Anyone at all familiar with Carnival Cruise Line (yes, this is correct, there is no “s” at the end of “Line.”) will know how they market the brand with liberal uses of the word “fun.” Their ships are referred to as the “Fun Ships,” as evidenced by this 80’s vintage commercial with Kathie Lee Gifford I found on YouTube. (I still think it’s a pretty catchy tune, by the way.) The loyalty program refers to past guests as “VIFP,” for “Very Important Fun Person.” One of Carnival’s signature drinks is “The Fun Ship.” Their onboard daily newsletter is called the “Fun Times.” Sea days on a given itinerary are called a “Fun Day at Sea.” And the best part? I pretty much agree with their philosophy.
Cindy and I have cruised on only one other cruise line besides Carnival. There’s no need to mention the name here, as they are a good cruise line as well. The food was wonderful, the staff gracious and helpful and the ship was clean and in good condition. They just weren’t as fun as Carnival, at least not to me. Yeah, I know, “different clientele,” and all that, but fun is fun, right? Don’t get me wrong, we did have fun on the other line, just not the same type of fun as we routinely have on Carnival.
Leaving out of Galveston, you can expect to have at least one sea day, if not two, before reaching any ports, depending upon the itinerary. As with any cruise, port days and sea days have their unique qualities. Sea days will normally have more organized activities on deck, and you can sleep a little later in the morning. Port days generally mean getting up a little earlier to go on an excursion. The ship is much less crowded on port days, and even the popular eating venues will have shorter lines. I honestly can’t say that I have a favorite between the two. I enjoy sea days every bit as much as I enjoy port days.
Taken from the aft Lido deck
We have our routine down quite well now. On our first sea day, and sometimes on our second sea day, we’ll have room service deliver coffee and pastries to our cabin. While we make it a point to NOT wake up early, we also don’t want to sleep half our day away. We’ll set an alarm for around 8 or 9, depending on when we go to bed. Carnival provides these room service cards that one can fill out and hang on their door knob before retiring for the night. There’s a place to designate delivery time for your continental breakfast. I’ll set the alarm for about 15 minutes earlier than the delivery time, as sometimes they are early. It’s a bummer when you hear a knock at the door and have to scramble to get dressed in a hurry just so you won’t keep the room service person waiting too long. Breakfast in bed sets the stage for full vacation mode.
This morning room service was right on time and we enjoyed coffee and a couple of muffins while watching the map screen on the TV. That’s another thing I’m particular about. While the cabin TV carries many regular network channels, I make it a point to NOT watch any network TV. I don’t buy an internet package, either. I want to be as unplugged as I possibly can be. Besides the network channels, Carnival also provides several of their own channels, including a constantly updated map location (with outside weather) as well as a front view camera and Lido camera. I’ll rotate between those three pretty much exclusively.
After a leisurely breakfast snack, we headed up to the Lido buffet to look for Barbara and Keith. We found them easily enough and joined them at their table while they finished their breakfast. The weather on this whole cruise was fantastic, so after looking over the Fun Times for the day, we decided to go back to our cabins and change into swimwear to hang out on Lido. You’ll see in this blog, and subsequent blogs, how we’ll be in and out the cabin multiple times per day. That’s one of the reasons we book the less expensive interior cabins….we’re hardly ever there.
We chose the aft pool this time, as it was less crowded than the midships pool. The aft pool is a bit more “sedate” than the midships pool as well, so this was the best location for us for now. I’ve spent almost my whole life on the Texas Gulf coast, and being fair skinned I know how critical sunscreen is for me. My late brother could spend hours in the sun and develop a nice, dark tan. After half an hour in the sun I’ll end up sunburned if I don’t have adequate coverage. I can tan, gradually, but I have to be very careful doing this. You can probably see where this is going, right?
