Here we go with Part II. When we left off we were on Deck 5 and had just made it to the Red Frog Pub. As I said a blog or 2 ago… Mark and Trenton were on a mission to be the first guests. The first 2 guests of... Related Stories - Carnival Vista ...

 

Carnival Vista Part II and more...




Carnival Vista Part II

Here we go with Part II.  When we left off we were on Deck 5 and had just made it to the Red Frog Pub. As I said a blog or 2 ago… Mark and Trenton were on a mission to be the first guests. The first 2 guests of each cruise in the Red Frog Pub receive a free beer. Trenton didn’t qualify for the beer, but he is rather competitive. Lol

We had group shirts made for embarkation, but like I mentioned before... it seriously was herding cats so we only got a picture with the 4 of us ... (the 4 who are well aware of my craziness), but it was a fun idea. 

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I was afraid that was going to happen so I took a picture of all the shirts before they had people in them!  lol

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What is different on the Vista in the Red Frog Pub is it also has a functioning brewery where the beer is made on the ship. You can sign up for a brewery tour. It was $35 per person.  If you wish to do the tour I would recommend signing up early. Our cruise there were only 3 tours offered and each tour holds 12 people. 

You are given 4 different beers to try and even though those little glasses look small, they also place large pitchers on the table.  There is plenty of beer to drink during this process!  When the tour was over we got a certificate for 2 more free beers you could use anytime during the cruise and souvenir glasses to take home.

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The Red Frog Pub itself was just like the others we have visited, fun atmosphere, great music and entertainment, wonderful staff. It was a great meeting and hangout place. There were lots of tables where you can play cards, etc. The Vista is equipped with stations at the tables where you can pour your own beer at the table if you choose.

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If you have a large group… or you are just thirsty here are some deals… You can get a “fishbowl” for around $25 and 101 oz tube of beer is $35.


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So here’s a story that started in the Red Frog Pub. Trenton, Mark and I walked through one evening and we walked out the doors going onto the deck. Undenounced to us, there was a little storm rolling through. The wind caught the door behind me and slammed it so hard, I swear the entire ship shook. There were some singers on the stage… so clearly that was an interruption. We sat outside under the covered awning and enjoyed the rain. After several minutes the rain did not let up and Mark wanted to go back inside. I was too embarrassed to go back in the Red Frog Pub after I had slammed the door, so I said let’s just walk down a little way and go back in. Well… that door was closed. As we kept trying to go further, the rain got harder. We ended up having to weave our way all the way back to the Liquid Lounge at the very front of the ship before we found a door we could get back in. We were DRIPPING wet! People looked at us like we were crazy, but it was fun!

If you were to continue aft after the Red Frog Pub you would encounter the Ocean Plaza where trivia and games were held, and the back of the ship is rounded out by the Havana Bar. It’s beautiful, but sadly, another spot we did not have time to check out.

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If you splurge for a Havana Cabin on this ship, your pools and hot tubs are behind the Havana Bar on the back deck. I was going to go walking through there one night, but I completely forgot.

Deck 6

Deck 6 is mostly cabins, except for some fun things in the front of the ship. This is where the arcade can be found. We spent lots of time in there. It’s a nice arcade and Trenton walked away with an Ipod we probably could have bought a couple of times over for what it cost us in tickets, but the fun we had trying to win it was priceless!

This area is also the entrance for the Carnival Multiplex which is home to the Thrill Theatre and IMAX.

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Thrill Theatre has several levels and it was my understanding the level you sit on determines the level of interaction you get from the movie. I think the shows were around $7.95 each or you could purchase a pass for the entire cruise. We didn’t attend any of the thrill theatre shows, but we did see people coming out (and heard them screaming while we were waiting) and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

We decided to go to the IMAX one evening after dinner. We went to see Mission Impossible: Fall Out. The price was $12.95 per person. They do have a small concession stand where you can purchase candy and sodas. Mark was disappointed they didn’t offer popcorn, but I could see how having to clean up that mess in between each show would be cumbersome. Everything tells you to get your seat early, however, the show started at 7:30pm. It was a sea day. We showed up at 7:15 to get a great seat…

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So I guess it really depends on how popular it is with the cruisers on your sailing.

