Setting up – Although they are veterans of many cruises, we have never had the Drive Port experience. Just throwing everything but the dog into the SUV – bypassing the hassle and inconvenience of airports, airlines and transfers – seemed like a good idea. From Memphis, the logical choice was a carnival triumph that sailed to the Eastern Caribbean from New Orleans. (7 days from 24 to 31 July)
Boarding – Documents we printed online boarded from 12: 30p to 2: 30p with boat sailing at 4:00 pm. So, we got in line to unload and park from the dock at 12:20 pm. Once parked and off the SUV, we stood in line for about 45 minutes – outdoors – in 95 ° mid-summer heat and humidity in New Orleans. (What logistical genius arranged that little torture?) It took a total of 80 minutes from parking to boarding – during which long lines with many shifts were the norm.
We were told in the parking lot / unloading that, yes, we could pack our own bags if we were so inclined. But just before entering the blessed air-conditioned terminal building, Colonel Klink separated us from the herd and told us that our three bags were too big and needed to be checked. He pointed to a small aircraft type "carry-on bag that must be put-here-or-we-stab your mother" warning sign with a size test vessel, the volume of which was large enough to hold a medium-sized lunch box. I think, "Now they have tombstones on cruise ships? So why wasn't that sign posted at the point of unloading?"
Accommodation – Once on board, we headed out to the ocean view cabins on deck 1. The cabins were very spacious and quite comfortable – larger than most ships – something that made Carnival stand out. Our decision not to use the balcony cabins was justified. The whole ambience of the ship looked spacious.
Our room manager was Jorge from Peru – a very gracious man who seemed to want to please – like most of the staff.
In our cabins we waited for bon voyage gifts from the hotel manager and our local business development manager, fruit baskets, wine, etc. They are highly appreciated and consumed quickly.
Departure – Noticing at 5pm that the pass had withdrawn, but we had not yet set sail, the captain's announcement explained that due to the weather – tropical depression Bonnie – and heavy traffic at the mouth of the river, navigation would be delayed until 3am on Sunday morning. But we were confident that the ship would reach the port in time. And it worked.
Dining – Although we officially requested a large table for eight or more, we sat in a cabin for four. The stand was cozy and welcoming, but it still disappointed us – cruising to meet people. Maitre was apologetic and said he would try to remedy the situation but did not. Understandably, most people want tables reserved only for their group of family and friends, especially in the summer when traveling with children. My theory? They originally booked us for a big table … then they saw me stumble and stumble along the way through a lime green walk Vampires suck! top tank with "Bite Me" tattooed across my jugular. I'm sure then and there they decided that it was best to isolate us from the rest of the table.
The food ranged from average to very, very good. The biggest improvement to Carnival's food service is in the presentation. The dining room's main offering was stylish and gourmet appearances. However, in real taste, most dishes were less than half a star, as much as that sober thing deserved. Some exceptions: chilled avocado soup, Mongolian salad steak, New Zealand lamb chops and chocolate soufflé were to die for.
Fish dishes, although well seasoned and elegantly presented, are constantly served dry and overcooked. Thinking it might be because only frozen supplies are available and not fresh, I started the test. When the security guard at the Atlantis Aquarium looked the opposite, I caught a rare fish … smuggled it into my camera case … gave it to the ship's cook fifteen minutes before dinner. Yes, served dry and cooked.
Just as I was about to give up the problem of Overcooked Fish, there was a glimmer of hope. There on deck five … just around the corner at the casino … Sushi Cart! But even here the delicacies are arranged for southern taste. Chicken fried tuna & # 39; Cado rolls were phenomenal!
Fun – We did most of the shows and most of them were pretty good, especially the big production shows. Carnival is one of the few remaining cruise ships that still uses full live orchestras rather than recorded songs for these complex performances. The sound quality in all spaces was excellent. Stage effects and mechanics, such as hydraulically manipulated stage sections and (almost invisible) cable elevators that allow performers to "fly", have been effective and not overused. Lines in all locations were good. Smoke machines, flashes and laser strobes are rarely used and do not overdo it. Well, maybe the smoke machine didn't add much to the bingo … the caller was new and couldn't find the shutdown button.
The Great easy show it was one of the best production shows I have seen on a cruise line … and from someone who has worked as an entertainer for 12 years. Clearly made for a New Orleans-centered audience, my first thought was "this is a cheap shot – like playing a Star flattened banner at a VFW meeting – a standing ovation is guaranteed." But as the show made music choices, the performances, costumes and special effects were extraordinary. Very enjoyable experience.
Comedian – Todd Justice started strong, but started losing us halfway through the show. Todd was still looking at his watch – a surefire killer. Not a good idea unless it's part of the act. It wasn't.
Magic – The big magic production / illusion show in the main salon was a bit repetitive and just fine. An up close magic show is scheduled for the Venezia salon. Although we arrived 20 minutes early, there was no empty space. The room was already standing and many were sitting on the floor. This show has to be in a bigger scene. We didn't stay.
