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13,276 Family Cruise Reviews

I wanted to post some thoughts on our recent experience on Carnival Spirit and the Mexican Riviera (this is my first review, so please set expectations appropriately). We went with Carnival for family and Camp Carnival, and we were not ... Read More
I wanted to post some thoughts on our recent experience on Carnival Spirit and the Mexican Riviera (this is my first review, so please set expectations appropriately). We went with Carnival for family and Camp Carnival, and we were not disappointed. If you have small kids who like to play with other small kids, they will love Camp Carnival. Overall, I was pleased with most aspects of the trip, and especially impressed with the Camp Carnival Programs and staff, which made my 3 yr old son incredibly happy and busy the whole cruise. This was the reason we chose carnival and they really came through on this aspect, which was critical for us and will bring us back to carnival in the future. While there were the big lines occasionally (Lido for buffet, Camp carnival pick-up and drop off, some key events and giveaways, I never really felt crowded or on a ship with 2k other people. So, on with some details: Embarkation: By doing our paperwork on line, I think we stood in line for 10 - 15 minutes before getting our Sail and sign cards, and moving to the next holding area before our zone was called in another 15 minutes. All told, we were in the terminal no more than 45 minutes from taxi drop off to walking on the ship. Great experience and we have been through much worse. Public Rooms: All were clean and in good shape. We made it through most of the ship and different areas, but hung out mainly on the upper decks (9 and 10) where pools, stage, activities, etc. were. Occasionally saw slight wear and tear, but that was usually identified quickly by crew and fixed immediately. Cabin: We had a balcony room and significantly over packed, but even with twice as much clothes as we actually used, we had plenty of storage. Would have been nice to get the minibar removed for more storage, but not a major issue. They converted the Sofa to our son's bed and pushed the 2 twins together into a King for my wife and I, which was fine (if not a little firmer than we are used to). The balcony was nice and we used it occasionally (especially a few times when the AC didn't seem to work properly and we would prop the cabin door slightly ajar and then prop open the balcony door and get a great breeze through the cabin to cool things down). Wish they would have had rails for my son's bed, but we adjusted to his trying to fall out of the bed by tucking the open side of the bed covers tightly in and then just letting get under the covers from the bulkhead side opening, which solved some concerns there. We also had the little cabin coffee table moved our onto the balcony o provide more walking room. Bathrooms were fine and shower was even roomy (and I'm a big guy 6'4" and 300+ lbs). Cabin Steward was great (and we had a couple accidents that he took care of immediately) and my son loved the towel animals. It was the only way for us to get him out of Camp Carnival some nights was to tell him about the new critter waiting on him. Fitness and recreation: Never used the fitness area, but it looked nice when we toured it, however the minigolf course was a big hit with my son and we used it pretty much every day or so. Pools were nice and clean and cold and Salty. Hot pools were enjoyable especially after the dip in the big pools. But they were always busy, so getting in was sometimes slow. We used the main pools and never even used the aft pool. Also we tried out the Kiddies Pool on deck 11 one day, but my 3 year old was far too big for it. It would be great for 0 - 2 years olds and has a nice canopy cover for it. Enrichment: Probably the area I thought was most lacking on this ship. Other than some old games (Charades, pictionary, etc.) organized by cruise staff, nothing really to do mid-40s adults. If you were not sitting up on the deck baking, or down on deck two ding a bingo game, or trivia contest, etc. You were somewhat bored for periods of time. I certainly think they had the space to host lectures on skills and interests (digital photography, computers, finance, etc.). Heck, even model building projects for fathers and kids (yes, I'm biased, it could just as well be moms and kids). A couple of Wine and meal pairing classes for a surcharge, but that's it. Rates: Room rates were acceptable and we missed getting our fuel charge back as OBC by 3 days, but it really began to irk me how much efforts was being put into taking more money from you in every possible manner. From outrageous table rake at the one electronic poker table, to the unbelievable number of photos being taken (both the evening and every port call) but also 2 or 3 rounds through camp carnival and with Santa. All available for purchase at incredibly high mark up. But they are a business, so making money is there business and keeping our money as consumers is ours. Dining: Given we were with our 3 yr old, we didn't eat in the main dining room much (3 times I think). And we were placed completely up in the corner and had no one else at our table, so no incentive to show up and visit. The food quality was not bad; lido deck buffets were usually good and lines not too long. Sandwiches and pizza were always available and good. One problem was the Sundae bar, which was hardly ever open and we could never figure out time and schedule (since its not posted anywhere) its only open from 3 - 5 pm on sea days and its on the fantail next to the fantail bar. a # of times we came there and they were just closing up or not yet opened. Annoying, but not showstoppers as the ice cream machines were open 24 hrs, and my son was happy, but the sundae bar offers real ice cream (hand scooped) of much better quality. So it should be taken advantage of. Room service was quick, we never did breakfast, but a couple late evening drink needs were filled quickly. Entertainment: We never went to any shows, but we heard the band/orchestra in various other locations and they were pretty good. I heard several other passengers commenting on how bad the shows were and my only experience was the Christmas wrap up show and the dancers and singers were in fact not that great, so we were not unhappy about missing the shows). Service: Was usually good and my 3 yr old has a smile that all crew members wanted to enjoy and so they came by the table pretty often. Dining room service lacked some (we have traveled a number of times on celebrity ships and their dining rooms are fantastic). Room steward was great as mentioned earlier and a tremendous help in our emergencies (one the last night at midnight). Had a couple spa treatments, I can highly recommend the hot shave for the men, even though there is some pushing of products, the barber who does them is great and certainly was an enjoyable 50 minutes (apparently I fell asleep and snored too!!). Shore Excursions: We did not book anything through the ship and made our plans by using the boards here and meeting others on the cruise. We only got off the ship 1 day at Z/I and grabbed a cab to playa la ropa and the restaurant la perla. Rented chairs, sat under umbrella while my son played in the sand and surf and I fended off the local entrepreneurs with all varieties of merchandise coming by. Annoying, but not too bad. Having food and drinks delivered to me was very nice. With our son, we knew we could not sign up for any of the serious excursions, so the one above was fine. Its worth it to note that you can leave the kids in camp carnival if you want to do excursions, and while we were not initially comfortable with this concept, by the end of the cruise, we would have done this no problem. Acapulco wasn't worth getting off the ship because of crowds, vendors and beggars and in Manzanillo; we docked at an industrial terminal, nothing within walking distance. Many people talked about Z/I being the best place for a beach day if you have little ones. Value: We got a good vacation and break for my wife and I and my son had more fun in a week than he would have in three months at home, so all in all, well worth the money and we will do it again. However, we will not go back to Mexico, nothing we saw was worth the price to come down. I recommend the Carnival Spirit as a great family cruise for all ages as long as don't expect intellectual stimulation, enjoy simple fun and games and time with the kids (and away from the kids). Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My wife has often stated a desire to sail on "the biggest ship." When my scans revealed that my cancer had disappeared, I immediately went out and booked us on the Freedom of the Seas as a reward for her wonderful care during my ... Read More
My wife has often stated a desire to sail on "the biggest ship." When my scans revealed that my cancer had disappeared, I immediately went out and booked us on the Freedom of the Seas as a reward for her wonderful care during my recovery from Lymphoma. Still the largest cruise ship afloat, until the Oasis is introduced, the Freedom fit her criteria nicely. Our sailing was set for December 14th and we drove from our Tampa Bay area home on the 13th to spend a brief day exploring Miami. We splurged a little on a downtown hotel so we could have the convenience of walking to Bayside and easy departure on sailing day. We were joined on our cruise by friends from Indiana and after picking them up for some light sight seeing and a lovely shrimp lunch, we headed to the port. Easy to find, drop everyone off with the bags and park the car. There is a very convenient parking garage right at the port and we found our ship easily (how can you miss something that big?) At $20 per day, I thought parking was a bit pricey but certainly convenient. In fact, we found the entire check in process convenient and relatively painless. We had filled out all of the important documents via Internet before hand and it took us less than an hour to park, check our bags, sign in, and board the Freedom. Remember your passport. We were on board by 2:00 PM with plenty of time to explore the ship before the scheduled 4:30 sailing. We found our cabin a delight. We had chosen a balcony cabin for the comfort of a little bit of extra space. However, we found the interior of the cabin to be compact, efficient, and convenient. Everything has a spot for storage, my wife was thrilled to find the hair dryer plugged in and ready to go. I was particularly impressed with the large queen sized bed with egg crate mattress. Not only comfortable but larger than my queen sized bed at home. A real treat, including reading lights for both of us. Departure was pretty much on time and we headed out to an angry sea with 15 foot waves. To my relief, the massive size of the ship acted as a buffer and we were amazingly stable even in such large waves. I tend to be a little sea sensitive but got through dinner with no problem as well as the rest of evening. There are a host of dining options on the Freedom, all of them excellent. On our first night we opted for our assigned dining in the Galileo dining room. Our traveling companions joined us at a table for 8. Unfortunately, we had no other dining companions at the table but benefited from a little extra attention from our waiter and assistant. As you might expect, the food was delicious complete with appetizer, main course, plenty of dinner rolls, desert, beverage, and alternative dinner selections aplenty if needed. Simply stated, everything we tried was exquisitely prepared, proper temperature, delicious, and a delight both to the eye and the palette. None of our group tried any dinner wine so I can not comment on that, although we all laughed when we saw on the final night that they did not even bother to set up wine glasses for us. There are also two upscale dining options, Chops and Portofino's. Both claim to offer a spectacular dining experience but charge a substantial cover charge. Since the standard dining fare was spectacular to our taste we did not try either of those two venues. Our traveling companions decided to try the Johnny Rocket's diner for lunch one day and pronounced it very good complete with burgers, french fries, and onion rings for an additional cover charge of $3.95. Something about paying extra for dining on a cruise does not sit right with us and we chose to avoid them all. Guess we're old fashioned. The more casual dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was provided by Jade and the Windjammer. Jade was an asian themed buffet with rice, noodles, sushi in the evening, oriental soups and always some sort of meat and vegetable dish. OK, but not spectacular, offering food from many different asian locations throughout the week. The better choice, at least for us, was the Windjammer. We were surprised to find that the menu available buffet style through the Windjammer duplicated what was served that night in the formal dining rooms. So if you really liked the chicken and mushroom dish, you didn't have to ask your waiter for seconds. You just wandered up and refilled your plate. In addition the Windjammer offered a really wide assortment of soups, salads, deserts, main dishes, burgers, hot dogs for the kids (yes, I tried one) and a beverage station. The wait staff in the Windjammer was friendly, attentive, and courteous. I have been on some other cruises where the food service virtually disappeared after 7:00 PM. Not so here; the Windjammer seemed to go on and on all night long. By the way, I was particularly pleased and impressed with the limitless smoked salmon with all the fixings served at breakfast every morning. You want eggs? We got 'em. But there is something particularly civilized with some smoked salmon on a bagel surrounded by onion, capers, and tomato. Cream cheese? No thank you. I'm dieting. Not full yet? For a quick snack there was Sorrento's pizza parlor or the Promenade Cafe with Seattle's Best coffee and wonderful Mudslide cookies. Abundant on board shopping was available on the Promenade with shops for everything you could want. The casino was pleasant but not particularly productive (for me anyway.) I was disappointed that the slot machines did not deal in quarters, dollars, etc. but rather paper slips which recorded your balance and to play a machine, you just insert the slip into the machine. There is something magic about the sound of a slot machine spitting out a hundred coins. The designers must realize that because as your slip is printing out, the machine plays a recorded sound track of coins falling into the tray. There was an entertainment "spectacular" virtually every night with a really good cast of singers and dancers, live orchestra, etc. I particularly enjoyed the ice skating (!) show and the magic show but everything I saw was first class, well staged with good props and costumes, and professional in every way. I've lost count but there were a bunch of swimming pools, hot tubs, water spot for the kiddies, surfing, and so on. Also mini golf, basketball court, golf simulator, ping pong, card rooms, library, Spa, health club, running track, and on and on. If you get bored on this ship you should probably stay home in front of your TV and eat canned beans for dinner. The previous sailing of the Freedom had encountered Norovirus. Kind of a "sick ship" syndrome. The ship staff went all out to eliminate any chance of this. Banisters and railing were constantly wiped down. Antiseptic hand wipes were positioned at the entrance to all dining facilities and at random through out the ship. Written warnings were also posted everywhere. I give Royal Caribbean full credit for educating their guests to proper hygiene instead of trying to hide the issue. To the best of my knowledge, we had no issues on our cruise. Our first port of call was San Juan, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately due to the high winds, our arrival in San Juan was delayed and we had relatively limited time there. Enough for a quick stroll through Old San Juan, look for a Puerto Rican cook book (all the book stores were closed) and back to the ship. Our next visit was to St. Thomas where we opted for a tour arranged through the Internet. As most such tours, this gave us a feel for the sights but nothing in depth. Just a taste in case you choose to come back. Our final tour, also arranged through the Internet, was a fairly comprehensive view of St. Maarten (the Dutch side) and St. Martin (the French side) of the island including a couple of beach stops. Again, I know enough now to know where I would eat if I had the chance to go back (instead of the shack at the beach where we did eat.) When, regrettably, our cruise was over and we were back in port in Miami, we found the disembarkation process streamlined and efficient. We were given color coded tags the evening before for our luggage. The color representing a time frame for our departure. After a quick breakfast we hung out for a relatively short time until they called our color, out the door, wait for our luggage and zoom..."We're outta here." The whole process took little over an hour and we were early! In summation, let me say that Royal Caribbean the Freedom of the Seas met our every expectation with ease. We loved the trip, we were treated well by everyone we came in contact with and at all times felt that we were valued customers. RCL will be our first choice anytime we are considering a cruise in the future and if you get on the Oasis in '09 or '10, whenever it is launched. Look for us....I'll be the one with the beard. Ken & Beck H. Safety Harbor, FL Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Cruise History: This was our 7th cruise with prior cruises on Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. We are a family of 3 with a tween girl. Prior to the cruise, I read all the Star reviews as well as the NCL Boards to get hints. ... Read More
Cruise History: This was our 7th cruise with prior cruises on Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. We are a family of 3 with a tween girl. Prior to the cruise, I read all the Star reviews as well as the NCL Boards to get hints. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at 12:00. The lines were a little long but moved fast. By 12:25 we were on the ship and in our cabin. Cabin: 10730 is an aft balcony. The balcony is approx 8 x 11 and looked double that of a regular balcony cabin. The cabin is near a kitchen air vent. Most of the time we were treated to the smell of baking cookies and baking bread. The hallway is very wide near the room and there was little traffic at the back of the ship. The cabin was very clean with only minor signs of wear. The only real problem we had was that the cabin only had 2 sets of towels. It took a phone call to the front desk to get the 3rd set. Then it took an additional day to get the 3rd pool towel. Thus, for the first day at sea, we had to share 2 pool towels. Not a major issue, but a problem which could have been handled faster. Also, on 2 days the cabin was not made-up until after 1 PM even though we vacated it before 10:00 AM. Entertainment: The dancers were high energy. Cirque Pacific was a nice combo of dance and acrobats. For those more interested in acrobats only, they should go to the acrobat only show in the Spinnaker lounge. The magic show, and the juggling show, had a few 4 letter words, and jokes, that would give it a PG-13 rating. Not too bad for a tween but we warned for younger kids. The Cruise Director Paul was funny and even mention that a comment he made would probably end-up on Cruise Critic. Do not miss the crew talent show on the last sea day. I will not ruin the surprise but you will never think the same about Greek fountains again. Ship: The ship looked great and the bright carpets looked clean and new. The only cleaning issues were caused by the guests. To fill cabins, the cruise was discounted in the final weeks. The cabins were all filled but a few of the people clearly were not frequent cruisers. They would push in the food lines, leave trash and plates all over the place, and act like they owned the ship. The crew had their hands full dealing with the rude people. The same people you find on 3 day Carnival cruises. As for kids, not a problem. Very few kids on the ship or at the pool. A good thing since the kids program would rate below Disney, RCCL, and Carnival. However, for Christmas there was going to be 800 kids. Thus, it all depends on when you cruise. Food: We are easy to please and found the food to be enjoyable. Aqua seemed a little small so we ate at Versailles for most of the nights. We loved Anak and Karen who worked tables number 9-12 (and a few others). We asked the seater every night for Anak and she was great making our wish come true. Anak would make napkin animals for our daughter and would say hi every time he saw us around the ship. To get the table you want, either arrive about 20 minutes before the restaurant opens (and wait in line) or eat after 7:20 at night (with no waiting). Those who waited in line did so because they picked the busy times of 5:30-7:15, or arrived after a show ended. If you, and 400 people arrive when a show ends, you have to expect a line! For a fun kids game, try to guess what the chilled fruit soup will be each night (hint: 2 are not traditional fruits). Buffet: All 3 of us were able to find something we liked here on each trip. Only at the first lunch, and at the last breakfast, did the buffet run out of some items and looked below standards. There is little seating but, by avoiding peak times, we were able to find a seat. Ports: All ports have free beaches a short walk away. The star does not dock in PV. A guess would be that there is no dock space. The Star is too long to share the dock with the pirate ship and thus has to Tender. As for the medical issue another reviewer mentioned, it was a large woman with an injured foot. She would not allow herself to be carried down the stairs to the tender and it was not safe to use the wheelchair on the steps. For 20 minutes the crew tried to get her on the tender so she could get medical help in PV. The crew was get in their efforts however it did freeze the tender process for a short period. Overall the cruise would be a B+. We still like RCCL better but would pick NCL as a number 2 (daughter too old for Disney). Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I've never booked a holiday cruise, I thought it would be kind of neat to have someone else do the decorating, someone else do the cooking, cleaning, while the family and I have some R&R. First of all, the Valor holds a ... Read More
I've never booked a holiday cruise, I thought it would be kind of neat to have someone else do the decorating, someone else do the cooking, cleaning, while the family and I have some R&R. First of all, the Valor holds a maximum of 2,970 passengers. [IMG]http://inlinethumb22.webshots.com/43285/2640731880054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] We were told there were over 3,500 passengers. And you could feel it. Trying to get off the ship and into some of the ports was a nightmare. We didn't bother getting off in the Cayman Islands. There were just too many people. We didn't bother getting off in Belize. The tenders were running an hour apart. Again, too many people. That was the #1 negative aspect of the whole cruise. Too many people. [IMG]http://inlinethumb42.webshots.com/20265/2527199400054487361S425x425Q85.jpg[/IMG] It was a lovely afternoon when we left Miami. Sky's were partly sunny, windy, and a nice balmy 80 degrees. Beautiful pink and orange sunset over Miami. We got a nice stateroom near the stairs on Empress, with a balcony (starboard side). The balcony was a great idea only because it served as an additional living area for us. I could step outside early in the mornings and have my morning tea, without waking the kids. [IMG]http://inlinethumb64.webshots.com/24063/2514907300054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] Only issue I had were my neighbors.. One of them brought a transistor radio on board and ruined the peace and sounds of the ocean every time he turned it on.. So many times I wanted to call his room and ask him to play the radio down by the pool... But when he wasn't on his balcony blasting his transistor radio, the quiet was beautiful. Hearing the water hit the boat was serene. We chose to do most of our eating in the formal dining room. We were assigned to the Washington section, and we had a lovely duo of gentleman that waited on us hand and food. Ronald and Lennox were the two. And it's true what they say about the food on the cruise ships. It is abundant, no boundaries, fresh ingredients, yet all the food tasted the same. You could eat as much as you wanted. This is your chance to gain as much weight as you like. Food presentation is fabulous. Everything comes out of the kitchen with an artistic appeal. Yet, because they have to feed the masses, it must be bland enough to please most everyone. And when I say bland, I truly mean it. But I'll get to that later. We had four ports of call: Cayman, Belize, Cozumel & Roatan. Roatan... Roatan was a pleasurable experience. It was a beautiful, lush island full of colorful people. The harbor where the tour guides met us off the ship was heavily congested. We chose the ziplining tour with Island Marketing Group. We had booked with them for ziplining and cave tubing in Belize, but because of some problems with merchants, they had to cease the ziplining part of the tour. So we agreed to do the Ziplining with the same company in Roatan. They were more expensive than any of the other Ziplining tours on Roatan. We went ziplining and everyone enjoyed it.... [IMG]http://inlinethumb15.webshots.com/12558/2306089200054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] How often can you go zipping through the jungles at 30 mph and scream with delight? It's definitely an excursion that shouldn't be missed. Shop around and find the best deal. They all go to the same area, just different prices. After the ziplining, we went to West End and hung out all day at Foster's Beach. [IMG]http://inlinethumb26.webshots.com/44057/2718282610054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] I think this was the best part of the cruise, right here.. You won't find a prettier beach, friendlier people, and it was clean!!!!!! [IMG]http://inlinethumb54.webshots.com/42997/2157374340054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] Incredibly clean. We sat around and drank island beers, ate fish taco's, met some local's.. We brought candy and passed it out to the children selling bracelets on the beach. I also paid for a 30 minutes massage ($25 inc tip) from a lady walking around asking if anyone wanted one. I laid down on a beach chaise, closed my eyes and I felt 2 sets of hands on me. One set on my feet and legs, the other set on my back, neck, head and arms. Roatan is a lush island with friendly people. In Cozumel, we signed up online with Mr. Sancho's beach resort and cooking class which cost me $45 per person...