Pre-cruise Hotel was Fairfield Inn and Suites-Tampa Fairgrounds and Casino. It was very clean and a perfect choice for a pre or post cruise stay. It had free breakfast, free shuttle to and from the cruise terminal and other nearby points (cruise terminal was about 15 minutes away). Make sure to sign up for a shuttle time when you check in (we were on the 11 AM shuttle). It was a very quiet location and the staff was wonderful. If you want lots of stuff around the hotel to do though, this location was not the one for that. We drove to dinner at Maggiano's Italian Restaurant at the Westshore Mall. Had a short wait to sit on the patio and had wonderful food!
Embarkation--We got to the terminal at about 11:15. The porters were helpful and surprisingly non-aggressive. The terminal staff was very nice. An older gentleman working outside the terminal doors saw us in the regular line with our 3 year old son and let us go in the VIP line to get in the building. Once we got in, they were basically doing open boarding on the ship. Minus a short delay due to a difficulty with the computer scanning my passport, we got through in lightning speed. Fastest time ever...start to finish, it took a grand total of 25 minutes. Not sure if it was the Christmas spirit or what, but everyone from staff to passengers were incredibly kind and friendly.
First day--walked on and had a quick bite of lunch. My husband and I had Chinese, which was very good. We checked out the ship a bit and headed to see if our cabin was ready, and it was (at 1:15). We were in cabin 5179. It is an obstructed view balcony. We paid less for it that it cost for an oceanview. If you want a good deal, it's a good cabin. If you look down, you see a lifeboat. If you look out, you see water. It's important if you book one of these to choose the right cabin though. The first 3-4 lifeboats come up much higher and would obstruct your view more. We would definitely book this cabin again for a 2nd cruise in one year (or maybe even our summer cruise if the other balcony cabins were too high).
Something unusual for us at the beginning of the cruise was how cool the temperature was. We are so used to cruising in summer that the cool temps made shorts feel a little chilly and nobody was swimming (checked the water out with my toe and it was ICE cold). A neat new thing we had never experienced was that they had complementary glasses of champagne available and you could pretty much have as many as you wanted. It was a very nice touch.
I entered the spa raffle with no success. We went to the Camp Carnival orientation meeting. Next we did Welcome Aboard trivia and won our first ship on a stick. We went up to the Sun Deck just in time to see us passing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which is a sight not to be missed. This was our first time doing that at night and it was very pretty with the bridge all lit up. We went back down and got sushi (which is always great) and played Holiday Trivia and won yet another ship on a stick. Next we got dressed and went to dinner.
We had a table for 4 which was perfect with our 3YO. Our headwaiter's name was Win from Myanmar. We had cream of tomato soup, chicken tenders, and a lettuce wedge for appetizers and sweet and sour shrimp for our main course followed by black Forrest cake and crÃ¨me br'lÃ©e for desert. The little guy had fruit, Mac and cheese, and carrots with orange sherbet. The food was tasty but nothing outstanding. I would say that summed up our overall reaction to the dining room food. Okay, but not spectacular. And we were not huge fans of the new menu. Some nights it was tough to pick something you really wanted.
After dinner, we went to the Welcome Aboard show for a couple of minutes and decided to turn in for the night. We had our customary towel animal and chocolates left by our cabin steward Saimon. Overall throughout the cruise, we found him to do a great job but he wasn't as personable as most stewards we have had before.
Key West---We started the day with breakfast. It was standard buffet fare. The omelet station, as always, was our favorite. We took the little guy to Camp Carnival and went to spend some time in the Serenity area, which had been added since our last time on the Legend. It is truly one of Carnival's best ideas.
