With all of this time not able to cruise, I have been thinking about some of the stories from past cruises. Recently I was reminded of my seagull encounter.
Several years ago I was sailing on the Carnival Fantasy to the Bahamas when I learned my lesson about seagulls while cruising. We were docked in Nassau Bahamas and before I took off to explore, I grabbed breakfast on the Lido Deck. My usual, scrambled eggs, mini waffles, some potatoes and sausage links. Everything looked so good.
So I grabbed my orange juice and headed out to the tables on the outside of the buffet along the rail because I always love eating outside. I told one of the staff I would be right back as I rushed off to get some coffee. It’s a good idea to let them know you will be back because they work hard to make sure the table gets cleaned off quickly.
As I got back to my table, my attention was grabbed by a young lady tapping on the window pointing. I finally understood what she was saying and it was a seagull had landed on my table and removed one of my sausage links. Well, I had no idea where the bird had landed or what else he had touched so I quickly threw the food away and went back for more. I was so thankful for the lady who warned me of the demise of my food.
Moral of the story, make sure if you are setting your food on a table outside, there is someone watching it for you or you might share your meal with a feathered friend.
Well, its for sure a Monday when you get the news your cruise has been cancelled. Today Carnival Cruise Line announced they have cancelled all North American Cruises until September 30, 2020. This comes after CLIA the Cruise Line International Association announced on Friday cruise lines will voluntarily continue the suspension of operations until at least September 15, 2020.
Here are the options for those scheduled to travel on now cancelled sailings.
The options above can get complicated due to passengers like myself, you have had two previous cruises cancelled where I used a Future Cruise Credit. Be sure to consult with your travel advisor for all of your options.
We are expecting other cruise lines to follow with more announcements and I will bring those as I get them.
As we anticipate the return to cruising, the cruise lines are slowly releasing what it will be like when we return. NCL has recently released their plans for a return to service. Including health screenings, enhanced sanitation and upgraded medical facilities.
Upon embarkation, all passengers will go through enhanced health screening and those passengers who are considered high risk, will undergo additional screenings. One of the ways they will be screening will be through touch less temperature checks. For crew, this will be done multiple times through out the day and voyage.
For Passengers, you can expect the following temperature checks.
Prior to Embarkation
Returning to ship from port
Prior to entering dining venues
Prior to all activities in public venues
Prior to debarkation
NCL did not elaborate on what the Touch less Temperature checks will involve. It will be interesting to find out how this impacts the cruise experience.
NCL will or have installed new medical grade filters on all of their ships. These H13 HEPA Filters will filter out 95% of pathogens 0.1 microns or smaller.
All ships and terminals will go through enhanced cleaning before, during and after each cruise.
Staterooms and public areas will go through deeper and more frequent cleanings. They will use fogging techniques with a natural disinfectant to kill virusus. Likely you will see cleaning everywhere you go and through out the day and night.
Buffets will no longer be self serve so will be staffed with personal for your assistance with food and beverages.
Social distancing will be used as well and will be done through:
Online Check in
Reduced Capacity on the ship and through out public areas.
Enhanced Medical Resources
Fleetwide, NCL is increasing supplies and medial personal in their medical centers. Testing kits and additinal medical equipment is being added.
Testing Kits and medical supplies include:
Advanced Rapid COVID 19 Testing
More Medical Oxygen Equipment
Increased inventory of vaccination supplies
Medication to treat COVID 19
In addition, they will have enhanced health and medical training and adding the on board position of health officer.
Likely over the next few weeks and month, we will see more of the cruise lines release their plans to start cruising again. Most will start back up in August and later. With these type of actions being taken, will you be ready to cruise again?
In January of this year I sailed on the Carnival Sunrise from Ft Lauderdale for 5 Nights to the Eastern Caribbean. The itinerary included a stop in Amber Cover DR and Grand Turk plus a day at sea on each end. Although its been a few months, I realized I had not written a review of the Sunrise.
The Carnival Sunrise, formally Carnival Triumph was renovated back in 2019 and renamed Carnival Sunrise to take after the Carnival Sunshine which was originally Carnival Destiny. This multi million dollar renovation replaced almost everything from furniture in public areas to the entire design. They also added food venues like Cucina del Capitano, Bonsai Sushi and the Red Frog Pub, all staples of the newer Carnival ships.
