Cruise Ship Cabins on Carnival Splendor

cruise ship

Carnival Splendor

Accommodations on Carnival Splendor

Like all cruise major cruise ships, Carnival Splendor has a range of passenger cabins to choose from depending on how much space people want vs. how much they want to pay.  Some passengers choose small interior cabins to save money while others would rather pay more for a bigger cabin with a private balcony or a spacious suite.  Officially they are called staterooms, but most cruise ship guests refer to their room on the ship as a cabin.

People who are sensitive to cigarette smoke may want to avoid booking deck 6, particularly midship where smoke from the casino on deck 5 sometimes wafts up the stairwell.  Aft rooms above a couple of the deck 5 lounges where smoking is allowed could be problematic as well.  Smoking is no longer allowed on balconies and other than the casino, the Cool Lounge, and the Red Carpet Nightclub it is only allowed outside on decks 10 and 11 starboard.

cruise ship shower

standard shower with shampoo and bath gel

All cabins have shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the shower and bars of soap and a few product samples in a bowl on the counter.  What is in the sample bowls changes over time so the only things you can really count on having are the shampoo, shower gel, and soap.  Be sure to bring everything else you will need for the cruise.

cruise ship hallway art

The hallways around the guest rooms have paintings of people that look to be from the 1930’s or so

If you want to decorate your cabin or door, or just want to keep paperwork organized, it’s good to know that cruise ship cabins are magnetic.  The walls, door, and ceiling are all magnetic.  We used magnets to keep our sail and sign cards handy on the wall next to the door so we didn’t have to look for them when we wanted to leave the room.

Inside Cabins

inside stateroom

standard interior cabin

If you want to save money, book low.  An inside cabin on deck 1 may be the exact same size as an inside cabin on deck 9, but lower decks are in lower categories so it costs less.  Not all cabins in the same category are the same size though.  It pays to check the deck plans before booking not only to find the best staterooms in a particular category, but also to see if anything noisy that you want to avoid is above or below the room you want to book.  It’s also nice to room in the same area of the ship as the places you go to most.  Stairs and elevators are handy for the ups and downs, but it is a long walk from bow to stern.  Or pick a room far away from the things you like so you get more exercise.   If you have the option to choose category guarantee rather than a specific room you pay less, but take the room assigned to you which will be at least the category you selected, possibly higher depending on what rooms other people booked.

how to find cheap rooms with a view on a cruise ship

Staterooms at the bow of the ship on decks 6, 7, & 9 book as interior, but have windows.

Interior rooms are always at the low end of the price scale, but if you look carefully you can find rooms with a view that book as interior.  They won’t be in the lowest category of interior rooms, but will cost less than one listed as ocean view.  On the Splendor there are a few rooms with portholes on decks 1 and 2 and a row of rooms with windows across the bow on decks 6, 7, and 9 that book as interior rooms.  We spent a week in a cabin at the center of the bow on deck 7 where the panoramic view more than made up for the lack of space even if it could only be seen when standing due to the front wall of the outside deck blocking the lower half of the window.

too close for comfort

not much space in the interior room with drop down bunks

If you just have two people cruising on a budget, an interior room is a great way to save money.  When staying in an interior cabin I tend to put the TV on the bow cam channel and use it like an electronic window.  For the most part the interior rooms are the smallest cabins on the ship so if you have more than two people in a room they can become quite crowded.  The interior cabin with drop down bunks has very little room to move around so unless you plan to do nothing but sleep in your cabin or just can’t afford the cruise any other way, with 3 or 4 people you would be much more comfortable in the more spacious ocean view cabin.

Ocean View Cabins

couch bed and drop down bunk make room for 4 passengers in ocean view stateroom

Ocean View cabin sleeps 4 comfortably

People tend to look down on cabins on low decks as inferior.  We stayed in an ocean view cabin on deck 1 with 4 people in the room on an 8 day cruise and loved it.  The ocean view cabin had quite a lot of space with a drop down bunk over a couch that converted to a bed.  We never felt crowded.  From deck 1 it is just 1 deck down to the gangway at port stops and just 2 decks up to the dining room at mealtimes so it is easy to avoid elevators at their most crowded times and just take the stairs.  The room had a good sized window with a nice close-up view of the water.  When the sea got a bit rough the lower deck had noticeably less movement than those higher up.

Balcony Cabins

cruise ship cabin decorations

Decorated Balcony Cabin – when cruising for special occasions you can arrange to have the cabin decorated prior to boarding

Balcony staterooms normally have a significant price jump from ocean view.  You get a great view and your own small outdoor space with a balcony cabin.  They also tend to have significantly more interior space than the typical inside room.  Most cruise ship passengers are quite comfortable in a balcony room.  For even more extra space without going up to suite price there are some staterooms with extended balconies and some premium balcony rooms.  The outer ends of the aft extended balconies on the stern can be seen from higher decks, so keep that in mind if you don’t want other passengers looking down on your balcony.  Then again the bridge crew can see down the rows of balconies along the sides of the ship from their docking wings so those aren’t entirely unobserved either.

if balconies are your thing you'll want this one

wrap-around balcony on stern corner cabin 6450

If you want a really fantastic balcony, there are corner cabins at the stern on decks 6, 7,  & 8 with wrap-around balconies.  In some places you can book one of those and the room next door which has a double balcony as adjoining cabins and have an even bigger balcony with the partition between the two removed.

