There's no place like home

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The cruise was wonderful in many ways but as always, it's great to be back home. Our own bed, our own pillows, our own stuff...I know you understand.

The annual Firefighter reunion was a lot of fun, as usual, although the attendance was a bit low this year. We saw some new faces and missed several that usually attend. There's always next year. I didn't take any photos, I was too busy enjoying visiting with everyone.

We headed out to our cruise with our friends on Saturday morning, just after the group photo. The van arrived pulling a U-Haul trailer...good thing, there was a LOT of luggage. The trip was comfortable and uneventful and we were fairly quickly ushered through the check-in procedures. Once on the boat, we had a 10 minute wait till we could go to our cabin...just enough time for a drink!

We were cruising on the Carnival Dream and here are few specs for those interested:

General characteristics
Class and type: Dream class cruise ship
Tonnage: gross tonnage (GT) of 130,000 tons
Length: 1,004 ft (306.02 m)[2]
Beam: 122 ft (37.19 m)[3] (37m)
Decks: 15 decks
Propulsion: 6 Wärtsilä 12V46 engines (75,600 kW)[4]
Speed: 22.5-knot (42 km/h; 26 mph)
Capacity: 3,652 Passengers
Crew: 1,369

Our cabin was pretty much the same as it has been on our previous cruises (Princess) and we had more than enough room to spread out. We love the balcony and plan to never cruise without a balcony (verandah) room ever again. Our room was just around the corner from the 3 story atrium (photo not great but it was interesting to look down).

We had a little time before dinner so we checked out the ship. It was HUGE compared to others we had sailed on....easy to get lost. Two main dining rooms, two huge buffet rooms plus all the other assorted and sundry eating spots. While on the pool level, it started to rain...our farewell to Florida. LOL!

Two pools, a "serenity" area, even a waterslide. Needless to say, the kids loved that. Yes, kids...we discovered that February, being winter break month for those that have it, and 7 day or less cruises seem to encourage families. We have nothing against family vacations but hope to never cruise in February or for less than 8 days ever again. ;-)

Sunday was spent at sea and we enjoyed a day of leisure....reading, relaxing and not much else. Monday we stopped in Cozumel, Mexico where we had booked a 7 hour excursion, Jeep & Cavern Adventure. Unfortunately, I woke up very under the weather. We stopped at the excursions desk where the sign said there were no refunds for cancellations on the day of the event.

Sigh....but Stu went up and explained that I was sick and the clerk issued us a full refund without question. Now THAT is service! Stu asked if there were any two tank dives in Cozumel, there was and he booked it for 11am. While he went off on his diving adventure, I lazed around the room, ordering room service for lunch, reading on the balcony and taking a few photos from the room. Note the gorgeous turquoise color of the was a spectacular day.

Stu hasn't downloaded his dive photos/videos yet, that will be another blog. He really enjoyed his diving and meeting up with other divers on the ship.

Fortunately I was feeling much better on Tuesday and we headed off for our airboat excursion in Belize City, Belize (formerly British Honduras). The cruise ship anchored about five miles out and local transport boats picked us up and took us ashore. Perfect weather, once again. We had a 30-45 minute bus ride through one side of the city before heading out of town for the airboat excursion.

What a blast that was. Neither of us had ever been on an airboat and it was on both our bucket lists. The crew was friendly, helpful and funny. The scenery was breathtaking and our guide explained what we were seeing, pointing out various types of birds, telling us how the locals use the trees and shrubs and feeding a crocodile so we could take pictures.

Once back on land, we loaded up on the buses and completed our tour of the other side of the city. Like most third world countries, it was obviously struggling to improve the quality of life for the locals. They didn't apologize for the poverty and explained how hard locals worked on their homes till their cash was depleted, then they'd get a job to earn money till they could work on their home again. We saw homes in all states of construction, but all had power, water and city sewer. That said, there were people living in homes that would have been condemned 20 years ago here in the US.

We spent a little time checking out the local shops, getting a drink and eventually locating the Harley t-shirt shop. As we headed back to the ship, we saw a hot sauce stand with used license plates on display. Stu was enamored of the girl running the shop, I think you can see why. Oh, we did get two plates - one auto and one motorcycle.

Tuesday was formal night and we had decided early on to NOT participate so we enjoyed dinner at the buffet, caught one of the shows and just generally enjoyed the evening. Oh, Stu did put a couple of dollars into the major wins though.

Wednesday brought us to Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan where Stu had booked another two tank dive. I had planned on vegging the day away and did a pretty good job of it. Early afternoon I decided to head onshore to check out the shops. Another Harley dealer and two more t-shirts for our collection, Piranha Joe shirts for both of us (Stu's was diving related) and a couple of bumper stickers...back on board. Stu arrived a couple of hours later...with two new Harley t-shirts for us. LOL! No duplicates so we kept them all.

Thursday we landed in Costa Maya, Mexico early....very early. This was the first sunrise we had seen and I snapped quite a few photos. Our excursion, an ATV ride, was set for 7:30. The walk turned out to be much longer than anticipated and Stu's knees were really feeling it. The good news is that the excursion hadn't left yet. The bad news is that Stu had forgotten his drivers license. The good news was there was room on the second excursion at 9:30. While Stu headed back to the ship, I walked around town snapping photos before it was deluged with tourists....especially since a second cruise ship had landed.

