Monday, June 18, 2012

Sept 2011 - Carnival Pride - Part 1

So it wasn't my intention for the second trip we posted about to be from the same ship... but as you may have read in Part 1 from our May 2012 sailing, the Pride really is like our vacation home, in a sense.

Plus, we both thought it would be great to share a little slice of romance ;)

So settle in for another 4-part retelling of our September 2011 cruise that went to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport. 

September 2011 – Carnival Pride (Sept 25 – Oct 2)

First a little background info. Booked the cruise way back in January so it was a looooong wait. It was me (my 4th cruise, 3rd time on the Pride) and my lovely girlfriend, Cassandra (CC screen name ardnassac79) (her 3rd - all on the Pride). We live about half an hour from the port so the Pride is just wicked convenient for us. This was a different itinerary for us which also a nice draw.

We had originally booked an obstructed balcony room (there are a handful of these in between the lifeboats that really aren’t obstructed at all). I received a call from the upsell fairy about a month before the cruise for an extended balcony on deck 7 for a very small fee. I jumped all over it.

We started our roll call thread here on CC on January 23rd, and were so lucky to have such a great and active roll call!! It made the wait so much easier to deal with, and we were excited to meet all the new friends we had gotten to know in the months prior.

I also had a little surprise in store for Cass. 

I’d been hiding this little beauty at work for the past month. I knew I wanted to propose the first day on the ship but didn’t have a specific time or place in mind, just figured I’d wait for the right moment to present itself. 

Chris – 9/25/11 – Day 1 of the Cruise - Embarkation

I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep so I could be well rested for the first day but that went out the window when I woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t fall back asleep. I gave up at 4 and got some last minute gaming in until it was time to get ready.

We had been reading that the ship was docking earlier than our two previous cruises so we decided to risk it and got to the port shortly before 11.

We always sport our jerseys on game day and I tried to convince her that it wasn't a good idea for me to pose while doing driving on 95. 

Here she is while driving up to the port.

Obligatory drive up picture - why does it always seem to be cloudy when we pull up?

Last year the ship was a little late getting in and we were not on the boat until a little before 4 pm. This year was a completely different experience. The whole process went as smoothly as we could’ve hoped for. We were at the port by 10:30, parked and through security by 11. There was a little wait while the last passengers got off but they started letting us board a little after 11:30 and we were in the sports bar before noon. Getting on the ship that early really made the first day seem so much better and longer. Cass went to the excursion desk to reserve our cabana for Half Moon Cay and I went to the sports bar to meet up with some friends from the roll call. I also took advantage of this chance to move the ring from my carry on into my pocket.

We relaxed in the sports bar and had our first DOD of the cruise for a couple hours until the room was ready. 

Since the Eagles were losing Cass didn’t care to watch the rest of the game so we took advantage of the extra time and completely unpacked and did a quick tour of the ship to check out the upgrades since the last dry dock. We loved the Serenity area as that was by far the biggest and best update for us. 

Ah, little does she know what is store for her in about an hour 

Since the sports bar is right next to the casino I decided to take a few quick pics of the updates and changes since our last cruise. There used to be a row of slots where the pool tables are and the Poker Pro table was in a separate room. It got a lot more action being next to all the other tables this year. 

Let It Ride!  Game of Choice :)

The rooms were ready right around 2:30 and we were already heading there when they made the announcement. Cass had contacted the Player's Club about our last two cruises and we were told that we'd have some sort of Bon Voyage waiting for us. Cass was quite pleased 

The bottle of Captain Morgan was a gift from someone in our roll call. Completely unexpected but very appreciated. 

The room was the exact same size as the obstructed view balcony on deck 5. 

We headed back down for the muster drill which was, as always, a blast…::sarcasm:: 

Cass was given a stern look for using her camera... 

As soon as that was done half the ship headed for the sports bar to catch the Raven’s game. Being a die hard Raven’s fan it was I really wanted to watch the game but as we were up 21-0 in the first quarter, I decided that it was ok to head up for the sail away party. Again, I was hoping the right moment might present itself but so far no luck. We were up on the Sun Deck (10) watching the activities below. The sail away is what it is and as we’re not really into the dancing we decided to do some more exploring. 

Charm City from (in my opinion) the best view 

We had never seen the Bay Bridge as we’re leaving so we went up to play mini-golf as we were approaching. 

It was right around sunset as we went under and the view was amazing. 

