First let me warn you...I tend to write my reviews long and detailed and like a diary so I can read them in the future and relive my vacations!
Prelude: We have previously cruised three times with Royal Caribbean and twice with ... Read More
First let me warn you...I tend to write my reviews long and detailed and like a diary so I can read them in the future and relive my vacations!
Prelude: We have previously cruised three times with Royal Caribbean and twice with NCL. We took some friends on RCL in December 2007 aboard the Majesty of the Seas and all they could do is compare it to Carnival! They have only been on Carnival. We decided to give it a try for ourselves! I had already booked the Adventure of the Seas out of San Juan but cancelled and booked the Glory for much less (and no airfare). Myself and wife and two daughters (22 & 18). DD's have been on all the cruises except the Majesty with us. This would be DD18's first "adult" cruise! This cruise is her senior trip, so to speak. A graduation gift that we can all enjoy! (Just another excuse to cruise!) She's loved the teen clubs on NCL & RCL. This time she gets to spend more time with us and DD22 (they get along great!). We drove down from NW Georgia on Friday. I'm originally from Central Florida and my parents have had a place on Cocoa Beach since 1983 so that's where we headed. Didn't get in until 8:30pm. A 615 mile drive! Boy I was glad to finally get there!
Embarkation - we arrived at the port at 10:15. After dropping off the luggage and my wife and daughters, I pulled around and parked. Parking is $105 for the week. While paying I noticed an advertisement on the booth that said the NCL Sun is coming to Port Canaveral. The Sun is the former Pride of Aloha that we sailed on in 2005 in Hawaii so it caught my attention. The first lot (not covered) was really full but I was lucky enough to find one parking space very close to the entrance. We breezed through the metal detector and headed up the escalator. We were directed to fill out a medical questionnaire (took 2 minutes) and headed over to the desk to register. There was only one couple ahead of us. After that we were sitting down in the waiting area by 10:40am ready to start our first Carnival cruise! There was a wedding party of about 40 people across from us. Seems that they all were getting on the ship for the 1:30 wedding then everyone except the bride and groom would exit the ship by 3pm! Before we knew it there was an announcement saying people were still disembarking the ship and it would be a while before we boarded! So much for getting on early! We felt sorry for the bride to be as she needed time to get ready for her wedding! But she was a trooper, walking around spending time and joking with her family and friends and us! We had a few conversations with members of the wedding party. I mentioned that this was our first Carnival cruise and a couple started telling us how much fun we'd have! They'd been on 3 Carnival cruises and loved them all. To kill the time, a Carnival crew member had us playing with a beach ball! It was funny to see it hit unsuspecting folks and watch their reaction. DD's both tired of this fast! I didn't!! Announcements were also made for people who were celebrated anniversaries or birthdays. This was something neither NCL nor RCL had done before. We could tell right away that Carnival was all about fun! After all, "isn't fun the best thing to have"? A quote from a favorite movie.....
We finally were able to board at 12:15. The wedding party took priority then VIP boarding, then us! We headed straight to the Lido deck. I had a grilled Ruben sandwich from the deli. Very good. Awful iced tea though! Being from the south, I am very critical about my "sweet tea!" This was unsweetened. It would be lemonade and water for me from now on! And maybe a beer or 30!
Checked out the Aft Bar in preparation for our Cruise Critic meet and greet. Having read so much about the Glory on CC, I found myself looking for signs of aging. There really weren't many! Some rust here and there but overall she looks grand! It was about 1:20pm by now and we headed up to see our room. I booked a 6B on the spa deck. All four of us together in a room again! We did this on our first two cruises but in smaller rooms! This room is 156 square feet but seems much larger. The sofa is a day bed and the fourth bed is a Pullman right above it. We have a ceiling to floor plate glass window that really affords a wonderful view. It's at about at 70 degree angle and has sheer curtains, as well as a heavy curtain to block the light. A small table and two chairs also. No one can walk outside your window so this is really private. It really makes the room seem so much larger. DD18 commented that it was like having a balcony only air conditioned! I agree. Left the room and since the spa is 30 feet away we found ourselves taking a spa tour. I wanted to check out the facilities and see the hot tubs and lap pool with the rock waterfall. I'm a " Pool Guy", having been in the swimming pool/spa business for 25 years so of course I can be very critical. But not today! I'm on vacation.......(I'd already checked out the Glory's CDC scores!) We came back to the room to find most of our luggage had arrived. The most important bag, mine with (2) 32oz RumRunners, was there so I was happy. Our garment bag and "gadget bag" showed up an hour or so later. I had purchased a collapsible cooler for the trip and we filled it with Pepsi, Ginger ale and a bottle of wine that we had walked on with. We met our cabin steward Emmanuel from the Philippines (and his assistant Pia from Thailand) and asked him to fill it up with ice. He said no problem and took it away and brought it back 5 minutes later. Great guy and very personable. Pia is very quiet! Next, DD22 and I went to the internet cafe to sign up for service. We're an online family so I sprang for the 250 minutes for $100 and received an extra 20 minutes "free". The girls have to check Facebook and email as do I! And I can't forget about Cruise Critic! At 3:30 an announcement was made saying the Muster Drill started in 15 minutes! Capers said 4pm. Hmmmmmm. We made our way up to the room to meet DW and DD18 and get our life jackets and headed back down to deck 4 right on time (to the minute!). Don't take me as being critical when I write this but Carnival is really lacking with the muster drill! On all our six previous cruises we were always either counted or made to sound off our room number to make sure that everyone was accounted for. Today everyone (including the crew) just stood around talking, laughing and yawning waiting for it be over. Our crew guy was playing with some kids the whole time! Don't get me wrong, it didn't bother me at all....just an observation. If the ship sinks just don't get in MY way!!!
Then up to the room to drop off the lifejackets and on to the Aft Bar for the CC meet & greet. Met Kathi & her daughter Danielle from Largo, FL. Ken and his wife from Cocoa. Dennis and his wife from outside Memphis, TN. And a couple more. Not nearly as many as were online but it's about quality not quantity right? Ordered some drinks and chatted. Got there around 4:15 and stayed until 5pm. We made plans to go to the Straw Market with Kathi and her daughter Danielle in the morning. Then it was time to get ready for dinner. It's always nice to meet the people you've been corresponding with for the last few months! We love making new cruise friends!
