Number of Cruises: 12
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Holiday
Sailing Date: March 17th, 2007
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Holiday Cruise Review
We had just returned from a family Thanksgiving cruise aboard the Triumph when our youngest daughter asked about taking another cruise for her “senior trip” over spring break. I was relieved that this was her choice because I was already dreading the thought of sitting around a rented condo on a beach somewhere.
From the cruise-chat forum, I had heard many positive comments about the Holiday from trusted members and being only a 6 hour drive from the Port of Mobile, we wouldn’t have to deal with the expense and hassles of flying. After checking rates and availability, we booked immediately. Several friends heard of the plan and booked also! Tip – book as soon as you have a definitive plan. This cruise nearly doubled in cost before the sailing date!
Approaching the Port of Mobile on I-10, the “whale tail” of the Holiday quickly comes into view. The ship may be small by today’s standards, but she looks enormous tied up at the port. We arrived at 12:15 pm. Make sure your luggage has your Carnival tags on it because a porter will be there to greet you without delay. A friend of our daughter was on crutches from a recent accident and the porter recognized that need and had a wheelchair before I could get her out of the SUV! The porter directed our group to check in, with Marcel from the ship’s crew pushing the wheelchair, while I parked on deck 3. Within less than 5 minutes, I joined the group in the line for embarkation. The personnel at the Port of Mobile are very courteous and helpful. They have either had a great drama coach or they really are truly glad to see you! After receiving our cards and keys, we followed Marcel onto the ship and directly to our cabins…all in less than twenty minutes from driving up! That is simply wonderful and unprecedented at any port we have traveled.
We were pleasantly surprised with our Ocean view Cabin M142, with the rest of our group in cabins around us. Our cabin steward for the cruise, Randy, introduced himself to everyone and we were on our way to explore the ship, starting with the buffet on Lido Deck!
About the ship itself – When launched in 1985, Holiday was the largest “purpose built” cruise ship on the seas. The fixtures and décor are best described as clean and functional, with most everything you would expect to see on a cruise ship present. In lieu of a multi-deck atrium, there are numerous nooks and crannies to explore. Deck 12 hosts what may be the largest miniature golf course at sea, Deck 11 is the sports deck with lots of space for sunning, basketball, volleyball, and shuffleboard. The main and aft pools are located on Deck 10 (Lido), along with the Wharf , featuring buffets, burgers, pizzas, deli sandwiches, etc. Deck 9 (Promenade) is the “heartbeat” of the ship. From the spacious Doc Holliday’s lounge aft, to the multi-level Americana Theatre forward, this deck is home to most of the lounges, bars, and casino. Midship Promenade is the Bus Stop Bar, featuring a real antique bus. Lots of seating area on the Promenade with flat screen TV’s strategically placed. Deck 8 Forward is the Main Entrance to the Americana Theatre, the Galleria for shopping, Internet Café, Carnegie Library, and Rick’s Piano Bar – a true hidden gem of the ship – complete with spiral staircase to the casino above. This is one of the neatest piano bars at sea and was rarely used, probably due to its secret location! Both of the Dining Rooms on Holiday are on Deck 8, with the galley between the forward and aft dining rooms.
The Holiday does not have the “in your face” glitz and glamour of the newer ships, but there is one area where this ship shines brightly and that is SERVICE! The excellence of this crew cannot be described with words. The cruise director, Steve Cassel, is very personable and an extremely talented fiddle player and juggler. His rendition of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” rivaled Charlie Daniels! The next night, Steve managed to pull of a juggling act while we were in some very rough seas. Steve and his staff do everything they can to make sure everyone has a good time. Service from the wait staff, from the main dining rooms to the Wharf, was simply wonderful. Our nightly dining was in the Seven Seas, Table 202, with Trika and Hadi graciously catering to every need or desire. The entrees were plentiful, delicious, and well presented. Once again, the Chocolate Melting Cake was everyone’s favorite! I will not bore you with a meal-by-meal description but will say the food quality, service, and presentation –everywhere on the ship – was top-notch. We were pleasantly surprised to see many people actually dressing up for Formal Night, and many were sporting tuxedos and evening gowns. On a ship out of Mobile? Yep!