I can say I was hesitant to book a cabin in this area because I was unsure of the sound from the IMAX. I did not hear any complaints from passengers. Nor could I hear sound outside in the common area from the movies when I was passing through.  What I can say is this area was very populated with kids. Many just seemed to hang out on the steps between the arcade and movie plex.  Just food for thought if you are picky when it comes to choosing your cabin. 

Stay tuned for Part III

 

Carnival Vista Part 1

The Ship:

The Carnival Vista did not disappoint. While she is large, she is still fabulous and has many activities. More than what you can do in one cruise.  The layout is a little different than most of the other ships, but I thought the changes were for the better. The flow seamed easier and most things were centrally located.  I never found myself stuck in one location without a means to get to another. 

Deck 3:

This was where you entered the ship. Instead of the glass elevators that go all the way up, the Atrium is only a couple of stories high. There is a really pretty “LED Funnel Mural” in the center that changes throughout the cruise. I’m sure it has an official name, but that’s what I am calling it. "Funnel Mural".  There is also another one in the casino that rises up.

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Your shore excursion desk and guest services are still located in the Atrium along with an Atrium bar and a small dance floor.  There are still stairs that come down from Deck 5 and a place for the musicians to play. You can also access the Reflections Restaurant on Deck 3. I am assuming this is the restaurant for timed dining as we had Your Time Dining and I almost missed this was even here!

Since I brought it up…. Your Time Dining. Oh what a cluster #@$! that was. I had heard due to limited space in front of the dining room they were having you check in on Deck 5 for Your Time Dining. On your sign and sail card it tells you your check in for dinner is at the JavaBlue Café. This was all the communication that was given.

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There were multiple people looking for the Java Café Dining Room … ALL WEEK! (Not kidding!)  They also did not tell you only 1 person from your party was supposed to check in at this location. I found it on this sign… 3 days into the cruise.  Why did it take me 3 days to find the sign you might ask.... because that's how long it took the people to thin out enough that it was visible.  Look closely for the "one guest per party please"... they typed it in the smallest font possible.

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So here is what happens. Everyone that used to stand orderly in line to check in at the dining room is now crowded into the small walkway space.  You can't tell if people are there to look at their pictures, get a coffee, or check in for dinner.  The only thing missing would be if they set up a picture opportunity in the walkway as well!  lol 

They have 2 people at the desk checking everyone in, but you aren’t allowed to line up behind them. You must line up down the walkway. However, on Night 1 and Night 2 (elegant night) this space is so crowded you can’t find the line to stand in, so people become frustrated and many just walk away and choose to eat elsewhere. (Such a shame). Once 1 person from your party checks in, they will assign you to a table and tell you which dining room to go to. They give you a printed out ticket, then you are supposed to collect the rest of your party, take your ticket, and go check in at the appropriate dining room.

It does become less crowded as the week goes on. I honestly think it is because so many people give up after the first 2 days and just choose to eat elsewhere and only a small percentage of people who figure out the process by trial and error and get it down return for the rest of the cruise. That being said… we had a party of 12. We ate in the Main Dining Room 4 times during the 8 day cruise and each time we were given a table immediately. The only wait was in collecting all 12 people and getting them to the correct dining room at the right time because you could be either on Deck 3 or Deck 4.  It strongly resembled what you would imagine herding cats to be like.

Deck 4

The front of the ship starts off with the Liquid Lounge.  This is the style with the removable chairs and it turns into a night club at night.  Not my favorite set up.  It does have a bar in the back.  We did not attend any shows while we were onboard, so I am not sure how the view or seating was.  Surrounding the Atrium and the "funnel mural" are 4 Fun Shops.  If you continue on towards the center of the ship you will come to the casino.  I had heard it was smokier than the others, but I didn't really notice that.  It was not unbearable for me.  It did feel smaller than some of the other ship casinos. I am not sure why.  We played in there a little and on the last sea day they called my name for a drawing.  I got to spin the wheel and won $25.  Apparently your name is entered in the drawing for every 100 points you have.  I only had 200 points.  So if you aren't a professional casino player... there is hope for you too!  Mom entered a slot tournament and made it to the second round.  It was fun to watch and cheer her on.  If you have never witnessed one of these, you should.  I laughed so hard!

