Sunday, September 5, 2021

Carnival's Mardi Gras Review - B2B - September 4, & 11th, 2021

Carnival's new Mardi Gras
Just The Facts:
Ship:  Mardi Gras
Ship Captain: Vincenzo Alcaras
Hotel Director: Pierre Camilleri
Cruise Director: Chris Williams, the Flying Scotsman
Ports: Port Canaveral, Cozumel Mexico, Costa Maya Mexico, Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Port Canaveral, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, Nassau, The Bahamas

This is only the sixth cruise of Carnival’s new flagship, the Mardi Gras, and my initial cruises on her.  I’m excited to explore this new ship.  These are my 81st and 82nd Carnival cruises and my 158th and 159th cruises overall.  I have sailed from Port Canaveral previously but my first time to drive to the port.  I’m sailing as a solo.

Day One -- Saturday --  September 4th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral Embarkation 
Welcome Aboard the Mardi Gras
I left the Villa at 6:30 am for my drive to Port Canaveral arriving at the Go Port parking facility about 9:00am. You self park your car then check-in.  I was number 7 for the Mardi Gras and had a short wait for the shuttle.  This was a new concept for port parking, basically your paying for the shuttle at a per person rate.  Perfect for a solo and B2B cruiser as you have the parking spot for up to 15 days and no additional per person fee for shuttle.  So $70 was my parking fee for the B2B, very fair.  The shuttle dropped us off about 10:15 am so we were perfect for those with a 10:30-11:00 assigned boarding time.  Check-in was very smooth beginning with review of your Vaccination Card, recent 72 hour test results, and passport,  You get the basic questions again that you have answered twice before online, then if all is in order you go to to the waiting area, no additional step as I experienced in Galveston.  Easy Peasy,  The facility is new and very spacious.  They have a very nice lounge for Suite guests so Carnival has followed the Royal Caribbean and MSC concept of segregating passengers by premium Cabins and not loyalty programs.  Once the suite guests were boarded they began boarding by the numbers assigned during online check-in.  I was A-5 so not a long wait at all as I was on board just after 11:00 am and at my cabin to drop my bags soon afterward.  My cabin this week is on Lido deck so convenient to get lunch from the Lido Market Place. I sampled the Pork from the Carving Station, two Pork Ribs, and an excellent Pecan Encrusted Fish Fillet.  But my primary meal was a Chicken Sandwich from the new Big Chicken located on lido aft.  It was excellent.  I’m a big Chick-fil-A fan and this was even better.  I then went to my designated Muster Station located in the casino on deck 7.  They just checked me off the list, so simple and easy to do.  While there I purchased my Cheers drink package from the Casino Bar and had a Bushwacker as well.  My goal was to have all my early on board projects completed by noon for the kickoff of my Oklahoma Sooners opening game of the college football season.  No games were broadcast on the ship so I settled in on the deck 8 aft infinity Pool and watched the first half live on my iPhone.  OU was down 14-7 by the time I was set-up, but I did enjoy a Pilsner Urquell from bar service while Oklahoma came back to take a lead in the game,  At half-time I went back to my cabin to charge the phone and watch the second half with the nice view from my balcony. Oklahoma didn’t look sharp nor like the #2 team in the country, but won the game.  The Captain announced that due to refueling we would not sail away as planned and our port times in Cozumel will change.  Not a problem for me, only for the smokers who can not smoke out on deck…so glad I did my muster station early as the casino became packed with smokers…note to self…avoid walking through there.  It was now time for me to explore the new ship.  Wow it is so different for Carnival…a very different design.  The multi-deck Atrium show area in the center is amazing,,,it may or may not be practical though…time will tell.  Seems like the theater will be primarily for theatrical shows and the gatherings and music will be in the new Atrium space.  Basically we have a two level Lido deck and a three level Promenade area with Shoppes, Bars, and Restaurants.  It will be a FUN two weeks of exploring.  My first stop of course was the Alchemy Bar and as soon as I walked up a great surprise…Natalie.  Wow I had not seen her in 7+ years on the Triumph when she was a young new bartender and now she is running that bar with all the experience and savvy of an experienced senior bartender.  Still as beautiful too.  So proud of her.  They have a busy location and a lot of staff including Jason also a very experienced senior Alchemist.  I still enjoy watching new guests discovering the Alchemy and love visiting with the experience Alchemy Bar fans.  I then went down to the French Quarter area of the ship on deck 6 to the Fortune Teller Bar.  A repeat…another great surprise in seeing Cornelius from South Africa who was just as shocked to see me as well.  We go back 8+ years to the Carnival Sunshine, the first built Alchemy Bar, where he as a bar waiter.  Same story from a youngster to senior bartender, and such a nice a young man and now a gentleman.  Another great asset to Carnival Cruise Lines.  That location must be next to a staff entry as I spoke with several other Bartenders from the other bars that I knew and who recognized me while I was sitting there.  I also met some new bartenders that I really liked including the lovely Ana who prepared two nice cocktails for me. I know I will check out all the bars and all the new specialty drinks. I also visited with cruise friends who have already sailed the Mardi Gras, they helped with advice.  It was towards the end of late dining time so I needed to make a selection and went to Cucina del Capitano for dinner.  It’s included in Your Time dining on the Mardi Gras so your getting a premium dining experience included on the Mardi Gras. Nice. I ordered the Arancini (fried Risotto balls), Nonna’s Meatballs, the entree Pollo Parmigiana (Chicken Parm), and a side of Linguini pasta with Tomato sauce.  No dessert.  An excellent and enjoyable meal as well as the service from the primarily Indian staff.  I retired to the cabin and went directly to bed after a long and busy day.  It was a FUN and exciting day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Two -- Sunday --  September 5th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea 
Grand Central Atrium Stage