adjoining cabins

door into small alcove with separate doors to corner and next door cabins


cruise ship suite bathroom

Ocean Suite bathroom has double sinks

For those who want more luxury in a spacious cabin that has amenities like a dressing area, walk-in closet, and jetted tub, the ship has several categories of suites available ranging from the smallest junior suites to ocean suites to the largest of all, the grand suites.  Of course the price increases with each jump in category.  Suites come with added perks like VIP check-in.

you definitely get what you pay for on a cruise ship

Ocean Suite

sweet suite

Grand Suite

suite balcony

the balcony on the grand suite has fancy furniture

Spa Cabins

the cabin for people who are really into spas

Spa Balcony Cabin

At the high end of each category we find the Spa cabins.  These cost more because in addition to being on a very high deck, they come with extra perks.

spa products cost a lot if you buy them

spa products come with the spa room

Each spa cabin has a number of little bottles of spa products on the counter, which are replenished throughout the cruise.  If you go to buy these products at the spa they are quite pricey.  Spa cabins also have different bathrobes and towels from the other cabins.  These cabins are mainly for spa enthusiasts since they also come with priority spa appointments and (in my opinion the best thing about them) free access to the mineral pool and thermal suite, which includes the heated ceramic chairs.

bliss, pure and simple

If you’ve never tried a heated ceramic chair, you have no idea what you are missing. Pure Bliss.

People who enjoy spas would love these cabins, but those who are not really into spas may not find the rooms worth the extra money.  If you’ve never sat on a heated ceramic chair, take the free spa tour on your next boarding day and try one out!

Wheelchair Accessible Cabins

disabled accessible cruise ship cabin

view into accessible room from bathroom shows low set hook on bathroom door

Wheelchair accessible cabins are often larger than other cabins in the same category to allow space for a wheelchair to move about the cabin.

disabled accomodations

shower in wheelchair accessible stateroom

They also include things like grab bars, shower seats, and accessible height furnishings and accessories.

disabled accessible cruise ship cabin

wheelchair accessible rooms have wider doors – and note the low placement of the mailbox

At just over three feet, the doors into wheelchair accessible staterooms are significantly wider than those into regular cabins which are under two feet wide.

handicapped rooms have lots of extra clothesline space

double clotheslines – and longer too since the shower is bigger

Showers in the wheelchair accessible units are larger than normal and minus the lip to the shower stall found in regular cabins.  One of the best features of these showers is the clotheslines.  While normal cabins have small showers and one short clothesline, the accessible cabins have a much longer clothesline since the shower is bigger, plus it has one at the normal height and another lower down where a sitting person can reach it, giving about quadruple the space to hang things like wet swimming suits.

To view cabins on other ships click the links below:

Breeze   Divina   Liberty   Pearl   Westerdam

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Shipboard Life, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Port Townsend

Port Townsend,WA

Wilderness Adventurer in Port Townsend

At the northern tip of the eastern end of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula sits a quaint little town called Port Townsend. Victorian architecture dominates the waterfront district, on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.  Nearby Fort Worden, now a state park, is also on the register.  Port Townsend is the county seat and only incorporated city in Jefferson County.

ferry from Port Townsend

Ferry leaving Port Townsend to go to Keystone on Whidbey Island

In the late 1800’s Port Townsend was a busy seaport.  The town rose quickly in anticipation of the coming railroad connecting Port Townsend to Tacoma.  Then a depression hit and the railroad lines never made it that far.  Many people left the town.  Construction of nearby Fort Worden near the turn of the century, and in the 1920’s of a paper mill on the outskirts of town kept the town alive.  The paper mill is still active and one of the area’s largest employers.   The area where an earlier fort built to protect settlers once sat now operates as Old Fort Townsend State Park with trails, camping, and marine access.

historic building in Port Townsend

Victorian Building

Many artists call the area home and show their work in local galleries.  Town festivals help attract tourists, a major boost to the local economy.  The 1982 hit movie An Officer and a Gentleman filmed in Port Townsend and mainly at Fort Worden, temporarily bringing money and jobs to town.  Although the movie depicted Lynette and Paula working on the other side of Puget Sound their workplace was actually filmed at the paper mill in Port Townsend.

historic building

old building in Port Townsend

We visited Port Townsend on our Un-Cruise Adventures Washington Coastal cruise.  Our beer-themed cruise started the visit there with a tour of the Port Townsend Brewing Company.  Following the brewery tour (complete with beer tastings for the beer lovers in the crowd) a skiff from the Wilderness Adventurer brought us back to the boat, docked in the center of town.  From there we walked down the dock into the town full of interesting old Victorian buildings.  Many of Port Townsend’s assortment of galleries small shops in the old buildings were an easy walk from where the boat docked in the historic district.  It also has a great eatery called The Public House Grill in amongst the shops on Water Street, the main street through that part of the town.

small ship cruise

big dock for big boats

As we left Port Townsend we saw a navy sub in the distance escorted by Navy ships on its way back to Hood Canal.  From a distance is all anyone sees these subs as they make their way to the bridge on the water’s surface.  Their escort keeps ships far away.  Some very unhappy drivers face a long delay at either end of the Hood Canal Bridge whenever a sub goes through on its way to or from the base at Bangor.

Port Townsend and surrounding area

area map from Tides Inn (The motel in An Officer and a Gentleman)

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Port Cities, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 5 – Dead End

Regents Cruise Ship

Regents Ship

In his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST, Len Kreisler MD included a chapter about his four years working as a cruise ship doctor for Regent Lines called What Ship, What Cabin, and Doctor Who?  This is an excerpt from that chapter.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

The nurse and I received an emergency call from the main dining room.  As we entered the crowded room we spotted the group we were looking for in a far corner.  A very large man lay motionless on the floor while a passenger attempted resuscitation.  Observers offered opinions and advice.  One very intoxicated female stood by shouting.

