Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carnival Glory Review 2.27.2011

Carnival Glory Review 2.27.2011

Just The Facts
Ship: Carnival Glory
February 20-February 27, 2011
Captain: Salvatore Rassello
Cruise Director: Jorge Solano / Bloggers: John Heald
Ports: Miami- Nassau- St. Thomas- San Juan- Grand Turk- Miami
Weather: Good all week

This was my 24th Carnival cruise, 64th overall, 2nd time on the Carnival Glory, and my 2nd John Heald Bloggers cruise. This is the second week of a B2B and the week of the John Heald Bloggers Cruise. Within the Bloggers we are also traveling with a group of friends from the CruiseMates roll call (although private group) this week.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We have an easy embarkation as we are already on the ship. I again had breakfast in the dining room as I know I will be busy this next week. After breakfast I returned to the cabin to pack for our change of cabins. Mr. Wi and housekeeping made it so easy for us by arranging for our new cabin to be prepared early. About 10:00 am we moved to our aft balcony, cabin 8457, our favorite on a Conquest class ship and met Mr. Gregorio our new stateroom attendant for the week. The cabin was all set to go and as the aft cabins have some Conquest decorations it seemed like ‘home’. It even had a Gauguin tile in the bathroom. We went down to meet the Purser and the other B2B pax at 10:30 as prearranged by Guest Services. They gave us our new Sail & Sign cards and as soon as the final guests were off the ship they walked down to U.S. Customs and we did our thing and returned to the ship. A very simple process. We returned to the cabin and headed up to Lido for lunch as we knew it would soon again be busy. First stop was to see Mr. Frank and get a nice bowl of Mongolian chicken and vegetables. While in line I saw our friends arriving and as they are experienced cruisers several also made their way to the Mongolian Grill. As most of our group are all Milestone and Platinum they were all soon aboard and eating lunch in our designated meeting area on Lido deck aft. As a group we have all the 8N balcony cabins so this is a logical public area meeting spot just above our cabins. After meeting everyone and lunch we went back to our cabin to finish unpacking and to settle in for the week. In the cabin we had a fruit basket delivered from the group manager, and an OBC credit notification as well as champagne & strawberries from Bosque Travel. The Bon Voyage department brought a Birthday gift: a cooler of coca-cola, mug, and hat. Boat drill was held about 4:00 pm and we did our usual thing. Following boat drill we had our first sail away party from the deck 8 aft balconies. This will become a regular and infamous occurrence throughout the week. It was fantastic weather as we sailed out of Miami and everyone was in great spirits. Everyone in the group came by and picked up their group schedules, party invitations, and pre arranged liquor purchased and extended the sail away until the Bloggers Welcome Party in the Amber Theater. This is our first scheduled Bloggers party and I do say that the Glory really prepared some great h’orderves. Very different than what they serve at the Past Guest Party. It’s also hard to serve 280+ people, but they did a great job. They were also very generous with the cocktails too. This was the first time to be able to see some extended friends & bloggers and see John Heald for the first official time. Of course I think our group will have the most FUN this week. We have dinner in the Platinum Dining Room and we have two great 10-top tables on the center lower level. Great location and we have the same waiters so that we can table hop this week. For dinner I had the Tomato soup, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp, Flat Iron Steak, and the Crème Brule for dessert. All were very good. After dinner many went to the casino or various music venues. The ‘Welcome Show’ with Jorge was at 10:30 pm in the theater and some attended although we retired early.

