We sailed on the Carnival Dream from Oct 22 until Nov 5, 2022 round-trip Galveston, calling on:
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Limon, Costa Rica
We had never visited Cartagena, Colon or Limon. We also had six sea days. I realized that this was a cruise where we never tendered – we docked at all of the ports.
We had an aft extended balcony which is amazing for the view but leaves the rest of the room strangely shaped. Once you get used to squeezing past the bed every time you cross the room, it’s not bad. It also can get warm with the sun coming in through so many windows.
I desperately missed coffee pots in the room.
The Main Controversy
When we booked this cruise, it was a partial transit of the Panama Canal. The cruise was still titled “Panama Canal” even after the itinerary changed and the ship was scheduled to call in Colon, Panama, just outside the Canal Zone.
We found out the itinerary changed because we were members of a 900+ member Facebook group and someone asked, “Hey, weren’t we going in the canal?”
We booked an excursion on a smaller tour boat to go through some of the locks. Disappointed, but we still transited a pair of locks in the Canal and have a certificate to prove it.
For the excursion, there were 321 passengers on a 350-passenger ferry, and two ferries doing the same excursion. There were 3500+ on the ship. So, if you went on the Panama Canal cruise to see the Panama Canal, you had to purchase the excursion before it sold out.
At the engineering Q&A, someone asked about not transiting the canal, and from the murmurs in the room, some people were discovering the itinerary change three days before we got to Panama. I am wondering what will happen when we get to Colon.
Our cruise director, who was otherwise excellent, confirmed the rumor that “we won’t fit through the canal.” Perhaps not through the old locks, but the Dream has transited the new locks, so that’s not really true.
My fear was that we had a few hundred people on the “trip of a lifetime” into the Canal who will find out they spent their life savings on a trip that isn’t going where they thought.
There was a long discussion on the Facebook group about the itinerary “change” and whether is was changed at all. Apparently, a number of people read the title of the cruise (“Panama Canal”), saw the port (“Colon [Panama Canal]”) and instantly understood the ship would not transit the Canal.
I will forever know that if Carnival says Colon, it’s not a partial transit.
Carnival has improved its mobile phone app to provide “touchless” options for a lot of the usual onboard activities. The app lets you build a daily plan, book dinner tables, purchase excursions, order food delivery and more. It was great for us because we have our phones all the time.
We had breakfast with a couple that don’t have smart phones, have their kids do any computer stuff and are still managing onboard. You just have to ask for paper menus, visit guest services or the ShoreEx desk and so forth.
However, if you are technology-challenged, I can see how it would be a … challenge.
The WiFi was decent but not good. This is because after our last Carnival cruise, we raved about how good the WiFi was.
I have never understood Carnival’s food scheduling policies. There are a multitude of choices for lunch but almost all of them close before dinner. One of the most popular places on the ship is Guy’s Burger Joint and it closes every day at 6pm. Nobody ever wants a burger for dinner? When we were driving home from the port, it occurred to me that we can get Guy’s Burgers later at home (with UberEats) than on the ship.
MDR menus change daily and had decent variety. Almost everything was good. There were days with “things you always wanted to try” (frog legs, escargot) as appetizers for people who wanted to be brave. (I love escargot, but I’m not sure the serving I had would convince anyone that it was tasty.)
The buffet had a lot of choices but was always packed. The deli is inside the buffet so you could miss it (it looks like another buffet station.)
Seafood Shack is an extra charge, but I loved the fried clams, and you can preorder on the app, so you can order on your way to the buffet (it’s just outside the buffet) and pick up your order when you arrive. Pizza was tasty. Room service was very limited in choices but relatively fast compared to many ships. You can’t pre-order breakfast – or we never found out where to get the forms.
I think the Chef’s Table was worth the money – it was a lot of fun, and the food was very good. However, it was held in the galley which is exciting, but it’s hot and noisy.
Carnival has an “unlimited” drink program (limited to 15 drinks per day) but there is no discounting that we could find (unlike Norwegian, who include a “free” drink package and charge gratuities.) So, for “unlimited” drinks on Carnival, you will pay full-price which was over $1,000 each on a 14-day cruise. We just paid by the drink, since we don’t drink that much, anyway. (We drank more than usual on this cruise because of the length and the number of sea days, and still weren’t anywhere near the cost of the package.)
Drinks were good and easy to get at the bars. Drinks during dinner in the MDR were slower – get a drink on your way to dinner. The MDR staff would happily bring iced tea instead of water when you were seated, but refills were sporadic (drinking water meant a small carafe of ice water was left on your table.)
