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Old May 5th, 2008, 09:29 PM
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May5- Funchal, Madeira – Freedom
Land Ho! After 5 “interesting” days at sea crossing the Atlantic, we docked this morning about an hour early, at 10:00 AM.

The stampede to the gangway was ON! Everyone thought they should be the first off, except for us. The clouds were hanging over the mountain top of Monte, so we decided we were in no rush to get ashore. Our plans entailed taking a shuttle in to the center of town, and strolling through the town of Funchal until the clouds cleared and then take the cable car up to the town of Monte.

The shuttle is not provided by Carnival; it costs 4 Euro per person, and is a total rip off. The last time we were here the shuttle did indeed drop you in the center of town. It now drives up the center, shows you where it is, and then turns around and drives almost ¾ of the way back to the ship to a new drop off point… near a shopping galleria (mmm). For 5 Euro you can get a taxi to drop you off wherever you like in town.

Around 11 AM Mrs. Kuki and me, as well as Kuki Jr. and my future daughter-in-law, set out to wander Funchal. Me and Mrs. Kuki had been here before, and know what a real gem of a stop this is. People who have never visited, aren’t normally aware of what to expect, and are most pleasantly surprised. The island is scenic, the town of Funchal lovely, and colorful with flowers everywhere. The most fun and unusual thing to do is something called “the sledge ride”. It’s a large wicker basket, large enough for two people to sit down in and it’s propelled down the steep streets by two men, who run behind it, turning corners by pulling on ropes attached to either side of the basket. If they want to slow the basket, they use their feet as brakes. Carnival no longer offers this tour, and gave some warnings to the passengers about doing it, but having done it before, frankly I really don’t see any extreme danger; and this coming from someone who hates midway rides at the Fair.

Having “sledged” before, we spent the morning and part of the afternoon walking, and bonding with our son and fiancé. We stopped at the central market, and wandered the side streets, then stopped in one of the many restaurants for a late lunch. After enjoying an excellent lunch “the kids” took a taxi to the beautiful botanical gardens, while Mrs. Kuki and I walked casually back to the ship, as the clouds up in the hills were still hanging low.

Sampling the famous local wines.

Now these are SARDINES.

And we stumbled across this “interesting” offer…

I really enjoyed tonight’s menu in the dining room. Even though we had a late lunch, I still ordered 4 courses… a pasta, a soup, a salad, and a Rib-eye steak. The servers we have are excellent, but some nights, like tonight, the service is slow. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the servers! The problem lies in galley.

This is the third cruise since Carnival reverted to its previous standard of two set dining times. In Jan. when we last sailed this ship, there were four dining times; 5:45, 6:15, 8:00, and 8:30. The decision to change back to two was made because not that many passengers were happy when they were assigned the 5:45 or 8:30 times. Therefore they decided just an early and a late seating was the solution.

The problem now arises with all waiters or assistants from both dining rooms coming to the galley at the same times looking for the same items, and there are no extra staff in the galley to capably handle the onslaught of orders.

I discussed this issue with servers from several teams in the dining room, not just those from our table. They all complain of the same issues. All the guests at their tables agree, the servers are great, and they can see they are doing their best, but are not being given ideal conditions to be able to serve the guests efficiently, in a timely manner.

Interestingly Jack the Butter-Knife’s table was nearly empty tonight. Maybe they found some plastic cutlery in town today and were up on Lido Deck for a final showdown; spoons and forks at 20 paces.

After dinner tonight the headliner in the showroom was Mel Mellers, a comedy magician act, who Mrs. Kuki reports, was very funny. I went up on Lido Deck for awhile to watch Karaoke “Under the Stars”, which I thought is another great idea, which was just lacking talented participants.

From there I headed to the casino for a bit of blackjack, and for a change managed to stay and play for a bit before losing my money. The blackjack tables on Carnival Corporation ships use automatic continuous card shufflers. For those who know the game, the shufflers change the game considerably, and lean the odds further to the favor of the house. I have myself, avoided the tables much more than I usually do because of this.
After returning to the ship from Funchal today, I was able to load many more pictures into the photo galleries; Some from the past several days; from our CruiseMates Cocktail Party, from the dining room, and from our day in Funchal… if you’d like to take a peek.
And today there’s some television available in the cabins. We’re no receiving BBC News, and Sky News from Great Britain. Tonight we didn't have to change the clocks. YEA!! A 24 hr day!
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