We picked the first seating for our dinners and we were assigned the Platinum dining room on deck 3. We were seated with a lovely couple from Bradenton, FL, Rick and Gina. Two boys, 15 & 9. And Rick's parents who are visiting from New Zealand, George and his wife (her name escapes me). Rick was born and raised in New Zealand and has been stateside for over 20 years. The family business in New Zealand is dairy cows. They own a couple "cattle stations" back home! Ranches to you and me! Very large ranches. For dinner I ordered the fried Tiger Shrimp (4 large straightened shrimp). Mary had a chicken dish with noodles. Sorry but we forget the name. Girls both enjoyed the Tilapia. DD18 was a little upset that the Carnival classic menu didn't include salmon. I had read online that it did. It does however include snapper as the fish choice nightly. Mary wasn't too crazy about her chicken dish. I told the table about the warm chocolate melting cake and everyone ordered it for dessert! It was as advertised. Like eating warm brownie batter! With vanilla ice cream. YUM! Walked around the lobby a bit then went back to the room. Mary decided to stay in and Leslie and I headed down to the piano bar. I had heard so much about Russell and he was all that and more! We were there for 4 hours! Then around 1am DD22 and I headed off to sleep!
Sunday - woke up to a nice headache at 7:30am! I'm getting too old for this! Trying to hang with the 22 year old! She's a senior in college and a sorority girl...need I say more? Met Kathi and Danielle at 9am. This was our fourth time in Nassau so I know my way around pretty well. We headed to the Straw Market. It was HOT! No ventilation to speak of. About half of the booths were not open yet. Some don't open at all on Sunday. The women all got some good deals on the infamous knock off purses (please keep your flames on this to yourself or you will receive my wrath! You know who you are!) While we were leaning on the seawall waiting for the younger girls to come out, we witnessed a young girl about 17 simply pass out while walking directly in front of us. The pour thing hit her head on the pavement and started convulsing. Her father picked her up and a couple locals helped with water and fans. When she came to about 30 seconds later she didn't know what had happened. She seemed to be ok after 15 minutes or so. A really sobering experience especially if you have kids. The girls wanted to go to Senor Frogs but they weren't open yet. It was about 10:30am. From there we walked down the main street for 45 minutes or so waiting for Senor Frogs to open (10:59am is the posted opening time!) We checked out the shops that were open. I'd say around 40% were closed, with it being Sunday. Got to Frogs around 11:30am. It was already packed! We ordered some drinks. Lots of balloon hats were being made and passed around. The MC was going around talking to folks and having them sing impromptu karaoke. They had a female only frozen drink chug (thru a straw). The poor girls all got "brain freezes"! Then they started a Conga line. My DD18 Caitlyn and Danielle joined in and had a blast. Kathi joined them. Then more dancing and having shots squeezed into your mouth! Senor Frogs doesn't have a drinking age...only a drinking height! We actually had a fun time at Senor Frogs this time. This coming from the man who called it a filthy dump last January. What a difference the summer makes. In January it was on 25% full and NOTHING was going on. Just very low volume music. This time it WAS hopping! And full. I stand corrected!
From there it was back to the ship to get lunch. We got to the ship around 1:20pm. We had to be onboard by 1:30pm and there was a line. We waited about 15 minutes in line to board. We headed up to the Lido deck buffet for lunch. Today's buffet lunch was Mexican. We live in NW Georgia and our little town is home to around 8 Mexican restaurants and we eat at a couple often so I opted for another grilled Reuben! Mary got a grilled ham and cheese. The girls got hamburgers and hot dogs. Everyone enjoyed their lunches. I would have thought Carnival would have more of selection on their buffet. Not just the "International" lunch. RCL did the same thing this past January on the Monarch of the Seas. And yes, I realize Carnival offers the deli, fish and chips and Chinese bar (not very good). DW wanted something hot and not "fast food". But the sandwiches hit the spot. The girls decided to lay out by the pool for a while and didn't have a problem finding an open chair which surprised me. The usual "chair hogs" were visible all week but it wasn't excessive. If you got to the pool by 10am or so you could find a chair. DW Mary and I explored the ship a bit. We went in search of the secret door to the front of the ship's bow deck. I was told the doors were on decks 9, 7 and 6. The door on deck 9 was locked. The door on deck 7 however was open and if afforded us a nice quiet place to watch our Bahamian sail away. The bridge was right above us and we could see the crew inside. There are no chairs however. There are also stairs to the bow on deck 6. Here there are two wooden chests that you can sit on but if you do, you lose your view (unless you have a really long upper body!). We went there later in the week also. This is a great "secret" place. We were the only ones there both times.
Tonight is formal night so the girls headed to the cabin around 4:30 to start getting ready. We arrived shortly thereafter. I brought a suit to wear for dinner. We enjoy dressing up for formal night. We usually have a family picture done each cruise. We did this in January so we opted not to go crazy with the photos this night. This time we only made one stop at a photographer. On the Monarch I swear we spent an hour going to 4 different photographers for pictures. DW's idea but I like the pictures we purchased. The RCL photographers seemed to take more time with us, posing us and discussing what we'd like. The Carnival photographers seemed to just want to get it over with. I watched several "sessions" throughout the week and this is the impression I came away with. Again, just an observation. We had planned to meet Kathi and Danielle at the Captain's Reception but didn't make it. Sorry Kathi! On this cruise it looked as though most guys wore slacks and shirts for dinner. There were several suits but I don't recall seeing anyone in a tuxedo. On RCL and NCL you see tuxedos a lot. Mostly on over 50 folks. I made it a point to observe the ages of our fellow cruisers. Carnival certainly does attract a younger crowd than RCL or NCL. But the number of children was about the same. Dinner was fine. Nothing spectacular but good. DD18 & I had the lobster & shrimp. Only one small tail and four grilled tiger shrimp. But our waiter brought me another complete plate right before I finished. I didn't ask for it but enjoyed half of the second tail. I gave DD18 the other half and DD22 some of the shrimp. DW had the prime rib. It was almost medium well which is not good for her prime rib but edible. DD22 ordered the NY Strip medium rare and it arrived at the table well done! She sent it back and the replacement was medium well! She wasn't happy but ate most of it. We don't cruise "for the food" so we don't let little bumps like this affect our attitude (unlike some posters!). Don't get me wrong, we love a great meal.... And we'd get tomorrow evening in the Emerald Room. The waiters sang and danced again. Ours pulled DD18 up to dance. She's danced since she could walk and if he didn't pick her she probable would have gotten up anyway! A good time was had by all. After dinner we all headed to the cabin to change and then we seemed to part company. DW and DD22 Leslie hit the shops. DD18 went to meet her new friend and I headed for the casino. Played blackjack for about an hour. Leslie and Mary came and found me. Actually walked away ahead for a change!
