Sunday, February 19, 2017

Norwegian Jewel Panama Canal Cruise Review

Norwegian Jewel Panama Canal Cruise Review
February 19, 2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: Norwegian Jewel
Captain: Pelle Fredriksson
Cruise Director:  Iain
Hotel Director: Claus
Ports: Miami - Cartagena - Panama Canal Transit - Puntarenas - Corinto -
Puerto Quetzal - Acapulco - Cabo San Lucas - Los Angeles (San Pedro)

This cruise is the forth of five consecutive cruises for me.  This is my 6th Norwegian cruise and first one in many years, my first time on the Norwegian Jewel, and 126th cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Sunday / Embarkation / February 19th / Day 1

Tsar's Palace Dining Room
I left the Carnival Vista my cruise home for eight days about 9:50 am and walked over two berths and around a construction area to the Norwegian Jewel dock arriving outside the Terminal about 10:15 am.  I dropped my large bag with a porter ($3 tip) and took my carry-on and backpack with me.  They opened the terminal about 10:45 and I proceeding through security and check-in was a breeze.  However there was a long hour + wait before we could board the ship.  I was an early zone and boarded about  I made it to my cabin and dropped my bags then proceeded to the Garden Cafe for the lunch buffet.  First impression with the food is very good.  I fixed two plates: one with a variety of Asian Foods from a Mongolian Grill station and the Steak from the carving station.  The Salad Bar looked good as did the Pastry area.  I’m sure that I will find my buffet favorites and other food venues during the cruise.  My cabin, located aft on deck 11, is very spacious with nice decor and wood trim.  I set up my cabin with my cruise hack items and what clothing I did have.  This being a new ship to me I reviewed the Freestyle Daily, Deck Plan, and other information carefully.  Soon my luggage was delivered so I finished cabin set up and I have ample storage, I am very pleased with the cabin.  I did my first walk about and made a call home from upper decks while I have phone service in Miami, but soon was interrupted by the announcements for Boat Drill set to begin at 4:15 pm.  I continued my tour but headed towards my muster station located in the Tsar Palace MDR on deck 6 aft.  I really like the decor of this room.  Following the drill I returned to the cabin and prepared some laundry for the ‘Press Only’ special, purchase the unlimited internet package (expensive), and reviewed the dining options.  With ‘Freestyle’  dining we do not have a set time or dining room so learning this system will be different.  I do have the UBP Unlimited Beverage Package as a bonus to the cruise fare so it will be interesting to see how that works over the next 14 days. I met friends for cocktails in the Shakers Martini Bar on deck 6, then we proceeded to Tsar’s Palace for dinner.  The beautiful room and elegant tablecloths were very refreshing compared to what I have experienced the past three cruises,  For dinner I ordered the New England Crab Cake, a Green Salad, the Prime Rib and Sliced Pork Loin entrees. For dessert I enjoyed the Pistachio Crème Brûlée and the Cherries Jubilee.  It was a great meal.  The primary entertainment tonight is the Welcome Show, but it didn’t fit into my freestyle schedule so didn’t attend…it did seem to be a bigger show than other lines.  I personally retired to the cabin soon after dinner.  As I perused the TV channels I noticed that they have both Fox News Channel and MSNBC as news options, something not seen on Carnival…a nice variety.  It was a interesting day of discovery on board the NCL Jewel.

Monday / Sea Day / February 20th / Day 2
O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill
Smooth seas overnight.  I woke at 4:00 am so did some internet work and worked on this review for a few hours before sleeping again.  I was lucky to wake about 9:00 am in time for a proper breakfast in the Tsar’s Palace MDR.  I ran into a couple I knew so we shared a table.  I ordered an Eggs Benedict breakfast exact items as yesterdays on the Vista for comparison.  The wonderful crisp tablecloths let me know that this would be a superior breakfast irregardless of the food.  I met my cabin steward Maggie this morning, she took the press-only special laundry she left last night.Time to explore the ship and I ended up out most of the day.  I dropped a form off at the Future Cruise Desk, NCL’s is a great concept, a difference is that you receive OBC for the cruise you are currently sailing then the voucher will cover any future deposit in full. So there will be NCL cruises in my future.  I then went out on boat deck to get a coke and air, but alas NCL has Pepsi so I got two Ginger Ales and sat at a table to drink one and I was going to continue to explore with the other.  I ended up enjoying my table location, the sea air, texting with the DW back home, and viewing the Carnival Splendor that has been sailing along side of us all day. So it's now mojito time. Then a Caribbean band performed and the old folks began dancing away…great people watching.  Mojito time again. A German gentleman sat with me to eat his BBQ that gave me the opportunity to get a nice plate of grilled chicken and a grilled pork chop for my lunch.  Good food and for dessert I allowed the cocktail server to pick a cocktail of his choice and he brought a Mudslide.  Nice...this UBP (unlimited beverage package) may work just fine.  So after a nice day by the pool I had a brief nap in my nice dark cabin before another walk about the ship.  I wanted to checkout O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill on deck 8, it’s a great place.  They have  a nice bar and a nice limited comfort food menu.  I had a couple of Pilsner Urquell beers and an order of Mozzarella Sticks.  Yes hot appetizers at the bar.  At 7:00 pm I went to the Stardust Theater for Showtime featuring singer Jeri Sager a former Broadway performer.  Her show featured various Broadway hits and was very entertaining.  After dinner I met friends in Fyzz a nice little show venue on deck 7 then went to dinner at Tsar’s Palace.  There was no wait at all and it was only 8:15 the normal time for late seating on most cruise lines. We may have a plan for the rest of the cruise.  Dinner was good, I ordered:  Fried Brie Wedges, Creamy Mushroom Soup, and the Yankee Pot Roast entree.  For dessert I ordered the Creme Carmel from the menu and a Mudslide from the bar.  It was a fun spontaneous day on the Norwegian Jewel.

Tuesday  /  Sea Day  /  February 21st / Day 3
NCL Jewel Pool Deck
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went up one deck to ‘The Great Outdoors’ food area where in the mornings they have breakfast items.  Very easy for me as it’s directly above my cabin.  I enjoyed a light breakfast as sat out on the aft rail and enjoyed the sun and wake of the ship.  Afterward I went down on pool deck and got a table in the shade..  I took my Tervis tumbler and started with ginger ale just as yesterday.  I was able to message the DW back at home on the iPhone and did some people watching.  All friends eventually found me so we had a good visit.  I tried to order a Hugo Spritzer a perfect poolside drink and they made a valiant attempt, but a bit short.  I was saved by Louis a bar server who had previously worked on MSC.  Woo Hoo perfect drinks for all.  I again had the BBQ from the grill.  Today it was Chicken and Sirloin Steaks with Paella and a Corn Relish.  Very Good.  The same Caribbean band performed a set but not as many dancers today.  It was another relaxing day by the pool but still deserving of a nap back in the cabin in afternoon.  Friends and I met in O’Sheehan’s at 6:00 for drinks.  I also had some tasty Chicken Wings.  About 7:10 we went down to Tsar’s Palace for dinner…seated almost strait away.  I ordered: Fried Scallops, Green Salad, Veal Bratwurst, Sliced Sirloin Steak, and Apple Pie for dessert.  I also had a Bushwacker as a dessert cocktail.  Very nice service on NCL…very pleased.  We even had time to catch the 9:00 feature show, but I retired to review my private tour for Cartagena.  It was another nice sea day on the Norwegian Jewel.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

February 11, 2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Vista
Captain: Stefano Battinelli
Cruise Director:  Matt Mitcham
Hotel Director:  Pier-Giorgio Micallef
Ports: Miami - Grand Turk - LaRomana - Bonaire - Aruba - Miami

This cruise is the third of five consecutive cruises for me.  This is my 68th Carnival cruise, my 2nd time on the Carnival Vista and 125th cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Saturday / Embarkation / February 11th / Day 1
Vista Tides Pool Lido aft - Miami - Carnival Glory
I left the Carnival Glory my cruise home for past two weeks about 9:00 am and walked over one berth to the Carnival Vista. I checked both my bags at the VIFP area then had to wait until they opened the doors at just before 10:00 am but I had a place to sit.  Once they opened it was a breeze to get through security then go upstairs to the large VIFP waiting lounge.  Since they do not issue your Sail & Sign cards that was all there was…just wait until boarding…couldn’t be easier.  They called for Diamonds to board first about 11:15 am and a dozen or so people were escorted to the doors and boarding.  I was at my cabin before 11:30 and my S&S card was in my mail box…so easy.  I dropped my bag and headed strait to the Mongolian Grill.  I was first there and they opened just for me…I was craving it for two weeks since I was sailing on Carnival, but the Carnival Glory does not have one.  I had a great bowl: a chicken/beef combo with vegetables and noodles.  I walked out onto deck 11 to take photos and noticed my friend and great Alchemist Gabriel working at the Tides Bar on Lido aft.  Good to see him right away. I debated as to purchase a Cheers package, but decided against it.  Still not that many guests on board and there was ‘no line’ Pizza available at the Pizza Station…so I had to test a slice of Pepperoni and Four-cheese. Good Pizza. I checked on a reservation for the Chef’s table in the steakhouse and think I’ll get in this week.  When I returned to my cabin my two bags had been delivered so I began cabin set up, that seems to take an hour now with magnets, plug convertors, new toilet lights, hanging clothes, and more.  I ordered the internet package and even got a laundry order ready.  BTW—the internet is much faster on the Vista than the Glory.  Soon it was time for Boat drill, my muster station is the Limelight Lounge so all can sit…makes it tolerable. I went on top deck to make some business phone calls as we pushed away and began sailing up the channel…it is impressive.  I have noticed a large number of children already on this cruise…no explanation for that. I went up to the Alchemy Bar about 7:00ish and fairly busy and probably will be this week, I was told they had a record number of pre-sales of the Cheers package. Explains the drunk lady at boat drill and another at Alchemy.  But there were some nice people as well at Alchemy. They have new hours at the Alchemy opening at 5:00 pm each day and all three: Ana, Gabe, and Teodora all have shifts at other Bars during the day. Interesting change. I have assigned 8:15 dinner in the ugly Reflections Dining room, the Maitre’D did well by assigning three Diamond guests and four Platinum guests together, he just didn’t know that one would be a very obnoxious and loud drunk lady. Shame because the waiter Jerome (from Goa) is excellent.  Not sure how I’m going to play this out, I almost left before being served, and of course was going to change to Your Time Dining today anyway as I prefer the other MDR.  But now I’m morbidly curious as to how that lady train wreak at the table works out.  For dinner I ordered: the Creme of Ripened Tomatoes (too many huge croutons), Heart of Lettuce Salad, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, Honey Glazed Pork Loin (very good), and Tiramisu for dessert.  As the lady in question and her husband walked away I overheard her say to him: “at least I didn’t pass out this time”.  Humorous now but a bit stunning at the time.  Matt’s Welcome Show was this evening, but I retired after a walk about the ship.  It was an interesting first day on the Carnival Vista.

