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Everything posted by bankofdad

  1. Cabs are really easy to rent both ways once you get off the tender, you will see them. RP is a popular place so if yiou do a shared taxi, it won't take long until you are off.
  2. I really hope so. One of my least favorite ports, and I for one have avoided any cruise that stops in either Nassau or Freeport. But that's just me.
  3. My wife had something very similar to this happen on our last cruise too. And my son (17 - well behaved and respectful), didn't want to go to the O2 club after the first night. Said it was weird with a number of kids not having the best intentions of what they were planning to go around and do. No big deal for him though, we are close and he really preferred hanging out with us anyways. Just not sure why it is okay with some parents to just let their kids create chaos. I know this is the minority of parents, so we just look past it.
  4. Thanks for the review and comments! We sail on Magic (again) next year, she was our favorite Carnival trip. On the behavior, I hope that was a one-off. My apology if I missed it, but what port did you sail in/out of? We just sailed out of NOLA earlier this month and saw a bit of the behavior you've described, but not much. We almost always see some of it, especially from un-supervised teens. But then again we have seen this on almost every cruise we have been on regardless of the cruise line, our worst being our last RC cruise, so again, I hope this was a one-off for all of us! Thanks again for the review!
  5. We always tip the baggage handlers well, and I always ask them to remember us with kindness when handling our bags after I do and we have received a few perks along the way when we have. On our cruise out of NOLA earlier this month, we tipped $25 for 3 larger bags. The porter at first directed us to park on levels 4-6, but after the tip told us to follow him and park on the lower levels reserved for employees. We did follow him, he removed a barricade for us and we were able get a great spot on level 3 right at the elevator that takes you down to the terminal. Not sure if you would receive the same treatment if you did the same, but this isn't the first (or second or third or fourth time, etc) that it worked for us! Happy sailing!
  6. This is awesome!!!Thank you! We sail next summer and I am sure ours won't be exact, but this is a great reference point!
  7. Yes, we did feel a bit of vibration, but nothing that bothered us qt all. This was our second time in an aft cabin like this one, so we knew that going in. The only time I really even noticed it was when I would be sitting out on the balcony later in the evening when the ship was sailing at the top speed it would be sailing at, and even then, no big deal at all. On the dining room, on the first night when we were seated we simply asked for a table for just us. We weren't necessarily assigned to a table, but after the first night of being seated at the table we were, we just asked for the same server (Daniel) and they took us to the same table each time and we were by ourselves. Sometimes I do enjoy the company of others that I am just meeting in a larger table setting, but on this trip, it was all about family time since we are all so busy and rarely have the chance to sit for dinner together at home. Bottom line, if you ask, they will accommodate you, but for the best seating, I suggest arriving before they open for 5:45PM MTD when possible.
  8. Debarkation As with embarkation, this was one of the easiest debarkation's we have had. With FTTF we were given the opportunity for priority debarkation and told to assemble by 8:15am in the Golden dining room mid-deck on the lobby deck. We arrived on time and found ample seating while we waited. Groups 1-5 were told to be in that area. After self-assist passengers from decks 1,2 and 6 were off, groups 1-5 were free to debark. The process was painless, we were off the ship by 8:35 and in our car by 8:50. We did not need them, but if you do, there are many porters waiting to help (for a tip). In Summary This was a FANTASTIC vacation! Great onboard experience from all angles, one of the best we have had in recent memory. On the service, we enjoyed this crew very much with note of my previous notes. On the food, keep an open mind but don’t always expect five stars. Three- star is the norm in my opinion, with occasional for and at the steakhouse closest to 5 stars. We had a fantastic room steward, but I know they aren’t all clones of each other. I hope future cruisers get we we got because it was great! On the entertainment, we had fun and did diverse things. For me, relaxing on my balcony and enjoying the water views were entertaining, but I’m a pretty simple guy. My bottom line is that if you can’t find fun and satisfaction on this cruise, choose a different vacation means. But for those that go, have a great time and happy sailings!
