On Sunday, May 4th we departed from the port of Miami. It was a beautiful day!
Our cruise was on the Carnival Victory. I have to admit we were a little leary about taking a Carnival cruise. We're big fans of the Celebrity line...we love the "chill" vibe on Celebrity, the casual elegance, the gourmet food and restrained decor. And we knew about Carnival's reputation for being all about partying, Las Vegas glitz and tackiness. Nothing wrong with any of this, but for hubby and me, vacation is all about unwinding and relaxing. But the price was right, and so was the itinerary, so we decided to give it a whirl. After all, it would be pretty difficult for a cruise to be BAD, right?!
The ship had a total of three pools - a huge pool area with 2 pools in the center of the ship with a water slide (fun!) but the music and sun were BLARING in this part of the ship, not to mention the 2,000,000 decibel PA system when they would have silly pool games (Hairy Chest Contest anyone?), so hubby and me spent our time in the back pool area most of the week where it was a bit more quiet.
Our cabin was a cool and peaceful retreat from the hot sun and general excitement around the rest of the ship. Oh and the bed was SOOO comfy and had these delicious high thread count Egyptian sheets and comforter that felt like a cloud against our skin.
Every evening when we'd come back from dinner and entertainment, our bed would be turned down with an adorable towel animal left on the bed. Every day it was a different animal.
One of the great (and surprising) things about this cruise was our dinner tablemates. On most cruises, guests are assigned seating with other guests and you never know who your tablemates will be. I have to admit, I was worried about who we might get stuck with. Surpringly, though, we got seated with 3 other couples who we instantly hit it off with! They were all fun, down-to-earth, intelligent and happy people. Even better, 2 of the 3 couples were childfree by choice (which probably explains why they were so happy)! Can you believe it? What are the odds?
Our first port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. We've been there a few times before, so we were already familiar with the island. Our goal was to plant ourselves on a beautiful beach for the day. Our plan was to visit Palancar Beach, which we had not been to before, but which was highly recommended on the travel discussion boards. When we got there, though, at 8:50 a.m. they were not yet open, so we asked the driver to take us to Mr. Sancho's Beach. That's where we spent the entire day. It couldn't be more beautiful.
Afterwards, we had lunch at our favorite Cozumel restaurant, Pancho's Backyard. They make awesome quacamole and margaritas!
Back to the ship...I must mention that the food on the Carnival ship was surpringly good considering they feed about 3,000 people! I had expected diner quality food at best, but was delighted by the very good food, especially at dinner. I'd go as far as saying it APPROACHED gourmet. Not quite, but heading in that direction. My favorite thing at dinner was a dessert called, "Chocolate Melting Cake". Yes, it's one of those brownie like cakes that has a rich, warm chocolate oozing center when you spoon into it. Oh man, it was like chocolate crack and I can tell you that my evening routine of eating this confection has gone straight to my hips!
Our second port was Grand Cayman. The last time we visited Grand Cayman (on a previous cruise), we went to Stingray City which was one of the most exciting things we have ever done. This time, again, our goal was just to find a beautiful beach to plant ourselves on. We spent the day at Seven Mile Beach and sat in front of the Westin Casumarina Hotel where it was very quiet and uncrowded.
The Westin Beach Nazis chased us off their chairs, though, and later chased us off their beach and made us move down close to the water, off the hotel's beach property. I guess since we were not paying $700/night for a room we were not high-falutin' enough to enjoy of a spot on their beach. Anyway, we didn't let it faze us. How can you be upset when you are on a beach like this?
After a long day on the beach, we walked back to the ship. It was a LONG, scorching hot walk but we needed the exercise to work off the aforementioned chocolate melting cake. On our way back, we passed a cemetary which I thought made an interesting foreground to our ship anchored off shore.
Our last port of call was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is another port we have been to before and done the requisite Dunns River Falls and island tour. This time we again made our way to a quiet, beautiful beach to relax and unwind. I had done some research on-line and Reggae Beach was recommended to me. It was great because for the first 2 hours or so we were there, nobody was there except for a couple workers. By the time we left, there were only about 10 people using the beach. Just what the doctor ordered!
Despite having fairly low expectations for this cruise, we were delighted by how much fun we had. The icing on the cake was that at the end of the cruise, I ended up in a big show on the ship. All during the week in the karaoke bar they were auditioning guests to appear in this big show on the last night of the cruise. I won the part of Aretha Franklin and did "Respect" in full costume on the big stage with the band and the full shebang. I am glad the group of our cruise friends talked me into it because at first I was reluctant. I am a singer and have been in bands in my younger days - I even used to sing "Respect" back then. But the song is a little more challenging for my rusty voice and it's not an easy song to sing, period. But they reminded me that nobody on this cruise will ever see me again so what the heck! So I did it and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the cruise...it was so much fun to go backstage with the dancers, get fitted for my costume, wear that silly black wig, and to perform in front of an audience of hundreds of people. We got so many laughs out of it too.
So there you have it - the highlights of our Caribbean cruise. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...