MSC Meraviglia

Meraviglia in Cozumel

At over 1036 feet in length and 141 in width, with 15 passenger decks and a passenger capacity of 4500 in 2,250 cabins, MSC Meraviglia entered service in June of 2017 as the 6th largest cruise ship in the world behind Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships and AIDAnova. With bigger and bigger ships coming out all the time it has currently fallen to number 14 with Wonder of the Seas joining Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class as the current biggest. Following all of Royal’s Oasis class ships there are now 2 other MSC ships, 2 AIDA, 2 from Costa, one P&O, and one Carnival larger than MSC Meraviglia that are now sailing the seas. Of course that place won’t last long as various lines bring out bigger and bigger ships. Royal has ships that once launched as the biggest in the world and don’t even make the top 30 anymore. Meraviglia means a thing of beauty or something remarkable, marvelous, or wonderful. Google translate’s one word translation is wonder, which seems pretty coincidental for us since we boarded the Meraviglia directly after disembarking Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.

dome show with the dome as looking out from the inside of a submarine before it submerges

One of Meraviglia’s most impressive features is the dome over the promenade area, AKA the galleria. The lower level has shops and eateries. A second story runs along the edges with a pub and premium (pay extra) restaurants on either side. A curved dome roof runs the length the promenade, but it’s not any ordinary roof. It’s a video screen with visuals that change often. It can display anything from fancy ceilings to puffy white clouds in a blue sky – clouds that resemble continents. Sometimes there are dome shows which vary from randomly changing color patterns to sequential shows like the one depicting a submarine dive to an Atlantis full of mermaids. It even displayed the lighthouse show while the live lighthouse show happened outside when the ship was docked at MSC’s private island, Ocean Cay. The lighthouse show is an ever-changing colorful display of lights on the island’s lighthouse.

main pool deck where the big screen TV often had a crowd watching soccer games

Meraviglia has all the things people have come to expect in a large cruise ship with pools, hot tubs, waterslides, a ropes course, a gym, and a spa. There is an indoor pool and hot tub area as well as the ones on the outside deck. It has a walking/running track, but it is the crappy sort that is pretty much just painted onto the upper deck exposed to the elements and often crowded with people who just need to get from one place to another rather than using it as a track. In addition to the main theater for typical cruise ship production singing and dancing shows, they have another theater called the Carousel Theater with a round revolving stage and lots of aerial acts.

Swarovski crystal stairway

Another feature is the Swarovski crystal stairway to the main lobby by guest services.

indoor sports court

There was an extensive area of pay-extra entertainment near the kids clubs. Far more than the usual cruise ship arcade, it had an interactive movie theater, a bowling alley, and some rides. There was also quite a large indoor sports court in that area.

lighthouse on Ocean Cay

Some areas of the ship are exclusive for guests of their “ship within a ship” called the MSC Yacht Club where an inside cabin costs nearly as much as a huge fancy suite that is not in the Yacht Club area and the prices go up from there. Yacht Club guests have their own bar (with unlimited free drinks), sundeck, pool, and exclusive restaurant. They also have 24-hour butler service and priority boarding and check-out, free wi-fi, and some exclusive shore excursions. If the ship sails to MSC’s private island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay, they also have a private beach on the island just for Yacht Club guests. One of the ship’s elevators was also usually exclusively for their use.

wall art in the buffet

We booked an 11-day cruise as all one segment, but it was technically a back-to-back with a 7-day cruise followed by a 4-day cruise. The first 7 days was over Thanksgiving and the ship was packed full. Apparently it is a thing for extended families to book a bunch of cabins and all cruise together for Thanksgiving. About a quarter of the passengers onboard were kids. Maybe the parents figure since there’s already a couple days off that week they only have to take them out of school for a few days for the cruise. Some of them are probably home schooled or do online school, but with that many a lot must attend regular schools. The second segment of our cruise had just about 1000 passengers, nowhere near the over 4000 from the first week so it was more peaceful as nothing was crowded then.

picture of Machu Picchu on the Machu Picchu deck

Although some of the pictures around the ship aren’t necessarily what people would choose to decorate their homes, there wasn’t near the amount of weird, odd, strange, or ugly art found on most cruise ships. A few questionable statues here and there, but nowhere near the crazy decor some ships have. Most of the decor was tasteful. One unique feature in the artwork of this ship was decks named after various places in the world and photos of those places near the elevators, with each deck displaying photos of the place it is named after.

elevator panel with all of the deck names and numbers

While ships from American cruise lines tend to not have a deck 13, this one did have deck 13, but was missing deck 17. MSC is an Italian cruise line and apparently in Italy 17 is considered an unlucky number because one anagram of the Roman numeral XVII is VIXI, which in Latin translates as “I have lived” with the implication of “My life is over” or “I’m dead.” Also the biblical flood began on the 17th day of the month, and in Greek mythology Odysseus floated on a raft for seventeen days. On the other hand in tarot cards 17 is lucky – the card of the stars symbolizing wishes will come true.

star dancers and others in a stage show

There were free shows in the main theater most nights, which had 3 times to choose from that had to be reserved in advance on our first cruise when the ship was booked full, but only 2 showtimes nightly and you could just walk in without reservations on the last 4 days when there was less than a quarter of the number of people onboard. Some of their production shows were good, but one was pretty boring. We were most entertained by a couple of the cast whom we referred to as happy guy and awkward girl. Neither of them were the star dancers. Happy guy always had a huge smile, engaged with the audience, and looked like he had a lot of fun performing and loved being onstage, whereas awkward girl always had her eyes facing up and never once looked at the audience. Her dancing was probably technically correct, but she looked stiff and uncomfortable while doing it. In one of the shows the two were paired up together, though their dancing styles couldn’t have been more opposite.

aerialists in the Carousel Theater

There were also several performances each of their special shows in the carousel theater. These required reservations even when the ship wasn’t crowded and the small fee covered both the show and a drink. The fee was not much more than the price of a drink, so not a major expense. There were 2 different shows at that theater, of which the rock show was better than the Houdini show. The same cast performed in both shows, but were a different group than the ones from the main theater.

shrimp appetizers

The food was usually good, but their idea of making things gluten or lactose free was generally to limit the options you could choose from to things that already didn’t have any noodles or breading and then take away any sauces, gravies, or side dishes containing gluten or dairy. They did not make much if anything specifically gluten-free in house so the only gluten-free bread items came from a freezer and had to be thawed for use.

Meriviglia lobby

Their app could definitely use some improvement. Hopefully they have worked on it since our cruise because it was lacking some useful features other ships have, not as easy to navigate as others, and some of the features it was supposed to have didn’t work. At the start of the cruise I was logged into the app on my phone with my info and password. John’s info and password had never been used on that phone, yet it showed his profile instead of mine. His phone where he was logged in with his own info and password also showed his profile. It didn’t seem to acknowledge my existence at all. I got that fixed the next morning from one of their internet guys (who are found in the photo section because there isn’t a specific area for internet). A bit later that morning when we tried to charge something to the room card we discovered that fixing the app to show my profile on my phone deleted my credit card from our account. It had been registered to the account online before the cruise and had worked for both of us up to that time, and neither after. Fixing that issue required help from the screener guy who decides who gets to see customer service or not. The kiosk that is supposed to fix that sort of thing wouldn’t solve the problem even when he tried to do it for me until he input a bunch of info into his tablet. It was good when the screener guy could help because he got through about ten people in the amount of time it took customer service to help one even when they had several desks open. (I was in line about 25 minutes before the screener got to me and only 1 person from the line moved up to the customer service desk in all that time even though there were 3 desks open.) Their customer service definitely needed improvement – like faster people or more desks open during busy times since the main movement in that line came from the screener either helping people himself or sending them elsewhere.

