Have Laptop, Will Travel; The 2013 Roatan, Belize, Cozumel, Good Times Experience
The journal is over 10,000 words and would probably be ripped to shreds by most English teachers. So you have been warned that bad grammar and typos are probably lurking below.
If you’d rather not waste precious time of your life reading, I have a video below which is more passive viewer friendly.
Back at home, embark Carnival Magic, Galveston, Texas
We booked this cruise back in January. My cabin mate is Mike Rathbun, completing our group is George, Phyllis, and Tiffany Sharp, along with Jimmy and Debbie Harris.
My first cruise on the Carnival Jubilee was in March of 2003 with the Sharps. That put the bug in me and I’ve never been able to shake it. There are people who cruise several times a year, this is my fifth cruise in ten years, and I feel at home on a cruise ship. Who doesn’t feel at home on vacation?
I rode down to Galveston with George, Phyllis, and Tiffany. Around 1:20 pm, we boarded the Carnival Magic in Galveston, Texas. My friend and roommate for this cruise Mike Rathbun was already on the ship waiting for us up on the Lido deck. Jimmy and Debbie Stafford, Phyllis’ brother and wife weren’t too far behind us. There are seven of us total in this group. I went to the Lido deck and met Mike, we went to the aft starboard (for you non seadogs, that’s the back of the boat, right) side of deck 11 and found some comfortable lounge chairs. A little later we were met there by Phyllis, Debbie, and Tiffany. At my recommendation we went to eat lunch in the Cucina Del Capitano, an Italian restaurant on the Carnival Magic. When I was on the Magic back in September of 2012, it became one of my favorite places to eat lunch. The food is good, and the hostess there looked like Anna Kournakova. Anna wasn’t there this time, but another gorgeous blonde from some Russian country was there to greet us. Yep, I will be eating lunch there a lot this week. I had lasagna for lunch.
After lunch, we went down to the Southern Lights dining room to see if Mike and I could be seated for dinner with the rest of our group. When Mike and I booked, we signed us up for your time dining, rather than electing early or late dinner seating. Phyllis had her group on early dining. There was no one down there to talk to, so we decided to try back later (so far Mike and I have not been able to get changed from YTD). About 3:30 pm the ship’s crew announced that it was time for the muster drill. During a muster drill, you go to your assigned muster station which is determined by what cabin you are staying in. Mike and I went to B4 which is our muster station in the Northern Lights dining room. After the muster drill, we went back to the dining room to see if they could change us so we could eat with the rest of the group. We were told to come back at 6 pm, but that’s what time our group was eating at. And we really wanted to find out beforehand instead of being told no and having to go the other end of the ship if they couldn’t make room. I made the call for us to eat at YTD for the night and see if we could get it changed on Monday.
We went to the Lido deck and checked out the Sail Away party hosted by the assistant cruise director 6’3. 6’3 is the nickname given to her, because well, she is 6’3. She’s a very attractive British lady.
After the deck party/gawking at 6’3′, we walked around the ship looking for the rest of our group. We did not find them and ended up back at our cabin to see if our bags had been delivered yet. Mine had, but Mike’s had not.
Close to 6 pm we went to dinner in the Northern Lights dining room. The meal was pretty good. I had a flat iron steak, with of course Warm Chocolate Melting Cake for dessert, the most awesome thing on this earth. Well there might be a few other things just as awesome, but it’s still pretty awesome.
After dinner we went to the Showtime Theatre for the Welcome aboard Show, hosted by our cruise director James Charlton. James is the same cruise director from my last cruise on the Carnival Magic. He has an energy that would be hard to match, a great sense of humor, thinks well on his feet, and just entertaining. I recorded my favorite part of the show (See the video at the top). Where he gives bells to four guests and taps them on the shoulder when they should ring their bell. He had them play My Girl by The Temptations.
After the show, we went to the back of the ship and found karaoke going on in the Spotlight Lounge. Jay the karaoke host, also from my last cruise recently returned to the Magic. The session for regular karaoke was about over when we arrived. I went and said hello to Jay. Even though we’re Facebook friends (the true test of friendship) I am not sure he remembered me. However, I roughly calculated that he has seen 50,000 people come through the Carnival Magic since he saw me last. Soon after the regular karaoke session was over, Superstar Live Karaoke was starting; this is where you sing karaoke with a live band. I signed up as I did this on the Conquest in 2010 and the Magic last year. While I was looking at the song selection, four rather inebriated ladies walked past, one had to be walked and braced by her friends. I’m not sure which one it was, but one grabbed by butt. It wasn’t a simple brush, she got a handful, which I have many handfuls! As you might expect, it was a very odd experience.
I was first up singing “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel. Mike went a few people later, singing “What a Wonderful World”. He did awesome! (You can see him sing in video posted at the top)
We walked around deck 5, the promenade deck and ran into our group as they were walking through the casino. We walked around the ship some more and met back up with the group in the Ocean Plaza Lounge. The entertainment staffs led by 63 were teaching a line dance class. We just observed.
We were going to relax in one of the hot tubs, but the ones that weren’t closed were pretty full of people. Since I had been up since 4:30, I was starting to fade and headed for the cabin. Mike wanted to stay up and check out the sights of the ship. I finished unpacking.
When I arrived back at the cabin a pin from Carnival welcoming back to Gold member status in the VIFP club was awaiting.
I should be able to win over all of the ladies now.
I went to sleep a little after midnight. I’m not sure what time Mike came in.
I woke up at 5 am, as my body’s clock betrays me every time. I was the winner though as I came up to deck 11 and watched the sunrise while writing this journal. See you tomorrow for the recap of today.
A day has passed since that last sentence.