One of the biggest structural changes was to the theater. The redesign took after the newest class,Vista, in the fleet making it only 2 decks and smaller. More on the theater and my thoughts later. To do this, they moved the bottom floor of the theater up one deck and added cabins to deck 3 so the theater now covered decks 4 and 5.
Stateroom I will begin with a review of my Interior Stateroom Cabin 7399. When I booked this, I booked an Interior Guarantee. This means you book an interior and get your cabin assignment from the cruise line at a later date. I don’t do this very often because I am usually concerned with the location but this time I really did well. My cabin was on deck 7 aft behind the aft elevators. This was great because I only had 2 decks up to Lido and 2 decks down to Promenade plus being behind the aft elevators, there was rarely any foot traffic.
The stateroom was very well laid out so I did not feel cramped as sometimes you do in an interior stateroom. There was a queen size bed with a large TV and plenty of closet space. There were only two things I would have liked to have in the cabin, drawers for clothing and USB ports next to the bed. Other than that. I really liked this cabin.
As usual, Carnival did not disappoint when it came to the food and service. For this cruise, breakfast was at the buffet, lunch was usually Guys Burgers or Blue Iguana. For dinner, I ate four of the five nights in the dinning room but did have the buffet one night.
Breakfast at the buffet was great as usual. I grab an omelet or some mini waffles and eggs, have a seat out side and enjoy the ocean air. Now, there are several options on this ship for breakfast. Blue Iguana for a breakfast burrito, the dining room and new a breakfast burger at Guys Burger. Now I did not try Guys for breakfast this time but if it continues on other ships I will.
For lunch, I of course headed for Guys Burgers for my usual Straight Up with some donkey sauce. If you have not had one, you really need to. But later in the cruise I discovered the Blue Iguana Fish Tacos. Well, that was lunch for the rest of the cruise. Just added a little sour cream and this watermelon salsa they offered and off to the races. Not sure out of all the times I have sailed Carnival, I missed these tacos.
Let’s talk about dinner. As I have done on most of my cruises, I chose my time dining. It allows for the most flexibility. As I said, for all but one night I ate with family in the dining room. They had a great menu each night including one night with my Teriyaki Salmon which is my favorite in the dining room. I didn’t try anything new on this cruise but did of course finish most dinners with the famous chocolate melting cake. The food was great and the waiters we had were outstanding.
As I mentioned, I did have dinner in the buffet one night. Now, I usually don’t do this but I really did not see anything on the dining room menu I wanted. This, I was disappointed in and wished I had just had something from the deli. Carnival tries to match the Lido Deck buffet with the dining room menu with a few variances but it just was not great. With one exception, the carved leg of lamb, that was fantastic.
During the late night, I discovered something I hope will be fleetwide. Traditionally, if you want something to eat after 11 at night, its usually the pizza or a small buffet of heavy foods. On the Sunrise, they had an omelet station which I thought was a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza is good but you can only eat so much pizza.
Entertainment With Carnival you are always going to be to find entertainment whether it’s a show in the theater, a comedian or live bands. I only saw one show on this cruise and it was called Vintage Pop. The theater was a lot like the one on Carnival Vista taking up just 2 decks. Also, instead of fixed seating on the bottom floor, they use movable chairs for most of it. This gives them flexibility in their performances. In Vintage Pop, they used the floor for some of the performance adding tables for people to sit at, if you were early. For me, this is one of the top shows on Carnival along with Epic Rock and Flick.
The live music is scattered throughout the ship from the lobby to the Red Frog Pub with a great variety. I tell you on of the staples on Carnival now is the electric violins usually playing in the lobby. On formal night, I heard Highway to Hell from ACDC played for the first time on a violin.
One of the highlights for me this cruise was the casino. Probably because I did so well, if I had not, it would have been the worst part. But aside from winning, they has some dealers with great personalities and the people playing were fun as well. I play roulette exclusively and did not have a problem getting on a table. It was a little odd that most nights the roulette tables were not very crowded and this is just not normal for roulette. Smoke is usually an issue in the casino but this time it was not too bad. Most cruises, I have to play at the end of the night so I can just take off my smoke filled shirt when I get back to my cabin but not the case most nights. Maybe they did some work on the ventilation.
