Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review--Splendour of the Seas--December 9, 2006

Splendour of the Seas--December 9-14, 2006

Second part of a b2b cruise. Grand Princess/Splendour of the Seas from Galveston, Texas 12/2 - 12/14. Our first time on Splendour, third RCCL cruise.

Day 1-Embarkation- This was the smoothest embarkation I have ever experienced. We disembarked the Grand Princess almost 11:00 a.m. which was late, but as planned as we would prefer to wait on the Grand than in a waiting room at the terminal. We zipped through customs and our porter took our bags all the way to Terminal 2 to be checked in with RCCL. We just finished when our neighbors and DD pulled into the terminal drop off. We unloaded those bags and then dropped the car at EZ Cruise and walked back to terminal. It was about noon and we proceeded to security and check in. That was no problem as there were no lines at either. We had our choice of agents, got our sail/room/seapass card and was on the ship in minutes. First stop the windjammer for lunch. Our cabins were ready at 1:00 and we dropped off our carry on bags and set about to explore the ship. We enjoyed music and the cocktails in the beautiful Centrum (atrium). We attended the Welcome Show with comedian Greg Otto. The cruise director is Simeon Baker. We have late seating dinner in the King and I dining room. Dinner was good, I had prime rib. We retired after dinner. Seas started getting rougher as we went south.

Day 2-at sea- The seas are choppy and the weather is overcast and windy. Similar to what we just came through last week, but a bit better. I met friends in the dinning room for breakfast. Eggs Benedict were very good. Also check out the windjammer and breakfast looked good in there. DW had room service. They opened the solarium to kids from noon to 2:00 pm because of the bad weather. We set on deck with friends and also had Windjammer lunch there as well. DW and DD went to solarium pool, but they soon closed that because of high seas. Although the pool attendants repeatedly monitored the situation, one by one parents took small children into the hot tub. Finally other adults gave up. The attendants were very busy trying to keep water off the floor as the pool waves were very high and over the sides. Tonight is formal night and the Captains reception was this evening although we didn’t attend choosing to watch the Cowboy game on Latin-American ESPN. We did attend dinner. I had Shrimp cocktail, escargot, sea bass, and Grand mariner Soufflé for desert. There were a lot of people missing from dinner. The weather has gotten worse. The feature show was comedian John Joseph. There were few who attended due to weather, but it was an excellent show. Very funny, one of the best I have seen on a cruise ship.

Day 3-Cozumel- The morning is cloudy and misting rain. We docked about 7:00 am at the International Pier, but not many rushed ashore and several tours were canceled. Breakfast in dining room and off the ship about 9:00 am. Very easy debarkation since there was no rush to shore. We rented a car for five of us and first stop was Dzul Ha for snorkeling. It was overcast, but we made the effort and it was quite good. You can snorkel from shore and there is no cost. While we were there several of the tours brought their groups to this area. There was a wide variety of fish. It would have been ideal if it had been better weather. We proceeded to Paradise Beach for a rest and a couple of drinks. Not crowded at all. We then drove around to the east side of the island and stopped at Playa Bonita which has always been one of our favorite places in Cozumel. The waves and surf were very high on this side of the island. We ordered guacamole and shrimp cocktails which were quite good. We went to San Miguel for some shopping and visited the usual haunts: Havana Blue for a mojito, Mayan Pearl, Cinco Soles, Viva Mexico, and some cafe & Mariachis time on the square. We returned the car and returned to the ship about 4:00. I napped through one of my favorite pastimes, watching the late arrivals, but it must have gone smooth as we sailed away on time before 7:00 pm. Diner in the Dining room. There were many more people than last night. The feature entertainer was Claude Eric a vocalist who was good.

Day 4-Costa Maya- This is the best day so far, but still overcast. We docked about 7:00 a.m. and we have a short stay here. It was interesting watching the Disney Magic dock next to us. A nice ship. DD wants to take a Disney cruise. After a dining room breakfast we went into Costa Maya and took a van to Mahaual. We made the El Faro our HQ for the day. We rented a skiff to take four of us out snorkeling ($15 pp). The water was murky due to recent rains and high waves. Better snorkeling yesterday in Cozumel. We had lunch & drinks and three had a massage while there. A beautiful day on the beach. We returned to the ship about 2:15 for a 3:00 departure. After refreshing and a snack I did my favorite thing, watching late comers arrive back. We actually left two people confirmed to me by the dock master who knew I was keeping a count given to me by the Splendour security. Poor Robert and friend. I rested until the evening show, Los Pampa Gauchos which was very good. Dinner was good, prime rib and lobster for me. I saw our waitress, Nevin, carry the biggest tray of food orders I have ever seen. Soon afterward she was gone and another waiter finished our desert orders. Quest and the Gala buffet was tonight, but I chose to retire after dinner.

Day 5-at Sea- Smoother seas overnight, but interesting news. It seems during the night we have returned to Cancun to debark an ailing crew member at 6:30 am. Yes it was Nevin, our waitress. A good late breakfast in the dining room. The Captains morning update indicated that we are now nine hours behind schedule with expected arrival in Galveston about 4:00 pm tomorrow. Children have taken over the ship. They are in the Solarium ALL the time not just the designated times. Tried the crapes which are located in the Solarium. They are very good. I relaxed all afternoon and watched a movie in the cabin. The fruit plate and cheese plate from room service was better than earlier in the week. Tonight was the debut of the new production show, Dancin’ Through the Movies. This was the first time we have seen the dancers. The new troupe came aboard when we did. I guess that's why we didn’t have movies in the theater as they were rehearsing for the debut show. It was a good show, some bugs to work out, but best (only) show of the cruise. We of course had a new waiter for dinner. I had prime rib and Mahi Mahi. After dinner DD and I spent some time in the internet cafe. They are not charging because of the ship being late, but it had been hard to get in because of the lines to use the computers.

Day 6-at Sea- Our extra sea day! They have scheduled shows and activities and we got a new abbreviated Cruise Compass. Breakfast in the dining room and some time on the internet took the morning. Interesting seeing the all the oil derricks in the Gulf, usually always dark when we go by them. The Captain kept us informed and did say we would meet our goal of docking by 4:00 pm. As we approached Galveston we entered a huge fog bank and we slowed to a crawl. It was interesting and the ship was frequently blasting its fog horn. I thought we’d never make it by 4:00pm, but after about half an hour through the fog the buildings of Galveston were in view. We were home.

Debarkation-I expected a mass rush to deck four and indeed people began camping out down there at 1:30pm. We got separated from our friends as we were several decks apart and agreed to meet only later if possible we do have separate vehicles). We docked about 3:40 and they began unloading baggage soon afterward. I knew the “self/easy-off” pax would be intermingled with the color tag pax, but not as bad as I had expected. The Centrum was packed with people. The first people began leaving the ship right at 4:00. We were observing from the upper decks and thought should we attempt to leave or wait. We developed a game plan and decided to go for it. We retrieved our bags from deck 8, took the rear elevators down and used the outer deck to get to the departure area. We avoided the Centrum and they allowed us to merge onto the gangway. It was orderly considering. We went through customs without any problems and wheeled our luggage to the EZ Cruise shuttle. We got on the bus and as luck would have it they went to Lot #2 first. We were actually at our vehicle by 4:50 pm. I consider it amazing.

Cabin: We have the large interior cabin (8519) on deck 8. We could have upgraded to O/V, but wanted the larger cabin since there were the three of us. A full size couch is in the cabin. In fact it is larger than the BA balcony cabin we had last week on the Grand. We do have the new RCCL bedding. It is nice, very similar to the Carnival bedding system. You can hear deck noise from the lido deck above, especially when the band plays, but it is a great location and the noise is not that bad. There is a video-in and audio-in on the TV. No refrigerator on the I/S cabins even in the larger premium ones. Our cabin steward, Rogie, was very good. He kept the ice chest full and fulfilled some special requests.

Food: Dining room food is good to very good. The service is good, but far below Princess. The best feature of the dining room is the nice piano music during dinner. The room service menu on RCCL is much better than Princess or Carnival with a wider selection and variety; however, service can be hit or miss. One thing I could not believe was the lack of silver for some courses, specifically escargot and shrimp cocktails. The headwaiter said they only had the proper silver in the “elegant” restaurants. I believe she was referring to the premium restaurants, but that indicates to me that the main dining room is not an “elegant” venue. Perhaps so as I saw shorts worn for dinner on some occasions. I must say that the waiters were very accommodating with our selections and offered second entrees or deserts without question.

Ship: The ship itself is beautiful. 'Twas well decorated for Christmas. More decorations than on the Grand in fact. The Centrum, King & I Dining Room, and the 42nd Street Theater are especially beautiful. Housekeeping may be a bit off. I noticed recent rings/watermarks on tables, dirty tables, etc. i.e.--they pick up your glass, etc. but don't wipe the table. There is a Concierge lounge. I loved the 3-D schematic ships in each Centrum lobby. Great maps and details of the ship. They didn’t have enough hand sanitizers IMHO and people didn’t seem to use them either.

Cruise: We would have enjoyed the cruise much more if we had not just come from the Grand Princess. You could not help but compare the two and the Grand is an exquisite ship. We vowed not to compare in front of DD and our friends, we hate to be “one of those” people. I did get a bug by day 3.5 and limited some of my activities. BUT overall I thought this was a wonderful cruise and a great value. It was great to have the family and neighbors together.
A great small ship, a great value and a great cruise.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Review--Grand Princess--December 2, 2006

Grand Princess December 2-9, 2006

First part of a b2b cruise. Grand Princess/Splendour of the Seas from Galveston, Texas 12/2 - 12/14. Elite Princess members, but only second time on Grand Princess.

