Wife and I finished a 7 day cruise on Carnival, our first…
This is my take on the cruise we just completed that went to Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel Mexico. It was on the Carnival Dream and left the port of New Orleans on Sunday, May 16 and returned on Sunday, May 25.
The plus side was:
1. the food was great. The one caveat is that you can eat almost 24 hours a day, and if you are wanting to avoid gaining weight sometimes that is very difficult – especially when they have 2 soft ice cream machines that are open all day long. As one comedian on board put it, if you go on a cruise mainly for the food – you could instead eat out every night of the month at Texas Roadhouse, Outback, Olive Garden and many better restaurants and travel there in a limo for less money. …. the last I saw him, he was walking the plank, ha ha! Formal nights are not that big of a deal for guys they can wear slacks and a collared shirt – no tie or coat required. Women can wear dresses or some nice slacks or pantsuit. We got a chance to eat lobster, filet mignon, prime rib, and some other great dishes. For an appetizer, I got a chance to try frog legs, and escargot. All the desserts are phenomenal and they contain about 3 gazillion calories. Their coffee on board was way above average. Our waiter told us they use Blue Mountain from Jamaica.
2. The service from the waiters and the cabin attendant was outstanding – they were such great people. We tipped them all heavily when we left.
3.We had lots of fun on board. We got to relax and spend time with friends playing cards.
4. We didn't go to a lot of shows, but we went to a couple comedy clubs and they were very enjoyable.
5. The Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize were phenomenal, I got to climb a 13 story pyramid for a spectacular view of the jungle. The history of the culture in the region was very interesting and the 2 guides were Awesome.
6. They did have some good free music by some pretty good bands on many floors. All varieties of music – pop, rock, country and western, etc.
7. You can buy liquor duty and tax-free but you're limited to 1 liter / person. After that, you pay only the tax which is only a few dollars. So if you select your top brands, you can save some money. For example I purchased 2 X 1 liters of Crown Royal for $17.50 each; I also got a liter of Grey Goose for $32. I was considering a liter of GLENFIDDICH Scotch for $45 but decided I had enough.
The negative side was :
1. Drinks and beverages were expensive. Beers ran about $6-$7 with gratuity, mixed drinks about $9 with gratuity, and cokes about $2 per can. The 15% gratuity is mandatory in most cases. I chose to drink coffee, tea, and juice or water almost the whole trip. I did have maybe 3 beers and a couple of mixed drinks. If you are heavily into soft drinks and liquor, you might consider their day passes for unlimited drinks – but they are pricey (my understanding about $50 a day which would be equivalent to about 6 drinks to break even.) Soda passes are not that expensive, but there are plenty of options and I can get enough of those at home.
2.They constantly wanted to take your picture and post a picture for you to buy later. The small shots ran $11.99 each and an 8 x 10 ran $22.99 each. You are not obligated to buy them ; if you do, they're expensive.
3. There was constant commercialization of about everything. They wanted you to book your next cruise – but it was NOT a high-pressure sale.....the picture sales, some of the activities, many are not included in your ship fare.
4. Any other activities such as bingo, trivia contests, name that tune contest, etc. cost to about $20 to participate. They said it was for these prizes but the only prize I saw in those contests were is a little plastic trophy of the replica of the ship that couldn't cost them more than $4-5 – since they probably buy them in bulk. There were some high dollar bingo games, but I do know what the entrance fee was, I did not inquire. There was also some high stakes games (Poker, Texas hold 'em, slots, etc.) in the casino but that was too rich for my blood.
5. Of course when you get off the ship and you get back on the ship there are tons of people in the marketplace is wanting to sell you something – usually you don't need. Some prices were good, but much was way overpriced and especially a stay away from the diamonds and jewelry.
6. There were crowds of people and it got annoying sometimes – you had to wait for an elevator, get to wait in line to get into the dining room, in some respects it was similar to a week long venture at Six Flags. You can avoid some of these crowds, if you plan ahead and go early. Sometimes that helps and sometimes it does not make any difference. Of course in a crowd of 3000+ people, you are going to find some very rude individuals and you will likely probably run across them sometime during the week.
7. The ship seemed to be more for the very young and middle aged people as most of people on the ship were either swimming, drinking, gambling, or eating the whole voyage.
We did have a balcony cabin and it was very nice. You can set on the balcony and watch the ocean go by. I didn't see a lot of wildlife – I did see one sea turtle and the few flying fish – but no porpoises, dolphins, or whales. Overall it was an enjoyable week, but I'm not in a hurry to do another cruise as many people were. If I do another cruise it will probably be an Alaskan cruise in summer.
In talking with many individuals on the boat who had taken multiple cruises, it became apparent that each cruise has its own personality and flavor. Some thought our cruise was excellent and others thought it just average. So the lesson here is don't judge your impression by mine. You have to go and see for yourself if it fits your personality and your expectations.
I wouldn't mind doing a river cruise in Europe--down the Loire, maybe. I have some friends who do a bike-ship combo. Every day they get off the boat and ride their bikes. They've done it in France and in Germany, and this summer will be doing it in Holland. That sounds neat.
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Ports are OK but if they're primarily marketplaces… they're boring ! Belize was the best stop for us. A friend of mine suggested Road Scholar tours. They are cruising but for the more intellectual and you spend more time learning about the places you visit and the cultures that live there. They have highly trained guides which know the areas of the tours.
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