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Carnival Fascination Review: 6 Toes, Power Outages, and Snow in the Bahamas

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By request (FRANK!), I am posting my review of our 5-day Fascination cruise out of Jacksonville over Thanksgiving week in November, 2011. This itinerary included Key West and Nassau, returning to Jacksonville. Before I introduce my motley crew, let me give those who don’t care to read details or personal stories a synopsis. Please keep in mind this is just my opinion, based on my experience, and in comparison with other cruises I’ve taken on Carnival.

 

 

The Ship (Thumbs UP):

I’m usually not a fan of the smaller Fantasy-class ships like the Fascination (I prefer the Dream and Conquest classes), but I have to admit, I really enjoyed the layout of the ship this time around. It didn’t take too long to figure out, and most the public areas seemed fairly close together. The ship itself seemed to be in good shape…well, up until the engines went kaput… but overall, it seemed pretty clean and well-maintained. The little ones really enjoyed the waterworks area, and my hubby and I were happy to have the Serenity deck available for an escape.

 

 

The Staterooms (Thumbs UP):

We had three different staterooms: Interior, Porthole, and Aft Balcony, and all three were spacious enough to meet our needs. In fact, I prefer the Interior staterooms of the Fantasy class ships over the other classes, because the faux “window” opens the room up a bit and gives me a nice ledge on which to keep things.

 

 

The ledge in the Porthole cabin was HUGE! Our friend, Joann, actually used it to keep her luggage. It was deep enough, in fact, that a crib mattress could have fit on it.

 

 

My brother’s aft balcony was nice, too. It was an “extended” balcony, which simply meant our knees didn’t touch the glass when we sat down in the balcony chairs. The layout and size of the cabin itself was pretty much the same as the rest of ours.

 

 

The things I miss on the Fantasy-class ships are minor, but worth mentioning here. There are no nightstands, with that extra cabinet space to keep stuff. There are no refrigerators for keeping things cool. There are no sofas or sofa beds, except in the suites, so third and fourth occupants must sleep in a bunk or a roll-away. There are no hairdryers, unless you specifically request one from the cabin steward. The cabin bathrooms are smaller than on the other class ships, so there is less storage space there as well.

 

 

The Food (No Rating):

The food was…meh! I do not care for the new menus, although the spinach-artichoke dip was VERY yummy! For dinner, we ate in the main dining room two nights and the casual restaurant on the Lido deck the other three nights.

 

 

 

Breakfast and lunch were always on the Lido deck, and I had tea once in the piano bar the first sea day. For breakfast and lunch, the Lido deck was satisfying. I tried the Mongolian wok, which I love, the deli, the pizzeria, the sushi bar, and room service as alternative food choices. All of them were good, actually, is the reason why I didn’t give the food a thumbs down.

 

 

 

The reason why I didn’t give a thumbs up, though, was because the dinners in the main dining room and from the buffet were very disappointing. The food was sometimes warm, but often cold, dry, and unsatisfying. It was very unlike all my previous Carnival dining experiences, and I wonder if the food would have been better in the main dining room…or at least the right temperature… if our wait team did a better job.

 

 

The Service (Thumbs DOWN):

This is the first time of my 8 Carnival cruises that I’ve had bad service, and I mean REALLY bad, in the main dining room. We had Early seating, since we were a party of 11 that included 3 children under 12 and a year old baby. Our wait team was disorganized, slow and inattentive. Dinner took over 2 hours from start to finish, and we were never served everything we requested, even when we requested the item(s) multiple times. The service was so bad, in fact, that after the second night (Elegant Evening), we didn’t set foot in the main dining room for the rest of the cruise.

 

 

This was also the first time that I encountered downright rude Carnival team members. On the whole, the crew were very pleasant and courteous, but we did encounter a couple of grouches both in the terminal during embarkation, and serving in the casual restaurant on the Lido deck.

 

 

Grouchy encounters aside, I have to say that our cabin steward was wonderful and the rest of the crew, especially the folks at the Guest Services desk were very kind, courteous and respectful.

 

 

The Cruise Director, Jen (Thumbs UP):

I’m one of those people who doesn’t base my cruise on who the CD is. In fact, it’s pretty rare that I even know WHO the CD is before I first step on board the ship. As I mentioned, I traveled with 10 friends and family members this cruise, so we didn’t rely on the CD to entertain us.

 

 

Still, my few encounters with Jen were very pleasant, and I appreciate the way she held it together and kept us passengers informed when the ship stopped working (i.e., “power outage”) just off the coast. I saw Jen interacting with guests frequently, and she seemed to really enjoy her job.

 

 

The Shows (no rating):

The only shows I attended were a couple of the comedy shows (which were okay), and the guest talent show (also okay), so I can’t really give a rating here.

 

 

Camp Carnival/Kids Program (Thumbs UP):

There were over 800 kids on this cruise, so I would have expected some kiddy mayhem on a daily basis. But other than seeing the kids packed out in the hot tubs (including the one marked “adults only”), I seldom saw any kids other than the ones I was traveling with. I guess the counselors in the kids program did a great job keeping the kiddos entertained and out of trouble. My daughter and nieces seemed to really enjoy the Camp Carnival program as well, which surprised me, since over the last few cruises, my little one refused to even LOOK at the Camp Carnival area. This time, though, she ASKED to go!

 

 

 

So I think I covered the basics. Any questions, just ask. Details and photos to come.

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As I mentioned, there were a total of 11 of us family and friends sailing on this Thanksgiving cruise. Since I use their first names often throughout my review, I thought it would be helpful to give a brief introduction of everyone. Skip this part if you are just interested in the cruise itself, and don't care to understand to whom I'm referring in my recap.

 

Me (Laura)

I've sailed Carnival 7 times prior to this cruise and once on a different cruise line. I'm 30-something and have been married over 16 years. Hubby and I have only one child.

 

Alex (my hubby)

Alex has had only one less Carnival cruise than me, and is 40-something. He's a down-to-earth sort of guy with a warped sense of humor, which is one reason why we get along so well.

 

Alyssa (our daughter)

Alyssa is five years old in Kindergarten, and LOVES to cruise. This was her 5th cruise, all with Carnival.

 

Patty (my mom)

My mom is 60-something and has mobility issues. She can't stand for long periods of time, climb stairs, or walk long distances, so we bring a wheelchair for her to use while in port. This is her fourth cruise, the other three were also on Carnival.

 

Joann (family friend)

Joann is 60-something and has known my mom since the 60s. She has cruised 6-7 times before, most, if not all with Carnival.

 

Rob (my brother)

Rob is 2 years older than me and has sailed with several different cruise lines, including Costa, RCCL, NCL, Princess, and 8 other cruises with Carnival.

 

Laura (my sister-in-law)

Yes, my sister-in-law and I have the same name, which can make for some confusing holiday gatherings. For the purpose of this review, the name "Laura" will almost always refer to my sister-in-law, rather than myself. She is the same age as my brother.

 

Sandra (Laura's mother/Rob's mother-in-law)

Sandra is 60-something and has never cruised before. She also has mobility issues, so my mom loaned her a transporter/companion wheelchair for use during the cruise.

 

Kelsey and Delaney (my nieces/Rob & Laura's girls)

Kelsey is 11 and Delaney just turned 8 when we sailed on the Fascination. They're both good kids and get along pretty well together.

 

Brandon (my nephew/Rob & Laura's son)

Brandon was 13 months old at the time of this sailing. He's a very sweet baby and adores his daddy. This was his second cruise, but first on Carnival.

 

Now that all the boring introductions are out of the way, let's get to the fun part: Embarkation day!

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It’s Monday, and we got to sleep in a little bit. Already, this was turning out to be a great week! As usual, Alyssa was the first to wake up, and boy was she was excited! I think the first thing she said…or rather, screamed…when she woke up was “TODAY WE’RE GOING ON A CRUISE!!!”

 

 

Alex and I finished the last bit of packing and prep and loaded up the car. My mom was meeting us at the port because she was riding with Sandra, but to make enough room in Sandra’s car, we packed her wheelchair in our car. We planned to meet around 10:30-11:00 at the terminal.

 

 

As always, nothing goes as planned. We intended to park at the terminal, but saw a sign for a lot just outside the terminal advertising $5/day parking plus free shuttle. Sweet! The lot was fenced and seem secure, and it looked like they had plenty of shuttles. I love a good deal, and $30 instead of $75 sounded like a great deal to me! (Yes, they charged for 6 days, not 5.) A lot of people were leaving the lot from the previous cruise, so it was difficult getting into the one open gate, but I start a cruise with plenty of patience. There were also a lot of people in line for the shuttle, but as I mentioned, there were many shuttles coming through, so we didn’t have to wait very long. We even got one of the vans all to ourselves because of the space my mom’s wheelchair took!

 

 

As we were waiting in line, I heard the owner say he needed to change his sign to $8 that afternoon, because port was going up to $20. I joked about us getting the “early bird special,” and he just smiled.

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(Bringing out the ladder to change the sign.)

 

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(The sign when we returned from our cruise.)

 

 

 

Our shuttle driver was nice and dropped us off right at the terminal, so we made sure to tip him. There was no porter to be seen, so we wheeled our own luggage down the crosswalk and handed it over to a supervisor standing by a cart in the luggage loading area. Then we found our way to the passenger entrance, where we sat down on a bench to wait for the rest of the gang.

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(Waiting outside the terminal.)

 

 

 

There was a very nice Carnival employee directing people the few people who were there through the line at the terminal. I asked him about the tide and departure time, and he said the ship would be delayed until around 7:00pm. We talked about some people probably getting upset about that, and about how several weeks prior, passengers were irate because the high tide made them late getting back. The poor guy sighed and said yes they were VERY irate, and he was yelled at, threatened, and spit on! Yikes!

 

 

Joann had arrived first at terminal and received a card for zone 2. Her friend was supposed to just drop her off, but when he pulled into the lot, they made him take Joann to lot 4 wait. When they arrived in lot 4, an employee sent her right back to the terminal for drop-off! Duh! Through a couple of phone calls, we discovered that my mom and the rest of the gang also had to wait in lot 4, so I guess debarkation from the previous cruise was running late.

 

 

My mom finally showed up with my brother and his family, including Sandra in the transporter wheelchair and my nephew, Brandon, in his stroller. The employee we had been talking to directed us to the VIP line because of the stroller and wheelchairs. Unfortunately, the guy in VIP line was rather cranky and kicked me and Alyssa out of the VIP line. “Just one person with each chair,” he huffed. Sigh! So I went back to the nice Carnival guy and tattled, telling him, “well, we got kicked out.” The guy looked shocked he walked me and Alyssa to the front of the line near where my brother and Alex were with the rest of our party, checking in with a pleasant-looking lady. “Just tell that you’re with them,” he said with a wink, and so I did. Good thing too, as I was the one with the single boarding pass for me, Alex and Alyssa!

 

 

A quick pass through security, and we were next in line for check-in. Another Carnival employee at the front of the queue sent us all to desk #4, but a family of 4 stepped in front of us before we could even get my mom in her wheelchair anywhere close. So I went back to lady at the queue to wait, and then called Alex over when another rep was ready.

 

 

At the desk, I received a form letter confirming what my friend at the terminal entrance said: that tide would delay us until a 7:00 departure. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to fill out and sign the health check form – you know, the one that makes you swear that no one in your party has kissed a pig or invoked the revenge of Montezuma.

 

 

Anyway, we received our cards and were told to wait with the other passengers needing assistance at the far side of the room. Joann was sitting in one of the chairs, still holding her Zone 2 card, so we called her over to wait with us so we could chat. As we all got caught up on our family happenings, and the cousins played with baby Brandon (the three girls had already declared this the “best cruise EVER!”), I saw a man being led through a door behind us, which I can only assume was the “Naughty Room.”

 

 

The security guard standing next to me saw my look and grinned. “Is that the naughty room?” I asked. He just smiled, so I told him the story of our last cruise on the Carnival Legend, where poor little 5-year-old Alyssa got pulled into the naughty room for bringing her Easter basket, which contained colorful plastic squirt guns. The security guard made some sort of sympathetic remark about people sometimes get carried away with the security thing. Alyssa’s ear had perked up when she heard me telling the story, and Alex, seeing her staring at the security guard with a suspicious look warned her that she better behave herself, because that security guard had already heard about her. Alyssa’s eyes got really wide, and the security guard played along, “That’s right! I think I saw your picture on a poster in the back saying what a dangerous troublemaker you are.” Alyssa’s jaw dropped.

 

 

“Yeah, Alyssa,” I said, “they have posters with your picture on it all over the place saying, ‘watch out for Babyface White!” That’s when the security guard lost it and started laughing, as he repeated “Babyface White! Ha!” By then Alyssa realized we were just having fun, and she started to laugh too.

 

 

Finally, someone called VIP zone 1 boarding over the PA first, then those of us with “special needs.” All 11 of us squeezed together for the embarkation photo, then marched happily onto the ship. We were on the nearly empty Lido deck for lunch around 12:30-1:00! I went straight to deli, for me and Alyssa, while the rest of the family went through buffet. Joann wanted a burger from the grill, and Alex couldn’t wait to get something from the Mongolian wok, which was already forming a line. By the time we were all ready for dessert, the place was pretty busy!

 

 

Our cabins were supposed to be ready at 1:30, but I suppose the delay in debarking the previous cruisers caused the late delay in opening the hall doors to the cabins. Of course some people were letting themselves in through the doors anyway and ignored the stewards who were telling them, “not ready yet.”

 

 

Alex had decided to wander the ship’s public areas while Alyssa, my mom and I waited for the cabins to be ready. Unfortunately, Alex forgot to ask me our cabin number, so when he came back to find us, he wound wandering aimlessly down one of the cabin corridors. One of the stewards told him, “not ready yet,” and asked where he was going. He admitted that he didn’t know, so she kindly looked up his cabin number for him. So Alex was waiting in the cabin when Alyssa and I finally arrived.

 

 

We had an interior 4B stateroom, M45 on the second deck forward. I chose this room specifically, because the deck plans show this one as the only 3-person interior stateroom on the entire ship with an actual bunk, and not a roll-away bed, and I really didn’t want to give up precious floor space. I was surprised to see the deck plans for the Fascinations…and for all Fantasy-class ships…were wrong in this respect. Now shhhhhh! Here’s the best part of the surprise: room M45 shows a single upper, but in fact, it has TWO uppers! One of the bunks was designed to hang over our King bed, and the other bunk was on the opposite wall, and would partially cover the foot of the bed. (At this time, though, both bunks were locked in the “closed” position against the walls.)

