with friends with whom I had cruised before. It was freezing cold that day! After braving the cold for as long as we could stand it, I invited everyone to my cabin, ordered a couple of bottles of wine & we chatted until they called the muster drill. The muster drill went quickly & smoothly & then we were on our way!
Embarkation night & the 1st sea day & night were extremely rocky and rolly! The Captain said 24' waves. The crew said it was worse than when they went through Hurricane Sandy. That first night 2 bottles of wine crashed to the floor & broke...I called guest services, who sent someone quickly to clean the glass...and the next day they replaced the wine, which I greatly appreciated.
My Cabin - I was in an Ocean Suite, starboard side, aft. I love this category of cabin for it's size, it's slightly larger balcony (2 chairs, 1 table, 1 lounger), the large bathroom with jetted tub & a fabulous shower. There are more closets & a ton of drawers. My cabin steward was Francis Mendoza & he was among the best I've ever been lucky enough to have. I told him that I'm always out early so I would appreciate an early make up of the cabin, & he always delivered. He kept the cabin immaculate, always brought ice, and always was smiling & engaging. A true gem.The Dining - I was late-dining, seated at a 6-top, with a couple that I had cruised with once before in 2010, plus 3 others from our current roll call. The MDR menu options were plentiful and good. One night I asked if they could prepare just plain shrimp broiled with lemon... rather than the menu description of cooking it with tomato sauce...and they happily did that for me. I appreciated that little extra. Our waiters were friendly and attentive, and we never waited long for anything.
On 2 of the evenings I had dinner in the steakhouse, Nick & Nora's, with friends...and the 2 meals were fantastic & well worth the $35 charge. I was very disappointed the first night however, not because of the food, but rather because of the lack of attention to detail by the maitre'd in the steakhouse. We were a party of 3, and out of necessity had to change our reservation time from 6:30 to 8:30...and I asked the maitre'd to tell one of my friends (who I couldn't reach!) that the NEW time was 8:30. I gave the maitre'd my friend's name & description. When my friend arrived at 6:30 she was told there was no reservation in my name & the poor girl sat there for 15 minutes before leaving. I was horrified and embarrassed. I think that was unexcusable.
We had the Punchliner Brunch 4 times on sea days....the food was good, I had eggs benedict twice (hollandaise on the SIDE!) & huevos rancheros twice. I could've done without the comedian...none of them were funny & it was all rather awkward. On the 5th sea day they dispensed with the Brunch & reinstated distinct "breakfast" and "lunch" options. When they announced this news in the MDR during dinner the night before, a huge round of applause went up from the crowd!
I just about never ate lunch, but one time was starving & had a burger from the Lido grill, & one time a Reuben from the deli. Both were yummy.
I often grabbed an iced coffee from the coffee shops...one Lido aft right before the Serenity area, and one behind the casino. I love their iced coffee!Activities - It was the same trivia, the same Karaoke tryouts....it's getting a little old, they need to come up with something new I think. I spent a fair amount of time in the casino & was happy with the results! Casino Host Zoran made a special effort to make my casino experience memorable & I certainly appreciated it. One of the dinners at Nick & Nora's was courtesy of the Casino, plus one day they sent an enormous chocolate mountain (best way I can describe it!) to my cabin. The bar waiters in the casino were attentive & friendly.
Disembarkation - Usually I self-assist off, but this time I put the luggage out because I had too much for 1 person to handle. We arrived very early back in NY...we were under the Verrazano before 5AM...and the ship was cleared pretty early as well. The self-assist people were off first & then I was off by around 8:30ish. Customs was a breeze...I had expected to have to pay duty, but the customs agent just looked at me & said Welcome Home! I found a porter with a cart, we found my 26" and my 24" ( did I mention I overpacked?), added my duffle with all the "pay-duty-on-it" purchases, plus my carry-on...and he & I continued up to the parking deck. Because it was so cold back in NY, a little earlier I had remote-started my car from my balcony! The porter put all of my luggage into the now warmed-up car :), I tipped him handsomely, and I was off!
It was a great cruise for me. Thank goodness I don't get seasick...some people did. The ship was fabulous...I will miss her, but am booked on the Splendor for June...the crew was great, seeing my friends again was great, the ports were great. We had an extremely active roll call (over 5000 posts by embarkation day) and it was just so much fun meeting many of this large group...some of whom will be lifelong friends. We had 2 Meet N Greets (1 formal, 1 informal), a poker cabin crawl, a 2-hour private open-bar cocktail party, and 2 slot pulls! I encourage everyone to become active on their roll calls!
Fabulous cabin! Large bathroom with jetted tub & great shower & dual sinks. Dressing area with lighted mirror, vanity & stool, & closets. Main cabin area is very spacious with 2 additional closets, plenty of drawers and storage, a bar area, a couch, chair & cocktail table. Large expanse of floor to ceiling windows. The balcony is very long with 2 chairs, a table and a lounger.
I love Grand Turk...have been there many times & never get tired of it. Last April we did the snorkel & stingrays with Carnival & had a blast. This time I went straight to Margaritaville & hung out at the pool with friends all day. It was a gorgeous day, warm but not sweltering. I had a Bloody Mary early, then later had 2 "perfect margaritas (yummy!) & a "Cheeseburger in Paradise". The waitstaff were attentive & very nice people.
Having been to San Juan many times before, this time I decided to hang on the ship & have a "me" day. I was at the Lido pool for a while, on my balcony reading my Nook for a while, it was all good, had a great day!
On previous calls at San Juan we had gone to El Morro which was excellent, did shopping in Old San Juan, took the city tour, did the Bioluminescent Bay kayaks, which was great. And most times we went to dinner at The Parrot Club in Old San Juan, which I highly recommend to anyone who likes fish. And martinis!
St.Thomas remains one of my favorite ports ever. I ALWAYS go to Sapphire Beach, which is the most beautiful, in my humble opinion. This time we had 45 people from our roll call at Sapphire Beach from 9AM (leaving Havensight) until 1:30 (pick up at the beach to return to Havensight). We contracted with Godfrey from Godfrey Tours, who sent 2 open-air taxis for us & who was kind and courteous and prompt as usual. We could've stayed longer at the beach because our ship wasn't leaving until 6PM...but many wanted to save some time for shopping.
I signed up to go to Jost Van Dyke for a half day snorkel & beach ($70) with tour operators BVI360. It was a beautiful day in Tortola, & Sam from BVI360 met 17 of us at the pier with an open air taxi. Before we left the dock area he explained that the ocean was very rough right now (we knew that, we knew that, lol)...and therefore we had to drive to the south side of Tortola to catch the boat to JVD. Then he added that all of us would get very wet on the crossing to JVD where the Atlantic met the Carribean. He further mentioned that someone drowned last week. During the half-hour drive to Pusser's Landing (where we were to catch the boat) I re-thought this whole thing & decided to back out! Sam brought the group to the marina where they were divided into 2 groups...one group in a regular boat and 1 group in a rubber zodiac! Sam brought me back to the pier where I wandered and shopped at the market & had a great day. BVI360 refunded my $70 promptly via Paypal which is how I initially paid for it.
It was my own choice to do this...those that went had a good time. Next time I'm in Tortola I'm going back to Lambert Beach which I've been to before & loved. I guess I'm a big chicken!