Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thoughts on our Dream Carnival Cruise

I decided the thanks need to be at the start of this long post. WE HAD A GREAT TIME. At one point, Michael asked, "Why did we wait so long to do this?" There are a lot of reasons. We planned to do most this stuff in our 70's.  We are making plans now to do as many cruises as we can in the upcoming years.  Thank you so much to the Gherkins for buying the tickets, for the one who sent extra money for spending, the gifts in the stateroom, rides from the airport, and BreZaak and Mom and Dad, Krista and CoRielle for keeping, or entertaining,  the younger Gherkins.  This trip was a dream come true.  JaRissa noted  it was fun to see us RELAXING - that has not been our norm. There was no option BUT RELAX on the ship and it was PERFECT!!!!! Thank you, all! Thank you is so small, but it contains our heart.  This was also the first time we've been away from our kids for any length of time - together! Our oldest is 31.

We cruised for seven nights and eight days, on Carnival Freedom.  The Freedom is  110,000 tons, has 2900 passengers and 1300 crew. We went from Galveston to Cozumel, Belize and Mahogany bay and then back to Galveston. This was our first cruise. I was NERVOUS due to  my history with motion sickness. We were a bit unsure of several parts of the process. Here are some observations from our experience.

Motion Sickness - there was only one day when the seas got rough and I needed to take Dramamine. The other days I was fine with motion sickness oil from Wal-Mart or sea bands from Rite Aid. The first day the vibrating and motion bothered me. Michael observed this is what he feels all the time. That perspective helped me to cope, rather than let it grow as an irritant.

Via Google Images
Staterooms - our stateroom would seem small to some - but it was clean and comfortable. We compared it to a Japanese Hotel room - with a King Size bed. ::snort::  Some told us they take interior rooms with no windows to keep down on cost.  They spend most their time out of the room. Most seem to opt for staterooms with windows. I had seen a friend comment on how much she enjoyed a balcony stateroom. We opted for that. We are HAPPY we did. Michael thinks being able to sit outside and see the horizon helped me avoid extreme motion sickness (which is my norm). We also enjoyed being able to gaze at the waves and stars alone - having a private spot to retreat.  We did learn to CAREFULLY look at the maps when booking a balcony room. Ours was directly above the bandstand in the casino. The sound went up and in to our room. We had driving music most nights until 2300 or midnight. In the future if we are on deck 6 - we would move fore or aft or go up a few decks.  No one had mentioned this - hope the tip helps someone. CHECK THE MAP and make sure you are not above clubs and casinos!  A funny about our room - it squeaked, whistled and rattled....and we noted paper stuck in cracks here and there  along the ceiling trim, as others had evidently experienced the same. This shifting sound would be normal on a moving ship, I expect. Much like the random noises when driving in an RV.  We adapted and hardly noticed by the end of the cruise. If you are a light sleeper ear plugs for these and neighbor noises would be a good thing to pack. I didn't. ::snort::

Beautiful setting each night at the Posh Dining Room
Elegant Dinners - Michael and I have spent the past 20 years attending elegant dinners. We really weren't looking forward to dressing up and eating nice on our vacation. We didn't have to. There are plenty of food options. Some DO go all out; most settle for a dress for the gal and a dress shirt and slacks for the man. We planned to go to the elegant dinner on Michael's birthday, but that was the day I was having trouble with motion sickness.

Food Options - I'm a nutritarian/vegan. I found plenty of food options. There is ALWAYS a nice salad bar at the buffet. The Posh Dining room, however, had some GREAT vegetarian meals. I asked them to hold the cheese and did fine most nights with appetizers and entrees. One night I did make do with three or four sides as I didn't care for the spiciness of the nightly Indian Vegetarian option and the other options were full of cheese.  Michael loved the seafood and steak. The desserts were sumptuous. There is pizza, ice cream and room service available 24 hours a day.  Michael tried snails, frog legs et al. My favorite meal was the Portobello Mushrooms - I need to figure out how to make these.  The food was EXCELLENT! There are ALSO  meals you can PAY for - we didn't do those. We were busy trying to try all the free food. LOL 

Michael's Escargot

Yum, yum yum - via Google Images

Pirate Pete's Pizza - 24 hours a day - via google images

Our favorite dessert - after the 2nd night they brought Michael extra ice cream 

Guys Burgers - via google images 
 Crisply bread Portobello Mushrooms filled with spinach, butternut squash, and pepper confit (what IS that), sitting on a swirl of Parmesan cream (I skipped that on mine).
 Via Google Images - I must make this at home! 
 Lentils, basmati rice, papadam and raita. Really good, but spicy. 
Via Google Images