dome show after the submarine gets to Atlantis

That’s not the only line that didn’t move fast, which really isn’t that surprising because speedy or efficient lines just really aren’t MSC’s thing. The app was not working for booking some things and they had just one person at the seafood restaurant doing all the bookings for all specialty restaurants and the premium shows. That line mainly only moved when people got tired of waiting and left. If the app had been working I wouldn’t have needed to be in that line at all. We had pre-booked a couple specialty shows at the carousel theater before the cruise and signed up for showtimes with somebody in a little booth on the promenade on boarding day, but that booking did not show up in the app so I had gone to see if we actually had showtimes reserved or not. It turned out the times were booked, it was just one more thing on the app that wasn’t working. The app did not show those particular shows for anyone, though it would show the free ones which you actually could book through the app. Later we tried to book a shore excursion for the lighthouse climb at Ocean Cay through the app and that didn’t work either. I had to go to the shore excursion desk to book it. That excursion is cheap and well worth doing so best to book it online pre-cruise if heading to Ocean Cay.

chocolate dragon

More unique and interesting things the Meraviglia has are a place at the buffet where they make their own fresh mozzarella cheese and a chocolate shop on the promenade that makes its own chocolates. The chocolates are pretty expensive, but look tasty. There’s also a coffee bar there. You would think a chocolate shop would specialize in fancy flavors of hot chocolate, but the selection is mainly coffee, though you can get hot chocolate there. The display cases around the chocolate shop have some pretty fancy chocolate sculptures they made there.

waterslides

We thought it was a bit weird that people had to sign a waiver to use the waterslides. We’ve not seen that previously on any ship. Waivers are sometimes required on shore excursions, especially if you’re doing something like snorkeling or zip-lining, but the only things we’d previously seen them onboard for were things like rock climbing walls, flow riders, or an ice-skating arena, none of which Meraviglia has. Two of the three waterslides were fun ones used with your choice of single or double tubes. The third one is the bowl sort that I personally avoid. The reason for the waivers was apparent when getting to the top of the slides and finding no crew member up there to monitor when people go down making sure nobody slides while somebody else is still on it.  You just go when you want to.

dome portraying a stained-glass ceiling

Overall we enjoyed our cruise on the Meraviglia. It’s a nice ship with a lot of things to do and a variety of places to go onboard.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2023
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Dubai Mall

walkway by the fountain outside of Dubai Mall

Dubai Malls

Dubai has many malls, one of which is called Dubai Mall. It’s gigantic, but not the biggest mall in the world. The tallest building in the world, called the Burj Khalifa, is located at that mall. Dubai’s other most famous mall is the Mall of Emirates, which is the one with the indoor skiing and snow park. There are also numerous other malls, one of which is the Italian themed Mercato Mall where free shuttles will bring you from the cruise ship port.

one of many hallways of shops at Dubai Mall

We took the shuttle to Mercato Mall on our first day in Dubai which saved both time and money from getting a taxi at the port. Time because there were far more people wanting taxis than there were taxis available, and money because besides the shuttle being free, once you are in town rather than at the port you can take a taxi between locations for a lot less. Our ship, the MSC Lirica, overnighted in Dubai before disembarkation so we had an extra day to spend there without needing a hotel. My pre-cruise online research indicated there were other mall shuttles from the port, but when we were there only the one to Mercato Mall was running. We spent the first day seeing some of the sights around Dubai, then went to Global Village, which didn’t open until late afternoon.

inside Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

On our second morning there we bypassed the whole taxi and shuttle process and called an Uber. While other passengers vied for the available taxis or waited for the next shuttle, our Uber came fairly quickly and we could go wherever we wanted for less money than in a taxi. That day we wanted to go to the Dubai Mall. We had all our luggage as it was disembarkation day. We also had a very late flight after midnight. Not wanting to drag luggage around all day, our first stop was luggage storage at the Dubai Mall. They have places that will store your things for the day for a per bag fee. They even said they could deliver it to the airport if we wanted (for an extra fee of course), but we chose to pick it up there and take it to the airport ourselves. We used a luggage storage area near the parking garage, and later discovered that they also have luggage storage where you buy the tickets to go up to the top of the Burj Khalifa. They have other luggage storage locations as well.

cafe at Dubai Mall

Once we got our luggage squared away we went to get tickets for the Burj Khalifa. The basic ticket takes you to levels 124 & 125, and the sky level tickets bring you up to the 148th floor. You can get a bit higher in a lounge that offers afternoon tea, sunset dinner, or evening cocktails. We got the sky level tickets for later in the afternoon, which give you access to the 124th and 125th stories on your way back down from the 148th floor, and VIP access to bypass the line of people who only got the tickets to the lower levels on the way up. Though we had a specific time booked, our tickets gave us the option of arriving anywhere from an hour before to an hour after the scheduled time. The mall had plenty to do to keep us busy until our time to go up the Burj Khalifa.

live fish swimming in a tank that serves as the window into the aquarium store

Dubai Mall is not just a shopping mall. It’s a destination in itself, complete with a hotel in the mall as well as one in the Burj Khalifa. Trying to find your way around there can give one the feeling of being a rat in a maze. Even their mall locator app seemed confused as it led us around in circles for over an hour finding something that took us 5 minutes to get back to where we started from on our own.

at a sweet shop in the mall we found chocolate camels made from camel milk chocolate

Dubai Mall has over 13 million square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment space. Just wandering around the mall looking at things could keep a person amused for hours. If you’re into shopping there are of course a seemingly endless supply of stores selling just about everything. Also multiple food courts and other eateries scattered about the mall. Food in Dubai is expensive though, as is pretty much everything else.

giant video wall

For people who are leaving a cruise ship as we were, or those checking out of a hotel with a flight much later in the day than disembarkation or check-out time, the mall is a great place to hang out for the day since it has luggage storage service so you don’t have to drag your bags around all day.

aquarium under the video wall

Other than food and shopping, there’s plenty to do at the mall. It has an aquarium and underwater zoo. Some of the aquarium’s tanks can be seen from outside of the aquarium itself so there are some fish to look at without paying the fee to go in. Like everything in Dubai, it’s kind of pricey to go in and we had already splurged for the premium sky level tickets to the Burj Khalifa so other than getting some food, we didn’t do anything else that cost extra.

bridge over the manmade lake at Dubai Mall

The mall also has cinemas, an ice-skating rink, an indoor theme park, a haunted house, and a virtual reality park. There’s even a real dinosaur skeleton. Outside the mall there’s a manmade lake with a boardwalk around it. The manmade lake has quite an impressive fountain. It doesn’t run continuously, but has both daytime and nighttime fountain shows, and they’re all free.

fountain show by Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa

We saw the daytime shows from a couple different vantage points, with hardly anyone else around. The evening shows are far more crowded. We watched one from up in the Burj Kalifa, one from just outside the mall door since we got there just as it started, and one from a little bridge that seemed to be there just for that purpose. Most of the shows had Arabic music, but the liveliest one of the evening shows had the fountain going to the tune of Baby Shark – with the words in English. In the evening little boats sailed around the lake so people could see the fountain show up close from a boat ride – for a price of course.

giant Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling

People in Dubai are from all over with 80% foreign and 20% local, but they all seem to speak English. At least those that work where they have contact with tourists. We were there in December and like other touristy places in Dubai, the mall was all decorated up for Christmas even though Dubai is in an Islamic country.

one store had polar bear themed decor

The mall itself had decorations as did individual stores, and the locals still shopped there. None of them seemed the least bit offended by Christmas decorations anywhere we went in Dubai.

coffee from a little cafe at the airport

Leaving from the mall is easy enough by taxi or uber, assuming you can find your way out. We called an uber for a ride to the airport after picking up our luggage from the storage area and it didn’t take long for the car to arrive.

man-made lake by Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2023
Posted in Lirica, Middle East, MSC, Port Cities | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Things To Do on Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas in Saint Martin next to Rhapsody of the Seas

Cruise ships all have a variety of things to do onboard, some significantly more than others. Symphony of the Seas and others of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class have way more to do than most. There are of course the usual cruise ship amenities with plenty of food, bars, pools, hot tubs, and things to entertain yourself with like cornhole, shuffleboard, and other games, but on these ships there is so much more.

flowrider

Besides the usual pools and hot tubs, water sports include three waterslides, two flowriders, and a kid’s splash area with little kid-sized waterslide – not to mention an Aquatheater  at the stern where they put on quite the show.

mini golf course on Symphony of the Seas

No matter what a person is into doing on a ship they can probably find it on Symphony of the Seas. They have all the usual trivia, exercise classes, bingo, and that sort of thing. There’s a basketball court, ping pong tables, mini golf, arcades, and kid’s clubs.

