Friday, February 20, 2015

Carnival Freedom Review - February 15, 2015

Carnival Freedom - first time docked in Galveston
Carnival Freedom Review
February 15, 2015
Inaugural Texas Cruise

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Freedom
Ship Captain: Agostino Fazio
Cruise Director: Jen Baxter
Ports: Galveston, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Progreso, Galveston

This is my 4th cruise on the Carnival Freedom, 53rd Carnival Cruise, and 103rd cruise overall. This is the second leg of a B2B (back-to-back) on the Carnival Freedom.  I am cruising solo this cruise, but with nine good friends (Snoozemates) that I have traveled with many times previously including the previous cruise.  A very fun group of experienced cruisers to travel with on a cruise. This will be more a personal journal than review as I was very much under the weather, seems half the guests on the previous cruise had become ill, I didn’t get it until the last day (Friday).  Read at your own risk.

Day One—Sunday—February 15—Galveston, Texas  Embarkation

Easiest embarkation ever since we are already on the ship and we cleared customs yesterday.  All we
Mongolian Wok
had to do is pick up our new Sail & Sign cards after 9:00 am from Guest Services.  I had arranged for everyone in our group to have the same cabin for the one day as we will have for this cruise…so NO moving either.  Simple.  Since I’m solo this cruise I moved to an interior around the corner, cabin 8439.  We really had the ship to ourselves until 11:00 am too.  They were testing elevators and water tight doors this morning, but didn’t effect us much.  Our group was the first at the Red Frog Pub and first to Mongolian Wok (me).  I saw friends from Bosque County while eating lunch, but retired to the cabin for most of the rest of the day. I caught the bug that was going around on the previous cruise so this is a rest and no alcohol day for me. I did miss my people watching time on embark day.  We had a sail away balcony party while leaving Galveston harbor then met at the Alchemy Bar (me only briefly) before dinner.  We have gone from three ten-top tables to one ten-top table in the center of the POSH dining room for this cruise.  Wait staff seem good, they started us with four cheese plates before ordering. For dinner tonight I ordered the Cream of Sun Ripened Tomatoes (Soup), the Linguini with Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers & Mushrooms (as a starter), and the Chicken Greco entree.  I excused myself before dessert to get back to the cabin for needed rest.  Jen’s Welcome Show was tonight and well as 80's Pop to the Max production show.  Also tonight was the Punchliner comedy and Freedom Fun Hop.

Day Two—Monday—February 16—Fun Day at Sea

Rib entree
A little choppy seas overnight, but I slept fairly well thanks to new medications. Feeling poorly this morning though, I got around about 9:30 am and had a banana from a fruit basket that was sent by the Hotel Manager to B2B guests.  When Gede came by to clean the cabin I went upstairs to where the group usually hangs and visited with them and had some hot tea.  Back to the cabin for rest until about 2:15 pm to get to the Mongolian Wok before closing.  I actually started feeling better about this time as well.  The group had a balcony party at 4:00 and I attended for a short while.  Pretty boring day to report on the review, but guests do get sick while on a cruise.  There is a Doctor on board with regular hours that you can see if necessary, I didn’t, but I don’y go to Doctors anyway. They delivered the Chocolate covered Strawberries about 5:00pm. I did make it to the Alchemy Bar at the usual time of 7:00ish  I had an extra Spicy Chipolte cocktail thinking that may help and I believe it did.  Tonight is the Captains elegant eventing so the group is wearing our black formal Hawaiian shirts.  The menu is the same as we had on Saturday night on the one night affair so most ordered the BBQ spare Ribs, they were very good, but overlooked on the menu because of the Lobster and Prime Rib offerings.  I did leave again before dessert as I want to be rested before our arrival in port on Tuesday.  The Platinum gift was left, a portable game board.   A restful day for me, but the others attended various events such as: 80's Pop to the Max or Heart of Soul production shows, Punchliner comedy, Casino, and more.