Day 1-Embarkation- Woke early and checked Galveston Harbor Cam web site. The Grand is already docked, which is a good thing. You want to see your ship before beginning the drive. I didn’t think of the significance of it at the time, but there were no other ships docked. Left Bosque county and arrived in Galveston in good time approximately 4+ hours. Lots of traffic in Galveston and streets blocked due to Dickens on the Strand. We dropped our bags off at the pier and returned to EZ Cruise parking. Big problems due to the very late arrival of the Ecstasy. There were no parking places in Lot 1 (I usually walk since I have already dropped bags) and was forced to park in Lot 2. The process took over an hour just to park and then longer to shuttle to the pier. Of course it wasn’t EZ Cruise parking fault that the Ecstasy was so late nor the added delays due to Dickens on the Strand. We joked that at least our bags are on the way.

Once we arrive at the pier there was some delay in getting through security, but once we approached the check-in area everything got much better. We were able to skip to the VIP line and were checked in very quickly. It was about 1:20 so about 2 hours from parking to actually boarding ship, twice the normal time. We were in time for the luncheon in the DiVinci dining room which was very nice. Finally we could begin to relax and enjoy the cruise. Table service is so nice. after lunch we saw old & new friends right away which is nice that early on board. We then went to our cabin and noticed that yes our bags had beat us there. Took bags into room and began setting up for the week. We have cabin L-255. A balcony cabin on Lido deck. Good location as there is a lot going on on Lido deck. Primarily the pool, MUTS, and Horizon Court. Traded out bar setup (Elite perk) for preferred items. A fruit bowl, cookies, and chocolate cover strawberries were delivered to the room. A quick tour of the ship and it’s time for muster drill which is done very well on Princess ships. Our muster station was the Painted Dessert restaurant. After muster our Cruise Critic group met at the Oasis bar for sail away. A very nice group of people. As mentioned Dickens on the Strand was going on so we could see the colorful costumes and the tall sailing ship Elissa was manned all the way up it’s masts. A few words of encouragement was shouted to the crew of the Elissa, Hold Fast, being my favorite. Of course the dolphins escorted us out of Galveston harbor. Since it was very cool everyone went indoors. We met friends in the Wheelhouse for cocktails. The Wheelhouse being a beautiful bar is one of my favorites. The Oklahoma-Nebraska football game is on MUTS and I saw the decisive drive before going to dinner. Oklahoma looks very good. We didn’t set at our table, but at a table with friends. Dinner was very good. Following dinner we skipped the welcome show and retired for the evening.

Day 2-at sea- The weather was very foggy and overcast and it had rained during the night so it was slow going for pool & outdoor activities. I had breakfast, Eggs Benedict, in the dining room and it was very good. They have a different specialty item each morning and I want to try each during the week. I visited the internet cafe and the connections were good considering we are at sea. We met a lot of our C-C group for the trivia contest midmorning. It was fun and more fun visiting with friends. We did lunch in the dining room (Sea Bass) and explored more of the ship. DW went to a movie in the Princess Theater. The weather improved as the day went along. They delivered a large plate of canapés, one of the Elite perks. They were very good, but too much for us so we shared with friends. The Dallas Cowboy-NY Giants football game was on MUTS this afternoon. Lots of Cowboy fans in Cowboy colors watching from the Lido and Sun decks. We watched the second half and it was quite fun. The view of the sun going down, the football game on the big screen, friend & drinks, a super way to enjoy the evening! The best sports bar at sea for sure. Tonight is formal night and we attended the Captains reception which is held in the atrium area. We sat in our assigned table this evening. The waiter and assistant Matre'd had been waiting for us as they acknowledged the special diet (vegetarian) for DW. The Matre'd stating he would make a special vegetarian minestrone soup for DW on Italian night (he is Italian, he can probably handle it) Another example of the personalized service. We attended the production show which was Curtains Up a salute to broadway shows. It was good and they did Oklahoma as the finale which is a personal favorite of mine. Too tired for the Disco through the Decades so we retired.

Day 3-Costa Maya- Eggs Florentine was the feature breakfast in the dining room and it was good. The morning is cloudy with scattered occasional rain. While most were debarking in Costa Maya, we enjoyed the morning at the spa pool. There had to be a thermostat problem as the pool was extremely warm/hot. Much hotter than the hot tubs. It was very refreshing as rain drops created steam. It was one giant sauna although you couldn’t stay in the pool long because of the heat. We went to shore about noon and met up with friends at El Faro in Mahahual. Spent the afternoon enjoying mojitos and good company. Mojito Monday was quite fun. Some excitement when a thunderstorm came through, but it cleared following a 15 minute rain. DW enjoyed a beach massage at the set up next to El Faro. We went down to check out Pez Quatro and from there took a cab back to the dock area. One last dip in the large pool and swim up bar located at the Costa Maya pier. The ship sailed at 6:00 p.m. Tonight is Italian night in the dining room. The eggplant parmesan was excellent. DW missed dinner as she was resting from the big day. The waiters took her the special vegetarian minestrone soup they had prepared for her. It was very good. Very thoughtful of the wait staff. The internet wasn’t working due to cloud cover so back to the cabin. Mojito Monday had caught up with me so I retired early.

Day 4-Roatan- It rained very early but cleared by 8:00 a.m. The featured breakfast was a special French Toast. We met our group of C-C friends for our own personal tour about 9:30 and hired a van for the day for $20 pp. We went first to the West End where the girls shopped and the guys went ot the Spotted Ray, a restaurant/bar which is built out over the water. Interesting place with birds, good views, and good local beer. We then went to Fosters Beach Club located in the West End. From there you could swim, snorkel, or eat & drink enjoying the beautiful view and beach. We were originally going to make another stop since we had our own van, but stayed at Fosters since it had everything you need. We did arrived back in time for late afternoon tea which was quite good. I had expected some small sandwiches along with the usual scones and sweets, but the small sandwiches were both larger and more variety than expected. What a great place for a snack in addition to the tea & sweets. Susan Howard (actress from Dallas) sat at the adjoining table. After tea we then watched sail away from the balcony cabin as well as the sunset and moon rise. Very pretty out this evening. Time for a movie on the TV before dinner. It was Caribbean night in the dining room, one of the weaker menus so I had the New York strip steak which was very good. The Caribbean Party on the rear decks was very nice. Don’t miss it.

Day 5-Belize- The day started cloudy. Huevos Rancheros was the breakfast in the dining room and very good. Belize is a tender port, but we caught a tender, without any problem, about 8:30. Interesting to watch the albatross circle over Belize City harbor. Snorkel Trip: I booked a snorkel trip with Ecological Tours with friends. We went out on a Wet and Wild boat for about a 45 minute trip to the barrier reef. The weather was beautiful. We stopped first at the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and Coral Gardens which is a protected underwater national park. There was a large variety of fish and coral. We had a full 45 minutes of snorkel time which was about right. Next stop was the Shark Ray Alley. There were numerous stingrays and nurse sharks. Also a barracuda. We spent about 30 minutes here. Next stop was Caye Caulker. We only had an hour here so we quickly went to the split for Bilikins beers at the Lazy Lizard. Also had to sample the Lizard juice. This is a very beautiful spot and a hidden treasure on Caye Caulker. The trip got back to Belize City about 3:30. Time for a last minute beer at the Iguana at the pier with the “little man” We arrived back on ship about 4:30. Time for a hot tub and swim in the spa area pool. DW spent the day on the ship and enjoyed three movie, one in the theater, the others on cabin TV. We enjoyed watching the ship maneuver through the straights following the buoys. There was the lights of other cruise ships ahead and behind us. A lovely evening on the balcony. This was the second formal night. First they delivered fancy chocolate covered strawberries to the cabin. Dinner was very good. Escargot was the appetizer and I had the New York strip steak again with lobster.

Day 6-Cozumel-Again the day started out cloudy. The Lumberjack breakfast was featured in the dining room. There were six ships in port for only three berths and we were fortunate in two ways. We docked at Punta Langosta which is walking distance of town. Very fortunate. We have no excursions planned since we will be back in Cozumel on Tuesday. We went to town about 10:00 a.m. and DW bought jewelry at Mayan Pearl for Christmas gifts. I got a haircut at Antonio’s while she shopped. We went down to Havana Blue for mojitos and ran into Towmater who was doing the same. The best mojitos in the Caribbean IMHO. DW said the raspberry mojito was also good. Went to a cafe on the square for some guacamole and people watching which is also fun. The sky seemed threatening and it was windy, but it never rained. It made for a cool comfortable day. We did some more shopping and returned to the ship about 4:00 pm. I had arranged with our cabin stewart for ice buckets for a sail away DosXX party. We met on deck 7 above the gangway to watch the late comers and drunks board. We had a great time razzing the pax of the Voyager of the Seas which docked next to us. The Princess security and officers at first didn’t know hat to think about our group, but as time got later they actually would give us the count of missing pax. We were able to greet the final two by name as they were calling those names over the PA. Great fun. Thanks C-C group for making it so. Always my favorite thing to do in Cozumel. The lights of the six ships looked great sailing out of the strait of Cozumel heading north. Dinner tonight was good. DW had another specialty vegetarian dish made for her: stuffed peppers and stuffed zucchini. I had the crab legs and Chicken Kiev. This was also French onion soup night. We went to Princess Theater for the Cinematastic show.