We had booked the City View Hop on Hop Off trolley through Carnival. Our tickets had us meet in one of the lounges at 10:30. The ship wasn't even scheduled to dock until 11:00. Not sure why we had to be there quite so early but I guess there was some reason. They had all Carnival tours meet in that lounge. Passengers getting off the ship on their own had to go into the main lounge and get a trolley ticket. They could not leave until all the Carnival tours had left...so one bonus for booking through Carnival. We got on the trolley at about 11:15. There were 8 stops and you could hop off at any of them you liked. The trolleys supposedly ran every fifteen minutes, but twice during the day we waited more like 25 and then saw two come virtually back to back. We got off the trolley three times. Once to do some walking/shopping/browsing on Duval Street, one to take a picture of the southern most point in the continental US, and once to stop at Kermit's Key Lime Shop. Duval Street was quite busy...lots of shops and even more bars. I am sure it would be nuts at night. The southernmost point was a little anticlimactic...too many people waiting to take their picture in a very small space. We just decided to snap a quick pic without us in it so we could keep going. The stop at Kermit's was well worth it. Lots of yummy stuff to taste, and the key lime pie was very good. The key lime pie dipped in chocolate was a nice twist. My hubby was very excited that he got his picture taken with Kermit, who we had seen on the Food Network. He was such a nice guy. Overall, the trolley was a great way to get an overview of the island. All in all, we took about 3 hours on the excursion. The island itself was very nice...beautiful landscaping, neat architecture, and lots to do it seemed. Definitely worth a return visit. On a side note, it was VERY windy. The Legend and the Valor were both import. The Holland America Ryndam was also supposed to dock, but had to cancel because they could not dock in the high winds.
Upon returning to the ship, we grabbed a bite of lunch and went back to our cabin for a nap. We woke up in time to catch sail away. It was a great one. You could see folks starting to party at seaside bars, lots of sailboats on the water, and the last remains of a beautiful sunset.
We caught a family friendly comedy show by Diane Ford (who I would say was moderately funny) and then went to the Motown show featuring Marcus Anthony in the Follies Lounge before dinner. He is fabulous and helps the audience have a great time.
Dinner was good as usual. Again, good, but not spectacular. My husband had seafood pasta with tomato cream sauce and prosciutto ruffles for starters, I had French Onion soup and a field green salad, and our son had his nightly mixed fruit. For main course, my husband had the jerked pork which is one of his favorites. He mentioned it wasn't as spicy as normal. I had the short ribs which were very tasty...though I thought they pretty much tasted like pot roast. Both of our meals came with fried rice (which was not great) and some type of fried eggplant (which was very good). Our son had a hot dog, French fries, and carrots. For desert, I had warm chocolate melting cake, which was amazing as usual. My husband had cheesecake and our son had ice cream as usual. After dinner we headed back to the cabin, watched a little TV and turned in for the night.
Sea Day #1---We began the day with a typical buffet breakfast. Let me pause here and say that they have the Lido deck food options figured out better on the Spirit class ships than on Conquest class ships. There is just never a very lengthy line. We sailed the Freedom this summer at full capacity and the Legend was at capacity and the difference in wait times on the Lido deck was very noticeable. After breakfast we took the little guy to Camp Carnival and we proceeded to head for a hot tub. We went to Serenity and found the hot tub had a sign on it that said Temporarily Out of Order (had previously said chlorination in progress). Seeing no clamshells available, we went to the spa and used the hot tub in there since the other two on Lido were pretty full.
We went next to the cooking demo in the steakhouse, where they made spinach and mushroom salad, beef stroganoff, and cheesecake with berry sauce. It was all very good. The microphone kept going out during the demo so it wasn't very helpful as a demo (but we got recipes to take home).
After picking the little guy up from Camp Carnival we went for lunch and got him back for a nap. During nap time, I went to the Murder Mystery in the Follies Lounge (which I never followed up with) followed by Bingo. It was cash craze bingo, and you got two cash craze cards or each bingo card you bought. I wound up winning $5 on a cash craze card so it wasn't a total loss. I hung around at the shopping talk for a bit (which was the usual unveiled attempt to promote the stores Carnival partners with) then met up with my husband for tea. This time it was in the dining room. It is a nice few minutes that many don't even know is available. My husband was disappointed because they ran out of his favorite chicken salad sandwiches before he got one. The chocolate tart and scones were particularly yummy!