Ultimate Abyss 10-deck slides and rock-climbing walls

There’s also less common things like rock climbing walls, ice skating rink, 10-deck dry slides, and the flowriders. These were not all open all day during our sailing, just when they had crew manning them, and the skating rink didn’t have any public sessions where passengers could skate like the last Royal ship I was on did. The crew seemed to move from one venue to another, closing one thing to open the next.  Since the ship had significantly less than half the number of passengers it can hold there were probably less crew available to man those sorts of things than there would be when the ship sails full. Things were rarely ever crowded though so that was nice.

looking up at the Ultimate Abyss slides

The gym had lots of elliptical trainers and treadmills, something that some ships never seem to have enough of. There were always some available anytime we went into the gym. That may not be the case if the ship was full though. The gym was not fully enclosed and sometimes had the unwanted scent of cigarette smoke wafting in from the casino – definitely not something anyone wants to breathe in while they are trying to workout. Adding doors to both gym and casino would help, but probably not likely to happen.

running track on the promenade deck

This ship had the best outside promenade deck ever. Besides going all the way around, it was actually set up like a track. It had a starting point and then markers along the way to tell you how far you had gone if you started at the marked start. It also had signs saying how many laps equaled various distances. There were some funny and some encouraging signs along the way with individual signs on the sides and various things painted in a series up above. On the one cruise where I left my running shoes at home figuring I wouldn’t need to run since the ship had plenty of active things to do, the promenade was so nice for running I really wished I’d brought them.

Barbara all decked out in zipline gear

Symphony of the Seas even has a zip line. It’s just one short zip reminiscent of the easy sort of training one they sometimes have for people to give it a try at the beginning of a zip line course, but it is on a ship with limited space for such things. After I gave it a go one of the crew people working there asked what I thought of it. I said that my sisters would probably be more impressed as they’d never done one before, but I found the fact that they had one on a ship at all pretty awesome. He said they were trying to work up a way to make a better one. Sure enough, the sisters were both quite impressed since neither has ever done an actual zipline course. Barbara even had the foresight to ask if she could have another go rather than taking her equipment off as expected and since it wasn’t crowded they let her. Just as she was getting ready for that second go a photographer showed up so she even got a photo, something I did not take of anyone since we couldn’t take cameras or anything with us on the zipline so I didn’t have anything to take photos with at the time.

casino

As previously mentioned, like most cruise ships Symphony of the Seas has a casino.

piano stairs

There’s even make-it-yourself music in the form of piano stairs. If there is more than one person on the stairway the song plays at normal speed, but if you are the only one you can make it speed up or slow down by the speed in which you go up and down the stairs. The stairs aren’t actually piano keys, but they have sensors so they know to make music when anyone is there. Besides things to do on your own there’s also entertainment to watch with a variety of shows and music in various places around the ship. There’s not just theater shows, though the ship does have them. There’s also ice-skating shows, and a water show in the Aquatheater at the back of the ship. The Aquatheater also has movie screens.

all dressed up for formal night

For people who buy a photo package or just like having their picture taken to see if any turn out well, there were always several places to have photos taken in the evenings. This was most popular on formal nights where lines could get long at the most popular stations, but there were more stations than on other nights so shorter lines were often available elsewhere. On this ship the photos are all digitally displayed in kiosks where you look up your own to see how they turned out, so no bunches of photos printed out that just end up in the garbage if people don’t buy them.

random passengers looking at the crazy art for sale

Looking at the artwork around the ship can also be entertaining. A lot of cruise ship art makes a person wonder who chooses it, what they were thinking when they did, and why anyone would want to display a lot of the pieces. Even the artwork for sale can be fun to look at. Some of it is nice, but a lot is often odd paintings. Many of the same ones are available on multiple ships. Art auctions can be entertaining with a good auctioneer or incredibly boring with a bad one.

solarium

Lying around in deck chairs is always popular on cruise ships, and Symphony has plenty of those. At least there were plenty on our cruise with the ship at around a third of its passenger capacity. There are chairs in both shady and sunny areas on outside decks, and even a few at the water’s edge in the beach pool. There’s also lots of loungers in the more indoor location of the adults-only solarium, which has glass all around and above. The solarium also has hot tubs, its own towel station, a bar, and a bistro.

a row of carved carousel horse statues with each more finished than the last leads up to the completed one by the carousel

You can stroll through a garden in Central Park or ride on a carousel on the Boardwalk. Of course there are shops – in more than one location rather than just the usual row of them most ships have. There’s also more than the usual amount of bars and a bigger variety of food places than smaller ships have too. If anyone gets bored on this ship it’s their own fault because there are so many different things to do you just have to go do them.

Central Park, pools, and waterslides

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2023
Posted in Royal Caribbean, Shipboard Life, Symphony of the Seas | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas in Saint Martin

When Royal Caribbean’s 5th Oasis Class ship, Wonder of the Seas started cruising in March 2022, it took over from sister ship Symphony of the Seas as the largest cruise ship in the world. The ship stretches 1,188 feet (362 meters) in length, nearly 210 feet (64 meters) wide and has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,988 and 2,300 crew. The top deck is labeled as 18, but as is common on American cruise ships there is no deck 13. There were however cabins numbered as 666 on many of the passenger decks. Decks 3-18 are for passenger use. Some with public areas, others just passenger accommodations, and the top for suite guests only.

Central Park surrounded by inside balcony cabins

There are 2867 passenger cabins onboard, ranging from the least expensive inside staterooms to the most expensive and spacious suites. There’s more variety in types of cabins on Oasis class ships than any other cruise ships. They all have inside, ocean view, and balcony cabins as well as suites, but only Oasis class ships have some inside cabins with balconies. This is made possible by the open space above the Central Park and Boardwalk areas of the ship, which have balconies overlooking these interior features. There are also inside cabins with virtual balconies as well as regular inside cabins. Of course there are ocean view cabins with windows as well as balcony cabins with verandas overlooking the sea and quite a variety of suites.

random person on the rock-climbing wall

Wonder of the Seas has many things to do onboard. It has lots of pools and hot tubs, including some in an adults only solarium. Besides the 3 waterslides, there are also 2 dry slides spiraling down 10 decks from the top of the back of the ship to the boardwalk area. It has a flowrider, children’s playground, children’s splash park, mini-golf, zipline, rock climbing wall, gym, track, and spa. There are also kid’s club areas, a theater for production shows and other performances, and games and activities in the daily schedule.

best cruise ship track ever

Often cruise ship tracks are just a painted line around a portion of the top deck. Besides being very short those are exposed to wind and weather and hordes of people just getting from one part of the ship to another. Outside promenade decks that encircle the entire ship are a far better place for running. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships take this one step further, having turned the outside promenade deck into an actual track. It has a run lane and a walk lane, starting line, and indicators around the track as to how far you have gone. Signs on the wall tell how many laps it takes to reach the marked distance from the starting line. Along the way notes of encouragement are sometimes painted on ceiling beams.

heated ceramic chairs in the thermal suite at the spa

The spa had a thermal suite as well as treatment rooms, but besides the already high charge to use the thermal area’s steam rooms, sauna, and heated ceramic chairs they charged extra to include its tiny hot tub so we felt it was not worth the money and didn’t use it. Not to mention there’s so many other things to do on this ship besides spending time at the spa.

octopus at the mini golf

The mini-golf course was adorably cute featuring a giant octopus that could be seen from outside the ship on one of the holes. It seemed to be designed more for looks than for actual playability of the course though. Instead of a second flowrider like other oasis class ships Wonder has a brightly colored playground with slides for small children. Sometimes we walked by and the playground was full of children, other times there was nobody there.

flowrider

Other activities included destination talks, karoke, game shows, exercise classes, pickleball, volleyball, trivia, yoga, bingo, zumba, crossword puzzle challenge, escape room, seminars, poker tournaments, scavenger hunts, art auctions, dance class, dodgeball, soccer, ping-pong, casino, music, movies, and lectures.