Yesterday was our first sea day. What did I do? After shutting the lid on the laptop and taking it back to the cabin. I came back up to the Lido deck for breakfast. I had eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes and pancakes. Not sure that meal would have fit on the 500 calories or less menu at Ihop. After breakfast I wondered around the ship for a bit (a common theme yesterday), then made sure I had a good seat for the cruise director’s morning show. It is shown on channel 16 on all of the tv’s, but they also show it on the big screen up on the lido deck. While I was waiting for it to start at 9 am, they were showing NBC’s Today show via NBC’s Miami affiliate. Between Miami traffic reports (there was a bad accident on I-95 and traffic was shut down, hindering commuters on their way to work in the Miami area), the Today show had a cruise expert on, telling how to get the best deal on a cruise and how to make the most of your cruise.
If only I had seen this valuable information beforehand! I would have known how to have a great time on the cruise. Shortly before or after the cruise story, they had a weight loss expert. There was more ground breaking information, fat people are unhealthy, higher risk for cancer, fat jokes, and being single. I threw in the last two on my own, but they might as well just come right out and say it. Why hold back?
Being fat is akin to being a leper these days. “Stay away from the fat man; you might get high cholesterol just by looking at him.” Anyway, after all of that inspirational television, the morning show with the Cruise Director James, and the Assistant Cruise Director 6’3′ began. They are very entertaining, and work together really well. And if I haven’t mentioned already, 6,3 is really beautiful!
After the morning show was over I went back to the stateroom and met up with Mike. Then we went to the Fun Ashore talk in the Showtime Theatre. James talked about all of the ports we are going to, Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel. James even gave me a complimentary snorkel for raising my hand and when he asked who was all going snorkeling. The same snorkels they sell for 5.00 at the shore excursion desk. This cruise is paying for itself! Seriously I was grateful to get it.
After the Fun Ashore talk, the day is a bit of a blur. I went and had lunch in the Cucina Del Capitano. Then I went and looked around the shops for a bit, talked myself out of buying a new watch, and camera. It was a day full of lounging around. I was going to go to the pool, but they were all pretty packed. There are over 500 kids on this cruise, a bit surprising since school is not out yet.
They aren’t running around unhinged, but the ship definitely seems more congested than last time I was on here during the peak times.
During the day I didn’t see the Sharps, except for running into George on the Promenade Deck sometime in the afternoon. He told me Tiffany had been ailing most of the day.
I went back to the cabin around 3 pm and rested from all of the wondering. I ordered room service just because I had not ever ordered room service before. And because it had only been three hours since I had eaten. Hey I didn’t eat it all, but I had to try room service. And yes I know there are starving children around the world who would have loved the food I wasted. If you can figure out a way to get it from the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, I will pledge to send it their way.
At 5:30, we made our way to the Northern Lights dining room for the first elegant night of the cruise. Elegant attire for me was khakis and nice dress shirt, UN-tucked, it’s a new look I have been trying out for 36 years, called disheveled. All of the not so rad people are doing it.
After an awesome dinner (I even passed up Warm Chocolate Melting Cake), I took a stroll around the Lido Deck admiring God’s handiwork of a sunset. He does good work, that God guy/omnipresent being.
At 8:30 pm Mike and went to the Showtime Theatre for the Groove Line show. I think that was the name of it. My Fun Times from yesterday are 9 decks beneath me in our cabin. George, Phyllis, Debbie, and Jimmie walked right by us and I called them over. And we all sat together for the show. The show was good! I saw it the last time I was here as I am sure will be the case with all of the shows on this cruise, but for whatever reason I liked it better this time around. It wasn’t that I thought it was bad last time; it just didn’t make a big impression.
After the show I went back to the cabin and changed into cargo shorts and a t-shirt, more from my disheveled look. I do disheveled quite well!
I met up with our group on deck 5 in the Ocean Plaza Lounge, we watched the final minutes of a game the entertainment staff was running. Then karaoke with Jay started up at 11. The room was really packed and crowded, so I didn’t feel like pushing through people to go find the song list. It was entertaining just watching everyone else, and Jay’s funny antics. I’m sure people slept fine not hearing me butcher a song.
The group headed for the Vibe night club. I lasted maybe ten minutes before waving good night to Mike. I went down to the cabin, grabbed my iPod and headed up top and walked around for a bit. They were showing The Aviator on the big screen of the Lido Deck. After cleansing my musical palette for a bit with Grace Potter, I headed back down to deck 2 and called it a night/morning a little after 1.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
After sleeping in late until 6 am, made my way up to the Lido deck to catch the remainder of the sunrise and to write my review from yesterday, it’s now 7:42 am and I am closing the lid now. See you tomorrow.
Its 5:26 am, I am back at my favorite writing spot, deck 11 of the Carnival Magic. Sunrise is at 6:20 today. Why am I up so early? Today we are visiting Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras. George, Phyllis, Tifany, Debbie, Jimmy, and I are going on a Dolphin Encounter excursion, after the dolphin part we will go to Tabyana Beach. The snorkeling is supposed to be great there. Mike is going on a scuba excursion. It should be a great day!
Let’s talk about what happened yesterday. After closing the lid, I went back down to the cabin/stateroom and put the laptop up, then came back up to the Lido deck and wandered around. I ran into Tiffany who was feeling somewhat better than the day before. She tried acupuncture and said she thought it was helping. If it didn’t cost $150.00 I would go try it myself. She was meeting George, Phyllis, Jimmy and Debbie for breakfast in the Northern Lights Dining room. I tagged along and we had a really good breakfast! I had pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. Oh and since I am now a gold level cruiser with Carnival, I also had a coupon for a free drink to be used in the dining room during breakfast or lunch. Actually I received one on my last cruise, but didn’t have a chance to use it. I chose a Coke Cherry Zero. The very beautiful beverage waitress, who was from Latvia I believe, did a double take and asked if I wanted a cocktail instead. I guess there aren’t too many people passing up “free” alcohol.