“Get up you $*/ *?  ^ &!%(#, I’m not flying home by myself.”

It so happened this was the man’s second wife, married to the brother of a well known comedian.  The nurse became quite annoyed by the crowd blocking access to the patient.  I could see the patient was cyanotic with no signs of life. I advised the nurse to call for a stretcher and a few strong attendants to help us remove the man to the infirmary.  The stretcher arrived with four muscular Jamaicans.  We quickly loaded and left.

The deceased was in his seventies, but looked ninety.  He was loaded with all kinds of jewelry and a Rolex watch.  His shirt was unbuttoned to his mid-chest.  He looked like a stereotyped Las Vegas high roller commonly seen in the Rat Pack years.  He was 6 foot 4 inches and at least 75 pounds overweight.  He smelled of vomit, cigarettes, cigars and liquor.  There wasn’t much doubt he died of a heart attack.

The intoxicated wife arrived shortly after we managed to get him and the stretcher onto the examining table.  He was too heavy to lift off the stretcher.  She circled the body a few times before asking if she could give him one last farewell kiss.  Who could refuse such a tender request?  She then proceeded to remove all his jewelry (we noted the event into his written record with itemized articles.)

The captain told me the one-body cooler was on the top deck (10 flights above us).  He had turned it on before coming down to medical.  It would take at least two hours to cool down.  What would we have done if we had gotten another body?  Put it in the food lockers…in body bags of course.

The new widow left with the hotel manager.  We wrapped two sheets around the body and secured them with canvas straps.  He was too big for a body bag.  The nurse and I left for the hotel manager’s office.  I tried to answer the widow’s irrelevant questions as they placed a call to the deceased’s son.  The widow grabbed the phone as soon as contact was made.

“Your dad finally bought the farm.  Doc says he didn’t suffer.  Now listen, I don’t want (she rattled off a list of names) at the funeral.  Here Doc, he wants to talk to you.”  She handed me the phone.

The first question to me was “Is she drunk again?”

He informed me that his dad had two previous heart attacks.  He was a diabetic, overweight, hypertensive, heavy smoker and drinker and determined to do it his way…right to the end.  We gave him the protocol for having the body flown back and he thanked us for our efforts.  The nurse and I never got paid and decided not to pursue it.

Almost 4 hours had passed since our patient’s demise.  It was after midnight.  We had to move the body to the cooler.  The nurse offered four Jamaican cabin attendants $5 each to act as stretcher-bearers.  The easiest and most direct route was heading for the nearest opening to the back deck and up the outside stairs.  The hotel manager insisted on a set of inside tortuous stairs reasoning that his route was least likely to encounter passengers.  I wondered how many senior citizens wander around the outside decks after midnight.  He outranked me so up the inside we went.

The Jamaicans struggled with the heavy load on the narrow, winding stairways.  After negotiating two levels they stopped to assess a strong fecal odor permeating the stairwell.  The body, with all the food and liquor inside, had been lying around four hours at room temperature.  Fermentation was creating gas, bloating and odors.  The Jamaicans looked at each other wondering who passed gas.  They all denied it.

“Not me maaan!” was the emphatic refrain.

As if on cue the corpse burped fluid which produced a gurgling sound and a wet stain on the sheet in the vicinity of the mouth.  The four men dropped the stretcher and pulled back in horror.

“Da maaan is arguing wid da devil,” exclaimed one of the Jamaicans.

Only two could be coaxed back…by offering an additional $10 each.  The nurse and I each took a corner of the stretcher.  We finally made it to the cooler and called it a night.

We arrived around 8:00 AM.  The funeral people were waiting at the dock.  The staff captain prepared to use the side arm designed for the specific purpose of swinging the stretcher and body clear of the top deck and lowering it directly onto the dock.  The hotel manager once again intervened, saying that it might attract unwanted passenger attention.  He directed the body again be taken through the inside staircases.  At that point I grabbed the nurse’s arm and left the scene.  I heard later someone had removed the straps securing the body to the stretcher.  The body rolled off the stretcher at least once before making it to the dock.

More stories from Dr. Len:

On a recent cruise we walked past a door marked “Morgue” on a behind the scenes tour on the last day of the cruise.  No cameras were allowed on the tour so I don’t have a photo, but thankfully this morgue was much better located down in the bowels of the ship where only crew is normally allowed.  Rumor had it a passenger had died at the last port stop so as we walked by staring at the heavy metal door we couldn’t help but wonder if the morgue was occupied.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Decor on the MSC Divina Cruise Ship

Divina Décor

MSC Divina cruise ship

Divina in Curacao

Italian actress Sophia Loren, godmother of the MSC fleet, inspired the décor aboard the MSC Diva Divina.  The color scheme throughout most of the ship is burgundy and silver, often with sparkles.

MSC swarovski crystal stairs

golden swarovski crystal stairs in the yacht club

In the high class private area called the MSC Yacht Club, accessible for yacht club suite guests only and defined by MSC as a ship within a ship, silver accents give way to gold, particularly on the spectacular Swarovski crystal stairway – though personally I prefer the atrium’s crystal stairway in silver to the yacht club’s gold.  The silver color sets of the sparkle of the crystal more stunningly in my opinion.

cruise ship suite

Sophia Loren Suite

The largest and most expensive suite on the ship, named the Sophia Loren suite, was designed by the actress herself.  It has separate living and bedroom areas with burgundy colored furniture and black & white photos of her hanging on the walls.

lighting makes all the difference

decorating with lights

Glitzy without being gaudy, the ship decor makes use of lots of mirrors, lights, sparkles, and silver color to bring about its glamorous appearance and a hint of luxury in the public areas.

red carpet treatment

walk the red carpet into the spa

Some public areas sport red carpets so passengers can experience a walk-down-the-red-carpet star feeling.

