Sunday, December 4, 2016

Carnival Breeze Cruise Reviews - December 2016

Carnival Breeze Cruise Review
12/4/2016 and 12/11/2016
Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Breeze
Captain: Vincenzo Alcaras
Cruise Director:  Leigh Xuereb
Ports: Galveston - Key West - Freeport Bahamas - Nassau Bahamas - Galveston - Montego Bay - Grand Cayman - Cozumel - Galveston

I had week two of this cruise booked for a long while but later booked the week prior since the same cabin was available … so I will be doing a B2B cruise on the Breeze.  I will chronicle both in one review.   This is my 64th & 65th Carnival cruise, the 4th/5th time on the Carnival Breeze, and 121st/122nd cruises overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Sunday / Travel /  Embarkation / December 4, 2016 / Day 1
Rainy Sail Away
I left the ranch about 7:45 am well after my usual scheduled departure time since there were flash flood warnings for my route to Houston area and I wanted to drive in daylight.  I did hit rain just before Bryan TX and it continued the rest of the way with very heavy rain between Houston and Galveston.  There was some flooding in Galveston and of course Dickens on The Strand was cancelled.  I arrived at EZ Cruise Parking in the pouring rain about 12:30 pm and was shuttled over to the ship soon afterward.  I was checked in at the VIFP priority check-in area and I boarded about 1:30 pm.  It was a smooth process considering the weather.  I wheeled my large duffle bag on board with me and went to my cabin on Main deck (deck two) and relaxed for a bit and then began unpacking.  I have a category 1A cabin on Main deck far forward.  It has a lot of floor space as it has a unusual square shape.   I did go to Lido for a lunch then returned to finish cabin set-up before muster drill.  As hoped I had a sit down location for the Safety Drill inside the Ovation Theater,  It’s cold and rainy outside glad mine is not on an open deck.  Following I did a walkabout on the ship, too bad there are not more interior public spaces designed in Carnival ships. The Liberty of the Seas docked next to us has a lot of spaces that can be used when the weather is less than perfect.  Guests seem in a good mood as they await the 4:00 pm scheduled sail away that was delayed an hour+.  I thought 4:00 pm was ambitious even with good weather and we ended up sailing just about 5:00 pm.  No sail away dancing or dolphin watching today.  They did have a unique Christmas tree lighting in the lobby area this evening.  They sang Christmas Carols and passed out Christmas goodies.  I went to the Piano Bar to get a martini aperitif before dinner, My special Cosmopolitan prepared by Michael was very good.  Dinner is at 8:15 in the Blush dining room (MDR).  I have a 10-top table in the center area as requested and the other guests seem nice.  I had an excellent view of the three chandeliers rocking along with the active seas we are experiencing.  For dinner tonight I ordered: the Creme of Tomato Soap, a Green Salad, and the Pork Tenderloin entree with Root Vegetables.  I had the Strawberry Parfait and a Fruit Plate for dessert.  They  have a Welcome Show scheduled tonight but I always pass on that and retired after a long busy day.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / December 5th / Day 2
Seuss-A-Palooza Story Time
The good and bad of my cabin location:  As mentioned I am far forward, in fact the second cabin so I am low in the ship where the bow narrows (thus my square cabin) into it’s point.  When we have high seas as we experienced last night…it is very noisy with what seems like banging and on a few occasions an explosion.  I’m visualizing the bow coming up and smashing back on the water, but I really don’t know the actual cause of the noise.  I was so tired I slept through all other than the explosive loud booms.  Hopefully we will have smoother seas soon.  I slept as late as possible and because I have the Diamond party about noon today I’m not going to do a big breakfast this morning, just some delish homemade cookies I brought along.  Fortunately the seas have gotten smoother the further south we go into the Gulf of Mexico there are even a few people in the pool early this morning. I went up to Promenade Deck and sat out on Ocean Plaza Lanai and enjoyed the sea air, most guests on port side were waiting for Fat Jimmy’s C-side BBQ to open.  I went down to the Piano Bar to the Diamond event at 12:30 pm.  It was good to see crew that I know including Hotel Manager Damir, GSM Thelma, and Beverage Manager Milan.  I knew a few Diamond guests and met several new ones.  There seemed to be about 14 fellow Diamonds in attendance.  They served very nice h’orderve & dessert trays and of course the cocktails were very good.  I did take advantage of the full hour of hospitality.  The piano bar on Breeze is unique in that it can be closed for a private party or in it’s usual open concept with areas extending into the promenade.  This is another very good option for cocktails on the Breeze until they get an Alchemy Bar on the next drydock.  I did go on a bit of a walk around decks and guests are now taking advantage of the great weather and enjoying themselves.  I did something new this afternoon: I attended the Seuss-A-Palooza Story Time in the Ovation Theater.  I got to see the new (to me) Cruise Director Leigh in action and it was an interesting event.  I don’t think there are a lot of kids on this sailing, but probably most were there.  I think most adults in the theater were waiting for the $1000 Bingo session starting afterward.  When I got back to the cabin there was the usual chocolate plate for VIFP’s delivered on Captains Cruise Elegant night.  I enjoyed a great Guy’s burger about 3:30pm, then time for a nap that was interrupted when they delivered a nice larger plate of fancy chocolate sweets.  After a few of these I really thought I would skip dinner even though it’s a proper set up tonight with table clothes.  The production show tonight was Motor City and features the Breeze dancers and singers and highlights R&B music.  There were a lot of other entertainment through the ship as well, but I have two weeks to see it all again and extended my nap into an early night.

