I'm going to go into great detail with this review, but this is going to be fun for me because I will be reliving it all over again. My husband and I are in our thirties and this was our fourth cruise together and the first one of which I have ever written a review.
11/29/01 --- Alaska Airlines --- Barrow Alaska -- 8:30 a.m.
Our flight is running about an hour late. We check in and get randomly selected to have our check on bags searched. Barrow doesn't have a scanner so they take us to the back where they unpack our 4 bags. Brian bites his lip but is irritated because he packed so carefully. I was expecting it because I went through this in late September when I last traveled. They managed to get everything back in without too much mess.
11/30/01 --- Alaska Airlines ------- Anchorage -- late evening
After spending the day in Anchorage we check in and find that the lines aren't too bad. We changed our flight to leave earlier on the red eye, so we lost our 1st class seats out of Anchorage. We have 2 middle seats. Yuck. Oh well - it is just until Seattle. Once again, we get randomly chosen out of Anchorage to have our check in bags scanned and searched. We are told to go behind the wall to a table and wait. We do. It doesn't take very long. They have to search one bag for an unidentifiable object - my binoculars. Security goes through my carry on and scans both of us. At the gate, we are also randomly picked to have my carry on searched and both of us scanned again. Ok - no problem -- we are going on vacation --- whoo hoo! At 12:45 am we got on plane and a man and his son have the window and aisle - I have the middle -- hmmm go figure. We were able to do some switching. Brian got an aisle and I kept the middle which is fine because it is much better to sleep on Brian's shoulder than a strangers. It was a 3 hour flight. We actually got some sleep.
11/30/01 ---- American Airlines ---- Seattle to Chicago
In Seattle we are randomly selected at the gate again for search -- not as thorough as Alaska. Now we are in 1st class. It is very nice. The seats have a headrest. The breakfast is nice and we were able to get more sleep.
11/30/01 ---- American Airlines ---- Chicago to San Juan
We are in 1st class that is very nice again. We are starting to get into a really good mood. We didn't sleep on this leg. We watched the movie "Bridget Jones' Diary" It happened to be the same book I was reading. The movie is very funny. The book is hilarious. We had a few drinks - mostly water though. The descent into San Juan was so cool. The clouds were so fluffy and beautiful. It was absolutely heavenly. 8 p.m. San Juan - We are here! WHoo Hoo!! We check into Embassy Suites hotel. It is very nice at $165 per night (with all taxes included) We are tired but decide to explore and hit the casino for a few minutes. Won about $50 on slots. Time to go to bed.
12/01/01 --- am. ---- Embassy Suites ---- San Juan, Puerto Rico
Woke up feeling very refreshed and ready to go! We headed downstairs for complementary breakfast. It was good, but cold. I don't like cold eggs and bacon. I had a croissant, fruit and coffee. It was plenty filling. We took a cab to Old San Juan - $16.00 (Note - when you take a cab in SJ, always have the desk get one for you or find a taxi or transportation stand - the prices are set - this way you know for sure what the fare should be) We started out with a tour of Fort San Christobal. We have done El Morro on previous trip. San Cristobal is very similar of course. It took about an hour to go through. It was extremely interesting. The history was well documented and it was fun to imagine what it was like way back then. Then we wandered around Old San Juan and shopped. We found a good deal on a pair of Dockers for me and a shirt for Brian. We investigated the El Convento Hotel. It is located across from the San Juan Cathedral and was a convent built over 250 years ago. They let us see a room and we decided to make a reservation for December 16th when we arrive back in San Juan. We didn't do much else in San Juan. The Cathedral is definitely worth going into to see such an old church with so much history. Old San Juan has many courtyard like areas with welcoming benches and shade. There were mass amounts of colored pigeons swarming in the many courtyards. People were standing among them, feeding them and having 3 or 4 of them on each arm! We observed that there were quite a few homeless people in these areas. We had several great appetizers for lunch at Barrachino's. The shrimp was EXCELLENT! by 1:30 p.m., we are ready to head back to the hotel. (Note - recommend getting early start walking around the forts and Old San Juan - less people and a lot less heat!) When got back, we took a 3 hour nap, since we are apparently getting old! We woke up refreshed and ready to drink (we're on vacation) free booze! Embassy Suites has complementary drinks from 6 - 8 p.m. We went outside and sat by the pool for awhile. It was very relaxing. We decide to eat dinner at the Outback Steakhouse right in the hotel. But since we have to wait an hour we thought that we might as well spend it in the casino. Apparently Brian has had too many greyhounds because he throws caution to the wind and bets very wildly on blackjack and loses a $200 quickly. Finally it was time to eat - THANK GOD! We had Shrimp for appetizer again and I had the veggie and steak griller and Brian had the sirloin. Forget the meat, the veggies were huge! And there is even grilled pineapple. Dinner was excellent and we are in bed by 11:00. 12/02/01 --- 12:30 pm.