  9. Oh, forgot to mention that Paradise Beach has a taco truck now. I didn't try it, but others around me that did raved about not only the food quality and taste but the value. I also forgot to mention the food we purchased from the restaurant here was exceptional and very reasonable in price. Also, the place was immaculate. We saw workers all around tending to it like a five star resort. All facilities, including bathrooms were very well sanitized and stocked.
  10. Port Day #3 – Cozumel What to say about Cozumel, so much to do or do as little as you want. So many options, and in my opinion a very safe Mexican port that I have had so much fun in over the year. For this trip, we opted to go to Paradise Beach. Paradise Beach is right next to the Mr Sancho’s all-inclusive and in my opinion, the two are becoming more like each other that as different as they used to be. Paradise Beach was always a great place if you have kids or as an adult an active distemper. Lots of fun water toys on a great beach, but until recently didn’t offer an all-inclusive package, and now they do. Mr Sancho’s has always been a great all-inclusive with no (of few water toys), but now the have the water toys too. As to which is better than the other, I can’t say because it has been a while since at Sancho's, but my first impression is slight advantage to Paradise Beach because of the pool for those that use it. In any case, a $15 10 minute friendly no nonsense cab ride from the port got us to the club. Once exiting the ship, making your way through the shop gauntlet that you are forced to go through at the pier and after making your way through more shops in the Carnival village you will make it to the taxi stand. Fares are posted at that stand and we have NEVER had an issue with any cabbie trying to charge otherwise. For me, I find the people of Cozumel to be very friendly and helpful! Upon arrival at the beach, the entry fee is $3pp, or $18pp for those that want to use the water toys. DS and I opted to use the toys, so we were given a wristband identifying that we paid. Also, you are expected to spend an average of $10pp in food and/or drinks, though I don’t know if they really enforce this (others can chime in). For us, that was no problem. A bucket of 4 tecate’s $18, and two appetizers plus two frozen drinks. 15% gratuity is added to you bill, but just note the server will politely let you know that the whole staff shares that gratuity, so feel free to add on at will (which we did) Upon leaving, numerous taxis outside the gate, honest service and a quick trip back to the ship. We did arrive a few hours before departing port so we breezed through the shop gauntlet, but getting closer to departure it does get harry in there so don’t cut your return to ship time short!
  11. Port Day #2 – Crand Caymen GC – The anti-Jamaica. What a great port day! We opted as usual to go out on our own. The ship arrived early, but we opted to wait until around 9AM to tender out. We got right on a tender and only had to wit about 10 minutes before heading to shore. For the day, we were headed up to Calico Jacks further up on 7 mile beach than several other stops. The cab was clean, the driver fantastic and straight up taking us where we wanted to go. Most people got off at the Royal Palms resort prior to us, but our taxi ride as only $6 US/pp for the ride, so worth it! Calico Jacks and this section of the beach have been known to us for years, so we know what we should expect. There is a public beach area next to Calico Jack’s, but in front of it now is quite a bit of construction. We did find out that the parking lot construction is related to a further commercial (non-hotel) development that is in progress/planning. So, if you ever enjoyed Calico Jack’s and that stretch of beach as it is today, go see it soon! We opted to sit at a table and order food and drinks, but they do have chair and umbrella rentals too. We enjoyed what we ordered and the bucket (of 5) Caybrews for $20 set the mood. It was great frolicking in the crystal clear water and the service was very friendly, attentive but non-obtrusive and in no hurry to have us move along. But when you are ready to move along, honest and attentive cabbies are waiting out front. This was our favorite stop of the trip!
  12. Great location and not your typical Hampton Inn. It's has higher floors, and if you get lucky, could have some great views of the city and maybe even the waterfront!