We headed for the piano bar again! We couldn't get enough of Russell. Did I mention he was awesome? LOL! The comedian's adult performance was scheduled for 10:30pm in the Ebony Cabaret which is right next door to the Cinn-a-bar piano bar. I had walked over there at 9:30 and asked a waiter what time we should get there to get a seat and he said 10pm. Mary went over at 10pm and came back saying all the seats were taken! But.......luckily our new friend Kathi had saved us seats!! Yea Kathi!! Lewis Nixon was the comedian and he was hilarious. It lasted about an hour. Afterwards we decided to call it an early (11:30pm) night and headed off to our cabin. Tomorrow is a sea day and we plan to relax in preparation of our day trip Tuesday to the British Virgins Islands! More to come..........
Monday - Today is a sea day. Before the cruise began we offered DD18 Cait her choice of spa treatments as one of her graduation gifts. She decided on the oxydermy facial treatment. It's a combination of a microdermabrasion and oxygen together. They scheduled her for 8am today. She's likes to sleep in but was up before us and right on time. All cruise ship spas are wayyyyy overpriced in my opinion but this was a splurge for my daughter. Mary and I would splurge on the spa later in the week.
We left a breakfast card outside the room last night for delivery between 8am-8:30am. It arrived about 8:15am. RCL usually calls you to make you aware the delivery is coming. This helps to wake you up also in preparation and helps them so their person isn't waiting minutes for everyone to get decent before opening the door! Carnival didn't do that. But we were up anyway. Again...just an observation...
We hung out in the room for a while watching some Carnival programs on the television. Cait got back around 9:15am. She's was satisfied with how her face felt! (Didn't look any different to me!!!!) The girls decided to go to the Lido deck and lay out in the sun. I decided to explore and surf the internet. I always bring my laptop computer so I headed down to the lobby deck and found a comfortable sofa chair and table and fired it up. I was going to write a "live from the Glory" blog but yesterday when I started my laptop it wouldn't load Windows. I thought maybe the hard drive crashed but it started up today. I did a blog in 2006 on board the NCL Jewel and really enjoyed it. Went to the ships store and bought some tee-shirts. Looked through the other shops. I was really surprised at the lack of onboard shopping on the Glory. Even RCL's Monarch and Majesty, the oldest and smallest ships in their fleet had more shops! And it didn't come close to the NCL Jewel which was awesome. The Glory Fun Shops were certainly not fun to shop in! 1/3 costume jewelry, 1/3 perfume and the other 1/3 was a really bad selection of fine jewelry. I expected more from a large ship like the Glory. I ended up in the casino playing blackjack! This time I walked away with empty pockets. Easy come easy go! I stumbled upon the golf putting contest with the golf pro in the lobby at 11:30am. He had a putting green set up and gave you three putts from about 10 away. I was about the 6th person to go and sank all three putts! I then watched about 40 people try to tie me. I did my best Caddyshack impersonation with chants of "MMMMM MISS IT!!" LOL. No, I really did! And ended up winning. Yes, you're reading the rants of the Glory putting champion! For my prize I received a red Fun Ship beach bag and a certificate for 25% off a ships shore excursion! Whoa! Yeah Baby!!! I gave the certificate to a couple in the elevator later! I already had my two shore days planned and don't do ships excursion anymore. I always do them on my own or with an independent operator.
I headed up to the Lido deck to find the girls and brag! See, all those days golfing finally paid off!! DW and I headed to the buffet. We decided to try the Chinese food at The Oriental. It's a small window on the starboard side between the front and back buffet. The deli is in the small location on the port side. We were not impressed with the food. DW bit into her pork lo mein and found it to be really spicy. When I looked at it it had chili peppers in it!! We have never seen this before unless you order it that way. She headed to the back buffet. It did have 'regular' food.... The front buffet had Mediterranean food set up. I did enjoy the fried chicken won tons. I went back and got 4 more! But didn't eat any of the soup or main dish after I tried it. No biggie. We headed over to stage to watch the ice carving demonstration but the weather looked bad and we went back to our cabin for a short while to chill.