Love this vantage point

After this we went back to the room to get ready for dinner and do the free liquor tasting (which is completely pointless - huge line for a teeny tiny thimble of liquor). 

We also found the elusive hidden coin. I'll just show the close up but I won't tell you where it is… 

While she was getting ready I went out to the balcony to gather up the courage that I knew I was going to need in the coming moments. 

After a few minutes she came out and I knew the time was now. 

I told her how much I loved her and dropped to one knee. I never had a doubt what her answer would be but it did take her a few moments to stop sobbing and actually say yes. 

I was glad I waited to do it in private so it was a little more intimate and she could feel free to let her emotions flow. 

We then made the calls to family to let them know and headed out for dinner. 

I think she was still in shock the rest of the night as her eyes kept getting watery but I knew they were tears of joy and I loved the look on her face every time she glanced down at her hand. 

I have to say, I never in my life ever wanted to get married. I just didn't see the point. If you love someone, you love them. But I never imagined I could meet someone who compliments me so perfectly, someone I'd be so happy to call my wife. She's the most amazing person I've ever met and I'm thankful everyday that we both took a chance 3 years ago.

I love you baby!

We always do Anytime Dining as we never know when we’ll be hungry and love being able to sit by ourselves for dinner. We’ve never had a wait longer than a couple minutes and even that is rare (more on this later). Got there around 8 and were seated immediately. We planned to take plenty of food porn for this review but unfortunately had other things on our mind at dinner.

I had the fried chicken tenders as an app and they were really good. Very lightly breaded and good, moist chicken. She had Gazpacho Andalouse (chilled tomato based soup), also very good with a little kick. For dinner I had the Tender Braised Beef Brisket in Gravy (the comfort food option for the night) did not suck. Cass had the Pan Seared Fillet of Tilapia, also good. 

We shared the best desert on the planet that night....Warm Chocolate Melting Cake 

I was pretty amazed that I wasn’t tired yet so we headed down to the casino for my daily contribution. She ended up in the positive for the night while I lost a quick $100. 

By this point the day was catching up to us and we went up to the Serenity area and grabbed a hammock. We laid there for a bit which was great as it was still nice out with a cool breeze. We called it a night (certainly one neither of us would forget) shortly thereafter.

Today's Towel Animal – Seal 

Some closing first day notes, we loved our Extended Balcony. As Chris mentioned previously, we had Obstructed View balconies on our past two cruises on the Pride. We always book Early Saver, and therefore were able to pick our own cabin – so we always got one in between the life boats, but couldn’t pass up the great upsell-fairy deal this time. We were so glad we took it too – we were in cabin 7180, and the extra leg room was EXCELLENT. 

Also, for the Half Moon Cay cabanas, we were smart and reserved the cabana online through Carnival’s excursions in February. A lot of people on our Roll Call also ended up booking them as well, but they did sell out fairly quick. 

Once we boarded the ship, I headed straight for the Excursion Desk and picked the cabana number we wanted. Even though we were on the ship by noon, there were already 4 cabanas booked. Luckily they were all in the 3-7 range, so we had our choice of the high numbered ones.

Also, in addition to the chocolate covered strawberries we got from the Carnival Players Club, we were also surprised with 2 photo vouchers (up to $14.99 each) when we went to dinner at in the MDR that night! It was a really nice touch, and completely unexpected! Unfortunately we didn’t really like any of the pictures taken on this cruise except one, so we asked, and were told we could keep the other voucher for our next cruise!

I also want to say that Chris completely got me by surprise - in a great way!! I've never been happier, and he made me the happiest woman on earth that day!   I love you too baby 

Chris – 9/26/11 – Day 2 of the Cruise – Day at Sea

We ordered room service and had breakfast out on our balcony. The extended balcony was great and well worth the upgrade. It’s 50% bigger than the other balcony and gave us a lot more leg room. 

After breakfast we headed up to Serenity to get a spot and were surprised to find it pretty deserted. We grabbed a clam shell and set up for the rest of the morning. It started to fill up around 9:30 and was quite packed by 10. We had people keeping an eye on us and as soon as we put shirts on had about 5 people ask if we were leaving. 

Definitely got crowded, quickly

Cass being silly. I think she took more pictures of her left hand than the Pride

It was time to get dressed and ready for the roll call’s meet and greet. About 20 people showed up (generally the more active people on the call) and it was great to meet everyone whom we’d been talking to for the previous months. 

