We awoke and meandered op to the Grille for breakfast about 7:30am. Not many people up this morning, probably recovering from dancing and partying, or still stuffed from the buffet. The sky was overcast and cold, like the first sea day. There didnâ€™t see to be a whole lot to do this morning, but it could have been that â€śitâ€™s almost overâ€ť depression starting to set in. We hit the photo gallery and looked at our pictures from the night before. We settled on one shot out of about 30 and bought it, along with one of me and a Pride Showgirl that was snapped one night as we came out of the Dining Room. Mona rolled her eyes, but let me buy it. We also dropped by the Jewelry Store to ask for help in putting Monaâ€™s Dopey Pendant on the gold necklace she bought. The man there wasnâ€™t very helpful, saying they donâ€™t usually do this kind of stuff, but he did it anyway and we quickly left.
Stopped by the Internet CafĂ© and wandered the hallways, ending up in the arcade (no one was there) and playing a game of Air Hockeyâ€¦Mona kicked my butt, as usual. At 11am was the Debarkation Talk in the Taj Mahal Lounge. It was there that Greg went through how customs and immigration worked, how the luggage tags worked, etc. Hereâ€™s a quick overview.
First, the luggage tags. If you already have your tags on your luggage and they are any color except Gray, you can leave these on your luggage. They will not change. If you needed more tags, they were available in the Lobby on a table. Everyone was to set their checked luggage in the hallway tonight between 6pm and midnight. Be sure to keep a change of clothes for Friday, as Greg said he had seen more than one passenger get off the ship barefoot. He explained about the Customs form and that each U.S. citizen was allowed $800 in duty free allowance. Families could combine their allowances, even with children. Jim and Yolanda, for example, had an allowance of $3200, while Mona and I had $1600. There are different amounts for different countries.
Greg explained that you could not bring Cuban cigars back into the U.S., so there would be a smoke-off tonight on the Lido Deck. However, Canadian citizens were allowed to bring Cuban cigars into Canada as they did not have any trade embargo with Cubaâ€¦but they couldnâ€™t bring them into the U.Sâ€¦. Greg paused here as everyone realized the joke - then invited all the Canadians to join in the smoke off up on the Lido deck.
He then told us the bad news about tomorrow. I will say this first. Greg was very honest and apologetic, and he didnâ€™t pull any punches. He said, quite frankly, that debarkation tomorrow was going to be slow and miserable. It seems that every 90 days, all the members of the crew must disembark the ship and go through U.S. Immigration. Tomorrow just happened to be that day. So as the passengers were getting off the ship, all 900+ crew members would be as well. And instead of the 5 or so immigration stations open in the terminal, only 2 would be available to guests. So in order to keep things moving, they would be calling tags much slower than usual as they could only let a few people off at a time.
We were instructed to get up and have breakfast in the morning, and then proceed to one of the waiting areas, which was either the Lido Deck, anywhere on deck 2, or the Taj Mahal Lounge, where Jerome (the comedian from the previous night) had volunteered to come on stage starting at 9am and keep those in the Lounge entertained until we were all gone. Little did I know how impressive this feat would be for poor Jerome, but thatâ€™s a tale for tomorrow.
Greg also stressed the importance of the comment cards we had received in our rooms earlier. He practically begged us to fill them out, joking that only the â€śExceeded Expectationsâ€ť column actually was worth using. He explained that everyone on the ship and at the cruise line relied on these comment cards for feedback, and besides letters from past guests, it was the one of they ways that those on the ship were recognized (or reprimanded) for their service. He said that anyone personally mentioned on a comment card was given a copy of that card for their reference. So remember that when filling out (or not filling out those cards) â€“ they are worth a lot to those who worked hard to serve you, so please take the time to fill them out carefully and honestly on your next cruise. They also have a drawing for $100 pulled from the comments cards on Debarkation day. (No, we didnâ€™t win that eitherâ€¦)
Finally Greg brought a selection of Crew Members up on stage, much to the delight of everyone, for some much deserved recognition. They all received a standing ovation. Then Captain Galotto came out and awarded three staff members service awards. Very nice to see all of this happening in front of the guests, so the crew can hear and see how much everyone appreciates their hard work.