Service - I have NEVER received better wait staff service - and we've eaten in some fancy places. These men excel. They remember names, likes, dislikes....They serve with a smile.  Our stewards were WONDERFUL as well. Anything we thought of needing (extension cord, ice) showed up quickly with a smile.  This service was seen throughout the process from the terminal to board, guest services etc.  Personally, I enjoyed interaction with Filipinos and Indonesians again. They can SAY my name with no prompting...and the accent took me back to a happy time in life.

ALL KINDS - Well - you meet all kinds of staff from a variety of countries. Your fellow-passengers are also of all types....I enjoyed this - though I did NOT enjoy having to walk through a smoke filled casino to get to dinner each night (migraines). We are not into crass shows, gambling,  or drinking parties. It was impossible not to notice many began drinking at the pool early in the day, went ashore and drank all day at "bar tours" and stayed up until 2 a.m. drinking.  HOWEVER - it can be avoided.

Ship Activities- so there are shows and drinking. It took us a day to figure out what worked for us. When others were engaged in those activities - the decks were clear and quiet...great for visiting and star gazing. Mini-golf was a hit. The ship has a library and we each checked out books -  I read,  Best State Ever: Florida by  Dave Barry, The magnolia Story by  Chip and Joanna Gaines and Small Great Things by - Jodi Picolout? Michael read Ghost Ship by Clive Cussler. There were also some fun movies to watch at the "Dive In" under the stars. We did that once. Reading, visiting....

One more thing - we did have a couple of smokers next door. This is unfortunate, as I get migraines from smoke.  No one is supposed to smoke in their staterooms or balcony. We noted they liked to smoke on their balcony early in the a.m. and late at night.  The butts and wrappers flew over to our side, as did the smell. I'm not sure what one could do to avoid this. We did talk to guest services, as I was concerned about a fire since they had mentioned that at the safety briefing. They were concerned and their answer was for us to call them each time we smelled it. This was silly. It turned us into their policing force. They did take a day and do balcony cleanings one day...but if you tell someone when you are scheduling to be on their balcony, they won't be smoking. I'm not sure what else we could have done about this. We did as they asked and we avoided the balcony when they were out. It really wasn't hard as we are EARLY risers and were at breakfast before they were up most days....and they came in later at night most evenings.

Tips we heard from frequent cruisers to make this affordable: Note if you are a frequent cruiser - please add your tips in the comments.
  •          Book a year out and put money towards it each month
  •          Inside rooms are cheaper
  •          Watch for specials
  •          Plan your own excursions (Not 100% sold on that one)
  •          Tip your steward well the first night and you'll have amazing service the rest of the cruise     (we did)
  •          Paying pre-gratuities and bubbles up (free drinks) cuts down on unexpected costs
  • Book a group (how big?) and the organizer goes free or discounted

Day 8 - Debarking - Florida

Sunrise in Galveston, TX......some day we are coming back here and spending a day or two to explore.

Breakfast View

They made the debarking process sound smooth, orderly and painless. In reality - it was pretty painful. 😰 It may have been complicated by the man removed at port in handcuffs....We met where we were told to meet if we had an early flight - with our bags in tow. Eventually, they began debarking deck by deck...but the purser made a mistake and called two decks at once, the elevators and stairways were at a standstill, the terminal backed upped and we waited on a stair case for a LONG time. Eventually, the line began moving again. We noted they thoroughly check the checked baggage. They didn't even SCAN or look into the bags of those of us who carried our own. Odd. In the terminal, the gentlemen sent us to the wrong line. I told him we had passports - he sent us to the wrong line anyway. We weren't moving. I got out of line and asked another lady and she moved us IMMEDIATELY to a short line for those with passports....and we made our bus to the Houston airport and to our gate with time to spare!

We scored an Emergency Exit seat on our first flight. Lots of leg room - we were happy. We discovered we much prefer Delta to United as far as COMFORT and leg space. 

We arrived in Melborne, FL shortly after 11 p.m. Tim and Jill, friends and colleagues from Goodfellow AFB, met us at the airport.  Seeing them again was priceless. Their guest room is like a bed and breakfast and we enjoyed catching up. We stayed up pretty late visiting - but sometimes you have to do these things.