After tea we did a little shopping in the stores and then went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We went to do some pictures before the show and found that virtually all the photographers were on break during this time. Poor planning on Carnival's part IMO...the late dining folks who want to do the show would probably like to do pictures then. Fortunately we found a couple taking pictures and got some taken before going to the show.
The show was Jazz Hot. This was the 3rd time we had seen the show. In general, the show was good. We are both musicians so we are probably critical of things most wouldn't be. The costuming was great and the dancing was good. The orchestra was pretty good as well. The singers had hit and miss moments, particularly missing when all four of them were singing together. Also, the sound crew seemed to be a little off this cruise. During this show and the Motown show, there were sound problems. Nevertheless, for cruise ship entertainment the show was pretty standard fair. I'm sure most folks probably thought it was just great.
We got one more set of pictures taken and then went to dinner. It was the first formal night, so of course lobster and shrimp were the highlights (which is what my husband and I both had for our main Course). We had alligator fritters (which were very mushy inside), stuffed mushrooms, and spaghetti carbonara as starters. For desert it was ice cream and cherries jubilee (which was basically ice cream with cherry sauce). The waiters did the first entrainment, and Win was great at getting lots of the guests up to dance.
After dinner, it was back to the cabin for an early night so we would be rested for Grand Turk.
Grand Turk---we got up and put on swimsuits since Grand Turk was going to be a beach day. Hubby noticed a ship near the island that appeared to be repeatedly changing directions...and as we found out later, it was. Just as we were about to head to breakfast the captain came on to make an announcement that the ship we had seen had tried twice to dock and had aborted its approach twice due to high winds. It was trying again so we were going to be delayed at best (in order to wait and see if the winds would die down) and might have to skip the port in the worst case scenario. We turned on the channel that shows conditions and location of the ship and saw the winds were 35-40mph. Needless to say we were not optimistic about making the port.
As soon as we got up to breakfast, the captain got back on to say that we were going to have to miss the port in interest of our safety and the safety of the crew and ship. We were bummed, needless to say. Wee Jimmy (the CD) came on to say we would be updated with information as it came in and new activities available throughout the day. We saw on the TV by 2 hours later, we had already been refunded $14 and some change each for the port tax since we did not dock. At this point, we were becoming concerned this might not be the last port we missed, especially since Grand Cayman is often missed due to high winds. After about 2 hours Wee Jimmy came on to give the schedule for some of the added events for the day and said a new Fun Times was being printed and would be delivered to each stateroom. They added movies in the
Firebird Lounge all afternoon, a half price 10 game bingo, and a matinee show featuring the Motown guy and the two comedians who had been on board (all of whom were supposed to be getting off the ship in Grand Turk).
With our son in Camp Carnival, I went back tot he hot tub in the gym and watched some TV in the cabin with my husband. We picked up the little guy and got him lunch and a quick nap. After dropping him back at Camp Carnival (which he absolutely loves) we went to Bingo and the matinee. After picking our son back up, we went and grabbed some sushi and then killed some time walking around the Promenade deck. We went back to the cabin to try to get our son some more nap because they were showing Polar Express in Follies at 10 PM. Next we got ready and headed to dinner.
This was a menu we did not remember from previous cruises, and it was kind of hit or miss. I got pea soup and a mixed green salad for starters. I would definitely not do the pea soup again. My husband and son did fruit as starters and it was very good. My husband had blackened tilapia and a burger for his main course and liked them both. I got a strip steak which was pretty good, especially for mass cooked beef. I ordered it medium rare, and it was cooked correctly. The potatoes on the side were just okay. We both had white chocolate bread pudding for desert and it was wonderful!
After dinner we went to Follies and caught the end of the Marriage Show, which was hilarious and then waited for Polar Express to start. They were already about 10-15 minutes behind and then it became apparent they were having technical difficulties. Let me say again, we were not impressed with the tech crew in Follies on this crew. Wee Jimmy came out and kept us company and did a Q&A while we waited. We both agreed he is our favorite cruise director of all the ones we have had. He told us he had worked for Carnival for 12 years and said that he had only missed a port a dozen or so times. He was extra bummed about missing Grand Turk because he had never been there. After waiting 20-25 minutes, my son and husband were both falling asleep, so we gave up and came back to the cabin.