After breakfast we all met up underneath the water slides. Tiffany, George, Jimmy, and I all tried out the slides. I took some video with my Canon D10 waterproof camera, but it is pretty shaky. The slide spins you around so much that I felt a little disoriented when I stood up at the bottom. I did not break the slide and I did not bust my butt, yeah for me!
We then lounged on the Serenity deck for a while. Although there was some shade, when we felt our skin starting to scorch we headed inside. I didn’t see George, Phyllis, Debbie, or Jimmy for the rest of the day.
When I returned to the cabin, Mike was excited as he just found out a spot opened up for the diving excursion in Honduras. He and I had lunch in the Cucina Del Capitano, I ate lasagna which was really good!
After lunch I went to the Lido deck for the Miss Carnival Magic Pageant. It was pretty entertaining. I didn’t stay for all of it as I wanted to make it down to Turbo Trivia with 6’3’, and then the marriage show or “The Game of Love” as they call it with James the cruise director.
Even though the show format is the same on every cruise, the couples they pick always make it funny. This time there was a couple who have been married for 57 years from San Antonio, who spoke little English, a couple from Houston who have been married for 27 years, and a newlywed couple who have been married for 3 days. The couples sat with their backs to each other. James asked each couple ten questions, and they get a point for each one they both answer correctly. The newlyweds won. I’m not sure the English challenged couple even knew what was going on, but it was all very amusing and entertaining!
Guess what I did after the show, yep more wondering around the ship! I met Tiffany at the Red Frog Pub and we chatted for a bit before agreeing to meet back up at the Liars Club show at 9 pm. She didn’t make it for that so that was the last I saw of her yesterday.
At 5:30 pm, Mike and I headed for the Northern Lights Dining room for dinner. We had to wait in line for a bit, but it moved pretty quickly. Our waitress was Ulla from Latvia. The meal was good, and she is a great waitress! We were seated next to a couple who didn’t like anything they had to eat. I bet they are bundles of fun.
After dinner, I went to The Liar’s Club hosted by Mikey Mike a very funny Brit. He also hosted the Miss Carnival Magic Pageant. The game is similar to Balderdash, three people from the entertainment staff come up and have to give definitions of some very obstinate words, and the audience is left to decide whose definition for each word is correct. I wish I had taken better notes of their names, but it was the dance captain, one of the social hosts, and one of the guys from the Sky course. All three provided very entertaining answers. It was a good time!
At 10 pm it was time for the Red Frog Pub Deck Party, since I have two left feet and no rhythm; I observed from deck 11 and took pictures and video. I stayed up for it until about 11:30. Then headed down to call it a night and get ready for today.
Now I am back here ready for another awesome day! I wish you were here.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras
Wow what a fantastic day yesterday was! Though, it did have a bit of a frantic start. After closing the lid on this journal yesterday, I walked around the open decks of 11, 12, and 13 taking pictures while the Magic pulled into Isla Roatan. I went back down to the cabin a little before 7 am to grab my gear and head for breakfast before the Dolphin Encounter, Tabiyana Beach Break excursion with the rest of our group, except for Mike who had a diving excursion.
When I arrived at the cabin, Mike told me we were locked out of our safe, which is where my money, passport/id were. He had already gone to Guest Services and they said they were sending someone. One guy came about 7:15am and did some stuff, but had to call another guy. The second guy showed up about 7:35 am. I missed breakfast, but was more worried about missing the excursion. They had told Mike to tell me to come to Guest Services and they would escort me off the ship. However, when I walked the one floor up there, there was a long line. I decided to take my chances, hoofed it down the stairs to the gangway on Deck 0. Fortunately there was not a line. I walked off the ship, took my gangway picture, and saw George, Phyllis, and Tiffany waiting for me on the pier. George and I took pictures with a beautiful pirate. This is the real reason I come on cruises, I can pay for pictures with beautiful women and tell everyone they are my girlfriend. That’s not creepy or anything, right?
Jimmy and Debbie came off the ship a few minutes later and we walked to where we were supposed to meet for the Dolphin Encounter/Tabiyana Beach Break. After being shuffled in four different directions, we finally found out spot.
A little after 8, our guide Kent led us to a bus driven by Ronald. The drive from the pier took 30 minutes and we were able to see a good bit of the island. The roads were very narrow, and windy up and down the hills of the island. Isla Roatan is very beautiful!
We arrived at Anthony’s Keys Resort and were taken in two groups via a long narrow boat to the Dolphin Encounter lagoon.
After a short introduction we were led into the lagoon with the dolphins, groups of ten or so were assigned to a dolphin and a trainer. Our dolphin’s name is Cortez; I didn’t catch the name of the trainer. I think I was too excited as we were so close, in the water with Cortez. The encounter lasted about 30 minutes, we stood in waste deep water, while the trainer told us about Cortez and had him come by a few times and let us pet Cortez. A few times some other dolphins swam right between Tiffany and I. The trainer told us to stand closer together so the other dolphins would not be confused by the break in the line. For the first 20 minutes we were asked to leave our cameras on the shore, during that time their photographer took pictures of us cradling the dolphin, and the dolphin “kissing” us. Tiffany and I paired up for the pictures with Cortez. For ten minutes or so were able to take pictures with our cameras.
Then it was over and we told Cortez goodbye. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Next time I would like to do the swim excursion where the dolphin actually pulls you through the water, but this was a great experience and I highly recommend it.
