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K. Boutte

Age: 27

Occupation:Lending Assistant

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Holiday

Sailing Date: February 24th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was the first time both my husband and I have cruised. We chose Carnival’s Holiday 5-day cruise because we are both afraid to fly anywhere and New Orleans is only a 5 hour drive from Houston. In addition, all of our family is in New Orleans and we needed a babysitter while we were away. We booked the cruise through AOL Travel back in May, 2002 and paid a little over $1K, including the insurance. We were celebrating our first wedding anniversary since we did not have a honeymoon.

I have read many reviews regarding the Holiday (more negative, than positive), so needless to say we were quite apprehensive and on the defense as the cruise departure date approached.

On Monday, we arrived at the ship terminal about 2:00 p.m. The luggage porters were plentiful and were ready to help us with our luggage when we arrived. We only had two suitcases, so we tipped them the customary $1.00 per bag. The embarkation line was long, but it moved rather quickly. I’ve read reviews where many have said the lines were disorganized, etc., but the lines were set-up like queuing lines for a theme park ride, which seemed to work just fine. When we arrived at the desk, we presented our boarding passes, original birth certificates and driver’s licenses to the Carnival representative. She was very friendly and we did not have any problems with our documents. Next, you proceed to another representative that gives you your Sail n’ Sign cards and your room keys. Next, you proceed to another area where your first (of many) picture is taken. You then proceed to another room where you’re I.D. is checked again and you and your carry-on baggage are put through a security checkpoint. You’re now on your way up the gangway. Before you actually enter the ship, you must insert your Sail n’ Sign card in a machine and have your security picture taken. After that, you enter the ship on the Main Deck. The entire embarkation process took about an hour. Again, the process was very organized and with smoothly.

Once on the ship, we immediately found our room. We were in Cabin U95, which is an inside room on the Upper Deck. We opened the door and to our surprise, the room was very large. To me, it was the same size as a standard hotel room; however, we found the bathroom to be rather small. Carnival provided a gift basket with deodorant, toothpaste, razors and various other samples such as shampoo and Tylenol. Our cabin steward’s name was Somchit. We saw him at least once a day and unfortunately our conversations were very limited due to the language barrier. He had a very thick accent and we couldn’t really understand what he was saying and he didn’t understand our humor.

After checking out our room, we proceeded to the Lido Deck for lunch. I am a ‘meat and potatoes’ type of person and my husband is the daring one when it comes to food. I had a hamburger and fries and he tried some type of seafood dish. Both were quite tasty.

After lunch, we walked around to get familiar with the ship. I’ve read in many reviews that the Holiday is in poor condition and should be dry-docked. From what I saw, I completely disagree. The Holiday is in great condition to say she’s over 10-years old. I found a couple of ‘dust bunnies’ in the corners by the elevators, but you literally have to be a certified ship inspector to find fallacies. While in port, there was a bit of a stench in the hallways. We asked some crew members and they told us, whenever in port, they empty the septic systems and unfortunately, the smell cannot be contained. However, once we set sail, the smell went away.

At 4:00 p.m. sharp, the lifeboat drill took place. The life jackets are very uncomfortable, but a small price to pay to prevent you from drowning. The crew was not rude, nor did they yell at anyone during the drill.

The drill was over at 4:30 p.m., at which time we set sail. The ship did a U-turn and made its way down the river. Since this was my first cruise, I did not expect to feel nor see the ship move. We made several turns down the river and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. From the aft portion of the Lido Deck, you can actually see the ship leaning from one side to the other as it turned left and right down the river. Since no one else around me was panicking, I quickly calmed down. Unfortunately, we hit the sack early so I missed my first meeting with the cruise director, Dave Amour.

On Tuesday, which was our first full day at sea, there were so many activities to do we didn’t know where to start. We went to the talk about the ports. It certainly was not boring and it was very informative as we had no idea what to expect. I have read reviews about the infamous ‘he ha-ha.’ When we first heard it, we laughed hysterically. It’s so corny, you have to laugh. Don’t get me wrong, Dave was very funny. We thought he should have been comedy act as opposed to the other comedians on board. There were two shows this night, Fuego de Caribe and the adult comedian. I didn’t really enjoy the ‘Broadway’ show because I’m not really into that, but the comedian was very funny. We did eat in the dining room this night because they were serving lobster. Attire ranged from ball gowns and tuxedos, to church dresses and shirts n’ ties. My husband certainly took advantage of the ‘order as many entrees as you like rule.’ He had two lobsters for dinner with no problems. Just ask and you shall receive. I on the other hand, had the prime rib, which to my taste was horrible. In addition, on the other nights, the dress code of ‘elegant casual’ was not enforced. No one was turned away regardless if they had on shorts, jeans or tank tops.