We checked out of our hotel at noon and now find ourselves standing in line waiting to board the Destiny. We are hopeful the line will start moving soon. At about 1:30 pm the huge line started to move and we finally got on the boat and into our balcony room #8319 at 2:30 pm. BUT it could have been worse, so I guess we were lucky. As we were getting on the boat, it started to rain! And it poured for hours on the many people who were still standing in line.
12/02/01 ----- Brian's 37th birthday
We immediately explored the boat for about an hour and then headed back to the room just as our luggage was being delivered. Perfect timing. We - I mean... I unpacked everything. You can just picture my husband laying there watching TV, can't you? The room had lots of storage and I found a place for everything and still had plenty of room. The closets were huge and the suitcases fit under the bed so we didn't have to trip over them all week.
Dinner for first seating was at 5:30 tonight. We have the early sitting for the this cruise which will be at 5:45 every night (15 minutes earlier the 1st night and open seating) Brian had lamb and I tried the chicken. They were both excellent. We were seated by the window at the back of the ship and had a spectacular view. I really hope our permanent table is this nice. The couple we were seated with were not big talkers which was ok. We are not either --- until you get us started. After dinner, we found the Cheers Wine Bar that allows you to buy bottles of wine to take to your room. We purchased two bottles for later. We also stopped by the Downbeat Lounge to listen to some live music and to have a late cocktail.
Next we headed to the casino and played some blackjack. We actually won $35 between the two of us. At 10 pm, we got a drink and headed up to the Lido deck for Bon Voyage party and the cast off from San Juan. It was TOO crowded around the outer areas to see San Juan. Found an opening for a minute and realized why it was open when the guy standing next to me blew smoke right in my face. Then it hit us! DUH! We have a balcony room! It was a perfect view to watch the cast off. Balconies are GREAT!! That was the extent of Brian's birthday. We didn't do anything special for it and he definitely didn't want to be reminded of how old he is.
The Destiny is a large ship. We read a lot of reviews before we got here that this boat was so confusing and hard to find your way around on. It was slightly hard to get around on at first, but since this is our 4th Carnival cruise we didn't find it that difficult. We could pretty much figure out how to get anywhere by the first night.
12/03/01 ----- 7:45 am ---- St. Thomas
I'm sitting and relaxing with a cup of coffee on my balcony peering out at beautiful Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Balcony rooms are definitely the way to go. We were up by 6:30, but Brian was awake since 4:00 because of heartburn! Poor baby - it is starting already! We hit the gym. No really - we did!! We did about 20 -25 minutes on various machines, then headed to the Lido deck for breakfast. It was good - the usual buffet style similar to the other ships. Brian had a great omelet. The omelet cook was trying to carry on a conversation with Brian as he was making his omelet. He said "So is this your first time here?" Brian replies "to the omelet station?" The cook meant St. Thomas. Brian was obviously more interested in his omelet than St. Thomas at that moment and the cook had a good laugh. After a few cups of much needed coffee we went ashore.
12/03/01 ----- St. Thomas
I've done St. Thomas shopping before but I checked it out again to find all the same kind of stuff that I don't need. We headed back to the boat and had lunch on the Lido deck. The ham was great and everything else was good and filling. We are doing the Best of St. Thomas tour at 1:15 pm. I have just enough time for a little rest!
The Best of St. Thomas tour was a waste of time and money. We were corralled onto a open air pickup trolley that had a canopy with seats in the back. The guide drove up steep hills while the canopy creaked and groaned and tipped at times. All us tourists were fearing for our lives. The guide -- I can't even call him a guide --- he was just a driver. He gave us very little information or history of what we were seeing. We stopped to see a view of Charlotte Amalie and a Rastafarian type guy with a donkey wearing a straw hat with a band of flowers on it approached the trolley. He asked if anyone would like a picture with the donkey. A few people got off the truck and posed. I stayed on and took a picture of the cute donkey with Charlotte Amalie in the background. Then the guy started collecting $2.00 from everyone that posed with or on his donkey. Everyone got back on the trolley and just as we were about to drive off, the guy comes up to me and demands $2.00 for taking a picture of the donkey. I told him I didn't get my picture taken with the donkey. He said that didn't matter and that I took a picture of his donkey and I had to pay. I said I would not pay and that it was ridiculous. Brian didn't have anything small to give him anyway. The driver would not drive away! Finally the rather large guy sitting in front of me (who was really funny and talkative) turned around and said not to give this free loader anything and told him to hit the road. Finally, the driver drove off. What a scam! Brian thought later that we should have told the guy that I didn't mean to take a picture of the donkey, but was trying to get a picture of the breath taking view and his damn donkey got in the way. He should pay me for my wasted film!! That would have been great. Course the guy seemed pretty stoned, so he probably wouldn't have comprehended anyway.