That afternoon DW and I went down and looked for our photos on deck 4. We usually will purchase quite a few photos. We like to place all of ours together each day and then the last day we can compare and select. This seemed to work with Carnival. We ran into Kathi and she asked about St. Thomas jewelry shopping since Mary loves to buy jewelry each cruise and St. Thomas is her favorite. We couldn't remember the name of the little family run shop we found in 2006 so we headed down to the internet cafe to Google it! No luck. Headed back to the casino bar and ordered drinks and watched the dance class going on. DD18 Cait and DD22 Leslie had signed up for the Pilates class every sea day at 4pm so they went to the spa for that. Around 5pm we headed back to our cabin to relax and get ready for dinner. I made a Ginger Fly drink and got out the laptop and tried to write my first days review! . Time for dinner in the Emerald Room Supper Club! In May I had pre booked dinner online for the Emerald Room supper club at 7pm today. This a great feature Carnival offers. RCL allows pre booking online as well. On NCL we had to book as soon as we boarded the ship. Of course, back then we met 3 or 4 of our CC members doing the same thing! I had read really good things about the Emerald Room and our CC Host Mach had posted some really scrumptious pictures of the food so the anticipation level was high. The restaurant is divided into two areas. The four of us were seated on the port side with a nice view out the windows. It was funny to watch people walking outside peering in the windows while fighting the gusting wind. We had three servers! All three were young women from Eastern Europe. Our wine sommelier Nicholas was from Russia. I found it interesting that they all were from there while it seemed most of the wait staffs in the main dining room were from SE Asia. Hmmm.....Just an observation. We could not have asked for a better dinner. The wait staff was outstanding. The food was top of the line. DD22 & I ordered a bottle of wine. One of the servers bought over a tray with all the meats to choose from. She was also in the buffet area at lunch time showing the same meats and talking to folks about the Emerald Room. Before we received our appetizers they brought us something from the chef. A small sampling of tomato based soup and another with salmon. Not bad. They also offered some different breads than the main dining room. One was Italian focaccia which we love. When I originally ordered I asked our waitress if she could bring the cheese tray as an appetizer (it's on the dessert menu). She told me that she didn't think so. I said I had done it before and she said she'd have to check with the chef. She came back with a beautiful bounty of cheese! Five large wedges of French cheeses. She gave a detailed description of each cheese. Then she sliced a large piece off each one and garnished the plate with grapes and crackers, kiwi and strawberries. WOW! I'm a cheesehead and I don't mean the Packers so I was in heaven. Then the salads came. I had the spinach salad with blue cheese crumbles and bacon. The girls all had the Caesar salad that the waitress made at the table. Next the appetizers arrived. Onion soup, shrimp cocktails and escargot and sushi. The onion soup was not your typical French onion variety. It had more wine flavor and was good. The escargot was great and very different from the dining room version. This turned out to be the case with some other foods as well. Larger portions and better quality. By this time an hour and half had gone by and we didn't even notice. It seemed like we were always nibbling on something! I made the comment that I was full already! For our main course DD18 & I had the lobster and, while not as big as I expected from Mach's pictures, it was still 2 ½ times the size of the dining room version the night before. Very good. DW and DD22 both had the filet mignon. DD22 commented that it was the best steak she's ever eaten. I took offense to this since I cook a mean steak on my Big Green Egg! When one of the server's came to take our dessert order I asked for a cheese tray!! She let out a big laugh! I skipped dessert. The girls enjoyed theirs. All in all it was a superb meal with excellent service and well worth the $30/person charge. I had our Friday dinner in the Emerald Room already booked in advance. I figured if it wasn't up to par tonight we'd cancel Friday. No way.... We're coming back again!! I've got to try the Porterhouse! Dinner lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes, exactly what we were told to expect. We were never bored or upset waiting for food. It was perfect and turned out to be one of the cruise highlights. We were so full after dinner we decided to retire early in preparation of our big day tomorrow in St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands....more to come......
DAY FOUR - ST. THOMAS
Today is a day I've looked forward to for 3 years since hearing about the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.
I booked the charter boat Big Blue back in May for a ½ day trip to Jost Van Dyke and Sandy Cay. Captain Bradley Wilson was great with his email communications and phone calls. Some on Cruise Critic suggested I could not safely do this trip without missing the ship! We figured since we had 10 hours on St. Thomas that we could.... And did....with time to spare.
Last night was extremely stormy and the boat really rocked and rolled. Being on deck 11 I was expecting this. I awoke around 3am to thunder and lightning that I could see thru the edges of the curtain. I couldn't go back to sleep so I raised the curtain a foot and laid on the floor and looked out the window. It was awesome. Quite a light show on the high seas. Thank God none of us got seasick. I am a firm believer in taking ginger tablets before the cruise and we all take Dramamine during the cruise. I also eat candied ginger and pickled ginger all the time anyway! Love the stuff! Woke up around 8am like a kid on Christmas morning! I was concerned because the capers didn't say anything about an immigration check this morning. I had tried calling Guest Services last night (3 different times in 30 minutes) and could not get a human, only recordings! This probably was me biggest complaint of the whole cruise. Why doesn't Carnival answer the phone on board the ship? I tried everything! So, after I got dressed I walked down to the lobby and asked. I also needed to break some $100 bills. I was told that no immigration check was scheduled. I thought that this was a federal regulation but hey, I'm not complaining! We were scheduled to dock at 10am but because of high seas and bad weather the night before we were delayed docking until 11am. Uh Oh! I had the day planned down to the minute! LOL! I wasn't a happy camper. I called Captain Wilson around 9:30 from my stateroom (I had cell service) and advised him of the situation. I also had a cab booked (suggested by Capt Wilson) and called Ali the driver to let him know what was happening. Here we had a major problem. Ali had a fare already booked for 11:30 and asked us to wait until noon for him. This just wouldn't do! That would set me back two hours and time was of the essence.
I was bound and determined to get off the ship in the first wave and succeeded! In fact we were actually the very first people to get to the cabs! Usually the cabs want to wait until they're full before leaving but I asked for one to take us directly to The American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook and while a little reluctant at first, one guy was happy to do it! It did cost a little more and I tipped him well. The ride itself was an adventure. I hung on for my life! We arrived at the American Yacht harbor around 11:30 and were met by Captain Wilson and the first mate Jewel. Jewel was his "friend" visiting from Sweden by way of Lithuania. A great couple. The weather was overcast with a 70% chance of rain. Seas were 5-7 foot! But nothing was going to stop us from see Jost Van Dyke. For those of you who don't know, Jost Van Dyke is located about 5 miles north of St. John in the British Virgin Islands. It's thought of as the last true Caribbean paradise. No high rise hotels. In fact, only one small beachfront cottage hotel! It's known for its beach bars and lazy days. And I do mean true beach bars. Right on the sea. Sand floors. Open to the elements. Kenny Chesney (the superstar country singer) brought attention to Jost in a song back in 2005. The island didn't get electricity until 1992!
