Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Come Sail Away with Me (AKA the Longest Blog in History)

Hey peeps!  I’ve missed blogging this last week or so, and am excited to share about the great experience we’ve had!

Jay and I are home tonight after such a wonderful vacation.  It was restful and pampering and lovely.  I highly recommend it to anyone.  It’s a great way to literally get away from everything.

in Galveston before the cruise, daring the sun to tan me

If you’re on the fence about booking a cruise yourself, here are some tips, tricks, and tidbits that might help.

The Top Ten Things about our Cruise Vacation

10. You Get a Lot of Bang for Your Buck!  As far as vacations go, you spend relatively little money for everything you get.  The cruise is all inclusive* (food, entertainment), and if you plan right, you can pre-pay for your adventures off-shore and even pre-pay your tips.  You do set up an onboard account for any sundry purchases you make, but we only spent about 70 bucks on the boat, and that was for souvenirs.  One key for us for next time though is to book early.  If we would have booked just two weeks earlier, we would have saved almost $200!

*If you drink or gamble, you will spend lots of money on the boat!  Apparently that’s how Carnival gets their money back!  Oh, also the professional pictures.  They will take pics of you all the live-long day, but if you want to buy the prints, they are pricey!

Take your own pictures!

9. I Love the Schedule!  Every night, you receive the agenda for the next day.  There are activities to participate in all the time, but most of what we were excited about happened in the evening hours, so we went back to our stateroom most every afternoon, and enjoyed a wonderful nap!  Oh, how I miss napping!  How am I going to make it through an actual work day tomorrow??

Our state room.  Pay no attention to the girl on the bed.  She is
definitely not taking a nap!

8. The People-Watching Is Nearly as Exciting as the Dolphin-Watching.  Remember back a decade or so ago, when MTV used to host the Spring Break specials (perhaps they still do this?  I don’t know)?  Have you ever wondered what happened to all those wild, crazy girls?  They grew up, got real jobs, had children, and fast forward ten years, they ended up slightly inebriated on a cruise in bikinis, with bedazzled C-section scars (I kid you not!) doing the cha-cha slide. 
Cha-Cha real smooth!

Front Row Seats

7. There Was Real Entertainment as Well.  There was so much to do on the boat.  Jay and I loved going to all the little trivia games (Movie Trivia, Gender Wars, Name that Movie Kiss, etc), as well as the live shows.  There was always live music going on somewhere, as well as a couple of karaoke parties a day.  One of our favorite things was the comedy club.  One of the comedians also juggled and did magic as part of his act, so you know Jay was loving that. I think next time we go, we’ll be taking a little boy with us, and I’m confident that we will see a whole new experience with him. 

6. Dinner Was an Event.  On the second night of the cruise, there was an elegant night, so we pulled out all the stops and were looking quite swanky, I must say.  Jay and I had decided to get a little bit dressed up every night.  We’d come back after whatever adventures we’d had that day, get showers, and get just a bit fancy.  Dinner was amazing.  You were treated so well.  The waiters always knew your name and what you wanted to drink.  They served you and chatted with you, but they also sang and danced during dinner.  Our waiters, Manuel and Ipod (Jay says that wasn’t his name, but it totally was) loved that Jay always wanted to try so many things on the menu.  I don’t think he went one meal having only one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert, and they loved bringing him out things and seeing what he thought.  I know this is total chubby girl thing to say, but dinner was one of my favorite parts of the day.

Dinner, Night One

He's in love

Swanky Night

Jay, on his second entree (after 2 appetizers!)

Our waiter, Manuel

Our waiter, IPOD

5. And While We’re at It, Let’s Talk about All the Food! The food was crazy good, and available all the time.  You could enjoy a sit-down meal, or choose from about a dozen different buffets (and by choose, I mean eat from each).  Every night, there was a different late night buffet, and just in case you were still hungry, there was also 24 hour-a-day ice cream, pizza parlor and complimentary room service. 

I ate a lot.  A lot in that I tried a little of everything, but came back weighing the exact same as when I left (thank you, Lord).  Jay ate A LOT.  A LOT in that I never saw him without food for more than an hour, and he came back packing an extra 16 pounds.  No worries, it looks great on him, and he’ll lose it in two weeks.  Makes me hate him just a little.

We kept a pretty good record of every morsel we ate, so scroll down quickly.

Italian buffet

Chocolate cake and caramel cheesecake

Spinach and artichoke dip



Braised Beef Brisket

Pork Loin

Molten Cake

Triple Chocolate Cake

Very late night room service

Waffle Breakfast

Corned Beef and Hash Breakfast

Carribean Buffet

American Grill Buffet


Pumpkin cake and key lime pie

Turkey in Mushroom Cream

Wild Stuffed Mushrooms

Jay did this whole meal twice!

Prime Rib

Cherry Ice Cream

Bread Pudding

Check out the bread hard boiled egg!