Meanwhile, Cass was running around trying to find out where/how to sign up for the Master Mixology contest (it wasn't the most organized event and sign ups could've been handled much better).

After that was time for the ice sculpture (Carnival, please teach them to do something other than an Indian Head). More importantly was the mixology contest in which Cass and Joey (another roll call member) were participants. 

Cass working on her drink 'The Cass Kicker' 

Mmmm, it tastes so good 

I’ll just say that neither of them finished in the top 3 out of 5 so you can do the math. But we got to finish her drink, received a free drink coupon, and the best prize was the drink book which we will but to good use.

We then had lunch up on the Lido and the burgers were good as always. I’ve never had a negative thing to say about the food on Carnival. When going to the grill on the Lido deck, expect a couple minute wait if you want a burger. The line may look long but it moves pretty quick. After that we checked out the shops and looked at liquor since we knew we would be getting a lot this year. Cass also checked out some jewelry that she wasn’t going to get but you can’t blame a girl for looking. 

Mmmm, Private Stock! 

Met up with some friends for the sports trivia but once again came up short and still no ship on a stick

Ivory Piano Bar (Level 3 right above the Sports Bar) We had never been in here before since it was a big smoking area but they held a few trivias in here this year and it's a nice out of the way place to relax as well. 

The library with computers 

Went back to the room for a quick power nap and got ready for dinner as it was the first formal night. I hate dressing up so Cass let me slide without getting pictures. One thing I don’t understand is why the only night they have the BBQ ribs is a formal night. I love ribs and these were falling off the bone. Very good, but messy.

There was one picture of me but as you can see, I hate having my picture taken. 

Cass isn't quite used to wearing a ring yet, obviously...

And yes, sportin' the Gears of War buckle 

I skipped an appetizer tonight since I was having the ribs and know they are filling. Cass started with West Indian Roasted Pumpkin Soup 

We also decided to be brave and tried the Didja Ever option tonight which was Alligator Fritters. These were surprisingly good though the filler and spices helped hide any real difference between this and chicken. 

As I mentioned above, the ribs were great. Nice and moist and fall off the bone good. Just wish they offered them on a different night. 

She had the Lobster and Shrimp combo which I heard was good but wouldn't know as I don't do seafood. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I live in Maryland and don't eat seafood. I know I've heard it all before... 

I once again had WCMC for dessert and Cass went with the Caramelized Apples on Puff Pastry. I think she was jealous of me that night. 

Looks good, but on the dry side... 

After I changed into something more comfortable we went back to the Let It Ride table which was a bit more kind. Quite a few people were hitting good hands including the lady next to me who hit 4 of a kind for a quick $850. Since we were both doing ok we decided to skip the adult comedy which is always crazy packed the first showing.

Tonight's towel animal...... 

Chris/Cassandra – 9/27/11 – Day 3 of the Cruise – Day at Sea

We had never had breakfast in the MDR so we decided to do it today. It was OK. The food really is no different from what you get up on the Lido but the atmosphere is much better. It took a while to get food which was a bit odd but we weren’t in a hurry. If you like to avoid the hustle and bustle of the buffet, this is probably a good option. If you’re starving, just go to the buffet and take your food somewhere a little quieter. 

Not exactly sure why I took pictures of waffles. I mean they're just.....waffles. Not a big meal by any standard but I wasn't really hungry and just humoring my lovely fiancĂ© (and nowhere near used to using that word yet) 

One serving... if you're hungry - order 2 portions

She had never tried Eggs Benedict so went with those this morning 

We decided to try our luck at the Serenity area again but since it was after 10, we knew we were pretty much screwed for a seat. It was packed so we went up to the little deck by the Whale Tail that very few people know about (used to be the topless deck). There was only one other couple up there when we arrived so it’s a nice alternative if you don’t feel like camping out for a Serenity chair.

Cassandra Taking over….

We stayed up by the Whale Tale for a few hours, but neither of us can really stand the constant sun for too long, so we decided to pack up and head in (plus I had a hard time reading - its REALLY windy up there!) – on the way back we decided to check out the Lunch Menu for the MDR. Like breakfast, we never took advantage of lunch there on previous cruises, so decided to give it a shot.

They do a full 3-course menu just like dinner, but still being a little full from breakfast, we tried to keep it light (haha). One thing we were not used to was eating on the lower level of the MDR – for Anytime dinner, we have always been on the 3rd floor, so this was the first time we had a nice view of the ceiling. 