 

 

So what, right? Well, here’s why I was so happy: In all the 3-person cabins I’ve seen that had a bunk for the third passenger, the two standard twin beds get pushed together to form a King bed on one wall, and the bunk folds down to hang at about head-knocking level on the opposite wall. So when the bunk is out, I have to hunch over and creep along to pass under the bunk and climb into the far side of the bed against the wall with the window/fake window. Inevitably, when first getting up in the morning or sneaking into bed late at night, I will bonk my head at least 3, maybe 4 times during a 5-day cruise. Ouch! But with the option of having this other bunk hanging over our bed instead of over my walk-through, I stood a very good chance of keeping my noggin injury-free! Yay!

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(I guess I neglected to photograph our entire cabin this time. Below this bunk is the king-sized bed Alex and I slept in. Notice the fake window in the back.)

 

 

 

Our cabin steward’s name was “Iwanyan,” and he was very nice. He was also the steward for my mom’s cabin, since she and Joann were just a few doors down from us in cabin M29, a porthole cabin. The previous occupants must have been heavy smokers, because their cabin still smelled of cigarettes. I was a little taken aback at this, because it was the first time I ever encountered any cigarette smell in a cabin of non-smokers. (Usually, the cabins odors have been well purged before we ever step across the threshold.)

 

 

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(My mom's and Joann's porthole cabin.)

 

 

 

Iwanyan stopped in to introduce himself to my mom and Joann and was surprised to see me there. I made a little joke about stalking him before I explained our relationship. Joann thought he said his name was “Iwanna,” so she tried to make a joke by saying, “Well, I wanna hairdryer!” I was a bit embarrassed, but Iwanyan didn’t miss a beat: “A hairdryer? Yes ma’am! I bring you a hairdryer soon!”

 

 

Joann thanked him, and I asked if maybe a little later he could do anything to lessen the cigarette smell for my mom. He said it would be no problem, so I decided to press my luck even further and ask if when he unlocked one of the bunks in my cabin that night, if he would please unlock the one over the bed, and leave the opposite bunk closed. Iwanyan repeated my request to be sure he had it right, and again told me it would be no problem. Awesome!

 

 

 

None of us had any luck receiving luggage from the first wave of deliveries, so we decided to visit my brother’s cabin, U241. It’s an aft balcony cabin one deck up from ours and a pretty long walk…(especially for my mom, who turned down a ride in the wheelchair and decided on her cane instead).

 

 

I guess it would have helped if I had known his cabin number when we got there. We knocked on the door of U239, but no one (thankfully!) answered. Alyssa thought it was some sort of “Where’s Uncle Rob?” a game, I guess, and she knocked on cabin U230. The occupant of the cabin startled her when she answered the door, and I apologized, explaining that Alyssa had the wrong cabin. My mom gave me the, “well?!? Any more bright ideas?” look, so I reached into my pocket for my phone and texted Rob. He opened the door right behind where we were standing, and muttered, “Geez! What are you people doing, banging on everyone’s door?”

 

 

“Uncle Rob!!” Alyssa greeted him, as she bounded inside. We all went straight through his room (which was the same size as ours) to his balcony, which was pretty nice!

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(Hey! This balcony was supposed to have an ocean view, but all we see is the parking lot!)

 

 

Laura had taken Brandon for a stroll, and the girls were in there IS room across the hall (U233) with Sandra, so the six of us made ourselves comfortable and took in the not-much-of-a-view-yet and nice cool breeze. It wasn’t long before Laura and Brandon came in, so we thought us parents should take the kids to Camp Carnival for their viewing. My mom and Joann wanted to go back to their cabin in hopes that their luggage had arrived, and Sandra was content to finally get some quiet time to rest in her room alone.

 

 

All three girls loved checking out Camp Carnival, but Alyssa was especially impressed with being in a room “right next to cousin Delaney’s.” I was a little relieved to hear this, as I was afraid Alyssa would be disappointed that she couldn’t be in the same group as her 8-year-old cousin, and talked up the 2-5 year-old area as much as I could. I asked one of the counselors where I could turn in the registration forms I filled out online and printed, but was turned away. She said I couldn’t turn them in until the Orientation at 5:00 that evening. Ah well! With 800 kids (yes, 800!) on board, I understood that they needed to keep everything well-organized and get everyone’s registration at one time, rather than being handed a form here and there.

 

 

Alyssa and Delaney had fun finding their name tags on the board under their respective groups. “Hey! Where’s mine?” Kelsey asked. Alyssa concentrated on the board, and when she didn’t see Kelsey’s name, touched her arm and looked up at her sadly, “I’m sorry. You don’t have one.” The counselor overheard them and explained that kids in Circle “C” don’t get name tags, and the name tags are only for Camp Carnival kids. That made Kelsey feel like a big shot, but Alyssa still looked at her sympathetically, as if poor Kelsey would be nameless henceforth.

 

 

We finally dragged the girls out of Camp Carnival, and went back to our rooms. Still no luggage, other than our carry-ons. Alex and Alyssa quickly changed into their swim suits and headed off to the hot tub. I gave Alex a cover-up for Alyssa so she wouldn’t freeze later during the muster drill. (Our muster station was in the main lounge.)

 

 

I unpacked our carry-ons, hung our personalized cruise banner on the door, and watched enviously as the people around our cabin received their checked bags. The little bit of unpacking I could do was done, so I knocked on my mom’s and Joann’s door to hang out with them and chat until the drill. They didn’t have any better luck at getting THEIR bags, either. Ah well! We would get them (hopefully) by bedtime.

 

 

Jen, our cruise director, made the announcement for the muster drill over the PA, so I pushed my mom in her wheelchair towards the main lounge. We were allowed to take the elevator to the main floor of the Palace main lounge on the Atlantic deck (deck 5). When we entered, one of the crew said to just find a place on the end of an aisle or something, but then another crew member (whom I’d later learn was named “Dallas”) waved us over to a place at the end of one of the front rows, where a handicap insignia lay on the carpet. He then got all the people in the rather long row to move down and “squeeze in” so that Joann and I could sit on the end of the row next to my mom.

 

 

Dallas was very kind and VERY entertaining, and when we sat down, he told us that the three of us should just “stay put for evacuation part.” Cool! I guess he saw some confusion on Joann’s face, because he gave her a smile, leaned in, and said, “It’s not that great of a show, trust me!” So when the evacuation part came, we three stayed in our seats and watched as Dallas and a number of other crew persons escorted the rest of the lounge out through the doors and up to where the lifeboats were. After the majority of the people left, one of the crew came along with a clipboard and asked my mom for her name cabin number, and age. My mom muttered her answers, and the woman exclaimed, “You don’t look 62!” I think my mom had just became that lady’s friend for life! LOL!

 

 

During the drill, the captain reiterated that our departure would be delayed until 7:00pm because of the tide. Joann leaned over to me and said, “Hey! The Carnival rep at the terminal told me we had a late departure because of the construction on the Dames Point bridge!” I smiled and explained to her that it was because of both – that there was a lot of stuff hanging down over the side and under the bridge due to the construction, so the bridge clearance was lower than normal. Therefore, if the tide gets to be even a little more than its lowest, the ship wouldn’t be able to make it under. Joann accepted my answer, and I had to giggle, because still looked suspicious - as if someone had just tried to pull a fast one on her.

 

 

After the muster drill, the three of us made our way up to the Lido deck. Boy, the place was PACKED OUT! Everyone was ready to get the party started! We slowly weaved a path through the crowd to get cold drinks. My mom and I stopped to say hello to Alex and Alyssa in one of the hot tubs. (It was overflowing with kids!) My mom was parched, so I cut our hellos short and pushed her into the aft Lido restaurant to cool off while I poured us each a drink.

 

 

After the crowd had thinned, we thought we’d deliver the wheelchair back at my mom’s cabin and see (fingers crossed!) if our luggage had arrived yet. I pushed my mom back out onto the open deck and walked back past the stage, where Dallas was DJ-ing. He nodded and swayed to the beat as he played “Cupid Shuffle.” There was a large crowd following the dance directions in the song on the deck in front of the stage, and a very familiar looking little girl in a pink bathing suit dancing her own version of the “Cupid Shuffle” alone in the center of the stage. Ha! I saw Alex try a few times to dance with her and show Alyssa the moves, but Alyssa just pushed him away, preferring to show off her own style instead.

When the song was over, DJ Dallas had all the people on the deck in front of the stage form a circle, then he invited people to go to the middle of the circle to dance. Of course, Alyssa was one of the first out there, feeding off all the people’s cheers. I managed to snap a few pictures of her before she went back to dance up on the stage. A lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked how old Alyssa was, then said, “She’s going to be a handful!” I smiled and replied, “She already is!”

 

We left Alyssa dancing under Alex’s supervision and made the trek back to my mom’s cabin. Alas! Still no checked luggage for anyone except Joann. We chatted a while, then I joined the large crowd of “hopefuls” along the hall and stood in the doorway to watch the luggage deliveries. I guess a watched cart never produces luggage - although the people in the cabin across the hall and all around us received their checked bags, the area in front of my mom’s and my cabins remained empty. I joked with the girl standing in her doorway across the hall that it felt like a horse race, with all of us urging the carts of luggage to arrive at our doorways first and staring wistfully as they passed us by. Then I saw one of the carts stop in front of my cabin and drop off a couple of bags. Yes! Only it was just a psych-out, as the bags belonged to someone else, and were placed in front of my door by mistake. Boo!

 

 

My mom mentioned Camp Carnival, and then I remembered I was late for the mass Camp Carnival registration! Ooops! I sped off towards the “Puttin’ on Ritz” lounge, making note of the sushi cart along the way. I had my printed pre-registration forms in hand, but still had more forms to fill out there. Laura spotted me and led me over to the table where she, Rob, Brandon, and my nieces sat on their edges of their seats, trying to win one of the give aways. (They had the same luck with that as I did with our luggage.) Well, at least all the kids each got a package of sea-themed Silly Bands!

 

 

When it was over, Laura took Brandon and Delaney back to their cabin to get ready for dinner. I told Rob about the sushi cart, which was going to open any second, so he and Kelsey followed me to some spicy tuna rolls, shrimp rolls, and asaparagus/mushroom rolls. We sat for a while at a nearby table, then since we had early seating, we thought it best if we rounded our group up for dinner.

 

 

After 7 previous Carnival cruises, I’ve come to expect the service at dinner the first night to be…well, less than efficient. I’m sorry to say, though, that tonight’s service disappointed even my low expectations! The 11 of us were crammed together at a table for ten in the front-center area of the dining room. (Side rant: I’m always annoyed when restaurants think that a baby in a high chair shouldn’t count as a place at the table. I mean, I know their babies, but they ARE people! And they take up the same space as an adult when they’re in a bulky wooden high chair!)

 

 

Because there was one more person squeezed in than what the table was meant to accommodate, mine and most of the other chairs could not be pushed in. The two front corners of my chair were wedged against the corners of my mom’s chair and Alex’s chairs. Their chairs were wedged against the other chairs next to theirs in a similar fashion, so all of us (except Brandon, who was in his high chair), were forced to sit a few inches away from the table and either sit on the front edge of our seats, or lean in so that we could still eat over our plates. The area where we sat was a few steps up and boxed in by a metal railing (which made it even more difficult to squeeze behind the chairs) so that we sat higher than the tables along the dining room walls and windows. Our table took up one corner of this area (I think it might have been a “Time-Out” corner), and on either side of us were two more 10-top tables filled with adults. The dining room roared with all the noise of all the diners trying to shout over each other!

 

 

After waiting several minutes, we finally met our servers and got our menus…well, MOST of us got our menus. Poor Alyssa never got her children’s menu or crayons, even after requesting one THREE TIMES so Delaney was kind enough to share hers. After several minutes more, we were asked for our drink orders. (Another side rant here: I realize that no one should be expected to bend over backwards to cater to babies and children, but when you are assigned to wait on a table with 2 young kids and an infant, plus 3-4 other tables of adults, wait on the children first, especially when they arrive before the people at the other tables! Honestly, you can’t expect a one-year-old to wait quietly for his food and not get cranky from being hungry and crammed in a high chair for 2 hours!)

 

 

Finally, after another very long wait, our servers came to take our dinner orders. Alyssa asked for a fruit cup as a starter and a cheese pizza for her meal. Rob and Alex both asked for soup and another of the appetizers. The rest of us placed a standard order of one starter and one entree. As we waited for our appetizers to arrive, the ship began to move. Yep! We had been there an entire HOUR, and still had not received even an appetizer. The large tables next to us were already enjoying their meals. (In fact, when our waiter was trying to serve appetizers at the table behind us, he held one of the hot plates over my head and asked me to “push in a little farther, ma’am!” I shrugged my shoulders, brought my hands up on either side of me, palms up, and replied, “sorry, but I have nowhere to go!” Then I pointed to where my chair was joined to my mom’s, but I don’t think he even noticed because he had managed to push through by then.)

 

 

The noisy engines rattled the table and the ship rumbled and churned along the St. John’s on its way out to sea. Yay! We were on our way! But then my face fell and I realized the time. 7:00pm was when we were scheduled to depart: the exact same time as Alyssa’s favorite activity, the Camp Carnival Welcome Aboard party started! I knew there was no way we would ever make it there before the end of the party, and was a little sad when I remembered Alyssa putting on my lipstick and spraying hand sanitizer on herself so that she would “look good for the party.” Boo!

 

 

The rest of dinner went just as badly as it started. Alex had to request his and Rob’s soup after they both already received their entrees. I had to ask for Alyssa’s fruit after she had finished her pizza. Alex had to ask twice for tea. Overall, none of us were very impressed with food. This was our first cruise trying out the new dinner menus, and I really missed my standard order of Carnival’s St. Louis ribs! I will say that the spinach dip was very good, and the lasagna just ok. The fried chicken was really dry, and mom didn’t like mac-n-cheese side dish, which also looked dry.