Our firs was in Amber Cove, a port in the Dominican Republic built by Carnival Corp. Here you have the option of shopping, zip lining or just hanging out by the pool. We booked an excursion called La Casa en La Playa. It’s a short bus ride to this beach house where you and a small group have access to this wonderful private beach. It was a pretty cloudy so not much for sunning but very relaxing.
We were greeted on the bus by “Mamma” who was so sweet and took care of the whole group. The house is right on the beach where you have access to chairs, hammocks and of course wait staff. You can also take out the Kayaks which my cousin and I did with no additional cost.
About mid day, they served a fantastic lunch of jerk chick off the grill along with vegetables. While at the beach house, food, drinks and activities are included and of course transportation to and from the cruise port. I would highly recommend this tour if you want a small group and relaxing day.
Grand Turk was the next stop and is also a port built and used by Carnival Corp. Here you have shopping, a pool at Margaritaville and a beautiful beach with clear blue green water. It started out great and we had some time to swim and snorkel before the rain and wind came. It didn’t last long but it was pretty windy hanging out on the beach was really not an option.
This was my second time to Grand Turk so I wanted to try something different and go to the right side of the pier. There are clam shells you can use for free but this is more for relaxing on the beach than swimming. See, this side is pretty rocky near the water but if you bring water shoes, there is some great snorkeling. If you want soft sand and swimming, go to the left side of the pier
With sea days, everyone is on the ship so you get an idea of how crowded the ship can be. Where does everyone want to be on sea day, outside so that is where the crowds are.
There is a lot to do on the Sunrise like the waterpark, mini golf, ropes course and the pools. The slides at the waterpark were so much fun and rarely had much of a line. I only played mini golf a little but it’s a great course. Now, I have a fear of heights so the ropes course was not part of my plan. But I plan on tackling that on the Breeze in August.
As far as the pool and deck areas, finding a chair was almost impossible unless you were a chair hog. By 10 AM there were towels on chairs everywhere. Now, I am not a have to sit right next to the pool person. I am happy on a railing over looking the ocean but that was even impossible. The Serenity Deck was much smaller than others I have seen and even had a very odd rectangle hot tub. All of that being said, if you want something in the morning, you may have a hard time finding a chair but wait until afternoon and you might be more lucky.
If you are looking for a quiet place outside, go down to deck 3 lobby. There are doors that go out to a deck where there are chairs and hardly any people.
Debarkation Carnival has a pretty easy debarkation process. You have two options, self assist or have the bags taken off for you. Self-Assist allows you to take all of your bags off your self but you do have to handle them all. They start with this group early in the morning and call by deck number.
The other option is to have the bags taken off by crew for you. For this, you leave your bags outside your room the night before then pick them up in the terminal before you clear customs. The day before you debark, you will pick up luggage tags at a designated place on the ship and those will have numbers on them. Of course, the lower the number, the earlier you get off. They will start announcing these numbers after all or at least the majority of self-assist passengers have debarked. Keep in mind, if you are trying to make an early flight, self-assist is your better option.
Which option I use depends on the factors involved, port, driving or flying and how much luggage I have. For this cruise, I chose for them to take my luggage because I was not in a hurry to get off the ship. I had my carry on and sat on promenade and enjoyed my coffee stress free.
Once I arrived in the terminal, it was easy to find my luggage because everything is clearly marked. But, once I got over to customs, it was probably 30 to 45 minutes to get through. After that, I headed out into the madness, found my van from Avis to go and get my car and was off.
Even though this has nothing to do with the ship or Carnival, I want to talk a little about my experience with Avis Rent a Car. I rode down with my cousin and her husband but they were not coming back to Jacksonville right after the cruise so I had to get transportation back to Jacksonville. The flights were too late in the day and the train took way too long. So, I decided to rent a car from the Avis location near the port. Well, this turned into what I consider a disaster. I am pretty patient and will wait if its reasonable but it was 2 hours before I got a car. They had one person checking people in and seemed to take forever with each person. I will say, they were friendly and I had a pretty nice car but the wait seemed excessive.
Overall, I had a fantastic cruise and would recommend the Carnival Sunrise to the right person. See part of my role as a Travel Adviser is to set expectations. The Sunrise might not be good for some but great for others.