After the talk, Mona and I headed to the Lido deck for some lunch. We settled on our old standby of cheeseburgers, french fries and salad. I threw in a piece of pizza just because I could. We then headed down to Butterflies for the Grand Finale Art Auction. The preview ran from 12:30 to 1:30, and free champagne was once again being handed out. We also made our appointment for invoicing, which was held in the Renaissance Room near the dining room that night. Our appointment would be at 7:20pm. We received our bid card and post its, and we looked around to see if we saw any artwork that was new or impressed us at all. There were a lot of the works we had seen from the previous three events. In fact, thatâ€™s pretty much what was available for request at this â€śGrand Finaleâ€ť â€“ those pieces of art that had shown some interest at the previous auctions, as well as pieces that some collectorâ€™s had requested directly from Elias. We also came across two more Jim Collins works that werenâ€™t shown before. One was a small portrait of a wren, and another an evening scene that didnâ€™t look all that impressiveâ€¦.at least, not sitting here propped up on a couch in poor lighting.
The auction began with an initial raffle for $500 of bid credit to use during the auction, including any paintings you had already purchased. Boy, did I want to win that raffle, but I guess my good karma had been tapped out by then and a lady behind us won. Well, good for her! (Grrrrâ€¦) We saw many paintings that had been passed on earlier in the week go very quickly. There were also many more people in the room, and it became apparent quickly that there were some serious collectors in attendance. We quickly decided to just stay out of their way and just enjoy the show.
Famous last words.
When the first Collinsâ€™ painting came up (the wren) we both looked at each other and shook our heads. It was small and just not very appealing. But then the other one came up. Now perhaps they have special lighting up there, or perhaps it was the glass of free champagne I had now consumed. Whatever reason, this painting now looked amazing. The name of the painting was Whistler Evening (Green Lake) and it was beautiful. The opening bid came up at $85, but this time I knew exactly what I was doing.
My hand shot up and Elias called our number. I held my breath and hoped no one else would bid against us. â€śGoing once, twice, sold to bid card 152! Moving quickly now to the nextâ€¦â€ť Now, I doubt Elias did that for our benefit, because there were a LOT of paintings he was moving through, but regardless I have to thank him for not milking it for a higher bid.
Mona squeezed my arm and Darlene and Larry congratulated us again. We had either purchased or won a painting at each session! Wow! When the auction was finished, we unfortunately did not win anything else, but we did get the fourth and final lithograph. And for those curious about those lithographs, hereâ€™s what they were: â€śReflectionsâ€ť by Pauker, â€śLavender in Provenceâ€ť by Perez, â€śCommonwealth in Bloomâ€ť by Misha and â€śPleine Floraisonâ€ť by Bellet. Very nice works, all around the 8-1/2â€ť x 7â€ť size and come in an envelope with a certificate of authenticity from Park West Galleries.
We thanked all of Eliasâ€™ staff for a great time, and headed to the Taj Mahal lounge to catch the Up Close & Personal session. In this informal talk, Greg Kneale was joined by Dave Fulton, one of his activity leaders, the dance captain for the Pride Dancers and the stage manager for the shows. We all had the chance to ask any of them questions about life on the ship or their jobs. The discussion inevitably turned toward working conditions and pay scales. While they couldnâ€™t discuss those in details, they did explain that very few of the crew was from the U.S. (Dave Fulton and many of his band members were an exception) and that very few as well were married. Most signed on with Carnival for 6 to 8 month contracts and really didnâ€™t have any say which ship they would be assigned to. They were sent to the ships by the Miami office. Greg said that he had never hired anyone, but that he could fire someone at any time. When Dave was asked about wages, he said that he could only say this: that before he started as musical director and band leader, he was a teacher and we all know how little they make. The audience groaned in agreement. He said he made less than he did as a teacher, but that he didnâ€™t have many of the bills most people have. No rent, no utilities, no food, not even entertainment on the ship. Only sodas and alcohol, a few personal items and what they spent in port. He said it was very easy to save money because you were either working or exhausted. When you were finished with your tour, you got 4 to 6 weeks off and then were either assigned to another ship or, well, you werenâ€™t.
Greg also made a comment that received a lot of applause. He said he had truly found his home here on the Pride. He said he absolutely loved this itinerary and that he was going on vacation very soon, but that when he came back his next assignment would be back on the Pride. He also said that if the tried to put him anywhere else, he would quit. After 10 years with Carnival, you get a pretty awesome retirement plan they said, and he had been there (I think) 13 years. He said he truly loved what he did and that he was still having fun. I tell you, it sure showed.