(this place was highly recommended on CC) As I understand it, from the people that rented cars and drove over to Mr. Sancho's, they didn't have to pay the "beach fee" that some of us paid. They only paid for their drinks and food. We paid to use the beach, and do a cooking class. I don't want to sound really negative, but I am really trying to be as honest as I can. With anyone. [IMG]http://inlinethumb46.webshots.com/41837/2287245000054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] We got there around 9:30am to enjoy the beach before our cooking class and no one had raked the beach from the previous day's garbage. There was garbage in the sand, under the tables and chairs. Someone on CC had mentioned the old worn out chaise lounges along the shore.. They're still there. Holes, mildew, not to mention that no one had cleaned the sand off them from the previous days beach goers.. So all of us that got there in the morning, cleaned up around the tables we were using. Drinks were $6 for a small margarita.. Keep an eye on your waiter... I never saw my change after the 3rd margarita!!!!! I would love for my kids to write their own review of the cooking class. They were totally disappointed. I didn't have any expectations. I was a little disappointed that there was no protein served. It was all carbs. We learned to stuff peppers and make rice. We made guacamole and margarita's. We were hoping to learn to make tamales or chile rellano's. Anything more authentic would have been fun. Ok....... so we blew off two ports, and went & got off in two ports. On to the ship..... I prefer the smaller ships. I really like Fascination and Imagination because of more opportunities to sit at tables outside. On the Valor, only places you can sit outside is where all the people are. Thousands of people in fact. There is no aft deck on the Valor where you can go sit and drink your morning tea outside, smelling the salty air. You either have to go up along side the rails on the 10th & 11th deck, or go to the back of the ship where the adult pool (that was a joke) has a glass sliding ceiling that they open in good weather... So finding a place to drink a beer, a cup of coffee, a cup of tea ALONE, close to the water, ain't happening. The adult pool. It says it in the capers, it is posted at the pool. I understand it's in English, but it's just not fair for the rest of us that would prefer a quieter place to hang and meet other's, that you should bring your 5 and 9 yr olds to the adult pool because it's close to the pizzeria.. Every time you walk past the casino, you smell only one thing. Wet ashtray smell. Restaurants: (other than the Washington dining room) Rosie's cafeteria- buffet style eating. Tons and tons of food, beautiful presented in mass quantities. Restaurants is always clean, even the seats are brushed off. Food all tastes the same. I sampled all of the protein served. I think my favorite in Rosie's was their cookies... Hot tea and cookies taste wonderful together. It pleases the masses.. and that's all that matters. The Deli-Those guys are great!!!! This became my favorite food source because this food tasted more like what it was supposed to taste like. The pastrami was awesome.. I had it piled on my plate every afternoon along with a giant pile of nova smoked salmon and a huge slice of cream cheese (high sodium alert) and they never skimped on portions!![IMG]http://inlinethumb57.webshots.com/44408/2437316260054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] The fish and chips place- This was pretty good too. After so many people raved about this place on CC, we made sure this was our first meal on the ship. We had the octopus salad, the ceviche, the bouillabaisse, and fish and chips. Awesome food.. Outdoor grill- they have onion rings that taste just like the onion rings at IHOP. [IMG]http://inlinethumb61.webshots.com/27388/2632024860054487361S500x500Q85.jpg[/IMG] Really!!! crunchy cornmeal in the batter.. they never go soggy.. If you're allergic to corn products (Celiacs and Glutton intolerant) I suggest you be real careful with all the breaded stuff.. Pizzeria- best pizza next to the chains on land.. cornmeal on the bottom for the crunch effect. The wait is long and you have to stand there... even if he tells you 15 minutes, stand there or he'll give your slices away.. No joke!!! good pizza.. noticed that this place and the Deli became the most congested food stops as people began to realize how the food all tastes the same.. Scarlett's- Let's just say this was the most real food on the ship. Everything we ate there tasted exactly like it was supposed to. The steaks tasted like steaks, the spinach tasted like spinach.. Seriously folks, this was the only place on the ship where the food tasted like how you know it.... One night, we didn't feel like going to the Washington dining room. But we were hungry and needed something.. So we went down to the cafeteria and walked around.. I spotted the most beautiful hunk of prime rib at one of the carving stations..... It was red, and shiny and fatty.. Absolutely what makes a Chowhound salivate.. I got him to slice me a big hunk and I put a little horseradish on my plate and put a little Au jus on top of the meat.. When I began slicing the beef and eating it, I was chewing and adding and chewing and adding, when I realized I couldn't taste the flavor. All I could taste was the gravy and horseradish. I couldn't taste the meat. I was chewing, but not tasting.. This is how the meat tasted in the dining room every night.. tender, perfectly cooked, and tasteless. That's why I pretty much stuck to the deli. At least I could taste what I was eating.. and I could recognize the flavor. Ok, enough about food.. The cruise isn't about food in my books because they don't cook with spices... This cruise was about being with family and enjoying the amenities on the boat. Loved the gym... Either get there before 8am or after 2pm if you don't want to wait for a machine. I found that the earlier I went, the better chance of getting the bike or elliptical machines. Cruise Director. Never met him, never saw him. Heard him. Housekeeping. Excellent. I was very pleased with the job they did with my two kids. We brought Christmas decorations and did up the whole cabin like a shrine to a Christmas tree.. Everyone around us seemed impressed with all the flashing lights on the balcony, on the door, when the door was opened... It was like a cabaret! We brought little tiny stockings with us and put the housekeeping staff's name on them.. everyday we put goodies in their stockings. The surely appreciated being included in our holiday festivities. Thank you CC for the suggestions of bringing decorations, candy for the children in Roatan, and especially, all the booze! No one bothered us with all the booze we brought on... We brought 8 or so specialty bottle of beers, and champagne and a box of wine... They told us they didn't do preferred toilet paper. We didn't have to ask for robes. We did ask that they empty our fridge. Room service was good too....... If I phoned, we got our order. If my son phoned, we didn't get our order.. Maybe they don't like to deal with kids? Not a problem.. I did the ordering. Passengers... As I said, didn't run across any drunks, not that many of them came to eat in their bathrobes... several, but not a whole lot. Still saw lots of people that piled the food to the ceiling and didn't eat all of what was on their plate. There is still the chaise saving with the towels at the break of dawn. You just have to learn to get up at 6:30am and go put your towels and books down for everyone to know that no is getting that chaise all day. The shows are entertaining.. They are full of energy and youthfulness. You can either choose to hang out on your balcony and listen to the ocean and watch the satellites in the sky or you can go to a show and walk the promenade. Both are fun. I must have counted 8 satellites one night.. The sky is so clear and full of stars. I will add some photo's. My daughter has all the food photo's as she remembered to take the photo's before I dug into the real food up in Scarlett's. Speaking of Scarlett's, if you have a choice between dropping a couple hundred in the casino every night or eating really, really, really good food while on vacation....... hands down!! go to Scarlett's. The steaks are as good as you have ever dreamed of. Creamed spinach with wilted, not overcooked spinach!!!!! Caesar salad made at your table, like the old days. Everything tasted exactly like it was supposed to.. and I know that I've said this before, but I just can't emphasize the fact that the meat is sooooooooooooo bad down in the dining rooms and at the cafeteria. And if you're a beef eater, or if you like food (period) then you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about..... Enjoying a piece of steak that tastes like it came right off a flame broiled grill... not some steam table. #2 negative: All the beef in the other restaurant's tastes like it's been steamed. Rubberized, no taste. Just chew and swallow. Value.. I'm not sure what to say. You are paying for mediocre food, overbooked ship, ports that are difficult to get to and from with tenders.. If you're a cruising fool like me, you figure out what the value of your cruise is to you and your family. My daughter said she thinks they're a waste of time. My son liked his first 2 cruises, but wasn't impressed with this ship. Would I do Carnival again? Not the big ships. I really like the smaller ships with outside seating when I want to smell the salty air and pretend that I'm on this cruise alone. Not with thirty million people. Ok, that's my review.. Honest, a straight shooter. For my next cruise... I was thinking of flying to Europe and then sailing home to Ft. Lauderdale. I would have my balcony, my bathrobe, and lots of room service.. This experience didn't change my mind. I just won't be sailing during holidays anymore. Will post photo's, soon. Will post food photo's when I get them.. (wait till you see the food photo's from Scarlett's.. AWESOME!!) Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the ... Read More
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the Versailles and had a nice lunch. Luggage arrived at 3PM right after lifeboat drill. Cabin; We were in balcony 10730on the aft end the balcony was as advertised on cruise critic it is 90 sq. ft. big for a common balcony so this was nice since we usually book a suite. Stewards were absolutely great of course we have found this to be the norm for NCL. First day at sea: attended cruise critic meeting it was well represented by all key officers expect the Captain it was really a nice gathering -where we meet some really nice fellow cruisers also knowing the officers made it nice for the rest of week greeting them in the hallways or at dinner. Food: tried the Aqua, Versailles, Cagney's, Ginza, buffet, Blue Lagoon. The new balcony cabin breakfast at the Aqua restaurant is one the best improvements NCL has made in it offers a buffet with fruit, pastries, cereal, juice, milk, toast etc. and you can order from the breakfast menu. We also had one dinner at this restaurant it was excellent with great service. The speciality restaurants were excellent I especially like the Ginza and Sushi. Service was excellent on one day at the Ginza and on the last day at sea the service was very slow. The buffet is where the NCl Star needs to improve I thought it was the worst in the NCL fleet ( we have said on the Sun ,Spirit, and Pearl)I rate this buffet as bad there was no omelette station in the mornings and the food was not appealing the fruit and salads were good. The other thing I noticed that on other NCL ships we sailed on the ice cream bar was open until 10PMthe Star closed at 5PM. The Blue Lagoon was fantastic just like the Spirit great wings, fish and chips, and cheese cake- the wong tong soup and tomato soup are both very good. We never used room service. Service: overall service was excellent on a ship fully packed for xmas with over 800 kids onboard. Entertainment: No real comedian act on board. Jean Ryan shows were good.Live music ok need a better dance type band I thought this was a week point. No craft demonstrations or passenger talent contest (one of the crew told me these activities are being done away with), trivia was good.One problem was the ship scheduling entertainment in the Red Lion Pub at the same time as football bowl games it created a few bad situations. I spoke to the cruise director about this. Also I thought there should have more caroling on board by the entertainers/crew on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.christmas decorations thru out the ship were beautiful especially the ginger bread house and town in the main atrium. Ports: Ports were fantastic. We enjoyed each port Solomon's Landing great lunch place in Cabo in Mazatlan was . NCL tour to El Quielte in Mazatlan was fantastic with mexican folkloric dancers, mayan fire dances, horse dancing etc., and a great lunch- In Vallarta we hired a private car and shopped and saw the city and went to Cocos Paradise for lunch thisabout 40 mins. out PV great waterfall zip lining and swimming you spend the whole day there easily. That night we took the Pirates ship excursion a really nice big part open bare entertainment etc. Our 24/25 year old boys went and really enjoyed it. Disembarkation was a breeze we off the ship by 8:30am we pulled into our driveway in San Diego at 10:30am Overall I thought the Star was really lacking in the overall entertainment/crafts package that we have experience on other NCL cruises. The buffet really needs to looked at with improvement in mind. The fact that the Star does not have an aft outside area for passengers off the buffet is really bad we look forward to that feature on other NCL ships. Would we cruise on the Star again yes would it be our first choice in NCL-no because of the ship layout(no aft outdoors area and very small pool area) and buffet design. Big Gren Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We had a great time on this cruise. The ship was just the right size, which meant no waiting for a seat in the dinning room, or any of the other issues that plague the larger ships. We were on the Dolphin Deck Port side, Aft. The ship has ... Read More
We had a great time on this cruise. The ship was just the right size, which meant no waiting for a seat in the dinning room, or any of the other issues that plague the larger ships. We were on the Dolphin Deck Port side, Aft. The ship has terrific stabilizers! We were in a mini suite, and it seemed bigger than the mini suite that we had on the Emerald, last year. The only downside to the ship were the beds. They were so uncomfortable. There were dips in the bed from where others had slept, and my son was on a couch bed, which clearly needed to be replaced. He was very uncomfortable. Our cabin steward brought him in another mattresses (a piece of foam), and an egg crate to try to get it to be more comfortable. Sometimes, these items should be replaced. Our cabin steward was very kind, and efficient. We started off in Ft. Lauderdale, and embarkation was very simple. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 1:00, and walked right on to the ship. Our first port was Aruba, and we were only there for 5 hours not enough time to really do anything. Second port that we went to was Cartegena, Columbia. It was a very poor area, and the only highlights were some of the older sites, a fort, gold museum, inquisition museum. There were a lot of beggars, selling everything from sunglasses to their grandmothers! We were on a private tour by Lee Miles, and it was very good. Our third port was the Panama Canal. That was truly amazing! We hung out on our balcony for the trip through the Gatun locks. Then we shopped at the Christobal Pier for a few hours. Some of the items in the pier shops were neat, some were junk. Our fourth port was Limon, Costa Rica. Wow! We went on a ship tour to the rainforest, and to a banana plantation. It was a very good tour, and the tour guide was excellent. Our fifth port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We've been to Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios was more of the same. We took a cab to the shopping area, and then around the town. I was put out when a vendor approached my fifteen year old to buy drugs. My son spent time at the teen center. He hung out with some of the kids, and then made friends with other kids on the Lido deck. Every night, he was supposed to come back to our room at 1:00 when the teen center closed, and one night when it was 1:30, and he still wasn't back, i got very scared, and I sent my husband to find him. He couldn't find him, so I called passenger services to see if there was anyone up in the teen center, and was told "no." I then told him that our 15 year old wasn't back in our cabin, and I need to say, the person I spoke with asked the right questions....What was he wearing, when was the last time we saw him, and what kind of mood was he in. He told me to stay in our cabin, and about five minutes later my son walked in. He said that he had lost track of time, and was on Deck 15. When I called passenger service to let them know that he was back, he told me that they located my son, on deck 15, talking with other kids. I was impressed by their concern, and the fact that they located him so quickly, and took this issue so seriously. My husband was coming back to our room, and a Princess employee stopped him to tell him that they located our son, and not to worry. The food was good, and there were massive amounts of it. We ate in the dinning room every night but two of the nights, and we did anytime dinning, which I really like because it offers the flexibility I enjoy on vacation. Finally, getting off the ship was very easy, and organized. When we disembarked from the Emerald last year, it was chaotic, so this was a nice change. If Princess changes out the beds, and updates the ship a bit, perhaps replacing some of the carpets, it has a winner with the Island Princes. The size is perfect. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 2nd cruise with Carnival. The first was on the Conquest. Compared to the Conquest, the Pride is a bit smaller in size. Despite the size difference the amenities seemed mostly the same. We arrived at the port early (before ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise with Carnival. The first was on the Conquest. Compared to the Conquest, the Pride is a bit smaller in size. Despite the size difference the amenities seemed mostly the same. We arrived at the port early (before 11am), and were able to par-take in the early check-in process. I highly recommended that anyone traveling on a cruise try and get in on the early check-in as it reduces the stress of getting on-board. On our first cruise we did not check-in early and waited in a line to check in for over 2 hours. So, with the early check-in there were no lines. We got our Sail and Sign cards right away. There was a short wait (till 12 noon) before we could board. Other than that it was clear sailing (pun intended) to get onboard. Since the rooms were not ready till 1:30 we hung out on the Lido deck and enjoyed the free sparkling wine until our room was ready. For this cruise we had a Oceanview Balcony room about mid-ship. Room was what we expected, other than the hair we found on the bed spreads. Guess they were in a hurry to make the rooms, and did not take the extra care to make sure the bed spreads were clear of any debris. The cabin steward did take care of the issue, but it make us leery of what else was not changed out. We did not find anything else wrong with the room. Departure from shore was late due to late flight arrivals. Carnival held the ship up to allow the people arriving on the late flights to get on-board. Once we set sail, the seas were calm and we were off to our first port. We had 2 full days at sea before reaching Port (Puerto Vallarta). Kids enjoyed their time with the Camp Carnival group. Traveling with a 3 and 9 year-old (both Girls). The kids were always asking to go to the camp instead of spending time with us. We were more than happy to accommodate their request, which gave us some time alone, and time to go spend time with other adults. Dining room staff (Thomas and Libor) were fantastic. They treated us well, and took care of us. The kids really liked them. Some of the Casino staff were excellent. They would chat with you and get to know you. Other members of the staff were very stiff and impersonal. Being this was a Christmas Cruise, I was hoping to see more Christmas related items. While there were some, I was expecting more. Will not be taking another cruise Xmas week. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We were looking for a winter vacation away from Chicago cold weather. Being numerous times in Caribbean we decided on an interesting itinerary- Spain, Portugal and Canary Islands. I found a good deal online, but it turned out, that the ... Read More
We were looking for a winter vacation away from Chicago cold weather. Being numerous times in Caribbean we decided on an interesting itinerary- Spain, Portugal and Canary Islands. I found a good deal online, but it turned out, that the agent I picked was not helpful at all after I booked with her. We exchanged about 9 e-mail after I noticed the price of the cruise went down twice and had to ask her to take care of the refunds. This was not a service you get from a local TA. You get what you pay for! The Port of Embarkation was Barcelona, but because we traveled out of Barcelona on three different occasions, this time we didn't plan to stay any extra days there. We used Iberia airlines b/c of the best connection in Madrid and relatively good price. The layover was 1h15 min which turned out to be a serious problem on our return, when for unknown reason (certainly not the weather) the plane from Barcelona was delayed for about 40 min and we just hardly made the connection in Madrid. Our luggage was not that lucky and we had to wait for it for 36 hours.(Any attempt to contact Iberia to find out the approximate time of delivery failed)But we were at home and so this was just an annoyance. Embarkation went very well, quick and smooth. By noon we were on the ship and had lunch. At about 1:00PM the cabins were ready and so were we to take a nap after the overnight trip. I tend to be very critical about the cabins, but I have to say that our cabin category E2 on deck 8 Midship was excellent, quiet, with adequate storage space, good mattress and pleasant bedding (duvet). The bathroom on the smallish side with an occasional unpleasant odor coming from undetected source. The room attendant not intrusive, did an excellent job. Food: We decided on My Time Dining just because I like to meet different people every night. The food was mediocre at best, better some nights then the others. We dined exclusively in the Mistrel main dining room. My biggest disappointment were the desserts, which till now (14 cruises) had been the highlights on all the different cruises. The breakfast buffet was just OK, we were missing the variety of breads we experienced before. Service was very good, no complains. The really good dinner was the one in the specialty restaurant- Chops.(excellent steaks!) Entertainment: In general good/ fair. Musicians in the public areas not so gifted in our opinion.A group from Argentina- Tango musicians and dancers-first class. /Tours: We took exclusively the Ship's Tours and all very good except the tour of Casablanca. Temperatures were in upper 50/lower 60. Ports of Call: Malaga: we took a Tour of Granada, visiting Alhambra Palace and Gardens. The weather didn't cooperate, but we had a a great guide and a enjoyable lunch included in the trip. Madeira: Emblematic Madeira& Ribeira Brava , good guide, beautiful island, good warm weather. Recommended. La Palma/ Canary Islands: Caldera de Taburiente- breathtaking island, tour slightly miss-organized, too many buses, not enough space in the National Park to maneuver, long waiting to get to the top. Tenerife/Canary island: Tagana Tour, The Anaga Mountains at northeastern part of Tenerife. Stunning views from the ridges of the mountains over the island.Stops in small villages. We enjoyed. Lanzarotte: Tour/ Grand Lanzarote Highlights. Rather spooky landscape of Fire Mountains, moon-like appearance. The day started with heavy fog, poor visibility. After the fog cleared, we had an opportunity to see the unusual Vineyards, fantastic views from Mirador del Rio and Jameos del Agua- volcanic grotto. 8 hour tour-too long. Casablanca: Tour of Casablanca Didn't enjoy Lisbon; Arrival at 5:00PM , fantastic entry in the city. We took Lisbon Audio Guide Tour- iPod+ map. Good idea, gave us time to stop and shop! Cadiz: Tour Legendary Seville: Highlight of our trip, we must come back! Overall a great cruise and a great vacation!Recommended! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the ... Read More
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the cruise dropped TWICE. The first I feel was due to the economy and the second to fill the ship. The first time our cruise was not paid off yet and Carnival was kind enough to adjust our price. The second time our cruise was paid in full and Carnival was kind enough to give us an onboard credit for the difference. Later, Carnival dropped the fuel surcharge and gave us onboard credit for that. It would be an understatement to say that Carnival and our agent were very accommodating with our booking. Please note that you must keep up with the price of your cruise and call and ASK for the discount/credit - it DOES NOT happen automatically (except for the fuel surcharge)! Airport to Cruiseport taxi was just $24. Embarkation - We arrived Christmas Day and were the second family there and only waited about 20 minutes before we were shuffled through and awaiting to board. We were on the ship about 30 minutes later. This was a great experience compared to past experience. The Inspiration - My first impression was very clean and well maintained! We do not drink but still found the "welcome aboard" complimentary glasses of champagne a nice jester but eventually got tired of saying "no thank you" due to the many, many offers. We walk around the ship to get oriented and I suggest everyone do the same. You are not able to walk front to aft on most levels/floors so learning the maze if very helpful. Stateroom - Our cabin was roomy even with 2 kids (14 & 10). The beds were very comfortable! Bathroom was basic and watch out because the hot water is HOT! Sometimes we could not mix enough cold water in. Our cabin was ALWAYS well taken care of. The towel animals prompted me and my daughter to go to the demonstration on how to fold them. Room service was prompt and tasty. Food - We ate most breakfast and lunch meals at the buffet and found it quite pleasing. We did eat one breakfast in the dining room and the Eggs Benedict was awesome! For the evening meals we ate in the dining room. We sat with the most amazing family from Virginia! We couldn't wait each night to get to see them again! We know we will see them again some time down the road! OK back to the food. The dinner meals were delicious! Everything prepared nicely. The appetizers were all great. Main dishes were hard to choose from so I ordered two and the waitress was happy to bring both (she was very kind, informative and delightful!). On lobster night my son ate two entire meals. The Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert! It is hard to order anything else, but try them all. If you want to see how challenging it is to feed over 2,000 three meals a day take the Galley Tour. (It should be mandatory for those that discredit the food in their reviews!). This ship has a FREE sushi bar that opens around 5:30 pm each afternoon. Get there early - the line gets long quick but it's worth the wait! Entertainment - Maybe not Vegas quality but you are not paying $100 a ticket. The singers were very talented as were the dancers. The orchestra put out a big band sound with only 8-10 musicians. The shows were put together well. The magician was good and the comedian was even better. We did not attend the late version of the comedian and appreciated the Cruise Director's warning that it was not appropriate for kids. Karaoke was fun. Trivia was also. For the kids - AWESOME! The ship offers many things for kids and it looked like all the kids were enjoying them! (This cruise has a lot of kids onboard so if this is something you don't care for - find another cruise) Formal Night - We had the onboard credit so we rented tuxedos for me and my son. If you do this, do it online before you go or first thing on the ship. There inventory is small and they may run out of your size. We met the captain and went to the dining room where just like every night Wilson (our Maitre' d) welcomed us. Cozumel - This was the second cruise to Cozumel for the wife and I so we were able to plan our visit better. We went to Chankanaab National Park and snorkeled. I have heard there are better places off shore to snorkel but this was our first time and this place was perfect for us. Beautiful fish, some nice coral reef and other things to do inside the park also. The taxi was $10 and admission was $49 for the four of us. Snorkel gear and life vest were $15 each to rent. We returned to the ship for a late lunch and then in to town for shopping. We had experienced the hounding of the store workers last trip so this was short and again unpleasant. So we went back to the pier and bought our stuff then got back on the ship. Disembarkation- Very quick and easy! Do the one where you take your own luggage! Show up early as they start before the time given. In summary, we had a great time! This is a 3 star cruise ship and you cannot expect it to compare with a 5 star. For the price this is an AWESOME cruise, do not hesitate to book this cruise. I found it to be nothing like some of the negative comments in a few of the previous reviews. If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant solicitation of having your picture taken. A simple "no thank you" took care of each. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we decided to take a cruise. We had cruised before with NCL and Royal Caribbean, both very good but many years ago. This time we were looking for a specific itinerary and good price for a cruise so ... Read More