 

 

The waiters started changing out the tables for the later seating at 8:00: about the time we finally got to enjoy our desserts. I love chocolate, but I’m not a WMC fan (unbelievable, I know!) so had the diet orange cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Most of our group ordered WMC, and Alyssa ordered what she deemed to be “the best brownies ever!” Laura had ordered a cheesecake, but after a long wait with no sign of any dessert, she decided to take Brandon back to the cabin and put him to bed. When her dessert came, my brother asked for a cover so he could take it to his wife at the cabin, and this seemed to cause a huge commotion. There was a large discussion with the a few servers and my brother as to whether taking the dessert out of the dining room was permissible, but in the end, my brother walked out with the cheesecake in hand.

 

 

Our luggage did not arrive at our cabin until just before we went to dinner, so I didn’t get to do any unpacking until we returned from dinner. I was very pleased to see that Iwanyan had lowered the bunk above bed per my request, which made for MUCH more room and floor space.

 

 

My mom had finally received her luggage, too…well, MOST of her bag made it to her room, anyway! Her luggage looked like it had been used as a floor cushion for an elephant! The metal support inside the bag was now flopping around on the outside of her bag, and she no longer needed to unzip the bag to access its contents – all she had to do was reach in through the split seams! “Geez, Mom!” I teased her, “What did you say to the porter before you gave him your bag?!?”

 

 

There was an adult comedy show tonight that Joann and I wanted to see. Alex was going to go with us and let my mom babysit Alyssa, but after he got back to the cabin, he decided he was too comfortable to leave, so he would stay with Alyssa, who was having fun climbing up the ladder, crawling across her bunk, then climbing down from the other side onto our bed below. She completed this circuit several times, then right before I left, she climbed up the ladder onto her bunk and never came down. I peeked up there after a minute or two, and saw her already asleep across the bed. I tucked her in, kissed Alex goodbye, then walked over to my mom’s and Joann’s room.

 

 

Karoke was still going on when we arrived at the lounge for the comedy show, so Joann and I hung out at what used to be the cigar bar, which was just outside the lounge. There were very few people around, so we chatted with the bartender about his home country and his life on board until the doors for the comedy show opened. The comedian was decent and I had a few chuckles during his 30-minute show. None of his jokes were side-splittingly hysterical, but he was entertaining enough.

 

 

I was a little glad the show was a mere half hour, as it had been a long day, and I was ready to get some sleep. Joann and walked back to our cabins to retire around midnight. Alex was already asleep when I came in, so I quietly got ready for bed, felt my way through the darkness and crawled over the foot of the bed into my side of the bed near the faux window. KLUNK! Ouch! So much for not hitting my head on the bunk!

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Carnival Fascination from our shuttle van

 

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My tiny dancer stealing the stage.

 

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The hot tub was popular with the kiddos the entire cruise.

 

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Fun on the balcony

 

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There weren't enough chairs on the balcony for everyone, so Joann got comfortable on the deck.

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Oh, thanks for doing this! I love your reviews and was looking for one after you returned from this cruise!

 

Thank you. I will try to post more tomorrow. I promised myself I would get to bed at a decent hour tonight. :)

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Thank you. I will try to post more tomorrow. I promised myself I would get to bed at a decent hour tonight. :)

 

I swear u should work for cruise critic! !! Awesome review as Allways. Pacing the house already waiting for more. Oh I think Id be pulling my hair out if my luggage showed up that late

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Your daughter is adorable. Especially with her doll in the matching dress!

 

But I started reading the review because of the 6 toes part! My uncle had 6 toes.

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Your daughter is adorable. Especially with her doll in the matching dress!

 

But I started reading the review because of the 6 toes part! My uncle had 6 toes.

 

 

I think Hemingway comes into play here.....just a guess.

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I swear u should work for cruise critic! !! Awesome review as Allways. Pacing the house already waiting for more. Oh I think Id be pulling my hair out if my luggage showed up that late

 

Thanks for the confidence builder! Reviews are so subjective, I often wonder if I lose readers in the personal accounts. More to come after I finish working tonight.

The luggage wait was a bummer, but at least it arrived that day and wasn't lost. On my way to CC registration, I got to see the luggage delivery system in action, and I have to say I don't envy that job! There were bags and bags piled up in the hallways and elevator bays by the art gallery, and a few of the crew were tasked with sorting them all by deck and area (aft, bow, center) and then loading them onto the correct carts for delivery. I don't know how they managed to sort through that sea of luggage with a smile and a nod in my direction as I walked through! I would have been ready to throw myself down an elevator shaft or something!

 

Your daughter is adorable. Especially with her doll in the matching dress!

 

But I started reading the review because of the 6 toes part! My uncle had 6 toes.

Thank you! Yes, Groo is correct: Hemingway does play a role in the 6 toes, but not quite what you'd expect. ;)

 

I think Hemingway comes into play here.....just a guess.

Yes, a good guess!

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Great review!!! Thanks

Thank you! And thanks for reading it!

 

Can you share the names of your dining staff? May want to avoid them.

 

Thanks for taking the time to post this.

Alas, I think I have a mental block on their names, since it was a couple months ago, and we ate in the MDR only the first 2 nights. :o

Sorry! I wouldn't worry about it though. If you do happen to get them and your party is smaller than ours, it's easy to ask the Maitre D for a different section. We didn't even make the attempt to change sections, though, becAuse there are only so many "big" tables on the ship, and splitting up our group would have meant trying to find 2 big tables next to each other.

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Because of the late comedy show and because it was a sea day, I wanted to sleep in and catch up on my rest. So when I hung our room service breakfast card out on our door the night prior, I wrote “9:15am” in the “Time Requested” space. Only I didn’t account for my brother, the early riser, and a little before 9:00, Rob was tired of waiting for us in my mom’s room and sent Kelsey and Delaney to knock on our door.

 

 

The knocking woke Alyssa up, and she all but lept out of her bunk and sprung to the door yelling, “Room service! Room service! Room service!!”

 

 

Kelsey and Delaney were taken aback when Alyssa and I answered the door in our pajamas, hair sticking out and me still sleepy-eyed. I smiled when I saw their matching startled looks of surprise and told them we’d meet them a little later, because we were just waking up. Then I went back to bed until the REAL room service rapped on our door.

 

 

Again when I opened the door to receive our order, Alyssa bounced up and down on her bunk, announcing, “Room service! Room service! Room service!” like the ship’s crier. I set the large tray down on the desk and turned to sign the slip and hand the nice gentleman a tip. “Alyssa,” I said, reaching for the tray and the muffins I ordered for her, “I ordered you some choc…” I stopped, because the only thing on the room service tray was my hot beverage order (tea for me, coffee for my mom, and chocolate milk for Alyssa.) “Oh no!” I said, “they forgot the muffins!”

 

 

Alex was sitting on the bed and started laughing. When he saw my stupefied expression, he pointed to the bunk above him, where Alyssa’s mouth was already covered in chocolate. That little demon is FAST, and Alex had seen her zip out of the bed, grab the plate of muffins, and carry them up to the bed with her, just like a little cave spider!

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(I think she INHALED those muffins!)

 

 

 

When we were all finally dressed and ready to go, I grabbed the room service tray with the coffee carafe and cups, and walked over to my mom’s room. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. Ah well! I guess they all went to the main dining room for breakfast.

 

 

Alyssa really wanted to go to Camp Carnival, (which surprised me, because the last 3 cruises or so, she wanted nothing to do with the place) so after she finished her muffins, we brought her upstairs to Camp Carnival. There was a long line for both the 6-9 and 2-5 sides! While we waited in the line on the outer deck outside the 2-5 year-old side, we saw the entertainment host, “Dallas from Dallas,” whom I met at the muster drill the first day. He carried a Camp Carnival build-a-bear in its cardboard house out of the 2-5 year old side of Camp Carnival and said that our cruise director, Jen, would be giving it away, but the details he gave were carried off by the strong winds.

 

 

We finally made it inside Camp Carnival, and I had no problem checking Alyssa in. Before we left, I asked if we needed a phone/pager, and the counselor told me no, that they were only for the young ones because they didn’t have a lot of them, and besides, Alyssa seemed okay. I thanked her and was actually glad not to have to keep up with a big phone and its bulky charger. As a concession, the counselor gave me the Camp Carnival number to call from any house phone if I wanted to check on Alyssa, and a Black Friday sale ad for Camp Carnival stuff. “45 minutes only!” was printed in bold letters, and it listed a bunch of neat items that would make great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. I made a mental note to be on time for the sale later in the week.

 

 

It was 10:00am by the time we left Camp Carnival, which meant that Alex and I had just 30 minutes left to grab some breakfast, from the Lido restaurant below. I started out in the line for the omelet station, but then I saw some sort of cheesy scrambled egg roll-up thingy with sausage, and couldn’t resist. (I’m glad, because that little breakfast burrito thingy was darned yummy!)

 

 

The only empty table outside was dirty, so Alex and I cleared it off ourselves and sat down. I spotted Kelsey and Delaney both wrapped in towels eating ice cream cones, so I walked over to say hello. They asked for Alyssa, and we chatted a bit about our plans for this cruise before I headed back to our table to finish my breakfast. Before I could sit down, though, I happened to see my mom and Joann sitting at a table just inside the restaurant by the sliding glass doors, so I took a slight detour over to their table for a little chat, then I invited them over to our table outside by the stage.

 

 

I sat down in front of my now cold breakfast across from Alex and offered my mom and Joann the remaining two seats. Alex said he had to be vigilant, because at least 4 crew members tried taking the rest of my breakfast. “Sure!” I said, rolling my eyes, “When this table was dirty, not a crew member in sight. But let me step away from my breakfast for a while, and then EVERYone wants to clear it!”

 

 

Not long after I finished my meal it was time for the TV Theme Song Trivia game on the Lido deck. Well, we were there anyway, so we might as well give it a shot. Alex walked onto the stage and returned with a golf pencil and small square of paper. Among the four of us, we got 11 out of the 20 songs correct, but it wasn’t enough to win. One lady sitting by herself on one of the deck chairs in front of the stage claimed that she had 18 correct. The DJ was skeptical and sort of joked around, asking her, “did you cheat?” as he handed her her prize. Ah well! We all had fun just hanging out and playing anyway, especially my mom, who actually hates most games.

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(Joann couldn't resist an after-breakfast DOD!)

 

 

 

We continued to enjoy the ocean air, sunshine and company for a little while, then headed downstairs to look around in the Fun Shops. We took the elevator, since my mom can’t climb stairs, and when the elevator arrived at the promenade area, the doors opened to reveal a HUGE crowd of people! We squeezed out and tried to get into one of the shops and out of the mass of people. The free liquor tasting was in progress in the hallway between the shops, so people were clustered all around, trying to get their souffle cup of free booze. A group of 3-4 people actually stood unmoving across one of the shops’ entryway, obliviously drinking their booze samples while they blocking everyone else from entering or exiting the store.

 

 

I looked around through all the shops, but saw nothing special that I absolutely HAD to have. We had to pick up Alyssa from Camp Carnival anyway, since they close for lunch during sea days. Alex said he would get her, and my mom and I went back to my cabin so we could order room service to take back to the Lido deck with us for lunch. I looked around for “the book.” (You know, the pleather-bound binder that lists all the general info about the ship’s services, phone extensions, and room service menu?) It was not there. There wasn’t one in my mom’s cabin either, so I turned on the TV for the on-screen menu. No room service menu there, either. How strange!

 

 

With a sigh, I picked up the phone receiver and pressed the speed dial button for room service. I explained that I wanted to order lunch, but that there was no menu in the cabin, and I couldn’t find it on the TV either. The lady on the other end of the line said that she didn’t have a menu to send to our cabin, but that she would dictate it to me over the phone. Oh boy! I really wished there was a speakerphone feature on that phone, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to memorize the menu and repeat it back to my mom!

 

 

The poor lady on the phone read off the entire menu, category by category, item by item, including the descriptions and sides. I gave my mom a brief synopsis of what I could remembered, then asked the lady if they still served my favorite steak and brie sandwich. “No ma’am. I’m sorry!” came the reply. Dang it!

 

 

My mom wanted a burger, which room service does not offer, and nothing else sounded very appealing to either of us. Ah well! I ordered a grilled cheese and chocolate cake for Alyssa, and a piece of cheesecake for my mom. We were going up to the Lido deck in a while anyway, so my mom would be able to get her burger from the grill. Alex came back to the cabin with Alyssa a few minutes later. She had a great time at Camp Carnival, but now wanted to change into her swimsuit.

 

 

Our order arrived and I tipped our server. Alex said he’d meet us up on the Lido deck for lunch, so I carried our tray out, and my mom, Alyssa and I walked back upstairs so that Alex could change into his swimsuit too.

 

 

It was around 1:30, and there were a lot of long lines no matter where you looked! We spotted an empty table inside the restaurant (my mom doesn’t like being outside much), and my mom sat down with Alyssa so that I could retrieve my lunch. I walked outside to see what offerings could be found. The longest line was at the grill, which snaked back almost to the stage, so I jumped into the second longest line – the Mongolian station. Yummy!

 

 

I wasn’t too hungry and wanted to save room for tea time later on, so I snagged 2 bowls for sharing my entrée. I left the station with a steaming bowl of fresh chicken, veggies, and noodles, then grabbed drinks for me and my mom. I returned to the table to see that Alex was not only sitting at the table with my mom and Alyssa, but both Mom and Alex were already eating food from buffet. Wow, was I really gone THAT long? I poured half my bowl of Mongolian goodness into the empty bowl and passed it over to my mom, along with her drink. My brother and his family appeared out of nowhere, so we made room and chatted over our meal.

 

 

After lunch, we split up into groups of 2-3 to partake in different activities, but not before us older… I mean, more “mature” ladies (my mom, Joann, Laura, Sandra, and I) agreed to rejoin each other for tea (one of my mom’s and my favorite sea day activities) at 3:00. Alex and Alyssa were already on their way to play mini golf.

 

 

 

My mom wanted to take her broken bag to Guest Services to file a claim, but for some crazy reason, she was afraid of getting rejected. I told her the worst that could happen was that they would tell her “too bad,” leaving her with a broken bag. She was still reluctant to file a claim, and it took a few more minutes of convincing and a promise that I would go with her before she finally agreed.

 

 

We walked along the Lido deck towards the forward elevators, and ran into Alex and Alyssa, both carrying golf clubs and golf balls. “Are you lost?” I asked Alex, “the mini golf is upstairs.”