Sunday / Fun Day at Sea / February 12th / Day 2
Tommy Drake comedian
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I woke after 8:30 and worked on this review then went down to the Horizon’s Restaurant for the Sea Day brunch.  While there I saw the Maitdre’D so I made the change to YTD.  Brunch was excellent, I ordered my ‘big’ breakfast: Tomato juice, a Fruit plate to start and three fried eggs over easy with toast, bacon, ham, & potatoes.  It was very well prepared with great service and fellow guests. I had some internet time the balance of the morning, the speed on Vista is good, there is a bug on Carnival website when making bookings that will not allow one finalize due to speed of satellite on ships…it even happens at times on the ranch (I too have satellite).  Works well on Vista.  I did a walk about on the ship and there are guests everywhere, there must be many more sailing than when I was on Vista last during the transatlantic cruise. Glad I had a big breakfast as there are very long lines for Guy’s, Blue Iguana, and the Marketplace buffet. Amazing basically standing room only on Lido pool area.  I went to the IMAX theater for an afternoon first run movie: La La Land.  A great theater and a great movie, I can see why it’s a favorite for the academy award and how cool to see a movie at sea.  This is elegant night, but I decided to have Fish & Chips from the Seafood Shack and ate on the aft Lido deck.  Very nice.  This evenings primary entertainment was America Rocks in the Liquid Lounge, but I chose to watch the Punchliner PG comedy show of Tommy Drake in the Limelight Lounge.  He was brilliantly funny.  I was well fed and entertained…it was a great sea day on the Carnival Vista.

Monday / Grand Turk / February 13th / Day 3
Beautiful beach looking towards Jack's Shack from Ship
Slight rolling seas over night and another very nice sleep.  We were already docked (7:00 am) when I awoke about 8:00 am.  I thought about several options for the day but I was just here on Thursday and we have to be back on ship by 1:30 pm so I’m going to have a stay on the ship day.  First I went up to the Lido and had a single Huevos Rancheros from the Blue Iguana, yes they are precooking the eggs on the Vista.  They do have a hot plate so I may do a custom order next time. Still good, but could be better.  I met a friend sailing on the Carnival Sunshine, now docked next to us, down on the Pier at the little Rest Tents they set up.  We actually visited for over an hour and really had a fantastic spot for observing people as they came off the ships. Really enjoyed the photographers working…it was quite a show.  When you cruise a lot anything different is Fun and so it was a Fun Visit.  I went to JiJi’s and the Mongolian Grill just after it opened at noon.  It was a great lunch.  Then walked the decks a couple of times and enjoyed the view of the beach and island. Received a notice that my excursion for tomorrow has been cancelled…not enough guests booked.  About 4:30 I had a basic Guy’s Burger, then about 6:00 headed up to Alchemy where Gabe fixed me a Cuban cocktail to set the mood for the show tonight.  I went to the Liquid Lounge at 7:00 to get better seats for the show Amor Cubano and scored a seat on the 2nd row…nice.  The show was very good…this is an excellent Playlist Production cast probably best in the fleet.  It was a Fun day on the Carnival Vista.

Tuesday  /  LaRomana, Dominican Republic  /  February 14th / Day 4
Valentine's Day Dessert
Just slightly rolling seas overnight, but I really feel very little movement from my cabin location low deck and center.  I was awake early and went to the MDR for breakfast at 8:00 a.m.. The pancakes, bacon, & ham were good.  My excursion to Santo Domingo was cancelled yesterday as it did not have enough people booked. I really didn’t see another that was really unique to the area (beaches, snorkeling, zip lines can be done most anywhere in Caribbean) and I prefer cultural sites so I just went down to the cruise pier area.  It’s located at the site of an old fort and they did have a nicely maintained clean area with a lot of craft and souvenir vendors as well as a little coffee shop and bar area.  It was suggested that this is not really a place to explore on your own and although brave and experienced I didn’t explore and returned to the ship.  A very relaxing morning for me and I went up to the Mongolian Grill again for a very nice lunch.  Then I got the homemade style ice creme in the Marketplace, usually a long line but not so with many off the ship.  The flavor today was Caribbean Passion Fruit and it was quite good.  I had a nice table on Lido deck and enjoyed the weather and views during the afternoon then had cabin time.  At 5:00 pm I attended the Diamond Cocktail Party in the Piano Bar.  An entertainer played nice cocktail music for us and I enjoyed several Cosmopolitans.  The two staff members I remembered and who remember me was Marko the Bar Manager, and Sylvia one of the bar servers.  I guess I know my priorities.  Actually I met the Food Manager and Linda the Housekeeping Manager before.  The Captain came and took a photo with everyone individually and we received the photos by the end of the party. Amazing. Three cocktail servers and two bartenders did a great job. It was a fun Diamond party...thanks Carnival Vista.  Some Diamond guests invited me to dine with them at 8:15 so I had some quality Alchemy Bar time until dinner.  Since I had enjoyed several cocktails I limited myself to a very nice Spritzer prepared by Ana.  So I’m back in the Reflections restaurant for dinner, I did visit my original table and the drunk lady was not there so the dynamics had changed since the first night.  My table tonight was nice and I ordered two of my favorite Red Beet Carpaccio, Heart of IceBerg Lettuce, the excellent Southern Fried Chicken entree and we were served a special Valentine dessert.  The primary entertainment was the Valentines edition of the Love and Marriage Show with Matt, but I had a full evening so retired to the cabin.  It was a interesting and Fun day on the Vista.

Wednesday / Bonaire / February 15th / Day 5
Chef's presentation of veal entree
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  We do not arrive in Bonaire until 1:30 pm so I slept in as long as possible.  I finally went up to the Blue Iguana about 10:15 am and they did (somewhat reluctantly) prepare me a fresh over-easy egg Huevos Rancheros.  It was great.  I then sat out on deck 11 enjoying the fresh sea air, and had time to update my review while waiting to arrive in Bonaire.  We approached the island about 1:00 for a 1:30 arrival…guests get anxious on late arrivals but we stay in port until 10:00 pm. I wanted to take a short island tour but need to be back early so I got off about 1:45.  I had a tour operator in mind, but ended up doing a mini tour ($25) through the local taxi operator as I got the front pax seat and it was ready to go.  We did the north island tour, stopping first at 1000 steps a famous dive location, then drove through the Gotomeer Lake and Flamingo Sanctuary, then a stop at Cadushy Distillery where they make liquor from cactus. We then drove through  Rincon the oldest town of the Netherlands Antilles founded in 1527 by the Spainish.  We then drove to Seru Largu the highest point of the tour at 404 feet  with a view over the south and east coasts of Bonaire with also a view of the ship.  In addition to the sites we saw Iguanas, a Sea Eagle, Flamingos, lots of cactus including cactus fences and more. We were dropped in Kralendijk and I had a nice mango gelato to hold my appetite until my special dinner tonight and the reason I wanted a short tour: I have reservations for the Chef’s Table this evening. The meeting place for dinner was in the Vista atrium at 6:25 pm, they checked our paperwork and health statements then about 6:45 we were taken through the Reflections MDR into the galley.  At a stainless steel prep area we had olives and cheese with champagne and the chef made an usual cotton candy type olive on a skewer.  He also prepared from scratch a lollypop with unusual flavors…I suspect this was to cleanse our pallets.  We were then led into a beautiful small dining room purposely built for this experience on the new Carnival Vista.  Our first course was Spring Peas & Matcha Soup, then Berkshire Pork Belly over Shrimps, then Slow Cooked Crispy Lamb.  At this point we had a Galley tour and instruction and preparation of a Chocolate Melting Cake.  We then returned to our personal dining room and served Olive Oil Poached Seabass with a Passion Fruit Caviar, Quail with Wild Mushrooms, and Veal with Crushed Green Apples. Then two desserts: Citrus Cream with Elderflower caviar and Chocolate Hazelnut.  All very interesting and professionally served.  My favorites were the Sea Bass and Citrus Cream. We exited through the galley and MDR and it was almost 10:00 pm by the time I returned to the cabin…time for sail away. It was a great day with a very unique dining experience on the Vista today.

Thursday / Aruba / February 16th / Day 6
Aruba Trolly on the High Street
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept well. I was awake much too early but updated this review and relived last nights fine dining.  I watched us sail into Aruba on the cabin TV…we have a choice of 8 ship cameras to monitor and the high resolution picture is amazing…it reminds me of a virtual balcony.  The Freewinds, the Scientology ship, is docked next to us. I went to the MDR for a proper Eggs Benedict breakfast about 8:30 and I was served straight away as most guests are getting off the ship to explore the lovely beaches of Aruba.  I left the ship about 10:00 am and did the Trolley to end of line and return to the Posh shopping area.  The new landscaping areas along the line have matured and it is much prettier than last visit.  The ‘big name (5th Ave)’ shopping venues are nice, I hope there is enough business on this small island to support them. I found a nice eatery: Gelatissimo Bistro that had a outdoor bar area, wifi, and cool breeze.  I enjoyed the wifi and frozen special mixed berry Festival cocktail then ordered an Aruba Salad with Grilled Shrimp, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm over a bed of green lettuce. I looked around the nicer shopping area and the new Renaissance Mall where I had an ‘Alchemist in the Wild’ sighting before returning to the ship.  I actually had a nice nap, first in a while, before our 4:00 pm sail away.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for a couple of nice specialty cocktails this evening then to the Horizon’s MDR for dinner.  I requested a share table and it worked flawlessly, they started a new table for me and after just a short wait two other nice couples were seated once it hit the reservation system.  A nice dinner - I ordered: Two Shrimp Cocktails, The Bing Cherry Soup (in a glass), the Tomato & Green Bean Salad (pass on that one), the Pan Seared Basa Filet, and from the local port menu the Antillean Style Grilled Chicken. For dessert I ordered the very nice Boston Creme Cake.  FLICK is the feature production show this evening, probably the most UNIQUE show in the fleet and not to be missed.  It was a fun and easy final port day on the Vista.

Friday / Fun Say at Sea / February 17th / Day 7
Rolling seas overnight, but motion really can not be felt in my cabin location and I had a nice sleep. I worked on some Cruise bookings before going to the MDR for the Sea Day brunch about 9:30 am and was seated almost strait away.  A nice Three egg breakfast.  I walked Lido deck then went to Cherry on Top for a variety of candies.  I had a very lazy morning…PJ’s and TV time most of the day…they do have on demand movies, both free and pay and the large flat screen is great.  About 4:00 pm I had two nice Guy’s burgers, one dressed and one plain, the diet cokes I had pre-ordered and delivered on first day will make it to the end, and coke does go well with the burgers.  This afternoon I did some vacation planning for Europe this summer then went to the Alchemy Bar for a nice cocktail with Annamarie.  I went to the early 7:30 production show: Studio VIP in the Liquid Lounge.  It was a great show, too bad the Liquid Lounge is the second worst theater in the fleet (small in size & a level floor obstructing viewing).  My plan was to eat at the Sea Food Shack this evening but it closed early, so it was stand in line for late pizza at 9:30 pm.  The pizza was fresh once I got it so very good.  So late dinner was pepperoni pizza, diet coke, and candy for dessert in the cabin.  It was a very easy lazy day on the Carnival Vista.