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I woke about 7:15 am and started making notes for this review, too busy yesterday.  I purchase the WiFi package ($90) for the week and I can say that the internet works very well…expensive IMHO but better than any other I have experienced at sea.  I went for my usual breakfast at the Blue Iguana:  Heuvos Rancheros with two Fried Eggs, Cheese, and Pico de Gallo.  The watermelon was not as good as the Breeze, but the Arepas was better.  They have a very nice corner of the Lido deck and it’s a larger area with seating.  Very Nice, but with so many breakfast options I will be trying new items this cruise.  I had my review up by 10:00 am so some cabin time catching up on news, football scores, just being lazy, and enjoying the shaded balcony the rest of the morning.  About 1:00 pm I went on a walk about and ended up at Big Chicken for lunch.  I had a proper Sandwich with onion fries and bacon on it, as well as a basic sandwich to use and sample the various sauces.  It was great, this will be my go-to place but so many more new places to sample. I had two Bloody Marys out in the Tides Pool area and visited with guests, but time for one of the best things one can do on a cruise: nap time.  About 7:00 pm I went out for the evening.  I started with cocktails at the Brass Magnolia Bar, the anchor bar in the French Quarter section.  I had a nice Hurricane cocktail then a Sazerac, my first Sazerac since I was last in New Orleans.  The two bartenders, Nicola and Nicola both from Serbia are very entertaining in their beautiful New Orleans themed bar.  I know both from their Alchemy Days and they are great bartenders,  I decided to have dinner at ChiBang! the Chinese And Mexican fusion dining room.  I had  a Lychee Martini to start and three great appetizers: the Egg Drop Soup, Pot Stickers, and the Slow-Braised Pot Belly.  All very good.  My entree was the Kung Pao Chicken and Hakka Noodles as the side dish,  Again very good.  Service was great.  After dinner I enjoyed the Grand Central Atrium and The Center Stage Band.  What a great space for music and shows on the ship with seating on three deck levels.  I then went to Alchemy Bar for a nice cocktail prepared by Natalie.  At 10:00 pm they had a secret speakeasy show in the Limelight Lounge, was the Jazz band and Fun Crew members dressed in Roaring 20s costumes.  Entertaining and a great way to sell more drinks.  I went down to the Pig & Whistle to see the Backyard Band, an excellent cover band.  I retired to the cabin before midnight and it was a fun evening out and about on the ship.  A great sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Three -- Monday. Labor Day — September 6th, 2021 -- Isla Cozumel, Mexico
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept very well.  We have a scheduled noon arrival in Cozumel today. I
Ray on the BOLT
decided to try the Cucina del Capitan for breakfast this morning since they do not serve breakfasts on other ships before Mardi Gras.  I ordered a Bloody Maria, Avocado Toast, Eggs Benedict, Hash Browns, and Bacon.  It was all very good.  I am convinced that the Cucina and Chibang both will become standard MDR’s on this ship.  They are nice options to have.  All the shops are open due to the late arrival time for Cozumel, although we have been in the Straights of Cozumel since I woke, but I guess they are now committed to the later docking time.  It gave me the opportunity to get some Gift Cards from Cherry on Top this morning.  I guessed correctly that the Bolt may be open and it was…so I rode the only Roller Coaster at Sea.  Wow fast you don’t realize how high up you are and that you’re over the sea.  It is an experience for sure.  I spent some time at the Serenity deck, it’s a very large space on Deck 18 forward.  Swimming pool with waterfall, Hot tub, Loungers, Salad Station, Tables, the Serenity Bar and more.  The pool was cold to me, less than 80° for sure.  I had a late lunch again at Big Chicken and basically a repeat, I had Chicken Tenders and the Big Aristotle.  This is a better option than Guy’s Burgers IMHO.   I had a Bushwacker from the Red Frog Tiki Bar by the Lido pool…there are a lot of guests staying on board today enjoying the pool.  I had cabin time the rest of the afternoon that included a nice long nap.  When I woke at 7:00 pm I was refreshed for my evening.  I went to the Alchemy Bar about 8:00 pm and enjoyed a nice flight of cocktails prepared by Maria from Mexico, my first experience with her…she is fun and I can see why many guests comment about here on the Alchemy Bar FB page.  I also met some nice guests and Alchemy Fans.  I missed the designated times for dinner reservations so went to The Fortune Teller Bar and finally saw Bojana.  Amazing how many Alchemists from my past cruises are all on the Mardi Gras.  Quality cocktails are not a problem on this ship.  My final stop was the La Piazza area and Pizzeria del Capitano for a Pizza.  They were prepared for the late rush with pies ready to go.  I really like the La Piazza area where all the Italian themed foods are located. Much nicer than the Tides aft location on other ships.  Time to retire but I also experienced another first today: this is the first time in 100+ cruise visits to Cozumel that I did not get off the ship. Interesting. It was another FUN day on the Mardi Gras in the port of Cozumel.
Day Four -- Tuesday --  September 7th, 2021 -- Costa Maya, Mexico
The Crystal Ball cocktail
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I woke about 7:15 am and we are already docked at the pier in Puerto Costa Maya. I considered breakfast choices and thought I’d test the sharing table option on the Carnival Hub App for the Palms MDR.  I was given an individual table but there were few eating in the MDR this morning so perhaps hard to get enough at one time to share.  I had an Omelette with bacon, hash browns, and Avocado Toast.  It was very good.  I went to the Serenity Deck and had some Bloody Marys and enjoyed the weather and sea breeze before it got too hot.  This is by far the best Serenity area in the fleet.  It seems to be the hang-out for the older guests and why not with great bar service & pool.  I had my first Guy’s Burger for lunch, a Ringer, with fries.  Very good as always.  As mentioned Guy’s has their own space away from the Lido pool so much easier to get your burger and a place to sit…very nice.  I took a walkabout to ask some questions at Pixels and fill my Yeti with ice for the Diet Cokes in my cabin refrigerator, then enjoyed some balcony time.  A nice lazy afternoon. I went by the Brass Magnolia for an aperitif then actually to the Palm Restaurant, the Main Dining Rooms (MDR) for set-time dining on the Mardi Gras.  It was Linguini night my usual favorite night, but it was not as good as on the Carnival Breeze.  I ordered: The Meatballs and Linguini as a starter, the Tenderloin steak entree, and Roasted Pineapple for dessert.  It was fine, but much better options in the other restaurants.  The table location was excellent: far aft center at the windows and the waiter I-Made was very good.  After dinner I visited the Alchemy Bar for cocktails then the Fortune Teller Bar for a Crystal Ball cocktail…a very interesting specialty drink (photo). Time for a spritzer again at Brass Magnolia.  The music at all the venues was very good especially the jazz at Brass Magnolia.  I retired to the cabin and updated this blog and surfed the internet a while before sleep. It was a FUN day on board the Mardi Gras.

