Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Living the Dream- Sea Day #1

Lido and Laughs
Monday. March 13, 2017
This was a great day of rest, relaxation and refreshment. We enjoyed a meet and greet and cabin crawl with fellow cruisers and enjoyed exploring more of the ship. The weather was cold, windy and rainy but we still had a great time.

We woke up feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep despite the hard bed. We officially met our room steward, Arnold, and asked if we wanted AM, PM or both cleaning services. We opted for the both scheduled cleaning times as I really like the room to made up in the morning AND the turn down service in the evening. This was no problem for Arnold and he seemed happy to do it! In fact,  Arnold turned out to be one of our best room stewards ever.

TIP- This is a new thing Carnival is trying on several ships. This gives the guest the choice of morning, evening or both cleaning services. We opted for both and there was no issue! I know lots of cruisers are complaining about this but we had not issues at all. 

After we met with him and finalized all of our cabin options we ventured out to the Lido deck to get breakfast. It was already past 9AM so there was quite a line but we managed to get our burritos and tacos from Blue Iguana within 15 minutes or so. The breakfast options at Blue Iguana did not disappoint, yet again.

Our morning breakfast view. It doesn't get any better than this!

We explored more of the ship as we were so tired on embarkation day that we napped instead of touring the ship. During our explorations we saw the new pizza place on board called Pizzeria del Capitano and even though we just got done eating breakfast and were full... we got a slice anyway! We were on vacation! TIP- This new pizza place was the best pizza we have ever had on any Carnival ship. The recipe seemed to be different and the crust was much tastier. Be advised there is nearly ALWAYS a line but this time it was actually worth it! It is currently on the Dream, Magic, Sunshine, and Vista. 

This new pizza place was AWESOME and so fresh! 

After nearly an hour of exploring we went back to our room to be sure it was cleaned for the Cruise Critic cabin crawl. TIP- Cruise Critic is a website dedicated to ALL things cruising. This was a group of fellow cruisers who set up a tour of various staterooms. We had been on a cabin crawl before on the Serenade of the Seas so we knew what to expect (Although, this crawl being our second was less spectacular compared to the one Cindy threw on the Serenade in 2015).

During the crawl we got to see many different cabins including balconies, spa cabins and even a suite. It was a great way to see various cabin styles for future bookings. TIP- I would highly suggest all cruisers become part of the Cruise Critic family and get involved in your sailing's roll call and activities. It is a GREAT way to meet people and exchange cruising and even life stories.

We left the cabin crawl and went straight to the new Guy's Pig and Anchor BBQ on the Lanai Deck 5. TIP- This was added on in the recent Carnival Dream drydock and is a sister restaurant of Guy's Burgers. It is on the Carnival Dream and the Carnival Magic right now and is available only on seadays from 12:00 to 2:30PM. We got there about 10 minutes before it opened and there was a line about 50-60 people deep already. However, the line moved quickly and were enjoying this tasty BBQ within no time. In fact, it was literally some of the best BBQ I have ever had. Be sure to check it out if you are sailing on the Dream or Magic anytime soon.

The line looked really long but it moved very fast! 

There was a huge selection of sauces to go with your "que". 

My tastebuds are watering right now... but the picture does not do this justice!
Be sure to try it out if you are on the Dream Class ships

After lunch we made our way up to the Serenity on deck 14 to get away from the hustle and bustle of lunch time on a mega ship. Luckily we were able to snag a large padded clam-shell chair and rest and relax for a little bit. Sure enough... we fell asleep for over 2 hours before the cold windy and rain woke us up. Before we even got into the lobby of the Dream the rain had stopped so we enjoyed a nice cool breeze before moving on to our next adventure.

Cheers to a lovely day at Sea! 

Sea Day 1 storm and winds from Deck 14 on Carnival Dream.