We’re doing the final planning for our Carnival Dream cruise later this year, and one of our friends asked about the drink packages. I usually don’t look, because I don’t drink enough to make it cost-effective, and my wife drinks even less than I do.
However, the drink packages on Norwegian are often “included”, but you have to pay the gratuities. (Conspiracy thinkers are sure the base price is jacked up to make the gratuities higher, since it is a percentage of the base cost.)
The past couple of cruises, we just left the drink package as a perk because then you don’t have to pay attention to the cost (it’s not “free”, it’s pre-paid) and it meant we could try different wines at dinner and different drinks in the afternoon.
Norwegian can say they are including a package that costs $99 per day for the cost of 20% gratuities. ($99 per day base price on a seven-day cruise means instead of $693, you “only” pay $138.60 for a “free” package. Actually, you pay $277.20 because you have to purchase the drink package for everyone in the room.)
We were talking with some friends, and I decided to look at the Carnival drink package, just for the education. It is only $59.95 per day, which seems a lot less than Norwegian. However, there is no “free” package on Carnival, so you will be paying full list price (well, a 10% discount if you book pre-boarding.)
The rules between the packages are pretty similar, except for one major difference – on Norwegian, “unlimited” means “unlimited” and on Carnival, it means 15 drinks per day. The clock resets at 6am each morning, just in time for Bloody Marys.
The advantage of a drink cap is that you can calculate a per-drink cost to see what you actually pay.
The base cost for the drinks package our 14-day cruise is $1558.70, which is $59.95 per day, per person – everyone in the cabin has to purchase the drink package (if you just buy the soda package, only one person can buy it.)
There is $280.58 added in gratuities, so you can’t stiff your bartenders. I think that’s 18% which isn’t unreasonable, but it’s also not optional.
So, that’s $1,839.28 to drink every day without considering how much it will cost, as long as you keep it under 15 drinks. That seemed really excessive, until I realized this is a cruise that is twice as long as usual for us.
With the limitation, you can calculate a per-drink cost.
$1839.28 / 2 people is $919.64 per person. (I realize $59.95 x 14 is $839.30, but then there’s the gratuity.)
$919.64 / 14 days is $65.69, except we’re sailing from Texas so the package doesn’t start until the first full day at 6am, and I’m not sure it will work the last morning, so it’s not really 14 days, but we’ll pretend.)
$65.59 / 15 drinks per day is $4.38 per drink.
Then, I had to figure out how to do 15 drinks in a day, when I don’t actually drink as much as my wife thinks.
Bloody Mary for breakfast
Irish Coffee mid-morning
Beer / Wine at lunch
Two or three frozen drinks in the afternoon
Aperitif (“before-dinner drink” for those who don’t speak French)
Two glasses of wine with dinner
That’s ten or eleven drinks, and that’s a lot, for me. I really don’t drink at breakfast, for instance, unless it’s brunch.
Now, I do know people who could do 15 drinks before lunch, but they are special cases.
Specifically, I know some baseball players and managers that could make money on the package, and would get cut off on Carnival. Perhaps by lunchtime.
But, again, I don’t want to keep count of anything on vacation. That’s the advantage of “unlimited.” If there is an upper limit, eventually I will be focused on getting “my money’s worth” of a drink package, and having 15 drinks a day, I’m going to miss out on actually having fun. Drinking for the limit is dangerously close to work, unless you really like to drink.
This cruise was a number of firsts – first cruise since 2019 (so first cruise in the Twenties), first COVID-protocol cruise, first cruise to the Mexican Riviera.
This was our third cruise on the Norwegian Bliss – we sailed her to Alaska and the Eastern Caribbean previously.
It was also our third cruise with some of our best friends – we met them on the Norwegian Jade in 2017, and sailed on the Bliss with them in 2019. Sailing with others is often fraught with peril, but we’re all still speaking, so all is well.
Norwegian Bliss is a Breakaway-Plus class ship, one of the largest ships in Norwegian’s fleet. I was originally allergic to large ships, but sailing on this class has changed my mind. It also didn’t hurt that we were sailing at half-capacity or so.
Norwegian’s COVID-19 protocols were strict and enforced – all passengers and crew were vaccinated (you had to show your vaccination record during check-in), all of passengers were tested before boarding (everyone went to one pier for testing and then back to the real pier to board), all crew was masked. The passengers were not required to wear masks, although some chose to do so. In port, we followed local rules – and all the ports required masks.