Day Five -- Wednesday --  September 8th, 2021 -- Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras 
Mahogany Bay Beach & the Mardi Gras
A little rocking of the seas overnight and I slept well.  I woke very early and out of habit from living in the country (without bandwidth) taking advantage of faster internet times.  We actually began docking before morning light by 7:00 am.  They began allowing guest off before 8:00 am as I went to the Blue Iguana for breakfast.  I still like this breakfast best: Huevos Rancheros with two fried eggs and the watermelon was much improved too.  I got off the ship and walked around  Mahogany Bay and to the far beach primarily for the exercise.  I take some photos and enjoyed a Bella Vita beer on the beach.  When I returned it was up to the Serenity to cool off in the pool, I also enjoyed a couple of diet Coca-Colas, a rarity on this ship.  I had a late lunch at Big Chicken, my obvious favorite food on the ship.  Another Aristotle Sandwich (Chicken breast, Muenster cheese, Crispy fried onions, Bacon, Sweet & smoky Memphis bbq sauce) and tenders for dipping.  I think I’ve decided on the Ranch BBQ as my favorite of the sauces.  I had a Bushwacker from the Red Frog Tiki Bar as my dessert...perfect!  The rest of the day was cabin time, a movie, enjoying sail away from my balcony, and rest.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails and visit with the usual cast of Alchemy fans about 7:20 pm, it was a busier night.  I made my online reservations for ChiBang about 8:40 pm.  It was very busy there as well, completely different than Sunday.  I may have been earlier but I actually think guests have learned about the available dining option.  There were nice guests seated on each side of me so it was basically a shared table experience.  Tonight I ordered: the Egg Drop Soup, Spring Rolls, the Slow-Braised Pot Belly, the entree Beef & Broccoli with Hakka Noodles as the side dish.  It was very good although service was a bit off.  After dinner I went to the Pig & Anchor to hear the Backyard Band and enjoy a soft-serve ice creme.  The Band did a Beatles tribute tonight. It was good.  I retired by 11:00 pm.  It was a FUN day in Roatan and on the Mardi Gras.

