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Duck Down

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  1. We recently booked a cruise out of Miami but was having trouble finding an affordable flight out of the area on the Sunday. Our flight in is one way to FLL.


    I checked Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach and all three were expensive unless it was a late night flight. I was looking at getting a rental and driving to Orlando, but even that was a little high priced.


    I was playing around and found a 2:15 pm direct flight out of Fort Meyers which was very reasonable even with the cost of the rental and gas. The drive is less than Orlando and we have never driven Alligator Alley. It feels like a bit of an adventure. We have priority debarkation so should be able to be off the ship by 7:30.


    Has anyone done the drive to Fort Myers to catch a flight before?

  2. We were on the Vista in cabin 9359 right under the walkway just inside the doors from Guy's burgers. We did hear some noise while we were awake. Mostly rumbling from rolling of carts. It was not too loud. We were never woken up while sleeping. We just booked Horizon for December and have another room booked on deck 9. This time it is closer to being under one of the deck bars.

  3. I work at Miami and was instructed by our supervisors to tell guests that all rooms (even for Priority and FTTF) would be ready at 1:30.

    I asked my supervisor if they were sure and if it was going to be just for that specific day, and they said “the ship has instructed us that all rooms will be ready at 1:30 from now on”

    I’m not a new employee, have been working in Port of Miami for 10 years!


    This seems to be true.


    We are currently on the Vista and boarded Sept 8. The check in desk agent (Miami Terminal) told us that cabins will be ready at 1:30. This is after they saw we are Diamond. When I questioned this, I was told that the Vista is a large ship and that there were too many cabins to get ready and that there was not time to get all the priority cabin ready ahead of time.


    We boarded and went direct to lunch. Around 12:30, we went to take a look and there were no FTTF/Priority cabin access signs on the closed doorways to the cabins. We went in anyways and found our cabin was done and the SS cards were in the mailbox. As a bonus, our luggage was already there...


    I went to guest services today to get some change, and one of the digital TV boards behind the desk had rotating messages/announcements. One of those messages started that cabins were going to be ready at 1:30 and FTTF/Priority were welcome to go to the cabin early.


    Mixed messages.

  4. Value was pretty bad on Liberty but I didn't upgrade because I heard premium was just as bad. I was simply trying to read my work emails on my phone. To give you an idea, I often could not open an email even if it only had 3 lines. I would have to come back hours later and then it would be available to view. Big emails with attachments? I had to do the open the email, have it not work, come back a few hours later trick and then it was available to open. Only then could I click the attachment, which I then had to wait until the next morning to view. In short, I don't think Carnival has a Wifi that is sufficient for working while on board. I would say the best way to describe email is plan on using it for non emergencies only. That said, texting with someone from my iphone to theirs worked pretty well with the value WiFi and was nearly instantaneous. The people here in CC saying that its really slow and generally complaining about it? Keep in mind most of them are complaining even though they were not trying to use the internet for a paying job that required their attention. You should really plan for NO computer connection with your office while on the ship.


    Thanks for everyone's help. I think I will buy the Value plan and try to retrieve e-mails early morning while having a coffee. I will be in port on the day I need to upload a report on the VPN, so I will use my cell phone data. It will only cost $10 for the roaming and the data is included.

  5. We will be on the Conquest in a few weeks and are debating purchasing the Value plan $10.25/day instead of the Premium plan $14.88/day.


    Is there a major difference in internet speed between the two plans? Is it worth the extra $37 for an 8 day cruise? I need a plan to use for a few reports through my company VPN as well as checking e-mails.


    We are thinking of also buying the Social plan $4/day for my wife to use on Facebook. Does that also work for e-mails or will she have to piggyback off my plan to check e-mails (couple of times a day).

  6. fellow cruisers...for those who board 5 or 6 hours prior to sailing how do you occupy your time,other than eating of course.

    and while we are on it...for those early risers how do you spend your time before the remainder of the ship gets going?


    Once we get on the ship I always say "I'm Home". We drop off our carry-on bags in the cabin and head up to the buffet for a slow lunch. We try for a port side window so we can watch some of the action out in the port area as well as watching all the cruisers arriving for lunch.


    After lunch we walk the ship both outside and inside before it gets crowded. Once we are done our walk, we head back to the cabin and usually take a quick nap if our luggage has not arrived. Most cruises we are unpacked and ready to cruise before muster drill.


    As for getting up early, I can't help you there. The only time we get up early is if we have early plans in port of on embarkation day.

  7. We were on the Breeze in late August and they had the debarkation down to an art form for self assist.


    We received our Platinum letter requesting we meet in the main showroom. We got there and Platinum was seated on one side of the room, and FTTF in the middle. When it was time to leave the ship, they started with Platinum/Diamond row by row. Only when Platinum/Diamond were finished, they were going to let the FTTF out.


