April 11, 2003
Embarkation: As others have written, Carnival really needs to get their act together to smooth out this system at Ft. Lauderdale. Of 12 cruises and knowing we were in for a "wait", this was the worst embarkation (organization) I have ever encountered. Due to the expectations, though we just moved with the flow and had no problems. Staff members were nice and did everything possible with the set-up. We arrived shortly after 11 a.m. By taxi from the Doubletree Galleria, with the line already snaked outside. We finally entered the building about 12:15 a.m. and were on board shortly after 1 p.m.
All of my pre-ordered "gifts" where in our cabin as well as Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and petit fours from our TA. Missing were bathrobes, but a simple note to the cabin steward provided those as well as he emptied the mini-bar.
Cabin: We had Cabin #7258 a Category 8G, on the Verandah deck. This is one of six Category. 8 cabins, which has a HUGE balcony. It is triple the length plus it is wider than other Category 8 balconies. There were two nice lounge chairs, an Adirondack style chair, a regular chair and a small table on the deck. We never saw our cabin steward during the week, but he answered any request that I noted on a Post-it left in the cabin. Only once, was our cabin not made up promptly but we had definitely over slept! When we returned late that afternoon, it was all set. We really took advantage and enjoyed this cabin and balcony. The location was also very convenient to the Lido deck, buffet and elevator bank. No noise was heard in this area either.
Public Rooms and Entertainment: Like her sister the Pride, all of the lounges and theaters areas are great. We enjoyed listening and dancing at Satchmo's to Music Society; the Firebird Lounge had Johnny's Favorite Band, which my DH liked, but they were a little corny, the first night and didn't know the requested tunes the next time we tried. Our group cocktail reception was held at Medusa's Lair, which is wild. The teens seemed to enjoy their disco hour in this lounge. We caught most of the great shows except the Fiddler on the last night. There are some "cold" spots in the Follies, so bring a wrap or jacket. Only negative comment, since we had Late seating and went to the Late show, is that they hold Bingo in there at 10 p.m. and many seats are already saved so you have to climb over people! We certainly managed to find a good seat every night. Drinks were not pushed upon you either in a club or on deck.
Dining Room & Food: Just about perfect. Our servers were attentive and aimed to please without being obtrusive. Our assistant waiter was a character with his tricks he displayed toward the end of the cruise. My only issue and this is a reversal from what most traditional cruisers would expect, was the Table Settings: silverware. Usually the question from new cruisers are what piece of silverware do I use for which course? Our waiter explained, that it was "new policy" to set the table with only minimal silverware: dinner fork, knife, butter knife and one teaspoon.
The dilemma occurred when you have more than one course that requires new silverware. On more than one occasion, I was sitting with a course; salad, appetizer, soup etc. and did not have a utensil to eat with. I would have to wait until I got the attention of one of the servers, who would be flabbergasted, that I hadn't started eating yet! What do they think they are saving? Also, breakfast was set properly in the main dining room. Go Figure.
The Unicorn Buffet was great. With fresh cooked eggs & omelets plus all of the other usual breakfast fare and the great variety of luncheon offerings, you can't go wrong. Many children were on board and families really enjoyed the casual dining here in the evening as well. They seemed to have a little difficulty keeping up with the bright plastic coffee cups and juice glasses in the morning, which was a little unusual. We drank coffee several days from glasses. They are the same plastic strength but it was a little awkward for hot coffee.
Room Service: My only complaint. I placed the breakfast card on the door about midnight on two evenings before days at port. Due to early morning tours, I requested continental breakfast. Well the cards were gone each morning, however the orders never showed up. The second time the request was for 7 to 7:15 a.m. service, which basically is the earliest you can request the delivery. By 7:30 a.m. when the order didn't show up, off to the buffet we went. When we returned, Room Service had called that they arrived at 7:35 a.m. This was a 1st. for us too on room service issues out of 12 cruises.