We were taken via boat back to the other side so we could purchase the pictures their photographer. For $50 a couple they weren’t a bargain, I was prepared to shell it over but George and Phyllis bought Tiffany and mine’s pictures as a birthday present for our upcoming birthdays. I really appreciated them doing that! While we were waiting to leave, Mike came by and said hi. His diving excursion was leaving from the same place.
We all loaded back onto the bus for the ride to Tabyana Beach. Again, it was a very scenic and beautiful ride getting there. Tabyana Beach is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!
We found a spot with six chairs in the shade. I was in the water less than five minutes after we put our stuff down with my mask, snorkel, and fins. I swam too far to the left of a white bouy, and a man sitting in a kayak told me to swim back as that area was for the hotel. I found it a bit insulting that a hotel could claim ownership of the ocean 30 yards from the shore, but didn’t want to end up in a Central American jail, so I complied.
Tiffany and George came out and joined me in the water. After swimming for an hour or so I went back in and had lunch at the grill there. For $8 I had a burger and fries, it wasn’t the tastiest, but I was hungry having skipped breakfast. After lunch I went back out in the water, Tiffany waived me over to where she was and I was glad she did! We saw some of the most beautiful underwater reefs and fish. It was amazing!
I stayed out there and took pictures and video until my camera battery died. When I returned to shore, Phyllis said they were ready to head back on the shuttle to Mahogany Bay where the ship was moored. I went to change and while I was changing George came in the bathroom and said the shuttle was about to leave. I could have taken a later one, but our group was already loaded up. I quickly dressed, shoved everything into my backpack and hurried over to the shuttle where Ronald was urging me to get there quick. I made it into a seat between Debbie and two other ladies. Not long after the trip back began, Ronald received a call from his boss asking if there was anyone from the Carnival Liberty on our bus. The Liberty was moored right in front of the Magic, and even though we had pulled up to the pier about the same time, they were leaving. And an English challenged Latina lady,bus raised her hand. She was oblivious, talking about how she was going to do some shopping at the pier. Everyone else on the bus was whispering about how she was going to be left. What this meant was that Ronald had to cut our drive short and take some shortcuts back to the ship, although we were able to see a good bit of the island we did not see on the way over. Even though he was taking shortcuts, we really didn’t make it back any sooner as we were stuck behind a lot of slow moving vehicles, but the ride was very roller coaster like. There were a lot of quick stops, passing vehicles where it didn’t look like there was room to pass, and a lot of near collisions with motorcyclists weaving around us. We made it back safe!
Tiffany and I walked around the shops close to the pier; I had my passport stamped by a lady from the Roatan Rotary Club. They just asked for a donation, which was for putting running water in the local schools. We sure do have it good in the US!
After walking through the shops and not finding anything I couldn’t live without, I sat and waited on Tiffany who had walked back to buy something she spotted. Once we met up again, we walked back to the ship.
Once on the ship, Mike was already back and telling me all about his diving excursion. We took the video off of his Go Pro cam and loaded it on my laptop so he has room on the memory cards for today’s dives. From the video from the Go Pro I watched of his, I will probably end up getting one of those eventually.
I took a shower and went and had a bite to eat, took some more pictures of Isla Roatan from the Lido Deck. I was a little burned and got out of the sun and went back to the cabin. Then I just lounged around until dinner time.
We went to dinner again in the Northern Lights Dining room. Our waitress was the same one from our first night, and she remembered us, and our names. I’m amazed at the memory the Carnival staff all seem to have! They see so many people, yet seem to have a personal connection with each one.
After dinner, Mike and I split up. He was going to the big magic show in the Showtime Theatre; I started fighting a sinus infection yesterday, so decided to skip it as I saw the same show on my last cruise. I went to the gift shop and bought some Day Quil. They guy at the store asked if I really wanted to pay 17.99 for it. I replied that it wasn’t like I could run down to Walgreen’s. he apologized for the price being so high. I just wanted to take something to unstop my nose! I went back to the cabin and drugged myself up, then went and watched a movie on the Lido Deck.
At 10 pm I made my way to the Spotlight Lounge to get a good seat for the Burlesque Show at 11 pm. A show with hot ladies wearing lingerie, dancing, sold! The effects of the non-drowsy Day Quil were not so non-drowsy but I fought through the fogginess and enjoyed the show. After the show, if you gave the dancers $1, they would give you a kiss. I was given two Hershey’s kisses, I ate one.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Belize City, Belize
I am actually writing this on Thursday evening. It’s about 7:30 pm as I sit once again on deck 11 of the Carnival Magic, my favorite writing spot on this ship. The night is not over, but I thought I would get a head start on today’s recap as I may sleep in past 5 am tomorrow, which means I’ll have less to catch up on tomorrow. There’s a show tonight at 10:15 in the Showtime Theatre. Mike has another diving excursion booked for tomorrow, but the rest of us don’t have any plans. We may check out a place called The Money Bar in Cozumel. I am telling you this because we don’t have a set time we have to be off the boat tomorrow, which means we will probably not be getting off at 8 am. I need to catch up with the Sharps and find out what time they want to leave the ship.
Today we were in Belize. As I write this I see the silhouette of Belize slip into the horizon against a beautiful, cloudy sunset as the Carnival Magic churns toward our last port stop tomorrow, Cozumel, Mexico.
After closing the lid this morning, I went down to the cabin and grabbed my gear for the diving excursion. I had breakfast first in the Northern Lights Dining Room, and headed to the gathering point for the shore excursions, the Showtime Theatre. The Sharps and Harris’ were already in there. Pretty close to 8 am, the beautiful 6’3’ came in and started making announcements. Our snorkeling excursion for Sergeant’s Cay was the first to be called; we all had red 28 stickers designating which group we were part of. We walked down three floors from deck 3 to deck 0 to board the boat for our excursion.