Part of the tour took us to the Great Peter House which was to be one of the highlights of the tour. I still don't understand what it really was. It was a big house or I guess mansion by Island terms that changed owners here and there for a pretty cheap price and was now worth a lot even though it had been hit by two hurricanes and refurbished. I don't know why it was open to the public and why no one lived there. It was a really nice place but some informative history was not provided. The kitchen was absolutely HUGE! I could live there easily if I didn't have to drive on those steep narrow roads! (Note - If you plan to do this tour, read up on this Estate before you go so you have some prior knowledge - or hopefully, you will get a better guide).
Besides being a pretty crappy tour, we also had a guy in our group that was in a wheelchair. Clearly this was not an accessible vehicle or tour even though it was advertised as such. The driver didn't have any place to store a wheelchair and the guy couldn't even get off the back of the pick up to explore anything. The driver left it up to the other people in our group to help this guy on and off. That was pretty sad and we feel Carnival should be better aware of this particular tour that they are promoting. Brian later filed a complaint about the St. Thomas excursion. The pursers desk lent a sympathetic ear and that was it. We are sure they will be getting more complaints in the future and we are positive that at least two other couples in our group had complained. I'm sure they will need a number of complaints before they will do anything.
After this awful tour, we did the tramway lift up to Paradise Point which was really cool. You get your best view of gorgeous St. Thomas from the top. We had such a gorgeous day and it was absolutely beautiful from up there. From previous visits, I had it in my head that I might like to live here someday because I would be on an Island paradise yet still in the U.S. I now find I've changed my mind because I had forgotten about the terrible roads they have here. I know there is better Island paradise out there for me!
12/03/01 ----- 8:45 pm ---- St. Thomas
Our first dinner at our regular table was at 5:45 pm. I loved my shrimp and Brian had beef Wellington. Mine was better than Brian's which is surprising because Carnival always has such good beef. Our table was in the middle of the dining room and not near the window like I had hoped. And we also were seated at a table for 8 when we requested a non-existent table for 2. But that was alright as all of our table mates were terrific people. There were two couples from New Jersey and one from Rhode Island and we all got along very well. After dinner, on our way toward the casino we stopped at the Destiny Bar. I saw a lady with a green martini type drink. It looked interesting, so I asked the bar waitress about it. She told me it was the lady's own concoction. It was Citron Absolute and Melon Liquor. So I tried it. Num! The other person saw that I was having the same thing and so I went over to talk to her. She was trying to get them to make some kind of drink that sounded a lot like a green apple, but they didn't have the ingredients. She was from Wisconsin and of course they have the Phillips brand Lime Vodka that I think you must be only able to get in the Midwest because that is the only place I have ever seen it. Anyway, as we were talking, the bar waitress came along and tossed a cherry into our drinks and lo and behold, the "Christmas Tree" drink was created!
We won $55.00 at blackjack tonight. Whoo Hoo! (through out my entries, it will sound like we gambled a lot! And we did gamble every day, but not for more than 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. It doesn't take long to lose and if you are ahead, you should quit before the luck changes. But I wrote about it in the journal every day to keep track of how much we were down --- so don't think we are gambling fools -- well maybe we are gambling fools.
We capped off the night with chocolate covered strawberries and wine while we listened to the waves crash from our balcony. Brian told me I turned quite a few heads in my Barcelona sundress tonight. What a nice thing to say! We got the strawberries from Cafe on the Way which is a little bakery and coffee bar on the Promenade deck. I loved this place and the girl that was working just about every time I was there was great. She was from the Philippines and clearly loved working here. She was very passionate about her pastries. The pastries and coffees do cost extra, but they are not expensive and are well worth it. The huge flavorful strawberries were covered with white and dark chocolate to look like they were dressed in tuxedos. NUM! I think they cost $3.00 for 5. Oh and they made shakes there too I heard from our dinner companions that they were excellent.
12/04/01 ------- Day 3 --- Tuesday ------ Antigua ------- mid-afternoon.
I didn't write much about this day, but it was a nice one. We started the day off with a 30 minute workout in the gym and a light breakfast. We decided to cancel the excursion we had booked. After the St. Thomas mishap yesterday, we just were not in the mood. We were charged a 25% cancellation penalty, but that was better than paying 100% and wasting 3 to 4 hours of our vacation on an unsatisfying excursion (Note - Brian always books all the excursions the first day so they don't sell out on us. But this time we shouldn't have because after St. Thomas, we weren't sure we wanted to do any more. So our advice is to be really certain that you will want to do every excursion you book because they will charge that penalty).