 

 

Alex explained that they had already started to play, but then Alyssa hit her ball so hard that it went over the barrier and bounced down a couple of decks, so they were down there to retrieve it. Alyssa jumped around repeating the story to me (in case I didn’t catch all of Alex’s version), then announced that they were going to finish their golf game, and go to the Waterworks area afterward.

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(A goofball looking for a golf ball!)

 

 

 

I walked back to my mom’s cabin with her to get her bag, then over to the Guest Services desk to see if anything could be done. Only one other passenger was at the desk, so we had a very short wait. I explained the situation to the kind GSA at the desk, and he walked around to the front so he could take a look at the bag. Seeing that the GSA was being nice and non-accusatory (he even apologized), my mom told me that I didn’t need to wait with her after all.

 

 

I walked up the glass staircase to the photo gallery to look for our pictures. I saw our embarkation photo, several of my sister-in-law and nieces, and even a couple of deck party photos of Alex and Alyssa. I was just scanning one of the walls for our dining room photo when I spotted my brother, sister-in-law, Brandon and Sandra. I showed them the pictures that I found thus far, and we talked. Sandra said she was looking forward to afternoon tea, but Laura apologized and said she would have to bail.

I explained that my mom would meet us in the piano bar at tea time, and I escorted Sandra to the tea venue, which was not yet set up. No problem, we found some comfortable chairs in the library and talked a while. My mom arrived and sat down in the library next to me to wait. She said that the GSA told her they would have to file a claim for the broken bag with the Miami office, but for now duct tape would have to suffice.

 

 

At 3:00pm, I saw the doors to the piano bar across the hall open and a couple of young women walk in. I led Sandra and my mom into “Club 88” and selected a table near the piano, but on the opposite side of the room as the other guests. Sadly, the selection of tea…especially decaf tea… was not the best, but we still had a nice relaxing experience.

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(I love that the tables in the piano bar are shaped like pianos!)

 

 

The waiter tried to take my cup within seconds after I took the last sip of tea, but I stopped him and politely asked for more hot water and another tea bag. He brought me more hot water, but no tea. Ah well! I needed to shower and get ready for our elegant evening and photos anyway. I excused myself from the table and returned to my cabin.

 

 

Alex and Alyssa walked through the door just as I was getting out of the shower. Alyssa was excited from all the fun she had at the Waterworks area, and Alex said she tried the “big slide” and loved it so much she did it again and again! I smiled and help her get ready for dinner as she gave me a blow-by-blow account of her slide adventures.

 

 

We were all ready to go by 4:30, which gave us plenty of time for pictures. I tried to call Rob’s cabin, but having no pleather book, we had no phone instructions. I tried dialing his cabin number in a variety of ways, but nothing worked. I pressed the Guest Services speed dial button, but instantly got a busy signal. Well, I guess we would have a head start trying out the various picture venues.

 

 

 

We picked up my mom and Joann from their cabin and headed towards the main atrium. We stopped for pictures at the bottom of the staircase, and the photographer took a variety of shots – me Alex and Alyssa, Alex and Alyssa, me and Alyssa, me, my mom and Alyssa, etc. The last photo was of just me an Alex, so Alyssa stood next to my mom and waved. Just as the photographer took the picture, I spied a teenage girl running through the area towards the cabin hallway near the Guest Services desk. Alyssa was still standing there, watching me, and to my horror and outrage, the girl PUSHED Alyssa out of her way so that she could run through! “Hey!” I shouted, but the girl was already gone.

 

 

We walked to the back of the ship, looking at all the backdrops in hopes of finding my brother and his family. No luck. We wound up at the bar outside the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” lounge, where the bartender whom Joann and I met the previous night was pouring drinks.

 

 

Alex and Alyssa went down the stairs to check Rob’s cabin on the Upper deck. It took a while for them to come back, but they did make it back, and with the rest of our group following. Let the chaos begin! We took a few pictures with some different backgrounds and with a variety of shots: just the grandmas and grandkids, each grandma with the grandkids, parents and kids, parents only, kids only, etc. Hopefully, a few of the pictures would turn out alright.

 

 

We still had some time to kill before dinner, so we walked back to the cigar lounge to wait, then down the stairs to the main dining room. We tried changing the seating arrangement a bit tonight so that the adults could get a bit more elbow room, but we didn’t have a whole lot to work with in the first place. Still, at least the waiter wasn’t passing food and hot dishes over my head this evening!

 

 

My hopes that the service would be even a little better tonight were crushed. Again the service was slow, inefficient, and disorganized. I mentioned before that I’ve had 8 previous cruises (7 with Carnival), but do you know that in all those cruises, I never once missed dinner in the main dining room? To me the MDR experience was an absolute must, no matter how slow the service, but tonight even I conceded that we would be better off with the casual Lido dining for the rest of the cruise. Boo!

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("Hey! Where's my food?!?")

 

 

 

Tonight, Alyssa’s request for a starter was again ignored, and she didn’t get her strawberry soup until long after her pizza came. My turkey farfalle starter was stone cold and clumpy and missing the peas that the menu listed. “Hey!” I joked with Alex and Rob, “Someone took a pea on my pasta!”

 

 

 

It took a while, but I finally managed to flag our waiter down and give the dish back to him. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but this is cold and missing the peas. Can I please have the spinach dip instead?”

 

 

My favorite Carnival entrée, St. Louis BBQ ribs, was on the menu tonight. Really? BBQ and corn on the cob in evening wear?!? Oh, what the heck! I took the risk and ordered it. I’m glad I did, because I seemed to be the only one at the table who actually enjoyed my entrée! I wasn’t going to press my luck with the corn, though, so I passed it to Alex with a silly remark about “lending him my ear.” Alex rolled his eyes, but then made some sort of crack about nibbling my ear at the dinner table. His smile quickly faded after that first bite. “Ugh! It’s horrible!” he grimaced.

 

 

I’m not a fan of coleslaw, so I had ordered a side of steamed white rice instead. I don’t know what I was thinking or expecting, though, because the rice was bland and unappealing. Well, at least the ribs were tasty!

Our servers took a long time to serve us again, and Laura grew tired of waiting for her dessert to arrive. She excused herself from the table, told Rob he could have hers (“if it ever comes”) and took Brandon back to the cabin for bedtime. Our dessert did finally arrive about 5-10 minutes later…well, sort of. Most of us ordered the Bitter & Blanc, but none of us got the vanilla sauce that made up the “Blanc” part of the dessert! Kelsey and Alyssa had both ordered banana splits from the kids menu, but only Alyssa got what she ordered, as our waiter plopped a pineapple sorbet in front of Kelsey and took off. Three of us (including Alyssa) had to ask the waiter to bring Kelsey the dessert she actually ordered before she got her banana split, and we almost had to beg for the warm vanilla sauce on the rest of our desserts.

 

 

Disappointed at dinner again, we all walked back to our respective cabins to change into more comfortable clothes. I told Alex that I would stay with Alyssa tonight so that he could get a turn at the comedy. I needed to rest anyway, so I filled out our room service card, snuggled up with Alyssa in the big bed, and we watched “Horton Hears a Who” until we fell asleep.

 

 

Tomorrow would be an early day at Key West, one of my favorite ports!

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(That's Miami in the background.)

 

Edited by Lady_Jag

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"Passage To India" had two of these elephant "crashing" through the front walls.

 

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The library was a nice place to hang out.

 

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The girls were very patient during our portrait sessions.

 

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I forgot to mention the state of our TV remote: "If the batteries in your remote is held in by old duct tape...you might be a redneck!"

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Your mom sounds very cool!! There is nothing wrong with burgers!!!! Brandon will be doing the same thing with those cookies we will order for him from room service. Oh I do hope our MDR experience isnt like yours. we have friends going for there very first cruise and we so want it to be a blast for them! Wow that is pretty sad on the remote!

Edited by RedRam99V8

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Simply fantastic! Love your writing style. Obviously don't know what you do for a living but love the attention to detail. Thanks so much for sharing and look forward to more. Very considerate and an asset to cruise critic.

Edited by rickechambers1@aol.com

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experience on your cruise sounds exactly like our experience on the Dream right before Christmas. The first time I have actually complained to the Maitre De'. Never got anything/everything right, more then two hours for dinner every night...hamburgers coming after everyone else ordered desert...I was amazed at how bad it could be.

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Thank you! Yes, Groo is correct: Hemingway does play a role in the 6 toes, but not quite what you'd expect. ;)

 

Hmmmm curious......

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Alyssa was up at 5:00am today…briefly. Lily, her dolphin PillowPet had fallen off her bunk, so she climbed down the ladder, rescued Lily, gave Alex a kiss, then climbed back up into the bunk to go back to sleep. I drifted in and out of sleep and felt the ship shudder as it pulled into Key West.

 

 

Today would be an early day, because our time in Key West was depressingly short. So I had set our “room service alarm” for 7:00am, so that we could relish every precious minute in port.

 

 

The three of us dressed, gathered our excursion backpack and my camera, then walked over to my mom’s cabin around 7:30 with a carafe of coffee. Whoops! We missed her again! So up to the Lido deck we went with the carafe and the last chocolate muffin from our order. We found my Mom, Joann, Sandra, and Kelsey having breakfast in the casual Lido restaurant deck, so I pulled up a couple of chairs and placed the coffee carafe in front of my mom, who smiled at me gratefully.

 

 

 

Within 10 minutes, a rather grumpy server came along and tried to take the coffee carafe. I grabbed the handle and said, “Sorry, she’s not done with that yet.” Well, Grumpy started to argue with me that we were not “permitted” to have a carafe in the restaurant! Then he made another grab for the carafe, pointed at the coffee station and said, rather rudely, “If she wants coffee, she can just go get it.”

 

 

 

I tightened my grip, and as nicely as I could through gritted teeth, explained that my mother had mobility issues, and it wasn’t all that easy for her to “just go get coffee.” My mom flashed her cane (to prove her handicap, not to whack him with it...I think!), and he reluctantly left us alone. Sheesh!

 

 

We were off the ship just before 9:00am. We took the obligatory gangway pictures, then clustered together on the pier to map out a plan of attack. Sandra was in my mom’s companion wheelchair, but despite my urging, my mom opted not to take her standard wheelchair, (“it’s too much of a pain… won’t fit on the trolley… hard to get around places… I’ll be fine with the cane…etc.”) Finally, Sandra told my mom that they could swap out when my mom needed to, so I left it at that.

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(My brother, trying to "off" his mother-in-law.)

 

 

 

We walked down the pier and stopped at the end to wait for my brother and Kelsey to catch up. (They were looking at a tour guide’s shark photos…Kelsey is really into sharks!) While we waited, Alyssa saw a little boy feeding Cheez-its to the pigeons, and somehow managed to sucker him into sharing with her so that she could feed the birds too.

 

 

 

Back to business, we walked past the art museum and its naked dancing sculptures and realistic statues. I had already purchased our City View trolley tickets online (and at a discount), so once we were past the museum, it was just a matter of crossing the street to the City View ticket site to trade my print-out in on trolley stickers. Lucky us, a trolley was ready and waiting already, so we all hopped on board.

 

 

The driver was very friendly and funny as he pointed out several sites and gave us some facts and history about the island. Our main destination was the Hemingway House, because I knew my mom and Alyssa would both enjoy the grounds and all the resident six-toed cats. Alyssa was fascinated with the idea of petting a cat with extra toes, and kept asking when we would be there.

 

 

Now here is the part of the story where Alex and I earn our MPITW, “Meanest Parents In The World” Award. About the 10th or 12th time Alyssa asked when we’d be able to see the six-toed cats, I heard Alex lean in and say, “You know, Alyssa, petting a six-toed cat can make you GROW a sixth toe!”

 

 

 

Alyssa’s eyes got really wide, then she looked at him suspiciously. “Nu-uh!” she said, “It won’t really make me grow a sixth toe, will it, Mommy?”

 

 

 

Trying hard to suppress my smile, I looked at her as seriously as I could and said, “Hmmm…I have known people with six toes. Maybe that’s how they got them!” Alyssa pondered this bit of info for a while, then smiled and told us we were just being silly and that no WAY that could happen. Still, she didn’t look very sure of herself.

 

 

The trolley stopped at the Southern Most Point for anyone who wanted to get off and take pictures or visit the butterfly museum. My brother decided to hop off with Brandon and Kelsey, get the obligatory picture, then meet up with us later. The rest of us stayed put until we made it to the Hemingway House.

 

 

Now, I’ve was in Key West years prior when we sailed on the Celebration, and before that Alex and I had spent a week there enjoying the island, and I have to say not much has changed. Traveling around on the trolley was like getting reacquainted with an old friend, and I would have liked to stay on for the entire route once before getting off, but our time was limited, and Alyssa was anxious to pet those cats.

 

 

We bought our tickets at a discount at the gate of the Hemingway House (AAA rate) and lined up for the tour. My mom and Sandra would not be able to visit the upstairs area, but they were content to tour the downstairs of the house and the gardens. Alyssa was in cat-lover’s heaven, and kept a keen eye out for kitty cats she could pet.

 

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Delaney, on the other hand, was not having quite as much fun. Delaney doesn’t really “get” cats, since she’s had only dogs as pets, and those she was used to rough-housing with without any consequences. So she didn’t really know how to identify a cat who was friendly enough to pet, and one who was p*--ed off and wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately for her, the cat she approached was of the latter temperament and scratched her hand.

 

 

It was a very small scratch, but it bled and smarted, and when I encountered her and Laura in the garden, she was still holding onto the top of her injured hand. I took a look, grabbed a Band-Aid out of my camera bag (with my accident-prone Alyssa, I ALWAYS have to have them on me), and I applied it to her wound. The magic healing power of the Band-Aid immediately made Delaney feel better.

 

 

It took us some time and a few texts and phone calls to find all of our group. Rob never made it to the Hemmingway House, so Laura and Sandra were going to meet him at the Bahama Village. Laura asked me for directions (her mistake!), so I whipped out my little trolley map (my mistake!) and pointed out the little square marked “Bahama Village.” Between the two of us, we mapped out a route. Laura, Delaney and Sandra went on ahead while Alyssa and I stood at the front gate, waiting for Alex, Joann, and my mom to find us. They finally made it out and we were on our way to the Bahama Village…sort of.

