Monday, May 26, 2014

Carnival Freedom Review

 Carnival Freedom Review
May 10 & 18, 2014

Just The Facts
Ship:  Carnival Freedom
Ship Captain (5/10 cruise): Rosario Arena
Ship Captain (5/18 cruise): Candeloro Donato
Cruise Director: Skip Lyons
Ports (5/10 cruise): Ft. Lauderdale, St. Martin, St. Thomas, San Juan,
Ports (5/18 cruise): Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Weather:  Good

I had never sailed the Carnival Freedom and she has just come from dry dock getting most of the Carnival 2.0 updates so this is a perfect time, especially since they have just announced that she will be moving to my local home port of Galveston, Texas next year.  I was anxious to experience the new Carnival Freedom.  I am doing a B2B cruise beginning with an 8 day followed by a 6 day cruise.  I will review both cruises in this one review.  These are my 42nd and 43rd Carnival Cruises and 89th and 90th cruises overall.  I am cruising as a solo taking advantage of a zero single supplement promotion by Carnival.  I do know some guests and crew on board.

Day One—Saturday--Travel--Fort Lauderdale Embarkation
Port Everglades - Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I left the ranch at 4:06 am for the drive to Waco Regional Airport arriving at 5:00 am for my 6:00 am flight.  I like this small airport with free parking and very easy check-in.  We were boarded by 5:50 am and on our way to Dallas for the 8:45 AA flight to Miami.  I was moved to a exit row so had plenty of leg room on the Miami flight.  We arrived about 12:30 (EST) and after claiming my bag went to the Carnival kiosk and was checked in for my cruise by 1:15. Most arrivals were for the Carnival Breeze sailing from Port of Miami today.  I had purchased a Carnival transfer since I was at the Miami airport (not the closer Ft. Lauderdale) and actually had a bus to myself arriving at the port about 2:30 pm.  Boarding was a breeze as I was behind the crowds and had checked-in at the airport so I was in the lobby entry before 3:00 pm.  I was quite hungry so I dropped my carry-on bag at my cabin and went straight to the Comfort Kitchen.  It was Italian theme day at the Lido buffet so I had a nice selection and sliced Roast Beef from the carving station.  It was good.  I had an ice creme for dessert as I briefly walked around to find the locations of two of my favorites: Mongolian Grill and Guy’s Burgers.  Both were getting brisk business.  I returned to my cabin to change into cooler clothes and my luggage had arrived.  The extra VIP tape on your Priority luggage tags really work.  I now just took the opportunity to unpack  and set up my cabin especially since ‘Safety Drill’ was to be held about 3:45 pm.  I was soon unpacked, met my cabin steward, and had a much needed nap until sail away.  The movement of the ship awoke me once we had left the port so I enjoyed watching the Florida coast getting smaller from my balcony.  I prepared for dinner and went for what I thought was early cocktails at the Alchemy Bar. Soon after I was served my Quick Fix cocktail people began leaving for dinner…I discovered I was an hour off the time as I was still on Central Time.  My snooze was longer than I thought and our sail away was late, after 6:00 pm local time.  All was well as I made it to dinner in the Posh Dining Room (MDR).  For dinner I ordered the Linguini with Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers & Mushrooms (entree as a starter), Cream of Sun Ripened Tomatoes (Soup), the Sweet & Sour Shrimp entree, and two desserts: the Creme Brulee and Black Forest Gateau.  All were very good.  The Welcome Show was at 10:00 pm in the Victoriana Theater, but knowing I could watch it later on cabin TV, I retired to the cabin to make notes and rest.

