Overall Rating: Good
|Destination:||Caribbean - Western|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
|Cabin Type:||Ocean View|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
This was a new experience for us booking two 5 day back to back cruises for New Year. We were on an economy kick this year trying to survive the very bad business conditions and continuing our tradition of taking an extended cruise for New Year. We booked the cruises from Mobile, AL in July. We also booked a pre and post cruise stay at the Marriott Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel on Water Street in Mobile. It included free covered parking for the duration of our cruises. We left on Saturday, Dec 26 and spent the night at a hotel south of Birmingham. We could have drove straight to port in about 10 hours, however we decided to take our leisurely time for this 605 mile drive. It was a very pleasant trip not having to get to the airport two hours before our flight and then flying 3 or 4 hundred miles north for our connecting airport and then waiting 2 or 3 hours for our next flight and after arriving at our destination waiting for our luggage and then finding ground transportation. Anyway, we arrived at the Renaissance around noon on Sunday, Dec 27. The hotel is one of the nicest we've stayed at. We had two large windows facing the water and would be able see the ship arrive at port. Well, that didn't happen! After we checked in and took all our bags to our room and did a little unpacking and getting comfortable we decided to go down to the bar and get a little lunch. After going out the door Rita remembered she wanted her sweater and we tried to get back in, to no avail. The keycard lock would not work. We went down to the lobby to get two more keys and went back up and still could not get in! A maintenance man came by and told us they were not supposed to rent the room because it had a bad lock. That's why when we first went up there with our bellman the door was propped open. To make a long story short they had to drill the lock off so we could more to another room across the hall. There went our great view! We headed down to the nice sports bar and spent the rest of the afternoon watching NFL football while they worked on the door. We finally were able in get in our new room in the late afternoon. Oh well, as they say sh** happens.
We were on the first shuttle at 10:45 Monday morning and were in the first group to board, around 11:30. We were told everyone's staterooms would not be ready until 1:30, so we did our own little tour of the ship until we ended up on the Lido deck for lunch.
Champaign was being handed out on Lido, kinda reminded us of our Celebrity cruises. Apparently it was because it was a New Year cruise.
The ship was very clean and the staff was very friendly. We liked the layout and once in our stateroom we liked it as well. The passenger's dress, including our, was a little weird for a Caribbean cruise--sweatshirts, sweaters, coats, and even parkas because of the cool weather. (low 40s) Another weird thing--Hoosiers! Of all our cruises we've only met a handful of other folks from Indiana. This one they were for the most part easily recognizable with their Colt's, IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, etc sweatshirts and jackets, including me in my Colts.
After lunch we went to find our late dining table in the Celebration dining room and were surprised to find it was a table for two. Our TA had us set up for a table for 6 or 8 for both cruises, with friends joining us for the second cruise. Carnival had it screwed up. We got with the Maitre 'D later on and stayed with our table for two for the first cruise and choose our table for six for the second cruise with the same waiter, Nino and assistant waiter. They did a fantastic job for our ten evenings in the dining room. They food was as good or better than any of our other cruises. We had breakfast in the dining room every morning except one and had lunch there once. All were good. The Windows by the Sea buffet on the Lido deck was good, except it was very crowded on our first cruise because of all the families with kids. It was not as crowded on the second cruise, especially around the self serve ice cream. The pizza and sandwich bar in the Windows by the Sea, as well as the outside grill were good, as well. No complaints from us.
Our stateroom service from Noel was outstanding and Rita enjoyed the towel animals he made for us every day. We attended a lot of the production shows and they were all very good. The Beatle's tribute show and music was outstanding. The comedians, Ronnie Bullard and Happy Cole, were very hilarious including their adults shows. We don't normally attend many shows on our cruises but since all the lounges with dance floors and the piano lounge were all smoking, we attended the shows instead. They did not play ballroom music so we did not get to do much dancing. This we did not like! Only a couple nights, NYE and one other, were we able to dance outside on the Lido. It was just to darn cold!
The cruise director's staff was very good and we became friends with Dave, who was returning to England on our departure day, and Bonnie. They would always look us up to join in the activities, and we did. Rita won the hula-hoop challenge and Rita and Ellie won a couple of the trivia contest defeating the infamous Mr Google!
The ports were of no deal to us--we got off for an hour or so both times in Cozumel to shop. In Calica and Progreso we stayed aboard and took advantage of a little warmer weather and laid out to work on our winter tans. I did get to swim in the pool one day when the outside temp was around 70. Rita though I was nuts and she's probably correct.
All and all it was a good cruise, or should we say it was two good cruises. The only faults were the lack of our usual night life because of not having nonsmoking sections in the lounges. I smoked for 35 years and have been around smoke from welders, plasma, and laser cutters most of my life. Now cigarette smoke in a confined area gives me a sinus headache. Rita is just flat allergic to cigarette smoke. It's surpassing to us that Carnival bends over for 21% of the smoking public in spite of the 79% nonsmokers!
The Carnival Elation is replacing the Fantasy beginning in May. The Fantasy will move to Charleston. We cruised on the Elation about 10 years ago out of San Pedro, CA.
Mobile is such a convenient port for us and is a great city, however with Carnival's smoking policy and it's short (4 or 5 day) cruises we may not return. It would be nice to see other cruise lines there offering longer cruises.
Since it was my (Keith's) birthday we stayed over an extra night in Mobile. Thanks to Ellie and Frank for helping us celebrate! Also, Thanks for bringing the UNO cards. Our drive home was straight thru and we avoided the ice and didn't run into much snow until we were close to home.