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Old February 10th, 2005, 01:22 PM
Michelle Potchak
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Default 1/29/05 Grand Review- very long, but worth it

First thoughts- WOW! What a great cruise! Staff kept you entertained and food was really good. I can't wait to go on this cruise again.

Day 1- Embarkation in Galveston
After a long morning of flying in (our flight was at 6:30 am), we grabbed the Princess shuttle in the Houston airport. A Princess rep was there to greet us and told us what we needed to do, and where we needed to be to catch the shuttle. We were originally told that the shuttle would leave at 12:30 pm, and get to Galveston around 2. However, they must have gotten everyone they could so they left around 11:30 so we got in an hour earlier than we thought, so we got in around 1pm. Embarkation was a breeze. Just like someone else mentioned, as fast as you could walk is how fast you got through the process. Once we got through the line, onboard we went. We found our cabin, dropped off our carry on stuff and met our steward Larry. Before we ran off to get lunch, we decided to find the place where we could make the reservations for Sabatini's. Found it with no trouble, and made our reservations for 7:30pm the next night. After this we went to the Horizon court to grab some lunch. The food itself wasn't bad, but the fruit and beef left a lot to be desired, however, the desserts we had to go back for seconds! We went up to register for the free spa treatments, and went on to our muster drill. No one ever likes muster drills, but the crew made the most of it. They were a fun bunch. We even got a picture in our lifejackets! We dropped off our lifejackets and went to the Lido deck for the sailaway party. What a blast! The crew was really getting into it and seemed to be enjoying themselves, a lot. They gave away some good stuff, but we were not lucky enough to win anything. After the deck party it was time to go up to the spa for their giveaways. They need to get a bigger space for the giveaway for this one. There were at least 100 people trying to squeeze in to the small reception area for the giveaways. Again, not lucky enough to win, but kinda glad since one of the prizes was a couples massage teaching session, basically they teach you how to give your partner a massage. Went to the 7pm show and the best I can say is "CHEESY"!! They did a take on a Ricky Martin song talking about being at sea. The singers and dancers were good, but they need a new show. Although you did get to meet the cruise director staff, which we would find out would know us very well by the end of the cruise. Checked out the casino quickly, no donations this time, but was surprised to see how small the casino was for a ship of about 3000 people. Went to dinner in Michaelangelo and met some great people (we affectionately referred to them for the rest of the cruise as the royal family). After dinner we went to check out the Karaoke, and there were a ton of people there. I have to say that with that many people there, they need to have this longer than 1 hour long. From there we headed to bed after a very, very long first day.

Day 2 - Day at sea
Woke up only to find out there was no hot water in our room. After 2 of us got showers, they finally showed up to fix it. I was the only one in the room to get a hot shower, so boy am I glad I waited. Went to breakfast at the horizon court and was pleasantly surprised, although found my eyes to be way bigger than my stomach. From breakfast, we went to the port talk for Costa Maya, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We got all the raffle tickets so we could try to win all kinds of good stuff. We decided to check out the scavenger hunt from there, and were determined to get everything on the list, which proved to be tricky with a toupee and false teeth on the list. We finally decided to check out the casino again, but this time was for gaming lessons. Daniel our teacher, did a great job teaching us craps, even though we still ended up losing money later on. From there went to lunch, and then onto Swing lessons with Michelle and James. They were great teachers too. It was quite comical because they split us up into men and women and taught us the steps individually first, then put us together after we learned the steps. It was a very good time, and I was very happy that I didn't hurt anyone in the process. From swing lessons we attempted to go play water volleyball only to find out they canceled it since no one really wanted to play. So, instead we checked out the Dicey Wooden Horse racing. That was a hoot. For those of you who do not know what this is, they take 6 wooden horses numbered 1-6 and they way they move up the track is by throwing 3 dice and the numbers on the dice determine who advances. James did a great job calling the race cause I really felt like I was in Saratoga all over again! Once the horse races were over, we stuck around for a little bit to get an orange bingo card for the scavenger hunt. From there we decided we were exhausted and needed a nap before formal night. Then we got all dressed up and checked out Sabatini's for our reservation there. I must say that I was disappointed in only 1 thing there, and that was that they didn't stand by the formal night dress code. We seemed to be the only ones dressed up for the longest time there. Others were dressed in normal casual wear. But, this was the only thing I was disappointed in. The food there was absolutely amazing, and the service even better. We got to try everything on the menu, except for the entree's which is what you got to choose. We were so full on dinner, that we had to get dessert to go, and ate that the next day during the comedy show. We were thinking that we would go to the Princess Idol auditions, then to skywalkers, but only made it as far as the princess idol, and decided to food had gotten the best of us and we needed to go to bed.

