Friday, June 29, 2012

Mass Hysteria Round 2 - Come Into My Castle

So in the ever-eventful land of Dogs and Cats! Living Together! We often get to complete the quote with MASS HYSTERIA.

Usually it involves the Fat Man himself - Leo "Lunchbox" Kitty and Vasher the Thrasher because unlike Leia, Vasher hasn't quite gotten up the gumption to try to !PLAY! with Leo. Mostly because Leo Ain't Having It, whereas Leia has been sighted giving the young pup a a tease now and again.

Unfortunately the latter hasn't yet been captured for posterity yet. I'm convinced that I'm going to have to strap the camera to myself during all waking hours, it's like trying to catch a Sasquatch on film sometimes.

We were lucky enough to get this sighting... Leo's got his full on Grumpy Old Man Pants on here... 

And he'd rather dig in for the fight than give up his well-earned seat. I can just hear him thinking "..dammit I was here first you rotten mongrel...."

C'mon Leo, Vasher just wants to plan "Come into my Castle" - don't you read Game of Thrones??

Why doesn't he wanna play?! I'm CUTE!!

Oh... alllllllll Riiiiight.......:::sighs::

Round 2 to Leo, but this battle ain't over yet.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sept 2011 - Carnival Pride - Part 4 - Freeport & The End

Cassandra – 9/30/11 – Day 5 of the Cruise – Freeport 

This port is one that tends to be hit or miss for most people – I think partly that is due to the wonky times the ship is in port (7am to 1:30 when all guests should be back on board), and partly because there really isn’t anything good to do right off the boat. You have to either book an excursion or at least take a taxi to Port Lucaya, the local beach resort, to see anything of value. Personally, I think they would see a lot more interest in the port if either some money was invested in updating the area where the ship currently docks to make it less industrial, or somehow being able to dock near the Port Lucaya area. I’m sure both options would require quite a bit of $! 

Anyhoo, even though I know a lot of people dismiss this port, we actually had one of the best experiences of our lives here in 2009. Because I like to share, and I want people to realize how great of a stop Freeport can be, Chris and I decided to actually treat our “review” of this day as kind of a collection of what we did on all 3 cruises. I’ll start actually start with our 2009 and 2010 Excursions, then circle back around to this current cruise.

So as I mentioned above, in 2009 we had one of the best experiences of our life here on Freeport. It had always been my lifelong dream to swim with dolphins, and when we were researching Excursions on Carnival’s website a few months before we cruised, there were a few dolphin options here in Freeport. We had it narrowed down to the “Dolphin Close Encounter” and the “Swim with Dolphins” After reading the descriptions of both, we decided to go with the “Swim with Dolphins” even though it was more expensive. Let me tell you, we were SOOOO happy we did!

As soon as we got off the ship in port, over to the left is where all the excursions meet. 

We were looking for a sign that exactly matched what we booked, and realized it was called “Dolphin Swim” instead of "Swim with Dolphins"... meh, potato potaaato. We handed in our little tickets, and got different little tickets. 

After about 10 minutes, two busses picked us up. At this point, I was thinking WOW this is a lot of people, but what we realized later is that both the Dolphin Swim and the Dolphin Encounter people go to the same place. There were only 12 people total in the Swim Excursion! (We highly recommend booking through Carnival’s website BEFORE cruising! This year when I was in line to select our cabana, the people in front of us tried to book this excursion, and was told it was already sold out even prior to sailing!) 

Our bus with built-in air conditioning (yes the door stayed open the entire trip LOL)

We were all bussed across the island (about a 20 minute ride) and arrived in the Port Lucaya area. 

The excursion was actually with Unexso, and we met up with their folks. They led us through to the marina area, and our group of 12 boarded a pontoon boat. Their facilities where the actual excursion takes place is in a different location, and usually they get there by going out in the ocean – this time they said the water was a little rough, so they were going to take us though some canals that wound their way through a residential area. It was actually pretty cool because we got some really good shots of vacation homes. There was also a really cool pirate ship that we were told was man-made and used as a prop in a movie (can’t remember the name of the movie, unfortunately). 

