Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tourist In Barbados

We made it to mid week... Wednesday... the ship docked in Barbados, the second island on the itinerary. 

The ship docked early and we had to get up, blah blah blah, grab breakfast  then off the ship to catch up with our tour. 

Most tours guides met on the dock at 8:30am.  We didn't have a pre- scheduled tour for this day so we snagged one from the Carnival  Island Excursions.  Try as we may to find a good tour beforehand online as they usually are cheaper than going through the ship but nothing came up with great reviews so we had no choice.  The only good thing about going through the ship was they'd have to wait for us at the end of the day if our excursion over ran it's time.

Our tour was from Adventureland Barbados (click HERE to visit them on Facebook too).  The tour cost $65.00 per person and the tour lasted just over four hours.  We rode in an open 4X4 which held 10 passengers.  Our driver was Glein and he was very thorough and informative.   At first we thought it was somewhat pricey but after the tour ended, we felt we got more than our monies worth.

Before the tour begins, Glein emphasised that people with back issues or women who are, as he put it, "even just a little bit pregnant" should not take the tour as it will be off road and quite bumpy. 

We drove around the island and along the shoreline.  We seen sugar cane fields and were told about how the sugar cane was made into molasses and shown the molasses factory (it even smelled like molasses, mmmm!)

We stopped occasionally to allow us to take photos then continued off road (and onto bumpy paths) into the rain forest.  At one stop Glein pointed out a tree that the locals referred to as "monkey no climb", it had thorns throughout the entire base and branches even the leaves!!  Ouch! 

We got to see a few monkeys that were pets to one of the locals as well and had the opportunity to have our photo taken with it but for some reason it wouldn't come to us.  I was fine with that because I wasn't sure what kind of fleas that creature had and I didn't want to get scratched by it either so I just took a photo if it climbing over our fellow tourist!

After more history and a scenic tour, we stopped off at a beach to take some photographs, have a washroom break, and sample the local rum punch.  Though we don't drink alcohol, I simply had to sample the punch while I was there.  It almost knocked me over it was so strong!  I took a cola after that, one rum punch was more that enough for this lady.  Glein was such a nice guy, we took a photo with him (and he's kindly pointing out that Tony's drinking the rum punch!)

After a short while we loaded ourselves back onto the 4x4 and drove around some more then returned to the ship.

Once back on the ship we did what became our usual routine... went back to the cabin to freshen up, then went and had a late lunch, lingered around the ship, took in a show, had dinner, watched the movie on the big screen if it wasn't rained out.  Then off to bed early to get up early for our next port of call...

Next stop... St. Lucia

Fun Day At Sea

Tuesday was our fun day at sea.  After a full day of travel, then getting up early for an island tour, we looked forward to a day at sea. 

We woke up late that day, made sure we put out our "do not disturb" sign on the door during the night.  When we woke up and took care of the usual personal morning rituals, we made our way to the Lido deck and had breakfast out by the pool.

It was another hot day so we just walked around the ship, grabbed a seat on the pool deck, watched some folks on the fun water slide.....


.... and later that evening we watched a movie on the pool deck big screen. 

The big screen was in much need of repairs as it had many sections that were black pixels... good thing the movie didn't contain subtitles or we'd have missed something for sure.

We took in another show, had dinner, then called it an early night.

All in all the fun day at sea was relaxing.

Next stop... Barbados

Lido Buffet

The Lido deck buffet .... was a major disappointment.  I found myself constantly comparing the buffet aboard the Carnival Victory to the one on the tiny Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas (the last ship we were on).  Now you know it's really bad when the buffet on a ship that big doesn't come close to measuring up to a relatively smaller ship. 

The decor was dated but pleasant since it all matched, didn't look worn out, and had ample seating. I enjoyed that room with its ocean view.