The testing had to be scheduled with the independent testing company, which meant arriving at the port at the scheduled time was much more important than usual. On almost all of our other cruises, people just showed up “whenever”, but now, you really should only get to the port in time to do your COVID test.
Once you donate your snot sample, you wait in a waiting room until the results come back. The results are texted to you, or your number is displayed on the wall. It’s not announced out loud, probably to avoid stampedes (for positive or negative results.)
It did occur to me that separation was critical in the waiting room, since everyone is waiting for test results. I think this is why the testing is pre-scheduled.
We were in the Haven, so we were in a bubble in a bubble. It has its own restaurant and bar, so we ventured out a few evenings, but often just ate in the Haven. (My only complaint is the Haven restaurant menu is never changed.)
We had dinner at Q for “Texas barbecue” as one of our Platinum Plus dinners. I’m from Texas, and this is not exactly Texas barbecue. It’s decent, but I’ve had better at home.
We visited Cagney’s Steakhouse twice, once as part of our included meal plan and once because it was one of our Platinum Plus dinners. For the first time in 20 cruises, the service wasn’t very good. The food was, but when it takes over an hour to get an entree, that’s a bit much. (The delay was a party of ten – without reservations – being seated and served while the rest of us that had planned ahead waited.) It was the one place where it seemed like the staff was still coming up to speed.
We had dinner at Teppanyaki the last night, which was fun as always. I also remembered that you can order steak and shrimp and substitute scallops for shrimp, my favorite combination of surf and turf.
We did lunch at the American Diner one day, and I think it’s worth the up-charge. (My wife disagreed – she said the fried chicken was excessively salty.) I always worry about it (as I worried about Margaritaville, its predecessor), because there weren’t many people in there. Of course, there weren’t that many people on the ship.
I finally got my wife to Coco’s for gelato. I visited on our last Bliss cruise, because I passed it on the last day, and said, “I’m not missing this.” I’m glad I did, because that meant I knew to go back.
This was our first cruise to the Mexican Riviera – the western coast of Mexico. All of the ports are on the mainland, which contrasts with Caribbean cruises which call on islands.
The advantage of a Mexican Riviera cruise in COVID times is that you visit three ports, but only one country. In the Caribbean, each island is usually an independent nation, so there are many more rules to contend with – and some islands have been closing to ships after the cruises are scheduled (and purchased.) All the Mexican ports required masks to be worn once you left the ship. It was enforced, mostly.
The disadvantage is that you are visiting ports in the same country that are relatively close together, so as much as they all try to have their own personalities, it’s still Mexico.
There’s not a lot of difference I could see in the Mexican West Coast port cities and the promised resort aspects of each that are advertised require you to go to an actual resort – it’s not in the town. If go to Puerto Vallarta expecting a resort, you will be disappointed. If you expect a smaller, less affluent Cozumel, with pushier salesmen you will be fine.
We were interested in visiting the ports, but also a bit apprehensive – not just because of COVID-19 concerns, but because the western Mexican ports are not always considered safe. When everyone in the known world is freaking out about COVID, and the State Department is warning visitors to the Mexican Riviera about crime and kidnapping, that was a bit of a concern. We stayed on our excursions or close to the port, and we were fine.
Los Angeles (Embarkation/Debarkation)
The Port of Los Angeles is actually in San Pedro, and it is a cruise port next to a huge commercial port (the one where all the container ships are parked, waiting to unload.) It was dark when we sailed, so we didn’t see the container ship parking lot.
It is anywhere from a half-hour to an hour or so from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the port area. We booked the Doubletree San Pedro near the port for the night before the cruise because it was close to the port and because I had Hilton miles. (The hotel had a free shuttle to the port.)
We had dinner in the hotel restaurant after we arrived and checked into our room. It was our first meal in a restaurant since March 2020.
We flew into LAX because we got free airfare as one of the perks with our cruise fare. We had nonstop flights on American Airlines from DFW, and paid the deviation fee to fly in a day early. The one challenge we had was our return flight was not until 5:30pm which meant we were getting home really late – and I was starting a new job the next day. So, for our return flight, we booked our own flight on Southwest from Long Beach (LGB), returning to Love Field, which is closer to our house.
LAX has a special lot for ride-shares and a shuttle from the terminal to the lot. So, getting an Uber was pretty simple. However, it was really expensive to get from LAX to our hotel near the port. (The 22-mile trip from the airport to the hotel was $98. The 27-mile trip from our house in Dallas to DFW was $58. The 7-mile trip from Love Field to our house was under $20.)
