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November 30, 2009

All Aboard with Carnival Cruise Lines

My blissfully happy parents recently celebrated their 35th anniversary by taking the family (minus my SIL, whose new job prevented her from joining us) on a week-long cruise. I was very excited and curious, as I had never been on a cruise before. How would it be different from a regular hotel vacation? Would it be different?

The cruise we selected was a Carnival Cruiseline Fun Ship that left out of Tampa, Florida. We drove from Toronto to Buffalo, stayed overnight in Buffalo, and flew the next day to Tampa. We stayed one night in Tampa, and them embarked on the Carnival Legend cruise ship the next day. The embarkation system was very efficient and impressive; it seemed very smooth and I didn’t see any large amounts of confusion or chaos. Everything was very organized, and the embarkation staffs were very helpful and organized.

The ship itself (herself?) was beautiful! Designed with the theme of “legend,” there were massive murals and sculptures related to different famous legends; even the rooms were related to this same theme. For example, the main “lobby” area of the ship was called Colossis, and the dining club was called The Golden Fleece. There was also Truffles restaurant, Club Merlin casino and the Atlantis lounge. The designs were outrageous, glittery, and perfectly ostentatious; exactly what a ship called “Legend” should look like.

We had four ports of call during our 7-day trip: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Isla Roatan (off of mainland Honduras). I will be writing separate articles about each of these stops, so I won’t get into them right now. What about the days at sea, or the evenings? There was plenty to do (and eat!) on board, so we were always busy. There were movies, live musical/comedy productions, afternoon teas, and pools for swimming, a gym and spa … always plenty of activity choices. Some activities, like the afternoon tea, did not cost extra money. Other activities, like the spa activities, did cost extra money. We attended an excellent wine-and-food pairing seminar led by the sommelier of The Golden Fleece restaurant, which was very interesting and informative.

In both restaurants we had wonderful service. Helpful, cheerful servers who were knowledgeable about the food made the evenings that much more enjoyable. In the Truffles restaurant, the Maitre d’ would stop us just before dessert and announce, “SHOWTIME!” The lights would flicker, the music would start, and the staff in the restaurant would be singing and dancing, having a wonderful time. It’s those little “extras” that made the evenings magical.

If you are looking for a relaxing, fun, reasonably-priced holiday, think about a Carnival Cruise. It’s a wonderful way to see some different parts of the world, without having the expense of paying for different flights. Carnival makes it easy; they take care of everything for you. And for those of you with kids: they even have a kids’ club, which does not cost extra money! You can have a “family” vacation but also have some “adult time” as well. Our family had an amazing time, and if we had a chance to go back, I think we would all jump at it. Just remember to bring your appetite, as the food is both plentiful and amazing. Check out their website:

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