Day Two—Sunday--Fun Day at Sea
Atrium Bar - Carnival Freedom
Smooth seas and partly cloudy skies this morning and I enjoyed my 9 hours of restful sleep. About 9:00 am I went down to MDR for the Sea-Day Brunch.  I ordered the featured Steak & Eggs and they were very good this morning.  My cabin is located just below the lido beverage area so it is very easy to get juices, tea, and lemonade as needed so I filled my large ‘travel mug’ with guava juice and set about to explore the new features of the ship.  She has the same basic lay out as all the Conquest class ships and the new Red Frog Rum Bar and Blue Iguana Cantina on lido deck look great.  What was the old cigar bar on deck 4 is now the Habana Bar, the new Red Frog Pub is in the old O2 and gaming area on lido…a great location and much better use of space.  The Cherry on Top is expanded in it’s lido location.  Every new feature looks very nice so far.  I went to Guest Services (GS) to get a hole punched in my Sail & Sign (S&S) card and asked if I could borrow a iPhone charger cable from Lost&Found.  Jade from GS actually went to her cabin and loaned me her extra.  Service above and beyond, thank you Jade.  While down in the lobby I sat in on the music trivia they were doing at the Lobby Bar and discovered Toppy the bartender from all my recent Sunshine cruises was the bartender.   Another feature that I discovered they did when reconfiguring the Promenade deck for the Red Frog was add a direct passage to the midship elevators.  Now you don’t have to pass through the Casino Bar and the smoking area to get to them.  As I’ve never sailed the Freedom perhaps it was always there, but it’s not there on most Carnival ships.  A smart decision either way.  I had a very nice Guy’s hamburger for a late lunch on Lido deck.  It was perfect.  This afternoon I saw my friend Daniel the bartender who took such good care of us on the Carnival Sunshine, always great to see friends. Is it a bad thing that I know the ‘top’ bartenders in the fleet?  I had cabin time in the afternoon and watched a movie on cabin TV.  They delivered some sweets to the cabin that were a great snack as I prepared for the Captains Elegant Night.  Alchemy Bar was first stop for a couple of cocktails and then dinner.  I ordered The White Stuffed Mushrooms, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter), the Choice Prime Rib, Lobster, and Cherries Jubilee.  After dinner I went to the Victoriana Theater to see the Playlist Production of Getaway Island.  This is a great show featuring the music of Jimmy Buffet, the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, and others. Not only is the eight member cast incorporated, but the Cruise Director, Toppy my bartender, and the solo guitarist from the Red Frog Pub (RFP).  A very enjoyable show.  BTW—they had the first row reserved for Diamond Guests.  Sweet, although I sat in row two.  The ship was hopping late, the Disco, Alchemy, and music from the TheSea6 all busy.

Day Three--Monday—Fun Day at Sea
Sea Day 'Steak & Eggs'
A little rolling during the night and another day of partly cloudy skies.  I went to the MDR again for the Sea Day Buffet and had a Bloody Mary cocktail, Fruit Plate, and the Steak & Eggs.  I had a very nice cabin/balcony day today enjoying the nice weather, reading, & relaxing.  I did go up to get a nice Mongolian Grill for lunch.  Captain Arena and his staff hosted a nice cocktail party for Diamond guests at 5:15 in Scott’s Piano Bar.  They served very nice hors d'oeuvres and complementary cocktails  There were quite a few Diamond Guests, about 20, and key department heads.  I had never met Skip the CD so that was nice.  Following I went to the Alchemy Bar and enjoyed the evening until time for dinner.  Great fun.  Dinner was good, we had Chicken drumettes for the table and I ordered: Penne Mariscos (as starter), French Onion Soup, Braised Short Ribs entree, and Fruit Plate for dessert.  After a great social evening & dinner I retired to the cabin to rest for the port day following.

Day Four—Tuesday—St. Martin, Netherland Antilles
Very nice weather and seas. We arrived at St. Martin on schedule by 9:00 am.  I  went up to Lido to get a very nice omelette from the omelette station for breakfast.  It was great.  I took my time leaving the ship this morning and debarked about 10:30 am.  My knee was hurting so I took the water taxi ($7 pp) into central Phillipsburg.  I found a store that sold electronics and purchased an iPhone cable then went to the local McDonald’s to drink a diet coke and use their very fast Wifi. Then I went to Pirates Paradise a beach bar located on the beach promenade.  They had a nice set up where I could charge my computer and they had Wifi (photo left).  Presidente beer was $3 a bottle and I had a great view of the beach and harbor.  I saw some friends at Woody’s bar (better prices on beer) then took the water taxi back to the ship about 4:30 pm.  First stop was Guy’s Burgers for fries and cheeseburger then to the cabin to clean up and watch the sail away from St. Martin.  Lovely Day.  No aperitif this evening it was straight to dinner, I ordered the Tom Ka Gai (soup), Faralle Pasta with Turkey (as a starter), Pork Chop and Bitter & Blanc for dessert.  Other entree options were: Assorted Seafood Newburg Style, Baised Lamb, Fillet of Atlantic Salmon, and Black Bean & Vegetable Enchiladas.