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The casino bar is located in the center and has another "funnel mural" that rises up through Deck 5.  Here is a picture from Deck 5 looking down.

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So one thing I did not like.  There is not a poker table in the casino.  If you leave the casino and continue going towards the back of the ship, you will come to the Sports Bar.  It is not connected to the casino like it is in many ships.  In the corner of the sports bar is the poker table.  It is kind of back away from everything so it was not as busy as it normally is when it is placed in the casino.  It was also an upgraded poker table... not the same Poker Pro that is on the other ships.  Instead of having your own little raised hub to put your card in, see your cards, and decide on your play.... it is all one flat screen table.  There were several complaints about the touch screen not working well and not being accurate... meaning where you touched is not necessarily the button you got.  Mark played one night... I decided it wasn't for me. 

Continuing on aft you will come to the Limelight Lounge.  This seemed bigger than on the other ships.  Matter of fact, we left dinner one night and the comedy show had already started.  We stopped in and were able to get 4 seats together on the side.  Some of the other Limelight Lounges are left with standing room only.  Maybe it filled up later in the evening, but I was pretty impressed.

Deck 4 rounds out with the Horizons Dining Room all the way to the back of the ship.

Deck 5

Deck 5 begins with the upper area of the Liquid Lounge, followed by more Fun Shops around the Atrium circle.  Lots of shopping opportunity on this ship!  AND instead of a $10 sale one day... they have an entire $10 shop! 

Located in this area is also the Cherry On Top.  It still has all the candy selections and gifts to purchase, but it also comes with an ice cream shop!  I desperately wanted to do this and we never did. (super sad face).  Looks really yummy though and even has a nice outside seating area where you can take your ice cream outside on the deck.  The ice cream cookie sandwiches look amazing!  It's a must do for next time!

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After you pass through this area on Deck 5 you will find anything you have possibly been searching for!  If you are thirsty... this is the place to be!

As it circles around the funnel mural from the casino below you have the Piano Bar... Library Bar... Alchemy Bar... and Bonsai Sushi.  We kept talking about going to the Piano Bar, but never made it.  I took the kids one night and we went to Bonsai Sushi.  For my birthday... one week before the cruise Mark and Trenton had given me 2 new charms for my Tiffany's bracelet.  One of them was a scooter for me to remember our crazy stop in Curacao a few years ago.  (You might remember the scooter blog where I swear I almost died?!)  It is my absolute favorite charm!  So... While at dinner I realized ... it was NOT on my bracelet.  The rest of our group was in the Red Frog Pub so I quickly started back tracking my steps and went to grab Mark so he could "HELP ME LOOK" for it.  He was very sweet and helped me back to Bonsai Sushi... where I knew it was not.  So I frantically headed back up to the room and thankfully found it in my cabin.  Yet another moment where I am freaked out and he is completely calm!  So as I head back to Bonsai Sushi (I'm still starving) ... everyone including Mark is now getting up to leave.  Not one morsel of sushi left!  Some help he was.... lol 

 

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The Library Bar was nice.  We saw people in there all week.  We stopped in one day to try out the automatic wine dispenser, but it didn't work.  Sounds like a great concept though... wine and books are 2 of my favorite things!

You will also find the Steakhouse in this area.  No more hunting for it in some obscure location on the ship, tucked away in the corner.  It is right there, front and center!  I tried to make a reservation through carnival.com under our booking twice, but I never got an answer.  I was kind of bummed and was just hoping I could get a reservation for our large group once we got on the ship.  Then I saw one of my all time favorite Steakhouse Manager's was on ... the VISTA!  I sent her a quick message and she was able to confirm a reservation for me for our entire party.  It was a celebration dinner for Mark's birthday and I had also pre-ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon.  Since it was not all done together, the bottle was set to be delivered on a different night, but Jovana got everything arranged and perfect for me to be able to surprise him!

The new steakhouse menu was great!  We enjoyed everything.  I did like the other bread better though... and the art on the table is ok.  It's a one time experience.  Probably won't do it again.... I miss the cheesecake!  lol

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It was a fantastic and memorable experience!  The Steakhouse crew is simply amazing and provided a great Birthday Celebration.

This Deck has it all.... we are only midway through!  As you continue towards the aft of the ship you will encounter the Red Frog Pub and Brewery.  This was our home away from home and overall meeting place for the cats...I mean group. :)

Stay tuned for Part II ....

 

Carnival Vista Embarkation

Getting There:

It is no secret our preferred means of travel is via Cruise Ship. We will cruise anytime the opportunity presents itself.  However, this cruise was special.  Mark and I were celebrating our birthdays so we had family and friends joining us. 

Our vacation started at 4:00am in taking our friends to the airport. They live a little over an hour away so they spent the night with us and had the first flight out.  I returned home, jumped in the shower, threw the last minute stuff in the bag, requested an Uber and went to pick up Mom.  By 6:30am the 4 of us were loaded up and headed to the airport. 

Security at DFW was about par… Trenton’s bag got flagged because he had a “R2D2 Bop It” that was apparently “suspicious”. The Security guy laughed when he saw it and yelled back at the scanners… “What do you guys have against R2?”

It was finals week for me in school and I was taking 2 summer classes, so work hard… play hard was the theme for this cruise.

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Our flight was uneventful… Miami was not. There were storms rolling through (no surprise) so there was a mild delay in getting off the plane.  The big delay came when it took them over 2 hours to offload our luggage.  Seriously the entire flight was sprawled across the baggage claim… waiting.  One guy was making up his own song and rapping on Snapchat “Trapped in an Airport”.  Our luggage was finally released and we got it all except for Trenton’s bag.  Thankfully we saved our baggage claim numbers and they were able to locate it 2 baggage claims away… no clue how it got there.

We requested a Lyft and headed outside. The Lyft app showed Juan was picking us up in a White Infinity SUV.  Instead, Jose showed up in a Grey Nissan… Because those are similar.  We verified he really was our driver, climbed in and headed to the hotel.  Trenton noticed on our app we had passed the hotel.  We tried to tell “whoever was driving” but he didn’t speak any English.  We did finally make it to our hotel…. After he stopped at 4 prior places asking “Is this it?” 

It didn’t end there. We had 4 hotel rooms reserved and only 2 were ready at our designated check in time.  They promised to let us know when the others became available.  The last group of our travelers arrived about 6pm.  The 3rd room was now ready.  (Check in was 4pm).  We dispersed more bags and headed out to dinner as everyone was starving.

We headed to South Beach and had dinner at Havana 1957 and then to the beach for some sunset views.

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After dinner and a nice walk on the beach we decided to head back to the hotel.  We were not notified the 4th room was ready until after 8pm!!  This little mix up did end up getting all 10 of us free breakfast and a free shuttle to the port the next morning so I’m not complaining.

We stayed at the Doubletree Grand by Hilton in Biscayne Bay.  Rooms were great, you can see the ships in port if you have a bay view and there is a little section that connects the Doubletree and Marriott next door.  There are shops, a nail salon, small bar, restaurant, deli and liquor store there so its great for last minute cruise items or grabbing a quick drink or bite to eat.  The restaurant took our breakfast coupons so that was great!  The hotel also arranged for us to have a shuttle take us to the port at 9:40am (it does not normally run until 11am) so we really appreciated that. 

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Embarkation:                                                                 

We arrived at the port about 9:50am. I was pleasantly surprised with the improvement in the porters. We were met at the van, our luggage was taken and processed for us.  We were directed to go stand in the priority line.  They did not let us inside until a few minutes after 10 so the wait was not bad.  Once inside everything went smoothly.  Mark and Trenton had a pact to be the first in the Red Frog Pub so our seating in the Priority Lounge was very strategic.  Their surveillance paid off and there was only 1 family in front of us.  Once on the ship, Trenton took off at a sprint.  He made it there first.  Since he wasn’t “legal” they gave the 2nd beer to me and I passed it on to one of our friends once they made it there. 

Our rooms were ready when we boarded and sign and sail cards were in the mailbox as promised.

Stay tuned for ... The Carnival Vista

 

 

 

 

The Royal Playa del Carmen

 

You know… going back to college a second time around as an adult was pretty hard…but I did it and I apparently was so proud of myself when I got my degree I thought “Let’s keep going!” Then 5 words entered my head and these 5 words have done nothing but get me into trouble my entire life…. “How hard can it be?” Ugh

So Master’s degree here I come.

Mark has repeatedly reminded me I haven’t shared the story of our Anniversary this past year. He’s right. I've been busy… and it was painful! Sometimes it takes me a little while to find the humor in our crazy adventures.

So just to recap for the newbies… For our 15 year anniversary he planned a very romantic surprise trip. Called my boss. Got me off work. Packed our suitcases. Took me to a very expensive dinner and hotel to tell me we were flying out the next day. I then proceeded to trip over my own suitcase in the hotel room and break my shoulder. We spent our Anniversary in the hospital and he then  had to spend the next 3 months taking care of me.

16 year anniversary I refused to leave the house.

So here we were at 17 years and Mark says I REALLY want us to do something nice.  I felt bad I ruined his big plans so I agreed and we started going through options.  I didn’t have the time to take off from work for a cruise so he suggests an All Inclusive. Lots of people seem to LOVE them. I agreed to give it a try and called my friend and fellow travel agent… the AI Queen… to help me plan. Mark wanted a hotel room where we could open the door and walk out onto the beach. Period. He didn’t care about anything else. We decided to go with The Royal Playa del Carmen.

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While we are on the plane and flying into Mexico they pass out these forms for everyone to fill out.  I don't know what they say because they are IN SPANISH.  This is just fantastic.  The one time we leave Trenton at home we need a translator before we even get off the plane.  The airline said they didn't have any English versions and finally found someone on the plane to get on the PA system and tell us what each line said.

We land and make it through customs and immigration.  We had paid extra for private transportation to and from the airport through Lomas Travel.  We were able to find them easily, but we weren't able to get into the transportation.  Apparently they are not allowed to let you get into their vans/cars unless they are in a parking spot.  They had all their vans for non private transportation in the parking spots and told us we would have to wait until one of them filled up and left before we could go.  So we are just standing on the sidewalk with our luggage.  In the sun.  No seats.  No shade.  NO OTHER passengers around. After several minutes Mark said  "Hey buddy... I think we are going to have to find a Plan B here."  They finally allowed us to get into the van that was waiting (not in a parking spot) and we were off.

The drive from Cancun airport to The Royal was around 40 minutes.  No too bad. The resort was beautiful when we pulled up and walked in.  We were greeted right away and asked to take a seat. I had read lots of stuff online how they brought you drinks as soon as you arrived and little wet towels to help you cool off.... those people must have been on break.  After almost 20 minutes I stopped a girl and said can we please have some water... and what are we waiting for?  A few minutes later we were escorted to a desk to check in and then escorted to our room.

It was beautiful!!

 

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They had the room all decorated and left a bottle of champagne with a note that said Happy Anniversary.

 
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Here's the deal with the rooms.  We booked the Junior Swim Up Ocean Front Beach Walk Out Suite.... that's a mouthful.  This resort has 10 of these rooms.  4 on the left side of the hotel are perfect.

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These are the pictures you see when you are planning your trip.  They are perfect.  Your own private little pool.  Leads right out onto the beach.  I was so excited to sit in those little chairs and read while having my coffee in the mornings.  Enjoying our balcony on the hammock in the evenings.  BUT the other 6 of these room on the right hand side are a little different. Your "swim up" pool is the volleyball pool for the entire complex.  Oh. How. Romantic.

This was the view from our room.

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Was it beautiful.  YES!  What we had planned on... not so much.  There was no sitting on the balcony and drinking coffee in the mornings because our patio furniture was taken every night and we had to go retrieve it each day.  We decided to make the most of it anyway.  The good thing about The Royal is you can also eat dinner at the neighboring resort so we headed across the street to try out the Brazilian restaurant for our first dinner.  It was a nice, open air restaurant that overlooked their pool.  Food was pretty good and service was phenomenal.  We came back to our room and decided to go sit in the pool.  It was getting late.  We thought we would get a couple glasses of wine and just enjoy the evening.  Being the volleyball pool there were no little chairs to sit in inside the pool that the previous picture had, but there were little round tables at the back so we had a place to put our (plastic) glasses.  We probably had not been out there 10 minutes when the balcony door of the room beside us opens up and a grown ass man comes running out and cannon balls into the pool... right. beside. us.

I am not sure if he realized we were there mid flight... or under water when he was swimming up beside our legs... or when he came up to the surface and saw us staring at our glasses now full of pool water...

He did profusely apologize and offer to "buy us a beer" at this all inclusive establishment.  We politely declined and attempted to move out of the way of his balcony room run, but he was so intoxicated he kept forgetting we were out there, so after the third time we just decided to go inside and forego the romantic pool evening.

Day 2 we had breakfast at the buffet and thought we would walk into town.  It was only a few blocks away.  This area was hands down the worst of all the places we have ever traveled on being hassled.  No one was inside their shops.  They were all out in the street and would yell at you trying to get you to come into their store.  They tried to hand you items, drape bracelets on your arm.  If that didn't work they would say that they were your waiter last night and didn't you remember them? How could you be so mean to them today?  They would follow you down the street.  It was awful.  I actually did want to purchase some souvenirs, but they were pestering you so bad we just kept walking and ended up shopping in the gift shop at the resort. We spent the rest of the day by the pool with the drunken madness because we couldn't find anything else to do.

Dinner time we ate at Maria Marie which was really good!  Hands down best food of the trip and beautiful romantic décor.

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We finished dinner around 7:30 and went looking for something to do.  Unfortunately, their nightly show did not start until 9pm so we just went back to our room.  When 9:00 came we decided we were tired and didn't feel like going back out.  About 9:20 we heard a noise and it was someone unlocking the door to our room and a lady just walked on in.  She was clearly shocked to see us there, rushed back out and shut the door.  When you checked in you had to select your time for the maid to clean your room and we had already had our turn down service, so it was a little shocking to see someone just enter with no apparent purpose. 

The next day was our Anniversary so we decided to book an excursion.  We went down to Lomas travel that was located in the lobby and paid.  We were taken to 3 different cenotes and were able to swim/snorkel in them.  The first one was really cool.  We snorkeled quite a ways on a guided tour.  The second stop was a cenote you could jump and swim in.  Problem was... it was infested with mosquitos.  Within seconds of stepping outside the van we were swarmed with mosquitos.  Before we even got down to the water, Mark counted over 40 bites I had on my back.  It was insane.  Mark and I and 2 other guys ended up walking down the road and buying some mosquito spray in which we used the ENTIRE bottle... just to survive.  I was certain we contracted malaria, the zika virus and west nile all in one sitting. 

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After that I just wanted to get out of there.  I didn't care if I never saw another cenote in my life... lol

When we checked in on the first day at the resort we were told we had a concierge assigned to us and to let them know and they would make any dinner reservations we needed.  Nothing that they had to be made days in advance.  So upon arrival back to the resort we found the concierge and went to make dinner arrangements for our Anniversary.  We were told that wasn't possible and if we wanted a reservation it had to be made when we arrived.  Hmmm... ok.  So we then said what are our options for dinner tonight and they informed us they had a very nice buffet. So yeah, our Anniversary dinner was at the buffet.  Cheers babe.

The next day we were going home so we laughed at our anniversary dinner, had a good time all by ourselves and headed back to the room.  We packed up and went to bed.  Somewhere around 12:30 am someone started knocking on our door.  I originally thought "atleast they are knocking tonight".  We didn't answer and unfortunately, this was not information for them to go away.  The knocking just got louder and louder until someone was physically yelling and banging on our door.  I said "Babe... seriously, I think we have to answer the door.  I think the resort is on fire!  Something is really wrong"  so Mark gets up, throws open the door and nope... no fire.  Just drunk workers who took one look at Mark and said "sorry, wrong room."  OMG

So I would love to tell you this was the end of the dysfunctionality, but no.... we still haven't made it out of Mexico. 

The next morning we get up, eat breakfast (at the buffet) and check out of the hotel.  We go back to Lomas travel to check in with them and see if our private transport is ready.  They said Yes, it was.  We hop in the van and speed off towards the airport.  Somewhere between Playa del Carmen and Cancun the driver leaves the road, literally on 2 wheels he is going so fast and goes to pull into another resort.  We start questioning him and he held up this list with probably 10 names on it and says he has other people to pick up.  We tried explaining that we had paid for private transport and he called us loco gringos and kept going.  I was on the phone trying to find someone at their company who spoke English and Mark was telling him to call his dispatcher.  He did call someone and  I thought he was listening to us because he turned around and got back on the road.  A couple of miles down the road, he suddenly pulls off the road again.  I thought he was going to another resort so I was going to try to go inside and talk to a Lomas representative and get it straightened out.  I did have a very nice gentleman on the phone who confirmed we were supposed to be on a private transport.  The van stops, I get out to go inside.  Mark gets out behind me.  The driver gets out.  I am thinking this is all going to be sorted out.  No worries.  When the driver suddenly opens the back of the van, pitches our luggage onto the street, jumps back in the van and takes off. 

Yep.  We aren't at a resort.  We are on the side of the road in Mexico.... and our driver is GONE. 

I'll shorten the story to say we finally found a taxi and paid our own way to the airport... again.  Only to find out I had thrown away some form we had to have to get out of Mexico.  Damn it.  Good news was for $100 they would give us another piece of paper to fill out and we could leave.  We did make our plane, my awesome TA friend got our transfer money refunded and we finally made it back home and now have the story to tell that we were left on the side of the road in Mexico!  Happy Anniversary Babe!

This girl is going back to cruising!

      
 

Norwegian Escape Part I

 

The Norwegian Escape is a fantastic ship. With a guest capacity of 4,266 and a crew of 1,733 it is the largest ship we have ever sailed on. There are more than 25 different dining options and over 21 bars and lounges. There is no way you can do it all in 7 days... or that I can fit it all in one blog!  I will try to highlight some of the best and share what we were able to experience.

The main fun starts on Deck 6. All the way forward is the main floor of the Escape Theatre. The entrance is actually on deck 7 and you walk down the stairs towards the stage. There is no balcony or second floor seating.

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On the right hand side is the Supper Club. This is essentially a dinner and a show option. The tables are seated around a stage where they have musical performances. The price for this dinner is around $35 per person.

We did not eat dinner here, but we did participate in the Escape The Big Top which was located in the Supper Club and was free. This is an escape room activity. You have to sign up prior to attending and spots were going quickly. I believe they had 3 times this was offered during the cruise. They place you in teams of 8 and then each team has 1 hour to attempt to solve all the clues and break the riddle. There were only 4 of us so we were with another family of 4.  I had never done anything like this and I was surprised how challenging it was.  I love puzzles and actually figured out 4 of them so I was rather proud of myself.  Our team did not win… but it was fun.

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Towards the middle of the ship you will find the Atrium that holds the guest services and shore excursions desks. There is also a small stage, dance floor and large screen here for entertainment. Many of the game shows and night time music can be found here. We played a couple of Deal or No Deal games. They were really fun. Tickets are $25 a piece. A random member of the audience is chosen to play based off of the game cards. We saw one lady win $1000!  The rest of the audience plays along. As the contestant opens a case, you open that case number on your card. If the amount in their case matches the amount in your case you start to win prizes once you have matched 2 or more. These can include a free instant win game card at Bingo, a free picture, $50, $200, etc. I actually won $50! It is pretty nice because the money is credited right back on your Sign and Sail card. No need to collect anything or stand in line. It’s all digitally done.

Ooh... see those things hanging from ceiling in the picture below.  Those little upside down R2D2 looking thingys are the migraine starters!  lol

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There is lots of seating around the dance floor area and the last Deal or No Deal game was so popular they were bringing out folding chairs so everyone could have a seat. O'Sheehans is on the floor above and is where this picture was taken from.  It overlooks this area so there is additional seating upstairs.

The atrium area also contains a bar area, pastry shop and coffee shop. All items available for an additional purchase.

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As you walk down the hallway towards the back of the ship you are walking through the art gallery. They change the pictures daily. This is a really good space to get their art out there. It isn’t tucked away in some corner like it is on most ships.

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This hallway will lead you to what is almost like a 2nd atrium. It is round and goes up several decks as well. There is a beautiful chandelier that hangs in the center with a gorgeous staircase going up. You would expect this would be the center of the ship and a grand entrance point… but its not. Lol272 578

On one side is the Comedy Club, located behind the stairs which we did not try. There were a few comedy shows, but they always seemed to conflict with something else we were doing. On the other side is Le Bistro, which is a French Specialty Restaurant. The price of dinner here is A la carte. If you are going to spend money on an “extra” dinner… this is definitely one you want to choose. Everything was fantastic!

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I will do a separate blog on the dining options that include menu's... stay tuned for that one.  If you look towards the top of this picture, on the floor above is the casino that wraps around.

Moving towards the aft of the ship are 2 of the main dining rooms, Taste and Savor.  These are complimentary and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a bar in the center which provides a nice spot to wait for the rest of your party. They serve the same menu that varies each night.  You can make a reservation if you like.  We ate here one night and had a party of 18 so we did make a reservation which is recommended for large parties.  The night there were only 3 of us we just walked up and were seated.  They are both very elegant and include table cloths on the tables :)

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Moving up to Deck 7 forward you will find the actual entrance to the Escape Theatre.  "The Box Office" is located on the right hand side.

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The Box Office is where you will go to make reservations for any of the shows on board (free or not).  This is also where you make reservations for The Escape Room.  We did not partake in any shows on this cruise.  I read the ones that were offered and none really appealed to us.  It is recommended if you want to attend a show that you make a reservation in advance as seating is limited. This kind of greatly defeats Norwegians "Free Style Cruising" marketing plan.  You have to make reservations for shows and dinner ... if you want to make sure you are able to do it .. and usually 90 days in advance to your cruise,  which I find difficult. 

Moving back towards the center of the ship on Deck 7 you will find O'Sheehans.  This is the 24 hour food option on board.  I posted the menu in my beginning blog of this ship.  The food is pretty good and provides a nice range of options.  You do have to wait to be seated, but service is pretty quick (other than embarkation day).  If you want to go to the bar, you can just walk up and take a seat.  On the other side from the main dining here are several games. 

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Darts, Pool, Skee ball, a few arcade games, basketball and bowling.  All of the games are an extra fee where you just slide your card... like the arcade.  Pool was in the $2-3 range.  Bowling was $5 per person.

 

 

I thought $5 a game was kind of high, but it was a lot of fun.  The balls are smaller and don't have finger holes.  The pins are also attached by a string, but the system works pretty well.  There is an option to put the bumpers up if you are playing with small children.

Working our way back past midship on Deck 7 is the casino.  The slot machines start in the hallway as you leave O'Sheehans.  The casino wraps around the 2nd atrium area with the large chandelier and continues back towards the aft.  It is a really large casino with table games on both sides.  It includes 1 poker table with a real dealer. It was extremely smoky in there though.

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I can't believe I don't have a picture showing how large it actually it.  Just this one of the hallway leading OUT of the casino and back towards where the Skyline Bar is located. The hallway leading into the casino looks just like this too.

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This is your typical casino bar.  There were workout classes here in the mornings, typical bar atmosphere in the afternoons, and music and dancing all around in the evenings.

The aft of Deck 7 is home to the Manhattan Room.  This is the 3rd of the Main Dining Rooms. 

 

This one while having the same menu as the 2 downstairs has a dance floor and live music.  We did not realize this when our party of 18 had a reservation one night.  The live music was so loud you could not hear the person next to you talking.  The waiter could also not hear us to take our drink orders. Thankfully they only played for about 10 minutes and their set was over. So... if you want dinner, music and dancing... or simply don't like your table mates, this is the restaurant for you!  If you actually want conversation with your dinner... head downstairs to Taste or Savor.

So we have now covered 2 decks of this massive ship.  I am tired now and going to bed.  Stay tuned for Part 2.