Day Two--Monday--Nassau, Bahamas
Great weather today. We arrived very early in Nassau and several in our group met early for private excursions on Lido aft before 8:00 am. I got up to see them off then met a friend in the MDR for my usual 1st day Carnival breakfast of Eggs Benedict, Grapefruit, with sides of Bacon, and Potatoes. After breakfast back to the Lido aft to met others getting their breakfast and meeting in our spot. By 10:00 this had turned into our annual Bloody Mary Party that lasted until after 1:30 pm. We had a wonderful view of the Nassau harbor and the Atlantis resort so it was a wonderful morning visiting with group members and friends as they arrive back from town. The Lido Maitre’d who I met last week came by with the Food & Beverage manager to visit and he promised a surprise for our Texas night party later in the week. We had to break up our Bloody Mary party in order to attend our Sail Away party at 2:30. We had to break up our sail away party in order to make our private cocktail party in the Cinn-A-Bar at 3:30. This was a party just for the twenty+ in our group and special friends held in the piano bar on Lido deck. Our host was Flat Mike who had joined us on the previous group cruise on the Carnival Splendor in lieu of real Mike who could not make it due to health. We were so happy that both made it for this cruise. John Heald popped in for just one minute to say hello, but I noticed in his entourage Chris Prideaux from the Carnival head office. Chris is Director of On-Board Programing for the fleet and I asked him if he would join us for a quick Q&A in an informal (cocktail) situation and he agreed. It was great fun. In fact one of the suggestions made at this get together has now gone fleet wide, the need for a regularly scheduled Veterans meeting on each cruise. Several in our group have been suggesting this for years and now we had THE man who could do it. He agreed and did it. We also implemented a trick we learned on the Splendor that will work well for us on this cruise. If you get a good bar server adopt him as your own, we did and Victor was his name. For me, what little was left of the day was devoted to cabin time. This evening is the Captains Reception although we no longer attend. The Platinum gifts were left this evening and what should it be? Coolers! After all the trouble last week of no cooler I now have five. It is also the first ‘cruise elegant’ night, but the gentlemen in the group wore our Hawaiian shirts for a dressy, but causal look. This was again ‘Lobster Night’ in the dining room, still a bit of a surprise as Lobster is usually on the 2nd elegant night. I had the White Stuffed Mushrooms, and both the Lobster & Shrimp entrée and Prime Rib. For dessert I had the Cherries Jubilee. Many attended the late production show, Livin’ in America, in the Amber Palace Theater and others did their thing in other venues. After enjoying a very long and busy, but FUN day we retired to the cabin.

Day Three--Tuesday—at Sea
Weather is again perfect today for the first day of March. I started the day with a very nice omelette from Mr. Frank and met others in the usual Lido aft location. We did scheme an idea for later in the day though and that was to enter the Mixology Contest. This is a contest where passengers come up with a mixed drink and then it will be served on the ship the rest of the week. Between the group we came up with: a drink recipe, the name of the drink (key), and our PR guy for the crowd. After breakfast I joined several others for TV trivia in the Amber theater, no luck though. The Bloggers slot tournament was this morning a few in our little group made the finals for later today. I had a nice Lido buffet lunch then it was time for Mixology entries. Several of us entered but whoever was chosen would go with the ‘special’ drink. It worked perfectly, Storm’n Norman, the crazy hat guy, was chosen so we were in the contest and since we had a slot conflict I became the mixologist. The name of our drink was ‘Johnny’s Underpants’ named for John Heald who famously writes his blog in his underpants. Of course the group was there to encourage the judges and after judging six entries, yes Johnny’s Underpants was the winner. It’s a frozen drink with a rum base, creme de cacao, banana liquor, and pineapple liquor. Actually pretty good. A little bit of cabin time before we have our joint cocktail party at 4:00 pm. I called the bar manager to give her a 'heads up' about our party time because after all the talk and the mixology contest everyone would probably want a sample of the winning drink. BTW-she was one of the judges. She did not disappoint, at 4:00 pm Victor and two other cocktail waiters walk out with trays of Johnny’s Underpants. (photo left) Our shared party was with the Cruise Critic folks and they were a bit surprised by our antics and organization. They were in the spirit within the hour and of course the one-hour Carnival cocktail party is our groups specialty. After the party a nap was in order, but we did attend an early performance of the comedy show. Carnival has done a great job with the comedy venue. Dinner was again very good. My selections were the French Onion Soup, Braised Short Ribs, Pork Tenderloin and a Fruit Plate for dessert. After dinner the group again split up to do various things. I attended the late (adult) comedy show and it was very good!