We walked into Antigua right off the pier and shopped for a few hours and we were caught in a downpour. The sidewalks are almost non-existent and the stores put racks outside their doors on the sidewalks. So while it was raining, we had to dodge into the street in and out of the rain while trying to walk on the sidewalk. And all the people had stopped and stood where ever they could on a piece of sidewalk under an eave to stay dry. We didn't mind the rain at all, but was not able to shop because of all the people standing in front of the windows and on the sidewalks. We were having to get out into traffic just to walk, so finally, we just stopped in front of a store under an eave and waited for the rain to stop with everyone else. It didn't rain for very long, but it rained hard. There was water everywhere when it quit. No wonder there was so much erosion on the streets. The only thing we bought was a magnet. We tried a local dessert called "Black Pineapple". Funny - it wasn't black and it wasn't really a dessert. It was a piece of fruit that looked and tasted just like pineapple. :O) Maybe it tasted a little sweeter, I don't know. We will have to research Black Pineapple on the Internet and see what we can find out about it. It was good though and we were happy. British owned Antigua was interesting even though we didn't see any more of the Island than the town of St. John, but that was ok. Everyone we came into contact with spoke English without much accent. They were very easy to understand. We also heard the local Island language being spoken which I'm sure is what most local people speak when not bombarded with tourists.
12/04/01 --- Tuesday night ---- On route to Guadeloupe ----- 11:30 pm ----- Formal night
We find ourselves in the Criterion Lounge waiting for the comedian to start. This has been a fun night. At dinner, we had Prime Rib and Lobster. YES - of COURSE we ordered BOTH and they were both great. The rest of our table ordered two main courses too. How can you possibly decide between Prime Rib and Lobster? You just can't! That is what is so great about cruises. You can have as many courses as you want.
After dinner, we went to the Destiny Bar on the Promenade deck just outside the casino. The entertainer was a one man band. He was incredible. He played songs from the 50s through to the 80s. Pop, soul, rock and whatever. People had to walk right by him to pass through the Promenade. Most couldn't help but dance a few steps as they passed. My favorite memory is of a man in his 60s dressed in his tux (it's formal night remember) who looked very dashing. He was passing by and stopped in his tracks when the first notes of "I feel good!" played. He was pulled almost trancelike into a James Brown like (though obviously not as "soulful") dance through the entire song. He was quite good and everyone applauded and cheered for him. Then we moved on to the casino and lost about $80.00. Oops! Then we headed to the see the show which was really entertaining. It was a Paris fashion style Las Vegas show, but I don't remember what it was called. It is amazing the stuff they come up with to do a show about. We have seen many shows on Carnival now and all of them have had different themes and have all been very good.
Ok - we are still sitting here in the Criterion Lounge waiting for the comedian to start. This lounge always plays Latino music and they are playing it right now. There are a whole lot of people from Puerto Rico on this cruise. (the locals in San Juan got a REALLY good deal since Carnival wanted to fill up the boat as much as possible) Being this cruise was out of San Juan, it appeared to have a lot more Latino flavor to it in regards to music and entertainment. I have decided that Salsa dancing looks like fun and want to learn. Do you suppose Brian will? Nope, I doubt it. The show should start at any time and the gala buffet will start at midnight too. This time, we are skipping the buffet. We have seen 3 of them before. I doubt it will be much different. The comedy show started at midnight and Anthony Accosta was hilarious! He is the funniest comedian we have ever seen on a cruise. We were in stitches the entire time. He is a Puerto Rican comedian from Brooklyn. He is supposed to have a HBO special. We will have to look for it. Or maybe they said he had one in the past. I don't remember. Maybe I have had too many Guinesses. But the beer isn't what made him funny. He really was terrific.
