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Carnival Holiday
Cruise to Cozumel, Mexico
November 13-17 2008

by Michael Cornett

Hi! This is my first time writing a trip report so please be kind. We are in our mid to late twenties and do not have any children. DW and I have taken a prior cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Sensation. Previously, I have sailed on The Big Red Boat. We loved our first cruise together so much that we decided to book a second cruise to Europe on the Carnival Dream for October 2009. However, we just couldn’t wait until 2009 for a well-deserved vacation. So, we booked a last minute cruise to Cozumel, Mexico aboard the Carnival Holiday. The day before we sailed, we picked up our rental car at the Dodge dealership Hertz location. We drove to my mother-in-law’s house to drop off our little girl “Beagle” and came back home to get some sleep before our vacation started.

The rental car: Toyota Corolla. The cost to rent the car including insurance for a one way rental from here to Mobile was $117.00. The car had plenty of trunk space and was fantastic on gas mileage getting around 38 MPG. I am accustomed to driving a Dodge Durango so the car felt extremely small and uncomfortable.

Day One: Embarkation day
The day of our trip has finally arrived. We set our alarm clock for 04:00 because Mobile is an eight hour drive from home. After getting ready and eating breakfast, we hit the road around 04:45. It was around 40°F and misting rain for most of the journey. As we got closer to the Port of Mobile, the temperature warmed up to around 85°F and the sun decided to grace us with its presence. We found the Hertz location on highway 90 without any problems. The sales representative was great; he came right out and drove us to the cruise terminal.

My first long distance impression of the ship was: Oh!! This ship is small. DW’s first long distance impression of the ship was: a typical Carnival ship just smaller than our first cruise ship. The embarkation process was relatively painless. We dropped off our checked bag with the porter and proceeded to the terminal. Once inside the terminal, we were whisked up the escalator and then we waited for our turn through the metal detectors. When we reached the check in specialist, she asked for our identification. Since we were return guests, she said that she was not going to bother us with the details and gave us our sail and sign cards. Woo-Hoo they were gold. We entered the ship on deck 5—main deck.

My first impression was a neoclassical façade of the Poseidon adventure. The ship appears to be in good shape for being 23 years old. On our arrival on the Empress deck 7, the guests were not allowed access to the staterooms yet. After about a 15 minute wait, the crew finally opened the fire doors allowing for the mass rush of happy vacationers. After a short walk to the rear of the boat, we found our room. The room was well cleaned and our ice bucket was stocked. The room seemed to a bit on the warm side but we thought that was due to us being docked. We turned our air condition on high and then proceed up to the Lido deck 10 to partake in the traditional lunch buffet. The lunch buffet consisted of the usually hamburgers, French fries, hotdogs, pizza, ice cream, New York Deli sandwiches, carved roast beef, Italian food, salads, and fixings. After we finished filling our stomachs with the first of many delicious meals, we headed back to our cabin to get ready for the dreaded muster drill.

 At 16:00, the ships sirens sounded for all the guests to be herded like cattle to their muster stations. The most entertaining part of the drill was watching the first timers putting on their life jackets and getting tangled in the straps. Parents were trying to corral their children and keep them from blowing the whistle. After we met at our muster stations, we were told to climb a flight of stairs to see our lifeboats if we would have to abandon ship. After everyone had performed the required drill, the captain blew the horn announcing it was over. The drill seemed to last an eternity but in actuality it only lasted about 15 minutes. I took both of our lifejackets back to our stateroom. The DW went to the front of the boat to find a great spot to stand as we sailed out of Mobile into international waters. The sunset was absolutely amazing and we watched the last of the sun’s rays sink into the ocean. The moon appeared full and bright while it casted its glow onto the water.

