Another wonderful cruise!!! I am still amazed at Carnival’s ability to find some way to exceed our expectations after 20+ years of cruising with them.
This time it was the way they catered to our youngest son’s special needs. From Assistant CD Sarah’s emails to me before we left home (letting me know Funship Freddie’s schedule) to her follow up emails to us before we left home, when she realized they were going to have a Halloween party on our cruising and that costumes would be involved. Then she arranged for Funship Freddie to depart the Past Cruisers Party after he had made his rounds….so that our son could attend. They literally took Freddie out one door and brought our son in another door. But I am getting ahead of myself….
We arrived 2 days ahead to have some fun before the cruise. We were suppose to stay at the Embassy Suites - Convention Center (but it did not open on time) so they moved us to the Embassy Suites - Westshore and basically threw in a free day for our inconvenience.
The ES-Westshore was very convenient to the mall. There are plenty of places to buy liquor for those “evil” smugglers out there. There is a Walgreens within walking distance as well. The Walmart is within their free shuttle service….but we never used it. The hotel itself was “tired” in some places, but they are doing some remodeling. The staff was wonderful. The full breakfast that is included was excellent….as was the free booze at the evening managers cocktail time. They have free internet, a nice workout room, outside pool and whirlpool. It was nice to have a separate living room with a good size kitchen area that was another separate room. They picked us up from the airport for free and the cost to the pier was $22. We used the Addi taxi service twice and they were great drivers!! That is who the hotel recommends. They only charged us $20 to the Channelside area and back on Saturday from the hotel. But it is $22 from the airport to the pier.
EMBARKATION: What can I say….VIP Check In baby!!!! We arrived at around 10:30 and were immediately directed to the VIP desk where we sat down and were processed. Then we were escorted to the VIP holding area…where we sat and visited until we boarded at around 11:30am. We usually drop out carryons at the room, but the fire doors were closed with a note attached not to open until 1:30pm. The doors were unlocked and we could have gone ahead and dropped our stuff…but we elected not to. They were steam cleaning our carpets and we did not want to disturb them.
We just went up to Lido and found a comfy place to wait and eat…..and eat….and eat. Our son was thrilled to get his pizza…and I was thrilled to get my first (of many) grilled Rueben sandwich. At 3:00pm, our roll call group got together and enjoyed meeting each other. Rob was nice enough to make name tags for everyone. Just a quick “name to a face connection” really made the cruise fun, when you saw folks around the ship the rest of the cruise.
CABIN: We did wait until 1:30pm to go to our room 5291. This is an interior room that is at the very end of the hall. We love the location, but a word of warning. You are underneath a service area and you will hear some beating and banging during the day. At night, there was not a problem….and the noise during the day did not bother us…but you need to be aware.
Our cabin steward (Jose) was not the best on we have ever had…but he wasn’t bad. He was efficient, except for a couple of slip ups with getting ice and watching to make sure I had my breakfast door hangers. I told him I used them every day and that I would need more. I had to leave him another note to get some more during the cruise. He never asked us if we wanted the fridge opened. We were only going to use it to keep the water I had brought cold…but that wasn’t a big deal….so we didn’t ever ask to have it opened. We just used the ice. There was a couple of times we had to go get ice ourselves. His assistant did an excellent job on the bathroom. It literally sparkled every evening after he left. Jose made sure we had our towel animal fix every night and all our important paperwork, except the customs card on the last night. We just went to the Purser’s desk to get one. I have always tried to make sure that our cabin is very orderly when we leave, to make their job a little easier.
The cabin did seem small after having a balcony and a 5A on the last 2 cruises. But there were just the 3 of us this time, so we did ok.
FOOD: Pizza was fine. Lido was fine. Deli was great. Formal dining room was fine. The soups were good. The beef fare was good. (even my cut of the sirloin steak on the first night which is always tough and dry) The chocolate in the desserts is a little strong for my taste. The Tiramisu was wonderful. Hubby said the lobster tail was a little “off” this time, but still ok. Just a little chewy. Other seafood was great all week. (appetizers and entrees)
Our tablemates loved their lamb. Our waiter Jimmy was excellent. (as was his assistance Valery(sp?) . It was so great having a waiter with a name I could pronounce!!! My room service every morning was prompt with the coffee hot and the bagels warm. Only one morning did I get some coffee that tasted as though it had been sitting for to long. My son loved his turkey sandwiches. We did not go to the Chocolate Buffet. There is some lemon tart dessert that has a hard crystallized base that wasn’t very good.
ENTERTAINMENT: Hubby loves the shows. Some were better than others, but all were entertaining from his point of view. I am always parked at karaoke starting at 8:30pm on some nights and 9:00pm on other nights. The first hour is “family” karaoke where children are allowed to participate. After that first hour, Adam did an excellent job of holding it to adults only after the second night. On the first couple of nights, a lot of adults sang during the “family” hour…so he would pepper one or two of the kids in during the second hour…which was only fair. Then the 3rd hour was strictly adults only.
As usual the first night was very slow….so I got to sing my socks off. Adam and I had a lot of fun doing duets to close the show every night. He drinks Jack Daniels and coke for anyone who wants to show their “appreciation”. It was a very slow week for the Legends show. Adam and I literally had to beg to get the positions filled. We only had ONE “competition” and that was for Frank Sinatra. The rest of the slots were filled with us finally finding ONE person who would do the it. And then there was the “Aretha” slot that Adam decided he wanted me to do. Now folks, I can sing. But I can’t Aretha in the original key. I am a female with a low tenor voice. And especially after singing my socks off all week, by Saturday night….my voice was really in the basement.
