Sunday, November 6, 2016

New York, New York

 New York City, New York

Photo from Top of the Rock

We arrived early on Thursday morning with the Carnival Vista and like the ship we will have two/three days in New York before we have to leave the Big Apple.  We hope to make the most of our limited time.

Thursday-November 3—New York City

Washington Crossing the Delaware - Metropolitan Museum of Art
It was a cloudy but pleasant day.  We debarked the Carnival Vista docked near midtown Manhattan about 8:00 am and we breezed off the ship and through U.S. customs.  We took a private car service to the hotel (twice the taxi cost-not worth it), but it was a quick door to door service and we were checking our bags by 8:30 am with the Warwick Hotel.  The Warwick is an old historic hotel built in 1926 by William Randolph Hearst and has had many prominent guests and residents over the years.  We refreshed at the hotel then we were off for the 10:00 am opening of the Met.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art is unbelievable, I’ve never visited anything more culturally spectacular.  We stayed for four+ hours visiting most of the exhibits and galleries.  My favorites were the historical American paintings, the European Impressionists, the Medieval Armory, the various Egyptian Collections, and the Sculpture court.  An amazing place.  We returned to the hotel, The Warwick, about 3:30 and checked into our room to relax a bit before our Broadway show tonight.  We had purchased advance ticket with our friends for the Musical show Kinky Boots for tonight so we walked down to the Theater District taking in the amazing sites of Times Square and the hustle bustle of New York City.  We arrived at the Hirschfeld Theatre for the 7:00 pm show and had great orchestra seats.  The show was very enjoyable and funny…nothing like a Broadway Show for entertainment.  After the show we stopped at Langan’s Pub & Restaurant and enjoyed a few beers and the bonus was I could watch the last half of the OU (class of '73) football game from our pub table.  Following a great evening we walked back to the hotel.

Thursday-November 3—New York City
Prometheus statue - Rockefeller Center
It was a cooler day, but very bright with sunshine.  We began our day with a great breakfast at the famous Carnegie Deli only a few blocks from the hotel.  Our timing was good as we were seating right away.  I ordered the Mixed Grill Omelette with Corned Beef and DW a Grilled Swiss Cheese on Pumpernickel.  All very good.  By the time we left there was a line to enter the deli.  We walked down to Times Square to acquire theater tickets and we were successful…we will pick them up after 2:00 pm..  We walked back towards the hotel and stopped at the Top of the Rock for a trip to the top of Rockefeller Center.  Touristy thing to do, but the views were unbelievable…360° views of Manhattan Island sites and beyond.  We could easily view: the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Carnival Vista, Statue of Liberty, and much more.  We then went down to Rockefeller Center and viewed the famous Skating Rink and Rockefeller Plaza area.  Then it was across 5th Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where we were in time for a special service.  Following we walked along the famous Fifth Avenue Stores on the way back to the hotel.  We rested for a short while and about 3:00 pm walked over to Broadway Tickets to pick up our tickets for Something Rotten later tonight. I also had a Nathan's Hot Dog from a NYC street vendor...seemed to be the thing to do.  We then walked up to New York's Central Park where we took a tour of the park in a nice Pedi-cab (chose that over Horse Carriage as they cover larger area of park).  The trees were full of Fall color so the park was beautiful.  The tour covered the popular Central Park features including Bethesda Fountain Plaza, the Carousel, Alice in Wonderland, Balto statue, Conservatory Water (model boat sailings), and Strawberry Fields.  As agreed the pedi-cab took us most of the way back towards Times Square…saving my legs a lot of walking.  We now had time before the theater so what better way to spend it than at Sardi’s located next door to the theater.  We arrived early enough to get a table window in the upper bar and enjoyed some proper cocktails.  I had a few excellent Cosmopolitans and some bar snacks.  Show time at 8:00 so we went next door to the St. James Theatre where we have great seats front row mezzanine for the musical Something Rotten.  It was a hilarious musical, DW laughed out loud many times as did I. Another great New York Broadway show. 

Thursday-November 3—New York City
It’s embarkation and sailing day for the Carnival Vista and also travel day for us.  We both are leaving New York.  The NY Marathon is tomorrow, but they had a 5K and 10K this morning and we got caught in some of it as we left the hotel this morning to travel to La Guardia airport.  We made it in fine time and were soon off to DFW then Waco and the drive to Bosque County.

Highlights
Something Rotten
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Kinky Boots
Sardi’s
Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock


Friday, October 21, 2016

Carnival Vista Transatlantic Cruise October 21, 2016

 Carnival Vista Review Transatlantic October 21, 2016


Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Vista
Captain:  Luigi DeAngelis
Cruise Director:  Matt Mitcham
Ports: Barcelona, Gibraltar, Ponta Delgada, Bermuda, New York
Weather:  Good

This is my 63rd Carnival cruise, 5th Transatlantic, and 120th cruise overall. I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and one other couple who are regular cruise friends (Friends), but I know many other regular cruise friends on this sailing especially the usual transatlantic suspects.

Day One—Friday--Oct 21—Barcelona—Embarkation
First at Alchemy Bar
We had the wonderful breakfast buffet at the H1898 then finished packing and ready to check out at 11:00 am.  We took a taxi to the port (€25) and arrived before noon.  With so many VIP’s and many guests arriving at the same time it was very busy at the terminal.  We made our way to Priority check-in and survived the long lines and were soon on the ship.  We made our way to our cabin and our bags actually beat us there…I guess their line was shorter.  Overall it was very acceptable process.  We went up to the Lido to meet our friends and for some food.  I had a salad.  After lunch we all took our little tour of the ship:  Havana Bar, Havana Deck, Red Frog Pub, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, JiJi's, then the Alchemy Bar where we had to have a cocktail and visit with Ana. After drinks and visiting old friends we continued the tour: viewing the Lobby area from deck 5 above, the Liquid Lounge Theater, then Lido deck where DW had Guy’s fries and I had a Guy’s Burger.  Then it was back to the cabin to unpack and set up the cabin until time for boat drill...my muster station is the MDR two decks down so no problems.  I met our cabin Steward Donna and got extra laundry bags so I could sort laundry…I will be taking advantage of that and already have laundry from our previous 10-days in Europe...I’ll need the clothes this cruise.  They had the traditional Welcome Aboard Show although I have not attended in years.  We have YTD (your time dining) this cruise so no rush to have to get to dinner, in fact DW had a room service Toasted Cheese Sandwich with chips and I ate later (about 8:50pm) in the Horizon’s Dining Room (MDR) with friend.  We had a great table at the aft windows and actually had a view of our late sail away from Barcelona.  For dinner I ordered the Sweet & Sour Shrimp (entree as a starter), Heart of Lettuce Salad, the Braised Beef Brisket entree, and Carmelized Phyllo with Carmel Creme for dessert.  By using the excellent Carnival HUB app and checking the online Fun Times we noticed the comedy show coming up so after dinner it was the Punchliner Comedy club located in the Limelight Lounge on deck 4.  I like the location and size and so far the deck plan of the new Vista seems to be well thought out and designed.  The comedian, Phil Walker, was from the UK and IMHO was just OK…I smiled a lot, but never had a LOL moment.  After the late comedy show it was cabin time.  A great day seeing old friends on the Carnival Vista.

Day Two--Saturday--Oct 22—Fun Day at Sea
Pig & Anchor Menu
Smooth seas overnight. I woke early did some internet time, but didn’t get around until after room service delivered breakfast goodies.  I went out to the private Havana area as I was curious as to how busy it would be mid morning and to get DW a diet coke.  It was not very busy…I think I’ll like the area during the day.  I returned to get myself a coke and was joined by DW when Donna came to clean the cabin.  For lunch we went to the NEW  Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse.  I believe this is only the 2nd day it has opened since previous cruise was port intensive and due to poor weather. So new that the employees don't have custom uniforms as yet.  DW got the Mac&Cheese (cold) and Potato Salad, I got Roll, Beans, Pulled Pork, and Beef.  They serve you so the lines go fast, but not a lot of quantity.  It was very good other than cold M&C.  I will return.  Since we ate in the Havana area I got a really good Cuban Sandwich and a small Flan.  That filled me.  After lunch we went on a walkabout and to get a T-Shirt since all of mine were sent to the laundry…very few choices on T’s if any but we had a nice surprise when we returned to the cabin: three bags of clean laundry.  We have learned what to send and not send to Carnival wash & fold and it looked good except for the best dark shirt that had numerous large stains on it.  DW decides to give it a good shower rinse and that took care of stains…probably only soap…Woo Hoo thank you Carnival laundry folks.  They had a medical evacuation by helicopter this afternoon for a very ill guest, only took about 30 minutes...seemed to have gone well.  About 4:30 I headed to the Alchemy Bar, it’s so busy that opening is only guaranteed time to get bar side seat.  My Quick Fix was excellent as usual.  Thanks Ana.  I had a request to join a Trivia Team in the Red Frog Pub @ 5:15 pm so I went for the Trivia by Melody.  Our team tied for winners so we had a chug-off and I rep’d our team…we won of course.  We got a tube of Thirsty Frog ale for winning…Woo Hoo!  It was fun.  Back to the cabin then dinner in the Horizon’s Dining Room @ 8:00 pm.  DW had already ordered a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich from room service but joined us for dinner.  I ordered: two Shrimp Cocktails, Gazpacho, and the Veal Parmesan entree.  It was good.  Afterwards Friends went to comedy club and we walked into the Havana Bar, but no entertainment in there tonight.  The feature show was the Playlist production: Studio VIP, but having seen it we passed on that show this evening.  It was a fun sea day on the Carnival Vista.