Day 3- Belize
Since we were not scheduled to get into Belize until 1 pm ewe decided that we could easily sleep in. So we slept til almost 9 am and went down to breakfast in the horizon court again. We never did try the dining rooms for breakfast since we were so pleased with the buffet. From breakfast we were off to the Diamond and Gemstone talk so we could attempt to win some bling bling, only to be interrupted by the captain telling us that we were going to be arriving in Belize 1.5 hours late. What a disappointment. We were most looking forward to Cave tubing in Belize, and with the late arrival there was no chance for that. Since we were arriving so late, we decided to grab our suits and head to the pool for most of the day til we arrived in Belize. Since most of the tours were canceled due to the late arrival, tendering was a nightmare! We got in line around 2:30 and didn't get a ticket til about 3, and finally on a tender at 3:30. Then the tendering took another 20 mins to get to shore. By the time we got there it was 4 pm and last tender was around 6:15, so we didn't even have a lot of time to shop. Shop around a little bit in the gated area and decided not to leave the gated area because it did not appear to be safe. Once we got back we decided to shower and go see the comedian Jack Wilkes. Boy was he funny! He made the best joke about finding out about the origin of "the virus". He said it was in the hand soap so all of you who hadn't been washing your hands are safe! He was very funny, really enjoyed him. Went to see the magician, Gene Boucher, after that and he was really good too. A couple of the acts he did were ones we have seen before, but there were the few that we had no idea how he did them at all. He was very funny and really enjoyed this show. From there went to dinner in the horizon court and to make our donation to the casino. We decided to try our hands at craps for the first time and I lost a small fortune. Then I tried to win it back at every other table with absolutely no luck. I even tried the Megacash Bash twice and blanked on both attempts. I guess my gambling karma wasn't that good on this trip. Finally after our donations, it was beddy by time.

