Recently Carnival announced new dining and beverage features on the new Mardi Gras, sailingin Fall 2020. They have added new options and updated some of the current Carnival favorites.
Red Frog Tiki Bar
One of the favorites on Carnival is the Red Frog Rum Bar located by the main pool. Carnival has redesigned Red Frog on Mardi Gras and it will be the Red Frog Tiki Bar with that Polynesian theme and will be span two decks. This will really enhance the bar scene at the Lido Deck Pool.
Located on the patio at Summer Landing, you will find the Watering Hole. This is new to Carnival and will feature great views from the side of the ship.
Complimentary Food Options have really been expanded for Mardi Gras.
Street Eats will be kind of a food court or food truck theme. Located on Lido, Street Eats will off items like Kabobs, Filofae, Empanadas and more. The food is complimentary and will be grab and go.
The Chief Fun Officer for Carnival Shaquille O'Neil will have his own restaurant on board called Big Chicken. There is already a Big Chicken in Las Vegas and will debut at sea on Carnival Radiance (formally Victory)
Guys Pig & Anchor
Blue Iguana Cantina
Even with new food options, your Carnival favorites are not going anywhere, just being made better.
They will expand Guys Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and will be located at Summer Landing.
Still located on Lido, Guys Burger Joint will get more seating and a better way to line up. And of course on the other side, its Blue Iguana Cantina for all your burrittos and tacos.
I don't know about you but I am looking forward to the launch of Mardi Gras. So much has already come oAut about the ship and more is to come I am sure. To see a video tour of the new features, check out Cruise Radio.
If you are interested in booking the Mardi Gras, you can contact me by phone, email or text.
Recently I have seen a lot of questions around gratuity or tipping while on a cruise. Its a great question so here are 3 times you would tip and why.
Just like when you are at the airport and you check your luggage at the curb, the porters at the cruise terminal can be tipped. Now, lets be honest, they do expect it but of course its not required. I usually recommend $1 to $2 per bag and a little more if you have a specially large item.
Tours / Shore Excursions
A lot of times while in port you will do some kind of shore excursion involving a tour or just grabbing a cab. In most ports, the tour guides are pretty straight forward about tipping but at least they make a joke about it most of the time. In my opinion, $5 per person is pretty respectable. But remember, only do this if you enjoyed the tour and don't feel obligated to if you had a bad experience. Tipping is to reward great service.
There was a time when on your last day you would get envelopes in your room. One for each cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter and the matre d. Of course with anything, that has all changed.
Now all of the cruise lines, other than maybe the luxury lines, gratuities are automatically charged to your on board account. These can range from $13-$18 per guest per night depending on the cruise line and cabin type you have. These cover the waitstaff not only in the dining room but in the buffet and your cabin steward. Now these gratuities are flexible. If you would like to increase, reduce or completely remove the gratuities from your account, you can easily do so at the Guest Services Desk. Just make sure if you are removing it, have a good reason, its kind of tacky if not.
Remember the envelopes, you can still get those if you either want to give more in cash or if you want to pay all your gratuities in cash. I have tipped extra to my cabin steward and waiters for excellent service.
There are times where a gratuity will be added to your bill when making a purchase while on board. When you buy a drink at the bar, 15% to 18% is added. Unless you have the drink package, then its already included. Also, if you dine in a specialty up charge restaurant, you might see a gratuity added. So before you add gratuity, look at the receipt.
Remember, the crew on the ship work hard to make your cruise special.
Of course there are other times you would want to offer a gratuity. If you are taking a shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal or eating on a restaurant in port. But as always, its your discretion.
Cruise Lines are reacting to the news of changes to the US travel policy to Cuba. Yesterday, the US announced new restrictions on travel to Cuba and this includes cruises.
According to the Department of Treasury, all Group People to People travel is now banned with a grandfathering exception. If at least the air travel has been purchased or accommodations reserved prior to June 5, 2019, then they may continue. They have also banned all passenger and recreational vessels as well as private and corporate aircraft.
At this point, the cruise lines are working to figure out how this will impact future cruises. Most likely there will be adjustments in itineraries when possible rather than full cancellations but this can get messy.With Nassau, Grand Turk and other islands already on schedules, fitting in my be a struggle.