Day 7-at Sea-Very rough seas overnight and into the morning. All the outer decks are closed. Very few at breakfast this morning, Eggs Benedict again featured. Spent some time in internet cafe before weather closed down the connections. We were invited to the Captains Luncheon as we are frequent cruisers. We were fortunate enough to sit with the captain this time. The food & desert was fantastic. The captain said we experienced some 20’ swells during the night. We went to afternoon tea at 4:00 and play some trivia and games following. The seas were calmer the further north we went, but still rough. Dinner was good. I had prime rib. The Baked Alaska parade has returned and it was a good dessert. We returned to the cabin to pack which took the rest of the evening. Got the bags into the hallway just before midnight.

Debarkation-We had breakfast in the dining room. The feature was scrambled eggs with asparagus. We usually do the self disembark, but since we are taking the Splendour of the Seas out today we decided to take our time. Good thing we weren’t in a hurry as our color/deck wasn’t called until almost 11:00 a.m. We spent time in the Vista lounge waiting. It went very smooth once we were called and they did keep our Sign&Sail Cards. We found our bag, went through customs, and the porter took our bags all the way to Terminal 2 for us. We actually met our DD and neighbors as they pulled into the terminal. So we are ready for the second leg of our b2b.

Ship: The ship is very nice and was decorated for Christmas. We took advantage of the spa area much more this time as our cabin was just below. No new bedding as yet, but I understand that is coming. All the public rooms were well maintained and very clean.

Cabin: smaller than Carnival and not does not have a couch. Smaller closets and bath area storage than RCL and Carnival. The cabin is quite adequate though. There was the bar set up and other Elite perks. Edward our Stateroom Steward was super.

Food: Very good food in the dining room. The best we have had in a long time. The wait service is the best of any cruise line I have experienced. Our waiter, Constantine, was excellent. All the staff are very good. They do all the proper and little things that should be done. The white gloves worn by the staff on formal night for example. Also if you don’t drink coffee, they remove the cup & saucer, not turn the cup over as on some cruise lines. The little things make a big difference when it comes to service. I must say that I appreciate enforcement of the rules when it comes to attire, i.e. not hats in dining room at any time, no sandals, no jeans, etc. I found myself upgrading, wearing pants for breakfast or lunch on port days although you can wear shorts if you wish. In addition to the hand sanitizers found everywhere they gave you additional as you entered the dining rooms. It was said that, "the Grand pax have the cleanest hands in the Caribbean".

Cruise: We had a great time on this cruise. The Grand wasn’t one of DW’s favorites until this cruise, but this one won her over. Everything is so well done and the crew is outstanding. It’s a shame that the Grand isn’t returning next year. The Captain would not confirm any rumors about the Emerald or any other Princess ship coming to the new Houston Cruise Ship Terminal in 2008. We loved the ports of call on this sailing. We also had a wonderful time with the friends, both old and new, we met on board.

This cruise goes down as one of the very best we have ever experienced
and probably the best ever.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Review--Ecstasy --November 13, 2006

Ecstasy --November 13-20, 2006

This was a late booked cruise simply because of the good deal on a single 1A guarantee. This was my ninth Carnival cruise and second on the Ecstasy. The immediate good news was an upgrade to a 4A with a good amidship location.

Embarkation / Day 1. The day began as usual with a check of the Galveston port web cam. There was no Ecstasy to be found when she should have been already docked. She finally docked about 7:00 a.m. which isn’t too late. At least I knew she was in port before leaving home. The drive was fine and Houston traffic wasn’t too bad. I arrived at EZ Cruise about 11:30 a.m. I usually walk, but not having luggage tags took the shuttle in order to get tags from luggage area. If someone wants to book a late cruise guarantee, the process is fairly painless. This was my 4th time to have to pick up luggage tags. Although there were no huge lines the process was going very slow at check-in. More agents came at 12:30 and it went better. Usually no more than an hour from parking lot to lunch on Lido deck, but today took an hour and a half. A Rueben sandwich and salad to begin the day and both were very good. They have an excellent salad bar in the center of the Panorama Bar & Grill. Off for my first visit to my HQ, the Atrium Bar. Alex left the ship today so all new bartenders. All female. That’s all right, I won’t complain. Sail-Away special always the best drink of the day. One concern I have heard from some reviewers is that the muster drill interferes with the actual departure from Galveston. It does. I have sailed from Galveston many times so it’s not a great loss, but Galveston does have the dolphins which escort the ship out of the harbor. They really are fun to watch even if you have done so many times. You’d really have to hustle to see them and participate in the muster drill.

Checked bag came in good order, they seem to distribute the luggage well. Sampled the sushi bar and it was very good. The welcome show was very good. The new CD, Stuart Dunn, was good and refreshing. Not the same CD jokes. The comedian, Lewis Nixon was also very entertaining. I enjoyed the show and recommend it. I had hoped for 8:30 dinner, but got 8:00 pm as they had a singles/solo cruisers table at this seating. We ended up with a nice table for eight. Well dressed, well mannered, nice people. You always wonder how the luck of the draw will go especially when sailing solo. Dinner was good. The new menu with the “always available” section is now also on Ecstasy. The shrimp cocktail (you can order a double) is nice and filet mignon was very good. I have found the steaks hit or miss on CCL ships. This was a hit, I may order more steaks this week. A nightcap and off to the cabin to rest from the long day.

At Sea / Day 2. I always eat in the dining room for 1st breakfast and order the same items. Can get a feel for the food for the rest of the mornings by doing so. Almost late, but in under the wire of 10:00 a.m. Eggs benedict & french toast were good. I tried the special which was some type of baked eggs. Don’t recommend. Eggs on top of dish were barely cooked. I guess not enough oven. Today is a beautiful day so all the lido deck activities are going well. I signed up for the wine tasting which was at 12:30. The Matre’d promoted it at the previous nights dinner as a wine/cheese tasting and the cheese was the hook for me. I’ve done a wine tasting. When I went to the tasting it was JUST a wine tasting with some (very little) cheese, a lime, and a strawberry which were used during the tasting. Then they had the art auction guys hop up and take over the program. Almost a bait & switch in my opinion. Today was indian food day in the buffet. The mulligatawny soup was just OK, the poppadam was very good as were the sauces.

First seating of the Texas hold’em tables was this afternoon. I bought in at a low amount, but didn’t have near the luck as in September. Even had same seat and same table, the cards just didn’t fall for me. I do like the set up on Ecstasy best. The tables are in a nonsmoking area and away from the casino.

The Captains party was this evening and went well. Found a nice area with a nice cocktail waitress that kept us in plenty of drinks. Tipping (usually) helps keep you table filled with drinks. Formal dinner this evening and the lobster tail was very good. Disappointed by the pumpkin soup and VERY disappointed with the Bitter & Blanc. I’ve had it a dozen times since introduced with the new menus about a year ago and it was always the best dessert of the cruise. This was very dry, even dried-out. Actually it wasn’t as good last month on the Conquest, but I assumed it was just an off serving. This nights was even worse. I didn’t finish mine nor did others at my table. How they can take the best desert they had and change it is beyond me. Not going to let the desert disappoint the entire dinner though. The production show, Dream Voyage, after dinner was enjoyable. The dancers are good especially the ballet duo.

Progreso, Mexico / Day 3. My 4th time to Progreso so I’m not planning on going into town so it’s a nice day to sleep in which I did. I had an omelet from the omelet station which was good. A good time to use ship facilities since most people are off the ship. Played some mini-golf on the new course, swam in the pool including using the slide a few times. Also took a steam in the spa which is very refreshing. I didn’t visit the spa in September so I’ll note that the spa has also been refurbished and is very nice. Enjoyed a nice lunch in the Panorama Grill and they had the pistachio napoleons in the desert area. Very good, almost makes up for the B&B. I did get a chance to visit with the Matre’d during the day about the Bitter & Blanc. He’ll speak to the pastry chef. Also spent time at HQ, the Atrium Bar. Watched a few late arrivals board the ship which is always fun. Cozumel will be much better. Progreso is probably not a good place to be left behind. Dinner was good I chose the shrimp cocktail and steak from the alternative menu. Steak ordered medium-well but came well; however, the cut of meat was excellent. Matre’d came by to report about Bitter & Blanc. Tonight was amateur show so I skipped that and visited with new friends before retiring to cabin.

Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4. Arrived in Cozumel about 9:00 a.m. and did dock at the Punta Langosta pier along side the Fantasy. Began the day with breakfast in dining room and then prepared for trip to town. I was able to debark from crew gangway as it was just above my cabin and that gave me a good head start into San Migel. I was heading to the internet shop when I heard my friend Nelly call my name. Always nice to visit with Nelly. She owns the Mayan Pearl a nice jewelry store in Cozumel near the square. I got my internet business taken care of and waved at Martin, my barber, and headed down to the Forum for an early Mojito. Met friends at the square and spent an afternoon enjoying beer and Mariachi’s. We hired every mariachi group and soloist on the avenue. Back to the ship to watch the late arrivals stagger back. The welcome guest party was this evening and nice. Dinner was good. I again ordered the shrimp cocktail and steak. They served the grand mariner soufflé for desert. The production show was Ultimate Country and was a big crowd pleaser.

At Sea / Day 5. Final breakfast in dining room. Again everything is just a bit over cooked. The eggs benedict were hard. It was a beautiful day and a good time for Lido deck activities. Final Rueben sandwich for lunch. While on Lido deck I noticed the Splendour of the Seas pass us on her way to Cozumel. It is her first trip of the season from Galveston. She looked great. I went to Tea time which was held in the Neon bar and it was very good. The scones were excellent. Another visit to the steam room and final drinks from the atrium bar. A lot of things to do on the final day of the cruise. Dinner was very good, one of the better ones of the cruise. The Neptune Basket is becoming one of my favorites. It was excellent. I also had a shrimp cocktail & a steak. The desert was Baked Alaska. I retired to the cabin to pack and rest for an early debarkation.

