Occupation:Air Traffic Controller
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Jubilee
Sailing Date: March 22nd, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
A great mini-vacation offering good value!
From the beginning, everything went RIGHT for us on this trip. My fiancée and I flew from Toronto to Houston, and my parents flew in from Calgary the same night. The Air Canada flights arrived within 30 minutes of one another. We found each other easily at the baggage claim, and were sipping drinks at the hotel within 45 minutes of landing. We hadn’t pre-arranged any transportation to Galveston; the people at the hotel gave us the number for a shuttle. The best piece of advice I can recommend in this review: If you need a shuttle to Galveston, call L.J. at the Houston Van Service (281-443-4430). This helpful and friendly man drove us door-to-door to and from Galveston, and included a tour of downtown Houston, the Galveston strip, and other local highlights. It was a great way to see a city we’d never visited, especially with such a knowledgeable guide. Top marks to L.J.
The terminal in Galveston is pretty well set-up. If you arrive early there are blocks of tourist shops, restaurants and bars to kill some time. Don’t bother with the porters in Hawaiian shirts; carry your own luggage the 50 feet and drop them with the Carnival employees who will help you tag them. Our bags were outside our cabin door by the time we’d boarded and eaten lunch.
The port of Galveston is a busy place for the offshore oil-rig companies. In fact, expect to see oil-platforms for the first 10 hours sailing south. Actually, it was kind of interesting. The weather was perfect our entire cruise. A little chilly in Texas, but by the morning of the first day we were in the Gulf enjoying high-20 to low-30 Celsius temperatures. Perfect for Canadians! Some evenings got a little chilly on deck, but if you found shelter from the wind, it was very pleasant. We recommend the hot-tubs just before closing at 11:00pm. Sometimes they’re full of teenagers, and one had a very loud motor; but if you time it right, it’s a perfect place to unwind and watch the goings-on of the ship.
As for the ship itself, it shows it’s age, but it’s plenty comfortable. Some of the décor looks like it would have been dated on the maiden voyage in 1986, especially the Oz Disco and the Terraces in the Grove Lounge. If you can get past the colours and art deco style, it is spacious and comfortable. We especially liked the Bourbon Street-like feel on the Promenade Deck from the Atlantis Lounge to the Terraces. The cabins were larger than expected, and well appointed. There was a mix-up and our room had 2 single beds; our steward had them converted into a very comfortable double before bedtime. The basket of free bathroom necessities was a nice touch.
We had very calm winds and seas for the entire trip, and didn’t notice any “stabilizer problems” until the last evening. It was very rough that night; some felt a little nauseous and most had trouble walking. Had the entire trip been like this we would have been unhappy; for one night it was acceptable. We did notice the engine rumble and vibrations, but they didn’t bother us at all. The vibration is worse in some places that others; bad in the Bordeaux dining room, not a problem in the cabins (M-147 and M-139). Actually, it makes it easier to fall asleep. Then again, we all like ships and the ocean; I can understand that this might have bothered someone not prepared for ocean travel. Then again, this is not a problem on other cruise lines…
The food was very good, as expected. Take as many meals as you can in the dining rooms. The buffet style in the Funnel Bar & Grill is passable for breakfast, not enjoyable for lunch or dinner… with one exception. The pizza is as good as they say; we could have eaten it every day. We had the good fortune of being seated with another family visiting from India and had wonderful fun and conversation the entire trip. Arrive at all meals 5-10 minutes late to avoid lines.
The entertainment in the Atlantis Lounge was dated and a little tacky, as expected. If you go on the cruise with a group of people you’ll have more fun on your own. If you feel obliged to attend a show, arrive late to skip the pre-show Bingo. Possibly the worst Bingo odds of all time, the cards cost $10 for ONE GAME! Don’t get suckered, even the slots offer better odds than this. 90% of the people in the theatre rolled their eyes and gritted their teeth enduring the Bingo game.
The first stop at “Calica” was interesting. I think that “Calica” must be Spanish for “ugly industrial quarry site”. Get away from the port as fast as you can, there’s lots to see within a 10 minute $6 cab ride. We made our own way to Xcaret to try to save money over the shore excursion price, but saved only $4 between the 4 of us. Whether you book the excursion or find your own way, you’ll pay the same for this one. We thought the park was terrific! There’s way to much to do to list here, go to their website to investigate. Good snorkeling in the little cove, plus you can hear the dolphins squeaking in their pens on the other side of the cove. You’re in the same water, separated by a fence. The park also offers a swim-with-dolphins package. There a lots of animal exhibits that either let you touch the wildlife or get close enough to touch. Their turtles are beautiful.
Day two in Cozumel was also terrific. We booked the Mayan Adventure by Horseback at the Buena Vista Ranch. It was fully worth the cost! There are archaeological sites all over the ranch, the horses are strong and fast (we got to trot and gallop!), and the free cerveca at the end of the day was a welcome treat. Our guides Jerry and Clinton were fun and interesting; it didn’t feel like a standard lead-the-tourists-around-by-hand-tour. It was educational and fun… highly recommended! We also found 2 hours to snorkel off Dzul Ha beach - beautiful. It’s only 5 minutes from the pier by cab.
On both days at sea, we found the deck crowded and a little loud, but acceptable. A little pre-planning got us 4 lounge chairs together overlooking the rail. Grab your own chairs off the stack and set-up early in the morning. We got lots of sun in our 4 days!
Disembarkation was interesting. We were a little annoyed that as non-US citizens we had to go through immigration at 6:45am; it took about 45 minutes to get through. Then we realized that we had the whole morning to enjoy breakfast and relax, while the rest of the passengers waited in long lines to clear customs. A nice piece of luck!
All in all, we had a wonderful vacation. Yes, the ship is old and a little tacky. You could go on for hours picking apart the water-stained carpet and occasional dirty window. Go with an open mind and a willingness to have fun and overlook the little things. If you have cruised before you are bound to compare this with other cruises you’ve taken. We thought Holland America and Royal Caribbean had nicer ships and were better trips. HOWEVER, you’ll pay peanuts for this cruise, so the value is excellent. First time cruisers will be impressed, veterans may be disappointed with some aspects. Remember, it’s a “Fun Ship”!
Questions or Comments?
Brad Carter firstname.lastname@example.org