As we made our way back to the stateroom, the party was in full swing. Many of the passengers were already exercising their livers for the massive amounts of alcohol that they would consume. We had several hours to kill and we decided to enjoy one of life’s little indulgences, the hot tub. So, we went back to the room and changed into our bathing suits. I donned the free robe and then we were off to the verandah deck. We joined in the communal bathing with three beautiful ladies. After an hour in the hot tub, toasting the great life and wishing warm wishes to all those stuck in the cold, we headed back to get ready for dinner.

We took our showers and noticed the water pressure was a bit low but nothing intolerable. Warning: turn on the cold water first unless you want scorched skin. Our head cabin steward showed up and introduced himself to us. We asked him why our cabin was not cooling down even though we had been sailing for several hours. He informed us that some of the rooms had been having air condition problems and he would report it. He said that we should report it also in order to speed things along. We immediately went to the purser’s desk where we reported our problem. They said that they would send a maintenance technician to take a temperature reading and check the AC. After we left the purser’s desk, we partook in the free liquor tasting.

Then we were off to dine in the Four Winds dining room at table 139. On our previous cruise, the maitre D did a wonderful job pairing us up with other couples around the same age group and occupation. However on this cruise, the Maitre D dropped the ball. We were placed with three couples that we had hardly anything in common with. Thus, the conversation was forced. The other couple at our table was obviously not use to formal dining. Even though we received poor dining arrangements, the service and food were exceptional.

After dinner, we went back to our room to see if the air had been fixed. When we opened the door, the room was still hot but there was a box-fan setting by the chair. My DW called the purser’s desk to enquire about the AC issue. She was told that the room temperature reading was normal at 25°C. The only solution they offered was to use the box-fan to circulate the air in the cabin. My DW explained to the purser’s attendant that we needed an extra outlet in order to run the fan and my CPAP. The purser’s attendant then told her that they would provide a power-strip for a $25 fee. She asked why we had to pay even though the broken AC was not our fault. The purser’s attendant just didn’t understand my DW. So the DW hung up on the attendant and was very frustrated. We immediately went down to the purser’s desk; since the DW was mad, I did all the talking. I spoke with the other attendant at the desk and he explained the fee was refundable upon return of the power-strip. He also said that he would send another maintenance technician to look at the AC. So we went back to the cabin and plugged in the fan. Not more than 10 minutes later, the technician was at our cabin. He opened the air vent all the way and stated there wasn’t much air flow. So he took the cover completely off the air vent. This seemed to help because there wasn’t anything impeding the air flow. With the cover off and the box-fan circulating the air, the cabin temperature was tolerable. HINT: Bring your own power strip you never know when you may need extra outlets. After the long drive, the alcohol, and fighting with the purser’s staff we were exhausted. So we called the day done and went to bed.

Day 2: Fun day at sea
There are benefits of having an inside cabin. When you turn off the lights, you have no concept of the time of day. So, we slept in until 11:00 and it felt great. After fighting with the purser’s staff the day before, we received two phone calls. One from housekeeping asking about our air condition, and the second was from the purser’s staff asking if the fan was helping the room temp.

Since we had already missed breakfast, we stayed in the cabin and just relaxed until noon. Finally, we decided to leave the cabin because we were both famished. We went to the Lido buffet to enjoy the taste of the worlds. Today’s special was Caribbean but they also had all of the other classic buffet food. After filling up on jerk Chicken and red beans-n-rice, we decided to go outside where we commandeered two lounge chairs. It was a balmy 85 degrees with no clouds in the sky; the water was smooth and the deepest blue you have ever seen. All of the other lounge chairs were occupied by bikini clad sun bathers and the alcohol was flowing like water from the tree of life.

After a couple of hours of lounging on the deck, we helped ourselves to well deserved ice cream. Our cruise director Tory Secoy announced that at 14:30 they were going to host a Win Lose or Draw activity at Cappuccino’s lounge. It sounded like a fun way to kill an hour or so. We did fairly well and were able to help the red team win some points. All of this relaxing is tough so we went back to the cabin for a nap.