Tuesday / Key West, USA / December 6th / Day 3
Hemmingway House in Key West
Still loud noises overnight, it may be due to both high seas and speed.  Wasn’t as bad as first night though. I woke very early since I had an early night and plenty of rest.  I had some internet time then went on a walk about.  I did see a survivor of last nights fun on Promenade deck…a guy was asleep on a banquet leaning up against a wall with a plate of 24-hour pizza and his phone at a table next to him.  Someone covered him with a pool towel…hope he had a good time.  I was at the MDR for breakfast when it opened at 8:00 am. I had a great breakfast:  tomato juice, milk, pastry, fresh fruit, three eggs over easy, bacon, ham, potatoes, and white toast.  It was perfect.  We docked about 10:00 am and I left the ship about 10:30.  I messed up on Day One…when I left the ranch I had mail to mail and cash to deposit in night depository when I reached town, but forgot to do it.  So my first stop this morning was the Post Office and second stop the Bank.  Not the local bank I intended but the bank I use for my travel accounts.  With business done my next stop was the Kermit’s Key Lime Pie location on lower Duval Street for a fix.  I am very familiar with Key West and been many times but I had never visited the Ernest Hemmingway House.  Since we toured the Hemmingway House in Cuba this summer I wanted to see his home in Key West.  They are actually very similar.  The house and gardens are beautiful.  I took my time visiting on this hot and humid day, but there are guided tours available.  Yes there are six-toed cats everywhere. Upon leaving I went across the street to the Lighthouse Court Hotel and enjoyed a Mojito ($5) and great fast internet from the pool bar.  Very relaxing.  I was then off to my favorite Key West locale: Kelly’s Caribbean Bar.  Whitten fixed me up with a Mojito and I eagerly awaited Kelly’s famous happy hour and the great Chicken Wings ($5) and draft beers ($2).  I like Kelly’s as it’s not touristy like the bars on Duval Street, but at 4:00 pm the locals and snow birds fill the place.  This is one advantage of Galveston ship time…try to arrive at 3:00 pm CST and you’ll get the full happy hour before most ship departures.  After happy hour I did head back to the Breeze.  If one knows how to cut through the local resort it’s actually only three beautiful residential blocks to the pier.  I enjoyed some rest time and clean up in the cabin…Key West was quite warm and humid. Also watched sail away from my cabin TV although I know the sunset was beautiful.  I did go by the Piano Bar for an aperitif before dinner.  The MDR was only half full which is actually typical on Key West night.  I ordered two of my favorite Carnival appetizer: the Beetroot Carpaccio, also the Minestrone Milanese, and the Beef Tenderloin entree.  Following a walkabout the ship I retired.  It was a great day in Key West.