When we got to the facility, we were separated into 2 groups of 6, given some safety pointers, flippers, and general instructions on what to expect. We were going to interact with 2 dolphins, 2 people at a time, in a large area with nets that kept uninvited ocean critters from getting in. It was about 15 feet deep, thus the flippers.

We were introduced to the dolphins – Cocoon and Xuma (pronounced Zooma) – Cocoon was actually one of the dolphins that was in the movie Cocoon! She was 42 years old.. and pregnant!! The trainers told us that they loved to play, and basically the effort we put into interacting with them would be equal to the amount of interaction we would get back from them. They said they got bored easily, and if we weren’t “fun” enough with them, they wouldn’t stick close to us for long.

At that point, the first group of 6 got in, and 2 at a time, they went out to the middle of the area and had their interactions with the dolphins. The trainers weren’t even in the water with us – they were sitting on the side. 

It seemed like most people were really hesitant to be active with them, and as we were warned, the dolphins lost interest in each group pretty quick… until Chris and I got in!

I absolutely love these animals, and when it was finally our turn, we had a BALL. We swam around to all corners of the large area, swam and interacted, and the dolphins were GREAT. They swam all around us, did circles around us, it was excellent. You could tell we were “doing good” because I swear it felt like the trainers let us out there at least twice as long as all the other groups before us! 

When our group of 6 was done, we all got to go back one more time to do 3 “posed” shots with the dolphins, and one of the Unexso people took professional photos we had the option to buy at the end of the excursion. We did buy them (I insisted) but we were lucky enough to get more pics of our own by having another person use our camera for us when we were in the water, and we did the same for their turn. 

And remember how I said Cocoon was pregnant?? Yeah she took a special liking to Chris!! He was the only one she offered up this pose to! (He was like OMG what can I touch!! - or in his words "that's not a blowhole!!" ) 

When everyone had their turns, the dolphins put on a bit of a show for us as a goodbye. 

All during this time, I want to point out that the “Dolphin Encounter” was going on in an area behind us, and we kept seeing people looking jealously over at our small group wishing they had picked ours! 

Note the jealous on-lookers in the background

Granted, the Encounter is more suited for smaller children (the Swim has a height requirement) but I’m convinced ours was 1000% better! We also got great t-shirts that said “I got kissed by a dolphin in the Bahamas!” 

After all was said and done, we took the boat back to Port Lucaya, this time via the ocean – and was able to get some great pics of this gorgeous coastline. 

We were also unable to get rid of our perma-smiles for the rest of the day. 

When we got back, our pictures were ready, and we were given some time to shop before our bus picked us back up to go back to the Pride. Unfortunately, the bus was like 40 minutes late!! Needless to say, we didn’t get back to the ship by 1:30… luckily we were such a large group with both the Swim and Excursion folks, plus it was Carnival-sponsored, so the ship waited for us – whew! (Another reason we like to book through Carnival when we can, even if prices tend to be a bit higher!)

So in the words of Bill and Ted, that was our "Most Excellent" excursion to Freeport in 2009.

In 2010 we booked a Catamaran Snorkel excursion, which also departed from the Port Lucaya area. It was good, but now in retrospect, we felt our snorkeling on this cruise in Grand Turk was better. Unlike the dolphins, we didn’t get many pictures (mainly due to the fact we didn’t yet have our nifty waterproof camera). The excursion picked us up from the terminal and took us to Port Lucaya to depart for the actual snorkeling.

The marina at Port Lucaya: 

My travel-tip: Don’t sit in the front of the Catamaran on the net! If you're not familiar with a Catamaran - the net area in the front is suspended directly over the water - kind of like a see-through trampoline. We thought it was a great place to sit when we were still docked… until we were out on the open ocean speeding along – we pretty much got soaked (along with all our stuff – towels, bags) before we even got to the snorkel location. Here’s a shot BEFORE we set out of what we thought was our great spot lol. 

