Friday, October 21, 2016

Cruisin’ Cousins, Part Five {Sea Days, the Chef’s Table, and Coming Home}

We left Roatan on Thursday evening to begin the journey back home to the States. That meant we had two full days at sea to enjoy.

Since we had to be up and out very early on all of our port days, we ordered room service those three mornings and ate on our balcony. But we decided we wanted to try breakfast in the dining room on our sea days. So after Jeff and I did our Friday morning runs, the three of us went to the Scarlet Restaurant for a nice, leisurely breakfast. I requested to sit at the same table we ate dinner at so we could see the view; it was already dark when we ate dinner every night so we couldn’t see anything. It was a really nice view, right in the back corner of the ship.


After breakfast, Jeff and I went up to deck 5 and found a spot to sit and play UNO. Cub was off doing something else, but he came and found us around lunchtime. We happened to be sitting right across from a previously unknown (to us) salad bar and just down from the oceanside BBQ. We had a great lunch that day!

After lunch, we moved into the Ocean Plaza Lounge for afternoon movie trivia. I even wore my “I Speak Fluent Movie Quotes” shirt just for the occasion. However, we failed to win a 24-karat solid gold plastic ship on a stick trophy. Lots of the questions had to do with mob movies that I sadly don’t know enough about.


A little while later, we went up to the Blue Iguana tequila bar on deck 10, where Jeff and Cub decided it was a grand time for power hour. However, they didn’t make it all the way through. We had special plans that night so they decided it would be best to quit early and save themselves for what was to come. Smart decision, boys.



Here’s what we did that night: Carnival has a Chef’s Table (similar to the one at Commander’s Palace) on board, which Jeff and I had no idea about. However,  Cub had experienced it before and highly recommended going if we could. It costs extra and the reservations fill up fast, but we got in.


Our assigned Chef’s Table dinner was on Friday evening with 12 other people. We met in the Song Jazz Lounge on deck 5 at 6:30pm for champagne and canapés. The head sous chef spoke to us a little about the kitchen staff and the galleys and how they operate. Very impressive. And the canapés were delicious!


Then we moved into the main galley. We walked by numerous plating stations, cooking stations, and dishwashing stations. The operation is massive.


We turned a corner and spotted our table for the night, set up right in the galley. It was so cool. We were even given a group photo with the head chef and sous chef at the end of the night. Such a nice touch.





We were served 8 courses, and everything was really tasty. I got really full towards the end but managed to try everything. We also got up in the middle of dinner and walked over to another prep area to learn more about the workings of a cruise ship galley. But the best part was when we met one of the pastry chefs, who demonstrated how to make the famous Carnival chocolate melting cake. And we got to take the recipe home! I need to recreate it soon, especially because it looks so easy.




Once the last course had been consumed, we thanked everyone and left the galley, super full but completely satisfied. Cub went straight to the piano bar, but Jeff and I needed to lie down for a bit. I almost didn’t get back up but eventually did and dragged myself back downstairs to see Mark and Mignon. Oh, and Phil! She was there too.



The next morning I went to the gym for almost 2 hours and got my longest run ever in. (Go me!) Then I met the boys in the dining room for another good breakfast. At one point there were eggs, pancakes, bacon, mac and cheese, salad, fried chicken, French fries, steak, cheesecake, water, coffee, and mimosas on the table. It was impressive.


After breakfast, I returned to the very back of the ship on deck 5 (which I discovered on my Friday morning run) to take some photos. I loved the way the ship’s wake looked in the sunshine.




After that I met back up with the boys in the Ocean Plaza Lounge. We snagged a table and played Rummikub and Phase 10 while we waited for more trivia. It was television theme song trivia this time, and we did just okay. Still no ship on a stick for us. I got the awesome salad bar for lunch again and then we left to watch Cub play Bingo and try to win $5000. Sadly, he did not, but we had fun! Then we went back for one last round of trivia: 90s songs! Cub was great at this, but we unfortunately got 2 wrong and lost to a team that got a perfect score. Ah, well.




Arkansas played Alabama that night and the Casino Bar carried the game, so you can bet that’s where Cub was. Jeff and I joined him for some of the game but we left to enjoy our last dinner in the Scarlet Restaurant. Cub came just to take a picture with Alex and Harry and then he went back to the game.



Alabama unfortunately ran all over Arkansas that night. While Cub was drowning his sorrows, Jeff and I had a great time with our tablemates (Karen, Dominick, and Theresa) and the staff. More photos and dancing and celebrating. We didn’t want to say goodbye to Alex, Harry, or Juvy, but we had to. Loved all of them so much!




We left the dining room and walked through the lobby area on our way to the piano bar. Chris, the cruise director, was just starting his top 20 song trivia and was asking for volunteers to come up to help him with certain songs. Oh, and he was giving them ships on a stick as a thank you for embarrassing themselves. It was my last chance to get one! So I parked myself at the perimeter of the floor and hoped he would call on me. Sadly, he never needed any female volunteers, but the trivia was really fun. SO many different types of songs comprised his favorites; it was really interesting to hear all of them.


