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Jon Jackson

Age: 37

Occupation:Commercial Property Manager

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Celebration

Sailing Date: December 13th, 2001

Itinerary: p>

I was assigned a cabin on the Empress Deck, interior, #17, which is in the forward section of the ship. I had booked a guaranteed cabin in what I thought was the cheapest section available. I was again pleasantly surprised. The cabin was very roomy, for one at least. Two single beds, a small built in desk/hutch, large closet space, TV and bath. I found the bathroom to be more than adequate. Several points can be made about my cabin and its location: 1) It was an interior cabin. This means no window. With the lights out, it is very, very dark! If you are one that likes a little light, you should probably consider bringing some sort of nightlight or small lamp. Personally, I found it perfect for sleeping off the night before or having an afternoon nap. 2.) The Empress Deck is located directly below most of the action on the ship. I was able to hear the band playing and most of the events in the Astoria Lounge. If you want complete silence, the Empress Deck is probably not for you. Again, personal opinion, but I loved the location since it was only a flight or two of stairs to most activities.

After boarding, we were directed to our assigned muster stations. The entire drill took all of 20 minutes and was very little trouble at all. The muster drill was followed by my first visit to the Purser’s Desk. Not being a fan of credit cards, I chose to put a cash deposit down to activate my Sail and Sign card. I had read many opinions on the subject and was once again, pleasantly surprised at the speed and ease at which this was accomplished. Contrary to many of the reports I read prior to sailing, there was no line at the Purser’s Desk, my Traveler’s Checks were readily accepted, and the Purser was quite friendly.

Rather than give a day to day detailed account of the cruise, I’ll touch on areas of particular interest to me.

I don’t enjoy dressing up, especially on vacation. This being the case, I did not visit the Vista dining room, period. I had been assigned a late dinner (8:30), and was usually involved in some other activity by the time my seating was announced. Most of my meals were consumed in the Wheelhouse Lounge (buffet style) on the Lido deck. Breakfast consisted of eggs (including fried eggs and omelets to order), ham, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit, grits, oatmeal, toast, bagels, and probably some other stuff I missed. Mind you, this was every morning. Lunch provided several entrees, vegetables, grilled burgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers, various salads and a salad bar. Dinners were more of the same with different entrees and vegetables, with salads, fruit and salad bar still available. I’m sure I missed some very fine dining by skipping the formal meals, but I found the Wheelhouse cuisine to be very good. Granted, I’ve been eating McDonald’s and Taco Bell pretty much exclusively for the past year, so my judgment may be somewhat impaired. One other aspect of the Wheelhouse I might mention is that many times, when looking for a seat, I found myself sitting down with several other people already at a table. I’d dare say I met someone new at each meal. Personally, I enjoyed that aspect of Wheelhouse dining. Pizza is also available in the Wheelhouse 24 hours a day. Given the choice, I’d opt for one of the specialty pizzas on the menu and wait the 7 minutes for it to cook fresh, though the regular old cheese, pepperoni and veggie pizzas were all good. They also have a Caesar Salad available at the pizza bar, but there are anchovies in the dressing, so eat at your own risk. The Trolley Sushi Bar was also very good, if you like sushi. I didn’t quite figure out what their schedule was, but they post their hours daily in the Carnival Capers.

I spent several hours, and dollars for that matter, in the casino. There are slots ranging from nickels to dollars. I believe there were 8 blackjack tables (including some interesting variations including “Face Up”, in which the dealer’s cards are dealt face up.), a Caribbean Poker table and a craps table. Most were either $5 or $10 minimums and were usually packed. I prefer the craps table (the Celebration offers double odds) and spent a goodly amount of time there. The dealer’s were all personable, patient and knowledgeable. I played the first night and was called by name for the duration of the trip. Quite a feat I thought, considering the thousand plus persons on board and the many thousands that pass through each month. I lost what I took to lose, but spoke to several that walked away from the blackjack tables with money. All said they played basic strategy and bet the table minimum.  (FYI, the Celebration deals 8 decks, and if you’re in a hurry for a drink, get it yourself.)