 

 

You see, the map that I had from the trolley wasn’t entirely accurate, and the Village was NOT where the map indicated. We walked for several blocks down the wrong road, Alyssa going on and on about how she petted 150…no 1000…no 5000 cats! and Joann asking everyone she saw, including school children, “do you know where the Bahama Village is? Where’s the Bahama Village?” (Everyone looked at her like she was crazy.

 

 

We did eventually walk to the Bahama Village, which turned out to be on the opposite side of the Hemingway House! If we had turned right instead of left when we exited, we would have found it on the practically the very next block!

 

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By now, though, my mom was spent, having limped along so many blocks with just her cane and no wheelchair. She and Alyssa sat down on a bench outside one of the shops, and assured me she’d be okay but just need to rest. I reached into my backpack to give Alyssa a snack of dry cereal from room service and asked if she wanted a box too, which she declined. So I walked into the store and bought a couple of cold drinks for the both of them.

 

 

 

Alex, Joann and I whipped in and out of the stores on either side of the street. We didn’t see anything we just had to have in any of them, so we collected my mom and Alyssa and walked down the street to the trolley stop. We hopped on the very next trolley, and my mom said she needed to go back to the ship to rest, and could take Alyssa with her. Alyssa was happy for that, so I passed my mom her S&S card. As I did, Alyssa started to complain that her pinky toe hurt from all the walking.

 

 

 

Well, me being the uncompassionate, mean and evil mommy that I am, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease her about the cats again. So I told her foot probably hurt because she was growing a sixth toe and her shoes just weren’t wide enough for that many toes! (Bad, Mommy! Bad, bad Mommy!!) Alyssa basically told me I was crazy, and that there was no WAY she was growing another toe! “We’ll see,” I shrugged.

 

 

We left my mom and Alyssa on the trolley to return to the ship, and Alex, Joann, and I hopped off just before Front Street so that we could shop at the off-Duval stores and Kermit’s Key Lime shop. I’m not really a fan of Key Lime pie, but Kermit’s had more than just pie, and delicious samples of almost everything in the store! I tried Key Lime fudge, Key Lime taffy, Key Limeade, and a variety of other Key Lime candies and nuts. I even sampled the Key Lime wine, which wasn’t bad, but not really a flavor I would seek. I purchased some Key Lime coconut patties for my cousin who LOVES coconut patties and Key Lime wing sauce for a stocking stuffer for Alex. When we exited, I had to get a picture with Kermit, who was standing outside the shop holding a pie.

 

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We walked a little further down the street to do some more shopping, then followed a large tour group back to Kermit’s. The group gathered around the front of the store as the guide gave a little history lesson, and then everyone gasped. Kermit had hit one of the tourists smack in the center of his chest with the pie he was holding! He held it on the guy’s chest for a few more seconds for effect, then pulled it away to reveal that it was fake! I laughed at the look of disbelief, and then relief on the guy’s face.

 

 

We continued our walk and stumbled upon “Peppers of Key West,” a hot sauce place with a tasting bar. There were a few patrons sampling the various sauces and turning various shades of pink and red. The three of us browsed the shelves of sauces until one of the employees behind the bar invited us to try a free tasting of the sauces. Um, ok. I’ll be a sport. I sat on one of the bar stools with Alex and Joann on either side of me, and the guy placed a couple of bowls of tortilla chips in front of us. Then he asked me what sort of flavors I liked, and started pouring one of the sauces into a little cup for us. He gave us an overview of the sauce and the number of Scovo Units (heat factor), cracked a few jokes, then poured another sample from a different bottle.

 

 

 

Who would have thought we’d have such a great time trying out hot sauces?!? But the guy was really funny and constantly cracked jokes and little innuendos that had Joann in stitches! Pure entertainment and some great hot sauces too! We bought a bottle of one of their most popular hot sauces, and I asked where we could get some ice cream to put out the fire on my tongue. Instead of directions, we were given spoonfuls of Pepper’s Key Lime cream cheese dessert, which was delicious and immediately stopped the burning!

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(Joann and our "host" at the hot sauce bar.)

 

 

 

We thanked our “host” and headed for the door. Alex asked if there was anywhere at all on the island where he could get a fountain drink, because so far he’s seen nothing but canned sodas. The guy at Pepper’s had to think about it for a while, but then told Alex he might have luck at a pizza place just down the street.

 

 

Well, the pizza place had fountain drinks, but too bad for Alex – they carried Pepsi. So he found a place that sold bottles of Diet Coke and then was ready for more shopping. I suddenly remembered that I wanted to visit Kinos’ shoe store, so we walked to the small strip mall a few blocks away. There, I purchased a cute pair of handmade leather sandals for Alyssa for just $10. Next door was a jewelry store with some great prices and a lady who was willing to deal. I bought two pairs of lovely black opal set in silver earrings (palm trees and butterflies) as Christmas gifts for my BFFs for less than $40/pair. I also saw a black opal necklace and earring set (geckos) that I fell in love with, but didn’t want to spend the money on myself. I saw Alex trying to covertly talk to the lady behind the counter about the set, so I thought I’d give him a little privacy and check out the other stores in the mall.

 

 

Alex completed his “secret” Christmas gift purchase, Joann bought a few t-shirts, and then the three of us moved on to the next block of stores. We came to the Toy Factory inside a mall I remembered from when Alex and I had our Key West land vacation. They had lots of great toys at reasonable prices, and I managed to knock a few more people off my Christmas shopping list. We also ran into Rob and Kelsey there. Rob said that he tried the “growing a 6th toe” thing on Delaney and had her so convinced that being scratched by a six-toed cat was a surefire way to grow a sixth toe, that she cried. (There goes MY MPITW Award!) He felt really bad, and assured her that he was just teasing her, so then she thought it was kind of funny.

 

 

Shopping bags in hand, we walked across the mall to the Nature Encounter, where two beautiful macaws let out an ear-piercing shriek at my approach. Ugh! A little backstory here: birds hate me. I don’t know why, but they do. Over the last 12 years or so, I have been attacked by ducks, charged by a chicken, stalked by peacocks, accosted by storks, and been on the losing end of a battle with a seagull over my breakfast. Alex likes to joke that the last photograph I will ever take will be an extreme close-up of a bird’s beak and/or claws. So needless to say, I was a bit hesitant to enter the Nature Encounter after the two macaws out in the mall sounded their alarm!

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(Ah, my old nemesis!)

 

We didn’t have much time left, so our trip through the Nature Encounter was blessedly short. They had a sort of tropical themed path through their very small bird exhibit, complete with an electronic alligator on a motion sensor. Joann didn’t see the gator, and when she walked by, it rolled out and snapped at her, causing her to jump backwards and scream. We couldn’t help but laugh at how high she jumped!

 

 

 

So then mischievous Kelsey ran ahead of us to hide in the faux reeds and scared Joann again by jumping out at her. (Yep, she’s her daddy’s girl alright!)

 

 

Around 2:15, the five of us left the Nature Encounter, walked downstairs, and left the mall with all our purchases. A short stroll and we were back at the art museum with a nice view of the Fascination. Rob’s phone rang, and from his conversation, I gathered it was my mom. He told her we were on Duval Street, and that he was positive we didn’t have to be back on board until 3:00. (In actuality, we were supposed to be back at 2:30 so the ship could sail at 3:00). He stuck to his story through the end of the call.

 

 

Seconds after he hung up, MY phone rang. It was my mom trying to persuade me to get us all back on the ship ASAP. I decided to play along with my brother’s little joke as I walked through the checkpoint at the pier, and insisted that we didn’t have to be back on board until 3:00, and had plenty of time to walk back to the ship.

 

 

After I hung up my phone, JOANN’S phone rang, and the joke stopped there. Joann didn’t realize what was going on, and I heard her say, “Yeah, we’re walking through security right now. Uh-huh. Alex and Laura are here. Yep, Rob too.” Ah well! It was fun while it lasted!

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Your review has been wonderful. I have enjoyed it and look forward to the ship in 10 days.

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Your mom sounds very cool!! There is nothing wrong with burgers!!!! Brandon will be doing the same thing with those cookies we will order for him from room service. Oh I do hope our MDR experience isnt like yours. we have friends going for there very first cruise and we so want it to be a blast for them! Wow that is pretty sad on the remote!

I'm sure your friends will have a great time! Bad service in the MDR is very rare. And yes, my mom is cool...but don't tell her I said that! ;)

 

Simply fantastic! Love your writing style. Obviously don't know what you do for a living but love the attention to detail. Thanks so much for sharing and look forward to more. Very considerate and an asset to cruise critic.

Wow, thank you! :o I'm humbled by such compliments.

I've been a technical writer for about 12 years, so I'm used to writing things that people don't want to read, like instruction manuals and online help files.

 

experience on your cruise sounds exactly like our experience on the Dream right before Christmas. The first time I have actually complained to the Maitre De'. Never got anything/everything right, more then two hours for dinner every night...hamburgers coming after everyone else ordered desert...I was amazed at how bad it could be.

I'm so sorry to hear that. Our lousy service was a big shock to me too. I'd never had poor service from a MDR wait team before, and up until now, just took for granted that we would always have a good dining experience.

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Your review has been wonderful. I have enjoyed it and look forward to the ship in 10 days.

 

Thank you! You are going to have a fantastic time!

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Back at the pier to board the ship in Key West, there were two very VERY long lines – one at the front of the ship, and one aft. Rob and Kelsey got in the line aft, which was closest to their cabins, and Alex, Joann and I joined the line forward.

 

Alex and I followed Joann back to her cabin, where Alyssa was napping. Joann went on an on to my mom about how my mom would have LOVED the shopping, it was so great. I tried to shoot Joann a look of “be quiet! You’re not helping!” but again, Joann didn’t realize that she was only adding to my mom’s disappointment.

 

Alyssa woke up with a smile, and I gave her a little dolphin bracelet, which she loved. “I bought you something else,” I told her, then produced the sandals I bought from Kino’s. Alyssa was thrilled. “These should be wide enough for all six of your toes,” I told her with a wink. (I know! I know! But I just couldn’t resist!)

 

“I DON’T HAVE SIX TOES!” Alyssa retorted, rolling her eyes. Then she and Alex sat on the bed and they took turns counting her toes, first with her socks on, then on her bare feet. Socks or no socks, Alex always managed to count six.

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(Toe counting)

 

It was about time for the ship to depart, and my well-rested Alyssa wanted to go to the Waterworks area. So we went back to our cabin, changed her into her swimsuit, and went upstairs to Waterworks…with a brief stop at the grill for an afternoon snack. Both Alex and I were starving! We carried our trays upstairs to the aft where the Waterworks area was, found two loungers, and enjoyed our food while Alyssa played and went down the corkscrew slide, then the down racing slides over and over and over again.

 

Being a social butterfly like her daddy, Alyssa had no problem making friends with everyone she came across. She really took to one little girl in particular, who looked to be 3 or 4 years old. The little girl held Alyssa’s hand as Alyssa led her to my and Alex’s loungers.

 

“And this is my Mommy and Daddy,” Alyssa introduced us, “Mommy, she has to go potty.” I looked at the girl, who obviously had to go really bad, but I knew better than to take some stranger’s little girl into a bathroom and remove her bathing suit. So I asked the girl where her parents were. She didn’t know.

 

I told Alyssa to take the little girl through the rows of loungers and see if she could spot them. They went past every chair, and no parents. By this time, the little girl was holding herself like Michael Jackson and looked like she was ready to cry.

 

I walked over to Alyssa and told her to take the little girl to the potty. Alyssa nodded, but before the girls took one more step, the little girl’s dad showed up. Whew! Finally! Alyssa said goodbye to the little girl, then ran off to play with some other kids. I went back to the lounger to soak up a few more rays while I watched her and her new friends play.

 

Suddenly, everything went silent. No gush of water from the Waterworks, no engines churning, everything was quiet except for the waves slapping against the ship. The engines had stopped, and we were adrift at sea. I looked up at the ship’s funnel just in time to see dark smoke billowing out. Uh-oh!

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(Ummm...this can't be good!)

 

Our cruise director, Jen, came over the PA system, indicating that the ship was experiencing technical problems, but that the engineers were working on restoring the power. In the meantime, she reminded us that some of the interior areas of the ship would be very dark, so be careful in the stairwells and hallways.

 

I looked at Alex and asked if we should go. “Why?” he asked, “She just said the ship was dark, so why not stay here where we can see?” He made a good point.

 

Alyssa came over to us to inform us that the ship had stopped (as if we didn’t notice.) Then she asked if that meant the cruise would be over. I assured her everything would be alright, and considered the possibility of the ship being beyond immediate repair. Let’s see. Key West was not too far in the distance, so it wouldn’t take long to tow the ship back there. Yeah, I could spend a couple more days in Key West, then fly back home. Sure, it would be a bummer to end the cruise early, but it really wouldn’t be such a bad deal.

 

While I daydreamed, the Carnival crew that had been monitoring the Waterworks area brought out the nets to cover the ends of the slides. Alyssa walked over and helped the crew secure the nets over the slides, and then shooed little boy away from his perch between the two racing slides. (I wondered if it was the same little boy I saw walking up one of the racing slides and who had to be lifted off the slide by one of the crew. Then I wondered where his parents were?!?)

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(Helping out.)

 

A little while later, Jen came back over the PA system with an update. She said the power should be back shortly, and to remember to be careful as areas of the ship were dark. We continued to drift on the water. Then the PA sounded again, and I saw Alyssa raise her hand up in the air to quiet everyone. Jen announced that partial power had been restored, and the technicians were now working on the rest.

 

“Yay! We can keep cruising!” Alyssa shouted, then high-fived her new friends. 20-30 minutes later, we heard the engines start back up, and then we were sailing again! The Waterworks, pools, and hot tubs were still closed, and there was no indication that the nets would be removed anytime soon, so we called to Alyssa and all went downstairs to our cabin to change. The stairwell was still dark, but the small emergency lights on the sides of the stairs were working. Alex suggested we take the elevators, which seemed to be working again, but I didn’t trust it. “You want to get stuck in an elevator?” I asked.

