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About CanadaCathi

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    Peterborough, ON
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  1. I think that's what bothered me the most- the lack of care. The fact that at no time did anyone say, 'We're sorry and we're doing the best we can'. When we stood in that first 1.5 hour line up, no one came out from the counter to let us know what was going on; they didn't bring in extra people to help. American or Air Canada would've been rolling around drink and snack trolleys, and that small gesture would've made the world of difference. Oh, and I later found out that the poor family at the front of the line was trying to get to JAPAN - I saw them later and asked them what the heck was going on and why they took so long LOL. If you thought Jelly and I had troubles, you should have heard what they had to settle for; I think they ended up with 5-6 different hops and an arrival of Wednesday or Thursday. They were going to miss most of their trip, and a bunch of pre-paid scheduled tours, and I don't even know what else. Yes, Jelly is amazing. It's always funny when we fly and people are like, 'Awww, is this your first flight?' and she thinks for a minute and says, 'No, it's something like my 20th or 21st, I lost track'. She's been flying since she was four months old, she's a great traveler. Part of what was so nerve-wracking as a mom was trying to hide my anxiety (and anger, and sadness, and stress, and...) to keep up a brave face for her, because she kept looking at me to see my reactions. And it could've been worse; at least we had smart phones and tablets and WiFi, so we weren't totally bored out of our minds. And we've been stuck on layovers before, so she knows that routine. But I'm lucky she's very go-with-the-flow. Because I AM NOT. I corner like the damn Titanic. I'm super-excited about Thailand - Thai food is one of my favorite things to cook (Tom Kha Gai, Drunken Noodles, Larb, anything with sticky rice...). The tour I'm currently looking at includes a number of markets and cooking classes, that would be so epic! Thank you for the feedback!
  2. Right? Jelly and I felt the same way. Like - we had a good time, everything was good - but nothing stood out for us as 'wow, we HAVE to do this ship again'. Which is ok! And yes, I'd likewise love to see you on another sailing :-).
  3. Day 8 – Miami, FL Aaaaaaand we were back. The Windjammer was open for breakfast at 5:30a, but when we’re ready to leave the party, we’re outta there. My final folio balance was $380, roughly $2000 less than the last time I cruised, so – yay! The alarm went off at 6a, and we headed to deck 5 for the scheduled 6:45a Self-Assist Departure as instructed the night prior. Be warned! We were wandering around a little bit looking to see where we should go, and a crew member tried to get us to wait in the theater, and said that was where we were supposed to be. Nooooooooooo. There were already people lining up at the exit doors. So we went and got in line. Don’t be frustrated when they let off all the people who paid a LOT more for their cabins than you did first. There are a lot of them, and they deserve that perk. It really only takes like 10 minutes extra. Customs was a breeze, we found the spot where we were to meet our wonderful, awesome shuttle, and the guy was there in like 10 minutes (again, a new record!). Super Shuttle – just do it. We got to the FLL airport in plenty of time, and as we pulled up… that is when it all fell apart. I got a text on my phone that our outbound flight to our layover location, Newark, was going to be delayed, so we were going to miss our connection home to Toronto. Yes, I know I should’ve booked a direct flight. Yes, I know about flying Southwest, or flying out of Buffalo, or a billion other things I could’ve done. But I booked the most reasonable least expensive option for the time of year, weather, our availability, previous experiences, blah blah blah. So don’t give me advice NOW, it won’t help. Also, the airline was United. Soooo since it wasn’t my first rodeo and we were early to the airport, I went ahead and got in the Customer Service line right away, since I knew at some point I’d have to do that anyhow, why not get it over with. 1.5 hours later I was still in line – and the single attendant was still helping the same person who’d been at the front of the line the whole time, only 5 people ahead of me. So that wasn’t good. I even called into the Customer Service phone line partway through my wait, and was on hold for 42 minutes; they told me to just go ahead and get on the outbound plane, and deal with the Toronto flight when I arrived in Newark. TERRIBLE ADVICE. Instead of being delayed in beautiful sunny Fort Lauderdale, we were told when we arrived in Newark (on a Saturday morning), that the soonest they could get us on a plane home was Tuesday. T U E S D A Y. I was like, you’re an AIRLINE – this is ALL YOU DO. Apparently the combination of St. Patrick’s Day, various Spring Breaks, and the 737s being grounded just totally crippled United, or at least the Newark leg. Our original flight had been cancelled; we were told to come back to the airport the following morning and try flying standby, that in the meantime we could be rebooked for a flight into Detroit on Monday, and from there to Toronto. We were told we were ‘practically guaranteed’ to get on the 7:30a flight. We were given a couple of meal vouchers (redeemable at the airport only), and a hotel voucher. We were told we couldn’t have our luggage, that it would be transferred. Off we went. We spent a terrible night