Debarkation. The ship was an hour and a half late arriving in Galveston. Perhaps she couldn’t make up for leaving Cozumel late. I just waited in my cabin until they began calling specific decks for self-assist. It wasn’t too bad considering. I got to customs about 9:15 a.m. The Grand Princess had just docked for her 1st cruise of the season this morning. She also looked great. Walked to EZ Cruise parking and was on my way.

Cabin. I had cabin R150 an interior 4A. It’s not a quad so it didn’t have the large new furniture that my previous cabin had. Newly remodeled bathroom, new carpets, flat screen TV (no a/v hookups), and new chairs, stools and furnishings. The fan seems louder than I remember, but blowing well. In previous cabin it was the exhaust that made noise. Neither too bad as I usually have the TV on for background noise. Very near the amidships elevator and stairways. This cabin is great for a single or double. Cabin steward was named Butrous and he did a good job.

Food / Bar. I have already mentioned some specific problems. It seems everything is over cooked including: steaks, deserts, eggs, escargot, and other entrees. Consider this especially when ordering steaks, eggs, etc.. The deli sandwiches are very good as is the salad bar and desert station in the Panorama grill. Everyone at my table raved over the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with ice cream on the side. It was a desert that was available every night and many ordered it on several nights. I thought the Bar Service was excellent. Friendly bartenders and cocktail waiters. Always seemed willing to help with special requests and were always willing to serve.

Ship. Again the ship is in great shape since the refit. Very clean and well maintained. I liked the CD, he did a good job. He could have stressed the importance of having a “free hand” if your using self-debarkation.

Overall another great cruise. I met a lot of very nice people, made some new friends and saw some old friends while onboard. I will be cruising the Ecstasy again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Review--Conquest--October 15, 2006

Conquest--October 15-22, 2006

This was my eighth CCL cruise, fourth on Conquest, and fourth (total) solo. I was looking forward to this cruise as this was a Cruise Critic group cruise and I really wanted to meet many of the people who have been active on the C-C boards. The Saints & Sinners-II were a great group of people. Also having recently cruised the Conquest I will be skipping some of the shows and activities one would normally do on a cruise.

Day one-Embarkation-Checked web cam around 6:30 a.m. and saw the Conquest arrive in Galveston which is always a good sign for a smooth embarkation. I left beautiful Bosque county shortly afterward and arrived at EZ Cruise parking about 11:30 a.m. I usually walk, but used the shuttle this morning as it had been storming/raining. Arrived at terminal one just before noon. The lines were longer than normal for that time-IMHO, but ran very smoothly. No problems with check-in or security and I was on board just about 12:30. I did make note of the size of the carry on bags many were bringing aboard. Some were almost as large as the duffle I checked.

A Reuben sandwich hit the spot while waiting for the cabin areas to be opened. They had been allowing access to cabins at 1:00 but I think they are trying to push the time back as it was closer to 1:30 and the handouts now stated access at 2:00 p.m. I’m guessing they will gradually move the time back. Will not be easy for those hauling on those oversize carry on bags.

I always get my first funship special at lobby bar and did so again. Began meeting S&S-II people which was easy to do as most were wearing the S&S-II t-shirts. It will not be difficult to find someone to enjoy a drink with on this cruise. The first official meet was after muster drill at the Sky bar and I got to meet a large number of the S&S-II group. This will be a different experience from sailing with the primarily Texas folks I am used to sailing with out of Galveston. I have already met people from Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, and Canada. All very nice and folks we do not see in Bosque county.

We saw a lot of dolphins as we sailed away from Galveston harbor. The sea is rough as we have a front to sail through. The ship is really rocking. Especially compared to my most recent cruises.

The late dinner S&S group is seated in the same general area on level two of the Monet dining room. I am used to the 8:30 setting and this was the 8:00, but I’ll adjust. Dinner was good, but only standard CCL fare. Not near as good as Rhapsody or even the Ecstasy-IMHO. I had the same opinion in August. The shrimp cocktail appetizer was good, but the steak was only fair. In lieu of desert I had the cheese selection. New from even two months ago, the menu now reflects the alternative selections. i.e.- the items available every night. That’s good especially for inexperienced cruisers. Having had very little sleep the past two nights I skipped the S&S function and the Welcome Show and called it a evening.

Day Two-at sea. Slept very well. The ship is still rockin’ and rollin’ today. You certainly are getting your moneys worth as far as the ride goes. An “E’ ticket for sure.

I had my traditional first morning on board breakfast in the dining room. Tomato juice, grapefruit sections, eggs benedict, side of french toast, bacon, and milk. During breakfast I was able to visit with Zoltan, a waiter I have become friends with from previous cruises. Met in deck-3 lobby for the group S&S-II photo and later lunch in the dining room. Good day to visit with folks and also catch up on sleep. A nice late afternoon nap was wonderful. This is formal night. Attended the Captains reception which was extremely well/over attended. Retreat to bar in Henri’s disco and yes you could order a specialty drink. The bartender initially balked, but persistence (and later tips) won him over to very excellent service. I’ve met the crew so the frequent drinks in the overflow of Henri’s was a fine deal for me. Met someone who attended my high school-small world. Dinner was much better than previous night. The Pumpkin soup, Lobster and Tiramisu were very good. Spent some time in the Impressions Bar and Degas Lounge after dinner and enjoyed the drinks, entertainment and people watching very much.

Day Three-at sea. Slept very well. Sea is much calmer than yesterday, but still not calm. Enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. Casual morning and also had lunch in dining room. The Chicken Parmesan was very good. The return guest party held today was excellent, the best ever of the four I have attended on the Conquest. Dinner was good especially the starters: Escargot, Hearts of palm, and French onion soup. We had to detour to Grand Cayman to debark an ill passenger, the lights of 7-mile beach and Georgetown were visible during dinner. Tonight is mardi gras night and many in the S&S-II group fully participated.

Day Four-Montego Bay Jamaica. I was up early and had breakfast in the dining room. Most of the S&S-II group had planned to go to Sunset Beach, an all-inclusive resort near the pier. We were docked on time and since I was around early I went to Sunset Beach prior to rest of the group. Good place for swimming, and drinks & food were included in admission. Being solo it was nice to be a part of a larger group at a spot like Sunset Beach, it was fun, but I really think Doctors Cave Beach is a better choice for a beach day in MoBay. Dinner was very good and this was Bitter&Blanc night for desert. Having had too much sun I retired early. Seas calm during the night.

Day Five-Grand Cayman. Early breakfast in dining room. While most are busy getting off for their excursions I enjoy a couple of steams in the spa. Very nice and helping with the sunburn. Took a tender into Georgetown to purchase some liquor from Pirates Grotto and a hat from the recently opened Margaritavile. I returned to the ship in time for lunch, some Rueben sandwiches. This afternoon was a cocktail party for the S&S-II group was was quite fun. Dinner was good, especially the crab cake. Watched a movie on the TV and retread early.

Day Six-Cozumel, Mexico. Breakfast again in the dining room. We arrived in Cozumel about 9:00 a.m.. The fantastic news is that we were able to dock at the Langosta pier. I believe this is the first time that the Conquest has docked since last year and it sure beats tendering. Off to town to see Nelly at Mayan Pearl. She has a bracelet to repair for DW and another for me to pick up. I went to see Martin and got a haircut, then to the internet store to check e-mail and fantasy picks for the upcoming weekend. Next stop is Havana Club, which I believe now is going by the name Havana Blue. Since moving to their new location they emphasize jazz and blues and less of the salsa. Still great mojitos. Lunch at Panchos Backyard (thanks D&S) the chicken fajitas were great. Returned to Maya Pearl to pick up jewelry and some afternoon shopping before returning to the ship. Now that we are docked I get to enjoy one of my favorite Cozumel traditions: watching the inebriated and late pax rush to the ship at the end of the day. The Langosta pier is not as conducive to the viewing as the Puerto Maya pier, but close. The Norwegian Sun docked across the way added to the atmosphere. I was not disappointed. There were a lot returning with the “staggers & jags” and a few flashers for good measure. We sailed away about 6:00 p.m.

Dinner was again good. Best: Coquille St. Jacque and special halloween deserts decorated with ghosts, bats, pumpkins, etc. Something new for me was the halloween show after dinner. Ghost stories, games and a costume contest. Very interesting.

Day Seven-at Sea. Final dining room breakfast. I think everyone waited until last day as the dining room was packed for the first time for breakfast. A little business with the purser as Sail & Sign account on the TV doesn’t reflect an OBC although the pursers account does. They are very helpful at the pursers desk. Liquor was delivered to the cabins this morning. Lunch in the dining room, but still room for some BLT’s from room service in late afternoon. The final S&S-II cocktail reception was 4:30-5:30 and again fun. Final dinner was the best of the week. I had both the pork chop and Neptune Platter. Of course the Grand Marnier Soufflé is great and tonight was exceptional.

Debarkation. Room service breakfast as a wake up call. Nice little refund check from CCL in my mailbox this morning as well. Also I elected to do self-assist as usual, but decided to let the gangways clear before leaving the cabin about 7:30. It went smooth all the way to customs. They had four lines for pax and three lines for crew. I’ve never seen that before, not sure what was up. They were in uniform without any bags. After getting through customs I WALKED over to EZ Cruise and was on the way. Stopped for gas ($1.92) and was across the bridge by 8:25.