Day 4 Costa Maya
WHAT A DAY! If it weren't for the sting rays in Grand Cayman, I would have to say this was my favorite day. We decided to attempt to get up early so we could be some of the first off the ship so we could enjoy the whole day in Costa Maya. Went to breakfast, and off the ship we went. We got there so early we had our choice of chairs, and paid $6 each for an all day rental. We didn't mind because we got the chairs that had cushions on them. Our chairs were off to the left of Tapas bar right on the beach, next to 2 massage locations. Really nice spot where you could get right into the water and snorkel. Snorkeling was ok, but the reef was a little ways out, so you didn't get the best views, but it was good to get some practice in before Grand Cayman. We mainly laid on the beach, got some food from Tapas (Fried Conch and Shrimp with Tequila Sauce, both I highly recommend.) We also got some drinks from our waiter (He asked us to call him Antonio Banderas, but his real name was Jose). The pina colada that my girlfriend got was the best one ever! It was fantastic, made with real coconut milk and pineapple juice. Yummy! After lunch, Traci, one of my girlfriends went for a massage and Britt went for hair braiding. Once Traci returned, I went to have my hair braided and get a henna tattoo. Couldn't beat the price. $25 for half a head braiding and a pretty big tattoo, which my husband hates! Went back to the main port area, did more shopping then back to the ship, only to find out I forgot to pick up a ring I bought in town! Nuts! It was already 3:15 when that was the time for all aboard. I ran back to the shop only to find out they delivered it! AHH!! So I had to run back just to make sure I didn't miss the boat. Made it just in time. After I got back to the room, my girlfriends and I went up to the Neptune pool to play the Pool Olympics. The first event was a number game where everyone on the team was given a plate with a number from 1-6, then they would call out a 6 digit number and you had to swim across the pool and get in order. My team lost all but one of these I think. The next event was tube wrestling. They put you in one of the life preservers and you had to get the person out of it. I was the only person on my team to win, and I was also the quickest! After this I was identified as the most competitive person on the ship.After losing the first two events, we came back in the final event! The final event was a relay where you had to swim across the pool, chug a beer, blow up a balloon, swim back across the pool, then sit on the balloon to pop it. The cruise staff here was fun, but they were cheating to help the other team (they kept putting holes in our balloons or blowing up the other teams balloons) so I tried running over and throwing them in, but no luck. Being only 4'11" it was hard throwing in a 6'5" man! But it at least got a laugh from the crowd. That was a lot of fun! After the pool games, we decided the Oasis hot tub was in order. My poor little legs were hurting from running back to town and all that swimming in the pool. We decided that this was a fantastic idea since we just caught the sunset and met some great people! Went to dinner then to the casino for more donations. Britt tried the blackjack tournament but to no avail. From there we went to the International Crew show. What a great show- the highlight of the cruise was the "If I were not upon the Sea" portion. From this day forward, we continued to sing the song through the hallways! It was hysterical, if for nothing else than seeing James in a tu-tu.

Day 5 Grand Cayman
Even though the itinerary says that it was going to be a 12pm start in Grand Cayman, we determined that we were getting in around 10:30, so we pretty much only had time to get to breakfast, get a trivia sheet, then it was off to the explorers lounge for a tender ticket. We actually got there so early we were able to get on the first tender off. The tender process here was much better than in Belize. The tenders are larger so more people can fit on them, and it is only about a 10 min ride into town. We got off the tender and looked for our tour guide. We were originally scheduled with Dexter's Fantasea tours, but couldn't find him anywhere on the dock. So we booked at the dock with Moby Dick tours. Best decision! I don't know how good Dexter's would have been, but Moby dick was fantastic! Great tour guides that showed you how to get the Stingrays to come up to you so you could hold them. It was really an amazing experience. From there we went to a 2nd location which was only a little ways off from that one and did some real snorkeling and it was really neat. The current was a little high so the swimming was difficult, so we didn't stay long. Once we got back we did some more shopping and bought our liquor and rum cakes at Tortugas. I haven't actually had a chance to try mine yet, but I am told they are fantastic. I guess I should be glad I only bought a really small one. Once we got back onboard the ship, we showered and changed. Traci thought the captain's circle reception was this night, but was mistaken- the formal attire should have been a dead giveaway- So we met up with her and got a drink from Snookers. Was not all that impressed with there, but got our drink and off to dinner we went. For some reason, they put us at a table for just the 3 of us, and we waited 10 mins to be greeted with menus and drink requests. Very disappointed with this. I think we determined that the service is much better when you sit at a table with more people. From here, we went to the island night party and it was a blast. The crew was really getting into it having a good time. They had a musical man game, just like musical chairs except with men. Britt was doing really well until one woman wanted the man so bad she stomped on poor Britt's toe. That swelled up so she had to spend the rest of the night sitting down. Traci and I didn't let that stop us, so we partied all night long with the staff. From there we went to Skywalkers for the first time and got another stamp in our bar hopper card. Skywalkers was neat, but wasn't all that big of a deal to me.