Day Five—Wednesday—St. Thomas, USVI
Creeque's Alley - Side Street Pub - St. Thomas
Good weather and smooth seas overnight, but cloudy with some showers.    I slept very well and we were docked when I awoke about 9:00 am.  I relaxed and watched the activity from my balcony then went up to the Lido to get another nice omelet breakfast.  About 10:45-ish I went down to get a shuttle into downtown Charlotte Amalie ($4). I had not been to downtown Charlotte Amalie in years and it’s pretty much the same with great shops located in the restored Old Warehouse area.  Lot’s of Jewelry stores and tourist shoppes.  I looked around the various stores and soon came across Creque’s Alley of Momma and Poppa’s fame.  There is a very nice bar there now, the Side Street Pub, with Wifi and nice cocktails, including a Painkiller.  I stayed for a while at the Side Street Pub then did some shopping before going back to the ship about 3:00 pm.  Upon return a Guy’s Burger really tasted good at this point.  I returned to the cabin to clean up and enjoyed a really nice sunset and sail away from the harbor.  Later it was off to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails followed by dinner.  Tonight I ordered:  two Shrimp Cocktails, Potage Saint Germain (Pea Soup), Green Garden Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Grilled NY Sirloin Steak, Fruit Plate, and Bread Pudding Cake for dessert.  Friends went to see the feature show:  Comedy & Magic with TC Tahoe and said it was very entertaining.  I retired after dinner.

Day Six—Thursday--San Juan, Puerto Rico
El Convento (from steps of Cathedral) - San Juan
Smooth seas overnight, and a hot and humid day.  I had a good nights sleep and we were already docked when I awoke a little after 8:00 am.  I’m in no rush today and went to the MDR for a nice breakfast ordering: Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Tomato Juice, and hot Milk.  The ship docks right in Old San Juan (OSJ) and I left the ship about 10:00 and although with a bad knee walked up to Fortelezza Street looking at a few shops and stopping at a small park along the way…then down to the Barrachina Restaurant for one of their famous Pina Coladas. It was actually better than I remembered from previous visits.  I then went to El Convento the luxury boutique hotel in OSJ located across from the Cathedral to hopefully use their Wifi, have a cocktail, and see this site located in what was a 17th century convent.    There are some beautiful architectural details in this lovely building that was a convent for over 250 years.  I went to the patio bar and ordered a Ginger Mojito and the excellent staff made sure I could get access to the Wifi, even booting their router so I could get connected, I did and it was super fast.  Great drinks, fast wifi, a cool breeze, and  beautiful location…I’m staying for awhile.  I still have some business from my just completed Festival I could finish online and I could update email, etc. perfect.  This also allowed me time to sample one of Puerto Rico’s craft beers:   Magna.  Luis the bartender provided great service and after some discussion about the history of Pina Coladas’ at Barrachina and the original island resort, I had to sample one from El Convento.  It was an excellent Pina Colada served in a tall glass, somewhat creamy, with a floater.   Although it was now downhill all the way back to the pier I took the easy way and took a taxi back to the pier and was back onboard about 3:00 pm.  Once back at the cabin I called room service for a couple of BLT’s (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato).  Carnival has excellent BLT’s and I order them every cruise. They were served within a few minutes, another reason to like Guy’s Burgers as the room service delivery on port days is greatly improved since so many now eat at Guy’s. We sailed early, about 4:15pm and I watched us sail out of the harbor and around El Morrow castle.  I was lucky to have balcony on the starboard side of the ship.  I returned the iPhone cable to Jade at Guest Services on the way to the 4:30 Past Guest party in the Victoriana Theater.  Skip did a good job, it was the usual party with a film and some banter.  My server was good, I did not go lacking.  Following I did some people watching on the Promenade deck before going to the Alchemy Bar for a ‘special spritzer style cocktail’ by Adri.  So good I had another as well as several other folks at the bar.  It was now time for dinner, tonight I had especially ordered Onion Rings, Wild Mushroom Cream Soup, Lasagna Bolognese (as starter), Petite Filet Mignon and Short Rib of Beef combination, and Butter Pecan Ice Creme for dessert.  During dessert we were joined by Lance Montalto the Comedian who just boarded the ship in San Juan.  Always good to see friends.  The Love & Marriage Show featuring Skip was the entertainment tonight.