It was disappointing to miss Grand Turk, but understandable because the wind was just crazy. The crew seemed to do everything they could to make the day enjoyable though, and as far as we could tell, most guests were like us, disappointed but understanding. I am sure there were those fussing a lot, but I think they were in the minority. We went to bed hoping the next day would bring better weather, less wind, and calmer seas.
Sea Day #2 (well, actually 3) ---we woke up well rested and got ready and went to breakfast. The weather and seas were a totally different picture from the last two days. The seas were calm, winds only about 7mph. There was bright sun and it was HOT! After breakfast, we dropped our son off at Camp Carnival and my husband and I put on swimsuits and headed up to Serenity. Of course, every chair of every kind was taken, so we put our legs in the hot tub, which was finally working. After a few minutes, we braved sticking our feet in the pool and then even wound up sitting in the shallow water around the sides of the pool. The pool was very popular, and the slide was open for the first time. You could tell everyone was excited about the great weather. It was so hot we wound up heading back to the cabin and chilling on the balcony in the shade for a while.
After picking up our son from Camp Carnival, we got him into his swim trunks and headed back up top for some much awaited swim time for him. After that it was back up for lunch, where they featured French food (previous days had featured Italian, American, and Caribbean). After lunch was bingo (yet again unsuccessful), nap, and then we got ready for the past guest reception.
The past guest reception was packed. We were having trouble finding seats and one of the entrainment staff showed us to the front, where there were several left. The canapÃ©s and drinks were similar to what had been served in years past, though new to the party for us was rum punch, and it was a nice addition. It did seem that the area where we were sitting was having a little trouble getting served, particularly with drinks, but that was partly because the staff would get waved down by someone else before they could get to us. We just kind of went with the flow, but others around us were a bit testy. Some folks nearby were just flat out greedy. We watched a guy get about five or six drinks at a time for himself. It was like people forgot it was a gesture of thanks and just went crazy. The band played some dance tunes and they did a drawing for some champagne and a free dinner at the steakhouse. They also sold the win a cruise raffle tickets at 20 for $10, a rate which would only be available at the reception.
After the reception, we killed a little time, and hubby won $40 in the casino. We skipped the show, The Big Easy because it's really not our favorite and we had seen it the past 3 cruises. Then it was on to dinner. For starters we had fruit, Tom ka gai soup (which was better than I had gotten this past summer), and spinach salad with bacon, portabello mushrooms, and blue cheese dressing (very good). For main course we both had beef stroganoff, which was good and was a very large portion. For desert, we both had bitter and blanc, which was also very good (though interesting they would serve it the night after they served white chocolate bread pudding).
After dinner it was back to the cabin for an early night since the next day would be a busy one as we called on the port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Ocho Rios---We started the morning as usual with breakfast on the Lido deck. Then it was back to the cabin to don swimsuits. We had prebooked the Cobaya Gardens and Dunns River Falls excursion. We have often booked excursions independently, but the little guy has been free with Carnival (until he turns four in April), so we have enjoyed the simplicity and reliability of doing Carnival excursions. I am sure we will go back to mixing in independent excursions on our next cruise.
We got off the ship and preceded down to the end of the pier (a decent little walk) to meet up with our tour operator. After a brief wait in a covered holding area, we were shown to our bus. The bus was pretty nice and air conditioned...better than many we had been in on similar tours. We were taken first to Cobaya Gardens, where we had a guide who walked us around and told us about many of the native plants. The gardens were very nice, with easy walkways and several pretty water features. We also saw a chameleon, green lizard, and a hummingbird that had a very long tail. After walking around the gardens, we were allowed to browse the shops for about 10 minutes, which was about 5 minutes too long. Then we were walked down to a nice waterfall at the gardens and took some pictures. Our guide made sure we knew it was okay to tip before taking us back to the bus. Our bus went from there to the Taj Mahal shopping center, where we would have thirty minutes to shop. Our guide showed us the best shop to sample blue mountain coffee, rums, etc. and where we would be able to bargain for prices. We went in there and sampled some coffee with rum creak (very strong coffee) and a couple of different rums. We wound up buying coffee for family members, some jerk seasoning, and a T-shirt for my husband. Next it was on to the highlight of the day, Dunns River Falls.