Day Three—Tuesday—February 17—Costa Maya, Mexico

Beach at Mauhual - Costa Maya
A bit of rolling seas overnight and I slept in as long as possible. I again just had a banana for breakfast and I feel even worse today.  We are to arrive in Costa Maya about 1:00 so I just stayed in the cabin and tried to rest and relax.  The group went ashore about 1:30 and went to Mahahual where they relaxed on the beach and drank beer. They posted the photo right just so I could see what I missed. :-(  Wish I could have gone, but I watched the Rizzoli & Isles marathon on the Mexican TBS TV channel in the cabin this afternoon.  Room Service for me today and I didn’t attend dinner.  At least the room service food is very good.  Not a good cruise day for me today.  Activities tonight included:   Hasbro the Game Show,  a Mardi Gras Party, Red Frog's Latin Fusion Night, and the Love & Marriage Show.

Day Four—Wednesday—February 18—Cozumel, Mexico

Windy overnight and in fact the Captain has adjusted port times for today to 7:00 am arrival and 3:00 pm departure due to weather concerns. Today is the low day of the cruise for me…not only do I feel very bad, but my cabin has been flooded during the night from the aft pool above me on deck nine.  Oh My.  Sleep was bad because they started all the dryers and blowers running in the hallway.  I knew there was really nothing that could be done so tried to sleep late.  I spent the morning out of the cabin and knowing the right people did help as I saw the Hotel Director and he went down to my cabin and said they would get me a new one immediately since he knew I was ill. No place to go no place to rest and recover, but soon I had a balcony cabin on deck seven and friends helped me move.  Just having a clean cabin with fresh air and the Z-pack I started the night before was the turning point I believe for me.  I relaxed in the afternoon and soon began to feel better.  I went to the group sail away at 4:00 for a few minutes and then attended the Diamond event at 5:00.  Boo from the Alchemy was bartender and she prepared for me some Elderflower Spritzers as I wanted something light and somewhat healthy.  I only stayed an hour and I knew I was pushing my luck so no Alchemy or MDR dinner, but I had enough h’orderves at the Diamond party to satisfy me for the evening.  Watched the finale of one of my favorite TV shows: The Mentalist and feeling much better by sleeply time.  Other FUN things I didn't get to do:  Heart of Soul and Getaway Island (my favorite) production shows, Red Frog Beach Party, Super Star Live Karaoke, and more.

Day Five—Thursday—February 19—Progreso, Mexico
VIFP Party with Diamonds on stage
Very high seas and windy overnight, but calmer once we reached Progreso.  I feel much better this morning and even went to the MDR for breakfast about 8:45 am.  We are docked next to the Carnival Elation, hopefully we’ll see our friends that sailed with us last week on board.  My balcony is too close to the Elation’s WiFi signal so I moved back to the aft deck to use the internet this morning. Some find it cool outside so the group have moved indoors and that works very well on deck ten as there are electrical outlets there to charge computers….HQ for a while.  I rested some in the cabin in the afternoon and felt well enough to attend the VIFP Party in the Theater at 5:00 pm although I limited myself to diet coke.  The group met at the Alchemy Bar as usual and I joined them for aperitifs.  I asked Boo to prepare a nice light Elderflower Spritzer and it was very good.  I also went to the MDR for dinner for the first time in days.  I ordered:  Two Shrimp Cocktails, the Pasta (as starter), the Chateaubriand entree, and a Banana Split for dessert.  Some went to the production show: Getaway Island, others to the casino, and I retired to the cabin.

Day Six—Friday—February 20—Fun Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I slept better than any night of the cruise since getting sick.  I had a nice breakfast from the Blue Iguana Grill and visited Snoozemates in our meeting area on the aft Lido deck area.  Nice weather for sitting out this morning too.  For lunch I had my final bowl from the Mongolian Wok, it’s been very good all week.  I rested this afternoon, most in the group did the Alchemy Bar class at 3:00 pm then our final balcony party.  We all met for cocktails at the Alchemy Bar then had our final dinner in the Posh MDR.  I actually excused myself early to finish packing and rest for the debark early in the morning. Other activities or events on board today included:  Groove for St. Jude, production show 88 Keys, the Punchliner Comedy, Jen's Trivia, and much more.