Greg had promised everyone a surprise at the end of this session, and they cleared the stage quickly. A minute later one of his staff came out dressed like Austin Powers singing a song about â€śIf I wasnâ€™t a crewman upon the see, Austin Powers I would beâ€¦.â€ť Then another person came out, and this continued with many sight gags and physical mischief between the group, all standing in a lineâ€¦..then Greg came out in what he has admitted was the first time he had ever done this. He was in a pink tutu, dressed in makeup, singing that he would be a ballerina. The crowd roared and the little skit wrapped up. I have a picture of Greg in his tutu and you can bet I will post it on WebShots! Hah!
It was now time for that part of the cruise that is second in unpleasantness only to debarkation itself, and thatâ€™s packing. Sigh. We headed back to the room and packed everything up. We thought we might not have enough room, but Mona is a pretty good packer and we got everything situated. I went through all the souvenirs, estimating their costs (I didnâ€™t have receipts for everything) and categorized them on a sheet of paper. On the customs form, you donâ€™t have to list each item, but you do have to categorize. Like â€śalcoholâ€ť (which you can only bring in up to 1 liter free), gifts, clothing, etc. Note that this INCLUDES all the items you buy on board. It was misleading to me at first to see â€śDuty Freeâ€ť on all the shops and signs, as I thought that meant you didnâ€™t need to claim them on your customs forms. Not so. You DO have to claim these items, and they are duty free only up to the allowance you have. If youâ€™re one person, with an allowance of $800, and you buy $900 of gifts on the ship, you WILL pay duty for that $100 over your allowance. So keep this in mind! The one thing Iâ€™m not sure about is if any artwork you buy on board has to be claimed this way. We did and were still fine with our allowance, but this might be a question to ask before you buy any artwork on board.
We finished up and I did a last check of our Sail & Sign card using the Fun Vision on TV. I took the Travelerâ€™s Checks we still had left, and headed down to the Purserâ€™s desk. I had them cash a couple of them for me, then apply the rest against the Sail & Sign account, basically lowering what was going to be charged to my debit card next week. There was no problem doing this and no fees associated with it.
We then made a final pass through all the shops and photo galleries. I stopped by the little table that had all the luggage tags and grabbed one of each. Iâ€™m going to scan them all and place them on WebShots, so everyone can see what the colors and floor designations are (am I mental or what.) We also stopped by the main gift shop and purchased Towel Pals (www.towelpals.com) for our kids, and yes for ourselves. My little towel bunny is watching me type right now.
We kept our luggage in our room for the time being and headed down for our invoicing appointment. It was a fairly painless affair, although they did try to push us getting Appraisals on the artwork. Basically an appraisal costs $35 for the first artwork, $15 for each subsequent piece, and gives you a written estimate of the current value of the art. It also includes future appraisals if you need them. Now some may find this a great deal and take advantage of it, but for us I couldnâ€™t see any real reason. The values arenâ€™t so great that we need to worry about tax write-offs or insurance, and we certainly didnâ€™t collect these pieces for the investment. These are not one-of-a-kind selections. They are limited editions, but are not unique. None of them is valued more than $500, so we passed on the appraisal. We arranged for the art to be shipped to my wifeâ€™s work (where she is every day), and the final amount was charged to our sail & sign card. We made out pretty good. For four beautiful pieces of work which we are so very happy to have, we only paid $226.65. Iâ€™m pretty darn happy with that. We chatted with Elias for a bit about the differences between lithographs and serigraphs, and then Mona took a picture of us in front of two of our paintings.
We ran over to the table they set up right across from the Photo Gallery and picked up the two video tapes we had ordered: the Videologue and the Talent Show tape. Remembering the horror stories I had read on the board about getting home and the tapes being blank, we headed down to the Purserâ€™s desk to check these out. I noticed over at the Shore Excursion desk, which was of course closed, that they still had their little television/VCR sitting out. It was plugged into the shipâ€™s TV channels and was showing the â€śShore Excursionâ€ť advertising loop. I walked over and popped in the travelogue tape and hit play. A few couples nearby asked what we were doing and I explained about people getting home and finding their tapes blank. On of the ladies shook my hand vigorously and thanked me for the warning, They were on their way to get their tapes and would come back here to check them out right away. I smiled and said no problem. The travelogue had come up, so I checked the Talent Show tape next and it was also fine. Of course, I just checked it briefly, so itâ€™s possible I got tapes for a whole different cruiseâ€¦ Iâ€™ll be watching them soon and will post here if anything â€śhinkyâ€ť comes up.
