by Linda P.
July 5, 2003
I must admit it was nice not having to "compete" with the Conquest for parking spaces...because we like to park right at the ship. I have a picture that shows just how close you can get! We arrived about 10:30am to find the parking lot awaiting our arrival. Everything we have is on rollers...so don't even unload first. We just grab our parking spot and "roll on in".
We walked in and sat about 3 minutes before we lined up to do the "paperwork shuffle". This took about 5 minutes and then off to the to "holding pen". We were in the very first row against the wall. We sat there and visted with fellow cruisers for about 45 minutes. (some cruisers went over to the Riverwalk instead of sitting and waiting) I have pictures showing how close the Riverwalk is to the ship.
Around 11:30am, we were taking those famous Welcome to the Holiday pictures and walking onboard. This is the BEST part of the cruise. The excitment..the anticipation...the sheer joy of it all!!
First surprise....on the smaller ships, we have always entered on Main (where the Purser's office and Shore Excusions are). And it is a less dramatic entrance, then those ships with atriums. But this ship had us entering on the Americana level (where the restaurants are) which has some flash to it and was a much better entry point.
Down a few flights of stairs to U 100...and here we were. Great room. The bathrooms are been refurbished and somehow they do look larger. I know they aren't because they used the same "room space" but the use of modern design does make the bathrooms appear larger. Ladies, however, be aware that you do not have multiple shelves with which to store your 40 pounds of natural beauty...so a hanging makeup bag is a must. I got one at Walmart (having been warned) and hug it on the towel rack right by the door. I did not hang it on the towel rack on the door, because I did not want it swinging every time I opened the door. Room was CLEAN. Carpet in good shape. Mattresses almost new. The safe is the NEW LARGER ONE with the number code. Easy to use and HUGE! They redid the closets so that you don't have that "open space" by the door. You have "his and her" closets. One long for the dresses and one shorter for the suits. Take extra hangers if you will need more than about 8. I do have two needs of improvement. One is very small. They no longer have the hangers on the wall where I used to hang my robe and lanyards and I really missed that. The second one is a little bigger. The water pressure for the COLD water is very poor. You can boil spagetti with the hot water. It is hot and plentiful. But there is very little cold water pressure...so you don't get much total water pressure without the shower being to hot. I have long hair and it was difficult to get all the soap out when I shampooed. This probably one of the issues they are going to correct when they go into dry dock in December. The sink pressure was fine...so I ended up washing my hair in the sink. (Where there is a will there is a way!)
Also, be aware they are working on the air conditioning. The cabin was ok. The only place you really noticed it was on the Lido deck. And it is always warmer up there, because the doors are always opening and closing. The dining rooms and lounges were very cool...so there was a place to escape and "chill".
Marco was our Cabin Steward....he was quiet (in a friendly sort of way) and very efficient. Made great animals !!!
After dumping the carryons, we headed to the pizza. Great pizza, as usual. As we were walking down the hallway, we walked past where they were holding the luggage for that floor before delivering it and guess whose bags were right by the door. OURS! So hubby asked permission to grab them and they said go ahead. Instant bag delivery!! We got all unpacked. Plenty of room for four. But I was glad I took the extra hangers. I always assign each person a drawer ( for undies and socks) and a shelf for shorts and tops. Swimsuits go on the shelve over the safe. That way, everyone knows where their stuff is without having to ask Mom every 15 seconds.
We were in the Seven Seas dining room and had the early seating. We must eat early (5:45) which worked out well for karaoke on this ship because it was usually at 8:00pm. We were at a table for 9. The four of us and a family of 5 from San Antonio, Texas who were WONDERFUL. The tablemate fairy really smiled on us. Their children were about the age of ours and so well mannered. These folks were ON TIME every day and just great folks. This was their first cruise and were having a super time.
The food every night was comparable to all the other ships we have been on. All I eat is beef, and the only complaint I have is the Sirloin Steak. It is always dry and tough. But the rest of the beef fare (Beef Wellington, Chateau, Prime Rib etc) are always good. My husband is the seafood eater and he was pleased with the seafood dishes. We all love the soups and desserts and they were all great. Yes, they have chocolate decadence on this ship. And they give you WAY to much. Junito and Joseph were always on their toes and a lot of fun.
We went to the Camp Carnival meeting that afternoon at 5:15pm (which is earlier than they usually have it) and found surprise number 2. NO FUNNEL FREDDIE. This is the mascot that has been on the past two cruises with us this year and whom my child HATES. The Camp Carnival Counselor was very apologetic as she told me they did not have one on this ship. Imagine her surprise as my son was the most THRILLED child on the ship. He has panic attackes around "characters" (long story from years of physical therapy) and had worried about having to constantly "watch out" for Freddie. Now he was FREE and overjoyed!!! The rest of his cruise was paradise.
Karaoke that night after dinner was great. Terrence had been on the Conquest with us. He worked in the gift shop...and now he had been promoted to Social Host in charge of Karaoke. He is a CUTIE. (Yes, I have a picture) Their selection was better than the last ship...but I still take my own CDs and used them without any problem when needed. We had a packed house every night and a lot of fun.
After karaoke, I checked out the piano bar. Steve was playing and is ok...but I did not spend the usual time in there this trip.
We went to the midnight buffet and then off to bed around 12:30pm. It had been a long day and I was ready for some sleep. Our halls were quiet and our neighbors were respectful. (THANK YOU) I still always wear ear plugs so every night was a peaceful sleep.
