Thursday, May 18, 2017

Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty towel animals

Port Canaveral

We were supposed to be in Cancun for Cinco de Mayo, not the Bahamas. But between all the doctor appointments and not knowing how I was going to feel on any given day, I didn’t think I was up for the logistics of airports, layovers and a week away from work. So we cancelled our trip to Mexico and booked something simpler - a 3-day cruise on Carnival Liberty out of Port Canaveral.

We checked in at the cruise terminal just before boarding started at 11:45 and didn’t have to wait long before we were on the ship. First stop was the aft bar on Lido Deck to purchase the soda package for Ron and a “welcome aboard” mojito for me. Vacation starts when I have my first mojito. :-)  Now what was for lunch? Liberty had plenty of options. In addition to the usual buffet, there was a Blue Iguana Cantina, which served tacos and burritos, and a Guy’s Burger Joint. We’d never been on a ship with either a Blue Iguana or a Guy’s Burger so I was looking forward to trying them both. We decided on Guy’s Burger first. Ron had the “Straight Up” burger (with lots of jalapeno peppers from the toppings bar) and I had the “Chilius Maximus”. Yummy!  Click here for the Guy's Burger Joint Menu

Fortified with cheese, grease and rum, we were off to explore the ship. The layout of Liberty was very similar to Carnival Victory. But while Victory had a water theme with seahorses and mermaids, Liberty’s theme was “Great Artisans and their Works”. There were lots of wrought iron pillars along the Promenade Deck walkways and an enormous wrought iron chandelier with color-changing lights on the ceiling of the atrium. It was pretty in a Carnival-ship way. I especially liked the lights.

Carnival Liberty atrium
Flowers Atrium

atrium chandelier

Alchemy Bar
Alchemy Bar

promenade
the Promenade

Piano Man Bar
Piano Man Bar

Golden Olympian Dining Room
Golden Olympian Dining Room

Golden Olympian Dining Room

Normally on the first day of a cruise, I run all over the ship taking pictures of anything and everything. Eventually, Ron gets tired of following me around and parks at a bar until I’m finished. :-)  But I really wasn’t feeling all that energetic this time so we just took a quick tour of the main public areas before heading to our cabin to relax. We were actually lucky to have a cabin at all! Since we booked the cruise at the last minute, the ship was almost full. When we checked for availability, there were no balcony cabins left and only three oceanview cabins. We’d planned to go through American Airlines since we had a credit from cancelling the Mexico trip, but by the time we’d gone through the whole booking process online, we found out that we couldn’t use the credit for a cruise AND they wanted to charge a processing fee. So we started all over on the Carnival website, but by then all the oceanview cabins had been snapped up. We checked balcony cabins one more time and, lo and behold, one cabin had opened up! The last cabin on the ship. It was definitely not in an ideal location – directly across the hall from the aft staircases and underneath the 24-hour pizza station. But we had a cabin! And a balcony!

balcony cabin

cabin

Sail away was at 4 o’clock. The Lido Deck was crowded for the sail away party so we opted to watch from our balcony. On the way out of the channel, we passed the large barge that SpaceX uses to land their rockets after a launch. That was pretty neat! In the distance, we could see the launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. One day I would love to be at the Cape for a rocket launch. We can see the contrails from our coast but it would be amazing to be up close.

SpaceX landing barge
SpaceX landing barge

We had passed the jetties and were heading out into the open ocean when the ship slowed to a stop and suddenly a bunch of brown mud stirred up from the bottom. Ron commented that the captain must have turned on the thrusters to hold the ship in place while the pilot got off. But after several minutes, we still hadn’t moved. Hmmm… We decided to go up on deck to find out what was going on. There were a few other people at the back of the ship looking down into the water so we went over to join them. From that vantage point, we could tell what had happened by the trail of mud. The ship had turned south and out of the channel before it had passed the last set of channel markers and had run aground. The captain was trying to wiggle us off the sandbar but we weren’t making any progress. I thought, “Well, this might be our shortest cruise ever!” Fortunately, we were still close enough to port that we could be towed back before we ran out of food and alcohol. Priorities, right? :-)

Finally after about an hour, the captain managed to maneuver the ship enough to get us into deeper water and we were once again steaming towards Nassau. Ron and I guessed that 95% of the passengers never knew there was a problem. Most people were partying by the main pool or had gone inside to get ready for dinner and didn’t even notice.