MSC Divina Atrium

atrium on the Divina

The atrium towers several decks high.  Two flights of swarovski crystal stairs sparkle and shine their way up the two lowest decks of the atrium.  Each stair cost $3000 euros and the ship has 100 of them total including the gold ones in the MSC Yacht Club area.

lots of places to sit

little nook seating area

All around the ship passengers can find lots of little nooks where people can sit and relax or gather together with friends.

small tops on large bottoms was the theme of these statues

odd statue of misproportioned woman

The ship did seem to have quite a number of odd statues.  At least I found them odd.  Misshapen representations of women with skinny upper halves and extremely large legs and derrieres in a variety of poses or doing various activities.  It also had a few painted masks, but other than these strange items the rest of the ship looked quite lovely.

why the masks?


Many old black and white photos placed about the ship show a variety of famous people, most of them visiting Italy around the 1950’s and 60’s – the heyday of Sophia Loren’s movie era, though she has appeared in more recent films such as Grumpier Old Men.

multi-use area

Piazza Del Dodge

The ship had some multi-use spaces like the Piazza Del Dodge, decorated with a clouds and stars ceiling and old world café look with numerous cute little tables.  This area had gelato and sweets for sale.  It sometimes had watch or jewelry sales, demonstrations, or activities and was also used as a muster station.

cruise ship mural

painted mural

Some hallways, like those leading to the Piazza del Dodge, had painted murals.

smoothie bar

the spa smoothie bar used colorful fruit as both decorations and smoothie promotions (and they made good smoothies too)

Each bar, lounge, or restaurant area in the ship had its own unique décor, different from every other bar or restaurant or the other areas of the ship.  The crew diligently kept everything clean and shiny.

multi-purpose room

black and white lounge

For general information about the Divina including dining room dress codes click here.

For information about Cabins on the Divina click here.

Read about a special balcony cabin here.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Divina, MSC, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Best Posts of 2014

Happy New Year!

On New Year’s Day people tend to recap what they did over the past year.  With bloggers, that often means reviewing the past year’s blogs or highlighting the best of.  This year I decided to let the readers pick for me.  Of the blogs I wrote last year, these top 10 got the most views.

MSC Divina Oceanview Stateroom

Oceanview cabin with porthole window and drop down bunks

1. Cruise Ship Cabins on the MSC Divina

People like to see what the rooms look like on various ships, especially if they want to book a cabin on that particular ship.  The Divina is a fairly new ship, and the only one MSC has based year round in America so it gets a lot of attention.  Divina is a beautiful ship and often has great deals.

John Heald on stage

John Heald – the one in the suit

2. Interview with John Heald – Left Behind on a Cruise

John Heald is Carnival’s top cruise director. He’s very well-known, with his own blog and facebook page.  This was the fourth and most popular installment of a series of blogs based on an interview with him on the Breeze.  People often wonder what happens to those left behind when a cruise ship leaves port, and in the video on this blog he shares that information.

towel origami

towel crocodile

3. Easy Towel Animals – How to Fold a Towel Crocodile

Just about everyone loves towel animals.  Sometimes they are hard to fold so it’s good to find one that’s easy.  The crocodile came from Bagus on the MSC Divina, and this blog includes a video of him folding one.

how to fold a towel dragon

fire-breathing towel dragon

4. How to Fold a Fire Breathing Towel Dragon

Sometimes I invent my own towel animals, and this dragon was my masterpiece.  It’s not the easiest animal to make, but definitely one of the more impressive.  This blog includes photos and step-by-step instructions on how to make a towel dragon.

turtle on Palancar reef

sometimes you see something really special when snorkeling – like this turtle

5. Snorkeling on Palancar Reef in Cozumel

Cozumel has some of the best shore excursions of any port.  We’ve been there several times and always find something different to do.  On a visit there on the Norwegian Pearl we had a 3 reef swim over snorkel excursion that turned out to be quite an adventure.

surprisingly nice cruise ship cabin

Cabin 9145  on the Divina has a double balcony and inside seems almost like a two-room suite

6. The Awesome Cruise Ship Cabin

On the Divina we had a very special cabin.  It’s categorized as a regular balcony cabin, but because of its location in the ship it has the long side rather than the short side parallel to the side of the ship, giving it a double balcony and almost two separate rooms.

fun on boats

Passengers on a skiff from the Wilderness Adventurer

7. Wilderness Adventurer

Not all cruise ships are huge and not all cruises take long journeys.  Small-ship expedition cruise ships like the Wilderness Adventurer take passengers for a whole different kind of cruise ship experience in nature or small ports where the big ships can’t go.

afternoon tea on a cruise ship

Afternoon Tea on Carnival Breeze

8. Carnival Cruise’s Afternoon Tea

One of the best-kept secrets on Carnival‘s ships is afternoon tea served on sea days.  Some of the most delightful treats you never see anywhere else on the ship are served at tea yet it is never very crowded.

kayak launcher

the kayak launcher makes exploration by kayak easy

9. What is an Un-Cruise?

Un-Cruise Adventures has a fleet of small ships that take a limited number of passengers to places where larger ships can’t go.  From the wilds of Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii or the Sea of Cortez this fleet has something for everyone including heritage cruises on a replica of an early steamship.  They also have expedition vessels and yacht cruises.

