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Freedom 6/2/2012 review: 8 days of Southern Caribbean fun, sun, and photos

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Alright, well I'm finally posting my recap of our 8-day cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom. We left out of Fort Lauderdale and visited Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao, and Aruba. It was a great time, and I plan to go into a lot of details!

 

Before I continue, though, I'd like to ask three favors:

1. Please be patient with me as I post this in segments. I work a full-time job as a technical writer while trying to raise a 6-year-old, and it takes me time to get all my thoughts and descriptions down.

I always come home with hundreds of photos, so it also takes me a while to sort and upload them so that I can post them. And since I make a living writing and editing 40-50 hours a week, sometimes powering up my personal laptop and writing in my leisure time isn't really at the top of my to-do list.

 

2. Keep in mind this is a recap of my personal experience and opinions. I understand that not everyone will share my opinions and may disagree with me, and that is okay. But please don't take it personally if I comment that.. oh.. the warm chocolate melting cake was not that great or that the cruise director's, Brad's, morning show was annoying. They're just my opinions and not a personal attack on anyone who loves WCMC or on Brad's character.

 

3. Please get my permission before re-posting any of my photos to other web sites. I realize that this is a public forum, and I'm not asking for astronomical royalties, just this simple courtesy. I love to see photos in reviews and am happy to share pictures in mine, but it kind of creeped me out when I found my photos of our Dream cabin, 11203, posted to cruiseline rooms . com soon after I posted my review and without my permission or knowledge!

 

Now that I made my requests, here we go...

freedomheadon_edit.jpg

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Alright, well I'm finally posting my recap of our 8-day cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom. We left out of Fort Lauderdale and visited Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao, and Aruba. It was a great time, and I plan to go into a lot of details!

 

Before I continue, though, I'd like to ask three favors:

1. Please be patient with me as I post this in segments. I work a full-time job as a technical writer while trying to raise a 6-year-old, and it takes me time to get all my thoughts and descriptions down.

I always come home with hundreds of photos, so it also takes me a while to sort and upload them so that I can post them. And since I make a living writing and editing 40-50 hours a week, sometimes powering up my personal laptop and writing in my leisure time isn't really at the top of my to-do list.

 

2. Keep in mind this is a recap of my personal experience and opinions. I understand that not everyone will share my opinions and may disagree with me, and that is okay. But please don't take it personally if I comment that.. oh.. the warm chocolate melting cake was not that great or that the cruise director's, Brad's, morning show was annoying. They're just my opinions and not a personal attack on anyone who loves WCMC or on Brad's character.

 

3. Please get my permission before re-posting any of my photos to other web sites. I realize that this is a public forum, and I'm not asking for astronomical royalties, just this simple courtesy. I love to see photos in reviews and am happy to share pictures in mine, but it kind of creeped me out when I found my photos of our Dream cabin, 11203, posted to cruiseline rooms . com soon after I posted my review and without my permission or knowledge!

 

Now that I made my requests, here we go...

freedomheadon_edit.jpg

 

Can't wait for your review and photo. We are considering this itinerary for our next cruise.

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Here’s a little background info before I get started on my recap. [skip this part if you want just the cruise details.]

My name is Laura, I’m in my late 30s and this was my 9th cruise with Carnival (10th cruise overall). My hubby, Alex, is in his early 40s, and this would be his 8th Carnival cruise (9th overall). Our daughter, Alyssa is 6 years old and this is her 6th cruise (all Carnival).

 

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Last year, after our Spring Break cruise on the Carnival Legend, I spoke to one of my good friends about our families cruising together this year. I researched a few cruises out of various Florida ports (Dream Eastern, Freedom Southern, Liberty, Valor, etc.) and sent the list to her. I emailed her something like, “Check out these cruises. Any of them seem good to you? I'm good with any of them, as long as we don't have to deal with the Western itinerary again. I'm sort of sick of that route."

 

"OOoo!” my friend replied, “The Carnival Freedom looks great! Not bad for an 8-day. Pretty reasonable rate."

 

Me: "Are you sure? It'll be a 5-hour drive..."

 

Friend: "Yeah! Yeah! Let's do it! I say we book it now."

 

Me: "OK, I just booked my cabin. I got #1220 because it was a reasonable rate and has a connecting door to a quad cabin so that you guys can be right next to us if you want."

 

Friend: Silence.

 

Months went by, and no response. Then in March, our families were having dinner together and Alex called them out on it. “Hey! Weren’t you guys supposed to be cruising WITH us this time?” he teased.

 

My friend’s excuse was that her husband “is a Disney cruise snob and won’t sail anything but Disney.”

 

Ummmm…riiiight.

 

Oh well. This was sort of expected behavior, as we’ve been dissed by them many times in the last 13 years or so that we’ve been friends. So before I booked this cruise, I asked myself if I would be happy doing it with just the three of us and not with our friends. Well, we’d never been to any of the ports (sooo happy not to be going to Mexico for the 7th+ time!) and that 8th day could only be a bonus. Plus, it would be our first porthole cabin and I really enjoy the layout and amenities of the Conquest class ships.

 

The only problem was that I had to wait over a year from the time I booked this cruise in May 2011 until I actually set foot on board.

 

 

freedombow_edit.jpg

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Here’s the itinerary for this cruise:

6/2/2012 Ft Lauderdale (Pt Evrglds), FL ---- 4:00 PM

6/3/2012 Fun Day at Sea

6/4/2012 Grand Turk 7:00 AM 2:00 PM

6/5/2012 La Romana, DR 9:00 AM 5:00 PM

6/6/2012 Curacao 2:00 PM 11:00 PM

6/7/2012 Aruba 8:00 AM 4:00 PM

6/8/2012 Fun Day at Sea

6/9/2012 Fun Day at Sea

6/10/2012 Ft Lauderdale (Pt Evrglds), FL 8:00 AM ----

As I mentioned above, we had never been to any of these ports before, and were excited to be taking our very first 8 day cruise!

For those who don’t care about detailed personal accounts, here is my overall evaluation of the various aspects of the ship:

Embarkation:

Once we made it into the terminal, embarkation was smooth as butter. However, passenger loading/unloading was a nightmare. We sat in the shuttle van, waiting for our turn to be dropped off for a very long time. The traffic through the port area was not fluid at all. It very seemed disorganized and chaotic - not even stop-and go, just stop-and-sit-there-a-while. Of the four ports I’ve sailed from (Jax, FLL, Tampa, Canaveral), this one ranks as my least favorites.

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Ship/ship layout/public areas:

The ship was clean and well maintained for the most part. I was disappointed, however, in the poor quality of the big screen on the Lido deck. Several pixels/blocks were blacked out, others flickered constantly, and on the rest of the screen, if a bright, light-colored image was on the screen, I could clearly make out the black lines around each and every pixel/block up there.

Some of the forward/mid elevators had graffiti etched into the inner panels. The button for deck 7 in one elevator in particular was constantly backlit, making it glow even no one pressed it. When someone DID press that button, it would light up normally.

Otherwise, the lounges, outer decks, pools, spas, and other public areas were fine. Not a day went by when I didn’t see crew members cleaning the various areas of the ship, and even the public restrooms seemed better maintained than the ones on some of the ships I’ve sailed in the past.

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Food:

I had my very first steakhouse experience this cruise. It was DELICIOUS, but there was so much, I STILL can’t even look at a steak or any type of sliced beef, much less order it. My nightly Gregorian chant at dinner would always be, “No beef, no beef, dominum, no beef!”

MDR food was standard. I’m really not a fan of the revised menus, and have always been disappointed in the dessert menu. I LOVE desserts, especially chocolate, but I confess that WCMC doesn’t do much for me. I would either skip dessert in the MDR or eat just a few bites.

I ate in the MDR once for breakfast and once for lunch. I LOVE the little round hashbrown discs Carnival has, but they serve them only in the MDR for breakfast during the cruise, except on debarkation day, when they’re served on the Lido. So my single breakfast in the MDR consisted mostly of multiple orders of hasbrowns. For lunch, I ordered my favorite Carnival entrée: BBQ ribs! I think it’s ridiculous that Carnival serves BBQ ribs and corn on the cob for dinner only on the first Elegant Evening when we’re all dressed up. So as a workaround, I made it a point to have lunch in the MDR at least once, because I knew ribs were often on the lunch menu. No corn on the cob, but I was satisfied with my meal.

Room service food was good. My Alyssa always looks forward to her morning chocolate muffins. She also loved getting a peanut butter sandwich (just PB), untoasted, and chocolate chip cookies. I order the steak and cheddar sandwich for lunch early on, and it was very good…not as good as the beef and brie sandwich it replaced, but still very good.

Let’s talk Lido food, since that’s where we had most of our meals. My hubby thought the Tandoori was the bomb, and ate there frequently. I enjoyed the Grill the most this cruise (hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders were hot and cooked just right), and I found the international buffet just mediocre. We saw the fish & chips station, but I’m not much of a seafood fan, and hubby was too in love with the Tandoori food to give the basket of fried grease a try. The pizza was okay, but nothing noteworthy. I will say, though, that Alyssa liked the cheese pizza on the Lido deck MUCH better than what they served in the MDR. (Aside – I just don’t understand why Carnival doesn’t serve the same pizza in the MDR as they do at the pizzeria. Those processed, frozen mini discs they heat and serve to the kiddos in the dining room are not very good at all.) I didn’t get around to the deli station this time, but know from previous experience that the turkey wrap is yummy and the grilled cheese is usually an Alyssa-pleaser.

As for the breakfast foods, I found the powdered “scrambled” eggs they serve on the buffet disgusting. It tasted like someone took the yolks out of overcooked hard boiled eggs, pulverized them into little bits and chunks, and then microwaved them before putting them out to sit and get lukewarm. Ew! No wonder why the omelet station always had such a long line! The hashbrowns on the Lido were greasy diced potatoes with bits of red pepper and onion. Had they been hot and had all the potatoes been cooked, they might have been passable. Bacon police were in full force, as was the French fry police. No, you can no longer help yourself to French fries, but the chips are there for the grabbing. More on that later…

Service:

When I first booked this cruise, I requested Early Seating, seeing that we would need to be back on board for most ports well before the 6:00 dinner hour. However, after our horrible dining experience with Early Seating on our last cruise (Fascination, Nov. 2011), I decided to give Anytime Dining another try. I’m so glad I did! We discovered the most fantastic waiter, Mr. Suki, our 3rd night and requested his section every night thereafter! He was so phenomenal, one of the ship’s officers had a booth reserved in Mr. Suki’s section a few nights in a row! Our hostesses were most accommodating, too. One night, Mr. Suki’s section was full, so they re-allocated a table to Mr. Suki just so were could benefit from his service.

