Posts tagged: Carnival Cruise
For every person who loves to cruise, there is another who can’t imagine boarding a big ship with several thousand others and taking to the high seas.
If you fall into the latter category, you might be pleasantly surprised by the way cruising isn’t always what you imagine. From privacy to culture to premium dining, there’s more to the experience than midnight buffets and shuffleboard.
Here are five ways modern cruising might surprise you:
You can find your happy place: If you’re on a budget (and most of us are) it’s still possible to recreate certain elements of a luxury experience on even the most budget-minded cruise. It’s all about where you spend. Instead of going for the cheapest possible cabin—usually an interior room deep in the ship—and spending your time and money with the crowd at the bar or party deck, rethink your strategy. Instead, put your money toward a balcony room and economize in other ways. Room service aboard ship is almost always available 24-hours and at no extra charge. That means—especially on a particularly scenic cruise—you can tune out the crowd on the upper decks and savor the view and the solitude from your own private space. (Note: Be sure to check the ship’s smoking policy. Some lines allow smoking on the ship’s balconies.)
Books, books and more books: If the weather’s iffy or you’re on an at-sea day, on the right ship you don’t have to stay in your room or a search for a chair in a crowded lounge to spend some time with with a good book. Some Holland America ships come with honest-to-goodness libraries. I cruised from Quebec City to Boston on the ms Veendam and the library became my hangout. I found a book by a favorite author and checked it out with the help of a real live librarian. Every minute we weren’t on a port excursion or watching the coastline from our stateroom, my husband and I could be found on either end of a cushy sofa or tucked into big comfy chairs in the large library. Outfitted with wraparound shelves filled with everything from mysteries to reference books and computer terminals with access to the New York Times photo archive, the library also had big tables for games and puzzles and was a magnet for families and people of all ages.
An intimate dinner for two: The long lines and hungry crowds in the dining room are part of the cruise ship cliche. Fortunately most cruise lines have introduced specialty dining. I love Carnival’s Fahrenheit 555 steak house restaurants. For $35 per person you choose from an extensive menu, including prime cuts of meat, for a date-night meal worth remembering. And you certainly can’t beat the view.
No bells and whistles. If slot machines and blackjack tables are not your thing, and just walking through the noisy, smoky shipboard casino space—usually in the very center of the ship—annoys you, consider taking a Disney cruise. Disney took the space most other lines dedicate to casinos and adults games and put it to good use as an extensive “kid zone” with state-of-the-art security. This is a real bonus for families, but quite a few savvy travelers—from honeymooners to boomers to singles—sail with Disney. The cruise line’s unbeatable customer service and attention to detail make it a great way to travel at any age.
Cruising can make you smarter: The Cunard name is synonymous with elegance and culture. And with the introduction of its speaker series in the mid 1970s, Cunard set the standard for at-sea enrichment. With speakers running the gamut from John Cleese to P.D.James to Bill Bryson to Jimmy Carter, symphony performances and an onboard planetarium, you’ll not only be entertained, you might come home a little smarter than you were when you left.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hadn’t been in New Orleans for a long time, but the mystique is still true; the city is one you don’t forget. A lot has changed over time and after the devastating hurricane in 2005, but as I walked, taking in familiar sights, the distinctive architecture, the soft Southern voices and the sounds of jazz and Zydeco music, I knew exactly where I was.
I’d flown down to cover the maiden U. S. voyage of the Carnival Sunshine, sailing from the Port of New Orleans, and my husband was with me. We had a day to explore the city before the cruise began and we made a quick tour of the French Quarter and the waterfront, before heading up Magazine street to the New Orleans destination we’d really come to see: The World War II Museum.
I spent a week last summer touring the countryside of the Normandy region of France, and I’d visited most of the D-Day landing sites and museums. Since my return, I haven’t been able to shake the experience. The scope and stories of the profoundly life-changing experiences of the survivors, and the sheer number of lives lost, is, even 70 years later, overwhelming. I was anxious to see how the WWII Museum’s D-Day exhibit captured that time in history.
But first, before we explored anything indoors, we had another, more personal, monument to see. When the museum opened in 2000 my husband’s family purchased a commemorative brick to honor their father who served in the Marines and was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. My husband, with one of our daughters, had visited the brick once before, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but I hadn’t seen it.
With the help of a map supplied by museum staff, we found my father-in-law’s engraved brick on the walkway near the entrance of the museum. My husband brushed away a few fallen leaves and I took his photo with it. We stood there for a few more minutes without saying anything, both of us lost in our own thoughts of someone we’d loved.
My father-in-law died in 2009 and he never got to see the small monument his children placed at the museum to honor him. But he knew it was there and I think it pleased him.
For the next week, cruising around the Caribbean, soaking up as much sun as possible before going back to the cold, already snowy, Northwest, my mind kept going back to the red brick carved with my father-in-law’s name and the torpedo bomber squadron to which he’d been assigned.