The buffet on the Victory consisted of two food stations and one dessert "island".  Now the dessert "island" made sense that patrons could walk around and decide what they wanted.  Whereby the food stations were lined up against the wall, forming two lines, on the sea day the lines were about 10 minutes long so not too bad. I really don't have any complaints about the waiting in line believe it or not because we were always in some sort of conversation with each other or with someone else in the line. 
Ok back to the food.... The start of the buffet, you select your tray, plate, bowl, utensils wrapped in a napkin, nice set up.  They had hand sanitizer stations just before collecting the try but nobody to "enforce" the "sanitize your hands" business (as they did aboard the Majesty) so you pretty much had to hope everyone exercised good personal hygiene.  Once you collect your your tray and plate, slide along the counter and first stop is a bowl of lettuce, then a tray of tomatoes, another one of cucumbers, another one of red beans, another one of onions, another one of sliced radishes and one of sliced carrots and then a salad that contained walnuts (on one day it wasn't labeled until I ate it and noticed the nuts and thank heavens I don't have a nut allergy!!!).  Seemed like the salad section was twice the size of the hot food section..... seriously! 
The hot section had baked potatoes every day, steamed white rice (that stuck to the spoon) on a couple of days, one day it had pasta that contained shrimp but the pasta wasn't labeled so you just seen a tray of pasta and figured it was pasta in tomato sauce... WRONG! 

The meat section where the chef cut you a fresh piece of meat was, on most days, pork roast!  Really annoying for someone who doesn't eat pork.  One night it was turkey, very moist, no complaints there!  The variety just wasn't happening.  There were steaks one night and boy did it feel like we were chewing our leather belts!  We wasted food that night. 
One day the dessert island had what they labelled "key lime cake", that tasted like regular Betty Crocker packaged cake with vanilla icing that had a squirt of lime juice in it and for an added touch a slither of lime was placed atop the cake.  The following day it was "lemon cake" that tasted exactly like yesterday's key lime cake only it had a slither of lemon on top instead of lime.  Seriously!  I can't make this stuff up!!!
The jello, canned peaches and the apple pie that only showed up on the last night of the cruise, were the best!  The rest were more along the lines of "beggars-can't-be-choosers".
The Mississippi Grill that was pool side served fresh hamburgers, shoestring fries, crispy chicken nuggets, nachos (which looked more like Lays potato chips), cole slaw and potato salad.  All which I enjoyed even when I got sick of burgers and fries because the buffet selection was awful.  The Yantze Wok, serving Chinese food closed daily at 3:30pm so folks returning from shore excursions hoping for Chinese food for lunch were out of luck.  That thing never re-opened once it closed, until the next day... this too annoyed me because aboard the Majesty, the Wok was always opened!
The 24hr pizza grill had a nice menu list of pizza but when we asked for the chicken one the chef there said they didn't make chicken one (even though it was listed on the menu) so we had plain cheese.  It was warm at best but not close to being hot.

Lemonade was sweet and I loved it, occasionally had to water it down but it was still a delight.  The iced tea wasn't sweet enough so we added sugar but that's not a complaint either, it was actually a good idea to have it that way.  Tea (regular, green & herbal), coffee (reg & decaff) were always available.  Milk, chocolate milk and juices were available at breakfast but the orange juice was in a jug that the server poured for you BUT NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES WE BEGGED HER TO STIR THE JUICE SHE NEVER DID so the juice was always separated from the water and you got served the water part unless she was at the bottom of the jug and you got a too juicy orange juice.  sigh.  We wasted that juice on a daily basis sad to say, eventually we just stopped having orange juice.

There was a specialty coffee shop and bakery aboard, we found it once then for the likes of us, searched high and low and were never ever able to stumble on it again the remainder of the cruise!  Sad, so sad...

Ok, so enough with the food complaints, we obviously didn't starve, but I am surprised to have gained 2 whole pounds that week.  Secretly I was hoping for 5.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Victory Ship

The ship we were cruising on was the Carnival Victory.  We chose this particular cruise for the itinerary, not the cruise line.  Even though Royal Caribbean has a Southern Caribbean cruise we decided on Carnival because we had never used them before and figured it would be great to have something to compare.

Again, I had researched the ship because I had plenty of time before the cruise and was curious and anxious to know what it looked like.  The photos I came across on the internet made the ship look amazing must have been photoshop. I must admit, personally I wasn't too impressed with the ship itself except for how big it was in comparison to our last cruise which was aboard the Royal Caribbean Magesty of the Seas. 