Day Three--Sunday—October 23--Gibraltar
Looking across Strait of Gibraltar to Africa
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked by 9:00 am as scheduled.  This is my first visit to Gibraltar and new ports are always welcome. I went to the Havana Bar and got some Guava Empanadas about 7:30 am so we could have them later for breakfast.  At 10:00 am we went down to deck 0 debarked the ship and took a local shuttle (€3 or £2) into the town center of this British Overseas Territory.  From here we hired the official Gibraltar Taxi Association tour of ‘The Rock’, the advantage being these are smaller vehicles and they get you directly to the sites entrances whereas minibuses can not due to winding roads and parking.  We were very fortunate with weather, forecast was for rain and we had mostly sunshine with clouds on the tour.  We began our trip up with the first stop at the Pillars of Hercules with the wonderful view to Africa and the Strait of Gibraltar.  Second stop is the Caves of St. Michael’s, a beautiful natural pre-historic cavern formed over thousands of years, and host to thousands of visitors every year.  Third stop is the Top of the Rock with breathtaking views of the Bay of Gibraltar and the peak of the Rock.  This is the location of the majority of the famous apes and when the tour mentions interaction with apes…yes it’s true…lots of interaction.  The apes are cute, amusing, but still a bit dangerous.  It is amazing experience to have IMHO the best view (the old Prudential Ins. view) and the apes at same location.  The final stop is the Great Siege Tunnels that will take you back to the late 1700’s.  These tunnels were built by hand, crowbar and pick in only one year by the forefathers of the Royal Engineers.  There are excellent exhibits inside the tunnels.  It was a great tour and we enjoyed it very much.  Once we were dropped back in town we walked up & down the main street and had lunch at The Star Bar, Gibraltars oldest bar.  It was actually a very nice restaurant featuring Fish & Chips as their signature item.  We took shuttle back to ship about 4:00.  After the days walking, most it in town, I hit the hot tubs in the Havana area and enjoyed a coke to relax my aging knees.  Just before their 6:00pm closing I hit Guy’s Burgers for cheeseburger.  Nice.  The Captain and Cruise Director made a ship-wide announcement that we will be experiencing weather once we sail into the Atlantic and set course for the Azores beginning tonight. They will be closing the pools, securing outside furniture, closing cove balcony doors, and more to prepare.  Sail away was lovely and we sailed through the Straits we have seen all day and into the Atlantic.  We met our friends in the Havana Bar for a mojito, we stayed and listened to the Latin music while they went to dinner.  The music was very good.  By the time we retired the oceans waves and high seas was beginning to do its thing.  It was a fantastic day in Gibraltar…a lot of FUN. 

Day Four—Monday—October 24—Fun Day at Sea

Angry Weather
Angry seas overnight. Rain, wind, and waves all night.  Also I seem to be coming down with a bug…similar to what DW had last week.  So it was a tough long night as we turned our time back an hour as well…first of six times.  Due to weather the internet will be super slow today too.  We ordered a light room service breakfast at 9:00.  I took a nice long hot shower and some medication, but looks like I have a heavy cold.  We attended the Diamond Guest luncheon in the Reflections Restaurant at noon.  I ordered or shared: Blue Crab Salad with Candied Citrus, Mushroom Cappuccino (soup), Root Vegetables and Crunchy Leaves (salad), the Wagyu Beef Short Ribs entree, and the Raspberry Dark Chocolate Pate for dessert.  It was a great meal and it was nice to visit with Maitre’D Ken Bryne since we are in the ‘other’ restaurant on this cruise.  It was also nice to visit with other Diamond guests.  After lunch my plan was to take the next 24 hours off from any activities…if you have to confine yourself to he cabin...doing it while there are high seas is as good a time as any.  And the seas are really rocking and rolling.  I stayed in bed the rest of the day and night having a room service Grilled Cheese about 9:00 pm.  I suspect I've had the makings of a cold all along and drying off in the cooler air after the hot tub pushed me over edge...feeling better but will continue my 24 hour routine.  It was a rocking and rolling day on the Carnival Vista.

Day Five--Tuesday—October 25—Fun Day at Sea
Still high seas, but clearing skies
Still rough seas overnight and I’m continuing my 24-hour rest regimen.  We set our time back another hour so it will actually be 25 hours.  I had some fruit for breakfast from room service and a little internet time in the morning as the clouds have broken and we have some wifi. At 12:30 we met our friends for lunch, we ate at Cucina del Capitano.  I ordered two different styles of pasta bowls and it was quite good.  After lunch DW and I went to the Havana Bar to see if it was warm enough to get some sea air outside on the Havana Deck…it was not.  We did run into friends who were there for karaoke and we visited with them.  Before long I made my world karaoke debut singing a duet of ‘Jackson’.  Yes…really.  It may be my last time at karaoke too. No alcohol involved either as I’m just off my 24 hour rest time, but I may have had a sugar high from the Cherry Sundae I enjoyed from Cherry-on-Top.  After all that fun it was time to relax until time to go to the Alchemy Bar to meet friends for cocktails.  We visited with friends and enjoyed our drink made with TLC by Ana…bar snacks too.  We went to the Horizon’s Dining Room and was seated straight away.  DW ordered the Blue Cheese and Spinach Souffle, and I ordered two entrees (only): the Stir Fried Beef and Broccoli and the Stuffed Chicken Breast.  The stir fried beef was very good in the Teriyaki Sauce.  I had a Key Lime Pie for dessert.  The production show scheduled for tonight was delayed to another night due to the high seas.  CD Matt did his Love and Marriage show.  Since I’m still taking it easy and the fact we have an early excursion tomorrow, I retired to the cabin.  It was another rocking day at sea.

Day Six—Wednesday--October 26--Ponta Delgada, Azores Islands
City Gates - Church Bell Tower - Black&White Portuguese Tile
Smoother seas overnight.  We were docked early in Ponta Delgada even before our 7:00 am room service ‘wake up call’ breakfast delivery.  Getting around early as we have a group tour of the island today.  We had a very nice mini-bus just for our group of eight friends and we were off at 8:30 to tour this beautiful island.  Unfortunately the weather was cool and cloudy but our guide Sara was enthusiastic.  She gave us a history of the Azores and Portugal as we dove by hundreds of small dairy farms on the way up to the Caldeira das Sete Cidades, the most popular site on the island.  As we got higher on the mountain the winds began to really blow.  We reached the Kings Overlook for a wonderful view.  Since it was overcast you couldn’t really see the contrast between the blue and green sides (a little bit on contrast in photos) of the two lagoons.  DW and I had visited here previously so we know how much better it would have looked in nice weather.  Still beautiful.  Down in the village we stopped at the local village church and a small store where we got the wonderful Portuguese egg custard pastries, Pastel de Nata, we have enjoyed in Lisbon and the Azores.  After our visit here we went to Ponta da Ferraria a beautiful observation point overlooking the Atlantic ocean.  There were many volcanic rock outcroppings, caves, and a spa further down the beach.  A new island location for us.  We began our return to Ponta Delgada and our last stop at a Pineapple farm.  They raised the famous Azores small pineapples in greenhouses and had a gift shop.  I did sample some ice creme with the pineapple topping.  We were dropped back at the ship at 12:30, it was a nice tour made better by a small group of good friends.  I went back to the cabin for a windbreaker as the weather was warmer, but an occasional very light shower.  DW and I went back into town and to the old city center viewing the old City Ceremonial Gates: Portas da Cidade, the Old Church: Igreja Matriz De São Sebastião, the Cobblestone streets with shoppes, cafes, and more.  We bought some linens and souvenirs in the smaller shoppes.  We had a great meal here on our past visit and I hoped to do so again.  We stopped at the Restaurante Mercado do Peixe known for local foods.  We ordered Olives, Butter, Bread, the local Cheese, a Sao Miguel Sirloin Steak with Garlic & Red Pepper, a unique Rice dish (larger grains fried with vegetables), and Chips (Fries).  I had hoped to order a pineapple for dessert as on last visit, but the meal was so filling I had to pass on dessert.  We made our way back to the ship for the 4:00 pm sail away and some rest. We met our group at the Alchemy at 6:30 pm and had a great little party visiting with new and old friends.  We went to Lido aft pool area about 9:00ish for late Pizza and/or Seafood and finished the night in the Havana Bar attempting to dance Salsa.  It was a Fantastic Day in the Azores and on the Carnival Vista.