Breakfast buffet

24 hour pizza

Tropical Fruit Plate

Late night buffet

Late night buffet

Breakfast buffet



Chili Reyenos (or something I can't spell) - not a fried rat


Every dessert on the buffet... I ate 4 bites total.  Wonder
what happened to the rest?

another breakfast buffet

and another

swan ice cream

Comfort Buffet

Comfort buffet

Jay's totally random middle of the day buffet (which he made ME hold for the picture - but we know better!)


Spring rolls


Veal parmesean


Baked Alaska

Amaretto Cake

Pizza - one more time

Last Day Breakfast

Last Day Breakfast

I know, right?  We were only on the boat 5 days! 

4. Cozumel was Awesome!  We participated in an excursion called Salsa and Salsa where we took a class, teaching us how to make 7 different kinds of salsa.  We also took a very simple salsa dance class.  We’re terrible.  Really, it’s embarrassing.  But we loved it, and just may take a local dance class together.  The people in Cozumel were pretty great, and it was a beautiful place.

Hey good lookin'....
Watermelon Water - Delish!  I have the recipe!
Salsa and Salsa, class of 2012.  A crazy bunch!

3. Turn Down Service.  I know it’s silly that this not only made my top 10 list, but made its way toward the top, but I’m totally in love with turn down service.  I loved that I would come back from dinner and a show, and see that my room had been refreshed, my bathroom cleaned again, and my blankets were turned down with chocolates on my bed.  Add that to that the fact that the staff would make cute little towel creatures, and that’s it!  Me = officially won over.

2. No Cell Service. As soon as we boarded the boat, we turned off our cell phones.  This may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me, a girl who has her phone not more than 12 inches from her at all times, it’s kind of a big deal.  I reach for it every single time I hear a bing, even if I’m already involved in something else.  I scroll through facebook any time I’m in a line or sometimes even at a red light (yeah, I’m that girl.  Sorry to make you honk to get my attention).  It was wonderfully freeing to switch that thing off, put it away and forget about it.  You know what you do during dinner when you don’t have your phone?  You talk to each other.  You know what you do when you’re waiting in line and can’t check your email?  You talk to the people around you!  Crazy, right?  This cruise, and the fact that 45 seconds after I turned my phone back on, I was stressed out by something someone had put on facebook, have really opened my eyes to my cell phone addiction and affliction, and I’m so ready to make a change!  I don’t have to read every single facebook status.  I have other things to do.  I don’t have to be available every second of every day.  I’m not that important.  So, in homage to that feeling of freedom, I have consciously completed what I was doing before reaching to see why my little green light is blinking, and even better, Jay and I went for a walk today, and left our phones at home.  I’ll be doing that way more often.

Oh, but if you use your phone as a clock, don’t forget to bring a watch!  We had to buy one on the boat!

WHAT!?!?!?!  No phones???

1. The View Wasn’t Bad.  How amazing is it to look out your window and see the ocean?  To actually see dolphins jumping in the water?  I could not get enough of the view.  It was absolutely breath-taking.  Spring for the room with a window.  Better yet, get a balcony!

Now, go book your cruise, but here are just a few things to keep in mind on the negative side:

  1. The soda pass isn’t worth it.  There was always lemonade, tea, water, coffee, and hot chocolate available.  The soda pass was $30, and had some stipulations on it.  I mostly didn’t like it because it was just canned soda, and often, they filled my cup with a can that had been opened since the last person had ordered a soda.  It tasted like it had been a few hours!  If you have to have soda, just bring a 2 liter with you.
  2. Your excursion day is super rushed.  Be ready to go as soon as you’re allowed to leave the boat.  You’ll only get 5 or 6 hours ashore so make the most of it!
  3. Mexico is so stinkin’ hot.  My ears were sweating, and it’s October!  I can’t imagine going in the summer!  Also, the merchants there are like carnies on steroids.  They will coerce you in!  Have a budget!  We accidentally left our credit card on the boat, which was great!  We had exactly X amount of dollars to spend.  They like to haggle with you if you like that (I do not.  It makes me really nervous, which is why my hubby hates yard saling with me).  I overheard a woman talk a bracelet down from $120 to $45!
  5. Alcohol is not just available on the boat – it’s a dominating theme.  Staff is standing in the doorways with pretty, tropical drinks from the moment you board.  Admittedly, it does make the people-watching more entertaining, but it also makes people a little rowdy (so that your salsa class, which is planned for 3 hours, actually takes 4 ½  and you don’t have time to use the resort’s swimming pool!).  Something to think about if you’re taking kids aboard – you may need to have a little talk before you go!
    I asked for a pretty, non-alcoholic drink.  They were very accomodating!
    And mine was only $2.95 (the "real" stuff was $8.95!)
  7. It may take just a little while to get your sea legs, especially on the rough waters on the way back to Galveston.  I’m fairly certain someone is writing a blog right now about some crazy drunk girl from Oklahoma who almost knocked her into the wall, but I assure you, that wasn’t the case!  I fall down on a pretty regular basis anyway.  Put me on a moving object in the middle of some pretty rough weather… I’m a lost cause!

Luckily, this guy held onto me!

All in all, a fabulous vacation!  Do it!


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