Bionic Bar

It has quite a variety of eateries, some included with cruise fare and others that cost extra. There are also many bars, including the bionic bar manned by robot bartenders and the rising tide – which is a bar on a large open elevator platform that sometimes sits on the Royal Promenade and other times at Central Park, several decks above.

Royal Promenade

The Royal Promenade resembles a city street lined with shops and eateries while central park has real live plants in gardens throughout the park area, as well as shops and eateries on the edges and balcony cabins overlooking it from above.

boardwalk

In addition to the landing point for the ultimate abyss slides, the boardwalk area has the aquatheater where talented performers put on an excellent show, a carousel, and of course bars, shops, and eateries on the sides. Like Central Park, inside cabins with balconies rise above the Boardwalk.

carousel on the boardwalk

Below the Royal Promenade there’s an ice-skating rink which is sometimes open for passengers to skate as well as being the venue for the intriguing ice show performances. Sometimes the ice is covered over with other flooring to hold events such as glow-in-the-dark laser tag. 

Rising Tide Bar – rises from Royal Promenade to Central Park

In addition to the water and ice shows, Wonder of the Seas also had theater shows and a comedy club. We enjoyed all of the shows we attended in the various venues. The comedian hit the nail on the head with his comment about giving people too high of expectations having Royal’s private island being promoted as “perfect day at CocoCay” when it doesn’t take much to make that day less than perfect – like a little bad weather, which either happens often there or I’ve just had bad luck on both my visits.

angler fish entrance to the 10-deck Ultimate Abyss dry slides

The buffet on Wonder felt small for the size of the ship, but it may have been the layout rather than the actual square footage. Finding an available table during busy times was sometimes a challenge though. It was also missing the gluten-free section that the buffets in both Symphony and Explorer of the Seas had when we sailed on those ships. The dining room would take pre-orders for special diets and make the main dish for meals accordingly, but their chef insisted it was not possible to make the sort of gluten and lactose free desserts the chef on Symphony had made. Hopefully it was just an issue with that particular chef and not a cutback on Royal’s part. The food was good and plentiful so we never went hungry, but it’s nice to get to enjoy fancy cruise ship desserts too.

looking up to the Ultimate Abyss slides from the boardwalk below

My Time dining in this ship was very deceptive. It was listed as open from 6:30pm-9:00pm, but in their 3-deck dining room they had not reserved a single deck for open dining passengers. Instead, an early seating dining takes place on deck 4 where My Time dining is scheduled so the reservations they recommend making were not actually offered before 8pm. Showing up at 6:30 meant waiting in a long line only to be put on a waitlist and then turned away and told to come back at least half an hour later. However we discovered if we came shortly before 6:00 there was no line and we could get right in and be seated at a table assigned to early-seating diners who had not shown up that night. 

kids splash park

All the cruise lines have apps now, and Royal’s is one of the best. It’s well-designed and quite functional being very useful both before and during the cruise. Pre-cruise you can use it for registration, scope out the deck plans, and check out what’s on board, some of the things to do, and what sort of shore excursions are available. You can also find out ahead of time where your muster station is. During the cruise it has useful features like menus, things to do, deck plans, and a digital version of the Cruise Compass daily newsletter of activities and open times for various venues around the ship. (Paper copies of the Cruise Compass are still available nightly from the stateroom stewards if requested.) The menu in the app shows vegan and children’s meal options that are not included on the paper copy in the dining room. The app can also be used to communicate with other passengers onboard.

waterslides

Wonder had three waterslides. Two regular ones and one of the bowl sort. Some people like the bowl type, but I avoid them because when you get to that bowl you might go around several times bouncing along the walls gathering bruises. The regular ones that land in a water shoot don’t have that problem. The speed with which people go down them varied with the weather being a lot faster some days than others. The lifeguard at the top said the less of you your swimsuit covered the faster you would go down too, but with the same suit on I had days I’d fly down it and days I hardly moved at all without pushing myself along with my hands. Weather also affected speed on the 10-deck ultimate abyss dry slides along with weight and body size. I always went down those quite fast and beat John to the bottom when we started together at the top every time. I beat him by a mile the first time we went down, but on other days it was a lot closer. He flies way ahead of me on a zip line, but weighing more didn’t mean going faster on the slides. Giving yourself a good push from the top at the very start probably helps with the speed regardless.

adults only solarium

The main casino allows smoking, but there is a tiny casino called the Golden Room that is smoke free. Minimum bets are ridiculously high for table games there and all the casino activities like poker or blackjack tournaments are in the main smoke-filled casino so the little one only had a few slot machine players when we went there. We never saw anything saying what the golden room was either so unless you actually went down there to see what it was you would never even know it existed. Kind of like it was intentionally set up to fail so they could say they tried having a smoke-free casino, but hardly anyone used it. The big main smoky casino does have doors, which is an improvement over being left wide open to send clouds of smoke everywhere all the time, but whenever one of those doors opens smoke wafts out to the dining room and up the elevator shafts. Unfortunately the doors are way too sensitive and open whenever anybody walks by whether inside or outside of the casino so when the elevator area was crowded like at dinner time the doors spent more time open than closed. They’d do a much better job of keeping smoke contained if the doors had a spot you have to touch to open them like some of the doors to outside decks had. Or better yet make the casino non-smoking like they are on some of the other cruise lines now.

zipline on a cruise ship

While there’s always some room for improvement, overall the Wonder of the Seas was a nice ship with way more than the average variety of things to do. We had a good time on our cruise.

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Posted in Royal Caribbean, Wonder of the Seas | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back-to-Back on Different Ships

People often take two cruises in a row, though it is usually on the same ship. After disembarking Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas at Port Canaveral we set sail for our next cruise on MSV Meraviglia the same day. Although it was from the same port, our boarding experience from one to the other couldn’t have been more different. Ports these days usually line people up according to their boarding times, which are assigned without option on MSC and chosen when completing the online registration on Royal Caribbean.  The first available time shown at 5am on the first day of registration was 12 noon, but when we got there some people had times starting as early as 10am. Whether those times were reserved for people of higher loyalty status or with more expensive cabins or just had all already been taken by people in earlier time zones and removed from the offerings before I saw them I can’t say.

Wonder of the Seas in Saint Martin

Our booking on Wonder of the Seas happened to be on its first cruise out of the USA after a season in Europe and a transatlantic crossing. The first sailing from a USA port after a return from Europe requires a Coast Guard inspection, some of which takes place after all passengers disembark and before the next group is allowed to board. Since boarding usually starts as soon as the ship clears everyone off from the previous cruise this delays the boarding process. It also can delay the sailing as happened to us on a cruise some years ago on Holland America Westerdam when a back-up generator didn’t pass inspection so the ship had to sit in port until a portable one could be loaded the next day. That portable generator sat unused on the deck throughout the entire sailing while they fixed the actual back-up generator. It was never needed, but still required to be there.

Royal sent out notices not to arrive at the port before noon as boarding would not start before then due to the inspection, but of course people got there sooner. Being as this was Port Canaveral, where the closest airport is in Orlando, it’s already an inconvenient port for most people as that’s a fair bit to go from the airport to the port in a taxi or uber. With a cross-country flight for us to get there we booked a hotel & transport package that included a bus to Port Canaveral from the hotel. This of course meant that our arrival time was when the bus got there – no other option regardless of what the cruise line advised. Even people staying in hotels closer by would generally have to check out by 11am and probably arrive before noon. Our bus got there about 9:30. Empty lines were already set up and roped off into separate boarding times, but the port people would not let anyone into those lines. Instead they made us all line up in a different area, which was in the way of disembarking passengers and porters with luggage carts.