budget friendly shore excursion

trollies parked at Saxman Village

10. Ketchikan Trolley Tour

Ketchikan is a popular stop for Alaska cruises.  The trolley tour is a very affordable way to get out and see the area.  When on a cruise on Holland America‘s Westerdam with extended family it was a great choice for a large group because everyone could do it and it didn’t cost too much.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Randoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Staying in Puerto Rico

graveyard at El Morro

View of San Juan across graveyard at El Morro where Ponce de Leon is buried

Previously we visited Puerto Rico briefly as a port stop on a couple prior cruises.  After booking a cruise on the Carnival Splendor which started from there we decided to come a couple days ahead in hopes of getting to see a bit more of San Juan.

vacation rental condo

Marbella del Caribe

We stayed at Marbella Del Caribe in a vacation rental apartment at a private condo. This beachfront residence sat in Carolina, near the airport and not too far from old San Juan.   This gave us a chance to see one of the modern areas of San Juan as John and I had never left old town on prior visits.  When you leave the historic area, Puerto Rico has some nice beaches.

beachfront condo

Our condo sat right on this beach

On the first day after going out to eat a late lunch we sat in the apartment watching a long-lasting thunderstorm which came close enough at one point that the thunder and lightning were nearly simultaneous. Since this storm also came with a downpour we did not venture forth until time came to fetch some dinner.  Three of the six of us donned raincoats and headed out for nearby tacos. We discovered that as is common with CCC (Cheap Chinese Crap) our raincoats looked like what they were supposed to without actually being functional. They repelled rain about as well as a magnet repels steel.

castles in Puerto Rico

view from El Morro

Luckily the rain in Puerto Rico is warm, but entering the restaurant brought an arctic blast of air conditioning, typical of warm places where indoors is almost always way too cold.  The area seemed not prepared for such a deluge as the rain ran through the streets like a river, flowing down the outside stairs from the condo to the sidewalk in waterfall fashion.  Perhaps it doesn’t normally rain that much.

forts in San Juan

cannon at El Morro

By morning the storm ended and the sun shone brightly. We took a cab to old town as most of our party had not previously visited Puerto Rico. The two old forts in town, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) belong to the US Parks system (Puerto Rico is a US Territory).  Both are within walking distance from the cruise ship docks for most people and there is a free tram that runs around the perimeter of old town including both forts.  There is also a trolley that ventures into the interior of old town.

was this a hope for rescue

ship on a dungeon wall from an artistic prisoner sometime in the past

Though we have seen both forts before, the forts are quite large and it would take a considerable amount of time to tour just one fort completely in one visit. We saw portions of both we had not ventured into previously, yet have not seen anywhere near all of either one. We had a great view of a couple ships in port from Castillo San Cristobol, though neither ship was ours as the Carnival Splendor would not arrive until the next day.

history of Spain's territory in the Caribbean

one of a series of maps

Maps throughout a series of rooms through Castillo San Cristobol showed the Caribbean basin according to which country controlled that land throughout the years. On the first map the entire thing belonged to Spain. Various lands changed hands over the years to places like Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, and later the USA and independent countries. By the last map Spain had no territory left in the Caribbean at all.

early roads paved in ship's ballast

blue brick road in San Juan

From one of the windows at San Cristobol we could see a blue brick road.  San Juan still has some blue brick roads from colonial days.  They were paved with the ballast of ships, which was blue because it was originally furnace slag.  Unfortunately more and more of these unique roads disappear under new paving as roads get widened or repaired.

stratigically placed forts have great views

View of Puerto Rico from San Cristobol

Several years back when we visited Puerto Rico we saw Iguanas all over the lawn at San Cristobol.  The workers there at the time said they were not native, but they liked them because they mowed the lawns.  Noticing their absence this time, I asked a worker what happened to all the Iguanas.  He said they were in cans.  Apparently the population got too large and they started eliminating them.

see the sea

Dad and John check out a garita at El Morro

After wandering about San Cristobol a bit we caught the free tram to El Morro.  At first glance all the seats appeared full, but people on board kindly pointed out space here and there, finding enough for all 6 of us to get on.

free shuttle

free tram at El Morro

We got off at El Morro.  It just costs $5 to see one or both of the forts.  Since both are within walking distance of the cruise ship docks and have free transportation as well it makes a great low-cost venture for cruise ship passengers on port stops there.


Iguana at El Morro

We looked at some views from garitas, the watch towers on the fort’s walls, then wandered up a long ramp near the lighthouse where we did not go on our last visit there.  We were happy to find one iguana sunning itself on a wall at the top level of the fort.  It posed like a model at a photo shoot.

tunnel in old fort

Justin investigates a tunnel

A series of small tunnels connected the otherwise divided sections of that level.

craft booths

flea market in the plaza

At one viewpoint my dad noticed dark clouds in the sky and warned us of the approaching storm.  We headed to the tram stop, preceded by thunder and lightning, but got lucky in that the rain did not start until we were under the shelter of the tram’s roof.  We saw a cafe from the tram and got off at the next stop on the far side of a plaza.  We walked through the plaza filled with craft booths, doing our best to stay under the shelter of the booths as we made our way through.  One had some nice hand blown glass, but getting it home in one piece might have been an issue so we didn’t buy any.  On the other side of the plaza one of the Mario brothers (from old Nintendo games) stood out in front of a cafe.  Halloween in San Juan, all the cafe workers dressed up.  We had a Mexican wrestler as our lunch waiter there.

Puerto Rico

cafe in San Juan

It rained heavily for a bit, then cleared up and before we left the café we had bright sunshine again. After a cab ride back to our condo we spent an enjoyable afternoon on the beach behind the condo. The incoming waves gave the beach somewhat of a wave pool effect where 3 of us entertained ourselves while the others napped on beach towels in the sand.

