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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Carnival Sunshine Cruise

Matt and I were recently on a Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean during the time frame of April 25 - May 2.
 
Had a blast! We relaxed and enjoyed everything that was offered.
 

Our flight to Orlando was completely full. And we experienced turbulence off and on the whole flight to the point where we were not served drinks/snacks for the safety of the flight attendants. Once at the airport, it felt like it took FOREVER to get our rental car. Kind of a pain in the you know what. After getting into our rental car, we drove the 43 miles to the Budget rental agency to drop our car off and take the free shuttle to the ship in Port Canaveral (5 minute ride had we of been the first ship). Waiting for the shuttle took 30 minutes in the hot sun. As you can see, we did a lot of waiting around.
 
In case you ever fly into the Orlando airport and take a rental car to Port Canaveral, know 3 things:
1. You will go through 2 tolls at $1 each.
2. Gas stations are right there by the drop off spots... don't pay for them to fill it back up. I was quoted $15 dollars but we filled it up ourselves and spent just under $6.
3. They make you add liability insurance even if you already have insurance. The cost for us was $15.
 
In the end, I think we paid around $70 for the rental car. A bit more then I would have preferred to spend, but at least we didn’t have to wait for an overcrowded bus and we were able to stop for a 12-pack of soda. Plus, choices were limited since I waited until the last minute.
On the way to the airport from the ship, I booked us a shuttle and we had no issues. I paid $20/pp plus tip for the shuttle.
 
Overall, I found traveling in/out of Port Canaveral to be a nuisance due to the distance from the airport. I would only go through this port again if we drove here or were here prior to sailing. San Juan and Tampa were much easier to fly in/out because you could take a quick cab to the port. New Orleans and Charleston we drove to so I am unsure how the airport situation works at each of these ports.
 
Upon arriving at the ship, we dropped our luggage off, went through security, checked in, walked by the people taking pictures and walked onto the ship where we immediately booked the Behind the Fun Tour.
Once we dropped off our luggage, even though the lines looked long, we didn’t wait very long to board the ship. No complaints about this process. Great job Carnival!
Next we headed to our room to drop our other stuff off. We had decided on room 6106 which was a handicapped room at the very front of the ship. We paid a bit extra for this interior room with a walkway view. The downside of the room was the beds couldn't be stuck together therefore Matt and I slept apart for the entire cruise. I enjoyed the view, but I don’t think the view itself was worth the extra money when you consider we couldn’t sleep together. It did have extra space which was nice.
 
On to the Lido deck for our first lunch. I started with Guy's Burger and fries. Burger was cold and yucky. Fries were yummy and I ate some more a few times throughout our cruise. After taking one bite of my burger, I gave up and got pizza and fruit which never disappoint me. In fact, the pizza is one of my favorite items each cruise. I suggest you try it if you haven’t already.
 
We did the normal things like walk around the ship in order to explore our home away from home and did the muster drill. Then it was time to set sail. Meaning, time for the sail away party. Yay! One of my favorite things! I love watching everyone dance to all the fun songs you hear on each cruise. Last year I made my very own cruise mix for my iTunes which I enjoy listening to when I am missing cruising. Makes me happy to hear the tunes. Now I just need to learn all the different dances. NOT!!!!
 
Because I didn’t write this sooner, I don’t remember what we did each day therefore I am just going to write up this trip in one blog entry. Lazy, yes, I know.

Some of our favorite things we did this cruise include:
Dive-in Movies with fresh popcorn
Shuffle board and foosball in the Red Frog Pub (Hidden spot)
Musical shows - saw 4 AWESOME shows (2 we had previously seen)
Juggling show - FUNNY!
Behind the Fun Tour - Wonderful and well worth the cost (More Later)
Lobby parties
Mini Golf
Listening to people sing karaoke
Hanging in the pool
Laying out in the hammocks on the Serenity deck
Laying out in the sun
Laying out looking at the water from the deck off the lobby (in the shade)
 
Some of the things we did which we will skip next cruise:
Fun Ashore and Fun Aboard show - BORING! We only stayed in hopes of winning free shore excursions.
Seuss-a-palooza - Card board cutouts... I was wanting to see the characters in costume. We left early but they must have come out at some point because we saw the pictures of them.
 
We both loved all the different food choices on the ship.
For breakfast, I mostly ate the same thing each morning. Watermelon, banana yogurt, bacon, cheese Danish things.
For lunch, with the exception of one sea day brunch, we always ate on the Lido deck. I enjoyed pizza, Mongolian food, burrito from Blue Iguana, all beef hotdog from the deli, miscellaneous items off the Lido deck main buffet area.
For dinner we sometimes ate in the main dining room and sometimes ate on the Lido deck. We both seem to prefer the Lido deck dinning since they offered most of the same foods.
At dinner time, you could also stop by The Taste Kitchen to get a sample of food from the pay places on the ship. You can go and get samples as many times as you desire and I am not ashamed to admit a few times we went several times in one night. I should have taken pictures of my favorites.
 