Saturday / Fun Say at Sea / February 18th / Day 8
My wonderful Alchemists: Teodora, AnnaMarie, Gabriel
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well until 9:30 am in fact on our final sea day. About 10ish I went up to the Lido Marketplace for some nice fresh fruit.  I had not been to the Havana area all cruise and that was our HQ on the Vista transatlantic cruise.  It is probably the best decorated public area on the ship. The rumors must be true about no more food, the food heaters and displays are gone.  Too bad, but it really wasn’t used that much as it was never a full breakfast nor lunch…more similar to bar snacks to go with your coffee.  I lounged in the Havana until afternoon so I could get some Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ on the Ocean Plaza.  It is only open on sea days and my last chance.  It was much better than when it first opened on the transatlantic, I had Chicken, Pork, Brisket, Slaw, Beans, & Bread.  I then went up to the Lido for the homemade style ice creme for dessert, today they had Tiramisu and Coconut Creme, good but not as good as the Passion Fruit.  At 4:00 pm I went to the Platinum/Diamond VIFP reunion party.  I had only a few cocktails and I was the senior Carnival cruiser on board with 497 days.  I had dinner in the Horizons MDR.  I ordered the Green Salad with Tomatoes, French Onion Soup, Pasta as starter, a very nice encrusted Chicken Entree, and the Prime Rib entree (sorry didn't take photo of menu so not exact names).  I skipped dessert in order to start preparing for arrival in Miami in the morning.

Sunday / Miami / February 19th / Debarkation
Fair seas overnight and I didn't slept well for first time...maybe anxious about new cruise today on unfamiliar ship.  I got up and began packing taking a break for breakfast about 8:15 in the MDR.  My final Carnival Eggs Benedict breakfast for a while.  I finished packing and left the cabin and waited on Promenade Deck until about 9:50 and just walked easily off the ship.  Once through Customs I walked two berths up to the NCL Jewel.

I had cabin 1353 a 1A interior located on deck one behind mid-elevators on starboard side. Although a low deck it was a fine location in the middle of the ship…very smooth sailing.  I appreciated the location on port days.  The cabin is has a lot of floor interior space as only one twin bed. It has a push button safe, two-section closet, no chairs, three electrical outlets on counter/dresser, USB port, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at Dresser, Hair dryer in counter/dresser, and large flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is an empty refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo. My cabin steward was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars
The Horizons Main Dining Room is much nicer than the one level Reflections Dining room.  Set dining was in the Reflections Dining room located mid ship on deck three and Your Time Dining (YTD) was in Horizons on deck 3 aft.  The Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The Lido Marketplace buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected entrees are very good. I had good table locations, nice fellow guests, and the waiters were good.  They have returned the butter knife to the American Table. The saucers for coffee cups as well as tablecloths are now gone from breakfast tables. The Mongolian Grill and Cucina del Capitano are excellent for both lunch (free) and dinner. The BBQ on deck 5 and the Seafood Shack on Lido aft are very good.  Very nice Alchemy Bar and location on the Vista. 

Crew / Other
The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious. The Carnival Hub application is wonderful, especially for checking your account balances.

Alchemy Bar and Alchemists
Chef's Table
Diamond Guest Party with Captain & Senior Officers
VIFP Party

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Carnival Glory Cruise Review


Carnival Glory Cruise Review

1/28/2017 and 2/4/2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Glory
Captain:  Carlo Aquilone
Cruise Director:  Eric R. Brouman
Ports: Miami - Grand Cayman - Isla Roatan - Belize - Cozumel -
Miami - Amber Cove - St. Thomas USVI - San Juan - Grand Turk - Miami

This cruise is the beginning of five consecutive cruises for me.  The Bloggers and a later group cruise was booked long ago, I filled in other cruises to save travel.  This will be the review for the B2B on the Carnival Glory with the John Heald Blogger cruise being the second week.  I will chronicle both cruises in this one review.   This is my 66th & 67th Carnival cruises, my 5th/6th time on the Carnival Glory, and 123rd/124th cruises overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Friday / Travel / January 27, 2017 / Day 0
Miami Beach from flight
Originally I was flying to Miami on Saturday, but American Airlines cancelled the early flight from Waco, so there was no way to get to Miami from Waco before sailing.  I now have to fly the day before…more expensive due to hotel cost…but a much easier travel day.  I didn’t want to leave the new truck at the airport for 41 days so DW dropped me at Waco Regional about 9:15 am.  Check in and security is easy at the small airport and soon our 40 minute flight was at DFW airport for the scheduled 12:30 flight to Miami.  Sometime that morning our plane went from a 767 to a 757 so new boarding vouchers and seat assignments for all…I had time and actually noticed that my boarding didn’t match the AA iPhone App so got mine strait away, no middle seat thank goodness.  We were a little late but arrived in Miami about 4:20 pm.  A zone taxi ($20) downtown and I arrived at The Langford just about 5:15.  I love the Langford, we stayed there just after they opened before our trip to Cuba.  A bit more expensive now as it’s more in line with Miami rates, but includes continental breakfast and as a returning guest they gave me two complimentary cocktail vouchers.  I went up to the Pawnbroker, the Penthouse rooftop bar where it was ‘happy hour’ and it's rather busy for an early hour.  Beautiful views of sunset over downtown Miami and this has become one of the ‘hot’ bars in Miami.  I ordered and enjoyed two of their signature cocktails until hunger overcame me.  About 7:00 pm I went across the street to the Downtown French Bistro that is rated well in guides.  It was not busy and I had a choice table.  It was happy hour on wine and beer so I ordered a Hefeweizen beer.  The menu is primarily French as is the decor.  I ordered the Petit Velouté de Potiron a small and sweet Butternut Squash Shooter as a starter and the Coquilles St. Jacques grillés sur Risotto avec Portobello & Huile de Truffes - Seared Scallops over Risotto with Portobello Mushrooms & Truffle Oil.  It was outstanding…scallops large and fried perfectly and the risotto was delicious.  It was also served with a small Arugula salad.  A wonderful meal.  After dinner I enjoyed some TV and the super fast internet (to me) then really ended up turning in early this evening.  It was a very easy and enjoyable travel day.

Saturday / Embarkation / January 28th / Day 1
Glory Sail Away from Miami 1/28
So nice to be already in Miami.  I slept very well and about 9:00 am went for the Continental breakfast included with the hotel fare.  Then I walked the two blocks to Walgreens for diet Coke and toiletries (liquids) I didn’t want to take on the plane.  I’m not going to rush to the port, i’ll let the anxious guests clog up the early boarding and I will enjoy some internet time at the hotel.  I checked out and got a Taxi ($18) to the port arriving about 11:35 am.  I thought they would have taken care of the super early Priority guests, but it was a huge mess…all backed up. Really no organization at all.  Priority guests really didn’t have any advantage over general boarding.  In fact when I finally boarded they were boarding zone three and blue cards.  They just were not processing the VIFP’s fast enough.  Once on board it went better: my cabin was ready, I met my cabin Steward Richard, and soon I was up at Lido deck enjoying a nice lunch of Salad Greens and Chicken Tenders.  It was already time for the 2:00 pm Facebook meet up so I just walked out to the Azure Bar for that meet up.  I saw a lot of cruise friends and enjoyed a couple of Pilsner Urquell’s. From Lido I sent a gag photo to Carnival Comedian Lance M that I screwed up and will now be one of my humorous cruise stories…you’ll have to ask me when you see me.  I went to safety drill about 4:00 pm and it went smoothly although I requested to sit and not actually go outside on the open deck.  Yes I took the easy way.  I returned to the cabin and Richard had placed my checked bag inside so I finished unpacking, hung clothes, and set up of the cabin.  I use hook magnets, various converter plugs, fan, and more in cabin set up.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails before dinner and met Ivana and Miro the Alchemists. They fixed me up with my traditional Quick Fix. John Heald actually popped in to say hello as well.  Hey John.  Dinner was at 8:00 and I was a little late as I assumed it was at 8:15…woops.  I knew most at my table so that will be nice for the week.  Dinner was good, I ordered:  Creme of Tomato Soup, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, and from the port menu the Fried Chicken and Tomato BLT.  After dinner I stopped by the Alchemy Bar for a Deal Closer as a nightcap.  It was an interesting and Fun first day on the Carnival Glory. 

Sunday / Fun Day at Sea / January 29th / Day 2
Platinum MDR
Just a little rocking in the seas overnight and I slept very well.  I must announce a new 'CruiseHack'--I brought a battery powered motion controlled light for the bathroom.  The kind you normally use to light toilet bowls...although I placed it on the shelves next to the large mirror.  When I went to the toilet in the night I was greeted with a very nice blue ambient light.  No need to find the light switch (which is outside in cabin) and just a  perfect amount of light.  It will be in my cruise kit along with my fan, magnets, electrical plugs, etc. from now on.  We did hit rainy weather this morning as we are off the northern coast of Cuba.  I had a light breakfast outside on lido aft and watched the rain.  Cabin time to update this blog then a walkabout the ship before lunch.  The Diamond event was a 12:15 Brunch in the Golden Restaurant located midship.  We ordered from the regular sea day brunch menu but I took advantage of the complementary cocktails.  I ordered a fruit plate, the Tomato Soup, and the 'Hey' Pork Chop.  For dessert a very nice Banana Creme Pie.  I did meet the Captain and several senior officers I had not met, and the GSM Vincent Whinset sat at my table so it was interesting getting some observations from him.  The goal for today was to have a nice brunch, cocktails, and a nice nap…I can say it was a very successful day…I slept until 7:10 pm.  I dressed for dinner and made the 8:00 pm seating on time.  Tonight I ordered the Italian Wedding Soup, the Spaghetti Carbonara as a starter, and the Slow Cooked Prime Rib entree. For dessert I had the Vanilla Crème Brûlée and a Fruit Plate.  The primary entertainment tonight is the production show Epic Rock in the Amber Palace Theater and I made time for a Spicy Chipolte Pineapple Martini from the Alchemy Bar before retiring.  The Platinum/Diamond gifts were delivered tonight...a nice boxed nightlight...won't work in bathroom as my new motion light does though.  No chocolates delivered and that may be a new policy...I'm actually fine with it...I didn't really eat more than one or two and delivery would have interrupted my great record-setting power nap.   It was a very relaxing sea day on the Carnival Glory.