After giving us a quick tour of the boat (he had the drinks I requested and snacks) we were off. I immediately popped the cap off a Red Stripe beer! The ride was bumpy to say the least but none of us had any problems with seasickness. The boat is very comfortable. A 30' motorized catamaran with twin 250hp outboard motors. Top speed of 50mph! The best looking boat in the harbor! The boat holds 12 people comfortably and we had her all to ourselves. What a sweet ride. We headed to Great Harbour to check into customs first. I had furnished the Captain with all our required information the week before and he had all the papers filled out when we first arrived. All we had to do is sign them and give him our passports. It took about 25 minutes to get to Jost Van Dyke. The Captain did a great job of steering the boat across the waves to avoid the big ups and downs! When we got to Great Harbour we headed to the front of the customs office to "ask" permission to visit their island. After this formality the captain told us we could head down the beach to Foxy's Famous beach bar while he submitted our passports and paperwork.
Foxy's is actually rated as one the five best places to spend New Year's Eve in the world! The legend says that there are so many boats anchored that you can walk across the harbor without getting wet! We ordered some of Foxy's famous drinks and spent about 45 minutes there. Very laid back folks. Nobody was in a hurry to do anything! But in a good way. We took some photos and bought some tee-shirts and souvenirs. Walked the beach (hunting shells) back to the boat and headed for Sandy Cay. Sandy Cay is located between Tortola and Jost Van Dyke. It was about a 15 minute ride. It is a deserted 7 acre island with a beautiful white sand beach and plenty of coconut palms. The Captain anchored the boat about 25 yards offshore in about 12 feet of water and we swam to shore. The water is crystal clear and the bottom was sandy. We felt as though we were the first people ever to walk on the beach. Tortola is only a couple miles across the channel and my girls got a kick out of us being in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" home port. I had brought a "dry bag" for our cameras and it worked great. We took lots of photos! We spent about 30 minutes exploring and relaxing and then made the swim back to the boat and headed for White Bay.
White Bay is a picturesque bay with pristine white sand and a place where many boats drop anchor. It's the home of several more beach bars. The Soggy Dollar and Ivan's Stress Free bar being two of the near world famous ones in boating circles. We anchored in waist deep water and waded to shore. There are no docks on White Bay. We hit the Soggy Dollar first and ordered lunch and a Painkiller drink. This bar claims to be the inventor of the famous BVI drink and it was great. A blend of white and dark rum, cream of coconut and pineapple juice and sprinkled with West Indian nutmeg. And some secret ingredients also. We insisted on having Captain Wilson and Jewel join us for lunch. Most of us ordered the jerk chicken sandwich and it was delicious. We chilled there for a while. Very relaxing.
Then we decided to walk down the beach to visit Ivan's. Ivan's is about a 15 minute brisk walk from the Soggy Dollar and you have to walk up a hill and through a field of ocean rocks to get there so if you go, wear shoes! The Captain and Jewel went back to the boat to take her down to Ivan's and meet us. When we got there it was empty! No electricity was on. There are no doors to the place. We thought it was closed until my wife walked through and out the back and ran into Ivan! He's a mellow island man about 65-70. It was just him and us! He made us all drinks and we talked for 10 minutes. He's good friends with Kenny Chesney and has pictures all over the walls of the bar with him and Kenny. He knew exactly when Kenny was coming back to see him and told me!!!! Sorry but I'm sworn to secrecy!! Took some pictures with Ivan and said our goodbyes to Jost Van Dyke and headed to St. Johns for some sightseeing.
We had to be at the Cruz Bay (St. John) customs office by 5:30 and we had about an hour to get there. We decided to tour Cinnamon Bay, Honeymoon Bay, Trunk Bay and the beautiful St. John coastline. We'd been to St. John in 2004 and almost booked a house for a week before we decided on this cruise. We will definitely stay in St. John in the future. Jost Van Dyke is a little too slow for a whole week but we figured that we could stay in St. John for a week and go over to Jost Van Dyke for one night and two days. Get the best of both worlds. Customs went fast and we were in and out in 10 minutes and on our way back to Red Hook in St. Thomas. While there I asked the Customs agent about the ship not having an customs check onboard. He couldn't explain why other then saying because it was a closed loop cruise maybe. All our other cruises have been closed looped. It only took 15 minutes to get back to St. Thomas. We were riding the waves so it wasn't that bumpy at all. We were back at the American Yacht Harbor a little before 6pm. We said goodbye to Captain Wilson and Jewel and Ali was waiting for us in the parking lot. It only took Ali 20 minutes to get us back to Havensight. Traffic was very light. We did some quick shopping (the girls wanted Hooters shirts that said St. Thomas! They had to drag me to Hooters! ) and were back onboard and eating dinner at the buffet a little after 7pm!
All and all it was an awesome day trip. Would we do it again? Of course, absolutely, heck yes! Captain Wilson is very informative and was really concerned about us having a good time in light of the weather and sea conditions. Captain Wilson will take you wherever you choose to go. I researched my trip extensively and knew exactly what I wanted to do but if you don't, he can suggest something that I guarantee will leave you satisfied and wanting to do it again! It actually only rained on us for about 5 minutes the whole day. We could see St. Thomas getting pounded by rain around mid afternoon. Nothing was going to stop us from having a blast on Jost Van Dyke and we did. We plan on doing it again next year when we cruise on the RCL Oasis of the Seas.
After dinner we went back to the cabin to clean up. The Mickey Utley band was playing country music on the Lido deck stage. They were really good. We decided to come back later and listen to more. It took an hour or so for all four of us to shower and get ready to go out. DD18 headed off to find her new friends. Made a big Ginger Fly and then DD22, DW and I headed back to the Lido deck to listen to the band. Stayed 45 minutes or so and then headed down to Deck 5. We went into the casino and checked out the slots for a while with the girls. Because we were essentially worn out, we decided to call it a night around 10:30pm. A great day! Tomorrow - Saint Maarten!