The people from the company handling the excursion, Hugh Parkey’s Belize Dive Connection, www.belizediving.com, were all very friendly, Ally was the one that came by and talked to us, asking our names and introducing herself. She told a joke about the local wine they make out of cashews. There was a joke in there somewhere about saying bless you after drinking cashew wine, it took us a few times to get it, casshhhh ewwwwww.
The boat ride to their island was about 30 minutes. It’s a private island that used to be a manatee research center. The place looked like something from a movie. You can rent cabins that are right on the water. After filling out disclaimers, and who to notify in case we were eaten by sharks, we took the same boat a few miles out to Sergeant’s Cay. I forget our guide’s name, but he was a friendly person and pointed out a lot of fish on the bottom of the ocean. The depths were 5-20 feet or so.
They made everyone take a life jacket, so I wasn’t able to free dive very well. It was an old school orange life jacket. They did give you the option of attached the strap to your wrist. I’m not so sure that was a good idea, as several times my strap became tangled by a fellow snorkeler whose mission this morning must have been to slap me in the face with her fins and get tangled in my life jacket strap. The more I tried to get away from her, the more she just kept showing up. She was with some dude, who wasn’t better than her about crowding in. No I don’t think she was trying to get close to me, I think she’s just an inexperience swimmer, who really should have been in a three foot pool somewhere looking for plastic toys. One of the few things I will brag about myself with is I am a great swimmer. These two in my estimation were not.
Let’s talk about the views below though, that was great! Before this cruise, my favorite snorkeling spot was in Freeport, Bahamas. Yesterday in Roatan, or today and Belize easily claimed the top spot. I am not sure who takes top billing, probably Belize since it was a organized diving excursion where we took a ride away from the shore to get there.
The water started getting pretty choppy; I’m not sure how long we were in the water, probably an hour or so. We then took the boat back to their island and had a chance to visit, the snack bar, restroom, gift shop, and a small museum about manatees.
We arrived back at the Carnival Magic about 11:30 am, and we decided we would quickly change clothes, and board a tender into Belize City. The tender ride took about 15 minutes from the ship to shore. The ship is too big to go all the way in, thus the need for the tenders.
It was very hot! It felt like Houston during the summer. I wore jeans as my legs somehow managed to get a burn from yesterday, so I was trying to prevent further burning. This meant I was very hot! We walked around the shops in the touristy area. One thing I am noticing as I add places been to on my list, is that most of these cruise port destinations sell the exact same items made in China, just branded with the name of the port. I was looking for something unique to buy as a memento of the trip, but didn’t see anything. I did buy a shot glass and some Fishermen’s Friend lozenges to assist with my sore throat and sinus infection I am fighting off. After spending a few hours, we boarded the tender back to the ship.
I dropped my gear in the cabin, changed clothes, and made my way to the Lido Deck for lunch. Then I went back and took a shower and cooled off in the cabin. Mike came in a little while later. He told me all about his dive trip. The company facilitating the dive was the same company that handled our snorkeling excursion.
At 4:30 I went to a talk about the shopping in Cozumel, it was mainly a plug for the same two companies selling silver and diamonds. It’s probably not two separate companies, but one. Anyway, it gave me something to kill some time with before going to dinner.
Tonight was the second “elegant night”, so once again, I put on a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. It’s basically what I wear to work. What can I say, I am just not that elegant. Although the guy standing in line behind us for the dining room was wearing flip flops, a t-shirt, and cargo shorts. Now what someone else wears to dinner doesn’t affect my dining experience in the least, but if there are rules set forth, I will follow them. I might only meet the minimum standards, but I will follow the rules. Anyway, we went and had a great dinner. Afterwards, we went back to the cabin and changed out of our elegant attire, Mike went to wash some clothes, I came up to my perch and am writing this. It’s now 8:12 pm; I will close the lid again and see you tomorrow for the rest of tonight’s review.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Well, I was pretty lame last night. After taking a stroll around the ship and looking around in the shops, I went back to the cabin close to 10 pm, and went to sleep. I was pretty tired, and figured since this cruise is unfortunately nearing completion, I needed a good night’s rest if I am to keep burning the candle at both ends.
I slept about 7 hours last night and was wide awake again at 5 am. Since I turned in early, I don’t have much more to add to last night’s adventures except a couple of stories.
My buddy Chris Sharp recently went to Cleveland, Ohio. He was up in that part of the country for work, and over a weekend, visited The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While there he picked me up a really cool t-shirt. I wore it for the first time last night.
As I was riding the glass elevators to the top, a lady came on and said “Did you hear what happened in your home town?”
I was thinking, she knows where my hometown is? I gave her the Murphy perplexed look. She started telling me about three girls who were found there that were kidnapped ten years ago. I haven’t seen much news since I’ve been onboard and frankly have been trying to avoid it in non-vacation world too. It’s not that I want to be ignorant to world events, but I guess I want to be ignorant to world events to a certain extent. Especially on vacation! So after she tells me all about this news event, in the time that a person can In her brief two floor ride on the elevator, I managed to get out a “my buddy went to Cleveland and picked this shirt up for me.” She shot me a glance like I was responsible for the holocaust. What? Friends can’t buy each other t-shirts from the places they’ve been anymore? By the way Chris Sharp, yesterday I bought you a shirt from Hugh Parkey’s Island in Belize.
Here Is the another story Mike told me. He went down to get some laundry and had exchanged pleasantries with some older ladies there. At some point in the conversation, they asked if they could take his picture. He obliged, but was confused as to why they wanted his picture. When he went back later to get his clothes one of the ladies was there again, and explained why they wanted his picture. They are part of a group of 20 plus relatives cruising together. Some of the female members of their delegation had told them they had not seen any hot guys on the ship, so the older ladies Mike met in the laundry room wanted his picture to go back and prove there is at least one hot guy on the ship.