Cabin: I had cabin 7345 which is a 1A, but a great inside midship location on deck 7. Perfect for a single or solo cruiser and large enough for three with the drop down bunk. The room is square, (most are rectangular) I like the additional room at the entry between the bathroom and closets. More room than many 4A’s-6A’s. Some of my new C-C friends have the two 1A’s on deck two which actually have picture windows. There are some 1A deals on Conquest if you know where to look. Cabin was very clean, much cleaner than our cabin on Conquest two months ago. This was one of the cruise were I rarely saw the cabin steward. Some have different styles. The cabin was always well kept and my requests via sticky note was always fulfilled.

Ship: The Conquest is a great ship and she still seems very well maintained and clean. All of the public rooms are beautiful. Read up on French impressionist artists before boarding. The Conquest also has a new Cruise Director, Mark Price, very good, but different without Todd.

Food: The food is good, deserts better, wait staff the best. Always plenty to eat and the wait staff is very good in the dining rooms and lido deck buffets.

Cruise Critic: I’ve already mentioned what a great group of people the Saints & Sinners-II people are and have been on the cruise. What a fun group. Do I think their presence has influenced the cruise: Yes. From my experience having sailed the Conquest four times the most noticeable difference was the return guests party. The Conquest staff went all-out IMHO with extra wait staff and as many refills of drinks as one could possibly want. Very smart move by the CD and staff. Most of the S&S-II group are loyal CCL guests and should be rewarded. I didn’t participate in all the S&S-II activities, especially the late night or some meetings at the port drinking establishments, but I don’t recover from the drink as I once could. The private cocktail parties were brilliant, especially the extra one scheduled. What a bargain. Numerous drinks for that $11.00 (That’s my Scots nature--always appreciate a value) I may have to reevaluate my no flying to a cruise rule and look at S&S-III. I also met two groups of people who read C-C for information yet never post nor are active. Just found that interesting.

Great Cruise, great people, good cabin, good food, I am a happy cruiser!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Review--Rhapsody of the Seas--September 24, 2006

Rhapsody of the Seas September 24-October 1, 2006

This will be written with some comparisons to the Conquest and Ecstasy which we have sailed within the past few weeks. This was our second time on the Rhapsody which is DW’s favorite ship.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation Oversleeping and one accident on Houston Freeways delayed usual arrival by an hour+, but seemed to work out overall. Usually I’m one of those people who think they need to be at the check-in by 11:30. The delay put us there about 12:30 which IMHO was actually better. The early arrivers where on board yet we were ahead of the published 1:00 pm boarding so it went very smooth. No lines in Security, Check-in, Security photos, or Windjammer. From street to buffet in 15 minutes. I think a 12:30 arrival is ideal for the future.

The Windjammer buffet is very good, much better than Ecstasy and Conquest, my recent sailings. I really appreciate the drinks (lemonade, tea, water) being available on trays. You do not have to fix your own (find the glasses. find the ice, find the dispenser) as on the previously mentioned ships. Explored the ship and some sail away drinks this afternoon. BTW-you will save about $1 in taxes if you purchase drinks after we leave Galveston.

Our C-C group had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to find our new friends following muster drill. Nice to meet some folks before our official meet on Monday. I did wear my new C-C T-shirt under my Caribbean shirt, but it was still noticed by a few, mostly crew!

The Welcome Aboard Show was good. The CD is Dan Whitney and he is one of the best-IMHO. We had an excellent draw on the dinning room table. Round six-top table center location of DR just below staircase. Very nice people at out table including Cruise Critic fans. We turned in after dinner. During the night we passed through a thunderstorm and the thunder and lightning was both interesting and entertaining.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea I enjoyed a dining room breakfast and DW ordered room service breakfast for the balcony. Very nice to have options. Our Meet & Mingle was at 12:30 and was well attended. RCL provided canapés, a gift (note pad) for everyone, and a raffle prize. A bit rainy a lot of the day, but it was interesting. Saw a very large waterspout from aft balcony. The weather cleared in the afternoon and everyone was enjoying the usual ship board activities. This is formal night. The Captains reception was held in the Lounge and Champagne was distributed by the waiters. The Captain, Anders Ingebrigtsen, spoke about the changes and new deployment for Rhapsody next year. Formal dinner was very good. I had shrimp cocktail, escargot, beef, & Grand Mariner soufflé for desert. The production show after dinner was very good as well, Piano Man, featuring the RCL Singers & Dancers.

Day Three--Tuesday--at Sea/Key West This is a great day in that you have a sea day and a port day in one. We began with room service breakfast on the balcony. DW spent most of the day in the Solarium swimming and relaxing in a more quiet environment. than the main pool. I entered the Texas Hold’em Tournament, but didn’t get too far. Congrats to C-C member Wes who made the final table. They served southern style pork chops & potatoes with onions in the Windjammer. Very good, reminded me of my younger days. We watched the port activity as we approached Key West. The Enchantment of the Seas leaves port as we arrive. Pretty cool as the two ships pass each other. Key West: We headed straight for Henrietta’s Bakery located on Petronia Street in the Bahamian district. About a six block walk and as we got there they just flipped the closed sign. They opened for us and we even got to met Henrietta. Their business has really changed since being featured on the Food Network. They ship a USPS truck full of bakery items out daily. She said she ships more items to Texas than anywhere else. We made our selections and headed back to the Green Parrot which we passed along the way. This is the real deal Key West bar established in 1890. Few tourists and it was full of very interesting locals. My first beer and beginning of our Key West pub crawl. Next to Kelly’s Caribbean Bar which has perhaps the best happy hour on the island. We spent the balance of happy here enjoying the Key Lime margaritas. Kelly’s is in the original Pan-Am airlines headquarters and has very old Key West roots. The bar is made/cut out from an old Pan-Am clipper wing. Cool place. Next we walked to the Key West bight or boardwalk. We stopped at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, but found our favorite place on the seaport to be the Schooner Wharf. Excellent live music and very good mango mojitos. From the Schooner Wharf to Sloppy Joe's for a final nightcap. Enjoying our pub crawl we turned in and didn’t make the sail away midnight buffet & entertainment, but heard it was very good.

Day Four--Wednesday--at Sea Room service breakfast works very well so we did it once again. Some swimming in the Solarium pool in the morning. We purchased tickets to the Cocktail Seminar at Sea which was at 12:15. This was very entertaining and they do their best to get you buzzed in the early afternoon. They passed out samples of most of the drinks including: Apple martinis, Cosmopolitans, Bahama Mamas, Yellow Birds, & BBC’s. If you wanted extras you could get it. Lunch in Windjammer which I have found has a very good lunch selections. I had the roast beef and cajun chicken. The feature show this evening was Kenny James a great singer/entertainer. Dinner was again very good. Maryland Crab cake, New England clam chowder, and Pork chop was my selections. Had to have two deserts: Baked Alaska & Bananas Foster. Quest was tonight, but left that to the newbies.

Day Five--Thursday--Grand Cayman We have decided to stay on board ship so we are on island time (relaxed) today. Room Service breakfast on the balcony, then swimming in the pools. Nice when there are few people on board. By midday we started getting rain so people began coming back to the ship earlier than norm. Again a good lunch in the Windjammer. My selections: Corned beef and cabbage, pork cutlets, potatoes, salad. The weather really started getting bad later in the day which made the solarium busier than normal so we opened the balcony door and enjoyed the thunder, lightning, and rain. After the dry summer in Texas, it was nice to just see the rain. The late afternoon was much better & the aft balcony gave a great sail away view of Grand Cayman, improved by Bahama mama’s from room service. Tonight is the second formal night. The Crown & Anchor get together was this evening (we skipped) and the production show was Pure Country. Lobster was the choice for most at dinner and yes a second lobster was available to those who wished. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it after the lobsters, but heard it was great.

Day Six--Friday--Cozumel Very impressive entry into the Strait of Cozumel with the Conquest, Rhapsody, & Mariner coming in side by side. GOOD NEWS for everyone. We docked at Punta Langosta. We were the first ship to do so. The Mariner docked at the International pier and I’m guessing that the Rhapsody will dock there on the weeks that the Mariner is not here and at Punta Langosta on the other weeks. Bottom line: Looks like that the Rhapsody will always be docked and not tendering every other week. Hopefully this will be true for the Splendour as well when she starts her Cozumel sailings from galveston. We have been to Cozumel more than 30 times over a period of 25 years so usually never make specific plans and ‘play it by ear’ depending on mood and weather. Today we went to see Nelly at Mayan Pearl as DW needed some items. While DW had some items custom made I spent an hour in the internet store (next door to my Coz barber). We walked down to the Havana Club for a couple of mojitos, then some shopping on the way back. We thought we’d visit some of the oldest establishments so spent some time at Casa Denis and then La Mission. We returned to the ship around 3:30 and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony which luckily over looked Cozumel. We could follow the action in town where they had a parade on the Malecon (& in boats on the water) as well as the action at Senor Frogs. Great view and comfort as we had room service snacks as well. Really love the big balcony on this cruise. Dinner was again great. A highlight this evening was watching the lights of the Conquest and the moon above her as she sailed along our port side.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea Room service breakfast again this morning. Swimming and relaxing in the solarium pool area is the agenda of the day. Lunch in Windjammer again good-my selections salad, seafood etouffee, pork tenderloin (jerk style) was very good. A visit to Mary Ann, the C&A and future cruise representative. We booked two more cruises on Rhapsody. A few Yellow Birds in the afternoon to use the 2for1 coupons in the C&A booklet made for a fun day.