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Service in the steakhouse, of course, was wonderful. Exactly what you would expect from a more upscale restaurant, but without the obnoxious arrogance.

The room service employees were incredibly nice, but our orders were not correct almost half the time. (They were fast to fix it, though!) Around the ship, the crew members were friendly and always quick to return a smile and a “hello.” It was heartening how some of the crew members’ faces would light up if I just acknowledged them by smiling and made eye contact.

Our cabin steward did a decent job. He wasn’t the most spectacular steward we ever had (we were spoiled on the Dream), but he did what was expected – ice in the ice bucket (upon request), clean towels, towel animals (except the first night), and chocolates…well, for the first 2 nights we had chocolates anyway. After night 2, we had none, but we didn’t blame him for that and Alyssa hates mint anyway. He was friendly and worked hard.

Guest Service Associates were friendly and attentive. We had to call for maintenance on embarkation day (toilet was not working) and they sent someone very quickly and he fixed the problem even faster. We also had to have someone reset the lock on our safe, and again, the response was fast and issue easily resolved. Later in the week, I would make an in-person request for a couple items, and the GSA was very nice and accommodating.

Cabin:

We had a 3-person porthole cabin, 1220, on the Riviera deck. It had the standard 3 closets, small bathroom with shower, mini bar, desk, 2 twin beds pushed together to form a California King, and a sofa, which was made into a third bed for our daughter. Our cabin also included a coffee table in front of the sofa, a four-legged stool that fit neatly under the desk, and two night stands (one on either side of the bed) with cabinet storage in each night stand. This cabin also has a connecting door leading to a four-person oceanview stateroom, 1224. I hung our shoe organizer on the back of this door, which gave us more than enough storage for all our things.

With all the drawer, closet, and under-bed space, our cabin stayed pretty neat and organized, which is a HUGE feat when sharing a room with a messy 6-year-old. We never had to search for items, as everything had its place, and we were able to keep the coffee table cleared so that we always had a place for our room service trays.

Alyssaportholeroom_edit.jpg

As for the location of the cabin, there were pros and cons. I loved being on deck 1, forward, during this port-intensive cruise, as it was just a quick jot down or up one flight of stairs nearby to embark/debark. Because of the portholes and the huge ledge in front of them, our cabin seemed very roomy. The portholes gave us the natural light we enjoyed, as well as a decent enough view for our purposes.

The downside is that in rough seas, the waves crashing against the hull sounded like the ship was equipped with cannons and we were at war with pirates. (Fortunately, though, we had only one such day of choppy waves.) Also, when we would dock, every square inch of our cabin would shimmy and shudder, as if the panels on the wall and hull would explode and fly out into the ocean at any second. Our bed would shake like a “Magic Fingers” bed in a cheap motel, but hey – some people pay money for that! LOL! Seriously, though, the shuddering and shaking didn’t bother us in the least, and with the exception of Grand Turk and our return to FLL, our arrival into the ports were well after we were already awake and getting ready for our daily adventure.

Shows:

Ummmm…I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t see a single show in the main showroom. In fact, the only time I think I was in the main showroom was during the (now defunct) past guest party. However, we had seen all the main shows offered on board, and none of them, including “Ticket To Ride” (which we saw on the Miracle in 2004!) were worthy of an encore. Don’t get me wrong – they were entertaining the first time around, but not something I would sit through again, no matter how many years had passed. We wanted to attend some of the comedy shows, but never made it to any of them.

Camp Carnival:

My daughter, as I said, is 6 years old, and was very excited to be grouped with the “older” Camp Carnival kids for the first time. (She complained the last few cruises that “the babies were boring” in the 2-5 year old section.) She had a wonderful time and often begged us to let her stay “just a little longer” when we would pick her up. The counselors were very nice and seemed to ensure that the kids had a great time. As much as we love spending time with Alyssa, my hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed having so many evening and sea day hours to ourselves because we felt so confident that Alyssa was having a great time with her new friends in camp. We never felt like Alyssa would be missing us so much that we would have to cut our time in the Serenity area short or that we couldn’t stick around for the later movie. The last sea day, Alyssa also participated in the Camp Carnival talent show, which was a lot of fun to watch.

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Casino:

Yeah, we played a little and lost a little more. Most of our gambling fund was snatched from our hands by the oh-so-tantalizing Money Vault machine. Alex was convinced that if he just stood there playing $50 worth in one shot, he would unlock the iPad and $500 slot. I like to spread my money around though, so we played $5 here and $10 there, with a few bucks going to the greedy poker machines. The smoking area of the casino was very noticeable, even when passing alongside it on the promenade, so we didn’t stay long when we did make our contributions.

Ports:

I would definitely want to do this itinerary again! My favorite port was La Romana, because of the fun excursion we did through Seavis tours, and my least favorite was Aruba. Grand Turk was neat, even though our dune buggy excursion was sort of a rip-off, and I would have loved to have we spent more time there. Curacao was very good for shopping, but more importantly was a photographic paradise for someone like me who loves to take pictures. Aruba – meh! So many people told me I would just LOVE Aruba, so maybe my expectations were too high. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t feeling that great so we didn’t get to go very far past the terminal. I don’t know, but I wasn’t impressed. Prices were high and people were rude, so I was rather disappointed.

Debarkation:

We did self-assist again this trip, but this time I regretted it. We had to exit the ship from deck 0, then haul all our luggage down a long strip of blacktop before reaching Customs. Once through customs, we had to schlep all the way down another strip of blacktop back to the main terminal area for shuttle/taxi pick-up. I honestly thought my arms were going to fall off! Fortunately, the pick-up process was less chaotic than the drop-off mayhem.

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Can't wait for your review and photo. We are considering this itinerary for our next cruise.

 

I highly recommend this itinerary! Granted, we've done only Bahamas, Eastern Carib, and Western Carib itineraries before this one, but it was one of our favorite cruises! That extra day at sea really makes a difference, too!

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Well, I'm not sure why a few of those pictures came out so HUGE, as I did resize them before posting the URL, but oh well.

 

It's past my bedtime, so I will have to continue tomorrow with the blow-by-blow portion of my recap.

 

Goodnight!

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Thanks for posting. We are on the Freedom, July 14, same itinerary.

 

What did you do in Aruba?

 

We are on Seavis Tour in DR, too. Glad you enjoyed it!!

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Thanks for posting. We are on the Freedom, July 14, same itinerary.

 

What did you do in Aruba?

 

We are on Seavis Tour in DR, too. Glad you enjoyed it!!

 

We took the submarine tour by Atlantis submarine. Seavis was wonderful! I highly recommend them!

 

Thank you for taking time to write and post your great review and photos.

 

Thank you for reading. More to come soon...

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Well, it's way past my bed time, so I won't be able to post our embarkation day recap tonight. Here is our pre-cruise journey to Fort Lauderdale, though:

 

Within a month of booking, I was scouring these boards and other sites for a park-and-stay package. We live in Florida, and we always drive to our departure ports, but if the drive takes more than 2-3 hours, I prefer to arrive the night before. Fort Lauderdale definitely qualifies, as it’s about 5 hours away from our home.

Now the last few cruises where we’ve stayed overnight prior to sailing, I bid and booked a cheap rate through price line. However, I’d never been to Fort Lauderdale before and knew nothing about the area, so I thought it best not to roll the dice in this case. Instead, I found information about www.stay123.com (thank you, CC!), which included a single night stay at the Hampton Inn Plantation, shuttle to and from the port, parking for up to 30 days, and breakfast the morning of our embarkation for just under a hundred bucks. A very good rate, especially when factoring in the daily parking fee at the port for 8 days!

So bright and early Friday morning, we piled into my SUV and headed south. My goal was to arrive at the hotel by 4:00 so as not to encounter any Friday rush hour traffic and so that we would have a good shot at signing up for the first shuttle to Port Everglades before it filled up. We left around 9 and arrived around 3:00pm, with several stops for potty breaks and lunch. It also rained on us almost the entire trip to Fort Lauderdale and during most of our stay that evening.

The Hampton Inn seemed nice enough. We were given room 524, a non-smoking room on the 5th floor. This floor was weird, however, as ½ the rooms are smoking and have are non-smoking, so the entire floor smells of cigarettes the minute you step off the elevator. Not very smart, I think, but at least our room was clean and smoke-free.

AlyssaAlexHampton2.jpg

Speaking of not very smart, I had brought along my laptop so that I could keep notes for my review, keep in touch with friends and family via Funville on Carnival’s web site, and most importantly, store my pictures from the SD card in my digital camera. I planned on downloading them onto my machine from the card each night, just in case something terrible happened to my camera or card. Well guess what? I had my laptop, but forgot to pack the darned power cord! Drat!

So we looked up the address of a nearby Best Buy, got back into the car and headed out. (Did I mention how happy I was we had a car?) Well, Alex was navigating while I drove, using a Yellow Pages app on his phone. He told me to turn left onto a residential street, so I did. “Are you sure we’re supposed to be going through this neighborhood?” I asked.

“That’s what it says here on the map,” he answered.

As we wove through street after street of Florida homes with not a business or main road in sight, it was time to accept the fact that we were being led astray. So I pulled over and dialed Best Buy’s number on my phone, got an address (different than what Alex had on his crazy phone app) and directions, and left the neighborhood. We finally arrived at Best Buy, and since all they had were universal laptop charging cables, I grudgingly shelled out the money while scolding myself under my breath.

We decided to get an early dinner at a Cuban restaurant we heard about not far from our hotel. YUMMY! It was a very good and inexpensive choice. Alex ordered pollo Rosado and I ordered a sort of chicken and rice dish, and Alyssa asked for chicken fingers. All our food was quite delicious. Mine, however, was not happy with me:

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“Alex,” I said, “I think I’m going to need some Tums or something. I mean, if my dinner disagrees with me before I’ve taken my first bite, what is it going to do to me AFTER I eat it?”

We left the restaurant with full bellies and Alex said he wanted to buy a hat for the trip. We looked everywhere, and even searched the mall that was across the street from our hotel. Nothing. So back to the hotel for me and Alyssa while Alex checked the Target nearby.

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(Alyssa found a hat!)