To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we decided to take a cruise. We had cruised before with NCL and Royal Caribbean, both very good but many years ago. This time we were looking for a specific itinerary and good price for a cruise so we decided for Costa. We got to Rome, Fiumicino one day before our cruise and spent the night e in a nice bed and breakfast, La Casa de Amy, very nice people, very clean, a couple of blocks from Termini, the main train station. We left from Termini around 2PM on a train to Civitavecchia, got there and we were going to walk to where the free shuttle to the ship departs from , a few blocks away from the train station but it was raining. There were some white passenger vans shuttles parked right in front of the station, I asked how much to the port and he charged 20 Euros for both, my husband and I and they drove us in less that 5 min to the ship. We took a balcony cabin and it was great, very spacious , plenty of closets and drawers and even a couch with a small table in front where we enjoyed an intimate breakfast a couple of times, brought to our cabin for free from the applicable free items menu. We enjoyed the balcony very much as well. The Concordia is a beautiful ship, built in 2006, spacious and very , very clean, ship shape from top to bottom. All areas are spotless. Carries 3000 passengers plus crew, has 14 decks and a gorgeous spa, the Samsara where one can get treated like royalty of course for a price , but they offer a variety of packages that make it affordable. The gym, sauna , jacuzzis are free. The gym has state of the art equipment but can get pretty crowded, best early morning. The jogging track and tennis courts are free too. The salt water pools have amazing retractable roofs so this area can be enjoyed with all types of weather. Guys really enjoy the Grand Prix simulator and races can be pretty exciting. There are smoking and non smoking areas on the ship, lounges have a smoking side and a non smoking side, but if your are very sensitive to cigarette smoke the drift might bother you. The food passable, in the dining in the dinning room and someone did not like something, food was returned and something else brought to you at your request, even cooked to your order, like a lady in our table that did not like any type of gravy so they would cook her meats plain and she always had a baked potato, all this outside the regular menu. Buffet food is of course mass produced and quality is average, however, there is such an enormous variety of dishes, salads or pizzas that there is always something one is going to like. The Italian language is predominant but the crew, spoke English, most of them, announcements are given in every language and the daily activities were delivered every night to our cabin in our language. At the end of the cruise got a little confusing, we had a disembarkation meeting for English speaking passengers were we were told we did not have to turn in our passports, later we got a paper under our door that we had from certain time to certain time to bring our passports and they were going to be returned to us before disembarkation, this was kind of contradicting so my husband talked to Kate, the English speaking rep on the Ship and she reconfirmed what she had said in the meeting, that the Italian officials did not need our passports. To make the story short we decided to bring our passports to customer service because other people told us they had done it and that we had too. Anyway, that took some extra time at disembarkation, another line to get our passports back, that by the way had no extra stamp or nothing, so till today we do not know why they wanted everybody's passports except for Europeans. You can not get bored on the ship , there is something going on at all times, from trivia games to paper flower making classes, wateraerobics, yoga, stretching, bingo, chacha lessons, italian lessons, you name it. Service is excellent, from our terrific cabin stewart Matthew (from India) to our bartender Carlos (from Peru) at the Dublino bar and our head waitress Sharon who was so attentive to even our gestures that she would know when we were going to ask for something and would be right next to us, eager to please us. The first night we told her we liked ice tea , from then on , everynight we had an icy cold pitcher of tea waiting for us at the table and kept refills going as soon as the tea level was low. The entertainment left a lot to be desired, there were a couple of shows that were very nice, like the Time show and the farewell show , in between very boring, such as a singer one night, a ventriloquist another, a mime type comedian , and a couple performing some acrobatics/magic/joggling.... joggling at one time battery powered CHAINSAWS TURNED ON! that was hair raising. The shore excursions were excellent, with very knowledgeable guides, we took all of them, the Esplendors of the Genovese Republic, in Genoa, the Olympia tour in Katakolon, excellent, the Acropolis and Plaka in Athens, Lindos in Rhodes, the 4x4 tour in Cyprus and Egyptian Museum and Pyramids in Alexandria. We had all English speaking passengers in our buses except the first tour to Genoa, where we shared the bus with Italians so the guide had to repeat everything to us, but it was OK. Disembarkation was prompt and by 9:30 we were out of the ship, we took the same type of van from the ship all the way to Rome with a group of people that we have made friends on the cruise so we share the shuttle that charged 20 eur per person all the way to Termini but when we got there the driver asked for 25 eur per person, we thought it was not nice but what can one do.... we paid 25 but no tip. Overall it was a very nice trip and an excellent value for what we paid Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We had some minor flight delays so we arrived late for embarkation. Almost everyone was already on board so We were able to proceed quickly through the process; however, I can certainly appreciate previous posts and can see how embarkation ... Read More
We had some minor flight delays so we arrived late for embarkation. Almost everyone was already on board so We were able to proceed quickly through the process; however, I can certainly appreciate previous posts and can see how embarkation may be horribly long if you're waiting in long lines along the entire way. The airlines lost two pieces of our luggage which were later delivered while at port in San Juan. I can't emphasize enough to arrive the day before you sail just in case there are minor mishaps with airlines or luggage. That had been our plan but the travel agent didn't book our flights as requested. The ship. After reading some of the previous posts I was concerned about the ship. Let's face it, it was getting some pretty iffy reviews, especially about the decor. Well, everyone's taste is different but personally, I liked the decor and all the splendid pink! The circles didn't bother me one bit - I thought the decor was cool and different - that's why they call it the fun ship! If I wanted rich dark wood and muted tones, I could have stayed home. The atrium is beautiful and the tone of pink is very pretty. The public rooms were all very nicely decorated with each of the lounges unique. The outside areas had plenty of lounge chairs but somehow they were always all taken by the time we got to the upper decks. I have to agree with previous posters that the saving of the chairs is a huge issue. The pools are small and seemed to be either too crowded or closed/empty. I was not impressed with the whirlpools (they are not hot tubs) - as they also seemed to be either too crowded or closed for cleaning. The one time I did sit in one for a short period, it smelled real bad. Our cabins were on the 6th floor (Upper level), inside cabins. The cabins were very spacious with plenty of closet and drawer space and shelf space in the bathroom. The beds and linens are very comfortable. I took the suggestion of other cruisers and brought a night light, battery alarm clock and a power strip for the one electrical outlet - all well worth bringing! The bathrobes available for use came in very handy as well. The cabin steward was satisfactory...always clean towels and beds were made - and we loved the towel animals. As far as the rocking of the ship - we did experience a day and a half of rocking to the point that nausea medication was needed for some. However, once the bad weather passed, sailing was very smooth. Some of the crew told us about the bad weather experienced over the past few weeks - we were grateful we only had 1 day or so. The food was excellent and met my expectations. We had first seating for dinner in the Black Pearl dining room. Our waiters were outstanding - the service was excellent. The food was very good but we aren't big fans of seafood so at times the menu seemed lacking, but that was simply due to our likes/dislikes. There was always at least one red meat on the menu and we enjoyed sirloin steak, prime rib (2x), ribeye steak and lamb chops - all were excellent! The selection of desserts on a couple of nights was lacking but the desserts I did order were very good. The 24-hour soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt is great for the late night sweet tooth. The deli (turkey, ham, pastrami sandwiches), grille (burgers, hotdogs, fries, onion rings), rotisserie (chicken, mac/cheese) were all very good. The 24-hour pizza was also very good and smells so good when you walk by that you can't resist stopping for a piece. The lido buffet was okay - nothing to die for but sure offered enough to satisfy hunger. There was never a time when you'd go hungry, that's for sure! The crew were all very polite and friendly. Everytime a crew member walked on the elevator with us or by us in the hallway, they would always greet us and ask how were were. At the least, they would smile and nod at you - I suspect those individuals don't speak much english. As I mentioned, we had problems with luggage and the pursers desk was very helpful. One of the kids also lost her sail&sign card and the pursers desk was very helpful replacing it. We didn't book any excursions through Carnival. On SanJuan we walked around for a couple of hours, went to the nearby forts and then window shopped...all within walking distance. It was raining out so we didn't stay out too long. I loved St. Thomas. We rented a car for the day and did our own thing - went to the beach, the mountain top and some shopping. La Romana was ok - we took the $7 roundtrip shuttle to Altos de Chavon - it was ok if you'd like to get off the ship for a couple of hours and not spend too much. On the Bahamas we shopped at the Straw Market then walked to a nearby beach - it was not a very nice beach and I do regret not taking the #10 shuttle to Cable Beach. I also wish there was more time in the Bahamas - the time flew by! The entertainment on board was excellent - far better than I expected. The singers and dancers were great...two comedians were excellent, the 3rd good. The adult comedy shows were very good also. We really enjoyed watching the karaoke and it always seemed to be a popular place. The casino was a good size and there always seemed to be available slots but the tables were always packed. Other than the saving of the pool chairs and problems with the pools and whirlpools, the only other complaint I would have are the kids camps. They were highly unorganized and a huge disappointment. After the first day our kids told us they'd rather be with us because the kids in the camps were so unruly. For example, the teen Poker tournament was a bunch of kids throwing cards around and the ping pong tournament was kids goofing off with the ping pong balls. The dance lesson class consisted of one of the professional dancers trying to teach a dance class, with kids who wouldn't listen or participate (I felt bad for the dancer). I think Carnival needs to revamp the kids programs. All in all, it was a great vacation and I have no regrets with choosing this ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We are a family with 2 girls aged 9 and 4. We also took our two sets of parents and a sister and her husband, so 10 of us in total. One set of parents had not cruised before. We expected a lot as it is supposed to be the premium brand but ... Read More
We are a family with 2 girls aged 9 and 4. We also took our two sets of parents and a sister and her husband, so 10 of us in total. One set of parents had not cruised before. We expected a lot as it is supposed to be the premium brand but we were a little disappointed in certain areas. We are undecided whether we would go Celebrity again.Pre-cruise hotel: We were put in the marriott north, fort lauderdale for the night before the cruise. The hotel was most acceptable but was 25 minutes from the cruise terminal. We understand the Hilton is only 5 mins away so it may be best to book in there. Embarkation: This was very smooth as we had a Concierge Class cabin and therefore had priority embarkation bypassing the very long queue. Well worth the extra cost! Public rooms: There are many of these but they all seemed very dark compared with the light in the rooms on RCI. Cabin: We had 2 interconnecting cabins. There are very few of these so you have to book early to secure them. The CC cabins are spacious with lots of cupboards and drawers. There is a large shower but I would have preferred a bath with a shower. The balcony is big enough for 2 but if there are 3 of you in the room (by using the sofa bed) then space would be tight. Dining: The buffet on Deck 10 for breakfast and lunch was good although the layout made it difficult to reach the food. There was lots of queuing and plates were hard to find. Dinner in the San Marco restaurant was again good but we did think it could have been better for the premium brand. Some people raved about Ocean Liners dining experience but it was another $30 plus 15% service per person. Entertainment: The quality of the shows were mixed. Sometimes great, sometimes awful. The highlight for us was finding Perry Grant in Michael's bar. This entertainer was fantastic although I'm not sure he's to everyone's taste. He had a big following and we didn't miss a night of him. He made our cruise every evening. Service: Our stateroom attendant was probably the least attentive we have had. He really made no effort at all. We always had to ask for replacement shower gel and beach towels. My sister asked for the binoculars that should have been in her room, 3 times and never did get them. Again our waiter was not the best. He did not refer to us by name in all the 11 days and bearing in mind he only had one table with 8 people on it we didn't think it too much to expect. Never before have we had this. His spoken English was also poor making him difficult to have any decent conversation with. In comparison, the assistant waiter was fantastic (promotion surely needed!) as was the sommelier Agnes who knew our names and tastes very quickly. The other staff were just really doing their jobs. No-one made any extra effort. Was this because they knew they'd get their tips anyway? Rumors surfaced that Constellation's best staff had been moved to the Solstice. Shore excursions: On the whole, too expensive, too long and poor value for money. Overall: This was the first time we had been away for Christmas and New Year. We were disappointed with the Christmas celebrations. They were poor. There were very little decorations, "carol singing" was more festive pop songs than carols and lasted 30 minutes on the staircase. Christmas service was diabolical - lasted 20 minutes and performed by a priest who had as much enthusiasm as someone in mourning rather than in celebration. The children did get presents from Santa and had their picture taken. A nice touch would have been to give us the photo rather than expect us to pay $10 for it. Christmas dinner was okay but more research could have been done into what different countries eat ie. how much research is needed to find out that the English eat their Christmas pudding hot and not chilled! (A return to the kitchen and microwave put this right!) Once the fiasco of Christmas was over we settled down to a lovely cruise seeing parts of Central America that were interesting. The kids club was fantastic too and our children enjoyed going there which again was a first. Would we cruise with Celebrity again? Maybe but we think we prefer RCI. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Our Celebrity Summit cruise to the southern Caribbean was a pleasure in most respects.  We enjoyed the islands very much, and the ship, for the most part.  Our only prior cruise with our family of 5 (DH/DW late 40's, 3 teenaged ... Read More
Our Celebrity Summit cruise to the southern Caribbean was a pleasure in most respects.  We enjoyed the islands very much, and the ship, for the most part.  Our only prior cruise with our family of 5 (DH/DW late 40's, 3 teenaged DD's) was on the RC Serenade of the Seas, also out of San Juan, last December.  We have traveled extensively on land, both resort-type vacations and international sight-seeing vacations.Would we cruise Celebrity again?  Yes, but I wouldn't say that we were convinced that I would only cruise Celebrity from now on.  There were some very nice things about Celebrity, and a few things that they could improve.All in all, it was a very nice cruise, even if it wasn't as upscale and elegant as some would have you believe.Arriving in Puerto Rico: We flew in the day before and spent the night at the Embassy Suites near the airport. It worked out well for us since we could book one room instead of two, for the five of us. We were able to enjoy both the manager's reception and breakfast cooked to order the next morning. The hotel itself was acceptable, not elegant, considering it's not a resort property and it was very, very busy. I knew that our ship didn't leave from Old San Juan, so it didn't make sense to me for us to book in that area. We left for the pier by 11:30 or so the next morning. Embarkation: Fairly smooth. We did have to wait to embark which was unexpected. We were allowed to start the process at about 12:30 or so. Ship: As a very picky traveler, I was nervous about the ship's condition from having read some negative reviews on Cruise Critic. While I can see some of the issues that people wrote about (the carpet did look worn in a few places, the decks sometimes could have used some more varnish), overall the ship was lovely and had an elegant ambiance throughout. Truly, I'm very fussy about these things and I thought the ship was beautiful and a pleasure to cruise in. It has a different ambiance than the RCI ship which we sailed in last December—less glitz, and more old-fashioned charm—but it was lovely nonetheless. (I think our kids preferred the glitz, but we liked the elegance.) One thing we particularly enjoyed was the limited number of public announcements. I never realized how annoying they were until we had a cruise without them. Cabin: We had 2 Concierge Class cabins—one for us and one for our 3 daughters. Both cabins were lovely, fairly well-maintained and superbly staffed. The cabins & bathroom seemed spacious by cruise-ship standards, and well-designed. My only quibble is that our daughters' cabin, 9065, had a window-washing apparatus stationed at the left side of its balcony, obstructing the view. It never seemed to move during the cruise. My daughters didn't mind but had it been my cabin, I would have been unhappy. I was worried ahead of time at being underneath the resort deck but there was absolutely no noise. Our cabins were roughly underneath the seating area around the indoor pool. All in all, the cabins were terrific. Concierge Class perks were generally nice. We asked for cheese & crackers instead of the daily hors d'oeuvres and enjoyed sitting on the balcony late in the day, snacks in hand. The beds were very comfortable. I think we received fruit once or twice; I suppose if we'd wanted it more often they would have brought it had we asked. The showers were great, the robes were plush, and we did receive & enjoy flowers. . . all very nice touches. We never drank the champagne. Fellow Passengers: I wouldn't even think to comment on this but so many people have put in their 2 cents so I will add mine. The ship was entirely full; it was Christmas week. There seemed to be a mix of English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and other language-speaking passengers. We did not encounter one speck of rudeness or bad behavior during the entire cruise. This was a non-issue to us. Food: After reading so many reviews, I anticipated that the food would be at least as good as our RCI cruise, and hopefully better. Unfortunately this was not the case. There was nothing wrong with it but I remember last year being pleasantly surprised at the quality of food in the main dining room. On this cruise, I thought the food was acceptable, even decent, but not as high quality as I had been lead to believe. Main Dining Room Service: Our server was very nice & friendly, but he, as well as his peers, seemed perpetually rushed. He tried to bring a personal touch but obviously he was stretched thin and it showed. One example: on our last cruise, by the second day, the assistant waiter had my daughter's coke glass filled the moment we sat down and kept it filled throughout our meal. This time, we had to ask multiple times at each meal to get her soda. She was never able to get refills and more than once, she never did receive even her first soda, even after repeat polite requests. Either they need better coordination or they need to assign fewer tables to each server/assistant server. It wasn't relaxing watching them rush around all the time. Our table assignment—near the door—may have contributed to our sense of people rushing all the time. We had second seating, which was at 8:45. We liked not having to rush the end of our day to be showered and dressed for dinner by 6:00 pm. We ended up eating 2 of our dinners in the alternative casual dining facility because it actually felt much more elegant and relaxed, with better service. Alternative Dining: Normandie—Just as lovely and delicious as everyone has said. It was a wonderful experience, well worth the cost. Waterfall Grill—This is the $2 per person alternative dining option, and we enjoyed it very much. I was expecting it to be more like the buffet experience and it was much nicer than that. It was quiet, there were tablecloths, candles & flowers on the table, and attentive waiter service. Our picky daughter was able to go over to the buffet and bring back her slice of pizza while the rest of us enjoyed a served meal. We ate here twice. Waterfall Cafe/Buffet— The ambiance in the buffet area was very nice and clean. And the food was good as well. One thing that helped maintain the decorum as well as the sanitary conditions is that many, if not most, stations are manned by a server who doles out the food. It can slow the crowd but it makes for more appealing food quality. While the food was tasty and plentiful, I found the organization to be confusing. Keep walking ALL the way around because there are different choices in different places. While I never went hungry, I did find it annoying to try to remember what time you could get what options. Dim sum? Does that close at 10 or 11 AM? How about omelettes? Ice cream? It really varied and if your heart was set on something, you could end up disappointed. And the all-important waffles? Yes, the waffles are to-die-for. Just try to keep track of when they were available. Yes, I know someone's going to say "They're open from x-y o'clock every day." Trust me that someone in my family was disappointed each day because what they thought they could get—whether sushi, omelettes, dim sum, ice cream, or yes, waffles—wasn't available when they thought it would be. And we're a pretty smart group. Aqua Cafe—My husband had breakfast here once or twice, and we had lunch here once. It was very nice, a pleasant alternative. Room Service—We had breakfast delivered on the morning of our early excursion to speed things along. It worked very well. Everything arrived promptly and hot. Cova Cafe—I never managed to make it here while they were open & serving pastries. One evening, I showed up at 5:02 PM, and while I could see the plate of pastries that they'd just removed, they were quite stern that the cafe was closed. Bars—We had drinks at a few of the bars, including the Martini Bar, the Champagne Bar, and the Cova Cafe. The service was good, the drinks were strong, and we enjoyed the live music. Entertainment: I can't report because we didn't go. . . Just not our thing. Spa & Fitness Center: My husband used the treadmill nearly every morning. He was disappointed that the view out the front of the ship was partially obstructed. He also commented that the music was so loud that he began bringing his noise-canceling headphones with him. I had a massage in the spa. It was a nice experience but the masseuse was a novice and therefore it wasn't as good as it might have been. Nobody tried to sell me anything, so that was nice. Pool/Deck Facilities: We never had a problem finding a place to sit. We enjoyed both pools as well as the hot tub. There seemed to be places in the sun and the shade to accommodate all of our family's choices. I don't think any of us used waiter service at the pool, but they came by frequently to check on us. Shore Excursions: We booked privately so I can't comment on Celebrity's. I'll review the ports separately, but I will say that they were a nice alternative to some of the more built-up islands we visited last year. Overall: Was the cruise perfect? No, of course not. Was it great? Yes, absolutely. The Celebrity Summit is a beautiful ship and a very nice experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 3 NCL cruise in the A3 category but first time on Pearl. Very sad to be off! We flew in from Baltimore to FLL the night before on AirTran. We had not used them before, but the flight was on time and terrific. Picked up our ... Read More
