Sunday, July 10, 2011

Come sail away with me

Le Carnival Freedom
Free at last!
After taking a *free* shuttle to Port Everglades (one of the main reasons we booked that particular hotel), the madness began. Boarding a cruise really is not as bad as lots of people try to make it seem. It did take about 90 minutes from start to finish, but what else would you expect while loading thousands of people onto a vessel?
We had our passports looked at (we passed that part), and then we went through security (we got through this part but possibly because a southern lady next to us kept screeching that she had a pacemaker and could not go through the detector), and finally we were checked in and got our sail and sign cards. My card was gold. Wolfie's was blue.
I was so excited as we boarded. My only thought was that I could not lose my sail and sign card over the side of the gangway. We were on!
After trying to find a seat in one of the buffets, we gave up for a bit and tried our luck at seeing if our room was available. We had much better luck at that. Our room was on Panorama Deck 10. Room 1003. Front of the ship. The highest deck with cabins on it is Deck 11 so we were up there! I adored our room. I would get it again in a heartbeat. It was technically an interior room, but it did have a large window. The reason why it is classified as interior is that the window overlooks a public walkway. This was never a problem; we only saw a handful of people out there ever. (See picture.)

After putting our bags down, we tried our luck again at eating. This time, we had success. Wolf and I each got food from the Tandor Grill which was entirely Indian cuisine. It was amazing. Not quite as good as Bombay House, but it was honestly almost up there. They even had naan (Okay, the naan was really not as good as Bombay House's naan, but since the ship really probably does not have a tandoor oven, it makes sense.)
The curry I had was amazing and Wolf tells me that his food was superb.
We settled in our room and relaxed until we had to report to our muster stations (we're #1!) for emergency briefing.
Then we had more time to relax before dinner.
This was right before we headed off to dinner the first night.
Our dinner experience was interesting. On the first night, two other couples besides ourselves showed up. Our table was meant to be a table for eight. We learned that one of the other couples was on their honeymoon, but the third couple was about ten years into their marriage. Our servers were excellent and I have nothing but praise for them. The second night, the older couple did not show up and for the rest of the cruise, there were four of us at a table that sat eight.
We chose late dining and after a few days, we wished we would have chosen early dining. The dining room opened rather late the first half of the cruise (partially thanks to late arrivers to the early dining) and most the time, we were rather tired by the time 8:15 came.
The food was amazing. I loved my appetizers, meals, and desserts that I got. Wolf only had one appetizer that he did not like and loved the rest of the food. Our favorite dessert was the bitter and blanc, a white chocolate bread pudding. The chocolate melting cake (that everyone raves about) was either amazing or not so good. Apparently there is a precise time to cook these little cakes for or else they are just chocolate cake. No melting involved.

Speaking of food, the rest of the food on the cruise was amazing. We were not expecting 5 star and so we were pleasantly surprised. The breakfasts were filling enough and gave lots of options. Lunches gave more of a variety. We would head to the Tandoor Grill oftentimes, if just to grab some pieces of naan. We had burgers, chips and salsa, pizza, sandwiches, Mongolian bbqs, salads, and just about anything else you could want for lunch. We had self serve soft ice cream every day and I had at least one (usually more) mug of hot chocolate daily. I also showed Wolf the wonderful concoction of hot chocolate and ice cream together.

Someone surprised us with this awesome cake. It was chocolate and absolutely delicious. We got it our first day on board.

Right before the emergency prep. At least we knew our life jackets fit.

This was a bench right outside our cabin. We loved going on the walkway outside our cabin. It was right on the front of the ship and you could see for miles around.

This may have been the only reason Wolf wanted to do this cruise. Wolf saw that we would go somewhat close to Cuba (a place he really wants to go) and was excited to see it. I thought he was envisioning being so close we could see native Cubans in their natural habitat. This was as much of Cuba as we could see.
Apparently, that's all of Cuba Wolf thought we would see. (You can barely see the island.)

One thing Carnival is known for is their towel animals they place on your bed each night (with chocolates). They had a few demonstrations, and this is the only thing we brought our camera to on board. We only learned how to make an elephant and a dog. This is the only type of dog I will ever own.

