Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Embarkation day can really go really well or really badly. I’ve certainly had my share of less pleasant experiences… long lines, cranky security people, a traveling companions lost passport, it can just all go downhill fast. Considering Seattle’s relatively short cruise season, I came mentally prepared for a less organized staff, less than orderly line in, and a possible long wait. Carnival said to arrive between 1-3 pm, so of course we arrived at 11 am. I knew the terminal was open at 11 and the previous cruise would have been totally disembarked by then. When we pulled up there was no car line, and just a few families milling about in front of the terminal. An employee quickly came to our car and whisked our bags away- he was friendly and efficient. It went too well- we couldn’t possibly continue that streak of luck! At the door, the initial screener checked our passports and boarding passes, smiled and ushered us in. I expected to see a security line, but instead I saw an empty escalator. We took it up and went right through the metal detectors. Onward we went, to the ticket counter and without a minute of wait went right up to one of the many smiling agents waiting to help people. A few minutes later we were issued our sail and save cards (these cards serve as your door key and your charge key for everything on board, you also use them in the casino to deposit winnings onto) and given boarding cards. We were called on board within 30 minutes of first pulling up to the facility. It was truly the most painless boarding I’ve ever experienced!

Once on board we headed to the buffet/lido deck and found a large table for all six of us, then set off to find lunch. On a cruise food in the main dining room and on the lido deck are always included in your price. We really enjoy the formal dining room for dinner, but lunches are almost always on the lido deck for us. I’m not someone who normally cares for buffets (I’m a bit of a germaphobe) but really on a cruise I lose those worries because the staff are SO vigilant about cleanliness. They man the spaces behind the buffet , constantly changing out serving utensils, and cleaning the area.  On this ship, like many of Carnival’s fleet, the buffet is broken up into stations. A deli area, a salad area, an Asian food area, and several areas that change daily. Todays theme was “Italian” in those areas.  The food was decent, I particularly enjoyed my Asian fare from “Chopsticks” and my new favorite dessert tidbit- a small strawberry cake pop!

After eating stuff got serious. Brian and I headed down to the main atrium (which was freakishly and awesomely empty!) to purchase the Cheers! Program. In a
Nutshell, you get this program by paying $49.00 a day plus prepaid tip, which brings the total to $400 for 7 days, per person. You get a special sticker for your sail and save card and your account is flagged as a cheers account, and you can have up to 15 alcoholic beverages a day and unlimited soda and nonalcoholic frozen fruit drinks. This may sound excessive, but when you consider the price of drinks on a cruise- the #1 expense felt by most by the way, it can be a deal. I am posting copies of the drink prices here so you can do the math. I’m a Mojito girl, and at  $8.75 each they can add up fast. Add a bloody mary in the morning, a few beers by the pool deck, some wine with dinner, and a raucous  good time in the casino in the evening followed by the midnight comedy show and well- that can be a LOT of drinks. For us, Cheers is a  good deal! Here is a little trick too that may make it even better for my fellow Carnival cruisers- if you opt for the “class cocktails” (listed below) you can turn the receipt in at the casino for a $5 match and play card. That means at any gaming table you can throw down a $5 chip and the $5 match and play card, for a total of $10 bet. Boy, drink 6 “classic cocktails”  and you make the Cheers program worth it AND score $30 in match and play dough!

I immediately went to work in earning match and play cards… by enjoying a few mojitos. Soon the whole family was seated on comfy chair and couches listening to a wonderful lobby singer play and sing the standards in the background as we caught up on what life’s been like lately. I could feel myself slipping right back into the Cruise Groove I love so much. We’d been on board for all of two hours by then and the ship had not yet left the dock.

My next entry is going to basically be a photo log of what you can find on the Carnival Miracle but that has to wait until later. I am pretty sure I am due to go earn another $5 match and play card! ;-)

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