Age: NOT FOUND
Number of Cruises: NOT FOUND
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Celebration
Sailing Date: July 30th, 2001
Itinerary: NOT FOUND
This was my first cruise on Carnival. My husband and I cruised for several years on Commodore, and mourned bitterly when they went under. Carnival is so much more expensive (we're poor), that he stayed home and I found a friend to share the cost of an upper lower. Pam had never cruised before so we booked an upper -lower on the Celebration and started packing.
I like booking early, because it gives me time to dream. Teaching junior high can be rough on the psyche, but by the end of May I could blink twice and be in a deck chair with a good book. I usually diet and exercise as well, but 2 unexpected surgeries prevented that this year.
Booking early also gives me time to shop. If you are going on a tropical vacation, you are going swimming, and there's nothing worse than putting on a damp suit. I always buy and take at least two. That way they have time to dry. And, while I know the dining standards have relaxed, I refuse to eat a four course meal in jeans and a T- shirt. It's so much fun to go shopping and look for "cruise outfits". I get one or two outfits a year with a fish or nautical theme, and integrate them into my wardrobe. This way I can put on a shirt in March and breathe a memory of a better time! I also buy a cheap, waterproof watch for shore tours. I don't have to worry about leaving it somewhere, and the local population isn't tempted. I prefer to take costume jewelry as well, (not that I have a lot of the other), it's just one less thing to worry about.
For me, that's what cruising is: no worries. I don't drink or party much, and I like quiet spaces with time to read, (especially after two surgeries). I like to snorkel, bargain a little and gamble a little. I'm not much into a rat race of social events and country line dancing does nothing whatsoever for me. And we were booked on Carnival? This was going to be interesting.
We booked the Celebration, leaving Monday, July 30th , out of Galveston, because we are Texans (we don't fly, we drive). We left early Sunday morning from Corsicana, which is 50 miles south of Dallas. It's about a 4 hour drive. We had a fantastic late lunch at Gaido's-complete with finger bowls! Our room wasn't ready so we drove over to see the dock, and parking lot. It was an easy drive as Galveston is a small, well laid out island. We stayed at the Econolodge, which had the best rates in town, and is only a block away from the beach. We walked on the beach for a while, and went to bed early.
The next morning we got all the forms organized, and got some great advice from the hotel clerk. She had been on the Celebration a month before, and said they boarded at noon, instead of 1:30. We decided to give it a try, and it worked like a charm. We dropped off our luggage, parked in the car park and got on the shuttle with no waiting. We zipped thru check-in, and got in the first real line for pictures. Your carry on does have to fit through a standard air port X-ray machine, so do watch the size. The only wait we had was to actually board the ship as they were letting people on in groups of about 30. Carnival, you need to turn up your air conditioning in that boarding corridor. Still, we were in our room and ready to explore by 12:45.
The welcome aboard buffet in the Wheel House Grill is a little confusing. We went thru the first line we saw and got a lovely cheese ravioli. Then we passed another line and saw a lovely Caesar Salad. Then we found the fruit bar . . . we ate rather well.
We sat by an open window in the chairs by the pool to watch the ship pull away. Don't do this. It was hot and loud. A three generation extended family was two tables away and apparently all deaf, as they screamed at each other for half an hour. As we were leaving to go back to our cabin we saw two ladies dragging deck chairs thru the doors out to the quieter side decks of the ship. That, we resolved, we would do tomorrow.
Our room was a pleasant surprise. Although it was a 1A upper lower, there was ample space for all our possessions. The color theme was blue and cream, not garish at all. Pam's suitcase was too big for the bed, so we propped it up in the corner. The life jackets were in the corner table under the large, wall mounted television, but we stuck them under the bed after the drill and had room to put in all our purses and hats. There was more than enough space for all our toiletries in the bathroom, although we did get very intimate with the shower curtain. We had a corner chair and vanity stool as well. The cabin was very well lit, with a light for both the upper and lower bunks. These were caddy-corner to give more floor space.