Day Six -- Thursday --  September 9th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
The C.D., Strings Trio, & Staff Captain
A bit of rocky seas overnight and I slept well.  I went to Big Chicken for breakfast and had two egg biscuits, one with bacon and one with sausage patty, the bacon was better.  They also do a three-cheese fresh omelette as well as Chicken Sandwiches,  another good option in the mornings.  There are scattered rain storms but nothing serious…mostly sun for the pool people.  I had two really good Bloody Mary’s from the Tides bar and visited with a new friend who bailed me out with a nice facemark when mine broke on the shuttle to the ship.  I then did the 10:00 am T-shirt sale on deck 8 in the center gallery…it was packed.  I needed some smaller T-shirts and the price was right at 2 @ $20.  Then some cabin time and prepared for the Diamond Luncheon in the Flamingo Restaurant at noon.  There are almost 200 Diamonds on board so a big turn out for the luncheon.  I sat at a great table front row center with nice guests. The Strings Trio played throughout dinner which was very nice. For lunch I ordered the Pork Belly, the Steak entree, and the Tres Leches for dessert, it was very good as was the service.  I stopped at Cherries on Top to purchase a gift card then back to cabin.  I went to the Serenity deck it was busy and windy, but I did have a salad from the Fresh Creations Bar and a diet coke.  Cabin time away from the wind for the rest of the afternoon.  I did aperitifs this evening in the Brass Magnolia then had dinner in the Palm MDR at late seating, it wasn’t that full so they got me a very nice sharing table in the center.  I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, the Pasta Fusilli as a starter, and the Filet Mignon entree.  It was good as was the service.  After dinner I visited the Alchemy Bar for cocktails, always fun there and of course the cocktails are wonderful.  I did have my nightcap at the Fortune Teller Bar.  Music was good at all the venues at the bars, primarily the various solo artists tonight.  The Pig & Anchor was packed tonight with guests watching the NFL opening game between Dallas and Tampa.  Still discovering new things on the Mardi Gras.