Wednesday / Freeport Bahamas / December 7th / Day 4
2Country4Nashville in Breeze Atrium
Calm seas over night and no noises in the cabin at all.  Great sleep and I slept past arrival in Freeport.  The weather is very cloudy so I will stay aboard ship today as more than half the guests seem to be doing.  I went up to the Blue Iguana about 9:40 am and enjoyed a Huevos Rancheros with extra cheese and salsa from the salsa bar.  They no longer cook the eggs to order…they just add prepared fried eggs to your tortilla.  I like my egg easy and the heat helps melt the extra cheese.…good, but not as good.  I have a lot of work to do online today so did that until I made a pizza run while they cleaned my cabin.  I noticed the Carnival Liberty in dry dock off the aft deck.  I took a lunch break about 1:30 and there were long lines at both the Mongolian Grill and Guy’s Burgers so I did the Regional menu station from the buffet: Jerked Chicken, Caribbean Stew, Plantains, Beans & Rice, and Pork from the carving station.  I stopped to drink a coke with Mima at the Lobby Bar, one my favorite bar server especially during group parties as she takes care of her customers.   Then back to the cabin to work online for the afternoon.  I did go on deck to watch sail away and I heard a Guy's Burger calling my name.  I then stopped by the Atrium to watch the two-person act: 2Country4Nashville.  They are very entertaining, I wanted to see a full set as I had heard them on previous walkabouts on the ship. I went to the Piano Bar for an aperitif then to dinner.  Tonight I ordered the Gespacho, Oysters Rockefeller (very good), Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (good), the Veal Parmesan with Spaghetti entree and a Banana Split for dessert.  Tonight feature production show was 88 Keys in the Ovation Theater, but after a walkabout I retired to the cabin.