Debarkation—Saturday—February 21—Galveston, TX
Smooth seas overnight and we were in Galveston by 5:00 am.  I was awake and finished packing and had a light breakfast.   Designated meet time was 7:30 am for VIFP, but I went early hoping for an early debark since we were so early.  Not as early as I had hoped, but we did get off about 7:15 am and I was through U.S. Customs and at EZ Cruise Parking at 7:30 am.  A nice drive home and I was at the ranch by 1:00 pm.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Celebrate Freedom February 14, 2015

 Carnival's Celebrate Freedom
February 14, 2015
Galveston, Texas

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Freedom
Ship Captain: Agostino Fazio
Master of Ceremonies: John Heald
Featured Entertainer:  Martina McBride

I am very fortunate that is the third special event I have been able to attend in association with a Carnival Ship deployment. Carnival Magic, Carnival Sunshine, and now the Carnival Freedom.

Carnival partnered with Operation Homefront to make space available for U.S. veterans and their families for a day/night of special activities.  They were treated to a specially decorated ship and a wonderful concert by Martina McBride (photo above) in addition to all the wonderful shipboard activities.  Most of the the veteran families had young children and Carnival even furnished the Night Owl child care so that the parents could enjoy the various music venues, production shows, or just an evening to themselves in a club or dance venue. 

I know the Veteran families were very appreciative of this unique opportunity…a special thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines.  Also welcome to Texas: Carnival Freedom, we are glad to have you!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Carnival Freedom Review - February 2, 2015

Carnival Freedom in St. Lucia 2015

Carnival Freedom Review
February 2, 2015
12-day Repositioning

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Freedom
Captain: Agostino Fazio
Cruise Director: Jen Baxter
Ports: Ft. Lauderdale, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Curacao, Aruba, Cozumel, Galveston

This is my 3rd cruise on the Carnival Freedom, 52nd Carnival Cruise, and 102nd cruise overall.  I am cruising with the dear wife (DW) and thirty good friends (Snoozemates) that we have traveled with previously.  A very fun group of experienced cruisers to travel with on a cruise.

Travel Day One—Saturday—January 31—Travel--Houston

The purpose of travel today is to get vehicles to Galveston where the cruise we are taking will terminate following a repositioning cruise.  We left the ranch about 8:30 am for the easy drive to Valley Mills where we left a vehicle and joined up with friends joining us on the cruise.  We took two vehicles south and made our way to the LaQuinta near Hobby airport in Houston.  We dropped our bags and continued to Galveston to park one auto at EZ Cruise Parking and the other at the Port of Galveston parking lot.  Friends from Alvin picked the four of us up and we headed back to Houston stopping to enjoy a great meal at Pappasito’s Mexican Restaurant on the way.  We checked in at the LaQuinta and relaxed the rest of the evening.

Travel Day Two—Sunday—February 1—Travel—Fort Lauderdale

We were up early and took the 8:30 Hotel Shuttle to Hobby Airport.  We checked in and headed to the gate where we met up with three more couples taking the same flight and cruise.  We are gathering Snoozemates as we go, ten on the same flight.  The 10:45 am Southwest Airlines flight (flight 9) was fine and in two hours we were landing at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) airport.  We have lost an hour in time and by the time we took a taxi to our hotel, the Hyatt Place, it was check-in time.  We have several friends staying here as well as various other hotels in the near vicinity.  This is Super Bowl Sunday so after a cocktail with friends we walked to the local K-mart nearby and got supplies for our cruise,  On the way back we stopped at a Chipolte’s for dinner and made it back to the hotel in time for the Super Bowl kick off.  The rest of the evening was football and Super Bowl activities.  We were very fortunate to have a huge LG flatscreen HG television and comfortable lounging area…couldn’t have asked for more to enjoy the game. 