This might surprise you, but no one has asked to take my picture. Well except for the Carnival Crew, and do I really want to buy a picture of myself? Well I did buy one with the beautiful pirate and I in Isla Roatan. I am closing the lid again for now.
After shutting the lid yesterday I took the laptop back to the cabin, Mike was up and dressed so we went and had breakfast In the Northern Lights dining room. We had a waiter named Marlon from the Philippines. More on him later, but he had a great sense of humor and was joking around with us quite a bit. On that note most of the crew from every cruise I’ve been on has had a terrific sense of humor, and this cruise is no different. Some of them are so witty that if you’re not paying attention, their jokes go right over your head. After breakfast Mike left for his excursion, Tiffany called and said they were all headed to breakfast in the Northern Lights dining room. So I headed back up there with intentions of only have something to drink. Fortunately I had eaten light for the first breakfast as I gave in and had some French toast for second breakfast. We had a really nice visit and then went up to George, Phyllis, and Tiffany’s balcony cabin on deck seven for a spectacular view of Cozumel, and of everyone getting off the ship onto the pier below us.
We decided to have an easy day, and just walk around the shops close to the pier. I went back to my room and grabbed what I needed for the day and met them on the pier.
If you need diamonds, silver, tanzanite, bamboo sheets, clothes and accessories that change color in sunlight, or tequila, the shops close to the pier fit the bill. I took a picture with a living statue. Man, I never noticed this before, but I’m really fat.
I bought a couple of pairs of socks made out of bamboo from Cariloha. They give you bamboo lei, but you have to swing your hips and say Caralooooohaaaaa. Mine made my neck itch, so I took it off and put it in the bag with my socks. Along the walk past several t-shirt shops I received several, “hey big guy, we have t-shirts in your size.” I guess they did not like my Tie Dye Aerosmith shirt? Actually a young guy working at Del Sol, loved my shirt and we started talking about live music and different bands we’ve seen. It was a nice chat. Music really does bridge gaps in language and nationalities.
By the way American Express, your card should be labeled United States of American Express as apparently that’s the only place it’s accepted. Chris and Meredith gave me an Amex gift card before the cruise, and I’m sure it will work fine back in the US, but while I am not a proponent of the cartels known as Visa and MasterCard, but at least their cards work most places.
After shopping for a few hours, we went and had beverages as Fat Tuesday. There was a wonderful view of the Carnival Magic and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. Then I picked up a few things from the Ron Jon Surf shop.
We went back through the security check point after showing our Ship card and driver license. I did not see any Mexican military armed with AK-47’s as the first two times I visited Cozumel. Maybe the drug lords needed the guns worse?
We wound through the duty free shop on the pier; I looked at a couple of Fossil watches which were the same price as in the US. I passed.
I took a bunch of pictures of the ship from the pier and of the bay. A couple stopped and asked me to take some pictures of the, I happily obliged and we chatted for a few minutes. Then we made our way back on-board, and I was back in my cabin by 2 pm.
For lunch we went to Cucina Del Capitano, I had some really good pasta. I would list what all was in it, but I chose too many things to remember. From there we all met up in George, Phyllis, and Tiffany’s cabin to trade pictures. I was able to facilitate a lot with this here laptop I am typing on. We had a great view of everyone getting back on-board. Everyone was supposed to be back on-board by 3:30, and the ship was supposed to leave at 4. There were some slow pokes holding the show up. I think we finally pulled away close to 4:30.
Since I regained my gold status by having sailed 25 nights with Carnival, I was once again invited to the Past Guests Party. They have live music, the Cruise director introduces some of the ship’s staff, and they pass out free drinks and finger foods. While waiting in line for the doors to open, I met a cute little girl who was talking to everyone. She’s probably 8 or 9. Her personality reminded me of Shirley Temple. Then I met a couple of ladies from England. They live in the US but are still British citizens. The oldest lady told me she is 88 years old. I would have guessed 70; she looks really good for her age. The conversation was friendly, so I asked her if she was in London during World War II. She told me she was and started telling me stories about how they British took down the street signs in London during the way so that when Germany came to invade they wouldn’t know what street they were on. She told me of coming out of the bomb shelters and also not knowing where she was as London tore up so bad, along with the street signs being removed. I could have talked to her for a few hours, but the doors opened for the party and our conversation was over. Maybe I will bump into her again today sometime.
James the cruise director was taking everyone’s tickets, I thanked him for a great cruise and mentioned I had sailed with him back in September. I unfortunately, couldn’t stop myself from saying “You probably don’t remember me”, of course he doesn’t remember you, idiot! He’s seen like 150,000 people since the last time he saw you. After him, the beautiful 6’3’ was handing out beads. The party had a Mardi Gras vibe, and the band was playing Dixie Land music. Miguel one of the social hosts gave me another strand of beads.
During the party, James called some couples on stage who are Diamond Level, meaning they have each sailed over 100 nights with Carnival. Except these people have sailed over 200 nights! One of the couples was up dancing on stage. I hope I am that active when I am their age! They were impressive!
After the party, I went and found Mike in the cabin. We went to dinner in the Northern Lights dining room, and were seated next to a older couple from Tulsa, their daughter, and their grandson. We talked through most of the meal about Oklahoma. It was comforting talking to people who know where I am from and the man even remembered Down Home Guitars in Sperry, my Grandad and Grandma’s music store.
Oh we had Marlon, our waiter from breakfast, as our waiter for dinner. He was cutting up with us again. I had seen him earlier in the day on the Lido deck and he asked where Mike was at. I told him he was on a diving excursion, and he said “Oh, he’s off finding Nemo.” At dinner I told him Mike was back from finding Nemo, he had a good laugh about that. You can add every convenience to a cruise ship, add in stuff you never thought would be on a ship, but if the crew were not great, people would not go on cruises. At least I wouldn’t. You hear companies always talking about how their people make the difference, then they treat their people like crap, and it filters down through the people, and the people made a difference alright, but not a good one.