Thursday  /  Nassau Bahamas  /  December 8th / Day 5
Junkanoo Beach - Nassau Bahamas
Calm seas and another good nights sleep overnight.  It’s a beautiful morning so guests are debarking early this morning.  I slept in then went to the Blue Iguana again for breakfast.  I’m not able to get past the precooked eggs so I will not be coming here for breakfast again unless it’s to get salsa to take to the omelette station. I did some internet business in the cabin the rest of the morning.  For the past several years I would usually stay on board in Nassau, but I decided that since it was a beautiful day that I needed to go ashore.  About 12:30 pm I went down to deck zero and the pier and many to most of those early guests are already returning. Not busy as I reach the market area and was offered several taxi’s but refused until third one met my offer ($5) since I was only going a short way to the famous Fish Fry located just beyond Junkanoo Beach. This is an area where there is a variety of local fish restaurants or seafood shacks.  I walked about the various eateries and selected Goldies Conch House.  I was there about 1:00 pm and it was busy being lunch time, but sat at the bar in the outdoor area next to the water.  Soon it cleared of tourists (I suspect many where on an excursion) and I got very nice service.  I ordered  Kalik Gold beer, a whole red snapper, peas & rice, french fries, and salad. It was fantastic.  I took my time drinking another beer and enjoyed watching the fisherman docking.  I then realized that the entire reef was made of 1000’s of discarded Conch shells.  Goldie’s has sold a lot of Conch.  After lunch I began my walk back towards downtown Nassau coming first to Junkanoo Beach.  I enjoyed seeing the public beach with local lifeguards and taking photos of the ships.  As I reached the eastern part of the long beach I took a break and enjoyed a beer with a Romanian crew member from the Carnival Pride.  We discussed my planned trip to Romania next year.  As I reached this area of town it is being revitalized primarily with Chinese investments.  There is a new resort, condo, and retail/parking facilities nearing completion.  A new modern McDonalds has already opened just across the road from the development.  Then I reach the British Colonial Hotel that I have been known to visit over the years.  As I reach the location of the old Straw Market it is now a very lovely Town Square currently decorated for Christmas.  I will say that Nassau is improving for the better…and it needed it.  The cruise pier is next and as I’m behind the crowd getting to the ship was easy…just a lot of walking.  I relaxed and recovered in the cabin until time for dinner.  My MDR dinner was again very good, I ordered the Mixed Greens, Escargots Bourguignonne, Braised Short Ribs/Loin, and two of my now favorite Carnival dessert: Buttered Popcorn Pot De Creme.  They had a brass type jazz group at piano bar, 2Country4Nashville in the Red Frog, a full house in the casino, and the Love and Marriage show in the theater.  It was a good day in Nassau and on the Carnival Breeze.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / December 9th / Day 6
Guy's Burger from Lido Deck
Smooth seas with only a few minor bumps overnight and during the day.  I slept very well until 9:30 am then took advantage of the faster (in the morning) internet. I finally got around and went down to the Blush Dining room about 10:45 am - no line and seated strait away. I had a nice table by side windows and I could see a pod of Dolphins as we sailed near the Florida Keys.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, and the Steak & Eggs breakfast.  This morning I did a walkabout and sat on the Ocean Plaza to take in the sea air…very nice.  There were a lot of activities today: Towel Animal Theater, The Military Appreciation Gathering, Trivia, Ice Carving, Bingo, and more, but I had a Guy’s Burger for a late lunch then watched some movies in the cabin and nap.  This evening is the new (to most) production show FLICK.  The show is difficult to describe…it is the most elaborate Playlist Production to date.  The overall theme is movies with a lot of magic used as the element that ties together the various scenes.  The graphics are amazing and I’ve never seen the use of fans (8) in a production as they do in Flick.  One has to see it as it’s indescribable…in a good way.  BTW-because of the fans located foreground of the stage the best seats are probably lower balcony as the fans do block a lot of action.  I wasn’t hungry this evening so I had passed on dinner, but about 9:00 pm I got hungry and ordered two BLT’s from room service.  I try to do that ever cruise as the BLT’s are a signature item on Carnival and consistently good from ship to ship.  So an enjoyable lazy day for me on the Carnival Breeze.

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / December 10th / Day 7
VIFP Party
Higher seas overnight, but the waves are braking on opposite side of the ship so I can hear the booms, but more as a background…I had a nice sleep. I went down to the MDR for the final sea day brunch about 10:30 and was seated with very a short wait.  I ordered the Fruit Plate and the Pancakes with side of bacon and ham…very good and different for me as I rarely order pancakes on a ship.  Mid-day I sat on a lounger on Lido (70°) and enjoyed the cool air but warming sunshine and watched the St. Jude T-shirt sales and activities.  Interesting.  They also got their Gingerbread Village up today…it’s located on Deck 10 indoors.  I had some cabin time in the afternoon and filled out my customs declaration forms for tomorrow then off for a late lunch at the Deli. I had a grilled Reuben sandwich and a Tuna on white sandwich…both very good.  The Platinum/Diamond party was at 5:00pm in the Limelight Lounge, the forgotten time and day that they buried the former Farewell Party.  The party itself was very nice, I took advantage of the Tito’s Vodka & Lemonade that they do at these parties.  Leigh, the Cruise Director, did a good job and I actually won the award for senior Diamond on the cruise.  Afterwards I went to the Piano Bar and they allowed me to drink the take away Cosmopolitans I got at the party.  My memory isn't so clear for the rest of the evening, but the unused drink voucher in my pocket was gone so I must have continued the party.  I usually have good judgement in these circumstances so I skipped dinner and had a wonderful deep sleep in the cabin. 