Monday / Grand Cayman-Sea Day / January 30th / Day 3
My Scottish friend Griz at Q&A
Some rolling seas over night and another very nice sleep.  I had room service scheduled and delivered at 7:30 a.m. as the plan was to meet friends early and tender ashore to a private pool off Seven-Mile Beach.  Weather is beautiful, but the seas are not cooperating so Georgetown port was closed.  We sailed around to Spot’s Bay to attempt to anchor but that was a no go as well so we will have a sea day today.  The weather is lovely about 80° so it will be nice on the outer decks…a nice change from yesterdays heavy clouds. I sat out on Lido aft enjoying the sea air when I heard an announcement from John Heald, kind of rare since he not the CD, about a Q&A that he was about to do in the Amber Palace.  A nice fill-in on the unscheduled sea day as it’s actually a one hour comedy routine that John does so well.  I went and most that showed up were JH fans on board for the next sailing…and it was very entertaining.  The MDR opened for lunch since and it was not busy at all since it’s not on the original schedule…I confirmed it on the HUB App.  What a great benefit the HUB is especially when new events, entertainment, and opening times are added due to changes. For lunch I had the Penne Mediterraneo and a fabulous Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Passion Fruit Mousse for dessert.  I had a walkabout the ship and ended up sampling some Cheesecake and Pear Mousse as they closed the dessert station on Lido then sat out on Lido aft.  It began clouding up about 4:00 and they closed the retractable roof, I hope we aren’t sailing towards bad weather tomorrow.  There were Chocolate Covered Strawberries once I returned to the cabin, if they had come earlier I would not have accidentally ended up at the dessert bar earlier. Right.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs about 6:30 and Ivanna prepared a special cocktail for me with Elderflower…similar to a Jana 88…it was nice.  For dinner I ordered two Shrimp Cocktails, Leek & Potato Soup, a Pork Chop from the Grill section, and the Oven Roasted Chicken marinated in island spices (very spicy) from the Grand Cayman port menu.  No dessert.  The production show tonight in the Amber Palace theater was Getaway Island, one of my favorites.  Late this evening a very nice Fruit, Wine, & Cheese basket was delivered to the cabin, I’m not sure who it is from, but thank you Carnival, I do like an occasional snack and I like he fruit much better than chocolate.  It was an interesting sea day on the Glory.

Tuesday  /  Roatan-Bay Islands-Honduras  /  January 31st / Day 4
Red Beet Carpaccio
Just slightly rolling seas overnight.  I noticed that it was wet outside early in the morning so had a banana from my fruit basket and into bed to sleep as late as possible. The ship does crew safety drills usually about 10:00am on some port days so no sleep if they do it.  I got around and went up to Lido for some pastries before they close breakfast then sat outside on the covered pool deck aft.  At least we are docked and the majority of guests seem to have gone ashore.  A bit surprising to me.  I did hit the hot tub for a while and just relaxed on deck.  By noon it was really pouring rain and it got busier on the deck.  I went up to deck ten to Ol' Fashion BBQ for lunch.  Its a great spot where the Fish & Chips used to be located, but since they now have an updated SeaFood Shack on Lido no need for duplication.  The BBQ was good, very similar to the C-Side BBQ found on the outer decks of Dream Class ships.  I had hoped it would clear enough to walk over and drink a few Salva Vida beers with friends and I’m sure some did, but easier and dryer to stay on board this afternoon.  I had a wee nap, TV and internet time, and updated this review. Since BBQ was my breakfast (I'm sayin') about 5:00 I went for my first Guy's Burger of the cruise...great as usual.  I visited with a guest while on Lido on her first cruise...a single Mom with 4-year old son. I think she may have needed some adult conversation and good for her for choosing a cruise for her vacation, very ambitious IMHO, I wouldn't do it.  No rain but cloudy and damp for sail away from the island.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for my traditional Aperitifs about 7:00 pm choosing my special cocktail from Ivana.  Dinner tonight included one of mt favorite Carnival dishes: the Red Beet Carpaccio so I ordered several of those as well as Heart of IceBerg Lettuce, an excellent Grilled Beef Tenderloin, and the Pescado Asado Cubierto Con Tostones from the Port-of Call menu.  Primary entertainment tonight was the Love and Marriage Show with Cruise Director Eric and the Piano Bar was busy tonight.

Wednesday / Belize City Belize / February 1st / Day 5
Alchemy Team
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  We were tendered off Belize early  this morning and fortunately the weather is partly cloudy but fairly nice considering the forecast as of late last night was for heavy rain.  They proceeded as fast as possible to get guests tendered ashore while it is fair weather.  I had a lazy morning on the internet and doing a little work online.  An orange from the fruit basket is all I needed after a large wonderful meal last night.  I went up on aft deck and there is certainly more sun now and weather improved through the day...we are lucky.  I had a swim in the pool, very refreshing, and some time in the hot tub.  I got a table next to friends very aft with a great view and spent the afternoon.  BBQ from Ol' Fashion BBQ again for lunch...more crew than guests today.  I enjoyed the view and colors of the Caribbean Sea while reading and enjoying my Yeti filled with an ArnoldPalmer tea. I was going to vist with some friend on early sitting dinner so went down to the Alchemy about 5:15ish and missed them, but why waste a trip, I enjoy a nice cocktail or three.  Miro also made me a proper Sazerac that I had not had since staying at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.  Very impressed. I had a longer cocktail hour until dinner time but it’s the Alchemy Bar…very doable.  Tonight I ordered: Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Beef Lasagna (as starter), Braised Short Ribs, and the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme for dessert.  Very good.  After visiting with a Scottish couple at the bar and Griz at dinner I set up my speakers in the cabin and listened to some Celtic music this evening.  Another Fun day on the Carnival Glory.

Thursday / Cozumel Mexico / February 2nd / Day 6
Church in San Miguel
Smooth seas overnight and perfect weather…sunny but not too hot.  We docked early at the Puerto Maya Pier so I decided to have a banana from the fruit basket and get off the ship as soon as possible to beat the crowds.  It can be a mess at the Mexican inspection table and at the taxi stand.  I got off in very good shape and there were few guests on the pier.  I was probably a bit rude going around some at the inspections, but they were clueless, I had my backpack off and in my left hand for the fruit inspection and passed right through.  I think I was forgiven once the guests figured out what was going on and they did indeed have to remove their packs.  (I had given them fair warning, but when I saw the lady with the rolling cooler I knew she was going to gum up the system so I went around about three).  No line at all at taxi stand so I had my private ride to San Miguel ($8) and there by 8:30 am.  I had a very nice breakfast and great table at Las Palmas.  It was cool watching the Carnival Conquest sail by on the way to the pier while eating.  Breakfast was good: Pan Dulce, Island omelet (eggs, pineapple, ham), Bacon, Sausage, French Toast, and Leche Caliente ($10.80).  Barber shop doesn’t open until 10:00 am so I had time to go by the Church to reflect.  DW does this every cruise and I try as well.  Martin arrived and I had my haircut from my barber of 10 years.  It was now time to head to my HQ in Cozumel:  Woody’s Bar and Grill.  I had just set up my computer to enjoy the fastest internet on the island when friends arrived, then more friends.  Always fun and live music began at noon.  I always start with a Coca-Cola Light (two today), then move on to Bohemia beer and Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, & Chips.  I lost count on the beers, at least 4-5, and my total bill was $400 pesos or $20.  After friends left I did a lot of internet work…just love the speed…it’s faster than the Ranch.  Took a taxi back to Puerto Maya ($8) and the Freedom and Conquest were docked since I left this morning.  Some lines to board, but I was on ship by 4:15 for a 4:30 requested on board time. We sailed about 5:00 and I decided to do what I have done last few Cozumel nights on cruises: absolutely nothing.  No Alchemy, no MDR dinner, no shows--just relax.  I prepared some laundry, took a long hot shower, and ordered room service: Green Salad, Vegetable Plate, & Chicken Tenders ($5).  A very relaxing evening.  It was a Fun Cozumel Day.

Friday / Fun Say at Sea / February 3rd / Day 7
Fun at Alchemy
Fair seas overnight and I had a nice sleep. I went down to the MDR for the final sea day brunch about 9:00 am and was seated strait away.  I ordered the Fruit Plate and three Fried Eggs with side of bacon and ham…very good.  I enjoyed the sea air on Lido deck aft all morning until I had a late lunch of Guy’s Burgers. Yes plural…one just plain meat and bread, other with lettuce tomato onion…different tastes.  Then a trip to Cherry on Top for some candy and people watching on Promenade deck until time for the 5:00 pm Diamond and Platinum party.  It’s nice to be nice to the cocktail servers…I had no problem getting more than my share of Cosmopolitans.  Nice party, Gus was high with most days and I was 7th, but my table had 4 of the top ten. I doubt I make the top ten next cruise with Bloggers week. I had saved my complementary drink voucher until the last day to use at the Alchemy Bar and Miro had concocted a special cocktail for me…it was fruity and my with my favorite Elderflower…delicious.  Wonderful farewell party with my new and old Alchemy friends.  Feeling no pain I skipped dinner in the MDR for cabin time. Al Ernst and Tony Esposito are two of the best comedians now on board and for Bloggers following.  The production Show was Motor City.  I passed on late shows to relax...I have a lot of sailing before this current adventure ends.  It was a great final Sea Day on the Carnival Glory.

Saturday / Miami / February 4th / Beginning Bloggers Cruise / Day 8
My lunch time view of Miami
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well even through the early morning debarkation announcements.  Fortunately I’m in the same cabin for both cruises so it will be an easy transition.  Another MDR breakfast about 8:30 am same order but not as good as yesterdays…maybe because of debark?  The over-easy was hard fried. The large B2B group met at 10:00 am and we eventually made our trip down to US Customs and returned to the ship for a complementary cocktail and photo.  It was great seeing early Blogger guests arrive most I have seen & known for years.  We have a mini-Snoozemate group so close friends this week.  I went up to Lido for a light lunch then to the cabin to set up my internet plan for the week & update this blog.  I met my new cabin Steward for the week, I can for see problems as he asked if I wanted morning or evening service…I indicated both.  I have good friends sailing this week so I went up on deck and found them by the main pool at Blue Iguana.  Just a diet coke for me and some people watching.  The pool was already packed with guests as the weather is very nice.  Boat Drill was about 3:45 and I did the same just going to a sit down lounge…they really have NO way of determining if someone attends or not.  At 5:00 pm the first Bloggers function was a welcome party in the Amber Palace Main Lounge.  John introduced the comedians and some staff, very funny as usual and I enjoyed a few Stella Artois beers. I went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs, and met the new Alchemist Richard, I will miss Ivana. I enjoyed my new cocktail with friends until time for dinner that has been changed from 8:00 to 8:15.  I ordered the Creme of Tomato Soup, a Green Garden Salad, and both the Shrimp and Beef entrees with a Fruit Plate for dessert.  Tony and Al did late comedy shows and Eric’s Welcome Show was the primary event this evening.  It was an interesting transition day on the Glory.