This was our 3 NCL cruise in the A3 category but first time on Pearl. Very sad to be off! We flew in from Baltimore to FLL the night before on AirTran. We had not used them before, but the flight was on time and terrific. Picked up our limo and were safely in Miami by 10pm. We are a family traveling with 3 kiddies. EMBARKATION- a breeze! Took us a max of 15 minutes, including the stop to pay the corkage fee. Greeting by smiling staff and champagne. our suite was not ready til about 1:45 ( we were on board by 11:30) but we enjoyed a lazy lunch at Cagney's and a nice stroll around the ship. We set sail on time and the adventure begins! We did have our muster drill, the downside was that I had no life jacket and the kids had adult sizes. Eventually we were given the right sizes and the correct amount ENTERTAINMENT: Terrific. We saw Second City- they were really good! Then we saw 2 shows that had Sharkbait. Very funny, and they offered a juggling clinic that was a real hoot. Don't miss it if you have kids. We went to the last bingo session and were showered with T shirts and pull cards- the assistant cruise director does a great job along with his staff. Casino- slots were loosey goosey! I won lots more than hubby did at cards. Slots hostesses were very nice , not thrilled with the other staff. It is hard to travel at the same time as a 175 person gambling junket, as the service was catered towards invited guests and we were just plain old guests. Make sure you sign up for Casinos at Sea you get a nice little credit at the end of the cruise! We did the Murder Mystery- try it! We had a table of 6 and had a great time. Bowling- much more fun than you would think! Especially since you get to blame the ship's movement if you miss... The Bliss Lounge was just over the top pretty-we never went there except for a CAptain's Cocktail party and to bowl. Very pleasant staff. Kids Krew: Randy and the gang- Muffin, Sushi,and several other food item nicknamed staff- were sooo attentive. The kids enjoyed it for the most part, except for the misbehavior and booger-poop jokes of a couple other kids. But this was minimal compared to the amount of fun that they had. They made many friends and we got to hang with the new buddies at the beaches. The only thing they missed was there was no time for a pirate parade due to slow coloring of t shirts one night. But one night the ate dinner at camp and hen went to a show. The show had the crew in it, and they had a great time teasing the crew about t the next day! We didn't have the kids in camp to much as we did most things together, but they loved to go if we gambled or just chilled. SERVICE We were in the Courtyard. The service was not unlike any 4 star hotel- really. We had delicious breakfast from Cagney's each morning in the Courtyard. The breakfast menu is just wonderful. the kids enjoyed all forms of pancakes and waffles, hubby preferred the richer lobster brioche and crabcakes, I ordered bagel/lox/capers. Delicious! Our butler was Lanie- she is the most remarkable , friendly, vibrant butler we have ever had on a cruise. She knew what we needed, when we needed it- almost before we asked! She was so sweet to the children and got them extra treats each day. She was also completely professional in her bearing. Charlie was the courtyard area butler and , I swear, there must have been three of him. Awesome. Friendly and professional. Our cabin stewards were Guillermo and Victor- and , again- WOW!! Carlos was the very friendly concierge, but we had little interaction with him. He always smelled great. The waitstaff in all the restaurants were wonderful as well. they always introduced themselves and seemed to know what we needed ahead of time. One of my favorite servers was Horace in La Cucina- unbelievable! Food; All or food, with one small exception, was wonderful. We ate at Cagney's, Teppanyaki,Mambos,LaCucina, Summer Palace and the garden Buffet. We alos had a quick dinner one night at Blue Moon and it was not god at all- but it was a glaring exception, as all the rest of the food was awesome! To be honest, we did not have dinner at Cagney's so can't comment on the filet.but we truly enjoyed the other meals there. Except that my hubby doesn't like Frank Sinatra music... We never had any wait at the restaurants or the buffet. Buffet seating as plentiful, the food delicious. Ports: We booked our excursions ahead of time thru NCL. Tabyana Beach was great fun ( we did get 2 big downpours, but so what?) We really enjoyed the snorkeling. You can also get a GREAT massage on the beach. We also went in to town for some shopping- Roatan is a very friendly yet poor place and he streets were dirty, as we expected. But the bargaining was fun and the children got some great "treasures". There is also a wonderful shop on the pier, on the second floor, right outside the ship. It just opened last week. Great supply of nice clothing, beach supplies, tee shirts, swim trunks and toys. Very friendly owners. Very good prices.Good quality stuff, too. We missed our Belize beach break as the kids were too exhausted for the early departure, but we did a little shopping in town. Not much to speak of here, but still a pretty tender ride into port. In Cozumel our kids did the Family Dolphin Adventure and loved it. It was such a thrill for them, and the instructor, Alicia, was sweet as can be. Great stirrup Cay was fun but chilly water. We stayed til lunchtime, and by then the beach was quite crowded and people were hunting for seats. If you take this cruise, get off early as you can . We were lucky to have tickets for the first tender. After about 10:45 people were really searching. We always like this stop as there is a great trail out to an old lighthouse and it is just so pretty. Debarkation- we were supposed to meet up with our concierge, but he was delayed so we never saw him or got to thank him. Our flight, in the meantime, was moved up by half an hour. We spent a total of 10 minutes from immigration to curbside. Seriously. We were one of the first ones out after those carrying their own luggage, the bags were well organized by group, we met our driver and made our plane. Oh- the Room- We love the Courtyard Villa. While the 2 bedroom room is a bit tight - a lot of space is given to the master bath, which has a very fun shower- check it out on line- for 5 adults, we still fit fine in it. Being steps away from the Courtyard is amazing. WE met so many nice travelers up there and it never was crowded. The biggest problem with the Courtyard is that it spoils you for other cruise lines which don't have it! The Ship- It is beautiful but for some it may lack the appeal of the large, open atrium. While there are some places to sit about, there aren't as many as on RCI or DCL-but we always got to hang out in the courtyard . It is limited in shopping, but did just open a Del Sol store, which the kids love. We like the cozy feel, without feeling too crowded. The main pool can be a bit chaotic on sea days, but that is pretty universal. Also, I never felt pressured to but anything or sign up for this or that- the hawking was minimal. The only place that seemed to pressure a bit to but things was the spa- again, this is on every cruise I have ever done ( about 20 now). We played one bingo- very fun, the assistant CD is ahoot. The CD Linda is also just wonderful. If you want to feel spoiled, get a CV on the Pearl. Or just go for the Garden Villa! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
just thought i'd share this, before i send it in. Explorer of the Seas Holiday Cruise 12/21/08-1/2/09 Background: We are a family of 3 DH- 53yo, DW-48yo and DS-10yo. We have sailed a few times before, but this is our 2nd holiday ... Read More
just thought i'd share this, before i send it in. Explorer of the Seas Holiday Cruise 12/21/08-1/2/09 Background: We are a family of 3 DH- 53yo, DW-48yo and DS-10yo. We have sailed a few times before, but this is our 2nd holiday cruise, last year on BOS for 12 nights too. This is our first time on the ExOS, but since it leaves from our homeport we wanted to give it try. We have not sailed on any other cruise line as RCI seems to fit us in relation to cost and product. This cruise was originally booked with Tortola as a port and Christmas day as a sea day. However, RCI changed it: they dropped Tortola at the end giving us three sea days at the end instead of two...it really only takes two days to return, so at times it seemed like we were just floating at sea....not that sea days are bad, but we wanted to visit Tortola. Also they put San Juan as a port on Christmas day. Nothing is opened on Xmas day in PR...what a waste and bad planning. Also this change caused us to visit Barbados on a Sunday. I was told most stores except those in the terminal were opened. Embarkation: Since we live 10 miles away from port liberty we had a car service pick us up at 11:00am. No problem except once you enter the terminal...a one lane only approach to the "tent" for check in. This approach took over 30 minute. RCI has to correct this. Once inside, we went through check in, the Diamond area, and had our sea pass in 15 minutes. We found some seats as boarding was scheduled for 12:25. Many people were already waiting to board and we were told they gave numbers to early arrivers and they would be called first. RCI has no knowledge of crowd control and I hope they never really need too. When they opened the doors at 12:30 to get on the buses to be taken to the ship...it reminded me of the black Friday incident at Wal-Mart. It's a good thing the RCI staff got out of the way. We sat and enjoyed some great cookies and coffee while the hoards entered the first bus. The next bus load was no better and was indeed a foreshadow of the general behavior of passengers on this cruise. Have people forgotten courtesy? My DS is short and almost got trampled on by someone who couldn't just take it a bit slower walking on the bus. Even while waiting for the bus, other passengers didn't seem to have the "cruise buzz" and friendliness as we experienced while waiting to board on other cruises. Once off the bus, we walked right on the ship, greeted by RCI staff with a hello and smile and told to go to the windjammer for lunch. Stateroom: We had GS1324 on the hump. This was our first GS, we have always had JS's before, and it was great. Nice view and location. No noise from anywhere. The room did show some signs of wear, like wall paper pealing, ends of the dimmer switches were missing and the couch/bed needs replacing....in fact it is too small to sleep a full sized adult....rci needs to replace it with a full sized sofa bed. We are hooked on the GS..but still love JS aft's too. Plenty of space. Lots of closet/drawers and full length mirrors. Our room attendant Akil, remembered us from our first cruise on the JOS. He and his team did a fantastic job in keeping the room clean, always had extra towels and ice in our bucket. The perks of a GS were fun....lots of choc covered strawberries, cookies, fruits, water...and a welcome bottle of our favorite drink from Ricardo, the concierge. Ship information The ship seemed too large on the first day but we became comfortable very quickly. There was a big tree in the promenade and poinsettias' and wreaths in most areas. Automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers were available at the entrance to all the dining venues and at the gangway and staff was present to ensure it was used. Additional signs of wear were on the elevator buttons that really needed to pressed hard to work, some carpet spots...but overall in good shape. RCI is always cleaning something. Most activities were on the promenade; however it is not large enough to handle the crowds, so we avoided it during ship wide events. In fact, while the promenade is a nice wide area it is not much more than deck of stores....kind of lost any special value for us after the 3rd day. Nice cookies, sandwiches and snacks from the cafe 24 hours a day. One issue was all the sandwiches have mayonnaise on them? The servers seemed annoyed when ask for one without. Staff generally was always friendly saying good day sir with a smile. Dining: We did not eat in the main dining room so I cannot comment on this. We did eat at Portofino 6 times...each time perfect. Excellent service was given by Betina and Lucashz, our servers each time. Food in the windjammer was always luke warm, I like my food hot and I had to ask them to microwave my plate....RCI turn up those warmers. I got tired of this, but servers were always willing to help and always there for getting drinks and coffee...good job RCI. We ate at Johnny Rockets twice, good hamburgers and root beer soda (only place on the ship to get it)...and the food was always hot. Don't miss a visit to it...it's a fun lunch. Many times I ate breakfast in the concierge lounge....a nice spread and good coffee....I made good use of that machine. Activities: Always something to do. Some British specific events, I guess due to the large numbers, like a Quiz on British Soap Opera shows and a British trivia events game. The mini golf course has been re-done so it's perfect....the ping-pong tables need replacing. The rock wall continues to challenge me. Adventure Ocean continues to be a success for my DS. The staff was always friendly. However, we did look at the kids compass for the next age group, 12-14. That did not seem to offer much in the way of planned activities or supervision. Had a Caricaturist on the promenade doing free drawings, a nice touch, ours came out nice and makes for a great memory. Service: Excellent service from everyone......the cleaning crew that always says good day, to the officers that say welcome home when we came back from an excursion. Ricardo the Concierge always helpful, with a smile, hello, and hug. Always offers to get you a drink, coffee or something...keep up the good work....hope to see you next year. Entertainment: Day1-Marcus Monroe-juggler-good show Day2-Beatlemanics-very good show and we would see them again Day3-fast forward-ok show Day4-Movie-the polar express or the ice skating show Sprits of the Season.-very good ice show-don't miss it Day5-Jordan Bennett and Dominique Ava-great singer and violinist-don't miss it Day 6-RCI Singers/Dancer-Vibeology- don't waste your time. They (tried)did cover songs of Elvis, Beatles, Sting and others...the worst show I've ever seen. Day 7-Antonio Salci-we missed the show so cannot comment Day 8-Blades Ice Show-very good, we would see it again Day 9-Invitation to Dance-we missed it Day 10-Martin Lewis-magician-very good. Same exact show as last year when we saw him on the BOS. He needs a new routine ay 11- the Happenings-very good show-don't miss it Day 12- farewell variety show-we missed it The shows were well presented by excellent stage support staff. Viewing shows are easy from most vantage points, except some, where columns are present. Ports: Labadee, 8-4:30 -great weather, we had a nice time walking on the beach. Excellent BBQ-great ribs...too bad they never made their way back to ship. I would have loved to taste them again. We wanted to experience snorkeling for the first time here, but due to construction of the larger pier, the water was murky and they didn't offer any equipment. But still a nice relaxing beach day. The market place is one area where you need to be aware of yourself. Lots of grabbing and people wanting to sell you things. I don't like this type of environment, but it is typical of island life in tourist areas. San Juan 12-7:30-we stayed on the ship, played mini golf, ping-pong..it did rain some that afternoon St. Marten 8-5:30- we took the ferry over to Phillipsburg and walked around. Had a nice lunch and a few icy drinks on the beach. Had a 10 minute shower that day. Dominicia 8-4:30-Very lush island. We did the Aerial Tram, booked through RCI. A nice ride w/narration was provided through the town and country side. The tram was a nice modern car seating about 12 persons. On the way up over the tree tops we received narration of the area and fauna. Once on top, we hiked trough the forest to a suspension bridge....I was nervous, but didn't look down. Once across, we re-met the tram for the ride down. This is a very professional operation and highly recommended. Once down, free rum punch was served. Once back at the pier we walked around. A nice island and well worth another visit. Had Big Booper and DW from the M&M with us on this...they are nice...we'd do an excursion with them again anytime. Barbados 8-3:30- we booked the 4x4 island tour and Harrison caves through RCI. Nice narrated tour through the countryside. Caves were a bit commercial. A big train seating 12 persons x 2 pulls you through the cave. I'd rather walk in a smaller group next time. We had some real loud people on this tour which ruined the experience of quietness in a cave. The ride back in the 4x4 was with a family of 6, they were nice....the ride went through the forest and along the beach. A short stop for some free rum punch..and then back to the ship. Overall, I'd recommend it if you have never been in a cave before. Antigua 10-4:30-DW booked the zip line through RCI....I have heights issues.....the suspension bridge is enough for me......but DW loved it. I just walked around the town, sat and had a cold drink. It rained a few times today, but not too bad. Disembarkation: The saddest part of the trip. We had white #1, which had us called 8-9:15. We had some coffee and donuts at the cafe and went down to deck 1.....not a long line .....on the bus and back to the tent.....in the tent it was hectic, but not too bad given the nature of the event. We got our bags and through customs in 2 minutes..no line there. Our car service was waiting and we were in our house by 10:30. Summary: RCI had the M&M in the chamber...I felt it was too dark, Dizzy's would have been better. It was well attended, not by the 90+ signed up , but by about 40 or so. Still, most people sat around and not "mingled" as much in other M&M's...sorry guys, JMO. I personally didn't connect with lifelong friends...but maybe that's my fault???? But did make some acquaintances, maybe make them more solid if we see you next year ? It did seem that passengers were just not as friendly as on other cruises....I'm not sure why. We always say hi, good morning, etc..rarely got a response back....could it be me again..not this time. Passenger demographics? I wouldn't say so...no single market in the world on bad manners/rudeness. Just the way it was. I didn't experience any bad teen/children issues, but heard from others that there were. A family was thrown off in Barbados. Two issues, we asked if we could have Bridge tour...initially told it was a security issue...then told that only diamond + members get tours .....which is it? We also planned to have open ice skating on the last day at 9am for suite guests only...only to be told at 8:45 that they cancelled it....just while we are on our way there. We did have nice conversations with guest in the CL, some which are booked for next year too...we'll see you again. Overall a nice ship.......would do it again anytime. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Had a great time on this cruise Welcome back all! We just got back to Montreal on Monday and are experiencing the first snow storm of the year already! I must say I was very impressed with this cruise - there are always a few blips but ... Read More
Had a great time on this cruise Welcome back all! We just got back to Montreal on Monday and are experiencing the first snow storm of the year already! I must say I was very impressed with this cruise - there are always a few blips but we had a good ride and even the balconyless stateroom wasn't all that bad! The check in at Tampa was quick - it was the first time we could walk right up to the agent. show our passports, get our photo taken and have our cards issued. Trouble was - we then had to wait at least an hour before boarding. There was a gastro outbreak on the the previous cruise and the ship was being super sanitized to reduce the chances of a reoccurrence. Luckily, there was no problem during the cruise. As a result though, the Lido was not self serve for the first couple of days. They wrapped the food displays with plastic wrap so only the crew would be able to serve. as a consequence, the lineups were long. Once the wrap came off and we could serve ourselves, the lineups were greatly reduced. As far as the ports were concerned - Roatan was the best by far! Trouble was we were not there for long and the lineup to take the tender back (we waited 1 hour in the blazing hot sun) was inexcusable. We found a great tourguide outside the gates on the way to town. The guides at the port were charging $35 per person for a tour but we found Enrique who negotiated a price for the five of us for $80 total. He spoke great English, owned his own car and went out of his way to make the most of our three hour tour. The kids went ziplining and Karen and I went to West Bay beach for some incredible snorkeling. The beach was a zoo, but with two ships in port, what could we expect? In Belize, we took a ferry to Cay Caulker, for a nice day of snorkeling. We wandered around Belize city first. My kids were a little amazed and afraid of all the aggressive street vendors but it certainly gave them an education on how spoiled we are and the things we take for granted. I still have the nail marks and bruises on my arm where my 12 year old daughter hung on for dear life anytime one of the natives approached us to sell us something. I have learned long ago to treat the people as people and a firm no with a smile usually works to say we are not interested. They are only trying to make a living any way they can. Cay Caulker was a very nice island and we actually had a picnic table in the water where we put our gear while snorkeling. The bar had been hit with a hurricane, the dock was ravaged but we had a couple of nice rum punches, saw some neat fish, rays and nurse sharks. Of course the local boys were very interested in showing my daughters the hiding places of the sharks. The Mexican stop was a bit of a disappointment because of the rain. We visited a private beach - the Maya Luna - about two miles south of the little village near the port. We had a nice meal and a little beach time, no snorkeling here but it pored rain. This would be a great place to get away from it all - there is nothing around and the owners are very nice, It would be pretty hard to get to if it were your end destination of a week or two. I really didn't enjoy Key West. What a crowded, tourist driven place it is. I wish we could have spent more time in Roatan and just spent half a day ( at most) in Key West. We took the trolley tour and watched all the acts at the port. Very forgettable! The food on the ship was very good. The entertainment was as I expected from Hal. The comedian and the magic show, as well as the dancers/ singers were just ok. The violin player was amazing - that guy knows his way around his instrument! I tried the slot machines for the first time - no surprise here that I lost! I don't think gambling ever pays off. It was too bad I never came across any of the CC members on the cruise. We met some really nice people at dinner. We had our hands full with the girls - they kept us pretty busy. All in all it was a very nice holiday and we arrived home in great spirits. As I remember one CCer writing - A bad day on holidays is always better than a great day at work! Happy New Year! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We cruise once a year. This was the first with our teenage granddaughter. What a beautiful ship, huge! Embarking was a breeze. As we were tired and hungry, we immediately headed for the Windjammer cafe. It was so crowded, the food almost ... Read More
We cruise once a year. This was the first with our teenage granddaughter. What a beautiful ship, huge! Embarking was a breeze. As we were tired and hungry, we immediately headed for the Windjammer cafe. It was so crowded, the food almost gone, no tables to sit. Not a good start. As we got settled in and evening approached, we waited for the cabin stewart to make up the couch for our granddaughter. To our surprise, the couch did not open, but instead a bed was opened up from the wall, right on top of our bed! It was very small, too small for a teen. The ladder prevented anyone from getting in and out of bed except by crawling across the other person. My granddaughter fell off the ladder one night getting out of bed to use the bathroom, cut her head open. As the cabin steward left the bed down all week, my husband and I bumped our heads on it many times. Never again! As the week progressed, we found the shows to be excellent, the food good. We also enjoyed the entertainment provided by the waiters and chefs in Leonardo's restaurant. They sang for us several times, and were very friendly and accommodating, they made dinner a true joy! We also appreciated the special salad station at lunch each day. Our granddaughter enjoyed ice skating, the flowrider, mini golf, and the Club where she made many friends. Disembarking was also very well planned and went fast. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Did not have a good first time on Elation. This time around i'm not expecting too much as to everything must be perfect and just make the best out of it. Embarkation: Friday Dec 22nd, raining like crazy and cold. Walking from ... Read More
Did not have a good first time on Elation. This time around i'm not expecting too much as to everything must be perfect and just make the best out of it. Embarkation: Friday Dec 22nd, raining like crazy and cold. Walking from across street dragging our suitcase into a waiting area. We make a mistake of hanging around this covered area which is crowded and hectic to wait for all our families. What we should have done is go past security and into another area where it is nicer with cleaner restroom and wait there instead. We did not know this until we past security, hopefully this will be useful on another rainy day for some other cruisers. We got in and immediately went to Tiffany. Line was long and food was ok, They have about 4 stations. Each station have a menu which describe food at station. There also a master menu which describe all station which is useful as to know which station to line up for food. I overheard someone that got on early that there was no line when they got there so we must have hit rush hour. Muster Drill was done in Mikado theater as it is too cold outside. Afterward, we went back to find out all our luggage have arrived. First night we just wander around ship after dinner taking pictures and having a blast with our families. Second day is at sea. I spend most time in sauna try to sweat out naughty stuff from previous night. This was formal night so we all got dress up for family pictures which makes DW really happy. I was complaining about having to dress up as I have to dress formal everyday for work and it is last thing i wanted to do while on vacation. On thursday, it was really rocking. DW was seasick, there were barf bag everywhere. My families took all pre-caution: patch, bonine, wristband, ginger pill, etc. Still before they can bring out the entree, DW said she want to go back to room. That night, first show got stop in middle and second show for 2nd seating is replace with a hypnotic one which does not require any dancers. I did not take any medication and yet it did not effect me. At midnight I went up for snack and the place is like a ghost town, only my 12 years old DD and I are still about as rest of our families call it a night. Next day, i told my wife i imitate the cruise staff the way they walk as they seem to stagger to go with rocking and not because they are intoxicated. To fight this motion is one way to get sick, this is just my theory only so do not hold me to it. Rest of cruise was great, i feel wonder this 2nd time on Elation. This time i am not so keen on everything as perfect as my first time cruising but to go with it and everything turn out great. Debarkation was good, we got out and drive to Gaslamp Westin to continue our post vacation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation Since we live in the Houston area, access to the port at Galveston was pretty simple. Not knowing what traffic would be like going into Galveston on a day when two cruise ships leave, we left our house at 9:30 am and were ... Read More