On Wednesday, we arrived in Cozumel at 7:00 a.m. We arrived early because we had two passengers that were ill and needed emergency medical attention. We were allowed off the ship at this time and we took advantage of that. I think we were the first passengers off. Once off the ship, I was worried that we walked into a war zone. There were guards at the entrance of the pier with M-16’s and in full riot gear. We booked the Island Adventure Snorkel Tour which didn’t leave until 10:30 a.m. We walked around for a little while until it was time for our excursion. The excursion was 2 hours long and we snorkeled off the back of the boat. The water was about 15 feet deep and it was like looking into an aquarium. The water was crystal clear, but very salty. The guides took underwater pictures of us which cost $10.00.

After our excursion, we went back to the ship to shower and head into town to do some shopping. The shops here have some of the worst bargainers in the world. DO NOT ACCEPT THE FIRST PRICE. For example, I bought 3 hand-made puppets for $30.00 total. The first price I got from the guy was $25.00 each. Also, you are almost harassed to rent scooters, taxis and anything you could think of that costs money. Although it was very aggravating, we kept our cool and simply said ‘no thank you’ and kept walking. Again, this was our first time in Mexico and I certainly did not want to upset the locals by being rude. After shopping we took a $15.00 taxi (4 people in the taxi) to Play Sol beach, which cost us $8.00 to get in. The beach there is very nice and they have hammocks, motorized and non-motorized water rides. Of course, you have to pay for the motorized water toys. They also have the only zoo in Cozumel there. We paid $10.00 per person to ride the banana boat. This was very fun as we were constantly thrown off into the ocean! They also offer parasailing, but at $50.00 per person for 10 minutes, we didn’t think the price was worth it.

After we left, we went back to the ship again to clean up and go back out on the town. I know the itinerary says you go to Playa first then Cozumel, but we went to Cozumel first and stayed until midnight. We went to Carlos n’ Charlie’s, Viva Mexico and a little flea market (forgot the name). At the flea market in broad daylight, our friends were offered drugs and prostitution. Be careful and keep your ladies close, as the locals are quite flirtatious.

On Thursday, we arrived at Playa del Carmen at 7:00 a.m. I believed we docked at Calica, but when you look out from the ship, you don’t see any signs of civilization nearby. If you don’t book an excursion in Cozumel, I would suggest you book one while in this port because there’s not a lot to do here. We took the Tropical Jeep Safari here, which we absolutely enjoyed. We drove Jeep Wranglers to a cave which had an underground lake where we got to swim. There were bats everywhere. We also learned why you ‘don’t drink the water’ here. From there we went to Xpu Ha beach to relax in the sun. This beach is very beautiful with wonderful scenery. The tour provided us with a delicious lunch buffet which we ate on the beach. We returned to the ship about 1: 30 p.m., but we were too tired to take a taxi back into town, which was about a 10 minute ride. There was a ‘Broadway’ show called Shout which was excellent. Do not miss this one if you like music!! However, the comedian after the show was not very funny.

On Friday, our last day at sea there were again, many activities. I went to the debarkation meeting, but it was a waste of time. It’s basically common sense. They tell you about all the things you can’t bring back, customs issues, but none of these are checked when you disembark. For example, you’re only allowed 1 liter of duty free liquor, but we brought back 3 liters and simply didn’t declare it. We also know people who brought back Cuban cigars with no problems which are forbidden. The hairy-chest contest is gross, but funny. There was also a guest talent show this night and it was really good.

On the last day, we ate breakfast on the Lido deck and hung out there until our color was called. We waited about two hours before our color was called. If you want, when they call the first color, GO!! They do not check to make sure you are in a specific color and the luggage is in a large, hectic room. No one would pay attention to the fact that you’re getting luggage from a color that was not called.

All in all, our cruise was excellent. Again, the crew was very friendly and the ship is in excellent shape. If you go around searching for a little scratch on the baseboard in the corner, guess what you’ll find it. But if you’re that ‘nit-picky’, maybe you should try a fancier, elegant cruise ship. The carpet was clean and the décor was tasteful and appropriate. There were no broken or dilapidated fixtures and the crew was always polishing and cleaning.

This is a fun, intimate ship, but we never felt crowded at anytime. We always found a spot to look over the side of the ship as well as sun bath. We are in the process of planning another cruise, and it will probably be on the Holiday. If you want anymore details, please feel free to email me.

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