Embarkation Day: April 7 (finally)
We were at the room by about 12:10-12:15. Even though the doors to the rooms were closed and said they wouldn’t be open till 1:30, we went through since we had FTTF. Our room was ready, the Key cards were there, with holes already punched through. (We brought lanyards to use. My husband barely used his, but I rarely had pockets, so I was happy I had one. Got them with the buckle in the middle, so I didn’t have to take it on and off to pay for things) So with the port traffic fiasco, we only got into the room about an hour and a half earlier than if we didn’t get FTTF, but it was still worth it for other reasons you will see later on. N’s room wasn’t ready yet so he just dropped his stuff off in ours and we went on our way.
We were on deck 6. My husband and I had room 6493, P and S 6499, both large balcony L-shaped rooms, and N had an inside room, 6394.
I had never sailed in the L room before, but P and S had and wanted to get it again, so we decided to grab the one next to them. This type of room doesn’t have a couch, but we found we didn’t really miss the space, even when we had everyone come in and hang out in the room. There is still a chair, as well as the bed. And the balcony has 2 regular chairs and a lounger, which was nice when we all had a drink out there. The one real downside was that we couldn’t open the balcony dividers because it would block one of our doors. We didn’t know that when booking the room, and found out later. It was a real bummer bc we were really excited about being able to open it and share a HUGE balcony! It wound up being all right, as we could still all fit on the balcony (a little snugly) but if our other 2 friends had been able to sail, we would have had to hang out somewhere else.
The two L rooms are similarly mirrored, BUT they are NOT identical. Our room had a longer hallway, which allowed us to store all 3 of our suitcases between the wall with the door and the closets. The other room did not have more than about a foot between the closet and the entrance wall, so they put their cases under the bed. The foot of the bed was also slightly further away from the outside wall in our room, giving a bit more walk space. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of the specifics, I thought I snapped them before we left but I can’t seem to find them.
I found the location of the room great. Being at the back of the ship meant there wasn’t any extraneous traffic past our doors. But we were still pretty close to the elevators and stairs, so hopping around was easy. Several things we liked to go to, including Alchemy bar, the coffee shop, piano bar were on Deck 5, so it was really nice to just be able to pop down one level for those things. We were also in the Southern Lights dining room, and our table was on Deck 4 so again, very convenient.
Prior to sailing, I had read some people complaining about those rooms because Deck 5 sticks out below, ie you don’t look straight down to the ocean. Some people said that they got noise and smoke from below since the casino and clubs were on Deck 5. We didn’t experience any of that. In fact, the tables and umbrellas below and a little forward that we could see from our room never seemed to have people in them. It might have just been that’s not where people hung out on our sailing, but we found the rooms very quiet and undisturbed.
Bathroom is about as you expect on a cruise. The shower was small, but oddly I don’t think it’s the smallest I’ve experienced, so we managed well. Toilet is at an angle, and you might hit your knees when you sit, but was fine for a shorty like me. There were several shelves around the mirror for various things that J and I needed in the bathroom, so we didn’t need to worry about things on the counter, which was also spacious. Prior to sailing, I purchased toothbrush covers with suction cups on them to hold them to the mirror. I got cute ones, which I will link below, but they have many non-animal looking ones =P We just wanted to have our brushes off the counters so they didn’t roll around or get lost in the shuffle, and I’m really glad we had them. NOTE if you buy these, they do have a strong silicone smell when you first take them out of the package. But I left them out of their boxes when we got them, and then they had a soapy bath, and the smell dissipated. No taste or smell transferred onto our brushes.
Back to the action!
We met P and S at Guy’s Pig and Anchor BBQ for lunch, since it’s only open on Embarkation and Sea days, we wanted to try it. We grabbed food and headed inside to sit right in front of the stage in Ocean Plaza (in front of Alchemy Bar.) That was the first and last time I will eat at Pig and Anchor. I got Mac and Cheese, Baked beans, and the Pork butt, thinking I would try a little bit and then go back and try other things if I wanted. The beans were SPICY, which was OK for me, but S doesn’t like spice so she had to stop before her mouth burst into flames. The mac and cheese was cold. The pork was the SALTIEST thing I have eaten in a long time, and was also cold. I took one bite and pushed my plate aside. I would have to find something else to eat later. Was it the worst meal I have ever eaten? No. But we were excited to try it as a specialty place on this ship and I was super disappointed. And it was the first meal on the ship and that was worrisome. But thankfully, that was the worst one we had.