Sunday / Galveston / December 11th / Beginning 2nd Cruise / Day 8
Carnival Breeze Atrium
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well even through the early morning debarkation announcements.  Fortunately I’m in the same cabin for both cruises.  The gangway was not available so I believe they started debark earlier than normal and it went very well.  They called my cabin about 9:30 am and asked me to come down and meet the B2B’s ASAP.  When I got to the Sapphire Dining Room there were only 300 guests remaining on board.  There were about a dozen doing a B2B and soon we went down to deck zero and walked over to customs then back on the ship…all before 10:30 am.  That’s the earliest I have seen a large ship cleared.  We got a Bellini cocktail and had a B2B group photo taken upon return.  I was hungry with no dinner nor breakfast but it was too early for any food so I set up my internet plan for the week and camped out in Lido Marketplace waiting for the Mongolian Grill to open.  They felt sorry for me and prepared me a great combo bowl for the starving guest…cooked perfectly as we had plenty of time…they did not allow boarding until 11:30.  By the time I finished guests were arriving on board.  I observed the new guests arrive and watched some NFL football this afternoon.  They began making announcements for boat drill by 3:00 pm and it started about 3:30…much too early IMHO as they close bars and food service before many guests are even on board and we didn't sail until about 5:30 pm.  My muster station was again in the was very easy.  Because of the Dallas Cowboy game on TV this evening I decided to eat early so I went to Cucina del Capitano for dinner.  I ordered: Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls, Piled High with Baby Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Served over Tomato Sauce), Parmigiana Di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana), Il Capitano’s Favorite Insalata Di Rucola (Traditional Italian Salad, Baby Arugula, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Parmesan Cheese, in a Sorrento Lemon Limoncello Dressing) and for an entree: Bistecca Alla Griglia (Italian Expression of the Classic New York Sirloin Steak, Seared and Served with Grilled Tomato, Pearl Onions, Garlic Confit, Fried Thyme and Parsley)  For dessert: Crosata Di Mele Coppetta (Slow-Baked Italian Apple Tart Topped with Hazelnut Streusel). It was an excellent meal and well worth the up charge ($15+).  The Welcome Show was of course tonight, but I had Football and relaxing time scheduled in the cabin this evening.  It was an easy and enjoyable turn around day on the Carnival Breeze.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / December 12th / Day 9
Carnival Breeze Piano Bar 88
Some rocking & rolling overnight with the accompanying bangs and booms until about dawn when the sea was as smooth as glass and all was quiet.  I went to the Blush MDR  and enjoyed the Seaday Brunch.  I ordered the Eggs Benedict with side of potatoes and bacon.  At 11:00 am the Diamond Party was held in the Limelight Lounge…I had a Bellini and Milan recommended a Champagne with Elderflower that I immediately tried as I like Elderflower a lot (read about our Jana 88 cocktails on previous Breeze cruise) and it was very good, although still a bit early in the morning for a buzz though.  It was a nice party and good to see the officers I know and new ones I met.  I did some business online this morning then went to Lido for a Guy’s Burger.  I didn’t succumb to the nice condiment bar this time and and ate it plain and dry.  You really get the flavor of the burger that way.  Excellent.  Michael the solo entertainer that I didn’t meet until the Saturday party last week was performing on Lido so I found a lounger and enjoyed his music…he has a lot of talent.  I enjoyed listening.  I tried to make Tea time today, but I was making some last minute trades at the market close (3:00 pm for both) and missed it.  Only two more opportunities so I’ll try again.  The Captain announced that we will be headed full speed towards Cozumel for a Medical emergency although we will be keeping the same itinerary. I'd really like to hop off and rejoin the ship on Friday, but was informed it will be a tender transfer so no docking.  This is the Captain’s elegant night and dinner, I saw the officers in the Atrium, they clean up very nicely.  I went to the Piano Bar for my aperitif with Michael.  I’m actually assigned to the ‘singles’ table this week something I try to avoid, but the tables I prefer were taken by a large group (Gamblers!) so I thought I’d give it try, I know it’s a nice ten-top table on deck four.  What is amusing is that during my cocktail a nice young lady sits beside me and orders a whisky…she’s a bit nervous as she has broken her shoes…Michael and I assure her she can make it just fine without even on elegant night, I ask her her table number and bingo same table.  Neither of us attended on previous night so we neither knew what to expect…turns out we were the only ones at the table.  The Maitre’D came by to check on me, thanks, all is well although I doubt I return to that table until the next ‘tablecloth’ night. It was a very nice dinner, I ordered:  Italian Wedding Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter), two entrees: a Prime Rib of Beef and the Maine Lobster Tail.  Dessert was a Creme Brulee and a Fruit Plate.    It was excellent.  Tonights feature show was Motor City in the theater, but I retired.  It was an easy and Fun day on the Carnival Breeze.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / December 13th / Day 10
Great dinner at Cucina del Capitano
Seas were fair overnight but the noise of the thrusters woke me when we made the medical transfer at first light early this morning. Slept until 9:00ish and went upstairs to the Blue Iguana.  The maitre’d’s told me I would be pleased and yes they installed a hotplate and pan for frying fresh eggs.  They still had the prepared eggs, but if one was in the know they could order (with just a little wait) fresh eggs.  I ordered two fried eggs over-easy (cooked perfectly) on my single Huevos Ranchero tortilla, added cheese that melted on my hot eggs and salsa and voila the best breakfast at sea.  Thanks for listening Carnival Breeze Food department, I appreciate it.  After breakfast I had more internet and cabin time…I am doing a bit of work these cruises, but what a good place to do it.  I did get the better internet package this week ($119), it really seems to be the same speed, but I can access my Dropbox and more accounts online.  I went to Lido pool deck and had another basic and very good Guy’s Burger for lunch then a walk about the ship.  It was quite breezy forward as I visited my secret deck from previous cruise…sunny and breezy on the Breeze.  I went back to Cucina del Capitano ($15+) for dinner this evening.  The staff welcomed me back and treated me very well.  I ordered:  Minestroni (Vegetable Soup with Beans and Rustic Spices, Served with Mascarpone Cream and Drizzled with Pesto Sauce), Nonna’s Meatballs (Grandma’s Recipe) -(Hand made with Olive Oil Sautéed Garlic and Onion, Baked with Fresh Mozzarella, Served over the Captain’s Tomato Sauce), Insalata Caesar-Our Signature Caesar Salad (Crispy Hearts of Romaine Tossed in Traditional Dressing, Served with Anchovy Fillet, Freshly Made Croutons and Shaved Parmesan Cheese), and for an entree: Piatto Della Nonna (Nonna’s Dish) (Inspired by the grandmother to Carnival Breeze Captain Vincenzo Alcaras and a legendary chef in her own right. A Penne Pasta Dish that is a combination of Crispy Shrimp and Prosciutto Tossed in a Vodka Creme Sauce made with San Mario Tomatoes).  For dessert: Magic Tiramisu (The Cake That Is Italy, Layered in a Glass with Mascarpone Cream, Served over Lady Fingers Soaked in Espresso Liqueur, Grand Marnier and Kahlua, Finished with Chocolate Ruffles).  OMG another great meal.  I ate as much as I could.  88 Keys was the production show in the theater tonight, but after such a wonderful meal I retired after a short walkabout on the ship.  It was a great day with great food today on the Carnival Breeze