at a local Newark airport hotel, where Brenda was celebrating a major birthday or anniversary or something in the ballroom below our hotel room, and all I heard all night was the thump thump thump of the bass. We got a terrible meal at the terrible hotel restaurant, and I spent a sleepless night to get up at 5a, get on the shuttle, and head back to Newark. We waited in the hour long security line. We went to the gate; everyone boarded; we were called up! There was ONE SEAT. Jelly looked at me sadly and said, "It's ok, mom, you can go without me". We stayed all day and tried for 4 different standby flights, watching our name get lower and lower on the list, before finally giving up; Jelly burst into tears and I just couldn’t take it any more. I got back in another Customer Service line, this time for just over an hour, and requested meal vouchers/hotel vouchers for Sunday night. The rep refused. A manager had to be called. I was not a happy camper. The $20 we finally got for the two of us didn’t cover that day’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breakfast for Monday, especially not at the airport. I told them I didn’t care if we had to go further, we needed a hotel that didn’t have bars on the windows. We ended up downtown at a shockingly nice place with an extremely overpriced restaurant, but at least there was a super sketchy store within walking distance where we could buy (presumably) clean underpants. I’m going to remind you here that my hoody was stained with everything that had been spilled on it on the trip down. We were disgusting. How disgusting? On the walk back from the hotel, with NO WINTER COATS, a group of African-American children who were giving out sandwiches to local homeless people OFFERED ME ONE. I was so tired and stressed I started to reach out my hand before I realized what it was. Then I almost cried. Ok, I cried. That was Sunday. A slightly better sleep, still no luggage, awake again at 5a to go back to Newark. Monday morning was even better; the shuttle from the station to the airport wasn’t working, and we had to take a city bus. It was the only time I was grateful that we didn’t have our suitcases, because I watched another family with a baby go through that drama. Another security line up, and we made it to Detroit, and finally late that Monday night, to Toronto, where I had paid extra so my car wasn’t towed from the hotel where we’d left it. Then it was two hours to get home, where Jelly had missed a day of school and I’d missed an unplanned day of work, when I’d promised all my customers I’d be back. OMG and believe it or not - our luggage came right off the plane, just as nicely as you please. AS IF!!! After a month of fighting with United, they sent me a $75 travel voucher. I fought some more and got it bumped to $250, for each of us, but that’s as far as they’d go. They refused to reimburse me for any of the additional expenses I had meticulously tracked and saved receipts for. My gorgeous relaxing vacation was totally undone by this terrible experience – it took me four days to recover once back home (mostly due to the lack of sleep – keep in mind work that week was a nightmare from being off for so long, so there was no taking more time off). Jelly and I ate a lot of takeout and cereal that week. I didn't talk to anyone outside of work other than Jelly. At least I’d done enough business/personal travel that I knew the things to do, which someone pointed out – a friend of mine said she didn’t know that you should ask for vouchers, or where to go for customer service at an airport. And Jelly was old enough that, although it was hard on her, she understood (dear sweet lord thankfully I didn’t have an infant with me). You’ll be happy to hear that I let her blow $15 of voucher money on candy and donuts. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I won’t cruise again – I just won’t ever fly United again. In summary; Lessons Learned I really didn’t need the Refreshment Package. The novelty of the fresh-squeezed orange juice has worn off, and I didn’t like feeling pressured to go to the WJ just for that. I never remember what specialty coffees are included, and since it’s next to impossible to get lactose-free milk anyhow (except at Starbucks), well, I’d rather just buy a Starbucks every morning. We don’t feel like we missed out by not ice skating, or laser tagging, or Escaping. Those are all things we can do at home. We regretted not doing any of the water slides or the Abyss a teensy bit, because that was one of the reasons we chose Symphony, but we’re big wussy babies anyhow, and I heard of at least three people who were hurt badly on the Abyss, so SCREW THAT NOISE. The more stuff a ship adds, the more you’re tempted to feel like you have to try everything, but you don’t have to. I didn’t fall off a surfboard, and I’m ok with that. But this was my 3rd freaking Royal cruise, and I’ve still never eaten in the freaking Solarium! That’s ok, I ate with my kid, so that was better. We liked the Symphony, but didn’t LOVE the Symphony above all else; we both agreed we’d be fine with going back to Oasis or Freedom or whatever. Neither of us got sick, or hurt, or lost, and we didn’t murder each other after spending a full week in the same room together, so that was all good. And hey, a cruise is a cruise. Next year we are taking a break to go to the Cozumeleno for a week (did I already say this?), and then the following year I turn 50 so I am going to do 10 days in Thailand by myself, so we won’t be cruising again for a while. Unless, you know, lottery. Thanks to everyone who hung in with me, and may your seas be calm and your butter real!