The ride to the snorkel location took about 10 minutes, and it was kind of chilly (it was about 8am). The water that splashed up on us was REALLY chilly! This was the first time I had snorkeled outside of goofing around in a pool, so the little blow up vests were something new for me. Travel-tip #2: unless you can’t swim at all, you don’t need to blow your vest up very much. I distinctly remember having to keep pulling it down as I was swimming, and it getting stuck up all around my neck. Not so much fun when you’re swimming in the ocean! 

However, the water was really beautiful and clear, and the day ended up turning out to be beautiful. 

They let us snorkel for about 30-45 minutes I think, and at one point, one of the group leaders got in the water to feed the fish and bring a lot of the tropical fishes closer. This sounds like a good idea, but in reality, it was kind of a mess. A bunch of people all flopping around in the ocean with their heads under the water all gathered in the same location just meant getting kicked in the head a few times, and having snorkel tube mishaps. Chris and I ended up staying away from the crowd during this fiasco, and were still able to have a nice time.

As I mentioned before, it was nice – we saw a lot of tropical fish, and a few barracuda (nothing like Jack in Grand Turk!) but the reef wasn’t nearly as colorful and alive as what we experienced this year in GT.

After everyone got back in the boat, and we headed back to the shore, the group leaders tried to get people up and dancing on the boat. I am not normally one to join in these kind of shenanigans, but after refusing 2x, I figured why the heck not, and got up. And of course Chris didn’t waste the opportunity to snap some photos. At one point, I tried to turn around and go sit back down, but they saw me and called me out! So up there reluctantly I stayed. 

When we were dropped back off, we had some time to look around the little shops at Port Lucaya, and then we boarded our bus back to the terminal. 

Our Mighty Vessel

Back to the current sailing, Oct 2011. We decided not to book an excursion and just stay on the boat. Our theme for this cruise was all about relaxation, and we did our best to live up to it. We figured since we were staying on the ship, we would have a decent shot at getting a good Serenity Deck location, and we did. Our friends already had deck chairs up there, so we plopped our stuff into a round chair, went into to grab some stuff for breakfast, and brought our trays back out with us to eat outside. We finished up, set the trays up by the tables by the bar, and settled in for some sun.

I want to point out that Carnival’s stock photos and other reviews we have seen from other Serenity Decks show these great clamshell covers that can go around the back of the round loungers… unfortunately they don’t have them on the Pride… or at least they didn’t on this cruise. I asked, and was told nope. Drat.

So we set up shop, and took some photos of the dock area. Turns out the Carnival Triumph was here in drydock! 

Unfortunately the day before on Half Moon Cay, I neglected to put extra sunscreen on the tops of my hands, feet, and back, and therefore I was pretty red in those areas already, not to mention it was REALLY hot this day – and not a bit of wind to speak of.

Our friends snapped this photo of us relaxing. At that point, I was already wishing I had the little clamshell cover! 

We stuck it out as long as we could, but after about an hour, we relocated to the shaded chairs closer to the bar area (still in the Serenity area). Still, close to 11 I decided to head in. Chris went with some of our friends up to the slides first, before heading back in as well. 

Since we hadn’t yet had any pizza yet (blasphemy!), and really wanted to try the new Red Frog pub beer with the nifty souvenir glasses they only sell in the Sports Bar, we had a plan to grab some pizza up on the Lido, bring our plates down to the Bar to enjoy some pizza and beer. Yeah, not so much. For some reason, the Sports Bar was closed. Bummer. So we ate our pizza out in the Piazza CafĂ© area, snapped a few more photos of this area of the ship, and went back up to the room. 

Sorry the pic is a bit blurry - Piazza Cafe - this is where the Sushi Cart is every day starting 5:30pm - Yum!

Because we really didn’t get any pics of Freeport, and we love the sail away from here (the water is to die for around this area) we headed up to Deck 10 to get some photos and say goodbye to Freeport. And we waited. And waited. And… then an announcement from the captain: there was some kind of problem with one of the lifeboats, and our sail away would be delayed until around 2:45. Okie dokie. At that point, we realized there was an area on Deck 9 Forward that people were milling about on, which was normally closed off when the ship is sailing! We made our way to it, and were treated to some views that we hadn’t experienced in any of our past cruises – cool! 