Speaking of dinner…because we’d booked last minute, the only dining option available was late seating. Ugh, I hate waiting till 8:15 to eat. Plus since I wasn’t feeling 100%, I really wasn’t looking forward to holding up a conversation with a table of people I’d just met. We took a peek at the menu posted outside the dining room and nothing on it looked enticing enough to be worth the hassle, so we ate dinner at the Lido Restaurant instead. Ron picked up some vegetable lasagna and salad from the buffet while I ordered a sushi roll from the Sushi At Sea counter. Apparently, Sushi At Sea was just added to Liberty in the past few months. It offered four different kinds of sashimi for $1.50 each, as well as rolls for either $5 or $7.50. I had the spicy tuna roll and it was pretty tasty.

Sushi at Sea
Sushi at Sea

We spent the rest of the evening in Czar’s Palace Casino, playing Black Jack at one of the $6 tables. The dealers were a lot of fun and we ended up playing for almost two hours. The pit boss even offered everyone at our table a free drink, which I don’t think has ever happened to us on a cruise ship before! That was a nice surprise. By the time we were ready to head to bed, I was up $50 and had added a new $1 souvenir chip to my collection. Yay!

Nassau

In the morning, we pulled into Nassau Harbor right on time, despite our little detour on the sandbar. Our plan for the day was to get a day pass at Sandals Royal Bahamian. It’s funny how even when Ron and I choose a cruise over an all-inclusive vacation, we still end up at an all-inclusive. :-)  We decided we’d take a taxi to the resort since that would be quicker and easier than taking the bus, but when we got in a taxi we found out it would be $25. Eek! Prices had gone up!

British Colonial Hilton

Festival Place

Soon we were driving up the long flower-lined driveway to Sandals. It was great to be back “home” again. We were there for a week in 2009 and things hadn’t changed much since then. I did notice that they had toned down the pastel blue and yellow paint with more muted colors. And the Manor Building where we had stayed (now called the Balmoral Building) had been remodeled, with balconies added to the oceanfront rooms.
  
It was 11 o’clock by the time we got checked in so all the chairs around the two main pools were either occupied or marked “Reserved”. Fortunately, I remembered that if a reserved chair wasn’t used by 11 o’clock, it was up for grabs. Goodbye “Reserved” sign, hello Susan’s toosh. :-)  Our chairs were in a great location close to the activities pool’s swim-up bar, where we could watch the staff organizing beer-drinking games. We spent the day just relaxing – Ron mainly hanging out at the swim-up bar while I alternated between reading on my lounge chair and floating around the pool or the ocean. We had lunch at the Royal Cafe, the open-air restaurant between the two main pools. Of course, I had to order a Dirty Banana.  No one makes Dirty Bananas like Sandals!

Sandals Royal Bahamian
Sandals  Royal Bahamian

hot tub and sailboats

Sandals activities pool
view from a pool float

sailboats

tiki torches and beach

gazebo

Sandals pier

Sandals beach and watersports area

The ship was scheduled to set sail at 6 o’clock, which meant everyone was supposed to be back onboard by 5:30. Ron and I decided that we should leave Sandals at 4 to give us plenty of time to get to the port and maybe do a little shopping at Festival Place before boarding. We took the bus back since the $2.50 bus fare was a lot less painful than $25 for a taxi. All went well until we passed the east end of Cable Beach. Then suddenly, the bus driver turned off the main road and started to weave through residential neighborhoods. Uh oh... We’d accidentally gotten on the #10A bus instead of the #10! Both buses ended up downtown but the 10A took a much more circuitous route.

After about half an hour of stopping at what seemed to be every few feet, I started to get really worried. I had no idea where we were or how far we still were from port. I could just picture us on someone’s YouTube video, running down the pier yelling “Wait!” as the ship slowly pulled away from the dock. Ron didn’t seem very concerned though. He said if we missed the ship, we’d just spend the weekend in Nassau. With no passport, money or clothes? No thank you! FINALLY after 45 minutes, we crested a hill and I could see the smokestacks of the cruise ships below. What a relief! No time for shopping. We were back on the ship with 15 minutes to spare. Moral of the story: not only should you give yourself plenty of time to get back to port, make sure you get on the right bus!

That night was Elegant Night. We watched a pretty sunset from the balcony while we got dressed for dinner and then headed to our assigned dining room, the Silver Olympian Restaurant. We were seated at a table for four but no one else showed up so we ended up with the table to ourselves. Since our Victory cruise, Carnival had rolled out a new set of dinner menus called “American Table/American Feast” (American Feast for Elegant Night and American Table for the other nights). When the menus first came out, there was a big hullabaloo on Cruise Critic because tablecloths were no longer going to be used on American Table nights. A lot of people felt (strongly) that tablecloths were part of what made cruise dining elegant and special. I figured I’d reserve judgment until I’d had a chance to check things out myself. Honestly, I was more interested in the food than the table d├ęcor. I hadn’t been impressed with the first night’s American Table menu and was hoping American Feast would be better!