Day Seven--Friday--Fun Day at Sea
Scott's Piano Bar - Carnival Freedom
Smooth seas overnight and nice partly cloudy weather as we slowly sailed north.  I had a fruit plate for breakfast as I have plans for brunch. I spoke to Guest Services (GS) about the next cruise then talked with the future cruise representative on Promenade deck about some potential future bookings. At 11:30 I met a group of friends including comedian Lance Montalto for brunch.  Great fun and the food was good, I had the Fiery Tomato Soup (spicy), Steak & Eggs, and Fruit Plate.  This was a great cabin/balcony day.  I actually had a two hour nap and did some reading on the balcony this afternoon. At 5:00 I went up for a Guy’s burger, I got one just off the grill hot so ate it ‘as is’ or a Plain Jane with no condiments…very tasty.  I received a call from GS and I’ll be getting an upgrade on next weeks cruise, a balcony on deck six, just one cabin over and two decks down from current location…Woo Hoo.  I went to the Alchemy for an aperitif on this our second ‘Elegant Night’.  Most passengers are not near as ‘dressy’ on the second night.  For dinner I ordered:  Escargot, Pasta (as starter), Three Shrimp Cocktails, Chateaubriand, with Cheesecake and Baked Alaska for dessert.  It was good although I thought the Chateaubriand was tough. Lance joined us for dessert again.  Tonights feature entertainment was a Magician, but I went to the Alchemy Bar for a Deal Closer then went to see Seth Gibson in Scott’s Piano Bar.  All of my MDR table went to the Punchliner Club for the late 11:45 pm show to see Lance Montalto’s second show this evening.  New material and very funny as usual.

Day Eight—Saturday--Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Guy's Burger
Partly cloudy and showers in the area as we arrived at Half Moon Cay early this morning.  They began tendering just before 8:00 am. I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, ham, et al.  I really didn’t think I would go to the private island because of the tender hassle and the short time here.  When the weather looked less than perfect that was enough to make it a ship day for me.  With many off I did some more exploring, still had not been to the Serenity Deck or other places forward.  I did have another basic Guy’s burgers for lunch.  I still have all the magazines I brought along so I read this afternoon and the balcony was nice.  A nice easy relaxing day.  For dinner tonight I ordered the New England Crab Cake, the Prime Rib, Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp, and Grand Manier Souffle and a Banana Split for dessert.  Very good dinner.  Tonight was the second Production Show: Heart of Soul  it is a collection of romantic songs and dance and incorporates passengers from the Love & Marriage Show.  Interesting concept.  They had a full house in the theater.