We also spied this area on deck 3 that we think is an area just for crew members – a hot tub and some lounge chairs, along with an anchor and huge propeller blades. 

The captain’s estimate of a 2:45 departure came and went, so we decided to go back to the room for what was quickly becoming a favorite pastime… Afternoon Naps! (In all seriousness, we REALLY missed our naps this week - I was adding a 2nd cup of coffee every day around 3pm just to ward off the sleepiness!) I tried to sleep for a little, but really couldn’t, so I got in the shower and got a head start on getting ready for Elegant night. We finally started setting sail around 4pm, and we were able to get a few shots as we left the port. As our balcony was on the Port side of the ship, we didn’t end up getting any new shots of the Starboard side, which we feel has some beautiful coast, so I’ll slip in some other photos from our previous trips as well. 

Chris said this reminded him of the "dead men tell no tales" in Pirates of the Caribbean 

We had previously made plans to meet some friends of ours for drinks at the Atrium bar at 7 (they had late seating dinner) so we knew we had some time to kill before getting ready.

We figured that the Sports Bar was now open, so we went and were finally able to enjoy our first Red Frog Pub beers, and Chris got the special Pint Glass to take home as well. We really aren’t beer people, but do like it occasionally. He’s a fan of Yuengling, and I like the Yuengling Premium (not really available outside PA – It’s the “tan” part of a Black and Tan.. for Marylanders - we also LOVE the microbrew Duclaws - Highly recommended if you haven't tried!). We were told that the Red Frog was pretty similar to Yuengling, and we were both pleasantly surprised – it was nice and smooth (not hoppy at all, which we both were happy about) and had an almost sweet hint of flavor. I would love to see this sold in stores! Unfortunately we didn't take any photos. Boo. It's just on draft, and the taps are really cool - green and colorful!

We took our pints and headed to a 5pm Sports Trivia in the Ivory Piano Bar. As Chris mentioned before, we never really went in there before because it was usually pretty smoky, but now that the area is non-smoking, it really is nice in there. Again, no luck at that elusive Ship on a Stick! Trixy little minx, it is.

I also had been waiting for Friday because the shops were doing the Inch of Sterling Silver sale. I’d been eying the little chain with dolphins on it ever since 2009, so I finally went ahead and purchased a bracelet and anklet - with the clasps they came to about $50 total, which isn’t too bad considering they came with a lifetime warranty! I was told they would be available for pick up the next day.

We finally went back to the room, got ready, and headed down to meet our friends. We enjoyed a drink, snapped some photos. 

I did NOT partake in a martini this year… I had one in 2009 and one drink about did me in for the night. So I played it smart and had a Miami Vice (I'd never heard of them before, but a fellow Roll Call member and Let it Ride player told me his wife loved them - half Strawberry Daquiri, half Pina Colada. my first – very yummy!).

We went to dinner around 7:30, which was nice because we missed the crowd between the early seating and late seating.

I’ll take this moment to go off on a tangent about the Anytime Dining option.

Even though the Anytime people are seated in a separate area than the other folks, we have found most people generally tend to go to dinner, even with Anytime, around the same times. I’ve read other posts/threads/reviews here on CC about people that had long waits for Anytime, and in the past, I was always boggled by this! Prior to this cruise our longest wait was at the MOST 4 minutes.

During our Half Moon Cay review day, we forgot to mention something that we wanted to be sure to put in the review. So here it goes… That evening was the first time we were given a pager thing (which we were told worked in all bars and lounge areas on the ship) and were told we would have about a 30 minute wait. Actually, they told us if we didn’t want to wait, they would be glad to seat us, but that we would be seated with another couple… eh, we declined and took the pager and the 30 minute wait. No offense to anyone we may have been seated with, but I think that’s another reason we love the Anytime – always a table to ourselves. As Chris likes to say – he gets a whole week of taking me out to dinner for free. So we took the pager, and since Anytime is on the 3rd floor, we went to Raphael’s bar and each got another Bahama Mama (this was HMC day after all, and it WAS the DOD!)