This is Wolf making the head of the elephant. I liked the elephant more, but it was hard! There was a dude sitting next to Wolf and he kept asking me how to do the different parts. I was basically a pro.

My finished elephant

Wolf's finished (midget) elephant.

This was our Costa Rica day. Wolf wore this outfit:
Right after we got back on the ship on our Costa Rica day, I made the mistake of saying this: "If we had a slave, I would send him to go get me a calzone. That way, I could get in the shower and finish showering right after he got back and then I could have a hot and delicious calzone and be clean."
I guess sometimes Wolf thinks he's my slave.

This is the view we had of Panama after getting into port.

I was craving another calzone after our day in Panama. (If any of you even think you know me, you must know that pizza is possibly my favorite food and I used to have it at least once a week. Calzones are like version 2.0 of pizza. I think I had 4 on our cruise.) While I ate my calzone and Wolf had some Indian food, we looked at Panama one last time. This is a beautiful Hilton Hotel. It is right next to the dock. What does this picture and the picture below it have in common?

They are in the same neighborhood. That lovely hotel was surrounded by cramped streets, peddlers, and factories. I guess it is rather close to the free trade zone.

One of our favorite things to do was wander the ship. We went to the Serenity Area (adults only) and they asked me if I was 21 as we entered. Apparently I am at the age where I can pass for a number of different ages.

During a lazy afternoon, Wolf decided that it would be a good idea to play mini golf. So we rented our clubs and balls and headed up to the green. It would have been more enjoyable if the wind was not at 30 mph. The balls would often roll around after they had previously come to a stop. You had to yell to be heard.

A couple nights, we lounged in lounge chairs and watched movie on the large screen. We often had popcorn and ice cream as we watched.

One last important thing to note about the cruise is the best show we went to. Ticket to Ride. A Beatles tribute. Wolf thought I was hilarious that whole evening (the second to last evening we had on board) because I would burst into Beatles songs or just get really excited those things I do when I get really excited. I think he got a video of me right before the concert, but it is not on my computer. Basically, I was determined that they would choose a volunteer from the audience (me, of course) to sing the last song as a solo.
Strangely, that's not quite what happened.

Disembarkment day! Because of a prior cruise I had been on with the same company, I thought that I knew exactly what to expect. I did, kinda. During my past cruise, the passengers disembarked based off what deck their room was on. The same thing happened this time, but the big difference was last time, the larger the number, the sooner you got off. It was the opposite this time. Wolf and I finished packing and ate breakfast for one last time. (Sadly, it was not until the second to last day that Wolf discovered they have soy milk on board.)
The disembarkment started a little late because the main gangway that is normally used for the particular place we were docked was broken and a new means to get off the ship had to be put together.
As we took our luggage to the Victoriana Lounge (the main showroom on the ship), we settled down and watched CNN as announcements would come on every 20-30 minutes announcing a new deck to come to the gangway. They got up to deck 9 before disaster struck. Okay, I don't actually know what struck. It was not disaster or lightning or a semi. For some reason, the US government would not let us continue getting off the ship for a while. After they called deck 9, Wolf started to get antsy. Ten minutes later, when we expected them to call down deck ten, the cruise director came on for another announcement. Wolf and I started heading towards the stairs, when they told us that we would have to halt our process for a while. We were already out of our great seats and wanted to get out of the crowded lounge so we moved locations.

Because we were not getting off the ship on this level (the place level passengers usually got off), the cruise director turned the lounge into a waiting area. Here is our cruise director, shuffling things around. (He's in the middle of the picture.)

This is an even worse stalker photo of our cruise director. His nickname is Ryan Ryan Dandelion. I love just about every aspect of this picture.

(Question of the day: how many pictures of cruise directors do you think are out on social networks or blogs?) Soon after the stalker pictures were taken, they announced that they were back on track and that we could get off the ship. Since I packed so lightly and Wolf was carrying the bag I packed in, a dozen people asked me if I was certain I had all my luggage. I would casually wave back to my husband and they would understand then.
We flew through customs. (They didn't even ask us any questions. I wanted to plead the fifth.)
Then we were off the ship.
Our honeymoon was basically over.

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