Wednesday / Montego Bay Jamaica / December 14th / Day 11
Great Lido Dinner
Fair seas overnight and I slept very well as we arrived in Montego Bay.  The MSC Opera is also in port and it’s a nice sunny day. I took my time to allow many guests to debark then went up to Lido deck for another great breakfast at the BIue Iguana…same fresh egg Huevos Ranchero as yesterday.  Also same routine in cabin until lunch time, but I changed into swim wear before heading to Lido for an excellent Mongolian Grill. After lunch then spent the rest of afternoon on pool deck.  Most guests are off the ship so a nice day until they started returning and pool area gets busier…still much better than a sea day.  It was a nice day outdoors, but unusual that by sail away at 5:00 pm it was completely dark.  Ships time is an hour earlier and we are far east but odd experience.  I had Dinner in the Lido Marketplace and it was good, I sampled the Linguini Pasta Dish, had two BBQ Pork Ribs, Baked Potato, and from the carving station the Grilled Beef Tenderloin.  I asked and received a nice thick cut…it was wonderful. The feature show in the theater was ‘Two Men Without Assistance’ a magic show that friends have told me was very good.  I did an after dark walkabout on the upper decks to enjoy the lights.  Guests were enjoying the Movie and popcorn on Lido, some still in the pools, and others enjoying a lovely evening.  I sat and enjoyed the stars and sea breeze until cabin time.  It was a beautiful and fun day today in Jamaica.