Day Seven -- Friday --  September 10th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
Very smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  About 8:45 am I went for my favorite breakfast at Blue Iguana, they remembered my usual Heuvos Rancheros with two fried eggs, cheese and Pico de Gallo.  It was as good as ever.  I then went to see Michael at the Tides Bar for a Bloody Mary, the best I’ve found on ship so far.  Then to the casino to get my $25 free play added to my Sail & sign card.  If you’re a Diamond guest don’t forget to do this.  I’ll play later when I get some advice on best slots. I did a walkabout on Serenity deck and Lido deck getting some nice air. Then I went to Cucina del Capitano for lunch and had the same waiters as when I went to dinner.  I ordered the Mixed Green Salad, Tomato Soup, and a Pasta Bowl with Linguini, Bolognese Meat Sauce, Italian Sausage, Onions, & Cherry Tomatoes.  First dessert of the cruise: the Limoncello Mascarpone Torte.  All very good especially the dessert.  I did a walkabout the Grand Atrium as it was quiet for the first time all week. A great design with small tables on the lower levels, bench seating on middle level, and a mixture of seating on deck 8 overlooking.  The back wall of the stage is glass opening to the sea during the day and in the evening becomes a beautiful electronic backdrop screen with multiple functions: from stage sets, to photos, to song lyrics, and more.  The most grand design Carnival has ever done on a ship.  Cabin time until the 4:00 pm Diamond & Platinum party in the Mardi Gras Theater.  The Theater is nice my first time in it.  At the door you received a glass of wine and a drink voucher was issued to all Diamond and Platinum guests, nice gesture by Carnival.  No movie, Yea!  They asked questions of guests who had sailed on the original Mardi Gras. The high Diamond was over 1100 days, that’s unbelievable.  The Strings Trio played twice so it was a nice affair.  I went straight not the Alchemy as I knew guests would try to use their vouchers there.  About 5:30 I went to see Katerina at the Steak House Bar, good seeing her.  I also tried one of their specialty martini’s.  I went up to deck 8 and the Pig & Anchor for dinner.  I had Brisket, Sausage, and Ribs with various sides.  A very good meal.  I enjoyed a soft serve ice creme on the way back to the cabin.  I did play (lose) my $25 in the casino, only 7¢ won.  Not sure I really knew what I was doing.  I retired early as I have an early Rapid-covid test in the morning and have pack and change cabins.  We are sailing along the coast of Florida and I was able to make a business call to NCL and almost to the Florida Villa.  We should be in port early.  It was a nice final sea day on the Mardi Gras and ending to the first cruise of my B2B.

Day One -- Saturday --  September 11th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral Embarkation

B2B Photo
An early beginning to the second half of my B2B.  We had smooth seas overnight and I was up earlier than I wished to pack since I have to change cabins for this cruise. All the food venues were open at 6:00 am for breakfast…I did the Blue Iguana of course about 6:30.  They began regular announced self-debarkation by 7:45 am so I assume the Diamonds and other priority must have rolled off by 7:30 am.  I’m only going down the passageway a few doors and Francisco the cabin Steward had the new one ready for me at 8:10 am.  I was able to move everything to the new cabin before my 8:30 designated time for my Rapid-covid test.  Then all B2B guest met at 9:00 pm in the MDR.  We received our new cards, a voucher for a cocktail, and a voucher for a photo, these were to replace the little B2B ceremony we usually get.  There were about 80-90 guests doing the B2B.  About 9:45 am we were taken down to customs and went through a facial recognition ID.  Then back on the ship by 10:00 am.  Easy Peasy.  I took care of some TA business over the telephone, checked-in at the Florida Villa, then did my Muster Drill check-in.  Ended up on Lido aft and had a Big Chicken lunch.  Many more of the just boarding guests went straight there on embark than previous cruise...the word is out on Big Chicken.  I had a Fun Ship Special drink at the Tides Bar with some of the B2B group then back to the cabin.  All this by noon.  I had a nice fruit basket and Champagne as B2B guest from the Hotel Director Pierre. I watched  NCAA football this afternoon and enjoyed sail away from the Balcony.  In the evening I went to the Fortune Teller Bar for cocktails and tried some of their specialty drinks, it was fun watching the new guests order the Magic Ball and other drinks that  have a bit of a ‘Show’ presentation.  I really wanted to eat at the Pig & Anchor on the first night as I heard that the Filet Mignon was good.  It was better than good, it was best steak I have had on a Carnival ship.  A also had the St. Louis Ribs, and sides of: Fired onions, Pickled Veggies, & Carolina Slaw.  Three great meals in one day. I had a nightcap at the Red Frog Tiki Bar and enjoyed the breeze and night air before retiring.  It was an easy and rewarding day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Two -- Sunday --  September 12th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
the Morning Show from Grand Central Atrium
Smooth seas and I slept very well.  I was awake before dawn and browsing on the internet as usual but did go back to sleep so I wasn’t out for my Blue Iguana breakfast until after 9:00 am.  Then a Bloody Mary with Michael in the Tides Bar.  The rest of the morning just relaxing watching the sea from cabin balcony.  I did a noon walkabout getting my B2B photo from Pixels and a Bushwacker from the Serenity Deck Bar, kind of windy on top decks, really nicer on cabin balcony. About 1:30 I went to Guy’s Burgers for lunch.  I had to wait as they finished cooking a new batch…that actually caused me to change my order.  If burgers are fresh hot it’s the best time to create an Oklahoma Onion-fried burger.  Get meat and bun only, from condiment bar place the shedded onions on meat, then pickles, mustard on bun. Smash together. It’s as close to the original you can get at sea.  (FYI-in Oklahoma they cook the shredded onions on the meat). They were fantastic burgers!!  While on the upper Lido I sat at the Red Frog Tiki Bar, I earned a blast of the siren from Maria, a favorite bartender, who did not expect me to be on this cruise.  Kinda nice. I watched some pool games below, some NFL football on screens at bar, and a sudden short rain shower.  Interesting.  Back to the cabin with my Yeti filled with ice to enjoy some Coca-Cola on the balcony.  I’m enjoying then balcony more this cruise!  I went to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails about 6:30 pm and then to the Steakhouse Bar for the Watermelon martini.   A rotation of Bartenders this cruise so some changes at several bars.  I went to Cucina del Capitano for dinner, I had the same wait staff as previous so that was nice,  I ordered: the Arancini, Nonna’s Meatballs, a Pasta Pomodoro (as a starter), and the Lobster Tail entree.  It was a very good and filling meal. Many more eating there than this day on the last cruise.  I did go  to the Fortune Teller Bar for a nightcap: The Lime in the Coconut cocktail.  It was a FUN and lazy sea day on the Mardi Gras