LGB is a small airport and unfortunately labeled for Google searches. It was closer to the port, and much more convenient. If we ever cruise out of Los Angeles again, I would fly to Long Beach on Southwest. We passed a number of hotels along the way that might be closer to the port than the Doubletree.
So, we had four ports (Los Angeles, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas) and four airports (DFW, LAX, Long Beach, Love Field.)
I had been to Puerto Vallarta years ago, but I spent a week in an all-inclusive resort, so I had actually never been in the town. I don’t think I missed much.
Puerto Vallarta is in agave country and that means tequila. I don’t really drink tequila, but am always willing to try. We did a Tiles, Tequila and Shopping tour. It should have been Shopping, Waiting and Tequila. Tiles was a bust, Tequila was great. The Tiles section of the excursion was actually just stopping in town at a tile store with a small factory upstairs, with a leather store next door and a jewelry store across the street. You will see leather, jewelry and vanilla anywhere you go in Mexico, so it wasn’t that special a tour.
We started at the jewelry store which had salesmen that gave new meaning to the word “pushy” even for Mexico. I have never had someone put a ring on my finger while I had my hand outstretched (note to self: stop talking with your hands.) I’m still not sure if he was trying to sell me on it or if we are engaged. When we were waiting for the tour bus, he was still trying to sell me the ring. (We bought a nicer ring in Mazatlán for 80% less.)
We did get a custom number plate for the house at the tile store. You choose the proper numbers and a frame, and they assemble it for you, with spacers, while you wait. (I think they are glued into place.) Everything from the tile store survived the flight home, so they know how to wrap.
The tequila was great – we had flavored tequila (who knew?) We also acquired some for the house – almond, coffee and peach. The tacos and margaritas for lunch were tasty, as well. Now, I like tequila – at least, coffee tequila.
We were going to do Salsa and Salsa (which we had done in Cozumel), but had a couple of walking wounded in the group by this point, so we just wandered into the port to look around. There we found a number of shops and … a bar. The Green Bar was a great place for a drink and an incredible way to distract my wife from shopping. (The food was good, as well.)
I did ask what the difference between a Special & Original Margarita was, and the waiter said they were the same thing! (The regular margaritas were excellent.)
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo is known for whales. It is actually at the meeting point of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. We took a whale watching cruise that took us to the meeting point of the waters and then went searching for whales.
We saw whales, but not a whole one, much like our whale watching in Alaska.
This was an interesting itinerary – embarkation, two sea days, three ports, one sea day, disembarkation. So, we had some time before the ports to get acclimated, play on the ship, and enjoy the ocean. After the ports (which were all early days), we had a day to recover before we disembarked.
The first sea day was cold. This had never been an issue sailing out of Miami, so it was unexpected. It was cold when we left LA and it was still in the sixties the next morning. While this is not cold to many, it is cold to someone from Texas who had packed shorts. The weather the second day was warmer and Mexico was in the 80s. The final sea day was a bit chilly as well. I usually have coffee on the balcony on sea days, but the first and last days, I went out, took a GPS reading and went back in.
Even though today’s cruise ships are basically floating hotels, sometimes, the most important part of a cruise for me is remembering that you’re on the ocean. It’s called “Vitamin Sea.” The best way to absorb a good dose of Vitamin Sea is to sit on your balcony and watch the sunset. We managed to do so a couple of nights.
This was an interesting trip.
It was a Christmas cruise for us even though it was the week before Christmas. Sailing the week before saves a lot of money but then you’re home on Christmas Day. We started cruising at Christmas in 2009 specifically so we wouldn’t be home on Christmas. Also, in the time of COVID, you’re supposed to self-quarantine after a cruise, so we really can’t see anyone on Christmas Day this year, because we’re waiting for test results. However, as bad as the timing might have been, I am glad we went when we did, since the cruise after ours (the real Christmas cruise this year) required everyone to wear masks onboard.
We were out of practice on travel. We still had checklists and we planned everything out ahead of time, but we didn’t stick to the plan. Part of this was us and part was traveling with another couple. Traveling with others requires flexibility, which is not an issue, it’s just something we had forgotten. Also, traveling during COVID is just not as relaxing, since you’re constantly on guard, even in an environment where everyone is vaccinated. It’s strange to be back to “normal” after two years of lockdowns. (It’s still not normal when the crew is masked all the time.)
We had four dinners at speciality restaurants (two with an included meal plan and two as Platinum Plus members.) Once we upgraded ourselves to the Haven, we had our own restaurant, so we didn’t venture out as much (we never went to the main dining room, we didn’t try other speciality restaurants, we never went to the Local.) We had two of those dinners at Cagney’s, and the service sucked (for the first time ever), so that was an issue.