By the time they finally let us over to those lines they were already full of people from later arriving busses who were allowed to go straight into line so we all got stuck behind people who arrived long after us. We did at least get to go to the lines while there was still some space in them. The door still wasn’t open yet so the next arrivals lined up behind until the lines eventually ran out of room. Once the door finally opened port staff did not close off the 10:30 or 11:00 lines when all of the people who were actually in them had passed through. Hundreds of people just arriving kept going right on in through those lines ahead of people who had already been waiting for hours in all the other lines that the port staff neglected to open.

gangway to board Wonder of the Seas

The empty lines quickly and continuously filled with new arrivals to the port who were let in without so much as a glance at what their actual scheduled boarding time was while the people who had already been waiting several hours waited longer still. Finally the one old guy controlling lines blocked off one line and let a few people through from the long wait lines, but new arrivals kept trying to cut in. We made it to the end of the section where we’d started, but not into the next section that led to the lines where people actually got let into the port. He closed our line on the people just ahead of us and let more new arrivals from the line that had been for earlier boarding times on through, again without checking whether they actually had earlier scheduled boarding times or not. Meanwhile other new arrivals kept trying to cut right into the direct line into the building, but at least someone stopped them there, though still not when they came through the line that had been intended for passengers with the earliest assigned boarding times. Finally he closed that line off and let a few more from our line through into the line that went into the port building. We made it inside pretty fast from there. Once in the door there was another line for security scanning, then lines for final check-in, but those all moved quickly. We passed through an enormous room full of empty seating between the last line and the ship. The over 4-hour wait would have been so much more comfortable if they’d let people through to that point to wait to board the ship from there, not to mention getting through the boarding process a whole lot quicker since they could have started it a lot sooner without actually letting anyone onto the ship – and people would have gotten through the lines more fairly too.

Our muster station on Wonder of the Seas was at the Bionic Bar, which has robot bartenders

Once we were onboard things went much smoother. The usual process for the muster drill post-covid is to watch safety videos on your own on the cabin TV, or with some lines like Royal Caribbean you can also do that on their app. The app or TV knows if you have watched them. Following that you just go to your assigned muster station to have your card scanned at your convenience while the ship is still boarding or shortly after the boarding process finishes if you happen to board near the end. So much easier than the old muster drills where everyone had to go to the muster station at once, and no crowds.

Central Park view cabin on Wonder of the Seas

Our cabin on the Wonder was pretty spacious with lots of storage. It was an inside cabin with a balcony over the Central Park area of the ship, so no sea view, but we could see the sky and had a nice view of the garden.

balcony on the Wonder

It seems like walking from one ship to the next while they are in the same port would be an option, but by road it’s nearly 3 miles between terminal 1 where the Wonder docked and terminal 10 for our next cruise on the MSC Meraviglia. There’s also a car bridge between them that has nowhere for pedestrians to walk so we took an uber from one terminal to the other. The bridge is a drawbridge, which just happened to open for boat traffic as we got to it. Apparently the bridge wait time was too long for the uber app because it checked in with the driver to make sure he was OK and not getting mugged or something since the car didn’t move for awhile while it was supposed to be in transit.

Meraviglia in Cozumel

There were just a few people in line outside the door when we got there, and it opened about 20 minutes later around 10am. Although we were given assigned boarding times, there was just one line with no separation by times as has been the case at every other boarding we’ve done post covid. People there were checked in first come first served. The ship was still disembarking so people were given boarding group numbers in the order of arrival and then allowed to sit in the chairs in the port building to wait, as was the norm pre-covid, but something we hadn’t seen done since. Unlike Royal which had a variety of different priority groups let in before everybody else, MSC just had one priority group called ahead of the first general boarding group number, which was our group. Some ships have the ship key cards waiting at the room now, as Royal did, but MSC still handed them out at the desk in the port.

our muster station on Meraviglia was at one end of the promenade area, which they call the galleria

While the boarding process was much smoother on MSC, the muster drills were the opposite. There Royal did what every other cruise we have been on since covid does, with people watching the safety video and having their card scanned at the muster station on their own. MSC on the other hand made an announcement where everyone had to go to their cabin to watch it on the TV at the same time, after which they’d be given a code to dial to prove they had done so. After the video finished the TV showed the code to dial and shortly thereafter they announced what it was, which wasn’t so smart on their part since people could have just dialed the code after that announcement without watching the video at all. Then they called several decks at a time to go down to their muster stations to scan the card, no elevators allowed. Which of course made a giant pile-up on the stairway – especially since they did not open up the crew stairways as would be done in a real emergency and used to be done in the pre-covid days when group muster drills were done at the muster stations. With crowds of people trying to go both up and down a jam-packed stairway all at once of course nobody could actually get to their muster station in a timely manner. The stairs were totally blocked by a nearly unmoving sea of people, but they kept snippily announcing that it was mandatory to go the muster stations as if they thought people just weren’t bothering to do so. Not to mention that putting everyone so crowded together in such close quarters on the stairway totally defeats the whole purpose of not doing group muster drills to keep from spreading germs. 

balcony cabin on Meraviglia

Between the boarding process and the muster drill each cruise had one aspect of boarding day that went smoothly and easily and one that could have been done a whole lot better.

Meraviglia balcony with a view of the port building in Port Canaveral

We had a regular outside balcony cabin with ocean view on the Meraviglia. Both the interior of the cabin and the balcony were smaller than what we’d had on Wonder of the Seas, and the cabin on Meraviglia had far less storage options. The soundproofing had also been better on the Wonder as we could hear wind howling through the balcony door even when it was shut and locked on the Meraviglia, yet on the Wonder there could be music blaring on the nearby pool deck which we couldn’t hear at all with the balcony door shut. I had to ask for bathrobes on both ships, but at least the Wonder provided washcloths without having to ask for them. Wonder had all-in-one shampoo and bath gel in the shower with no conditioner in sight while Meraviglia had separate shampoo and bath gel, but still no conditioner. Apparently that’s one more thing cruise ships are cutting back on because most used to provide all three, as well as hand lotion which was also non-existent this trip.

gluten and lactose free fried chicken dinner on Wonder of the Seas

Food was somewhat of a disappointment on both ships. Wonder lacked the gluten-free section in the buffet that all other Royal Caribbean ships we’ve sailed on always had. They did offer pre-ordering for special diets in the dining room and would make special gluten and lactose free meals there, but when it came to dessert they said it was impossible to make the sort of things their sister ship Symphony of the Seas served us daily last year.

gluten and lactose free roast chicken on Meraviglia

Meraviglia was even worse when it came to special diets. It was not even possible to get a piece of gluten-free toast at breakfast. Their idea of gluten/lactose free dinners was to limit the menu to a meat and vegetable selection that already was free of those things and then serve it with no sauce or gravy and a baked potato with nothing to put on it. They did not take pre-orders or make any adjustments other than removing things to turn any of the menu options gluten or lactose free. Dessert was even more lacking. Even the sorbet the menu listed as an option wasn’t real sorbet as they said it contained dairy, which actual sorbet does not. They had a frozen gluten-free cake they could cut off a piece to thaw, but it was covered in whipped cream so not an option for lactose free. They made nothing gluten-free in house at all.

Our cruise on the Meraviglia was booked as an 11-day cruise, but was actually a 7-day followed by a 4-day. With that one the back-to-back procedure in Port Canaveral was the same as on all previous back-to-back cruises we have done that home-ported in the USA. We were asked to meet with all the other back-to-back people without plans to leave the ship that day and walked through customs as a group and then back onto the ship. The wait from the meeting time to the time we actually went to customs was about half an hour and it didn’t take long at all to go through. Nobody asked to see passports or anything. They just took a quick face scan and that was it. Same for our final disembarkation day. Luckily they did not make back-to-back guests go through the muster drill again.

Central Park view balconies on Wonder of the Seas

Back to Back is definitely easier when done on the same ship, especially if you don’t change cabins between the two cruises, but moving to another ship in the same port is not difficult either. It’s a bit more hassle since you have to pack, disembark, and go through the boarding process again, but it’s also nice to get a chance to see a different ship and pretty convenient when they are at the same port on the same day. Definitely more convenient than the time we did a back-to-back from different ports, though since one was Miami and the other Fort Lauderdale even that wasn’t bad as those two ports are close.