Aft Lido pool
Sure enough, after spending time in and out of the pool, and in the sun, I didn’t reapply my sunscreen as I should have. I thought about it from time to time, but inevitably one of the Lido bar staff would walk by and I’d order a refreshing beverage for either Cindy or me. When my shoulders started feeling a bit warm, I knew it was going to be too late. I got confirmation of this when some nice gentleman in a Green Bay Packers t-shirt offered me some sunscreen. “Sir, it looks like you need some sunscreen. I have some if you need it.” Uh ohhhh…
Actually, it wasn’t too bad. We always bring some aloe after sun, and I used this aggressively over the next few days. We’ll just call it a “near miss” and use it as a reminder to frequently reapply sunscreen…..as I already know I should (and still ignore form time to time). We just moved into the shade and started to consider what we wanted for lunch. Both of my preferred places, Guy’s Burgers and the Blue Iguana were packed, as was the pizza place. We could’ve gone down to deck 5 for the “Seaside BBQ” on the Lanai, but that would mean giving up our prime shady spots. Hhhhmmmm…..what to do? I guess it’s back to the Tandoor Grill for a bite to eat.
We hung out on Lido for another couple of hours after lunch, taking the occasional dip in the pool, before heading back to the cabin to shower and freshen up. Usually, the first formal night falls on the first sea day, and this was no exception. Dinner was still a few hours away, so we spent some time on Promenade deck (deck 5) exploring and having a drink at the RFP. It’s amazing how quickly time passes on the ship! By my calculation, time doubles when cruising, compared to work. Maybe it’s just me, but my guess is others are affected by this quantum shift in time as well.
Cindy and I always enjoy eating at a large table so we can meet new people. I’m glad that Keith and Barbara are the same way. We were originally assigned to a table for four, so after dinner the first night, we spoke to the Maitre ‘d about switching to a larger table. Thankfully he was able to do this for us, and our new table was a 10-top, with a great view out the back. We met our new tablemates and immediately new it was going to be a fun table. As soon as I saw the menu selections, especially the appetizer, I knew it was going to be good! Aren’t they all, though? From previous cruises, I learned to order TWO servings of the appetizer, as it is one of my faves.
Appetizer: Tart with braised kale, blackened pork tenderloin and citrus cream – DIVINE
Main: Spaghetti carbonara – rich and creamy
Dessert: Rainbow sherbet – light and refreshing
Another Carnival tradition is on that first formal night, the senior ship’s officers will be on Promenade deck to meet the passengers and pose for photos. This was Barbara’s first time sailing with Carnival, and I encouraged her and Keith to pose with Captain Alcara. I think she enjoyed meeting the Captain.
Keith, Captain Alcara & Barbara
I mentioned earlier how we are always in and out of our cabin. Some people prefer to stay dressed in their formal clothes after dinner, but we prefer more comfortable wear. We quickly changed out of our formal clothes and into our “comfy clothes” for the rest of the evening. Besides, we’ll need our formal clothes once more this cruise, and I don’t want mine to be overly wrinkled, or spill a drink or food on them.
Remember me writing about the fun in Fun Ship? Carnival has two comedians on the ship at a time, switching them mid cruise. They do both a family show and an adults only show. The family show is definitely family friendly and the adults only show is clearly indicated as appropriate for adults only. This is mentioned not only in the Fun Times, but is emphasized by the Comedy Club manager prior to the comedian performing. It amazes me how some people will complain about the language during the adults only shows. Really? Seriously? What part of “adults only” do you not understand? We listened to Mark Sweeney’s family show and enjoyed it.
After Mark’s show, naturally the next place to go was the piano bar. This is a favorite nighttime hangout for Cindy and me, especially when the Piano Bar Entertainer (“PBE”) is good. Admittedly, my absolute favorite PBE is Ben Gentry. He’s a phenomenal entertainer, and always packs the piano bar. He even provides props and different hats for everyone to use. Check out this YouTube video of Ben in action. This is pretty typical of what he does in the piano bar. He even makes getting a tip entertaining. Some people say they would book a cruise for a specific cruise director. Cindy and I would book a cruise, if feasible, if Ben was the PBE.
That being said, though, we found another PBE on this cruise who’s every bit as entertaining as Ben. This was our first experience with Christine Hetfield, and it was fan-freakin-tastic! Christine? Who the #@%& is Christine?? Some will get this, others won't. I'll just let y'all find out on your own. Trust me, it'll be worth it. She’s definitely talented and I can tell we’ll spend lots of time in the piano bar if she’s there. Not only does Christine play the piano, but plays the violin as well. We've enjoyed other PBEs on the ships as well, but in my very humble opinion, Ben and Christine are tops for me.
We hung out in a packed piano bar until almost midnight then decided to call it a day. Tomorrow’s breakfast will be brunch in the MDR.