Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Carnival Liberty 2.0 [PARTY CRUISE WOOOO!] Vacation, Part 12

When I last wrote we had just boarded the Liberty after an amazing day in St. Thomas/St. John, and because we didn't even get back on the ship until 4:30-ish we basically had just enough time to shower and get read for dinner. This night's menu was a bit disappointing, though - something that all four of us agreed upon.

I started with the tomato & mozzarella appetizer, and also tasted Steve's asparagus vischy. The vischy was very blase - I just felt like it had no *body* to it - and while my appetizer was good there was not enough of the pesto or cheese when compared to the tomato slices, which in themselves were basically tasteless.

As I mentioned, there wasn't much of interest on the menu, especially in the manner of entrees...I settled on the turkey dinner and was honestly SHOCKED at how good it was! The turkey was really moist and tasty and it was definitely a pleasant surprise.

For dessert I couldn't bring myself to order off the regular menu and instead asked about a kid's dessert menu. Our server acted like such a thing didn't exist (though I'd been told it did by past cruisers) and when I pressed him a bit he reluctantly listed off a few things. I ended up getting a banana split and it was delicious, even if the server did very obviously think I was a weirdo for wanting it, haha.

We returned to our room to find another awesome towel animal by the incomparable Noel! I'm guessing it was a Loch Ness monster?

We went to Bingo again this night, but it was our last time doing so as it was only one actual Bingo game for $20. We did get free cash craze things but...meh. Again, I think that I was just spoiled with the Bingo on our Princess Alaska cruise...I swear we used to buy the triple cards for the same $20 but play off them for like 10 games or something.

That's okay though...we consoled ourselves over our Bingo loss with another trip to Alchemy

Ioana doing the burning orange peel thing:

I have to say that one of the things I loved about this bar was that if you weren't keen on anything that they had on the menu, you could say "make me something", the mixologist would ask you a couple of questions, and you would end up with a surprise drink that was pretty much always absolutely amazing.

Due to copious amounts of rumosas, several Bon Voyage + soda card gin and tonics on my part, and those last couple drinks at Alchemy, we were in bed fairly early this night. It was Puerto Rico next, and SEGWAYS!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Our Carnival Liberty 2.0 [PARTY CRUISE WOOOO!] Vacation, Part 11

Now, I've experienced some crappy snorkeling, some decent snorkeling, and some amazing snorkeling over the years. The best two places so far had been Bird Island near Antigua, and just off Tabayana Beach on Roatan Island. So honestly, I'm hard to please. But this. was. AWESOME. I came within just a few feet of giant sea turtles, saw plenty of fish, plus another surprise...

Not sure what kind of fish this is....

Steve snorkeling!

Parrot fish...

TONS of sea urchins. Like sooooo many of them, and some of them were crazy big. By the by, does just LOOKING at these things make anyone else nervous? haha

Another fish I'm not sure about (what kind it is, I mean)

Aaaaand even MORE fish...

Remember that "other surprise" I mentioned? Well...SURPRISE!

We saw that octopus - which was probably well over a foot in diameter even in the first picture with it's tentacles all tucked in - grab hold of and eat a couple of shellfish. It was *SO* awesome!

Aaaanyway...back to our snorkeling trip!

We had about an hour and a half between anchoring the catamaran off Honeymoon Beach and when we had to leave, and between waiting for the dinghy/setting up on the beach/snorkeling/getting back from snorkeling and drying off for a bit while waiting to be picked up by the dinghy again, we used up every moment of that time.

At one point we were *still* sitting on the beach and hadn't seen the dinghy come back for pickups in quite a while, so we were thankful that Rachel had grabbed one of the proffered noodles and waved it around a bit in hopes that they would realize they still had a bunch of people on the beach. 

^^^ Waving the "noodle of distress"

(Really, they had to have known they still had the four of us PLUS a few other people on the beach, this was more of a joke on our part than anything. That said, not sure if they were joking when we boarded and they did a head count and claimed that they had more people than what they'd brought TO St. John, but if they weren't, then I'm still kinda glad we had that noodle to wave around so that we weren't forgotten...haha)

As soon as we boarded the catamaran again, it was FINALLY champagne time! Or, more accurately, champagne/mimosa/rum punch time.

We actually sailed back to St. Thomas and it took - again - about an hour, maybe a little longer. We were lucky in that we happened to sit on the front of the catamaran right under where the sail gave us shade for almost the entire time...

Now, I have to explain to you this amazing drink that we had on this excursion. We dubbed this drink...


Basically, you have your rum punch. And when said rum punch is half empty and the next crew member that comes along has the mimosa jug but not the rum punch jug, and you don't want to wait and are too lazy to get up and go to the bar, you have said crew member top off your rum punch with mimosa.