Embarkation Since we live in the Houston area, access to the port at Galveston was pretty simple. Not knowing what traffic would be like going into Galveston on a day when two cruise ships leave, we left our house at 9:30 am and were at the EZ Cruise Parking lot before 11:00am. I had reserved with EZ Cruise in advance based on the recommendation of several on the CC boards, and we weren't disappointed. Parking was a breeze and we were shuttled to the terminal right away. The only downside to EZ Cruise was that the shuttle drops you off at the far end of the terminal, so it was a long walk to the entrance. We left our luggage with a porter (highly recommended, especially at debarkation) and proceeded inside. Since we were so early, we went straight through security and check-in and were among the first to board at around 11:45am. Dining We had the late (8:15pm) seating as requested, and were in the Renoir dining room. We enjoyed talking to our waiter, Sang, each evening, and he really catered to the kids. When our daughter asked for extra ice cream with her chocolate melting cake, he brought her three extra bowls! Dinner was good every night, but not fantastic. The steaks were usually good, but no matter what sauce was on the menu it always seemed like the same brown gravy. By far, the highlight for me was the duck served on the first formal night, and for my son it was the baby-back ribs he got on the last night (ask for extra napkins). We ate in the Monet dining room twice for breakfast and once for lunch, and the food was good (especially the eggs benedict). Most of the time, though, we ate at the buffet on the Lido deck. Omelets were a highlight, but there was often a long line. Always check both sides of the room, as there are three omelet stations and sometimes one would be empty. For lunch at the buffet we most enjoyed the Asian food window. I was disappointed in Sur Mer (fish & chips), but that could be due to the high expectations that I had after hearing all of the great reviews on CC. Again, it was good but not fantastic. Entertainment The entertainment in the main theater was hit-and-miss. The singers and dancers were fun to watch for a little while on the first night, but we only stayed for half the show on the second night (Point & Click), and skipped entirely on the other night (Formidable). The special acts, though, were generally great. There was a comedian (John Wesley Austin) on the first night who the kids thought was fantastic, a singer (Jamila) one night that was very talented, a juggler (Manuel Zuniga) one night who was amazing followed by a comedian (Mark Hawkins) who was very good. My wife and I enjoyed his act so much that we went to his R-rated show later that evening. There was an illusionist (Lady Hellavi) who performed one evening, but all of her illusions were basically the same trick with variations in choreography so it got old after a while. Aside from the main theater, we enjoyed the other activities going on around the ship. On Tuesday night we joined in the conga line around the ship and danced the night away on the Lido deck. The following night was New Year's Eve, which we spent on the Lido deck listening to Calypso music, followed by a gala buffet after midnight. During the day, my son and I entered a digital scavenger hunt where you run around the ship taking pictures of different objects on a list. We won and received a coveted 14-carat gold plastic ship on a stick which we will treasure forever. My wife and I also won Carnival Conquest medals, although she has sworn me to secrecy on what we did to win these! Overall, the entertainment staff does a great job in providing a variety of activities throughout the day. Speaking of entertainment staff, I had heard wonderful things about Ralph Valente, the Cruise Director, before going on the cruise and he did not disappoint at all. He has a great personality and could make even mundane PA announcements entertaining. He had a habit of ending many announcements with "I love you", and when he didn't we would find ourselves a little saddened. I heard only after coming back home that Ralph is leaving the Conquest to go to the Carnival Victory and that Assistant Cruise Director Kyle is moving up to the big job. Kyle - you have some big shoes to fill! Shore Excursions We used Carnival for all of our shore excursions. I know that we could have done it for less money by booking directly with tour operators or going solo, but it was worth the peace of mind knowing that if we were late for some reason we wouldn't miss the ship. In Jamaica, we climbed Dunn's River Falls. There are some parts of the waterfall that you look at and think there is no way you can make it up, but the guides lead you to the right places and help as needed. It was a lot of fun, and a cool and refreshing climb. On the bus ride there and back we had a tour guide (Zrain) who kept us entertained. My wife and I both liked this tour the best of the three. In Grand Cayman, we opted for the Cayman Highlights bus tour where we went to the Turtle Farm, Hell, and one of the ubiquitous Tortuga shops to buy rum and rum cakes. It wasn't the best of tours, but we got to see a few highlights in a short period of time. In Cozumel, we got a day pass at the El Cid all-inclusive hotel near the port. The hotel isn't the nicest on the island, but it had everything we were looking for: lounge chairs on the beach, snorkeling from the shore, a lunch buffet, and drinks included (brought right to our chairs on the beach). The kids both voted this high on their list and will want to do the same next time. Cabins We had connecting cabins 6295 and 6297, which were located in a central corridor on the Upper deck. The rooms were well laid out, and because they were in a corridor that only has 11 cabins there was very little noise from other passengers walking through. The rooms were directly below the casino, so you did get noise from slot machines, cheering gamblers, and occasionally someone over a PA system. The noise usually seemed to die down around midnight, though, so we never had a problem sleeping. Children Although our kids (ages 14 and 11) did not use the Camp Carnival facilities, there was plenty for them to do on the ship (air hockey, miniature golf, basketball, and ping pong just to name a few). They enjoyed most of the shows (particularly the comedians and juggler), and participated in some of the other activities as well. They also had a good time ordering drinks from the bar (non-alcoholic, of course, but not much difference in price than the ones with alcohol.) Disembarkation Coming into Galveston, we ran into thick fog that closed the port and meant we had to hold our position about 15 miles offshore. Ralph was on the PA system to give us updates (or lack thereof) every 15-30 minutes between 6:45am and when we finally were able to start heading into port at 11:30am. We finally made it to Galveston around 1:00pm, and we were off the ship at 3:45pm. We were in no hurry since we didn't have a flight to catch, and we got to have an extra meal on the boat at lunchtime (not that we needed it after a week)! What I had not realized until we got out of the terminal is the impact the delay has on the rest of the island. I knew that our late arrival would cause the next cruisers to be delayed, but I didn't realize that many of them didn't even have a place to park until we vacated our parking places. When we came out of the terminal building, the line of people waiting to get into the building stretched the entire length of the terminal (which had been completely empty when we arrived the week before). On top of that, the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot went out as far as I could see. Value-for-Money Unfortunately if you sail out of Galveston during school holidays you will pay a premium. Looking at similar itineraries out of Florida, Galveston can be hundreds of dollars more per person. However, there is not enough of a difference to cover the cost of airfare to Florida and it is very nice to be able to just drive 1.5 hours and be at the port. Aside from the holiday premium, though, I thought the cruise was an excellent value for the money - particularly since we received $850 in OBC due to rate reductions and elimination of the fuel supplement after we booked our cruise. In summary, our first cruise was a very positive experience - so much so that we took advantage of Carnival's "Where Next" offer on the ship (pay $100 and receive $100 certificate toward next cruise plus $100/cabin OBC). The Conquest goes into dry dock very soon, so we are looking forward to sailing her again to see the new movie screen and to find out what other improvements are made. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Cruised with seven family members (5 adults, 2 kids).Took our van to cruise port. Lots of parking. Cost about $12. a day. Learned from previous cruises that it is best to get to port early. Arrived about 11:30 AM. Embarkation was ... Read More
Cruised with seven family members (5 adults, 2 kids).Took our van to cruise port. Lots of parking. Cost about $12. a day. Learned from previous cruises that it is best to get to port early. Arrived about 11:30 AM. Embarkation was efficient. Got in Latitudes member line. Staff was even giving out free soup in paper cups. Free champagne as you got on board. Went to lunch in main dining room (Versailles).Cabin was ready. Our steward was just okay. Disappointed that he never made us any towel animals (We were traveling with 2 kids.) Weather on this cruise was just okay. Could have been warmer for swimming. Days going to and from LA were cool. Advise bringing a sweatshirt/jacket. Also, public rooms on ship were cool and we regretted not bringing more long sleeved clothing. Food: As always, very good. They try to honor any requests that you may have. Ate in main dining rooms (Versailles & Aqua),grill on pool deck, Market Cafe'(buffet), and two specialty restaurants. Cagney's Steak House-good but didn't think the additional charge for crab legs was worth it. Endless Summer (Mexican) was worth the $10./adults, $5./kids was a good value. They bring guacamole'/salsa/chips to table and the kids loved it. Try the dessert sundae (something with candied fruit it was delicious). We also used room service for the kids early morning breakfasts. Shows: Very good. Get there 15-20 minutes before because they are always crowded. Almost didn't get a seat on last night for the Chinese acrobatic show. Ports: Had been to Los Cabos & Puerta Vallarta before so I was interested in seeing Mazatlan. We all got off ship and a woman approached us about going on a timeshare presentation to a new upscale resort for the day. At first, we weren't too interested but then,it sounded appealing because we wanted to take the kids to a nice beach so we agreed. Turned out to be a good deal. Forgot the name of the resort but it was beautiful. My daughter & son-in-law, and two kids got $150. in resort food credit and I got $50. cash (as a single person). The presentation was not pushy and we enjoyed walking through the beautiful grounds, the kids swam in the pool and ocean, and we enjoyed a fantastic meal/drinks on them.Didn't buy anything. Casino-I'm a big casino person and love to play slots. Played every night with the NCL player's card. On the last night, I inquired to see if I got enough points to get a credit on my cabin charges. NO! You needed 25 pts. and I only had 24pts. Was on my way to the show so I couldn't spend any more time in the casino. Also, casino is very smoky and I didn't like that. Kids Center-My toddler grandson was very hesitant about going into the playroom. They don't allow the parent to go in. The woman at the front door didn't even smile at him or say a word to engage him. Did not appear very child friendly. Maybe less kids was less work for her. Movies-nice theater-a few movies a day-My only suggestion is to have more G rated movies during the day when it is too cool for the kids to swim. Library-excellent choices of books, crossword puzzles, coffee, tea. Game-fun games for adults & kids. Would probably go on NCL again but might consider flying to Florida or the Caribbean since it is more guaranteed that you will have warm weather. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation: We had priority embarkation and it was a breeze, as usual. I had feared it might take awhile since this was a holiday cruise, but it went very smoothly. Everyone else in our party went through the regular embarkation process ... Read More
Embarkation: We had priority embarkation and it was a breeze, as usual. I had feared it might take awhile since this was a holiday cruise, but it went very smoothly. Everyone else in our party went through the regular embarkation process and they were also onboard in minutes. Cabins: We were able to get into our cabins about 1:30. The three oldest couples had balcony cabins on the Empress Deck. The rooms were decent sized and clean with nice amenities. The rest of our group had ocean view rooms and they were quite roomy. The only problem we had was that our shower overflowed and flooded the bathroom; however, I left a note for our room steward and the problem was rectified by that evening. My daughter had a similar problem with her shower on the next to the last day. Unfortunately, despite contacting maintenance, theirs was never fixed. The Carnival bedding was wonderful as always! Dining: This was my first (and last) time with the early seating. We prefer not rush to get to dinner and like to eat later. Our waiters were fine, but we were not at all impressed with the quality of the food in the dining room. I don't expect 5 star cuisine, but I didn't feel the food was up to the normal Carnival standards. The buffets weren't bad and I especially enjoyed the pizza and oriental stations. Room service was very efficient. Ports: I chose to stay on the ship in Key West as I enjoy having the Lido deck to myself and have been in Key West before. Others in our group went shopping or to the Mel Fischer Treasure Museum (very interesting I was told). We arrived in Cozumel the next day about noon. Some went to Margaritaville for burgers and drinks. The rest of us took a 15 minute taxi ride to Chankanaab Park ($20 each way for 5 people). I had previously printed out $2 discount coupons so admission was $14 each. It was well worth the money. Snorkeling is right off the beach and we were able to see a good variety of fish, although I never did see the sunken statues. Chickees and chairs were free and they also had some funky molded plastic lounges that were comfy, but getting out of them was a little difficult. We ordered a bucket of Dos Equis - six cans with limes and homemade salsa and chips for $18. It was a great deal. There are also a couple of restaurants, but we didn't eat try them. Entertainment: Those who attended the shows thought they were good and the adult comic received rave reviews. We all enjoyed karaoke and spending some time in the casino - a few in our group came out ahead! My biggest disappointment was that the piano bar was never open, even on the last evening when it was scheduled according to the Carnival Capers. I'm guessing maybe the piano player was home for Christmas. I was also a little upset that there was no dance music (Motown or otherwise) early in the evenings. Seemed like the disco never opened until late and the music was more for the younger group. All in all, we still enjoyed our evenings on the ship. Debarkation: Since we were all taking the shuttle back to Vero, I was unable to do the priority debarkation. However, all of us were through customs and off the ship by 8:30 a.m. very smooth process. The Destiny is a very nice, older ship and, despite some reviews to the contrary, she looks great. You could tell they had recently done some renovations; the ship was clean and well maintained for the most part. I would definitely cruise on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We arrived at the dock around 4pm and boarded immediately. Having already familiarized ourselves with the layout of the ship, had no trouble locating our cabin. Met our cabin steward who asked if we needed anything. We wanted extra ... Read More
We arrived at the dock around 4pm and boarded immediately. Having already familiarized ourselves with the layout of the ship, had no trouble locating our cabin. Met our cabin steward who asked if we needed anything. We wanted extra pillows and those were brought immediately. Discovered our dinner seating was early, though we had booked for later, we went to the dining room to change to late seating. No problems and were given a table for the 8:30 dinner. L'Hibiscus was too yellow and bright for our tastes and our table was near the kitchen entrance which hubby hates. He went to the Maitre'd and requested a move to Villa Borghese. He was told we would have a very nice table. A note was left in our cabin informing us of our new table (462) in Villa Borghese. Great table, fabulous waiter and assistant. We found the food to be very good, cooked well and liked the foods served according to the country we had visited that day. My family even ate items I never thought I would see them eat AND they liked it! We always order a continental breakfast for early delivery as we like our coffee when getting ready. This was delivered every morning very promptly. Once I had forgotten to order croissants and these were brought to us within minutes of our request. We ate breakfast at the buffet the first morning. Finding it very crowded, food mediocre and somewhat disorganized, we decided to eat in Villa Borghese every day which served good food. We ate 3 or 4 times in the buffet for lunch, but again, preferred the restaurant as the food and service was better. Refreshment serving carts would have been welcome at the buffet as it was crowded around the coffee service. Larger glasses would have also been appreciated for water. The fresh made pastas in the dining room were flavorful. No comparison to that at the buffet. We definitely enjoyed the quietness of the ship without the on going outdoor movies (I don't ever want to hear Shrek again!) and constant announcements for games, entertainment, art auction, etc. In fact, they don't push the sale of anything including alcohol. I found this very refreshing instead of telling a waiter every few seconds, no, thank you. The evening entertainment in the theaters was top notch and not the corny shows one finds on other ships. The only bottleneck was through the Savanah Bar where everyone has to feed into the starboard side hall to pass to to the rear of the ship. The four of us ate in Shanghai Restaurant and loved the Chinese food and good service. The only drawback that was corrected, was ordering a bottle of wine from the menu on the table. We ordered the MSC house wine and was told by the waiter the wine list was not valid, but that we had to order from the wine bar menu. I immediately said, "if that were the case, why is the menu on all the tables?". With no comment he brought the bottle of wine we initially ordered. We found our cabin very comfortable and our steward saw that we did not want for anything. We always had fresh ice and he arranged our sleeping clothes as flowers on the bed everynight. I used the spa extensively and found it refreshing to not have products pushed for sale. The staff was very nice, the services good and the jacuzzi's were a well kept secret as there were never more than 3 or 4 people using them. We did not miss the 24 hour food service as we adjusted our schedule accordingly. Saved on the waistline too. The ice cream at the pool was fantastic and affordably priced. Too tempting. The internet service was awful, but then what ship has good service? We chose the cruise for the ports and length of time in each one. This gave ample time to see sights, though some places we could have stayed for weeks! It was nice to not have to rush to get back for a 4pm sailing or only be in port 4 hours. The sea days were relaxing, the seas calm and each day dawned with a beautiful sunrise. The disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was frustrating due to the delay and missed flight, however this has occurred before with us on other cruises. We just went with the flow and made other arrangements once we got to the airport. We arrived home 8 hours later than planned, but that is not a big issue with us. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, accommodations and food. Service could be improved, but a smile, please and thank you really went a long way with the staff. The ship is beautiful, well planned, easy to maneuver and the elevators were never a problem. Lots of quiet areas to relax and enjoy the sea. We will definitely sail with MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Rotterdam - Dec 23, 2008-Jan 4, 2009 First time on HAL. We booked this cruise rather late so we booked an inside guarantee, as they were literally 1/3 the cost of a balcony. We were assigned two side by side cabins on deck 2, ... Read More
Rotterdam - Dec 23, 2008-Jan 4, 2009 First time on HAL. We booked this cruise rather late so we booked an inside guarantee, as they were literally 1/3 the cost of a balcony. We were assigned two side by side cabins on deck 2, forward, 2511 and 2515. We stayed at LaQuinta Airport for $52/room using the Table Tennis code. Walked to the shopping area for dinner and then again in the morning to Kmart for last minute purchases. There is also a movie theater within walking distance. LaQuinta provided a free shuttle to the port. We arrived around noon and waited in no lines anywhere. Went to the Lido deck for lunch, after checking our carry on luggage near the hot tubs. At 1:30 they let us go to our cabins. They are plenty spacious with a full size sofa and lots of closet space. There are locking drawers in each night stand as well as a safe which uses a key. The towels are deliciously large and the shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion are lovely. The bedding was the best ever, but there is no solving the "crack down the middle" after pushing two twin beds together. I like the fact they have no bedspreads, just a top sheet over the blanket. Saves me asking them to take the bedspread off. At the head of the bed is a curtain which has back lighting and gives the illusion of a window. There are two hair dryers. One is mounted to the wall in the bathroom and blows warm air at about 1 MPH. The other is in the drawer in the vanity and worked just fine. There is a make-up mirror which magnifies every wrinkle to such detail that it is scary. No refrigerator. An order form for fruit to be replenished. Soda and water for purchase. The teenagers room was identical to ours, but I only went in it the day we arrived and the day we left. I did peek in from the hallway occasionally, but I didn't want to find myself nagging, so I avoided it and just tipped the room steward extra at the end. There were 1320 passengers on this cruise to include my husband and I and our two teens, ages 16 and 18. We were a little concerned that they would burn out on a 12 day cruise and they probably did. We, however, did not. There were a reported 200 children ages 0-17 on this cruise but I sure couldn't tell. Lots of gray hair and several walkers and scooters. Most were very polite and kind. There are always the exceptions, but they were just that, exceptions. The ship was decorated for Christmas and Santa Claus came on Christmas morning for pictures and gifts. Our teens stayed in bed but my husband and I went down to watch. Our cruise director, Jesse Highley, seemed to enjoy the whole process. The highlight was the little Dutch girl who ran back on stage to show Santa Claus what he had just given her. Delightful! The food was good. The beef dishes were the best in 10 cruises to include RCI, Carnival and Princess. We ate each night in the dining room, with the exception of the night my daughter and I were sick from the higher than usual seas. We had anytime dining and sometimes we ate with just our family and sometimes we joined another couple or two. We never had any other children at our table and our tablemates were always enjoyable and with the exception of one night when the teens were having some kind of conflict, I hope they enjoyed being with us. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido. I didn't find much variety in the food in the Lido. There was always an Asian section and an Italian section and then a general entrEe section. There was also a salad area, a sandwich station, and dessert, to include ice cream from approximately 11am to 4pm. They served soft serve and regular in cones, dishes or on some days, a lovely waffle cone. Out by the pool was the hamburger, hotdog and French fries station with pizza and a taco bar. You could build a plate of nachos that rivaled the best Tex-Mex places. The kids ordered room service on occasion, but I never did, so I can't speak for that service. The spa was a spa and the gym was a gym. I didn't use either of them, so I can't speak for them either. The casino never really seemed crowded, but there was always somebody playing slots or blackjack. The pool games and the sports games never really seemed to draw too many participants although they gave out dam dollars for playing. There was ping pong, basketball, volleyball, shuffleboard, putting competitions and always an early morning walk on the promenade. The library was good. More books than I've ever seen on a ship. Also, a place to paperback swap. A few games to check out if you wanted. Plenty of computers. My husband and daughter bought some internet time - stock market and facebook can't be ignored, even during vacation. Plenty of lounges and bars to just relax in. A good piano player in the piano bar, who played a fun but difficult name that tune game. We played trivia several times, but like all cruises, the hard core players seem to find each other and then always play as a team, winning every time. We requested a session of "Trivia for Dummies" but we never saw it. The entertainment was very acceptable, but weak. The production shows were good. Not much variety, however. Same aged singer performed 2 nights, a banjo player and Yacov Noy, for those of you who have seen him. We've seen him before but we went anyway. He's good for a laugh or two. They were all okay, but on the last night they combined all three of them for the final show. It was overkill. We went to the Filipino crew show and they had a couple of incredibly talented people. We didn't see the Indonesian show. They were very late at night and we had an early tour scheduled. They have a small movie theater and show movies on most days, accompanied by popcorn. We saw Bucket List and some Christmas movie. One night a movie was the show in the big theater! My daughter and I went to one of the cooking demonstrations. The Austrian chef taught us to make apple strudel. It's a great setup for cooking classes. This cruise went to Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, partial transit of the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman and the rest were sea days. The canal was amazing. They had a lecturer that gave a series of 3 lectures about the politics and building of the canal. It was very interesting. (He did a lecture later about Christopher Columbus which was also very good. The same guy played Santa Claus because he had a white beard.) Costa Rica was our favorite. It rained in Half Moon Cay. The ABC's were fun, but nothing like Costa Rica. I'm going to post a review of our tours in Costa Rica and Grand Cayman over on the ports of call board. We like this size of ship. By the end of the first week, I didn't need a teenager to tell me which way to our room. They have rugs in the elevator telling you which day it is. They also have great signs when you get down the stairs telling you which way to turn. There was never a wait for an elevator, never waited for a table in the dining room, we could always find a table in the Lido, always had a seat in the show lounge. There was the age old problem of towels holding places on the lounges by the pools. There was always room in a hot tub. Always bar staff when you needed a drink. A captain whose English was good and you could understand his noon updates. HAL might not be my new favorite cruise line, but I sincerely believe cruising with any cruise line is better than cooking my own dinner and making my own bed. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