El Moro lighthouse

Lighthouse on top El Morro

In the evening people in costumes wandered about the street in front of the condo.  The bar across the street had some sort of overnight Halloween party with people hanging out by their front door all night.  They weren’t loud or anything, just there.

old Spanish fort

entrance to El Morro

The next morning we went to the port and boarded the Splendor for a cruise which included quite a few port stops at islands where cruise ships don’t visit daily.  We liked the opportunity to visit different places.  We also enjoyed having some extra time to explore San Juan before boarding the ship.  Most ports have a lot to see if you have a little time to spend there before or after the cruise.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Port Cities, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How to Make a Towel Santa

how to make Santa Claus from towels

Towel Santa Claus

How to Fold a Towel Santa

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Santa

christmas snow cotton

bag of Christmas cotton

1 red bath towel       1 skin colored hand towel

Santa hat     cotton

black mittens        black socks      eyes

How to Fold a Towel Santa Body

towel Santa folding instructions

roll both ends of bath towel to middle

Lay red bath towel out flat.  Roll both ends to the middle.

towel art

fold rolled towel in half and pull center of tips out at the end of each roll

Fold rolled towel in half, rolls to the outside.  Pull tip ends out of each roll.

towel origami

pull both ends of the towel at once

Take both tips of same roll in one hand and both tips of other roll in other hand and pull with both hands until towel rolls pull out into a body.

How to Make a Towel Santa Head

towel folding crafts

towel hanging on a hook at center of long side with both ends hanging evenly

Hang skin colored hand towel on wall hook or tuck center of one long side under chin.  Make sure both sides of towel hang evenly.

towel folding instructions

roll both sides as tightly and evenly as possible

Roll both sides to middle, keeping them as tight and as even with each other as possible.

towel folding directions

tightly roll from wide end with just enough towel for the ears sticking out on either side

Set towel on flat surface with rolls on the underside.  Leave just enough loose towel for ears hanging off each side at the end and roll towel from big end to small end.  Tuck excess towel from ear ends into sides of rolls before the rolls get too tight for that.

how to fold towels into Santa

finished towel head

Roll towel nearly to small end, then tuck small end between rolls leaving a bit of the tip sticking out for a nose.

Finishing the Towel Santa

Christmas in a towel

finished towel Santa Claus

Use safety pins to adjust the Santa hat until it fits the towel Santa head.  If you can’t find a small hat, tuck part of the hat inside itself to make it smaller and pin it.  If you want the hat to stand up, stuff it with some of the cotton.  Set hat on the towel Santa head, pin in place if necessary.  Put mittens on the arm rolls and use socks for boots on the leg rolls.  Cut strips of cotton and wrap around each arm and leg for white trim on Santa’s suit.  Make a cotton beard and set it on the Santa head.  Place head on body.  Use double stick tape to put google eyes on the towel Santa.  You can make paper eyes if you don’t have googly eyes.

Christmas towel animal

Towel Reindeer

Click here if you would like to make a towel reindeer for Santa.

For instructions on how to fold other towel animals visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons Learned From a Murphy Trip

Most people have heard of Murphy’s law – if anything can go wrong it will. Sometimes you just can’t seem to escape Murphy. I took one trip in particular where this held true. It all started with the booking. Just before Christmas my husband found a Caribbean cruise at a very good price with most of the port stops in places we’d never been. Instead of just pouncing on it while the price was good and booking it like we usually do, we printed out the info and brought it to the annual Christmas gathering to try and set up a family cruise with other relatives like my Aunt had done with an Alaska cruise on Holland America’s Westerdam.

It turns out my Aunt has much better skills for organizing group trips than I do. While waiting around to see who wanted to go and trying to book all together, the price went up. Cruise prices vary depending on how long it is until the cruise starts compared to how many rooms are left. While this one still had quite a lot of time to go, it must have had a lot of people book early. Had it been just us, we would have found something cheaper, but by then one person without flexible vacation time had already arranged to go so we booked anyway. We had a total of 6 people and 2 rooms, and though both were connecting rooms they did not connect to each other as none were available that did. Lesson 1 – if booking with other people, don’t wait for everyone to decide and book all together.  Just book your room and let them book theirs.

flying over San Juan

Flying into Puerto Rico

Several months passed and it came time to book the airline.  Seemingly slow learners, we had not yet got the hang of lesson 1.  While waiting around for everyone to agree on something to book together, the cost of the airfare rose.

Meanwhile the price of the cruise went down. Though we had not booked early saver, where if you notice the price has dropped you are guaranteed the lowest price, Carnival was kind enough to allow us some onboard credit. When it dropped again though they said one time was it for that. Lesson 2 – if you book early be sure to get the early saver price guarantee!

It got close to time to go, and my grandson did not have a passport.  There was some sort of problem with the paperwork on the initial submission, and by then it was too late to send it again.  Luckily Puerto Rico is a US territory and not a foreign country.  He could get on the airplane with an enhanced ID, which he could get from the DMV far more quickly than a passport.  A birth certificate was sufficient ID to complete the ship’s online registration for a kid.  Lesson 3 – if you don’t have a passport when you plan a trip, be sure to get your passport early!

We had decided to stay a couple nights in Puerto Rico prior to the cruise, which started there. A condo where we could all stay together sounded more appealing as well as cheaper than 2 or 3 hotel rooms. So one of our party got that booked. Even though a different person booked each of these things, none of us seemed to have any better luck than the other, although this time it was not about the price.