12/05/01 ---- Wednesday ----- Day 4 ----- been there and left Pointe-a-Pitre Guadeloupe ---- 10:30 pm
We are SO exhausted! We started the day at 6:00 ---- AM! We went to the gym yet again to exercise and then had breakfast. Our excursion in Guadeloupe started at 8:30 am. We did the Pigeon Island Tour. This excursion cost about $20 more than the St. Thomas tour, and was well worth every penny. We left Pointe-a-Pitre on the Grand-Terre side in a comfortable air conditioned bus with a very informative guide over the Salt River that separates Besse-Terre from Grand-Terre (Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly with the Salt River separating the two parts). We continued through the Basse Terre Mountains and rainforest to the coast on the other side. Guadeloupe is a gorgeous island and this excursion was very good. I got a little bit bus sick though since the roads were pretty hilly and curvy. But it was still like riding in luxury compared to riding in the back of that open aired vehicle thing in St. Thomas. When we got to the coast, we boarded a glass bottom boat to Pigeon Island where there was a large corral reef. Glass bottom boat tours are the way to go if you like to snorkel but don't want to get wet. There were lots of fish to look at and then someone announced excitedly that there were dolphins swimming with us! It was SO cool to see dolphins swimming along with us from under the water! There were at least six of them, but they were so fast it was hard to count them. We were all extremely happy and the guide was really thrilled too. She said she had never seen dolphins from under water on the glass bottom boat. The boat stopped for awhile to let anyone who wanted to snorkel to do that for awhile. It was almost as much fun watching people snorkel from underneath them from the boat as it was watching the fish. Then we headed back to shore and got back on the bus. We stopped by an entrance to a waterfall in the rainforest. It was only a few hundreds yards to walk to. I would have liked to have done the excursion where we could have hiked to Carbet Falls. Carbet Falls is an 800 foot waterfall that would have took about 30 minutes to hike to. But then we wouldn't have been able to see any more of the island. So I will definitely force Brian to let us do that next time. This was a nice little waterfall and I was happy to get my nature walk in even though it was short. I took my shoes off and walked in the water out to a rock and sat on it so Brian could take my picture. I hope it turns out. It was really pretty there.
After the tour, we got back on the boat and ate lunch and then took a two hour nap (did I mention we're getting old?) that wasn't nearly long enough! But we had to get ready for the repeat Carnival cruisers party at 5:00. They served complementary drinks and cheese. Then Josh the cruise director named all the Carnival ships as people cheered for the ones they have been on. Then he mentioned a few of the new ships that will be coming out soon and that was it. It was not very exciting even though we got a few free drinks out of it. Supper was at 5:45 and it was incredibly good again. Then we headed to the variety show. It was excellent. Duke Daniels (the main attraction), who was a member of the Platters at one time entertained us. He was really good and funny too. He told as many jokes as he sang songs and made fun of the fact that he had spent all the money he made in the 60s, so now we had to buy his new CD to help support him and his ex-wives. After the show, we went to the casino of course, only this time we played Roulette. I like that game and won $5 while Brian lost $50. He doesn't like Roulette very much and we don't agree on the correct way to bet on it. We are going to bed fairly early after relaxing on the balcony with a glass of wine for me and cognac for Brian. Earlier, I had made a quick stop at the Cafe on the Way for a piece of carrot cake for me and a chocolate cake thingy enclosed in some kind of white chocolate casing for Brian. They were SO delicious! The carrot cake was the best I have EVER had - and I've had a lot of carrot cake! Oooh, I feel so FAT! "Feeling FAT FAT FAT!" (I wish my keyboard had a music note key) Tomorrow is a day at sea and I am SLEEPING IN!! Whoo Hoo!!
12/06/01 --- Day 5 ---- relaxing day at sea ---- Formal night
Aaaahhhhhh. We got up around 9:00 and threw the idea of going to the gym right off the balcony! Brian was hungry and though I can't imagine how, we went up to the Lido deck for breakfast. I had fruit and Brian had an omelet. I don't know where he puts it! Then we went headed off to my favorite place, Cafe on the Way for a cappuccino. We found some cushioned deck chairs just off the main lobby and I sat down with my cappuccino while Brian read the news. (Carnival prints out a little newspaper of headlines everyday) We just relaxed and enjoyed the sun even though we were in the shade. Then we stood by the banister and watched flying fish for a long time. They are so cool they way the appear to be flying just above the water. I thought they were little birds until I would see them dive into the water and not come back up! Brian told me what he knew about them, but we are going to have to do some research to find out why they fly. They were quite enjoyable to watch for a long time. Then we went to attend the Aruba talk which killed about an hour and was pretty boring. On Carnival, the cruise director always has a "talk" about shopping and excursions at the different ports of call. We didn't go to any other talks because we are not big into shopping and we always pick the excursions on our own. But we didn't have anything else on our agenda so we thought we would check it out. Then we decided to try our actual dining room for lunch instead of the Lido deck today. We had the option of eating lunch at our assigned dinner table every day, but took advantage of it this only once. I tried to eat very little, but failed miserably. Brian had fish and chips that were SO good! And after he requested malt vinegar to put on them, they were excellent! Nummmm! We went back to the room after lunch and sat on the balcony for awhile wondering what to do with the rest of the day. I didn't want to do ANYTHING, but Brian was kind of restless. So we went to the art auction for 3 hours! We didn't buy anything, but I drank complementary champagne and Brian drank cognac which of course was not complementary! We went back to room to get dressed early for tonight's dinner.
