04 – At Sea

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Day 4: At Sea

And now, time to start the journey home. Too soon!

Here’s a gorgeous sunrise with Venus in the top-right corner. The sun didn’t make a grand entrance, but it did light up the morning sky nicely.

(Sheryl’s Nikon is pretty slick. My camera didn’t do it justice. I took about 30 photos of the sunrise. Hey, it’s digital, so it’s free)

I guess we were the early-birds. Not too many people showed up for breakfast as early as we did. I think I’ll have Sheryl decorate our dining room this way.
More ice cream. Why not, I guess
We saw a bunch of flying fish. The bow of the ship would scare them out of the water and they’d fly 50 to 100 feet before diving back into the water. This photo makes them look more like UFOs than flying fish, but oh, well.
Even something as simple as washing hands can be a fun thing for a 5-yr old. Where does he get his energy??
One of the jobs of a super hero is to stop elevator doors from closing. Daniel was pretty good at it.
They had a little session where they showed how the staff did the towel origami. My mother-in-law got the hang of it pretty quickly and helped out some other lady who wasn’t quite getting it. This lady didn’t know I was taking a photo of my mother-in-law, and didn’t quite know what to make of “some strange guy” taking a photo of her. Ha!
A rookie chef got his first chance at doing a public ice carving on the main deck. It was an interesting carving.There were two guys behind Sheryl watching and commenting: “Yep. It’s a rabbit. See.. those are the ears”

“You’re right. And there’s the neck.. Yep. It’s a rabbit”

I’ve no idea where those guys were from, but in these here parts, we don’t make rabbit ice-carvings for a banquet table.

“Oh, wait.. it’s a swan!”

Ya think?? Yeah, funny how that swan’s neck sure did look like a rabbit’s ear. I’m thinking, “Here’s your sign, buddy!”

Water – the way it should be. ..obviously we’re not in Galveston.The rest of the trip was nice and uneventful. (by the way… if you see something very cool and unique in a ship’s gift shop, just look it up on eBay. Guarantee you it’s there at a fraction of the price).

It took us about 45 minutes to disembark and get back into the van for the 5 hr drive home.

Our first cruise (in 2004) was on the Norwegian Sun with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I don’t see the particular ship on the NCL website anymore, so I wonder if it was taken out of commission. The ship was smaller and had fewer things to do on board the Carnival Elation, but Sheryl and I enjoyed the NCL cruise more than we enjoyed the Carnival cruise. I think there are several reasons why:

  • Although the ship was smaller and had fewer amenities, the NCL ship was nicer in quality, luxury and amenities. The staff was more upscale than the Carnival staff. Although the staterooms were smaller on the NCL ship, everything was kept cleaner and in a better state of repair than the Carnival ship. I don’t know if that was just luck (the ship had undergone an extensive renovation the year before) or just the high quality of service.
  • The Carnival ship seemed geared to attract a different kind of crowd than the NCL ship. The Carnival people were more of the party-hardy mindset.. which we are definitely not – or ever have been. Even as a young married couple in our twenties, we would rather stay at home and watch Colombo than go out on the town. The NCL ship seemed to attract an older crowd and we liked that a lot. Even still, we got up early and went to bed early so we missed all the college kids that were there for spring break (since they all got up late and stayed up late).
  • The food was quite a bit better on the NCL ship – and that’s saying quite a lot because the Carnival food was certainly nothing to laugh at. Thankfully all the food is free (on both ships) – except for soft drinks and alcohol. But you can have all the juice, coffee and hot chocolate you want from the main restaurant. Go figure!
  • On the Carnival ship, you had assigned seating in the formal dining room. You picked a dinner time and each formal dinner was served for you at that time in an assigned seat. If there’s only 2 in your group, they apparently pair you with another couple. Since there were 6 in our group, we sat by ourselves. If you don’t want dinner in the formal restaurant, you can always eat in their casual dining restaurant. The NCL ship had something called Freestyle Dining. They had 2 formal dining rooms (same menu, different decor) and you ate when you wanted and sat where you wanted. If you came during a busy time, they’d ask if you wanted to sit with another couple/group. We did that a couple of times and it was ok; although we still preferred to sit by ourselves. We preferred the Freestyle Dining. Apparently that’s rare on cruises. In addition to their 2 formal restaurants, the NCL ship also had a super-exquisite restaurant. You had to pay something like $20 to eat there and had to make reservations. We planned to go there once and never got around to it.
  • Our NCL cruise was 7 nights with 4 stops (Cozumel, Roatan, Belize & Cancun), while this particular Carnival cruise had only one (Playa del Carmen). Since we liked to get out and get about and see different things, we really liked the NCL cruise itinerary. (We chose the shorter 4-night Carnival cruise for our family vacation since the kids were still in school.) Which also brings me to another point: you can enjoy a lot more activities when there’s only 2 of you and your tastes are similar. While we were on the Carnival cruise, we had to entertain a fairly wide range of ages and interests (Daniel [age 5] all the way up to Sheryl’s mom [age 50-something]). With a large group like that, it’s harder to get around and see things, which means you spend less time by yourself – so that kinda takes away from it – although that’s certainly not the fault of Carnival.
  • The entertainment on the Carnival ship was significantly better than the NCL ship. The performances were better; the stages bigger; the shows more impressive.

All in all, we enjoyed both cruises, but it was hard to be on the Carnival cruise and not constantly make comparisons to the NCL cruise. Next time we might try Royal Caribbean or Princess. One lady we met on the Carnival ship apparently goes on cruises several times a year. She said that the Carnival line isn’t as nice as the others. Several people said Royal was a lot nicer. I guess we’ll check those out someday. Eventually we’d like to check out the Eastern Caribbean. We’ll see.

Galveston | At Sea | Playa del Carmen | Tullum | Xel-Ha | At Sea | Ship Details