    It was organized and efficient.


    We have the Splendor coming up in a couple of weeks. Lets see how that goes.

  8. I heard that some cruise lines now have satellite internet while at sea and a land based hybrid system when in certain ports.


    Does the Getaway have this system, and does anyone know what ports have this?


    To be able to go on a cruise, I need to be connected to the internet for an hour each day.


    Thanks in advance

  9. After 26 Carnival cruises, we have booked our first NCL cruise on the Getaway for August this year. We are looking forward to trying NCL and what they have to offer.


    I have gone online and made show reservations for Burn the Floor, and Legally Blonde for the family.

    Do we have to exchange the reservation for a ticket?

    Is the reservation for assigned seating or guaranteed admission?

    If the reservation is just for a seat, how far in advance should we line up to get good seats or are all good seats?


    We also made a reservation for Illusionarium. Is it the same sort of idea? How are the tables assigned?


    And finally, for Levity Entertainment, do we make reservations when we board the ship?



  10. We are a family of 4 who just booked a flight deal for a cruise leaving in two weeks. Normally we would drive or fly into MCO. We are renting a van for a couple of days pre cruise.


    Do you have any suggestions for reputable shuttle from Port Canaveral to the Daytona Beach Airport? We have a flight out around noon and do not want to rent a vehicle.


    Maybe a taxi would be an option. Do the taxis go that far?

  11. Has anyone reserved the cabana bed package? We have not been to Mr Sanchos but are considereng booking one while on a Christmas cruise. There are going to be 6 ships in port that day and our ship is one of the late arrivals at 10 AM.


    What can you tell me about the experience? Are they worth it? Are the cabanas near the water or set back? Do they come with sun loungers as well?

  12. We were on a back to back at the end of August and they did not offer unlimited.


    We found the internet slower than other ships (even to retreive e-mails). We tried my laptop and their workstations. Both were equally slow. I had to check work e-mails daily with my laptop and found the best location was deck 5 near the fun hub. We had connection issues from our deck 2 cabin. As mentioned earlier, early mornings are best to connect or port days when few people are on the ship.

  13. I would like to get more information on this also. We're not really interestd in any of the "other" tours, only the locks. Is there an admission fee for the visitor's center? Taxi Rates?


    The Gatun Locks visitors center charges $5/pp for those 12 and older. under 12 is free. The center opens at 8:00 am local time.


    We spent an hour watching one ship go through a couple of the locks. We could have spent more time but wanted to see more outside of the locks.


    Local yellow taxis are available and rates are negotiable. They will wait and take you back to the ship. Be careful when picking the taxi. Make sure it is yellow and has taxi plates. Make sure the driver speaks English and has a vehicle in good condition before coming to an agreement.

  14. If you think the official port security officers are there for protection, then you are in for a surprise.


    We were in Panama last week on the Carnival Freedom. This was our second visit to Panama with the kids. On our first visit we booked a tour in advance with one of the non-ship tour operators that is well know to the boards. We did the San Lorenzo and Gatun Locks tour and had a great experience.


    For this visit we decided we would walk off the ship and find a tour operator or taxi to take us back to the Gatun locks so that we could spend time watching the ships go through. There was not too much information on the boards about finding something on your own but we did figure out that we could hire a yellow taxi for a few hours.


    When you walk off the ship, you are in the area where the ship tours depart. To get to the non ship tours and the taxis, you need to enter the terminal building, go up one level, over a covered pedestrian bridge (to the other side of the street), and then back down to ground level. The non ship tour operators and taxis are not allowed on the bridge and must wait on the ground level across the road.


    We walked off the ship just after 7:00 am and moved passed the ship tour area heading towards the terminal building. We passed an official port security officer in a white shirt and wearing a port identification badge around his neck. He asked us if we were on a ship tour and I replied that we were going to hire a taxi or find a tour operator. The officer said to let the security officer on the terminal bridge know.


    Once we got on the bridge we met another official port security officer with the same white shirt and wearing a port identification badge around his neck. He also asked if we had a tour booked. We again mentioned we were going to hire a taxi or find a tour operator. He asked us where we were planning on going. He suggested that we go to the Pacific side as it was much better and the canal viewing was much better. He then said he knew of a reliable tour operator that would take us on a tour for $50/adult and $30 kid.($160 total). We did not have to pay until the tour brought us back. We decided to give it a try as the security officer sounded reliable and worked for the port.