WEDNESDAY - Saint MAARTEN (ST. MARTIN)
Arrived in St. Martin right on time this morning. We decided to make this our shopping port so we took our time getting off the ship. We ate breakfast in the buffet and headed off the ship around 9:15am. They are building a new pier right next to the current one and were dredging the bottom (in preparation for Oasis of the Seas later this year - we're booked on her for Nov 2010). Looks like the pier is almost finished. Met up with another CC couple who told us they just found out their ships excursion was cancelled! Guest Services told them "you should have gotten a letter from us"! They didn't! They weren't happy and I don't blame them. We headed to the water taxi to go downtown. Note: the water taxi goes to the marina dock first. More that half the boat got off there not knowing it was not downtown. Stay on the boat and the next stop is downtown. Even if you get off at the marina you're not far from the east end of downtown. We were headed for Rima's store that I had read some much about. "Great discounts. Buy all your islands souvenirs here!". It was about a mile walk through downtown to the west by the Great Salt Pond. Took about 20 minutes. Have you ever been to a beachwear store in any US beach town? The ones that are two stories high and have all the floats out front. Rima's is exactly like this! I was not impressed. Bought a Caribbean map, a couple magnets and a hat! I guess I got some needed exercise though! We walked three blocks south and hit the west end of Back Street. This worked out well as we just walked east and were able to see all the stores.
DW was in search of a blue diamond ring. DD22 was looking for the David Yurman store. He is a popular high end American jewelry designer. DD18 just goes along with the flow. Super kid. Rarely asks for anything. Wow, these Indian shop owners are hard sell. The first store that Mary found something she liked, they wouldn't let her leave! Not physically of course. I interceded and we left. Since I "made" DW take a boat excursion on St. Thomas (her beloved shopping Mecca), I felt obligated to go into as many jewelry stores as it would take to find her something she loved. After a few stores we decided to have lunch at the Harbor Cafe. A local place right on the beachfront. A nice relaxing lunch. So relaxing that we had to keep prompting the waitress for our check. Seems she definitely was on island time!
Then back to shopping. After about 10 stores she finally decided to purchase a ring from Kay's. The sales guy was great. We ended up buying two pendants, another cheaper ring for DD18 and Mary's precious blue diamond ring. I got 3 free Heinekens! Kay's is on the ships store approved list so that helped. We then found the store that carried David Yurman (Art of Life) and proceeded to purchase the exact ring DD22 Leslie had her heart set on. She graduates from college in December and this was to be a graduation present! More on that later.
We wanted to find something for DD18 Cait. We saw a "Ring of Life" diamond pendant at another store but thought it was a little too much. It was a full carat. We kept shopping and found the same piece only a little smaller with ½ carat and bought it. Another graduation present! My girls are spoiled but really deserve it as they've been almost perfect growing up. No problems ever. I think the biggest problem we've ever had was when DD18 had her cell phone taken away at school for texting when she shouldn't have been!
It was about 4pm by now and I still wanted to go by the local grocer to search for Dutch and French items. I love doing this. I had researched and saw that Sang's market was on the east end by the marina dock and we headed there. I wanted to get some Gouda and Smoked Gouda cheese. Found that and some other things and then headed to the ship. It's about a mile walk from the grocer to the ship. There is a sidewalk the whole way. We saw Kathi and Danielle at the pier shopping area. Its funny how you run into certain people a lot and then you never see others after the meet and greet.
Got to the ship around 5pm. We were sailing at 6pm today. I had purchased some Pomegranate liquor at one of the stores and had it in my backpack. I even told the security scanner about it. He didn't make a comment so I grabbed my backpack and headed on past the liquor checking area! Turns out I never even opened it onboard the ship!
We hurried up to our cabin to get ready for our 6pm dinner seating. I was amazed the girls were ready in time!!!!
Dinner tonight was good. I had some great conversation with George from New Zealand. We were really fortunate to be seated with such quality people. Our CC friend Kathi told us earlier that Ken and his wife (from Cocoa) had gotten into a loud verbal confrontation with his tablemates. The next night when Ken returned to the table it started up again and he went straight to the Maitre'd and asked to be moved. Some people need to take a chill pill! You're on vacation. Lighten up! Sorry this happened to you Ken. Anyway, the food was fine. Just OK again, nothing spectacular like on Monday night in the Emerald Room. The waiters sang and danced again. DD18 Cait was again asked to dance and she happily obliged.
After dinner, we walked over to the art viewing with our tablemates. They were showing Thomas Kinkade works and we love him. Kinkade is known as "America's most-collected living artist". We were interested in a couple of prints but misunderstood the art coordinator. I understood him to say that they were to be auctioned the next day but in actuality you could purchase them on the spot! Found out too late! Oh well!
DW and I headed to the photo gallery to look for our recent pictures. While walking around we went into the Formalities shop. It's the shop where you can rent tuxedos or order things for special occasions. I noticed a sign for cakes to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We decided to order a "Happy Graduation" cake for DD18 Cait to be delivered after dinner Thursday night. It was only $9.95 and would feed up to 10 people. What a deal! FYI…… they also have bulk candies by the pound if you feel the need to satisfy your sweet tooth! From there we headed to Bar Blue to have a cocktail. It's located just outside the Ebony Cabaret on deck 5. It was about 8pm and it was not open. We went to Bar Blue a couple nights ago around the same time and it wasn't open then either! The Cinn-a-bar piano bar is just across the way from there and we walked in there. We had planned to spend a few hours there when Russell started at 9:15pm but discovered that Wednesdays were his day off! We sat just outside at the Burgundy wine & martini bar and tried Katrina's famed martinis. These weren't your ordinary gin and vermouth martinis. I had a creamy chocolate martini (Bailey's, Grey Goose vodka and cream de cocoa) and DW Mary ordered a coffee martini. Both were good. DD22 and DD18 soon found us and joined us. We were the only people at the bar and had a very enlightening conversation with Katrina the barkeep. She is from Slovakia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia. I asked many questions about her job and general crew life. She told us about a lot of her experiences. How underage kids try to get drinks. One even "borrowed" his father's ship card. She WILL id you if you look underage. So, if you're just over 21 make sure to carry your driver's license with you! On RCL and NCL your ships card tells them if you're of legal drinking age. RCL punches a hole in the cards of kids under 18. She said that they have a crew bar and have parties often. She's learning an Indonesian language and we laughed when she told us about overhearing Indonesian guys making comments about her. What a smart and beautiful lady. We spent about an hour with her.