Sunday / Fun day at Sea / February 5th / Day 9
Super Bowl in Glory's Amber Palace
Fair seas overnight and I slept well.  Beautiful weather again today.  Cabin steward did not do a turn down last night and did not leave the Fun Times…I knew it…we’ll see if it improves.  I went up to Lido for a very light breakfast eating on open deck aft and visited with new B2B friends. I watched friends in the slot tournaments then to the Golden Restaurant for the Diamond Guest Luncheon at 12:15.  I was very pleased to see the premium menu this week:  I enjoyed the Blue Crab Salad with Citrus, Mushroom Cappuccino Soup, and the Charbroiled Filet Mignon entree.  Excellent dinner and the cocktails were very nice as well.  It was a FUN luncheon.  I visited with friends in the lobby as the Bloggers Tea was going to begin in the same MDR in only half an hour.  The tea time was good...they set up a large buffet and had some tray service.  I had scones and clotted creme that were excellent.  It was now time to relax and await Super Bowl kickoff.  On lido deck the Blue Iguana, Guy's Burgers, and Red Frog Rum Bar are staying open until midnight for those watching on the big outdoor screen.  In the Amber Palace Theater they are serving Chicken wings and have bar service.  The Sports Bar and Casino on Promenade Deck also have the game.  I watched 1st half on Lido and had a late night guy's Burger...very different.  Then retired to the cabin for second half and very exciting ending.  It was a FUN Super Bowl Sea Day Sunday on the Carnival Glory.

Monday / Amber Cove, Dominican Republic  / February 6th / Day 10
Teleférico Cable Car - Longest/highest in Caribbean
Seas were fair overnight and I slept well however short due to Game and early excursion this morning.  I ordered a light room service breakfast as a wake up, but was up by 6:00 am. so reviewed my excursion and email until breakfast arrived. Soon I went out on deck to get a feel for our arrival at Amber Cove…this is actually a new port for me. This area of the Dominican Republic is where Columbus first landed in the new world and established a colony.  I was headed for deck zero about 8:00 am as I have a bit of a walk to the meeting location of my private excursion.  A good 12-15 minute walk: down the pier, through Amber Cove, past the parking, then through the gate to the excursion meet location…hope it’s worth it.  Soon the bus arrived as well as the other guests on the tour and we were on our way.  We drove  from Amber Cove the short way to the city of Puerto Plata driving down the Malecon and by the public beach of Puerto Plata. First stop was the Brugal Rum Factory, a nice modern facility.  After reviewing the history of the brand and drinking some samples, we could observe the production floor.  It was interesting.  Second stop is the Amber Museum, where we see many displays and of course Amber for sale on the way out.  We then walked to the Central Park (Town Square) where we visited the beautiful old Victorian era Church (earlier ones where destroyed), and the lovey square decorated for the Merengue Festival of Puerto Plata.  I did have photos taken with Festivale characters.  We visited a shoppe where they hand rolled cigars and gave us a sample of the local drink: Mamajuana…of course they sold souvenirs.  Next stop was the old original 16th century Fort San Filipe where we had a history presentation and we could observe the nicely restored fort.  Final stop is the Teleférico where we travel by Cable Car to the 793-meter-high mountain Pico Isabel de Torres, the highest point of Puerto Plata where there is a replica of Christ the Redeemer, the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. Guides are there to help take photos but they want you to then visit their 'table' or shoppe.  So the common thread on today's tour is that there are nice places to visit, but they WILL try to sell you something at each stop.  Was it worth it...yes once for sure, my cost was $40 including the cable car ($10), and the small bus was adequate.  We were back at the ship about 3:00 for the 4:00 sail away.  My first stop was Guy's Burgers...what an asset to have a Guy's that can feed guests quickly...especially when just return to the ship.  I went to the Alchemy Bar early and they were very busy it being Elegant Night.  I had my two SugarRays and a new Pear cocktail.  Great job Miro.  My regular cruise friends, blogger friends, and new friends all came by before dinner.  Tonight I ordered:  Mushroom Creme Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as a starter), Broiled Maine Lobster Tail, and the Slow Roasted Prime Rib.  For dessert: Vanilla Crème Brûlée and a Fruit Plate.  The production show tonight was Motor City, and of course Piano Bar music with Ben Gentry (one of the best), and the Punchliner a busy night for guests.  It was a busy day in DR and the Glory.

Tuesday / St. Thomas USVI / February 7th / Day 11
Honeymoon Beach - St John USVI
Fair seas overnight and I slept very well.  I was awake early so I went down to the MDR for a nice full breakfast about 8:00 am.  About 9:30 I was on the Lido Deck aft and met friends for (their) breakfast and Bloody Marys.  It was then that the Captain announced that we would be late arriving in St. Thomas.  We were scheduled for 11:00 am but announced that it will be 12:15 pm.  We had a noon meet time for our excursion on the pier but that was changed to the Amber Palace…a lot of confusion but all was well as we arrived in St. Thomas.  The huge NCL Escape is also in port and it’s a nice sunny day as our excursion ultimately met on the pier and we were soon off towards Red Hook. All of our mini Snoozemates group and other good friends are all on the  St. John Catamaran Sail & Snorkel With Open Bar excursion. We had a nice manageable group and were soon sailing the beautiful waters to St John island.  We anchored off Honeymoon Beach in the National Park area and most snorkeled to shore and enjoyed some beach time.  Some rode the dingy from the Cat to beach.  I hit the water and snorkeled although there wasn’t that much to see so enjoyed the sand of the beach and water.  I snorkeled back to the ship as well so good exercise today.  When everyone arrived back on board the bar was opened and they also served fruit & cheese snacks as we sailed back to St Thomas.  When we were completely under sail you could really feel the higher waves in the open sea area so knew why the Glory took longer to arrive in port this morning.  Really glad that our beach was protected from the high waves.  We were taxied back to Havensight and the ship with a little time for shopping or beer before our 6:30 back on board time.  It really gets dark by 5:30 pm now but it’s a beautiful port in the evening hours.  I was too tired to dress and go to the MDR so I had Dinner in the Lido Marketplace and it was good, I sampled the Linguini Pasta Dish, had two BBQ Pork Ribs, two Baked Potatoes, and from the carving station the Grilled Beef Tenderloin.  I asked and received a nice thick cut…it was wonderful. The feature entertainment in the theater was John Heald’s infamous Marriage Show.    The Glory might as well take advantage of him being on board with the Bloggers Group.  After dinner and sail away I did some review updates and retired after TV time.  It was a busy, beautiful, and Fun day today in St Thomas USVI.

Wednesday / San Juan / February 8th / Day 12
Luis - Patio Bar - El Convento - OSJ
Again smooth seas overnight and I slept very well although I was up very early.  I did some updating (too tired last night) and work until just after 7:00 am when I noticed that the MDR opened very early this morning.  I went down for a nice Eggs Benedict breakfast, first of the cruise, and it was once my go to breakfast.  Then it was up to enjoy the wonderful weather up on lido aft where I visited with friends until 11:30 am.  I then changed and went to meet friends and share a taxi to see my favorite cocktail server in San Juan.  Soon we were at the El Convento hotel's Patio Bar enjoying cocktails.  Luis prepared a Smoky Cherry Ginger Mojito that was extra special.  I had to have another just to assure quality.  We walked back to the ship as it's all downhill stopping at the new Walgreen's Drugs then a couple of Madalla Light beers before boarding at 3:00 pm the designated time.  No line at all.  I went straight to Guy's for a double hamburger and it was great.  Cabin time until I went to the Alchemy Bar about 7:00 pm and enjoyed a special cocktail from Miro.  The Alchemy Bar has been packed each night this week, much busier than the previous I told the bartenders it would be.  The Blogger guests do tend to enjoy themselves.  Dinner was nice, tonight I ordered: Roasted Pumpkin Soup, the Escargot, a Green Salad, the Braised Short Ribs entree, and the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme for dessert. The primary production show was Getaway Island in the Amber Palace and John Heald hosted his Cigars Under the Stars late night event on Serenity Deck.  We also have new Comedians on board for the rest of the cruise as well as Piano Bar and all the other venues busy.  It was an interesting day in Puerto Rico and on the Carnival Glory.

Thursday / Grand Turk / February 9th / Day 14
Rolling seas as we left Puerto Rico that continued through the night…I enjoy them as it rocks you to sleep. I’ve watched the sunrise the past two morning…very pretty especially with the huge thundercloud cells this morning. The MDR opens later this morning as we have a late arrival so I went up to Lido aft to visit with 'the gang' for awhile, but ended up in the MDR about 9:15 am.  Another Eggs Benedict breakfast.  I watched us sail into Grand Turk and dock about 11:00 am, the Carnival Sunshine is already docked.  Great beach port as the water is so beautiful here (Main photo at top).  At this port I prefer to get off late and return late and if you can catch a sunset on the walk on the beach returning even better.  I left the ship about 1:00 pm and headed up the beach to Jack's Shack the destination for my cruising friends for many it's the destination for a LOT of people.  Over the years it has evolved from a shanty bar to a destination bar.  The water and perfect beach are an attraction for is Topher the Jack's Shack famous beach combing dog.  The Snoozemate's had a group photo taken with Topher when he was a puppy...and now a very happy mature dog that I have enjoyed watching over the years.  Some early arrival friends had a table so I was good once I arrived to enjoyed a full afternoon of wonderful Caribbean water and Turks Head beer  (BTW-prices have doubled over the years).  A great beach day.  We returned to the ship about 5:00ish and I always feel sorry for the room stewards at this port as there must be so much sand they have to clean up in the cabins.  We sailed away about 6:00 and it was just enough daylight / sunset to enjoy it. After clean up from the sand I was in too much of a beach mood to do elegant night dinner tonight so I had a great Fish & Chips meal ($6) at the SeaFood Shack on Lido Deck.  Two large fresh fish fillets fried perfectly served with tartar sauce, slaw and fries.  Very good...just like you'd get from a fish shop on the coast of Scotland (just fancier).  Very relaxing evening doing nothing.  It was a great beach day in Grand Turk.

Friday / Fun Day at Sea / February 10th
Sea food Shack -  Lobster Rolls
Slightly rocky seas overnight and I slept long and well as we begin our final sea day of the cruise.  I went up to Lido Marketplace before 8:00 am and since no line at omelet station I got my very first omelet of the cruise...a Western and it was very good especially with the side of bacon and toast.  I ate outside and it will be a nice sun shining day.  I went to pick up my Bloggers T-shirt and had a walk about on the ship, I had not made it to any of the upper forward decks including the two level Serenity Deck for adults only. I visited with friends on the Promenade deck then took some cash off my sail account at Guest Services.  I still have some OBC I need to spend so I had lunch at the SeaFood Shack. I had Lobster Rolls ($12) and they were great although I think I prefer the fish & chips I had previously.  This afternoon I did some prep for debarkation the attended the Diamond/Platinum party at 5:00 pm.  I had a few cocktails but paced myself well even trying some lighter cocktails.  Then it was the Alchemy Bar for my final visit.  I left in the early evening, but left it in the good hands of many members of the Carnival Alchemy Fan page on Facebook.  Skipped dinner in the MDR and had packing time in the cabin.  Got most done and will finish later.  I did order two BLT's from room service...they were very good...almost let the cruise end without a great BLT.  It was a busy final sea day on the Carnival Glory.