ms Eurodam December 13 to 20 Eastern Caribbean Cruise Day 1 - Embarkation (Ft. Lauderdale) We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before with our party consisting of myself, DW, DD (4 years old), DD (1 year old), FIL, and MIL and stayed at ... Read More
ms Eurodam December 13 to 20 Eastern Caribbean Cruise Day 1 - Embarkation (Ft. Lauderdale) We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before with our party consisting of myself, DW, DD (4 years old), DD (1 year old), FIL, and MIL and stayed at the Marriott chain Suites. As part of their services they had a shuttle that picked us up from the airport and also would drop us off at the cruise port. Because of the number of guests staying at the hotel who were leaving on a cruise, the hotel had to make additional arrangements in getting a bigger vehicle to take all the guests to the cruise port. Instead of leaving at 11:45 AM, we ended up having to waiting until close to 12:45 PM before leaving the hotel. Once at the cruise port we had to further wait in line as other buses ahead of us need to unload the passengers and luggage. We were finally allow to leave the bus at around 1:45 PM and met the porters who then took the tagged luggage and we then proceeded to enter the terminal 26 to get processed. After passing through the security screening /metal detectors we then went to the Holland America registration booths. By this time, it was around 2:00 PM. After reviewing out ID's, on-line forms and taking our pictures we were then issued our ship passes and allowed to board the Eurodam in around 10 minutes. This was the fastest boarding we have experienced to date. Since it was already past the 1 PM, the cabins were already available and we proceed directly to the cabins to drop off our carry-on luggage, water and soda. We booked a large inside cabin on the Main deck (1058 J, Deck 1, Port side) and the In-laws booked a GTY category H and had a Oceanview cabin (1023 D, Deck 1, Starboard side). We then went up to the Lido (deck 9) for a late lunch. Once we finished lunch, I then went to the Tamarind restaurant to book lunch and was able to obtain reservations on Tuesday (San Juan) and Thursday (at Sea) for noon time. The first at Sea day was all booked out prior. In the Daily Program they were adverting that if you tried all three specialty restaurants it would only cost $33. That would be a good deal, if you wanted to try two of the three restaurants (Pinnacle Grill @ $25 and Tamarind @ $15 pp would be already $40). I then returned back to my cabin and met our cabin steward and requested to remove the contents of the bar fridge. He then promptly complied with my request and I then restocked the fridge with my own drinks. I then got my 1 year old DD to sleep around 3:20 PM for a quick nap prior to the Muster Drill at 4:15 PM. After the drill, we then returned back to the cabin and prepared for our early seating dinner (5:45 PM) at our assign dining table #60 (for six) near the rear of the ship on deck 3 (upper). Our waiter is Adnyana, and his assistant is Razky. The passengers who had lower seating were assigned "As you wish anytime dining". After dinner, I then went to the Front Office to make arrangements for the unlimited laundry service ($45), which would start on the next day and finish on the Friday. When I returned back to the cabin, our cabin steward then handed out the canvas bags and the night chocolates. I then went watch the opening show at 10 PM and after which I did a quick walk around the ship to get my bearings on the various areas that I would be visiting during the course of the cruise. I went back to the Lido for some late night snacks (being served from 11 PM to midnight) of beef and chicken stasys. I then returned back to the cabin and called it a night. Day 2 - At Sea We woke up around 8:00 AM and got up to the Lido for breakfast around 8:45 AM. By the time we finished it was around 10:00 AM and we then returned back to the cabin to prepare for the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet at 11:00 AM at the Silk Den lounge. The Meet and Greet had a theme were all the attendees would bring a serving of chocolate to share with the group, as we all expressed an interest in all things chocolate. At the Silk Den, the Hotel Manager, Cruise Director, and Beverage Manager made an appearance to our gathering. HAL also served drinks and some hors d'oeuvres in addition to a chocolate fountain with various fruit for dipping. It was a good showing of CC attendees and we all enjoyed the opportunity to meet the various members of the roll call and to sample the various chocolates each person brought with them to the gathering. At noon time we then when for lunch at the restaurant and then retired to the cabin, as DD need to get she afternoon nap. DD finally work up around 4:15 PM and we starting to prepare to go to dinner, as tonight were a formal night. I also collect all of the laundry that we need to get cleaned and was able to stuff the bag full (leaving some for the next day). We got to our table within our 5:45 PM dinning window and finished around 7:30 PM and headed to the front of the ship to attend the 8 PM song and dance show called "In Concert". The singers and dancers played a series of contemporary hits for the next hour (to be repeated at 10 PM). After the show, we took the kids back to the cabin in order to change and have them ready for bedtime. We turned in early, as the ship would be docking at Grand Turk at 7 AM next morning and depart at 2 PM and we wanted to get to the beach in the morning and return back to the ship before the afternoon. Day 3 - Grand Turk We ordered room service and it arrived on time 7:45 to 8:00 AM with all items accounted for on two large serving trays. I tipped the server a couple of dollars and we had our breakfast. By the time we finished got the kids and ourselves in our swimming gear and fully covered in sunscreen it was around 9:30 AM. We then finally left the cabin got the FIL and headed for the gangplank it was another half-hour. By the time we got to the beach it was 10:30 AM. The weather was warm with a mild breeze. The water was not as warm as it was when we last visited Grand Turk in April '07. Also it seems that the beach front shrunk a bit due to a storm earlier in the year. We stayed on the beach until noon, time and then we returned back to the ship for lunch. Before going to lunch we went back to the cabin to shower everyone to remove the sunscreen and sand. Waiting for us at the cabin was our first towel animal a Pig. At around 1 PM we then went up to the Lido deck for lunch. After lunch, younger DD was getting cranky and so I took her back to the cabin for her afternoon nap. Meanwhile, older DD and DW walked around the ship and visited Club HAL were DD participated in some coloring and drawing activities. By the time the baby woke up, it was nearly time for dinner. We then got everyone changed for smart casual dinner and arrived at our table around 5:55 PM. Following dinner, older DD and I went to the 8 PM show and had a good time listening to the Guitar player who played a series of songs intermixed with dialogue of music history. After the concert, we returned back to the cabin and get got DD to bed. At 11 PM, I went up to the Lido deck to get a small plate of food (Fried Rice, Chicken Satays, Curry Egg, Meatball and a piece of Fried Chicken) from the Indonesian themed late night snack that was available from 11 PM to midnight and returned back to the cabin to share with DW. We then turned in for the night. The ship's time was moved ahead by one hour to synchronize with San Juan and St. Thomas time. Day 4 - San Juan We decided that we would not leave the ship as our experience from our last visit to San Juan was that it was not very baby friendly as old San Juan streets are not suited for strollers. The In-laws wanted to go on a tour of San Juan (with DD in tow), and booked an excursion that would start at 10:30 AM. Docking at San Juan was delayed by half-hour due to winds and tidal conditions. Also the immigration process was changed since the last time we were in the Eastern Caribbean. Previously, all passengers need to get up in the early morning and present themselves and their ID's to US Customs and Immigration. Starting this year, the process has changed such that only when you leave the ship do you need to show your ship card and a photo ID. DW when to the whirlpool after breakfast at the Lido, meanwhile DD and I strolled around the pool deck and looked around the port of San Juan. At noon time we went to the Tamarind for the set menu lunch. The lunch starts off with a 'Hot and Sour" soup, followed by a small green salad with a Dim Sum entrEe. For dessert you had a choice of various ice creams and cakes-like items. As there is no charge to the lunch, it was not bad and younger DD enjoyed eating the insides of the chicken and vegetable dumplings. During our lunch we spotted Celebrity Solstice coming into the port. After lunch, DD need to take a nap and we returned back to the cabin. By the time she woke up, it was around 4 PM and she wanted to have a snack before dinner time. I took her up to the Lido deck and give her a piece of bread to eat. After a small snack, we toured the Crow Nest and Explorer's Lounge to take a few shots of her and the Celebrity ship. RCI Freedom of the Seas docked at the terminal. At around 5 PM, we went back to the cabin and get ready for dinner. After dinner we returned back to the cabin to discover an Elephant towel animal on the bed. At 7 PM at the main theater was showing a movie and a show with the Comedian was scheduled at 10 PM. I did not attend either one as I need to get the younger DD to sleep as I was going to the CC sail away at 10:45 PM. During the Roll Call forum for the Eurodam on December 13 cruise we were all invited to attend the sail away by a fellow CC member who was upgraded to the Penthouse suite. At the appointed time I went to cabin 7031. The suite was one would expect as a Penthouse suite, it was large, opulent, and luxurious. I hope that I can experience this type of living on a future cruise. After sailing away from San Juan, we passed the Freedom of the Seas (she was fully lit up) I stayed for a while further and then returned back to the cabin and retired for the night. Day 5 - St. Thomas We arrived into St. Thomas on time, but didn't get up until 9 AM and only finally got to the Lido at around 10:30 AM for breakfast. Docked with us was the Cunard Queen Mary 2. We returned to the cabin to get our stroller and finally exited from the ship at around 11:30 AM. After passing through the security gate we then grabbed a Taxi at $4 pp and arrived downtown. At the other pier, we spotted NCL Dawn, RCI Freedom of the Seas, and Carnival Valor. We walked around the shops and purchased a couple bottles of water and we looking for the Chocolate shop that we found, the last time we were here in April '07. We then returned back to the ship at around 2:00 PM and went directly to the Lido for a late lunch. Immediately after lunch I took the younger DD to the cabin for her afternoon nap. Older DD and DW when walking around the ship and came back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. During the dinner time, the Captain made a general announcement that we were being diverted back to San Juan to drop off an ill passenger. We would be in San Juan in around three hours and would be docking using the ships thrusters to off load the passenger before resume our course to Half Moon Cays. After dinner we then headed back to the cabin to drop off a few things. In our cabin was a towel monkey hanging off the ceiling air vent. At the main theater we caught the 8 PM show featuring the Ship's Singer and Dancers. The younger DD at around the half-way point of the show decided that she had enough and wanted to leave. I took her to our cabin and put her down for the night. Later at 11 PM, I went up to the Lido to check-out tonight's late night snacks and picked up a small plate to share with DW, before going to bed. Day 6 - At Sea We got up, got dressed, and we got up on the Lido deck for a light breakfast by 9 AM. Breakfast was the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, freshly squeezed orange juice and a bowl of congee. Today was the Mariner's Brunch which was scheduled for 11:30 AM. At the Brunch, it was open seating lower level (Deck 2). The Brunch was a set menu that you had two choices for the appetizers, four choices for entrEe and a dessert. As a parting gift you were allowed to take the menu holder (as it makes a great photo frame). Because of the Mariner's Brunch I had to call reservations to cancel our second Tamarind lunch that was scheduled for noon time. At the Brunch, during the dessert time, had to I take the younger DD back to the cabin for her afternoon nap, as she was getting very fussy. After getting to sleep, I waited for my DW to return to the cabin in order for her to watch DD and allowing me to catch a 1 PM movie at the movie theater room. The theater room has seating for 25 to 30 people and they have a table set aside with caps of popcorn to munch on. After the movie, I returned back to the cabin to find out that DW had taken a nap and DD was now awake. Since it was only around 4 PM, I decided to go to the FIL room to give younger DD a bath, as the Oceanview cabins had tub showers instead of just showers like our inside cabins. I grabbed some baby bath gel and shampoo along with a towel from the room and went over to the In-laws cabin. After drawing the water, I give both girls a bath and they were clean from top to bottom. At 4 PM the Guitar player was to play an encore performance in the main theater. Having enjoyed his playing the previous night, both the girls and I went to see him play again. Less than half-way through, I had to leave as the younger DD did not want to remain to watch him. We returned back to the cabin to begin getting dressed up as tonight was the second formal of the cruise. We arrived at our table just prior to the 5:45 PM window. Tonight's dinner had the Surf and Turf section and for the dessert it is the famous Baked Alaska. After dinner we went back to the cabin and DW was going to put younger DD to bed, while I would take older DD to the 8 PM show featuring duo act of a Comedian and the Guitar player. After the show, I took DD back to the cabin to get her ready for bed. Since we were going to Half Moon Cay I wanted to be able to call room service for breakfast the following morning between 8:00 to 8:30 AM. After filling out the card for room service, I then hanged it outside on our door handle. At around 10:30 PM, I decided that I wanted to do some shopping and when to the shops located mid-ship on deck 3 and picked up some t-shirts that were on sale. I then returned back to the cabin to drop off my purchase and then went up to the Lido to visit the late night buffet and get a small plate of food that I shared with my DW. We then retired for the night. Day 7 - Half Moon Cay We received our breakfast at around 8:25 AM and quickly finished the meal so that we could get to Half Moon Cay ASAP. While DW got the kids covered in sunscreen, I went up to the Queen's Lounge (Deck 2) and got the tender tickets (#15). As soon as I returned back to the cabin, the announcement for ticket #15 was called and we proceeded directly to Deck A pass Security and boarded the tender. We then walked off the tender at around 9:40 AM and onto the island. We immediately when to the beach to find a free beach chairs and played in the water until 11:30 AM, when we got out of the water and road the Tram to the lunching area for the BBQ Lunch. After a quick meal, we returned back to the water to walk on the sand (very nice white sand) and splashed around the water. At around 1:30 PM, we had our fill of Half Moon Cay and boarded the tender to return back to the ship. After a quick wash down I then took younger DD for a nap and relaxed in the cabin until 4 PM, when I went to the disembarkation information session at the main theater. After returning from the Theater, we started to prepare to pack our belongings by taking out our four suitcases which I had stored under the bed. At around 5:40 PM we headed to the restaurant for our final dinner on the Eurodam. After dinner we attended the show to watch the singers and dancers perform their closing number. At around the half-way point, younger DD wanted to go to sleep and we all returned back to the cabin. Once we got everyone to sleep, I finished packing our suitcases and then put them out into the hallway at around 11:00 PM, before going to bed. Day 8 - Ft. Lauderdale After setting my alarm clock to wake us up at 7:30 AM, we got dressed and when up to the Lido for our breakfast. We then returned back to the cabin at around 9:15 AM to gather our things to prepare to disembark from the Eurodam at our departure time of 9:30 to 9:45 AM. After a quick line-up we then showed our pass-cards and exited from the Eurodam to then claim our luggage before leaving the port. I flagged a Porter, as both DW and I had no extra hands to manage our four suitcases; we then handed over our customs form and finally left the cruise port terminal. We then found the hotel shuttle and headed back to the hotel for a night before taking a flight back to Toronto. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The following is a War and Peace version of a cruise view from my family vacation on the Carnival Spirit sailing on December 14, 2008. It's long and opinionated and if you have the stamina/time, you are welcome to read it. If you just ... Read More
The following is a War and Peace version of a cruise view from my family vacation on the Carnival Spirit sailing on December 14, 2008. It's long and opinionated and if you have the stamina/time, you are welcome to read it. If you just want a quick overview of my thoughts on the cruise, just skip down to the "Vacationer's Summary section" below to get the overall thoughts. The following has more info than anyone in their right mind cares to know in one setting. But in case I missed something or you need more details, feel free to contact me at the email address, Harryfat@Yahoo.com, with a subject description, Carnival cruise review and I will get back to you. What is a cruise review? I know there are thousands of reviews on this and other sites and I often wonder what really qualifies someone to write a cruise review considering it's nothing more than our version of the vacation which will be different from family to family. Unless we write professionally as a trade, not sure if anyone casual vacationer is qualified to write a cruise review. It's more a vacationer's tale/opinion to be more precious. Having said that, I will take a stab at a "cruise/vacation review". For all my prior cruises, I always do tons of research on what others have written and I will try to recount the details that I found to be important when I read the various reviews. For the most part, you really don't care what I think of the ship's dEcor. You can care less if I think something should be blue instead of red. But what you might find helpful is the cost to get to a beach or the lines I encountered at various events. So to that extent, I will try to keep the focus of this report to more facts than opinions, but obviously I will still have some biased views in there as after all, it was MY vacation. So I should at least be able to sound off. Vacationer's Summary - If you don't want to look at all the gory details below and just want to know if it's worth your time/money to go on this cruise, I would say yes, with some caveat. Yes, it's a good vacation for the family, especially at holiday time. But also keep in mind that during the holiday time, the ship is more than 100% capacity with tons of kids running around. If you don't like crowds/kids, don't sail on a Carnival ship in holiday time. This set of ports is nothing special compared to the other set of Mexican Riviera ports. Yes, you can argue that Acapulco has more to offer and Zihuatanejo is the quintessential sleepy Mexican village that is better than the PV/Mazatlan/Cabo set of ports, but it's like arguing if oranges tastes better than apples. So if you are just trying to decide between just the 2 sets of ports, I won't the have the ports be the final deciding factor on taking this cruise. Carnival's main slogan is the "fun ship" and they deliver what is promised. This means it's not the "elegant hoity toity" ship. It's what they think it's considered fun for the main street America audience. To be on a Carnival ship, you have to go on with a certain frame of mind. You won't find the quiet dinner meal at the formal dining room as almost mighty, they will have some sort of dance/event going on. You need to be open to the idea of a fun on the Lido deck is having grown ups with 20 rubber chickens between their thighs doing the Chicken Olympics competition with hundreds of people cheering them on. So just be in the right frame of mind on what this cruise is about and you are all good. Having said that, also keep in mind that fun ship also does not mean "we will cater to your every whim" ship. Service is not Carnival's strong point and it shows in many areas such as not providing as ship map upon embarkation so the people can navigate the ship. We got our map from the ship board tour at 3 PM on day 1, but for the next day or so, I had various people approach me as I was looking on the map and asking me where I got this fold out map. They could have easily handed one of these to everyone as they board. But instead you either have to attend the ship tour/find it on Lido deck on top of the water dispenser or stand in line at the pursuer's desk to get one. So just be sure you know what you are getting yourself into and you will have a fun cruise, as they promised. Background - me, middle age dad of 2 boys (ages 7 and 5) along with my wife on the December 14 sailing. This is my 9th cruise, 4th with Carnival, started cruising since 1995. Been to Alaska/Mexico and Caribbean with various lines such as HAL/Princess/RCL/Celebrity. The most recent cruise was December 2007 with Holland America's Westerdam, so for the most part, I will compare this cruise with the Westerdam. Yes, I know it's not a fair comparison as even though both Carnival and Hal are owned by the same parent company (along with Princess and Costa and others) and they offer different things, I will try to compare and contrast what differences I can see and let the readers decide what is the right cruise for them. I am a CPA by trade, so I will throw in more numbers and costs than other reviews as I can relate to numbers more than arts. Why this cruise? - Various reasons. Originally we were planning to make it to Disneyworld in FL for our 10 year anniversary, but back in the summer of 2008, when fuel prices were off the charts, the cost to fly family of 4 across the country (we live in San Francisco bay area) just does not make sense. So it was decided we would stay in the west coast and do a cruise instead. Since we had already been to the ports from the basic 7 days Mexico Riviera cruise, it makes sense to try the 8 day itinerary offered by Carnival. And not having to fly across the country is also a nice bonus. Demographics - This being the pre holiday cruise, there were lots of kids on board, including my 2 boys ages of 5 and 7. Overall, they said there were 2,550 people on board for a ship with official double berth capacity of 2,124. This makes it 120% of capacity - achieved by people like us using the upper bunks. So by all accounts, it was a full ship. So if you travel on non holiday seasons, chances you will encounter a less full ship than ours, but with kids in school, most of the parents can only travel at these short window of opportunity that coincides with the school holidays. Goes without saying if you don't like kids and/or crowds, don't take a Carnival cruise during the holiday seasons. Perhaps more than any other Carnival ships, this ships draw the most diverse social economic groups than Carnival ships. Why? Because if you want to see these sets of ports (Acapulco/Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa/Manzanillo) within a set 8 days period sailing round trip, this is the ONLY game in town. All the other cruise lines either does the 7 day run that goes to PV/Mazatlan/Cabo or does a 10 day+ cruise that sails out of SF periodically (Princess) or sails to Acapulco as part of the Panama canal itinerary. So what does this mean? It means regardless of your social standings and preference for active/party/tranquil ships, you have no choice but to sail on the Spirit. Whereas if you were on the 7 day sailing to the other Mexican ports, during December, you can have your pick of NCL/Princess/Carnival/HAL/RCL. This means it more or less will stratify the social economic group/personal preferences of the cruisers. This is my convoluted way of saying if you prefer free style sailing, you could opt for NCL or if you want more personal service, you opt for HAL with the 7 day sailings, so everyone can be with their preferred group. However, with the 8 day Carnival Spirit sailing being the only option available, you have all the groups and preferences all thrown in and you get a much more diverse crowd that might have sailed with other ships than with the pure 7 days Carnival sailings. 