We have never paid much attention to the passenger/crew ratios when considering a ship to cruise on, but after experiencing the 2:1 ratio on Holiday, we will definitely look at this figure much closer!
Days-at-Sea were the second and fifth days of the cruise. The “departing” day at sea was wonderful, weather and all. Everyone was enjoying the pool decks, the pools, and of course Carnival’s signature waterslide. The main decks are a little crowded, but you have to keep in mind that this ship is “miniature” by today’s standards. Drinks were plentiful and very tasty!
First Port of Call – Costa Maya, Mexico. Perhaps the neatest thing about Costa Maya is getting to see the other ships at port. We were docked with the Carnival Liberty and Grand Princess, both beautiful ships. Unless you have a “wad” of money to spend on equipment rentals and waterspouts, a quick visit to the “tourist village” will probably be the extent of this port. There is a huge pool with swim-up bar that features “interactive” pool games in the afternoon. Around the pool are several eateries and the “straw market” with numerous vendors just waiting for the opportunity to haggle with you over their overpriced merchandise! The village also sports a beach area, but don’t expect to wade into the surf because the area is very rocky. After visiting the tourist village, we headed back to the ship to enjoy some tranquility around the pool! We pulled away behind Grand Princess as the sun was setting on Liberty, all lit up for the evening!
We arrived at the second Port-of-Call - Cozumel, Mexico - at sunrise. We were lucky that it was Holiday’s turn to dock at the downtown pier, rather than anchor and tender in to the port. There is so much to do in Cozumel, and no way to do it all in one visit. Pick an activity and stick to it and make plans to visit again! Having docked downtown with no need for a taxi, we chose to shop a while and conclude the shore trip with the ceremonial visit to Carlos and Charlie’s for lunch. The crowd continued to grow by the minute and we felt privileged to have a front row table! The girls really enjoyed the atmosphere, and I must admit I did too. By mid-afternoon, my wife felt that things would soon be out of control so we returned to the ship. From what I heard later, she was right, as usual. I am sorry that I missed it! Another great afternoon on deck and I went down the slide repeatedly without interruption!
After leaving Cozumel, the seas provided a whole night of rocking’ and rollin’. It had to be a great night to hang out in the casino beside the “quarter-pushers” for coins had to be falling right and left! The final day-at-sea was rough enough to splash all the water from the pools, thus canceling pool games. With intermittent showers, today was a great day to be in the casino. Although I did not fare well on this trip, I cannot imagine losing money to a nicer group than the Casino Staff of Holiday! As the day passed, the clouds gave way to sunshine and the seas calmed for a much smoother evening.
Not to sound negative, but more to ease concern to other cruisers, but there is no need on the Holiday to set a wake-up call for mornings you arrive in port. The ship’s side thrusters will take care of that. I think they are also coupled to the ship autopilot as well because suddenly without warning, you will hear rumblings and feel some pretty heavy vibrations. Do not panic or fear, its just the thrusters kicking in!
Arriving back in Mobile – After receiving the wake-up call from the thrusters, we went to the Wharf for a few pre-dawn cups of coffee. After docking at 7:00, we decided to have one final breakfast in the dining room, eggs benedict and all! After breakfast, strolled to the cabin for a quick shower, after which we noticed there was no line to get off the ship and the self-assist passengers (which I’ll never do even on a dare) had already been called! Off we went. We got the next porter in line, who promptly found our luggage, followed us to the car, and even loaded it! We were on the Interstate headed home at 8:30 AM! The Port of Mobile really has their act together and their helpful and friendly attitude made this fun cruise even more memorable.
In summary, if you live within driving distance of Mobile and like to cruise, you owe it to yourself to experience the Holiday. A cruise doesn’t have to be all about the ship itself. It really is all about people! The people on Holiday, both crew and passengers, will make this cruise a memorable vacation!