Saturday / Debarkation / Miami / February 11th
I woke early and finished packing.  Then to MDR for an Eggs Benedict breakfast.  My goal is to be among the last off the ship since I'm just walking to the next pier to board the Vista. I ended up leaving about 9:00ish as they were begging for self assist to leave.  Those left with tags had to wait for the luggage carousals to get to their numbers.  There was no problem getting an elevator or any lines...just walked off a bit after 9:00 am.  Good bye Carnival Glory.

I had cabin 8407 a 4G interior located on deck 8 aft on starboard side for both cruises (Yea).  A nice location just down from Lido deck at aft stairways.  The cabin is a standard interior space, with twin or queen bed. It has a swipe type safe, three-section closet, no chairs, one electrical outlet on counter/dresser, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at Dresser, Hair dryer in counter/dresser, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is an empty refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo. Cabin steward Richard was very good, Bogus improved and the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

Both the Golden and Platinum Main Dining Rooms are very nice.  Set dining was in the Platinum Dining room located aft on deck three.  The Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected entrees are very good.  The MDR food on Glory is comparable with other Carnival ships.  I had good table locations, good fellow guests, and the waiters were good.  They have returned the butter knife to the American Table. The saucers for coffee cups as well as tablecloths are now gone from breakfast tables. No Mongolian Grill nor Cucina del Capitano but they have the BBQ on deck ten and the Seafood Shack on Lido aft.  Very nice Alchemy Bar and location on the Glory. 

Crew / Other
The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious. The Carnival Hub application is wonderful, especially for checking your account balances.


Sailing with Friends and Bloggers
Diamond Guest Luncheons with Captain & Senior Officers
Amber Cove / Puerto Plata Day
St. Thomas Catamaran Excursion to St. John
Grand Turk Day
Alchemy Bar
Cozumel Day
Platinum / Diamond Parties
Carnival Glory Crew members

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Carnival Breeze Cruise Reviews - December 2016

Carnival Breeze Cruise Review
12/4/2016 and 12/11/2016
Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Breeze
Captain: Vincenzo Alcaras
Cruise Director:  Leigh Xuereb
Ports: Galveston - Key West - Freeport Bahamas - Nassau Bahamas - Galveston - Montego Bay - Grand Cayman - Cozumel - Galveston

I had week two of this cruise booked for a long while but later booked the week prior since the same cabin was available … so I will be doing a B2B cruise on the Breeze.  I will chronicle both in one review.   This is my 64th & 65th Carnival cruise, the 4th/5th time on the Carnival Breeze, and 121st/122nd cruises overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Sunday / Travel /  Embarkation / December 4, 2016 / Day 1
Rainy Sail Away
I left the ranch about 7:45 am well after my usual scheduled departure time since there were flash flood warnings for my route to Houston area and I wanted to drive in daylight.  I did hit rain just before Bryan TX and it continued the rest of the way with very heavy rain between Houston and Galveston.  There was some flooding in Galveston and of course Dickens on The Strand was cancelled.  I arrived at EZ Cruise Parking in the pouring rain about 12:30 pm and was shuttled over to the ship soon afterward.  I was checked in at the VIFP priority check-in area and I boarded about 1:30 pm.  It was a smooth process considering the weather.  I wheeled my large duffle bag on board with me and went to my cabin on Main deck (deck two) and relaxed for a bit and then began unpacking.  I have a category 1A cabin on Main deck far forward.  It has a lot of floor space as it has a unusual square shape.   I did go to Lido for a lunch then returned to finish cabin set-up before muster drill.  As hoped I had a sit down location for the Safety Drill inside the Ovation Theater,  It’s cold and rainy outside glad mine is not on an open deck.  Following I did a walkabout on the ship, too bad there are not more interior public spaces designed in Carnival ships. The Liberty of the Seas docked next to us has a lot of spaces that can be used when the weather is less than perfect.  Guests seem in a good mood as they await the 4:00 pm scheduled sail away that was delayed an hour+.  I thought 4:00 pm was ambitious even with good weather and we ended up sailing just about 5:00 pm.  No sail away dancing or dolphin watching today.  They did have a unique Christmas tree lighting in the lobby area this evening.  They sang Christmas Carols and passed out Christmas goodies.  I went to the Piano Bar to get a martini aperitif before dinner, My special Cosmopolitan prepared by Michael was very good.  Dinner is at 8:15 in the Blush dining room (MDR).  I have a 10-top table in the center area as requested and the other guests seem nice.  I had an excellent view of the three chandeliers rocking along with the active seas we are experiencing.  For dinner tonight I ordered: the Creme of Tomato Soap, a Green Salad, and the Pork Tenderloin entree with Root Vegetables.  I had the Strawberry Parfait and a Fruit Plate for dessert.  They  have a Welcome Show scheduled tonight but I always pass on that and retired after a long busy day.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / December 5th / Day 2
Seuss-A-Palooza Story Time
The good and bad of my cabin location:  As mentioned I am far forward, in fact the second cabin so I am low in the ship where the bow narrows (thus my square cabin) into it’s point.  When we have high seas as we experienced last night…it is very noisy with what seems like banging and on a few occasions an explosion.  I’m visualizing the bow coming up and smashing back on the water, but I really don’t know the actual cause of the noise.  I was so tired I slept through all other than the explosive loud booms.  Hopefully we will have smoother seas soon.  I slept as late as possible and because I have the Diamond party about noon today I’m not going to do a big breakfast this morning, just some delish homemade cookies I brought along.  Fortunately the seas have gotten smoother the further south we go into the Gulf of Mexico there are even a few people in the pool early this morning. I went up to Promenade Deck and sat out on Ocean Plaza Lanai and enjoyed the sea air, most guests on port side were waiting for Fat Jimmy’s C-side BBQ to open.  I went down to the Piano Bar to the Diamond event at 12:30 pm.  It was good to see crew that I know including Hotel Manager Damir, GSM Thelma, and Beverage Manager Milan.  I knew a few Diamond guests and met several new ones.  There seemed to be about 14 fellow Diamonds in attendance.  They served very nice h’orderve & dessert trays and of course the cocktails were very good.  I did take advantage of the full hour of hospitality.  The piano bar on Breeze is unique in that it can be closed for a private party or in it’s usual open concept with areas extending into the promenade.  This is another very good option for cocktails on the Breeze until they get an Alchemy Bar on the next drydock.  I did go on a bit of a walk around decks and guests are now taking advantage of the great weather and enjoying themselves.  I did something new this afternoon: I attended the Seuss-A-Palooza Story Time in the Ovation Theater.  I got to see the new (to me) Cruise Director Leigh in action and it was an interesting event.  I don’t think there are a lot of kids on this sailing, but probably most were there.  I think most adults in the theater were waiting for the $1000 Bingo session starting afterward.  When I got back to the cabin there was the usual chocolate plate for VIFP’s delivered on Captains Cruise Elegant night.  I enjoyed a great Guy’s burger about 3:30pm, then time for a nap that was interrupted when they delivered a nice larger plate of fancy chocolate sweets.  After a few of these I really thought I would skip dinner even though it’s a proper set up tonight with table clothes.  The production show tonight was Motor City and features the Breeze dancers and singers and highlights R&B music.  There were a lot of other entertainment through the ship as well, but I have two weeks to see it all again and extended my nap into an early night.

Tuesday / Key West, USA / December 6th / Day 3
Hemmingway House in Key West
Still loud noises overnight, it may be due to both high seas and speed.  Wasn’t as bad as first night though. I woke very early since I had an early night and plenty of rest.  I had some internet time then went on a walk about.  I did see a survivor of last nights fun on Promenade deck…a guy was asleep on a banquet leaning up against a wall with a plate of 24-hour pizza and his phone at a table next to him.  Someone covered him with a pool towel…hope he had a good time.  I was at the MDR for breakfast when it opened at 8:00 am. I had a great breakfast:  tomato juice, milk, pastry, fresh fruit, three eggs over easy, bacon, ham, potatoes, and white toast.  It was perfect.  We docked about 10:00 am and I left the ship about 10:30.  I messed up on Day One…when I left the ranch I had mail to mail and cash to deposit in night depository when I reached town, but forgot to do it.  So my first stop this morning was the Post Office and second stop the Bank.  Not the local bank I intended but the bank I use for my travel accounts.  With business done my next stop was the Kermit’s Key Lime Pie location on lower Duval Street for a fix.  I am very familiar with Key West and been many times but I had never visited the Ernest Hemmingway House.  Since we toured the Hemmingway House in Cuba this summer I wanted to see his home in Key West.  They are actually very similar.  The house and gardens are beautiful.  I took my time visiting on this hot and humid day, but there are guided tours available.  Yes there are six-toed cats everywhere. Upon leaving I went across the street to the Lighthouse Court Hotel and enjoyed a Mojito ($5) and great fast internet from the pool bar.  Very relaxing.  I was then off to my favorite Key West locale: Kelly’s Caribbean Bar.  Whitten fixed me up with a Mojito and I eagerly awaited Kelly’s famous happy hour and the great Chicken Wings ($5) and draft beers ($2).  I like Kelly’s as it’s not touristy like the bars on Duval Street, but at 4:00 pm the locals and snow birds fill the place.  This is one advantage of Galveston ship time…try to arrive at 3:00 pm CST and you’ll get the full happy hour before most ship departures.  After happy hour I did head back to the Breeze.  If one knows how to cut through the local resort it’s actually only three beautiful residential blocks to the pier.  I enjoyed some rest time and clean up in the cabin…Key West was quite warm and humid. Also watched sail away from my cabin TV although I know the sunset was beautiful.  I did go by the Piano Bar for an aperitif before dinner.  The MDR was only half full which is actually typical on Key West night.  I ordered two of my favorite Carnival appetizer: the Beetroot Carpaccio, also the Minestrone Milanese, and the Beef Tenderloin entree.  Following a walkabout the ship I retired.  It was a great day in Key West.

Wednesday / Freeport Bahamas / December 7th / Day 4
2Country4Nashville in Breeze Atrium
Calm seas over night and no noises in the cabin at all.  Great sleep and I slept past arrival in Freeport.  The weather is very cloudy so I will stay aboard ship today as more than half the guests seem to be doing.  I went up to the Blue Iguana about 9:40 am and enjoyed a Huevos Rancheros with extra cheese and salsa from the salsa bar.  They no longer cook the eggs to order…they just add prepared fried eggs to your tortilla.  I like my egg easy and the heat helps melt the extra cheese.…good, but not as good.  I have a lot of work to do online today so did that until I made a pizza run while they cleaned my cabin.  I noticed the Carnival Liberty in dry dock off the aft deck.  I took a lunch break about 1:30 and there were long lines at both the Mongolian Grill and Guy’s Burgers so I did the Regional menu station from the buffet: Jerked Chicken, Caribbean Stew, Plantains, Beans & Rice, and Pork from the carving station.  I stopped to drink a coke with Mima at the Lobby Bar, one my favorite bar server especially during group parties as she takes care of her customers.   Then back to the cabin to work online for the afternoon.  I did go on deck to watch sail away and I heard a Guy's Burger calling my name.  I then stopped by the Atrium to watch the two-person act: 2Country4Nashville.  They are very entertaining, I wanted to see a full set as I had heard them on previous walkabouts on the ship. I went to the Piano Bar for an aperitif then to dinner.  Tonight I ordered the Gespacho, Oysters Rockefeller (very good), Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (good), the Veal Parmesan with Spaghetti entree and a Banana Split for dessert.  Tonight feature production show was 88 Keys in the Ovation Theater, but after a walkabout I retired to the cabin.