Oh, one other thing I picked up which they may or may not still have, was a boxed set of video tapes from previous cruises. â€śWhy?â€ť you might ask. Well, even though the tapes were from either the Prideâ€™s old Eastern or Western Caribbean cruises, the boxed set included a travelogue (big deal), but it also included two other tapes: â€śNavigation & Propulsionâ€ť and â€śGourmet Cookingâ€ť â€“ basically some behind the scenes tapes of Carnival Cruise Lines and the Pride. And the price was very appealing â€“ only $4.95 for the entire set. Not too bad. Ask at the Photo Kiosk about these if youâ€™re interested.
By now it was time for dinner. You could sure feel how fast the Captain had the ship cranked up here in the dining room. Greg mentioned earlier during the Travel Talk that because the Pride is such a fast ship, we were able to stay in Cabo until 4pm, instead of the Noon departure time older ships had to use. But this also meant the Pride was going to move pretty quickly. This makes for pretty windy conditions on Saturday, and a heavy vibration, especially in the dining room. We noticed it a bit on the first two nights heading to Puerto Vallarta, but it was most noticeable tonight. Nothing that would inconvenience us, but if we had an Aft cabin, it might have bothered us. Just a heads up â€“ many have said it is no big deal, and if you ended up each day as tired as we did, sleeping with a little vibration is more soothing than irritating. (At one point during the day, I checked out the channel on TV that displayed our position and speed, and it said 22 knots. I believe that is the Prideâ€™s max speed, according to her specs on the Carnival web site. So she was jamminâ€™.)
The meal was good, and we took our time to enjoy the last big meal we would have. Cristian made us get up and join a huge conga line when they played Hot, Hot, Hot throughout the dining room. When we got back to our table, we had dessert then Jean Claude presented us each with a small poster of the Pride. We thanked him and Cristian for a wonderful cruise and bid them farewell.
We stopped by the room quick to put our luggage out and found Sharon nearby, giving her a hug and thanking her for such wonderful service. Then we slowly walked down the stairs to the Taj Mahal for the last show of the trip. They held a big $2000 â€śblackoutâ€ť Bingo game (which we played but didnâ€™t win) and the big cruise raffle. Needless to say, we didnâ€™t win that either. Otherwise weâ€™d probably be on that cruise right now. Remember: No bingos before the big production shows on Monday, Tuesday and Friday and no cruise raffle tickets are sold in the Taj Mahal on Friday either. Just Thursday and Saturday while theyâ€™re selling Bingo cards.
The show featured a singer by the name of Melinda Chatman, who I think used to sing with a Motown group in the 50s. Personally, Mona and I didnâ€™t really care for her that much. But many did. Then Jerome came out for a while and was hilarious. Overall, it was the least impressive show of the trip, but part of that could have been the feeling of sadness of it all coming to an end. We could have partied or danced at that point, but we were pretty tired, so we headed up to the room to go to bed. Our luggage still hadnâ€™t been picked up by midnight, which I should have known was an early indication of how things would go the next day.
I read through the Debarkation issue of the Capers and went to sleep...
Our WebShots Gallery is just about complete, so be sure to stop by and see the new pictures and scanned documents from the Cruise.
Here are links to the previous parts of this review:
Review, Pt 1 - Overview
Review, Pt 2 - The Trip to L.A. & The Queen Mary
Review, Pt 3 - Embarkation Day (Part One)
Review, Pt 4 - Embarkation Day (Part Two)
Review, Pt 5 â€“ Monday, First Sea Day
Review, Pt 6 â€“ Tuesday, Second Sea Day
Review, Pt 7 â€“ Wednesday, Puerto Vallarta
Review, Pt 8 â€“ Thursday, Mazatlan
Review, Pt 9 â€“ Friday, Cabo San Lucas
5/9/04 Pride Cruise - 1st Cruise!
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