And then you drink some of that, and the next time they come around they're carrying straight champagne. Again, you don't want to wait for the rum punch round, and you are even lazier than you were awhile ago so there's certainly not going to be any getting up on your part. So you have said crew member top you off with champagne this time.

And that, folks, is how you end up with a "rumosa". And it is delicious.

After another harrowing drive back to the shopping area, we still had over an hour before the ship left port. Steve and I did a bit of shopping, just to pick up a couple shot glasses for my collection and a bottle of rum that we thought looked interesting. Honestly I could have cared less about having extra time in the morning and in the afternoon if it had meant more time on the Champagne Catamaran excursion! Seriously, that thing should run from at least 10:30 AM until 4:30 PM! haha.

No but really, I've had one really crappy excursion on a past cruise, a couple okay ones, a bunch of really good ones and a couple amazing ones...out of them all, I can only think of one that even comes close to matching how awesome the St. John Champagne Catamaran excursion was. I literally cannot recommend it enough - unless of course you don't like gorgeous paradise-like beaches, don't snorkel, and don't drink, in which case I'm not sure why you're on a cruise in the first place...

(kidding, really)

So we boarded the Liberty a little before 5 - thankfully the lines weren't too bad.

Goodbye St. Thomas...

Here's the rum we bought - Bones Rum. $22 for this jug, so no, it wasn't "cheap", per se. But you can only get it in St. Thomas (and I think maybe St. John) and it is DELICIOUS. Plus it comes in a cool bottle.

Yes, that is me, on our balcony, in St. Thomas...with the bottle of liquor that we bought in St. Thomas in my hand. You can ask me how I accomplished this, but in the words of that creepy character from that movie Don't Say a Word, "I'll never teeeellll..." haha

(that said, while we did TASTE the stuff while we were on the ship, having it in our room did not stop us from wracking up one hell of a bar bill on our sign & sail account...and I'm blaming THAT on Alchemy!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Carnival Liberty 2.0 [PARTY CRUISE WOOOO!] Vacation, Part 10

Watching us sail up to St. Thomas from our balcony:

I was up and in the gym around 9 AM on our St. Thomas day, and thankfuly it wasn't crowded at all. Unfortunately, when we headed to the breakfast buffet on the Lido at about was VERY much so (crowded, I mean). The pancakes were good but the butter was rock hard, so much so that there was no chance of it melting enough to be edible. Sad. They also had this little bacon-and-egg "flan" thing (it seemed like more of a quiche to me, though when I removed it from its little cup I saw from the bottom whey they called it "flan") that was really good.

We decided to debark around 10:45 or so, though we weren't meeting for our excursion - the St. John Champagne Catamaran Sail - until noon-ish. I wanted to wander around the port area a little bit. Surprise surprise...there was a Senor Frog's right off the ship...

Now, we were able to pretty much get right off the ship, but we met some people who had an earlier excursion and said that trying to debark earlier was a nightmare. I can't speak for exactly what happened other than to say that apparently there were some problems, though.

The Valor was in port with us this day! Second time I've been on a Carnival cruise and ended up in port with the first Carnival ship I ever sailed :)

Just past Senor Frog's and around the corner (about a 10 minute walk from the ship) was a shopping area. Though I'd been to St. Thomas before it was nearly 12 years ago so I"m not sure how long this shopping area has been there, but I didn't remember it. However, it wasn't quite as touristy as the new shopping areas that you walk into when you get off a Carnival ship in Grand Turk (more on that later) or Mahogany Bay on Roatan.

We met for our excursion and boarded open-air van/truck things for a 20-ish minute drive to the harbor. Parts of the drive were pretty crazy/harrowing! I hadn't seen anyone comment on this before and I'm honestly surprised about that.

Anyway, we were told to take off our shoes as we boarded the catamaran, and they had sodas and water if we wanted it (the rum punch/mimosas/champagne were for after snorkeling, of course). Our catamaran was the Adventuress and our crew was Garen, a girl whose name escapes me (maybe Dani?), and the captain, Cody/Cory. (Yeah...I'm not good with names, especially if I only meet people once, haha)

We motored TO St. John and I want to say it took a little over an hour. Throughout the trip the crew told us about St. John, St. Thomas, pointed out other little islands, etc.

Approaching St. John:

The female crew member, Dani or whatever her name was. haha.

The captain:

Honeymoon Beach, St John: FINALLY!

Garen pointing out the resort off to the left (well, our left, the beach's right) of Honeymoon Beach:

Now, once they anchored the catamaran we had two choices - to swim off the boat or to take the dinghy to the shore. Now, Steve and I are strong swimmers and definitely could have jumped off the boat, but we wanted to go to the beach! So onto the dinghy we went. We did have to wait about 10-15 minutes to do so, and that thing is definitely TINY and all, but it is what it is. They literally *can't* pull the catamaran up to shore so you take what you can get.