    The security officer made a call and brought us down to the street level and introduced us to the tour guide who was wearing plain clothing. He was not wearing an ID badge that you normally see with a tour operator. Even without an ID badge, the tour operators normally wear a shirt with a logo. We decided to see what he was driving and followed him to his vehicle which was inside the complex. When I saw it was a private vehicle, I asked him if he was a licensed tour operator. He said “It is ok. You come with me.” which set off further alarm bells. I asked again if he was licensed and again got “It’s OK, Its OK”. I then told him we would not go with him and we headed back to the sidewalk ad were surrounded by taxi drivers and tour operators while the unlicensed guy stood around.


    On the bright side, we did end up going to the Gatun Locks and Portabello with a local taxi driver who spoke excellent English. He knew where to go and knew what he was talking about. The total cost was $130 + tip.


    I did find out that these are official port security officers. They regularly try to scam tourists BEFORE they can make it to properly licensed and insured tour operators and taxi drivers. These unofficial rides can often be dangerous as you do not know who you are going with and can often lead to further problems.


    Apparently the port management is aware of what their security officers are doing but are not doing anything about it. It was suggested that port management may have financial incentives to look the other way but you will need to draw your own conclusions.


    We did run into the security officer after we returned. He was still on the pedestrian bridge and asked us how the tour was. I told him we did not go with his guy and we took a LICENSED and INSURED TAXI. He was all smiles and said we should have gone with his guy. When I said again that he guy was unlicensed, he said that many people have gone and it was OK.


    The day worked out for us in the end but we do have some suggestions if you take a yellow city taxi.


    These yellow taxis are the ones that transport locals when the ships are not in town and will have special taxi license plates.


    1.) Make sure the driver speaks good English

    2.) See the taxi before you agree on a tour and price. Many of the taxis are run down and may not bee in great shape. Often the taxis are compact size so they will not accommodate 4 adult passengers.

    3.) Agree on a tour and price only after step 1 and 2.


    Good Luck



  15. Sounds like a great cruise--thanks for your review!


    Question about the tour--did your kids enjoy it or did they get bored? Were there other kids? Did the kids seem at all out of place or were they welcomed? We'd love to go, but aren't sure about taking the kids. TIA!


    Our kids loved the tour. There was another kid around 15. They were asking questions and the interaction with staff was great. They enjoyed almost all the areas. They especially loved the fact that they were invited by the Captain to sit in his chair.

  16. Behind the Fun Tour

    We decided to take the behind the fun tour on the last sea day. They ran 2 tours (9 am and 9:30 am) with 16 people per tour. The tour was $ 95/pp and you need to book with the excursion desk as soon as you board as it sells out fast.


    Both kids came along (we read the minimum age was 13 prior to going on the cruise, but when we signed up, we were told it was 8)


    The tour lasts from 3-1/2 to 4 hours and involves walking 2 miles and up 17 flights of stairs (spread out—not all at once). You had to wear closed toe shoes and cannot bring phones, cameras, or any recording devices. They will check…


    We met in a lounge 15 minutes prior to the tour and were given a lanyard with an all access pass and an information sheet with ship details and food consumption facts. Once all 16 arrived, we were wanded by Security and then started the tour.


    The tour was given by the training and development manager who did a great job. He was full of ship and seemed to know everything and everyone.


    Each area we visited had the manager or ships officer give a talk and there was time for questions. Security was also with us in many of the sensitive areas.


    We visited the following areas. I will not go into too much detail as I do not want to ruin it for others that want to take the tour.


    Galley—Great presentation and tour by the Chef de Cuisine

    Luggage staging area

    Beverage Cooler

    Garbage/Waste/Incinerator area

    Laundry Area

    Engine Control Room

    Crew Lounge—for a washroom break, refreshments and a Q&A with tour guide

    Staff Dining Rooms—Look from outside, did not actually go in

    Training and Development classroom

    Bow of ship—Outside area with spare anchor and ship bell. Group picture taken

    Dancer’s dressing room

    Backstage area

    Bridge—Tour was given by junior officer. They took a group picture with Captain and individual (family) picture with Captain. Kids got to sit in the Captain’s chair.


    Minutes prior to going on the bridge, the CD cam on and announced that due to a medical emergency, the Dream was diverting to just outside Key West and in an hour, the ship would be meeting a Coast Guard boat for a medical evacuation. When we got on the bridge we were able to see all the activity and planning for the meet including communications with the Coast Guard. It was quite an experience. We did see the transfer after the tour.


    Like most Disney rides, the tour ended up in the “Gif Shop” (sort of). We were taken to the Steakhouse and given a brief tour of the dining area and small Galley. We were shown the cuts of meat and were told there was still time to make a reservation for that evening. The steakhouse was also where we filled out a small survey about the tour and received a gift bag with some goodies.


    There was also a thank you from the chef when we returned to the cabin. We received 8x10 pictures later that evening.


    It was a great tour especially for those that enjoy cruising. I would definitely recommend the tour.