Day Seven—Thursday--October 27—at Sea
Amor Cubano Show
Smoother seas overnight and I slept very well...past 9:00am in fact.  About 10:00 I went up to Lido deck for Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Sliced Potatoes, with Ham and ate on the outer deck as the weather is improving.  In fact we sat out on the Havana pool area and enjoyed the weather the rest of the morning.  For lunch I had a Cuban sandwich since it was convenient and DW brought down a salad from Lido so we could eat out on deck.  I went to trivia and we toured the forward and upper decks this afternoon.  Today’s the first day everything has been open since we now have nice weather…I think we will do the bicycles.  We went early enough to the Playlist Production Show: Amor Cubano to get good seats on 4th row near center.  I think the Playlist people have a huge winner with this show, they are using live music with the technical panel graphics they are so known for in their shows.  The live music adds so much especially to a show such as this.  The Latin group Imperio from the Havana Bar and the three piece horn section as well as the Production singers and dancers combined for a GREAT Show.  Probably the best show I have ever seen on Carnival.  We went to dinner in the Horizon after the show and had no problem being seated strait away in the area we requested.  I ordered the Tex-Mex Penne Pasta, Borsht, the Mojito Chicken entree, and Pineapple upside down Cake for dessert.  The afterparty for the Amor Cubano late show was in the Havana Bar this evening, but we retired after dinner.  It was an relaxing day with a great show on the Vista today.

Day Eight—Friday--October 28—at Sea
Ken Brynes the singing Maitre'D
Smooth seas overnight compared to what we have had this cruise.  We turned our time back an hour and room service came at 9:00 am.  I also stepped out to the Ocean Plaza just outside our passageway for bacon and ham from the small breakfast area they have at the Taste Bar. We had a relaxing morning on this cloudy day.  Some braved the pool in Havana area, but most would not do the hot tubs…at least in the morning.  We had different ideas for lunch so we did both.  We went up to JiJi’s for the new style Mongolian Grill where you sit and order your stir fry (similar as to what is done with the Cucina de Capitano) and once cooked they bring it to your table.  Mine was very good.  Then we went down to the Blue Iguana  and DW had a vegetarian salad bowl.  We were both pleased.  We had a lazy afternoon and just relaxed most of the day.  We did go to the Alchemy for aperitifs and visit with friends. We were invited to eat with Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador Mr. John Heald this evening at his table in the Reflections dining room late seating.  He was a very congenial host and it was a very pleasant experience. Before ordering the waiters brought a selection of Indian Foods to start with steamed white rice and fried rice.  It was nice, for dinner I ordered a Green Salad and the Turkey Dinner entree.  DW ordered a selection of vegetables.  It was a good meal and a change from YTD for us on this cruise.  On the 2013 Carnival Sunshine transatlantic cruise I attended long time Carnival Maitre’D Ken Brynes’ first ever official Carnival show in the theater.  Tonight at 10:15 he again had his wonderful show performing to a packed house with people in the aisles and staircases of the Limelight Lounge.  It was a great show of a dozen+ tunes and received deserved standing ovations.  This man is a huge asset to Carnival.  Very late we listened to the large combined Latin band in the Havana Bar…amazing talent.  It was a special Sea Day on the Carnival Vista.

Day Nine—Saturday--October 29—at Sea
Salad Bar on Serenity Deck
I felt some rolling seas overnight and we again turned our time back one hour.  No room service this morning, I got some Guava Empanadas from Havana and some other breakfast items from the Ocean Plaza for the cabin.  It was a cloudy wet day today early but improved throughout the day to become a very nice sunny day.  For lunch I went up to Deck 15 Serenity Deck where they have a nice salad station…they have a very nice selection of salad items, but IMHO not worth the wait to have one made when they have a nice salad station in the Lido.  The adult only Serenity area looked very nice with hot tubs, a Bar, and a lot of covered loungers.  No real seating so I took my salad to the Lido Marketplace. DW had the Blue Iguana vegetarian bowl and we visited with friends after lunch.  In the afternoon I made my 2nd attempt at karaoke in the Red Frog Pub…I didn’t think I did as well as the first time…too much time to think about it I guess.  Maybe one more attempt.  But mucho gracias to my coach (remember..I never mention Guest names) a well known cruiser and good karaoke singer.  Later friends met at the Alchemy Bar and Melody from Entertainment joined us for a cocktail.  We went early for aperitifs with intentions to eat early and then attend Flick the excellent production show in the theater, so we went to dinner about 7:00 in Horizons a bit earlier than normal for us, we did have a short wait since there were more eating tonight as it was the second Elegant Night…with tablecloths.  I ordered the Stuffed Mushroom, the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp entree (as starter), the Duo of Filet Mignon and Short-rib entree, and the Key Lime Mousse for dessert.  I requested to be excused from the show as I hate battling the crowd for the limited seats and I saw the show twice recently.  I retired to the cabin and was able to follow the NCAA afternoon (in USA) prime time football over the internet including the OU/KU game.  A relaxing way to end a nice sea day.

Day Ten—Sunday--October 30—at Sea
Halloween Fun
Just enough seas to to know your on a cruise.  We turned back time again and are on Bermuda time now.  Weather is great today, best of cruise so we were up early and were out on Havana deck by 9:00 am this morning.  We carried our room service breakfast out and added the Havana guava empanadas.  We spent the day out there enjoying the view and sea air.  I even had a nice BBQ lunch from Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse located just around the corner from the Havana area.  DW did some power walking around the ship today and I was doing my job: being lazy.  Since we overnight tomorrow in Bermuda, the ship is celebrating Halloween today,  Decorations going up and pumpkin/halloween displays on pool deck and in the Lido Marketplace.  DW and the Friends doing Día de Muertos outfits so an afternoon of makeup for them.  I’m just wearing my Día de Muertos shirt that I wear every cruise on Cozumel day and done with it.  No dinner tonight for them so I had both a plain Guy’s Burger & half a Pepperoni Pizza.  My first pizza and it was very good.  We went to the Alchemy Bar and sat on the outer tables, a perfect spot to see Halloween costumes and goblins as the come and go along the Promenade deck.  It was fun taking photos and helping with photos of DW and Friends as they looked very good…especially when you can enjoy a cocktail as well.  They went to the costume dance party in Ocean Plaza while I enjoyed a beer in the Red Frog Pub.  It was a very special Halloweeny Day on the Vista.

Day Eleven—Monday--October 31—Bermuda
Founding of Hamilton Mosaic
Smooth seas again and I had a nice sleep.  We were docked at King's Wharf by 8:30 am although debark wasn’t for another hour.  My first visit here and first impression is the water here is a beautiful blue.  I went to the Horizon MDR for a proper breakfast, my first for the cruise, something unusual for me.  I had my Melon, 3-egg, bacon, ham breakfast…very good.  We were in no rush to debark and got off the ship about 11:00 am. The upside of the Royal Dockyards is that there are nice shoppes, restaurants, museum, and more built in the old buildings of the former Royal Navy dockyards and facilities.  Most are historical and walking distance from the ship.  The downside is that you are on an isolated area on the island of Bermuda.  There is Taxi service, Buses, and an hourly Ferry that will take you to two locations on the island.  Guests went to beaches, site seeing, to the caves, and more.  We took the 25-minute ferry to Hamilton ($4.50 per token), the largest city and regional center.  From Hamilton you can go anywhere but chose to explore the city.  We walked Front Street looking at shops and department stores then Church street and the business/financial area.  Yes many men dressed in traditional Bermuda Shorts with hose.  A very different look and a very neat and classy look.  We visited or saw: the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity (Church of England), Sessions House, Perot Post Office, Queen Elizabeth Park, AS Cooper Dept. Store, and more.  We took the 3:00 ferry back to the Dockyards and looked around that area.  We found and really liked a Restaurant / Pub built in the old fort cooperage: The Frog & Onion.  They incorporated the large stone features of the fort including huge fireplaces (where they worked on barrels), huge light fixtures, flooring, and more.  The pub area was nice as well with entertainment and nice bartenders.  We returned to the ship and I had Pizza and we enjoyed the outer deck and sundown.  I later had Fish & Chips ($6) from the Seafood Shack and DW a salad from the Marketplace.  After a lot of walking today I retired early.  It was a beautiful day in Bermuda.

Day Twelve—Tuesday--November 1—Bermuda
Lobster Rolls from Seafood Shack
The weather in Bermuda is amazing…much less humidity than in the Caribbean.  We slept in as no plans to get off the ship before we sail at noon.  I got a light breakfast at the Ocean Plaza and of course the empanadas from Havana.  We spent the morning on the outer deck in Havana area…when the engines fired up I could sense excitement…I think everyone was ready for the final stretch home to begin.  We sailed away at exactly noon and heading WNW towards New York.  DW loves the new taco bowls at the Blue Iguana as she can control what goes into them so that’s where we headed for lunch today.  I got a green salad from the Lido and a grilled chicken that I sliced as a salad topper.  Good lunch.  We now have network television so I watched a bit in the afternoon.  The ship had to have three separate Diamond/Platinum parties to accommodate all those on board.  We went to the final one and it was packed in the theater, but went better than I expected…I had several Tito Lemonades and was able to even order some Mudslides for the girls.  After the party we went to the Alchemy for a cocktail, then up to the  Seafood Shack for dinner.  I ordered the Lobster Rolls: one mayo and one butter.  DW had pizza, the friends a Lobster BLT and Fish & Chips.  All good.  They delivered the U.S. Customs forms tonight so we need to begin thinking about getting back to reality soon.  The feature show was a comedian juggler and friends (other) went to the late comedy shows that through reports have been smilers not gut busters this cruise.  It was a relaxing beautiful Bermuda sail away / Sea day on the Vista.