I played a game of Uno Moo with Alyssa, gave her a bath, then got her ready for bed. She really wanted to check out the pool at the hotel, but given the nasty weather, we never got a chance. Oh well! We were going to have a busy day in the morning, so she needed to get some sleep.

While I waited for Alex’s return and Alyssa to fall asleep, I tried to shuffle a few things around so that all the carry-on bags we had wouldn’t be so darned heavy! I didn’t have too much success, but at least one of our bags was lighter. I can’t believe after all the cruises we’ve taken, we still haven’t gotten this packing thing down yet!

Lotsofluggage2.jpg

 

Segment 1 of Cruise Day 1 will be posted tomorrow.

Goodnight!

Edited by Lady_Jag

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As allways amazing reviews!!! I think you should start doing this for lauraka too. Rememebr next cruise needs to be GLORY march 24th next year!!! I've got a BIGGGG Connection remember!! :D

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We had a bit of a snafu this morning at the hotel. We signed up for the first shuttle to port, which was 11:00am. Our names were first on the list. I confirmed it the night before, and they said we needed to be in the lobby by 10:45am for the shuttle.

Being there early was no problem. Heck, we were there by 10:30. However, getting the shuttle was a nightmare! Even though we were first on the list Hampton Inn Plantation BUMPED us so they could fill their shuttle van with two other parties! Worse, they said they had two shuttles, and we would be on the next one. Guess what? Shuttle #2 didn't arrive until 11:40!!

While we waited, I was able to meet Celeste from CC and her party. She lucked out and was called for the shuttle for which we were denied. I kept checking our roll call’s Facebook page on my phone, and grew more and more anxious as I saw messages of the people already on board the ship while we wait.... and waited…and WAITED for a shuttle that didn’t show up until nearly an hour later! Alyssa was a pretty good sport for being only 6, though. We played Uno, and then she sat by our pile of luggage, watching longingly for our really late shuttle.

 

 

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(Waffles! It's what's for breakfast!)

Finally, after we had been waiting over an hour, a shuttle van pulled up. I made SURE we were on it, but I told Alex to hang back a little first while another large party loaded up their stuff into the pull-behind trailer. That way, our bags would be closest to the trailer door. The hotel rep who had bumped us said that the shuttle also had to take 2 people to the airport so that they could catch a flight to Miami and sail out on the Liberty. She said those 2 people needed to sit up front. Well, after the large party of 6-7 piled into the van, there was only 1 bench seat that sat 3 left, plus the passenger seat next to the driver and one seat on the end of the row behind us near the van’s sliding door.

I helped Alyssa into the first row and sat her near the window, then sat next to her, with Alex sitting next to me. The woman from the hotel ushered the 2 airport passengers around to the front and told Alex he needed to move so they could sit next to the door. Alex moved back a row to the empty seat by the door. The woman then looked at me, like I should move too, and I glared back. Forcing a smile, I nodded towards Alyssa and told the woman, “I’d rather she not sit by herself.”

The woman hesitated, then finally said, “I understand, mom” and then got the man going to the airport to sit up front with the shuttle driver.

We started our crazy journey to the airport, and I do mean CRAZY! My view out the front windshield of the shuttle was, unfortunately, unblocked. Yikes! I closed my eyes more than once as the van zipped around at high speeds through the traffic and around corners. At one point, the driver just about PUSHED a taxi cab out of the way with the van’s front bumper, as he muttered, “you better get outta my way before I BUMP you outta my way!” I laughed nervously at his remarks. Realizing he had an audience, the shuttle driver told us that the local cab drivers are always “cheating” for their fares. The driver said local cabbies go slower and take longer routes when they have passengers and a running meter and then when they have an empty cab. I’m not sure how true that is, but something to note for anyone considering a cab ride to or from the cruise terminal.

We arrived at the airport miraculously intact and dropped off the couple bound for the Carnival Liberty. I could almost hear the tires screech as we flew towards the drop-off area of the cruise terminal. That’s when everything came to a halt. Then the drop-off situation was an absolute nightmare!

We made it to the security check-point, but not much farther. We sat in the shuttle, waiting to reach the cruise port drop-off spot for a good 20 minutes or so. There were cops letting 1-2 vehicles into the drop-off area at a time, and unfortunately, the big motor coach bus already ahead of us took what seemed like an eternity to unload! As we waited, the driver complained about how disorganized Port Everglades was and that no one at the port cared that it was run so inefficiently; that it was always terribly slow, especially if there were multiple buses there, etc., etc. His “insight” certainly did not help my mood, especially since I was still a bit cranky over the Hampton Inn Plantation’s own inefficiently run shuttle operation.

Finally, the driver was given the okay to pull into a drop-off bay. We quickly jumped out of the van and hurried to the trailer to retrieve our luggage. Only the shuttle driver stood there at the trailer door, holding his hand on the handle, keeping the door closed, as if the trailer contained some wild beast that would rip us to shreds if he unleashed it. We all looked at him like, “WELL?!?”

Then along came a porter, who told us that there’s a new “no luggage on the ground” rule. He said that it rained a couple of weeks ago and people’s stuff got wet because it was on the ground, and now they’re dealing with a bunch of lawsuits, so all checked luggage has to be put on a cart and wheeled off. It sounded like a bunch of baloney to me, and apparently Alex shared my suspicion. He looked at the porter and said, “Hmmm…Sounds to me like an excuse to MAKE people use porters.” Our shuttle driver smiled at this and told us that we could retrieve our carry-ons, and he would make sure our checked bags made it onto the ship. So we got our bags and I tipped the driver, then we made our way to the terminal, hoping Alex’s comment didn’t sentence our bags to a watery grave.

The good news was that we pretty much checked in, did security stuff, and walked right on board without a wait. I don’t remember ever being in a situation where I just walked right up to the check-in counter without any wait before or after, and I have to say – I kind of liked it!

We were up at the Lido deck around 1:00pm, scouring the place for a table and some lunch. The Lido restaurant was crowded, of course, but not certainly not lacking food. Alex got his first taste of Tandoori for the week, Alyssa got some cheese pizza, and I got some chicken fingers and a bun from the grill so I could make my own chicken tender sandwich. (I totally confused the guy at the grill by asking for just a bun with the fixings!)

The grill station was set up kind of wonky. The French fries were not available for you to help yourself with tongs. Instead, the guy behind the counter had to scoop them out for you… with his hand! Granted, he wore gloves, but seriously, couldn’t they give the guy a pair of tongs at least? I found it ridiculous that the fries had to be “policed,” but the nacho chips were out for all to grab, not even behind a sneeze guard!

Speaking of sneeze guard, the sneeze guard at the grill (and, we discovered, in other places at the buffet) became a running joke for me and Alex. The glass was very long and came down to only a few inches above the counter at hardly any angle (read: the glass was almost like a picture window in front of the food). Okay, so the food is well-protected from rogue loogies, right? Except things like nacho cheese sauce was nearly impossible to get! You see, the sauce was in a standard warming pan behind the sneeze guard, but the serving utensil was a non-standard ladle that had one of the longest handles and smallest spoon areas I’d ever seen! So the physical challenge here was to use the long-handled ladle to scoop out the cheese, then somehow maneuver that 8- or 10-inch handle under the bottom of the extra-long, barely-angled sneeze guard WITHOUT spilling said cheese out of the shallow spoon end of the ladle before it reached the plate of chips. Needless to say, there was a constant puddle of cheese on the counter just in front of the cheese pan!

Back at our table, Alex said he would really like to try the steakhouse this cruise. I was surprised, as he never mentioned “steakhouse” on any previous cruise, but I was game. He suggested we go on formal night, since we’d have to dress nicely anyway, and since we’re both allergic to shellfish, missing out on lobster was no great sorrow. I asked Alyssa if she thought she might want to have dinner with her Camp Carnival friends the next night, and she was all for it. I told her she could wear her pretty dress and that they’d probably have a little party before dinner she could enjoy.

Alyssa’s face got serious, and she started expressing concern about getting food on her pretty dress, and maybe she could wear a white t-shirt or something over it, just in case. I smiled and told her that it’s no big deal if she gets food on her dress, that we would just wash it and she shouldn’t worry about anything but having a good cruise.

Now I have to interrupt my story for a moment to explain that I have an entirely different cruise personality than when I’m going about my normal somewhat reserved, introverted life. When I’m on a cruise, I will try things I wouldn’t dare try on land, eat exotic foods like iguana, and even enter (and win!) stupid contests, like hog-calling contests. I call this cruise personality “Lola.”

So when Alyssa looked at me suspiciously after I told her that getting messy in formal attire was perfectly okay, Alex leaned in and in a stage whisper said, “Psst! Alyssa, you need to take advantage of Mommy Lola while you can!” I laughed, and Alyssa seeing me laugh, joined in (even though she didn’t quite get the joke.)

When Alyssa was finished with her pizza, “Mommy Lola” took her to get cake and ice cream. At the dessert station, a crew member was cutting and serving a most delicious looking chocolate-chocolate cake. I could see the excitement on Alyssa’s face as she zoned in on the dessert. Turning on the charm, Alyssa looked up at the lady with the cake cutter, and with her big brown doe eyes sparking, smiled sweetly and said, “Excuse me, may I please have some chocolate cake please?”

It paid off. “Aw, why certainly, sweetie!” the lady answered, “How many pieces would you like?”

Alyssa gasp at the thought of getting more than one piece and looked at me, hopeful. I laughed, “I think one piece is enough to start. Especially since we’re getting ice cream to go with it!” The lady smiled, and with a wink at Alyssa, gave her a big hunk of cake.

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Our room was ready well before we finished lunch. We had our very first porthole room,1220, which has a connecting door to the room next to ours...which stayed closed and locked for most of the cruise. The only time I opened the door was to hang our shoe organizer on it on embarkation day, and to take the shoe organizer down the last night of the cruise.

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(A view of the opposite side of the room...Alyssa's bed.)

 

We unloaded our carry-ons, and then had to call Guest Services to reset our safe, since it wasn’t locking. Ugh! They must have been super busy, because I was on hold for a very VERY long time! In fact, I had to call 3 times, because I would be on hold so long I’d get disconnected. Ah well! When I finally DID get through, someone from the Maintenance department was at our door almost immediately, and he fixed the safe in an instant.