    Other Observations

    The sea sick pills are no longer free. The cost is around $3.40 for 4 pills and can be purchased from guest services or can be ordered from room service.


    Speaking of room service, on the dream, room service can be ordered through the TV. We ordered room service twice. Once was right after getting on the ship in the afternoon of a port day. We received a call from room service saying it would be 90 minutes and asked if we wanted to cancel which we did. The other time was around 10pm and it took only 20 minutes.


    Comment cards are gone. We did get an e-mail from Carnival when we got home linking into a 3rd party site to fill out an online survey. There was a section to recommend cruise employees. This is a much better system.


    To sum up the cruise, it was another great cruise, and we are starting to think of which one we want to do next.

  17. We were on the August 28-September 4 sailing of the Carnival Dream (yes the sailing that got diverted by hurricane Earl and had the hot water issue).


    This cruise was booked specifically to experience the dream and not so much for the ports. This was our 13th Carnival cruise and our kids 10th (kids are 13 and 11).


    We booked around 3 months prior to the cruise after getting a great deal on a balcony cabin located on the Lido deck (deck 10).


    Hurricane Earl

    We had been watching the weather prior to getting on the ship and were sure before boarding that the ship would be diverted from an Eastern itinerary to the Western itinerary. Around 3:00 pm they did drop off a sheet with the new itinerary at the cabin while the CD made an announcement.


    A woman in a balcony cabin 2 doors down came out of her cabin and began screaming at the two employees delivering the notice “This is &*$^#. I paid $ 6,000 for this cruise. Who do I talk to? Who do I see about getting my money back? Carnival will pay for this. I will never Cruise Carnival again.” If she did pay $ 6,000 for her cruise maybe she did have a legitimate issue with Carnival.


    We did not mind as the weather was great and the seas were calm. I did go to the guest services desk to get my wife her seasick pills soon after the announcement and the line was quite long (not on the Platinum side). I did hear a lot of people complaining about the itinerary change. I do feel sorry for some of the cruisers that were going to get married on the islands but the staff did a great job in trying to make other arrangements.


    Hot Water Issue

    A large hot water pipe broke one afternoon and only cold water was available for a while. I called guest services and was told it may take a couple of hours to fix. Soon after the CD came on and announced the problem. By around 10pm they had a temporary fix by putting warm water through the cold water pipes. It was warm enough to shower with. We did have no water at all for an hour the following morning but it did not last long. Everything was back to normal later that day.


    We did find out from an engineer during the behind the fun tour that it was a large plastic pipe that broke. It must have been a manufacturing defect that finally gave way. The length of time to fix the pipe was caused by where the pipe was located and the shape/path it took. The welding of plastic was also a challenge.


    Camp Carnival/Circle C

    There were a lot of kids on board including out 13 and 11 year olds. The camps did a great job of handling them all. Kids loved the activities.



    We noticed that she shows filled up fast and you needed to be there 45 minutes before the show started to get a good seat.


    The shows were great. We loved the Dancing in the Street show. It was the best show we have seen to date.


    Fun Force was a hit with the crowds and Kids. They put on a couple of shows in the main lobby, took part in the production shows, and gave lessons to the kids in camp.



    The food was great as usual. We had anytime dining and only had to wait on the 2nd formal night for 10 minutes.


    We loved the pasta bar and ate there twice. It began to get crowded as more people found it. On our third try, we were told it would be an hour to get our order so we did not go.


    The buffet at lunch was crowded some days but there were always tables available. The buffet lines were less crowded towards the back of the ship. Another cruiser posted that there were a lot of tables that took a long time to be cleaned. We noticed that occasionally as well.


    Water Slides

    The kids loved the (fresh water) water park onboard. I loved it to. There were lines for the slide on sea days, but almost no lines on port days. We found the expanded hours also helped. I think it opened every day from 9 or 10 am to 6 pm. I do not think it was open on embarkation day.



    As mentioned above, we booked this ship specifically to experience the Dream. We were not planning to do much at the ports

    Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya—Stayed on the ship and used the water park. We did get off to do a little shopping in the ports


    Roatan—We booked the Monkey, Birds, and Pirate tour (Gumbalimba Park) through the ship for $55/pp. We enjoyed the monkey and birds but it did go by quick.


    They had 10 monkeys and there were a lot of restrictions on how to deal with them. You cannot touch them and the monkeys will decide who they go on. Basically the monkeys use the people as a platform to get to the snacks the trainers have. Being tall, I did receive a lot of attention. Not everyone got to have a monkey sit on them. You cannot bring bags, hats, and sunglasses


    There is a beach, pool, and snack bar at the facility. There are locker rentals for $ 3. You have a set time to go to the park and can stay as long as you want after the tour. There are constant buses going back to the ship.

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