As most of you may know, the cruise lines suspended global operations on March 13th of this year due to the Pandemic of COVID 19. So for 2 months now, the cruise ships have been mostly empty with a few exceptions of crew and some ships still having passengers. But the time has come, to plan the return to operations and Carnival Cruise Line has really given the most definitive plan, at least to me.
Carnival is taking a more staggered approach to their return. Due in part to the continued closure of cruise ports but also wanting to take it slow.
They will start on August 1st with only 8 ships of its 25 sailing from 3 ports. I would imagine this will be to allow for new health protocols to be put in place and tested prior to bringing the entire fleet on line. Embarkation will be different for sure and with the only one or maybe 2 ships in port at a time, that will make it easier on the passengers as well as shoreside staff and crew.
To begin, all sailings will are cancelled through at July 31st, 2020. They will begin operations with the below schedule.
Port Canaveral, FL
As I mentioned before, there are ports that are some embarkation ports that are closed and will not open until late in the summer. Because of this, some itineraries have been cancelled.
Cancelled for 2020
All Alaska Sailings
All San Francisco Sailings
Later Returns to Operations
Carnival Sunrise Cancelled through October 19th, 2020
Carnival Radiance Cancelled through November 1st, 2020
Carnival Legend Cancelled Alaska 2020/ Hawaii & Trans Pacific through October 6, 2020
Carnival Spirit Cancelled Alaska 2020 / Hawaii & Trans Pacific through October 6th, 2020
All other ships Cancelled through August 31st, 2020
Carnival has been providing full refunds to those who wanted it or a Future Cruise Credit with an onboard credit. For a situation which no one would have expected or even thought to prepare for, the cruise lines, including Carnival have done a fantastic job.
As of today, May 13th, this is the current plan but of course its subject to change. Personally, I will be one of the first to cruise again on August 1st on the Breeze. I will be sure to let you know how it goes.
If you need additional information or want to see the official announcement, check out the Health Update on Carnival.com or you can always reach out to me for information.
This National Parks Tour is offered by Trafalgar Tours and explores Death Valley, Joshua Tree and more. Below is some itinerary and inclusions information. If you are interested in this tour, contact me at (904) 534-4318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Included in this Tour
15 MEALS9 breakfasts. 2 lunches. 4 dinners (including Be My Guest) .
Always Included with Trafalgar
Audio Headsets for flexible sightseeing
Daily breakfast and an average of 50% of evening meals
Luxury air-conditioned coach with WiFi in most countries or alternative transportation (such as rail journeys)
Cherry-picked hotels all tried and trusted
Optional Experiences and free time
All porterage and local charges included
Must-see sightseeing and surprise extras
An expert Travel Director and separate Driver
All hotel tips, charges and local taxes
Airport transfers on the first and last day of your guided holiday
VIP entry to many sights
Itinerary DAY 1 ARRIVE LAS VEGAS DAY 2 RED ROCK CANYON – DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK (2 NIGHTS) DAY 3 DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK SIGHTSEEING DAY 4 DEATH VALLEY – PALM SPRINGS (3 NIGHTS) DAY 5 PALM SPRINGS FREE TIME AND SIGHTSEEING DAY 6 JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK – FREE TIME DAY 7 PALM SPRINGS – YUMA DAY 8 SONORAN DESERT NATIONAL MONUMENT – TUCSON (2 NIGHTS) DAY 9 SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK AND KARTCHNER CAVERNS STATE PARK DAY 10 DEPART TUCSON OR PHOENIX
Guys Burgers has been a staple on Carnival since 2011 serving great burgers for lunch, snack or early dinner or all 3. Yes, I have done that. But this week, the Guys Burgers on the Carnival Sunrise started serving breakfast. Yes, breakfast. Now, this is only on the Sunrise but at some point should roll out fleet wide but no date as of yet. Cruise lines like to try new features on one ship and then roll it out if its successful.
There are going to be four menu items listed below.
The Plain Joe: 80/20 beef patty, two fried eggs, S.M.C., chedda cheese and a liberal smattering of maple donkey sauce on a toasted bun.