Day Thirteen—Wednesday--November 2—Fun Day at Sea
A little rolling seas over night. We turned our clocks back an hour for the last time…we are now on Eastern Standard Time for arrival in NYC tomorrow.  I was up in time to go down to the MDR for a nice breakfast this morning, my farmers breakfast, was good.  DW began her packing and we went out to the Havana deck for the last time this cruise to enjoy the cooler but very nice weather.  DW went to Blue Iguana for a Taco Bowl and Taco and brought them to our lounging area on Havana to eat, I waited until closer to 2:00 then went to JiJi’s for a Mongolian Grill.  It was good, but I like the old system much better.  I wonder if they are serving more or fewer guests with this system?  Cabin time after lunch to work on review, fill out U.S. Customs forms, and nap.  We met the Friends at the Alchemy Bar for cocktails…surprisingly not busy…I think everyone is drinking the wine and liquor they brought on board on this final night.  We had a very nice dinner with our extended group of friends in the Reflections dining room at 8:15.  It was good to see everyone for a farewell.  I ordered the French Onion Soup, a Green Salad, and the Encrusted Chicken entree.  For dessert I ordered the Carrot Cake and he unique Key Lime Cheese Cake Stuffed Apple.  The waiters did their final show and the wonderful Ken Byrnes very appropriately sang New York, New York.  Super Supper.  Once in the cabin after dinner I saw the final exciting innings of the World Series on TV…Cubs win.  It was great final day and dinner on the Carnival Vista.

Debarkation—Thursday-November 3—New York City
We were docked by 5:00 am in Manhattan.  I wasn't up early enough to closely see the Statue of Liberty when we came into port as it was about 4:00 am when we passed.  I was up and around by 6:00 am since I needed to pack.  I did go have a breakfast on Lido.  This would have been the cruise to use self assist…very few using it, we were among the last leaving at 8:00 am and we breezed off the ship and through customs.  We took a private car service to the hotel (twice the taxi cost), but it was a quick door to door service and we were checking our bags by 8:30 am with the hotel.  We refreshed at the hotel then we were off for the 10:00 am opening of the Met.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art is unbelievable, I’ve never visited anything more spectacular culturally.  We stayed for four+ hours visiting most of the exhibits and galleries.  We returned to the hotel, The Warwick about 3:00 and checked into our room to relax before our Broadway show tonight.

Ship
The newest and largest ship in the Carnival fleet.  Of course all the 2.0 features plus new additions such as a Red Frog Brewery, Seafood Shack, Skyride, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse.
Tonnage:     133,500 GT           Length:     1,062 ft (324 m)             Decks:     15
Speed:     23 knots (26 mph)     Capacity:  3,936 passengers (double occupancy)   Crew:  1,450

Cabin
We had cabin 5225 one of the new Havana classification cabins located aft on deck five. Basically a standard Carnival interior cabin with two closets, safe, drawers, shelves, mini-refrigerator, new style night tables, queen/twin bed, and a very large flat screen TV. It does have some upgraded Havana amenities such as towels, robes, and toiletries. This is the only the second Carnival ship with cabins located on the promenade deck.  Good location as deck 5 traffic goes from forward to aft and it’s next to Ocean Plaza and of course the Havana Bar.  Also access to the private Havana deck, pool, and hot tubs.

Crew
The crew were great.  Carnival does a great job in training, it is noticeable, and the primary reason along with value to cruise on Carnival.  Alchemy team were great as well as all servers I encountered, Cruise Director Matt and Entertainment team are very good, all MDR waiters very efficient, just an excellent crew throughout the ship.  Ms. Donna was as nice a cabin steward we have ever had on a cruise.

Food
Lots of good food options on the Carnival Vista: Horizon’s and Reflections Dining rooms (B-L-D), the Lido Marketplace (B-L-D), Guy’s Burgers (L-extended), Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse (L), Blue Iguana (B&L), Ocean Plaza Taste Bar (B&L), Havana Bar (B&L), Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse (D), JiJi’s Asian Kitchen (L&D), Bonsai Sushi (L&D), Cucina del Capitano (L&D). Seafood Shack (L&D), Pizzeria del Capitano (24/7), and a very good Room Service menu.  B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner.  Some have extra charges for dinner.

Things I like about the new Carnival Vista:
Havana Bar & Havana Experience
The NEW Amor Cubano Production Show
Location of the Alchemy Bar
Casino off of Promenade and containment of smoke between decks
Seafood Shack

Things I Do NOT like about the new Carnival Vista:

Very Plain…No Wow…looks like a Medical Center Lobby
Decor is blah (except for Havana)
Formica everywhere…very little wood, no marble, no granite
American menu without tablecloths
Liquid Lounge…very poor design, not near enough seats 

My Cruise Highlights
Traveling with friends and seeing previous cruise friends
Amor Cubano Production Show
Alchemy Bar
Gibralter Day
Ponta Delgado Day
Carnival Crew


Thank you for reading.  As an older/experienced cruiser my activities will be much different from a newer cruiser as I will be doing fewer things on board simply because of the 'been there done that' factor and frankly I don't have the energy as I once did...Priorities do change over time. I do love to cruise!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MSC Fantasia Cruise Review October 12, 2016

 MSC Fantasia Cruise Review 12 October 2016

Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Fantasia
Captain:  Raffaele Pontecorvo
Cruise Director: Daniela DiNicola
Ports: Barcelona Spain - Ajaccio Corsica France - Naples Italy - La Spezia Italy - Genoa Italy - Canne, France - Palma de Mallorca, Spain - Barcelona Spain

This is my 2nd cruise on the MSC Fantasia, 6th MSC cruise, and 119th cruise overall.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and one other couple who are regular cruise friends (Friends).  Although all seasoned cruisers this will be a unique set of cruise experiences sailing from Europe on an Italian cruise line.

Monday-Tuesday- October 10-11  /  Travel 
Beautiful view from our suite
We began our journey with a 6:30 afternoon AA flight from Waco, Texas to DFW airport. There we boarded the 10:20 pm AA overnight 8+ hour flight to London Heathrow airport arriving at 1:15 pm local time.  We had a 2:30 pm British Airways flight we (and bags) were able to make for the flight to Barcelona Spain arriving about 5:30 pm local time.  A long and tiring process.  We then took a taxi (€30) to our hotel, the Catalonia Barcelona Plaza located on Plaza España.  We were very fortunate to be upgraded to the ‘Clock Suite’ on the forth floor. The suite had a beautiful view of Plaza España and the Montjuïc hill area through two sets of large picture windows (once we figured out how to raise the auto-power blinds), so we decided to enjoy the suite, enjoy the view, rest, and order room service.  We really appreciated amenities of the huge suite and as the sun set our view was perhaps even better with the lighted fountains and buildings.  I ordered the Angus beef entree and a Cheese plate from room service and it was a perfect way to enjoy the evening.  We are a long way from the ranch in Texas to this suite and view in Barcelona.

Wednesday October 12  / Barcelona, Spain  /  Embarkation / Day 1
Lobby area on Fantasia deck 3
We slept late as was the plan as we have a noon check out time from the hotel.  I took a walk next door to the old Plaza de Toros (the old bull fighting arena) that is now a modern shopping center with a viewing area around the top.  We wouldn’t be in Europe if we didn’t have a protest or strike so soon there was a very colorful march through the Plaza España of various Catalonian groups representing independence among other things.  The flags were nice and it was well organized as most are in Europe.  We checked out at noon and took a taxi (€15) to the port and our home for seven days the MSC Fantasia.  There was a short line to check luggage then we proceeded into the terminal for security check then to check-in.  I soon discovered that I was wearing the right shirt, a Honduran football jersey that I purchased just last month in Roatan.  I had forgotten that there are a lot of crew from Honduras on the Fantasia and although  I had ‘Black Card’ priority the Honduran mafia took over..they escorted me from station to station all the way onto the ship.  Amazing.  No wait or problems anywhere.  Thank you amigos.  Since Genoa is the home port and primary embark location most guests were off the ship site-seeing and that made it very easy to navigate our way to deck 14 Zanzibar and L’Africana Buffets until our cabins open at 1:30.  After a light lunch of salad and pasta we went to our aft facing cabin on deck nine.  BTW-as a part of the new check-in procedure our Sail & Sign cards were waiting for us inside the cabin.  The cabin is very nice similar to the aft-facing we had previously on Fantasia, but this one has shorter balcony and longer cabin with full couch.  Soon I went down to deck seven and registered our credit cards (this is normal with MSC) on the kiosk and picked up our drink vouchers while the ship wasn’t busy.  I sat in the lobby and did some people watching and enjoyed a diet Pepsi, unfortunately they have switched from Coke.  DW took a nap and as we are now getting an afternoon rain it is good sleeping weather.  I attended Safety Drill…an easy indoor painless process and they scanned both my card and DW’s as well.  Very soon we were casting off in a light rain and beginning our sail away.  The friends and I met for cocktails…woo hoo a proper Hugo Spritz.  Since we are on early dining this cruise it was already time for dinner.  We are in the lI Cherchio D’ora Restaurant located aft on deck six and our favorite of the two on the ship.  It was Italian night tonight and I ordered the Tricolor Salad, Lasagne with Bolognese sauce, the Roasted Piglet entree, and the Tiramisu for dessert.  The feature show in the theater was Sogno Italiano the best of Italian music stating at 9:30 pm.  It is different, for me, having early dinner and late shows, but I will adapt once the jet-lag has worn off…although tonight I retired to the cabin.  I also wanted to check on DW who has a bug and I went up to the buffet to get her some food.  The Black Card party was held this evening and although I didn’t attend, I enjoyed the Champagne & Fruit Basket that they sent to the cabin. We sailed through an evening thunderstorm with nice lightening then had a great view of it as we sailed beyond the storm from the aft balcony.  It was a very nice day in Barcelona and first day on the MSC Fantasia.