Looking out over the beach after dropping off our things:

Looking out over the water from Honeymoon Beach:

Once we had spread out towels and whatnot, it was time for some snorkeling! Stay tuned for many, many snorkeling pictures in my next update ;)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Carnival Liberty 2.0 [Party Cruise WOOOO!] Vacation, Part 9

Back to our first day at sea! Once the cocktail party and bingo were over, we basically just wandered around for a bit before heading back to our room to get ready for the first formal night. We had meant to try to take pictures beforehand but ended up not having time...and that comes into play later.

For dinner I ordered the pumpkin soup appetizer, which I remembered absolutely *loving* on our Dream cruise. It was still good but a lot more...bland, than I remembered, maybe?

And for the entree...the lobster and shrimp, of course!

Now, the shrimp WERE small, but they were really good - personally I do *not* believe that bigger is always better when it comes to shrimp. The mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli were yummy as well. The lobster, on the other hand...meh. It was very small, which I expected because that's how it was on our last cruise...but it was also extremely tough, which was very disappointing.

Steve had the prime rib which was thankfully very good, though.

For dessert I wasn't too keen on much of the menu and finally decided on the apple puff pastry. Again, while it was decent, it was also very bland...I know that puff pastry itself is very airy and doesn't have much taste, but I think the apples should have been spiced better and there should have been ice cream rather than the tasteless cream or whatever it was in the pastry. Also the caramel sauce should have been incorporated into the dessert rather than served on the side.

Okay, sorry, I'll get off my four-years-in-the-restaurant-industry kick now...haha

After dinner we returned to our room to find a towel animal that I'm *still* not sure about. The only thing I can figure is that it's supposed to be one of the "Shy Guys" in Super Mario Bros. 2 for old school, comparison:

Right? RIGHT? haha

So after our quick stop in the room we decided to head down and see about photo ops, because when we'd left the dining room the lines had been INSANE at of the backdrops. That had been around 7:30 and they continued to be that insane until at least 8:15, if not later.

Unfortunately when the lines died down we were waiting for Rachel and Josh, and by the time they found us (at Alchemy of course!) the lines were crazy again...this was about 9 PM, and it continued until close to 10. Needless to say, none of us wanted to wait in a crazy line just to get our picture taken, so we figured we'd do it another night...what we REALLY wanted was to get our picture taken with the Titanic backdrop, because, well, we're that generation. So Steve and I only got one [informal] picture taken on the first formal night...but at least it was at Alchemy! haha

And Ioana made me a special drink to help me feel better (or feel nothing? heh) about not getting a "professional" photo this night...note the giant block of chocolate! They shaved off that thing all week, haha.

And at least we got a decent picture of us hanging at Alchemy on Formal Night :)

Eventually we donned our bathing suits and headed up to the Lido for the big screen movies and some hot tub time. I have to note that I don't understand what was up with the big screen movies on our cruise! When we were on the Dream they at least advertised them in the Fun Times every night, and though one night they did play a football game instead, the movies they were showing were sort of "first run" - i.e. movies that were either just about to come out on DVD/Blu-ray or movies that had JUST come out on DVD/Blu-ray. However, on this cruise they only advertised the movies on three nights, and on all of those nights they were OLD movies (one of the older Superman movies on either Saturday or Sunday night, P.S. I Love You & 13 Going on 30 on Monday night, and later in the week - I think maybe Thursday night - A.I. and Men in Black.)

Apparently they DID play movies on other nights but we only found out about them after the fact! And I'm telling you, I *scoured* the Fun Times looking for the movies every day because they were one of our favorite things about the Dream cruise. So disappointing...why add the giant screen to the Liberty if you're going to practically act as if it doesn't exist? Sigh.

And as for the hot tubs...all week we only found ONE (the one up under the slide) that was actually hot. The ones on the Lido were barely even warmer than the pool (in fact, I'm still not sure they were).

We did go to the late-night buffet this night as well - it was fairly small, just hot dogs, grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, buffalo chicken sandwiches, cookies and brownies. I'm not big on buffalo chicken but the sandwiches were still good, and Josh absolutely loved them. The grilled ham and cheese sandwiches were good as well.

Anyway, having already seen 13 going on 30, I bowed out about thirty minutes before the movie ended...St Thomas was the next day and I wanted to be rested up (and not hungover, haha) for our St. John Champagne Catamaran Sail!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our Carnival Liberty 2.0 [Party Cruise WOOOO!] Vacation, Part 8

For our first full day at sea on Monday, Steve and I planned on getting up a bit early. I wanted to work out and darnit, we wanted one of those big comfy chairs on the Serenity Deck!

I was at the gym a bit before 7:15 and it was definitely not as crowded as it had been the day before at around 8 - there were actually a few treadmills available when I arrived. That said, those few were taken within ten minutes of my arrival.