  13. Once at the beach, we enjoyed our time, but not to the extent we thought we might. We paid entry, rented three loungers and an umbrella for a total charge of $42. We thought it was worth it, and they placed the chairs where we asked and planted the umbrella for us. After a tip, the beach attendant was on his way, working hard. But even though we thought we picked a spot that would not be preferred by others, we found the beach attendant would purposely bring chairs and line them up in a row. So in the end, we had three inches of space on each end chair with our neighbors. You could see they didn't expect this nor did we. So, we were told when we set up we could move our chairs, but not the umbrellas. We did move our chairs, left the umbrella and gave ourselves and the others some space. As others have posted, we did have several vendors come around us, most that politely moved on when we politely said no thank you. Myself and DS where solicited for pot, no problem we politely declined and they politely went away (BTW - I have no problem with anyone lighting one up, it's just not my gig). The staff, well, mamma said don't say anything at all if you've got nothing good to say so I will leave it at that. The return trip, more of the same stuff. There will be taxis waiting for you at the beach club, with the driver's waiting in line to escort you to their ride. Unfortunately for us, the luck of the draw (Him being the first in line) was a very large burly condescending dis-honest driver. Another long story short, make sure you agree on the fare before getting in. And even when they try to say they didn't agree, keep reminding them that you only want one way fare, no stops, no tour and if they create a dispute tell them you would like to take a photo of their cabbie badge and let them know you will take a pic of their license plate after leaving the cab. For me, I will never step foot on Jamaican soil again. Sorry if that offends anyone. I know there are many FANTASTIC Jamaican people, I am just not up for the "Luck of the Draw" during my next trip.
  14. First, I knew that when we were to exist the terminal area I needed to: Find the PRIVATE TAXI STAND Once finding a taxi, state where we wanted to go and AGREE ON THE COST Next MAKE IT CLEAR that we only wanted a ONE WAY NO RETURN fare agreement And lastly, we DID NOT WANT A TOUR and that we just wanted to be dropped off where we were going, and would figure 0out our return transportation aside from this transaction. Well, I did try to execute some of what I learned, but frankly encountered very dis-honest and conniving locals in the process. Once leaving the port area, there are signs that point to “Taxis” but once outside of the main gate, I couldn’t se more signs and got a bit confused. So, I stopped and asked a uniformed person (whom I thought to be government port security) where the private taxis where. He asked me where we were going, we told him and he pointed to a larger multi-person taxi right out front instead of pointing us to the private taxi area. I bit (mistake number 1) and went over to the bus, that again, we encountered a uniformed person with chevrons on that uniform that led us to believe this was an official port security official (Mistake #2 – they are not port officials but are hope you will believe they are). I specifically asked if they were going to (Doctor’s Cave Beach (Answer yes) and that I would be dropped off at the entrance of the Beach (answer yes) and that I was not interested in a tour, so I asked t please confirm that they were not going to try and sell us on (answer was yes, no tour). So despite the red flags, despite what I learned from previous reviews, “Stupid is as Stupid Does” as Forrest Gump would say and I lead the family onto the bus, which pulls out with about 25 of us moments later. Then, as soon as we are on the road, “Port Security Imposter” lady starts to sell her tour package. Okay, fine, I can not buy it, just drop me off at Doctor’s Cave Beach, but, no. If we stay on the bus, that beach is a cursory stop and it is last. First up, shopping an some other stops I never even heard of. People were getting upset, me included. Finally, the bus stops, but not at the beach. At Margaritaville and we were told that if we were not taking the tour, this was our stop to get off. If we wanted to go to the beach we had to take the tour. She also stood in front of the door and was nor to happy that we were getting off and that I let others know the beach was only a bit more than a ¼ up the road. Bottom line – we were lied to. Thankfully I have been to Jamaica before and knew my way around this area and that we are all healthy and capable of walking. Otherwise, they count on you being fearful of going on your own.