 

We walked down the promenade and bumped into Rob, Delaney and Brandon near the sushi cart on their way to the pool. When she heard Delaney was going to the pool, Alyssa wanted to go too, so Alex said he would take her and followed Rob and his two youngest back the way we came. Nearby, Sandra and Laura were sitting at table, so I pulled up a chair and sat down to talked to them. I scanned the casino behind me and noticed that only quarter-flipper machines were operational, and I wondered when all the power would be restored. Laura and I were just standing up to hunt down our husbands and children, when Jen made the announcement that the ships power was now operating at 100%. Yay!

 

I followed Laura to the Lido deck, where we spotted our guys and girls. Despite the power being back up, the pools and hot tubs were still closed, so Delaney and Alyssa were very disappointed. Oh well! It was about time we went back to our cabins to change for dinner anyway. Tonight would be my very first dinner experience at the buffet, and I hoped it was better than the main dining room. Too bad for me, it wasn’t.

 

Only one side of the buffet was open, and the selection was not so great. (Well, at least we knew we’d be finished in time for the Past Guest party tonight!) I set my plate of food in front of my seat at our table, along with a headache powder I grabbed from our cabin. Then I walked over to the drink machines to pour myself a glass of water. I was barely gone for a minute when one of the Lido servers grabbed my headache powder and plate. Alex chased her down and got both items back just in time! Well, at least the service here was faster than the MDR! LOL!

 

We ate a mediocre light dinner, and then walked down to the main show lounge for the PG party. Unlike my other cruises, where there was a party for guests with Early seating and one for those with Late seating, the Fascination had only one PG party for everyone, and it was scheduled for 7:15.

 

Delaney wasn’t feeling that great, so Laura said she would skip the party and take Delaney and Brandon back to the cabin to rest. She gave Sandra (first time Carnival cruiser) her invitation, then handed Rob Delaney’s invitation, just in case there was a drawing.

 

Our group of 8, plus 2-3 fellow passengers, hopped onto the first available elevator down to the Atlantic (I think) deck, with Sandra standing closest to the doors. When the elevator stopped one floor before where we were going to get off and the doors opened, Rob told Sandra, “Go! Hurry, before the doors close!” Sandra walked off the elevator, but the rest of us stayed on.

 

Sandra realized too late that she was on the wrong deck, and turned around just as the doors were closing. “Oh no!!!” she exclaimed, with a hilarious look of surprise and despair on her face. The doors shut and everyone, including our fellow passengers, burst out laughing. When the elevator stopped on the correct deck, Rob did the right thing, and went upstairs to fetch his lost mother-in-law.

 

My mom was still laughing over the look on Sandra’s face when Alex asked her, “don’t you appreciate me just a little bit more now?” My mom hugged him and said, “yes! Thank you, Alex!”

 

There was a large crowd gathering in front of the closed doors to the lounge. (I noted later that the party started late, but ended right on time.) As we waited, a woman in front of us asked if she had to have an invitation to enter, because really she hadn’t sailed Carnival before, but her husband had, and she was with him. Rob told her not to worry, that they would let her in anyway. Then he handed the lady Delaney’s invitation, “just in case.”

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(Funship Freddy greeted us.)

 

The drinks and hors d'oeuvres flowed freely, and the band played some lively tunes. I can always count on Alyssa to be the first on the dance floor, and tonight was no different. She dragged Kelsey to dance with her and soon, the dance floor was full of kids! But I guess there weren’t enough kids up there for Alyssa, because she walked down the stage steps and invited some other little girls from the front row to dance as well. They all had a blast!

 

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(Cheers!)

 

The music stopped, and Jen took the stage to emcee the Carnival trivia game (I was out by round 3) and raffle drawing. Then we saw the typical past guest video, got the standard Future Cruise Certificate spiel, listened to the special offer for raffle ticket sales, then we were bid a farewell. Alyssa was wound up and still wanted to dance, so Alex, Rob and I took her up to the Lido deck to see if maybe there was a deck party or something. Too bad there was no music, but we did see a crew member working on one of the hot tubs, and it looked like they were preparing to open them.

 

That was all it took for Alex and Alyssa. They rushed back to the cabin to change into their swimsuits. I chatted with my brother as we walked back to aft elevators, then traversed the length of the ship back to my own cabin. Waiting for me were a bucket of ice keeping a bottle of champagne cold, a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, a 24 carat gold plastic ship-on-a-stick, and note from cruise directors Jen and John Heald, wishing me a “lovely cruise.” What a sweet surprise!

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I freshened up, then knocked on my mom’s and Joann’s door. The three of us were going to the comedy show in the aft lounge tonight. I had a few laughs, but on the whole, I’d say the show was just okay. Joann swore the comedian was 10 times funnier the previous night, but I’d have to just take her word for it. My mom was ready to turn in, so she said goodnight and made her way back to her cabin.

 

Joann and I walked the length of the ship again so that we could see the guest talent show in the main lounge. While I appreciated the vocal talents of the participants, I was disappointed that all but one of the participants were singers; I was hoping for some variety in the show. The one act that was not a singing act opened the show: a pretty good harmonica player.

 

When the talent show ended around 11:00, Joann and I crossed ship yet again to see the second comedy show, which was an adults-only show. The comedian I saw our first night took the stage, and I thought his material was actually a little better. When the show was over, we walked the length of the ship one last time so we could retire in our cabins.

 

Alex and Alyssa were already asleep, but I was still a little wound up from the day’s excitement. So I powered up my laptop, inserted my SD card from my camera, and started backing up and cleaning up my pictures from the last few days. There would be plenty of time to sleep in, anyway, as we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Nassau until noon.

Edited by Lady_Jag

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(Never passing up a chance to dance! Those are her Kinos sandals and dolphin bracelet, btw.)

 

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YUM!

 

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More review tomorrow...

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Thanksgiving day, and I awoke just before 8:00am. Surprisingly, Alex was already up and getting dressed to go out. He wanted to explore the ship before Alyssa got up, but he wasn’t fast enough. She popped her eyes open before he could even reach the door handle, and of course wanted to go with him.

I quickly got Alyssa ready for her Daddy-Daughter adventure and sent them on their way. I figured I had about 20 minutes or so to shower before my 9:00-9:30 room service request arrived. Silly me, I never counted on room service being EARLY!

Just as I was stepping out of the shower, I heard someone knock on the door, followed by the call, “room service!” Eep! Quickly, I toweled off, flung open the closet door and grabbed for a Carnival bathrobe. The robe put up a fight, holding tightly to the metal brackets inside the closet that kept the bunk bed ladder secure when not in use. Argh! I finally wrestled the robe out of the closet, wrapped it around me, then tried to tie it. Guess what? In winning the battle to get the robe out of the closet, I lost the sash to tie the robe!

So holding my robe closed with one hand, I reached out and opened the door with the other. Our room service deliverer was surprised to say the least. I think he was even a little embarrassed (or maybe appalled?) as I did my best to do all of the following simultaneously: 1. Hold the robe closed so as not to flash Mr. Deliverer. 2. Prop the door open with my foot so as not to slam the door in Mr. Deliverer’s face. 3. Take the large room service tray from Mr. Deliverer. 4. Set said tray down somewhere without moving the foot that was propping open the door. 4. Sign the slip to indicate that I received my order. 5. Give Mr. Deliverer a tip (monetary tip, that is!)

Somehow, I managed this tricky juggling act without a wardrobe malfunction. Still, Mr. Deliverer practically sprinted back down the hall in terror before I could even say “thank you.” Yeah, my ego took a bit of a bruising at such a reaction!

I got dressed and carried the tray with the trouble-causing coffee carafe to my mom’s cabin. Dang it! Missed her again! Ah well! I decided to grab a leisurely breakfast on the Lido deck, and maybe do a little exploration of my own. The TVs in all the public areas were broadcasting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, seemed out of place on the ship. Maybe it was because the TV volume was really low, making the marching bands and dancers look ridiculous. In any case, I appreciated the attempt to allow people to enjoy their holiday traditions, despite missing the mark a little bit. (Later, I noticed that all the TVs also broadcast the two NFL football games.)

The Lido deck was wet from an early rain, and the clouds overhead looked pretty dark. Hmmm…maybe we would pass through it all and have nice weather for Nassau? At least I hoped so! Fingers crossed for good weather, I grabbed a bite from the buffet and then wandered the ship.

I wound up in the photo gallery, where our Elegant Evening pictures were on display. Now, I’ll admit I’m hardly even close to being a professional photographer, but I was seriously disappointed in all the group and partial group photos we took against the white background. The photographer must have had a glass eye or had no experience taking group pictures, because every last one of the pictures had amateur mistakes in them: terrible dark shadows thrown on faces, the tripod stand on the edge of the photo, the photo slanted like the photographer was falling, the edge of the backdrop showing, or backlight from the nearby windows creating strange shapes along the backdrop.

On the flip side, I spotted a couple of pictures of Alex and Alyssa taken in their elegant attire with the piano background and thought they were great. I wanted to purchase them, but they were coated in greasy fingerprints and creases from people rifling through the photos. Yuck! So I took the pictures to the register and asked if they would please reprint them for me so that I could have crisp clean copies. No problem, they would be waiting for me after 9:00pm the next night. (I guess they were backlogged?)

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(At least a couple of the portraits turned out well!)

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I walked down Rodeo Drive, where the Fun Shops were and saw a flyer for a Black Friday sale the next day. Sweet! I made a mental note to grab my mom and be at the shops when they opened in the morning. Alex and Alyssa were already back in the cabin when I returned, so I asked Alyssa if she still wanted to go to Camp Carnival for their Wii Dance party. Of course she did!

Alex and I checked Alyssa in just before the activity started at 11:00. Already there was a huge group of small children gathered around the TV, shouting their song requests to the counselor who held the Wii remote. Alyssa couldn’t wait to join in, and I barely got even a hug goodbye. Well, I’d be seeing her soon anyway, since pick-up time was 11:45.

I would have bet that we would be at least a little late getting to Nassau after yesterday’s power outage, but no! Our arrival to Nassau was actually almost an hour EARLIER than scheduled! We pulled in around 11:00, so Alex and I went to one of the upper decks for a good view and so I could take some pictures. Four ships were already docked, including the Disney Dream, Carnival Magic, Carnival Pride, and NCL Gem. Nassau was going to be busy, for sure!

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(Atlantis in the background on the left, the Carnival Pride on the right.)

The ship’s engines rumbled and groaned, spinning us around 180 degrees so that we could back in at the pier, just in front of the Carnival Pride and next to the NCL Gem. On the other side of the Gem was the Carnival Magic, and opposite the Magic I could see a little of the Disney Dream and it’s really cool clear-tubed slide that seemed to traverse the perimeter of the ship. The ship looked like a floating Disney World!

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(Backing in, where four other ships were already docked. From right to left: Disney Dream, Carnival Magic, NCL Gem, and a little bit of the Carnival Pride.)

 

 

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(A closer look at the Carnival Magic and Disney Dream.)

The PA bell sounded, and our cruise director, Jen, all but begged people NOT to crowd decks 3 and 4 yet, as no one would be able to debark until noon. I knew from experience, though, that the majority of people would ignore her pleas, and my suspicion was confirmed when I saw many people gathering up their bags and backpacks and heading for the stairs and elevators. Whatever.

At 11:45, Alex and I went back to Camp Carnival to pick up Alyssa. She was now the only child there playing the Wii dance game, so she had command of the Wii remote. She was having such a great time, she didn’t even see us until we called her!

We met up with the rest of our group for lunch on the Lido deck. The place, of course was PACKED! Every table inside and out were taken, so we circled the tables like hawks, waiting for any sign that someone would vacate. Finally, someone did, and we swooped in on a 4-top table to squeeze in all 11 of us. Fortunately, the table next to us soon opened up, and we were able to fill those seats as well and give everyone a little elbow room.

I don’t like long lines, so I went to the pizzeria, where no one was waiting. The chef here had been smart and made a few cheese and a few pepperoni pizzas ahead of time, and was dishing out slice after slice to approaching guests. Then I threw a kink into the works by asking for a calzone. Screeeech! Actually, the chef was really nice about it and told me that it would take 10 minutes to make, but that it would be fresh. I was fine with that. After all, I still had to fetch Alyssa’s lunch (grilled cheese from the deli) and drinks and walk it back to our table by the pool.

About the time I got Alyssa situated, Jen gave the “all clear” over the PA, cuing a stampede of people and giving us a little more breathing room amidst the massive crowd. I sat at our table and watched everyone rush to the gangway like in a Roadrunner cartoon, where there’s just a quick “Beep! Beep!” and then all you see is flash, leaving a cloud of floating dust and straw in their wake. (I thought I even saw on one of the abandoned tables, an empty plate spinning on its edge like a quarter!)

All danger of being crushed by exiting passengers over, I walked back to the Pizzeria where my fresh hot calzone awaited. I smiled, thanked the chef, and brought my lunch back to the table. It was pretty yummy and well worth the wait!

We mapped out a port plan while we dined. I had been to Nassau at least 4-5 times already, so my loosely planned activity was to take Alyssa to the zoo so she could see the flamingos and lorikeets. Rob then asked if Alex and I would also take his girls with us, and then he and Laura would “push the mothers in the wheelchairs so they can shop.” I asked if he needed us to take Brandon too, but he said (much to Alyssa’s disappointment) that Brandon would stay with them.

I agreed, but told Laura that my only concern was of Kelsey wandering off. (Already, she seemed to have free rein on the ship, and I'm not sure her whereabouts were always known. Eeep!) I said that Alyssa really looked up to her cousins, and that if Kelsey wandered off, Alyssa would likely try to follow, and I didn’t have enough hands or experience to keep up with three kids roaming in different directions a foreign country. Laura said she understood and that she would talk to Kelsey and Delaney to make sure they both stayed with us.

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We all walked off the ship sometime between 1:30 and 2:00, thinking the crowds would be diminished. No luck there, as the pier area and shops around it were still pretty crowded. I didn’t really know WHERE the Ardastra Zoo and Gardens were, but Alex said he thought he remembered from the last time we were there (2004). So we followed Alex through part of the downtown area. We hadn’t gotten far before Alyssa started whining about her legs hurting and asking to be picked up. Being the MPITW (Meanest Parent In The World) I told her she was too heavy to carry and if her legs hurt, it was because she needed to walk around and stretch them out.