It actually worked out well, because we ended up seeing some great friends of ours we met from the roll call, and were able to chat with them about the rest of their HMC experience! Our pager went off about 35 mins later, and we went in. I also want to take this time to give my immense gratitude to Jen and Cindy for finding my little wristlet purse and bringing it into the MDR for me!! I later lost it again 2 days later, but at least another kind soul turned it into Guest Services . God love Chris when I get into my senile years.. I’m already clumsy and forgetful. I can’t imagine the train wreck I’ll be 40 years from now . Hopefully the pharmaceutical companies will have invented some magic pill for those problems by then !

Anyhoo, later that night I was having a good run at the casino table, and ran back up to the room for some more cash. Here’s the moral to this story: Lo and behold, awaiting us in our room was a covered dish of 2 different desserts – a really delicious fudgy thing, and some kind of to-die-for apple pastry thing (reminded me of baklava). It came attached with a note: “Please accept our apologies for the wait for dinner earlier this evening”…

SERIOUSLY?? Like wow. I really wasn’t bothered by the wait, but this gesture from Carnival and the staff completely obliterated any HINT of a negative thought. It was completely out of the blue and unexpected – we never said a word to any of the staff or servers during dinner about the wait, and this arrived out of the blue. So that’s our final words on Anytime Dining. It Rocks.

So anyway, back to our originally scheduled programming. This was another adventurous night for me. I made up my mind before we cruised I was going to try most of the scarier “didja” options (Chris thought I was crazy and didn't even want to LOOK at most of the things other than the Alligator). Tonight was the big kahuna in my mind – Escargot... so I ordered it, but also got the Corn Chowder Maryland (which is weird to me – shouldn’t it be called Maryland Corn Chowder?? But I digress…) and Chris actually didn’t get any appetizer that night. We also ordered drinks – I tried something new, a Raspberry Mojito, and Chris got a Long Island Iced Tea.

Since we really hadn't had any "professional" photos taken that we liked, I guilted.. ahem, persuaded , Chris into taking pics of each other. hehehe. 

The Escargot came out first… so like a big girl, I took a deep breath and took a bite. Ugh. Yeah I only had one. And then promptly asked the waiter if he could kindly remove it and that I’d like my Chowder instead please. The soup was much better, that’s for sure! I’m sure it wasn’t that the actual food itself was BAD, I just wasn’t able to get past the texture, flavor, or the fact that the whole time I'm envisioning an actual snail inside my mouth. It didn’t help either that I really didn’t like the Raspberry Mojito. This wasn’t shaping up to be a good dining experience (no fault of anyone but my own on the choices!) 

For posterity, here's pics of both. I'm glad that lovely piece of bread is over the escargot, because I'd be perfectly content never seeing or eating that ever again! 

For dinner, I decided to try the Martini Braised Basa Filet with Tomato, Chili, and Fennel. Chris had previously decided he was gonna go with the Create your Own Burger off the everyday menu since nothing else really looked good, and he already had a lot of steak on the previous nights. 

I didn’t realize the Basa Filet was actually fish , and while it did taste good, it just wasn’t helping the condition my tummy was in after the Miami Vice, the SNAIL, and the not-to-my-liking Mojito (not to mention the 2 pieces of Sushi I forgot to write about earlier that day). Chris asked for a side of BBQ with his bacon cheeseburger, but the waiter said he didn't think they had it available, but would check. The burger didn't come with it. He said it was still really good.

Finally in an attempt to get something I was used to – I went with the WCMC for dessert, and Chris tried the Amaretto Cake. 

He said the cake was really yummy. Unfortunately I could only get through a few bites of the WCMC and I started to get that ohmygodimnotfeelingsogood feeling… yeah we finished up quick and headed back to the room .