We went to the restaurant when we found we had late seating. Although I enjoyed it on previous cruises I knew that, with all the medications I was still on, eating late would be a disaster. An irate woman was ahead of us demanding an early seating at some length. The waiter dealt with her politely and we gave her room to stomp past. After he told us the ship was full, and changes were difficult we simply asked if there was a waiting list for changes and could we be placed on it. He promptly produced one and wrote our names down.
As we left we could see a wedding in progress to our right. What a lovely idea! We met the bride as well as her sister in the spa sign up line later. There appeared to be two weddings before the ship left the dock. Both seemed to be well coordinated and in fairly good taste.
Dinner the first night was a very different experience. I like meeting new people, and as teachers, we get along with many different types. Unfortunately we were seated with a group of ladies who were grimly determined not to have a good time. Replies were terse and complaints were frequent. The dinner was great. Mushroom bisque and an enormous steak were two things that helped redeem the evening. By the end of dinner, however, I was babbling in a effort to keep conversation light and cheerful. I do not babble well. We decided on our way to our cabin to either bribe a change or eat dinners in the Wheel House. Fortunately we found a slip saying we had already been changed. Pam and I ran into the foursome a few times during the week, and they were never happy. If you're going to spend this much money, make the decision to be joyful before you get on the boat.
We gambled for a little bit after dinner, I played the 5 cent slots, and Pam played the 25 cent poker machines, (we like our vices small). We didn't make the midnight buffet that night, or to be honest, any other night. We did stroll down the bars by the casinos, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The teenagers had control of the disco, but since it was the first night they were just staring at each other instead of dancing. Things appeared to warm up as the week progressed.
The next morning we went into the Horizon dining room for early sitting. Our table was by the serving center, but we had it to ourselves. Our waiter, Anthony, was from India. He and the busboy gave excellent service. Breakfast was a bit of a disappointment. The hashbrowns were tater tots, and the eggs didn't appear to come from a chicken. But this just gave me an excuse to order smoked salmon with cream cheese, which was very good.
The rest of the day we spent on the quiet side decks. We dragged two lounge chairs through the double doors by the pool, got out our books, and read. Occasionally we would watch the deep blue waves, sip our tea, and smile. We could still hear all the games and pool music, but it was muted. As the day progressed, a few more adventurous souls dragged out chairs and loungers, but every bodies' space was respected, and it was never crowded. This is why I cruise. We had so much fun, we skipped the cocktail party.
We got to meet our new table mates that evening. He was a witty, spry, 84-year old retired engineer. She was a sparkling 70 something nurse companion. They were a blast, and we had fun all week with them. Part of the cruise is getting to meet new people. Although our table seated 8, the rest never showed up, I guess they ate in the Wheel House all week, although I can't imagine why. The meals were wonderful, and Anthony had no problem in bringing out more than one of any item we choose. Sometimes when we weren't sure, Pam and I would split a dish to see if we liked it, then order extra if we did. A cruise is a perfect time to broaden your horizon by trying exotic things. So we sampled everything from escargot to fruit trifle and sadly, broadened more than just our horizons.
That night we managed to make the first show. It was a sample of Broadway tunes, which we enjoyed every much. The Astoria lounge is very attractive, but there are some blocked views. We had no problem getting good seats as long as we got there about 10 minutes before the show. The band was wonderful, if a little loud, and everyone in the audience seemed to have a wonderful time. I was somewhat surprised at the number of small children present. I had to step over a run away crawler, but as her grandmother was in hot pursuit, I let her crawl on. They both appeared to be having fun. Oh well, to each his own.