We arrived on the Serenity deck right at 8 AM...and ALL of the big comfy clamshell chairs - specifically the ones with the covers - were taken! By bags, though, not people. Now, the couches, most of the lounge chairs, and a couple of the round chairs that don't have the covers were available but we wanted one of those clamshell chairs.

We set ourselves up on one of the couches and yes, I was one of "those people" who doesn't stand for long-time chair hogging. Within 10-15 minutes of our arrival the occupants of two of the chairs had returned...but after we waited 40 minutes and the third chair still only had a single beach bag "holding" it, I approached a crew member and asked him about removing it. He had been cleaning the deck when we arrived and had been within twenty feet of us most of that time, so when I explained how long we had waited and that not a single person had approached the chair he removed the bag to the nearby towel station.

Needless to say, at about 9 AM the woman who had been "holding" the chair with her single beach bag finally returned. She wasn't happy about the situation but thankfully didn't cause too much of a scene. Honestly I'm guessing she put that bag on the chair before 6 AM or possibly even the night before, due to something we experienced later in the week (I'll get into that on my final sea day review, promise), and I refuse(d) to feel bad about asserting my right to that 30 minute rule ::shrug::

Steve enjoying our hard-won chair! We even brought pillows up from our room. Darn right we enjoyed every moment we spent in that thing! haha

Now, for breakfast first Steve went to get a plate of food from the buffet, then I did. That way there was always someone in our chair. We're not big buffet people but I will say that the French toast was good, as were the croissants. We also had other random items like cheese, cereal, etc. The chocolate muffins were kind of dry/bleh and the scrambled eggs were honestly disgusting. They *looked* like scrambled eggs but *tasted* like hard-boiled eggs. Something was wrong there, though I'm not quite sure what.

As for the general chair-hogging scene...I don't know if it was just because we were up there pretty early, but even as "late" as about 9:30 AM there were still chairs available here and there on the Lido deck (like, around the pool - though more so on the levels that are stepped up rather than the ones right next to the pool). There was a lot of chair hogging but it wasn't like there wasn't a single chair available, if you catch my drift. The Serenity wasn't even *that* bad - there were still several lounges available as late as 10/10:30 AM, though all the best chairs were taken...haha

Luckily for the woman sitting on the lounge chair next to our clamshell chair, we had somewhere to be at 12:30...a Cruise Critic roll call cocktail party! I'm not even kidding you, the MOMENT we showed any signs of packing up our stuff this person was on the edge of her seat waiting to grab "our" chair. I don't mean to say she wasn't polite about it or anything...we just got a bit of a kick over it.

Our cocktail party was a bit early for my taste, and held in the Stage Lounge. Gosh I wish they'd schedule these outside/in a place that has inside-outside access if they're going to do them in the middle of the day like this! That said it really was a blast. We had an extremely active Cruise Critic roll call (as I think I mentioned before) and I got to meet several of the people I'd been chatting with for months, which was great. Service was really good, as well.

Post-cocktail party (it ended at 2:30 and honestly still wasn't long enough! so much fun) we went back to our room to crack open one of the bottles of wine we'd brought on board and enjoy our balcony for a bit, before heading back up to the Lido for a bite to eat and some Bingo.

This is the first time I'd had a balcony room since my Princess Alaska cruise in May 2008...I'd forgotten how amazing it was...sigh.

Bingo was at 3:15 so we ran up and were able to snag chairs right by the pool in order to participate. Now, I don't play bingo at home but I had *so* much fun with it on my Alaska cruise that I wanted to give it a go again. just wasn't the same. Probably because there isn't much else to do on an Alaska cruise, or maybe because Princess puts a lot of focus on their Bingo activity. Sad.

Anyway, so Steve bought our Bingo card and I grabbed another Guy's Burger. YUM! I have to say (because I meant to mention this in my recap of our first day, and forgot) these burgers are just amazing...but WOW are they messy! Though it was nice that both times I had one (around 2:30 on embarkation day and at a few minutes after 3 on the first sea day) I didn't really have to wait. Maybe a 10 minute wait that first time and less than 3 minutes this time. Though to be honest it maaaay have been because I was eating at such odd times, haha.

So yeah, Bingo was $20 for three games but honestly they went SO quickly. They were offering the cash craze things for $5 but we didn't buy any...thankfully, because the very next night they were giving them away for free when you bought a Bingo card.

Anyway, I'm also not big on the idea of this round of Bingo being on the Lido deck...Mainly because it was hot, the sun was pounding down on us (the only shady spots where you could see the screen were at the edges of the Red Frog and Blue Iguana bars), and I'm just not the BIGGEST fan of the noise level right around the center area/main pool of the Lido. I'm not sure if they held Bingo out here during the day at any other point throughout the week, but if they did...we didn't go.

Phew. More to come about the first formal night, so stay tuned :)