Day Three -- Monday — September 13th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
Big Chicken selections
Some rocking seas and wind overnight as we cleared a thunderstorm and I slept very well. I was awake early enough to see the sun rise and calmer seas.  I went to Blue Iguana for breakfast and was accosted by a lady.  She was lined up at the exit and I went in the entry and said you’re in exit but please go ahead of me.  She lectured me that it’s the same on all the Carnival ships, step away, blah blah.  Of course the Mardi Gras set up is completely different (and better).  The guys at BI were just laughing away as they know me and knew the lady was off especially when she completely screwed up her order, I think maybe she thought she was in the burrito line.  Anything different can be fun and I was amused.  I went to Serenity deck for my Bloody Mary’s this morning as Natalie, one of my favorite bartenders is working up there this week.  Then cabin time and updating this blog until lunch.  Today was the Diamond Luncheon in the Flamingo Restaurant at noon. Again there are almost 200 Diamonds on board so a nice turn out for the luncheon.  I sat at the same great table front row center with three very nice ladies.  Today I ordered the Tomato Soup, the Steak entree, and the Tres Leches for dessert.  The Strings Trio, from Spain, again played throughout dinner which was very nice. I met friends for trivia in the Havana Bar at 2:15.  It was nerd trivia and I can assure you that I am not a nerd, I knew very few of the questions.  I stayed for karaoke afterward, it was fair, I’m not a real big fan.  I actually decided to eat early and just made it to Big Chicken before it closed at 5:00 pm.  I had the usual and it was excellent.  I met friends for a bar crawl at the Brass Magnolia, we went to the Fortune Teller for some specialty cocktails by Ana and Igor, then to the Alchemy Bar for some Maria specials. Lucky in both locations to get seats at the bar for our little group.  We finished off the night at the Farenhiet 55 Bar and their signature Watermelon martini’s. A Fun night and sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Four -- Tuesday --  September 14th, 2021 -- San Juan, Puerto Rico
Smooth Seas overnight and I slept like a baby.  We were docked when I woke about 6:00 am.  I met friends at Blue Iguana for breakfast about 8:30 am then an hour later went off the ship to Old Town San Juan for the day.  It was the usual hot and humid day in San Juan.  We walked up Forteleza Street enjoying the atmosphere up to the Barrachina Restaurant where I had a Pina Colada my tradition in San Juan.  A visit to the beautiful Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista (1540) and the neighboring El Convento before heading back towards the ship.  Not as many store or shoppes open as yet in Old Town...they have had some tough times here.  A required stop at Walgreen’s at the pier then back on the ship by 1:30 pm.   I went up to the Serenity deck and had an outside shower and pool time.  I also enjoyed several of my favorite beers: Pilsner Urquell.  It cooled off with dark clouds and a breeze.  I watched sail away from the Summer’s Landing deck 8 aft pool deck about 4:15, nice to sail by the City Walls and old Castle.  I stopped by Guy’s Burgers for two nice OK style burgers…very good.  I had some cabin time until I met friends and we watched two shows: Solo Guitar with Owen Stephen and the Flying Scotsman on the Grand Central stage. It was very nice seeing and visiting with several bartenders tonight although I only had a few cocktails.  Then some late night pizza before bedtime.  It was a great day in San Juan and on the Mardi Gras.