We had lunch at Food Republic on our first sea day, which was very good, but it can add up quickly since it is ala carte and the food is small bites. Don’t go here to get full.
We had lunch after our whale-watching excursions at the American Diner which is also ala carte, although you can use your meal plan. I think the menu is better than Margaritaville (which it replaced) but it still doesn’t draw much of a crowd. I like the menu better than the Local (which is included in the cruise fare), but I have a feeling most people don’t see the value in paying for something when you can get “almost” the same for free.
We didn’t go to any shows. We had seen Jersey Boys on an earlier cruise, so we weren’t planning to go. I really wanted to see Six and then it was canceled due to illness (it was announced that it was not COVID and not the flu.) Since we didn’t go to shows, we didn’t need after-show snacks, which is why we never went to the Local.
The selling point of the Haven (besides butlers and a concierge – and our butler was outstanding and our concierge was useless) is that it is an exclusive area with everything you need. This and entropy tended to prevent us from visiting other areas of the ship, just because you don’t need to do so. For me personally, entropy is an issue because there were things I would have done outside the Haven that just never got done.
We ventured out of the Haven on the first sea day to visit the shops and to see our embarkation photos. Shopping required a bar stop to rest before returning to the Haven, so we visited the Sugarcane Mojito bar.
We spent one evening after dinner visiting random photographers to get enough photos for our pre-purchased photo package. (The photographers on the ship were excellent.)
We went to Coco’s for gelato after dinner in Mazatlán. Gelato does not absorb margaritas but it doesn’t hurt.
On the last sea day, we went to choose our photos for the photo package and that required another bar stop at Maltings, one of my favorite bars on the ship.
We had people in the group with mobility issues, so we spent a lot of time in the Haven lounge, relaxing. Spending time in the lounge with a drink plan can lead to everyone having mobility issues. It occurred to me when I was compiling my notes that I spent less time on the balcony than usual, because that time was replaced with lounge time, and because the first mornings were chilly. We did spend time on deck 19 outside. We also went to the Observation Lounge (our main hangout on the last Bliss cruise) for the Captain’s Party, but that was it. This is a good example of Haven Entropy.
After a long time, we’re preparing for our next cruise. We will be sailing on the Norwegian Bliss to the Mexican Riviera in December, our first cruise since December of 2019.
Unless you count the 49 years before my first one, this is the longest time between cruises. I have missed sailing.
An interesting note – we will call on three ports in a week, and all the ports are in Mexico. Other than Alaska (and Norwegian’s Hawaii cruise), this may be one of the only ocean cruises that has all the ports in the same country.
We call on Puerto Vallarta, Matzatlan and Cabo San Lucas. I’ve actually been to Puerto Vallarta before – years ago, I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort there. (As it was all-inclusive, including bar, I don’t remember much.)
So, three ports, three full sea days – a perfectly balanced week at sea. As with many of the cruises in the Caribbean, you take two days to sail to the furthest port, and then work your way back.
This is also our first cruise from Los Angeles (San Pedro), so that’s another one to cross off the list. It would be our first Pacific cruise, but we’ve been to Alaska, so that counts.
This popped up in my Facebook memories this afternoon and was written before our first Christmas Cruise in 2009. This will be the first year since then that we are not cruising. COVID-19 sucks. I’m waiting to see what other memories come up in the next few weeks, although we didn’t have WiFi all the time, so it may be random years.
Concerned about the cruise
I’ve never been on a cruise but Virgina and I are taking our first one over Christmas. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m a bit concerned about some of my fellow passengers.
How can I be concerned about people I haven’t met yet? I read the “Ask and Answer” section on the NCL website. First of all, read the FAQ before asking. The reason the “F” means “Frequently” is because somebody has asked it before you.
Some of my favorites:
Is there a limit on luggage? So, there will be women on the ship. (Update: Make sure you know the airline limits, if applicable. They are almost always different than the cruise line limits. Also, remember airline liquid rules when trying to bring booze back from the cruise.)
Can I bring wine in my suitcase to drink in my room without paying a fee? This (and variations) comes up over and over. The ship makes much of its money from liquor sales, so the answer is “no.” I don’t mind sailing with a bunch of alcoholics, but cheap alcoholics bother me. If you can’t afford to drink, go sober.(The one that asked about boxed wine really scared me.)
Note that four pages later, someone else asked about Friends of Bill meetings, so somebody can’t afford to drink anymore.