Day One—Monday—February 2—Fort Lauderdale Embarkation

We signed up for the hotel’s 10:00 am port shuttle so we were up and had the complementary breakfast before leaving.  The shuttle arrived at the port and parked next to a shuttle that contained ten of our group…small world.  All in the group are Diamond and Platinum guests so we went to the already full VIP lounge, but made our own area in general waiting area.  Soon we were moved to another area in the terminal that I recognized as the B2B waiting area…closer to the ship for sure.  About 11:40 we boarded the Carnival Freedom.  Most of us are located on deck 8 aft so we dropped our bags and headed to various food venues on Lido deck.  I went for the Mongolian Wok…it was good and a while since I had a bowl.  I returned to my cabin to change into cooler clothes and some luggage had arrived so it was time to set up the cabin.  The ‘Safety Drill’ was held about 4:15 pm. and seemed to go well.  I was unpacked, set up, and met my cabin steward, before sail away.  We watched us sail out of Port Everglades and then the group met at the Alchemy Bar for cocktails.  Our group wears matching red Hawaiian shirts to dinner on the first night and it made quite an impression and the group dominated the Alchemy Bar.  The Freedom Alchemist team: Bojana, Corinna, and Maria are great and it will be a great week.  For dinner I ordered two Shrimp Cocktails, the Linguini with Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers & Mushrooms (as a starter), Chicken a la Grecque, and the Creme Brûlée  for dessert.  All were 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 rest.  Others in the group went to the casino, music venues, Red Frog Pub, and more. 

Day Two—Tuesday—February 3rd—Fun Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  DW ordered room service breakfast as she does every morning on a cruise.  I went up one deck to Lido to get a bacon sandwich.  Our Snoozemate's group has our major function this morning, our now annual Pajama Party, from 9:30 - 11:00 am in the International Lounge.  Everyone wore the white Carnival stateroom robes and most were  in PJ’s to enjoy: Coffee, Tea, Juices, Pastries, Bloody Mary’s, Mimosa’s, Bellini’s, Screwdriver’s and more.  A great way to start a cruise is to have a great mixer at an unusual time straightaway.  We certainly did.  After our morning of cocktails we went to the Sea Day Brunch in the Posh dining room.  We do have just the right amount of sea days on this cruise to experience the brunches and regular MDR breakfasts.  After brunch it was rest and relaxation for the afternoon.  Some visited the Casino or participated in Trivia.  This is the Captain’s Elegant evening and the group met at the Alchemy Bar for cocktails all wearing our black Hawaiian shirts.  Very impressive look and we did ‘take-over’ the Alchemy.  Dinner was very good as usual.  The production shows this evening were Heart of Soul AND 80’s Pop To The Max in the Victoriana theater.  They do split up the shows on this ship, having two different ones and repeating nights as well.  A very busy and FUN day at sea.

Unfortunately at the end of this cruise as I was making a template for the cruise following I accidentally erased my review for this cruise.  I had only posted up through day two.  I will now only be able to mention the highlights of each day.  It may actually be a better review as it will be concise or at least something different.

Day Three—Wednesday—February 4th—Fun Day at SeaA usual sea day for the group.  They served the Sea Food Brunch again in the MDR.  Usual ship board activities including Triva, Texas Hold 'em Tournament, Seminars, Mixology Competition, and more.  Snoozemate's highlight was meeting in the Red Frog Pub for Latin Fusion Night.  Who knew we had Latin dancers in the group?  Great Fun.  The production shows repeated this evening:  Heart of Soul AND 80’s Pop To The Max in the Victoriana theater.

Day Four—Thursday—February 5th—St. Maarten, NA
Our first port day and almost all took a taxi to the small city of Marigot on the French side of the island.  The highlight here is Sarafina’s where they have excellent French pastries, eclairs, tarts, etc.  Also fresh bread and sandwiches, it was so good that I ate here twice.  We had our first sail away party, a Snoozemate's tradition, then cocktails at the Alchemy Bar before dinner.  Ships activities included: Bobby Borgia an illusionist, Superstar Karaoke, Motown Trivia, and more.

Day Five—Friday—February 6th—St. Lucia, West Indies
Drinking a Piton Beer in front of the Pitons
Our second port and several did private tours.  DW stayed on the ship and I did a full day tour of the island with several in the group.  We saw the banana platations, Marigo Bay, Soufriere, and more. The highlight being of course the World Heritage Picton mountains area of the island.  I really like the photo (left) taken here as the local beer matches the mountain view.  Second group sail away party and cocktails before dinner. Ships activities included: Punchliner Comedy, Adult Carnival Quest, Master Hypnotist ASAD, and more.

Day Six—Saturday—February 7th—Fun Day at Sea
A needed sea day as we head further south.  Sea Day Brunch and usual sea day ship activities.  Cocktails at the Alchemy have become an everyday thing before dinner.  Evening ship activities included: Punchliner Comedy, Production Shows: 88Keys and Getaway Island (my favorite), Red Frog's Caribbean Beach Party, and more.