The next day we docked in Cozumel to snorkel and shop. And that's what we did. The snorkeling was great, the water was clear, and it wasn't too hot. We signed up for the Marine Park unlimited, but ended up going back by water taxi after a couple of hours, (I was really out of shape, and it was Pam's first time). After a lovely lunch we set out to shop by taxi. We went straight to Los Cinco Solis, which was a store I remembered from earlier trips. We planned on starting there, but ended up getting everything we planned on and more. Please note: The taxi will drop you off just outside the pier, after that, you must walk to the ship on your own. This can be a very long walk if you are carrying 6 blankets, a set of latte cups, T-shirts, and bracelets. We made it, just, then died until dinner. We didn't even make the evening show. As the ship was docked, we got cable, so we went to sleep watching Spin City.
The next morning we docked at Cancun. We signed up for the Tulum-Xe-hal tour. Do not take this tour in July or August. You will melt. If you do take this tour bring repellent. Pam could have made $20 selling her repellent on the spot. It was so hot we couldn't concentrate on our excellent tour guide. The water park was a welcome relief, but I was too tired to snorkel. Pam saw a sting ray and lost several years in fright.
We returned to the ship and sat in our favorite spot, sipping magaritas as frantic passengers raced to get on board before the ship left. Then the ship pulled away and headed out to sea. I went back to the cabin and noticed part of our lights were out. I decided to call the steward after showering, but no sooner had I stepped into the shower, all the lights went out. It's really dark in an inside cabin. I found my robe and glasses by feel, knowing that if I could find the door, the emergency lights would be on. I did so, breathing a sigh of relief. Then the emergency lights went out. If I had any tears left in my dehydrated body, I would have shed them then. Fortunately the lights came back on, and they announced that a changed over in generators had caused the problem. I got back in the shower, only to have them flicker again. It was interesting and painful to note that when the lights give out, so does the water. But it was only a short flicker, and I got the soap out of my eyes eventually. There were no more problems after that, and as everyone got champagne with dinner, I figure we broke even.
The next day was a repeat of the first sea day, except for an afternoon spa sampler treatment. The rooms were well furnished, and there was soft music. However, since we were by the lido pool, it was not very quiet. The massage and facial were very good, and there was no hard sell to buy the products. I think it was $85 for a 50 minute treatment, which was a little high, but hey, it's a cruise!
Dinner that night was quiet, we knew it was almost over. Anthony was his usual attentive self, and accepted his envelope smoothly. Every night the waiters put on a production at the end of night. Some seemed to really enjoy it, others seemed a bit embarrassed. Since we weren't the ones dancing, we clapped and had a good time. It was a little sad since it was the last night, but the slots were really loose, so it helped cheer us up.
Pam was worried about her mother, who'd had surgery while we cruised. She was getting out of the hospital the day we docked, and Pam wanted to be with her as quickly as possible. We checked with a rather rude young purser, who said that since we didn't have an early flight, there was nothing he could do. Pam found the cruise director, who told us to simply wait with the early flight people, and we could leave with them.
It worked like a charm. We walked off with the airport people and quickly found our luggage. It really is a good idea to put duck tape or a scarf on your suitcase handle. It is also a good idea to get a porter, especially if you are not a weight lifter. He breezed us through customs, and found a good place for Pam to wait with the luggage while I got the car. You want to put the luggage as near to the car entrance as possible. The shuttle driver helped me find the car--put something on your antenna to make it easy-- and I drove back to get Pam. I think it would make life easier if they would let you take the luggage with you to the car, but they don't. They have 3 lines for pick up, but it only takes 3 idiots to make a jam. I saw policemen eating donuts, but that was the extent of their contribution. But we made a quick getaway in spite of this.
I was both pleased and surprised by our cruise. Yes, we could have ice sculpted, line danced, napkin folded, and bingoed away. But we didn't, and still found peace and quiet. Yes, there was a multitude of children and teenagers, but they weren't obtrusive, and the few riding up and down in the elevators stopped after the 2nd day. The food was very good, our waiter was great, and all in all, we got more than our money's worth. We're going again next year!