Which airport is closest to the Spirit in New Orleans? Is this a trick question? (My guess would be “New Orleans Airport” but I don’t have an aeronautical chart handy.)
Is there something specific about my specific room number? Are you looking for stalkers or do you not have a travel agent?
Can I watch my specific team play some specific game on-board? If you’ve got that much money riding on a game, can you really afford a cruise?
Are there TVs / Can I bring a Nintendo? Why are you going on a cruise? (On the other hand, they won’t be in lines ahead of me.) (Update: you probably can connect to the TVs in the rooms, but you don’t want to play anything that uses WiFi.)
Are there refrigerators? How much stuff do people pack that needs to be cold? How many left-overs do you plan to have from dinner? (Update: After cruising for over ten years with a diabetic, one answer to why people ask this question is “I have insulin with me.” Also, a better question is do the refrigerators keep things cold or cool. Some room refrigerators aren’t that cold.)
Is there a Walmart in Bermuda? This question just bothered me, and I go to Walmart. (Update: I’ve also been to Bermuda now.) I didn’t know Walmart sold cruise packages. Actually, I’m trying to think what you would need from Walmart in the middle of a cruise that you couldn’t have fit in your “Dukes of Hazzard” suitcase before you left home.
Reading the questions and reading between the lines, you begin to realize that somebody at the CDC HATES cruise ships. The amount of questions about what cruise ship operators should do, and the amount of money they should spend just shows a prejudice in favor of all other modes of transportation.
The CDC decided this week to remove a number of restrictions on air travel (see here.) There was never a “no-fly” order. So, if airlines can just provide “education” to their passengers, how is it fair that cruise lines are responsible for all COVID-19 cases that came to light on a ship?
The usual comments against cruising is that it’s not necessary. Neither is air travel. Heard of Zoom lately?
Part of my comments were driven by thinking about all of the transportation required for me personally to go on a cruise. I wanted to share that, and let others think about how likely it is that outbreaks spontaneously happen only on cruise ships.
My wife and I live in Dallas. If we sail from PortMiami for a seven-day cruise, we will fly in the day before. So, prior to boarding the ship, we will
Take a cab or Uber to DFW or Love Field
Be inside an international airport terminal
Be inside an airplane for almost two hours (with recirculated air)
Be inside another international airport terminal (Miami or Fort Lauderdale)
Take a cab or Uber to the hotel
Be inside a hotel lobby
Be inside a hotel room
Visit a restaurant
Take a cab or Uber to PortMiami
Be inside the port terminal (an international port)
Board the ship
So, there are a lot of people I will come into contact with before boarding the ship. Uber says riders and drivers must wear a mask. I know from UberEats that this is not always the case. There are no checks at airports.
Even if the cruise ship checks me immediately before departure, I could have contracted the disease (or any other disease) along the way to the ship. However, the CDC (and therefore, the masses) will blame the ship.
So, cruise travel is the problem?
Unless you hammer all of the travel industry out of existence, singling out cruise travel is patently unfair.
Please comment. Please read the instructions! There are specific questions to answer. Answer the ones you find critical to you. Use the format they request. Just posting, “Cruise now, dammit!” or “Ban cruises forever!” really doesn’t help.
I’ll admit it. I’m stir-crazy. Perhaps not as bad as one of my friends who is threatening to sail away on a mattress, but it’s close.
We’re all stuck at home. We’re all stuck on land until at least Halloween (for now.)
Let’s fix it. Let’s have a virtual cruise. We’ll just declare the house a cruise ship. Just tell people you’re sailing on the Norwegian Carnival of the Seas.
Since everything I could ever consider (Tacos, Lasagne, Beer, Ice Cream, Left-handed People, Talk Like A Pirate) has a national day, I declare tomorrow and every Saturday, as Cruise Ship Saturday.
Preparation for Sailing
Here’s how to “cruise ship” your house:
Place at least two bottles of booze in every other room of the house. These are your bars. (Use your bedroom for one of the bars, so you have 24-hour bar service without leaving bed.) For an extra touch, separate the booze by types, so you have a Margarita bar, an English Pub, a wine bar, and a pool bar.
If you have a pool, block off at least two-thirds of it so it is the proper size for a cruise ship pool. If you don’t, make a small puddle in your backyard with the hose.
Block off at least one bedroom. This is your suites area. You can’t go in there during the cruise because Not Worthy.
Spread out all the food in your refrigerator on your dining room table. This is the 24-Hour Buffet. Organize the food by country or region (Chinese leftovers in one corner, then Mexican leftovers, then cold pizza.)