After about three hours, we had to get ready for formal night. DW looked absolutely stunning. We got to the Americana Lounge around 19:00 and the Captain opened the doors at 19:15. The Complimentary cocktails were watered down but they keep them coming. DW thought the hors d’oeuvres were bland and kind of chewy. I thought they were a nice touch but cheaper than I remember on other ships. In the dining room this
evening, we had the choice between a Maine lobster tail, prime rib, and other elegant dishes. I couldn’t decide between the first two so I ordered both. The prime rib was very flavorful and cooked to perfection. The lobster was as sweet as any lobster I have ever eaten but it was very small. I know I could have ordered more but I was trying to save room for dessert.

After dinner, we watched the Holiday dancers perform “Xtreme Country.” The show was a huge hit complete with fiddling. When the show ended, we made our way over to Doc Holiday’s lounge where Brad Tassell performed an “R” rated comedy routine. After only 15 minutes, DW made a wise choice and left. I kept thinking it would get better but it didn’t. I honestly felt that I was robbed of an hour of my vacation but worse than that an hour of my life. His whole routine was based on degrading others. When people had enough of him, they left. Then they became his next victims. In my opinion, this show is a waste of time and should be cancelled prior to the next sailing. After this disappointing experience, I decided to hit the hay.

Day Three: Cozumel
The ringing of the alarm clock woke us up at 07:00. We got up immediately and dressed in bathing suits and headed up to the Lido deck for breakfast. As soon as we stepped into the warm Mexican Sunshine, it warmed us to our bones. We noticed that we had not completed our docking process yet. So, we grabbed some breakfast from the buffet and we watched the captain parallel park our floating home. As soon as we cleared customs, we headed down to deck three forward to disembark the ship. As soon as we stepped onto Mexican soil or rather Mexican concrete, I was grabbed by a Mayan warrior who insisted I take a picture with him.

After the pleasantries and pictures were taken, we were free to explore. While walking away from the ship in the hot Mexican sun, I immediately started to feel the effects of it. Luckily I brought a towel from the ship and I wore it over my head to keep the sun from roasting my flesh. As we made our way to the pier, it felt like I was in a Wal-mart store on a Sunday afternoon; except here they spoke better English. We finally found our way to the taxi stand. After discussing the price of a trip to our private beach, we agreed on $15.00. After a very peaceful 15 minute ride, we were dropped off at the Nachi Cocom Beach Club. When we entered the club, we were greeted right away and made to feel right at home. We had gotten there so early that the cashier was not there yet. We were told to help ourselves to a seat on the beach under an umbrella. When the cashier arrived we could settle our tab. The beach is made of crushed shell and coral, but it is crushed so fine it almost appears to be white sand. The water is smooth and clear with an aqua marine color. You could see the bottom in the entire swimming area. The club also has a fresh water pool and hot tub just steps from the beach. The restaurant on the beach is an open air cabana that has about 15 tables. Once the cashier arrived, we paid the remainder of our deposit for a total of $100.00 for two people. The price includes admission to the beach, all you can eat, and all you can drink. Once the tab was paid, they banded us with purple wrist bands and introduced us to our personal waiter for the day. The first order of business was to get a drink.

While in Mexico, I figured that I must start with tequila. My first order was a Margarita. The DW decided on a fresh strawberry daiquiri. We found our way back to our umbrella and lounged on the beach with “sun tanned toes tickling the sand and a cold drink chilling in our right hand”. After we finished drinking, DW relaxed in one of the many hammocks while I played in the water. After a few more drinks that were brought right out to us by a very attentive waiter, we were ready for lunch. Our waiter brought out a menu and told us that we could choose 3 dishes a piece. DW went for the nachos and I went for the fresh guacamole. Both dishes were outstanding. After eating authentic Mexican food, we were hungry for more. So we ordered our main course; DW had the fried tacos and I had the chicken, beef, and shrimp fajitas. All I can say is WOW!!! If you have never had authentic Mexican food, you have never had Mexican. After a couple more hours playing in the water, DW wanted dessert so she ordered coconut ice cream. She said it was absolutely delicious and it had freshly shredded coconut inside. However, I was still to full to indulge in anything else. When the waiter brought the ice cream, I told him to summon a cab for us. The DW finished her ice cream and we both got ready to leave. It only took about 15 minutes for the cab to get there.