Day Four--Wednesday—St. Thomas
Weather was perfect today although some clouds in the afternoon. Another Mr. Frank omelette and breakfast with the group this morning. This is the big excursion day for many in the group and it is important to arrive at St. Thomas at our scheduled 10:00 am time and everyone meet our arranged transport as we have some traveling to do. We want to make Trunk Bay on the island of St. John, but it will be tight. Those going met on deck 3 and soon it became obvious that we were going to be a bit late to the pier. I saw a Purser who I had been teasing for ten days about the cooler situation and she came to the rescue. Our group was literally the first off the ship and then as we walked towards the exit we saw a sign saying “Snoozers” and knew our Safari Taxi driver was there and waiting. Our goal of making the 11:00 am St. John ferry looked much better. We loaded up and Alex, our driver, said “everyone hold on” and off we go. We were the first out of the pier area and well on our way to Red Hook before 98% of the passengers were even off the ship. At Red Hook the group split with some going to a resort/beach on St. Thomas and those of us going on got our ferry tickets ($12 return) for the 11:00 am ferry to Cruz Bay on the island of St. John. The ferry ride was short and the views of the islands were marvelous. At the village of Cruz Bay we hopped another Safari taxi ($6) for Trunk Bay. Almost all of the island of St. John is in the U.S. National Park system and it is absolutely beautiful and clean. Soon we stopped at the overlook for the famous view (so many photographs and a U.S. Postage stamp) of Trunk Bay. We were dropped off, paid our Park Admission ($4), and were in the water by noon. It was beautiful. Trunk Bay is the finest beach I have ever seen or been on at anytime. The white sand is perfect almost as if it has been sifted. No rocks anywhere and a great view of the islands beyond. This is a park not a commercial area so only basic amenities, but that adds to the charm. Well worth the effort to get there, even if only for a few hours from a cruise ship. It did cloud up and sprinkle so that encouraged us to move on and meet our goal of the 3:00 pm return ferry. We took a Safari back to Cruz Bay and looked at a few shops before getting the ferry returning to Red Hook. Our designated meet location was the famous Duffy’s Love Shack in Red Hook. This is just a parking lot bar, but made famous by it’s predecessor bar and a song by the Mama’s and Papa’s. The other half of our group was already there having a good time. The drinks are very good but a bit dear. (dear = expensive if your not a Scot) I had the ‘Shark Tank’ served in a 64 oz. fish bowl and little sharks swimming inside. After an hour or so, Alex our Safari driver arrived for the return trip to the pier. We arrived back safe and sound and in time for the girls to hit a few shops. It was a wonderful day for an excursion. I checked two places off my bucket list: Trunk Bay and Duffy’s. I was very impressed with Trunk Bay, not as much with Duffy's. BTW--I highly recommend Islander Taxi, contact Alvin at they really did a great job for us. Back on board we only have a short time before our ‘special’ planned sail away party. Since this is Texas Independence Day we had a Texas theme for our usual balcony sail away. Some of our group that stayed on ship had arranged party supplies, the bar, and snacks. Others brought Texas neckerchiefs, and sparkle Texas pins for the group and our guests. The Food & Beverage Manager did send a great large tray of butterflied cut chicken wings with dipping sauces. We also had fruit and vegetarian snacks as well as a nice selection of wine, champagne, beer, and spirits. Everyone in the group attended as well as some specially invited friends and guests. (photo left: ornery Texans!) It was great fun and the evening was perfect. We also got to enjoy the sunset as sail away was delayed for well over an hour - more party time. The Freedom of the Seas was docked aft to aft with us and the pax on her really got to see what a FUN ship is like first hand. It was fun watching her sail away and that really opened up a beautiful view of Charlotte Amalie harbor. We finally sailed and the timing was good as it’s now time to prepare to go to the dining room. For dinner I had a Salad, Pork Chop, and the Bitter & Blanc for dessert. The group did their usual thing and after such a busy day I retired right after desert. A long and wonderful day with friends.

Day Five--Thursday—San Juan, Puerto Rico
We arrived by 7:00 am even with the delay in leaving St. Thomas. I watched us sail by El Morro early this morning. The weather is great actually getting warm by afternoon. I did the Mr. Frank omelette again, it is so nice to have a fresh off the grill omelette made just the way you like it. We are docked right in Old San Juan (OSJ-the walled part of the city). Many in the group left to tour OSJ and El Morrow early this morning, but we didn’t leave until 10:00 or so. We walked around OSJ - looked at some shops - DW got some Pandora pieces - then went to meet our group at Barrachina for lunch and sample some of their famous Pina Colada. After lunch and splitting up again we went to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (photo left) one of the oldest buildings in San Juan (1522) and is the second oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. I really think that OSJ looks so much cleaner and tourist friendly than when I was here just a few years ago. DW even said she would like to return, I did show her my favorite little hotel and it seemed meet her approval. Sail away is at 3:30, but for once we are NOT having a sail away party as the carnival Past Guest party begins at 3:45 pm. We met as a group before entering the Theater so we could sit as a group and find Victor our designated group bar server. Victor did a good job as usual and we enjoyed the hour, so much we really didn’t want to leave, knowing a second party would be starting afterward, and our experience from the Splendor. Chris P, who adopted us at the first private cocktail party, and has attended all our activities so far came to our rescue and asked CD Jorge if his ‘friends’ could stay over. We stood in the aisle so they could do a quick clean before the next party, Jorge made a joke, to the servers about serving us--it was funny--but will be funnier in a moment. He later told us to take a seat, but no one did--why? We were waiting on VICTOR to tell us his assigned area which happened to be dead center. That surprised Jorge and everyone. OMG they have their own server. It is a FUN ship. Cabin time until dinner. DW had the Vegetarian Lasagna and I had the Fried Shrimp with Plum Sauce, and the Filet Mignon/Short Rib combination entrée. Following dinner I attended the comedy shows. They were very funny. Can’t beat Al and Lewis.