7 days versus 8 days - this is probably the biggest decision making point in whether or not to do this itinerary versus the other 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise. Since I have done both, I can say that if you compare the two, they are somewhat similar. One can make the argument that the 8 day itinerary gives you more unique ports and with the Spirit being the only ship in port most of the time, the shops are not overwhelmed with other ships passengers. For my money, if I had to pick which one to sail on, I would opt for the 8 day cruise just because Zihuatanejo is a hidden gem that is not offered in the other more commercialized ports. But keep in mind that the 8 day itinerary has you being on the ship 4 and half days, so you must like the offerings Carnival has available on board or else you will be going stir crazy. Shareholder/Previous cruise bias - In the era of full disclosure post the Enron debacle, I want to say that that I am a Carnival shareholder and I have a financial incentive for the company to succeed and since 4 of my previous cruises have been with Carnival, I enjoy what they have to offer. But that's not to say I will hold back on my criticisms of the company on areas that is lacking. By the way, as a shareholder, one can get $100 ship board credit on all 7 day sailings within the carnival family of companies (Carnival/Princess/HAL/Costa/Cunard). There were some reviews that described Carnival is the Wal-Mart of cruises. I won't go there as that association has the elitist connotation and as well as social economic overtone that I don't want to get into. What I will compare Carnival with is another giant store - Home Depot. To me, Carnival is like Home Depot. Big, somewhat personal confusing for the first timers. Whereas other smaller ship/cruise lines are more like your local hardware store that you can get more personal attention. With Carnival, you won't find anyone that will carry your tray for you to your seat on the Lido deck like on HAL. With Carnival, you have to get your own water/ice tea at lunch in the funky neon color plastic cups. With HAL, the water/juices/ice teas are pre dispensed during the crowded hours and placed in cold storage so you can just grab and go and not stand in line. But if you are the more do it yourself type, you don't want that type of service anyway. So hence my analogy of Carnival to Home Depot. Ship - There have been many reviews written about the Spirit class ship so I really don't have much to add other than to point out from what I read, it's built on the same design as the corporate sibling's HAL's Vista ships (like the Westerdam we were on last year). Of course, the interior designs are all different based on each company's specific appeal to their target market audience, but for the most part, if you have sailed on the Vista ships previously, you are familiar with the basic designs of the ship. I believe the ship is due for dry dock work in few months but for the most part, held up well for a ship that is 7 years old. Obviously it's not as nice as the brand spanking new ships, but I will never be the tile troll reviewer that will knock a ship because of a missing tile here or some stains on carpets there. If you let those things bother you on a vacation, then you need not read this info as this is not for you. Cabins - We were on deck 1, category 6A, ocean view cabin 1175. With 2 active young boys, there is always an ever lingering fear that my boys would lean next to balcony rail and then they will fall overboard, so we won't book any balcony cabins until they are much older. I know the ratio of balcony cabins versus insides/overview cabins are more than 1 to 1 and almost all profession reviews take prides in stating certain ships have X% of balcony cabins as if the higher the number, the better. For some of us with young kids on the ship, more balcony rooms are not necessarily better. I like the location of the cabin, close to the mid ship elevators and above the water level so I can see out the window regularly to see the size of the waves the ship is sailing through. Being on the higher decks looking out, the waves are more removed and you don't get a sense that you are on a moving ship until you get closer to the water level. And for someone like me that is sensitive to motion sickness, being close to the water level and midnight is what the doctor ordered, literally. Food - This is probably the most subjective part of any trip report as no one has the same set of taste buds and what's great food for one person is garbage disposal material for another person. In general I am not a picky eater - I eat fast food as well as what many westerners think as exotic food. Not anywhere in the league of Andrew Zimmer of Bizarre Food fame from the Travel Channel of eating bugs and animal genitals, but having grown up in Asia, I have had my share of unusual food. And for me, the best thing about meal on a cruise is to try something new that I would never try on the land restaurant. The best time to try anything new is on the cruise to sample something that you would never order while back home. So if a cruise line has something new/unusual, I give it a higher mark as I want to sample as many different types of new cuisine as possible. But the harsh reality is that the ship food has become so middle of the road as it wants to appease to the mass market, it's not always possible to find many new things to try. On this cruise, I found that the more unusual food came at the lunch buffet and not from the formal dinner menu which has your typical fish/fowl/red meat nightly on the menu. That's not to say it's bad food, but just not something that challenges my taste palate daily. The breakfast in general is just a cholesterol bomb with the typical eggs/bacons/sausage fare with some cold/hot cereal alternatives - does the defibrillator come with the 1 pound of bacon? The only variety they had was on alternate days they have either French toast or pancakes. Whereas on other cruises, they would have a more elaborate buffet types of foods such as salmon or on HAL they would have strawberry waffles. Other than the omelets stations, there was nothing really unique about Carnival's breakfast. I know there is a cost consideration here in keeping the breakfast at lower price (remember we paid LESS to be on a Carnival ship than others, so there's the value proposition as well), but if they charge on average $3 per person per day, or $21 on a typical cruise, that would amount to over $50K on our cruise and they can buy some decent variety of food for breakfast in addition to what is being offered. As stated above, lunch on the Lido deck was pretty good. They always have the nation of the day at one station and I like the Caribbean and Indian days. Maybe I just like my food with a punch. The typical burgers/ham sandwich/pizzas does nothing for me. Part of it maybe is that I eat these during the work week, so when I go on a cruise, I want something different. At the formal dinner, Carnival is as good as any other cruises line I have sailed on, with exception of Celebrity cruise, which caters to the foodies. But for a mass main street crowd, Carnival has as good as dinner meal as anyone else. Give me a blind fold test, I won't be able to say this food was any better or worst than the other cruises cuisine we have eaten. Again, just personal opinion on food. Hard to be objective on this topic. Another harsh reality of modern day cruising is that given the price everyone pays (very low for the most part compared to land vacations) and the passenger size of the modern ships (typically 2,000 plus people), it's unrealistic to expect cruise meals to be the best you ever had in your life. Don't expect some fancy French chef to personally slave over your meal amongst the 2,000 plus people on the ship. One can argue that you will get a better meal on the alternative restaurants on board the ships, but the concept of paying twice for the same meal does not make sense to a bean counter like myself. Now if they give me a credit for the price I had already paid for the alternative restaurant to buy something else on board, then I would be more receptive to the alternative restaurant(s). I am happy that Carnival is sticking with the traditional seating plan as I would hate to do anytime dining. I can have that anytime dining at home or any other land based restaurant. But on a cruise, for 7 nights, I will have a special table reserved with my name on it and the waiter knows what I like (hot tea after dinner). Nowhere else on a land based vacation will you get that's so I would never do a free style or anytime meal plan if there are alternatives to the traditional dining preference available. Dining Steward - We had Vernon from India as our waiter. Big jolly guy with a fun personality. I can see him working at Chevy's or any of the more hip style restaurants. Comes by nightly with his food recommendation of the night and for the most part, I concur with his food taste. Probably the best waiter from all my cruises. Cabin Steward - Before I really criticize my cabin steward, I want to say they have an ugly job of trying to keep all the cabins clean and making it presentable. Whenever we leave the room for dinner, it looked like a disaster area with kids stuff all over the bed and towels in the bathroom after our shower, but when we come back every night, the cabins are spiffy clean. So my hats off to the people in this area. That being said, I have to say our cabin steward is probably the least competent in my cruising history. Not that he does a bad job in leaving the room in a mess,. But somehow he can't count up to 4. Since we have 4 people in the cabin, he somehow only leaves us 3 wash clothes every time he makes up the room. I either have to somehow catch him in the hallway to ask for more or just make do with the 3 we have. You would think after day two of me asking him regular that he knows we need more than 3 wash clothes for 4 people, but he never got that down. One day he even forgot to fold up the upper bunk bed for the day, so we have that hanging overhead. Not a big deal as the kids enjoy going up and down the ladder, but just little signs like this make makes him less than tops on cabin steward in my book. Camp Carnival - My 2 boys had a blast at the camp. They didn't go to the camp on the port days as they were with us on all excursions - didn't take them thousands of miles away form home to leave them at camp - not the point of a family vacation. Whatever time they were at the camp during the sea days, they thoroughly enjoyed it. By attending camp the last day, you get a free t-shirt to color, so be sure to check the kids' daily activity schedule for that. This being the ships' holiday cruise, they had a special show with the kids from the camp with the ship's singers and dancers as well as crew members and Santa made a visit at the end. You can be cynical and said that was a little too sappy, but for the hundreds of people in the audience with their kids on up on the stage, it certainly was a memorable event and I applaud Carnival for doing this. They didn't have that on our December cruise on HAL last year. Entertainment - Other than food, another highly subjective manner is entertainment as one person's idea of great music/comedy is unbearable noise/highly offensive manner to another person. For my set of entertainment, the Carnival dancers were decent. Carnival has bigger production venue than HAL with more singers and dancers and more elaborate costumes/props on their big production nights. The comedians are always racy and politically incorrect on all ships I have sailed on, as it's hard to compare humor from person to person. Spa/Excursions - No idea. Didn't go. Same for ship based excursions. Did our own tours to save money. So you need to read other reviews if you want insights on that. Next cruise? I know I haven't even started with the details of this cruise and I am already talking about my next cruise. That goes to show you that I am addicted to cruises. Shortly after disembarking the ship, one gets the withdrawal symptom of a post cruise let down. Part of the reason why I wrote this is to relief myself of this symptom. After having cruised in the warm weather in the past 2 cruises, we are now looking to do cold weather scenery and return to Alaska in 2009 to cool off during the dog days of the summer. Makes sense, right? Cruise Caribbean/Mexico in December to thaw out and cruise Alaska in August to cool off. Would I go back on another Mexican Riviera cruise - Sure I would. Besides just being on the cruise itself, the added benefit of sailing from a west coast port is wonderful. But I will wait to do this same 8 day itinerary in few more years after they switch the Spirit with a different ship. Nothing against the Spirit per se, just that for me if I was to sail on the exact same itinerary, I would not want to go on the same ship again since there are enough choices to pick from. So next time we go back to Mexico Riviera, maybe December 2010, we are looking to do the 7 day itinerary with the RCCL's Mariner of the Seas or even later on for the 10 day HAL itinerary that goes to the more exotic inner parts of Cabo and see the Copper Canyons. That more or less covers everything. Now onto the nitty/gritty details. Day 0 - Saturday, December 13, 2008. Woke up before 6 AM to start getting ready for the airport and last minute packing. Amazing how a vacation that is months in the planning stage always ends up with last minute scramble to get things done. By time we finally left the house, it was around 9:30. Slightly behind the targeted time of 9 AM, but given it's the weekend, the traffic to the airport should be manageable. By time we got to SFO, it was around 10:30 for the 11:50 flight. For some reason, Virgin America's check in area resides within the "International Terminal" of SFO. Somewhat odd as the name of the airline more or less tells you it's a domestic carrier. Whatever. Haven't been to the International Terminal since they built it few years ago. Looks very nice. The check in line was non exist. They had 3 workers at the check in and noone was in line. The gal was standing outside by the line asking if we are in Virgin America and just took us right up to the counter. Fastest check in of my life. Was expecting the hordes of people a la Southwest or United. Very happy start on the vacation. First time ever on VA. Pretty impressive for the most part. The personal entertainment is their big draw and for the most part, it works well. But having to charge people $2 per headset seems pretty cheesy as they could have easily added that to the base price of the flight. My headphones for the IPOD was in my luggage up in the bins, so it wasn't as convenient to grab it as I didn't think I needed the IPOD with the on board entertainment. If they insist on charging extra for the headsets that Jet blue gives to you for free, they should at least advertise it on their web site that there's extra charge for it. Another nickel and dime about VA was that you have to pay for the bag of peanuts or snacks. Only thing they give you is the soda. Come on, get real, people. How much can a bag of pretzels/nuts cost? Now for the good part, there's a variety of things you can do with their personal entrainment. More than you can do in a short flight like the one we were on. You can watch the 25+ channels of Dish network connection TV like CNN or ESPN Saturday football game. Or with the keyboard/remote control on the side, you can have chat room with anyone in the plane. Did that with my kids for a bit. Fun thing to do if you have big group that is spread out all over the plane. Like the real-time flight info on Google map so was able to follow the flight path of the plane. After leaving SFO, I thought the plane would hug the coast line all the way to SD. But was surprised to see that we were pretty inland around the San Luis Obispo area where we were in between 101 and the 5. We went back to the coast line as we got outside of the LA area and once we got near SD, we had to head east ward toward La Mesa as I guess all incoming planes must approach from the East side. So it's as if we made a big backwards letter C in order to land. Arrived at SD tarmac about 75 minutes after we left SFO. Somewhat cloudy sky but saw some sun as we were taxing. By time we got to the baggage claim, our luggage were already making its rounds, literally. Another first in terms of speed on getting the luggage as most of the times when you get off the plane you try to figure out which carousel you luggage MIGHT be in and then wait for it to move. Nope. This thing was ready for us by time we got there. Made the call to Hampton In with the cell. Got a good tip from cruise critic last year's cruise in that you preprogram the hotel's phone number into your cell phone so that you don't need to fumble for the number to call once you land. Got picked up about 15 minutes later. On the way to the hotel, which is a quick 10 minute drive, tried another Rachel Ray trick - ask the locals where to eat for dinner. The driver recommended an Italian restaurant few blocks from the hotel in Little Italy, Filipi's. I asked for good affordable food that will accommodate families/kids. Can't go to some snooty restaurants where they give you ugly evil stares if your kids make too much noise. After checking in, ate a quick lunch next to the hotel and then it started to rain. Dang. Was going to go to the water front to watch the Carnival Elation cast off, but guess not. So went back to the hotel and rested until almost 5 when the rain stopped and we walked over to the water front. By then the Elation has already left, the Holland America's Oosterdam is still around and since we took her sister ship, Westerdam, at the Caribbean last year, it was good to see the same family again. After some walking around the water front, it was dark and just too chilly with the wind, so we went to a nearby Rite Aids and bought some water to take on the ship and bought couple post cards and went back to the hotel once more to thaw out until 7 PM when we went off to dinner to Filipi's. It was 3 blocks away at the Little Italy section and when we got to the restaurant, it was like WOW, the line was out the door, literally. The restaurant is embedded inside the deli, so the line started inside area. There were probably 35 people ahead of us. Since we weren't really hungry and not really knowing other restaurants in the area, we decided to wait it out in the cold. And the line moves fairly quickly given the size as it turns out the restaurant is pretty big inside, just doesn't look big from the outside. By time we sat down, we waited perhaps 35 to 45 minutes. Not as bad compared to waiting in line at Disneyland for a ride. The place won some sort of award for the best pizza in 2007 and has been around since 1950. So we ordered a large pizza to share as well as spaghetti with meatball and ravioli and some garlic bread. Overall, it was pretty decent food for its price, which is probably why the place has such long line as you figure it must be good. Pizza is a very subjective thing and I am definitely not an expert at it, given I am Asian and from CA, it's like some white dude trying judge what is the best Chinese food from his limited experience. But having been to Italy, it's certainly not the authentic pizza you'd see in Italy. More catered to the American tourist taste. It's the thick crust type, smothered (or drowned is the better word) in cheese. Definitely the cheesiest pizza I have ever had. They must have dropped close to a pound of cheese as it was like a snow capped pizza when it arrived. The spaghetti and meatball was better in my opinion. Would get that next time we are in town. But the wife really liked the pizza, so guess you have to try it yourself. After that, we stopped off at 7/11 on the way back to the hotel to get some Haagen Daaz ice cream to eat in the hotel. And after showering and eating the ice cream, it was time to call it a day. Day 1 - Sunday, December 14, 2008. Woke up before 6 and started writing the daily blog. I will always be writing it one day after the event as some of the details are still fresh in my head. After everyone else woke up, we went downstairs for the free breakfast. From the lobby area, we saw that our ship has already arrived - a good sign as if it's not there yet, it would mean delay in boarding as it would have to unload its passengers before we can get on. After breakfast, we decided to head back to the waterfront once more to see the area in daylight. It's interesting to have enough time to see the ship before the cruise as most of the time, we all just jump on board ASAP and not really just a chance to see some of the details. Waterfront in SD is very quiet on a Sunday morning. With exception of few street vendors and the various passenger activities, there isn't much going on. We saw people started taking their luggage onto the check in area at 10 AM. Why? They don't board you until 11 something, so what is the rush? After 11 AM, we walked back to the hotel to get ready for the 11:30 shuttle to take us to the terminal. Another thing the shuttle driver gave us a good tip on was to sign up for the later shuttle as it's less crowded (we were the only ones on for our time slot) and the shuttles are allowed to drive all the way inside the security gate for drop off to the porter. Better than hauling the luggage across the street on your own. The first impression of the SD terminal certainly isn't impressive. Unlike the various other terminals in FL and Long Beach, the SD terminal is just a converted dock side terminal for cruises. It's decent as far as cleanliness goes, but compared to the first class amenities of FL, it's not even close. First line was just to see if we have the passports to match the funship pass info. Second line was security x-ray screening similar to airport where you take out cameras/cell/laptop. Third line is to check in at the counters to get the room key. Per my count, there were 13 regular check in counters, 1 for special cases, 2 for VIP. The wait for that is around 10 minutes. Getting the room cards were easy, just giving them the same AMEX card I had registered online and they hand us the keys. Then we have to sit down at the various metal benches and wait for our "zone number" to be called. We were zone 5. And they were only calling VIP and zones 1 and 2 at around 12:15 time frame. After a 20 minute wait where the kids ate the snacks we had packed in the back pack, they called our number to get into another line to have the oligarchy on ship picture taken. Then they did the security pictures to embed the web cam pictures onto the system so they can pull up the pictures every time we get on/off the ship. Finally up a flight of stairs to walk the gang plank to finally get on deck 2 at the lobby entrance. Whew! As the rooms were not ready yet (official time for that is 1:30), everyone was told to go the Lido deck for lunch. When we got there, it was a zoo. With many passengers on board already, finding a place to sit in the buffer area was a challenge of itself. And with the various buffets areas broken into sections (i.e. the ice cream machine is all the way in the back outside b the fantail bar), it is confusing for first timers o the ship. And true to Carnival's designs, the themes added many columns and made things more confusing. I much rather have the HAL's Westerdam's clean outlook of everything in the middle and you just walk around to it. We all have our pet peeves and one biggest one is people taking their luggage with them on board the ship. I don't mean the small carry ons that everyone has, I mean their entire luggage with the mother of all luggage in tow as they navigate the narrow pathways of buffet area. Why don't they just drop off their luggage at the curb side porter? Since everyone and their cousin was at the buffet area, having the extra luggage there just makes things worst. Carnival should make it a policy of restricting carry ons like they do on planes or at the minimum have people drop them off at their rooms before they go to lunch. I read one line that said people can drop off their personal belongings in the cabins, but not stay there. Carnival should emphasize that upon boarding. Anyway, onward and forwards. After lunch, it was time to go to the cabin and stretch out. Went down to deck 1, found 1175 with ocean view and that would be our room the next 8 days. For $120 more, we could have upgraded to a balcony room. But with little kids, just didn't feel secure that they won't climb over the railings. First impression of the cabin was it was narrow door to walk in, maybe just perception but seems like other ships doors were wider. By the end of the cruise, it seems big enough. At 2:45, went to the Pharaoh's lounge for the start of the ship tour. Maybe it's carnival attracting more first timers as the tour was munch bigger than the Westerdam's tour, so they need to get more help to get acquainted with the ship. I'd say there were over 100 of us on the tour. After the tour, back to the cabin to get ready for muster drill. No luggage yet. Hmm, this is the slowest we have ever gotten our luggage in the 8 previous cruises. Oh, well, whatever. Time for the muster drill and then cast off. The sun was out, but still somewhat cool as we cast off. Walked around took various pictures and then back to the Lido cafe for hot chocolate to thaw out and grabbed some fries to much on as we drank. Then back to the cabin and didn't see any luggage on the hallway as we approach the cabin, not good. Visions of having to go to purser's desk to tell them they lost our baggage flashed in my mind as we approach the door. But when we opened the door, we fund all 5 luggage were waiting for us inside the cabin. Guess the cabin steward must have put them in for us. Whew! Unpacked and then walked around the ship to get acquainted with the various locations and stopped off at the Sushi shack for their sushi plate of the night (they open from 5 to 8:30 daily). The sushi was whatever, what I really wanted was the ginger that comes with it as with the ship sailing away from the protective shelter, I can start to feel the movement of the ship, so having some ginger in my stomach couldn't hurt. Then went to the lounge to listen to an orientation meeting for Camp Carnival and register the kids for camps and obtain a beeper - since Sean is only 5 years old, everyone in that age group receives a pager in case something happens to them while they are in camp and we needed to be notified. Visited the shops with hundreds of people as they were giving away free alcohol at the shops to attract the people to go in and shop. After that, time for the Empire dining room to meet Vernon, our waiter. The dude was probably the most lively dining room steward I ever had. Very hip/cool type of personality, different from the other more reserved type of waiters - I would expect to see him at any local Chevy's. He would have a recommendation every night on what's good on the menu. Many times I followed his advice and it turned out well. He joked with the boys and called Sean "Pizza boy" as he only wanted to order a cheese pizza while the rest of ordered from the adult menu. I had the New York Steak, which was ok. The wife had the BBQ baby back ribs which she said was excellent. By the end of the dinner, the boys were getting cranky from sitting there so long for a dinner (there version of sit down dinner is 15 minutes tops), the waiter quickly ordered a banana split for both kids on his own without us even asking for it and it kept them happy. After that, we went up to deck 5 to check out the camp carnival to get the boys acquainted with the various counselors and the playground area. Little more walking around the ship and then off to bed. The ship was zipping along at a fast pace of 22 knots in order to arrive at the first destination of Acapulco. Day 2 - Monday, December 15, 2008. First day at sea. Woke up, ate breakfast. Wasn't impressed with the Carnival selection of breakfast at the buffet, but then again I knew this was coming, so just shrug it off as whatever. Then we dropped off the kids at camp carnival a little before 10 AM to attend the Meet and Greet function from cruise critic. Hah. Wrong. The wait for the camp is like waiting for Disneyland ride. What? Guess some parents didn't attend the orientation last night for the campers and only register now and they slowed down the lines tremendously. That just penalized the people who register the night before. They should have an extra counselor to walk up and down the line to ask people if they have pre register and then take non register people off to the side to sign up. Another lack of forethought on Carnival's part. Attended the meet and greet and met few people that we would see the rest of the cruise as well as on some shore excursions. Since we are only traveling as 4 of us, it was good to meet up with other people. After the meeting, we headed for the port talk at 11 and then picked up the kids to go back to the cabin to do their homework. Yes, they brought along the homework form school while they are on vacation. Keeps them busy and out of our hair while they are doing it and both boys are like me in that they have a daily journal book to track their daily activities. When the journal writing was done, we went upstairs to look at the pictures that have been taken so far and off to lunch. Had thought of doing some afternoon swimming by the pool, but the outside temperate was a little too cold me. After we left SD, which was around mid to high 50's with the stiff ocean breeze from the previous day's storm, the weather warmed up to the low 70 range. Maybe for small kids or people from the snow are, this is warm weather, but I will pass for now on swimming. Went back to the cabin to do some reading and just relaxed around the ship until dinner time. Attended the captains welcome party to the extent we met him, shook his hand, had our picture taken. Didn't stay for the free alcohol as the wife was more interested in standing in line with other people for the formal night pictures. One thing Carnival does well is their photography session, have many props and backgrounds. More than any other cruise lines I have ever been on. I think they had 7 stations you can stand in line for to get your formal pics taken. After that was done, off to the formal night dinner. One thing about the boys wearing ties and suits, they drew many admiring comments and looks from the passengers on how cute they looked. For dinner, we had