  15. Port Day #1 – Montego Bay Ahhh Montego Bay……to put it into perspective, DW and I had our very first really nice vacation together at the Sandals All-Inclusive Montego Bay many years ago. We had a fantastic tip, but one thing that still stands out to me is that they did not want us to leave the complex for “security reasons” At first, I brushed this off thinking they just wanted us to stay there and continue to tip the servers, etc and buy non-exclusive things on their property, which if likely partially true. But at the time I was a competitive athlete, and wanted to go for a lengthy run, so they let me out. The gate guard was very pleasant, maybe because he was passing a hooter between the bars with the locals. I quickly learned after going out for my work-out what “concern for safety” meant before coming back on the complex. Fast forward, I think we have had Jamaican port stops on 10-12 of our cruises. Another thing I will say is that I RARELY arrange excursions through the cruise line, and we have cruised many places on the planet. But my advice to anyone – use these boards to hire a reputable guide or use the ships excursions. I am sorry if I offend anyone in stating my opinion, but my experiences tell me otherwise (Hope yours are different). Because we have had sketchy experiences here, we have opted in recent years to stay on the ship when in a Jamaican port, which always presents a great and glorious day of no crowds and open pools! This time, though, we consulted as a family what we wanted to do here, and the majority wanted to go to Doctor’s Cave Beach Club for a beach day, so I jumped on board and started the planning. And here is where I failed the family. It was my responsibility to do the research and logistical planning for our day here. I read repeated Cruise Critic Reviews on the Carnival and Ports of Call forums about recent experiences at this port, and in the end, I did NOT apply what I learned. And as someone that travels for business globally, I ignored the simplest of things and made a few uneducated traveler rookie no-no mistakes.
  16. Common Areas Like any cruise, the common areas get really crazy on sea days, especially around the lido mid-ship pool. Get there early or get lucky finding a lounger or a table. As always, the lounge hoggers were out in force. On the bar service in this area, the Blueiguana always seemed to be less crowded than the Red Frog, but both were busy and I found all bartenders to be working there tail off and also experienced great service from the bar servers going around the deck. Bottom line, please be patient…so many passengers, only so many servers. Also, this area gets LOUD, almost so loud it’s difficult to have a conversation. Not a complaint, just an observation The aft on Lido deck has a pool reserved for adults. We spent a bit of time here and enjoyed it. The pool does fill up quickly, but at least no cannon-ball kids in the adults only pool. Bar service here was hit or miss. After the first two days, I figured out who was going to be diligent and who was not. If the ladies are bar tending, they were great, but the guys, not so much. You judge, but for me, I would just head through the buffet and back to the mid-ship bars if I needed (err wanted something) for better service. Also, lounger side bar serve was very sparse on this part of the ship, but it was still our favorite pool area to be in. Deck 10 usually had a lot of loungers to be had, so we grabbed a few there from time to time and enjoyed the sea view. We didn’t spend much time around the Prominade or Lobby decks, but when we did, found them to be quite crowded and avoided them. Anyways, we preferred to be outside so no big deal at all. We did frequent the arcade on this trip for an epic family air hockey round robin tournament (of which I finished last place). It never seemed crowded and was well kept. For parents & kids that want to go, keep you eyes on the Fun Times schedule as there was one day that was half price at the arcade (I believe it was Tuesday on our sailing). The arcade is on the same deck as the casino, which is where I had my non-volunteery second smoke each day (no offence to smokers), so we passed by it often. It is also neer the Skybox Spoorts Bar (5:30PM nightly sports trivia and draft beer) which I enjoyed very much. We used this ;location to sit for card games and to catch up on the sports bottom line of the day. They don’t serve food per se, but do sell snacks (peanuts, chips, etc) and have fantastic bartenders.
  17. You are going to love this location. Two decks up to Lido, two decks down to the deck with the second most going on. Say hi to Ari for us, he will treat you very well!!
  18. Evening Entertainment I am not a person that normally does the evening shows, but previous reviews convinced me to give some a try. On the first sea day we went to the Motown show and had a fantastic time! We were out of the dining room early enough to catch the 7:30pm show, which I thought would be better attended. The show was fantastic! If you love Motown, don’t miss this one, it was great. Unfortunately, the Motown show was the only one we made it to. I found the showtimes to be kind of off base. They were 7:30 and 9:30pm. Comparing that to set dining times of 6PM (early) and 8:30PM (late) or even MTD (5:45 start) and knowing a typical dining room experience lasts 1-1/2 hours plus, well, I guess I have my answer to why they weren’t as well attended as expected. Also, note that there is only a choreographed show in the theater 3-4 times during the cruise, with the venue being used for other activities on select nights. Punchliner was hit or miss. We chose the PG shows (7PM or 8PM) which lasted about 45 minutes each, with DS in tow. We didn’t go to the R rated shows, which typically started around 10pm. Maybe it’s just me, but I have heard enough about politics and race from these “comedians” that it just turns me off. I’m on vacation and don’t care what political party religion or race someone is about. I love all people, find something else to make us All laugh!