At the ports, we really didn’t do anything. Usually I am good about making us a packed itinerary but this time, mostly because I had been sick with morning sickness up until we left, I booked nothing. Matt was a bit disappointed I didn’t plan anything for us to do. I promised him I won't let it happen again. Who knew he actually enjoyed my usual planning? He typically acts like I am spending too much money. Now I know FOR A FACT he is just complaining to complain. Good information for the future.
Cozumel - We walked off the ship, walked to the grocery store where we bought nothing and came back. We tried to book an island tour, but that didn’t work out. We were back on the ship within an hour. Lame and my fault.
Belize - We planned to stay on the ship prior to going on this cruise.
Mahogany Bay - We walked to the nearby beach where we both had a wonderful time swimming in the ocean.
Costa Maya - We walked around the little shopping area and promptly went back on the ship. I thought for sure a beach  would be nearby. Nope. What a waste.
 
Overall, we do not plan on cruising the Western Caribbean again. Neither one of us have any desire to visit any of these places again. Been there, done that!!!
By the time we take our next cruise, hopefully we aren’t forced to go a certain week because of Matt's job. Would be nice to actually pick a port and itinerary based on what we want to do.
I had intended on making an entire post of The Behind the Fun Tour, but as I stated earlier, I am too lazy. I'll just tell you the highlights.
 
Ours took place on the last sea day at 9AM. We all met in the Library where we turned in our tickets, had our names crossed off a list and were given Behind the Fun passes on our brand new lanyards. After we had all gathered, security came in and took a wand to us looking for any recording devices.
 
It was now time for our tour with Anne who worked at the excursion desk. And let me start off by saying she was wonderful! Very informative and was eager to answer all our questions. We learned this was her very first time leading one of these tours - the person who usually does them was sick or something - and she is from South Africa.
 
Our first stop on our route was to the Liquid Lounge where we met the entertainment manager - Brett. We learned Carnival typically changes the shows every three years (explains why 2 of them we had already seen last year although we still enjoyed them), cast of 8 means they have to all be triple threats with two main singers and two main dancers from each sex. More questions and answers were discussed, but I already forgot what else I learned.
We then we went the very front of the ship where the bell is located. This is the same spot where you can 'be on top of the World' like on the movie Titanic. It was very windy, but we took our first group picture here. Usually, this space is reserved only for the workers.
 
Next stop was to three decks below deck 0. They were labeled A,B,C. We saw several crew areas such as where they ate, where they played and where they are housed with the exception of some people in their own rooms, all are 2 to a room. In addition to rooms on these floors, some rooms are located on floors 0,1,2,13. In fact, Anne, was about to move upstairs to deck 13. I am going to assume 'higher' people are the ones who are allowed to move upstairs. I did ask about crew being allowed to eat in the main guest areas and was told they were allowed to during non-peak hours. Same with the specialty restaurants. I never did see any 'lower' workers but we did see several 'higher' workers eating on the Lido deck almost every day during lunch.
 
Crew washes their own laundry and get free supplies. Uniforms are washed for them. Housekeeping even cleans there rooms - this is where they practice prior to cleaning guest's rooms.
 
We got to meet the heads of all the departments we came into contact with.
 
Another neat area we saw were the meat freezers and thawing rooms. Meat is thawed for three days. They have 26 drink refrigerators. And all food is taken on to the ship at the main port. (i.e Port Canaveral)
I also enjoyed seeing the main dining room's kitchen. They having it working like a fine oiled machine! We saw where they put the food once it is made, saw a guy making edible flowers, saw a guy frosting cakes and we got to sample a chocolate covered strawberry.
 
At some point we made it to the bridge. Let me tell you, the sights were amazing!!! We got to meet the Captain of the ship AND had our picture taken with him. This is also where we had our last group picture taken.
 
We were then taken to the steak house for the end of the tour where we filled out a short survey of the tour. I think the tour lasted around 3 hours. I would definitely do this tour again in a few years on a different ship. Would be interesting to see the differences.
 
Within the cost of the tour, we received the three pictures mentioned, lanyard, bag and hat. When we got to our room, we also had a plate of strawberries and cookies waiting for us.
A learned a whole lot more and saw a lot more then I am mentioning here. Maybe I have tempted you to want to check it out??? Hope so!



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