We didn’t have much time before the muster drill, so we decided to go to Camp Carnival to check it out. Alyssa was thrilled to be in the “older” group this time, and she LOVED the 6-8 year-old room. I turned in my online registration (something the counselors on previous ships wouldn’t let me do before the evening orientation session) and got a schedule. Alyssa wanted to play (so did Alex), so I asked the counselor if it was okay that I take pictures. He said, “Sure! Pictures are fine as long as you have a kid here.” Ha! We played until a few minutes before the muster drill (Alyssa still didn’t want to leave!), then went back to our room to drop off my camera.

 

 

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(Camp Carnival - fun for all ages!)

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We still had not met our cabin steward by this time, but since the calls to our muster stations were being broadcast, I figured we’d meet him that evening. Alex was ready to go right away, but I told him to wait a few minutes before we slowly…very slowly… walked to our station on deck 4, forward (outside by life boats boats). We were assigned station B but wound up following people to station D, so we turned around and slowly made our way back to station B, gladly yielding to the people who were trying to pass us to get to station D and beyond.

We stopped one last time so that Alyssa could be fitted with her green muster station wristband by one of the crew members. Lucky us, our long, slow journey to muster station B paid off! Not only were we in the front row and didn’t have to be squished against the back wall, but we were RIGHT BY THE DOORS to the ship, which meant we got the cool air from inside AND, since our station was one of the first dismissed, we were the first ones through the doors and down the stairs to our cabin after the drill was over! Score!

(...continued)

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Our luggage arrived safe and sound not long after the muster drill, but this was the first cruise I didn't feel the need to unpack right away. Instead, the three of us went upstairs to the pool and the hot tub and enjoyed the music. Alyssa danced about, but mostly enjoyed hanging out with the kids in one of the two hot tubs by the main pool, were these young boys were climbing up onto a bar and diving into the pool, right next to “no diving” sign, no parents in sight. Sigh!

During sail away, I accidentally discovered the solution to the too-many-kids-in-the-hot-tub issue – just add 2 adults! Alex and I got in to one of the hot tubs and snuggled close, and in seconds, all the kids relocated to the other spa. We had the whole thing to ourselves, along with a great view out the windows of our departure, a view of the action on the deck in front of the pool, and a straight-on view of Alyssa in the other hot tub. Sweet!

 

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Eventually, though, even the kids got sick of the abundance of kids in the other hot tub, and 3-4 of them came over to where Alex and I were. One boy stood on the edge of the spa, arms outstretched, back to us, and threw himself backward into the hot tub with a huge SPLASH. I said, “No sir! You do NOT dive into this hot tub like that!” His sister then jumped in cannonball style, and I calmly but firmly corrected her too. After that, they moved back to the other hot tub, and us two old fogy kill-joys were alone once again.

As the party continued and the other hot tub became more and more crowded, I watched a mother unceremoniously drop her diapered toddler (wearing arm bands) into the other hot tub with the other kids. Sigh! I was very glad we weren’t in that cluster of a spa! Only the mom didn’t want to stay there because of all the kids splashing around, so she came over to where we were with her baby. To my relief, the baby wanted to be around the other kids instead of old fuddy duddies, so the woman took her back over to the other hot tub.

This back-and-forth went on for some time. At one point, the mom made another trip back to where Alex and I were, and the baby’s older brother joined them, trying to swim “laps” across the hot tub with his baby sister clinging to his back. I was tempted to lean in and give Alex and great big old kiss on the mouth to see if maybe that would send them scurrying to the other hot tub, but I didn’t. Instead, I decided we needed to get ready for dinner anyway, so we vacated the spa, I told Alyssa it was time to dry off, and we went back to our cabin to change.

While Alex and Alyssa changed for dinner, I called the steakhouse and made reservations for the next evening. A woman named “Sonja” answered the phone. When I made our reservations, Sonja reminded me that it would be formal night, indicated the dress code, said it would be “$30…no, $35 per person…” (yes, the price of the steakhouse has increased) and that formal night was the only night this cruise in which lobster would be served in the MDR.

“That’s all right,” I said, “we’re allergic to shellfish anyway!”

Sonja confirmed our time, asked if both of us were allergic to shellfish (yes we are!) and thanked me for letting her know. I hung up the phone, and we were off to the MDR for dinner.

As I mentioned, we had Your Time Dining, so we weren’t tied to a dining schedule, which was nice. We walked right up to the hostess stand without any wait and were seated at a booth. Alyssa was offered an adult menu, but she politely asked for a kid’s menu instead. Then she not so politely let out a huge BURP! “Excuse me!” Alyssa said, clearly embarrassed. The hostess thought it was hilarious, told Alyssa it was okay, and walked off still laughing.

 

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(My "dainty" little princess!)

Our wait team was super nice, and Alyssa asked up front if she could have strawberries to start. Then she said if not, her second choice, she said, was grapes. The waiter gave her both! Our assistant waiter stood by Alyssa for a while to watch us play tic-tac-toe. He asked who was winning, and I said Alyssa was a Tic-Tac-Toe shark! He chatted with Alyssa for a while, pointing out the shark and some of the sillier fish on the coloring pages inside the kids’ menu.

As we waited for our main course, Alyssa complained of being cold. “If only I had some hot chocolate,” she said wistfully. I put my arm around her, trying to warm her. A few minutes later, a waitress came over and said, “did you need something, princess?”

I was just about to say, “no, but thanks for checking,” when I realized she was talking to Alyssa. Yes, Alyssa had managed to flag this waitress down from across the room so that she could again turn on the doe eyes and ask sweetly for some hot chocolate, please. The waitress smiled and told her of course, it would be no problem. Lightning quick, Alexander, our team head waiter was setting a cup of hot chocolate in front of Alyssa, who thanked him very politely.

We skipped dessert (shocking, I know!) so that we could make it to the Camp Carnival dance party in the disco. Alyssa just LOVES the Welcome Aboard dance party and had a wonderful time! Funship Freddy made an appearance, too. Only Alyssa didn’t want to dance or join in any of the games. Instead, she preferred to play with one of the balloons on the dance floor…a purple one. Well, at least she was having a good time!

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After dinner, we checked out the Funship shops. I bought a ship pin for my collection. (I had forgotten to get a Fascination pin on our last cruise until the last day of the cruise, and by then they were sold out. So I made sure to buy a pin first thing this time.) Alyssa asked if she could go back to the cabin because she was tired. Wow! That’s a first. We found Alex, who said he wanted to check out the shops across the hall, which made Alyssa suddenly changed her mind.

I leaned in and whispered, “If you come back to the cabin with me, we’ll order some milk and cookies from room service!” Yep! That’s all it took. A simple bribe from Mommy Lola. I had no room service menu, but didn’t need one to call and asked for 3 skim milks and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. The delivery was very quick, but there was only one carton of milk on the tray. The receipt indicated that I ordered three, so I mentioned we were missing two milks to our delivery person. She said she’d bring us some more right away.

Well, I was thirsty and several minutes went by, but still no milk. So I called room service again and explained. She apologized, and sent some out right away. I had to take the tray with the milk and 2 mugs. Minutes later, the lady who delivered our original order came by with 2 more milk and another tray I had to take. Oops!

Alex made it back to the cabin shortly after I got Alyssa to brush her teeth and climb into bed. He had some sort of chocolate delight mousse dessert from the dessert bar and said it was very good. Then he spotted the stack of trays, and said, “umm…were you guys hungry or what?!?” So I explained the mix-up.

There were no towel animals or chocolates in our room tonight. (Boo!) I felt so bad for Alyssa. She just wouldn’t believe that there was no towel animal at all in the room, and started crawling around, peering under the bed. “I know it’s here,” she said, picking up the bed skirt, “I just have to look for it!”

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Looking forward to the blow by blow.

 

Day 1 has been posted.

 

Thank you for posting your pre-cruise update.

 

You're welcome!

 

Thanks for posting a review! Great pictures, sounds like you had a good time.:)

 

Thank you! We really did have a wonderful time, despite a few minor injuries (more on that later...)

:)

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As allways amazing reviews!!! I think you should start doing this for lauraka too. Rememebr next cruise needs to be GLORY march 24th next year!!! I've got a BIGGGG Connection remember!! :D

 

Thanks, Frank! I'm not making any promises on a review for my birthday cruise in Jan. It might turn out to be a "what happens on the ship stays on the ship" kind of trip! :eek:

 

Great job! I enjoy reading your reviews, so I'm staying tuned for more!

Thank you! Hope you enjoy the next segment!

 

Looking forward to reading more, thanks for taking the time to do this!

Thank you! I hope you find it helpful.

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Enjoying your review so far. We were on the Freedom for the cruise where the porters mentioned to you that a lot of people's belongings got soaked. It's true. It was raining buckets on embarkation day starting around 1230. Heard of many passengers having their stuff ruined. I understand your skepticism regarding the porters but in this case they were telling the truth.

 

We also stayed at the same hotel but had a better shuttle experience. We got there at 3pm with 8 people and they put us on the first shuttle. We were actually loaded and on our way by 1045. I can tell you that had I been given the first shuttle reservation and then bumped I would have been p friggin o'ed!

 

Anyway, loving your review and look forward to the rest.

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We were on Freedom in May and we must've had Aruba and Curacao flipped because we were in Aruba 2-11 which was just weird--to be in a port that late! This was a really good itinerary.

We did the trip with Seavis in the DR and enjoyed it too. People who've not yet sailed: make sure you re-sunscreen up when you leave Saona; you will be at the sandbar for quite awhile and that's where I got a little pinker than I like!

Odd about the fry police; I don't see what handing out fries does while having people still touch the other food. (eyeroll).

I also agree the walk off the ship at this terminal seemed like miles!

Glad you had fun. I wish I was still onboard.

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Enjoying your review so far. We were on the Freedom for the cruise where the porters mentioned to you that a lot of people's belongings got soaked. It's true. It was raining buckets on embarkation day starting around 1230. Heard of many passengers having their stuff ruined. I understand your skepticism regarding the porters but in this case they were telling the truth.

 

We also stayed at the same hotel but had a better shuttle experience. We got there at 3pm with 8 people and they put us on the first shuttle. We were actually loaded and on our way by 1045. I can tell you that had I been given the first shuttle reservation and then bumped I would have been p friggin o'ed!

 

Anyway, loving your review and look forward to the rest.