Tonight was our second and final formal dining (I don't recall what was served) and the main show of the cruise in the Palladium Lounge. It was called "Night Club Express" It was a good show, but we liked the previous Paris style show more. This was also the Captain's Gala evening but we decided to drink Guinness and avoided the complementary cocktails that were offered between 7 and 8:30 before the show. The bartender that got our beer was impressed that we drank Guinness. Not many people must order it, but it was what he said he drank. We are very happy that Carnival has expanded their beer menu beyond just the Budweiser and Miller type beer. We would like to see it expand some more. We drank quite a bit of Guinness and gambled a lot, but I didn't note and don't recall how we did this night. Brian says we won $120 on blackjack. Later we headed up to the Pizzeria for a slice of Goat cheese pizza (that is absolutely the best!) and called it an early night (midnight). We decided to pass on the late night R-rated comedian show in the Criterion Lounge since we were just too tired to laugh.
12/07/01 ---- Aruba ----- 8:15 pm
Oh, this has been another great day. Got up and exercised! We were very proud of ourselves for that. Then of course we had breakfast and then headed into the town of Oranjestad. Aruba has great shopping malls. They were like actual malls, not just like the typical shopping "district" off the pier at other ports. There were lots of stylish restaurants too. We even found a mall that had a hotel above it. That might be a cool place to stay - though I would probably prefer to stay at a hotel on the beach if we ever came here for a vacation. We read that Aruba was THEE place to buy Dutch chocolate and cheeses. So we found a grocery store and bought some deliciously smooth chocolates and about 2 pounds each of the best Gouda and Edam cheeses (The packages were written in Dutch) we have ever had . They didn't have any in small packages and Brian was not leaving without cheese.
That afternoon, we did the Town and Countryside excursion. I think we saw every square inch of Aruba. Once again, we rode in a very nice air conditioned bus with a very informative guide. Aruba is very arid and desert like, and the wind kept us from feeling to warm. We drove through some really cool neighborhoods and toured the other side of the island and watched waves crashing on volcanic rock. The houses are all painted in pastels - sometimes the color is so bright, you can't really call it pastel, but the homes really brighten up the desert like, yet somehow beautiful landscape. It seemed like there was a dog sleeping on every porch. None were tied up or fenced in. It is definitely a great place to live as a dog. We went to the natural bridge and took pictures there and next we stopped at a large hill rock formation and had fun climbing it. We actually had to go through the rock at points, duck our heads and at times it was a pretty tight squeeze. Aruba was really windy and when we got to the top of the rock, some guy's hat blew away. There was no way he was getting it back. There are probably a lot of blown away hats in the Aruba country side. We went to the lighthouse and finished out the tour with a brief stop at Eagle Beach. We liked Aruba and would like to spend a vacation here someday.
We had Filet Mignon for dinner this night. And we also ordered the scallops! They were both delicious. Everyone at our table ordered two entrees again. None of us was shy about eating. That is what we were there for! The desserts were exceptionally good this night. Brian had the hazelnut crème broulee. I ate at least half of it because it was so good and the rest of the table that hadn't ordered it did after we drooled all over it. I had dark and white chocolate mousse that just melted in my mouth and others had the cheesecake that they said was just incredible. Most of us ordered two desserts too. After supper, we had plans to drink wine and eat some of the cheese we bought earlier that day. But UGH - we were just too full! We kept it on ice for the remainder of the cruise.
12/08/01 --- Day 7 --- Last day at sea for us on the Carnival Destiny ---- 1:00 pm
The boat was really rocking all day and night long on this day at sea. We had never felt motion like that on a cruise boat before. We were really surprised. We expected the bigger boats to be more stable on rough seas. We could even hear creaking and cracking noises on the Promenade deck! I was Sssssoooooooo glad I was not hung over that day! After a workout in the gym, a quick hot tub and breakfast we went to the casino at 10:00 am in the morning! We must've heard the key click open the doors (That's not true, but we were one of the first ones in there). I lost at black jack, but Brian won enough so we came out about $60 ahead. Tomorrow we have to get off the boat so today there was a mandatory debarkation talk in the Palladium Lounge. (Note - This is where we would soon find that Royal Caribbean really out does Carnival. There are NO mandatory talks or meetings to go to that takes time away from your vacation. Everything you need to know about anything, you can find on a TV channel in the comfort of your room on Royal Caribbean) We weren't happy to HAVE to go to this talk and almost skipped it because we have done it on our three previous Carnival cruises. But we were glad we did since things have changed a great deal since September 11th. Now everyone has to go through immigration, including U.S. citizens. Josh, the cruise director told us everything we needed to know and how to make things as easy as possible the next morning for debarking.