Thursday / Grand Cayman / December 15th / Day 12
Blue Iguana Cantina
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. It’s a beautiful day in Grand Cayman.  I again went to Lido deck for breakfast at the Blue Iguana, I again had them add guacamole to the huevos rancheros tortilla with two fresh fried huevos on top, then from the Salsa bar I add Cheese and Pico de Gallo.  A great breakfast.  I did a walkabout the ship and there were more guests than I thought there would be on board, I understand staying on in Jamaica, I guess the hassle of the tender gets many to stay on board.  It was the same on my previous cruise to Grand Cayman perhaps one third+ of guests staying on board ship. The Breeze is a nice ship with a lot of features so it is a destination in itself.  Cabin time so I didn’t go to lunch until about 1:00 and had a few Fried Fish & Chicken Tenders (also served on Embark day) from the Lido Marketplace. I visited with a friend and we went to the aft pool deck and had a few Pilsner Urquell beers, my favorite.  I also saw a Pepperoni Pizza with my name on it.  Ended up staying until we sailed away from the Caymans.  At least it was still daylight, but the sun was setting.  This evening I went to the Piano Bar for aperitifs and visited with Michael the bartender and Antony the server.  It’s the second elegant night so tablecloths in the MDR.  Dinner was good one of the better menus, I ordered: the Pasta E Fagioli soup, the White Stuffed Mushrooms, Fusilli Mushroom Creme Pasta (as starter), Dual of Filet Mignon  & Short Rib entree, and Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  All excellent.  After dinner I stopped by the Red Frog Pub where Michael was playing tonight…In the theater was the newish production show FLICK, a very popular and unique show that should not be missed.  It was a Fun day on the Carnival Breeze.

Friday / Cozumel Mexico / December 16th / Day 13
Breeze & Dream at Puerto Maya
Smooth seas overnight and perfect weather…sunny but not too hot.  We are docked at the Puerto Maya Pier along with the Carnival Dream out of New Orleans and the Liberty of the Seas & Allure of the Seas are at the International pier.  I had a room service breakfast, first of the cruise to start the day.  About 10:30 am I went down to deck zero and yes the Mexican officials are checking bags for food items so please don't take any will get caught by the dogs and it delays all of us getting out and about.  Soon I was on my way to San Miguel ($8 taxi). I first went to Antonio’s Barber Shop and had my usual haircut from Martin. He has been my regular barber for nine+ years now.  Afterward I went to Woody’s Bar & Grill to use the internet and drink a diet coke.  This has been my Cozumel HQ for many years.  After a few beers and my great guacamole and pico de gallo the Woody’s team watched my ‘stuff’ while I went down the avenue to get some drugs from a few of the local Farmicias.  Still a better value to get basic meds here than at home.  The extended departure time for the ship allowed time for two more Bohemia beers and a order of Chicken Nachos. Woody's was very busy today and they also had live music all day.  Nice.  About 4:00 I walked down to the Malecon and I caught a taxi back to the pier ($8). I was back on ship about 4:30 pm. for a 6:00 pm sail away.  No time to watch pier runners as I took a refreshing shower and relaxed.  I also told the steward to skip the cabin this evening it's now my down time day.  I was content and not hungry so I skipped dinner and the evening activities and enjoyed some internet time and television, I had not seen the new MacGyver TV show.  I did order late room service…a Tuna Salad sandwich on white bread and a nice Toasted Grill Cheese...then to bed early.  It was a wonderful day in Cozumel today!