Day Seven—Sunday—February 8th—Curacao
One of my favorite southern Caribbean ports with a very Dutch influence.  We walked into town from the new cruise terminal enjoying the architecture and unique colors of the city.  Unfortunately this being a Sunday most of the shops were closed although DW did find a jewelry store with local Pandora items.  We did have a nice lunch and some beer before returning to the ship.  Group cocktails before dinner.  Evening ship activities included: Superstar Live Karaoke, the Production Show: A Night To Remember, the Love & Marriage Show, and more.

Day Eight—Monday—February 9th—Aruba
Hawaiian Mafia at Alchemy Bar
DW prefers to boycott this port because of what happened here to Natalie Holloway.  We did get off
the ship for just an hour + to have a beer and I did buy one of those expensive bamboo t-shirts (I'm probably a 'sucker' for getting one).  We returned to the ship in time for a Guy's burger.  They are open until 4:00 pm each day and ideal for getting some good food upon return to the ship.  Another balcony sail away party as we sailed at sunset.  We again had group cocktails before dinner at the Alchemy Bar.  Evening ship activities included: Comedy Ventriloquist Phil Hughes,

Day Nine—Tuesday—February 10th—Fun Day at Sea
We were required to go to 'far distant' islands in order to satisfy Jones Act requirements (U.S. port to U.S. port) so we are now heading north towards Texas.  Sea Day Brunch and usual sea day ship activities.  Cocktails at the Alchemy continue to be an everyday thing before dinner.  Evening ship activities included: Punchliner Comedy, Production Show: the Juggler Edge, and more.

Day Ten—Wednesday—February 11th—Fun Day at Sea
Still heading north.  Again Sea Day Brunch and the usual sea day ship activities.  I did help several at the Future Cruises desk.  Balcony Party then cocktails at the Alchemy before the second and final elegant night dinner.  Evening ship activities included: Punchliner Comedy, Production Shows: 88Keys and Getaway Island (again my favorite), Dive-in Movie Blockbuster Night, and more.

Day Eleven—Thursday—February 12th—Cozumel Mexico
Cozumel is always a favorite port.  About ten went on a great snorkel adventure and twenty of us met at Woody's Bar in San Miguel.  The owner, Nelly, started the live entertainment early for us and even supplied a great birthday cake.  Always a fun spot for us and my usual hangout when in Cozumel.  I did get a hair cut and did some drug shopping at the local drugstores.  The Z-paks purchased were to become a life saver on the following cruise.  We returned to the ship for some rest before our final sail away party.  An apéritif before dinner as usual at the Alchemy Bar.  Always fun at the Alchemy with the girls.  This evenings ship activities included: Punchliner Comedy, the Piano Bar, the feature Show was Hasbro: The Game Show, Blue Iguana's Mexican Fiesta,  FrogFest,  and more.

Day Twelve—Friday—February 13th—Fun Day at Sea
Our final sea day as we are entering the Gulf of Mexico and now well on our way to Galveston, Texas.  Final Sea Day Brunch and sea day activities including the Groove For St. Jude.  Many prepared their debark and customs forms and those on the B2B met in the theater for further instructions.  The group had a 'get rid of excess liquor' balcony party, but we still still made it to the Alchemy Bar for our last night with Corina, Boyana, and Maria.  They have been an absolute joy each and every night.  My new favorites at the Alchemy Bar. Fianl dinner was good with the usual farewell waiter song: "All Your Bags are Packed...".  Light on the shows this evening, but they had the Showcase of Stars guest talent show and all the usual Bar & Lobby entertainment.

Debarkation--Saturday--February 14th--Galveston, Texas
DW is debarking today, but I am staying on board with nine others in our group.  DW rode back with our friends from Bosque County and was home in good shape by early evening.  I met with our group and the other B2B guests in the theater as instructed were we received our new Sail & Sign cards for the one day special event today.  We were able to enjoy complementary cocktails and the concert during the day.  They served an Elegant Night dinner tonight as well.  A very nice event. Unfortunately I was not able to 'party' or take advantage of the special events in the late evening as I am feeling the effects of a bug I picked up on the cruise.

A Funtastic Cruise with great Friends 

Visit Zydecocruiser's great photo review of this cruise: 
 Click Here!