We decided to head to the main atrium lobby for guest services to add our gift cards to our onboard accounts, and make sure the price adjustment for our excursion was added. Big surprise, the line for guest services was already HUGE. However, we had FTTF, and basically walked right up. SCORE! So we all got our GCs added, and went to the bar right there in the Atrium to truly start our vacation. It was there that we discovered everyone’s favorite drink for the trip. The Mango Magic! Frozen drink with mangos (duh) and 2 types of rum. Very yummy. We then took our drinks up to the Lido deck to explore. We got a silly picture with Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, which was odd but turned out really cute. We walked around the buffet to see what they had, and then scoped out the Serenity Deck. We also looked at the sports deck, and tried out some of the outdoor gym machines…with drinks in hand.
It was at this time that we split for a little while. P and S went back to their room, and J, N, and I went to take a spa tour. J and I had been thinking of getting the Thermal Suite Pass, but didn’t buy before sailing, so we figured we would take a look at it, and N had never been on a ship and was thinking of getting a massage. I half regret doing the tour. I enjoyed getting to see everything in the thermal suite and have it all explained(we wound up not buying the pass this time around,) but the tour took a really long time because they bring you into EVERY room for massages, the salon, facial treatments, etc and have them pitch to you. I remember doing tours before and I was not dragged around the entire area meeting every spa employee. But still, it was fine, we had some time to kill anyway.
After the tour we went back to our rooms. I am pretty sure that our luggage had arrived by this time, but I can’t exactly remember. We unpacked and got everything settled. It was pretty much perfect timing because then we were called to our Muster station, which happened to be the Southern Lights Dining room on Deck 3. N had a different area so we planned to meet up with him afterwards.
Ahh the muster drill. Please, for the love of everything, go to the drill, check in, and sit down in a timely manner. We had such a delay because they kept calling cabin numbers that hadn’t arrived yet. It was so tedious. Announcements cutting in over other announcements of who was missing. You don’t even need your life vest anymore! You get to sit INSIDE! It’s not that much of a hassle, provided you actually get there. Anyhoo, this was the first sailing of the Magic with Cookie as the cruise director. We didn’t know much about him at all, everyone had been raving about Dr. E, but he left that morning. Cookie did his best to read the rules and regulations in a fun way. He sang some phrases intermittently to try and alleviate the monotony, and I think it helped. He was trying to have fun with it. It was cheesy, but much of a Cruise Director’s announcements are. P was groaning at his cheesiness, but don’t worry, Cookie won him over in just a day or two.
After the drill, we grabbed a coffee from the Coffee bar, (get the punch card if you plan to get coffee through the cruise) and then met up with N at the back on the Lido deck to sail away. I got some pizza to fill the void that the few bites of BBQ did not. The line was LONG, but the pizza was pretty good. I opted to just eat whatever the first pizza to come out of the oven was, instead of waiting longer to order a different one, but they had I think 5 different ones, and throughout the cruise, all the ones I tried were really good! We grabbed some drinks and sat watching Orlando fade away.
N, J and I then headed back to the spa for the raffle at 5pm. We weren’t picked but because we went, we received “deals” later in the cruise. Pretty sure they were the same prices they always wind up being on the last few sailing days. After we didn’t win, we decided to drown our not at all sorrow with a drink. We met P and S at the Alchemy Bar, which was maybe my favorite spot on the ship. They had a Martini Tasting at 6pm, and it was here that we met Natalya. Natalya is a bartender at Alchemy bar from the Ukraine. *Flash forward to when we paid for the drinks- P has a Polish last name, and she noticed as she took his Sign and Sail card. She then made some jokes about P’s drinking, as I guess it’s a stereotype at least between the Ukrainians and Polish. It was very light hearted, deadpan ribbing, and we all found it hilarious. She remembered us the whole cruise, as we went back a few times, and P even had some friendly insults to throw back at her one day. His nemesis, he called her. It was great, and another high note for our first day of vacation!
