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Everything posted by schittenden

  1. We were on the Magic a couple weeks ago. We saw Simon everywhere. He stopped to greet our son outside the build a bear workshop. He was often at one location for a bit, would leave to go to another, and then show back up. His clothes would change as he went from event to event. He was quite funny, and we enjoyed him, except for his lovely jubbly gimmick that got old fast.
  2. I totally agree about the buffet. It was a disaster the entire week after your cruise as well. The buffet line was long and slow. I don’t think it helped that the toppings for oatmeal were in the middle of the buffet and you had to ask someone at the end of the line for oatmeal. I think people were confused and held up the line trying to figure out where he oatmeal was. I refused to eat breakfast there, and when that’s where our group went, I just went to BlueIguana and had them make some delicious breakfast tacos on corn tortillas. We like the pizza more than you do. I love that style of crust and the fresh from the over char. I only had it twice, but I like it. I agree on the BBQ, except I think Mission is better than what is on the ship and comes without the metallic aftertaste of the forks on the metal plates.
  3. Clearly a kid who hadn’t been schooled in how to be polite. I don’t think he was being malicious. I just think he’d made it to 13 or 14 without anyone teaching him not to do that. My my wife did the pickup that night with our friends, so I wasn’t there. From what I understand, she was standing in the vestibule where you talk to the counselors during pickup. It is open from there to the entire half of camp ocean. She was not quiet about it. Had she been anywhere near sober, I’m sure she wouldn’t have said it or said it so loudly. She was the only one of her group of friends traveling with the kids. My wife’s speculation was that she had recently divorced and her friends went with her to “celebrate.” Fortunately, late at night, only the younger side is open for pickup, so most of the kids would have been five and younger as opposed to the 6-11 group.
  4. Cruella de ville was on this cruise too! I don’t think she intentionally dressed up as her though. It was just her formal attire.
  5. Have a good time. Unfortunately, since our son started school, our ability to go off-season is more limited. We have yanked him out of school the last week of January when our schools typically have two half days and two days off. I figure no real learning is going on that week anyhow.
  6. It is open for lunch (at no charge) on all the sea days. I don’t remember whether it is open in port, but I think it might be closed.
  7. I don’t consider myself uptight either. We’re pretty laid back and enjoy having a good time. It just struck me as different.
  8. We went to Aruba and then Curaçao as well.
  9. Enjoy! My wife goes to Bermuda every year for work. I keep trying to convince her to let me come with her one of these years. I hear it is beautiful and VERY expensive there. Congrats on your anniversary. We will be at 12 years in about 10 days.
  10. My pleasure. I always enjoy reading the reviews, so I like to share my experiences. We sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale, which I think we've sailed out of 6 or so times (more than any other port). Unsupervised teens are always a bit odd. I had one who was in the elevator with a group of people when I got on. I got on on 5, and floors 9 and 10 were selected. I pushed 11, because I was going to Camp Ocean to pick up my son (this was about 11 pm). Everyone got off but him on 9 or 10. I thought it was odd, because he hadn't selected 11 (top deck on that elevator) when I got on. As soon as everyone left, he asked to see my sail-and-sign, which was in my hand. I showed it to him, and he started talking about how it was a gold card and how did I get it, etc. then he asked about my Apple Watch and what series it was. (It is a Series 2, so two generations old.) He then begin to talk about how I must be rich, and asking if I am rich. I laughed and walked away. It was just a weird interaction.
  11. Looking forward to hearing about Camp Ocean. My son had an issue there the week after your cruise. He was a Stingray though, but they seemed to be combined a fair amount.
  12. Ah. Our flight was scheduled for 3:10 pm, so we were planning to have dinner in Ft. Lauderdale. We ended up leaving about 6:00 pm, I think.
  13. One of my colleagues just did the Royal Princess to Alaska and said they had an amazing time.
  14. Looking forward to the rest of your review. We had a good time overall on the Magic with you. (We also flew down on Friday night from Baltimore, so we may have been on the same flight. Did you end up with a two hour delay?)
  15. I have taken a Getaway cruise in the last (2017). We received all of the perks of a premier including the drawings and cocktail party.
  16. My college roommate who is a professional tour manager has strongly recommended taking the northbound cruise because the cruise will be disappointing, in his view, after the majesty of the land tour. I am considering Princess and NCL now. We did Royal Princess in January before it moved to Alaska. It was the last cruise before it repositioned around South America. We liked the ship a lot. I have heard that smaller ships are better for Alaska though.
