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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carnival Glory cruise -- 7-night Exotic Western Caribbean from Miami

Check-in
This was our first experience with kiosk check-in. I had not noticed that our boarding document or "Fun Pass" said "kiosk ready" on it before we arrived. There were two Carnival representatives greeting and directing guests to two different lines. They were also providing zone number cards, because we arrived around 11:30 a.m., and guests were not boarding yet. We received a Zone 7 card. One check-in line was for guests with kiosk ready boarding passes, and the line on the left was for other guests. After checking in and scanning our passports at the kiosk, we received a receipt from the machine with a window number for our cabin key pick up. Our receipt was for window number one. There was no line, and we were immediately greeted and given room keys. We sat down to wait, and our zone was called about 30 - 40 minutes later. We were on board the ship around 12:30 p.m.

When we first arrived, we had noticed guests who rushed right past the Carnival representatives instead of waiting to speak with them. They were in such a hurry to get in line, they paid for it later. While we were waiting for our zone number to be called after check-in, we observed guests being redirected to the other line (they had chosen the incorrect kiosk or non-kiosk line in their haste). And, some guests did not have zone number cards because they had not waited to speak with a representative when arriving (we waited briefly behind four or five guests). When these guests noticed the zone numbers, they asked what they were for, and what time certain guests had arrived (yes, some of them asked us what time we got there). Then, the guests without numbers expected Carnival to give them a low number (or, they expected guests like us who had a low number to include them in our group). They claimed that a representative was not greeting guests when they arrived. I do not think that was true because I always observed at least one representative greeting guests from the time we arrived until we boarded. There was only one representative when we first arrived, and the second employee returned to a his post a few seconds after we stood in line to wait. We were glad to see that the Carnival representatives were not providing already called zone numbers to the complaining guests.

Cabin 7442, balcony, category 8M
We had an aft cabin extended balcony room. The balcony was much deeper than the aft cabin balcony we had on the Legend; however, the room was smaller. There was no couch, and there was only one chair with the table. There was room for two chairs, so I did not understand why only one was provided. There were two chairs and a lounger on the balcony, which was great! Unfortunately, I do not have any good balcony photos to share.

Food & Beverage
The food on this ship included the same offerings that I wrote about in my Freedom review. You can find that review posted December 15, 2010. There were a couple differences, which I will list here. There was a burrito bar on the opposite side of the ship from the deli counter. It was similar to the deli: You waited in line to special order any type of dry burrito desired. My husband had a shrimp burrito, which he said was great. If there was a burrito bar on the Freedom, we missed it. The sushi bar on this ship was open every evening from 5:00 - 8:15 p.m., instead of just a few nights. This was not listed in the Fun Times each day; however, I observed a sign stating the hours.

Pool & outside areas
All areas of the pool deck were filled with guests on the first sea day. I can't remember the last cruise we have been on when there were so many guests in all the loungers along the side decks too. The serenity deck on this ship was the same as the one on the Freedom with a couple minor differences: None of the cabanas on the Glory had covers, and the four hammocks were hung so low, that they were barely off the ground when a guest laid down on one. We saw one guest fall off a hammock; I'm sure she was happy she didn't have far to fall. One of the hot tubs on serenity deck was filled with hot water, and the temperature in the other tub was lukewarm. The water slide and jogging track on this ship were the same as the Carnival Freedom.

Entertainment
Cruise Director, Jorge Solano, was excellent--very funny!! Unfortunately, he is retiring. The entertainment on this cruise was superb! Two great comedians, a physical comedian, an illusionist, and Carnival dancers. We enjoyed every show. The seaside theater played movies and concerts at various times. Shows and times were listed in the Fun Times each day. The Fun Farewell party (free drinks and dancing) was not well advertised, so there were not many guests there. At the bottom of the tear off panel in the daily paper, there was a section called, "Looking Ahead." I read about the farewell party in that section. On the day of the party, it only said, "Fun Farewell," in the 5:00 time slot with no explanation. I recommend reading your Fun Times every day, so you don't miss anything!

Ports of Call & Shore Excursions
We booked the Deluxe Sail & Snorkel Tour in Cozumel and were very happy with it. We motored on a large catamaran to go snorkeling, and then we motor-sailed to a nice beach. Margaritas, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages were included. Non-motorized activities (water toys and slides, kayaks, volleyball) were available for no charge at the beach. Food and other activities (horseback riding, Seadoo riding, parasailing) were available for purchase.

In Belize, we booked the Barrier Reef Snorkel. We boarded our excursion boat right from the ship. We took a short and beautiful ride to the reef where we swam and snorkeled for 2 hours. The guides provided excellent service. They gave special attention to guests who were first time snorkelers. Rum punch, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages were included. We were surprised to receive this because it was not listed in the shore excursion details. The rum punch was citrus, instead of red/berry punch, and I thought it was excellent.
Belize tender boat

When we returned from our excursion, we took a tender boat to the mainland, just to see what it was like. We quickly returned after stepping outside the guarded entrance. There are typical cruise ship stores on shore where you can shop without going through the guarded gates to Belize City.

We went to Tabyana Beach at Isla de Roatan. Our only disappointment with this excursion is that our ship arrived two hours later than expected, and we were only in port until 3:00 p.m., so we did not have as much time there as we would have liked. The ride to the beach was 30 minutes. We knew this, and considered it part of the excursion because we were looking forward to seeing the island on the way. We would have enjoyed the ride more, if our driver had provided an upbeat ride with narration. Instead, we rode in silence. If you have traveled to the Caribbean and Mexico, you may be familiar with the center fold down seats on the buses! Fortunately, we knew about these seats, AND, we knew that it would be a 30 minute bus ride to the beach. When our guide tried to load us into a full bus by folding down the center seats, we declined and waited for the next bus. I bet the passengers inside were just as happy as we were when he shut the door without loading different guests.
Tabayana Beach

Tabyana Beach has beautiful white sand, many lounge chairs, and some shade. The snorkeling from the beach was the best we experienced this cruise! Non-alcoholic beverages were available for no charge; alcoholic beverages were expensive. We purchased an island beer ($4 + tip), and I loved it. I do not like beer much, except for an occasional Corona, and I thought the beer was smooth and had good flavor. Mixed drinks were $7.

In Grand Cayman, we enjoyed some quiet time on deck, and then rode a tender boat to shore with some of the last guests.  Before this, guests were getting a tender boat number in the showroom and then waiting about an hour for a boat. We went around 11:45, and waited 1/2 hour. If we had waited until after noon, there would not have been any wait, because they quit giving out numbers shortly after we got ours, and the boat we rode was not full.

Overall
As always, we enjoyed the great service, food, drinks, and entertainment. Again, the entertainment on this cruise was some of the best we've experienced. The organization this trip was somewhat lacking--we arrived in port late in Belize and Roatan, and there were not any Carnival representatives directing guests. We also did not hear any announcements (with the exception of Roatan) after arriving in port saying that guests could now disembark as we are accustomed to. Surprisingly, the debarkation in Miami was one of the smoothest we've experienced!