My first impression upon walking into the main lobby was "oh that's... uh... different... kinda dark but ... um... ok" I tried to keep an open mind since it was only a small portion of the ship and I needed to see the rest to really fall in love with it. 

Only I never actually fell in love with this ship.

The main lobby had the usual stairwell leading to the boutiques and an atrium bar, all done in shades of brown and green.  I guess it was an ocean theme or something, and that certainly made sense.  Lit glass elevators served as a back drop. Not bad once I took it all in. 

That part gets a 4 out of 5 star rating.

On the stairwells that led to the passenger cabins, there were seahorses and if you didn't give yourself ample space when taking the stairs you'd bang your leg on the snout of the seahorse... I know this because I have a bruise on both legs from two different days of running the stairs, while Tony was left unscathed! That's wrong on so many levels

The lounges, bars, casino and showrooms were pretty much the norm.  Each had a different theme going on and I liked how the decor all came together once I got a good look at everything.  There were plenty of big over-the-top art displays that made for awsome photo opportunities.  The seahorses even made another debut as the stand of a table in one of the lounges which I thought was cute and they wouldn't be able to assult anyone.

The Lido buffet.....  Oh boy, I think that deserves a post all it's own eh.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back Onboard

When we returned to the ship from our tour of St. Thomas we went up to the Lido/pool deck and grabbed lunch from the Mississippi Grill consisting of shoe string fries, a cheeseburger, some chicken nuggets and lemonade.  For dessert we had ice cream from the 24 hour help yourself ice cream machine!  What I liked most about that is they had cone dispensers and bowls with spoons on a table so you got to decide how you wanted your ice cream served!  Chocolate, vanilla or half & half.  They also had a frozen yogurt dispenser with vanilla and strawberry for those who were watching their weight.  I did not fall into the "weight watching" category in any way, shape or form! 

Ahh... the little things that go along way!

We headed out on deck, selected a deck chair and got comfy with our full bellies and were pretty much in nap-mode.  We chilled out while music was playing and folks were dancing the wobble (??) I am so out of touch, I never even heard of that one... here I am trying to nail the electric slide and now I find out about the wobble! I'll have to download that song and add it to my exercise routine for my lazy days.... besides we all know I can't dance for beans so may as well do in WHEN nobody's watching LOL.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of our cabin steward for the likes of me but he always kept our cabin clean, was always smiling and genuinely seemed like a nice guy.  We had selected an inside cabin that did not contain a balcony or a window.  We were barely in our room so it suited us well.  Our steward always left us a towel creature at the end of each day and I thought this one was pretty cute so I popped my glasses on him and took his photograph. 

At least that one looks like something as it had arms, legs and a face... because the one we had on our first night aboard the ship... well I'm still trying to figure out what the france it is.  ??? Any suggestions???  I stared at it so long it drove me nuts so I used the towel to dry my wet hands!

It was getting pretty late so we took in a show after dinner.  These types of shows are the norm on all cruises as I recall seeing ones on our last vacation. It was a Broadway type musical show with the "Carnival Victory Dancers" as I believe they were called.  The female dancers were practically naked for a family show which shocked the heck out of me.  I found myself quickly scanning the audience for kids, young girls were gasping, young boys were drooling of course.  Their costumes were teeny tiny itsy bitsy beaded bikinis but the bottom of the kini was a thong so when they turned around all you seen was bum. 

So much bum. 

Too much bum.  

But anyway one of the dancers was kind of chubby so she was representing us chubby lumpkins up there in her beaded thong so you go girl!!  Rock on!!!  We can't all be skinny chicks.

We strolled around the ship a bit more, then called it a night.  The early start to the day, the long hours in the heat, and all the excitement of the last couple days leading up to the cruise finally took its toll on our old bodies.

The next day was a "fun day at sea" so we'll get to sleep in and explore the ship some more...

Ahh yes, the ship..  ..... ......