Chris started with the Jamaican Red Bean Soup. It had a little spicy kick to it, but not a lot. 

I had the Chilled Curried Apple Soup which was really good with a really interesting flavor. 

For our main course, we both had the Chicken Caesar Salad. Chris was able to get his with Honey Mustard dressing instead of Caesar, good to know if you don’t like certain dressings but still want a salad. We didn’t take pictures of that – when you see one salad, you’ve seen them all! There was a LOT of chicken in them though.

Finally, even though we tried to keep it light, we both ordered dessert as well – Chris had the German Chocolate Cake, and I had the Ice Coupe Belle Helene, which was vanilla ice cream with a poached pear and chocolate sauce. It was really tasty! 

After lunch, I wanted to try my hand in the Slot Tournament. The Fun Times said it started at 1pm, but we knew from past experience they allowed qualifications for a few hours. We headed down to the Casino and I was able to enter the 2nd to last qualifying round. Unfortunately, my Butterfly machine didn’t spin enough to win, but I still had a good time. A Roll Call member and her friend were also in the same round – her friend got in, but we aren’t sure how she did in the finals.

After that, we headed to yet another attempt at Sports Trivia in the Raphael lounge. Another try, another loss . Some of those questions are so off the wall! By this point it was around 4pm, and the Past Guest party was starting at 4:30 so we headed towards the Taj Mahal and were close to the front of the line. People start lining up early for this, so we were glad to get a good seat. They changed the show from last year, so it was entertaining. We were also excited to be able to clap for our upcoming cruises we already have booked on the Liberty and Breeze! 

During the Party, Trevor the Cruise Director had to step away. A few minutes later, he came on the announcements and said that the ship was slowing down and stopping because they saw a vessel that looked like it was in distress. 

At this point the Past Guest Party was about over, and most people started hauling up to Decks 9 and 10 to see what the commotion was all about. It was on the Port side of the ship, and was pretty comical to see almost 2000 people all on one side trying to see what was going on. We took a few pictures of what appeared to be an abandoned boat, and thought we may be able to get a better view from our balcony. 

As we were heading down to deck 7, an announcement was made again to clear the area on Deck 3 as that was where the crew was attempting to bring this thing on board ! Needless to say there was a lot of chatter from people with all sorts of conspiracy theories as to what happened.

Evidently, nothing was found, the ship was put back in the water, and we went on our merry way.

At this point, neither of us were hungry from the late lunch, not to mention the appetizers and free drinks from the Past Guest Party, so we hung out on the balcony for a while and relaxed.

We saw a rain storm far away, and were able to catch a few pics of the storm, plus the rainbow off to the left if you look hard enough. As we got closer and closer, you could tell the rain was coming down pretty good, but we just barely got any. I think the captain may have tried to steer us around the bulk of the storm. It was still pretty cool to watch. 

Finally we got ready for dinner and headed down to the MDR. Chris had the Smoked Chicken Quesadilla – I had a bite and it was scrumptious! 

I had the Study in Sushi. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture till after I already ate 2 of the 3 little guys. I tried to artfully arrange the shrimp tail back in the right place, but I don’t think this pic gives the dish justice. 

For our main course, Chris had the Jerked Pork Loin. He ordered it with a side of white rice instead of the fried rice that comes with it, and he said it had a really nice flavor. 

I had the Penne Mariscos, which is pasta with seafood and a tomato cream sauce. It was good, but I realized I’m not a big fan of mussels. 

For dessert we each had the Strawberry Cheesecake. We both liked the strawberry sauce came on the side, so you could add as much or as little as you wanted. It was light and creamy – very good. 

After having a full breakfast, lunch, dinner, plus a few tropical drinks, we almost literally had to roll ourselves out of the MDR. We headed down to the Butterflies Lounge to catch the Adult Comedy act. It was packed, but luckily some friends from the Roll Call saw us, and they let us nab their seats – they decided not to stay because they saw the same act the night before. It was the Assistant CD (Eric Brouman) and was really funny.

After that we decided to make our daily offerings at the Let it Ride table. I lost a quick $100, but Chris was doing well (usually when I LEFT the table he did better than when I was there ) I knew we had an early morning the next day in Grand Turk, so I went up to the room early to relax.

I was greeted with this cute little guy:

So this concludes Part 1 of our Engagement Cruise, thanks for reading... :)  We'll be back within a few days with Part 2, a full report of Grand Turk - home to the 2nd largest Barrier Reef on the planet.  

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