Day Nine (1) — Sunday—Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Calm seas overnight and I happened to wake early and tested my phone connection, I was on the internet by 5:16 am.  We didn’t dock for awhile so we were probably sailing along the Miami area coast on the way to Port Everglades.  About 8:00 am I went to the MDR for a nice full breakfast then stopped by my new cabin on deck six to see if it was vacant.  It was and the cabin Steward said he would prepare it strait away  so I took some hangers up to my cabin to pack.  I moved down to my new cabin about 9:30 and appreciate the help from both my Stewards.  It’s great to be into the new cabin before you go to the B2B meet which was scheduled for 10:15am for us today.  They seemed to be a little long on debark it was closer to 11:00 when the B2B guests went down to U.S. Customs.  We had to wait until about 11:45 to board again.  Then there was a dash to be the first to the Red Frog Pub.  Although not first I made it for a free beer and the photo which was published on John Heald’s Facebook Page (the actual photo from JH FB page on right).  Don't know the guy on the left, but he tried to trip me on the way to the RFP.  I do see him around the ship in funny hats.  After my beer I went up to the Lido Buffet to the Mongolian Grill, it was already packed with new guests.  After lunch I went to my new cabin and finished set up and took a little snooze. About 3:30 I went up to Lido to get a slice of Chocolate Cake with purple colored cheesecake icing.  A vey unique dessert.  I returned to my cabin to do a little work online in the afternoon and they delivered a Fruit Basket and bottle of Champagne as they usually do for B2B guests, so I had Champagne cocktails the rest of the day. They held Safety Drill about 4:15 pm. and we sailed not long afterward.  I had dinner tonight in the Sun King Steakhouse with friends at 7:00 pm.  Dinner was excellent, I ordered the Escargot, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Cowboy Cut Steak (basically a bone-in rib eye), Baked Potato, and Ice Creme for dessert. I also enjoyed the background music in the Sun King Steakhouse and the service was excellent.  The Welcome Show was at 10:00 pm. and there was a late comedy show with Lance Montalto.

Day Ten (2)—Monday—Key West, Florida
Kelly's in Key West
Fair seas overnight and a warm sunny day.  We were docked by 8:00 am in Key West at the hotel pier near Mallory Square.  I used the internet this morning before going to a nice full breakfast in the MDR.  I got off the ship about 10:45 am and first stop was for a Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie on a stick.  I looked around for a bit and went to Sloppy Joe’s for a frozen Cap’t Morgan spiced rum punch….very good.  I then went over to my favorite Key West spot:  Kelly’s Caribbean Bar.  They had live steel drum music and it’s a wonderful historic location in the original PanAm building.  I returned to the ship right at the 3:30 pm requested time and fortunately there was not a line to board…surprising for Key West.  It was straight to Lido Deck and a Guy’s hamburger (undercooked), then an ice creme cone for dessert.  After sail away from Key West it was time to clean up and take a snooze.  My nap ran long so no cocktail before dinner.  I now have a nice ten top table in center of the MDR with the same wait staff as previous cruise.  Lance joined us for dinner as well as other cruise friends I know from Carnival Bloggers cruises. For dinner I ordered:  French Onion Soup, three small Shrimp Cocktails, Braised Style Short Ribs, and a Banana Split for dessert.  It was good and I had my bottle of wine I received for dining in the steakhouse on the first night. As an incentive the steakhouse offers a free bottle of wine if you dine there on embarkation night. The feature shows this evening was Manuel Zuniga, the ‘fastest juggler in the world’ and the Love & Marriage Show masterfully hosted by Skip.

Day Eleven (3)—Tuesday — Fun Day at Sea
Thanks for the Wine, JH
Smooth seas overnight.  Very restful night and I slept latest of the cruise so far: 9:00 am.  I went upstairs to Lido for fruit and banana bread then to Future Sales on Promenade deck to work on the Triumph B2B in October 2015.  I got a Past Guest quote last week, but today he was only able to get Early Saver pricing.  I never book ES, too many restrictions.  I may wait until I am on the Sunshine to book it.  At 11:30 I met friends for the Sea Day Brunch in the MDR.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, Steak & Eggs, and a side of Corned Beef Hash.  Very good.  I read some good Texas magazine articles this afternoon enjoying the cabin and balcony.  I really have not had time to read recently at home, very relaxing.  Tonight is the Captain’s elegant night and he and staff were on the Promenade deck when I went down to the Red Frog Pub to have a Stella Artois draught beer.  I was met by Lance on the way to the Alchemy Bar and enjoyed a couple of cocktails and visiting with guests.  We had the Captain’s Elegant Evening menu, I ordered:  Baked Stuffed White Mushrooms, Prime Rib of American Beef, Lobster Tail, and Cherries Jubilee & Banana Split for dessert.  The Matre’D informed me that I had been sent a bottle of wine by someone so I asked for the same wine as I already have…I’m set for this week.  After dinner I returned to the cabin, made some notes, and hopped in bed.  I couldn’t sleep and looking at my watch noticed that the 11:45 pm Comedy show was starting in ten minute just one deck below in the Punchliners.  I was there and I’m so glad I went.  Lance started off with my joke about me getting my cabin on deck six. If you see me on a cruise I’ll gladly tell it for you.  After the comedy show I went over to the Piano Bar to see Seth perform.  By the time we closed it down it was primarily crew and Playlist performers.  Interesting.  It now being very late I retired for the second time.