Day Six--Friday—Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos islands, BWI
It was rainy in the morning and the seas were choppy, but it later turned into another beautiful day in the Caribbean. Mr. Frank still greets me with a big smile as I order another omelette for breakfast with some of the group. We didn’t arrive in Grand Turk until 11:00 so we had some cabin time in the morning. It was very cool watching the Princess ship sailing directly toward us to dock. We were to meet our friends at Jack’s Shack, but since it was raining stayed on board for lunch. That means hello again Mr. Frank at the Mongolian grill. Take advantage when possible of short lines at the grill. We left the ship after lunch. Grand Turk is one of the new made-for-cruise-ships facilities similar to Costa Maya and Mahogany Bay. There is a nice area with gift shops, jewelry stores, a wave runner ride, and the largest Margaritaville in the Caribbean. There is a very nice beach and a huge swimming pool within the facility. Our group met at Jack’s Shack located beyond the port facility proper, but just up the beach. (photo right) We had a wonderful time. The weather cleared and the beach is very nice. The owners dog Topher is amazing, he spends the day digging in the sand and playing with tourists. The drinks and pricing was fair too. We did stop by Margaritaville to get our complementary margarita earned at our stop in Grand Cayman the previous week. They had a big crowd of people. We returned to the ship at 5:00 and of course we had a sail away party on the adjoining balconies. Great to watch Grand Turk disappear into the distance while enjoying cocktails. Some cabin time for me before dinner. This is the second ‘elegant night’ but a lot in our group decided to skip dinner in the MDR tonight, just as we did on this night last week. Yes experienced cruisers. We only had one table for dinner and that was nice too. I had the Escargot and the Chateaubriand with Sauce Bearnaise then the Baked Alaska for dessert. It was very good. Tonight was the second and IMHO the best production show: Just Rock featuring the Glory singers and dancers. The group again split up to the casino, comedy club and music venues.

Day Seven--at Sea
We had great weather for our final day at sea. DW had her Lido breakfast and I went to the dining room to meet several of our group for a very nice breakfast. I had a four pancake breakfast to change it up and it was very good! We had a Bloggers Q&A in the morning and received our T-shirts for the afternoon photo. I had a Reuben sandwich for lunch--much better than last week. I must also mention that the ice creme was much better this week. It was too thin last week, but we also had all those kids hitting the machines all the time. DW’s favorite is to get the candied almonds from the Chocolate Buffet and put them on the ice creme. The Bloggers Farewell Party and photo shoot was this afternoon in the Theater. Another round of cocktails (no Victor) and very nice h’orderves--thanks John. I will post the big group photo separately--thanks MGA. We actually left fairly timely for us as we did not want to be late for the ships Farewell Party (photo right) held in the Ebony Cabaret at 5:00 pm. Hello Victor, we’re setting over here!! I know Jorge must be glad to see us go by now. Hang in there my friend. There was live music, I got to dance with the DW (long story), and Victor kept us very happy. Following this party it was to the balconies for the ‘get rid of all the booze’ party and watch the sun set. Yes this is a FUN ship. We had our final dinner for the week in the Platinum dining room. One of our members arranged for some special Filipino dishes to be served to our two tables. We had Pancit with Shrimp (a noodle dish) and Chicken Adobo. Both were very good. I also had the Prime Rib entree and the Grand Mariner soufflé for dessert. After dinner it was off to the various venues for the gang, for me it was time to pack.