When we got there, our tour guide took us inside the park where we were given our park admission wristbands. Once we went in the gates, she took those who were actually climbing the falls to where they would meet their climbing guide. We had one hour and fifteen minutes at the falls and they said it would take forty five minutes to climb. We opted against it, especially with the little guy. She then took the rest of us and introduced us to another guy who kept saying "I'm Mike, alright? I'm gonna take care of you and show you lots of places. Just make sure at the end you take care of me." He did take us down the stairs along the falls and showed us one landing where we could get in the water (about thigh deep for me) and take good pictures of the falls. The little guy could have stayed there the whole time, but we wondered what might be down closer to the bottom. We went to another spot where you could get in, but we didn't like it quite as much. It was a little rockier. We went on to see the beach, but when we saw it opted to go back up to the first landing. The beach looked okay for a small strip of beach, but we just wanted to be somewhere we could really enjoy the beauty of the falls. We gave Mike a couple of bucks, despite his aggressiveness, and told him we were going back up. Not sure why we really needed anyone to take us to the landings or the beach. We would have found them easily.
The falls were simply amazing. The water was cold at first, but felt great once you got used to it. We were glad we didn't attempt to climb with our son but definitely will plan to do it if we go back when he is a little bigger. We had to pass through several craft/souvenir stands on our way to the bus. I will say that lots of folks in Jamaica were fairly aggressive trying to sell you something or constantly trying to get a tip (and I understand that's what they depend on for a living). That being said, we didn't have a problem after telling them no.
When we got back up to the bus, we had to wait about fifteen minutes past our scheduled departure time for a family who had been late at every stop all day. Our tour guide had to actually go find them. It is amazing how unaware folks are sometimes. Once they finally got back on the bus, we went back to the dock where the ship was. We took a short walk over to Margaritaville so could get a shirt, since I am a diehard parrot head. After that, we got back on the ship, changed, and went back for lunch.
After lunch, it was time for nap. My husband and I got up in time to watch sail away. I then got ready for the evening and headed to Bingo followed by the evening show. In the meantime, my husband took our son up to Lido for dinner and then to Camp Carnival since he hadn't been that day and because they were doing pirate themed activities...which is right up the little guy's alley.
Bingo was a really small crowd. There were probably only twenty people playing. I was only one number away from Bingo when someone won. After Bingo was over, I went and grabbed sushi and waited for the show to start and watched for my husband, who was meeting me down in Follies. The show was called "The Physical Comedy of Dana Tison." It was basically a juggling act. He started strong and ended strong, but it got a little slow in the middle. Some of the juggling stuff he did at the beginning and end was unbelievable.
We then headed to dinner and were quizzed by everyone there about where our son was. For starters that night we had fruit, a green bean salad with Roma tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette dressing (not bad, but would have been even better had tomatoes been in season), the seafood sampler (which had smoked salmon, ahi tuna tartar, and shrimp), and escargots. It was a pretty nice night of starters. For the main course we both had grilled shrimp, which were cooked perfectly. Finally, for desert the hubby had warm chocolate melting cake and I had the amaretto cake. It was okay...cake was a little dry, but very chocolaty. I didn't detect very much almond flavor at all.
After dinner, we picked our son up from Camp Carnival and took him up to Lido for an ice cream cone. Then it was back to cabin to get ready for bed.