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Lake Crescent

View of Lake Crescent Lodge from the Spruce Railroad Trail on the other side of the lake

Lake Crescent sits entirely within the boundaries of Washington State’s Olympic National Park. This deep glacial lake averages about 300 feet deep, but drops to 624 feet at its deepest. The crescent shape gives the 17-mile long lake its name. It’s one of the few places inside the park with lodging other than campgrounds. There is a lodge with a restaurant and some cabins, but you may need to reserve quite early to stay in them. There was nothing available at the lodge or cabins a month and a half in advance when I looked into staying there so we ended up booking a nearby Airbnb instead. The historic lodge was built in 1917 from locally milled timber. The original log cabins built in 1895 burned down in 1932 and the current log cabin resort was built on the same spot in the early 1950’s.

viewpoint next to the highway

While it feels like the middle of nowhere with mountains and forest all around, the lake is actually only about 17 miles west of Port Angeles which may not be a huge metropolis, but it is one of the larger cities on the Olympic Peninsula. The much smaller towns of Joyce and Piedmont are closer to the lake. Highway 101, which is the main route around the peninsula runs along one edge of the lake so it’s not hard to find.

Lake Crescent Lodge – main building with the restaurant, bar, & gift shop

The main lodge and the log cabin resort are not next to each other and are accessed from different roads. The lodge is just off 101 on Lake Crescent Road while the log cabin resort is on East Beach Road near the access to East Beach and the trailhead to the Spruce Railroad Trail. The main lodge is not all in one building. The not all that big main building houses the restaurant, bar, and gift shop, and lodgings are sprawled about the area in different sections. The restaurant is only open at mealtimes, but in between people can order food to go at the bar from the restaurant menu and eat it in the attached sunroom with a lovely view of the lake.

sign at the viewpoint on the highway

Some trails can be accessed from the main lodge area or the nearby Storm King Ranger Station. Others are accessed from different points around the lake. There’s a viewpoint with parking where people can pull off Highway 101 for photos or to read the informative signs there.

one of the tunnels on the Spruce Railroad Trail

The Spruce Railroad Trail runs along one side of the lake. It is also part of the Olympic Discovery Trail, which runs across the north end of the Olympic Peninsula. It is one of the few trails within the Olympic National Park that allows dogs. They are also allowed in some of the cabins.

beach at Lake Crescent

In the summer there are boat rides and kayak rentals available. The lake’s waters are very clear and there are swimming beaches. There’s also a variety of hiking trails, some short and easy and others long and steep. Olympic National Park’s website says that passes are required throughout the park. These can be purchased online and printed out, which is what the site recommends. Some areas of the park like Hurricane Ridge and Hoh Rainforest have gateways you have to pay or show a pass to go through, but we did not see any of those at Lake Crescent nor anyone checking for passes anywhere near the lodge or trailheads during our visit there.

whitecaps on the lake

We had lunch at the lodge one stormy day. The lake was full of whitecaps and we didn’t see any boats out and about. The salads we ordered were tasty, but the portion small for the price. It was a good thing they included a knife as well as a fork because the pieces were way too big to shovel into your mouth without cutting them first.

kayaks on Lake Crescent

The next day brought calm clear weather and we saw several kayaks out on the lake while hiking on the Spruce Railroad Trail, which has great lake views since most of the trail parallels the edge of the lake.

bench by the lake

Lake Crescent is a nice place to go for a visit to Olympic National Park since there are a variety of things to do and see there, and nearby lodging is available outside of the park as well as what is offered within.

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Christmas Ships

this is my very favorite Christmas tree ship – my aunt had it made for me one from one of her photos one Christmas after we sailed on the Veendam and I was disappointed that they did not have any ship model ornaments in the gift shop that cruise

The first thing I look for on a cruise as soon as the gift shop opens is a ship model Christmas tree ornament of that ship. They are far more likely to be available on wintertime sailings than other times of the year, though it would definitely be nice if they were always there. Many cruise lines have them, but not all. On MSC Divina they had an entire shop dedicated to models of the ship in many different sizes and varieties, yet out of all that not one ornament ship. None of the other MSC ships we’ve been on ever had ship ornaments either, though they too had numerous other ship models. On P&O the shop workers had no idea such a thing even existed, yet other lines in the Carnival family like Holland America, Princess, and Carnival have them – at least seasonally.

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Magic

Carnival Splendor

snorkeling Santa found in Carnival gift shop

I have more Carnival ships than any other line, too many to post photos of them all so this is just a sampling. One cruise near Christmas I found more than just the cruise ship model. They had an array of other ornaments to choose from as well. I love to snorkel, so I couldn’t resist the snorkeling Santa. I also bought a pirate hermit crab there, which is photobombing the Oosterdam’s picture.

Holland America Oosterdam

Holland America Westerdam

I did not get a ship model ornament on my other cruise on the Veendam either, but did get Holland America ornaments of the Oosterdam and Westerdam while on those ships.

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas

Norwegian Sun

Norwegian Pearl

Celebrity Infinity

Other lines not affiliated with Carnival have ship model ornaments too. I have found them on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian as well.

kayaking Santa

if you’re a fan of A Christmas Story you will totally get this leg lamp ornament.

Not everything on my tree is cruise ships. There’s lots of Santas doing all sorts of things, some other boats, and a whole lot of other stuff. Just no single color undecorated plain round balls.

Ruby Princess

Royal Princess

Princess ships have a name stand at the bottom that none of the other lines’ Christmas tree ship models have.

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas – biggest ship and biggest ship model ornament

Not all the ships are made to the same scale. Even within the same line some ships that are smaller in reality have bigger models, but the biggest ship I had ever sailed on at the time had the biggest ship model ornament. It is considerably bigger than any of the others, far more so than the actual ship in comparison to other ships.

Wonder of the Seas ornament

Symphony was the biggest ship in the world when I sailed on it, but now Wonder of the Seas is bigger. It however did not have any ship model ornaments available on the recent cruise I took on it. It did have some ship ornaments, just not any that were also ship models. I got one of what they had when we first boarded just in case those sold out and they didn’t have anything better once they unloaded whatever new stuff had come in for the shop that cruise. Looking again later they still didn’t have any ship model ornaments, but they did have a wooden one that I liked better, which was also cheaper than the first one, which is just a flattened plastic ball so I bought the wooden one too.

nicer, but cheaper Wonder of the Seas ornament

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Go Port Cruise Shuttle

MSC Meraviglia in Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral is the most inconvenient of any port we’ve sailed from. The nearest airport is in Orlando, about 40 miles away so it’s a bit far for uber or taxis. You can book shuttles through cruise lines, but the more people you travel with the less budget-friendly that is. Rental cars are another option, but unless you’re traveling with a large group it’s a pricey one. Plus you have to either turn the car in when you get to Cocoa Beach and take a shuttle from the car lot to the port, and then take one back for another rental car afterword (which we know from past experience can be a long wait with a crowd of other people doing the same thing), or pay for both car rental and port parking for the whole time you’re away on the cruise. For people flying in from far enough away to require a night’s hotel stay there’s another option. You can book a hotel through Go Port for a fly & snooze package. They provide busses that pick up from a number of hotels with varying prices for the night’s stay plus transportation to the port from the hotel and back to the airport from the port. Most hotels have airport shuttles so transportation is often covered from the airport to the hotel as well. We picked this option for a cruise on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas, with a stay at a Marriott in Orlando. Go Port also has direct shuttles from the airport for people flying in same day as well as snooze and park or just parking options. There are also other companies that provide shuttles to Port Canaveral.

view from our room at the Marriott in Orlando

The hotel had a nice pool and a small bar with a bistro. It was next door to a couple restaurants so we had dinner at TGI Fridays. We were not there long enough to try the pool or any other hotel amenities

When we first booked we were given a cruise shuttle pick-up time of 9:30 am, which was changed to 8:30, then 8:00. The people at the hotel’s front desk said the bus would pull up to the front door where we could see it from the lobby seating, but it went to the side of the hotel where you couldn’t see the bus from the lobby at all instead. Go Port did send in someone to line up all the people and check them all in so nobody would miss it, but except from very close-up that person was not identifiable as being from Go Port. There were also a number of new crew in the same lobby waiting for their bus. We initially thought that line was for them until some very obviously not crew people got into it. Sometimes one bus will take people to several different ships, but they had enough people waiting that day for each ship to have its own bus. Our bus only picked up from one other hotel. Probably why the time got changed to earlier because the bus had to go back for another run of people to the port after dropping us off.

line nowhere near the actual boarding line

Ports these days usually line people up according to assigned boarding times, which are chosen when completing the online registration on Royal Caribbean. Our boarding time was noon. When we got there we saw they had lines for times starting as early as 10am, though noon had been the earliest of the options I had to choose from. Normally when you get to the port you line up in the section reserved for your boarding time. This time they would not let anyone from the earlier arriving busses into those empty lines, but rather sent us all somewhere else. By the time the port workers finally let us over to those lines they were already full of people from later arriving busses who were allowed to go straight into the boarding lines so we all got stuck behind people who came long after we did.  On that cruise we would have had a better place in line if the shuttle had stuck to its original later pick-up time.

