I’ve wanted to go a massive cruise for a long time. I’ve loved the idea of it for a few years now and finally, we get to try it. This post is based on a week long cruise of the Carribean with Carnival Glory out of the port of Miami stopping at Cozumel, Belize City, Isla Roatan and Grand Cayman. The Carnival Glory has a guest capacity of nearly 3000 people and about 1100 crew and staff to keep all those people in the holiday spirit!
Pool Deck and Waterslide
Firstly, every form of travel has it’s pro’s and con’s. No method will ever be 100% enjoyable (unless I get so obscenely rich that I have my own personal staff, private yacht and private jet!) Overall, I love cruising. Yes, there are things which are a little irritating but to be honest, as this is my first time cruising, I even enjoy the irritating things because they are an interesting insight to American cruise culture. I am not American and this cruise is vastly dominated by Americans and many of those from Miami. The way this cruise has been designed is obviously a formula which is known to be enjoyed by Americans. I know that if this cruise were filled mainly with Japanese people or Australians, this formula would not work at all.
I loved the spacious room. We splurged and got a balcony room but I’m honestly surprised at the size of it. Usually rooms on ships are tiny. This one has a king size bed and a large sofa in a sitting area and lots of storage space. The balcony is wonderful because you can always pop out and enjoy the breeze and check out the weather. It’s nice to lay back on the sun lounger and read. I also love the twice a day servicing of the rooms. The room is cleaned and fresh towels provided in the morning and then in the evening, there is turn-down service where another quick clean is done, the bed is turned down and a towel animal is left to greet you when you return to your room.
I love food and the range and quality of the food has been pretty good on this boat. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style and dinner has been 3 course a-la-carte at the dining room. There are also casual eateries where you can get a Guy Fieri burger, pizza or taco’s. This combined with 24/7 soft serve machines, lemonade, iced tea and ice machines scattered througout the ship, you can never be hungry or thirsty! The price for the cruise includes the food, so sometimes, we ordered multiple starters, mains or desserts if we are tempted by items on the menu.
Bread Basket – Seaday Brunch
Fried Chicken Caesar Salad – Seaday Brunch Starter
Pork Chop with Beans and Gorgonzola Cream – Seaday Brunch Main
Parpadelle Pasta – Seaday Brunch Main
Fruit Platter – Seaday Brunch Dessert
Salted Caramel Cheesecake – Seaday Brunch Dessert
The food however is very American. American food is very flavourful. Almost too flavourful! I find the salads too heavily dressed, the food sometimes too salty and the desserts too sweet. They are not shy with big, bold flavours. These burgers you get look like a greasy, fatty mess but it cannot be denied they are deliciously tasty.
Guy Fieri Burger
I’ve been particularly impressed by the focus on safety on this cruise. On the first day, there was a mandatory safety drill. The captain spoke on the public announcement system into each and every room and told us that it was mandatory to make our way to our allocated muster area and participate in the mandatory safety briefing. As we made our way to the muster station, I could hear other people complaining. I know it is an inconvenience to be interupted from swimming, eating or drinking but I really was very pleased to see that every single person was made to be physically at their muster point and to be forced to use the stairs instead of the lifts to simulate a true muster situation.
In addition to the mandatory safety drill, I found that during quiet periods when most of the passengers were onshore at a port, the crew participated in additional drills and lifeboat testing. In Isla Roatan, the safety exercise even included lowering each and every life boat into the water and testing them in the bay. As a passenger, I have a true feeling of confidence that the emergency hardware is being maintained and in good working order and that the crew are very familiar with their role in the event of an emergency.
During this cruise, there are two nights out of seven which are deemed “Elegant” nights. On these nights, there is a strict dress code to dine in the main dining room. No jeans, no shorts and no beachware is allowed. Elegant night is taken very seriously by the guests on this ship with many ladies appearing in glamourous evening gowns and men in tuxedoes.