 

Yes, I did a few review about people and their stuff getting rained on, so I have no doubt the bags got soaked. However, I mentioned this "no bags on the ground" rule to other people from our roll call, and they said they never heard that at all, and their bags were on the ground handled like any typical embarkation. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe this particular porter misunderstood something his supers told him or didn't hear the "if it is RAINING" clause of that new rule. :rolleyes:

 

And yes, I was quiet angry at being bumped from our slot. I think it was because we were only 3 people, as opposed to a large group, and the lady at the desk figured she could just squeeze us in on a different shuttle. After we got the boot, I kept bugging her about when we would be on the shuttle:

"We ARE signed up for the 11:00 shuttle, right?"

"I thought we were supposed to be on the 11:00 shuttle."

"I did confirm last night that we would be on the 11:00 shuttle."

"We were here early for the 11:00 shuttle."

"When does the 11:00 shuttle ACTUALLY run?"

etc., etc.

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a fantastic review

 

You're welcome. Thank you for reading my ramblings!

 

We were on Freedom in May and we must've had Aruba and Curacao flipped because we were in Aruba 2-11 which was just weird--to be in a port that late! This was a really good itinerary.

 

We did the trip with Seavis in the DR and enjoyed it too. People who've not yet sailed: make sure you re-sunscreen up when you leave Saona; you will be at the sandbar for quite awhile and that's where I got a little pinker than I like!

 

Odd about the fry police; I don't see what handing out fries does while having people still touch the other food. (eyeroll).

 

I also agree the walk off the ship at this terminal seemed like miles!

 

Glad you had fun. I wish I was still onboard.

 

Wish I was still there, too! While it would have been nice to have done a sunset cruise or something in Aruba, I'm kind of glad we had such a long evening stay in Curacao. I LOVED seeing the ship all lit up at the Curacao pier with the last remnants of the sunset in the background.

 

Good tip about the sunscreen. We made sure to have plenty on us whenever we were out in the sun.

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Ugh, I am very perturbed by the children in the hot tub situation. I know that always seems to be the case, but a baby?! Please tell me this baby was not young enough to be in a swim diaper?

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Ugh, I am very perturbed by the children in the hot tub situation. I know that always seems to be the case, but a baby?! Please tell me this baby was not young enough to be in a swim diaper?

 

No, she wasn't in a swim diaper...just a regular one. :rolleyes:

If I were to guess, I'd say she was around 15-18 months old.

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No, she wasn't in a swim diaper...just a regular one. :rolleyes:

If I were to guess, I'd say she was around 15-18 months old.

 

Excuse me while I refrain from throwing things!

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Today was a pretty uneventful, yet relaxing day at sea. This ship moves through the water VERY smoothly. I noted that even though we were out at sea, it was the least motion I've ever felt on a ship, and I was thankful for the very calm water today.

We slept in bit this morning...well, as much as we could until our loud and chatty neighbors woke us up. I know the walls on this ship aren't that thick, but seriously! These people were LOUD! No matter. I was sure we'd have (unintentional) moments when we're not very quiet either, especially when Alyssa gets all riled up!

Alyssa always looks forward to room service for breakfast on a cruise, and she was not disappointed today. Our standard order came with 3 chocolate muffins for Alyssa, which she scarfed down in NO time! I enjoyed a hot cup of decaf tea while we all got ready for our day.

Before we could leave the room, though, our phone rang. “Who would be calling us?” I wondered. It was a follow-up call from the Maintenance department to see if the non-working toilet issue we called in the previous day was resolved to our satisfaction. I was impressed with the follow-up, and told them all was well.

We pretty much let Alyssa run the schedule this morning. She wanted to go to the kiddie pool, the regular pool and hot tubs, mini golf, and to Camp Carnival. We decided to start with the kiddie pool. Alex and I went through the buffet for our own breakfast, so we could carry it up to deck 11, where the kiddie pool was. It was a good idea to begin with, but MAN, was it a long trek with these heavy plate/tray/platter things they have on board!

Side rant – I really don’t like the giant oval plate/platter things that replaced the trays on the Lido deck! They make it impossible to comfortably carry food, drink and utensils anywhere! I mean, the platters by themselves have some weight to them, and then if you want to carry a drink, you have to try to carry this elongated thing with one hand and your cup with the other. And how about the eating utensils that are in those linen napkin rolls? You have two choices – stick it in your pocket or on the platter so that the platter is even heavier and now your napkin is absorbing any food that’s even slightly moist, runny, buttery, sticky or greasy. Bleh!

Anyway, I had just placed a croissant from the buffet onto my giant platter when another woman decided she would cut in line in front of me so that she could lean in and grab a box of cereal. When she did this, because she was standing so far back (it’s not line cutting unless you actually place your whole body in front of someone, right?!?) she basically parked her right breast onto the left side of my plate! “Excuse you,” I said, “I don’t want your milk!” She muttered an insincere apology and ran off, not noticing that the part of her shirt that covered her right nip now looked like she was lactating egg product. I smiled to myself, thinking it was worth losing my gross powdered eggs for the spectacle she gave other passengers on the way across the Lido deck! (Yeah, Lola can been mean and petty!)

As I slowly shuffled along doing my best juggling act, one of the crew members came over and offered to help me. I thanked him, but explained that we were going upstairs and that I wouldn’t want to put him out. He nodded and moved on, and I carefully climbed the stairs to the kiddie pool so we could watch Alyssa play.

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(4-5 of those giant white chairs were wedged into the little overflow ring against the pool. I don't know why.)

 

At first Alyssa wanted me to climb in and play with her, but then a little boy and his baby sister joined her, so she was happy. She adored the little baby and did everything she could to make that baby laugh or smile! Eventually, Alyssa and her new friend came over to ask if they could go to the "regular" pool, which was fine by me. Again, it was a good excuse to get Alyssa out of a non-filtered pool where a baby’s diaper soaked up much of the water.

First, though, Alyssa decided that she wanted to ride the water slide. So Alex showed her where the slide entrance was and how to get there from the bottom of the slide. Then Alex and I scoped out a couple of chairs by the pool next to the slide exit so that we could keep an eye on Alyssa. She LOVED it and wanted to go again and again!

I saw people vacating 4 loungers with a better view of the slide, pool, and hot tub, so I swooped in… as did another lady. I grabbed 1 on one end, and she plopped stuff on the remaining 3 chairs. I asked if she was taking all 3, and she said yeah. Drat! I asked if they were in the pool, and she said yeah. Double-drat. Oh well. I got up to leave, but then the lady said they could share, so I thanked her and called Alex over.

I saw Alyssa at the slide entrance, very expressively chatting up the attendant. When it was her turn, she slide down and walked towards us so that she could get in line to slide again. At the bottom of the steps closest to our lounge chairs, she disappeared. “I’m okay!” I heard her little voice call out, and immediately she popped back up from where she had slipped on the deck. I smiled, and kissed her as she walked by on her way to the top of the slide.

A couple of minutes went by, and at one point I couldn’t see where in the line Alyssa was. As I was watching for her to show up at the slide entrance, I heard a very high-pitched, terrified, “yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!” from the slide. I worried that maybe the scream was from my 6-year-old little girl. Ah, nope! A macho-looking dude in his 20s popped out of the bottom of the slide with a big SPLASH! I looked over at Alex, and we both cracked up!

My Alyssa soon made her appearance at the top of the slide. Again, she was chatting with an adult, this time a guy in the line behind her. I could see from how animated she was that she was having a blast! She saw me watching her and waved enthusiastically before climbing into the tube.

Once she landed at the bottom of the slide, Alyssa decided she would spend a little time in the hot tub. (It is just under the middle part of the slide.) Alex said he was baking, so he walked over to the pool just in front of the hot tub and stuck his foot in. Immediately, he pulled his foot out and went straight to the hot tub. Guess it was too cold! LOL! After a little while, I joined him and Alyssa and a few other people in the spa.

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We watched the big screen a while and then a little redhead girl about 9 or 10 years old came over and sat down in the hot tub with a bowl of ice cream. As she spooned each bite into her snarling mouth, I saw the woman next to her giving her the stink eye, and Alex next to me watching her with disapproval. She wrinkled her nose, thrusted her head forward, and all but DARED Alex to say anything to her. I rolled my eyes and ignored her, and when she was done with her bowl of ice cream, she left. Weird. Moments later, I spotted the same redheaded girl in the pool in front of the hot tub. This time, she was working on an ice cream cone and giving a lady in the pool the same challenging glare.

Alyssa quickly grew tired of the hot tub and decided she’d rather swim in the pool. Then she was off to the water slide again. I saw her talking to some more people in line at the top of the slide before it was her turn. This time when she came out of the bottom of the slide, she hung out by the slide exit. I thought maybe she had lost something, but then a bald middle-age man came out of the slide exit. Alyssa gave him a thumbs-up and said something to him (I think I saw her lips form the words, “see? It wasn’t that bad!” or something like that.) The guy just sort of nodded sheepishly at Alyssa and left.

Back in the hot tub, our personal space was becoming smaller and smaller. A little boy got in and started diving and swimming and kicking in the hot tub. At one point he jumped on my side. I “OW!” I said, then asked Alex to move over a bit so I could distance myself. Not long after that, the boy’s dad dragged him out.

After a good bit of fun in the water and sun, I thought I'd take Alyssa back to the cabin to clean her up. Tonight was formal night, and Alex and I had steakhouse reservations, plus I wanted to be sure we got pictures taken before we dropped Alyssa off at Camp Carnival. I called room service and ordered lunch for just the two of us, and was told it'd be a 30-45 minute wait. Perfect! Just enough time for us both to shower and clean up.

Room service came and the roast beef and cheese sandwich I ordered was oh so yummy! The guy who delivered our lunch asked if he could come in and set the tray down, so I stepped aside and let him place the tray on the coffee table. He proceeded to give us a “tour” of our meal, lifting covers, and naming off all the items on our tray: beef and cheddar, plain peanut butter sandwich (untoasted, no jelly), milk, chips, pretzels, etc. Um… okay. To Alyssa’s delight, her plate included 2 chocolate chip cookies too! I thanked and tipped our deliverer, and Alyssa and I sat down to a yummy lunch. Less than half-way through our meal, our phone rang. It was room service, asking if our order was okay. Love it!

Alyssa and I hung out in the cabin a bit after lunch, and then we met up with Alex to play some mini golf on the upper deck. We made a quick stop in route at shore excursion desk to make sure the 3 tickets we received for our dune buggy excursion in Grand Turk could be used by all 3 of us, since my name was on all them and all 3 read “adult” on the tickets. The guy at the desk said it would be no problem, then seeing Alyssa, got a concerned look on his face. “How old is she?” he asked, reaching for his shore excursion book.