We stopped by the casino bar and listened to Robbin from England sing oldies. He was in a band way back when and we weren't really impressed with his vocal skills. Kinda like listening to a bad Davy Jones (The Monkees) impersonator! Sorry.
Decided to call it a night around 10pm and headed off to our cabin. Tomorrow is the first of two sea days and time for relaxation. More to come….
DAY FIVE AT SEA
Woke up around 8am. Called and had room service deliver coffee and bagels 30 minutes later. Our two daughters were still sleeping so DW and I had a quiet coffee and did some reading and planning the day. Decided to venture out alone again to find a wireless hotspot. Headed down to deck five and found a comfortable spot outside the casino across from Creams coffee shop. Ordered a latte and started surfing! Creams offers not only coffee but pastries, brownies and chocolate covered strawberries as well. And, I thought, reasonably priced. While pecking away on the laptop, my dining table friend Rick walked by and decided to have seat and we talked for an hour. DW Mary found us as did Rick's wife Gina! Then George and his wife too! Rick had said that they were going to call and make reservations in the Emerald Room for Friday evening. We told them about the "On deck for the Cure" walk at 2pm and they were to join us.
We found the girls and had lunch in the buffet. Just cheeseburgers today. Pretty good. Carnival offered a couple tables on the Lido deck with special 2 for $20 tee shirts today. They do this a couple times a week and more in the General store on deck 5. I'd suggest waiting to purchase shirts until the middle of the week to take advantage of these sales. And they put out more and different shirts. We bought a couple.
I was at the Ebony Cabaret Lounge for the art auction preview at 1:20. Didn't see the Kinkade's. This is when I found out they were sale last night!!! So, I decided to watch the girls walk for the cure.
At 1:45pm everyone headed up to the jogging track on deck 11 for the "On deck for the Cure" walk to benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. This is such a great foundation. DD22's sorority Zeta Tau Alpha's philanthropy is breast cancer awareness & research and she's heavily involved in all kinds of fund raisers for them. In fact, FYI, Zeta Tau Alpha has the term "Think Pink" copyrighted and uses it in various ways to increase breast cancer awareness. There were about 50 folks on deck mulling around without anyone from Carnival to be seen. Finally someone showed up at the last minute and the walking began. Having torn cartilage in my knee recently, I wasn't able make the walk but…….. I did become the unofficial team photographer. Seems when folks saw me taking pictures about 6-8 people asked if I would take some with their cameras. I was happy to oblige. The walk took about 45 minutes and it was very hot for them. Carnival did offer free fruit punch and water during the walk. Thanks go out to anyone and everyone who takes part in this "close to our heart" cause. Thank you.
The girls were covered in sweat and wanted to clean up a bit. I told them to just go jump in the pool and layout! So they did! They both had their Pilates class scheduled for 4pm. They both loved the class and loved the gym. DD22 actually works part time at her college RAC (recreation and activities center- a huge gym/pool/courts/rock climbing wall/track complex) and DD18 has a membership at the local gym. Both gave the gym itself high marks. One disadvantage to booking on the spa deck or a cabin below the spa on the port side would be the loud thuds from folks dropping the free weights. Imagine the sound of the anchor hitting the ship many times a day and evening. The free weight section of the gym is on the port side forward. FYI….
Mary and I made our way back to the cabin so she could clean up and dry off. We decided instead to go to the spa and check out the whirlpool. I made her preshower (Poolman!) It's located in the middle of the gym with glass walls so you can see EVERYBODY in the gym and THEY can see you! It's actually what we in the business call a swim spa. A 14' pool with Badu jets that shoot the water at you simulating a current so it's like swimming upstream. 10 kids between the ages of 12-16 were lounging in it when we arrived. The rules state that no children under 18 can be in the area with adult supervision. Carnival didn't enforce this. They weren't acting badly. Just lounging and talking. Attached to the pool is a 3' x 8' spa. The water bodies are independent of each other so the spa can be heated and the pool not. We shared the spa with a lady and her daughter. It only can fit 4 folks comfortably. Much smaller than expected. And the water temp was only around 95 degrees or so. Lukewarm by spa water standards. We only stayed about 10 minutes and left. Both the men's and woman's sides have both menthol steam rooms and dry heat saunas. These are all free to anyone. I went into both. Rooms not sides! Showers and lockers are available also. You just give the girls at the front desk your ships card and she'll give you a locker key in exchange. The free spa facilities were nowhere near as nice as the ones on the NCL Jewel back in 2006. Each side had their own 8' spa and a unisex pool/spa in the middle along with hot stone chairs to lounge in. And spectacular views out the floor to ceiling windows. Carnival has it situated like you're a caged animal for all to see! Really bad set up IMO. And I forgot to mention the rock waterfall that spills into the lap pool from 6' up that would make it really hard to breathe while swimming laps! What were they thinking????
After cleaning up we headed down to deck five to search for photos again. The capers stated that certain photos would be ditched to make room for newer ones. Carnival does not offer any kind of package deal like RCL or NCL. Only by the piece. We did manage to get a free 5x9 album with our purchase. We tend to purchase over a $100 of photos per cruise but spent ½ that this time. We went in the general store and I purchased some liquor to take home. Four bottles of Baileys Irish Cream and a bottle of Cruzan rum (from the USVI). The prices were just a tad more that in St. Martin. Bought some more tee shirts also.
Tonight is the second formal night. Although I wore a suit this past Sunday for the first formal night, I decided to wear Dockers and a Tommy Bahama shirt. With Margaritaville flip flops! What I think is a classy island look. Formal for a beach bum!! HaHa….. Flame on……take your best shot! No lobster on the menu tonight. Dinner was fine. Can't remember what we had! I need to take notes next time!! While walking by the spa on our way to our cabin, I saw a special for a 20 minute neck and shoulder massage, a 20 minute foot/ankle massage and a 20 minute hot stone massage for $99 so we both decided to do it. They scheduled us for 1pm and 1:15pm the next day, Friday. I asked if we could get them together in the same room and was told no! That would be the couples massage for $269. All I wanted was to be side by side. I didn't think it was too much to ask unless they only had one room with two beds and it was occupied. No biggie.