This is not the case with Carnival Cruise Lines. From what I can tell, they take care of their people. I hope am right about that, but whatever the case, their crews are what keeps me coming back. I think about trying other cruise lines, but always remember the people on the Carnival crew, and even though the likelihood of seeing them again is minimal, there is a personal connection that they somehow make with most guests. Their memories are amazing. If they didn’t see you in the dining room or a spot you’re normally at on the ship, they’ll ask you where you were. People like Marlon are what make the cruises for me.
Moving along after that detour, after dinner I looked around in the gift shops and picked up a few things I didn’t need. They were having a $20 watch sale and by the looks of the crowd, one would have thought someone was passing out free money.
George is in a blackjack tournament. We went by and watched him play for a bit.
At 10 pm, there was another deck party on Lido, with a Latin theme. I decided to check it out from the ground level. More beads were passed out, Anna one of the social hosts gave me a mini Maraca. Then the dancing commenced. The deck parties are very entertaining, but I always feel so dumb going to them as I have no rhythm. In situations where people are dancing I feel like a person does in a picture when they don’t know what to do with their hands. Tiff came up and joined me for a few minutes and said she was going back down to look at the $20 watches. The crowd had thinned out. I looked but didn’t find a watch I fancied. Then we went back to the casino to see how George was doing. He was still going in the tournament.
From there we went and watched karaoke for a few minutes, then Phyllis came by and she and I went and checked out the piano bar. How do I put this without being rude or tacky? The piano bar guy does not have the best voice or even keyboard talent. I remarked to Phyllis that it was almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch. I could make a lot more comments, but I will just leave it at that. We left after a few minutes.
We went back and watched karaoke for a bit, and then Mike came walking by. He was on his way to 70’s and 80’s hour in the Vibe night club. We followed and before long our whole group was in there. The beverage waitress that served our table in the dining room a few nights this week was in the night club, also as a beverage waitress. She remembered my name, and even asked why I had not come to the night club the night before with Mike. She’s really friendly! According to the receipt from my Coke Zero last night, her name is Marayat. Hopefully we will see her again tonight!
Tiffany found a tie in the night club, I had to put it on and try it out with my new Rock and Roll hall of fame t-shirt. After hanging out for a bit there, Tiffany and I decided to go find a midnight snack on Lido. We caught the tail end of the Mexican Buffet. No I really shouldn’t have.
I went to bed close to 1 am and was up again at 5. It’s the last day of the cruise and I am trying to not think about it that much. I just want to savor the day. At 9 am, I am doing a behind the fun tour of the ship. I’ve wanted to do this for the last three cruises. So I am looking forward to it! Well, good bye for now. Lid closing in 3, 2, 1.
By the looks of this madness, you would think that either someone was handing out $100.00 bills, or that Elvis has just came aboard and was signing autographs. However, this mob is waiting to look at cheap $20 watch sets…
At 9 am I went to the Prime Steakhouse on Deck 5, the Promenade for the Behind the Fun Tour. Our guide was Alexandria or “Anya” as she asked us to call her, from Macedonia, who speaks 5 languages. She has a brilliant sense of humor, and is the assistant Human Resources Director on the Carnival Magic. There was also smiling Anadale from HR for the tour, and her name was similar to Alexandria, which is why I think Alexandria asked us to call herself Anya.
The tour group size was 16, before leaving the Prime Steakhouse, the chef there gave us an overview on cuts of meat and how they prepared the steaks. Next time I come, I want to try the steak house.
As we prepared to go down to the galley, a member of security patted us all down and ran a wand over us. I set off the wand, although all I had in my pockets was a handkerchief and a package of Fishermen’s Friend lozenges. I guess the security lady wasn’t too concerned about me being a risk, and we proceeded with the tour.
We went down to deck 3 and met one of the Chefs there. He walked us through the galley showing us the preparation areas, we witnessed how the wait staff filled the breakfast orders, one of the chefs had prepared chocolate covered strawberries for us all, and we watched the chef who does all of the ice carving, carve sculptures out of bars of soap. It was a lot to take in, and stainless steel heaven! It’s mind boggling how big of an operation that goes on in the galley!
We left the galley and went down to deck 0 and walked through the store rooms, one of the cold storage lockers, the place where they sort everything for recycling, and then to the Engine control room. We were all seated around a big conference table in the control room and met a couple of the engineers from Italy. They explained their duties and pointed out several things about the ship. They have so many screens and panels, it’s like mission control. I wish I had some pictures; I am not giving it justice by explaining it.
From there we went to one of crew dining rooms, then to Anya’s office. She talked a little about the HR process and how the crew is recruited. We were shown some pictures of what the crew cabins look like. They are bunk bed style, with a bathroom. Two crew members share a cabin.
We then went two decks below 0 and were given a tour of the laundry area by the guy in charge. There are washing machines that can handle loads up to 450 pounds, a machine that presses and folds the sheets; I think my grandma would have been pretty impressed! He also showed us where they do the dry cleaning and laundry for the crew/guests.
Then we proceeded to deck 3 and were greeted in one of the dressing rooms by Nikki a dancer from England. She explained a little of what life was like for the dancers, all of the costume changes, learning the shows, etc. You can tell by looking at a dancer that they have to work hard to stay in great shape, but they also have to be pretty smart do all they do!
After the dressing room, we went to the stage and Josh the technical director told us about the set and lighting aspects of the theatre. I was impressed! I wish we could have stuck around there longer.