I guess a lot had changed since we walked to the Ardastra Gardens 7 years prior, because Alex didn’t look too sure of himself. So I asked a taxi driver who was standing next to his car in a parking lot for directions. He said he it wasn’t far and he would drive us there for $15. I declined and asked again for directions. He pointed down the road and said it was about a 20 minute walk that way. I thanked him, and we walked a few more steps around the corner, where a vendor was selling frozen fruit bars. I bought each of the girls a bar for being such good sports, then asked the vendor where we could get the jitney bus to the Ardastra Gardens.

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(Mmmm! Strawberry!)

The vendor pointed across the street and said all we had to do was stand on that side of the street and flag down a #10 bus. Well, a #10 bus came, and the driver said he could take all 5 of us there...or close to the zoo at least... for a total of $4. There was only one other person on the bus besides us and the driver, who had Willie Nelson crooning loudly across the radio speakers.

The bus stopped on the main street, at the intersection of the road where the zoo was located. Alex gave the driver $5, told him to keep the change, and we all hopped out and strolled up the street to the gates of the zoo. It wasn’t a bad walk on this mild sunny day, and even Alyssa forgot to complain about her legs being tired.

The Ardastra Gardens parking lot was empty, and the zoo itself was virtually deserted. The lady at the gate fell in love with Alyssa and thought she was the cutest thing ever. The security guard standing next to the lady who collected our admission fees was really friendly and asked us if we had been to Nassau before and if we had been to the gardens before. Then he talked about how the next time we come, we should come early so we can spend the whole day, and maybe go to the beach, because it was beautiful, etc. etc.

 

 

By the way, if anyone wants to know the admission prices for the Ardastra Zoo and Gardens, it was $16/each for me and Alex and $8/each for the girls.

I forgot how many birds called the Ardastra Gardens home. Oh, goodie! Needless to say, I spent the longest time viewing the jaguars and lemurs and keeping my distance from the feathered animals. I stayed on my guard, though, because there were plenty of flamingos and peacocks roaming freely across the grounds. In fact, one flamingo barked and snapped at Kelsey when she walked past (a little too close I guess), and Kelsey jumped as high as Joann did the day before at the Nature Encounter. I laughed, and told Kelsey it was a perfect example of karma.

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(This guy looks like he's sleeping, but don't let him fool you! He's just waiting to catch me off guard and then attack!)

We didn’t need too long to see the majority of animal/bird exhibits, so we walked back to the lorikeets so we (well, everyone but me) could participate in the 3:30 feeding. Before we entered, a guide gave us some chunks of apples and instructions on how to feed the birds, then led us into the lorikeet area. Immediately, I felt feathers beating against my right ear from one of the birds buzzing my head! I instinctively ducked, then positioned myself a safe distance from the people holding the food.

The girls were really enjoying the experience, and all of them had birds on their heads and arms. Alyssa also had apple peels in her hair (the birds don’t eat the peel). Kelsey and Delaney were both pinched by the birds’ claws (they were holding their hands down instead of straight out), but they didn’t seem to mind. Of course I was the first to leave the area, having taken enough photo and having enough “close calls.” When there were no more apples, Alex tipped our guide and we walked over to the little arena to await the flamingo show.

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(Delaney thought the experiences was great!)

 

 

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(Don't look now, Kelsey, but there's one on your back!)

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(Well, now I know how she got apple in her hair!)

The flamingo show was exactly what I remembered from our 2004 visit, except this time, Kelsey, Delaney, and Alyssa got to stand among the flamingos instead of me. The three of them giggled and posed for pictures, and Kelsey squealed when one of the flamingos nibbled on her neck. The show was short, and when it was over, we headed for the exit.

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(Trying to stand like flamingos.)

That’s when we found several goats that made up their small “petting zoo.” A man who had been feeding the goats some goat “snaaaaacks” that he purchased at the gift shop saw the girls’ excitement over the animals and gave them the bag of treats to give to the goats. Alex bought another bag when that one ran out, and the girls took turns holding the bag and distributing the goat food as fairly as them could.

Closing time, so after a very brief look through the small gift shop, we exited the gate, which one of the zoo employees closed and locked behind us. We walked back to the main road and crossed the street to await a jitney bus to take us back to the downtown area and pier. None of the buses that passed us were going the right direction, so after about 10 minutes, we decided to walk a block over and stroll along the beachfront street back to the pier.

There were plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars along the road. A lot of preparation was being done as well for the “Road Rally” that would be held the next week. We walked just a short distance, then Alex saw a cab driver on the side of the road and we all hopped in for a ride back to the pier. We asked the driver about the road rally, and he said it was a big deal and would consist of only older cars from the 1960s. Now Alex loves car shows, especially classic car shows, and I could tell he was disappointed to miss the rally by a mere week. Poor guy.

The cab driver dropped us off as close to the pier as he could get, and from there we walked through the temporary straw market that lined the street. The vendors were trying for those last few sales, but we didn’t have time to shop, as it was after 5:00pm, and I didn’t want Rob to worry about Kelsey and Delaney.

The pier was VERY windy! I told Alyssa and Delaney that they better hold hands or one of them would blow away. Delaney smiled, but Alyssa thought I was serious and held onto Delaney for dear life. Then she had a better idea, and talked Alex into carrying her on his shoulders.

We were just in time to see the Carnival Magic depart, so Kelsey, Delaney and I stood there for a few moments, watching the water churn as the engines pushed the ship away from the dock. From the sounds of the Norwegian Gem engines, that ship would be the next to leave as soon as the Magic cleared out. Next would probably be the Carnival Pride, then much later (10:00pm), the Carnival Fascination.

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(Feeding the enemy!)

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(Snaaaaaa-ack sign)

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(The birds! The birds!)

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(Kelsey was caught off guard by the guy in pink on the right.)

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Edited by Lady_Jag

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We took the girls back to our cabin first, then called Rob’s room. My mom was there with him, so we discussed dinner plans over the phone and debated on whether to dine in the main dining room for thanksgiving dinner. I told them I had heard here on CC that the turkey in the MDR was the “pressed” variety and not the carved kind. I expressed my concern that the service would be slow and lousy again, and we would miss the “snow” scheduled that evening in the main atrium. So the casual restaurant on the Lido deck won out.

I’m not so sure it was really a “winner,” though. Once again, only one side of the buffet was serving food. There WAS carved turkey available (albeit dry) and also sirloin steak. It wasn’t the best Thanksgiving meal we’d had (Joann moaned that there was no green bean casserole and the person carving the turkey wouldn’t give her the turkey leg), but it was quick and adequate. It helped that we had carried with us the chocolate covered strawberries and bottle of champagne from the previous evening, along with a second bottle of champagne that I had carried on board with me.

After the debacle over having a carafe in the Lido restaurant, I was positive we’d be kicked out for bringing champagne. Fortunately, no one even batted an eye when Alex popped the cork on the bottle and poured all the adults a glass…well, a cup! We toasted our family and our vacation away from Thanksgiving craziness, then popped the other bottle open to top off everyone’s cups.

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(Alex's girls)

The girls had moved onto their dessert course quickly, and all three had returned from the dessert table with a very rich, very yummy-looking chocolate ganache cake. I couldn’t wait to try a piece myself. Unfortunately, before I could even THINK about getting up to grab a piece, one of the servers took the whole tray of cake off the dessert table and never returned. Dang it!

We finished our dinner and all but ½ a bottle of the champagne. So I carried the remainder back to our cabin, promising to meet everyone in the atrium for the “snow” scene. The atrium was FILLED with people on all sides and on all decks, but everyone was friendly and accommodating, and no one pushed or tried blocking anyone.

Jen walked up to the first landing of the glass staircase in front of the glass elevators around 7:45, and had everyone count down from 10. When the crowd reached zero, 4-5 bubble machines strategically placed along the railings of the upper decks started to blow out very tiny white clusters of bubbles. As the “snow” fell, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and two other holiday songs played over the speaker system. Alyssa and all the kids in the atrium were delighted, and tried to dance in whatever little space the crowd would give them.

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(Trying to catch the "snow.")

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(This was the only picture I could get of the "snow:" It's the white bubbles in Alyssa's hair.)

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(Lots of people gathered in the atrium to watch.)

By 8:00pm, the show was over, and Jen made for the stairs. I rushed over and caught her as she reached the bottom step and thanked her for the gifts she and John Heald had sent the previous night. She was very nice and gracious, and said she was happy we liked them.

I asked Alyssa if she wanted to check out Camp Carnival, and she surprised me by saying “yes!” without even asking what activities they were doing. In fact, when we reached Camp Carnival, Alyssa immediately grabbed her name tag off the board and was ready to go before we could even sign her in. Um, okay.

Alex and I strolled along the outer decks, then passed through Lido to see if the yummy chocolate cake ever made it back to the dessert table. No such luck. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, call room service! We went back to our cabin and ordered a delicious piece of chocolate fudge cake, that came with a side of rich chocolate mousse and a chocolate candy on top. Woo hoo! We also called the spa to see if we could still take advantage of the Nassau port special, which was good until 10:00pm. There was no answer, so we decided to walk off the cake and ask in person.

At the spa desk, we asked if we could schedule the Nassau special of three 20-minute services for $89. The lady at the desk said there were no more appointments available, but since we were booking within the timeline, we could still get the special for following day. Happily, we booked our spa services for 3:15pm on Friday, and I also agreed to pay an extra $20 for the couple’s room, so we could enjoy our services together.

When we left the spa, I remembered that I would be missing tea time with my mom. Worse, I remembered that the Camp Carnival talent show was at 4:00pm the next day, and I wouldn’t be able to bring Alyssa to it! I would have to ask my mom or even Rob or Laura to bring Alyssa to the talent show, and with any luck, Alyssa would be one of the last performers so I would be able to see her dance.

Back on the Lido deck, people were gathering for the start of the deck party. We considered joining in, but then Alex suggested we relax in the hot tub instead. Brilliant! We walked to our cabin to change into our swimsuits, then back to the Lido deck for a soak. The first hot tub we came too had a sign that read “Adults Only” on the side, but it was overflowing with kids. Unfortunately, the hot tub on the opposite side of the pool was also filled with kids. “Hey!” I said, having a sudden epiphany, “Isn’t there a serenity deck on this ship?” Ah-ha! Serenity now!

The back of ship, where the Serenity area was located was cold and VERY windy tonight. The hot tub on the starboard side of the ship was packed with people, so we climbed into the other hot tub, which was empty. With both the Carnival Magic and the Norwegian Gem gone, we could better see the Disney Dream and its crazy slide lit up in colorful LED lights.

A while later, another couple approached and asked if they could join us. Alex and I made room for them to climb in and introduced ourselves. The husband was a military mechanic, and shared stories with us about his service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also said that he and his wife had an exciting day in Nassau, when they encountered a naked man running through the downtown streets. The man was being chased by several local police and his face was bleeding, as if someone has punched him in the nose and mouth several times. They didn’t stick around long enough to get the background on the guy, but their laughter while they were telling the story was very contagious!

Then out of nowhere, the husband asked, “So did you hear someone tried to board this ship with a gun yesterday?” I shook my head and raised my eyebrows. “He was stopped at the security checkpoint in Key West,” he continued, “and they wouldn’t let him back on board. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, what did he THINK was going to happen?”

The ship’s horn sounded, and slowly, we started to pull away from the pier in Nassau. Once clear of the island, the wind died down a bit, thankfully. One more couple asked if they could join us, so we moved closer together to give them room. (By this time, everyone in the other hot tub had left, and the crew already placed a net over the top of the tub.) They were both very nice, and we enjoyed talking with them until almost 11:00.

Finally, I suggested that Alex and I go pick Alyssa up from Camp Carnival, so I said my goodbyes, thanked our new soldier friend for his service, and wrapped myself up in my towel for warmth. At first I couldn’t find my shoes because the wind had been so strong it blew them both away from their place near the hot tub steps. But I did eventually locate them – on the back edge of the deck!

We stopped at our cabin first to change into some warm dry clothes, then to the 2-5 year-old side of Camp Carnival. All four of the kids there were lying on mats on the floor and covered with blankets, while then “Alvin & The Chipmunks” movie played on the TV. Alyssa, of course, was the only one watching the movie, as the other three kids were sound asleep.

Alyssa ran to us, and I saw that her hair had been pulled into a French braid, which was very cute on her. I never got a chance to tell her so, though, because she took one look at my wet hair and said, “Aw! You went to the hot tub, didn’t you? And without ME!” She looked disappointed and betrayed, and I had to explain to her that yes, we went to the hot tub, but it was the one for grown-ups only, and she wasn’t old enough for that one yet.

Alyssa reluctantly accepted the explanation, and she was out like a light within minutes of entering our cabin. I was ready to turn in as well, but not before I hung our room service breakfast order on our door and marked all the activities I wanted to do on the next day’s Fun Times: Black Friday sale in the shops at 8:00am, Camp Carnival Black Friday Sale at 1:00pm, Camp Carnival talent show at 4:00pm, then Farewell party at 5:00pm. Add to that our 3:15 spa appointment, and we were going to have a busy final day at sea!

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what a great review! THanks for sharing :)

My pleasure. And thank you for reading!

 

Such a fun read Laura! Thanks! Bridie

Thanks, Bridie! Glad you enjoy it!

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This is an amazing review. My in-laws live along the St. Johns River in Jacksonville and we see the Fascination come in and out whenever we're up there.

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Room service was right on time today, and fortunately for me, I was already awake and had time to double check that my robe had a sash on it. I set the tray down, tipped the deliverer, poured myself a cup of tea, showered, dressed and then grabbed the carafe of coffee for my mom.

I went to my mom’s cabin and poured her some coffee while she got ready to go. We were going to the Black Friday sale in the Fun Shops today! We thought the sale was only from 9a-10a and wanted to be there when the shops opened so we wouldn’t miss it. (We later discovered it was an all-day sale, so there really was no rush. Ooops!)

We waited in front of the shops, waiting for them to open and feeling the ship pitch pretty ferociously. It didn’t take long for other passengers to join us, and by 9:00am, there was a pretty decent crowd standing in the hallway, trying to keep our balance and bumping into each other as the ship rolled around on the waves. The shops opened later than scheduled... around 9:15am... as the crew arrived late to open the doors, then took a while hauling out their tables of merchandise into the hallway. I heard some grumblings from a few impatient passengers, but I didn’t mind waiting a little while. It’s not like I had anywhere I just HAD to be.