Day 6 Cozumel
Woke up around 8:30 am and went to breakfast. Just as we were finishing up with breakfast, the captain came on and said that we were read to disembark. We got off the ship and hit the local stores there. Once we were finished with those we grabbed a cab to downtown. Took a few photos in front of Carlos and Charlies/Senor Frog's and off shopping again. We got a lot of raffle tickets for the ship so we decided which ones we wanted the most and found those stores. After a lot more shopping than we intended, we grabbed a cab to Paradise Beach. Now, before I go on, I have to say that I was not all that thrilled with downtown Cozumel because the place is in shambles right now. They are doing a lot of construction on the roads, so you have hundreds of people walking around on very thin sidewalks trying to get around. It was horrible. Once we left the downtown area, it wasn't so bad. Paradise beach was actually quite nice and not very crowded by the time we got there. We arrived around 2:30pm and decided not to pay for the watersports and just laid on the beach. I got a very large Pina Colada in a Pineapple(which had a face made out of fruit), and grabbed a menu to get some food. My girlfriends got the Nachos and I got the childrens chicken fingers. Both were very good and enjoyed them thoroughly. We named our Pineapple after our room steward, I know it is strange but that is what we do, and finished it up. After we were finished up with our food, we sat a little while longer in the shade, and then headed back to the ship. We got back to the ship and got showers to get ready for formal night. Traci was headed off to the Captains Circle reception while Britt and I got ready. Went to dinner and I have to say if you haven't gotten 2 entrees all week, tonight is the night to do it! They had Caribbean lobster tail on the menu as well as Beef Wellington. I had one of each. The wellington part of the beef was ok, so I skipped it and ate only the beef which was very good. The lobster was FANTASTIC! Several people at our table ordered 2 lobster entrees which each had 2 big tails on them. After this, we went to the Princess Idol auditions and apparently the staff was having a rough time so they asked us to sing. I was actually shocked because so few people were there. The first couple of nights were jammed packed and on this night, there weren't that many and several people actually sang twice. From there we checked out the Champagne waterfall and what a neat sight. When people say this is not to be missed they weren't kidding! While we were getting a drink from the Lobby bar, we bumped into Michelle and James from the Cruise Staff and got pictures of them while we could. James was actually a little concerned about us because he hadn't seen us all day! He said the horse racing just wasn't the same without us. He promised to get us drunk if we would just come to the final one the next day by keeping us in the Champagne enclosure. We told him as long as it didn't interfere with the raffles, we would be there! They had to run, and our food was tiring us out again, so off to bed we went!

Day 7 -Day at Sea
We woke up at our leisure and went for breakfast. The scavenger hunt was closing at noon, so we ran up to the golf links to get a signature, and found out that the dancers are usually manning the tables out in the lobby, so we got a dancer's signature as well. We ran back to the room before noon to finish up with our creativity (we actually created a toupee and false teeth), and we actually ended up getting everything on the list. We were the only ones to do so, so we won a bag of goodies. Went to lunch then off to play some Jeopardy. Decided that we suck! And waited for the raffle which was also in the Vista Lounge. We waited around and finally I won a 1L bottle of Kahlua, now I was just sorry that I had already bought 2 bottles of it! When the raffles were over, we waited around since the Dicey Wooden Horseracing was next. We were a lot luckier the first time we played, but we still had a lot of fun. The first time we got to be horses, the second time we got to name them. I really enjoyed this! From there we went back to the room to see if we were selected for Princess Idol. I was disappointed not to find a notice waiting for me, but decided to go down to see who got picked. As it turned out, they had my wrong room number, so it was a good thing I showed up anyway! So I waited around for the rehearsal, and Britt and Traci relaxed in the room. I met up with them afterwards and we got ready for dinner and enjoyed our last dinner on the ship. From there we got a drink from the final bar we needed to complete the bar hopper card. Once we finished our drink, I finished packing and getting ready for the show. Went down to the vista lounge, and into the "green room". It is amazing to me what you learn backstage! Met all the celebrity judges, Brian the lead male singer, Leslie, the lead female singer, and I can't remember his name but he was the Australian Bandleader. I had the unfortunate luck to go last. But at least I got to see how things worked. Tyrone would introduce you, you would sing your song, the judges make comments, then Ryan would bring you back into the Green Room for a quick interview. Sarah, the first girl, was 19 yrs old, she sang "We Can" from Leanne Rimes, and for some reason, the screen wasn't working so she had no words to sing by. Judges complimented her for being able to do it without the words. Next up was Gayle, who sang "Man I feel like a woman," from Shania Twain. Eddie came next, I think that was his name, and he sang "Some of God's greatest gifts" not sure who it was by. Another Sarah was supposed to be next, but they queued up the wrong song, so Tony had to go. He sang "My way" from Frank Sinatra. I have never seen anyone sing with such feeling before in my life! Sarah finally got the right song up, and she sang "Not a girl" from Brittany Spears. Unfortunately, Sarah was not feeling well, so it was not her best performance, but she did well. Finally, it was my turn, I sang "Don't be Stupid" from Shania Twain, and just had fun with it. The judges were very kind, although, couldn't really understand the Australian guy. He said something about wanting to be a country trumpeter, I don't know. Tyrone brought us all back out again, and announced me as the winner, and I got to sing again, the only unfortunate thing about it was I had to sing the same song I had just sung 5 mins before. It was a great experience and I was getting recognized a lot the next day, even in the airport! Went up to Skywalkers afterwords, only to find out that I was the only one there from Princess Idol, not even the cruise staff were there. I met up with some fun people, shared my bottle of champagne, then off to bed I went.

