Caribbean Cruise: Our Experience
The Carnivale Cruise Ship
There was a time when I dreamed about going on cruise. Cruise prices weren't high for the time but they were for us with four kids. It seemed a dream that would never come true. However, I was wrong, circumstances intervened (and winning some money at a local Firehouse raffle helped) so we decided we could finally do it! (Not to mention it was 20 years ago.) Cruising was at a low in the 1990s probably accounting for the cruise prices at the time we wanted to go. Anyway, since we were able we wanted to take our children on our Caribbean cruise. Our oldest son was getting married the end of the month we were going on our cruise so he had to miss out. That left the five of us!
Cruise specials abounded then as they do now and you could find amazing cruise deals. Sharing a room helped lower the price. Buying five tickets helped lower the price as well. Yes, we took advantage of the cruise special and booked our cruise. Four days cruising and three days at Disney. Our youngest at the time was 13 but we all wanted to go to Disney! We were all looking forward to this wonderful vacation!
During the 1990s cruise prices were ridiculously low, however additional port taxes and other fees were added to the base price.
In 1996 the cruise industry began building new ships at the rate of about a dozen a year.
In the mid-1990s 1/3 of cruises were to the Caribbean.
Carnival bought Premier Cruise Lines in 1991.
The ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were launched by the Disney line in the late 1990s.
The ship we were to sail on was the Carnivale. It was the last voyage of the S.S. Carnivale for Carnival Cruises to the Caribbean. She sails for a British line today. When we cruised the Carnivale had a passenger capacity of 1,297...we thought that was immense. Imagine! Now cruise ship passenger capacities average 3,000. Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas currently has the largest passenger capacity at 6,360 (I think that's how many people live in my town).
Our cruise started out with a flight out of JFK in New York to Orlando, Florida. Our ship was leaving from there, not far from Cape Canavaral. We were met at the airport and taken to the ship's dock where we went through a checkpoint and dropped off our luggage. We were then allowed to board the ship.
Our first stop was our cabin. I use the word lightly. Remember I said we were saving money? Well by all five of us rooming together we could save a few dollars off our total cost. What we didn't know was the size of the cabin. It was actually hilarious! There were two upper bunks, two lower bunks, and a roll away bed. The bathroom was so small that the sink was in the cabin with us. Oh, and we had an actual porthole! We really didn't care though, we were there to have fun, not to hang out in our room.
Once we dropped off our luggage we headed to the lido deck to watch the ship depart. Partying had already commenced and there were drinks available.
Did I mention we had a choice of two seatings for dinner? Once you chose you were at that seating with the same people for the whole cruise. We took the earlier seating. The first night was an experience. As we were eating dinner I noticed it looked like my husband was moving. I asked if he was and he said no he thought the ship was. Getting back to our room was a further experience, we had to hold on to the walls and railings whenever we could. We actually laughed all the way back to our room watching each other try to stay upright. Seems there was a storm rocking the ship. I guess the stabilizers in the old ship weren't what the new ones are. Fortunately we were so tired we didn't notice the rocking once we went to sleep. Thankfully the storm cleared by morning.
Ah morning. We had to take turns using the tiny bathroom and sink. We decided it would be best for only two people to be in the room at the same time because we had to wait for a porter to come and fold up the cot (our fifth bed). Every time we left the room in the morning he would come and fold it up and just before we got back at night he would come and open it.
The first order of the day was the life jacket/survival drill. Everyone on board ship is called to a common area and instructed on the use of life jackets and location of life boats. Boring but necessary.
Our first day on board was a day at sea. It was a beautiful, sunny, and very hot day. Everyone was out taking advantage of the two available pools, in between exploring the ship. Our first port of call was Freeport. True to a Craig tradition, it was raining the entire day. Fortunately, or unfortunately we only spent 8 hours at Freeport. We managed to tour around a bit but not a lot due to the weather. We actually returned to the ship early. Plus, why eat out when the price of meals is included in the cruise and dinner is served on the ship?
Our next port of call was Nassau. The gods were smiling on us as it was sunny in Nassau! Hot and sunny. There were men selling conch shells at the port when our ship pulled in. Of course everyone was interested and looking them over.
We didn't take any scheduled tours but went out on our own. We walked around the island then went to the Atlantis Hotel courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines. We walked around a little inside the hotel but the fun for us was outside. The beach! We were allowed to use the hotel beach chairs and facilities as guests of Carnival.
While we sat on the beach the kids used the "banana boats" and had a ball.
We got to see more of Nassau thanks to the weather. We did some shopping and even bought a few trinkets to take home.