  17. I, generally, agree. This one sort of stuck out as much worse than I am used to experiencing. I’m hopeful it was just a one off and not a sign of things to come. I found myself repeatedly shaking my head and biting my tongue. It definitely detracted from the overall experience. As long as it doesn’t become a recurring issue, I won’t worry about it too much.
  18. Don’t get me wrong. We had a good time. One thing that that I was hesitant to mention is that this cruise had a different clientele than what I have seen on Carnival’s longer cruises in the past. It was more like the experience I’ve had on short sailings. Loud, rude, etc. Near fights over the ice cream machine line. People cutting in front of others who had been waiting for crowded elevators. People getting into elevators without letting others off. Teenagers roaming the ship being loud and obnoxious, commenting on our gold VIFP status (who knows what they might have thought if they’d found that my seven-year old has a gold card too) and saying that I must be rich because I have a three-year old Apple Watch. Adults crawling over you to get to seats in the theater rather than walking down the aisle to get to the row they want to sit in. A drunk woman picking up her kid at the club while loudly proclaiming she needs to f*** someone in the presence of children. Then my son being hit in the club. I don’t know if that is a trend or if there was just something about the time of year, port, and itinerary that led to this crowd. If all of my Carnival cruises become like this, I will think harder about moving on to another line. For now, I’m willing to hope it was an aberration.
  19. We have in the past, but not this time. We walked through them on the way from one place to another a couple times. We actually enjoy it, but our friends were on their first cruise and we had already seen most of what was showing. They were more interested in the Punchliner and the shows, so we focused on those activities.
  20. Not really. We enjoyed ourselves over all. None of the issues we experienced detracted from our cruise in any meaningful way (except the brutal casino, but that happens). I find the lines are more similar than they are different. We’ve been on several Carnival cruises. We’ve also done Princess, NCL, Disney, and Celebrity. Carnival has been my son’s favorite other than Disney. We will likely do another line for our next cruise, because I am looking to do a cruise tour to Alaska with a land segment and Carnival doesn’t really do those.
  21. They appear to be wrapped in paper, because they always had the tip wrapped in paper when they delivered the drinks to my son.
  22. The sugar straws are firm and crisp, until they are not. They are the width of smoothie straws. My son downed his drinks with them and then ate them. Plastic straws were not provided anymore for regular drinks, but waiters would often ask if you wanted one. At least on the Magic last week, they did not seem to be in short supply. The sugar straws do get slimy and start to fall apart.
  23. One other thing that occurred to me. The arcade. We went there with my son. They had a good variety of games. My wife and I play the coin pusher games to earn points for my son to redeem for prizes. These are DC Comics, Batman, Spongebob, and new one Willy Wonka. In these games, you push coins over the edge and push the cards with characters over the edge. In every place we have been—Carnival in the past, Main Event, Dave & Busters, Princess—these cards can be redeemed for 50 tickets or points each. If you collect all of them, the entire set (usually 7 or so cards), they can be redeemed for a bonus of 3-5,000 points or tickets. Apparently, Carnival has changed their policy and now no longer redeems the cards for anything unless you have the full set. This is not posted anywhere, indeed the signage strongly suggests that they can still be redeemed for points. I attached a picture. We were unable to collect a complete set from any game, but collected probably 20 cards total. It felt like a bait and switch. The games are a ripoff anyway, but to run the game differently than its run anywhere else, differently than the signage, and not post anything, seems wrong.