My thoughts on Nachi Cocom: you get a very private beach, all you can eat, and all you can drink. All of this and you still come out cheaper than a cruise ship tour. This beach is really a great deal and a true piece of paradise. When we make it back to Cozumel, we will be coming here again. The cab driver helped us into his van and started back to the cruise terminal. We informed him that we wanted to go shopping and he immediately turned into a tour guide telling us the best places to go to get what we wanted. After a 20 minute drive and a fare of $20.00, he dropped us off at the Forum Shops. While we were souvenir shopping, we spotted a tequillaria international. This place gives out free sample of tequila and they don’t care how many samples your take. After trying several samples, I wanted to try the tequila with the worm in the bottle “Mezcal.” After downing the shot, I thought I had taken my last breath. I heard the angels singing, I felt fire run down my throat, and it hit me like a Mike Tyson punch right in the gut. It felt like I had swallowed a fully loaded tobacco barn. It was very smoky and not smooth or pleasant at all.

After nearly meeting my maker, I was unsure if I wanted Mexican tequila at all. Next we stopped at Los Cinco Soles and this place is great because they have everything you want. We found a great deal on some Mexican blankets, 100% Vanilla, and 100% agave tequila. After we finished shopping, it was time to walk back to the ship. While walking back to the ship we were asked at least a million times if we wanted a taxi, we just kindly shook our heads and said no. Tip: walk on the side closest to the water there are less people and fewer people trying to sell you things. On our arrival back at the ship, we went through the metal detectors. They asked if we had any alcohol and we said told them we did. They told us to check it in beside the elevators and we told them that we would. After we cleared the metal detectors, there was a line to check-in the alcohol. So instead of getting in the line, we just took the stairs to the right and bypassed having our tequila confiscated. Nothing was ever said.

Once we were back in our stateroom, the DW and I took a cool shower and passed out for a couple of hours. DW wanted to play a few trivia games in Cappuccino’s lounge. The first game she played was “Name That Kiss.” During this game, they showed one still shot from each movie and you had to name the movie. Well since her DH is such a great kisser or she watches a lot of movies, she won the game with 35 out of a possible 40. For winning the game, they presented her with a pewter carnival medallion. Next, we played Shout about Movies. It was fun except we kept getting interrupted by all of the Alabama fans on board the ship. They wanted to watch the BIG game on the TV that we were using for the movie game. However the ship did not have the correct ESPN channel. After the game, it was dinner time. Dress was cruise casual and we had another fantastic meal with exceptional service.

After dinner we made our way to the showroom to watch Yolanda Barber and her amazing vocal talents. She was followed by John Floyd and his comic routine. After about an hour of a fairly entertaining show, we headed to the Lido deck for the deck party and all you can eat Mexican buffet. Someone must have pissed off Poseidon because the seas got rough. In fact the seas got so rough that the crew had to shut the huge steel storm doors, to keep people off of the top 2 decks. We were heading right into 42 knot head winds and this caused the ship to shake, rattle, and roll. You know it’s a bad sign when they place those little white baggies every wear. One guy ran out on the deck and decided to sell Buicks over the side of the ship. After an evening of watching the little green people rush past us to their rooms, we decided to call the day done.

