Kelly the Culinarian: We're back!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We're back!

After a fantastic eight days at seas and some lovely guest posts, I'm back home and ready to rock!  For those who asked, we spent a glorious week+ on the Carnival Freedom leaving from Fort Lauderdale.

We arrived on ship and checked out our accommodations.

And ate. Often.
We stopped in St. Thomas, where we walked around, shopped and ate.
Next up was Antigua, which was probably my favorite port.  We asked the cabbie to take us to a beach. For $12, he took us to Runaway Bay, where we were basically by ourselves for the morning. It was like having a private beach.

We also discovered a lovely local brew, Carib. It was quite tasty and cheaper than the weak, watered down stuff on the ship.
When we got to Tortola, I discovered the panoramic function on my camera.  Just in time to capture Cane Bay Beach, which was more of a tourist trap than what we visited in Antigua.  It was still quite enjoyable, but it was just like being on the ship since it was all people from the cruise.
 We got some delicious drinks there: strawberry daiquiris, pina coladas and bushwackers. Note to self: add nutmeg to pina coladas. It makes all the difference. We also spent some time there sightseeing. Tortola was the least touristy of all the spots we stopped, offering a real glimpse into life there.  

We had a few days at sea, too. More panoramic photos ensued.

I got food poisoning or something.  I don't know why I wanted to capture this, but apparently, I did. It was quite horrific, as you can tell from this awesome self portrait. At least I had food poisoning in a beautiful location ... 
We also stopped in Nasua. I don't have any photos, mostly because it's the biggest tourist trap in the world.  Lots of tacky crap to haggle over that we skipped in favor of a remarkable and competitively priced couples massage. It was lovely.

Here are my thoughts: this is my third cruise and Tim and I's second cruise, both of which were on Carnival. Our last cruise was really awesome, but I've noticed Carnival has made a bunch of changes in the name of cost saving that are kind of a bummer.  There are no free drinks anywhere, ever. 

On my last cruises, there was a captain's reception with free drinks as well as a return guest reception with complimentary beverages.  Nope. None of it. The only thing we got for our brand loyalty was a coupon for a drink valued at $9.  Our cruise was really cheap, but it did cost more than $18 per couple.

They've also eliminated the midnight buffet, which was really cool. It featured all kinds of carved fruits, ice sculptures and amazing desserts that showcased the real skill and talent of the dining staff. I loved this event because it showed that the staff there is capable of far more than just french fries and pizza. There is chocolate extravaganza, an all-chocolate buffet. We went, and it left a lot of be desired. 
More than anything, the cruise lacked consistency. We both ordered steaks done the same way, and each was cooked to different levels of doneness and with what appeared to be different cuts of meat (it was listed the same on the menu). Our melting chocolate cakes, something I looked forward to with great anticipation, were different every night in terms of flavor and consistency.  It's really all the little things that add up to an experience.

I can't help but think that some of these cost-cutting changes contributed to me getting sick. I remember last cruise they were very diligent about keeping food away from dirty plates, going as far as having a separate crew clearing tables and taking away used items. That's been eliminated and I'm sure cross contamination played a role in my illness. I saw a plate of little ketchup ramekins being placed on the same tray as dirty dishes.  I watched the waiters clear tables, change linens and then serve up fresh plates without washing their hands.

Not cool.

We will cruise again, just probably not on the same line. I hope other cruise lines have melting chocolate cakes, too.


Unknown said...

Welcome back!! I'm so sorry to hear that you got sick while on vacation...that's the worst :( At least you've (hopefully) returned more tan, glamorous, and relaxed than before. I'm looking forward to our run together tomorrow morning! I'm sure I'll be a slow ghost compared to you...

Unknown said...

Looks like a great trip - ignoring the sickness part. I've been on 8 cuirses and I'd highly recommend Royal Caribbean for your next cruise. Welcome back!

Unknown said...

I've only been on one cruise, and it was on Carnival. B's been on many, all of them on Carnival (which of course is the reason we went on Carnival when he took me). ANyway.... I agree, my experience with the cruise line felt lacking. I wasn't blown away by the food. Yea, still fun to be on vacation, but it sort of felt like you're missing out, right? Keep us posted on your next vaca!

Maggie W said...

We went on a Carnival cruise for our honeymoon in 2007 and it was a good time. Sucks to hear that they are cutting corners though. I've heard good things about Royal Caribbean from a few people.

Kim said...

Happy to hear the trip was mostly good! Sorry you got food poisining. I never thought about getting off the cruise ship and wanting to get away from the other cruisers in town (not wanting to see them at the beach). I bet that would drive me nuts ;)