  24. Well, we are just off the Carnival Magic, so I took some time at the airport before our flight to jot down my thoughts on our cruise. It’s a bit stream of consciousness as I just wrote it down as I thought back. I’m happy to answer any specific questions. Here we go... Embarkation No issues here. We arrived at the port about 12:20 for our 12:30 boarding window. The line to get into the terminal stretched around the building. Other than Galveston, it was the longest line I’ve seen to get into a terminal. Fortunately, the line moved quickly, and we were past security fairly quickly. We had done online checking and by 1:00 pm we were on the ship. Embarkation Lunch We avoided the zoo that is the buffet and made our way to Cucina Del Capitano for the free pasta bar. It was almost deserted. We were able to stash our carry-on bags near the table. Lunch was relaxed and tasty. The shrimp could have used a bit more sear from the sauté pan before going into the pasta, and the Caesar salad had enough dressing for two, but the food was good and we avoided standing in line forever to get something off the buffet. I highly recommend this for embarkation day. One of our friends that was traveling with us has celiac, and she was easily accommodated with gluten-free spaghetti and any sauce other than the cream sauces. Ship Overall The Magic is generally in fine shape, but a little tired and worn in places. A sister ship to the Breeze, we found her familiar from our prior cruise but not quite as attractive. Carpets were often worn and thin. Patches showed just how worn the carpet was as the old carpet was badly faded and the patched were very visible. The waterworks padding was covered in mold and mildew in places. That seemed a bit confusing, as a little bleach would easily take care of that. Many of the foam floor squares in the same area where peeling up creating tripping hazards. The back of the sofa in our cabin was also a little worse for wear with visible thinning of the fabric. Other than those things though, the ship looked pretty good. The restaurants were clean and appeared in fine shape. The pool decks were similarly well-maintained. The crew was generally great throughout the ship. They were friendly and outgoing, always quick with a smile. We had booked two cabins with my wife and I in separate cabins to maximize our offers. We were quickly able to swap my wife’s cabin and our friend’s cabin at guest services once on board. We did have a hiccup with our card account. Our credit card number was stolen between the time I did online checkin and the time of our cruise. We completely forgot and mid-way through our first night, our sail-and-sign lost charging privileges because our old card number was no good. Fortunately, I figured out what was going on after it was declined a few times, and was able to change to our new card number at the handy kiosk. Our steward, Petra, worked his usual efficient magic, in and out of our room without being seen and tidying up after us. He was friendly when we saw him and remembered all of our names. My son loved the towel animals, as always, even if weren’t always quite sure which animal we got. Our shower curtain was a bit short and did not reach the lip of the shower. Combined with a slow drain, this often made for a flooded bathroom. We used our towels to sop it up after showering. I mentioned the drain, but it didn’t seem to be fixed at any time. Petra was content to replace our towels daily, and that worked well enough for us as well. Steakhouse and Main Dining We ate at the steakhouse our first night. We had prebooked a reservation for opening because we had my seven-year old with us. He did a great job of behaving, and enjoyed an excellent chicken fingers and fries off the kids meal with macaroni and cheese for an appetizer. The charge for kids is $10. The adults had a filet, surf and turf, strip, and Dover sole. The steaks and lobster were all prepared beautifully. The filets were medium rare, as ordered. The strip was medium with pink in the middle. The mashed potatoes (with and without wasabi) were great as were the mushrooms. The Dover sole was a touch overdone and dry. All five of us received adorable mini-hamburgers as an amuse bouche. We decided against art for the table. My son had a banana split, two of us had the fruit plate (including our gluten-free guest) and two had the cheesecake. We ordered a bottle of Malbec for half-price as part of the first night special. Normally priced at $89, it was a fantastic smooth wine. Our main dining rooms meals were generally good. Sometimes things were slightly overdone (dry pork loin, salmon, chicken breast) and sometimes perfect (pork chop, shrimp, lobster, prime rib, and salmon). We received four steakhouse selections (usually a $20 upcharge) in the main dining room from the casino. Unfortunately, all three steaks were badly overcooked. Medium rare was cooked to medium well and medium cooked to well done. The three steaks were tough and difficult to cut with a steak knife. I was grateful we did not have to pay the $20 charge for each. The lobster tail was a bit on the small side, but well prepared. Service was generally friendly and good. We did have one soup course forgotten, but that was the worst service snafu. Our gluten-free friend was accommodated in the dining room with ease. In general, she was provided the menu the night before and ordered in advance. Special gluten-free versions of items were prepared (including baked Alaska and melting chocolate cake). Often she was able to order something that was naturally gluten free. There were slight hiccups because we ate in the steakhouse the first night (so her meal for night two was not pre-ordered) and after our night in Aruba, where we dined at a local restaurant on the beach. She was able to order a gluten-free meal just the same. One night there was a bit of confusion as the waiter kept pointing out things that have milk or cream in them, apparently