  19. On the dining room, we ate there 3 times. We chose My Time Dining and always arrived and got in line before the dining room opened for MTD at 5:45pm. For MTD, you go to the Golden Dining Room deck 3 mid-ship. We were fortunate enough for our party size to have a table next to an ocean view window every night and had the same dining crew. We went to the dining room for both Formal/Elegant nights (Monday and Thursday on our sailing) and had fantastic service. We found the food selections we made to be quite good to excellent, and the pace of service was perfect! Just a note though for MTD diners – as we were leaving the dining room shortly after 7PM on the nights we dined there, the lines seemed loooong to get in, so keep this in mind when you sail. We chose our arrival time based upon previous reviews and it was spot on. The steakhouse, what can I add that hasn’t already been said. Great service, great food and a view. We went only once on this sailing at it was superb. I know there is an option in the main dining room for “Steakhouse Selections”, but keep in mind these won’t be the same as the same cut of meet served in the steakhouse. The reason is that the steakhouse is the only restaurant onboard with an open frame grill – the dining room will prepare yours on a flat iron, which won’t be the same. So, spend splurge and spend the extra $38pp! You will be happy you did! Other venues, DS tried the Seafood shack on the Lido deck aft (replaced the Indian restaurant that was there) and enjoyed his fish and ships for an up-charge. I had intended to try it to but had only so much food eating capacity with all of the other venues available! Pizza Pirate was great and seemed less busy than normal on our cruise. In fact, after a long port day, we just ordered full pizzas from there and ate them at a table by the aft pool. Very enjoyable! We did not try the BBQ joint on deck 10 over the lido buffet, but saw others bring plates down and enjoying….maybe next time!
  20. Dining Hey, we all know dining is very subjective. For us, we are not necessarly picky, but when it’s bad, we say it’s bad. On this cruise though, I can’t say anything was bad! There was always plenty of food options to go around. On the Lido buffet for breakfast, DW really liked the omelet station on the starboard side. We tend to be early risers, so note that even though the buffet lines opened no later than 7AM, the omelet station typically opened around 8:10AM. Otherwise, the buffet had your typical morning fare, which we found to be okay given the volume that Carnival needed to produce. On Blue Iguana, LOVE it, but I like spicy things. I had breakfast there on the days I ate breakfast and loved it, in addition to the lunch I had on embarkation day. You can easily find the menus on line, and note that they have a salsa bar to spice it up even further if you desire. Breakfast was 7-10:30am and lunch was noon-3:30PM. Options for pork, chicken stek and vegetarian (I tried them all). On Guys Burgers, LOVE it, but shouldn’t LOL! Had this for lunch twice. I go for the basic greasy cheeseburger and then use the condiment bar to add what I want. Lots of options. They were very efficient in serving passengers, but there is sometimes a line. I never waited more than five minutes. The fries are salty and delicious too, but I seem to remember that they used to offer onion rings, but no more. They also offer an option for a “Bunless” burger if you desire. Open noon-6pm. On the Lido buffet for lunch, they had a theme each day. Two days it was a “Caribbean” theme with jerk chicken and other typical fare, an “American” theme at least once that I recall, and not remembering the others. In short, lots of options and very satisfying. One gem we did discover was the “Comfort Kitchen” section, which is the closest buffet area to the Lido deck pool area. Not sure how we missed it on previous sailings, but loved the food there (especially the chicken tenders – crunchy and I am sure not good for you)!