The first day at sea was fun. It was nice to be able to sleep late. We would run every morning first thing. Since they are working on the A/C...you can't run on the circle on the deck below the work out room, so we went up to the topless deck and ran there. At 7AM there wasn't ever anyone up there to disturb. (The treadmills were usually full...which was fine with me because I am not a treadmill person!) They have 4 along with a couple of step machines and other elements of torture.
Carnival offered the usual fare of games, and other entertainment during the day. Something for everyone. The kids played at Camp Carnival. Hubby and I relaxed. Lunch was great. Lido food every day was comparable to the other ships. There was usually something you could find that you liked. The dining staff worked hard to keep the tables cleared. Although I think the folks on this cruise used Lido more than usual. It looked busier than usual. When we walked every morning around 7am, there were no "towels" on the chairs around the pool. I am not a person that lays out, so I can't say how it went during the rest of the day.
Dinner and Karaoke (with a little bit of the piano bar) were my entertainment. Hubby does dinner and then the shows. Shout was great. Super music and presentation. Hubby went and watched it the shows twice every night. Comedians were funny. We do not usually do the midnight Comedian shows ... but we had heard that one was not to bad...so we took at chance on the first midnight show. The comedian had indicated that the jokes were going to be more politically incorrect than vulgar. But they were just the same vulgar stuff you would imagine...so we did not go to the other midnight show. But their regular shows at 10:30 were fine and funny. (Especially the ventriliquist (sp?) He was a hoot. He was on later in the week...and was a riot.
THIRD SURPRISE, they changed our itenirary (sp?) to Cozumel the first day and instead of just 8-5 we got to be there from 8:30am to MIDNIGHT!!! It was wonderful. We grabbed a taxi and was sitting at Mr. Sanchos by 9AM. These are the nicest people in the world. We sat at a table with the thatched roofs for shade. We sat there for 30 minutes, before I decided I wanted something. I raised my hand and Gabriel came a running. For the next 3 hours, they NEVER bothered us unless we wanted something. All you had to do was wave and they were right there...but there was no hounding you about drinks and food. It was sooo nice. Their frozen marg are in average size plastic cups and run $4.90. Their cheese and bean nachos are $5.50. Bottled water ran about $2.75. All were GREAT!!! And all in the cool shade with that breeze blowing lightly in your face. WHEW! It was paradise.
We went back to the ship to shower and change. We ate lunch on board and were going back into Cozumel to look around downtown but ended up taking a nap until 4pm. We have been to Cozumel many times so we just stayed on the ship, had dinner and (of course) did Karaoke!!
The next day, we were blessed to be tendered into Playa Del Carmen (so no $10 cab fare each way). We walked the beach for a little while and found the "vendors" to be much more aggressive. Chairs with the umbrella were $10 for the day. But I knew my boys can't handle more than a couple of hours....so we went straight to Senor Frogs and grabbed an umbrella table on the patio overlooking the beach so we could watch the boys play in the surf. They had a great time. I figured if I was going to spend $10 for a couple of hours...it would be on a froz marg! Senor Frogs froz margs are $11.00 BUT that is for the YARD and they are 28 ounces. I can't drink but one. Their nachos are $7.70 and are really good. The boys played for a couple of hours and then we headed back at to the ship. I must admit, that I did not feel as comfortable in Playa Del Carmen as I do in Cozumel. I think it is just because they are not used to being a major stop for cruise ships. (just a drop off point for Mayan Ruins for years) Hopefully, they will learn from Cozumel's example that a safe atmosphere translates into MONEY! They are much more in your face. Don't get me wrong, they are not as bad as Jamacia. Just a little more aggressive than I like. I don't mind someone calling out what they have to offer, but if I am walking down the street DO NOT cut me off by standing in my way and shoving your time share plan in my face. And if you are calling out what you have to offer, do not insult me if I do not take advantage of your wares. I have been warned by others who have traveled to Playa Del Carmen not to wandered onto side streets. That even the police will "accuse you of some petty offence to get 10 -15 bucks off of you in a fine". Just be aware.
The last day of sea was relaxing again with the usual Carnival games and fun. The last and best surprise is I got to meet up with a fellow Cruisemate! We had noticed that we were going on the same cruise...so we FINALLY got together and visit. She is a sweetheart and is a true cruiser!! Our family and her family were only a few tables away in the early dining !!
We were really blessed with great weather. Not one drop of rain...although a couple of days in port the morning skies looked "threatening". Nothing came of it. We were well into New Orleans before the TS Claudette was a problem. In fact, the last day at sea...the seas were like glass.
The last night was our famous Talent Show. We had 20 show up for sign up so they put everyone's name in a box (because they can only use 8) 3 dropped out before they drew names, 2 dropped out after their names were drawn and one just did not show up for the show. We ended up with 7 acts. (Lesson, even if your name is not drawn initially...hang around...someone always drops out!) I have sung on every ship and this was one of the best groups we have ever had. All were not only talented...but were great folks that were lots of fun. One of was former Ms. America contestant.
All in all another successful cruise in the record books. Risa is a SUPER CD. This was the first time I had ever had a lady as a CD and she was EXCELLENT. Brent was one of the Asst CD. We had him as a Social Host on the Jubilee last July and he is a hoot. Terrence (our Karaoke Social Host) was ADORABLE. Jeremy is a cutie with his Texas accent and attitude. (Go kick that pig, Jeremy!) Anyone on this ship WILL have a great time. Unfortunately, I never got to see Captain Donato without his shirt on...but rumor has it that the doctor is about 28 and is also "to die for".
Cozumel is great fun and so is Playa Del Carmen as long as you use just a little more caution.
So much goes on, I am sure I left out something. The vibration from the engine was not a problem at all. No odors...everything was clean! People were super...weather was great...what more can you ask for...except...maybe... ANOTHER TICKET!