the lobster and shrimp. Aaron had the Salmon and Sean once again ordered another pizza. Then I ordered an extra main dish of duck to be shared by everyone. Then typical of Carnival, they had the announcement over the PA system to welcome everyone to dinner and the waiters performed the typical Italian song each holding a bic lighter. For dessert, I had the cherries jubilee and the wife and Aaron both had the chocolate warming cake - which is available nightly - basically a hot chocolate cake in a white round ceramic cup of 4 inch diameter and vanilla ice cream on he side. The cake is very good/most as it's not 100% cooked and the creamy batter taste goes well with the cool ice cream. Basically a lazy day around the ship. Didn't do a lot of things, just relaxed as that's part of being on vacation. Set the watch ahead one hour before going to sleep as we headed toward Mountain Time. Day 3 - Tuesday, December 16, 2008. Woke up to the feel of ocean waves. Not a big side rolling motion where you feel like tossing cookies or anything, but if you pick a water spot on the window, and align it with the horizon, you will notice that water mark be above and below the horizon for an inch or so every 20 seconds. That tells me we have some up and down movements on the ship, but not bad enough to make anyone nauseous. But glad I have the sea band. Had the typical carnival cholesterol bomb breakfast and then walked around to drop off the boys at camp carnival. Spent some time looking at the tons of pictures from the previous formal night and then went to the port talk. Unlike the other shopping places like St. Thomas, this itinerary is not made for shopping. So the presentation was over pretty quickly. After bumming around the various decks, we went back to the cabins so the kids can do their daily homework and had lunch. By then, the weather had become warm enough for this set of old bones to feel good to get into the water slide. On average we were picking up 10 to 12 degrees per day as we headed south, so it was probably around 80 degrees when we started playing at the water slide area. The water slide is fun in of itself, but since it sit on top of deck 11 and then you have to climb couple sets of stairs to get to it, you are looking at being 150 or so feet above water level looking down with the ship sailing at 22 knots and the wind blowing. Provides a different perspective. The kids really enjoyed the water slides and then we stretched out in the sun for a little bit before decided to go back to the cabin since our skin isn't used to this much sun. Didn't want a sunburn this early on the vacation. Went back to the cabin to shower off and then took a quick nap as we were all tired from playing in the water. Afterwards, we took the kids to the lido deck for dinner. And of course, I ate some myself as my version of starter dinner. Then at 7 PM, went to the "repeater's party"- carnival version of rewarding past guests with free food and drinks. This event was by invitation only for past passengers. The invitation was delivered to the cabin the night before by the cabin steward along with a pin for all 4 of us since we all sailed before. There were approx. few hundred people in the audience. I had 2 blue margaritas and the wife had 1 of the blue margaritas and some yellow drink. The boys each had 2 of the pink non alcohol drinks - I think it was punch. The band was playing and then they had one game to play on stage and final presentation by the captain and the video from CEO of the company. We were asked to cheer for the various Carnival ships were on as they went down the history of the fleet in the company. I gave big loud cheers for my ships, Holiday/Jubilee/Paradise and now Spirit. After the party, the kids went it camp carnival so the wife and I can have amore leisurely quiet dinner. But we were so full from the pre dinner with the boys and then the food from the party that by time we got to dinner, we were 60% full. Had the French Onion soup and the ribs. Very tender meat. No bone on the ribs as it was stripped off for us. Nice recommendation again by the waiter. After dinner, went to pick up the boys to take more pictures at the photo area as they had set up more props to take pictures. Carnival sure knows how to make money in their ways. We took few pictures and as I was just video taping the boys getting onto the props, the nazi carnival photo workers got on my case for taking videos. After that, time to call it a night. Day 4 - Wednesday, December 17, 2008. Woke up and had breakfast, dropped off the kids at camp carnival at 10 so they can do the rehearsal for the big holiday event. Then we did more photo selection as the wife can't decide from the near 100 pictures taken up to this point on which ones to buy and which ones are used for the holiday Christmas cards. After that, we picked up the boys to go on top deck to see the Spirit sailed into Acapulco bay. Took the obligatory pictures and videos on top deck before heading back to the cabin to get ready for Acapulco. With the heat and the sure, we were applying on sun tan lotion like I would oil the turkey. After the all clear signal was given at 12 noon, we soon got off the ship and walked inside the cruise terminal. It's a collection of dozen or so shops. Then you walk through the security gates to be met by dozens of cab drivers/tour operators. We already had a tour booked with Intersol at 3 PM, so we knew we had some time to kill. The plan was to just walk to the fort area across the way and then have lunch before the tour. But all reviews of the aggressive cab drivers are true. These guys won't take no for an answer. Maybe the fact that I have wife and 2 little one sin tow, they figure me to be an easy target as needing a guided tour. Even when I tell them I already have a tour booked, they try to sell me their own tour as better. In the 150 yards of walk between the security gate and the edge of the walk way to the fort, I was hounded by at last 12 cab drivers that walked with me as I try to say no to them every step of the way. Don't want to be rude, but it's hard not to get frustrated in the heat and the persistence of these guys. By time we got to the cross walk to get to the fort of the fort, we encountered the next riddle - why did the Chinese family run across the road? Answer: To avoid being run over by the traffic as there are no lights or stop signs. You just stand at the corner and wait for someone nice enough to stop and you hope their other motorists stop as well as it's a 3 lane road on either side. SO you stand on the edge and wait for 1 car to stop and you hope the 2 cars next to him stops along side, then you run like hell to get to the middle and repeat the same process. Loads of fun. Walked up the steep path to get to the fort area to see the view of the ship from above. Walked around the area, but it was just too hot for the boys after a little while and we headed back. Repeating the chicken cross the road Olympics as mentioned previously before stopping by to look at various stalls at the flea market tents set up outside the security gate area. Bargained to get 4 Acapulco baseball caps for $5 each so we can wear it the rest of the vacation. Cool. Back to the cabin to cool off in the air conditioned place before heading up o deck to have lunch. It was nice and peaceful upstairs. The most tranquil lunch we had since being on board as majority of the people are off the ship by then. At 2:50, we headed downstairs to meet up with Lisa and her family to join the Intersol tour that we booked online. Even at 3 PM, there were still some taxi cab drivers trying to drum up business and until the Intersol guy came over with the sign, then did we were finally left alone. The 10 of us first went inside one van to get ready to go, then somehow they told us to move to another van. Once we got into that van, the row of seats was wet and then we were told to go back to the original van. OK, musical chair in the 90 degree temperature (much hotter in the van) isn't my idea of a great tour start. Then they picked up 2 additional passengers, which turn out to be Ron and his wife as Intersol screwed up and had them on the wrong tour earlier in the day and this was their make up tour. Not a promising start. Anyway, finally got going and we headed east past the beach area. Acapulco reminds me of Waikiki beach in Oahu, but about 5X as big/crowded/congested. It has all the big hotels on the beach as well as the big name stores like Hard Rock/Planet Hollywood/Hooters and Wal-Mart/Office Depot and so on as we drove along the beach, stopping at every stop light it seems. Before stopping at some convenience store where the tour guy runs inside to get all of us each a bottle of water (part of the tour pricing). And then headed off to the top of the hills at senior frogs area to take some pictures and then off to the top with the cross church to walk around there for awhile before headed off to a shopping store where thy gave us free soda and margaritas - guess even the prisoners needs to be fed. Somewhat cheesy of Intersol to do that as they advertise no flee market, but then takes us to a store to be held captive audience for 30 minutes. Bought few obligatory t-shirts and off we went to see the cliff divers. As typical of Acapulco, you must walk a gauntlet of street hawkers to get to the event. But did sis some nice pottery art work for $10, but way too big to lug that thing home after the cruise. Oh, well. By time we got situated for the dive, it was full of people. So even thought we got a clear view of the divers as they climbed up the rocks, we didn't get to see them jumping into the water as the people in front of us blocked the view. Think there were 8 divers overall and was over quickly as each one of them dove into the water. Then walking the gauntlet once more to get back to the van to take us to the ship. But not before another group of kids walking up to us trying to sell us gums and begging for money. Very sad situation. Went back to the cabin, took quick shower to wash off the heat/sweat from out all day and then off to dinner. Had lamb. Then after dinner went to the Mexican folklore performance at 10 before going to bed. Long day full of activities. The ship didn't sail until around 1 AM and from our window, I saw some stragglers coming back to the ship around midnight. Bet they will be tired the next day. Day 5 - Thursday, December 18, 2008. Ship sailed into the mouth of the Zihuatanejo bay and dropped anchor as that is our one tender port. Zihuatanejo is much needed relieve after a busy hectic Acapulco. More laid back village atmosphere. Ixtapa - the twin city - is few miles away, but that is more for the tourists with the fancy resorts like Club Med and shopping malls of high fashion clothes. Zihuatanejo has the local shops selling the local crafts. Had to get a ship tender number (22) at the lounge and waited for about 10 minutes before our number was called as we didn't get up early enough for the earlier numbers. Oh, well. It seems even hotter at Zihuatanejo than at Acapulco. It was 90 degrees in December. Yikes. The tender ride was 10+ minutes and when we got off the pier, there was the typical line of taxi drivers trying to sell us every tour they want, but I knew what I wanted - just a quick cab ride to Playa La Ropa. Walked around for few minutes looking at the shops and then got a driver willing to go there and off we went to Paty's restaurant. The cab ride was $5, but if you are good at negotiating, you can get it down to $3 as that was the price we paid in coming back. Very nice place by the beach with thatch shaped shades. Reasonable prices for food and drinks. As long as you order something from the menu, you can sit there for hours enjoying the day at the beach. The prices are in Mexican pesos, so it's a bit of sticker shock when you see a can of soda at 10, but when you divide it back to USD, it's not an big amount for a beach front place. Beer is 20 pesos. Burgers run you around 55 pesos that come with fries. The beach itself is quiet as it caters more to locals than the tourists who flock to the Ixtapa side. As the ship anchors off at the middle of the bay, think horse shoe clock direction and the ship is at 12 o'clock on the top, we are more at the 6 o'clock area and the entire beach spans between 3 and 9 o'clock. There were some street hawkers that came by to sell their stuff, but they are very low keyed compared to the Acapulco crowd. After few hours at the beach, it was time to head back to the ship and as we were cleaning up to get ready to go, the owner, Paty's came over to talk to us. Not sure why she picked us amongst the various patrons there, maybe of the two boys. At any rate, she was a very nice lady and even thought there were some language varies, she speaks only Spanish and French and we spoke English/Chinese, we got some message across and with help of the translation of one of the waiters, she told us she is very happy that people come to visit her restaurant. It told her that I read about her place from cruise critic message board and I will go back to report what a nice place her establishment is and would highly recommend it. After we took a taxi back to the pier, it was a short ride to the ship. The tide has started to change and the tender was pretty rocky as it tried to hook up with the ship, so it provided some rocky conditions as everyone was trying to sturdy themselves. Then off to shower off all the sand and dirt from our bodies before heading up to Lido deck for a late lunch before 3. After lunch, headed back to the dock side to walk around the shops. Didn't see anything that fancied us as we had been on various other Mexican ports. After some walking around, decided to head back to the ship around 4:30. After getting back, the wife and kids took a nap while I walked around the ship sampling the sushi from the shack and checked out the stores. Went back to wake them up for dinner and then went to the Big Band music performance before going to bed. Day 6 - Friday, December 19, 2008. Ship docked at Manzanillo at 7 AM and as advertised, it's docked at the hard hat area of container shipping area. If you like container ships/cargo, this is your port. There are hundreds/thousands of rectangular ship containers all around the dock area, stacked up like Lego toys, except each one of them weights tons. You are not allowed to walk around the area as everyone who works there are in hard hats and in the proper safety equipment. So you either must take a cab to go wherever you want to go or take a Carnival provided bus shuttle to the downtown area for $4/pp round trip. At least no bargaining necessary. Set price. After breakfast, we headed down to the gangway and yes, it's hot. There was a guy inside the white tent selling tours if anyone was interested. He can get a taxi cab to take you to the various sights of the town if anyone was interested, we were not. We just wanted to walk around town to buy few souvenirs since this was the last stop. So we piled onto the air conditioned bus and waited for it to be loaded with other cruise ship passengers before heading into town on a 15 minute ride. There were some vendors at the water front area and we bought few things there and then walked around the downtown area, which was a mixture of tourist shops as well as local shops as you venture further away from the waterfront. Part of the landscape/buildings reminds me of Ensenada downtown, except with 10X more people and activities - some guy was selling fresh green coconuts from the back of his truck - he will crack it open in front of you and pour the juice into a plastic bag and the scrape out the coconut meat for you, can't get any fresher than that . Got some Sprite for the kids after walking around for awhile since it was very warm (mid to upper 80's). At around 2, we decided to head back to the ship. The cruise director had said at the port talks early in the cruise that this was one port people should take a tour and I would concur as downtown is nothing to write home about. Next time in town, I would spend more time talking to the dude in the white tent to see what types of excursions he can arrange up for me. After getting back to the ship, time to eat lunch at the Lido deck. Afterwards, walked on the top deck to take pictures of the harbor area. If you look away from the container port area, the rest of the harbor doesn't look too bad. Then went to deck 11 to play a round of miniature golf before heading back to the cabin to rest and shower to get ready for ship sailing away and off to dinner and Stopped off at the photographer's to take some more pics (they are out there almost every night trying to drum up business and I am sure they know us by now as how many Asian families have boys that looks like twins that comes by nightly?). After the pics, went to the evening show with signing and the comedian. The dude is hilarious, but he is definitely not politically correct in his humor. After the show at 11 PM, time for bed. The towel animal for the night was bulldog. Day 7 - Saturday, December 20, 2008. Have you ever taken a regular 7 day cruise and at the end of that cruise, wished you have 1 extra day to do whatever it is you wanted to do? Well, that's the beauty of the 8 day cruise. Gives you an extra day to do whatever it is you wanted to do compared to the regular 7 days cruise. After waking up, went to the typical breakfast at the Lido deck and then all of went to the Pharaoh's palace to learn how to make the towel animals we see nightly in the cabin. Everyone was asked to bring in 2 medium and 1 large size towel from the cabin so we all can follow along. It was an interesting session and my 5 year old really got into it and afterwards he wanted to buy a towel book so he can do it at home. After dropping off the towels and the book back in the cabin, the boys wanted to play more miniature golf, so we headed up to deck 11. However, the wind really was kicking it up by then. The captain had said it was a 20 MPH headwind as we are now traveling northbound. My college physics has long since failed me, but if I am good at it, then I would know how to calculate the actual force of the wind is if it's 20 MPH and we are heading into it going 19 knots. Whatever the net number is, it was too strong to play as the ball was being blown every which way. So we turned in our golf balls for ping pong balls one deck below. I know you are wondering if we can't play golf ball in the wind, how do we play ping pong balls? Well, the ping pong tables are situated such that it's somewhat sheltered from the wind. The key word is "somewhat" as it was still a very challenging situation trying to hit a ping pong bal in the swirling wind, but it provided some comical moments we all look foolish trying to hit a ping pong ball that was floating around like a butterfly. Sailed past the cabo region around lunch time. I wonder if it would have been possible to have made a part stop at Cabo is they had made some changes to the itinerary? For example, instead of leaving Manzanillo at 6 PM, we leave at 4 and then instead of going 19 knots, we zip up at 21 knots, would we have made it to Cabo at mid morning for a 5 hour stop before going back to SD? I suppose it could be done, but wouldn't think Carnival would want to cut it too close and also infringe on their other Mexican Riviera run by the Pride. After playing ping pong, we went to lunch and the kids wanted to go back to camp carnival to play and the wife and I walked around the ship taking pictures of the various parts we haven't gotten to up to that point and of course, some obligatory stops at the photo and gift shops. Then back to the cabin for some rest before getting ready for the second formal evening and the show afterwards before retiring a little before midnight. Got the one hour back that we lost as we now are sailing back to Pacific Time zone. Day 8 - Sunday, December 21, 2008. This is the equivalent of a soccer dad/mom day as we had to run from event to event all day. After breakfast, the kids went to Camp Carnival to have their pictures taken with Funship Freddy with the wife while I attended the disembarkation talk. Yes, it's my 9th cruise, but I still feel like I should attend this in case they change their policy one way or another. In theory, I don't need to as some people just get off the ship whenever they felt like it on the disembarkation day, but I try to only by the rules to the extend possible. Yes, they have the same jokes by the cruise director on what to do on the last day - I think all graduated from the same school for cruise directors so they have the same jokes, regardless of which cruise lines they work for. Afterwards, we met up back at the cabin and then the wife attended the adults arts and craft session while I took the boys up to deck 11 once more to see if we can squeeze in one more round of miniature golf. Nope. Too windy. And as we are nearer SD, we lost another 10+ degrees from the day before and it's noticeable as fewer people are by the poolside today. For lunch, they had the special chocolate buffet where you pick whatever you wanted and they drip the hot melted chocolate on them. Very good. After that, we headed off to the kitchen tour. Typical of Carnival versus Holland America, where Carnival just tells you what was what, Holland America gives you a 4 page print out with all the details involving the kitchen. So if you really care to know about things, you have the info at your finger tips. As far as kitchen tour goes, it wasn't much to write home about. They showed us very little compared to the HAL cruise. Oh, well, at least I saw what I wanted for dinner that night - crab cakes and ribs. They look good as the cooks in the back were preparing them. Actually, come to think of it, we never knew who was the executive chef on the ship whereas on the other ship, they were all very prominent. On this ship and on the tour, we only heard from the maître de. After the tour, back to cabin to get the camera/video cam for the 5 PM kids holiday production with the ship's dancers. This was where the kids rehearsed a Christmas song and dance production in conjunction with the ships dancers and singes to provide the family a photo/video op for the holidays. At least that was the plan on paper. In reality, it's more like organized chaos. But as parents, we don't care. We just wanted to see our little ones up on stage singing holiday songs with the ship's singer's people and then have Santa come by at the end for more photos. Hey, it's free, compared to having to pay at the mall. One of the few times the Carnival photographers were not there to elicit more money from us. After the show, we went back to the cabin to rest as it was a hectic day running around the ship trying to attend various events. We then started to pack for home as we had to have the luggage outside between 9 to midnight. Then everyone showered and we took the boys up to the Lido deck for their early dinner as they wanted to go back to camp carnival for one last time. I had the usual pre dinner appetizer as I ate alongside them - if you call a slice of prime ribs and baby back ribs appetizer. After we dropped them off at the camp, the wife and I walked around the shops to buy the last minute gifts before heading off to the formal dining room. She had the raw tuna for appetizers, I stuck with the crab cakes I saw during the kitchen tour. She opted for the ribs for main course and since I loaded up on enough meat earlier on Lido deck, I chose the fish as my main course. For dessert, she had something that resembles a mud pie while I had the classic soufflé with vanilla cream. Said goodbye to Vernon the dining room steward for the last time and as tradition on all our cruises, we always take pictures with the steward on our last night. After dinner, went to pick up the boys and back to the cabin to finalize packing so we can get rid of the luggage that has been all over the cabin. Had some thoughts of going to the show, but was just too tired from running around all day. Enough fun for the cruise as the next day will be an early morning. Day 9 - Monday, December 22, 2008. The ship docked in the wee hours in SD. Not sure when, but when I woke up after 7, we were already all secured. One look outside the window, saw the gray skies and people walking around in heavy jackets. Toto, I don't think we are in Acapulco anymore. Welcome back to December CA weather. I saw people started to stream off the ship before 8 AM and I haven't even eaten my breakfast yet. Guess some people have early flights or they are just in a hurry to get off the ship. As our flight wasn't until after 2 PM, I wasn't in any rush. Went up to the Lido deck for one last breakfast. Since many people have either left the ship or already eaten breakfast, it wasn't as crowded as I had feared. The Carnival Elation and HAL's Oosterdam happens to be back on town on the same day. That makes for a very congested port (more below). But for view, it was nice to see the Elation off the window as we ate. Since we were on her sister ship, Paradise back in 2005, there's some facility to that ship as well as the Oosterdam as mentioned previously. After breakfast, back to the cabin for the carry on luggage and went to decks 2 and 3 to take few more pictures of the areas that we think we might have missed(only chance to have pictures of the kids in the casino) and then just chill out at the lounges as the various numbers are being called. By 10:15, they have called all the numbers and basically said, you bums, get off the ship already. So we made our way down, by then, the line was pretty short of maybe 50 people ahead of us and walked into the tent like structure to get our luggage. Not sure if this is what SD pier is like normally as since we have 3 ships docked and we are the furthest ship away from the terminal, we might have gotten the worst luggage tent, but by then the rain had started and it wasn't much fun walking out of the tent into an open area in the pouring rain to stand in line waiting for taxis. Since there were 3 ships in port, I am sure the taxi drivers are in short supply shuttling everyone around town and the line to get a taxi was pretty long. However, there were some shuttle drivers out there trying to drum up business with signs that said $5/pp to airport. I had read online that the typical cab ride should be less than $10 to the airport, but with the pouring rain and luggage in tow, I care not about saving money, so opted for the shuttle instead. No time to save the few bucks. After a short ride to the airport, we got to Virgin America's counter only to see that they have no one working there yet as we got there more than 3 hours before the flight. So we just sat by the food court and rested and checked the email and voicemail with the rest of the world as we know it behind during our time away. After that, dropped off the luggage, the kids had McDonalds and the wife and I ate Mexico food for lunch. Back to the reality of where food now has costs associated with it. As we headed up to the plane, some Virgin America worker saw my 2 boys walking up and asked if they had head phones for the plane and then gave each of them a new set. Nice touch so now they can have sound that goes with the videos they are watching. After a 1.5 hour flight back to SF, we landed in bay area before 4 PM and made it home thereafter. So if somehow you made it all the way through this rambling monologue, I should either congratulate/thank you for you patience to read all my gibberish or I would suggest you need a cruise vacation more than me. Not sure which. As I said in the beginning, it's impossible for one person to give a review on a cruise vacation as there are so many things going on and depending on what your preferences are, chances are what is important to me is meaningless to you. But if you are looking for a pleasant family vacation, there is no better choice than a cruise since it has enough variety to please multi generations. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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