His #2 song was “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which he full out performed for everyone. Awesome. Then we got to his #1 song, which he also performed. I don’t know the name of it but all you need to know is that it was by Luciano Pavarotti. He belted out those operatic lyrics so impressively and beautifully that he actually brought a tear to my eye.

I decided I just had to go up to him afterwards and tell him how good he was. He was so nice and grateful and appreciative. I also found out that he had only been in the cruise director job FOR THREE WEEKS. I told him he had definitely chosen the right profession and that he had made our week so much fun. Then I mentioned that I had hoped to bring home a ship on a stick for my kids and he gave me one. So nice of him. I’m so glad I got the chance to chat with him for a bit.


I took my ship on a stick to meet the boys at the piano bar for one last night with Mark and Mignon. We didn’t see Phil again, but Karen, Dominick, and Theresa showed up, as well as other people we met earlier in the week, Hailey and her mom Teresa. We had so much fun and even took a group picture with Mark around his piano.







We finally got back to our room just before 1am, which was when the boys decided to order chicken wings and pizza from room service. It took 45 minutes to get there, during which they watched Back to the Future and occasionally admitted that they probably shouldn’t have ordered anything. But they finished it all once it finally arrived.

The next morning we were up pretty early and saw a gorgeous sunrise behind the Crescent City Connection. We ate a quick breakfast in the dining room and then went back to our cabin to get our stuff and head downstairs to debark. We ran into Oliver, our awesome room steward, on our way out and had to get a photo with him. This is the man responsible for the great towel animals on my bed all week. Loved him!




We were off the ship before 9am. Kenny and the boys picked us up. We were so happy to see each other; I had missed my boys so much! Once we got back home, I presented the boys with their ship on a stick. They loved it!


The last thing I’ll leave y’all with are a few photographic recreations. The three of us decided we needed to take updated versions of a few of the pictures from our cruise together in 1996. The first one is from Cozumel. Sadly, the Dairy Queen is no longer there; it was replaced by a restaurant called Woody’s. But we found it! The next two are from our cabin. Please enjoy.




It really was a great trip. I’m already looking forward to the next one! Whaddya say, boys? Up for another one in 20 more years???

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cruisin’ Cousins, Part Four {Roatan}

When we woke up on Thursday morning, we could see land but we hadn’t docked yet. We had reached the waters of Honduras, though, because less than an hour later we were pulling up to the Mahogany Bay dock on the island of Roatan. I will say right off the bat that I would go back to this island and spend a whole week there. It was gorgeous.




We went downstairs to the Encore Lounge to meet up with our fellow excursioners. We went on the Jolly Roger catamaran and snorkeling tour that day, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.



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We cruised up the coast for about 40 minutes to get to our snorkeling site. The water was beautiful; I couldn’t wait to get in to see what we would see underneath the surface. If only Jeff and Cub were SCUBA certified; I would have loved to dive Roatan.

We got our snorkel gear on and jumped into the water as soon as we were given the all clear. I had brought along a waterproof case for my phone but it didn’t really work very well. Luckily, though, the Jolly Roger crew was amazing and got some great photos of our entire time with them, including some underwater shots!

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We were in the water for about an hour, looking at all kinds of coral and fish. It was so pretty. We got back on the boat, turned in our gear, and got the party started. Rum punch, a great lunch, and fun music!



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The crew didn’t take us right back to the ship, either. We trolled around and in and out of a few different areas along the coast, getting to see even more of the cute little island. (It’s only 36 miles long and 4 miles wide.) The rum punch was flowing (we drank them dry, going through 10 bottles of rum), a random little rainshower blew through fairly quickly, and we didn’t stop the party until we got back to the dock. I repeat, I could totally spend a week here.





The captain and crew were so much fun; they were what made the day so great. Very knowledgeable, personable, and helpful. Roger, Fausto, Wilson, Irvin, and Alvin, y’all rock!




The catamaran trip lasted almost 4 hours, but we had plenty of time before we had to be back on board the ship. We bid farewell to the Jolly Roger and her crew and walked back into the terminal area to explore. There were a few shops and a small craft market. We found stellar Roatan-produced rum; Jeff bought a bottle of their spiced rum. We got stamps on our passports and then ended up at Fat Tuesday to sample some local beer.




After two rounds, Cub decided he was done and headed back to the ship. We still had two hours left to kill, though, and Jeff and I weren’t ready to leave yet. So we walked over the bridge to the beach area, where we tried more local beer and had conch ceviche with fried plantains. So fresh and good.


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We got back on the ship, changed clothes, and headed up to the deck 12 Serenity area at the bow to watch us leave our last port. I watched until we were completely out of the bay and cruising along the coast and then I went back to my comfy seat and promptly fell asleep.


Successful day all around. More cruise recaps coming your way soon!

Are y’all tired of them yet???

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