About 3:00 p.m. I returned to the cabin and went on the balcony to watch the Conquest which was following on our port side. Suddenly the Conquest made a extreme 90˚turn to starboard. The first thing that came to mind was a “man overboard”. About 15 minutes passed and the Conquest started north again, this time on our starboard side but now several miles behind. I mentioned this to DW and some friends and of course as we found out the next day, they did have a tragedy on the Conquest at that time.

The farewell production show was good and the International Parade between dinners was excellent. The final dinner was as usual very good. My selections: Shrimp cocktail, Onion soup, Chicken Marsala, & Tiramisu for desert. No Conquest along side tonight as she is still catching up from the delay.

Debarkation--Sunday We did the self and it went fairly well. There was a hold up because of people trying to take too many bags and having to ride the elevators in the terminal. You must have one free hand to use the escalator. We were off the island by 8:00 a.m..

Ship I do think that the Rhapsody does deserve its reputation as the friendliest ship on the seas. The staff and crew are very good. The ship itself does show some wear and needs the upcoming dry dock. Yes there was vibration, but usually only when approaching a port. It may have more noticeable to others, but we are used to sailing and some vibration is part of the cruise. The passageways are narrow on Rhapsody so be careful.

Cabin We had originally booked this while onboard the Rhapsody last year, but later upgraded, so we were fortunate to get cabin 7152 an aft corner wrap balcony. The room is standard size, but the balcony is very large. There are no public aft stairs so it is a long walk to the elevator/stairs mid ship. There is some noise from the Lounge below, but we normally sleep with the TV on so it didn’t bother us that much. It did give me a start during what I assume was the finale on the first night-I did jump out of bed!! One good advantage is no passageway noise. No traffic and no cabin doors near us. Fair tradeoff IMHO. The cabin needs updating and It will be in February so we’ll have the new bedding, etc. on our Rhapsody cruises next year. Did we enjoy this cabin? Yes very much.

Food The room service breakfast has more selections than most cruise lines, so it is a great option especially if you can eat on the balcony. Many of the dining room dinner items are available from room service or the Windjammer from 6:30-9:30 daily. A great option for those who can not make the dining room.

Lunch is the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. You can order a banana split for desert at lunch. All the bread selections are very good on board. The buffet is also very good and much better than other lines. There are ice creme and yogurt machines in the Windjammer.

Overall we both thought the food was much better on Rhapsody than the two RCL ships; however, the deserts on Conquest & Ecstasy are better than the Rhapsody.

Needs Improvement The water jets at the entry steps of the pool in the Solarium never worked. Smoking was much worse on this cruise than previous RoS cruise. The Schooner Bar should be nonsmoking as you have to walk through it to get to the various other venues. This will be moot when she goes to Asia, but that is a while yet. Missed our breakfast order one morning, but I can see how that happened--the corner aft cabins don’t open on the main passage ways, but on an out set. It was just missed. The good thing is that the Room Service manager sent us some chocolate strawberries later that day. Wow I was impressed. Also the self-debarkation should be limited to one bag per person.

Final We really enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people including a good C-C group. We still haven’t done everything on board there is to do, so I know we had an entertaining and enjoyable time. Another great cruise!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Review--Ecstasy--September 4-6, 2006

Ecstasy 9/4/06 - 9/9/06 Galveston -Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston
This was my seventh Carnival cruise, third solo, and first time on Ecstasy. The ship isn’t sailing full. There will be many comparisons with Conquest since I just sailed her a few days ago.

Monday / Embarkation / Day 1 Embarkation was smooth for most. I had a some small problems. There was no S&S card for me. I did book late, four days earlier, but have booked even later twice & had S&S card without problem. It would not have been a problem, but the lady who checked me in gave me the wrong information. She wrote something on doc and said proceed to pursers desk for card. Didn’t sound quite right but did as she said. Of course, Security said “wrong wrong”. I had to go get a temporary badge to board, then go to pursers desk. I could have taken care of the temp badge before boarding if given correct instructions to begin with. Anyway, no big deal, some delay, but everyone was nice about it. When I did finally receive my S&S card I had to back track for security photo, etc.. On top of that no dining table assignment. Well my favorite place is the lobby bar on embarkation day, so now that I had a card I could start the “sail away specials” and wait for the Maitre’D. C-C member oldmedic saw me at the bar and mentioned his table number. When it was time to make dining assignment changes I was able to get that table. I should mention that the dining room changes were handled very well. A waiter queues everyone outside the dining room and admits one at a time to the Maitre’D station . Seems to work smoother and people can’t just shop the tables, but legitimate changes are made fairly easy.

The Lido had the usual buffet for arriving guests. The deli also has hot sandwiches so a Rueben right away for me. This was a pleasant surprise as the Elation did not have them.

Time for more sail away drinks and to explore the ship. Yes there is the secret door. Actually a couple to the same forward deck.

One complaint I heard was that muster drill runs too long and into the sail away. We were well underway before dismissed from “muster”. Still time to see the dolphins as we left the harbor if you hurried though.

Welcome Show tonight. “Rebecca” is the CD. Entertainer was Gene Merola. He was funny, I’d seen him before on the Elation. . I always enjoy the dancers and the two feature singers were very good. After show a visit to the sushi bar.

Dinner was nice. Late seating in Wind Star Dining Room. I was at table 115 and the waiter & staff are very good. There are three couples and myself. I had the Filet Mignon and sampled the shrimp. I think the shrimp were better. The breads and salads are excellent. I had two deserts, don’t tell DW. Towel animal on first night.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / Day 2 Good sleeping with the inside cabin, but up early (ranch life, I guess) so to the dining room for breakfast. I’ve had the same breakfast on the first morning of all my CCL cruises: Sectioned grapefruit & oranges, Eggs Benedict with side of bacon, and french toast. I have to say that this one was the best I have ever had. Much better than Conquest which I was on just a few days ago. You could tell the difference. I’m not much for sun, I get all of that I want at home, so indoor activities for me. They had Indian food on the lunch buffet so I had to sample the mulligatawny soup. It was better than Conquest, but just OK. I guess there are as many variations of mulligatawny soap as there are chiefs.

A two hour+ nap this afternoon. That was nice. Drink special today is Yellow Birds, but this afternoon was Pilsner Urquell day for me at the atrium bar. A good place to people watch. Good bartenders (Aleksandar & Nyoman) at this bar as well.

This is formal night. Captains reception is in show lounge. I prefer how they do it on Conquest, but they have the larger clubs to host it in than on fantasy class ships. Formal dinner was nice. I had lobster of course. I had already told my table mates about the new desert Bitter&Blanc and it was served tonight. I think I have a new favorite.

The productions show, Dream Voyage, featuring the Carnival dancers and singers was tonight. It was very good. I was too tired for the gala midnight buffet which was tonight, so off for some sleep.

Wednesday / Progreso, Mexico / Day 3 The docking procedure woke me up about 6:30. I wanted to sleep in as I had no real plans for Progresso. They finalized docking and slept in long enough to not rush to dining room breakfast. IMHO The standard buffet breakfast is just OK. I sure the omelets are good, but I didn’t want to wait. We dock in Progreso, the only hold up is the shuttle, Since I was solo I went the shuttle route as I usually rent a jeep here. This was my 4th time in Progreso and I just did a few things: went to bank, the internet location (still only $1 for an hour), and then to my favorite spot Le Saint Bonnet. Padre saw me right away (4th visit) and seated me. A DosXX, bottled water, and shrimp cocktail. I bought a small wooden bowl ($5) with a spurtle to use at home to muddle mint for my mojitos. I went back to the ship early to beat the late rush and get some lunch. I had the hamburger. They had a desert bar in the Panorama Grill and the Napoleons were fantastic. Drink of the day today is Blue Margarita. Second trip to the sushi bar, they do vary the selections. For dinner the seafood delight is very good. A variety of different seafood. Tiramisu for desert. The talent show was tonight, but I watched a bit of Texas hold’em poker and retired early.

Thursday / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4 We are tendering into Cozumel, but at least to the San Miguel pier and not Puerto Maya. Taking a casual breakfast in dining room as I’m not in a big hurry to get to shore as I was just there and since solo have no plans to rent a jeep or tour. It went very smooth. They opened to general boarding just about 9:15 a.m. not long after finishing breakfast. Took some friends by a shop that I know the owner. I have never visited the Cozumel Museum so thought this would be something to do in the morning. It was nice, but the best feature is the snack bar on the second floor. It overlooks the harbor at San Miguel and being a beautiful day you could clearly see Playa del Carmen and Xcaret across the straight of Cozumel. They seem to feature breakfasts at this cafe and the menu looked good. A little shopping on the way to the Havana Club. Excellent mojitos, best in the caribbean. There were a lot of RCL employees from the Navigator of the Seas which was docked at the International pier. They have WiFi at the Havana Club so many had laptops. Wanted to try my laptop from ship since we were anchored just opposite, but didn't get back to ship in time. It may work from an upper deck. Also great views of the ship from the Havana club. A few cervezas from before returning to the ship to rest a bit form a hot day in Cozumel. The return guest party is tonight although I skipped. Drink of the day is Mexican mama, but didn’t try it. Wow guess you can’t drink all the time. Dinner was OK another seafood combination since Wednesdays was so good. This was as well. Baked Alaska for desert. The feature show is X-treme Country. It was very good. Best show of the cruise.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / Day 5 Usual dining room breakfast as it will be the final one since I will do self-debarkation the following morning. This was the second time I’ve seen flying fish while returning from Cozumel. They are small, but very numerous. Also Dolphins were seen following the ship most of the day. Last Rueben sandwich for awhile as well for lunch. Afternoon spent at the Texas Hold’em table. A lot of fun. Visiting with some C-C folks and new friends at the atrium bar was very enjoyable as well. Anytime a lady buys you a drink at the lobby bar AND you walk away with $ from the tables--It is a good day! Final dinner was nice I had the pork and of course the desert was the Grand Marnier soufflé. Bags were to be out before midnight, but I’ll be doing the self debarkation.