We decided to give the hot tubs a try since the rain had passed and the sun was coming out. The Carnival Dream class ships offer 10 hot tubs throughout the ship but they do fill up fast. We started on the Lanai as those are our favorite hot tub as they are bigger and usually less crowded but these were colder than the actual swimming pool. We later learned that there was a broken steam pipe which fed into these 4 hot tubs and in turn they were not hot early in the trip. We also tried Lido aft and midship hot tubs but they were full with people. Then the rain came back with vengeance so we called it a day and gave up searching for a warm or empty hot tub and went and got ready for dinner.

It was our 1st formal night at sea and we knew it would be a busy night in the Main Dining Room so we opted to get there early. TIP- Your Time Dining allows you to come and eat anytime between 5:45 to 9:30PM and we got there around 5:40PM and they were already opened and assigning tables. This turned out to be one of the best formal nights in our cruising history. The meal was FANTASTIC and the service was exceptional. We were in and out of the MDR on formal night within 80 minutes, which is unheard of in the cruising industry. Towards the end of dinner our waiter, Selvin, brought out the congratulatory anniversary cake from John Heald and CCL and they sang "Happy Anniversary" to us, very well I might add! I am so blessed and honored to be Mrs. Davis and able to celebrate 11 years with Chris doing what we love... cruising! 

Formal Night #1

Happy Anniversary Chris! I love you! 

We got back to our room to find the FunTimes for Key West and a Spa gift certificate/ discount for our anniversary! Unfortunately, we never used it! 

After dinner we made our way to the aft of the ship for the Punchliner's Comedy Club. TIP- This is a unique venue and entertainment option on Carnival that offers various comedians to perform on the ship. They usually offer 2 PG shows, which is great for kids of all ages and then 2-3 adult only shows. These "adult only" shows have adult language and topics and can sometime get out of hand. The PG shows, however, are great and a funny as well! It is a great option for families with 6-12 year olds. Check your ships FunTimes for comedians and times.  

We watched the first 2 PG shows of the evening and they were hilarious. Lester Bibbs did an outstanding job of not cursing and staying family friendly. Tommy Drake, who is also from Houston, was by far our favorite comic ever on a cruise ship. He was absolutely hilarious and never really need to curse or drop the F-bomb to make things funny! We enjoyed him very much and caught nearly all of his shows.

TIP- The comedy club also offers a "pitcher" of drinks at a reduced rate! 

Having fun in the Comedy Club! 

After these 2 shows we ventured down to the atrium to catch the Motown Showdown with the Cruise Director, The Flying Scotsman. He was singing and dancing and leading a battle of songs and moves between the guests. It was an amazing atrium party and we were already in LOVE with the Cruise Director.

Disco Atrium Party on the Carnival Dream. 

From high above on Deck 6 near the elevators

The Flying Scotsman singing 70s disco tunes in the atrium.

I have never been happier! 

Our 1st of many pictures with our new favorite Cruise Director, Chris Williams!
(excuse the crazy eyes... allergies) 

We then went to see the "main" show in the Encore Theater. This show was called "Motor City" and we had seen it before on another Carnival ship but we enjoyed it none the less. This cast of singers and dancers were average by cruise ship standards but they did feature 1 great male and female singer respectively. Overall this cruise featured the best shows and overall entertainment we have experienced in our 10 cruises. The Cruise Director, The Flying Scotsman, has a lot to do with that but we enjoyed the Dream's entertainment nonetheless. To end the night we went back to watch Tommy Drake again for his "adults only" show. This was hilarious and hardly any cursing or racist jokes. We enjoyed it very much!

The day was full of relaxation on the Lido and lots of laughs in the comedy club but it was just what we needed. The next day we would be in Key West, FL and we were looking forward to feeding the sharks so we needed to get some rest.

Thanks for following along! Be sure to check back for tomorrow's post! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Living the Dream- New Orleans

Strawberries and Champagne
Sunday, March 12, 2017

In March 2017 Chris and I took an Eastern Caribbean/ Bahamas Cruise aboard the Carnival Dream sailing out of New Orleans, LA. This beautiful floating resort took us to the following destinations: 

Key West, FL
Freeport, Bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas  

The Carnival Dream... Our home away from home for the next days! 