Day Twelve (4)—Wednesday — Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Smooth seas again overnight.   I slept very well and we were anchored off of Grand Cayman when I awoke about 8:00 am. It is partly cloudy, warm, and humid.  I could see from my balcony that the early tenders were empty so I skipped a large breakfast and had a banana from my fruit basket so I could tender into Georgetown early and very easily.  Local time was an hour earlier than ship time so I actually had to wait for many shops to open, my goal was good Wifi, so soon Margaritaville opened and I spent an hour and a half drinking a soda and a ‘Havana & Banana’ cocktail ($16-expensive place). The internet reception and speed is much improved since the last time I was there.  I returned to the ship by 1:15 pm and had a couple of Guy’s burgers for lunch.  They are not as good this week, I suspect the trainers left, they are not smashed out as much as they should be so they are not getting that crispy bit they should have on the meat.  After cleaning up I enjoyed some cool off cabin/balcony time until it began pouring down rain about 2:45. I was glad I returned early.  They suspended tender service for a while, but they eventually got everyone on board for our 4:00 pm sail away.  The VIFP party was scheduled for 4:30 in the International Lounge.  They had very nice live music, the usual cocktails, short movie, senior crew introductions, etc.  Following that at 5:15 they had the Diamond reception in the Piano Bar.  Much nicer hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.  There was only half the number of Diamonds as the week before.  I met the new Captain and more senior staff.  I was able to relate the Guy’s Burgers situation to the Food Service Director.  It was a fun gathering…thanks Carnival.  The party then moved over to the Alchemy Bar until time for dinner.  Tonight I ordered:  Wild Mushroom Cream Soup, Lasagna Bolognese (as starter),  Oysters Rockefeller, Petit Filet Mignon and a Banana Split for dessert.  After dinner I attended the feature show: Comedy Hypnotist Doug MacGraw.  It was a very entertaining show and a very fun evening!!

Day Thirteen (5)—Thursday — Cozumel, Mexico
Smooth seas again and clear & hot weather for the day.  I went for a full breakfast in the MDR and was seated far aft center so I had a great view of three Carnival ships sailing the Straits of Cozumel this morning: The Freedom, The Triumph, and The Breeze.  Very impressive. We are docked at Puerto Maya next to the Carnival Breeze.  The Carnival Triumph docked at the International pier.  I met friends and we shared a taxi into San Miguel about 10:30.  First stop was Woody’s Bar located just off the main square to set up a HQ and use their WiFi.  Then some price comparisons at a few pharmacies, and a visit to the Our Lady Shrine. No haircut this trip, but I did see Martin when I went to the Farmicia next door to his shoppe.  We had a beer at Wet Wendy’s before getting a taxi back to Puerto Maya.  We went to Three Amigos, located at the pier, saw more friends and I ended up trying their Cozumel Cooler and some nachos. Interesting place, I saw a waiter walking with four margaritas (photo right) on his head...very Cool!  This is a great crew hang-out as it's close to ship and the crew discount.  Today they were also having a ceremony at the pier announcing an expansion to the existing Puerto Maya pier so that they can dock three Carnival ships there at one time.  The new pier was needed today, I knew a crew member who changed ships today, but had to wheel his gear all the way through Puerto Maya, then to the International Pier just to change ships.  I boarded the ship for some rest and then watched sail away from the balcony.  It was another beautiful evening so I enjoyed the balcony until time for dinner.  Tonight I ordered: the Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Chateaubriand, with Baked Alaska for dessert. The Chateaubriand was much better this week.  The production show Get Away Island was tonight, this is the better of the two shows IMHO.  A guest was injured during the limbo portion prior to the main show, I wonder how long that will continue. 