We headed for the cabin to freshen up. To me, that means pouring a great big Ginger Fly to take to the piano bar. I like to shoot a little of this and wash it down with a Stella bier! We had decided to make this night our "blowout" night for partying so we could just lounge tomorrow. We made the mistake of doing this last January onboard the Monarch of the Seas on the last night and suffered through 10 hours in a car the next day! Rick and Gina were going to meet us in the piano bar. When we got there we saved a couple seats. It was about 9pm and Russell was there setting up. My six new friends from Ohio (met on the first night there) were there. Another young couple from Chicago was there (also there the first night). We had lovingly named them Cubbie and Cheesehead. He had worn Cubs jersey and she mad no bones that she was a Packer fan! Our new buddy Jim sat next to DW Mary and was celebrating his birthday! It was like a reunion of night one! We had a blast. We danced and sang all night. Singles, duos, and groups. One big happy (and drunk) cruise family!! DD22 Leslie wasn't feeling well and left us around midnight. We didn't get back to the cabin until 3:30am! When DD18 got in around 1am and didn't see us she was worried. LOL…. Now she knows how we feel!
DAY SEVEN AT SEA
But of course, the sun always rises the next morning and that means the night is over and the headache begins!
Not so bad actually. DW Mary awoke first and left the cabin to get coffee and read around 9am. Mary came back a little after 10am and she and DD18 left to go get breakfast. They came back 15 minutes later with food for them & DD22 but nothing for me! DD22 was complaining of seasickness. I think that, combined with some alcohol last night, was causing her the discomfort. She was wrapped up in a ball most of the afternoon! We chilled in the room for a couple more hours and then DW and I headed out. I made it a point to find our room steward first and let him know what was going on. I let him in to give us fresh towels and empty the trash. No need to make the beds since I already did it. Except the one that was occupied! Pour baby.
At 1pm Mary and I headed for the spa for our massages. We've never had a hot stone massage before. When the stone is first placed on your skin you'll think it is going to scald you but after 3 seconds a big …AHHHHHH is felt….AHHHHHHH. It was heaven. Especially with a hangover!!! Loved the treatment. Afterwards my masseuse went into selling mode. Like I'm going to spend $60 on some oil and another $55 on lotion! Politely said no thanks and headed to the cabin. Mary told her masseuse that she had sensitive feet and she received 40 of hot stones and no foot massage! Lucky her.
Chilled in the room with the still sickly DD22. She decided to forgo her 4pm Pilates class and try and feel better for the big dinner tonight. DD18 went by herself. I wanted to be in the main dining room around 6pm to say our goodbyes and give thanks so we started getting ready when DD18 came back. We had pre booked the Emerald Room for 7pm by in May. My plan was to eat there on Monday and if I didn't think it was worth it, I'd cancel Friday. Since Monday was so good, we kept the reservation. I forgot to mention that while at the piano bar last night Rick told me he'd been waitlisted for dinner tonight in the Emerald Room. I immediately got up and found a house phone and called the Emerald Room and asked to add two more people to my reservation. They asked if 6:30pm would be alright and I, of course, said yes and thank you. Done Deal! We made a point to go to our regular diner table to say goodbye to George and his wife and Rick and Gina's boys. Told our waiters thanks. Tipped the Maître'd and all 6 of us headed up the elevator to the Emerald Room. We arrived at 6:20 and were seated promptly on the starboard side. I thought about asking to be seated on the port side where we were before but didn't. We had the same wine sommelier Nicholas. For servers we had a young lady from Costa Rica I believe and another from Russia. While these two were efficient, it wasn't near as good as the three we had on Monday. I again asked for the cheese tray as an appetizer. This time the server didn't blink and said of course. Rick and I both ordered the 24oz Porterhouse steak. A huge piece of meat! Girls had lobster, prime rib chop and NY Strip and Filet Mignon. DD22 wasn't impressed with her strip. It had a lot of fat on it. Everything else was great. Tonight's dinner lasted 3 ½ hours! WOW! The longest dinner ever! But the time really flew by. Good tablemates with great conversation. Unlike Monday though, we felt at times we were waiting for food. The service wasn't like Monday but still good. But my opinion still holds…..The Emerald Room is awesome and we'll do it again next time onboard Carnival… After dinner it was close to 10pm and we were full and tired. Said our goodbyes and exchanged our addresses and called it a night and went off to pack. Had to have the luggage outside our door by 11pm. Just made it. What a great overall trip. It's over……sigh………off to bed.
DAY EIGHT - DISEMBARKING
Because I had two more bottles of liquor than allowed, I had to be outside the library between 7am and 7:30am to meet customs. Got there around 7:10 and found a short line. Customs officials showed up at 7:20am and promptly asked questions of everyone and signed off on our customs form. Didn't cost any money. Went really fast. Bring your receipts if you purchased liquor. One man was detained because he stated he purchased some liquor in Nassau and didn't have his receipts. I was back in the room by 7:40 and made sure everyone was up. We left the cabin at 7:50am and headed to the buffet for a quick breakfast. As I left I told our stateroom attendant we'd be back before the 8:30am deadline to vacate the cabin. We also left our luggage out the night before and we were number 11 in order for assisted disembarking. Finished breakfast and got our stuff at 8:25 and gave our two stateroom attendants additional tips for a job well done. They were outstanding. Maybe the best we've had so far. Went down to Guest Services to drop off our comment cards and were called to disembark a few minutes later. We were off the ship by 9am. Grabbed a porter for the luggage. Were in my vehicle heading to Georgia a few minutes later. A very fast disembarking. Good job Carnival.
Overall, we had an outstanding trip. Loved the ship. She could've had more shops and a better spa but she's still great. I really enjoyed the younger crowd and party atmosphere. Carnival's reputation as a Fun ship was certainly upheld. We will cruise Carnival again in the future. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! I'll be posting more pictures later today.
Steve Read Less