I didn’t feel compelled to be a part of every activity on board as my major goal was to relax. I did however attend a couple of shows. Both comics were funny. I found the late night show to be better (and dirtier) than the early show, though most of the humor seemed to be centered on Texans. I later found out that the ship was probably 80% Texan, so go figure. The “Showtime” Vegas-type productions didn’t do much for me. The band was outstanding, but the singer/dancers lacked the polish I expected. A new group perhaps? One mentioned that they were rehearsing daily, so I’d anticipate improvement in the coming weeks. There were a couple of lounge acts playing nightly. Both that I saw were pretty good and played a wide variety of tunes. The disco on board seemed to be the late night hotspot. I attended the “Singles Party” there and discovered that I was about 10 years too old for the crowd. The one night I went back, I found a good crowd at the bar that ranged from just old enough to way older than me, and all were having a blast. For that matter, with a few exceptions (and there’s always an exception), everyone I met, especially at the bars and lounges seemed to really be enjoying themselves.

Drinking on board, especially if you’re any good at it, can be a pricey proposition. Again, just FYI, the drinks are more expensive while in port, so you might want to nurse that first drink until the ship is underway. Domestic beers were close to $4 with gratuity. Mixed drinks are closer to $6. One thing I will say is that I don’t believe I’ve ever had a stronger gin and tonic that what I was served on the Celebration while still in Galveston. That aside, the drink of the day seems to be the way to go. Usually something fruity with a silly name, these were some of the strongest drinks I found. Buy the souvenir glass and opt for the refills.  And while I’d never promote anything illegal, the souvenir glass is easily filled with juice and fresh fruit from the Wheelhouse Lounge; add the beverage that you packed in your checked luggage for the bargain hunter’s special of the day. I personally saw several flasks floating from table to table in the pool area, which didn’t seem like a bad idea given the cost of mass consumption on board.

If you want a tan, you might consider eating your breakfast in one of the chaise lounges by the pool. That’s about the only way to guarantee a chair in the sun. Both days at sea, the decks were completely filled by 10:00 a.m. I never did make my way to the topless deck for fear of being considered a pervert, but there was nary a chaise lounge to be found in any of the normal, non-clothing optional areas during prime sunning hours. However, the gaming tables open at 10:00 if you’re in need of something to do. See paragraph above .The main pool and slide area is a great place to sit and people watch if you absolutely have to be outside. I saw some folks going down the slide that I never thought could have made it up the steps.  One other issue to touch on regarding swimming/tanning: No one cares what kind of shape you’re in. Just remember that the pool is very near the Wheelhouse Lounge where people are eating. Please keep that in mind when choosing your swimming attire.

Cozumel is beautiful. The water is crystal clear and blue as the sky. My day in Mexico brought temperatures in the mid-80’s, bright sun and a mild breeze. Though I chose not to take an organized excursion, and many were appealing, I did do some shopping very near the pier. Trinkets, t-shirts and souvenirs are readily available at any of the shops within walking distance. The duty free shop had some good deals on liquor, perfume and sundries as well. Another FYI, Texans are only allowed one liter of liquor duty free, while out of state travelers can bring back four. The duty free shop offered Kaluha for less than half what it costs in my local liquor store. I might add that while in Cozumel, it’s very easy to get a chaise in the sun on the Lido deck. Of those taking excursions, the most vocal were the Fiesta Party Boat revelers. The free rum punch packed a punch judging from what I observed later that evening. If I have any regret, it is not getting involved in one of the excursions. I didn’t hear a single complaint regarding any of the excursions offered through Carnival. Several families I spoke to also mentioned that the Submarine Tour was great for the young ones.

There are only a few other items that I recall that are worth mentioning, in no particular order:

There is no Wheelhouse Buffet on the last night of the cruise. It’s the main dining rooms, pizza, sushi or room service if you want to eat. (Like that’s not enough choices)
Read your Carnival Capers! There are many areas of the ship where the announcements are unintelligible. I’m not a proponent of planning everything out, but at least you can get some idea of when things are happening.
Even if you don’t go to every seminar (and they have them on shopping, excursions, salon/spa, etc.), they will show them on video replay in your room. If you’re considering an excursion or shopping, it’s worth watching.  They’ll give you arrival and departure info, tips, coupons, discounts…
Take the stairs. More times than not, you’ll get to your destination before the elevator arrives.
If you smoke, pack enough for the trip, or at least enough to get you to Mexico. You’ll pay dearly should you run out on board.
The ATM on board charges you $5.00 a withdrawal.
The bottle of water in your room is NOT free.
Keep up with your Sail and Sign receipts. It’s easy to lose track of exactly what you’ve spent.
Don’t try to do everything. It’s impossible.

I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but I had the most relaxing, enjoyable, stress-free vacation of my entire life. I’ll be doing it again.

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