“She’s 6,” I replied, “She’s at the minimum age for this tour, so I was able to sign her up online.” Then after a pause, I laughed and said, “She’s won’t be driving.”

Unconvinced, the guy riffled through the shore excursion book until he found the page on “Dune Buggy Adventure.” “She’s 6?” he asked. I nodded. “Alright. She’s okay.”

I smiled as I saw Alyssa’s big sigh of relief, and we made our way to the mini golf course. The course seemed nice, but boy was it crowded and WINDY! The line at the equipment kiosk was really long, and there were no golf balls left to rent out, so we explored the upper decks a little. When we returned to the kiosk, there were 3 golf balls waiting just for us, so we signed them out.

We had a fun time on the golf course. We didn't keep score, fortunately, but suffice it to say I stunk. I was so bad, at one point Alyssa looked at me sympathetically and asked, "Would you like me to help you out, Mommy?" Yikes!

golfcoursehole.jpg

I need to point out that the access to the mini golf course is crazy, and maybe even a little dangerous. You enter through a chain link gate at the top of a flight of stairs behind one end of the volleyball court. Here, the volleyball court takes up the entire right side of the fenced area and the basketball court covers the left side. Between the two courts is a large glass paneled enclosure that looks down to the main atrium in the interior of the ship. The sharp points of the metal panel edges are covered with a foam bumper that sticks out a couple of inches, and a sign on a glass panel warns people not to sit on the glass.

sportscourt.jpg

(View from the mini golf course, looking down at the entrance to the Sports deck. The gate is on the far right. Check out how tight the squeeze is on the right between the glass and the volleyball pole!)

To get to the stairs that lead to the mini golf, you have to walk across the volleyball court and “squeeze” between the glass enclosure and the pole support of the volleyball net. Coming back from our round of golf, I managed to make it ALMOST to the exit. Rounding the back of the court, I looked up in time to see a rogue volleyball that was served too high on a direct trajectory towards my head. I ducked in time for the ball to pass over me, but it landed hard on the court to my right, bounced up and came back to hit my elbow. Ouch! Yeah, it stung a bit, but not for long, and it was better than a knock to the head, I guess!

Tea time was at 3:00 in the Posh dining room, deck 4, and that's where we went to meet some of our roll call. Not everyone was there, but the folks we met were very nice! Alyssa seemed a bit bored until the dessert cart rolled around. Then she was all chocolaty smiles! We talked a very long time, and finally at 4:00 I had to excuse us so we could get ready for pictures and dinner.

We returned to our cabin, dressed in our formal attire, then hit the long line of picture venues. I was hoping that at least one would turn out, but I wasn’t too pleased with the work of the photographers this cruise. (Slanted pictures, bad angles, shadows on faces, etc.)

alyssaformal.jpg

(Ready to party!)

Finally, after listening to Alyssa’s begging after each photo session, we brought her to Camp Carnival, where she could play, have dinner with her friends, and even have a special camp "cocktail celebration," where they served the kids soda. (She had a ball!)

After we dropped Alyssa off, we had 2 hours to kill, so we walked around the ship looking for stuff to do. We spied on Alyssa at the fish & chips station as the Camp Carnival dinner was wrapping up. Then we went to Guest Services for a copy of the Fun Times and a Room Service menu. Afterwards, we sat on one of the loveseats in a back corner of the main atrium to people watch and listen to the music. When the main atrium cleared, we visited the Fun Shops for an ornament of the ship, but they sold only the cheesy resin ones that look like every other ship in the fleet. (I asked for the gold plated ornaments, and the clerk said they didn’t sell them anymore. Boo!)

We then explored all the lounges on the ship plus the main show lounge, and went to the aft lido, where I noticed that the dome was closed and covered the adult-only pool. We moved across the ship to check out the Serenity area (unlike other ships, Serenity is on the forward part of the spa deck), but was too hot and muggy in our formal attire. Went visited the piano bar, but not much was happening, so we left. Finally, we wound up on deck 10 next to the bandstand above the main pool and watched 5 people (3 adults, 1 teen, and 1 tween) play marco polo. It was too funny!

Time for the steakhouse, for a delicious meal, of which I ate WAY too much! The compliment of the chef was adorable and quite yummy. It was some sort of savory roasted red pepper/tomato soup with a mozzarella cheese in a teeny little baby doll bowl and matching spoon. (Okay, Lola is not that sophisticated and has no idea what the correct terminology is for the dinnerware!)

Alex and I both ordered the beef Carpaccio, which neither of us had ever tried before. Wow! So delicious! I thought for sure the texture would creep me out, but oh my! I had found a new starter to love. We also both ordered the prime rib steak, cooked medium, at the waiter’s recommendation. My steak was more medium-rare than medium, but it was very VERY yummy! It was also a HUGE 18 ounce steak. We really enjoyed the steaks and sides and stuffed ourselves silly. After all that beef, however, I STILL can’t bear the thought of eating any beef (other than hamburger) 4 weeks later!

What really put me over the edge was the "chocolate sampler" dessert, which had 4 different chocolate desserts on one plate. Alex ordered strawberry cheesecake, which was no less than 6 inches tall and just about as wide! No kidding, it was a HUGE chunk of cake! Neither of us could put much of a dent in our desserts, though, and both servings went mostly unfinished.

The check arrived, and there was a line that read “Gratuity (optional)” under the $35/pp fee. We were confused by this, so I asked one of the servers if gratuity was included, and he answered, “it is optional.” Umm…yeah, that didn’t really answer my question. I mean technically, ALL restaurant gratuities are “optional,” right? So we paid our bill and waddled out the door.

Stuffed to the point that I thought my slinky little red dress was going to blow apart, we walked over to Camp Carnival to pick up Alyssa. She saw us, smiled, waved, then realized why we were there. Immediately her face fell and she wailed, "Mommy! Daddy! Nooooooo!" and ran to the Camp Carnival gate with a pitifully pouty lip and those big doe eyes again. She started to cry, claiming that she "didn't even get a chance to PLAY yet!" (“So what have you been doing all this time?!?” we wondered.)

CCsadalyssa.jpg

Anyway, we agreed to let her play 30 minutes more, and she happily skipped off back to her friends. The people at Camp Carnival who were in line behind us to pick up their kids laughed. “So cute!” I heard the lady behind me say. Yeah, more like “so manipulative,” I thought!

We walked back to our room where we busted our housekeeping team cleaning up the bathroom. No worries, we told them. We can wander a little. Before we were even down the hall, though, they were ready for us, so we thanked them and walked back into the cabin. We DID get a towel animal tonight, though I’m not sure what it was supposed to be. There were also Carnival chocolates waiting for us, as well as a sweet strawberry surprise from John Heald. I couldn’t stand to look at another piece of dessert, so I cleared out space in our mini fridge to stash the strawberries inside, but the plate was too big. Uh-oh!

We changed into more comfortable clothes before we went to Camp Carnival for Alyssa. Unfortunately, Alex couldn’t find his card, so we called the steakhouse. Sure enough, it was there! So Alex schlepped back to the steakhouse for his card (and a maybe a regular sized plate that would fit our fridge and hold the strawberries), then all the way to the forward part of the ship again to get Alyssa. Alyssa was thrilled and wired from all the fun she had, and chattered on rapidly about her new friend named Kaylee and how she got to go to a cocktail party, where she got a Sprite.

It took a little while for Alyssa to settle down, even though I tried my best to calm her. The next day would be a busy one in Grand Turk, where we were scheduled to ride dune buggies around the island. It's also the day of the past guest party, which Alyssa has loved on every previous cruise because she got to dance on the big stage.

Edited by Lady_Jag

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Remember I mentioned that the Serenity area was at the front of the ship, not the back? Well, I think I failed to mention that it also right by Camp Carnival and the kiddie pool.

 

Here's the wooden divider that blocks access to Serenity from the kiddie pool. (I held my camera up around the side for this shot.)

serenityscreen.jpg

 

And here's the upper area of the Serenity deck (which is next to the slide entrance), as seen from the kiddie pool:

serenitystairs.jpg

 

Our strawberry surprise:

strawberriescu.jpg

 

Mystery towel animal:

towelcritter.jpg

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Loving your reveiw we are sailing on her in Nov.

 

A question about your hotel is there any where close to pick up pop and supplies?

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Loving your reveiw we are sailing on her in Nov.

 

A question about your hotel is there any where close to pick up pop and supplies?

 

Yes, there is a Target nearby and CVS and/or Walgreens. I think there's a Publix grocery store, too, but don't remember the exact distance. Also, the shopping mall is right across the street (we could see it from our window) if you forgot swimwear/clothing/etc.

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Skip this part if you're not interested in my backstory...

 

When I first booked this cruise, I wasn’t all that excited about Grand Turk. I mean, we were scheduled to be there from 7:00am-2:00pm…what could we POSSIBLY do in such a short time, especially when we’re not exactly “morning” people?

At first, I figured we’d take our sweet time getting off the ship and hang out at the beach or the pool at Margaritaville or something. Now Alex and Alyssa are always happy to have a relaxing “beach day.” But truth be told…and please keep this between you and me and the “handful” of other people on the world wide web…I am NOT a beach person! There! I said it! I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, and I don’t like going to the beach! There are a number of reasons why, including the fact that I can hardly swim and nearly drowned in the ocean when I was in college.

Back to Grand Turk – a couple of months before our cruise, I decided I would book a cabana by the pool at Margaritaville. I figured it would make a good base of operations for us, and I could chill out with my iPad in the privacy of an air conditioned room now and again, while Alex and Alyssa could play at the beach and/or pool for as long as they wanted. (And thank you again, Cruise Critic members, for sharing your discount promo code for Carnival’s shore excursions, as I was able to reserve a cabana at a 10% discount. Yay!)

Right after I reserved the cabana on the Carnival web site, I started looking around at the other Carnival excursions in Grand Turk and saw “Dune Buggy Adventure” in the list. Alyssa was just old enough to meet the minimum age requirements, and there were still plenty of tickets available for the earliest departure of 7:30am.

I knew Alex and Alyssa, being cut from the same thrill-seeking cloth, would be more than happy to ride around in a dune buggy, but for the price I wanted to be sure that Alex was on board with spending the money on a expensive 2-hour excursion in addition to having our cabana. I explained to him and Alyssa my plan of doing the early dune buggy tour at 7:30am, then coming back to our cabana around 9:30am to cool off, hang out by the pool, have some lunch, and maybe even rest a little before our 2:00pm departure. I cautioned them both that we would have to get up early in the morning to follow this plan, and both agreed.