Day Fourteen (6)—Friday — Fun Day at Sea
Who's the Best Cruise Director?  This Guy.
Smooth seas overnight and a beautiful last sea day.  I had an omelet from the omelet station early then took walk around deck while they cleaned my cabin, I’ve had fantastic cabin service this cruise.  I went to the Excursion Desk and made a query about a possible excursion tomorrow since my flight is so late in the day.  Maybe I’ll do it.  I met a group of old and new friends for a final Sea Day Brunch, great fun.  Although I had breakfast I still went with the Steak & Eggs for brunch/lunch, it’s such a good menu item.  After lunch I had some cabin time and did some packing. In the afternoon  went to the Red Frog Pub to see the Beatles Show by Lance Montalto.  He had a full house.  No time for a final Mongolian Grill, Guy’s Burger, or BLT…you just can do all your favorites on the the last sea day.  I did make it to the Alchemy Bar bar for a cocktail though.  Final dinner was very good, I ordered: New England Crab Cake, the Prime Rib, Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp, and Grand Manier Souffle for dessert.  The ship had a lot of activities the final night, but I did go to Guest Services and get the Everglades excursion/FLL transfer for debark so I went to the cabin to pack after dinner as I decided to put a bag out for pick up.

Everglades Excursion
I was up early enough to go to the MDR for a nice full breakfast this morning before the designated meeting time of 8:15 for the days excursion.  I actually used my VIP tags (#1) and left just before 8:30.  My timing was perfect I was able to go straight off the ship and collect my bag.  When I got to the customs line I notice people behind me with the excursions ID tags so perfect timing indeed.  After customs I boarded the tour bus and we were off just after 9:00 am.  We went to Everglades Holiday Park located at the edge of the Everglades Wildlife Management Area only a 30+ minute drive from the port.  First thing was an hour long Airboat Ride into the Everglades.  We saw birds, wildlife, one alligator in the wild, and our boat got stuck on a mudflat as the water level was low.  It was fun.  Following the airboat ride we had an alligator show presented by the Gator Boys.  It was interesting, but too touristy for my liking.  We left for the airport about noon and were soon there.  I was about three hours before my flight, but I was checked in straight away.  I was waiting in the terminal when I received an IM from Lance, he was on the same flight so that help pass time until my 4:30 pm flight.  We arrived at D/FW and I had just over an hour before my flight to Waco arriving about 9:30.  An hours drive and I was at the ranch about 10:30.

Maiden Voyage: March 2007 - last ship in Conquest class series
Passenger Capacity: 2,980 | On board Crew: 1150  |  Length: 952 feet
Gross Tonnage: 110,000 tons  | Cruising Speed: 22.5 knots
Always kept very clean and ship shape and she just had her Carnival 2.0 upgrades a few weeks ago.  The Conquest class ships could really use a space such as the Ocean Plaza for entertainment.

Crew / Staff
All the crew and staff were very efficient and professional.  My cabin stewards did a great job.  Roy my head waiter for both cruises was wonderful and very professional. The Bar Servers were really good.

Week one I had cabin 8221 a category 8C balcony located right at the aft elevator and stairwell..  I like this location as your only one deck below the Lido buffet for food, ice, drinks, etc.; For week two I had cabin 6441 located near the same stairwell on deck six.  Both cabins are standard Carnival balcony cabins with: a three section wardrobe, full couch, mini bar refrigerator, swipe safe, Flat screen TV, and small stool for desk/vanity.

The food on Carnival ships is usually good to very good and this cruise was typical.  Guy’s Burgers, Mongolian Grill, Room Service was very good to excellent.  The entire MDR service team was very good as well as well as Ian the senior Matre’D.  Food Service was wonderful everywhere on ship.  Red Frog Pub has bar snacks only, no bar food.  Breakfast is becoming my favorite meal on Carnival.

I was a bit disappointed with the Alchemy Bar, still one of my favorite spots, but the team is not on the par with the Triumph or Sunshine.  Daniel was fine and perhaps they will gel as a team with some more time.  I also thought it was too dark behind the bar compared to the other Alchemy Bars, didn't enhance the environment.  Cruise Highlights:  the two new Production Shows and food service.  Overall another FUN cruise.

Sunset Sail Away from St. Thomas USVI