All American: 80/20 beef patty, two fried eggs, S.M.C., cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, tomato, hashbrown patty and a liberal slathering of maple donkey sauce on a toasted bun
Prime Time Turkey: Turkey breakfast sausage patty, maple gravy, provolone, crispy bacon and hash brown patty, maple donkey sauce on a French toast bun
Good Morning Morgan: Roasted vegetable frittata patty, tomato, hash brown patty and a liberal slathering of maple donkey sauce on a toasted bun.
This just adds to all the great breakfast options on Carnival from the buffet to sea day brunch and port day breakfast. You can also get a breakfast burrito at the Blue Iguana. I will be sailing on the Carnival Sunrise on January 20th so I will give my personal review.
For more information about Carnival or any of the fantastic cruise options out there, contact me here or (904) 534-4318
5 Facts About Carnival You May Night Know By Mike Miller
Have you ever sailed on a Carnival Cruise? Well, I have and decided to share 5 facts about cruising on Carnival you might not know.
Yes, free wine. When you have dinner in the steakhouse on one of the Carnival ships, the first night, you will score a free bottle of wine. They do give you a choice of red or white and if you don't finish, feel free to take it back to the cabin with you. Remember though, not all Carnival ships have the steakhouse. I believe the only ones at this point are the Fantasy class ships.
Formal night has always been about dressing up, a toast from the Captain and lobster for dinner. All of that is still there, but the lobster is limited on Carnival. Back in 2016 they made the change to only serve lobster on 6 night or longer sailings. But don't worry, you can still get more than one on those sailings.
Groove For St. Jude
Carnival Cruise Line has partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to raise money for research and provide some extra fun. Every cruise, they host the Groove For St. Jude dance party on Lido where you can get a t-shirt for just a $10 donation. Plus they have dancing usually hosted by the cruise director.
On my recent sailing, they raised over $5,000 from the event which just adds to the over $17 Million they have raised through Groove for St. Jude and other fundraisers. In addition to the fundraising, Carnival delivers cakes on birthdays at the hospital and host the St. Jude Teen Formal with DJ Irie.
In addition to all of the other fundraising, when you purchase certain items from Cherry On Top onboard, a portion of that purchase also goes to St. Jude.
For more information on this partnership, check out the page on Carnival.com.
There was a time when you could bring on your own bottled water. Unfortunately due to behavior of the exception, they stopped this from being allowed. But, you can order bottled water from the Fun Shops prior to boarding and not only are the prices great, they will have it delivered to your cabin for you. A 12 Pack of 16 oz bottles is only $4.50 plus tax.
Carnival was the first cruise line to place a brewery on their ships. Both the Carnival Vista and the Horizon have a brewery. For a nominal fee, you can take a tour of the breweries.
But of course with a brewery comes their own beer. Three fan favorites are the ParchedPig West Coast IPA, ThirstyFlog Caribbean Wheat and PArchedPig Tasted Amber Ale. These are available on most ships at the Red Frog Pub or Rum Bar. Plus you can now get these in cans. The only one I have tried is the ThirstyFrog and its pretty good.
This past week has been pretty stressful for a lot of people. My prayers go out to the wonderful people of the Bahamas who are still dealing with Hurricane Dorian. I cannot imagine the devastation left behind from this catastrophic storm.
But as I sit here today waiting on Dorian to pass, I want to talk about cruising during hurricane season. Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs June 1st through November 30th with peak really being the end of August to as far out as October. With that, you tend to see the lowest prices on cruises. So should you book during hurricane season? I hear that question a lot and it’s a great question because it really depends on you. Yes the pricing can be ideal and save you a lot of money but are you flexible enough and ok with plans changing.
Lets talk about what happens when a storm is threatening to impact your cruise vacation. Neither the cruise lines nor the captain will take any chances and place you in harms way. So what impacts could you encounter if you are sailing during this time and a storm will impact your cruise. There are really three scenarios you might see.
Scenario 1 The storm is in the ships path or impacting one or more of the ports. In this case, you will likely see a change in ports or maybe an additional sea day. This is what happened to me this past week. We were scheduled to visit Puerto Rico on Wednesday but due to Dorian, we ended up with an additional sea day. Keep in mind, the cruise lines have the right to change a cruise port at any time. If they do, its usually for the safety of the guest and the crew and can happen on any cruise, storm or not.