So I went back to the Carnival web site (still armed with my 10% off promo code) to book the 3 of us on a dune buggy adventure at 7:30am. Except the Carnival web site didn’t want me to go! Because I booked the cabana in my name, and the “excursion time” listed for the cabana was 8:00am-2:00pm, only Alex and Alyssa had the [select this Guest] link. Next to MY name were the words “Time conflicts with another purchase.” Grrrr!

Not to be defeated by a stupid glitch in their web site, I called Carnival and asked to speak with someone in Shore Excursions. I spoke to a very nice lady, Shaneka, who told me she couldn’t fix the system, but that she would email someone who might be able to help, and she CC’d me on the email. Super.

Within 24 hours after Shaneka sent the email, I received the following response:

Dear Guest,

Thank you for getting in touch with the Shore Excursion Department.

You will be able to do both tours, the Cabana rental is the Full day and you will be able to check in at any time from 7:00am onwards. Depending on what time you check in that will determine how much time you have in the Cabana itself.

Please go ahead and book the Dune Buggy’s online.

We value your business and appreciate this opportunity to assist.

Best regards,

Tour Operations

Carnival Cruise Lines

Yeah, only the online booking system was still screwed up, and besides, I wasn’t asking if I could DO both excursions, but if they would fix their stupid system so that I could book both online! So I nicely replied to the email, thanking them for their response and explaining that as Shaneka indicated, and as the screen shot I attached showed, the online system needed a little love. Here is their reply:

Good Afternoon Shaneka C***-W****,

We are looking into your request, if possible we will hold tickets for your family onboard the Carnival Freedom. We will confirm as soon as the tickets have been removed.

Once you board, please proceed to the shore excursions desk to purchase the tickets.

We value your business and appreciate this opportunity to assist.

Best regards,

Tour Operations

Carnival Cruise Lines

Sigh! I emailed a response right away, telling them never mind, I would just cancel the cabana rental and book the dune buggy tickets instead. Then I asked them to please not save any tickets for their rep, Shaneka, and her family, as they would not be sailing on the Carnival Freedom with us.

I was surprised that Alyssa was actually disappointed about the cabana when I told her, and said, “Awwww! You cancelled the resting place?!?” But being 6 and excited about dune buggies, she quickly got over it.

Anyway, not only would I save some money by not renting a cabana, but also, I was able to reserve a later, 9:30am dune buggy tour so that we wouldn’t have to get up at the crack just to be on time for our shore excursion. The new plan was to get up early, but not TOO early, have a leisure breakfast on board while the crowd rushed off the ship, do our dune buggy tour, then return to Margaritaville for a bite to eat and a dip in the pool or even some time at the beach (blah!) until we had to be back on board the ship.

Aside - I noted the day after I cancelled our cabana online that the number of tickets for the 7:30am dune buggy tour had decreased by 3 (there were 4 tickets left when I first tried to book, and only 1 left after the debacle with the Shore Excursion department) even though I asked that they NOT save the tickets for me…or rather, for Shaneka. A day or two after that, I saw that the 9:30am tour had sold out.

dunebuggy.jpg

 

Now back to our regular programming…

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I awoke in the early morning as we were pulling into Grand Turk. Our entire cabin and everything in it was vibrating and rattling as the ship docked. From the sound, I easily imagined metal panels on the hull outside our cabin shaking loose and being ripped from the outside of the ship. Wow! What a wake-up call!

Room service arrived not long afterwards with Alyssa order of chocolate muffins. Since we were up early anyway, I wanted to have breakfast in the MDR this morning before leaving the ship.

We dressed in our old grungy “paint clothes,” because I heard that the dune buggy excursion could get you VERY dirty and I remembered how dirty Alex and I got on our ATV excursion in Cozumel years ago. We wore our bathing suits underneath so that we could cool off in the ocean or at the pool in Margaritaville after our excursion.

The night before, I had packed our excursion backpack with sunscreen, towels, bug spray, etc. To it I added a few pouches of chilled CapriSun Roarin’ Waters for Alyssa so she would stay hydrated. All packed and ready, we headed off to the Posh dining room. I was really, REALLY looking forward to the little round hashbrowns they serve there. (The Lido buffet has them only on debarkation day.)

Alex, in his YMCA tank top, led the way to the dining room, but was soon stopped by the hostess outside the doors. She told him, “I’m sorry sir, but you need a coat to enter.” Wha??!?? We both looked at him confused, and she repeated that he wasn’t allowed into the MDR in a tank top and needed to put on a coat. Now, I understand there’s a dress code for the MDR at dinner, and we gladly abide by it. But just the previous day, someone from our CC group was wearing a bathing suit top in the MDR for tea time and there was no problem whatsoever. Needless to say, Alex was PO’d by this ridiculous double-standard.

grandturkpier.jpg

(Alex's "risque" attire)

“You guys go ahead,” he told me and Alyssa, “Enjoy your hasbrowns – I’m going up to the Lido deck.” And he started to walk away.

Alyssa and I turned to follow, because as much as I wanted those hasbrowns, I wanted to hang out with my husband more, and I agreed that telling him to “put on a coat” was just stupid. “Thanks anyway,” I told the hostess and I started to leave. “Are you sure?” she asked, surprised that I wasn’t staying. I nodded, and she looked embarrassed as she said, “sorry!”

So up to the Lido buffet we went for some cold diced potatoes with bits of soggy red bell pepper mixed in, and a croissant. A word about that croissant…I BURNED my hand on the serving tongs! All the pastries were under heating lamps, and the croissants were on a tray way in the back. Of course, the serving tongs that went along with that tray of croissants were ALSO way in the back, under the 3-4 heating lamps. So when I grabbed the metal tongs, the hot metal seared my palm, and I quickly dropped them! “OUCH!” I yelled.

“Are they hot?” asked the lady behind me. (DUH! I thought.) When I nodded, she reached across and grabbed the hot tongs herself, then just as quickly dropped them. (Seriously?!? Why on earth would I lie about something like that?!?) I grabbed one of the serving tongs from a tray in the front and helped myself to a croissant, giving the lady my are-you-really-that-stupid? look, then walked away, thinking how I would have an excellent political career ahead of me now that I didn’t have any fingerprints.

Needless to say, breakfast was disappointing, but the disappointment was pushed aside by our anticipation of our dune buggy adventure. Alyssa chattered on and on about how much fun it would be, and how she and I would have a “girls’ buggy!” (She said “girls’buggy” in a higher octave and would flip both her wrists in the air when she said this. LOL!)

We left the ship, said “no thank you” a few times to the ship photographers, and walked down the pier, through the standard overpriced shop, and into the courtyard area where the dune buggy kiosk was. I signed us in, and we sat down on the edge of one of the planters nearby. Finally, it was time for us all to walk out to the line of dune buggies and begin our “Dune Buggy Adventure” shore excursion.

familygrandturk.jpg

First, I need to mention that this is NOT a "water activity," as stated in the description/overview on the Carnival web site. There is no beach stop (much to Alyssa's disappointment) and no swimming. Unless it rains, the only water you will experience is from the sweat-soaked helmet from the previous tour participants. I thought the term “adventure” in the title of this shore excursion was actually a misnomer.

We stood around the lead buggy, from which our guide gave us all the necessary hand signals and laid down the rules: drive on the left side of the road, no fishtailing, no spin-outs, no passing, no donuts, keep your visor down so you don’t get poop in your face, and keep up with the buggy in front of you. The 12 people in our group were then told to find a buggy, one passenger and one driver per buggy. Since there was at least one person in the other 5 buggies, Alyssa and I hopped into the last buggy. Alex moved towards the buggy in front of us, where a lady was sitting in the driver’s seat. “Would you like to drive?” she asked Alex, getting up to move over, “After all those instructions he just gave us, I’m a little afraid to!”

So Alex lucked out and got the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, I helped Alyssa to buckle up and strapped her helmet onto her head. Then I put on my own helmet. SQUISH! The inside padded lining was cold and very wet. YUCK! We were the second of three tours that day, and I guess with the tours running consecutively, the helmets don’t get a chance to dry out from the sweat of the previous tour participants. Blech!

Trying not to think about the squishy helmet strapped to my head, I followed Alex’s buggy out of the parking lot and down the road. The drive was okay, but it was at a pretty moderate speed, probably not much faster than 40-45mph. We drove through sandy trails and over rocky paths, but even though the buggy’s back end pitched a little a couple of times and I took a bump a little faster than necessary to try to catch a little air, Alyssa remained quiet and with a blank expression on her face.

After just a few minutes of the sandy trails, our line of buggies came to a stop. We’d already reached the first stop of our tour. “Can I just wait in the buggy?” Alyssa asked, looking down at her feet. I told her that no, everyone had to go and we would come back and ride some more in a little while. She sighed and reluctantly took my hand. I grabbed a CapriSun out of our bag and got her to sip at it so she wouldn’t dehydrate.

We climbed a dirt path up a steep hill (and around various pile of horse/donkey droppings) to the top, where we saw the remnants of an old fort and a nice view of the ship. We took a few pictures, and listened to a history lesson from our guide, which was interesting for most of the adults. Alyssa, however, was visibly bored and very restless.

daddy_alyssaship2.jpg

(That's the Freedom in the background)

When our guide asked, “any questions?” Alyssa raised her hand.

“When are we were going to the beach?” she asked. Our guide laughed and told her in about an hour and 40 minutes, when the tour was over. Alyssa sighed, and I tried my best to talk up the rest of the buggy experience.

We carefully descended the hill, trying not to step in or slip on any of the “piles,” and climbed back into our buggies. Once everyone was ready, the guide and the first 3 buggies took off on the next segment. Our three buggies in the back went nowhere, though. The guy driving in front of Alex was shouting, “Hey! Hey! It won’t start! It’s stalled!”

We all sat there for a while until one of our guides returned to repair the broken down buggy. He got it running again, and we all drove off, one behind the other, until we caught up with the rest of the group. That same buggy broke down again a little while later, so again, those of us in the buggies behind him had to wait. I felt sorry for the driver of that buggy, as he was clearly frustrated (and I think maybe a little embarrassed?) with the situation.