Wonder of the Seas in Port Canaveral

To make matters worse this was Wonder’s first cruise out of this port after having just arrived from Europe so it had to undergo a coast guard inspection before boarding could begin, making the wait to board longer than normal. Avoid booking the first cruise after a ship has just arrived to the USA if you can as that inspection requirement can really mess with the boarding process.

Once boarding finally started they quickly emptied the priority lines and the ones for before noon, which hardly had anyone in them. The empty lines quickly filled with people just arriving at the port who were let in without so much as a glance at what their actual scheduled boarding time was while the people roped into lines with later boarding times who had already been waiting several hours waited more even though it was late enough that some of those lines should have already been boarding.

The GoPort shuttle did their part as scheduled, but once we were off the bus and at the port this was the most disorganized boarding we’ve ever seen. It definitely would have gone smoother without the hold-up for the coast guard inspection, but even with that it certainly could have been handled way better and far more fairly than it was. Of course none of that was Go Port’s fault as they just unloaded the bus where the empty lines were set up and then left for the next batch, probably unaware we were not let into those lines.

MSC Meraviglia in Port Canaveral

Getting on the MSC Meraviglia, which we boarded the day we disembarked Wonder of the Seas, went much smoother than boarding the Wonder. The Go Port pick-up from that dock after the cruise ended wasn’t so easy though. Apparently terminal 10 where the Meraviglia docked is the last stop for Go Port busses taking people to the airport after disembarking a cruise in Port Canaveral. A bus looking pretty much full pulled up after we’d waited about 20 minutes or so. Instead of incoming passengers for the next cruise who would get off and make room for the people waiting it was full of people from other ships on their way to the airport. Only the first three couples to check in got on. We were the fifth and had to wait for the next bus along with 2 other couples. It came nearly an hour later, again nearly full. By then there were significantly more people waiting than when the last bus came, but only 4 couples got on so there was only one couple out of those two busses that didn’t have to wait for a second bus. It looks like MSC passengers who don’t have a lot of hours between when they disembark and their flight could not count on Go Port to get them to the airport on time. If we had needed to get to the airport quickly we would have had to call an uber even though we’d already paid for a round trip on the Go Port shuttle. We weren’t in any kind of hurry that day though. We were originally scheduled for an afternoon flight, but the night before disembarkation we got a notice from the airline that it had been cancelled and we couldn’t fly out until the next morning so we had to spend an unplanned night at a hotel anyway. Hotel shuttles pick up at the same spot at the Orlando airport where the Go Port shuttle drops off, and one for the hotel we had booked just happened to pull up for a drop-off right after we got off the bus so we didn’t even have to wait for it.

Our sailing on the Meraviglia was a couple weeks before the one currently in the news where someone “fell” off. I put that in quotes because as much as the news stories like to make it sound like people just accidently walk off the edge of the deck and fall into the sea, that actually is not possible on any cruise ship. To end up in the sea a passenger would have to either climb over a safety railing or get pushed or thrown over because there is nowhere on any cruise ship where open decks are not surrounded by railings. Those railings are there for a reason since people who go overboard rarely survive.

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Northeast Scenic Drive

roadside creek

Traveling from Stoddard, New Hampshire to Jay Peak, Vermont, we took the long way so we could cross the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge. This bridge links Cornish, New Hampshire to Windsor, Vermont across the Connecticut River and is the longest wooden covered bridge of its era still standing. The bridge is 449 feet long and was built in 1886. It’s the third longest covered bridge in the world. The Hartland Covered Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada is the longest, more than twice its length at 1,282 feet. The longest one in the USA is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet crossing the Ashtabula River in Ohio.

Cornish-Windsor bridge

Cornish-Windsor is the fourth bridge on the site with the first 3 destroyed by floods. The first bridge on the site was built in 1796. The current bridge had some flood damage in 1977, which was repaired. The bridge closed for deterioration in 1987, but was restored and re-opened in 1989. There is space to park alongside the road for bridge tourists on the New Hampshire side. The Vermont side has no parking signs.

old church

Our route brought us along small country roads – one of them gravel – and through small towns. Throughout New Hampshire a lot of the towns had what looked to be an old church marked as the town hall, but once we got into Vermont the old churches mostly appeared to be still functioning as churches. Some of the towns were so small there wasn’t much other than the church there, but others were actually functioning towns. Gas stations and grocery stores are scarce or non-existent in a lot of them. Though we were there in October before heading to Vermont we’d seen more green trees than fall color. There were patches along the way where it was just the opposite with bright reds, vivid yellows, and even some orange leaves outnumbering the green.

view of the parking area and river through a window in the bridge

When we got to the bridge we were happy to see the area where people can pull over and park. It was quite the tourist attraction with cars bearing license plates from assorted states coming and going in the small roadside parking area, and people taking photos of the bridge. It’s just wide enough for one car going each way, but the traffic was not constant so there was frequently time between cars to get a better look.  One couple came wandering out of the bridge on foot saying the view was fantastic through the little windows on the sides of the bridge, so of course we had to check it out. They were right about that, and there is room to get out of the way should a car come through.

tourists taking photos of the bridge

The front of the bridge had a sign saying there was a fine for not walking your horse across, but there were no horses to be seen and as cars came fairly often and fairly fast it wouldn’t really be safe to take a horse across at any speed. In between cars people took photos from the road, ever watchful as you might have to move quickly out of the way at any second. From the far side of the guardrail people could take photos in relative safety from either side of the bridge. We did not ever see two cars come from opposite sides at the same time, but if they did one would have to wait as they could not pass by each other inside of the bridge. Across the street there was a small building with a giant saw blade out front.

building with a sawblade

Once we finished taking our photos we drove across the bridge. We were glad that the New Hampshire side had that little parking area since the Vermont side not only had nowhere to park near the bridge, but also signs saying there was a fine for doing so. Foliage in Vermont was mostly the same as it had been in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is to say more green than color in most places, but here and there patches with more color.

skeleton horse and buggy driver

When we passed by a house with a Halloween display that had a life-sized skeleton driver in a buggy with a skeleton horse John had to stop and take a photo. Perhaps that driver tried to cross the bridge by horse and buggy amidst the car traffic!

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
Posted in USA | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Things to Do on Celebrity Constellation

Constellation in Curacao

Each night after the evening cabin cleaning a paper with what’s going on the next day was left in the cabin. It always included a schedule of the day’s events and activities. They had the usual cruise ship fare of trivia, dance classes, exercise classes, games, competitions, lectures, and shows. Instead of bingo they had something called Deal or No Deal, modeled after the TV show of the same name. We looked into it one day and saw in the lounge where it was to be held, in the line waiting to buy cards, the most people we had seen in one place since boarding the ship. That includes the dining room and buffet, neither of which were ever crowded. Not that there wasn’t room enough in that lounge for all the people there, or that it would even be considered a crowd on most ships, but for this one it was since there were only 700 passengers onboard a ship that holds over 2000. You could buy one card, or for a better per card price a group of 3. The prizes offered included a free cruise, $1000, and early on in the cruise an upgrade to a suite for the rest of the cruise. On the outside all the cards looked the same with little cases numbered in a row like on the TV show, but each card is different when you open the tiny paper cases.