The sales was decent, and I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done. Apparel and stuffed animals were 50% off, and a lot of the jewelry was 75% off. I also bought a couple of kids T-shirts for $4.50 each and a couple of adult Ts for $10 each. (Yeah, I know they usually have a 2/$20 deal on a regular basis, but this time, I didn't have to buy even numbers to get the deal.) Sadly, I forgot to buy a ship pin on the first day of the cruise, and they were sold out. But I did get my Fascination Christmas ornament, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Shopping done, my mom and I dropped our purchases off in our cabins before breakfast (Alex and Alyssa were still sleeping), then went up to the Lido deck. My mom was not feeling so great, thanks to the rough seas, so I made her sit down at table while I got her something to eat. Would you believe there was a longer line for toast than for omelets?!? Dang! Anyway, after getting toast, I went to the omelet station and asked for two eggs over medium. The guy in line next to me gasped, “Huh? You can DO that? They make eggs to order?” I smiled, gave him a wink, and said, “Yep! It’s the best kept secret on the ship!”

I brought my mom her food and a drink, then went back to the buffet for mine. I just grabbed a quiche and croissant with strawberry butter (both of which were just okay). I was starting to feel a light headache and a little nausea coming on, so after breakfast, I went back to my cabin to take some medicine and check on Alex and Alyssa. Both of them were finally awake, but I noticed Alyssa didn’t touch her chocolate muffins, and figured the ship’s motion must have been having an effect on her as well.

The final talent show sign-up for Camp Carnival was in just 30 minutes, so I asked Alyssa if she wanted to hurry up and get dressed and sign up, or just skip the talent show altogether. She thought about it for a moment, then decided that she wanted to do the talent show, so Alex brought her (and Zoe, her doll) to Camp Carnival while I lay down to rest.

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(Going to audition with Zoe.)

I napped for about an hour and felt a little better when I woke up. I thought it would be best if I got out of the cabin and up into the fresh air and more towards the middle of the ship, so I took some blank thank you cards, a pen, and my camera up to the Lido deck. I had no problem finding an empty chair by the pool, so I plopped down and began to write my thank you notes to Jen and Iwanyan.

I was actually surprised that the pool and hot tubs remained open, though, because the ship was pitching so forcefully that there were swells in the pool. For the first time, the pool actually had a “shallow” end and a “deep” end, although the two alternated with each swell. The kids packed in the hot tub and swimming in the pool LOVED it, and I tried my best to get a couple of pictures of the newly installed wave pool, but my camera just didn’t do it justice.

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(Shallow end)

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(Deep end: note the water splashing out!)

Feeling a tad bit better, I gathered my belongings and walked down to Guest Services to leave Jen her card. While I was there, I told the GSA that I hadn’t gotten my itemized statement of charges yet, and she assured me that it would be waiting for me already in my room. Well, I went back to my cabin to leave Iwayan his card, and saw no statement anywhere. Oh well, no biggie.

I went back up to the Lido deck for lunch, and saw the rest of the gang, sans my mom, at one of the restaurant tables. Rob said that my mom felt pretty bad and had gone back to the cabin to lie down, so I made a note to check on her a little later after her nap.

I’m used to the chocolate buffet happening on the last sea day of a cruise, so I was really disappointed to see this cruise didn’t offer it. Don't get me wrong, there were some chocolate items available, including chocolate sushi (yum!), but it wasn’t really a full-out chocolate buffet. Drat! Oh well! I had a decent lunch, then ran up to Camp Carnival for their 45-minute Black Friday sale.

I walked in from the outer deck, and joined the pile of people waiting for the sale to start. Finally, a counselor came out of Camp Carnival and announced that in order to keep the sale organized and efficient, they would be setting up a table in the hallway near the glass elevators, take our orders, then send us into the Camp Carnival room to pick up our purchases. It sounded reasonable enough, but this did create a little bit of discontent among the people who had arrived first and were standing by the door to Camp Carnival. You see, when they moved a table to the atrium, all the people who were at the end of the line were now first in line, and all those waiting by the door were now last. (“And the last shall be first…”)

Still, the line moved pretty smoothly, and the system seemed to work. When it was my turn, I joked with one of the counselors about her losing a bet to have to work the table, and she just laughed and said it wasn’t quite “that” bad. There were plenty of good deals: A deck of cards in a Club O2 beach safe was just $1.50. Build-A-Bear outfits were anywhere from $1 to $5, so I bought several really cute ones (including a bumblebee costume, a tennis outfit, and a bikini with a mini Carnival towel) for Alyssa for Christmas. The animals themselves were $15, and stuffed Freddys were only $5.

The counselor at the table wrote everything on a receipt, took my S&S card number, and sent me back to the Camp Carnival room to pick up my items. There were two people filling orders in the room, so it took no time at all to get everything. The only problem was that they were out of bags, so I had to do some creative positioning to carry it all back to the cabin.

Instead of going directly to my cabin, I gently tapped on my mom’s door to see how she was feeling. She opened the door and was very VERY green! I set my purchases down, then immediately went back to my cabin for some Bonine for my mom and a bag to hide my stuff from Alyssa. My mom took the Bonine (making such a grotesque face that I couldn’t help but laugh) and then asked me about the sale, so I showed her my purchases.

I left my mom’s so she could get a little more rest, and went back to my cabin to stash the Camp Carnival goodies. Alex and Alyssa were watching TV. I asked how the sign-up went, and Alex said that Alyssa actually had to be checked into Camp Carnival to sign up, because they had to see the routine before they could allow her to perform. “So did you check her in?” I asked.

“No, she didn’t want to sign in, so we came back here. She can sign up anytime before the show, though,” Alex answered.

I asked Alyssa if she wanted to check in to Camp Carnival and audition, and she said yes. It was getting close to our spa appointment time, so Alex and I both walked Alyssa to Camp Carnival to check her in. By now, there were sea sick bags taped to the walls of the elevator bays…well, sort of. The ship was rocking so much, that most of the bags were gone!

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(Just one bag left!)

At Camp Carnival, the counselor told us that we would have to check Alyssa out at 3:45 and then bring her to the Passage to India lounge downstairs at 4:00 for the show. Uh-oh! I was pretty sure we would still be in the massage room by then, but no worries. When we got to the spa to check in for our services, I used their phone to call my mom’s cabin and asked if she or Rob could pick Alyssa up and bring her to Passage to India for us. She said she was feeling better (the liar) and could do it.

By then, I was feeling a little puny myself, but I was looking forward to this and wasn’t going to let a little nausea stop me from having a good massage! Both Alex and I started with a back massage. As I lay face down on the massage table, I could feel the ship climb several waves, then drop down the other side. With the soothing massage and the rise and fall of the ship, I felt weightless several times. By the time my 20-minute massage was up and the therapist asked me to turn over for my mini-facial, I was feeling a lot better. Who’d have thought the cure for sea sickness would be a massage?

While I got a mini-facial, Alex got his foot massage. I was breathing deeply now that I was no longer nauseated, and feeling fully relaxed. I thought about Alex and wondered if he was feeling just as calm and relaxed.

SNNUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGZZZZZZZZZ!!! As if in answer to my unspoken question, I heard Alex’s snores emanating from the table next to me. I smiled and sneaked a peek from under the cloth that covered my eyes. Yep! He was out for the count. The therapist just smiled as she continued massaging his feet.

After the second 20-minute service, it was time for the scalp massage for both of us. Ah! ! Alex stopped snoring, sighed deeply and his breathing became shallower, letting me know that he was awake again. I was so relaxed myself I could have easily dozed off, but wouldn’t allow it. At the end of the service, one of the therapists took my hand and placed it in Alex’s. Then she rang a small gong and announced that the service was over, and that they wouldn’t be waiting outside. We could take our time and just let them know when we were ready.

If I didn’t feel pressed for time to see Alyssa in the Camp Carnival talent show, I would have lain there a lot longer. But it was already after 4:00, and the show was already in progress. We dressed, signed for our services, and raced down the stairs to Passage to India. Sadly, we were already too late. Alyssa's was the second act.

I did, however, get to see my niece, Kelsey, sing a capella. She did a great job and looked quite comfortable on the mic. Too bad Rob just missed it. A couple more performances, and it was time to present all the kids with a rubber medal and a certificate. Then everyone was invited to dance with Funship Freddy.

 

Alyssa never passes up a dance invitation, and grabbed a spot right next to Freddy.

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(A medal AND a dance with Funship Freddy! It can't get better than that!)

When the music stopped, one of the Camp Carnival counselors announced that they were selling Funship Freddy T-shirts for a Black Friday price of $3 each. Rob got in line to get a shirt for both Kelsey and Delaney, so I slid in next to him and discreetly told him that I already got the shirts at the sale earlier and was going to add it to their Christmas gifts. Alyssa begged me for a T-shirt, so rather than give away the surprise, I told her I was sorry, but wasn’t sure they had her size. Then I tried distracting her by asking her about her certificate and medal and about her performance, and having all the girls pose for a picture with my mom:

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We left the lounge and wander over to the sushi cart, which wasn’t open just yet. Alright, well, that would give us enough time to drop off Zoe the doll and Alyssa’s certificate and medal. By the time we returned, there was plenty of sushi and almost no line at the cart, so Alex and I each grabbed a plate of sushi and made our way to the farewell party in the smaller forward lounge.

A band was already playing and the drinks flowed freely. As soon as we entered, Alyssa sought out the first Carnival employee she could find and asked if she could dance. “Please do!” was the reply, so off Alyssa ran to the dance floor in front of the stage.

Not many people were in attendance, so the servers focused a lot of their attention on us. 4 lemon drops and a whiskey sour later, I had to start shooing the servers away. Meanwhile, Alyssa was having a wonderful time dancing with the handful of kids at the party. One little boy in particular (he looked like he was only about a year old) loved Alyssa and followed her everywhere. She held him and danced with him, and I saw the boy’s parents taking pictures of the two of them together.

The music was pretty loud and the drinks were starting to go to my head, so we left a little bit before the party ended and headed up to the Lido deck for dinner.

Again we found two tables next to each other so we could all sit together and talk. Laura was happy because she bought the special Christmas card package from the photo gallery. (I think it was $19.99 for 8 or 10 Christmas cards made from your photo gallery picture, but can’t be sure.) My mom was happy that she was feeling better. However, she told us she went to tea for a little while with Sandra, and Sandra had fallen right as she was trying to sit down at one of the tables in the piano bar. (Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt.)

Again there was only one line open for the buffet, on which was the usual mediocre fare. Ah well! At least dinner didn’t take 2 or more hours to complete! After dinner, we all headed back to our cabins to pack. (Boo!) Alyssa asked me if she could go with Rob and Delaney, and I said that was fine by me if it was okay with her uncle. Rob said he didn’t mind, so Alyssa and Delaney skipped off down the hall together.

I packed a little, but was suddenly feeling very fatigued, so I lay down on the bed and dozed for a bit. A little while later, Joann knocked on the door. “Patty said that Alyssa is having a meltdown in Rob’s room.”

Ummm…ok…usually Alyssa’s “meltdowns” are right when she leaves me and not after she’s been gone for a while, but her sleep routine had been all out of whack this week, so anything was possible. Alex hurried to Rob’s cabin to pick her up.

When Alex got there, Alyssa was fine and all smiles. Still, it was late, so he brought Alyssa back to our cabin, and Alyssa and I lay on the bed watching “Rio” while Alex got a shower and packed his stuff. (Well, I sort of fell asleep and watched the last half of the movie through my closed eyelids, but so did Alyssa!) When the movie ended, Alex crawled into the bed to sleep, and since I was refreshed from my nap, I went to Guest Services to ask for my S&S statement again. The line at the GS desk already extended back to the glass staircase. I stood at the end of the line, staring at the staircase and following them up to the photo gallery with my eyes. Photo gallery! I just remembered that I was supposed to pick up my reprints earlier at 9:00! Whoops!

Right after I got my statement, I raced up the stairs to get my reprints. The photo gallery would be closing in just half an hour and had quite a few people purchasing last-minute pictures. I waited in another line for my pictures, then went back to my cabin to prepare for the next day’s debarkation.

Iwanyan had left us luggage tags #21, so we decided to try self-assist debarkation for the very first time. I was tired and so wanted to crawl into the bed and sleep like Alex and Alyssa, but I stayed awake long enough to fill out our customs form, fill out our room service order card, remove our banner from our door, and finish packing. Tomorrow we would have to say goodbye to the Fascination. Boo!

Edited by Lady_Jag

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(Farewell party)

 

 

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(Alyssa and her new friends)

 

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(What's this sign say? And what's the bag for?!?)

 

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Edited by Lady_Jag

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There’s not much to say about debarkation, except that self-assist ROCKS! We had breakfast on the Lido deck and waited for our deck to be called. Joann, who did not opt for the self-assist, thought that she would be leaving with us, so I had to break the news to her that she had to wait first for platinum/VIPs, then people carrying off their own luggage on each deck, THEN wait for her zone number (21) to be called. The look of disappointment on her face made me wish I hadn’t said anything.

We didn’t wait long for Main deck to be called. Yes, we had a lot of baggage to carry off, but Alex strategically stacked all our big bags in my mom’s wheelchair to make it easier…sort of. Unfortunately, we stepped off the ship onto an asphalt area, and a rock or hole in the asphalt caught one of the front wheels of the wheelchair, causing it to stop short. The bags on top, in turn, tumbled to the ground with a CRASH. (Nothing broken, thankfully, except for Alex’s plastic water bottle.)

We piled the bags back onto the wheelchair while other passengers just walked by, not offering any assistance. When we reached the doors of the terminal, one of the security guards pointed to the wheelchair and said something about “missing someone,” and Alex made a joke along the lines of "nah, it was just my mother-in-law, and she's not someone I miss." (Really, he was just joking!)

We walked straight through Customs with just a flash of our passport cards and out to the drop-off/pick-up area, where we had no trouble finding the shuttle that would take us back to our car. Our car was still there, safe and sound, so we loaded up and headed home, already talking about the next cruise we would take…

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This is an amazing review. My in-laws live along the St. Johns River in Jacksonville and we see the Fascination come in and out whenever we're up there.

 

Thank you, I appreciate you reading it! I live within an hour of the port of Jax, but have yet to see the Fascination pass under the bridge. Maybe one day... ;)

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