Then it was on to the very front of the ship where we all had a group picture with the ship’s bell.
From there we went up to deck 8 to visit the bridge, and meet the captain.
Captain Giovanni Cutugno talked to us for about ten minutes and told us about his day to day routines and the tools he and his team use to navigate the vessel safely. I hate to be repetitive with using the word impressive, but it was impressive! We had a group picture with Captain Cutugno and then individual pictures with him.
The tour finished in the Escape Bar on deck 4. We were given Mimosas, our soap sculptures from the chef, a back pack, and hat. I thanked Anya and her assistant and then left. The tour lasted almost four hours, and I highly recommend it. Anya really made the tour very entertaining. She seems to have such a zest for life. I am glad to have met her!
After dropping my stuff off in my cabin, I went to lunch for the last time in the Cucina Del Capitano. Then met Tiffany down in the Red Frog Pub, and we hung out there for an hour or so before moving outside on deck 5. It rained most of the afternoon so most people were inside. Fortunately we had great weather for most of this cruise! Phyllis, Jimmy, Debbie, and George ended up meeting us there. We all sat and visited for a bit, plotting our next cruise.
Around 4:30 pm I went back to my cabin and started the ominous packing process. There was a platter of chocolate covered strawberries and pastries from Rich the chef, with a note thinking me for visiting on the Behind the Fun tour. I had a couple of the strawberries, they were really good!
I got dressed for dinner, and waited around for Mike. About 5:45 I went to the dining room alone figuring he must be out doing something and would eat when he was ready. About 20 minutes after I was seated I saw him come in and was sat at another table. After I ate I went and talked to him. He had been watching a movie on the Lido deck and lost track of time.
We met up after dinner in the Spotlight Lounge for Superstar Live Karaoke. I signed up to sing and ended up singing two songs, Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones, and Jailhouse Rock, by Elvis Presley. My apologies to both parties for the butchering of their music! I do like singing with a live band, and the backup singer for the sessions Gabriella or Gabi sounds fantastic, and is very beautiful! I was a little tongue tied around her! I heard her sing a few other times during the week and she has a really good voice! She is definitely not a backup singer, she’s a lead! I hope she makes it big one day if that’s what she wants.
After Superstar Live, Mike and I went to the Showtime Theatre for the Carnival Legends show. Before the show I bought a couple of Cash Craze pull tab tickets from Anna and 6’3. I won a dollar!
The Carnival Legends show is the same format as last time, a couple of guests are selected to dance with the cast, and several guests audition during karaoke on Wednesday night to portray a variety of artists like Elvis, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Cher, Shania Twain, Tina Turner, it’s very entertaining!
Although the guest who did Elvis, lip synched and looked like Burt Reynolds. I am not sure if he won the audition for Elvis by lip synching? One of the social hosts, Mikey Mike was Dianna Ross, and James Charlton was Beyonce. It was funny!
After the show we went to the Vibe Night Club, Mike left after a bit. I stuck around and ordered a Coke Zero from my favorite beverage waitress, Marayat. She gave me a high five when she saw me. When she brought my drink back she wished me a safe trip home and shook my hand. I will miss her.
I left the night club and ran into Tiffany and two of her dinner table mates, Jonathan and Chris. They were headed to the night club, and asked me to join them. I ended up just going back to the cabin as it was after midnight and I wanted to get an early start to finish writing this while I was still on the ship and it was fresh. So I turned in and went to bed.
Sunday May 12, 2013
I woke up at 5 am. Now I am sitting on the Lido Deck writing this. We’ve just pulled up to the pier in Galveston and this cruise is unfortunately over minus the disembarkation.
For the last day or so I have been fighting off the sadness that comes for me at the end of a cruise. I kept reminding myself to live in the moment while on the cruise, as everything would be there to worry about when I walk off the ship. No one may get this reference, but for me the end of a cruise feels like when I graduated from high school, reality sets in, and you’re leaving your friends behind.
While I will not get to see another sunrise or sunset at sea for a while, I have to remember that the sun rises and sets no matter where you are, and to take each day for the blessing that it is.
This has been a great cruise, with great friends, with a lot of new memories made. My cabin mate Mike, ship mates George, Phyllis, Tiffany, Jimmy, and Debbie each helped make this cruise a lot of fun. If I had to I would take a cruise by myself, but I don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable without good friends to share the memories with. Even though you’re only on the ship for 7 days, you seem to build camaraderie with your fellow passengers, and especially with the crew, I will miss this ship, and its crew. In fact I already am and I haven’t even left the ship yet. ! Is everything perfect? No, but neither am I.
Mike and I were talking and he said something that stood out to me, he remarked how the crew infects you with an excitement, even though they no doubt face difficult situations, you never know about it, because they don’t let it show. They just deliver again and again. I know I am going to end up leaving someone out, but I just want to rattle off the names I remember to illustrate how many crew members one make such a great experience. From everyone on the entertainment staff, James Charlton, 6’3 (what is her real name?), Anna, Miguel, Sergei, Mikey Mike, Craig, Jay the karaoke host, Gabi the singer, Nikki the dancer, Brett the sports director, to our room steward Wawawu (not sure on the spelling), the friendly crew in the Cucina Del Capitano, the excellent staff in the Northern lights dining room, especially Marlon, and Marayat. There was also Macarena in the Fun Shops, the folks at the guest services and shore excursions desk who were so great, the captain Giovanni Cutugno who is such a personable and friendly person, and one of my favorite people to have met, Alexandria who led us on the great Behind the Fun tour. Once again, I know I have left a lot of people out, as I know the crew is an ensemble. Carnival’s strength is not the luxuries and gadgets on the ships, it is their people. They really do make the difference. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be thinking of another cruise already.