Sunday, January 8, 2017

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Valor- Disembarkation

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Valor

OH Galveston, where art thou?
Friday, December 23, 2016

We woke up early expecting a typical disembarkation but what we got was anything but that! 


The only day we ever set an alarm on a cruise is on the last day as we disembark. This cruise was no different and we set out alarms for 6:30AM as we planned on doing the "self-assist" disembarkation that began at 8:15AM. Tip- "self assist" means you carry off ALL of your luggage unassisted. It allows for earlier debarking and clearance through customs as well.  We all got showered and dressed and zipped up our suitcases for one last time then headed towards the Lido buffet because we knew from experience that it can get full on the last morning... everyone wants to enjoy one last meal before it is all over. 

As we got our breakfast and looked out the windows on the Lido deck we noticed the fog was REALLY thick and there were LOTS of smaller container ships nearby, too many to count in fact. Chris mentioned that we were not moving and he predicted that we must be fogged in. His prediction was correct because at EXACTLY 8AM, the original time of arrival, the Captain came over the PA and explained that the Port of Galveston was closed due to fog. He basically told us to "hold tight" because he was unsure of the time frame that would be arriving at that time. 

It's hard to tell from the picture but it WAS very foggy! 

Around 9AM he came back on to say that the Port of Galveston would re-open at 10AM and we would pull up anchor at that time and would still have a 2 hour sailing widow before we arrive alongside Terminal 1 in Galveston. This would give us an estimated disembarkation time of 12:30PM at the earliest. It was after this announcement that the Captain and the Carnival Valor Guest Service team opened up the phone lines so passengers could make necessary arrangements. There were lots of people who had to change flights and other travel arrangements and I was just glad all we had to do is drive ourselves home. 

I used the phone to call both sets of parents, especially mine since we were supposed to be in Arp that evening for our family Christmas time. After we made those phone calls I went to look for the Ocean Suite I would be sailing on with my mom, sister and Natalie for my birthday in September. Most guests had already vacated their cabins before we knew of any problems so the cabins were vacant. In fact, I would guess 90% or more of the 3,600 passengers on board were either on the Lido deck or in the Ivanhoe theater

At $1.99/minute Carnival was shelling out some $$$! 

Our Ocean Suite for September! 

This was the 6K cabin which was also a "Scenic Deluxe Ocean-view" but it had a lot more space and 2 windows! 

The entrance to the Ivanhoe Theater. It was literally standing room only! 
Nobody looked happy and even in the mere minutes I was in there, it was HOT! 

Again, it was very packed! 

To pass the 4 hour delay the cruise director, Lee, did what I thought was a GREAT job of keeping everyone entertained. He offered on the spot trivia games near the casino, AFV and Star Wars playing in the main theater, Celine Dion concert on the Dive-In movie at the Lido deck plus many more. Carnival also kept the Pixels photo gallery open the whole time as well as Camp Ocean so parents and kids could enjoy that area without being crowded. 

We remained in our cabin the entire time and when our steward came by I asked if we could stay there since we had small children and he was so generous. He never came back to bother us the remaining 3 hours. We just sat in the room and watched TV and played cards the whole time. The kids did REMARKABLY well. 

Near 11AM we venture down to the Lido buffet area in hopes of finding food for the kids. At this point we fully expected to still be on the ship at 2PM. The buffet areas were getting set up for lunch and they only had 1 out of 4 buffets offering any food, which was the remainder of breakfast. The kids got some yogurt with Chris while I toured the Lido for other options and to see the craziness. We saw a VERY long line forming at Guy's around 11:15AM. It turns out, they were opening Guy's at 11:30AM but there were already over 100 people in line, no kidding. It's that cruise mentality... FEED ME, FEED ME! I'VE EATEN NON-STOP FOR 6 DAYS BUT FEED ME

We all grabbed an ice cream cone and made our way back to our room around 11:40PM as I could see the Galveston East Beach from the Lido so I knew we were only 15 minutes away. In all of our years of sailing out of Galveston, Chris and I have NEVER been able to see the approach as we have always arrived at NIGHT! This was REALLY cool and we enjoyed this! We saw the Disney Wonder had already made her way in to port and was docked at Terminal 2. 

Hello Galveston! We're so glad to see you!

The East Beach area! 