We arrived in Puerto Rico, got off the plane and headed to the taxi stand, It turned out that the condo that was supposed to be in San Juan was actually 40 minutes away and not near any source of food or entertainment, which would mean expensive taxi rides for everything. That would never do so we cancelled that one right there at the airport (which luckily they were willing to refund) and went online to find something else. Finally we did something right.  We had mobile internet through hotspot on the iphone.  Lesson 4 – do your research before booking anything!

Carolina beach

the condo in Puerto Rico sat on this beach

We booked a condo through that said it was just a few miles from the airport and not too far from old town. It did not have the 3 bedrooms the original place had, but did sleep 6 with a futon in the living room. We got lucky in that though we were more concerned with proximity to necessities and price than anything else while booking this on the fly, it did turn out to be right on a really nice beach.

Upon arrival, the doorman did not have keys to private rentals, and we had not been given a specific apartment number. Each individual owner of the vacation rental units in that building took care of their own so we had to find out who it went through. Checking the email on the iphone for that brought about the discovery of a conformation link, which then alerted the owner who up to that point did not know the apartment had been booked. He was 45 minutes away and needed to clean the apartment before use so the doorman locked our luggage in an unused room and we walked to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch. When we returned the owner was still up in the apartment cleaning, but he let us bring our stuff up. It probably would have been more thoroughly cleaned and better stocked with washcloths and things if we had booked it in advance. (It had plenty of towels, not so much washcloths and dishrags) Lesson 5 – portable internet can save your vacation.

Norwegian ship in Puerto Rico

From Castillo San Cristobal we saw other ships in port on the day before our cruise

In spite of all that, we did have fun in Puerto Rico. Then the time came to board the ship. I always advise people to pack anything they might need in the first few hours on board into their carry-on, and put those things they don’t want to lug around with them if the room is not ready in their checked bag. Usually the luggage arrives at the room within a few hours of boarding, but usually the boarding time is just a few hours long. This particular trip had a boarding period of 6 hours. We boarded early and did not follow my own advice to bring things we might need in a carry-on. My grandson really wanted to use the waterslide, but our luggage did not arrive and nobody had a swimming suit in their carry-on.

Hours passed. We watched out our window as they rolled luggage carts from new passengers just arriving straight to the bins to put on the ship. Some of the later arriving passengers just brought their own luggage in with them, knowing their rooms would be ready by then.  They had everything they needed and could take it right to the room. Luggage arrived at other rooms up and down the hall, but never ours. Finally we asked a couple crew people, one of the luggage handlers and one of the people with a shirt proclaiming “Just Ask.” They both seemed fairly sure that the earliest luggage to arrive probably got buried somewhere and would be the last delivered. We entertained the grandson playing mini golf and exploring the ship.  He really wanted to go down that waterslide, but darkness came with no luggage and the slide closed at sunset. Lesson 6 – When you give out good advice, you really should follow it yourself.

We went to dinner in what we had on, some of it being the sort of thing the dining room doesn’t normally allow like flip-flops on a couple people.  We figured if they said anything we would tell them that we would be happy to dress appropriately if only we had our luggage. They let us right in without a word on our appearance and when we returned to the room the luggage had finally arrived.

The cruise itself went well other than a couple people getting lost at the first stop on a shore excursion.  They asked a street vendor for help and rather than directing them to where the vans park she helped them find the ship so they ended up walking all the way back to the ship on their own.  The lesson here – if lost on an excursion stop, find someone who works at the place you are visiting rather than asking a street vendor for directions.  And bring along the emergency number the ship provides in their daily newsletter because most places excursions go are not within walking distance of the ship.  I’ve never known an excursion bus to leave without everyone on board before, but I suppose there is a limit to the time they can wait or spend looking for missing people.

several volcanos in a row

flying home

When the trip ended we flew home standby. We did it last year and had no problem – but last year’s cruise ended midweek. This one ended on a Sunday. The only direct flight out wasn’t until 7pm, but had open seats. All earlier flights to other airports were full, and should we manage to get on we’d be stuck at the connecting airport as the departing flights there were also full.  Although in retrospect, if you could get there, being stuck at an airport with more daily flights would be better than being stuck in Miami which had one.  By 7pm the plane was full.  We had to get a motel for the night.  It took quite a few calls to local motels before we found one that had both a room available and an airport shuttle that didn’t cost an absolute fortune.  Next day’s direct flight had lots of open seats, and nothing was available earlier to any other airport. Once again by flight time it had filled up. It also had weight and balance issues so rather than standby passengers getting on, other passengers got bumped. That day we were able to catch a later flight to Dallas. After a long cold night at the Dallas airport we finally got a flight home the next morning. One last lesson learned – don’t fly standby out of Miami on a Sunday.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Randoms | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Port Townsend Brewing Company

craft beer

Port Townsend Brewing Company

Our beer-themed cruise on the Wilderness Adventurer included a visit to the Port Townsend Brewing Company when the ship stopped for an afternoon in the quaint historical town of Port Townsend at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

big dock in Port Townsend

Wilderness Adventurer in Port Townsend

At the end of Taylor Street in the center of town sits a good sized dock. The Wilderness Adventurer pulled up alongside this dock. Unlike most saltwater docks that float up and down with the tides on metal bands around poles, this is a very tall fixed dock. The sundeck at the top of our three-stories-above-the-water-boat sat fairly even with the surface of the dock. From the lower decks we could see the underside of the dock and the many poles covered with mussels and barnacles clinging to the high tide line of each pole.