In the evening we took a taxi to Paradise Island and did some gambling...just slot machines. It was my kids first time in a casino and they loved it!
Singing waiters at dinner
Our last night on board was the night to meet the Captain and also the night for the midnight buffet. I have to say meeting the Captain was interesting. The poor man had to stand and shake hands with 1,297 passengers! I think what may have made it easier for him was the fact that he didn't speak English and all the passengers did. He was very gracious and your meeting with him was very short.
We had heard a lot about the midnight buffet but wondered if we would be able to stay up to see it. It seems the days at sea and the warm sunny weather had a tendency to take their toll and we found ourselves in bed earlier than we expected. There were not telephones or televisions on the ship. Though, again, true to Craig fashion I did get a telephone call from home telling me my mother had been admitted to the hospital. My poor mother always seemed to get sick whenever we took a vacation. Made us feel guilty but she always told us to go.
After meeting the Captain there was entertainment in the dining room. The waiters and other staff put on a really nice show, dancing and signing around the dining room. Some carrying trays I couldn't carry if I was walking never mind singing and dancing. It was a nice experience and everyone got into the spirit by laughing and clapping and just having a good time.
Back to the midnight buffet. Being our last night on the ship and a big deal we decided we were going! I was trying to find toothpicks to keep my eyes pried open but instead we walked around the ship, and around the ship, until it was time to go down to the buffet. We didn't expect the line of people that greeted us as we got closer to the buffet. We waited on that line for about a half an hour. Everyone had brought their cameras and wanted to take pictures of the beautiful display that was the midnight buffet. AFTER everyone got to take pictures you could begin to eat from the midnight buffet.
Every imaginable food and dessert was somewhere on one of the long tables lining the dining hall. This was the one and only time you didn't have to sit in your assigned seats. I don't know about cruising today but in 1990 everything (except alcohol) was included in your cruise price. Your gratuities were explained and you were told where to leave an envelope for each person earning a gratuity. Other than that, you didn't even need to carry money.
As our cruise came to an end we began to get excited about our Disney vacation. Our three days consisted of a day at Disney, a day at Universal, and a day at Epcot. Looking back I know that wasn't nearly enough time, but we did the best we could.
Our first day was Disney and it was delightful. Actually seeing all the things you've heard about was really quite a thrill, even for my teenage children. Who doesn't want to meet Mickey Mouse? Of course there is Mickey everywhere...cared in the bushes, hanging on walls, in gift shops, and walking around the park.
Then there's Cinderella's Castle. When we were there the inside of the castle was a bunch of gift shops but just being there and seeing the outside of it was a thrill. I understand there is now a room in the castle where you can actually spend the night. No such thing when we were there.
The whole experience is a delight. The flowers, the colors, even the crowds...everyone's there to enjoy and you can feel it in the atmosphere. I wouldn't hesitate to go back again.
Our trip to Universal was a blast! So many "movie" things all around you! My daughter had always had a thing for Chewbacca. In fact I believe she still has her stuffed Chewbacca doll though he is now more of a hairy pancake. Anyway, the biggest thrill at Universal was meeting Chewbacca. Of course we knew it wasn't the real Chewbacca but it was as close as we'd ever get!
Roger Rabbit was a popular film at the time and as I said my youngest son was 13. Though we took his picture with the Chip and Dale and at Goofy's barbershop, his favorite was the one with Jessica Rabbit! We saw Hollywood effects and how things are filmed and got up close and personal with real movie sets.
It was hard to believe our time was almost up! One more day and one more place to visit before we had to get on the plane and come back home. Or as George Carlin used to say, I mean get in the plane not on the plane!
While Walt Disney was generating new ideas for Disneyland Park in California, he thought about building an International Street. That idea grew to become the concept behind the World Showcase area in Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida.
(from Disney World Epcot Overview)
Our last day! Epcot Center. What a beautiful place it was. Each section a different country. It was like walking around the world. Mexico, Norway, Morroco, and many more places we will never get to see!
Not just the scenery and beautiful re-creations of the lands, but rides and amusements throughout as well. There is transportation to and from Epcot linking it with Disney World. Of course there's parking too. Did I mention we had rented a car to be able to drive from park to park? Unfortunately as luck would always have it the only car available was a small sedan that didn't fit all our luggage in the trunk. My kids had to keep their feet up on the luggage in the back seat. Yes, a little bit like National Lampoons Vacation movies. We actually sprung the trunk trying to cram everything in it!
But, back to Epcot....authenticity abounds. The people, the buildings, the food...country to country. Truly a place to remember.
Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat. I'd do the cruise again without Disney, I'd do Disney without the cruise or I'd do the cruise and Disney...any combination would do!
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