Grand Cayman---We got up and headed to Lido for breakfast then back to the cabin to change into swimsuit for the day's excursion. We had booked the Cayman Pirate Encounter excursion through Carnival. The tickets said catch a tender 45 minutes before the tour departure time of 10. We were a little puzzled as to why we had to go quite that early since it is a short tender ride at GC. Nevertheless, we got on a tender about 9:05. We were reminded that the tender doesn't leave until it is full, so there is some time to wait if you're the first on a tender. Once we tendered to port, we looked around for our tour sign and didn't see one, so we asked the CCL Shore Excursion rep and he said we wouldn't need to meet until 9:45. That left us 20-25 minutes to look around the shops n the terminal area.
At 9:45 we found the sign for our excursion and waited until the whole group was assembled (which was about 16 or so). The tour rep led us on a short walk to the pirate ship (the Jolly Roger). We boarded and the crew began assuming their pirate personas. We were offered water, soda, fruit punch, or rum punch throughout the voyage. My husband and I had rum punch, which was so-so, but refreshing n the heat. They started by loading shells into the "cannon" and firing on the Legend in an effort to sink the ship. They told us we would be sailing for a bit before getting to our swim stop. In the mean time, they called all the kids together in the center of the ship. On our ship, there were only 4 kids. Our son was by far the youngest. The others were probably 9-13 or so. They did lots of "pirate talk" with them (never heard so many ARRRS! In all my life). They gave them brushes and had them swab the deck. Then they threw water on the deck and had them keep swabbing. While they were busy swabbing the deck, they started throwing buckets of water on them. After that, they asked the kids which of the parents was the mean parent, and they got them down near the kids (fortunately my husband got nominated). They had them to stand side by side in front of a pole in the center and tied them all together around the pole. Then they asked if they liked diamonds. All the mom's replied yes and my husband answered that his wife did. Next, one of the crew dipped ice and water out of a cooler and showed them that those were pirate diamonds. They then proceeded to throw the ice cold water all over them. It was funny, but at the same time a little surprising they would do that. They renamed them all "Mommy and Daddy Spankbottom" and made them all promise to buy the kids ice cream when we got off the ship. The kids all got a huge kick out of this. Soon, we were at our swimming spot where they tied the boat up and gave us all a life jacket to swim with. We could either get in the water via a ladder or by jumping off the side of the ship. Being a weenie, I opted for the ladder. The water was cold at first, but felt great after a couple of minutes. Our son loved it, except not being a fan of the salt water part. My husband did a couple of nice cannonballs off the side. About 20 minutes or so after we got in the water, one of the crew cautioned everyone that there were jellyfish in the water and we should be careful. I had no intention of getting stung, so we all got out. Pretty much everybody got out for a while, though some got back in about 20 minutes later. After a while we headed back to the dock. I can't say enough about how nice the crew was. One of them even gave his pirate skull cap to our son as a souvenir. I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone with kids, especially younger kids. But even adults would enjoy the sail out and swimming and free drinks. The whole excursion took about 2 hours.
After getting off the pirate ship, we walked a short distance to buy Blackbeard rum cakes (our favorite in the Caribbean so far) and Big Black Dick rum (very good, and so far have only seen it in GC). We also picked up a pirate T-shirt for our son and we bought a GC Christmas ornament. Then it was back to the ship where we changed and took our son to Camp Carnival. I took a short nap because I had a killer sinus headache. I had actually had sinus and allergy problems for the past three days (first time that had ever happened on a cruise...not fun).
After our son got back, we went up to Lido for lunch and then went back to the cabin. I read and worked on getting laundry done s we wouldn't go home with so many dirty clothes. It is $3 each to wash and dry. But for the second time, the dryer didn't thoroughly dry everything in ne round. So each load cost a total of $9 to get washed and dried. But I would be glad it was done when we got home. I then got ready to head to Bingo and later to the show. My husband and son were to meet me for the show.