I’m glad we’d dedicated most of our free time in New Orleans to visiting the museum. The D-Day exhibit was moving and comprehensive and captured the true horror of the battles of the war. And it gave us a chance to revisit a personal history, to stop and take a moment to remember a kind and gentle man.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Crossing the deck of the busy cruise ship, on my way to get something for lunch, I noticed a little boy crouched quietly, oblivious to the crowd around him as he bent over his shoe. He’d dropped to fasten the buckle and his mother stood patiently by, parting the sea of passengers that streamed around them. That, as every mother eventually learns, is what you do when you have a preschooler. You stand and wait while they master each new, seemingly monumental task. To do anything else is to invite tears and tantrums.
I watched the boy’s fingers, small and deliberate, as they worked at his task and I remembered my son doing the same thing at that age. I remembered the way my breath caught at the tender vulnerability of his neck, his thin back curved over knobby knees, his concentration evident by his frown and the tip of his tongue peeking out of the corner of his mouth.
I was on board the big ship to cover the launch of the brand new Carnival Breeze but the ceremonies were over and we were underway, already out to sea. I had nothing but time so I stayed where I was, watching the boy while fragments of other conversations drifted around me.
“We’re on our honeymoon,” I heard a man’s voice say, and I turned to see two couples, one young, the other old, on lounge chairs by the pool.
The old man replied that he and the old woman beside him had been married more than 50 years.
“Wow, that’s impressive,” the young man replied, his voice lacquered with a gloss of interest and respect. “So, what kind of advice would you give us?”
I knew, and the old man knew, it was a superficial question. Still, the old man seemed to take it seriously and was silent for a long moment and I waited to hear what he would say. The little boy worked on his shoe. The young woman smoothed sunscreen over her flat belly and along her arms. The old woman, her skin browned and leathery from years in the sun, rummaged through the basket on the deck beside her chair until she found her sunglasses. The young man sipped his beer.
Finally, the old man, his voice rough and graveled by years, spoke.
“You got it pretty good right now, son,” he said, nodding his head toward the young woman. “But one day, when the sun ain’t shining on you, and you’re mad at your pretty little bride over there and you hate your boss and the kid needs braces, you might think about doing something stupid. You might think about walking away.”
The young man looked a little shocked at the old man’s plain words.
“My advice is to remember how you feel right now because one day you might need it.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said. “I sure will.”
The old man, having said his piece, closed his eyes and the young man went back to his beer.
I looked back at the little boy just as he finally slipped the strap through the metal buckle. Dusting his hands on the back of his swimsuit, he stood up and said “Okay,” in a satisfied tone. With his mother beside him, he walked on and disappeared in the crowd.
I moved on too, got my food and walked back to where my husband was reading. He looked up from his book. “What took you so long?” he asked, and I realized I’d lost track of time. Again.
“Oh, you know me,” I teased, sitting down beside him. “I was just watching all the boys.”
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' and can be reached at email@example.com
We weren’t even on the ship when the party started. I was still making my way through the embarkation process, listening to piped-in dance music and having a welcome photo made when the 70s dance anthem, I Will Survive filled the air.
Almost immediately, one of the Carnival Cruise Line employees joined in (Is it even possible to listen to Gloria Gaynor sing that song and not sing along?) In the next moment a group of women, all traveling together on the 8-day Caribbean Cruise, turned the corner and someone in the group started singing with the attendant.
Another woman, then another, joined and soon they were all standing side by side, arms linked, belting out
“Oh no, not I
I will survive
As long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive…”
The song ended. In minutes we were crossing the gangplank and stepping on board the brand new Carnival Breeze and I realized I was still smiling.
It was an excellent way to start the trip.
Even on a ship as big and busy as the Breeze, with more than 4,000 passengers of all ages and another 1,300 crew, I saw the girlfriend group once or twice— all dressed up on “elegant” nights or gathered in a circle of deck chairs, chattering and laughing—and each time they looked like they were having the time of their lives. I asked and they told me they were from Chicago and like those of us who live in the Northwest, they were already tired of slogging through wintery gray skies and cold winds. They’d been counting the days until they could turn their back on winter and spend a week sailing to the Caribbean with nothing to do but sit in the sun, a glass of something tall and cool in hand.
Winter has its pleasures, of course—skiing, sledding, hot chocolate and marshmallows—but for the most part it is a season that requires us to bow and surrender or, once in a while, escape. That’s what I was looking for. While the Windy City ladies were partying, I planted myself on a deck chair, my husband beside me, and simply soaked up the Vitamin D, hoping to store enough sunshine to see me through until spring.
I figured out pretty quickly that the Carnival approach is to pack up the party and hit the waves. All you have to do is relax.
And always, right overhead, shining down on the ship, there is the star of the party and the secret to surviving the greyest days of winter in this part of the world: that big hot Caribbean sun.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org