Day Five -- Wednesday --  September 15th, 2021 -- Amber Cove,  Dominican Republic
Sunset after the Storm
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I was up by 7:00 am and enjoyed the Mardi Gras sailing into Amber Cove.  I had my usual breakfast at Blue Iguana then a Bloody Mary from Sean at Red Frog and Michael at Tides.  I was just doing a little walkabout to see the port and watch the Carnival Magic dock next to us was the reason for two different bars.  It was a lovely morning.   did go ashore primarily just to walk for exercise.  It got hot quickly.  The pool area was packed with two ships here and like many others on the Mardi Gras returned to the ship soon.  The amenities hon the ship are so much better.  I cooled off in the Serenity pool then went by Guy’s Burgers for a single Burger & Fries.  I ended up at the Summer Landing pool area, it’s a nice infinity style pool on aft of deck 8.  Basically relaxed and visited with friends all afternoon, it actually cooled off with cloud cover and breeze and about 5:00 pm we had a huge rainfall and high winds.  It caught those boarding the ship for our 6:00 pm sail away.  But refreshing and we did sail away on time. I actually had dinner in one of the premium restaurants tonight: Rudi’s Seagrill.  I ordered the Tropical Smash cocktail, Coquilles Saint-Jacques appetizer, the House Tossed Salad, and the Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail Imperial entree.  For dessert a Key Lime Pie.  Service was excellent and the food was very good, I enjoyed the Scallops best of the four items I ordered. I enjoyed the ideal ‘weather after the storm’ situation we were sailing.  Very lovely evening.  I did go to the packed casino to use my $25 free play.  I was up to $34 at one time, but even if I cashed out I could only receive $9 so I had fun losing the balance.  It was fun but not my cup of tea.  I had cocktails at Alchemy, and a final Pilsner Urquell at Red Frog before retiring.  It was a FUN and interesting day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Six -- Thursday --  September 9th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
Night of Enchantment
Smooth seas overnight and my best sleep so far.  I was up early, updated this blog, and relaxing.  The balcony is nice.  I went to the Blue Iguana where I do not even have to order.  I Wayan hands me a plate with an Arepas that I then use to get Watermelon, then a drink and a table.  By then he has my Huevo Ranchero with two fried eggs and melted cheese on top.  He has been brilliant to me this cruise.  I then just add the Pico de Gallo and special Tomatillo Sauce and I am ready for the best breakfast at sea.  The Sea Day Brunch is excellent as well, but the Blue Iguana is so easy as my cabin in so close.  I swam in the Serenity Pool, played some Trivia today in the Havana Bar and enjoyed some Pilsner Urquell beers in Summer Landing...then Cabin time until dinner.  I ate in the Palm MDR early seating with friends. I can not believe the waiter remembered me from the one time last week that I ate there.  They are amazing. I ordered: the Stuffed Mushrooms, Mushroom Creme Fusilli Pasta (as a starter), and the Filet Mignon steak entree.  It was all very good and I enjoyed it.  After dinner a little bar hopping at Fortune Teller and Alchemy before meeting friends at the Steakhouse for their signature Watermelon martini.  I did have a Pilsner Urquell with the boys at Red Frog before turning in for the evening.  Also a nice day with entertainment including the fantastic Celestial Strings Night of Enchantment show with the Mardi Gras Singers & Dancers in the Grand Central Atrium. Not to be missed.  It was a FUN final sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Seven -- Friday --  September 10th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea
Nassau Sail Away
Smooth seas overnight, I was up by 6:00 am and I slept very well.  We were docked very early and they opened gangways before 7:30 am.  About 7:00 I went to Blue Iguana for my usual and they brought a Bloody Mary to me there.  Nice.  I finished it on my Balcony and watched the Royal Caribbean ship Allure of the Seas sail into port. Later the MSC Divina joined us in port.  I’m not getting off the ship, this is not a favorite port and there is a lot of construction on the pier itself.  I spent the morning by the Lido aft pool. Then I had my final  Big Chicken selections for lunch.  It is so good and will be my last one for awhile.  I did some Trivia in the Havana Bar, then visited with friends and watched our sail away from Nassau from the balcony.  I had cocktails from the Alchemy Bar including a nice Gin cocktail prepared by Jason.  The treat of the day is a late dinner at Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse.  I ordered the Shrimp Cocktail, Mixed Young Lettuce Salad, Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, the Grilled Cowboy Steak entree, and the Art at Your Table dessert.  It was a wonderful meal with excellent service. The steak was cooked to perfection. It was late so time to prepare for early debark from the cabin as most Bars and Venues close by 11:00 pm.  It was a very nice final day on the Mardi Gras.
Debarkation -- Saturday September 18, 2021 -- Port Canaveral, Florida
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  I was up too early, but finalized this review and did some work on the internet.  Early and final breakfast at Blue Iguana. Finalized packing for the 7:30 am meet time for Diamond guests to leave the ship. Luckily I went early as by 7:25 we were walking off the ship.  Face recognition ID so it went fast.  I found the parking shuttle and they left fairly soon and I was on the road.  From the Punchliner Comedy Club on deck 6 to our Florida Villa in three hours. Amazing!  The not so good news is that I have some work to do...weigh-in shows a gain of 18 pounds.  Oh No!