Finally, we were all traveling along at our 40-45mph clip across an empty, open, dusty area. Alyssa still had yet to whoop, cheer, or even smile. (At one point, I even asked her if she was having fun, and she just gave me an unconvincing, unenthusiastic “yeah.”) Here, I thought, maybe we would take it up a notch and maybe hit 60mph. Unfortunately for me, though, instead of speeding up, my buggy was slowing down. I had the gas pedal all the way to the floor, but the engine just died.

We rolled to a stop and watched the rest of the group leave us behind in the dust, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. “Wait! Wait!” I yelled, waving my arms to get someone’s attention, but we were the last buggy in the line, sitting in a cloud of dust kicked up by all the other buggies, and no one noticed. Alyssa looked at me with a bit of panic on her face. “Let’s go, Mommy! Why aren’t we going?”

I smiled at her and told her that the buggy won’t start, but that someone will be along to fix it in a little while. Then I crossed my fingers, hoping I was right! I will give credit to our guides for keeping track of everyone on the tour, however, as we didn't have to wait too long to be "rescued." Maybe 5-7 minutes. As he did with the previous broken down buggy, the guide pulled the driver’s seat out, messed with the engine, and finally managed to get the buggy started so that I could join the group now waiting for us down the road.

The next stop was the lighthouse, where we were given a bottle of water and a bathroom break. Alyssa wanted to pet the donkeys roaming around in the area, but I didn’t think that was such a good idea. Meanwhile, Alex got in line for the restroom. When it was his turn, her grabbed the door handle, and some jerk walked right in, like Alex was opening the door for him! Then we the jerk came out, he looked at Alex and said, “I’ll let YOU flush!” When Alex came out of the bathroom, the jerk then suddenly tried to make nice-nice with Alex and chat him up like they were old pals. What a freak!

I snapped a few pictures while Alyssa whined about not getting to pet the donkeys:

lighthouse2.jpg

In no time, it was time to get back to the buggies. We all climbed in, but the guy in front of Alex couldn’t get his buggy to start again. Two of the guide worked on the buggy for a long time. Finally, one of the guides used the metal part of the seatbelt to somehow hotwire/jumpstart the buggy! Yikes! Everyone climbed back in.

“Hey Alex!” I called out, “Is your buggy running? ‘Cause mine isn’t!” Alex flagged down the two guides who were just repairing the other buggy and sent them my way.

Alyssa and I both had to climb out again, while the guides pulled both seats out of the buggy to mess with the engine. Wrrrr! Wrrrr! Wrrrr! Wrrr! Bleeeehhhh! Again and again they tried to start the buggy, but nothing was happening. I walked Alyssa a little further away from the exhaust in the back and tried to keep her distracted.

dirtyalyssa.jpg

(Not amused...and oh so dirty!)

Finally, after another 10+ minutes or so, the engine started and Alyssa and I were back in the buggy. We cruised along the island back to our starting point, where I would leave my sweat-soaked squishy helmet in the seat for some other unsuspecting someone on the third tour of the day. To Alyssa’s great delight, it was time to hit the beach!

loungeline.jpg

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It was a little after 11:30 when we walked over to Margaritaville. We asked Alyssa if she wanted to cool off in the pool or in the ocean, and she chose the ocean. (Drat!) Alex and I had no trouble finding a couple of loungers on the beach where we could watch Alyssa swim and chill out for a little while. Alex jumped in with Alyssa, and the two of them played in the water a while.

alexlaurachaise.jpg

I’ll admit it – even though I’m not a beach person, the beach in Grand Turk was wonderful! I loved that we could swim in the ocean so close to the ship and in such clear blue water you could see the fish without a snorkel or mask! Alyssa started a little rock pile on the beach, then chose a few sea shells to take home with her. She also found a piece of sea glass, which she thought was really neat, and tucked it safely into our excursion backpack.

Alyssa collection of sea shells reminded me of the “conch graveyard” I wanted to visit, so after I had cooled down a bit, I made sure Alex was going to be hanging out with Alyssa for a while, then went in search of a nice conch shell or two. There were big signs posted on the pier warning people not to walk under the dock, so I walked through the tourist plaza to the beach on the other side of the pier and followed the rocky shoreline, keeping my eye on the ground for conch shells.

Now here’s where Cruise Critic let me down. Okay, not really, but I so misunderstood all the descriptions of the “conch graveyard” in Grand Turk! From previous reviews and postings, I was under the impression that you walk along the beach, and suddenly you come across this massive area just litter with beautiful conch shells, ready for the taking. WRONG!

The reality was, you walk through very soft sand and over several rocks, and then you think you’ve found a good shell, but when you manage to pry it out of the sand, you see that it’s only half or a third of a shell. There were indeed TONS of conch shells, but none of them were in very good condition. I kept walking and looking, and suddenly noticed that there were several other people walking along the beach with the same goal and about the same bad luck. One guy I saw painstakingly chiseling away at the crusted solidified sand around one conch shell. It was like he was trying to retrieve a rare specimen from a fossil, and he was so into his task that his face was beet red and the sweat poured down his face.

I walked on, trying not to fall on a rock or drop my camera into the water, and made it to what looked like the tip of the island (although I’m sure it was just the end of the beach). There were several conch shells around, all broken, or with multiple holes in them. Bummer. Then I remembered a photo I saw of a live conch in one review, and wasn’t sure I wanted to find a “pristine” shell anymore. It may sound silly, but what if I found a nice shell, and there was still something LIVING in it? Ack! I would totally freak out if something reached out of the shell and touched me!

I spotted one shell that had just one small hole in it near the top, and rinsed it of in the ocean. Nearby was another shell with a small hole in the same spot but otherwise in good condition. I grabbed that one two, gave it a rinse, then started the journey back to Margaritaville. Ugh! It was really HOT in the noontime sun, and I wished I had taken a bottle of water with me on my walk along the beach. I trudged on, back over rocks and across slippery soft sand.

conch2.jpg

(My two finds)

A man saw me carrying the 2 shells, smiled at me and nodded his hello. I returned the greeting, and we talked a little bit. “I wonder how many shells the ships carry out to see with them when they pull out,” he mused.

“ALL of them,” I joked, “judging from the slim pickings!” He laughed and said that they found some nice ones, but they had to swim out a ways and snorkel for them. I looked out into the ocean, and sure enough, two young men were out there with snorkel gear, holding their shells up for the guy to see. Ah well! Time to get back to my own family before I had a heat stroke.

I said my goodbyes and walked back to the main plaza, snapping a couple of pictures as I went. I reached our loungers and collapsed into one, out of breath and thirsty. Alex saw me come back and said, “hey, I was just about to move our stuff over there to those chairs in the shade.”

“Sounds good to me!” I said, and helped him move our towels and bag and shoes. Alex said if I was going to stay at the beach with Alyssa, he was going to go look around. I was fine with that. I grabbed another CapriSun from the bag and brought it to Alyssa to drink, then all but dove into the marvelously cool water. Ah! I could feel my body’s temperature returning to normal as I effortlessly floated along, welcoming Alyssa’s splashes. I wasn’t going to die from the heat after all!

alyssaswims.jpg

(LOVED swimming so close to the ship! Also note the line forming to re-board on the left)

I helped Alyssa with her rock pile on the beach, pointed out several schools of fish in the water, and had a great time playing with my little girl. When Alyssa decided to build a sand castle, I remembered the conch shells and went back to the chairs to retrieve them. I brought them to the water and waved them in front of Alyssa, but she was too much “in the zone” to notice. Oh well! I washed both shells off in the water, and as I was crossing the beach back to the chairs to put them away, I heard Alyssa exclaim, “Hey! What’s that?!?”

I showed her the shells, and she thought they were just perfect. She was so excited about them! (I saw more excitement on her face over these shells than I did the entire 2-horu dune buggy excursion!) I wrapped each shell in a plastic bag so that they wouldn’t stink up our excursion backpack, then carefully wrapped them in two of our towels for extra padding. Alex returned as I was placing the shells into the backpack, and he handed me a cold bottle of Diet Coke. God bless that man!

We lounged in the chairs with our drinks, watching Alyssa alternate between swimming in the water and piling up her rocks on the beach. The music at Margaritaville was distant enough to provide a good background without being too loud. We were supposed to be back on board at 1:30 for our 2:00 departure, and that time was fast approaching. Already, the line to board the ship was really long and at least half way down the pier, so we decided we’d wait until the last possible moment and hope the crowd to board would die down.

alyssabeach.jpg

("See Mom? The beach isn't THAT bad!)

The line was still there when we packed up our things and called Alyssa in, but it was much shorter than before. Alyssa didn’t want to leave (who could blame her!) and walked super slow to where we were waiting. She spotted the swinging chairs hanging along the back of Margaritaville and wanted to sit in them. I did too, so I told her that we could try them out for just a minute or two but then had to get back to the ship. (The chairs were comfortable enough, but it was really hard to pull ourselves out of them because of how deep the seats were.)

alyssaswingcu.jpg

We walked over to a spigot to rinse off our feet, crossed the plaza, then walked back through the shop at the entrance to the pier. In front of us was a chain of 3 people linked arm-in-arm, marching towards the ship. Okay, the two people on the end were marching, while the drunen woman in the middle was sort of being dragged along. Her companions were the only things holding her up, and at one point, the guy on the right lost his grip a bit, and she slid down, almost hitting the concrete of the pier!

Sure enough, they were directly in front of us in the line. The drunken woman boasted loudly about how much she drank and how much fun she had. Then she turned to the teenage girl in front of her and, slurring, asked something like, “you know how when you drink sssssshho mussssh EVERYTHING just gets sssssshho mussssh funner?!?”

“I wouldn’t know,” the girl answered, with a pitying smile on her face, “I don’t drink.”

“You ssssshould!” the woman told her, “you don’t know what you’re misssssshing!” Then she talked about how she spent almost all her time drinking and peeing in the pool, and mentioned a few other disgusting things she did there that made me glad Alyssa chose to cool off in the ocean instead of the pool!

drunk.jpg

("Sometimes in our lives...we all need somebody to lean on!")

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floral_gate.jpg

(Entrance from the pier)

 

splashdown_cu.jpg

(Splashdown!)

 

beachhut2.jpg

(Little hut I encountered along my journey to the graveyard.)

 

gt_whalecu.jpg

(A whale of a tale!)

 

margaritaville.jpg

(Margaritaville)

 

freedomship.jpg

(This beach might turn me into a "beach person" after all!)

 

Day 3 continues tomorrow, with a recap of the past guest party and the rest of our evening. Goodnight!

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