One of the intriguing aspects about a large cruise is how they manage to serve so many guests at one time. How is the potable water produced? Where does the waste go? How do they produce so many high quality meals and get them out in timely manner. Disappointingly the only way to see what goes on behind the scenes is to join the “Behind the Fun” excursion which costs $95USD per person. I think this is crazy to be charging so much for a tour which should be free.
One of the surprising things about this cruise is the wide range of age groups on this cruise. There were babies all the way to the elderly. There were people in wheelchairs, toddlers in prams, groups of partying teens that had just graduated, small bands of 14 year old boys having a grand old time running around the boat and large family groups holidaying together.
It’s all about the upsell on this cruise. It was a little annoying but it’s also interesting because this is how they keep the base cost of the cruise quite astoundingly low. Most people buy a lot of this extra stuff. The cost we paid covered the food and the room and the transportation on this ship. If you want spa treatments, professional photographs, alcohol, excursions and to eat at the extra fancy restaurant you have to pay more. The ship even had a shopping area where they constantly had raffles and discounts and all kinds of gimmicks to get people to buy, buy, buy! We attended an art auction, drawn by the promise of free champagne! This was a really interesting study of pressure selling techniques. The auctioneers and his cronies were skilled operators in making us feel like these paintings were a great deal.
Actually, speaking of the internet, the cost for the internet on the ship was exorbitant. We went the whole week without the internet. I think they are letting a magnificent marketing and publicity opportunity slip through their fingers. If they gave out free wifi or cheap wifi, people would be posting their happy, holiday snaps on the internet all through the day which would be a massive, free, word of mouth advertising campaign for them.
OK, back to spending and shopping. All the cruise stops were very similar at the point where the passengers disembarked. It was all kitschey shops and restaurants, souvenirs and jewellery. It was quite formulaic and totally removed from the true character of the countries were were visiting. In fact, certain shops, like Diamonds International, must have some kind of arrangement with the cruise companies because they were at every stop in a very prominent location. They must make a fortune from the thousands of cruisers pouring off the ship.
In Belize City, we got out of the tourist shopping area and found the city to be impoverished, ramshackled and struggling.
One of the things I found most interesting about the cruise was the people watching. This cruise was highly dominated by Americans. I found Americans to be a confident and self assured people. They are quite happy to be the centre of attention, in fact often they compete to be the centre of attention. They love audience participation in shows whereas being picked on during a show is my worst nightmare.
One of the bizarre things about the cruise were the pools on the boat. It was hot and often the pool was packed with people. We were joking that it was like a human soup! Someone mentioned that by the end of a particularly busy day, the water was so murky that you couldn’t tell what colour swimming costume people were wearing under the water. Yuk!
Human Soup – the main pool
The thing is, whilst the ship has a lot of people and often there are areas which are ridiculously busy, if you do the opposite of what the crowd is likely to do, it can be quite serene and peaceful. On the first day, I got up at dawn and watched the sunrise. It was magic and peaceful. Then we went for a swim first thing in the morning. It was warm enough and we had the entire pool to ourselves. Sometimes, we came back from cruise stops early and found the ship quite deserted so we could have the pool and waterslides to ourselves. Once or twice it rained and that cleared out the pool area. Again, that was a great time to have the pool to ourselves and it was magic to feel the warm rain.
One of the things I enjoyed was being seated with other cruisers during dinner and sea day brunch. It’s nice to meet and chat to new people.
I was concerned before cruising by the reports of gastro spreading throughout the ship.To minimise the risk of this, the ship had Purell sanitiser stations everywhere there was food being served. They also had tiny paper dispensers at every single public toilet doors to allow you to open the doors to get out without touching the handle. Interestingly to significantly minimise waste on the ship, the cabins did not have plastic liners on the rubbish receptacles and the restaurants used washable cloth napkins.
Overall, I really enjoyed my cruise experience. I found it very relaxing and enjoyable. It won’t be the only way I will travel but it’s still a fun way to have a holiday.