Now I don’t know if it’s because the boarding process is now staggered, but the muster drill wasn’t scheduled until 4:30 – usually, we’re sailing at 5 p.m. But, in fact, the muster drill didn’t really start until at least 4:45 if not closer to 5 p.m. And it lasted an hour – first seating for dinner was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and when it didn’t, well, I suspect, the domino effect took over and dinner everywhere that night was a bit chaotic.
And this time of year, it was cold and dark and I felt sorry for the families with small children, who were probably cold, tired, and hungry. And what was also different this time was that they did a manual headcount. Now we don’t know if procedures have tightened, requiring a longer must drill (it was also extra long on the Ruby Princess), but at least Princess scans your card in and they immediately know who is there and who is missing. We suggest Carnival adopt that same procedure.
Finally, it was over and so we waited back in our cabin for the crowds to thin out before arriving at the Mardi Gras dining room for Anytime Dining. The fun thing about the Mardi Gras dining room is that the Mardi Gras was Carnival’s first cruise ship and the first cruise ship I sailed on in ’82.
At around 7 p.m., we headed for the Taste Bar for a quick snack before approaching the dining room and inevitable wait. Princess offers reservations for the flexible dining room, and we really prefer that. On Carnival, you show up, put your name in, and they give you a beeper. We were introduced to the Taste Bar on the Miracle and really enjoyed it. What it is is a bite of some offering from their specialty restaurants, I suppose, to lure you into booking a table in one of them.
Well, there are no specialty restaurants on this class of ship but this night we enjoyed a taste from the Blue Iguana. After our little “tide-over,” we approached the dining room to see how long the wait was. As we had anticipated, the line was huge! The wait would be around 45 minutes. We popped into the library, where families were waiting, and then headed over to piano bar on the other side of the atrium. We remembered a fabulous martini in this bar on the Paradise and, sure enough, we had the same amazing martinis. Carnival really knows how to make a drink!
It was a nice, quiet respite while we waited until families started to pour in, kids running amuck, banging on the piano, screaming, etc., and there went our peaceful martini sipping. We looked on the bright side and found ways to find the kids amusing. Okay, maybe the martini helped – lol! When our buzzer finally beeped, one of the mothers said, on our way out, “Oh, sorry about that.” But we told her, “No problem. Our table is ready.”
View of the Atrium Bar while waiting in line for the Mardi Gras Dining Room
Awesome Martini in the Rhapsody in Blue Piano Bar
Rhapsody in Blue Piano Bar
We were seated at a table for two and immediately the servers came over to say, “Welcome to American Table.” This is part of Carnival 2.0 and we’re definitely not fans of it. In fact, we’re not big fans of food in the Main Dining Room (MDR), and we dislike American Table even more. The good news is, there’s no fear of gaining too much weight on Carnival like there is on Princess (the food was way too delicious on the Ruby Princess).
I started with a Shrimp Cocktail (unbelievably wimpy – ick!), played it safe with the Flat Iron Steak with baked potato, but then splurged on the Butter Pecan Ice Cream that Carnival makes fresh – the best at sea!!
Rich ordered the same except his starter was Navy Bean Soup (he’s allergic to shrimp).
The servers were really great. In fact, I forgot to mention how awesome our cabin steward was – much, much better than the crank we had on the Ruby. In fact, Carnival service is really awesome – they really know how to please their customer.
When we were shopping for Christmas gifts for our cats, we noticed some Cat in the Hat toys for cats. Knowing that Carnival has this whole “Cat in the Hat” theme now, we made a point of checking the gift shop for “Cat in the Hat” items. We stopped in the Carnival Shops before dinner and noticed they did, indeed, have “Cat in the Hat” items. We only wanted to spend $20, but that one was a bit small, so we’d have to decide if we wanted the larger, $30 cat.
So, after dinner, we returned to the Carnival Shops (we’d stopped in there earlier), to get the “Cat in the Hat” (important to both of us as kids), and purchased the larger, $30 one. There was an even larger one for $35, but we decided that was just too big.
After our purchase, we returned to our cabin for the night.
Cat in the Hat
By the way, we’ve found Carnival beds to be quite comfortable. Ruby Princess was terrible and we’d remembered Princess having really great beds back in ’02. So, don’t know what happened there.
We usually get a balcony cabin and we’ve cruised in the Penthouse and Mini-Suites on this class of ship, but for this cruise, we didn’t want to spend the extra money, especially since the weather wasn’t really warm enough to enjoy the verandah. But for a 3-night cruise, our outside cabin without a balcony was quite comfortable and suited us just fine.