Day 8- Disembarkation
Least favorite day for obvious reasons. We had an early ticket so we went down for the customs around 7 am, then off to breakfast. Once we were done there, we headed back to the room to nap and read books until we were called to leave. We were called I think around 8-8:30 and were off the ship around 9. The disembarkation itself wasn't bad at all, however, the bus situation needs a lot of work. I sat around for about an hour waiting for a bus because they would only give out as many numbers as were seats on the bus. Then you had to wait for the next one, if you didn't get one of those numbers, you were out of luck, again. I finally got on the 3rd bus, and it wasn't like they just had them waiting to pull up either. It was horrible. They need to have a booth set up that everyone goes to to get their number for their bus, then call them out like the delis at home. Something a little more organized would be appreciated for certain! Finally got on a bus and off to the airport I went. Got to the airport around 11:30 and got my tix and grabbed some lunch. My flight wasn't due to leave until 3:50 pm so I had a lot of time to wait. Finally, got on my plane and left.

Good's-
Cruise Staff- whoever said that the staff wasn't very good must have been a sourpuss because we had a blast!
Food- Although, this was not 5 star quality, it was just as good as several of the more expensive restaurants we like to frequent at home. By the way, the butter and the rolls were all very good during our week! I even tried escargot and liked it! Thank goodness they took it out of the shells for me!
Costa Maya- Wonderful day to relax!
Grand Cayman- Snorkeling with the stingrays- do not go on the ship's tour. They arrived after us at stingray city, and got education for 15mins before they were able to get in the water, then left at the same time we did!

Bad's
Karoake- I am not saying the Karaoke was bad, but it definitely needs more time early on in the week. Too many people wanting to sing, and not enough time to get everyone in.
Belize- They need to totally skip this port, or give us more time in it because with us being so late, we didn't get to do an excursion and this is not a place to go exploring on your own.

Larry the room steward- Now I have only been on one cruise before, but we had a great steward there. He made up our beds properly and even left us nice towel animals. Here, Larry was awful. We had to ask multiple times to get robes and champagne glasses in the room. He would constantly move stuff (we finally called it "being larried" by the end of the week) and we would have a hard time finding it, then we would find them under the bed or somewhere else equally as unusual. Finally about midweek, he actually looked like he was cleaning our room. It was almost as if he wanted us to remember only the cleaning and not before.

All in all it was a fantastic cruise, and we didn't let any of these bad things bring our spirits down. We were very disappointed about Belize, but we made up for it in the other ports. We finally starting laughing about the Larry-isms toward the end of the week, what else could you do? I would definitely recommend this cruise to others as we enjoyed it immensely. Any questions, feel free to contact me at shortypots@yahoo.com.

Thanks!
Shorty
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