Thursday October 13 / Ajaccio Corsica France / Day 2
Sign outside Napoleon's home
Some rock and roll in the seas overnight. I awoke during the night for several hours so worked on this review before nodding off and sleeping until after 10:30 am. I’m still having a difficult time adjusting to the 7-hour difference from Texas time. I had fruit from our fruit basket for breakfast as we were sailing into our port in Corsica.  I had a front row seat as we backed into our pier in the town of Ajaccio, a lovey town with most sites all within walking distance of the ship location.  DW is staying onboard so the friends and I debarked about 12:30 pm and headed into town.  We walked along the waterfront to the public market in a beautiful park that featured a statue of Napoleon as a Cesar.  We reached the historic center and found Napoleon's residence and birthplace now known as Maison Bonaparte and took the first tour of the day at 1:15 pm.  We stopped at a sidewalk cafe for refreshments then walked along the old High Street until we reached the Fesch Museum, I went into the museum and friends continued their walk.  The Fesch was good, but I enjoyed he Napoleon home much better.  After looking at a few shoppes I found some meds for the DW and returned to the ship.  I went straight to deck 14 and the buffet upon boarding and had some of MSC’s famous Pizza.  There is now a Vegetarian Station, but unfortunately it replaced our favorite Taco Station (think Guacamole), but I took some vegetarian to the cabin for DW.  Just enough time to clean up for the Past Guest reception held in the L’Insolito lounge.  The Captain and officers drank a salute to the return guests and they had a nice four-piece band and nice music.  It was now time for early dinner in the lI Cherchio D’ora Restaurant, I ordered the Capriccio with light mustard sauce, the Mushroom Risoto, the Sliced Prime Beef entree, and Rum Raison ice creme for dessert.  Very kindly the Maitre’D sent the Vegetarian selection from tonights menu to the cabin for the DW.  After dinner I had cocktails in the Il Transatlantico Bar, my favorite on the ship and listened to some Jazz while waiting for showtime in the beautiful L’Avanguardia Theater.  Tonights production show was TinTin featuring acrobatics, magic, music, and more.  MSC is rated as having the top entertainment on cruise ships by PortHole Magazine and this new show (to me) has to be one of the best ones.  After the show I retired to the cabin.  It was a great day getting to visit a new port and historic location today.

Friday October 14 / Naples Italy / Day 3
The Marina & our boat (Capt standing) near center.
Rolling seas overnight and the forecast is for partly cloudy skies.  I slept very well and through the night for the first time.  We docked about 10:00 a.m. and again we had a great view as we backed into the port of Naples.  The new Harmony of the Seas is docked opposite us. I had a light breakfast from the buffet and met the friends for our planned trip to the Island of Capri.  We located the ferry office next to the cruise terminal and took the 11:10 ferry to the island…a bit worried as it rained during the 50 minute trip.  We docked in Capri and soon discovered that the Blue Grotto was closed due to high and rough seas, but a local, Alfonso Tizzano, offered to take the three of us in his private boat to the area and beyond for a coast line tour.  It was a nice boat and we caught an some occasional spray on the open deck but it was an very enjoyable and times exciting ride. We saw several small grottos, the red coral, and other sites, Viewing the Blue Grotto entry itself I could see that it was a basically a tourist trap.  May be beautiful inside once they illuminate it with artificial light but not worth the effort IMHO.  I’m checking it off my personal todo list.  We arrived back to the harbor village and by now the town was full of tourists. We got tickets for the funicular and while there we got our tickets for the return ferry with the later ones being sold out it was the 15:25 return for us.  That will limit our time.  We took the funicular up to get to the main/upper town to look for a recommended restaurant, but decided we didn’t really have the time so just viewed the small town and headed back to the funicular to get to harbor area…the crowds really effected us here with so many it was a wait to ride down.  We got a light snack before boarding the 15:25 ferry for the 45 minute ride to Naples.  We were back on the ship by 4:30. DW was feeling much better and joined us for aperitifs and dinner. I ordered a Salad, a very good Tomato Risoto, and the Grilled Pork entree.  After dinner we enjoyed cocktails in the Il Transatlantico Piano/Jazz Bar, (the Fantisia’s martini bar) and enjoyed the music.  I had Cosmopolitans as usual, but they have a nice variety to sample.  At 9:30 pm we went to the Teatro L’Avanguardia theater where the production show was Masquerade starting tenor Enrico Scotto,  pianist Mauro Bertolino, and the Fantasia International Dancers.  We loved Enrico’s other opera productions on our previous Mediterranean MSC cruises.  A great show and another great day on the MSC Fantasia.

Saturday October 15 / La Spezia / Day 4
When you enjoy a beer...location, location, location
Rolling seas overnight, but I slept well and late.  I awoke when the Fantasia’s engines began maneuvering into the port of La Spezia at 11:00 am so only a pear from the fruit basket for breakfast.  We are very near Cinque Terre and most guests will be going there today as are the friends, but we’ve been so our plan is Pisa and something new.  We made our way off the ship, then to the shuttles from the industrial area to the Cruise Terminal.  We went for a taxi to go to the train station (€15) but agreed to hire the cab for a private tour for set day fee (€200+).  Disadvantage: we’ll be traveling at a faster pace, but Advantage: getting to specific locations with very little walking.  The rate was a fair price.  Soon we were off to Lucca the beautiful Tuscan city and our something 'new'.  The Lucca old historic area is completely walled with limited traffic. Our driver had a pass.  There were many shoppes on narrow streets yet many typical Italian piazza’s especially around the churches or public buildings.  My favorite was the Church of San Michelle, first mentioned historically in 795 AD and it’s current 14th century facade…that’s old.  We had a fantastic pizza in a local pizzeria then gelato’s from a confectionary.  Perfect.  After walking around old Lucca we were off to Pisa.  Not sure how our driver does it but he parked just a block from a somewhat ‘secret’ entry next to the actual Tower…super.  We spent time here in the Piazza dei Miracoli taking photos of the Baptistry, Cathedral, and of course the famous leaning Bell Tower. We did some people watching then I had a beer in the closest cafe at the closest table to the Leaning Tower. Super.  DW shopped and I enjoyed view and tourist watching.  We made it back to the ship much earlier than originally planned…I even made it (a little late) to dinner.  I ordered: the Vesuvius Salad, Rissoto alla Toscana, Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, and the Pork Escalopes with Artichokes entree.  No dessert tonight nor cocktails…I worked on this review and had internet time.  The production show was Skywalker, but we have both seen it previously so relaxed this evening.  It was a wonderful day in Italy today.

Sunday October 16 / Genoa Italy / Day 5
Dessert at Ziffirino's
Smoother seas overnight and a beautiful day all day.  We were docked early as this is the Fantasia’s homeport and most guests will debark and a new group embark today.  I went to the buffet and had a light breakfast about 9:00 am and brought items back for DW.  All (friends & DW) were off about 10:00 for our day in Genoa.  We debarked here two years ago, but did not see the city so this is our chance to see it as a port on this itinerary.  We took a taxi to Via Garibaldi the old Strada Maggiore, a narrow street with many 15th-16th century Palazzos built by the wealthy merchant class.  Many are still private with some serving as Consulates, Museums, Public buildings, Art galleries, and more.  Many are open on Sunday for free so it was already busy with locals, but great for us as tourists as well.  The street is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  We made our way to the Piazza de Ferrari and the Piazza Ducale and a view of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo.  We were fortunate to be able to eat at the most famous restaurants in Liguria and one of the best in all of Italy: Zeffirino. It’s a fine restaurant with great table settings and atmosphere.  I ordered a set menu: Capaccio di Manzo alla Moda, Trofie al Pesto, Medaglioni di Filetto alla Zeffrino, and Milefoglie for dessert.  DW had Frank Sinatra's favorite: the Vegetable stuffed Ravioli with Pesto, All were beyond excellent.  We met and had our photo taken with the Owner and chef Luciano Belloni Zeffirino who has many awards and titles.  He has feed every Pope and many celebrities since they opened in 1939.  After our great meal we walked over to the Christopher Columbus house, it was very stark compared to the palazzos built by the wealthy merchants we saw earlier.  We then walked down to the old port area, but soon took a taxi to return to the ship.  The four of us went up to Gaudí's outdoor bar on deck 15 aft for cocktails this evening as we sailed away from Genoa.  It was nice.  Dinner came too soon…having had a large meal at lunch I only ordered the Vegetarian Stew as a starter, the Cod Fish Ligurian style entree, and Vanilla Ice Creme.  The production show tonight was Totem, but we settled into the cabin to rest.  My goal for Genoa day was to visit the Palazzos and have a great meal and that goal was met…a great day in Genoa.

