Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cruise Review Day 3 - Getting on the boat!

Its time to get on the boat!

Saturday was finally here, and we were finally going to start the actual cruise.  The day started out pretty easy, we all had pre-packed and were ready to throw the last things in a box and go.  We got the van loaded up and headed out from the Hotel.

We had to stop and fill the gas tank for the rental van, and then drop it off.  There was a gas station next door to the AVIS rental place, so we stopped there, and then pulled into the return section.  There was quite a crowd of people, and a shuttle was dropping off more.

N went in and completed the paperwork while we arranged all our bags and kept B entertained.  It was about 10am, and it was already HOT HOT HOT!  We got word that the port wasn't letting the shuttles in until Debarkation was complete...   Honestly, I'm not sure 100% what that means, but it ended up being a problem for me.

Finally, we got settled into a shuttle and headed toward the port.  We finally got our first glimpse of the boat!
Finally getting to the port we were greeted with a MASSIVE line of shuttles that were just not moving at all.  I never actually figured out what the hold up was, but there were few, if any, porters helping in either direction, and very few people heading toward the ship. 

We ended up in line for over an hour waiting to get off the shuttle.  Once we were finally off, and the porters tipped, we headed in.  Since we had Faster To The Fun, we hit the priority security check, and after a bathroom and diaper change stop, we headed to the priority checkin as well!
(I apologies for the blurry picture)
This picture shows the Priority Boarding area.  To the right was the regular check-in.  There was a carnival person directing traffic to both sides of the regular counter, and looking for Faster to the Fun and Priority folks and directing them to the right line as well.

We headed to our check in area, and only had to wait about 3 minutes before we were completely checked in and headed to the ship!

I will say that Carnival was very efficient here.  Our friends who were not Priority were able to get checked in and were sitting waiting for their zone to be called by the time we got the diaper changed and made it through our check in.  We heard their Zone get called about 5 minutes after we made it through all the embarkation photos.  

There was the normal security pictures to be taken, and an embarkation photo or two along the hallway, but otherwise it was clear sailing to the ship.  I will say that it was a VERY long walk down the hall, and through the ramp.  We, of course, had to stop and snap a picture or two.

The candy that B is holding was a gift from a Security Agent who didn't want him to be upset... that made his day!

One thing I noticed AFTER the cruise was that tugging along a toddler caused me to FORGET to take a bunch of pictures I would have normally taken, like the initial Atrium photo.  I had even considered strapping on the Go-Pro for the walk, but completely forgot.. oh well.  I guess I'll have to take another trip!

We made it onto the Ship and our first stop was the Shore Excursion desk to book the "Behind the Fun" tour.  Just as we were headed there, our friends boarded and joined us in line to book the same thing.  We then headed to our room.

Being Faster to the Fun, our room was ready for us.. and I will say, this was AMAZING!!  We dropped off our bags (and our friends bags) and got settled in comfort right away.  Our room:

It was then time to head to lunch, and we were all hungry.  We headed to the buffet, but we had to stop and sit on these huge chairs!
The buffet was PACKED, but I had done my research.  I knew there was a build-your-own-pasta place above the back of the Gathering, so we made our way there.  For some reason (and this was the case the entire cruise) the direct path from the gathering up there was blocked off, you had to go to the back staircase by the pool.  We headed up there and ordered our pasta.  There were only maybe 2 other tables of people up there and DOZENS of open tables.  
The way this place works, you fill out a little slip with pasta type, sauce, add-ons, and give it to the waiter.  He gives you a number and you stay put while they prepare it for you.  It was yummy, and we were eating and almost done before our friends made it through the buffet line.
Of course, we had to stop on the way to the buffet to get our first fruity drinks, and we enjoyed them with our meal.
We did note that this particular part of the ship vibrated a LOT, both at sea, and docked.  It wasn't a bother, but it was noticeable.  We finished our lunch and headed to the back pool for the Cruise Critic Meet-And-Greet.  Everyone going wore beads to identify us.
We met a few folks and chatted.  I started to smell amazing aromas from the Indian Tandoor which is right there on the back deck, and ducked over there for a sample.  The food from this place was amazing and I enjoyed it often during the entire cruise.
Eventually, I headed back to the room before muster, and the decorations I had ordered had been put up.  The crew member who does it actually arrived while we were dropping bags, but N didn't figure it out.
We had a little time before the Muster Drill, so B took a nap, and N and I enjoyed the balcony, eventually joining him in a nap.

We then headed to the Muster Drill. Since our last cruise, Carnival has changed the way they do this.  You used to have to gather at your muster station, which was on the lifeboat deck outside by your lifeboat.  This was cramped and uncomfortable.  NOW, your muster station is in a lounge or, in our case, the Encore Theater.  Note that its not just anywhere in the theater, and you NEED to be in the right spot.  They then go over the basics, and show a video about where to go to.  I thought it was much better organised, and much more comfortable.

I'll highlight part of our muster drill, because I think its an example of what NOT to do.  These things may not be fun, but they are IMPORTANT in case there was ever a problem.  Don't think it can't happen to you... the Costa Concordia travelers thought that....
Anyway, there was a family in the row in front of us who eventually the staff member discovered they were in the wrong spot.  In fact, they were supposed to be on the OTHER SIDE OF THE SHIP!  The crew member tried to give them directions and asked them to head to the right spot, even explaining that the directions given here would be different than for their muster station.  These people FLAT OUT REFUSED to move.  The staff member eventually gave up.  The audacity of these people to be so flipant and rude was astounding.  Not to mention, as always, that the muster drill started LATE because people were trying to avoid it. 
PEOPLE, if you just GO, it will be over quicker!

At the muster drill is when we were introduced to the wrist bands for kids.  Children under a certain age (I don't remember what it was) had to wear a wrist band that had their muster station on it.  The purpose here is that in the event of an emergency, the staff will bring your child to YOU at your muster station if they are at Camp Carnival or elsewhere without you.
Honestly, I was worried about this, but once we got one that was tight enough to fit properly, B ignored it the rest of the cruise!

After the muster drill, and before Camp Carnival registration, we did a little ship exploring.  This was the first time B discovered dancing, and boy did he like this.  For the Sail Away party (and other parties) they cleared out loungers on the Lido deck by the mid pool for dancing.  There was party music playing and B ran out and started boogieing!

We then walked through the rest of the ship seeing where things were.

We visited the put put course (which had a pirate ship)
And the back pool with a great view of the LONG wake from this huge ship!

Just before dinner, we headed back to the Encore Lounge to register for Camp Carnival.  I had filled this out online and printed it, but forgot it in the room, so I filled out a new one.  We met Lisle, one of the councilors, and she answered questions, got us all setup, and chatted with B and I.  They became friends during the cruise and there were lots of hugs as we were leaving the ship.  Camp Carnival ended up being an amazing place!

Next came dinner.. and we met our Wait Staff.  Jose, Katrina, and Marlon.  They were great, and all LOVED B and doted over him.  Here is Me and one of our friends posing for a picture

I intended to take pictures of all my food, but I didn't meet that goal... I did get some though. Starting with the Mac And Cheese that B DEVOURED!

Then mine, including sweet-and-sour shrimp and, of course, warm chocolate melting cake!!
After dinner we were greeted with our first towel animal, and all of B's stuffed animals lined up!  As you can see, B got a FunShip Fredy as part of his trip!
We had arranged to have a Crib setup in the room, and we placed it in front of the couch for the entire trip.  It did limit the usage of the couch, but it was out of the way and didn't really cause any problems.  B slept VERY well in it

The rest of the evening was spent exploring and shopping.  We visited Camp Carnival for the "open house" so B could see what toys there were and what the space looked like.  This place is NEAT!! He was quite excited to play with the Fire Truck (that wasn't a fire truck)!
We did a little shopping (N needed a watch) and eventually made our way back to our Stateroom to get some sleep.  I did sneak down to the Casino after everyone got settled, but not for long.  The bed's are very comfortable, so sleep was quick and easy... AND... we were on a CRUISE!!!

More Tomorrow!

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