Day 4: Not so fun day at sea
The sea rocked us to sleep until noon. Once we got up, we headed to the Lido deck for the lunch buffet. The ship was still being treated like a rag doll so most of the decks were still closed due to the high winds. After lunch, I went to the Park West Art Auction. The DW joined in on the trivia games at Cappuccino’s lounge. The art auction was alright. After just a few minutes, I found the DW and played trivia games with her. We stayed there until it was time for us to gather for the galley tour. The galley tour was an interesting experience however it was not as detailed as I would have liked for it to be. With this being our last day at sea, we decided that it would be a good time to take our last nap. We slept from 17:00 until the alarm clock woke us up at 18:30. Then we got up and headed for the show in the Americana lounge featuring the Holiday dancers. The name of this show was “Shout.” It was a knock off Broadway style show that featured music from the 50’s, country, Caribbean, Motown, and finished up with gospel music. The show was entertaining and had some good songs. However I think that the “Xtreme Country” show was much better.

After the show was over, we proceeded to the dining room for our final meal. The waiters and there assistants put on a rousing goodbye special after yet another wonderful meal. After eating, we went back to our cabin to see if the alcohol I purchased had been delivered. When we entered the cabin, I was disappointed. I did not see the white carnival gift shop boxes sitting anywhere. So, I called the purser’s desk to find out when my booze would be delivered. They said it should already be there. I asked them to check my sail and sign card to see if my alcohol purchase had been added. They did not have a record of my purchase. Luckily the gifts shops were still open. So I shuffled my tail up to the liquor store so I could restock my liquor cabinet. Watch out Canucks Team USA will be hard to beat. After bringing back my duty free booze, the DW and I decided to hit the disco. When we walked in the “Cupid Shuffle” was playing, the DW headed straight to the dance floor. So, I found a couch against the wall that was in full view of the door and the dance floor. The very next song was “Whatever You Like” by T.I. and my DW busted out her moves. The entire club erupted with cheers and applause as she dropped it like it was hot. We stayed in the disco for several hours just enjoying the music. Then “Baby Got Back” came on and we both hit the floor. We amazed everyone in the club with our ghetto fabulous moves. After turning up the heat on the floor, we decided to cool down on Lido deck with some ice cream. Then we headed back to the cabin for showers and bed.

Day 5: Debarkation Day
They told us that self assist check out would start between 08:00 and 08:15. So, we got up at 07:00 and went up to the Lido deck where we had our last cruise meal. When we finished eating, we went back to the cabin to relax until they forced us to walk the plank. At 09:15 the US Customs finally declared the ship clear and allowed the process to start. We were the very last deck called to leave during the self assist departure. This is absolutely the worse debarkation that we have ever experienced. We were forced to stand in line with 300 of our fellow cruise mates. The customs agents were separated into 6 lines and they gave each person in their line the third degree. When we finally reached the customs agent, he asked us the normal questions. We informed him that we had exceeded our alcohol limit. He kindly overlooked our discretion and allowed us to pass through without having to pay the duty. On our previous ship, a custom officer boarded the ship and was placed in the library. Each passenger that needed to declare any overages on their purchases paid their duties while on the ship. The agent then gave you a receipt. When you disembarked, all you had to do was show your receipt. This allowed you to pass all the lines, agents, medal detectors, and the bag search. When we cleared customs, we called for our rental car agent to come pick us up. After an hour wait due to a massive traffic jam on the port end, he picked us up in a 2007 Ford Mustang. We had a slight problem getting our luggage into the trunk, but once everything was jammed in the trunk. We rode in style down to the Hertz office. Then we signed our paperwork and he tossed me the keys to the mustang. Pretty cool I arrived in a Toyota Corolla and get to leave in a Ford Mustang. The journey home was a blast as I got to see what the Mustang could do.

Final thoughts: The trip was a well deserved vacation, that both I and DW had a good time on. We would go back to Cozumel right now if given the chance. However, we would not cruise again on the Carnival Holiday. The Holiday must have been a heck of a ship back in its day. But today it is showing its age and really needs to be replaced. When the fantasy class of ships arrives in the port of Mobile, I will give it a try. However it is going to be hard to replace Port Canaveral as our home port, even if Mobile is six hours closer. I hope you enjoyed reading this trip report as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.

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