Prior to this announcement, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL all made calls on Havana. Below are the responses from Royal Caribbean and Carnival and how they are responding. At the time of writing, I was unable to find a statement from NCL.
Here is Royal Caribbeans latest announcement from Twitter. Cuba Travel Update: We're aware of the announcement and are analyzing the details to understand the impact on our itineraries. For now, we're adjusting the 6/5 and 6/6 sailing itineraries, which will no longer stop in Cuba. We are communicating the changes with our guests.
This was the notice from Carnival and found on the page of Brand Ambassador, John Heald. "The U.S. government has imposed a series of new sanctions on Cuba prohibiting travel via cruise ship and rescinding certain categories of authorized travel, which previously allowed U.S. citizens to visit Cuba under the People-to-People program. Effective immediately, cruise ship travel is no longer allowed and we are required to cancel our visit to Havana. We have replaced our call to Havana with a replacement port to provide our guests with the best experience ashore. Guests currently aboard Carnival Sensation’s June 3rd sailing will be calling on Cozumel this Thursday instead of Havana. We recognize Havana is a unique destination and may have been the reason for the selection of this itinerary. Along with our apologies, guests will receive a $100 onboard credit posted to their Sail & Sign® Account. We are in the process of notifying our other guests of their new itineraries and their options, in the order of sailing date proximity. Mailings for sailings through the end of July 2019 are now in progress and include the following options:
Remain on the sailing and receive a US$100.00, per person, onboard credit (no need to call us if you are continuing with your plans to sail with us)
Move to another itinerary and receive a US$50.00, per person, onboard credit
Cancel and receive a full refund
We are working as quickly as possible to secure alternative itineraries for the remainder of our Cuba voyages and expect to have information for sailings further out in the next 2-3 days. In the meantime, please check back on our website for further updates. We sincerely apologize to our guests for this unexpected change and thank them for their understanding. We look forward to welcoming them on board a Carnival cruise in the near future."
This is a fluid situation so there will be more to come. For more information on the announcement, you can see the press release from the Department of Treasury. There are several reasons for the change so its important you visit the Department of Treasury page.
Independence of the Seas Review - Embarkation and Dining
By Mike Miller
Back in April I sailed to the Western Caribbean for 4 nights aboard Royal Caribbeans Independence of the Seas. There is so much to review and information I want to provide, I thought I would break up my review into a few different post. This way you don't get sick of me half way through. But in all seriousness, I want to not only provide you with my review but information about the ship. Today I am starting with Embarkation in Port Everglades and dining/food.
Embarkation One of the most stressful parts of the cruise can be embarkation. It has nothing to do really with the cruise line or the ship just that everyone is trying to go the same place at the same time. For the most part, nothing was different about this day.
I flew into FLL the day of the cruise because I really don't like driving in South Florida. Now I normally would not recommend flying in on the day of a cruise but I came from Jacksonville so the flight was a straight shot and only about an hour. My back up was pretty solid.
I took the Royal Caribbean shuttle from the airport to Port Everglades. Although it was quick, I only wish I had taken an Uber. The representative at the airport said Uber will not be able to get into the port until much later so I waited. Found out from others, they were at the port at 9:30. Would have been better to be at the port rather than sitting in baggage claim.
Once we arrived at the terminal, I dropped my luggage and went right in. They have expedited check in so its just a series of individuals with scanners to check you in. I sat for maybe 5 minutes and went right on the ship. The sail and sign cards are at your door like Carnival does so if you need to buy a drink, just use your boarding pass. They are very strict about cabins being ready at 1:00 so stick to this.
Dining / Food So what is the first thing you do when you board the ship, get food. I headed up to the Windjammer Cafe so I will begin my food and dining review there. Now, a little tip for embarkation day. You can hit Sorrentos on the Royal Promenade for lunch if you don't want the crowds in Windjammer. I'll talk more about Sorrentos in a bit.
Back to Windjammer. Located on Deck 11 Aft is the Windjammer Cafe or otherwise known as the Lido Buffet. I really liked the set up and the space here. You walk in and on each side there several sinks for hand washing and you are greeted by the Washy Washy singers who are awesome. There are several food stations including a carving station for lunch and dinner. They usually had a variety of dishes ranging from international like Indian to good ole american hot dogs & hamburgers. There is also a bar in the front and plenty of desserts. There was lots of seating and plenty with an ocean view on both sides of the ship. The one thing I was dissapointed in was the lack of outdoor seating at the back. Other ships I have been on had seating overlooking the rear of the ship. Overall, the Windjammer is high on the list of buffets with Horizon Court on Regal Princess.
Main Dining Room
I only ate in the main dining room one time and that was on the last night and I will explain. For this cruise I was cruising solo and had My Time Dining. I went to the dining room the first night and asked for a shared table but was told no. They advised me they do not sit singles at shared tables and my only choice was a table by myself. Now, I have been on both Carnival and Princess traveling solo and was able to be seated with no problem. I don't believe this was the policy because I did mention it to the Guest Service Desk and they assured me I should able to be seated at a shared table.
Fast forward, I had met a very nice couple, Andrew and Tricia as part of a Facebook Group and they joined me for dinner the last night. I gotta say, I missed out on some outstanding food. For an appetizer, I had to get escargot which was really good, probably because it was loaded with butter and garlic. For my entree, I had a lamb shank which was tender and lots of flavor plus the mint sauce which I had never had. The service was outstanding and the waiters sang and danced after dinner.
Lets jump down to Deck 5 on the Royal Promenade. Here you will find two great places to get food, Sorrentos Pizza and the Promenade Cafe. After having Sorrentos a few times, I think I can say its the best pizza I have had on a ship. Sorrentos is open late until around 3AM and you can get either pizza by the slice or a full pan. The options included cheese, pepperoni, veggie and an everything pizza. Of course the options do change up.
Also located on Deck 5 in the Promenade is the Promenade Cafe The cafe is open 24 hours and here you can get coffee, a small selection of sandwiches and desserts. Specialty coffee is available for purchase plus free coffee.
Specialty Dining On the Independence there are a few specialty and up charge restaurants for your choosing. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to try any of the restaurants but wanted to provide some information on them anyway.
Located on deck 11 inside the Windjammer is Chops Steakhouse and Giovonnis Kitchen. For these restaurants, you pay a per person charge for dinner.
On Deck 4 is Izumis Hibachi and Sushi. For the Hibachi, you pay a per person charge and the sushi is al a carte. For Chops, Giovonnis and Izumis, reservations are highly recommended and can be booked on board or on the planner prior to your cruise.
Also on Deck 4 is another al a carte restaurant, Playmakers which is a really big sports bar. Here you can get bar kind of food like sliders and wings and its a great place to go to watch your team whatever sport it is. During this sailing it was packed because it was NFL Draft Weekend.
Up on deck 11 close to the Kids Splash Pad is where Fish and Chips is located. They are al a carte as well but prices seemed pretty high. I really like seafood but will stick with the Seafood Shack on Carnival. Other ships on Royal like Mariner have the Dog House in that location.
For snacks, you have the free soft serve ice cream but keep in mind its not available 24 hours a day. If you want to step up your ice cream, on Deck 5 is Ben & Jerry's Ice cream but there is a charge. And if candy is your thing, Sugar Beach candy store is also located on the Royal Promenade.
Head back to the 50s up on Deck 12 at Johnny Rockets. This is another up charge restaurant at $9.95 pp and that gets you all the food you want from a long menu. But, milkshakes are extra unless you are eating and have the drink package, then its included. They are open for lunch and dinner with indoor and outdoor seating and of course a show. Although, I did see the show ans the waiters danced to a 70s song but a little confusing there.
One thing I did fail to mention was room service. For everything besides a continental breakfast, there is a $7.95 charge per order. You do have the form you can complete for continental or full breakfast you place outside your door for morning delivery.
So as you can see, the dining is extensive on the Independence and there would be no way to try it all on a 4 night sailing. Be sure you check out my YouTube Channel for videos from the Independence of the Seas. Right now, there is a Cabin Tour up and more is to come.
5 Annoying Things Some Cruise Passengers Do By Mike Miller
I love cruising, a matter of fact, its my favorite vacation. But there are things other passengers do which annoy the daylights out of me. Here are my top 5.
Leaving glass wear or dishes everywhere including in the corner of the elevator.
I see this often and it bugs me to death. Glasses are left in the elevator or in the corner of a lobby. I have even seen plates left on the stairs. Take your glasses and dishes either to your cabin with you or place them on a bar or table. It not only is common courtesy, but it makes it easier cleaning for the crew.
Rushing onto the elevator before everyone gets off.
Eleveator etiquite is something a lot of people don't seem to know. When an elevator arrives, first look to see if there are people getting off on that floor. If so, wait and allow them to get off. If not, then you can board the elevator.
Saving deck chairs at 6 AM and not coming back until noon.
Now this is a topic I know people love to talk about. I thought of this blog because I saw someone had posted a picture of 10 chairs with towels on them and had been there since 6AM. I understand you want to best seat, according to some, next to the pool but be courteous. If you are going to be gone for say more than 30 minutes, either have someone stay with the chairs or just take your stuff. If have trouble finding a chair, I might wait until around lunch time or a little after because it seems chairs open around that time.
Talking loud in the hallways late at night
It is inevidable. Every cruise, I am lying in bed and you can hear a group of people just yammering loudly all the way to their cabin. I undertand you are on vacation but be aware of the time and not everyone is up until 3 AM. Some people have to get up at 6 to put towels on chairs by the pool.
Smoking in areas not designated for smoking.
Every ship has designated areas for smoking. Usually 1 or 2 areas outside on deck and in the Casino. Other than those areas, you are not allowed to smoke. ESPECILALLY ON YOUR BALCONY. Smoking on your balcony or in your room will get you a huge fine and possibly removed from the ship at the next port.
Do you have anything that annoys you to add to the list, please comment below.
Re-Deployment of Independence of the Seas
By Mike Miller
On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean announced the cancellation of 2020 Europe sailings of the Independence of the Seas. Indy normally spends her Summers sailing from Southampton. Although the new itineraries have not been announced, according to Royal Caribbean Blog, the ship will remain in Ft Lauderdale sailing the Caribbean. The decision is based on the popularity of the Caribbean and the new Perfect Day at Cocoa Cay.
Royal Caribbean is providing full refunds and an additional 25% future Cruise Credit based on the cruise they had booked. More information to come.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS FOR YOUR NEXT CRUISE
AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS
On Sunday, Port Canaveral welcomed 2 new ships to its port. Royal Caribbean re-positioned some ships this weekend and Port Canaveral made out pretty well.
Replacing the Enchantment of the Seas is Mariner of the Seas. Mariner is part of the Voyager Class of ships has this past winter received a multi million dollar makeover. She will sail 3 & 4 Night Bahamas itineraries with stops of course in Cocoa Cay. Other wise know now as A Perfect Day At Cocoa Cay.
Harmony of the Seas re positioned up from Ft. Lauderdale to replace the Oasis which is now in Europe. Harmony is the slightly bigger sister of Oasis with the same features but adding the Ultimate Abyss, the slide you sea on the back of the ship.
With the Mariner arriving in Port Canaveral, Carnival has changed the schedule of the Carnival Liberty now matching Mariner. She will sail 3 Night itineraries leaving on Friday and 4 Night Itineraries leaving on Mondays to the Bahamas. One thing I noticed, Liberty is now visiting Half Moon Cay which is such a great stop.
For more information, contact me at (904) 534-4318 or email email@example.com
My Top 5 from Independence of the Seas
By Mike Miller
This is my top 5 from my cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. Look out for a full review in future post.
The Flowrider is a surf simulator aboard many of the Royal Caribbean ships. You can either surf or boogie board, I chose to boogie board.
Now, it really is more like wake boarding because the water you are riding is coming towards you so its probably a little higher difficult level.
It was so much even wiping out was no problem.
Located on Deck 5 in the Royal Promenade is Sorrento’s Pizzeria. Here you can get either pizza by the slice or a full pan. They usually had a variety including veggie, supreme, pepperoni and cheese all available until around 3AM. I would say it was better than Carnival but does not beat Alfredos on the Regal Princess.
Located on Deck 12 overlooking the main pool was the Sky Lounge. Found this place on the first day for a Facebook Group Meet Up. There is a bar, some counter seating overlooking the pool and some high top tables. But the best part was the comfortable chairs and sofas you usually don’t find outside on deck on a ship. You could sit here and have a drink in the evening or watch one of the movies under the stars. I wish I had spent more time here.
Ale & Anchor
Also located on deck 5 at the Royal Promenade is the Ale and Anchor Pub. I met a group of people on this cruise and we spend a great deal of time here at night. They usually had a great singer throughout the night. Although I only tried one, they do have beers from all over the world so if you like beer, your options a amazing. Also, a shout out to Roderick. If you get a chance to sail on Indy soon, find him at Ale and Anchor, a great waiter who will take care of you.
Located on Deck 11 (pool deck) in the back is the Windjammer Café. This is your buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was so good there with a big variety. Breakfast was normal breakfast foods and an omelet station. By the way, had a very long line. Lunch an dinner had a variety including hot dogs and hamburgers to carving stations. And of course, the deserts which were outstanding.
I also have to mention the hand washing. At the entrance to the Windjammer are multiple sinks where you can wash your hands. And if you did need an incentive, there were these very talented gentlemen singing washy washy songs from real songs. It was awesome.
Be sure to click on the You Tube link above and subscribe for a room tour video coming soon.
Travel Adviser (904) 534-4318
Personally I love airports, I know its weird but true. But you either love or hate flying but often its a necessity. Here are 10 Airport Hacks that will hopefully make your next trip easier.
Take a picture of your car in the parking lot so you don’t forget where you parked.
Wear loos fitting shoes. You have to remove your shoes at security so wearing flip flops or something you can easily slip off and on will save you time and hassle.
3 Speaking of Security
Now you have to remove any electronic item the same size or larger than a cell phone from your bag. Have these handy and if possible ready to go by the time you reach the scanner. If everyone does this, it will speed up your time getting through security.
4 Arrive Early
As with anything, if you cut it too close, something is bound to go wrong. For domestic flights, arrive around an hour and half early and for international, two hours early. This should allow you time to check your bags, get through security and find your gate.
5 Bring an empty water bottle
Take an empty water bottle with you when you fly. Once you are beyond security, you can fill it up at the water fountain and avoid paying a fortune for water.
If you find your self on a long layover, find an empty gate where there is lots of seating This will allow you to avoid the crowds.
7 In-Flight Essentials
During your flight, there are always items you want to have. Unfortunately,, they are often in your bag in the overhead. Pack items like, ear buds, a book and a snack in a small bag you can easily pull out before stowing your carry on.
8 Wearing Headphones
I know I and many others like to listen to music, podcast or books while waiting on our flight. Set an alarm on your phone for every so often so you can take off the headphones and check for changes. There are times where a gate might be changed and you might not hear the announcement.
9 Walk Around
This goes for a long delay at the airport or a long flight. Of course, if you are on the flight, pay attention to the fasten seatbelt signs. Moving around helps with circulation and can also break up the monotony of a long wait. You never know what you might find in an airport. I was stuck in BWI several years ago and found a mini Smithsonian.
10 Bring Patience
This is very important. Remember, you and others are trying to get home, on vacation or maybe to family so be patient. Be respectful to crew and staff of the airline. They are doing a job just like you at home so treat them as you would want customers to treat you.
Be sure to check out the TSA Website for rules when flying. If you have your own hacks, please feel free to share in the comments.
Some love packing and some hate it, either way, you are always looking for ways to make it easier. Here are my top 5 tips that I use my self to take the stress out of packing.
Make a list of items you need and if you have a place, set them out all in one area. Then as you go through the week, you can determine if you really need it. By the time you are ready to load the suitcase, it should be quick and easy.
Use your shoes Things like socks, underwear and other small items can go in shoes. Its empty space otherwise.
Roll t-shirts Rolling your t-shirts takes up much room and most of the time a good shake will take any wrinkles out.
Avoid the mess
This is something that has happened to me. For bottles of shampoo, sunscreen or other items that could be messy, use this method. Remove the lid and place a piece of saran wrap or foil over the opening and then replace the lid. If you want extra protection, place the bottles in zip lock bags. This way if anything does spill, it will be contained in the bag.
You should always pack in your carry on medication, bathroom essentials, at least a shirt and any valuables like electronics.
And remember the TSA 3-1-1 Rule. Liquids
No more than 3.4 oz
Must be in 1 Quart Zip Lock Bag
No more than 1 Bag Per Passenger
Now these rules only apply to you when you fly, its not required when boarding a cruise ship.
I hope these were helpful tips for packing. One last tip though, check out these packing cubes for your next trip. I have used them for multiple cruises and love them. Makes packing more organized and to me easier to unpack when you get to your destination.