The short version: A great cruise with wonderful food, and exciting excursions. Try the “3 Specialty Restaurants for $35” pass! The Maya Island excursion on Roatan was relaxing and the rehab animals were amazing. The Rendezvous Quay Excursion in Belize is Great!
Friday, April 22 - We decided that instead of paying for parking, we would stay at a park-and-cruise hotel in Galveston. This turned out to be a less than spectacular idea. We stayed at the Beachcomber Inn which was a little over 4 miles from the port. The hotel was OK, nothing special, and the parking for cruisers was parallel along a fence and had very few spots. We got there and checked in on Friday evening for our Saturday cruise. The room was comfortable if not fancy. The noise outside was quite loud from many people, we think, preparing to take their cruise and partying late into the night. We found out that getting a Lyft or Uber from that hotel to the cruise port was either impossible or expensive. Uber did not pick up from the hotel and Lyft wanted a minimum of $29 each way. Since we had already paid a premium for the parking-cruise room (we paid over $150 per night while the room itself through the hotel was $120), paying $58 for the round-trip Lyft ride would have made staying at the hotel and parking there for a week more expensive than parking at one of the cruise parking sites. Eventually, we decided that my husband would drop me and my luggage off at the port, then he would return to the hotel and park, then walk to the cruise terminal (4.2 miles).
Saturday, April 23 – we got up early and had a light breakfast at Cajun Joe’s, then my husband dropped me and the luggage off at the terminal at around 7:30 AM. I made myself comfortable and read while waiting for the crew staff to start accepting luggage. My husband drove back to the hotel only to find that there were very few parking spots left. Two were so small and tight, only a very mini car would have fit there. He found one last spot as far from the office as possible and parked the car there. He then walked the 4.2 miles to the cruise terminal. Although I was one of few waiting at the terminal so early, by the time they started accepting luggage at 9 AM, the area was quite full of people. I wheeled my two pieces of luggage to the far end of the cruise terminal and they exclaimed that it was priority and apparently I could have turned it in earlier. When I returned to the bench where I had been sitting, someone else had already claimed my seat. My husband showed up from his walk at about 9:35. Our appointment for check-in was listed as 10:30 AM to 11 AM. When they opened the doors and started letting people in, I asked and they told me to go ahead and enter. Carnival has a new check-in procedure. Much of it is done online, including its verification of vaccination via VeriFLY, a new app. So upon entering, we first stopped at one of four or five stands where a woman checked our boarding passes. Unfortunately, my printer had printed our passes duplex, so my pass was on one side and my husband’s was on the other. This was not acceptable and she had to go print small boarding passes for us. She waved us on and a young man chased us down to verify more health information. We then went through a security checkpoint where only two of four x-ray machines were working. From there we went to the long counters for the rest of our check in procedure. They took our pictures and checked our passports. From there, we walked into a huge room with thousands of chairs and were told to be seated and wait for our boarding number to be called. We were some of the first 30 or so people in that huge space. By 1130, it was packed with people and many folks were using chairs to hold their luggage, which was somewhat rude since everyone was told they had to be seated and there were not enough chairs. Several announcements were made, but they were very hard to hear because people would not stop talking. Eventually, around noon they announced that we could board in order of the boarding number listed on the boarding pass. Ours was B3, but “priority” was also listed on the lower left-hand corner. They called priority first, so we made our way to a cattle chute of people and headed aboard. (This whole new boarding procedure seems cumbersome and needlessly time consuming. The only benefit we noticed was that entering the ship was easier. There was no long line on the gangway; once you climbed up the boarding ramp, you could walk right on the ship and head to Lido deck for lunch.) One other major change is in their Safety briefing at muster stations. Now, all passengers must go to their muster station and have a five minute demonstration of the lifejackets and proper procedure to receive emergency siren sounds. It was very quick and easy for us, but we heard many announcements begging passengers to go and do their safety briefing so that we could leave on time. After our safety briefing, we went to Lido (Deck 10) and snagged a table and chairs out by the pool on the aft deck, got a drink and some snacks, and relaxed. (Since our room key/payment cards were supposed to be outside our cabin, and we could not get to our cabin until 1:30 PM, we were able to use our boarding pass to buy drinks.) We both had on swimsuits under our clothes, as per our usual plan, but because the hot tubs were in the direct sun, my easily sunburned husband decided to forgo taking a dip. After finishing my margarita, I hopped in to ease my aching back and it was very nice. At 1:30 PM, we made our way down to our cabin on deck 8. As usual, only some of the elevators were working for passengers while others were being used to transport luggage. My husband took the stairs, and I, with my cane, took one of two elevators that were working. We met our room Steward, Macline, who greeted us by name for the rest of the cruise. Our cabin was number 8476, an extended-balcony cabin at the very back of the ship. Our luggage had already been delivered, so I unpacked and organized while my husband took a nap. We spent the next hour or so trying to make sure the Carnival HUB app and our Wi-Fi were working. We had purchased the mid range Wi-Fi plan, but had a very hard time getting it to work on our phones. We eventually took a walk around the ship and made reservations (and paid $5.50 each) for an IMAX theater showing of the Hubble repair at 7 PM. We had dinner reservations at the 555 steakhouse at 8 PM. After walking a bit, we returned to our cabin to rest and prepare for the evening. There were several announcements stating that our departure was delayed for some bureaucratic reason. Eventually the ship was cleared to leave and we pushed off around 5:30 PM. We watched the departure from our rear facing balcony and saw a couple of dolphins, many gulls, and some pelicans as the ship moved off down the Galveston channel. The Hubble IMAX show was excellent; a very entertaining and interesting 3-D IMAX movie which we really enjoyed; it might be the best IMAX movie we’d ever seen. Our dinner at the 555 Steakhouse was wonderful. We started with the stuffed mushrooms appetizer which we shared, then my husband had a classic Caesar salad while I had the baked onion soup. This was followed by the Dover sole for him and the filet mignon for me with sides of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with wasabi and garlic rapini, which we shared. For dessert, there was an incredibly good cheesecake which we also shared. Because of a first night promotion, we received a free bottle of wine with dinner. After dinner, we wandered down to the Atrium Lobby to listen to the violin trio (Syzygy Trio) playing for a few minutes before making our way to the rear of the ship and back to our cabin.