Chris and I have been on 9 other cruises prior to this one; 6 with Carnival, 2 with Royal Caribbean and 1 with Princess. This cruise was all about escaping our busy teaching and parenting lives to relax and enjoy the beauty of cruising as well as enjoying our favorite Caribbean itinerary. This blog will include an overall review of the Carnival Dream, daily entries of our 7 days, a broad "Foodies" blog highlighting all of the food options available on the Carnival Dream, a post linking all of the FunTimes as well as an extensive photo review of the ship. Thank you SO MUCH to all my followers... without you the blog would not be as popular as it is today! Be sure to stay tuned as the posts come through over the next few days and weeks.

We woke up after a great night's sleep at the Harvey Comfort Suites in Harvey, LA. We were having a very unique and rare "easy" embarkation morning when all of the sudden Chris realized that he forgot his belt. He made a quick trip to Walmart which was within 5 minutes away and got the belt and a few other small necessities for the following 7 days. The front desk called our room around 8:30AM confirming the 9AM time for a cab. TIPThis hotel room package included FREE 7 day parking for the duration of the cruise and also included transportation TO AND FROM the cruise pier. We assumed this meant a shuttle but it was in fact a cab paid for by the hotel. The front desk attendant called the cab while we enjoyed the complimentary hot breakfast. Shortly after 9:15AM the cab arrived and we were on our way to the New Orleans cruise terminal. 

It was cold, windy and raining but that did not stop our excitement for this what would be our 10th cruise. Our cab driver, who was a woman, was very short spoken and mad most of the drive and by the end she was cursing up a storm. We arrived at the terminal at 9:35AM and got out and got all of our bags, which was only 3 plus small carry-on this time instead of the usual 7, and headed towards the check-in station. We did not have Faster to the Fun this time and we were worried this would slow us down. We were experiencing how "the rest of the ship feels" as Chris said.  We were not allowed to check in as we approached the terminal and were moved to not 1 but 2 other locations. After 15 minutes I trusted my gut instinct and had Chris move all of our luggage back closer to the check-in station and sure enough around 9:50AM we were allowed inside the terminal. We had a 10:30 to 11:00AM check in time so we were allowed to pass through the 1st check point. This was normal but I did notice that several others who had check-in times later than 11AM were also allowed in. This outside area of the New Orleans terminal was VERY disorganized. 
Our 1st look at the Carnival Dream! 

The "waiting" area. This had both disembarking and embarking passengers and it was crazy! 

The entrance to the check in stations! 

Most embarkation ports are now on STAGGERED CHECK IN which means you must choose a time window for you and your party to check-in. Be sure to choose a time that works for you because you cannot check in prior to your time or without EVERYONE in your party. We try to choose an early morning time as that 1st embarkation day literally is the 1st day of the cruise. This check in time is found in the My Cruise Manager section of carnival.com. 

The official check-in stations at 10AM. 

We made it inside the terminal shortly after 10AM and continued through the typical pre-check in process of pictures, metal detectors and security check points. We officially checked in to the Carnival Dream at 10:06AM and then were escorted to the Zone 1 waiting area. This part of the embarkation process was very ORGANIZED and detailed. They had us packed in there like cattle but this meant that you were guaranteed to board with your correct zone. We waited over an hour and a half to hear the embarkation announcement. At 11:34AM the embarkation process officially began with the priority and FTTF boarding first. We were on the ship and heard the 1st DING at 11:51AM

Our 1st up close view of this gorgeous ship! 

This is my happy place... Checked in and waiting to board!

They only had 50 chairs/ 2 lines for the Faster to the Fun. This is what it is supposed to be not the 200-300+ we have seen in the past! 