Scenario 2 Now in the case with this storm, ports like Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral have been closed so ships cannot enter the port. In this case, you might see the sailing your currently on extended until the storm passes or shortened in order for the cruise line to get people home ahead of the storm. This really depends on the location and path the storm. Of course that will impact the next cruise so it might be shorter but don’t worry, the cruise lines will take care of you.
This happened to me in 2017 with Irma. I was scheduled to sail out on the Carnival Conquest for 7 nights, my first attempt at Puerto Rico, and Irma struck that week. Port Everglades was closed so the Conquest could not get in. I was offered a full cruise credit to cancel or take the shorter 4 night modified itinerary to Cozumel with a refund of the lost days. I chose for the cruise credit and went on the Vista that next April. Interesting story. I was speaking with a member of the crew on the Breeze last week and he was working on the Conquest at that time. He said only 400 people sailed on a ship that holds 3,000. Wow, that would have been awesome.
Scenario 3 The last scenario that could happen is a full cancellation. This is the unlikely scenario and really is only going to happen if an embarkation port is closed. They can almost always divert to a different itinerary if need be. In this case, the cruise line would provide a full refund.
All of these scenarios of course depend on the storms path, location and forecast.
Here are some tips when sailing during hurricane season.
Purchase vacation protection. Now, I cannot go too much into insurance since I am not a license insurance agent, but here is an article on vacation protection for hurricanes. There are some overages for these circumstances.
Make sure the cruise line has your email and phone number so they can reach you with updates. With Carnival for example, you can sign up for text alerts. These alerts can be important because they can communicate changes in embarkation changes.
Be prepared for a possible change. Remember, you are sailing on a cruise ship in the ocean and hurricanes thrive in the ocean. Understand, there could be changes and the cruise line does not control the weather. I see so many people take their frustrations out on the cruise line employees and crew and it infuriates me.
Use a travel advisor like my self. We have been through these situations and can help guide you through what to do. Long hold times with the cruise line can just be frustrating so let us take that on for you.
Now this is for those on the coast. Make sure you are prepared at home for a possible storm. I returned from my cruise on Saturday after seeing on facebook stores running low on water and other supplies all week.
So do things like make sure your hurricane kit is ready and get gas before you park at the port or airport.
I do want to mention while on the Carnival Breeze, the Captain did an outstanding job keeping us informed on what was happening with Dorian. We had a specific channel on the tv in the cabin as well as on the scree near guest services. Plus, the captain provided updates throughout the day. I felt very comfortable on the ship despite being chased by a hurricane.
With all this being said, cruising during hurricane season is still great, especially as you get into September and October. The rates are lower than the summer, the weather is not as hot and not as many kids. So this is not to scare you out of cruising in the fall, just to give you an understanding of what to expect. Have a great day and stay safe.
Every vacation is different but a cruise vacation definitely has its uniqueness. So there are items you will want to bring on a cruise, you may never think of for a land vacation. Here are my Top 5 Items you will need for your next cruise.
Magnetic White Board. Almost every cruise ship has metal doors so of course you can use magnets to attach things. A white board allows you to leave messages for family and friends. Let's just say you are leaving for the pool and someone might be looking for you. Just write it on the board and go.
Magnetic Hooks. Sticking with the magnets, just like the doors, the walls are metal as well. Bring magnetic hooks to hang hats, shirts, bags,pretty much anything. This gives ore room on the vanity or in the closets.
Non Surge Protected Power Strip. They are getting better, but you are still limited on the number of plugs available in cruise cabins. But, the number of electronics we are traveling with is growing. There are several power strips on the market that have two or three plugs and a most have USB. Just make sure they are non surge protected, these are banned from cruise ships.
Night Light. Cruise cabins can get very dark and you might be unfamiliar with the layout like you are at home. This can be especially true if you have an interior cabin. So, bring a night light for the cabin and you can save yourself a stubbed tow.
Lanyard. With a lanyard, you can carry your sail and sign card around your neck for easy access. Plus, harder to lose. You can get ones with a sleeve for the card or most of the time the card has a hole in it for your lanyard. If there is no hole, just go to the Guest Services Desk or Casino Cashier and they can punch a hole for you.