There is something about watching the sea as it goes by, the zephyr that hits your face and the ambiance about being on a voyage. This trip was special as we were going to explore Ocho Rios for the first time. Our vessel of convenience was the Carnival Conquest, nearly 1000 foot ship with over 3000 patrons and over 1000 crew. It was built in 2002 refurbished in 2012.
CCL, known as Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world. It also incorporates the popular Princess Cruises; the respected Holland America line; the famous Cunard Line and a few others. CCL owns 85% of all cruises.
Carnival ships are known for its “party attitude.” On our last few Carnival Cruises, indeed, there was a younger vibe present. The older generation which the Bielicki’s are associated with is a welcomed minority. There are times of the year when the prices are lower and the ports of call are interesting.
From our house to Park N Go in Ft. Lauderdale is exactly 92 miles. Many other cruisers were flying in that day from around the nation. For seven dollars a day, parking at Park N Go not a bad price.
We had the early 11:30AM check-in. There were hundreds of people already at the port. The process did not take long. The snafu was that Kathie had a wrong name on her ship to sign card which acts like an onboard credit card. She was given a “500” number card which meant another thirty minute wait at the entrance of the ship until a new card was issued. There were five people in the same ‘boat,’ forgive the pun, who had the same problem. I called these people “The 500 Club.”
I did meet another husband waiting, Paul, and they were from Bay City, Michigan. Waiting did not settle well with me. At least give these people “free drinks” for patiently waiting! No free Champaign when entering this ship.
We had a balcony room on the tenth Panorama floor, room 1030 located on the forward port side of the ship. We were one floor up from the lido where food was served and the main pool area was located; and one floor down from the gym and the walking area. The views from the balcony were priceless sunsets, sunrises and a full moon.
I think one of the most exciting times on the cruise when the ship departs the port. There is no better sound than the ship’s horn, “boooob boooob.” At this time, the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show was in progress. We have never seen so many boats in the ocean.
The Coast Guard followed us out. In the front of that craft was a guard over a machine gun. They were not fooling around. I see they do this procedure for every cruise.
A large pool party was going on. When the loud ship horn goes off, you know the ship is underway. It was sunny, not too warm and just right.
The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. Our stateroom person was a young woman from Serbia. Our Main Dining Room waiters were from Indonesia, Philippines and Slovakia.
The Captain of the ship was from Italy as we could tell from his voice. We particularly liked a Jamaican waiter name ODana Trevor. His wife was in Hungary with their children and he was about to take a four month break to see them. Trevor is a young member of the crew with over six years’ experience.
The first day at sea we found several programs of interest. Kathie enjoyed the lecture about “Posture and Your Feet.” We also went to a presentation about ship excursions. Unfortunately, we did not win any prizes being given away. On a Holland American cruise to Alaska Kathie won a bingo game worth $300.
Jamaica is a poor country. From the ship you can see the high mountains in the distance. They look impressive. Hurricanes have a tough time through them.
Our independent guide, Peat Taylor, said not to take any gifts from people. “You will pay for them!” as I remember him saying. Peat and his son’s operates a small tour company out of Ocho Rios. A good friend had recommended him from a previous tour back in 2005. Peat is still in business and operates a reliable company. Our last independent tour in Cozumel in 2014 a company never picked us up!
Today’s highlight was climbing the famous Dunn River Falls. Along the way Peat pointed out the complex that was used in James Bond movie, “Dr. No.” The factory looks like it did back in 1963.
The Dunn River Falls is just large enough to walk back and forth from one side of the falls, a reasonably safe and has been patronized by millions.
The area is quite organized with clean bathrooms, lockers and there are even Jamaican guides to take you up the falls.
Dave was our guide and the video man was Leroy. Dave and Leroy are awesome.
Starting from the sea, you are collected in a reasonable sized group where you are told to “hold hands” with the person in front and behind you as the group ascends the falls.
My heart was pounding as I could tell this was not going to be easy. Luckily, I was with five happy black women from St. Louis who took care of me. They thought I “was in good shape” being that I was 62. One of the toughest parts was bending low beneath this bridge.
I must admit that I fell a few times and even lost my water shoe for a short while. Everything turned out well. Kathie took the stairway trail up the falls and followed me.
There is a sense of relief when you are at the end. Dave, our guide, took a picture of Kathie and me. He well deserved the tip we handed him.
We found the food on Carnival Conquest quite good. In the main dining room Kathie enjoyed the shrimp and lobster dish and the kale salads. I liked the pork loin and the shrimp creole dishes. Unfortunately, on a six day cruise there was no escargot. My favorite desert was the vanilla crème brulee. The service in the dining room was superb. On the lido deck Guy Fieri’s hamburgers are excellent. I also enjoyed the fromage pizza made with Blue Cheese. The BBQ beef was good too. We got to the point of eating only a breakfast and dinner. The lunch put us way over the top.
Meeting people is one of our main highlights of any cruise. Brenda and Gene became our fast friends. They had a business in telecommunications. Now living south of Nashville, they are enjoying retirement like we do: traveling.
We did fall back in love with Grand Cayman Island. We have traveled there several times. We walked from the port to Seven Mile beach. Along the way we stopped at the waterside Burger King. It has the best view of all burger joints we have ever known.
The sea was crystal clear and reasonably warm. We walked five miles along the beach and would take a dip every hundred yards or so. It was a marvelous day.
We noticed that the Margaritaville Resort is now in operation. They took over what was our favorite place, Treasure Island. At the far end of Seven Mile beach is the new and expansive Kemper Hotel. There is plenty of room along that beach for everyone.
Instead of taking a taxi back, we took public transportation. For a total of five dollars we rode back to the port by a van. Locals use these vans to get around. It is a neat alternative than having a car and paying higher gas prices on the island.
Ironically, this was the first time we didn’t get samples of Tortuga Rum Cake. This cake is famous for the island. We told ourselves we need to come back by plane next time. Grand Cayman’s is a prosperous island with many activities to do.
Wave runners were instore for us in Cozumel, Mexico, our last port of call.
Kathie and I have never been one of those contraptions. Our problem was that our wave runner was hooked on a buoy out in the cove with no area to stand. We had a tough time getting on! The throttle is actually opposite of a bicycle break. We found the entire experience “jarring.” I don’t think we will ever get on a wave runner again.
Cozumel is our least favorite port. At one time, it was one of our favorite places. The economy has gone down and the port is now outside of town in their own facility.
There is a bit of sadness when the cruise ends. We will most likely never see this crew again and our fast friends will depart to areas up north. There were not many “drunken” people as we would expect. Maybe Spring break was over and the crowd was a bit mature? We don’t know how anyone could have 15 alcoholic drinks in a day.
We managed to go through Customs and the port rather quickly as we are “Global Assist” members. We did not have to wait in that long line.
Memories will be brought back from time to time with our pictures and video. Nevertheless, it was a safe cruise, a fun cruise and parts of this cruise will never be forgotten.