Morning In St. Thomas

At 7:00am Monday, May 7th we docked at the first port of call: St. Thomas, USVI and we were to meet up with the tour guides at around 8:30am. 

We had set the alarm on my ipod for 6:45am to give us time to get up, take care of all that personal hygiene business, then head up to the Lido deck to take a photo of the dock then off to the buffet for breakfast. 

Sigh... the Lido breakfast buffet. 

The breakfast buffet had pancakes, fried potatoes (not hash browns like McDonalds), buns, breads, croissants, mini danish, yogurt, a wide variety of mini boxes of cereal, oatmeal, grits (what the france are grits?, looks like cream of wheat if you ask me! Will an American please enlighten this Canadian!), sausages, bacon and ham (in other words, pork meat that we don't eat which ticked me off) and lots of fresh fruit, orange juice that the server failed to mix so she poured you a cup of the watery part while the juice part stayed at the bottom of her container *sighs & rolls eyes*.

Coffee.... yes they had coffee... plenty of it... but the cups were so friggen small or maybe I'm just greedy.

We helped ourselves to breakfast and then off we went ...

I had researched this tour before our trip but didn't book in advance but it wasn't an issue, we just approached the tour guide and asked if she was still selling tickets (they always are!) 

We went with Godfrey Tours V.I., and they didn't disappoint!!  For $25 we took a tour and did a bit of window shopping, we chose to skip the beach. 

The duration of our tour was about 3.5 almost 4 hours much to our surprise, they don't rush the tour and they seemed very knowledgeable when it came to speaking about the island and its history.

We met the tour group near the dock and boarded our jeep style tour bus with our very pleasant driver; Euella.

It was a hot cloudy day and it began to rain lightly but that didn't dampen our spirits because I welcomed the rain, it cooled things off a bit.

The rain only lasted for a few minutes as we pulled away from the dock. 

We drove through the city and then up to the highest peak to see the view and take pictures. There was also a gift shop which we browsed. 

That was also the place of the famous banana daiquiri but we didn't have one. 

Once the rain quit, it was getting pretty hot again, thankfully there were still some clouds in the sky but they were dispersing quickly and I was beginning to tan just as quickly!

The view from the lookout was breathtaking.

The island has so many beautiful flowers I couldn't resist photographing as many as I could. 


Afterwards we were dropped off to do some shopping where we strolled around peeking in stores and chatting with the locals and it began to drizzle a bit, just enough to mess up my glasses but not quite enough to cool me down.

We then met our tour bus again and were dropped off at the ship.

...ahh yes.... the ship..... 

Sail Away

Alright, so let me continue where I left off from the last post...

After leaving the hotel, we walked to the port and stood in line to board the ship.  The embarking went pretty smooth and quick.  We stood in what seemed like a pretty short line that was moving quickly, gave our luggage to the porter, checked in, had our photo taken (which we didn't buy because I didn't need to be reminded of my red face of hives) and eventually we made it aboard the Carnival Victory.

First stop... the Lido deck buffet of course!  LOL

We had a quick lunch and then went out on deck to take some photos of Old San Juan from the ship.  As you can see in that photo, that yellow building is the Sheraton Old San Juan. The white vehicles are tons and tons of white "minivan" taxi cabs.

We took a stroll around the ship, took a joyride in the elevator, made our way to our room, went to the 6th floor and spoke to the room attendant there who was quite helpful and remembered my name and the name of the individual I was enquiring about ;-) because every time later that day when I strolled back down there he smiled at me, called me by name and advised me that the room hadn't been occupied yet.

The ship set sail at 10:00pm that night.  It was cloudy, breezy but hot and everyone was excited.  The usual sailaway party erupted on the Lido/pool deck and off we went.  

Next stop.... St Thomas, USVI 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

San Juan Arrival

Alright, I may as well get started.  I have a ton to write about, believe it or not I jotted down notes in the notepad app on my ipod while on vacation!  I know, I know, crazy eh?!  But I had to keep up on what was going on not just to blog but because I want to give a good review to all the tour guides we used.  If it wasn't for the tour guides we wouldn't have had as great a time... believe me, it was the itinerary that made this cruise and not the ship!!

