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Rick

Age: 45

Occupation:Government

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Holiday

Sailing Date: March 29th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

You know I just can't understand how people can complain about a cruise. Before we get into the review, here's a helpful hint if you are planning on taking a cruise: Remember my one rule of cruising and chances are you will enjoy a wonderful experience that you will remember for a lifetime. I call it Ricky's Rule of Cruising: "NO CRUISE WILL BE 100% PERFECT, DON'T EXPECT TOO MUCH AND BE WILLING TO GO WITH THE FLOW!" If you try to follow this little rule, I bet you will always have a great time. Take into consideration that the cruise lines go out of their way to make you happy, their livelihood depends on you enjoying yourself. So you have to figure if they didn't care, they wouldn't last long in this highly competitive business. If you don't over extend your expectations, you will never be disappointed, and the little extras they provide will always be a welcome surprise. I'm not saying to never complain, if you consider something is intolerable, then by all means report it immediately. But also have to understand that sometimes if you did have a complaint and the crew has exhausted all avenues in their attempt to rectify the situation and you still aren't satisfied, just go with the flow and take it up with the cruise line or your travel agent when you get home. Don't let it ruin the cruise you waited and definitely paid for. Believe me, I have cruised on brand new super class ships, the Carnival Conquest inaugural cruise, medium ships, the Celebration, the Tropicale, the Enchanted Isle, the Holiday, and even tiny ships when my first cruise was on the Flavia in 1976. One thing that they all have in common is the crew on board will do whatever is in their power to make you happy. So enjoy! With that said, I'll get off of my soapbox, get back to this cruise, on the Carnival Holiday!

I live about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, and since I had just taken a cruise in November, I was pretty much ready for the embarkation experience. As usual I got my family to drop me off at the pier where I had all my bags checked with the boatcaps??? skycaps??? whatever they are called. All I know is that they are quick, efficient and with all the luggage I pack, they are lifesavers for about a buck a suitcase. Next it was into the terminal. Remember everyone is as excited as you, maybe even more so remember one word, Patience! Just read the signs and follow the rules: 1.) Sign in (don't forget your birth certificate or passport and a credit card) 2.) Get your sail and sign card and your room keys (for new ships it's one in the same) 3.) Go to your designated area and wait for your turn to get on board, and in no time (after 3 security checks) you should be on board.

My first impression of the Holiday was that it was quite a small ship compared to the Conquest, but this can be an advantage. For one, you can master the layout of the ship in no time, and two, it takes no time to find your friends around the ship and to meet and get acquainted with new people. I went with a big group for the Conquest and even with the help of personal walkie talkies we had trouble finding each other. I for one tend to prefer the coziness of smaller boats. Ok, so once on board it's off to the room to get rid of my carry on bag. Remember you are allowed to bring one bottle of wine or champagne to your room. Even though I've been told that this is the oldest Carnival Ship, the rooms are pretty spacious, but the Bathrooms are small (my wife is small and we still couldn't both fit in there at the same time. Ours was a Cat. 6, an outside cabin with a window on the main deck (M645). After throwing my bag into the room it was off to the Lido Deck. Yes there was plenty of food around, but I really wasn't hungry so I grabbed a couple of friends and off we went to the Lido Bar on the back of the ship. I must say that the Lido deck restaurant, had the customary eggs, ham, waffles, pancakes for breakfast and for lunch and dinner there was hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches that you would find on any cruise. But a surprise was that they also had roast and prime rib, potato's, vegetables, etc... in the evenings and afternoon. Also the 24 hour pizza bar was a lifesaver late at night or after coming off of an excursion. And if they don't have the pizza you like, just order it and come back in 10 minutes. Also I'd like to give a standing ovation (even though my waist line wouldn't) to the 24 hour ice cream machine. Now back to the Lido Bar, this would wind up being our groups home base for the endurance of the cruise. Fresh air, good drinks and a beautiful view of the New Orleans Riverfront before we left, and the ocean or our ports of call over the next 5 days.

We departed New Orleans around 5:30 pm, and with the sun setting around 6:00 pm, we didn't get too much daylight to enjoy our ride down the river. (I'm going back on this cruise in June well into daylight savings time, so I'll update this section after I return). Contrary to other reviews, I didn't feel much rocking or swaying in the river or on the whole cruise, yet we did have excellent weather the entire time, windy but calm. That night the casino hurt us, but we still had a great time, we figured we'd get even over the next few days! WE DID!.

Oh, every evening I had dinner in the Seven Seas dining room, and except for the too well done steak on my first night each meal was fantastic. Even on the well done steak night, they offered to bring me another but I was too full from the two appetizers the salad, the soup and the side potato, that I just said no thanks! After that my steak, lobster (ok, two lobsters), whatever I ordered were always done to perfection. Yes you can order what and as many of anything on the menu that you like.

