by Debbie Kupperberg
November 6, 2005
This turmed out to be a surprising cruise in more ways than one -- I ended up getting pneumonia while onboard and wasn't truly able to enjoy this cruise. Nevertheless, here is my review:
Embarkation: Nothing could be smoother or more well organized. You board when they call your group number. You even get a number so you know where to find your embarkation photo in the shop onboard. Tampa is a very nice port to sail out of. First of all, their airport is extremely "user-friendly." And when you get to the ship, it's right there where the cab lets you off!
Room: The room was larger than any I have been in, I think. And now I know why they want to sell you the bedding -- they have the best pillows ever! We had a room on deck 5 with a balcony. How could you not love a balcony! And there was ample closet and drawer space for me, my husband and my daughter. My other daughter shared a room with my mom, next door. The room steward was just so-so. One day he didn't even make up the room at all. But not his fault ... I mistakenly put the "do not disturb" sign on the door instead of the "please make up room" sign on the opposite side.
Ship Decor: What can you say? Yes, it's gaudy -- especially the Bacchus dining room with its pink grapes all over the ceiling. I didn't really like the huge illustrations of literary heroes in the hallways either. The only room which merited its "way-out" decor was the Mad Hatter's Lounge, because Alice in Wonderland is a "way-out" book.
Entertainment: First of all, I want to say that Cruise Director Mark Hawkins is the nicest cruise director he ever met. He may be manic onstage, but he is very "real" and likeable. Now ... there seems to be a lot of "redneck" music and "redneck" humor going on aboard this ship. The guy who sings at the pool and a few of the comedians made redneck references -- I am assuming most of the people onboard are from the south. We northerners can't really enjoy this stuff, I'm sorry (and I also couldn't understand one of the comedians' thick Southern accent, so I didn't follow half the jokes). The rest of the entertainment was just "eh" -- the juggler who kept making mistakes, the hypnotist whom I overheard selling his boxed set of CDs for $50, cash only, the lady from New Orleans who sang jazz but had no flair. However, the Beatles production number was a total BLAST. I also must say that the band is one of the best ever.
Food: Now, remember, I had pneumonia, so eating was not a big thing for me. But, everything I did eat was wonderful, both in the Bacchus dining room and in the buffet. My favorites in the buffet were the Chinese and Indian food. Our waiter team in the dining room, Phakhawan and Panadda, from Thailand, always made us feel welcome and special -- there they were right away with my hot tea, lemon and honey, to try to make me feel better.
We missed Cozumel due to damage from Hurricane Wilma, but every passenger got a $25 credit, which I think was very nice on Carnival's part.
In Grand Cayman, we went on our own to 7-Mile Beach. We went to the public beach, called Sea Grape Beach. It was really nice -- all sand, no rocks -- and we were able to find our own shady spot under (what else) a sea grape tree. The only problem I saw is in taking one of those van-taxis to and from the beach. Each time, we had to wait 15 minutes until the bus was filled before we could go.
Now here is the BIGGEST SURPRISE of all!!!! I never th ought I would say that Belize was my favorite port, but now that they have the shore excursion to Bannister Island (the private island beach break), Belize is AOK! Smart, smart, smart move -- you Carnival people. This a beautiful island with plenty of room and plenty of shade, perfect for kids. You can spend up to 6 hours there. And the young people who work there are so lovely and friendly. When I had to throw up beneath a bush (the pneumonia again), a young man who worked there tapped me on the back and asked if were OK. "Don't worry about me," I said. "Just remember, someone is always worrying about you," he answered. Also, three lovely young ladies led me to the kitchen so the chef could make up something they thought would help my cough -- lime juice, honey and chopped garlic. I could not drink it all, but what a sweet gesture!
Costa Maya -- I was not impressed. Unless you go there to drink, there is nothing to do. It's just a bunch of shops. My husband calls it "Wal-Mart carved out of the jungle."
Debarkation was amazingly organized and fast.
If I felt better, I would have enjoyed the cruise more, but I really did enjoy myself.
Love and cruises,