thinking that that was a problem for gluten-free items. Casino The ship worked some dark magic here, making my money disappear. The casino was awful. Nothing was paying and our luck was just awful on the tables. The offer from the casino for our troubles was a joke, but I’ve come to expect that from Carnival. We also enjoyed the friendly service from the dealers who were almost universally fun, pleasant, and outgoing, even while repeatedly stacking your chips in the rack. Kids Club Our son is a HUGE fan of kids club on ships. This is probably the worst experience he has had. I don’t know if there were just too many kids or what, but the place seemed to be a zoo. One night, he complained about how awful it was when we picked him up. He was playing a video game with another child who switched from multiplayer mode to single player mode so that my son could not play. When my son tried to switch it back, the other child hit him. My son pushed him, which then caused the other child to cry. My son fessed up to pushing him. In general, it seems as though Carnival has shifted more toward video games and away from other kids activities that engaged the children. My son will play video games as long as you let him, and I was disappointed to see an increased focus on those in the 6-8 age group. None of this kept my son from wanting to spend time in the club, so it wasn’t awful, but it was not as positive as our past experiences. Hub App This is much improved from our last Carnival Cruise in late 2017. The messaging feature worked great. We did occasionally have to close and reopen the app as it would become unresponsive, but overall it worked well. The ability to see kids club checkin and checkout as well as the activity schedule was great (although, in our experience that schedule was not adhered to). You do have to keep the app open to receive messages. The integration with the Apple Watch was nice though as it alerted me to messages even when my phone was in my pocket. Shows and Entertainment We attended 88 Keys, Country Road, America Rocks, and the Lip Sync Battle. All of the shows were entertaining, but the singing could be hit or miss. Some of the vocalists were clearly more talented than others. Only a couple led you to wonder how exactly they had gotten their jobs. For America Rocks, a couple “ringers” were brought in from the group that sings in the Ocean Plaza. They helped out greatly in improving the quality of singing on some challenging numbers. Overall, the production values were fairly high. Carnival has clearly invested in lighting, sets, and stage mechanics for these shows. The sound mixing left something to be desired as often the music obscured the vocals (but that may have been intentional to cover for some of the weaker performances by vocalists). We also attended several comedy shows. Mark Hawkins was absolutely hilarious at the R-rated shows and was funny at the PG shows. My son attended the PG show by both performers (the other being Jimmy Chan). Both were funny, and he enjoyed them. Hawkins brings kids up on stage for part of his PG act. My son wanted no part of that, but it was enjoyable seeing the different personalities of the kids and watching Mark gently rib them. I need to say a word about Russell Blues. I know he has a number of fans, but I am perplexed as to why. He seems nice enough, plays the piano well, and has a good repertoire. When it comes to his voice though, I’d say it is middling at best. I just don’t enjoy listening to him. That is true both in the piano bar and in the pre-show sing-a-long for 88 keys. Maybe he was sick or something, but he was definitely not my favorite. Alchemy Bar Still one of our favorite places on the ships. Cornelius and Alejsander were both fantastic. Great care is taken with each cocktail and they can be creative in creating off-menu drinks if you want. Cornelius crafted a strawberry mocktail for my son that had a beautiful deep red color and tasted great. It was a real hit. I highly recommend the spicy pineapple martini (which seems to be available all over the ship now) and the untraditional, but tasty Alchemist’s Sidecar. Others enjoyed the Pain Remedy as well. Pizza, Guy’s, Guy’s, and BlueIguana We loved the pizza on Carnival. A few times we had it for lunch or a late-night snack. The crust is crunchy, with the perfect amount of char and a little flop toward the middle. They do offer gluten free crust in the pizza restaurant, and our gluten-free friend said that it was great. Her pizza came out slightly over charred on the edges each time, but it was cooked to order, and care seemed to be taken to avoid cross-contamination. One issue is that there is no way to order a gluten-free crust in the Hub app for delivery. Adding a checkbox to the app would be a great addition. Guy’s was guy’s. Delicious greasy-spoon burgers and tasty hand cut fries. I managed to limit myself to one Guy’s trip in eight days, which I consider remarkable constraint. The burgers can be a bit messy, but they were worth it. Guy’s Pig and Anchor, however, was simply adequate. The meat lacks smoke flavor, but was moist and otherwise well-prepared. The choice to serve on metal trays is completely perplexing to me. Every time my fork hit the plate, it would leave a metallic taste in the mouth making for an unpleasant bite. Ambiance ruling over practicality. It’s been years though, so I guess either people don’t care or they just get the Q as a sandwich and avoid the problem, so long as they don’t also get mac and cheese, collard greens, or baked beans. BlueIguana is my favorite of these four spots on the ship. Twice I had it for breakfast. The lines were shorter than the incredibly long and slow-moving buffet lines. Both times, our gluten-free guest and I had breakfast tacos on corn tortillas rather than burritos. I like the bite of a breakfast taco rather than a bigger burrito having grown up in South Texas. If you ask, they will put out the corn tortillas