I’ll spare you the details and go on to say I was feeling better about 30 minutes . We decided to try to catch one of the new comedians for the Adult Comedy at 9:45. It was Percy Crews, and he was OK, but wasn’t the best we’ve seen on the ship (I don't think it helped that the person standing right next to us was bursting out laughing at all the wrong times.. like when Percy was setting up the joke, not delivering the punchline... I think the guy was in his own little atmosphere at that point.. but it was kind of disturbing!). Plus it was REALLY crowded again, and we thought ourselves lucky to get a spot to lean against along the back wall. Carnival really ought to see about providing bigger venues for the comedy show, especially if there isn’t something going on in the main theater – but I guess set up and everything for the main shows can cause scheduling problems.

When the show was over we strolled through the Sports Bar and into the Casino just to see if there was anyone playing at Let it Ride (we don’t like to play alone – we lose our money too quick!) Unfortunately the casino was PACKED, and seemed really smoky for some reason. Let it Ride was full, so we just decided to head out. We went up to the Lido Deck to get some fresh air, and decided to call it an early night.

Our little buddy for the night was this little dino:

Chris/Cassandra – 10/01/11 – Day 6 of the Cruise – Day at Sea

I guess I should finish this thing up. We hadn't had a late night Friday so we were up pretty early and decided to do breakfast in the Mermaid Grill. I had a mix of different things from different stations and all were pretty good. Cass finally got her omelet. 

We headed back to the room and got ready for our last chance at a Pride ship on a stick. There were several trivia and contests today since it was a sea day and the first was at 10 am. It was held in the Starry Night's Lounge and we did rather well, but not good enough.

I wanted to get pictures of the gym since a lot of people as about it. We had a little trouble finding it but I know that we had used it.............once..............two years ago… 

We went back to the Mermaid Grill for a light lunch. Not because we weren't hungry, but because the Chocolate Buffet for dessert. We both had a grilled ham and cheese which was really good and really light. 

I'll say that I'm a chocoholic and was waiting for this all cruise. We tried a bit of everything and the cakes were all good. The chocolate cheesecake was just OK. The highlight for me was the mousse. It was easily the 2nd best dessert I had all week (behind WCMC of course). 

Chocolate Fondue

We went from the buffet to the main stage on the Lido Deck for a couple of contests. The first was a scavenger hunt but we were about 15 minutes late. I wish we had known that we still could've joined because there were only a few couples participating and everyone got a ship on a stick 

Well we waited for Chloe to get started with the movie trivia (I knew we had a good shot at this one). I felt really good about going 22 for 25 but of course someone beat us by one. We went to thank Chloe and that we'd see her at the Sports Trivia (last one of the cruise) but she told us she wasn't going to be there. We thanked her for a great time during the trivia and gave us a participation award! 

Oh yeah!!! Chloe is awesome and I'm upset we didn't get any pictures with her. But we finally got our Pride ship on a stick and that made the rest of the day much more bearable.

With nothing else to do until the Sail Away party (never one to miss free booze), we saw that there was a Galley Tour in about 5 minutes so headed down to the MDR where it started.

So the Galley tour was very cool (and free). It was great to see the kitchens and all the prep that goes into our food. I got a whole new appreciation for those poor folks that work like house elves below us to make sure our food is ready 3 times a day. We got a lot of pics so here you go. 

These escalators move so fast! I don't know how these people get on them holding food and there aren't more accidents. 

Escalators up to the dining rooms

Pictures of what all the meals should look like 

Prepping the frog legs which was tonight's 'Did Ya Ever'..........we didn't. 

The entire menu for the week 

And this had my mouth watering even after the chocolate buffet 

Tower o' Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

Once again, this was a very cool, very free little tour that gave us both some good insight into the workings that we never see. 

From here we went up to Serenity and chilled for a little bit. We were about to get a drink when we remembered the sail away party was only about a half hour away. It was a little chilly out on the deck since we were approaching the Bay but still nice 

We finally remembered the sail away party this time and headed there for some free booze. Unlike the past guest party, there was no one serving apps but the drinks were plenty and did I mention free? Not much in the way of entertainment but some kids got up on stage and 'danced' to some music they've never heard (oldies). 