So lets get started...

Tony and I planned this vacation almost a year ago and as soon as we made the deposit I installed a count down app on my ipod.  I took it upon myself to do plenty of research online since it would be our first time there.  We finished packing up the last of our stuff on Friday night, took a run over to see our Moms for one last hug before leaving then came home, got three hours of sleep then got up at the crack of dawn to grab a cab to the airport.

Ahh... the airport.... 

It was now Saturday May 5th, the crack of dawn and we were in line for customs or whateverthefrance that is. 

The man traumatized me! 

He grumbled something about me not filling out the customs declaration form properly because I had a sandwich with me and I didn't declare any food items on the form.  I told him I planned to eat the sandwich before we got on the plane so technically.... He told me to stop arguing with him, so I shut up. But I was stressed out and traumatized by the ordeal.  Thought for a minute I wouldn't be getting on that plane.

Anyway, we got on the 6:15am flight from Montreal Canada to Miami USA, then we had about two hours to wait for the connecting flight.  As per usual, we used that time to stretch our legs since the economy seats on the plane don't really accommodate folks that are 5'10" tall. They may claim to do so but it's a lie.   We strolled around the airport and found the restrooms and made use of them.... and that's when I noticed that THE HIVES ON MY FACE CAME BACK!

I glanced at my reflection in the mirror and my jaw dropped!  My cheeks were swelled like a chipmunk and full of red hives welts.  sigh.  Was there a tomato in that sandwich?  Seriously!!!

We arrived in San Juan just after 2:00pm and grabbed a cab to the hotel.  The cab cost $21.00USD from the airport to Old San Juan where our hotel was located. 

We stayed at the Chateau Cervantes for one night before the cruise.  We wanted the Sheraton Old San Juan but they had a two night minimum so we were located just a street behind them, still within walking distance of the port.  As you can see in that photo, the hotel is on the right, with the little beige covers atop the door.  Across the street (on the left of the photo) is the parking garage for the Sheraton. 

The Chateau Cervantes is a small inn, with only 12 rooms.  Eleven if you don't count the penthouse suite that will run you an arm and a leg for one night. The room was somewhat small but it was just fine for the two of us for a one night stay and the bathroom had an awsome sink!

The room was clean, cool, and in a great location so it suited us well especially since I had to dope myself up on Benedryll that knocked me out for a couple hours.  It poured rain that night so we didn't really get to see much if any of Old San Juan until the next morning.  We did stroll along the port and to the CVS pharmacy to pick up more Benedryll and then hit Subway for a sandwich and got caught in the rain but that pretty much was it for our first day there.

We had to check out by noon Sunday May 6th so we used the early hours to take a stroll to the San Cristobal Fort and along the port as the cruise ship was now docked.  We took a couple of photos from the fort, paid only $3.00 to get in and take a peek around.  It started to drizzle so we headed back to the hotel where we had a continental breakfast that was included in the price of the room then grabbed our luggage and headed to the port.

The ship looked huge when it was docked, but was even bigger the closer we got to it.  We were excited!  I was bothered by my red face of hives but I wasn't about to let it get me down... I was on vacation with my hubby and we were going to have big time fun!

Stay tuned, more to follow!..........

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guess Who Was On A Cruise?

Yes I know it's been quite some time since I blogged.  I do have a pretty good excuse though!  Tony and I went on a cruise!!

We took what some called "an early vacation" because it's still early May but who cares, we needed it!

We spent the last 8 days away.  Seven of those days were spent aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship touring the Southern Caribbean.  I have lots to write about, photos to include and some video but I also have to get some rest... you know the vacation from the vacation!  Back to work tomorrow so somewhere along the way I should be able to get every tidbit jotted down.  Right now though, I am very tired, exhaused actually, sunburnt beyond belief (and it's a farmers tan too!  sigh...)  The trip was a trip!  LOL... 

Oh, that there is me in San Juan, Puerto Rico visiting the Fort and trying not to look so tired. 

Anyway, I've got a whole weeks worth of stuff to get busy with, so laugh along with me.