Wrap towels around your dogs. They are now service animals, and ready to sail with you.
A Lovely Cruise
Have your partner get up at 5am and go put towels on all the lawn chairs in your yard and patio. The chairs are now yours for the rest of the day. Go back to bed.
Have an early breakfast at the buffet. Make sure to always fill your plate. It’s fine if you leave food, you paid for it! Have your partner make you some eggs to order at the Omelet Station. Send them back.
While you are finishing breakfast, have your partner go make the bed and replace the towels. Your partner is your room steward. Remember to tip for good service.
When you see your partner in the hall, ask why there is no ice in the bedroom.
At 9:15am sharp, report to your front porch. Stand around for fifteen minutes for no apparent reason, then wander around your neighborhood, practicing proper social distancing. Use masks as locally required. Point out the other neighbors’ houses to your partner, and identify who lives where. This is the Local Sites to See excursion. You are the tour guide. If you find a garage sale, spend an inordinate amount of time there. When you get back, wait ten minutes before going into the house. Everyone came back at once. Charge your partner $50.
After the excursion, cool off by the pool. Take all the towels off all the chairs and dump them in a pile on the lawn. Have your partner come ask you what happened to his or her towel. Have an argument about towels, rights of possession and chair ownership. Buy your partner drinks until he or she calms down.
At 3pm sharp, go to the living room and make 37 different drinks by mixing tequila with every other liquid in your house. Garnish each drink with a lime wedge. This is the Margaritas class. Charge your partner $50.
At 4pm sharp, if you haven’t passed out, go to the living room and make 37 different drinks by mixing vodka with every other liquid in your house. Serve all drinks in martini glasses. This is the Martini class. Charge your partner $50.
Dress up for dinner. This requires polo shirts and at least dress shorts for men, nice dresses for women. (Men, wear sandals and tell your partner you knew it wasn’t really a rule. Women, make your men go put real shoes on.) You have anytime dining, so just go to the kitchen table whenever you want. Wait for ten minutes outside the kitchen table because you didn’t book a specific time to dine. Order one of everything on the menu, because Cruise Ship. Have three desserts.
Explain to your partner that he really should have been wearing a jacket and tie because Formal Night.
After dinner, go to your room and change out of your dress clothes, because Vacation.
Head out to the pool. Play all your old Jimmy Buffett CDs at full volume. Play Margaritaville every five minutes. It’s a Calypso Party. Drink the rest of the tequila.
Wander into the living room. Play all your old 60s R&B CDs at full volume. Play Shout every five minutes. It’s a Toga Party. Drink the rest of the vodka.
Stop in each of the bars and have a drink. It’s a Pub Crawl. For small houses or enlarged livers, do the circuit twice.
Order UberEats or Grubhub at midnight from whatever random restaurant is still open in your area. Complain to your partner that your favorite dish is not available, when they have it in the restaurant during regular hours.
Go to the buffet while waiting for delivery because Starving. Discover all the food has been replaced by four Hershey bars and a bag of M&Ms. It’s the Midnight Chocolate Buffet.
When the food order arrives, take it to your partner in the bedroom. It’s room service. Charge your partner $12.95. When you finish your snacks, leave your plates in the hall.
After your midnight snack, go play Nintendo or your XBox. (Older people, play cards or Monopoly.) Bet your partner you can win. It’s the Casino.
After spending all the cash collected from your partner in the casino, call it a night. Drink any of the booze left in your bedroom. It’s the minibar. Charge your partner $7.50 per drink.
Make sure you’re all packed up. Disembarkation starts at 7am and you have an early time to disembark.
At 7am, find a statement under your door with a bunch of charges you don’t recognize. Wonder how much you actually had to drink. Blame the charges on your partner.
Fill in a survey two days after your cruise. Bitch about the pool chair situation and the excess charges.
So, Princess is out until December, Norwegian until after Halloween and we’re waiting for the other shoes to drop.
I’m thinking canceling our Christmas cruise was the right idea. I’m depressed, since that was our last possible vacation this year, but I’m less depressed than if they had canceled it out from under us after final payment. We still have friends with a booking, but they’re wondering what’s going to happen. We had another one cancel because if she got quarantined getting home from the cruise, she’d miss work.
Carnival canceled our Panama Canal cruise in May 2021 but it’s because they’re repositioning all the ships they aren’t selling, and the Carnival Radiance won’t be in Galveston, after all. There’s also no replacement, so the cruise was just canceled.