It was my lucky day....I was the only winner at $500 Bingo. My hubby and son were late coming down for the show. It was the Holiday Show and there was only one show time, so it was beyond packed. You couldn't even find a seat in the first level of the balcony. We heard and saw a little from the back and decided it wasn't worth it since we would have to leave early for dinner. I will say that it was a nice concept, but once again, there were sound problems and this show was obviously less comfortable for the orchestra and singers...there were some issues to say the least.
For dinner, we had fruit, crab cakes, and a portabello mushroom salad (very good) for starters. I was very disappointed to see lobster bisque not on the new menu. For our main course, we had prime rib (not bad at all), fettuccini Alfredo with grilled chicken, and panko crusted shrimp. For desert, we had ice cream and Grand Marnier soufflÃ© (just so so). Of course the waiters did their evening entertainment, inviting guest to join a conga line around the dining room. We have really grown to like our dining service team, Win, Marcellus, and Jennifer. They were all personable, particularly with our son, and learned our preferences and tendencies very well.
After dinner, we went down to Guest Services to find out if we could go ahead and cash out my Bingo winnings. We have the Carnival Fun Points MasterCard, and it is to our benefit to actually leave a balance on our Sail and Sign account because any dollars spent with Carnival earn double points. They quickly gave us the $500 in cash and we were thrilled. We contemplated going from there to go watch Polar Express, which they were attempting to show again in Follies, but our son was very tired. So he and my husband headed to the cabin to get ready for bed. I went to the shops to do any last minute shopping on behalf of Santa and then joined them in the cabin.
Sea Day #3 (well, actually #4) ---we got up and woke up our son so he could see what Santa and his "helper" Freddy had brought him. His stocking and gifts were actually out on the balcony. It was fun watching him look for them. He opened things and seemed genuinely pleased with what he got (which was generally small items, for obvious reasons). Santa did leave a note that he needed to check under the tree when we got home for a couple of things he couldn't get on the ship. Next we headed to Lido for breakfast and then back down to the cabin before taking our son to Camp Carnival for the morning. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute he spent there over the course of the cruise. They have really figured out how to entertain kids, particularly those of the 2-5 age group.
While he was away at CC, my husband and I went to the Firebird Lounge for the future cruise travel talk. This is where the cruise loyalty expert explains the different ship classes, various itinerary options, cabin selection tips, etc. We have been to this talk before, so we had no need to go hear what we already knew. However, they have previously raffled off $50 in OBC at the end of the talk. This time...not so much. So we wasted 30 minutes, but hey, we had nowhere we needed to be.
Next we went to the casino and blew $40 on slots and poker machines. I would say that we either broke even for the week or were down just a bit, but no major losses. My husband thinks they need more quarter slots and I wish they had more non-smoking stations. After casino time, we went to the Legends Cafe and did the "Rudolph Scavenger Race" which sent us all overt the ship looking for answers to questions like how many steps were on the see-through staircase leading up to the steakhouse. We won and captured our fourth ship on a stick and our 2nd medal.
After that, we chilled in the cabin before picking up our son. We went from Camp Carnival to try to play mini golf since we had not yet made it up there. However, we learned that it was closed due to high winds (and it would be for the rest of the day). That did not go over well with our son, which triggered a mini-meltdown. That prompted us to head back to the cabin for an early nap. While he was napping I went to play 10 game Bingo. I figured lightning wouldn't strike twice...and it didn't... But I was one number away four times.
After Bingo, I headed back up to the cabin and met my boys before heading up to a late lunch at the grill and deli. We missed the chocolate buffet, but we were both kinda in "been there, done that" mode on the chocolate buffet. While were at lunch, they were having caroling in the lobby and it was snowing. Yes, snowing. On Christmas Eve and again on Christmas they turned on snow machines between the lobby elevators around deck 7 and it snowed in the lobby. It was a really neat touch. They also had egg nog on the Lido deck all day on Christmas and many of the staff wore Santa hats. The general mood on the ship was definitely festive. After our late lunch, we killed a few minutes in the cabin before heading to the Fun Farewell in the Firebird Lounge.