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / December 17th / Day 14
Atrium looking down from deck 11
Rolling seas as we left Cozumel with wave noises so I was afraid of a rough night, but it really became quite smooth by midnight so quiet and great sleeping overnight.  I went to the Breeze MDR for the Sea-day Brunch about 10:30 and had a nice table at far aft at the windows.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, Eggs Benedict with bacon, corned beef hash, and potatoes.  A very filling breakfast.  There will be a cold front in Texas when we arrive so my plan was to take advantage of the warm weather all day.  I spent time on the Serenity Deck (deck 15), and walked about the outer decks just enjoying the sea breeze and warm sun.  I did get a Guy’s Burger as well.  The Platinum and Diamond party was held in the Lamplighter Lounge at 5:00 pm.  There were about the same as previous week.  I sat with  new and old friends and got several Tito’s lemonades strait away…plus two Cosmopolitans.  I was again the senior cruiser on board.  Michael performed again…I enjoy his music.  Thanks Carnival it was a fun party that got extended to the Piano Bar until I went to the Cucina del Capitano (I'll spare you the 3rd menu selections) for dinner.  After dinner a quick stop in the Red Frog and the Atrium Bar, for final night Fun.  It was a great sea day on the Carnival Breeze.

Sunday / Galveston / December 18th / Debarkation
We had slightly rocky seas overnight going into Galveston.  We know it will be about 42° and windy when we arrive (only 22° at Ranch) in Galveston.  We were about an hour late arriving due to 45 knot winds we encountered as we got closer to Texas.  I went down to the designated Diamond meeting location at 7:00 am, but it was just after 8:00 am before we where allowed off the ship.  I was through U.S. Customs, rode the shuttle to the parking lot, stopped for gas ($1.95) and was on the Causeway off the island at 9:00am.  I stopped for groceries and was back at the ranch before 2:00 pm. 

I had cabin 2208 a 1A interior located on deck 3 far forward on port side, Yes you can hear the waves hit the ship if there are heavy seas. It can be annoyingly loud at times.  The cabin has a lot of floor space, with one single bed and a full couch. It has a swipe type safe, three-section closet, no chairs, one electrical outlet on counter/dresser, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at Dresser, Kleenex dispenser, and Hair dryer in counter/dresser, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is an empty refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo, but not so much for two. My cabin steward was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Both Main Dining Rooms are very nice especially the Blush Dining room.  The Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected entrees are very good.  The MDR food on Breeze is better than other Carnival ships, I was about to give up on the quality of the MDR food on Carnival but Breeze is better than most.  I had good table locations, good fellow guests, and the waiters were good.  They have returned the butter knife to the American Table. The saucers for coffee cups as well as tablecloths are now gone from breakfast tables. The Mongolian Grill and Cucina del Capitano are great options for lunch or dinner at a fee.  No Alchemy Bar on the Breeze but I thoroughly enjoyed my aperitifs at the Piano Bar. 

The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious.  The Ship Officers were fantastic…they really seem to enjoy working as a team and are very friendly.  I have never had so many crew call me by name on any previous cruise.

New and Improved
Ships staff (security, embark, boat drill) now use card readers for Sail & Sign cards.
Return of the butter knife
$3 doubles on bar drinks
Hub Application is outstanding
Pilsner Urquell is now in cans and be ordered on outside boat decks

Diamond Guest Cocktail Parties with Captain & Senior Officers
Carnival Breeze Crew members
Platinum / Diamond Parties
Key West Day
Cozumel Day

Sunday, November 6, 2016

New York, New York

 New York City, New York

Photo from Top of the Rock

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

Thursday-November 3—New York City

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

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

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

Something Rotten
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Kinky Boots
Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock

Friday, October 21, 2016

Carnival Vista Transatlantic Cruise October 21, 2016

 Carnival Vista Review Transatlantic October 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Do NOT like about the new Carnival Vista:

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

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

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