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Age: 52


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Jubilee

Sailing Date: July 17th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

On our first cruise, my husband and I took the Carnival Jubilee from Galveston to Cozumel on July 17, 2003. Had a great time, even though it's not our usual traveling style. (We are more the Europe-on-$50-a-day type; seldom do tours or all-inclusive deals.) But this sounded like fun, the price was great, and we were traveling through Galveston anyway this summer.

Boarding went quickly; we weren't in line more than 30 minutes. We came early, around 11:30 a.m. rather than the 1:30 boarding time, and found lots of folks already boarding. The Carnival staff was efficient at checkin, and we were having lunch on the Lido deck shortly after noon. Re: the Galveston port, we chose to stay at a motel that offered free cruise parking along with the room the night before the cruise. (Econolodge, half a block off the beach. Nice pool, very new building, free Internet). Took a taxi to the pier for about $10 incl. tip, so saved $20 and the hassle of having to wait in a long line of cars to drop off luggage, drive to one of the port's lots, take a bus back, and do the reverse upon return.

The cabin was surprisingly large, very clean, and several grades up from the one we had booked (1A, lowest category, to 5B, I think; inside, Upper Deck, twin beds.) If you ask for a "TBA" (to be assigned) designation when booking a cheap cabin, you have a chance of getting upgraded. Lots of storage space. Our room steward, Tatiana, was just terrific, very professional and efficient yet friendly. Kept the cabin immaculate and did cute towel animals twice. We gave her a little extra tip above the prepaid one. (Also for the wait staff.)

Dinner in the dining room was also very good. The menu always featured healthful selections (nautica spa) and vegetarian fare as well. Our headwaiter, Thomas, was fantastic; what a personality! His assistant Lucas was wonderful as well. I can't believe they can take care of so many people, and so many details, yet make you feel like you're the only table they have to take care of. We were seated with another couple that shared many of our interests, so we never ran out of conversation, really enjoyed their company.

Also met some charming people at breakfast in the dining room the next day. (Breakfast is open seating, but they show you to a table with other people.) We had breakfast on the Lido deck the other mornings, though, as it was more informal and a little more flexible. The Lido (Funnel restaurant) was always open, with buffets at mealtimes and 24-hrs, pizza and ice cream. (They also had lowfat yogurt.)

Only went to the midnight buffet once, the night they did the really fancy stuff with ice carvings, food sculpture, etc. They opened this up earlier than midnight for picture-taking only, and now I wish I'd done that too.

Other food perks included a sushi bar open every evening (sushi is free, sake they charge for) and a wine-and-cheese thing they did each night, where 2 oz tastings were $1 or you could buy a regular 6-oz glass of wine for $4.75 to $6.50. They had an assortment of cheeses that were free. They had about 7 whites and 6 reds to try, so that was interesting.

The two Broadway-style shows were very well done; can't imagine how the dancers manage to make that small stage look so big! Very good comedian too. Choreography, costumes, props, singing, all excellent.

Took a snorkeling tour in Cozumel, but was a little disappointed because we just went to the beach at Chankanaab Park and then swam out to a reef. I thought we were taking a boat to snorkel at a reef, but it was more of a water taxi I guess; could have taken a cab to Chankanaab and done the same thing, as I brought my own snorkel equipment. Also, it was very crowded; kids kept swimming on top of you, tour guide kept telling everyone to stay together. An underwater photographer was feeding the fish and taking pictures of people through the fish; wish I'd known ahead of time, as I brought only tip money along, and could not buy a $10 picture. (They put your underwater picture and a fish scene in a cardboard folder, not a bad deal at that price. I wish Carnival had arranged for those pics to go on their big picture board so you could buy them there.) But it would be an okay tour for an inexperienced snorkeler, as they furnished gear and had plenty of their people in the water with the group to help out. Several older folks tired out, and the helpers pulled them along on a floatboard most of the tour. (Hope they tipped them well for all that work!) You leave your stuff (bring a beach bag) on the beach and they cover it with a tarp, looked pretty safe but I wouldn't bring a passport or anything super valuable along. Wear sunscreen and/or a t-shirt; your back will burn easily, and the backs of your legs, when you snorkel!

Cozumel was very hot when we took a taxi into town that afternoon. The shopping was so-so; we go to Nuevo Laredo often, and have found much better bargains there. Would have liked to walk around the town more, outside the shopping district, but it was just too hot for that. Carnival really promotes certain shops in their shore talk, esp. diamonds and tanzanites, but if you're interested in those, check out places like Sam's before your trip to get an idea of prices. They had very similar stuff. I didn't buy any diamonds for political reasons, but had I been shopping for them, I think I would have passed because they weren't terrific bargains. Oh, and they constantly sell this "inch of gold" stuff (chains) on the ship and on shore; ask them exactly what's in it. You'll see "18K" on the posters, but when you really pin them down, it's 25% base metal. Caveat emptor, huh? I stuck to the lovely Mexican-made sterling silver, which is stamped 975 and closely monitored by the Mexican gov't. Plata means sterling, Alpaca means plated.


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