It turned out that the American Feast menu was the same menu they’d started using in 2015 for 3 and 4-night cruises (the one I called the “no more lobster menu”). I ordered the scallop risotto appetizer and grilled shrimp, which were both good although on the small side. The only new item I tried was the malted chocolate hazelnut cake for dessert, which I liked a lot. It had a warm, crispy crust on the bottom and was topped with chocolate hazelnut sauce. Ron went with his old stand-by, the chocolate melting cake. Thank goodness Carnival hadn’t gotten rid of the melting cake. I could only imagine the outcry on Cruise Critic if that ever happened! :-)

The problem with dinner was that it took FOREVER. It’s hard enough for me to wait till 8:15 to eat, but our appetizers didn’t even get to the table until 9. I was getting pretty cranky by then. Fortunately, there was a large group of guys sitting at a table behind us who kept us entertained. Every time the waiters started to sing the “Happy Birsary” song, the whole group would get up and run over to “help” sing. There were a lot of birthdays being celebrated that night so I don’t know when those guys got to eat their dinner. The waiters seemed to get a kick out of it though.

By the time we finally got out of the dining room, the comedy show I’d wanted to see had already started, so we went to the piano bar instead. Liberty’s piano bar was decorated in black and white, with tables and chairs that looked like piano keys. I thought it was cute. Better than the creepy hands in Sensation’s piano bar, anyway! It was a full house around the piano and the musician, Tommy G, had everyone singing along, especially when he played “Come Sail Away” by Styx. He could really hammer those keys! At 11 o’clock he switched to the adult portion of the show and played “The Pussycat Song”. I’d never heard the song before and apparently neither had the girl next to me. We both got the giggles and couldn’t stop laughing. Tommy G pointed out that there are no actual dirty words in the song. It’s just your warped mind. :-)  We stayed at the bar until 11:30 before calling it quits.

Sea Day

Sometime during the night, we sailed through the cold front that had followed us down to the Bahamas. We woke up to sunny skies and 25 knot winds, so we spent the day on the pool deck, soaking up Vitamin D and trying to keep our stuff from blowing away. The ship was definitely rocking!

All the other 3600 passengers seemed to be doing the same thing we were, which made getting a drink from the pool bars a real challenge. Sweet Ron braved the long lines to bring me a Ting mojito from the Red Frog Rum Bar. Ok, normally I’m a mojito purist. Ordering a raspberry mojito is like ordering a vanilla Frosty from Wendy’s. A Frosty is chocolate, period. And a mojito has rum, mint and lime. None of this raspberry or watermelon stuff. :-)  But I have to say that the Ting mojito was excellent. Ting is a Caribbean grapefruit soda that Ron discovered on his trip to St Kitts years ago and now we’re both hooked on it. What could be more refreshing than grapefruit mixed with rum on a hot day? I guess I’m just going to have to expand my mojito definition a bit.

We had lunch at the Blue Iguana Cantina and watched the Last Man Standing game going on by the pool. It looked like a fun game, sort of a cross between a scavenger hunt and musical chairs. By 3 o’clock, we were both getting over-sunned and over-peopled so we went back down to the cabin. We sat on the balcony, watching schools of flying fish skipping over the choppy waves. The water was that dark turquoise shade of blue – so beautiful. I was really glad we had a balcony cabin this trip.

Blue Iguana Cantina
Blue Iguana Cantina

salsa bar

Red Frog Rum Bar
Red Frog Rum Bar

pool deck and water slide

whale tail

That night we finally got to experience the infamous “no tablecloth” tables in the dining room. I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The tables were a warm, shiny wood and set with new square plates. They just looked a bit more contemporary. I still wasn’t excited about the menu though. No escargot! My seared tuna appetizer was yummy but really tiny. One thing I did like was the new option to order side dishes. It’s hard to get enough vegetables on a cruise since most of the entrees seem to come with one piece of asparagus or one carrot. :-)  The singing guys were back and doing their part to wish everyone Happy Birthday. I noticed they weren’t jumping up quite as fast as they had the night before. Probably they’d had a little too much sun and beer by the pool that afternoon.

After dinner, we went back to the piano bar but it was a quiet crowd so we didn’t stay long. Off to the cabin where we fell asleep to the rocking of the ship.

All in all, we had a good cruise. We didn’t DO a whole lot but that’s the nice thing about a cruise. You can do or do nothing - it’s up to you. I was just glad we were able to go somewhere and that I felt good enough to enjoy it. A couple of months ago, I could barely plan a trip to the grocery store, much less a vacation. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can reschedule that trip to Mexico. Or maybe to Sandals? :-)

elegant night portrait

1 comment:

  1. NO escargot!!! What!?!?!?! The chocolate hazelnut cake sounds pretty amazing though, and the Ting mojito.

    ReplyDelete