The NOLA cruise terminal around 11:30AM.
TIP- Trust me... You want an EARLY check in time for this embarkation port

Oddly enough, we boarded the Dream and went separate ways. We knew the lunch line would be LONG so I went to the room to drop off our luggage and Chris went to wait in line for Mongolian Wok. The Mongolian Wok is a VERY popular place on the ship and nearly ALWAYS has a very long line as the chefs cook your food after you order. If you like Japanese hibachi style of eating, be sure to check out this place on embarkation day as the line only gets longer and longer as the cruise progresses and people find out about this eating option. The rooms were not ready until 1:30PM but I went to the stateroom to drop off our carry on around noon. This is not encouraged and is frowned upon but I did it anyway. In fact our cabin steward, Arnold, told me to wait as it was not ready. I just played dumb! 

We have arrived!

I met Chris at the Lido buffet area where he already had the Mongolian Wok  and we headed to the aft lido area. Shortly after getting seated we got our first drink and then headed upstairs to the Pasta Bella pasta bar. This is a unique hidden area on the aft Lido buffet area on Deck 11 on the Carnival Dream. It is also on the Magic, Breeze, Sunshine and Vista but is called "Cucina del Capitano". It is FREE during lunch hours but costs $15 for dinner on these 4 ships. This is a "create-your-own" pasta bar that offers multiple types of pasta and sauces as well as breads and salads.This too typically has long lines as the week continues.  We enjoyed our double lunch then headed out to explore the ship. By the time we made it to the lower deck 5 Lanai the announcement was made that the cabins were ready early so we hurried back up to our Deck 6 inside state room. We found all of our checked luggage waiting for us at the cabin door. (We still had the FTTF tags and stickers on the suitcases themselves and i wonder if this pushed them through. If you do ever pay for FTTF and they put the tape and labels on them, do not take them off just in case). 

Time for some fun... Funship #1!

This feels like home! 

TIP- Pasta Bella hours on the Carnival Dream. 

The aft pool on the Carnival Dream. 

The Norwegian Dawn was also embarking and leaving New Orleans.
We will sail from that very location on her sister ship, the Norwegian Pearl, in March 2018. 

Some of the upgrades from the recent dry-dock were additions of these large deck umbrellas.
We loved them! 

The Carnival Dream atrium as seen from the Upper Deck (6) lookout and the atrium elevators. 

The Carnival Dream is one of only a few ships to offer a full 18 hole mini-golf course. 

Carnival Dream waterworks... A child and teenager's playground. 
(But we enjoyed it too... more to follow) 

We found our bench... At the very front of the ship on Deck 5. 

This stateroom was a very unique inside stateroom only offered the Carnival Dream class ships. It is called "sideways interior" and is much larger than the original interior. It has much more livable room and is priced the same as the regular interiors. We enjoyed this room very much, especially for an interior. 

A view from the door. The picture does not do it justice! 

Carnival Dream Cabin 6360

We quickly unpacked and reviewed the days FunTimes then we layed down to take a nap... These 2 teachers and parents were worn out. We slept for nearly 2 hours before waking up in time for the Muster Station drill. On the Dream class ships the muster station drill is in the 4 main dining areas which was nice since it was still 50* outside. The drill was complete at 4:07PM and the Carnival Dream set sail for Key West, FL shortly after that

We walked back to our cabin for our camera and phones and found a very pleasant gift from Senior Cruise director John Heald. The previous day I had posted on his Facebook page that Chris and I share an anniversary with Carnival Cruise Lines. I had asked for a "Ship on a stick" and in addition to this he gave Chris and I strawberries and champagne. We were both so excited and enjoyed celebrating our 11 years together on the ship. Typically if you ask John Heald for a special celebration gift or announcement on his Facebook page he will comply! Be sure to ask/ post the day before the sailing and give him your cabin number. Anniversaries, birthdays and so much more! 

With compliments- John Heald!
Thank you so much JH! I hope to go on your bloggers cruise one day! 