We were docked by 7:00 am in Miami. They started allowing the self-debarkation people off just about 7:30 a.m. and calling regular debark starting with zone 1-6 by 8:00 am. I had a nice breakfast in the dining room, my final Eggs Benedict for a while. We left the ship about 9:30 and took a shuttle to the airport. The Miami airport experience was not good, too busy, too crowded, too few agents and not an easy experience.

The Week
The week was very busy. I do not normally socialize that much in a year let alone a week. In our future Snooze group cruises, and we have several planned, our infamous one-hour cocktail parties will now be known as “Friends of Chris P” meetings. It will take me a month to recover from this wonderful week I am sure. Throughout the week we heard from passengers and crew, “Are you the guys having those aft balcony parties?” I’m not sure if that was good or bad, but at least IT WAS FUN!

The Carnival Glory is a Conquest class ship so we are very familiar with the deck plans. It is a very nice ship and the theme is Colors with each public room having a different color theme. The lobby areas have a multi-color display using LED lights and panels. IMHO it is not as nice as the Carnival Conquest as far as overall art, décor, and theme, but again I am prejudiced towards the Conquest.
The ship was very clean and has the recent updates such as the Seaside Theater and a very nice Serenity area.

We have cabin 8457 a category 8N facing aft on deck 8. This is our favorite cabin on a Conquest class ship and we have had it many times. It has a standard cabin floor plan. The cabin has a double bed, three closets, card swipe safe, flat screen TV, refrigerator (never used), and hair dryer. This week the cabin cooled just fine even with the balcony drapes open. A short walk to the aft stairwell and elevators, and convenient to the Lido buffet . DW just went up for breakfast and brought it back to the balcony. You can hear the chairs scoot on the floor of the aft Lido above, but not bad enough to want a different location. Mr. Gregorio did a great job maintaining the cabin for us and keeping us in ice.

We got to visit with Timothy Pierce this week. A very nice young man, glad to see he will be on the Carnival Magic. I’m really glad we saw the productions shows last week as we were so busy we couldn’t this week. Those in our group that saw them really enjoyed them as we did. The Reggae band, Caribbean Ecstasy, sounded great on deck. Those that saw Thien Fu loved him. We did see all four comedians in Carnival’s Punchliner Comedy Club shows this week. They were great and of course the long time favorites, Lewis Nixon and Al Ernst were wonderful. Several in our group loved Celebration, a party band, that played all week. Ron Pass and the piano bar were very busy. He had his fans, the blogger fans and online piano bar expert, DiveTrash, there keeping him in line all week.

Our MDR waiters were very good and that was important as on our last two group cruises they were not. Victor, our bar server, loved the attention. Not only did he get good tips, but we gave him a lot of attention and complemented him to the officers. Jorge is a great Cruise Director although we probably stretched him to the limit on a few occasions-the past guest parties for sure.

Our dining room was the Platinum Dining Room located aft on decks 3 & 4. We had two very nice ten-top tables for our group. The food was much better this week than last, but again I was not really concentrating so much on food this week. It’s really hard to say anything negative about the food considering how nice the Food manager was to us in sending the chicken to our Texas party. The chicken was excellent and cut so uniquely, I’ve never quite had anything like them. The meats did seem to be trimmed better and I did have some repeat orders of my favorites.

A Tale of Two Cruises
Last week it was a Jeckle & Hyde cruise, but this week it has been totally marvelous so this is the Tale of Two Cruises experience for us. It was important to have sailed the previous week as the contacts we made allowed this week go so much better for our ourselves and especially the group. Getting the food for the Texas party and being able to get off early in St. Thomas may not have been possible without the contacts made the previous week.

It is really special to be able to experience a John Heald Bloggers cruise. The passengers are fans of John Heald’s blog and experienced cruisers. Having John Heald as your host is very special, but in addition there is extra entertainment, special guests, extra cocktail parties, special gifts, and a special excitement on the ship. The Carnival Glory ship staff and crew really did an excellent job this week assisting with the group.

Cruise Highlight
For me it was our group of friends, extended friends, John Heald bloggers, new friends, and Carnival staff & crew that made it a very special week.

Thanks to The CruiseDuo and Misguided Angel for photos.

1 comment:

imacard said...

Hi there,

Great review. Found it really helpful and entertaining. Also, I'm curious if you know what your friend did to arrange the special "Filipino" dishes that were served. We're planning a huge family cruise and it's a mixed bunch and I'd love to be able to do something similar for them.

- Virginia