for you and make tacos. I also had the pork and chicken tacos for lunch one day. Both were well seasoned with a good amount of heat. The fresh-made flour tortillas they served them on were delicious. (Corn tortillas are also available for those who are gluten-free.) The salsa bar has several great options and I often combined a couple for the perfect heat and flavor profile. Pay attention to the spice indicators as the pico de gallo, which is often mild, has some heat at BlueIguana. Buffet Lines, lines, everywhere (except for salad). Wow. I’ve never seen such long, slow-moving buffet lines as I did on the Magic at breakfast. They were not quite as bad at lunch and were better at dinner. The food is standard buffet fare. Generally, okay, but not great. Dinner choices were a little limited. I only ate at the buffet for dinner one night though (my son was having a moment, and I did not want to subject others in the MDR to him or reward him by sending him to the kids club dinner, which is what he wanted). Ports This cruise stopped at Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Aruba, and Curaçao. At Half Moon Cay, we just went to the beautiful beach with soft white sand. We spent a couple hours in the water after getting tender tickets about 10:00 and getting off about 10:30. The clear water was the perfect temperature and we enjoyed just floating, swimming, and seeing the occasional fish. We got out when we saw some distant lightning and heard some thunder. We headed over to the Island Barbeque. The gluten-free choices were a little limited, but everyone could find plenty to eat. (Chicken preparation is gluten-free.). The also had Garden burgers available, which was great for my wife who doesn’t eat meat. I had one as well, as I’d already had a fair amount of beef, and it was pretty tasty although a bit mushy. You have to ask for them, and the first person we asked just pointed to the beef burgers on the grill and looked confused. Another staff member overheard the question though, and immediately provided them. At Grand Turk, we booked a pool cabana. It gave us a home base from which we could operate. It allowed me to change into and out of my swimsuit in relative privacy, so I didn’t have to walk to the ship in a wet suit. You pick up the key at the hostess stand inside the Margaritaville, which is not clear on the face of the ticket. Although each cabana is said to be for four guests, we’ve never had an issue with having our son be a fifth. I don’t get the sense that anyone really cares. We ordered lunch (bar snacks) and cocktails from Margaritaville and they were delivered to our cabana. The food is surprisingly tasty, if totally unhealthy. We took the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters. I highly recommend water shoes as the beach at Grand Turk is very rocky and can be sharp. Go out beyond the sea grass, and it is a nice place to float and swim. Plenty of fish can be seen just offshore and my son enjoyed snorkeling near the rope line In Aruba, we took a cab to Palm Beach planning to wonder around the shopping areas. What we did not know is that most of the shopping and restaurants do not open until late afternoon in this area. We ended up getting roped into sitting through a travel club presentation that tried to sell us a membership for a few thousand dollars. I’m fairly sure it was a scam, but it was air conditioned, and we didn’t have any plans, and most everything else was closed. We ended up having Kone pizza from a stand in the Palm Plaza and then playing with our son at an arcade there before heading to Barefoot by the airport for some toes-in-the-sand dining. Our 11 pm departure allowed us to book dinner and watch the sunset over the beach while enjoying a fantastic meal. Our friends booked an excursion and did a submarine trip that went down to about 130 feet down. They passed two shipwrecks and saw tons of fish. They booked through Carnival. In Curaçao, we again took it easy. Our entire group walked through the Rif Fort area and over the Queen Emma bridge. I did witness a drug deal take place in the fort area. I interrupted the deal when I walked into the bathroom, and then watched it conclude at a table just outside. We crossed the bridge, and walked to the Blue Curaçao Experience. It was $10 without a cocktail or $15 with one. We opted for pre-lunch cocktails. My son was able to go on the tour for free (I think up to age 16). The tour was an interesting look at the history of the liqueur and how it is made. There were a few interactive stations that were entertaining, and a virtual reality game at the end where you catch bottles of Curaçao flying at you and toss them at a target. The cocktails at the end were tasty, but a bit sweet. Light food was available and my son ordered a mango smoothie. We then wondered off and walked through the Old Market stopping at a few shops to browse and grab some tchotchkes. We grabbed lunch at a local restaurant (Plein Café Wilhelmina), that was pretty good. We headed back to the ship and enjoyed the Waterworks while watching passengers meander slowly back to the ship some 15 minutes after the all aboard. Debarkation We had an early flight (10:15 am), so we did self-debarkation for the first time ever. We took our bags to the theater at 6:30 as instructed, but there was already a line to get off the ship, so after confirming it is where we should be, we joined the end of the line. We were off the ship, through, customs, at the airport, and through security (thanks precheck) by 7:15. I don’t know if that is usual or not, as a passenger in need of medical assistance caused the ship to pick-up speed and head back to port at full speed around dinner time on the last night. We docked around 3:00 am, so that may have expedited the process of getting debarkation started. Please excuse any typos, as I typed this out on my phone. Happy to answer any specific questions.
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