Lee, the cruise director, had to come over the PA system literally DOZENS of times to tell people to remain in the theater, deck 5 or the Lido deck and to not crowd the atrium lobby. We arrived in Galveston and parked at 11:58AM BUT if you have ever cruised you know there is still at least 30 minutes before the Coast Guard can clear the ship for disembarkation. We got all of our luggage (All 5 suitcases and 2 carry bags) in the hallway but Chris thought it would be best for him to go and ask about the FTTF/ Self-assist debarkation. We both knew there was no "beating the crowd" at this point as almost everyone was down in the lobby! He came back and said that FTTF was in the Lincoln dining room and completely FULL but that Carnival was going to continue the system of staggered disembarkation and would CALL FTTF guests over the PA to disembark. Chris was a little unsure so we decided to go ahead and leave our room. 

Yep... we were going to carry ALL of this off the ship ourselves!

We gathered the luggage and left our cabin at 12:20PM and made our way down to the dining room. There were suitcases and people EVERYWHERE! I have never seen anything like it in all my years of cruising. We tried to make it to the dining room outside of the lobby but we could not so we lucked out and got a seat at the bar. I put our luggage down and went to see the theater. This was a complete HOT MESS as I like to call it. The aisles were crowded with luggage and people were packed in like cattle and NO ONE looked happy at all. The Lincoln Dining Room, where the Platinum and FTTF were housed, looked the same. 

The Atrium lobby area... The FTTF dining room was packed so we were left to standing in the hallway, which paid off in the long run! 

There were suitcases and luggage EVERYWHERE! 

The Lincoln Dining Room where all of the FTTF and the Platinum guests were waiting!

By the time I got back to our suitcases, they were calling the FTTF guests to start getting off. This was only a 15 minute wait so we made the right call in getting down to the lobby BEFORE they called us. We were off the ship at 12:38PM. FTTF WAS overbooked by Carnival but we were all literally "on the same boat" trying to get off. We were among the 1st 100 passengers to disembark the Valor and easily the 1st 50 to go through US Customs. The self-assist debark helped this a lot because we had ALL of our luggage. Tip- If you can carry all of your own luggage, be sure to do so as it truly does save a LOT of time. In fact, we were off the ship before a single piece of luggage was in the holding area. 

We were through Customs and in our car by 1PM. The lines of people who were embarking on the next cruise was INSANE and very crowded and it was 80*+ on a December day. I felt bad for them and their families! The parking situations were crazy as well since those coming in to cruise literally had nowhere to park due to those disembarking had not moved their cars yet. 

We all had to carry a lot of luggage but we managed! 

Luke was the leader of the pack and wanted to get home- Well, really he wanted to get to Gigi and Poppy's house! 

Natalie got tired but made it all the way down the Galveston streets to the parking lot! I was very proud of her!

The Disney Wonder docked at Terminal 2! 

Goodbye Carnival Valor! It's been AWESOME! 

This was the 30+ car line to get into the main cruise parking lot!
They had no idea that the ship was still full! 

Fog Delay Tips and Thoughts
Overall I was impressed with Carnival, the Captain and Lee and his entertainment team for keeping a straight face and helping maintain the chaos of the upset and board passengers. On 2 separate occasions JAX, a member of the entertainment team, stopped what she was doing to help Chris and answer our questions. It was a little chaotic and crowded but I was impressed with how they handled it. I also appreciated that they maintained the system and logistics of getting passengers off. Meaning despite the delay, they still disembarked the passengers in groups. I paid $69 for the Faster to the Fun (FTTF) benefits and early debarkation was one of these benefits so I am happy they stuck by their own system. 

The Houston traffic was crazy yet again and our typical 90 minute commute turned in to a 2 hour 45 minute thing but we were happy and at home by 3:25PM. We unloaded the car, did a few loads of laundry, had our PERSONAL Christmas time at our house then got in the car again to drive to Arp to be with my family for Christmas. It was a crazy day but we survived... And honestly, I would not change a thing! It makes for GREAT memories! 

Next Up
We have a Bahamian cruise scheduled in March 2017 for our 11th anniversary on the Carnival Dream. Then a summer cruise with the kids on the Carnival Breeze. Plus a few more booked... wink, wink! 

Cruise Number 9 is in the books and we are looking forward to Number 10... DOUBLE DIGITS! 

Thank you so much, fellow friends and cruisers, for following along and taking the time to read our daily life aboard a cruise ship. I have tried to make this an easy to read and easy to follow blog. I hope you have been able to find some tips and tricks for your upcoming cruise vacations! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!

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