Captain Claudio and his staff are very gracious. Everyone speaks to you with a pleasant hello. My favorite staff member was Ms. Katelina, the assistant maitre' de who had just joined the Carnival Legend for her new contract. We required no dining room assistance, but she handled a delicate matter with a tablemate in a very professional manner. Before and after the confrontation, she always had a smile and asked how our day was going.
Ports of Call:
Cave tubing was fun but a little more strenuous than expected due to low water level. We went through 2 caves. We did not have time for a lunch break but returned to the port by 3 p.m. Cost is $65pp. We shopped in the Pharmacy and Cigar store for some good buys.
Limon, Costa Rica - We took a private taxi tour with a wonderful couple I had met on-line. At the pier, there is a booth with a Red tent canopy "Control de Viajes". There is a sign with tours and respective prices, thus no haggling is necessary. We took the Tourtuguero Canal and Del Monte Banana Plantation walking tour that was rated Number #1 tour to take at Limon. This 3-4 hours excursion, which included the Canal boat tour, a stop at Playa Bonita beach area, a stop for a photo opportunity with a 3 toed sloth and monkeys, as well as a detailed explanation of various flora and plant life including the coffee beans. I will forever appreciate every Golden Banana that I eat. These plantation workers have a very hard job. The Del Monte plantation covers up to six miles of banana groves. Our driver guide even took us to a local supermarket, which I requested to stop, where he helped me purchase coffee, vanilla, and local mixed tropical fruit juice. Upon return to the pier there is a Tented souvenir bazaar for your souvenir shopping pleasure. I purchased a beautiful Mahogany 8 piece salad bowl set for $25US. Ironically, the Cruise Director, Brett Allens, stated there is no shopping in Limon. Of course this translates to, there is no "recommend high end shops that have contracts with Carnival" that they would recommend. Of course you can bargain with many of these vendors as the day goes on and it gets closer to the time that the ship sails, prices may go down.
Colon, Panama - We have cruised through the canal, so opted to take the ship's Ocean to Ocean Train tour to Panama City @ $130pp. Ship tours are especially recommend at this port due to the crime factor and remote area. We boarded our modern air-conditioned buses and left for the renovated train station by 9 a.m. Each bus had an English speaking Panamanian tour guide who was joined by 2 young hostesses on each train car. These trains are immaculate with dark polished wood and booth seating on each side. The panoramic window afforded a good view from no matter which side you are seated. Our guide spoke of the history of the area, the canal building and how the Panama Canal area is being re-developed for future tourism opportunities. Once we arrived at Miraflores Lock, we boarded nice air-conditioned buses for a short drive to the Locks. Many former government sites were pointed out. It was noted how they are being utilized today for business and educational advances. At the locks, we had front row seats on the Observation Deck where a guide explained the complete and intricate working of the lock. Unfortunately at that time of morning, the majority of the ships had passed through. The 3 deck high Ferry tour boat was the only vessel in the lock with some of our ship's passengers on board. It was a good example of how quickly the lock fills and moves the vessel from one level to the next.
After reaching the Panama shore for a view of this capitol city, we returned to the train and were provided a light snack. Even on the return trip, more history and interesting information was provided to us. It was a great way to spend the day.
Cruise Critics parties: This is the 4th cruise that I have been on since finding great cruise only on-line web sites such as cruisemates. I have been active with organizing a "get together". We called ours Meet & Greet. We designated that we would meet at the aft pool bar Unicorn (so people could buy a "Carnival Drink of the Day" or something to their liking.), watch sail away, and meet new friends. We set the time as the day of embarkation after the lifeboat drill or 4 p.m. which ever worked. Our list of folks ranged in ages from 2 to 72 from all parts of the USA. Many of the teens communicated on line before our cruise and met earlier in the day. I would say about 30 people stopped by to introduce themselves and met all of the other wonderful cruisers. By meeting early in the cruise week, we often got together for a tour, in lounges or just to say hello as we passed in the hall. It was a real nice group and experience.