If everyone would have listened and done as they were told, getting off the boat the 9th of December in San Juan would have run almost like clockwork. Tomorrow we will observe that many (mostly Latino) people either skipped or ignored the debarkation talk so that they could congest the lines, congregate in the stairwells and be right in the way of those who followed procedures. But it did go pretty smooth considering all the people that had to go through immigration and get off the boat. The worst day of security on the boat is still a whole lot better than a day at any airport. But I am getting ahead of myself here, we don't have to get off the boat yet! We are still at sea! So we must do what we can to enjoy the last day and put off packing as long as possible.
After the talk, we relaxed some and then headed back to the casino. We played roulette. I won a good amount and Brian lost again. He just doesn't bet correctly! We played some more black jack and we both won about $300.00 combined. It was time to quit, but we just had to put $20.00 in a slot machine. I love playing slot machines, but rarely ever come out ahead so I try to stay away from them. We came out $42.00 ahead which never happens on slots. We wisely agreed we should stay out of the casino for the rest of the day. We spent the remainder of the day walking around trying not to walk into things because of the motion of the boat. It was really windy outside, so we didn't spend any time by the pools that last day. I can't complain that I didn't get to enjoy the pools on this cruise because a couple of times after we worked out in the mornings, we sat in a hot tub. The mornings are a great time to do that because it is quiet around the pools then.
Brian got the tips ready to go. Carnival now charges the suggested amount for tipping automatically to your account. This is fine, but we always tip extra when we have exceptional service, so we still had to figure out how much to give and get the envelopes ready. We also like the personal touch that is added when we offer the envelope and thank the person for all the work they did for us. We always get such appreciative smiles back that just make our day. We filled out the comment cards and gave glowing reviews for all people that worked so hard for us. Here is a little note on the reality of how much the crew members get ripped off on tips -- Brian had to go to the Pursers desk for something. There was a guy at the desk wanting half of the tip amount that was charged to his account credited. The Purser asked him if he had a complaint. He said no, everything was great. There was just a mistake because he was charged twice for tipping and he and his wife were together. The purser tried to explain to him that the suggested tipping amount was for each person in a room and at a table, not as a couple. But he didn't want to have anything to do with that. He and his wife were together and one tip was enough. So of course they credited his account. Isn't that terrible?
There was a Christmas show before supper that night. The kids that were on the cruise worked with the Carnival dancers and singers during the week and put on a little program. The stage was set up like a living room with a fire place. The children and dancers sat on big couches and Josh, the cruise director sat on a big chair and read Frosty the Snowman while the excess children and entertainers sat at his feet (can you picture it?) It was so adorable. I wasn't expecting much from the program thinking the kids would be screwing around and not paying attention. But they were all so good and CUTE, and the songs they sang, especially from the littlest ones made me cry. Brian looked over at me to see if this had pulled at my heart strings. It had.
We went to supper that night and said good bye to Joan and Chuck from Rhode Island, Sabrina and Don from New Jersey and Adriana and William from New Jersey. We really enjoyed their company all week. They were all extremely jealous of us because we were getting on another cruise ship tomorrow and they were all going home. I don't blame them. I remember being bummed at the end of every cruise complaining that 7 days just wasn't enough. We took a picture with Sam and Adraina (Ah-drainey-yah) our waiter and assistant waitress. I realize the name is very similar to one of the girls' from New Jersey, but it's pronounced very differently.
We waited until it was almost too late to pack and get our luggage outside our doors. We were supposed to have it done by midnight, but Brian likes the last minute approach. We got it out by 12:15 and luckily the rest of the luggage in our hall hadn't been taken yet so we were fine.
This was another fun filled cruise on Carnival although we won't miss our neighbors across the hall. There was a room that kept their door open and had loud Latino music blaring at all hours of the night. These people must have been from Puerto Rico and we got the impression that they knew a lot of people on this cruise because there seemed to be people coming and going all the time. They all screamed in Spanish to one another over the music and were really annoying until about 4 am nightly. Then everyday, they would have the "do not disturb" sign out on their door until really late. I don't know when our cabin steward ever got a chance to make up their room. But as annoying as it was, we didn't let it bother us too much. We just wish they would consider that they were not the only ones on vacation! We were tempted on a daily basis to wake them up each morning with a loud knock as we headed to the gym.
I'll take this time to mention who our cabin steward was. His name was Juan and he was from the Philippines. He wasn't much of a talker, but he did a really good job and made some excellent towel animals! We thought we had seen them all by now, but he surprised us a couple of times with something new. Our cruise director's name was Josh Riffe from Philadelphia. He was the youngest cruise director he have had and was fabulous. He talked really fast and was funny. He even made me laugh at the same jokes I have heard on previous cruises. He was really visible through out the whole week and was obviously working very hard.
