Sunday, November 18, 2007

Great vacation, back to the daily grind

I'm back. The cruise was great!

Here's what we did:

The band of cruisers met in the church parking lot on a chilly Monday, Nov. 5, and climbed on a charter bus headed for the Port of Tampa, where we boarded the Carnival ship Inspiration.

A view of the Inspiration from a tender boat at Grand Cayman. The ship got underway that afternoon, and the chilly weather was soon left behind.

We spent Tuesday at sea, and Father M led us in a church service. It was a day to relax, hit the decks, and get involved in shipboard activities. After supper, there was a show, with rock-and-roll song and dance.

Wednesday, the Inspiration dropped anchor at Grand Cayman. We had choices of scuba diving, snorkeling, shopping, island tours or whatever we wanted to do. I went snorkeling, which was terrific -- until I got back on ship and was horrified to discover videos of my wide load climbing into the snorkeling boat was being broadcast hourly over the ship's TV station!

Thursday, we docked at Cozumel, where again, we could choose from a number of excursions. A number of us opted for a trip to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, which overlook a cliff along the Caribbean. We traveled there by a catamaran bus-taxi and a wheeled bus. The ruins were beautiful and fascinating relics of a bygone culture.

Maybe they just downplayed the bloodier aspects of Mayan life here, but I got an impression of a more peaceable life at Tulum than I got from the Mayan ruins I visited in Copan, Honduras a couple of years ago. Tulum temples celebrated the air, the water and other life-giving forces of nature.

It was a beautiful spot, with buildings lining a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

Friday we spent at sea. Mother C celebrated the Eucharist, then it was time for fun -- games, the giant water-tube slide, or relaxing in the spa or on one of the decks. We saw a Latin-music inspired show -- watch out, Carmen Miranda!

Passengers responded to the dare to come to a midnight deck party in bathrobes.

Saturday, we were back home again, and trying to decide where to go next year.

Yes, I know -- I've been back for a week without posting.

I came down with a nasty sinusy-cold thing as soon as I got home. Better than on the cruise! But I couldn't take off work, and worked 11 and 12 hour days, then came home and collapsed into bed. No blogging.

I'm over the worst of it now, and a weekend to mostly rest is definitely helping.

Comparing cruises

I had a good time aboard Carnival.

If I had to compare, I would give last year's Royal Caribbean an "A-" and Carnival a "B."

Perhaps this was a misfortune of everyone arriving at the same time, but there was a long queue to check-in and board the Carnival ship. Lunch on deck, once we got there, was zooey, with people grabbing for tables and chairs and juggling carry-on bags, because we couldn't yet get into our cabins to deposit them. It went much more smoothly for last year's cruise.

Carnival's dining room offerings were good; Royal C's were superb. The service was great on both ships. Traveling companions who had been on other Carnival cruises said the food was better on those trips. Some didn't like the "entertainment" in the dining room -- after the main course, the Maitre D' and wait staff would sing and engage cruisers in song and dance. I thought it was fine and fun.

Our Maitre D', George. Part dining room supervisor, part showman.

I didn't like Carnival's scrambled eggs, either in the main dining room or at the grill, which also served breakfast. The eggs tasted like they were made from cheap powdered stuff. The other food, while not top-notch, was good, though. The buffet lunch and supper food served in the Brasserie was very good.

The wait staff was great.

Cardinal sin No. 1: Carnival's coffee wasn't very good. It tasted rather bitter and overcooked. I ended up drinking hot tea or hot chocolate at breakfast. One could supposedly buy gourmet coffee beverages at an onboard coffee shop, but I never did, in protest. I did have a great cuppa at a coffee shop at Georgetown on Grand Cayman, and sipped it while I watched the boats come in and out of the bay from a seat by the window in the second-floor shop.

Cardinal sin No. 2: the drinks weren't very good. Those of you who know Saint Pat knows she has a certain fondness for Margaritas. She never makes them at home, but at a Mexican restaurant, or on a cruise, she might order one. The Margarita ordered on the cruise just wasn't very good. It tasted like it was made from cheap mix.

The entertainment was great on both ships. On Royal C last year, there was a professional-stage show every night. On the Carnival cruise, there were audience-participation games a couple of nights. Maybe that was due to the lengthier voyage.

Carnival came up tops in staterooms. My budget-priced cabin was much larger than Royal C's, with a nicer shower.

Both ships had loads of activities. You could stay busy constantly, or opt for the quiet of your cabin or the library. I took some naps in between events.

I felt slightly more like I was being herded around at times aboard the Carnival ship, which was brimming with passengers. Sometimes it was hard to find a place to sit on deck, at least with a little table for my cup of tea.

But, as I said, I had a good time. After hearing some good and some very negative stuff about Carnival, I'm happy to give this cruise a thumbs up.


PseudoPiskie said...

Welcome home if a little belated. I was beginning to worry. Several of us came home from adventures with various forms of crud - Episcopalifem, Padre Mickey and me for three. Sorry you had to work. Happy you are healing.

Padre Mickey said...

St. Pat, even though things weren't perfect, I'm glad that you were able to get a way for a bit!

Linda McMillan said...

Glad you are feeling well again. And thanks for sharing your cruise.