September 24, 2007
This was a cruise with two of my best friends. One had cruised a long time ago with NCL, the other not at all.
The buffet is still just the buffet, so we opted to eat there only twice -- once upon boarding (no other choices) and once after an active day in Nassau (we missed the dining room service for lunch.) We were in the dining room the whole cruise and never regretted the decision.
The sushi was exceptionally good this time around and we never missed a day.
The one exception to the delicious food was the grand buffet. Everything looked wonderful (neither of my friends had seen this presentation, so we opted to stand in line), but afterwards (another long wait) the food itself was disgusting. One of my friends thought the food was meant for looking, not actual eating.
Grand Turk: Grand Turk was our first stop and what a surprise! We walked right by the Margaritaville, Carnival-built shopping/pool bar and headed straight for an 8:30 snorkel excursion. We snorkeled at 2 different reefs (one at Round Cay -- the other I can't remember). The tour operators were very helpful and seemed to understand I was pretty nervous. I am not the strongest swimmer and the waters were a little rough. I saw stingrays, huge barracuda and lots of other fish. My friends were braver and snorkeled further away. They saw many more fish, turtles, sharks, etc. On the way back, we went over the 4,000 foot ocean wall (or was it 7,000?) where the divers were enjoying this amazing site. The ocean literally drops straight down (hence the term wall) and apparently has every marine animal imaginable.
After snorkeling, we headed to Cockburn Town. Tiny little town with, so far, no tourist development (and NO tourists that we saw until the end.) We went thru the museum (fascinating), strolled around town, took pics, talked to some locals and ended up at a bar on the beach (Sand Bar? Sand something) that reportedly had the best rum punch in the universe. My friends verified this and also ordered some conch fritters. Two young divers that were on our ship were there and we decided to share a taxi back. With me and the taxi driver cracking the whip, we arrived on the pier as the horn blew its last "goodbye." We made it by the skin of our teeth and were next to last getting aboard. Scary, but in retrospect, exciting. Grand Turk is not for everyone. If you want a sanitized experience with lots of shopping and tours, this isn't the place for you. It is EXACTLY what I want in a port, but fear the development for the cruise tourists will ruin it before long.
Half Moon Cay: Was fine, but not near as good as RCI's Coco Cay. Lots of little paths that wind thru the foliage without a view of the beach. You had to walk a long way to get a chair in the shade. Once we were there, we had chairs and hammocks -- lovely. The noise and view of the "kiddie area" with squirting fountains, slides and screaming children put a damper on the secluded beach feeling most of us wanted. No employees hawking drinks, which meant trips to the not so easily located bars. Our horseback riding excursion in the surf was not to happen (waters too rough) but we didn't find out until after we had taken the tram to the stables. Most of the group elected to get our money refunded, which Carnival did promptly and with grace.
Nassau: Been so many times it's hard to work up enthusiasm, but my friends enjoyed the Queen's Staircase and the straw market. Funny, they both felt an "edgy" atmosphere when walking around Nassau (not near the shops, but further in) that I didn't share. I don't know if that is something that has developed recently that I don't see, or I'm just immune since I've been so much before.
Nonetheless, the common areas of the ship were fine, with a little of that mildew smell. I'm sure the dry-dock will fix everything.
We had a wonderful cruise and I would not (as usual) hesitate to go on another Carnival cruise. It continues to live up to the "Fun Ship" name.