Specialty Law – The funniest show of the week was Assad, the stage hypnotist. He gave many of the old tried-and-true but still funny suggestions to the volunteers from the audience who were deep inside, with a few twists of the novel like, "you desperately want to kiss the person next to you, but they have a bad breath."
Assad had a very original closure. Just before the volunteers were fired, he gave them one final suggestion … "you will not remember anything you did on stage tonight … until the next time you look in the mirror. Then you will suddenly remember all the vivid details." Of course, right after the show, sadistic friends and families sent unlucky volunteers to the toilets to “wash their noses”. Three decks could be heard screaming.
On-board ambitions – With beautiful ships, good food and staff eager to please, Carnival is still engaged in relentless shipping and on-board sales promotion – as well as all mass-market cruises. Compensation is a lower price.
But Carnival can sometimes be a little crazy about that. You don't have to be a cruiser snob to feel a bit extinguished when, for the ninth time, you have to walk the length of the ship to find a unblocked staircase or a mob-free elevator to get from one deck to the next because of photographers setting up half a dozen Photo Op stations.
They always seemed to be located in the middle of the main staircase or thoroughfare while walking the boat. One night about twelve such installations were proof, all at full points, with appropriately assisted mounds spilling over to the ship's shops … in which silver-tongued sellers were waiting!
(Biz Op – Someone can make a fortune by selling Photographer Repellant. It can be spray … colorless and odorless, but it makes the user appear constantly in focus.)
Also note that two hours before departing Key West, passengers had to stand in line for 30 minutes to board the ship again … and you start to understand me.
Why can't CCL take the response from the good Disney people? Disney also mastered face-to-face trading and crowd control. Do you listen to carnivals? Can you say Fastpass?
Excursions through ports and shores – there were three stops along this route.
Freeport – There is a reason why it is called "Freeport". It is completely without anything to do. Beaches and shopping are a long taxi ride from the boat and there is nothing to write home about once you get there. We stayed on board.
Nassau – One mistake we can only blame for our own procrastination is not buying tickets in advance to the Aquarium and Atlantis Water Park on Nassau's Paradise Island. Unfortunately, we waited until the day of our arrival and everywhere we went, the counter excursion desk, the Atlantis Hotel itself, other nearby Paradise Island hotels – the story was the same – sold out, sold out, sold out.
But our determined girls did not accept the answer and preferred our taxi driver to do whatever it took to find us.
Tito was a man … fast talking and (obviously) connected guy. With a mile wide and a mile wide, a mouth full of gold teeth and a twisted boom carrier with a subwoofer in the back of his Toyota mini-van, it was an instant hit for our 18-year-old. In the meantime, I'm testing the van door to make sure I can lock and unlock it from the inside.
To add to my nervousness as I peek through the Nassau headlines in Oddjob's cheerleading ride, my wife flashes hundreds of dollars in cash – slowly counting – out there for everyone to see – making sure he had enough to pay for these water park passes The "bootleg" he will soon achieve for us. (Tito made it clear he didn't take the plastic.)
In the meantime, I will think in panic, "My God, they will be pulled into a back alley where we will be stripped naked and robbed of everything … at the moment of the rifle … and left stranded." (The robbery would be persistent … but I wasn't treated enough to walk the straw market … naked.)
After numerous humorous phone calls and a back alley meeting with local underground operatives, we had passes … and Tito had money. Miraculously, we did not trigger any fraud alarms at the entrance to the Aquarium / Water Park.
Key West – Coming here meant more shopping, as well as cheap or free connection to the Internet and cell phones. You can connect through the ship's system, but it's an expensive way to feed your Facebook habit.
We booked the parasailing trip, which was a hook. The departure point is just a short walk across the dock from the ship.
Sea Days – We enjoyed the deck, pools, slide and JumboTron (huge outdoor video screen). Yes, Agnes, yours truly matched up with the kids and got down on a giant slide. It was a thrill. Especially a sudden stop in the water trough at the bottom. I was a regular for three days after that.
Question – Who can decide what is displayed on the ship's huge JumboTron? At times he used to advertise for carnival or high-price movie plays, such as hairy chest competitions – sometimes a movie or video concert – but every morning he was tuned to a local Denver TV station. (Denver?) I kept looking around behind the giant remote.
Spa – On the last day of the cruise, my husband booked me for a premium makeover – a moisturizing face with a full body massage. Admittedly, it made me look a good six to eight weeks younger than a few hours. But like the miserable victims of the hypnotist, when I looked in the mirror the next morning … staring at me was that famous 63-year-old ear glove catcher. And I screamed.
Conclusion – Overall it was a good cruise and a welcome change of pace. Would I be cruising the Carnival again? Yes, definitely. Would I do something different the second time around? Yes, a couple of things. First, I would insist on putting that big table for eight or more in the dining room – we are just having too much fun and lying to new people we will never see again. Secondly, I would make sure to book two or three of our most desirable shore excursions in advance. And lastly, we need to stock up a little in our boat. Oh, I would also take the case of that Photographer Repellent. – LEC