Monday October 17  /  Cannes  /  Day 6
Hotel deVille - Cannes
Calm seas overnight and another beautiful day.  We arrived before 8:00 am and this will be a tender port for the MSC Fantasia.  We received priority tender tickets, but will not be in a rush to go ashore as the plan is just to go ashore for lunch and a short walk.  The four of us went ashore about 11:00 am., the good thing about being tendered is that we are dropped much more closer to the center of the town so less walking.  I was able to find the  La Creperie that we enjoyed last visit, but it was closed for the day so we walked around and looked at the interesting shoppes. We did come across another promising eatery: Creperie Bigoudene.  I had a nice crepe with crab meat and artichokes, DW a cheese only, and we shared a sweet crepe for dessert.  The proper diet Cokes in a bottle were nice as well.  We continued walking the Shoppes, Sidewalk cafes, and the Harbor with all the beautiful Yachts docked along side.  Our goal accomplished we headed back towards the tender pier as the ship does leave early today.  We were back on board by 3:00 for a 4:00 sail away.  We watched us sail from Cannes from the aft facing balcony and soon MSC delivered a bottle of Procecco and petit-fours to our cabin for Gala night.  Very convenient and thank you.  We all went down to the Lobby Bar about 6:00 to participate in the Gala night activities. MSC is one of few cruise lines still offering complementary cocktails on the Captains Gala night and they do a very good job of doing so with white glove and silver tray service.  We also ordered cocktails as we have a lot of drink coupons remaining and we are running out of time.  We had reservations in the new El Sombrero Tex-Mex premium restaurant.  This is a huge improvement to the Eataly space they previously had on the Fantasia.  They serve both Tex-Mex and it serves as their steak house.  We had a complementary dinner through our booking AND from our ‘Black Card’ so we were able to get something nice for everyone.  I ordered the Quesadillas, NY Strip Steak, and Mango Creme dessert…DW ordered Quesadillas, Chicken Nachos, and Flan.  They do have nice Margaritas…we both ordered the Mango Margaritas.  As a Texan that eats a lot of Tex-Mex it was OK, as a restaurant on a cruise ship…it was Very Good.  Our waiter was Melvin from Honduras who assisted me on embarkation day.  After dinner we rushed to the Production show: Wonderland in the Teatro L’Avanguardia theater.  It was the typical MSC show combining various arts: music, dance, aerobatics, juggling, and more all with an Alice in Wonderland loose theme.  A late and busy evening for me so we retired.  It was a fun and busy day.

Tuesday October 18 / Palma de Mallorca, Spain / Day 7
Gaudi designed Canopy in Cathedral
Calm seas overnight and partly cloudy skies.  I was awake very early so updated my review and surfed the internet until falling back asleep.  I got around about 10:00 and we can see the west side of Palma de Mallorca's islands so I went up to the buffet about 10:30 for a light breakfast.  I have enjoyed the hot milk that is readily available on MSC cruises in the mornings.  We don’t dock until 2:00 pm so it will be a casual morning.  In the Steakhouse last night I met a nice lady that works for MSC Corporate offices and who I sailed with back in 2008.  She recognized me and even had a photo of us from the Majesty of the Seas.  Small world.  Although I didn't get to meet with her today, she send a bottle of Moscato and canopies...thank you.  I never had an opportunity to eat breakfast or lunch in the MDR this cruise so today I went to the Red Velvet Restaurant for lunch.  I had a salad, pasta and chicken entree…very nice.  We docked about 2:00 pm in Palma and there are six cruise ships in harbor today.  The four of us went off ship about 2:30 and took a taxi (€12) to the old town.  We walked around the shoppes and DW and I went into the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma. Construction began in 13th century but it actually opened in 1601.  Due to damage by an earthquake Antoni Gaudí worked on interior design from 1904-14.  Although I had visited the exterior twice before I had never gone inside (admission to museum+ €7 pp) and it was amazing and the Gaudi touches were easy to determine.  We returned to the ship about 5:00 then met for cocktails prior to our 7:15 pm meet time for our big evening excursion this evening.  We booked the Son Amar Dinner and Show: Fusion.  Mallorca's world-famous show entertains you with Spanish flamingo, visual comedy, dancing horses, breathtaking acrobatics, and and more … an amazing show, but perhaps too long.  We arrived back at the ship at midnight then quickly packed to have our bags out before 2:00 am.  It was a very busy day in Palma de Mallorca.

Wednesday October 19 / Barcelonia, Spain / Debarkation
Tapas Restaurant - Barcelona
I was up by 7:00 am as I needed to collect some remaining OBC, but when I got to Guest Services they said it was not refundable (that is norm for some types of OBC).  Of course on Tuesday I made a specific query and was told that it was...and to come between 7:00 - 11:00 this morning to get it. I even made a confirmation trip to GS to confirm this, but by chance got the same girl who I had spoke to on the phone.  I even asked if I needed to get OBC out through the casino (a cruise travelers trick) and was told it was not necessary.  After some heated discussion the manager of the gift shop opened just for me at 8:00 am and allowed me to spend my OBC.  Very nice that he did that, but I should not have been told by an (under trained?) GS person that I would be receiving it...he bailed out the GS dept. IMHO.  After final packing we were off about 9:40 to debark when I was stopped at the final debark security station to return to GS...not going to do it...they sent someone to me...turns out they say I owe €3 on my account. I thought that was all worked out plus I have a credit card registered.  After a few phone calls they actually gave me €5 and said I was cleared...what a mess this created at debark.  Once off the ship our bags where ready for us to pick up and we got a Taxi van (€24)  to carry (southern US expression) the four of us and our bags to our hotel.  We made it to the wonderful Hotel 1898 about 11:00 am and checked in although rooms were not ready.  We went up to the 1898 Rooftop Bar to enjoy the wonderful view, drink some soft drinks, and go online on the hotel wifi.  It was relaxing after a bit of a stressful morning.  In fact they called and our hotel rooms were ready before we could make plans for lunch.  After getting to our room and getting our bags we were off to our favorite casual Basque Tapa's Restaurant: Txapela.


Ship
Maiden Voyage: December 2008  I  Gross Tonnage: 137,986 tons
Passenger Capacity: 3900  |  Crew: 1313  I  Length: 333.33 meters
Max Cruising Speed: 22.7 knots  I  Avg Speed 21 knots
Power: Diesel-Electric (2@20,200kW)  I  Propulsion: Fixed pitch propellers

Cabin
We had cabin 9248 an aft facing balcony located on deck 9 and there are aft elevators located nearby.  It is a well decorated and spacious cabin.  The cabin has a push button safe, twin/queen beds, large padded headboard, two night stands with lights, two large decorative mirrors, a small refrigerator, small table, full couch, seat at dresser, and TV with interactive features.

Crew
The crew was noticeably more friendly than when we sailed the Fantasia two years ago.  Only one rude bar server in Gaudi.  All other bar servers were nice and interacted well with us.  Our MDR waiters were very efficient and very friendly.  Our cabin steward Anthony did a good job. Still a little different on MSC as far as overall customer service is concerned, but much improved. 

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Entertainment is the strong suit of MSC with very elaborate production shows and live music in most all venues. In addition to the production shows they have a ‘fun’ event scheduled every night night at 11:00 pm in the L’insolito Lounge (large  venue located far aft). The food overall is above average compared to other large cruise companies.  The Zanzibar and L’Africana Buffets (think Lido deck) were adequate, the deserts were best.  The El Sombrero Tex-Mex is a great improvement.  They had some very beautiful lounges and bars with entertainment, we tried to visit most.  Basically the Entertainment is the best at sea…Food could use some improvement.

Comments
Children sail for free on MSC so children will be on the ship…sometimes too many…this sailing was probably average.  This is very different than the large cruise lines in non summer months…there will be more children.  Sailing with friends on board makes it much more fun especially when you are a small minority on the ship…we never saw any other Americans on board.   We had fun every day.  Sailing MSC is very different than the usual American cruise lines and if your looking for the that experience it will be much different.  You may like the differences or you may be unhappy with the differences.  If you don’t like change or are not flexible you will probably not like sailing a European cruise line.  If your open about NEW experiences and travel you will love MSC.  This was a great cruise experience for us.

Highlights of the Cruise

Sailing with Friends
MSC Production Shows
Genoa on our own…especially the gourmet meal at Zeffirino's
Aft facing Balcony Cabin



Thank you for reading.  As an older/experienced cruiser my activities will be much different from a newer cruiser as I will be doing fewer things on board simply because of the 'been there done that' factor and frankly I don't have the energy as I once did...Priorities do change over time. I do love to cruise!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Liberty of the Seas Cruise Review - October 2, 2016

 Liberty of the Seas Review

October 2, 2016

Just The Facts
Ship:  Liberty of the Seas
Sailing:  October 2, 2016
Captain: Rune Johnsen
Cruise Director: Jeffrey Arpin
Ports: Galveston-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather:  Very nice and avoiding Hurricane Matthew

This is my 21th Royal Caribbean cruise, second time on the Liberty of the Seas, and my 118th cruise overall.  I am sailing solo.