The *now* no longer offered Fun Farewell Party

After about 25-30 minutes we decided to get out of there and head back to the room. We had a message on the phone and it was our new friends Linda and Ron who asked us to their Aft balcony for drinks. We headed there and I got to try some Capt. Morgan Lime Bite which was better than I expected. There was a great sunset but we missed the sun from our view point 

A few pics from our last night on the balcony 

It was a bit breezy but I really like this one 

Cass, taking over… After the sun went down, we got ready for dinner and headed down for one last night in the MDR. We usually check the menu outside of the MDR earlier in the day to see what we are in store for that night (it’s also on the TV, but we like looking person, don’t ask me why) and we knew we had some YUMMY things in store for our last meal.

We both follow John Heald on Facebook, so we knew the menus had changed, and there was one dish I couldn’t wait to try… the Bacon Mac n’ Cheese. Applewood smoked bacon, with aged cheddar cheese, topped with a grilled, marinated chicken breast. OMG. Yeah…. So it didn’t take too long to figure out what I wanted as my main dish, but Chris also wanted the Prime Rib that night – so he asked if he could have a smaller portion of the Mac and Cheese as his appetizer. The waiter said he would check, and lo and behold they were able to accommodate him! I got the New England Crab Cake as an app, and it was delicious! 

Chris dug into his Mac and Cheese, and said he loved it – and that he knew I would not be disappointed with it as my main dish. He also was very pleased with his Prime Rib. 

YUM. Hands down my favorite meal all week

As for dessert, yes we topped off our last night with a final farewell to the classic, you know it and love it, the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake mmmmmm..

After dinner, we decided to head down to the Casino to cash out our slot money from the Sail and Sign cards (you would be hard pressed to forget to do this – we had 3 messages on our phone from the Casino that day, plus they announced it about every 15 mins in the casino that night). And we did one last go-round at the Let it Ride table. Neither of us did too bad – didn’t lose ALL the money we brought to play with, but definitely left with less than we came with. Hey, we consider that our “entertainment” for the week and budget it in – we responsibly manage our vices… lol

Speaking of vices, when we got back to the room that night, we had our gift shop purchases delivered. We figured this year we would really take advantage of the low priced and duty free alcohol, even if we did exceed our customs limit because we wouldn’t be back on a cruise that didn’t require a flight for a few years. We were also responsible citizens and declared all our bottles (or I can just say I’m a scaredy cat as well ). When we went through the line the next day during debarkation, we were taken back to a little room and all we had to do was pay an additional $20 total (cash only!) for a total of 9 bottles. They were a bit slow – it took about 20 minutes to stand there and wait while they got the paperwork in order, but not bad really.

So I guess that brings us to debarkation the next day. We have always done the self-debark since it’s just the 2 of us, and we have always sailed so far during football season (need to get home to set those Fantasy rosters! ) and we followed suit this time as well. Room Service was delivered around 6:45, as I like to have already claimed our seats to wait in Raphael’s on Deck 3 Aft by 8am at the latest. I’m glad I did – it filled up pretty quick, and we have a good view of the ship coming into the bay and docking when it gets into Baltimore.

We waited until they started calling a few decks before us for the self-assist, and headed down to the Casino to get a closer spot until our deck was called (because the line is snaked through the casino). As always, painless – hop in line, our sail and sign cards get dinged through for the last time, and out into Baltimore we go. They have a new ramp from the ground to the ship that is less steep, but more twists (and fully enclosed) now, which will help with the cold and those guests that have difficulty with steeper inclines. Customs was painless as well, just the 20 minute detour to pay our customs fees that we were already prepared to do.

If you’re interested in our haul for the week, I don’t think we did too bad

And that unfortunately brings us to the end of yet another journey... The next installment will be from February 2012, when we sailed out of Miami aboard the Liberty to celebrate Chris's "real" birthday (leap year baby!)