We just booked a similar cruise on Carnival Dream for October 2022. We sail in 815 days. It’s a 14-day cruise instead of nine so we get a couple of extra ports. We also booked an aft corner balcony.
As I said about next May’s canceled cruise, “it’s gotta be fixed by then.”
In spite of that, people seem to still be booking cruises. If you see a deal you like now, take it. (If you need ideas, let me know.)
Cruise lines need income, so if people are making deposits, that helps. It probably doesn’t help as much as making final payments, but it’s a pandemic. I think they’ll take what they can get.
One major (possibly) victory – the CDC is asking for public comment on restarting cruising. Here’s a link to the notice. If you want to ever cruise again, now would be the time to speak up!
We were comparing cruise notes with some of our friends yesterday in our weekly virtual happy hour (these are strange times, indeed), and some of us have a cruise coming up in 204 days over Christmas and New Year’s. Our final payment is due in 84 days, in August. This would be our eleventh Christmas cruise, one of the longest, and the most expensive, by far.
I’ve never been this close to a final payment without knowing whether we were actually going to sail. I’ve never been this close to a final payment where my wife and I were both a bit ambivalent on whether we’re going. We’re both in a high-risk group for COVID-19 so it’s a bit stressful. My wife is the “hide under the bed until it’s perfectly safe” type, and I’m the “whatever happens, happens” type, so there will be interesting discussions to come.
I’m sure that if Norwegian cancels the cruise, it will be after final payment, so we’re going to have a lot of money invested before we find out if we’re really going to go.
Our cruise after the Christmas cruise is 348 days from now, from Galveston to the Panama Canal. This is a bucket-list cruise for me, and I’m actually concerned about a go/no-go on that one.
The cruise industry was hammered by COVID-19. I think time is showing that much of the original reaction to the virus was blown out of proportion, but a cruise ship is one of the few places on earth that any disease can spread rapidly.
It’s not the close quarters, although that doesn’t help. It’s the people.
My biggest concern is not the crew or the infrastructure or the updated safety and health procedures. It’s the other passengers.
A system is only as secure as its weakest part – and when you see the behavior of people during quarantine, and the behavior I’ve seen on my past cruises, I really doubt that everyone traveling on any cruise will actually follow the guidelines that are put in place.
As a stockholder, my fear is that some idiot will manage to travel sick, infect others onboard and that will be the end of cruising for good.
As a passenger, my fear is that some idiot will infect me.
If you wanted to start a cruise line today, unlike Sir Richard Branson (who managed to launch a cruise line in probably the worst possible year ever), I would not target millennials. I would target the traditional cruise audience – the ones who gave cruising a bad name – namely, the old farts, like me. They might actually follow the rules.
You can’t just make a cruise experience expensive to attempt to filter out the idiots. Watch any of the Below Deck charter boat “reality shows”. Travel in the Haven on Norwegian. Travel in the MSC Yacht Club. There are rich idiots everywhere, and many of them are very self-centered – which is a major issue.
I would have more liberal cancellation policies or just include basic insurance in the fare. One of the reasons people cruise sick is because they can’t afford to not go. Either they will lose their money (didn’t buy insurance) or they will lose their vacation (their jobs or managers or vacation policy are inflexible.)
I would include everything in the fare. If people start their journey by figuring out how to smuggle things onboard (like liquor), they are not in a mindset to follow rules.
I would go back to smaller ships. (It’s interesting that Norwegian’s next class of ships – Project Leonardo – will hold less passengers than their current Breakaway Plus class.) This would be a cruise line for people who enjoy traveling at sea, not visiting a floating resort. The smaller the crowd, the lower the likelihood that someone is sick.
I would try to avoid the over-commercialized ports (Nassau, Cozumel, St Thomas come to mind.) They have big ships calling there all the time, they’re very commercial, and many who have been on multiple cruises have been there multiple times. Plus, you want to avoid places where everyone else is going.
I would want to sail a series of routes, rather than the same route every week. For scheduling, I’m sure the same port every day of each week is the simplest, but it means that people start traveling for the ship, not the ports. (I’m pretty sure that traveling for the ship is what gave us megaships with slides and pools and go-karts and all the other toys that drive up the prices, take up space and are then not used by many of the passengers.)
I hope to sail again soon. We will see if the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line actually starts sailing in July, and when the river cruises resume. Those are the test cases, since everyone else is looking at August or beyond.
I hope even more people realize that cruising is a wonderful way to spend a vacation. I hope they also realize you’re sharing space with a lot of other people, so we need to consider others and not just our own needs. (This, of course, seems an important lesson for people everywhere these days, not just people on cruises.)