The new Grand Central Atrium is the heart of the ship and best design of any Carnival ship.  A very large ship but more compartmentalized.  You have a Lido upper and a Lido lower.  Better positioning between lounge areas and table areas on Lido (lower) pool deck.  Guy’s Burgers have a much larger space and it’s own eating area (upper).  We are sailing below capacity that actually makes it very nice for guests on board.  I believe Carnival is saying about 70% capacity, but I think lower. Some balconies are different, no more doors between cabins, much more solid build, and more covered due to deck 18 going out over the rest of the superstructure acting as a roof.  I like it.  Gross Tonnage: 180,800 - Length: 1130 feet - Beam: 137 feet - Cruising Speed: 17 Knots   - Guest Capacity: 5,282 (Double Occupancy) - Total Staff: 1,735 Registry: Panama


After 80+ Carnival cruises the MDR food has become very routine to me and I really don’t get excited about it as I used to do. I do have so many more alternative choices on the Mardi Gras…so great for me. I did like the Cucina de Capitano, Blue Iguana for breakfast, Guy’s Burgers, Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ, ChiBang: Chinese & Mexican fusion, and the best surprise: the Big Chicken.  I really don’t drink Pepsi at all and disappointed that they changed beverages.

Most know I am the administrator of the Carnival Alchemy Bar Fans facebook page (BTW-the original and largest by far) so I have an affinity for Alchemy trained bartenders.  Being on the Mardi Gras has been amazing.  I’ve never seen so many Specialty & Senior Bartenders on one ship.  It is amazing and a delight.  Also a trip down Memory Lane.  So it’s easy to say that The Alchemy Bar, The Fortune Teller Bar, and the Brass Magnolia Bar are all outstanding and are not only the finest  bars in the Carnival fleet, but of any cruise line.  Best Bars at Sea.

The first week I had cabin 16255 a balcony on Lido deck near the forward elevators on starboard side.  Second week just a few doors closer to the forward elevators in Cabin 16265. The second cabin had mirror image floor plan (bed closer to balcony).  Great locations close to Lido deck activities.  The cabin has the usual Carnival layout but an all new sleek design with three closets, attached wall shelves at bed with fold-out lamps, push button safe, glass door mini refrigerator, three self closing dresser drawers, full size couch, and heavy stool at dresser/desk. An adequate amount of floor space and excellent improved sliding balcony door. The shower design is fantastic with actual closing glass door, probably surpassing MSC’s great showers. Also an automatic night light in the bathroom. My DW will appreciate that the drawers are self closing…I tend to leave every thing slightly ajar…here they close for you. I guess we need these at home. The best improvement is the large screen TV mounted on the wall opposite the bed…very nice.
Beautiful multi-level & multi-functional Grand Central Atrium
The Themed Bars: Alchemy, Fortune Teller, & the Brass Magnolia
The Bar Staff and Crew
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse
Pig & Anchor
Big Chicken
Rudi's Seafood