Saturday / Debarkation
The only hitch of the cruise-ordered room service (and as a wakeup call) for something light between 6:00-6:15 a.m. It never showed. Finished packing and was in line for self debarkation by 7:15. It went smooth. They had 6 agents working so it went very fast through customs. I was off the island by 7:45 a.m.

SHIP-- The Ecstasy is an older ship. She seemed in great shape. She does show her age is some areas, but is very clean and nice. I like the layout. There are a lot of “hump” locations on the upper decks which make watching the sea or views very nice. Also the ceiling above the atrium is skylights. I like it. That’s all the sun I want to see during the day. I knew there was a lot of neon so I was prepared for it, but it was not dated at all and is very impressive in the evening. A very different look. No smoking in the lobby area at all. This is much better than on Conquest. Although I overhead a lady complain about smoking I thought it was better controlled than either Conquest or Elation. The new mini-golf area is very nice.

CABIN-- I booked late on a 1A guarantee bargain deal. I received a 4A, cabin R234 located aft so I was happy with that. The cabin steward is excellent. One of two best I’ve ever had. I actually saw him cleaning the base in the hall with a toothbrush. The cabin was always clean. The retrofit in dry-dock was well done. Changes I noticed included: New doors for bath and hallway entry, new flooring in bathroom, new fixtures in bath, magnetic doorstops (that work), new telephone, flat screen televisions, the new Carnival bedding system, new stateroom directory (smaller than those on Conquest & Elation), new upholstery, and new carpet. Also, the cabin was a quad, but didn't have the drop down from ceiling bunks. They were built into the large heavy wooden head/side boards of the units. I'm sure these were new. It looked more like nice furniture than ugly metal bunks.

Important: The flush button is above the toilet lids. Much better than those that are semi-hidden behind the lids. You conquest class folks know what I’m saying! No comedian jokes inserted here!

The only negatives are the exhaust fan is noisy. Doesn’t bother me that much easily confused with the sound of running water in the bath. Also you have a separate card to open your door. The Sail&Sign does not act as your room key. Minor, but I was always afraid I’d leave the room key since I wasn’t used to carrying two cards.

There are no refrigerators in the 4A’s. (OK by me I never use them) There is some vibration at times, especially aft I suspect, but I just reminds me that I’m on a ship.

DINING / FOOD-- Overall, I think the food was better on Ecstasy than on Conquest or Elation. The thing I liked the most was the table set up. They use the old standard (and proper IMHO) silver set up with all silver on the table at the beginning. On Conquest, they have gone to the 1on1 system which is just a short cut for the servers as they will use the slight of hand not actually change out the silver (caught you Zoltan). I did mention this to the Ecstasy Maitre’D and he seemed pleased to hear it. He said it’s the newer ships are using the other system.

GENERAL-- The gulf was almost dead calm so the sailing was very smooth. There are a lot of Texans on board although a lot of people from all over. I met a lot of very nice people. I differently will do this cruise again with DW and DD. In fact the Ecstasy may become my new favorite CCL ship.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Review--Carnival Conquest--August 20-27, 2006

Carnival Conquest 8/20 - 8/27 2006

I won’t do this chronologically as I have already written two Conquest reviews. We had had a very tough week prior to the cruise with a loss of my Mother so we used this cruise for much needed R&R. I will highlight some features and observations of the week.

EMBARKATION & DEBARKATION--Went very smooth. A little late to begin boarding. Security seemed to be the problem. A lot more people do self-debarkation now so that can be a bit crowded very early on the final morning. As long as ship is on time, it is still the best way off for people that can handle it. My favorite spot after hitting the deli for some Ruebens on embarkation day is the lobby bar for my first Sailaway drink. I love to see the “newbies” when they board. Best observation this time- A couple walked in and observed the atrium and was a little slack-jawed on how large it all was. They walked over to bar and DH orders a beer and hands bartender his S&S card. He then asks DW if she wants a beer and she says (pointing to all the Sailaway drinks she sees) “nah, I’ll just have one of those free ones everyone is having”. Not sure how long before she found out they weren’t free, but they didn’t know it for awhile anyway. (The bartender didn’t hear her, he already had the card in his hand and just charged for the two drinks) I always make the lobby/atrium bar my HQ and make friends with the bar staff there asap. The Conquest actually sailed out before the Rhapsody which very rarely happens.

SHIP--The Conquest was very ship shape. Looked very clean and there were always crew cleaning the public areas and the ship itself.

CABIN--was not as clean as previous cruises. We always bring disinfecting wipes so we had it in good shape soon. I had already left notes for the Steward when I discovered that it was our Stewards first day with Carnival and obviously first time on Conquest. In fact I think we were probably aboard before her. (It made muster drill easy.) She did a great job for the rest of the week and we reminded her of some simple things that were overlooked. She’ll be fine. This was also our first inside cabin on Conquest and we really enjoyed it. (We have previously had extended aft balcony & O/S) We were so tired of the heat and sun from the ranch that the dark cabin was really enjoyed. We decided to leave the beds separated for the additional room. It was great, we spent more time there than we would have ever thought. Carnival Bedding-- I have decided that I don’t like it. Our sixth time with the new duvets, etc. and they are just not right. A sheet is not enough and the duvet is too much. The mattresses are good though.

BAR SERVICE--the bad news is that Boris is gone. Back to Czech Republic to get married. The good news is the Mojitos. The Miami Vice/Bacardi Rum promotion is on Carnival for August. They were very good. I watched & inquired from three different bartenders (since I'm a mojito guy & also like to sit at the bar) and the mojito mix was just the simple syrup, some lime, and bacardi rum already mixed together. They then topped it off with soda from a can. Two did a very good job, one used too little mix & too much soda. The mint was surprisingly good on board. Overall they did a good job; however, it remains to be seen if they continue them beyond the promotion. It was the drink of the day on the second day. BTW-purchased alcohol was distributed very early on the last sea day.

DINING ROOM--last cruise we had a bad location, but a good waiter. This time a great location and good, but average service. Our table mates were all fantastic though. Well dressed, very professional, and one could say, several celebrities in their professions in the group. Dinner was the highlight of the cruise for me. (not necessarily DW though). Lots of blue jeans, hats, and shorts in the dining room. People were dressed well for the Formal nights though.

FOOD--Everyone has an opinion so I’ll say standard Carnival fare. I enjoy most food so I was fine. My favorites were: the Steaks, the Lobster, Pumpkin soup, French onion soup, Escargot, Hearts of Palm, the Salads, Grand Marnier Soufflé, and Bitter & Blanc (a new desert). All the vegetarian dishes were pretty lame. (Not just DW’s opinion, we actually had three at our table). From the Deli, I had my share of Ruebens and DW the Vegetable sandwich which was very good. Same usual Carnival menu for breakfast & lunches. Chocolate buffet is last sea day.

SHIP ACTIVITIES--We have seen all the shows before so we were very selective on them, but did not want to miss Marc Rubben. He has the funniest act I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Just see him if he’s on your cruise. We had never done the afternoon tea so we did that on 2nd sea day. I guess we are getting old as we really enjoyed the tea with the great desserts and music. Todd Whittmer is still CD. He does a good job. No Rocky Horror show though. I guess he has retired it.

PORTS--Ships time and port times remain the same until daylight savings time goes off. Makes it easy. We stayed on board ship during the Jamaica stop and really enjoyed the pool and ship activities. I had never done this at a port-of-call before and it was actually fun as we had the ship to ourselves. We did some shopping in Georgetown. Best bargain: Three one-liter bottles of Captain Morgan spiced rum for $20 and they deliver it to the ship. In Cozumel, DW went straight to a lady she knows who has a jewelry shop in town. She had some pieces made for her that she wanted (pearls). She raved about an inexpensive long strand of jewelry that has magnets in some of the pieces. You can make different types of necklaces or bracelets by how you match up the magnets. Pretty cool. While she was doing all this, I went to see my friend Martin Antonio at the barber shop and got a haircut. We go to Cozumel so often that he is now my regular barber. Really! The Havana Club has moved to the new shopping center north of Cinco Soles. Best mojitos in the caribbean. I drank a few Victoria beers before heading to Pancho’s Backyard for margaritas. Cozumel is always our favorite place.

As mentioned, we probably didn’t have a proper cruising “mindset” or countdown time for this cruise, and I apologize if that is reflected in these comments. We did enjoy the cruise very much. We always do. I will be joining those wild and crazy S&S folks in October again on the Conquest and I know I’ll be in a much better mood and ready to party then. At least I won’t get lost on the ship.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Fat Cat Catamaran--April 1, 2006

Fat Cat Catamaran Adventure Excursion
Puerto Adventuras - Playa del Carmen - Calica Mexico

While sailing on the 3/30 Elation cruise, I booked an independent tour, the Fat Cat catamaran adventure excursion, for Calica. There were three C-C members and ten others from the Elation. A Fat Cat representative met our group and we were off for about a fifteen minute drive to Puerto Adventuras. The cat is docked in a private resort area which is also the location for dolphin interactive tours. We were able to see the dolphins, manatees, and sea lions while waiting for the others sailing on the Fat Cat. This is definitely a barefoot cruise, you leave your shoes in a box before boarding. We sailed about 10:00 a.m. with 49 passengers and crew of four. The crew was very accommodating and friendly. They were very generous with the rum punch and beer as we made our way north. We sailed to the reef just south of Calica for 45 minutes of snorkeling. Water was a bit choppy but used the all the allotted time in the water. This was a small reef, but very colorful and alive. Lot’s of fans, more than cozumel IMHO. Many colorful fish as well. Setting sail back south, more beer and rum punch along with chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo. All of which was very good. Those that wish could experience the drag net behind the boat. Hang on and don’t lose your shorts. We stopped within some protected jetty's for swimming. You could dive from the boat. Very nice and calm waters. We got back to the pier and were taken back to the ship arriving about 3:30. The fare includes your transportation and your drinks and snacks. I rate this excursion five ***** stars for both value and content. I would happily do this excursion again.