And as we all know….Aretha is a high soprano with an edgy voice. Adam promised me that the orchestra could do the song in any key I needed. Well, be aware the songs are canned (prerecorded) and the orchestra simply fills in with some body…but it must stay in the same key. I did not find this out until rehearsal the day of the show. They use canned music so that the sound guy (Chris - who is wonderful) can feed you some leads from the floor monitors if you get lost or forget the words. The canned music also includes the background vocals that add so much to a performance.
So anyway, I asked it I could just lip sync it and they said no….since doing it in the original key was a screeching mess. So, that night I simply dropped it an octave. Which means I hit it the right notes, but it sounded more like James Brown than Aretha Franklin.
All things considered, it was a blast. The costumes were great. The whole experience of working with the dancers and professionals on board was GREAT. I would highly recommend everyone give it a shot at least once.
Tony Ray plays in the small bar area outside the Level 2 dining room. He is GREAT,
Michael in the piano bar stole my heart. Karaoke ended at 11:30 -midnight and the piano bar stayed open until 1:30am…so I would leave karaoke and go straight to the piano bar and sing some more. Michael has the passenger microphone for anyone who wants to do solos or sing harmony with him. A word of warning, if you have some special songs that you would like to perform and you don’t know the words…bring your lyrics. Some piano players have books with the lyrics in it…he does not. Since I have been doing karaoke, I have gotten lazy and forgotten many of my lyrics….getting to stinking dependent on the TV screen. (Note to self…work on that!) I did not get to listen to the guy in the casino. The chamber music trio were excellent. I heard them several times.
PORTS: Grand Cayman does have a Jimmy Buffet place now. We looked around but they had a fake shark and my special needs child doesn’t do well around those…so we headed out. We went to Kirk’s to look for hubby a Rolex or a Breitling. The prices were about what we expected. He didn’t get that fuzzy feeling…so he did not buy one. (They would not throw in a winder.) We ended up at Senor Frogs and guess what…they have karaoke all day!!!! Well, I did not have my custom disks with me and they did not have any of the songs I do…so I did not get to sing. But I will be prepared the next time we go there,.
Cozumel - We DOCKED!!! At Punta Langosta (which is right across from Carlos and Charlies). When we boarded the cruise, the sail paper said that we would be tendering at Cozumel. It was announced the night before that we would be docking. There was a little delay getting cleared to get off. Personally, I think Carnival and the “governing officials” are having a lover’s spat and Cozumel officials used this as a little “power play” to make a point. Anyway, we grabbed a taxi…$14.00 one way (up to 4 people) to Paradise Beach where I had the breakfast of champions….frozen marq and a plate of nachos. Freddie did a wonderful job keeping us happy. Our son had a ball. I relaxed.
We went back to the ship for a late lunch. Our son decided to stay in the cabin and take a nap after lunch and hubby and I walked back off the pier to the surrounding shops for awhile.
Cozumel has a shop that also sells Rolex now…so we stopped in to look again. (it is in the same shopping center as CarlosNCharlies) Their prices are exactly the same as Kirks. Basically, you are looking at a 15 % discount, PLUS an additional 5% off the retail price in the US.
Belize: We can not take excursions (for the most part) because our son tires easily. So we just tendered in and walked around the area of the dock that is INSIDE the fence. There are several bars, lots of stores and a “famous” pharmacy where you can buy anything for the right price. The drug prices are posted. It was so weird to see that.
I wandered into Diamond’s International to look around (like I always do)…. I won't clog this review with what happened at DI but if anyone wants to know...I will post it late.
I found this port fascinating. Belize is a beautiful country, full of history, with a lot to offer. However, they still have a lot of hurdles to overcome. Sadly, the poverty of the country makes the people react a little to aggressively. There are many tour operators who are working together to try to get tourist more comfortable with Belize. I talked with Gilly Young for about an hour. He runs email@example.com
… set up outside the Wet Lizard (inside the fence) for independent tours. When we go back, we will be touring with him, because he can customize a tour to fit our son’s special needs.
Costa Maya: We took our son swimming at the pool at the end of the pier and had some drinks. We walked around the shopping center for awhile.
CLUB O2: This is where I will probably start crying trying to type this. My son that is with us is 15 years old. He has a form of Autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. He has always enjoyed Camp Carnival, but hasn’t done much with them since Funship Freddie was introduced…because Freddie makes so many appearances with the kids. Since we had Freddie’s schedule, our son felt comfortable enough to do to the teen disco every night (since he knew Freddie was “in the box”) and he had a blast. The director kept an extra eye on him. He made some friends. A girl asked him to dance. There were some kids who made fun of him, but he is very self assured about his condition and has very thick skin. He really had a great time. It was the first time that he had done things like this on his own, without Mom or Dad staying with him. He really stretched his wings. He did well. It was so exciting to see him being more independent and being comfortable with it.
OVERALL: Great cruise…Great crew…great staff. Lots of fun. I would do this ship again in a heartbeat!!
All the planets were aligned for my Miracle!!!