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Stewart Cohen

Age: 45

Occupation:legal assistant

Number of Cruises: 15

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Holiday

Sailing Date: December 26th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

I arrived 3 days before the cruise so that I could enjoy New Orleans. It’s truly an amazing city and I loved it. I stayed at the Dauphine Orleans (excellent choice-reasonably priced; conveniently located; included extensive buffet continental breakfast-would stay there in a heartbeat). I loved visiting the French Quarter, Garden District and taking the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to view the magnificent homes, Audubon Park and Loyola & Tulane University). And of course, there’s the food. Loved dining at the Pelican Club, Bayona, Rene’s Bistrot, Mr. B’s Bistro and Acme Oyster & Seafood House (the oysters were great!). One tip. Don’t buy the souvenirs on Bourbon Street. Go to the French Market and the very last building houses a flea market. The very last stand has cheap prices for Mardi Gras masks, dolls, feather boas, etc.

On the fourth day of my visit I took the hotels courtesy van to the cruise ship terminal at about 2 pm. The terminal was very busy but things seemed to be very organized. Upon entering you were asked to take a seat to wait until the check-in line subsided. This is a vast improvement over the way check-in was handled by Carnival in New York last July. Upon boarding the ship, my heart sunk. I have never seen such a dark and dreary interior to a cruise ship. It really showed its age and the Christmas decorations did not add a festive tone to the décor at all. My cabin was forward on Main Deck, which is the deck you enter on, so I had a very short walk to it. Along the hallway were truly hideous looking panels of mythic sea monsters. What were they thinking? I also noticed a lot of wood paneling. I’m talking the type you’d see in a finished basement in the 1950’s! I really think Carnival needs to be very embarrassed with the appearance of this ship, compared to the newer members of the fleet. Not much neon but that might have been an improvement.

The ship’s layout is pretty straight forward. No atrium, just a lobby on Main Deck with the shore excursion and purser’s desks. There is no outside promenade on this ship. If you want air, you have to go up to the top decks. I also found that if you wanted to escape cigarette smoke in the public areas, you had to either go to the library or to the show lounge, as all of the other public rooms, except dining spaces, were not smoke-free zones. This meant that folks could stroll around most of the ship puffing away. The 2 indoor public levels have the usual dining rooms, casino, bars and 2-story showroom (which had more poles than I’ve ever seen…be warned that you need to get there early). There were 2 dining rooms with the galley in between which means that you need to go above or below the dining rooms in order to get to the aft dining room (7 Seas). The pool deck has a very crowded mishap pool area, complete with water slide (this one goes into the pool, so don’t expect to do laps, folks). The 2 Jacuzzis are located above the mid-ship pool on the level above. Don’t waste your time. The water was not very hot and did not go up to your shoulders when you sit. The jets were very weak too! The buffet area was adjacent to the midship pool area going aft and then comes the aft pool area which had a nice size deck for sunning. The aft pool is a small, roundish number, which didn’t look very appealing. The children’s pool was also situated aft, one deck below.

My cabin was a category 1A, but one of the few with a porthole. The cabin was small, but not tiny. The carpeting looked new and so did the bathroom, which had a decent layout. I really appreciated lights that were gentle on the eyes if you needed to go in the middle of the night. There was plenty of drawer and closet space and also plenty of that ugly wood paneling. Instead of a table, one corner had a storage space for the life jackets which could double as a table. There was a light behind a panel of plexiglass in this corner with one of those horrible sea creature designs. Needless to say, that light stayed off. There is one floor level bed with one bunk. As a single, that’s the trade-off between taking this cabin at 150% as opposed to taking a cabin with 2 beds that can be pushed together at 200%. Oddly enough, since this bargain rate cabin was an outside, I did get terry cloth robes. Everything was in working order in the cabin, and my cabin steward, Carlos, was the best. In fact, I noticed his photo in a display case by the lobby announcing he was voted Employee of the Month. Well deserved! The complimentary toiletries basket in the bathroom was especially welcome as it included a full size tube of a new Crest toothpaste. I noticed that it hasn’t earned the ADA seal of approval yet, but my teeth haven’t fallen out yet!

The mandatory safety drill started out in a lounge for my station. After the instructions we were all herded up to the actual lifeboat stations, located on the pool deck, which was a bit of a hike. I still wonder how Princess manages to conduct its entire safety drill in the lounges without inconveniencing the passengers to stand outside and walk around with the life jackets on. All they ask is that you bring your jacket with you and at the end of the drill, try it on while the staff overlooks and assists. I noticed quite a few kids blowing the whistles on their life jackets. I don’t think this was very bright on their parents’ part, considering the Norwalk Virus problem on ships. I’m totally convinced that this is mainly a passenger problem. The cruise line supplied a list of instructions on how to avoid the virus and yet people ignore all warnings. One sore point was that the buffet area had large trays of ice with a scoop for handling. There was a large sign requesting passengers to return the scoop to its holder and not leaving it the tray (where it could contaminate the ice since everyone’s touched the handle). Many times I found the scoop in the ice. One time, I found a discarded small plastic cream container inside the holder. I immediately asked a waiter to clean it up and he thanked me for spotting it. How disgusting can people be?

I don’t recall exactly when we departed but it seemed to be pretty close to schedule. Sailing down the Mississippi was nice. It does take quite a while til you reach the Gulf too. Many people thought they would sail right out into it, but we had 100 miles of winding river to navigate first. It is an usual way to start a cruise, and after 15 cruises, made for a nice change. The casual buffet remained opened after we sailed for hot dogs and burgers which was good since I didn’t bother with the welcome aboard buffet, opting to eat lunch earlier in New Orleans at an outstanding restaurant. Good thing too, as this would be the last outstanding meal until I had lunch again in New Orleans after debarking the cruise. Having been on 2 other Carnival cruises (Carnival Victory and Carnival Triumph) I am familiar with the menus on Carnival and the variety of food that is available to its guests. However, I found both the quality and the variety sorely lacking on Holiday. This was made all the worse by having just sampled some wonderful cuisine in New Orleans. And the biggest disappointment was the absence of the baby back ribs for lunch in the dining room. As far as I’m concerned, this is Carnival’s signature dish. Something not found on other cruise lines and I was really p.o.’d when it was missing from the lunch menus. Lobster tails were offered on formal night but were inconsistent. One would be excellent, the next would be horrible. One dish remains a favorite, the vegetable curry. In fact, a lot of the vegetarian dishes seemed to be some of the best prepared. Breakfast in the dining room was pretty good, although a Swiss cheese omelet could not be prepared. Eggs Benedict were consistently good as was the bagel and lox. I also enjoyed the bagel and lox several mornings from room service. Bagel always arrived warm. It was nice to have the pot of coffee delivered soon after I awoke. It was no problem asking room service to bring breakfast earlier than the requested time. It would arrive within 10 minutes of ringing them. I used room service one late afternoon for a snack and that order also arrived quickly.

I did go to the first midnight buffet which had a New Orleans theme. Glad I did because they served barbecued ribs there, so I did have some ribs, but they weren’t the babybacks (am I obsessive/compulsive or what?).

My dining room team were very friendly and courteous. I was amazed that Okto, the head waiter, upon introducing himself, had the entire table of 8’s names memorized from the get-go. I couldn’t even remember everyone’s names at the table, although we enjoyed each others company a lot. This is important, as that can make or break a cruise.

Activities on board were the regular kind on the cruise. The horse racing, bingo, “Hairy Chest Competition”, “Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game”, etc. After 4 days of walking around New Orleans I was more inclined to relax and enjoy listening to my Discman. Entertainment on board the ship was pretty weak, although I didn’t bother to see any of the production shows because the layout of the show lounge just made it impossible to find a decent seat. Also, one show I intended to see did not start on time because they had to run a Bingo game before it (the almighty dollar comes first). I gave up and left. I was really annoyed that instead of a band by the pool, they only could manage a single steel drum player with a rhythm machine. He was excellent, but come on, Carnival, shell out the bucks for a couple more musicians. I was also annoyed with the fact that no pre-dinner live music was available. Nothing started until 8 pm. Karaoke was 8 – 9:30 pm most evenings which meant late seating diners missed out.

Our one port of call was Cozumel. We arrived in the rain and Carnival was nice to allow me to cancel my snorkel sail tour for a full refund. The rain stopped by 9 am and the sun came out. However, it remained very windy and the water was very choppy, so I’m glad I skipped the snorkeling. I’ve been to Cozumel several times, so I chose to walk to the La Ceiba Hotel near the ship and sit on a deck and enjoy the scenery. The ship was docked by the Puerta Maya pier which has a few shops already open and should be completed fairly soon. This looks exactly like the Costa Maya area on the Yucatan where many cruise ships are now docking. It looks like a little World’s Fair village with restaurants and shops. Of course prices are better in town, but for those who don’t want to bother with taxis and such, this should be a nice place if you just want to get off the ship and walk around for a few hours.

The one sightseeing highlight of the cruise was passing several oil platforms in the Gulf on the last day of the cruise. They are massive and truly amazing to see. It’s always nice to think of another reason why I like to be at sea.

Okay, so the cruise was not the paradise I seek when I board a ship. But it wasn’t a disaster either, just a disappointment. If you want to do a cruise out of New Orleans, and I do recommend doing so, but I’d look for a better ship.

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