Our entire dining room staff was also terrific. The head waiter, Sam is from Thailand and our Assistant Waiter, Adraina is from Romania. Adraina has such a warm smile and wonderful personality, not to mention she is very nice looking. All the guys at the table fell over themselves when she came around although Brian claims he didn't. She was very personal with all of us. I complemented her on her hair one night and she showed me that it was a scrunchy and not her real hair. I was so impressed as it looked so real!! She told me she got it in Aruba and was sure I would be able to find one for myself too. Later when we got to Aruba I looked but they didn't have my color in stock. She spent a lot of time with me to make sure I understood where to go when we got to Aruba. Her English was not very good, but even though she was really busy, she took the time with me. That was really great of her. Our Maitre D's name is Ante' very and I swear he is from PLUTO! All the other Maitre D's we have had in the past mostly just stood by the door and said hello (usually just on tip night). Ante' gave us a little speech every night that was always funny and entertaining. His little shtick was his Italian accent and his saying "No, it's true!" (sounds like "no eats trooo") to punctuate every little joke he told. He and some of the wait staff sang and danced to a Backstreet Boys song one night towards the end of our cruise which was hilarious. There were some sexy boys in that group and all us ladies let them know so! I think a few of them blushed.
This was a nice relaxing cruise on the Carnival Destiny and we had a good time. But OH - we had no idea what was ahead of us on our next cruise when we got on Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas (back to back) on December 9th. So I will end this review with - "and the next cruise was SO much better!"
Destiny Pros and Cons
PRO --- This was our first cruise with a balcony room. A room with a balcony is definitely the way to go. The aft balcony room we had contained lots of nooks and cabinets for storage and more than enough room for storage.
PRO --- The dining room and sun and sea restaurant (Lido deck) are also located on the aft of the ship. All the locations we tended to spend time at were not very far or hard to get to from our room.
PRO --- Cafe on the Way - the bakery coffee bar I mentioned before is SUCH a great place.
PRO --- Cheers wine bar that allows you to take bottles of wine to your room and the Apollo Piano Bar.
PRO --- The leather couches that run along the windows of the Promenade deck are so comfortable! They are much better than the furniture on the previous boats we have been on.
PRO --- We explored all of the bars on this ship, but never got around to having a drink in the All Star Bar, the Onyx Room, the Point After Dance Club, or the Solar Bar on the Lido deck. You should find at least one to be entertaining and have music you like.
PRO --- The Destiny Bar had overhead vents that sucks up smoke from cigarettes for the benefit of us non-smokers.
PRO --- The Trattoria Deli was a great sandwich shop. The sandwiches were delicious especially the vegetarian one that was on Foccacia bread! oooohhhh, I wish I had one right now.
PRO --- The Happy Valley was another alternative for lunch. It served very good Chinese food during the afternoons.
PRO --- The Pizzeria that is open 24 hours has the best Ceasar Salads and pizza - especially the one with goat cheese.
PRO/CON --- The decor was much darker than we have seen before. I kind of like it because it is more elegant, Brian didn't prefer it over the other ships we have been on. The whole boat is mostly in gold's and blacks. I didn't like the Christmas decorations that much. I was really looking forward to a more festive look. All the decorations were gold to blend in with the other decor. There was NO Christmas tree - not even a gold one. Maybe we were too early, but the other decorations were out, so I don't know if they put any more decorations or trees out.
PRO/CON --- There are many activities and games onboard, but we didn't participate in any because they seemed to be the same kind of activities they've offered in the past.
CON --- There is NO laundry service on the Destiny. All the other cruises we have been on had it, so we had planned on pressing all Brian's dress shirts and my dresses on the boat. I am not planning on spending ANY of my vacation in a laundry room. My dresses mostly hung out, but Brian's dress clothes stayed wrinkled!
CON --- There was a strong odor - like rotten produce/sewage - in some of the common areas. It was especially bad by one of the drink areas on Lido Deck and by the aft elevators. We read in other reviews about the smells so you would think Carnival would be able to take care of this problem since it apparently has been around for some time. It was not pleasant, but did not in any way distract us from having a good cruise.
CON --- Our bathroom is even smaller than the other bathrooms we have had. Didn't think that was possible!
CON --- No water fountain in the gym is a big mistake.
CON --- The video diaries that we saw on TV was really poor quality. I can't imagine anyone purchasing the tapes.
CON --- The room we had was located directly below the Lido deck which was sometimes quite noisy with the movement of deck chairs.
CON --- The two beds in our room were pushed together to make one queen size bed. This is standard procedure on Carnival cruises, but we would like to see them adopt a number of cabins with one queen size bed. Even though, the beds were pushed together to form one, they were still made up separately with two sets of bedding and not comfortable in the middle because of the crack.