Back to the Martini Tasting: You pick 4 martinis from a list, which is a pared down version of their full menu. They make the martinis, mix them up, and you have to try and guess which one is which.(P got his guess wrong, which made for even more back and forth with Natalya) I chose 3 I had been looking at on the main menu, and then had them make their own creation for the fourth. I think all of us had them make a surprise one, and I believe only 2 of us had the same mystery drink. It was really fun, AND super yummy. And the way they pour them all is super impressive! (The favorite one I ordered through the cruise was The Youthful and Bold Bertini.) They do all sorts of fancy drink making, lighting a sprig of rosemary and infusing the glass, slapping the mint to break it-there are several that need lighters lol. It’s an entertaining bar with great drinks, personable people, and right by a stage that often has music playing.
I’m pretty sure we stayed there for a little while, we may have had another drink after the tasting. I’m not 100% sure, the martini’s left my memory a little fuzzy =) We had the late seating for dinner, so we decided to head back and get ready. While I was showering, J met our room steward, Lorenio. He was good throughout the cruise. I didn’t see him a ton, but he was always helpful and smiling when I did see him. The first shower was a bit of a problem though. When I finished I realized I was standing in a lot of water! It overflowed the small lip that separates the shower into the rest of the bathroom. Thankfully it kept itself contained in the bathroom and didn’t flow into the room, but I was worried this would be a problem. I have heard horror stories about, er, plumbing issues on some of the Carnival Ships. We called someone to fix it, they came in while we were at dinner, and it was never a problem again, which I was very thankful for!
We got to dinner, Southern Lights table 709, and met our wait staff team- Ronald, Peter, and Martinelle. They were all super attentive, and Ronald may have been the best head waiter we have sailed with. Like most workers on a cruise ship, he knew us all by name after day 1, but he was also just very personable and easy to talk to, AND it was a blast watching him dance to their choreographed numbers, especially when he used his own dance moves. I can’t remember what we ate that night except I know we all got the Strawberry soup! And since the main reason we were sailing was P and S’s 10 year anniversary, they brought out a cake and sang to them, and made them kiss through the whole thing. There were TONS of special occasions in our dining room, and they sang to ALL of them. But our table was first, so it made it better; P and S were the most special!
We never really got a bad meal in the dining room, though nothing really stands out as fantastic in my memory. But still, it was enjoyable, and J and I generally like to sit in the dining room more than the buffet just due to being able to relax. We did however go to the buffet one night. Originally we were going to do a night in the steakhouse, but they changed the menu shortly before we sailed, and some of the things we were all looking forward to disappeared, so we decided not to spend the money.
After dinner I *think* we changed and hung out at one of the bars. But to be honest, we were all pretty tired, I don’t believe we stayed up too late.
I forgot to mention the internet situation for our group. Originally, we were planning to get the $5 Hub app chat feature. P and S got the low tier Wi-Fi to be able to chat with S’s mom on Facebook Messenger, who was watching the baby that week. N got the mid-tier package. So instead of having everyone pay for another message system, we decided to get the low tier as well (only on my phone.) We used Facebook messenger for our group to organize meeting up in the mornings and such. The speed and reliability was pretty good. FB and Instagram loaded fairly well most of the time, but I wasn’t using them too much, trying to be somewhat disconnected. The only places we had issues with service was on our balcony and in our bathroom. Shutting the doors there cut it off completely.
We had a bonus feature that wasn’t expected with their internet plan: iMessage was working for me. Not regular text messages, but iMessage on my iPhone went through the whole week. Any pictures of gifs that were sent by other people didn’t load, but that wasn’t really important. I wasn’t expecting to communicate with people that way anyway, and it worked out nicely to be able to chat with my parents, since I couldn’t use email and they don’t use social media. I wouldn’t say you should rely on iMessage working, but it was def a good perk to have.
OK that about does it for day one! Fun Times will be posted as soon as I get the scans from my cruise-mates! Next up, Fun day at Sea!