Day One--Sunday—Embarkation
Manoelito's Classic Guitar in Boleros
I enjoyed the leaving/arriving later scenario we did on the previous cruise so did so again.  There are so many VIP’s that it now actually creates problems at embarkation…so the later arrival is a much smoother process. I left the ranch about 8:00 am and headed south to Galveston arriving at EZ Cruise parking about 12:45. Galveston was very busy today, but I was shuttled over to the Liberty of the Seas fairly quickly. I was after the initial boarding rush and zipped through security and check in and was on board about 1:30 pm. I went directly to the cabin on deck eight and since I rolled my bag on board with me I began stowing away my items.  I went up to the Windjammer and got a plate of Chicken, Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes and sat down and who shows up but Robert my waiter from the previous cruise.  He brought  Wontang the cute assistant waiter by as well.  I’m glad I tipped them a little extra that week since they made a big deal of me being back on board.  After a late lunch I returned to the cabin and finished set up until time for muster drill.  Soon Lennie, from Jamaica, my cabin Steward for the week came by to introduce himself…I think he will be fine.  Fortunately my muster station  D25 was located in the MDR (main dining room) so I could sit this time…much better than last time. After drill the Captain said we'll sail the regular itinerary as we'll be following behind Hurricane Matthews path.  After dismissal I went up to the Promenade on deck 5 to waste some time as all the elevators were packed as usual. They only offer limited beer selections until we sail, but they were passing out Pizza slices on one end and mini Ham & Cheese on the other of the Promenade...kind of nice. I didn't check on Terry's cookies and I ended up taking stairs so I could watch the Dallas Cowboys game on cabin TV.  The Diamond Lounge or even the Viking Crown Lounge, my go to place for cocktails, is not as appealing as a solo since they have larger seating areas and I wanted to see new area of the ship so I went to Boleros on deck four. RCCL pre-loads three complementary Diamond guest cocktails daily on your sail and sign card that can be used at any bar on the ship so that helps the ability to visit other bars.  Boleros was a good choice since it’s next to my MDR and they have live classical guitar music featuring Manoelito from Brazil.  He was very good as were my Cosmopolitan cocktails.  I’m dining this week again at 8:00 pm seating on level four in the Michelangelo Dining Room.  I have a six top table with a nice window location and still a view of the chandelier.  My waiter is Ceasar and assistant Joy, both from the Philippines.  I also met the Head Waiter for the area and the assistant Maitre’D who recognized me.  I bet I receive my special requests. Dinner was good, I ordered a Spinach Salad, the Seafood Spaghetti,  and the Slow Roasted Beef StripLoin entree.  The Mango Pudding and Carrot Cake & Ice Creme were great desserts.  The Welcome show was this evening, but after a long busy day I retired to the cabin after dinner. It was a fun first day on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Two—Monday—at Sea
The Ice Show:  Encore
Very smooth seas and a very restful night.  The weather is beautiful today with blue skies and scattered clouds.  This cruise will be completely different from the recent Liberty OTS cruise as I don’t have the huge balcony. I will spend more time about the ship, no outdoor room service breakfasts, or lazy sail always.  I do like my nice dark interior and the cabin itself is actually more updated than previous balcony cabin.  I slept until 8:00 am and had internet time as is my morning custom then went down to the MDR for breakfast just before the 10:00 am close.  I ordered the Eggs Benedict with sides of melon, bacon and hash browns…good.  The C&A Loyalty ambassador is located on deck eight so as I returned to the cabin I asked him about my D+ status since I was issued a Diamond Card upon check-in.  He played on computer for a bit then gave me a new pin and benefit flyer and said it was taken care of and I could even get a new card if I wish.  Thanks…I noticed that the WiFi has a better discount for D+ so I’m glad I asked.  About noon I did a walkabout of the ship walking around decks 11 and 12 and pool areas…then down to deck 5 and the Promenade.  Lounged a while in the Solarium.  It wasn’t that busy on pool decks, I believe we have an older group or they were all going to the early ice show.  I had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had ribs on the carving station and I had some pasta and mashed potatoes.  I did go the 4:00 pm Ice Show: Encore.  Royal Caribbean is known for it’s very entertaining ice shows and this one was great even having seen it just last month.  Very colorful and still amazing to think of an ice show at sea.  Since the elevators were backed up following the ice show I stopped for an early cocktail and turns out they failed to preload my new sail card with the D+ benefits so a trip to Guest Services straightened that out…I did get a free cocktail as it turned out.  Since the feature show is so soon (6:30) for late seating diners I’m passing and going down to Boleros again for cocktails before dinner.  Manoelito was again very good and did some Beatles tunes tonight as well.  My new bartender friend Roger from Genada has been preparing special Cosmopolitans for me.  Woo Hoo.  I may have found a ‘home’ for the cruise.  Tonight is the Captains night dinner and I ordered a Salad, the Lobster Bisque and the Carved Filet of Beef Tenderloin entree.  All were very good especially the beef.  They did bring me Hearts of Palm that I added to my salad so that made it even more special.  Thanks.  The featured adult comedy show is later tonight, but I retired to the cabin and watched the comedians performance from the Welcome Show on Sunday.  I really enjoyed watching from my big bed with four pillows.  It was a great relaxing sea day on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Three—Tuesday—Cozumel
My San Miguel neighborhood
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked very early, about 7:00 am. I slept well but I didn’t get around until about 9:00 am.  Skipping breakfast as we have a short day in Cozumel today.  We are docked at the International pier along with the Allure of the Seas so there was a huge line at the taxi stand when I got down there about 9:40.  I skipped the line and went across the street and got a taxi strait away as I shared with a local lady who had just waved one over…she was going just one block past Angelo’s so it was perfect, Gentleman that I am, I paid for the taxi, but taxi driver may not of stopped for me as she had waved him over.  I got a nice haircut from Martin my barber of nine years then went down to Woody’s my usual HQ in San Miguel.  I had two Coca-cola lights, that always taste so much better in Mexico, while updating my cruise blog and updating all my iPhone applications.  Alma brought some great Guacamole and Pico de gallo and I enjoyed some good internet time using their fast wifi connection. I wish my wifi speed was as fast in Texas, I even downloaded the opera Carmen to get into a Spanish mood since we are flying to Barcelona on Monday.  The live music at Woody's is also nice and they have my favorite Mexican beer: Bohemia.  After a visit to the Farmacia, I took a taxi ($8) back to the ship about 2:30.  As soon as I hit the cabin I ordered room service as knew it’s an hour+ wait.  They really need an Guy’s Burger type alternative that feeds people fast.  I had time to clean up and cool off before I ate my Steak Sandwich & Ham & Cheese Sandwich as a late lunch.  They were hot, tasted good, and were served with french fries (not hot) and packaged potato chips. I went up to the Diamond Club in the Viking Crown Lounge for the first time tonight for cocktails and it was only partial full…in fact after I got my first Cosmo they brought them to my table afterward.  Super.  When I left I noticed that the Olive or Twist lounge was more empty than full as well.  Very different from my previous cruise On Liberty OTS, but better for the Diamond guests on board.  I also went to Boleros on the way to dinner to get my cocktail from Roger so he would continue to prepare my usual.  The MDR was only half full which is not usual for Cozumel day.  I ordered the Arugula salad and added my Hearts of Palm that made it a great salad, and ordered two entrees: The Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Braised Beef Duo. For dessert I ordered the BBB Creme Brulee and the Rum Baba Cake.  All were very good tonight...best dinner of the cruise so far.  The feature show tonight was In the Air a great show with a lot of trapeze, colorful costumes, singing & dancing, and aerial scenes.  The show may have contributed to fewer guest in the Viking Crown tonight.  It's a very different show for a cruise, but having just seen it I retired to the cabin to watch the MLB AL Wildcard game.  The winner (Blue Jays) will face my Texas Rangers.  It was a great Cozumel day in paradise.

Day Four—Wednesday—(Grand Cayman) - at Sea
Mascot on Promenade Deck
I slept very well overnight and the weather was beautiful.  This was to be Grand Cayman day and I was going to stay on board to do ship activities while most passengers were off the ship.  However the Captain made an announcement that although the weather is now nice the seas are a bit high and an afternoon thunderstorm was expected to disrupt tender services to and from the island in the afternoon.  He was afraid that people would be ‘stuck’ on the island and unable to return to the ship.  So we are going to have a sea day today.  I purposely waited late to go to the MDR as there would be few there, but after the announcement seems many now went to the MDR for a leisurely breakfast.  My breakfast was very good, I ordered three fried eggs over easy with melon, bacon, ham, and hash browns.  I went on another extended walkabout on the outer decks as the guests are enjoying the swimming pools and outdoor activities.  The Captain is slowly sailing, avoiding the clouds, I assume towards Jamaica.  They distributed a new revised Daily Planner midday with more afternoon activities both indoors and out.  A busy day at the Rock Wall, Tidal Wave, Slides, and Flow Rider for the active guests.  I had lunch in the Windjammer, I had Pork Tenderloin from carving station, their very good Mashed Potatoes, small Strip Steaks, and Bread Pudding for dessert.  Cabin time, computer work, excursion research for Europe, and blog updating this afternoon.  I went up to the Diamond Lounge about 6:00ish and had a nice time visiting with other Diamond Guests.  It was not overfull at all and the two servers were very generous in bringing cocktails to you.  It was a nice party and no need to use the three drinks from sail card anywhere else.  I went to dinner in the Michelangelo dining room as usual and there were more guests at dinner tonight.  I ordered: the Insalata Mista salad and added my Hearts of Palm, the Eggplant Parmigiana, and Chicken Marsala entree.  Didn't care for the Eggplant (Princess has the best) but enjoyed the Chicken.  Not a major production show tonight although they did have the standard cruise line Love & Marriage Show in the Metropolis Theater.  On reflection I don't think the ship is near full.  Royal Caribbean never releases numbers and in fact usually announces it's full when it is not and I believe that to be the case.  It wasn't that crowded during my walkabout today, I easily got a seat in the Windjammer, The MDR wasn't full, and the relatively empty Diamond Lounge working as it should.  It makes it a very nice and enjoyable cruise.  A very easy relaxing extra sea day on The Liberty of the Seas.