Deal or No Deal in the Reflections Lounge

Each card has a serial number. At the start of the game one person is picked by that number. They know who has each number and the system knows what is under each case on each card. The choice appears as random as the numbers on a screen that rapidly change until they stop on the chosen one, but who knows how random that actually is when the computer system picking the winner knows everything. The person whose card number and name gets called goes down by the screen and picks cases like on the show, except these are just pictures of cases on a video screen rather than actual physical ones. The cases on the screen go up to $1000, but the ones on the cards only go up to $50. If your card matches 2 or more of the numbers in the same case number as shown on the screen you win something. 2 numbers wins $5 in casino play (where the minimum bet on table games is $10). 3 matches wins $10 in casino play. The max prize there was 8 matches for $400 in casino play. Several people won $5 or $10 and one $50, but that was all.

one of the ship’s shops

The person actually playing gets to pick cases and then gets offers from the banker for actual cash amounts depending on what they have left available to win on the board just like on the show. The game has 2 rounds, each with a different player. The offers throughout both rounds ran from $119 to $196. The highest amount the person playing can win is $1000. One of the players stayed in until the end and ended up with $0.25 in their case. The other one took a deal for $196, which was a good choice since their chosen case contained $0.01. After the 2 rounds another card serial number is chosen for someone to spin a wheel where they get a 50% chance of winning a cruise and a 50% chance of various amounts of casino play. It’s not a real wheel, again a computer image so the results may or may not be random. The winner got $100 in casino play. It’s a pretty good money maker for the ship selling cards at $25 each or 3 for $40 and not actually giving out much cash. Plus sending the winners into the casino to spend more money. They probably make pretty good money at the ship’s shops too. They did not have the one thing I always buy if it’s available though, which is a Christmas tree ornament ship model.

spa treatment room

As is normal with cruise ships, the Constellation has a spa, though massages and things there were priced higher than we cared to pay so we didn’t use it.

gym

The gym equipment is available to use for free on your own. They also had a few classes there.

guest lecturer

The lectures in the theater were actually real lectures about whatever the subject said they were, at least the ones from outside people. Their destinations lecturer even mentioned using reef safe sunscreen, something the cruise lines themselves should make an effort to educate people about considering how many people they bring to coral reefs daily. We tried attending a lecture at the photo shop that sounded like it would be information about go-pro cameras, but it turned out to be just a sales pitch to buy one. Go-pros were the only cameras they had for sale there. Usually there are little pocket cameras available. I bought one on a ship once when the one I’d brought died during our cruise. My cell phone would be the back-up now I guess, but it would not be able to go in the water when snorkeling like my waterproof camera does.

solarium

Our favorite hangout on the Constellation was the solarium, which is kind of like a bigger version of the pool area of some ship’s thermal suites, except on this one it’s a free space. It has what they call a thalassotherapy pool. Much like the pool in the thermal suite on some ships it had racks to lay on with jets under them and some fountains, except in the thermal suites the water in those pools is usually warmer. The solarium also has some hot tubs and cushioned loungers with a view. Towels are available near all Constellation’s pool areas without having to check them out on your room card like some ships require. The solarium even has a small café that serves smoothies for a price and things like small salads and other tidbits for free at lunchtime. It’s an indoor area under glass rather than out in the elements like the main pool deck so there’s protection from wind, sun, and rain. When the café is open there are things to drink that don’t cost anything like tea, coffee, water, and juice. There’s also a bar just the other side of the door to the main pool area where people can get something to drink when the café is not open, or all sorts of things not offered at the café even when it is. Of course drinks from the bar do cost extra.

view from the solarium loungers by the window

Ships moving through the water often scare up flying fish so it’s fun to watch for them while sailing along. Sometimes there’s other wildlife too. Usually birds, but people may see other things like dolphins occasionally too.

random ping-pong table

We tried the cornhole game sitting up on the pool deck one day, which was a slick plastic one that said baggo rather than cornhole on it. We’re usually pretty good at that game, but this one was both more flexible and slicker than the usual wooden ones are. Instead of sliding into the hole the beanbags would slide right over it and off the top end of the board. They only went in from a direct hit on the hole without touching the board at all. Even landing one on the board happened much less often than usual as any that hit tended to slide off rather than sticking. There’s also a ping-pong table onboard for something people can do on their own.

little nook by windows

The ship has lots of little nooks with seating where people can read or watch the sea go by.

library

It also has an internet room with computers available for anyone who didn’t bring their own, but you don’t have to go to the internet room to use the wifi as it is available in your own cabin and around the ship. You do have to buy an internet package to use it though unless you got one included in your cruise fare. You can use it free for the Celebrity app on phones, but not for anything else on the phone. A stairway leads between the internet room and a library on the deck below.

casino

The casino usually had high minimum bets and not much business, but one day they had a half price time to attract more people. Their daily schedule advertised poker tournaments and nightly cash games, but not enough people to actually hold them ever showed up so there wasn’t any poker during our cruise.

line dance class

We’re more the entertain yourselves sort than joiners of scheduled activities, but sometimes we give it a go. We participated in a few activities on the Constellation. I tried a line dancing class, which was fun as well as good exercise. They broke down each dance into a series of steps learned one set at a time, then put them all together for the whole dance. It really didn’t matter whether people were any good at it or not. It was all just for fun. That was nice since more people are not that talented at it than are – which is good if (like me) you are one of those not-so-good dancers because when a lot of other people suck at it too you can just have fun and not worry about how you look.

“ring” toss turned out to be throwing hula hoops on a crew guy

Their ring toss turned out to be throwing hula hoops over a crew guy. Each person got 3 tries. Nobody got more than one hoop around him. Some people didn’t get any, but John and I each managed to get one. They didn’t have any prizes for that game. Maybe because there was no clear winner since all the participants had a score of either 1 or 0.

ready, aim, miss the tiny little floating ball target

The archery had a blow up target booth with balls held up on streams of air to shoot at. The arrows had a big round rubber end, not a sharp point. A real arrow would have popped the target booth. Two people at a time shot at the 4 balls. You got 3 arrows each, but if you hit a ball you got an extra arrow for each ball you hit. The first time we tried it several people hit one each, and the three that hit 2 went another round. John was one of the 3, along with 2 women, one of whom had been on our kayak excursion in Costa Maya. She was the only one who hit the target on the shoot-off round so they gave her a medal. We went there a second time and less people participated. Only two of them hit any targets. A lady hit one and a guy hit 2 so he got the medal, no shoot off needed.

aircraft carrier – for paper airplanes anyway

We tried one other game. Lots of ships we’ve been on had paper airplane contests. Usually it’s somewhere inside and whoever throws it the farthest wins. Princess put a different spin on it with a hoop and runway. On the Constellation it was the usual whoever throws it the farthest, but held outside so wind was a factor. Some planes caught the wind in a way that made them go up higher and then back down without going very far. Others caught a better breeze and sailed across the deck. When we threw ours they were the only ones who had gone far at all, the previous ones not exceeding 20 feet, most closer to 5 or 10. A couple people after us got farther though, one all the way into the tables on the other side of the ship. He won, but there was no prize. I guess the Constellation wasn’t that big on handing out prizes for their games.

movies on the top back deck

Other things to do included several movie screenings a day at the outdoor theater, and nightly shows in the indoor theater.

pool deck

Of course there are pools too, and lots of chairs around them for people who like to spend the day lounging in or near the pool. There were also hot tubs on the pool deck.

cruising duck

Some people create their own things for themselves and other people to do. I found a little rubber ducky hiding in a sort of round chair thing in the entryway from the outside deck to the hallway in front of the Reflections Lounge. It had a note on it about cruising ducks that said to post a photo and re-hide it, or keep it if you want. We just left it there for someone else to find. A few days later it was gone.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
Posted in Celebrity, Constellation, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments