On our first full day, we dropped anchor off the coast of Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, where Carnival has a private island. Princess has a similar setup with Princess Cay. There’s no dock, so they tie tender boats to the side of the ship and shuttle you to the coast, which takes about 10-15 minutes. We were so stoked about settling down on the beaches, only to hear a disheartening announcement that the winds may prevent us from going to Half Moon Cay, since the tender boats were rocking to and fro, making for an unsafe load. Happily, they were able to tie up the boats on the other side of the ship, but it was still rocky.
Then, it started raining.
People were bailing off the boat, but not us! I was determined. And by the time we got to shore, the weather looked like this:
The water throughout the Caribbean was unbelievable. You’d swear it was dyed — crystal-clear, turquoise blue. The sand was smooth and soft with no grit or shells underfoot. It was just crazy stunning. Carnival also brings all its food service ashore in Half Moon Cay, so you can eat for nothing extra. We didn’t do any of the shore excursions there, since it was pretty unnecessary. We ended out first full day happy — and tired! We were in bed by 11 every night, and usually up by 7. Mr. Ladyfingers said he got more sleep on the honeymoon than he has in a long time.
Our second day was an at-sea day, when I really started feeling the effects of the rocking boat. I never got pukey, but my stomach was plenty unsettled. They had an infirmary on board, where I was able to score four doses of generic Dramamine for $3.29. I had borrowed a friend’s Sea Bands, but they didn’t work. I also sipped plenty of ginger ale and munched on ginger snaps I’d brought along. Oddly, I heard green apples help allay sea sickness. And why are PB&J sandwiches on the room service list? According to our cruise director, “Because they’re the only thing that tastes OK coming up.” Bleh.
Speaking of ginger ale:
- Soft drinks are not included in the price of the cruise. A can of coke will set you back $1.75. However, you are allowed to bring a 12-pack of bottled water or soda aboard. We did not, but we did purchase the bottomless bubbles program. For $45 ($51.66 with tax) we got all the soda pop we could drink. Which really came in handy for those sea-sick moments.
That second night was the first of two elegant evenings, which basically means people get all dudded up for dinner and there’s lots of portrait studios set up. Everywhere. Shorter cruises only have one elegant evening.
The dress code is apparently a big point of contention aboard cruise ships. Trolling the forums, I found two classes of people: Those who asked if they could just wear a nice T-shirt to dinner given Carnival’s recently relaxed dress codes, and those who ranted and raved that cruising isn’t like it used to be and it’s disgusting that people don’t wear suits to dinner and what’s wrong with you that you can just look nice for an hour each night.
That being said, the dress code for each evening is marked in your daily newsletter — but we saw plenty of people in the main dining hall wearing forbodden flip flops, people in T-shirts and ballcaps on elegant night, and even a guy in jeans at the five-star “elegant dress code” steakhouse. In a nutshell, I don’t think they’ll kick you out. But Mr. Ladyfingers wasn’t comfortable dressing down so much, so he kicked things up a notch with jeans and a polo shirt on “cruise casual” evenings and dress pants and a button down on “cruise elegant” evenings. I wore nice jeans and tops on casual nights, and dresses on elegant evenings.
Our next stop was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. We’d booked a shore excursion though the online travel service we’d booked the cruise through, mainly because we got a free one when booking. People say all over the place that shore excursions through Orbitz or Expedia are far better quality, far more diverse, and far cheaper than those on cruise ships. I honestly didn’t see the difference. In fact, I found a lot more to do through Carnival, and the prices were all comparable. The St. Thomas shore excursion we booked was an “Island Experience” tour, where our guide took us up and up and up in his little safari bus until we were 3,000 feet up at Mountaintop, looking down at the beautiful water and bays.
In our safari
A guy stumbled out of the bushes and offered to take our photograph with Lady Gaga (center).
1500 feet up
The view from Mountaintop
Another couple of pieces of cruise-vice:
- Before docking, I asked a guest services employee which pier we were docking at. Orbitz had given us different directions of what to look for and where to walk, depending on whether we were at St. Thomas’ Havensite or Crown Bay piers. I wanted to be prepared. But when the employee asked me why on earth I’d need to know something like, because really it doesn’t matter, there’s just one pier (lie.), I made the mistake of telling her it was because I had shore excursion directions from Orbitz. I was pretty much dead to her at that point. I don’t know that everybody’s like that, but maybe try not to tell cruise employees you need help with a shore excursion you booked elsewhere.
- Also, I asked her for the local time, since some islands were ahead. Ships don’t adjust their time in different zones – it’s just too difficult – so they ALWAYS go by ship time. That means if your ship is leaving at 3, it’s leaving at 3 ship time – not 3 local time. But the shore excursion booked outside the cruise was running on local time. Long story short, she told me the island was on ship time. She was wrong. St. Thomas is one hour ahead of Eastern time, and had we not gotten off the ship early just to make sure we were going to the right place, we would have missed our tour. Lesson learned: Nobody on a cruise ship really knows what time it is.
The views were stunning, and we learned plenty of interesting tidbits. We arrived back at the boat with time to spare, and made it a relatively early night since we’d be docking at the butt-crack early hour of 7 a.m. in San Juan the following day.
Next up: Puerto Rico traffic sucks, swimming with the fishes in Grand Turk, I learn to fold towels, we have a nice cry.
All photos personal