I'm sorry that I can't report on the Vegas Style Shows, but I didn't see any, except the late night comedian, who really was funny. Particularly when some Spring Breakers made the mistake of trying to heckle him. It was like shooting fish in a barrel as he picked them apart all in fun of course. I've been on many cruises before and to real Las Vegas, which the shows are always compared to. I can tell you that the cruise versions of the full blown singing dancing, not so skimpy costume shows tend to be "not my cup of tea", but if it's yours, enjoy. I'm a part time musician and I like live music and unfortunately if I had one complaint on this cruise it was the live band in the Doc Holiday's was a bit of a disappointment. I had such high expectations of spending time in the bar listening to great bands, but after the first night I never went back. This was a let down, because the band I saw on the Conquest in November were amazing. They couldn't speak much English, but they could sing it and sound just like any rock n roll or Motown band they imitated. I do believe they rotate the bands in like they do with the crew, so maybe in June, I'll be a little luckier.

Days at Sea! These can be as hectic or as laid back as you like. In the past I liked to play bingo, gamble, go to wine tasting, or play the wacky pool games, but on this cruise I just wanted some sun. Now the Holiday is not really built like the new luxury liners that have deck space for days, and the pools are somewhat small. Which makes me comment. I always read people complain about pools on cruise ships. I think they are there strictly to give kids something to do. My thought on this matter is why waste your time in a small salt water pool, when in a day, you can have the whole ocean in Cozumel or Playa del Carmen. OK, back off my soapbox again!

Anyway, after surveying the deck areas, we made our way up to try the clothing optional deck on the very top of the ship. This was ideal, most people thought that you had to be topless. NOPE! It's clothing optional and you have to be over 21 to enter! YAHOO!!! For the first few hours, we had the whole deck to ourselves. Eventually we were joined by two very nice topless women, and then the rest of the adults on board caught on to our little secret, but that was OK, because we had our spot! Luckily I brought my own music, which they frown on in the lower decks, because they have piped in music, but on the topless deck, it just kind of got the party started early! Soon the waiters were bringing us drinks and this deck became an all day party!

Our first Port of Call was Playa Del Carmen. I'd like to tell you how it was but we docked in Calica which was about 10 miles south. And we decided to take a taxi further south to Xel Ha! One note to all travelers! The cabs can and will rip you off, most people down there will, to be safe you can take the cruise sponsored excursion, if not just be careful. You can't blame poor people for trying to make a buck. Just be a smart Gringo and you will be OK! When booking a cab, make a deal that they drop you off and pick you up and that you will pay when you get back to the ship. If you can't communicate this with the first cabbie you see, get another! Xel Ha is about a 45 minute ride and worth every penny. For those who have never been to Xel Ha, I recommend it whole heartily, I also recommend that you purchase the $50.00 all inclusive package. This includes your admission, snorkeling equipment, food, drinks and alcohol. Get off the boat as early as possible and take a taxi to the park. You should have about 2 ½ hours of the park to yourselves, then the park will get real crowded with people who have taken the Tulum tour, school groups, etc..... (*snorkel out to the bridge! Schools of HUGE FISH!!! Grouper, Rays, Tuna,......) This was when we decided to have lunch! Good Mexican Buffet and lots of great tasting drinks at the bar, (all included! Yeah Baby!) Also if you get there early and want to swim with the dolphins for about another $100.00, make sure you make reservations in advance over the internet or as soon as you get there, because it fills up FAST! You can also swim with the dolphins in Cozumel at Chankanaab Park, but make your reservations on-line for this one!!!

Our next port of call was Cozumel. I LOVE COZUMEL! It can be as seedy and cheesy or as tropical and easy as you want it to be. Want to experience the cheesy side, take a walk downtown and you will be asked to buy anything and everything from the barkers who almost seem to be standing next to each other down the main street. Everyone's got something to sell, and they will wheel and deal to get your business. Never accept the first price! Make sure you haggle, and if you don't get your price just say no thank you and walk away! You can always get it on the way back! When bargaining, sometimes you will win other times, well you really didn't want it anyway! Things to see in Cozumel! Chankanaab Park, for snorkeling and sunning and Carlos and Charlie's for letting loose and partying! On this trip we stayed in Coz from 9:00 am to 12:00 midnight. Needless to say that they had to pour some of our group back on the ship! Particularly since we were docked at the Langusta Pier which is where Carlos and Charlie's is located! Viva La Mexico!!!

Well after that we headed on home with some new wonderful memories and a little less cash and a craving to stay on the ship and do it all over again! Particularly when we got back to find that a late cold front had hit the New Orleans area. Oh well, if you are contemplating this cruise, remember the Holiday is not a new ship, but she is still a fun ship and I can't wait to get back in June. Give it a try, you'll like it. (More to come when I return...........)

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