Port Townsend Marina

skiff ride through the marina

A short skiff ride brought us to a nearby marina where we disembarked the skiff at the dock and walked through a shipyard full of large boats in drydock. Some people pointed out the massive hoist just ahead. Everyone pulled out their cameras and started taking photos as we walked by. The tires alone towered over nearby parked cars.

boat lift on wheels

monstrous boat lift

Suddenly the monstrosity began to move. A previously unnoticed window partway up one metal blue leg revealed a driver, dwarfed by the machine in which he sat. As we scurried along like so many mice trying to keep out from under an approaching car, the hoist followed in our tracks. Alternating between taking photos and keeping far enough out of its path not to get squashed, we made our way toward our destination, the Port Townsend Brewery – where most guests would arrive by car uninhibited by giant boat hoists.

boat repair

boat in drydock

The original Port Townsend Brewing Company opened in 1905, but closed shortly after the start of prohibition as the non-alcoholic beverages they tried to sell were not nearly as popular as their beer.  The new Port Townsend Brewing Company opened in 1997 with just two beers.

inside the brewery

brewery tour

Kim, the owner, and brewmaster Carson led us on a tour starting at the end of the building where their shop began as a much smaller operation. Carson explained how they make beer as he showed the various components of their system. Over the years they have added equipment and their capacity has grown. They currently bottle 10 ales sold regionally and have a couple more on tap. They also have limited run seasonal and specialty beers.

different types of beer

beer ready for tasting

Following the tour we went back into the bar where Kim brought out trays filled with a sample size glasses with variety of shades of amber from the different beers.  People enjoyed tasting them.   I bought some for my son to try and write a review on since I don’t drink and he knows enough about beer to make his own.

Chris’s beer review:

northwest style IPA with dry hopping

Hop Diggity IPA

Although I have drank a lot of beer this will be the first time I write a review on one. My mom doesn’t drink beer but wanted a review of a beer from Port Townsend Brewing Company. I reviewed the Hop Diggidy I.P.A. I usually go to Beer Advocate when I want to read beer reviews so I will use the same format for a review commonly used there.

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Hazy golden with about a half inch of head.

Smell: Citrus dominates the aroma. Hops present but not strong.

Taste: Opposite of the aroma. Hops dominate the taste with citrus close behind it. Some malt in the finish.

Mouth feel: medium to light with a good amount of carbonation.

Overall: A good beer true to style.  It would make a good secession ale if I had more then one bottle.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Port Cities, Ports of Call, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Memoirs of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 4 – Chasing Supplies

creative resupplying

When a cruise line is on the verge of bankruptcy, supplies are hard to find

What’s it like to be a cruise ship doctor on a financially sinking ship?  Len Kreisler MD tells us in the chapter What Ship, What Cabin, and Doctor Who? from his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.  He spent four years working for Maritime Medical as a cruise ship doctor for Regent Lines, who ran five 1960’s era ships before going bankrupt in 1995.   This is an excerpt from his book.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

Maritime Medical did not like their doctors or nurses purchasing supplies on their own.  They obviously saved money by bulk buying through discount houses, notably pharmaceuticals through generic Canadian suppliers.  I called Maritime Medical from San Juan because we had used most of our intravenous solutions and were out of a few other medications.  They promised to have supplies waiting at our next port.  I was skeptical about the promise.

I had noticed signs of discord between the Hotel Manager and my bosses at Maritime Medical.  In retrospect, it was subcontract problems that would eventually lead to declaration of bankruptcy by the Regent Line.  I was planning to purchase a few supplies in San Juan and charge them to the Maritime account in the purser’s office.

Our dock space faced the old city of San Juan, not far from the El Morro fortress.  Parked next to us was a United States cruiser resting from its patrol duties around Haiti.  I donned my scrub suit, white jacket with name tag, and requested permission to board the cruiser and visit its doctor (this was way before 9/11).  I was informed the ship only carried corpsmen; no doctor.  They put in a call and asked me to wait at the head of the gangplank.  I was soon greeted by a young corpsman…ready, able, and proud to show me around his ship.  As we exchanged medical stories, with added information about his ship’s fighting capabilities, I mentioned my supply problems.

“No sweat Doc, I can give you all the fluids you want, but we’ll have to see how much reserve I have for the medications you need.”

It turned out great.  I got all the supplies I needed and in turn I invited all three corpsmen, and a few of their friends, for dinner aboard the Regent Sun.  None had been on a civilian cruise ship before.  They were duly impressed with the people comforts, and they surprised me with their menu selections.  My assumption had been that our fighting men and women had an abundance of the best when it came to food.  I diplomatically asked about their selections of lobster and steak.  They told me their budgets had been cut back (sound familiar?) which spilled over to limited commissary supplies.  Incidentally, no supplies were waiting at our next port, as promised by Maritime Medical.

More stories from Dr. Len:

Getting Hired

Crew Problems

The “Seasick” Passenger

Dead End

A Visit to the Medical Center on a Modern Cruise Ship

cruise ship medical center

John gets his finger taped in a well-stocked treatment room on Carnival Splendor

Before my recent cruise on the Carnival Splendor I had never set foot inside a cruise ship medical center.  On that cruise my husband sprained a finger catching it on the wall trim while moving luggage.  Though an officer on the ship said there would be no charge to visit the doctor since he injured it onboard, he was still afraid of getting charged so he just had the nurse tape it to the next finger and never actually checked in.  (Our former travel agent daughter would say we should have gotten travel insurance and then we wouldn’t have to worry about such things.)  The treatment room she took him into appeared to have abundant supplies both in the that room and in an adjacent storage room.   Good to know modern ships are far more well equipped than the ship where Dr. Len worked.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments