Saturday 5/23 11:30 PM
Yay, we made it! We left Austin around 9:45 AM hoping to get to Galveston around 2 (our boarding time slot was 2-3). But traffic on 45 was bad, and I think it’s just farther from Houston to Galveston than I thought, so by the time we parked and got to the terminal it was a little after 3.
Check-in was interesting – they took our luggage (we had to tag it ourselves with our room number), run it through the X-ray machine and then deliver it to our room at some point. (they said it might take up to 2 hours) After seeing how many people are on the ship, I can understand why they don’t want people lugging bags around while they’re boarding!
I had a few key questions about being on a cruise ship that I now have definitive answers to. Specifically:
Will I get seasick? Not really! I did have a slight headache for an hour but eating dinner fixed that and I’ve been pretty OK since then.
Will I forget I’m on a ship while doing all the fun stuff to do? Kinda! Our room is definitely smaller than a “normal” hotel room, and the ceilings are pretty short. I thought they might avoid breakable stuff, etc. since the ship might lurch and knock things over, but glassware abounds, even in our room. I guess the ship is big enough that it’s not usually a concern. So far the lurchiness has ranged from unnoticable to a tiny bit, which is OK by me!
Is it going to be very kid-centered? (I’ve heard Carnival, which we’re on, is much more kid-friendly than Royal Caribbean) Not really – there are a good chunk of kids here, and there are a few kid-specific activities, but there are a ton of “adult” activities too (nightclubs, casino, bars, more nightclubs)
Dinner was odd – we had to pick what time we wanted to eat every day when we registered, and so our room key/boarding pass/key to everything so please don’t lose it has our assigned table. The table sat 8, and around 10 minutes after we sat down we were joined by two other guys, one of whom was pretty drunk – not slurring-words drunk, but extremely friendly/making inappropriate comments drunk. (or maybe that’s how he usually is? This seems possible) It ended up being OK, although dinner took a long time – we got our main course almost an hour after we ordered!
It sounded like dinner was going to be fairly regimented but it looks like there are a lot of options if you just want to grab a bite to eat without a fancy sit-down place. That’s what the Lido Deck (deck 9) is all about!
After dinner we watched the Rockets get crushed (at least they were down 31 points at the end of the 3rd quarter, at which point we left. If they came back to win somehow I will be kicking myself!) (ed: they lost by 35) and then did some exploring. We went all the way to the top of the ship (deck 14) which was insanely windy – some of my hot tea actually blew out of my mug, which was impressive! They also show movies in the evening on a big screen up there, and there are a series of pools/whirlpools, not to mention a giant slide…
There are fancy TVs that say where we are and what our heading is and how fast we’re going, but they’re sadly rare. It looked like we were only going 14 knots before which seems pretty slow? But maybe we’ll go faster as we get further away from land.
Our “stateroom” (i.e. room) is on deck 6 and is sadly right above the casino, where a band is playing right now. I really hope they stop soon.
Tomorrow is just a day at sea, which means reading, mini golf(!), tea time, and…not sure what else! Other weird things happening tomorrow are a hairy chest contest(??) and an art auction.
Sunday 5/24 10:20 PM
We had a nice relaxing day. The band stopped playing at midnight last night, which was nice, but our neighbors didn’t stop their talking/laughing/yelling! Sigh. We’re going to bed earlier tonight and there’s another band playing so hooray for earplugs!
Today was a lot of reading in various places. We also did go to the art auction which was fun although we felt a little out of place. Then we saw one really nice original painting which we liked a lot but was quite expensive. In the evening we went to the gallery to talk to the guy about a different painting that we liked but was significantly cheaper and he kinda talked us into the more expensive one. (hint: “$X a day” for two years is a lot even if X is small!) We’re still thinking about it, though.
<- We went to an art auction on board! David is holding our bidding sheet thing, which we didn't really use. Note the woman in the background, who definitely leaned over to get in the shot.
<- A broader view of the art auction. Space was tight so we sat right up front.
We played a round of mini-golf this afternoon, but the main event this evening was a musical revue. It was called “Around the World” which seemed fairly bland but it was a pretty solid show punctuated by bits of craziness. To wit:
– “One Night in Bangkok” from the musical Chess was…supposed to represent Bangkok, I guess?
– A bunch of chimney sweeps in England singing songs that David and I decided were the poor man’s Mary Poppins
– The lead woman (who had a great voice!) sang the theme from Free Willy as a video background of what looked like Africa played in the background. The moon started out in the sky and got bigger and bigger until it was huge, at which point it looked more like a dinosaur egg because it was oblong. It was…confusing!
– Later, 5 guys dressed up as penguins with handbags danced to what almost sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. This was to represent the South Pole. I’m not kidding!
– The grand finale was (of course) America, with a show tunes version of Yankee Doodle Dandy which was…odd.
Also, the lead guy looked a lot like Alan Tudyk!
Tomorrow is getting up early for our shore excursion to Chichen Itza. Should be fun although it’s a 2.25 hour bus ride there and back…
Monday 5/25 10:25 PM
The Chichen Itza trip went pretty well despite having to meet at 7 AM. The city itself is pretty impressive – the observatory is in very good condition and around 100 feet tall. It was pretty hot out, though, so walking around for 2 hours took a lot out of us and we both napped on the bus ride back. Also, our bus broke down on the way back – luckily another bus came to shuttle us back to the ship within 20 minutes or so. I got a lot of reading done!
<- The next day we took a shore excursion to Chichen Itza! This nice map was painted at a store just outside the site.
<- David in front of the steps of the Observatory.
<- David showing off some of the carvings in the walls of the ball court.
The city was crawling with souvenirs – we did get a nice Mayan calendar but I kept saying “no, gracias” over and over again…(not that it mattered! Also, pretty much every one spoke English, and everything was “almost free”!)
We ate dinner in our assigned dining room and met a nice gay couple (I’m assuming, anyway) at our table, which was cool.
Carnival has this deal where you can pay $50 a day and get “unlimited” drinks. It turns out “unlimited” in this context means “15”, as I heard through the grapevine that the drunk guy we met on Saturday at our table hit his daily limit before going out to a nightclub on Sunday!
This whole thing is kind of an interesting experience – on the one hand there’s a lot of free food during the day and some is available 24/7. On the other hand, they will charge you for just about everything else. We’ve been mostly sticking to tea/water at meals, which are conveniently free.
After some negotiation, we bought some art!
<- The art gallery on the ship had a bunch of paintings most of which were offered up at the various auctions. We really liked the top center one, and also the "intense impressionism" paintings on the right by Daniel Wall.
Tonight we saw a magic show which was decent, and we’re going to a burlesque show later tonight which should be fun! We’ve decided since we can’t go to bed before midnight because of the band downstairs, might as well make the most of it. Luckily none of the rest of our days should be that early. Lesson learned – our stateroom on the 6th floor is conveniently located, but being right above one of the main floors with nightclubs and such is a bad bad idea.
Got to sleep in a bit and then headed out at Cozumel for a beach park, where we learned the meaning of “All-Inclusive” (it means “some things are included, but others are not!”) Still, though, it was nice despite being quite hot. We skipped the snorkeling and read on the beach, then joined our group later for a tour of some replica Mayan ruins and a sea lion show that was cute but did not exactly put SeaWorld to shame.
<- When we got off the ship at Cozumel, there was a fountain in the shape of the Observatory at Chichen Itza! So of course we needed a picture…
<- The trainer brought a sea lion out for us to see!
<- Us with a replica ruin from the Mexica.
<- This "underwater oxygen bar" in Cozumel was a real thing! The people inside were attempting to play Jenga.
There were three cruise ships docked at Cozumel today, and to get back to the ship you’re forced to walk through a very long and narrow duty-free shop, which was approaching chaos when we stopped to buy something. So many people!
Had a relaxed dinner and then sat in a whirlpool for a bit watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” up on deck. It rained for a few minutes which made us scurry for cover, but luckily it stopped quickly and didn’t come back.
This morning we did the “Behind the Fun” tour, which was a 3 hour behind the scenes tour. It was right up my alley – we got to ask a lot of questions and meet a lot of different people, including the captain, the food storage manager, a dancer in the shows, the head of the laundry department, engineers (like on the actual engine!), and a few cooks. A few interesting things we learned:
– This cruise there are about 3300 passengers and 1100 crew, for a 3:1 ratio. The biggest crew departments are food preparation/service and housekeeping.
– Backstage of the main theater is crazy crowded. Also, the dancers have to learn 6 shows at once (they perform them on a rotating basis). Plus, they have to do all their own costume changes!
– The industrial-sized washing machines can wash 900 gallons of clothes at one time!
– They make the soup in these giant vats like 2 days in advance. They hold somewhere around 150 gallons of soup!
– The total output from the engines is somewhere around 30 megawatts, which is enough to power a small town. Which makes sense, since that’s basically what it is.
– The captain is a pretty stereotypical sea captain – an old Italian guy (he’s been working for 38 years!) who has an extremely dry sense of humor.
Afterwards we got a backpack, a hat, a wristband(?) and they had some pastries delivered for our room. I kinda wondered whether they were worried the tour was too expensive or something, because that was a lot of extra random stuff.
The afternoon was filled with an ice carving demonstration, another teatime, a quick nap, and lots of reading. In the evening we saw a New Orleans show which was pretty meh, a comedy show which was decent but short, and did a bit of gambling. We were down $40, and decided to do one last $40 bet at craps. David rolled a 4 on the come-out roll (which is the worst you can do short of immediately losing) but managed to win!
<- here's the finished product! Honestly, I'm not 100% sure what this is, but it does look very intricate.
<- Here's a partial view of the Lido deck from a deck above, where a DJ was playing. The slide looked fun but we didn't try it…
Debarking (the real term for getting off the ship! I love it!) was a bit tricky – getting 3300 people to do anything at the same time can be a bit dicey! But this morning things went pretty smoothly; we were able to leave our suitcases outside our door last night, and they were available after we got off of the ship. The customs form said we could fill out one form since we were married, and the ICE agent didn’t ask us about it, which was very nice! Thus ended our cruise.
Sadly, for the rest of the day and even on Friday we were both a little dizzy on and off…