  21. Our Cabin For this cruise we stayed in an Aft Extend Balcony cabin (7451). Wow did we get lucky on selecting this one! We had the bedding set up for a king for DW and I, and the sofa is used as a bed, which DS slept on. One thing to mention though – DS, who rarely complains – said the sofa wasn’t very comfortable. Fortunately though, there was some extra bedding zipped up in a bag in on of the closets that added a little “feather” cushioning, so that helped after the first night. I had read this complaint from previous reviews, so it was no surprise. For the three of us, we found the cabin to be roomy by non-suite cruise ship standards, and the balcony was great with two chairs, a lounger and small table. I spent quite a bit of time on it during this cruise in the mornings, evenings and when things got crazy on deck. Note that half of the day you get a lot of sun, the other half not so much, and unless the ship is moving briskly you won’t get much airflow. Also, I heard others concerned that deck above them could look down on your balcony, which is true for about half of you balcony, but I certainly didn’t care. If someone want to look down at an old guy drinking beer and enjoying the view, well, they’re missing out on the cruise!!! When we arrived at our cabin, it wasn't quite ready but we were able to drop off our bags and get on with the party. Our cabin steward was Ari, and he greeted us right away and asked us our preference on cabin make-up service (morning or evening). We chose morning, but a comment I have to make is that this does not mean the room steward is not present in the evening - he stopped by every evening for turn down and towel animals, and was available if we had a special request (extra towels etc.). I also brought on a small soft side cooler with me, and asked if he saw it on the counter during make up if he could add ice to it, and he always did. He was one of the best we have had and we tipped extra the night before debarking for his tremendous treatment of us!
  22. The one thing about this embarkation day that was different from other cruises we have been on is the actual set-sail time, which was 3:30. As such, I think Carnival and the Port made a concerted effort to disembark the previous cruise expediently in the name of getting the embarking cruisers onboard. To that point, we didn’t wait long before a 10:25 announcement that FTTF could board, and were were on the ship at 10:49AM (I looked at my watch). From there it was time to head to our cabin to drop off our carry-ons! Again, one of the easiest embarkations we have had!
  23. Embarkation Day I have to say this is one of the easiest embarkations that we have ever had! We left our hotel around 9:30AM (picked this time based upon previous reviews) and were at the Port parking garage within 15 minutes. Even though we were only 2 miles from the port, for those of you that know, it takes some time to get anywhere while driving in NOLA. We chose to park at the Erato St Cruise Terminal parking garage, which is pre-pay for $154 for the cruise duration. Once we paid and entered, the spiral ramp takes you up to garage level 3, where you are met by porters. Initially after unloading we were told to drive up to levels 4-6 to find parking, but after providing a $25 tip, the porter servicing us (and out 3 large bags), told us to follow him, he removed a barricade and allowed us to park on level 3. This was great as when dismemberment came we were in the easiest place to drive out without traffic. Once parked, we walked over to the nearby elevator and selected level 1R, which took us right into the terminal, and we were inside by 10AM. We were FTTF, and were directed to the appropriate check-in location within minutes. I had not sailed on Carnival for about 2 years, and found the revised check-in to be very simple. We were directed to an agent that scanned our boarding passes (pre-printed from our documents at home before leaving) and passports. No more standing at the counter for photios or credit card checks. Simple and easy! From there, we were directed to the FTTF sitting area. Again, we were first in line, and were slated to board after Diamond (only a few on this cruise) and Platinum (about 75 people). While waiting, there is a snack bar for food and beverages that you can walk over to (we did not, but others did). I wish more ports had this option, because there were times I would have used it. I found the announcements for both our boarding group and all others to be clear and timely.
  24. My bad! We stayed at the Hampton Inn French Quarter.
  25. After our tour (which ended around 4:30pm) we walked up through the French Quarter just to see a bit of it. We weren’t out for a crazy time, but never having been there wanted to see a little. It was a Saturday and it was very crowded and crazy. 25 years or so ago I would have loved it! Or, if we were staying a few extra days it would have been great to dress up and fine dine. In any case, we really didn’t do much that evening except to crab a carryout dinner and head back to the hotel. On the carryout, a friend told us to try the fried chicken from a Brothers Food Mart – A convenience store that makes their own. There happened to be one a block from our hotel so we gave it a try and WOW! Fantastic and open 24x7! Give it a try for a cheap and easy carryout!
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