This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snow bird adventures (part 2)

As mentioned yesterday, I was recently in Florida on a snowbird adventure. The main part of that adventure was four days on a cruise ship. I had never been on a cruise ship before and did not know what to expect.

We left from the Port of Miami, where cruising is big business. If you are a veteran of cruise ship trips, you probably will recognize the distinctive stack as that of the Carnival line.
We opted for a room with a window because it did not cost too much more than an interior room without a window. Cost was important in many decisions, especially on when to go. The weeks in early December are a down time for the cruise business and hence it is a time when prices are discounted. Also influencing price is the deck. The higher up on the ship, the more the room costs. An advantage of a higher deck is that they disembark the ship before the lower decks and supposedly the view is better. I rather enjoyed our view close to the water.
For the really great deals for cruises, you need to live in Florida. The cruise lines offer special deals to Floridians to fill empty rooms.

Every day there was towel art in our room. One of the programs on the ship was an introduction to making these creations from towels. I went, but my elephant did not look nearly as nice as this one.
I was very impressed with the courtesy and service of the staff. They came from 49 countries. I tried to read name tags to see where staff was from, but the tags were hard to read unless you were really close. Many seemed to come from Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines and Indonesia. There were also quite a few from Eastern Europe, especially Romania. We learned that they serve six months with two months off. They do not come back to the same cruise ship when they return but rotate through the ships and the ports. An advantage of that would be that there is a Carnival culture among workers, not different work cultures on each ship.

Before we left port some of our group enjoyed the water slides at the back of the ship. It was warm and the wind was light. Unfortunately, those conditions were never repeated. The next couple days were cooler even though we were further south, and especially the last day was very windy.
People do not go on cruises to stay in their rooms, but to get out on the deck and enjoy the sun.
There was a small salt-water pool in the middle of the upper deck. It was not big enough to swim in, but there were usually people in it. There were always people in the hot tubs. Carnival encourages a party atmosphere and behind the pool is a stage where a variety of programs were held, usually with loud music.
One thing that surprised me was the amount of selling that was part of the cruise experience. Food is included in the ticket price, but not alcohol or soft drinks. Passengers cannot bring alcohol on board and if you try to disguise it as water, the people at the security screening can tell if it is water or booze by shaking it and observing the bubbles. There is also a casino on board that operates only when the ship is in international waters. Because we were part of a large group, our interactions with other passengers were limited, but one of the people we met somewhere told us that the payout on the shipboard slots was not as good as payout on casino slots.

I never could get a good shot of the atrium area, which had lots of colorful lights. On the first evening out the entertainment staff staged a snowfall in the atrium and that is what the people along the sides are watching. Snow was created by bubble machines. They spit out little bits of foam that floated slowly to the floor. If you look carefully, you can see some of it in the picture below.
There were comedy acts in the evening, but after going to one, I decided they were a waste of time. On the two evenings we were not in port, there were shows featuring two singers and twelve dancers. They were entertaining, especially if you got a seat right up front. There were programs for children and some of them greatly enjoyed the programs and the interactions with other kids. Of course the parents also enjoyed kid camp because it freed them up to do other things.

The focus of the cruise for many, however, was food. The food was excellent as was the service. The presentation of food items was what you see on the Food Network, not what you see at home. I was not the only one who took pictures of food.
There is really nothing all that special with the fruit, but it certainly is displayed nicely.
One of the people we met at breakfast had attended the chef's table (it's pricey) the night before and was eager to share what he had learned. There are almost 100 cooks on the ship, and over half the staff (900+) is in some way or other there to provide or serve food. Cooking for the staff is at least as challenging as cooking for the tourists because of the diversity of the diets that they have. The staff must not get food of the same quality because when there is food that is prepared and not claimed, it is set out in the employee lounge where it disappears quickly. The ship carries an extra three-day supply of food that weighs 14 tons, and the scraps of uneaten food are ground up and dumped overboard to feed the fish.

There were several options for dining. You could go to the formal dining rooms and get served, or you could go to several buffet lines and get pretty much the same food. Though there was always food available, the choice was limited to pizza and ice cream late at night. The ice cream machine (which did not dispense real ice cream, but soft serve and frozen yogurt) was always popular.
One member of our group impressed some other passengers by making milk shakes from the soft serve and chocolate milk. Four parts soft serve and one part milk stirred vigorously resulted in a credible milk shake.

1 comment:

Gene said...

Just want to let you know how much I enjoyed both part 1 and part 2 of your Snow Bird Adventures. Your photos were fabulous. Thanks much.