Thursday  /  Nassau Bahamas  /  December 8th / Day 5
Junkanoo Beach - Nassau Bahamas
Calm seas and another good nights sleep overnight.  It’s a beautiful morning so guests are debarking early this morning.  I slept in then went to the Blue Iguana again for breakfast.  I’m not able to get past the precooked eggs so I will not be coming here for breakfast again unless it’s to get salsa to take to the omelette station. I did some internet business in the cabin the rest of the morning.  For the past several years I would usually stay on board in Nassau, but I decided that since it was a beautiful day that I needed to go ashore.  About 12:30 pm I went down to deck zero and the pier and many to most of those early guests are already returning. Not busy as I reach the market area and was offered several taxi’s but refused until third one met my offer ($5) since I was only going a short way to the famous Fish Fry located just beyond Junkanoo Beach. This is an area where there is a variety of local fish restaurants or seafood shacks.  I walked about the various eateries and selected Goldies Conch House.  I was there about 1:00 pm and it was busy being lunch time, but sat at the bar in the outdoor area next to the water.  Soon it cleared of tourists (I suspect many where on an excursion) and I got very nice service.  I ordered  Kalik Gold beer, a whole red snapper, peas & rice, french fries, and salad. It was fantastic.  I took my time drinking another beer and enjoyed watching the fisherman docking.  I then realized that the entire reef was made of 1000’s of discarded Conch shells.  Goldie’s has sold a lot of Conch.  After lunch I began my walk back towards downtown Nassau coming first to Junkanoo Beach.  I enjoyed seeing the public beach with local lifeguards and taking photos of the ships.  As I reached the eastern part of the long beach I took a break and enjoyed a beer with a Romanian crew member from the Carnival Pride.  We discussed my planned trip to Romania next year.  As I reached this area of town it is being revitalized primarily with Chinese investments.  There is a new resort, condo, and retail/parking facilities nearing completion.  A new modern McDonalds has already opened just across the road from the development.  Then I reach the British Colonial Hotel that I have been known to visit over the years.  As I reach the location of the old Straw Market it is now a very lovely Town Square currently decorated for Christmas.  I will say that Nassau is improving for the better…and it needed it.  The cruise pier is next and as I’m behind the crowd getting to the ship was easy…just a lot of walking.  I relaxed and recovered in the cabin until time for dinner.  My MDR dinner was again very good, I ordered the Mixed Greens, Escargots Bourguignonne, Braised Short Ribs/Loin, and two of my now favorite Carnival dessert: Buttered Popcorn Pot De Creme.  They had a brass type jazz group at piano bar, 2Country4Nashville in the Red Frog, a full house in the casino, and the Love and Marriage show in the theater.  It was a good day in Nassau and on the Carnival Breeze.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / December 9th / Day 6
Guy's Burger from Lido Deck
Smooth seas with only a few minor bumps overnight and during the day.  I slept very well until 9:30 am then took advantage of the faster (in the morning) internet. I finally got around and went down to the Blush Dining room about 10:45 am - no line and seated strait away. I had a nice table by side windows and I could see a pod of Dolphins as we sailed near the Florida Keys.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, and the Steak & Eggs breakfast.  This morning I did a walkabout and sat on the Ocean Plaza to take in the sea air…very nice.  There were a lot of activities today: Towel Animal Theater, The Military Appreciation Gathering, Trivia, Ice Carving, Bingo, and more, but I had a Guy’s Burger for a late lunch then watched some movies in the cabin and nap.  This evening is the new (to most) production show FLICK.  The show is difficult to describe…it is the most elaborate Playlist Production to date.  The overall theme is movies with a lot of magic used as the element that ties together the various scenes.  The graphics are amazing and I’ve never seen the use of fans (8) in a production as they do in Flick.  One has to see it as it’s indescribable…in a good way.  BTW-because of the fans located foreground of the stage the best seats are probably lower balcony as the fans do block a lot of action.  I wasn’t hungry this evening so I had passed on dinner, but about 9:00 pm I got hungry and ordered two BLT’s from room service.  I try to do that ever cruise as the BLT’s are a signature item on Carnival and consistently good from ship to ship.  So an enjoyable lazy day for me on the Carnival Breeze.

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / December 10th / Day 7
VIFP Party
Higher seas overnight, but the waves are braking on opposite side of the ship so I can hear the booms, but more as a background…I had a nice sleep. I went down to the MDR for the final sea day brunch about 10:30 and was seated with very a short wait.  I ordered the Fruit Plate and the Pancakes with side of bacon and ham…very good and different for me as I rarely order pancakes on a ship.  Mid-day I sat on a lounger on Lido (70°) and enjoyed the cool air but warming sunshine and watched the St. Jude T-shirt sales and activities.  Interesting.  They also got their Gingerbread Village up today…it’s located on Deck 10 indoors.  I had some cabin time in the afternoon and filled out my customs declaration forms for tomorrow then off for a late lunch at the Deli. I had a grilled Reuben sandwich and a Tuna on white sandwich…both very good.  The Platinum/Diamond party was at 5:00pm in the Limelight Lounge, the forgotten time and day that they buried the former Farewell Party.  The party itself was very nice, I took advantage of the Tito’s Vodka & Lemonade that they do at these parties.  Leigh, the Cruise Director, did a good job and I actually won the award for senior Diamond on the cruise.  Afterwards I went to the Piano Bar and they allowed me to drink the take away Cosmopolitans I got at the party.  My memory isn't so clear for the rest of the evening, but the unused drink voucher in my pocket was gone so I must have continued the party.  I usually have good judgement in these circumstances so I skipped dinner and had a wonderful deep sleep in the cabin. 

Sunday / Galveston / December 11th / Beginning 2nd Cruise / Day 8
Carnival Breeze Atrium
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well even through the early morning debarkation announcements.  Fortunately I’m in the same cabin for both cruises.  The gangway was not available so I believe they started debark earlier than normal and it went very well.  They called my cabin about 9:30 am and asked me to come down and meet the B2B’s ASAP.  When I got to the Sapphire Dining Room there were only 300 guests remaining on board.  There were about a dozen doing a B2B and soon we went down to deck zero and walked over to customs then back on the ship…all before 10:30 am.  That’s the earliest I have seen a large ship cleared.  We got a Bellini cocktail and had a B2B group photo taken upon return.  I was hungry with no dinner nor breakfast but it was too early for any food so I set up my internet plan for the week and camped out in Lido Marketplace waiting for the Mongolian Grill to open.  They felt sorry for me and prepared me a great combo bowl for the starving guest…cooked perfectly as we had plenty of time…they did not allow boarding until 11:30.  By the time I finished guests were arriving on board.  I observed the new guests arrive and watched some NFL football this afternoon.  They began making announcements for boat drill by 3:00 pm and it started about 3:30…much too early IMHO as they close bars and food service before many guests are even on board and we didn't sail until about 5:30 pm.  My muster station was again in the was very easy.  Because of the Dallas Cowboy game on TV this evening I decided to eat early so I went to Cucina del Capitano for dinner.  I ordered: Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls, Piled High with Baby Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Served over Tomato Sauce), Parmigiana Di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana), Il Capitano’s Favorite Insalata Di Rucola (Traditional Italian Salad, Baby Arugula, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Parmesan Cheese, in a Sorrento Lemon Limoncello Dressing) and for an entree: Bistecca Alla Griglia (Italian Expression of the Classic New York Sirloin Steak, Seared and Served with Grilled Tomato, Pearl Onions, Garlic Confit, Fried Thyme and Parsley)  For dessert: Crosata Di Mele Coppetta (Slow-Baked Italian Apple Tart Topped with Hazelnut Streusel). It was an excellent meal and well worth the up charge ($15+).  The Welcome Show was of course tonight, but I had Football and relaxing time scheduled in the cabin this evening.  It was an easy and enjoyable turn around day on the Carnival Breeze.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / December 12th / Day 9
Carnival Breeze Piano Bar 88
Some rocking & rolling overnight with the accompanying bangs and booms until about dawn when the sea was as smooth as glass and all was quiet.  I went to the Blush MDR  and enjoyed the Seaday Brunch.  I ordered the Eggs Benedict with side of potatoes and bacon.  At 11:00 am the Diamond Party was held in the Limelight Lounge…I had a Bellini and Milan recommended a Champagne with Elderflower that I immediately tried as I like Elderflower a lot (read about our Jana 88 cocktails on previous Breeze cruise) and it was very good, although still a bit early in the morning for a buzz though.  It was a nice party and good to see the officers I know and new ones I met.  I did some business online this morning then went to Lido for a Guy’s Burger.  I didn’t succumb to the nice condiment bar this time and and ate it plain and dry.  You really get the flavor of the burger that way.  Excellent.  Michael the solo entertainer that I didn’t meet until the Saturday party last week was performing on Lido so I found a lounger and enjoyed his music…he has a lot of talent.  I enjoyed listening.  I tried to make Tea time today, but I was making some last minute trades at the market close (3:00 pm for both) and missed it.  Only two more opportunities so I’ll try again.  The Captain announced that we will be headed full speed towards Cozumel for a Medical emergency although we will be keeping the same itinerary. I'd really like to hop off and rejoin the ship on Friday, but was informed it will be a tender transfer so no docking.  This is the Captain’s elegant night and dinner, I saw the officers in the Atrium, they clean up very nicely.  I went to the Piano Bar for my aperitif with Michael.  I’m actually assigned to the ‘singles’ table this week something I try to avoid, but the tables I prefer were taken by a large group (Gamblers!) so I thought I’d give it try, I know it’s a nice ten-top table on deck four.  What is amusing is that during my cocktail a nice young lady sits beside me and orders a whisky…she’s a bit nervous as she has broken her shoes…Michael and I assure her she can make it just fine without even on elegant night, I ask her her table number and bingo same table.  Neither of us attended on previous night so we neither knew what to expect…turns out we were the only ones at the table.  The Maitre’D came by to check on me, thanks, all is well although I doubt I return to that table until the next ‘tablecloth’ night. It was a very nice dinner, I ordered:  Italian Wedding Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter), two entrees: a Prime Rib of Beef and the Maine Lobster Tail.  Dessert was a Creme Brulee and a Fruit Plate.    It was excellent.  Tonights feature show was Motor City in the theater, but I retired.  It was an easy and Fun day on the Carnival Breeze.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / December 13th / Day 10
Great dinner at Cucina del Capitano
Seas were fair overnight but the noise of the thrusters woke me when we made the medical transfer at first light early this morning. Slept until 9:00ish and went upstairs to the Blue Iguana.  The maitre’d’s told me I would be pleased and yes they installed a hotplate and pan for frying fresh eggs.  They still had the prepared eggs, but if one was in the know they could order (with just a little wait) fresh eggs.  I ordered two fried eggs over-easy (cooked perfectly) on my single Huevos Ranchero tortilla, added cheese that melted on my hot eggs and salsa and voila the best breakfast at sea.  Thanks for listening Carnival Breeze Food department, I appreciate it.  After breakfast I had more internet and cabin time…I am doing a bit of work these cruises, but what a good place to do it.  I did get the better internet package this week ($119), it really seems to be the same speed, but I can access my Dropbox and more accounts online.  I went to Lido pool deck and had another basic and very good Guy’s Burger for lunch then a walk about the ship.  It was quite breezy forward as I visited my secret deck from previous cruise…sunny and breezy on the Breeze.  I went back to Cucina del Capitano ($15+) for dinner this evening.  The staff welcomed me back and treated me very well.  I ordered:  Minestroni (Vegetable Soup with Beans and Rustic Spices, Served with Mascarpone Cream and Drizzled with Pesto Sauce), Nonna’s Meatballs (Grandma’s Recipe) -(Hand made with Olive Oil Sautéed Garlic and Onion, Baked with Fresh Mozzarella, Served over the Captain’s Tomato Sauce), Insalata Caesar-Our Signature Caesar Salad (Crispy Hearts of Romaine Tossed in Traditional Dressing, Served with Anchovy Fillet, Freshly Made Croutons and Shaved Parmesan Cheese), and for an entree: Piatto Della Nonna (Nonna’s Dish) (Inspired by the grandmother to Carnival Breeze Captain Vincenzo Alcaras and a legendary chef in her own right. A Penne Pasta Dish that is a combination of Crispy Shrimp and Prosciutto Tossed in a Vodka Creme Sauce made with San Mario Tomatoes).  For dessert: Magic Tiramisu (The Cake That Is Italy, Layered in a Glass with Mascarpone Cream, Served over Lady Fingers Soaked in Espresso Liqueur, Grand Marnier and Kahlua, Finished with Chocolate Ruffles).  OMG another great meal.  I ate as much as I could.  88 Keys was the production show in the theater tonight, but after such a wonderful meal I retired after a short walkabout on the ship.  It was a great day with great food today on the Carnival Breeze

Wednesday / Montego Bay Jamaica / December 14th / Day 11
Great Lido Dinner
Fair seas overnight and I slept very well as we arrived in Montego Bay.  The MSC Opera is also in port and it’s a nice sunny day. I took my time to allow many guests to debark then went up to Lido deck for another great breakfast at the BIue Iguana…same fresh egg Huevos Ranchero as yesterday.  Also same routine in cabin until lunch time, but I changed into swim wear before heading to Lido for an excellent Mongolian Grill. After lunch then spent the rest of afternoon on pool deck.  Most guests are off the ship so a nice day until they started returning and pool area gets busier…still much better than a sea day.  It was a nice day outdoors, but unusual that by sail away at 5:00 pm it was completely dark.  Ships time is an hour earlier and we are far east but odd experience.  I had Dinner in the Lido Marketplace and it was good, I sampled the Linguini Pasta Dish, had two BBQ Pork Ribs, Baked Potato, and from the carving station the Grilled Beef Tenderloin.  I asked and received a nice thick cut…it was wonderful. The feature show in the theater was ‘Two Men Without Assistance’ a magic show that friends have told me was very good.  I did an after dark walkabout on the upper decks to enjoy the lights.  Guests were enjoying the Movie and popcorn on Lido, some still in the pools, and others enjoying a lovely evening.  I sat and enjoyed the stars and sea breeze until cabin time.  It was a beautiful and fun day today in Jamaica.

Thursday / Grand Cayman / December 15th / Day 12
Blue Iguana Cantina
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. It’s a beautiful day in Grand Cayman.  I again went to Lido deck for breakfast at the Blue Iguana, I again had them add guacamole to the huevos rancheros tortilla with two fresh fried huevos on top, then from the Salsa bar I add Cheese and Pico de Gallo.  A great breakfast.  I did a walkabout the ship and there were more guests than I thought there would be on board, I understand staying on in Jamaica, I guess the hassle of the tender gets many to stay on board.  It was the same on my previous cruise to Grand Cayman perhaps one third+ of guests staying on board ship. The Breeze is a nice ship with a lot of features so it is a destination in itself.  Cabin time so I didn’t go to lunch until about 1:00 and had a few Fried Fish & Chicken Tenders (also served on Embark day) from the Lido Marketplace. I visited with a friend and we went to the aft pool deck and had a few Pilsner Urquell beers, my favorite.  I also saw a Pepperoni Pizza with my name on it.  Ended up staying until we sailed away from the Caymans.  At least it was still daylight, but the sun was setting.  This evening I went to the Piano Bar for aperitifs and visited with Michael the bartender and Antony the server.  It’s the second elegant night so tablecloths in the MDR.  Dinner was good one of the better menus, I ordered: the Pasta E Fagioli soup, the White Stuffed Mushrooms, Fusilli Mushroom Creme Pasta (as starter), Dual of Filet Mignon  & Short Rib entree, and Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  All excellent.  After dinner I stopped by the Red Frog Pub where Michael was playing tonight…In the theater was the newish production show FLICK, a very popular and unique show that should not be missed.  It was a Fun day on the Carnival Breeze.

Friday / Cozumel Mexico / December 16th / Day 13
Breeze & Dream at Puerto Maya
Smooth seas overnight and perfect weather…sunny but not too hot.  We are docked at the Puerto Maya Pier along with the Carnival Dream out of New Orleans and the Liberty of the Seas & Allure of the Seas are at the International pier.  I had a room service breakfast, first of the cruise to start the day.  About 10:30 am I went down to deck zero and yes the Mexican officials are checking bags for food items so please don't take any will get caught by the dogs and it delays all of us getting out and about.  Soon I was on my way to San Miguel ($8 taxi). I first went to Antonio’s Barber Shop and had my usual haircut from Martin. He has been my regular barber for nine+ years now.  Afterward I went to Woody’s Bar & Grill to use the internet and drink a diet coke.  This has been my Cozumel HQ for many years.  After a few beers and my great guacamole and pico de gallo the Woody’s team watched my ‘stuff’ while I went down the avenue to get some drugs from a few of the local Farmicias.  Still a better value to get basic meds here than at home.  The extended departure time for the ship allowed time for two more Bohemia beers and a order of Chicken Nachos. Woody's was very busy today and they also had live music all day.  Nice.  About 4:00 I walked down to the Malecon and I caught a taxi back to the pier ($8). I was back on ship about 4:30 pm. for a 6:00 pm sail away.  No time to watch pier runners as I took a refreshing shower and relaxed.  I also told the steward to skip the cabin this evening it's now my down time day.  I was content and not hungry so I skipped dinner and the evening activities and enjoyed some internet time and television, I had not seen the new MacGyver TV show.  I did order late room service…a Tuna Salad sandwich on white bread and a nice Toasted Grill Cheese...then to bed early.  It was a wonderful day in Cozumel today!

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / December 17th / Day 14
Atrium looking down from deck 11
Rolling seas as we left Cozumel with wave noises so I was afraid of a rough night, but it really became quite smooth by midnight so quiet and great sleeping overnight.  I went to the Breeze MDR for the Sea-day Brunch about 10:30 and had a nice table at far aft at the windows.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, Eggs Benedict with bacon, corned beef hash, and potatoes.  A very filling breakfast.  There will be a cold front in Texas when we arrive so my plan was to take advantage of the warm weather all day.  I spent time on the Serenity Deck (deck 15), and walked about the outer decks just enjoying the sea breeze and warm sun.  I did get a Guy’s Burger as well.  The Platinum and Diamond party was held in the Lamplighter Lounge at 5:00 pm.  There were about the same as previous week.  I sat with  new and old friends and got several Tito’s lemonades strait away…plus two Cosmopolitans.  I was again the senior cruiser on board.  Michael performed again…I enjoy his music.  Thanks Carnival it was a fun party that got extended to the Piano Bar until I went to the Cucina del Capitano (I'll spare you the 3rd menu selections) for dinner.  After dinner a quick stop in the Red Frog and the Atrium Bar, for final night Fun.  It was a great sea day on the Carnival Breeze.

Sunday / Galveston / December 18th / Debarkation
We had slightly rocky seas overnight going into Galveston.  We know it will be about 42° and windy when we arrive (only 22° at Ranch) in Galveston.  We were about an hour late arriving due to 45 knot winds we encountered as we got closer to Texas.  I went down to the designated Diamond meeting location at 7:00 am, but it was just after 8:00 am before we where allowed off the ship.  I was through U.S. Customs, rode the shuttle to the parking lot, stopped for gas ($1.95) and was on the Causeway off the island at 9:00am.  I stopped for groceries and was back at the ranch before 2:00 pm. 

I had cabin 2208 a 1A interior located on deck 3 far forward on port side, Yes you can hear the waves hit the ship if there are heavy seas. It can be annoyingly loud at times.  The cabin has a lot of floor space, with one single bed and a full couch. It has a swipe type safe, three-section closet, no chairs, one electrical outlet on counter/dresser, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at Dresser, Kleenex dispenser, and Hair dryer in counter/dresser, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is an empty refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo, but not so much for two. My cabin steward was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Both Main Dining Rooms are very nice especially the Blush Dining room.  The Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected entrees are very good.  The MDR food on Breeze is better than other Carnival ships, I was about to give up on the quality of the MDR food on Carnival but Breeze is better than most.  I had good table locations, good fellow guests, and the waiters were good.  They have returned the butter knife to the American Table. The saucers for coffee cups as well as tablecloths are now gone from breakfast tables. The Mongolian Grill and Cucina del Capitano are great options for lunch or dinner at a fee.  No Alchemy Bar on the Breeze but I thoroughly enjoyed my aperitifs at the Piano Bar. 

The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious.  The Ship Officers were fantastic…they really seem to enjoy working as a team and are very friendly.  I have never had so many crew call me by name on any previous cruise.

New and Improved
Ships staff (security, embark, boat drill) now use card readers for Sail & Sign cards.
Return of the butter knife
$3 doubles on bar drinks
Hub Application is outstanding
Pilsner Urquell is now in cans and be ordered on outside boat decks

Diamond Guest Cocktail Parties with Captain & Senior Officers
Carnival Breeze Crew members
Platinum / Diamond Parties
Key West Day
Cozumel Day