The band was playing dance tunes and one of the singers was performing with them. The free drinks flowed very freely at this party, a bit unlike the past guest reception. But then again, that is probably because there were only about 100 people there. Carnival does a pretty good job of hiding that event though. It is merely mentioned once in the Fun Times with no explanation of what it is and I don't recall it ever being mentioned in any announcements throughout the day. The drinks were the same basics as at the Past Guest reception (red and white wine, screwdrivers, whiskey sours, rum punch, etc) but it appeared folks were able to request some basic substitutions. So I gave it a try and asked a nice waiter for an amaretto sour and he brought me one with no problem. We met a couple from Kentucky who recognized our picture from Cruise Critic. We really enjoyed talking with them. In fact, we met several really nice folks we chatted with throughout this cruise. Call me crazy, but the general disposition of the cruisers was friendlier than the last couple we had taken (and maybe a few less kids??). Perhaps it was just the Christmas spirit?
After Fun Farewell, we went up to the cabin and got our son ready for his last time in Camp Carnival. While he was there, we took a quick power nap and got ready for dinner. We picked up our son, turned in our Camp Carnival phone, and gave them a tip. He really enjoyed all his time there, and all the counselors couldn't have been nicer.
For dinner, they had a Christmas Gala dinner. There weren't too many out of the ordinary items, but they did have some things like turkey and stuffing and a glazed ham choice. For starters, we got fruit, tempura shrimp, Christmas salad, and potato cheese soup. For main course, we both had grilled shrimp again (none of the other choices blew us away). For desert the boys had ice cream and I had the pumpkin and gingerbread cake (the only choice on the menu not offered every day). It was nice, but could have been more flavorful. One of the nicest things they did for Christmas was that night after dinner. The maitre'd said they appreciated us sharing our families with them while they were away from theirs on Christmas. Then several of the headwaters, representing various countries of the dining staff said Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year to us in their native language. It was just a touching moment. We said our goodbyes to Win, Marcellus, and Jennifer and got some pictures of our son with them then said goodbye to the neighboring tables we had really enjoyed talking with over the course of the week. We had the best of both worlds in the dining room. We had our own table so moved at our own pace, but we were also close enough to other tables that we could enjoy their company as well.
After dinner, my husband went to the Win a Free Cruise raffle while I took our son up to the room. Sadly, we didn't win the cruise. We had the first four numbers right, but the last two didn't match. But hey, I am perfectly happy with $500 at Bingo! Back in the cabin, we got everything packed up and put our luggage in the hall. We couldn't bare the thought of self assist with four suitcases, various carry on pieces, and a three year old. We got zone 14 tags, so we knew we would be in for a wait in the morning. After putting the luggage out, my husband went for one last go at the casino and for a last piece of pizza.
Disembarkation---we got up to find that it was extremely foggy outside. You could barely see and the ship's horn blew from the time we got up until we were almost docked. We probably wound up docking about thirty minutes late. We went upstairs for our last breakfast on the ship. After we got done we went back down to the cabin, collected our things and went to wait for our turn to disembark. We went to the top part of the balcony in Follies to wait. Unfortunately after about twenty minutes, they kicked everyone out of the lounge, saying we couldn't wait in there. Not sure why...always have been able to on every other cruise we've been on. So we just waited by the elevators and stairs on the fourth floor till our number was called. From the time we docked until we got off the ship was about 2 hours. We swiftly collected our bags and passed through Customs. Once outside, we stopped to put our passports up. One of the port workers was very rude, yelling at my husband to keep moving. We were stopping for all of one minute, out of the traffic flow I might add. We went across the street to the parking garage to wait for the hotel shuttle. Unfortunately we got to watch it as it was leaving, already full of folks. So we wound up waiting 30-35 minutes for it to return. That was painfully long when you just got off the ship and have an eleven hour drive ahead of you. Once back to the hotel we moved our bags to the car and began the long journey home.
We had a fabulous time. We really love the Legend. It is like our home away from home now. Some will probably not love the cruise as much as we did, but we just really enjoyed ourselves. We can't wait to go back aboard a Carnival Fun Ship! Read Less