Day Five—Thursday—Falmouth Jamaica
Falmouth: new Cruise Village & old Falmouth in background
Very smooth seas overnight and a good nights sleep.  We arrived and docked at Falmouth well before 8:00 am.  The Allure of the Seas has also joined us here.  My only plans for the day is to go down the ship's new water slides and watch the Texas Ranger game in the afternoon.  I casually went to the Windjammer about 10:00 am for a nice buffet breakfast.  Since we do have two sea days returning and the unscheduled one yesterday I did go down to the pier and Cruise Village area of Falmouth.  It’s a very nice and clean area with all the shoppes one would expect in a cruise ship pier/village, at least they allow locals into a Craft area.  I’ve been here before and taken a tour of the old town, something I would not care to ever do again so I just did some people watching.  As I was sitting near the big Customs House where everyone enters and exits the village from the ships I did witness this gem:  After viewing the big and beautiful Allure docked across from us all morning this couple decides to come down to the pier, through the security into the Customs House then exits into the village plaza (where I am sitting) looks around and says, “Wow there’s another big ship” she took another few steps and says, “Oh…that’s ours”. Pretty funny and proof that not all the goofy people are on Carnival and yes she was blonde (not that there's anything wrong with that).  I didn’t think I’d see anything better than that exchange so returned to the ship early as they open the slides at 1:00 pm.  I had a very nice Windjammer lunch with German style pork cutlets and red cabbage.  One of my favorite Windjammer meals and I missed it last month.  I spent some time in the Solarium swimming pool and then the hot tub that sets over the side of the ship.  I was on the Allure side so it was easy to observe that ship from the hot tub.  A nice soak and the knees feel good.  I ordered some fruit plates and cheese plate for cabin delivery during the Texas Rangers afternoon playoff baseball game on TV.  The cabin makes a very nice man cave to watch the game.  I went up to the Diamond Lounge (plenty of seats) for cocktails and visit with new friends until time to go to the Michelangelo MDR.  Dinner was very good, I ordered the Royal Shrimp Cocktail,  the Garden Salad that I added my plate of Hearts of Palm, and two entrees: the Pork Scaloppine and the Crispy Chicken Kiev.  All really excellent, another great dinner.  The feature entertainment was comedian Tom McTigue but I couldn’t work that into my schedule, actually preferring the Diamond Lounge to my designated showtime.  It was a an interesting and fun day in Jamaica and on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Six—Friday—at Sea
El Gaucho
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well overnight. I had been going to the MDR just before closing in order to avoid lines, but this morning I went about 9:00 am that should be ‘prime time’ and there was no line what so ever.  I know my ‘sailing not near full’ theory is true.  I had a great breakfast with fresh fried eggs with bacon, ham, melon, etc.  I enjoyed a relaxing morning until the Texas Ranger game on TV at noon today.  We actually get two MLB feeds on the ship, the usual TBS feed and Latin ESPN2 that seems to ‘borrow’ the best sports broadcasts from Europe and North America.The baseball game wasn’t going well so I took a break for lunch in the Windjammer. They had Roast Pig on the carving station and an interesting Ukrainian dish of beef cubes with a hot sauce…different and good.  The special thing was it was Oatmeal Raisin cookie day…they are my favorite so I took some to the cabin to eat during the rest of the baseball game.  The ship has the usual sea day activities, but I enjoy doing my own thing and today it was baseball. I went to the Platinum Theater for tonight's Headliner show: El Gaucho. A show I have seen many times all the way back to the Rhapsody of the Seas days. The show includes comedy, music, and special effects according to the description and although the show is a bit ‘cheesy’ it is entertaining and I did find myself laughing out loud several times.  I did get a great seat in 4th row center again again confirming my ‘not near full’ theory. After the show I went to Boleros for my cocktails since it is close to dinner time and they are located next to the Michelangelo Dining room.  Dinner tonight was good, I ordered the Escargot, the Green Salad with Hearts of Palm, the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin entree, and Baked Alaska for dessert.  I have loved mixing my Hearts of Palm with my salads this week.  After dinner I retired to the cabin and watched TV.  It was a nice day at sea on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Olive or Twist Lounge
Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well…until 9:30 am in fact…so a dash down to the MDR before it closed for a nice sit down breakfast.  I ordered Melon, Custom Fried Eggs with bacon, ham & hash browns. All very good.  Afterward I went to Guest Services to make $ change for extra tips and while I was there I payed off my sail account…I don’t anticipate any additional charges so it's nice to have that taken care of since I’ll be busy traveling for a month.  I’m wearing my OU football jersey today since it’s game day, but all the sports feeds I mentioned are showing European soccer this morning.  OU vs. TX has to be more interesting to guests than Montenegro vs. Kazakstan (seriously).  I am able to get a live feed from FoxSports over the internet, but the bandwidth is so slow over the ship satellite it’s very spotty coverage.  But it is the game and it was a very exciting game at that...so much I skipped lunch but my Raisin Oatmeal cookies allowed me to survive.  Today is the feature show Saturday Night Fever in the Platinum Theater.  This is a big theatrical production with great sets and costumes not just a song and dance routines.  The large cast of singers and dancers are very good and this is a show not to be missed if you have not seen it. I have really taken advantage of the Diamond level Crown & Anchor club complimentary cocktails this week.  Thank you RCCL, you helped make it fun. Final dinner tonight was good, I ordered the Eggplant and Kalamata Olive Tartare, Tomato and Baked Feta Cheese Salad with my additional Hearts of Palm, the Roasted Turkey entree, and Key Lime Pie for dessert.  I retired after dinner to do some packing and watch some football.  It was a busy and great final day on the Liberty of the Seas.

Debarkation--Sunday
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked early before I was up and around.  I was up early and finished packing. No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu is served in the dining room.  I am doing the self debarkation and could debark early with the VIP groups, but have decided to wait until towards the end of self-debark to avoid the anxious guests crowding the passageways although the early arrival will help that usual problem (You no longer have to request self-debark and get a ticket at Guest Services the day prior.)  They do a silent debark so a little harder to estimate debark progress from your cabin.  I went down to deck four about 8:10 am and the timing was fair, there were long lines but they moved fairly well all the way to customs. I took the EZ Cruise shuttle to the car and I was on my way about 9:00 am. (Galveston Raceway $1.92) I took I-45 through Houston and north then cross country on Hwy 7 to Hwy 6, Waco, then Bosque County.  Home at the ranch about 1:30 pm..

Ship
The Liberty of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s current ‘Texas’ ship sailing year round in Galveston.  With a large ship there are a lot of people and the pools can be very crowded during peak times and the elevators are always full, but the additional size also means that there is room for an ice skating arena, the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck.  The Grand Promenade is very impressive indeed and must be experienced.  We couldn’t determine if there is theme to the ship but it’s decorated nicely. They have the Sabor restaurant, Diamond Lounge, and Digital photo displays on deck three, and much more.

Cabin
I had cabin 8397 an interior on starboard side near the aft.  The room is a standard size interior with: key pad safe, hair dryer, refrigerator (empty), small couch, full chair at vanity/desk, nice sliding shower door, and good lighting. Another great feature was the flat screen TV that could be adjusted to view from anywhere in the room.  Very well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked well, but I’m glad I brought my personal cabin fan for circulation.

Crew
Overall very good. My cabin steward Lenny from Jamaica was very adequate, My MDR wait team, waiter Cesar and assistant Joy both from the Philippines,  were very good.  The two bartenders in the Diamond Lounge were fantastic.

Food
My assigned 8:00 pm dining room was the Michelangelo Dining Room, deck four the mid level of the 3 level restaurant. The bread and appetizers were especially good, the entrees very good.  The Windjammer is the buffet  area and the quality of food was very good.   Room service was always good but averaged an hour for delivery.  Johnny Rockets is a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack.  Lunch in the Sapphire Dining Room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. There are several ice crème and yogurt machines.  The Cookies on this ship are outstanding my favorite was Oatmeal raisin.



Thank you for reading.  As an older/experienced cruiser my activities will be much different from a newer cruiser as I will be doing fewer things on board simply because of the 'been there done that' factor and frankly I don't have the energy as I once did...Priorities do change over time. I do love to cruise!!