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Copyright © 1995-2004 
Linda Coffman

Carnival's Holiday
Western Caribbean
March 6-10, 2003

By Frank Beckendorf, ACC DS
     Owner of The World Over Travel Agency
     Chalmette, LA (suburb of New Orleans)

When I approached a local school in 2002 to do a fundraiser cruise, I mentioned that the best deal would be on a ship built in 1985, 46,052 in tonnage and holding 1,844 passengers. I promised them a sizeable donation and a great time for all. Just kidding with the date built, tonnage and passenger limit. Our final numbers included over 340 cruisers in 129 cabins. The chorus director wanted the third week of March because it was Mardi Gras time and the school was closed most of the days. They would later close the facility the other days.

As time went on, we were asked to see about whether the school’s chorus could perform on stage. The chorus had performed with high praise at: Disney World, Silver Dollar City in Branson and several local scenarios. This came to fruition after sending in a video tape confirming the quality of the kids’ work. They would perform twice in Doc Holiday lounge and the other lounge, whose name escapes me at the present.

The focus on recruitment was, of course, the kids and their families. But, soon others were calling to book the trip. Cruisers called from as far as a hundred miles, or so. The youngest cruiser was six weeks and the oldest, in the eighties. There were grandmothers, great-grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. Several teachers booked as well as a deacon and his wife.

When the day of boarding arrived, no one could be found with a frown. Some of the largest smiles I have ever seen were pasted on the faces. There were mustaches curled up. Dimples. Wrinkled freckles, and so on.

My family and I decided to take advantage of the cruise right from the beginning. Two of our kids were in the chorus and the third, a sort of mascot. All three-hundred-and-fifty of us arrived at the terminal eager to take on an adventure of a lifetime. We had been on two cruises before, but most of our customers had no idea what fun a cruise could provide. Why, even some of the parents we didn’t know said hello.

Our particular cabins were nice; although it was evident they had been used many times before. The floors were worn and the walls in need of a makeover. The bathrooms were clean but showing evidence of extensive use. Most of this we expected. What we didn’t expect was the problem with the plumbing in one of the cabins. Stopped up toilets can be quite annoying and uncomfortable. But the ship’s maintenance workers were on it quickly. Within minutes, it seemed, the problem was solved. I learned later others had the same problem. Our family was divided into two outside cabins, but only one room experienced these problems.

The room stewards provided superb service, like many of the others in earlier cruises. The rooms were well maintained and kept. We carried a lot of luggage which compromised space, but we adjusted nicely.

Our oldest child experienced problems with motion sickness almost immediately and after placing a patch behind her ear, was up and running in an hour. In fact, all three were running about within minutes of boarding.

As far as the overall condition of the ship, it was quite obvious that this was not one of Carnival’s gems. It was old and faded. The noise levels were higher than an earlier cruise on the Inspiration. Everywhere there was old paint caked on earlier layers. Nothing new was evident as far as the ship’s condition was obvious. But, this was not a real problem. For the price, this was overlooked. What made up for all of this was the service provided by the many employees. What we wanted, we got. When we wanted, we got. What we asked was answered to our satisfaction.

Looking back on the cruise, I know of a few who complained about the food. But they thought they should have the same quality as Brennan’s and Commanders Palace here in New Orleans. The waiters knew what beverage I wanted on the second day and had it on the table for the rest of the cruise upon arrival. Carnival is famous for providing things no other line provides. The Holiday was no exception. One of the most evident plus was the usual 24 hour ice cream, absent on NCL’s Dream. You wouldn’t believe how many people like this. Really.

The entertainment on the Holiday was superb. There’s bingo, horse racing, games and other events and things like other ships, but the cruise director and his staff made you come back for more. A lot of entertainment was indeed geared towards kids which was terrific. And, yes the adult themed shows were there. Carnival excels at entertainment, and the Holiday's was no exception.

Many of our customers chose different shore tours, but a few of us decided to relax on the beach in Playa del Carmen. This was nice as the adult beverages were unlimited. No problem at all with the ice cubes. There were games and contests for the kids on the beach and plenty of lounge chairs, etc. It was inexpensive and worth it. Hot, but there was nothing we could do about the sun. Our tour in Cozumel was cancelled due to a problem with a tender’s engine.

Today, the ship is scheduled to go to Mobile. This is probably a way of saying thank you for their help with the Conquest. After the trip, I got several letters from customers who sent Carnival their comments. Some were good. Some were bad. I think the bad ones were a bit overplayed, but the good ones were quite praiseworthy. My hope is that those who were on their first cruise did not associate the ship’s condition with the many others out there that are new and better maintained. I do not blame Carnival for anything of this nature. I believe they are doing the best that they can with an old ship. No one should avoid this veteran ship, it’s still a gem.

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Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line