#cruiselikeadavis #livingthedream #cruiseblogger

Thank you John Heald! 
#livingthedream #CarnivalDream #11yearanniversary #cruiseblogger

We quickly went down to the Deck 5 Lanai to watch the sail away from New Orleans on the Mississippi River. We took pictures and videos for the kids and made one last phone call before turning our phones off and escaping completely.

Standard Life Preserver picture overlooking downtown New Orleans. 

Lanai Deck 5 at the very front of the ship as we sailed down the Mississippi River.

It was very chilly for this sail away! 

Adios New Orleans... See you in a week! 

At 5 PM we made our way to the Ocean Plaza on Deck 5 for the Taste Bar. This is offered on several Carnival ships and it is a small appetizer plate before dinner FREE OF CHARGE! It gives you a sample taste of many of the Carnival "additional fee" restaurants. This is usually offered on embarkation day as well as sea days! We love the Taste Bar and try to catch it on the days it is offered. This night they were sampling the Steakhouse! 

The Taste Bar on the Carnival Dream... CHECK IT OUT! 

Around 5:30PM we went back to our room to get ready for dinner and then enjoyed a nice cool breeze before watching the sunset over the Mississippi. 

Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River.

An empty Lido deck... it was cold, rainy and DINNER TIME! 

The gorgeous Carnival Dream sailing down the Mississippi! 

God paints such a gorgeous picture, doesn't He? 

Time to relax before dinner... Love the Serenity deck! 

Then we headed down to the Crimson Dining Room for our first dinner at sea. We had Your Time Dining which meant we could eat in the Main Dining Room anytime between 5:45 and 9:30PM. We got to the MDR around 7:20PM and there was a very long line. Little did we know this was just to get a pager to get a table. TIP- The Your Time Dining is set up like restaurants on land so there was often a short wait time. Remember that you do NOT need your whole party to get a pager. If you have a larger group send one of the men to get a pager about 15-20 minutes before everyone is ready! Just know they will NOT seat you until all have arrived.  We waited about 20 minutes and then our perfect table for 2 opened up. This would become "our table" for the remainder of the voyage. 

The service was exceptional and very fast. Our waiter, Selvin, and his team were incredible and easily the best waiters we have had while sailing on Carnival. After dessert a Carnival entertainer/ magician came by our table and performed a very neat card trick. I am not sure how he did it but I started with 1 card in my hand and by the end of the trick I had a different card in my hand! 

After dinner we escaped to our stateroom like usual to get more comfortable and review the evening's activities but once again, we were so tired we fell asleep. We woke up just in time for the 10PM Welcome Aboard show. We were so late that we had to sit in the balcony! The show itself was a let-down and disappointing but we discovered right then and there that this Cruise Director Chris Williams, "The Flying Scotsman", was going to quite the entertainer! More on that later!

After the Welcome Aboard show we ventured to the aft (back) of the ship to the Burgundy Lounge for our 1st of many comedy club acts. We watched as Tommy Drake gave an adult 18+ comedy show with very little to no cursing. Usually the adult shows are just rancid with dirty language and talk but this guy was just good clean fun! 

It was already 11:30PM but we had taken 2 naps so we ventured into Sam's Piano bar for a good sing along. Well... WE were good but the piano performer was NOT! It did make for some great memories and laughs. 

The piano bar on the Carnival Dream. I had never noticed this but the piano "BAR"  is built wrong. It has 3 continuous sets of black keys instead of the set of 3 then set of 2. Haha Carnival... oooops!  

We made our way back to our room shortly after midnight to find an incredible HARD bed! TIP- I had read that they usually replace the beds after a dry-dock and since the Carnival Dream had just gotten out of dry-dock 4 weeks prior this proved to be true! 

Our embarkation day was one for the record books as we did not do as much walking and exploring as usual but instead took 2 naps. But we had a blast nonetheless and already excited for the next week's activities! 

Thanks for following along! Be sure to check back for tomorrow's post!