Their web site:

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Review--Carnival Elation--March 30, 2006

Worlds longest review (and title) of a Four day Elation cruise which is
redundant as she will no longer sail from Galveston

Review--Elation 4-day Cruise
March 30-April 2, 2006

Booked this cruise because I wanted to sail the Elation one more time before she leaves Texas. Did this one as a solo. I am an experienced cruiser, but this was my first 4-day cruise and only the second that left port on a weekday.

First checked Galveston web cam at 6:00 a.m. before leaving and the Elation was already in port. A good sign. Arrived at EZCruise Parking about 11:15 and was promptly taken by shuttle to the terminal. No lines at security nor check-in. They hadn’t started boarding yet so sat in chairs near the boarding area. I saw a chair on an end back row that had luggage in front of it. I went and ask the man for the chair and he complained but moved his bag. This was not a C-C group and I knew that this may be THE chair. Soon we were ready for boarding and the Carnival attendant said, “we are going to start boarding with that guy (pointing to me). Yep, a first for me, I was the first to board the ship (at least through normal boarding procedures). Knowing the system, I was through the photographers on board before the others knew what had happened. Some cabin attendants apparently have a pool as to who/what is the first passenger to board because I heard “your #1” from several the rest of the day. This may be new, they had attendants stationed in each hallway entrance on all decks to direct passengers. I don’t recall this on Conquest or previously on Elation. My cabin was only the second from the lobby entrance (deck seven E-57) so I dropped my backpack off and was off to the Lido deck. Being first had the advantage off seeing the buffet before anyone is served, I will admit it looked great--almost like the grand buffet. I was the first to begin and that was nice, almost like a private buffet for a five minutes. I got a table facing the others as they came in and began watching “the show” Again this was not a C-C or experienced group for the most part. I overhead one teenager ask her mom, “Wow how much does this cost?” meaning the buffet. After lunch I must go find Maria at the lobby bar for the first “Sail Away”.

When boarding I noticed that the Elissa looked like she was getting ready to sail, so forward to the “secret door” and the view. The Elissa was just off. Very nice to see although she wasn’t under sail but power. Still great to see an 1877 sailing ship.

Cabin was ready by 1:00 and my bag was delivered sometime before 2:00. So unpacking was early and easy. Another sail away special and people watching from the lobby bar until muster drill. Another new thing noticed while setting there is the Platinum club sign above the pursers window. Looks like CCL has the new program down. Some large groups boarding- an Elvis group and two high school bands included. Looks like the ship is more than full. I had tried to add DW a few days before and CCL wasn’t really interested. Now I know why, they probably had lots of 3-4 pax in cabins already sold. Also lots of small kids. Well this will be an interesting cruise.

Muster drill was at about 4:00, but departure was delayed they said because of loading luggage. We got underway about 5:30 and it was a beautiful day to be on deck. We watched for the dolphins and the US Coast Guard move vessels who approached too close to the ship. Soon on starboard (note: wrong side) comes the Elissa. She had been under sail, but with traffic now under power. Still great to see her being maneuvered into Galveston harbor as a cruise ships sails past.

I don’t wear a watch at home and although on my cruise packing list I forget my watch, which I happened to purchase on the Elation in 2004 at the $10 store. The watch has been on seven cruise since until this one. I was depending on the time on the television--mistake. I thought I was leaving early for the Welcome show and I was actually half an hour late. Well god forbid I’m late to dinner so off to the $10 shop for another watch. No way could I set it, but a very nice person, who love challenges, at my table was able to set it for me. Dinner was nice. I had late (8:30) dinner in the Imagination dining room. Waiter was Magi (nickname). You never know what your going to get when you book a solo, but we had a nice six top table. Four booked single, and one charming couple. I had the fruit, salad, filet mignon and cherries jubilee cake. Being late and a long day (1st on ship) back to the cabin for R&R.

E-57 is an inside, but still a good upgrade from the 1-A’s solo cruisers usually get. It has been a while since I had an inside and I had forgotten how great it is to sleep in one. Wow nice. Almost late for breakfast in the dining room, but made it for the Eggs Benedict. My usual CCL breakfast.

Today is Indian day in the Taste of Nations so I had to try the mulligatawny soup. It was just OK. The best is on Rhapsody although the chef on Conquest (he’s Indian) made very good mulligatawny by special request for our table last year. Late lunch in dining room was fair, but nothing special.

Yellowbird is the drink of the day today. Very good, a bit sweet perhaps, but going with the flow.

Captains reception was very good. Sat in the “prime” area to get the maximum waiter exposure. After tipping on the first drink, I never had to ask for a drink the remainder of the party. I always had one (or two) in reserve. Thank you captain Giuseppe Donato. Formal night dinner went well. Second lobsters for those who requested.

Having seen the production show just a few weeks ago I decided to go to karaoke. It was good, even Elvis did a number. The late night comedy show followed and Tim Harkleroad was very good. Recommend his act. Usually not up this late I had to visit the Gala buffet. I had seen the viewing of it in November, but this time I got to partake. Very good with a lot of different selections. My favorite, the Hearts of Palm salad. Desserts looked great. Too late at night for an old rancher so off to bed after the late night snack.

I used room service as a wake up call and get ready as we arrived at Calica about 8:30 a.m. Debarkation went smooth. I booked an independent tour, the Fat Cat catamaran adventure excursion. There were three C-C members and ten others from the Elation. Met our group and we were off for Puerto Adventuras where the cat is docked. This is the location for the dolphin interactive tours so we were able to see the dolphins, manatees, and sea lions while waiting for the others on the Fat Cat. We sailed about 10:00 a.m. with 49 + crew. They were very generous with the rum punch and beer as we made our way north to the reef for 45 minutes of snorkeling. Water was a bit choppy but used all the allotted time in the water. Setting sail back south, more beer and rum punch along with chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo. We stopped within some protected jetty's for swimming. Very nice and calm waters. We got back to the pier and were taken back to the ship arriving about 3:30. I must say this was a very good and worthwhile excursion. I’ll place a review in the Playa/Calica ports of call page. Nap time and may have missed dinner if cabin steward hadn’t knocked on the door. Others may have napped as only three of us showed for dinner which seemed to be the norm for the entire dinning room. Dinner was good, I had the chateaubriand. Dessert was Baked Alaska which I had to have two just to confirm that it was that good. Back to the cabin to finish the nap.

Daylight savings time began so everyone seems to have gotten off to a slow start on this day. Actually lucked out and was able to change the new watch without assistance. The usual Eggs Benedict, French Toast and Bacon for me this morning in the dining room. Good R&R day. Drink of the day is “The Ultimate Suntan” I decided it’s good after several samples, but not as good as Funship or Yellowbird.

Spin is still the production show. Glad I went, there are new feature singers and dancers. Again they are getting younger each sailing it seems, let alone each year. Good dinner, the escargot & pork dish were excellent. Of course the Soufflé for dessert. Best dinner of the cruise. Checked the karaoke as two of the girls from our table were to sing, but didn’t catch them, but it was worth the trip as Elvis again performed. Not a late night for me as I’m up early in the morning.

Elected for self debarkation. There used to be only a few hundred doing this, but has become very popular and they have to call by deck now. I was ready with bag in hall and they called my deck first. Remember I was only two cabins away. I was 5th to step off the ship, but first to be presented to US customs. (The family in front had to regroup) I just walked over to the EZCruise lot and was on my way by 7:30.

What are the odds of being the first on and the first off?

As mentioned this is my first Four day cruise. We did not have a return guest party, tiramisu for dessert, nor enough time. A five day is much better as a short cruise. Also much higher percentage of first-timers on a four day.

Washcloths seem to be a thing of the past. No one I asked had any. Don’t know if they will return after dry-dock. I’ll be curious to know. E-57 is not a handicap room, but did have a folding seat in the shower. Not a bother as the showers are roomy compared to most. It was nice to NOT have thresholds between the bathroom & cabin and between shower & bath. There were built-in drains. Should be this way on all cabins, but would be harder to design ships with the extra plumbing.

The new CD is Greg Hutson. A young guy although I may be just getting old. I thought he was very good. The same old CD jokes, but he did them with enthusiasm and improved some (the microwave story). Josh, the assistant CD, is also good and remembered me from previous cruises.

Service was good overall. I do think the crew is getting just a bit “antsy”. Many if not most are leaving at the dry-dock in five days. Some will stay with the ship in Florida. Some will come back to the Ecstasy out of Galveston. Some go to new ships. Womma at the lobby bar is outstanding. Maria also there is also great. Both are leaving at dry dock.

Again, the most unique things to the Elation: the Pizza is great and the water pressure the best of any ship I’ve sailed.

I met lot's of very nice people and enjoyed the cruise very much.