We were ready in plenty of time for the 9:30 trip, driver licenses in hand. We headed out of town on an open bus, the air cooler than anticipated. I had worn a long-sleeved shirt over a short-sleeved and was HAPPY! We loaded up on our ATVs after our preliminary briefing, Stu mounted his GoPro Hero dive camera on the handlebar and off we went.

I had never driven an ATV and was a little nervous but quickly adapted. Stu got me to move in front of him (for some reason he wanted to video my butt and not the butt of the man in front of him. LOL!

We rode down dirt roads with little dust due to the recent rains. That was good till we hit the trails where we were ankle deep in water. From there we moved into a narrow trail with mud that came up to the floorboards. I think I laughed the entire time...what a blast. Eventually we were back on the dirt roads and running along the beach areas. Very pretty and quaint with shacks (with TV dishes) interspersed with $500,000+ houses. I loved the peace and quiet and the slow ways of the area.

After we finally returned to the camp, we were treated with homemade pico de gallo and chips and enjoyed a drink or two (no alcohol allowed prior to the ride). Stu and I tried a local amber beer and it was pretty good. Our guide even managed to dig up an expired ATV tag for us. One more added to the pile for the pole barn.

Back in town we made one more round of town, picked up two gorgeous fingerpaint scenes we had bought earlier and watched the kids in the Dolphin experience. Back on ship just in time to FINALLY see a sunset. We had missed all the others since our dinner was at 6pm or we were in our room and the sunset was on the other side or it was too cloudy. The sunset was magnificent and I snapped a lot of photos.

This was the second formal night and Stu decided to see if there was any openings in the steakhouse. There was, 8 pm, and we had an outstanding dinner. Best food of the entire cruise!

Friday was our last day and we spent it out at sea. Once again we read, napped, soaked up some sun and just generally relaxed. Dinner was back in the dining room. The gang we were cruising with had done photos for formal night and they hadn't been the best. They talked the photographer into taking another set, less formal, especially since we were there.

Here are some photos of our nightly bed animals...always a treat.

Okay, the good:
  • We loved all the excursions. (and the excursion staff on the ship)
  • The steakhouse was amazing!
  • The shows were all good. (one comedian and three ship dancers/singers)
The not so good:
  • The food and service was not on par with what we experienced on Princess.
  • The ship WAS TOO BIG, we'll stick to 2000 passengers or less from now on.
  • Too many kids (undisciplined kids), too many people.
  • Photographer HELL...every night there were 5-8 stations and they badgered you as you walked past. 
  • The layout of the ship wasn't all that great, too few areas to sit and read with decent light, could be claustrophobic at times.
  • The bench seats were so worn and wallowed out that we felt like 5 year olds at the big table. I often sat in the middle to raise myself up a couple of inches.
  • On the final morning, there was no coffee, the tables weren't being cleared and the staff made it seem like an imposition when asked to clean them.
Will we cruise Carnival again? Not unless it's a VERY good deal and goes somewhere we really want to see. We aren't looking for "formal" but we are looking for "comfort". On the two Princess cruises we took, we were much more comfortable while still being fairly casual.

Sadie enjoyed her doggy camp, as usual, and slept the first couple of days at home. Now she's back to her usual pit-boxer terror. LOL!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna and Stu


  1. Howdy y'all,
    Welcome home.. Glad you had a nice trip..

  2. We won't book a Carnival ship again either. Much prefer Royal Caribbean. We took a Carnival ship out of Tampa about 3 years ago and were quite dissatisfied. The food was mediocre or worse; all of the doors (to the room, to the balcony and elsewhere on the ship) were extremely hard to open -- requiring 30 or 40 pounds of PUSH to open; the staff was not friendly - if you saw them at all.

    We still fondly remember our waiter on our last Royal cruise and the steward for our cabin was always available and pleasant and would do anything to try to please us. (Actually never laid eyes on our cabin steward during our Carnival cruise.)

    Airboats are fun! But I prefer smaller craft than the one you went on. The ATV ride sounds like a hoot!

    Glad you had a good time.

  3. I'm glad to hear you got back home safe sound and without any major bugs like some cruise passengers are getting.

    I'm anxious to see Stu's diving photos. I'm interested in how he is liking the camera. I might just have to get me one too!

  4. I can't get McGyver to cruise, so that takes care of that. When I was a travel agent, I went to Miami to tour the Carnival ships in port..Way too much of a young people's party barge for me!! But, I bet the photos Stu took while diving are great!! Thanks for taking us with you!!

  5. Looks like a great time. WE have made one cruise together on a Norwegian ship, also great.

    Enjoy being home:)

  6. Great, informative blog, makes me want to go, but glad to know to take the 2000 or less people one!

  7. That looked like a fabulous voyage! Love, love love the sunset pictures. They area beautiful. I bet sitting on the deck of that ship help inspire some great writing, heh?

    Can't wait to see the pic's Stu took underwater.

    Thanks for sharing Donna... I feel very well rested now. :)

  8. Oops... *area... should have been are. doh!


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