  4. (If you are just joining now, please scroll back for Day 7, because I'm now going to post Day 8, and I don't want you to be totally lost)
  5. Ok, so pretend that I'm less of a bimbo and didn't TOTALLY forget about... Day 6 - At Sea Sunrise – 7:49a Temp – Sunny and 80 degrees Money Spent - $20 at the $10/ea t-shirt sale in the Promenade (Royal REPRESENT!); $7 for two oyster shots, $10 for kids cover charge; no drinks poolside, too windy! We had promised each other to sleep in and take it easy. Jelly had fallen asleep miserable and slathered in aloe, and we were both exhausted from several days of leaping out of bed for port excursions. We woke up around 8a and lazed around a bit. I had bug bites on my knees but they didn’t look like bed bug bites – maybe sand fleas from the day before? I checked my online folio again (compulsively, as I am) and all was good. We went out to the pool and it was overcast and CRAZY windy; we grabbed breakfast from the Park Café and took it back to the room briefly to eat. After that we went back to the pool, where they had the belly flop contest (but not at the pool we were sitting at), and there were a few drops of rain. The pool was COLD. I went back to the room and read; Jelly went to the kid’s club. After three days in a row in port, you know what? We were just fine! We met up at the Windjammer for lunch, where they had just ridiculous mountains of cake and shrimp, so Jelly was in heaven. They had a sundae bar, and a giant sandwich, and an expanded salad bar, and I ate cheese fries. Because vacation. But seriously, the fries on this ship were really good – another mom and I started talking about it. But seriously... It was still windy after lunch and we watched one of the Ice Age movies in the room. We noticed this trip the TV options weren’t as great, but I didn’t care because that wasn’t the point of spending all that money. However, Jelly usually likes to catch at least a little Cartoon Network-type stuff that she can’t get at home though, so she was disappointed. Usually there are more Dreamworks movies showing, but I guess with that being phased out, not so much? I read some more, I had a lovely nap, Jelly won some sort of medal at the kid’s club sports camp and wouldn’t stop talking about it. For dinner we had reservations at Hooked seafood, and we were both really looking forward to it. Disclaimer: Please remember this is one person’s opinion (well, technically two I guess, she does know her way around some seafood). Other people have totally different experiences; there are different cooks, the staff have better/worse days, there are all kinds of variables. I read a TON of reviews from people who raved about Hooked. This will be more of a rant than a rave. To start with, the location of the restaurant is weird; it’s open to the Solarium restaurant below, and there happened to be some rather loud partygoers there at the time we were there, which significantly distracted from the ambiance. The décor is lovely, very coastal-casual and spacious/open. Biscuits were set down in front of us, Red Lobster-style – and they were cold and hard and dry and tasteless. WHAT. We started with the calamari, which was good, and the shrimp, which was blah, both in taste and presentation. My oyster shots were delicious. I’d read that there would be options for things like crab legs for an additional charge – there were no such options. As you have seen previously, Jelly is a crab-all-the-time kind of kid, so she was immediately destroyed. However, she got to try her first lobster, so that was cool, and she liked it. BUT WHY, WHY no real butter?! When you are paying an upcharge for a specialty restaurant, be it Chops or Jamie’s or whatever, there are certain things you expect. Real drawn butter was one of mine. I don’t want to hear it, butter was on sale for $2.77/lb this week and for sure cheaper in the US, and it freezes beautifully, THERE ARE NO EXCUSES. You should know that I get so hysterical about butter prices that my mother was tired of listening to it last Fall, and I got a pound of butter in my stocking at Christmas. ANYHOW. The muddy discolored distasteful sludge we were served was worse than what you get at the Chinese AYCE crab buffet. The lobster was fine, a little on the small side but the meat was good. For sides we had the corn on the cob (rubbery and flavorless), some crab/cheese goo (wasn’t heated all the way through), lobster mac & cheese (tasted like pasta water), and coleslaw (surprise - excessively mayo-y). For dessert we tried the whoopie pie (flat cookie-like things with plain canned whipped cream filling), and the Boston cream pie (cake moist, custard not great, ganache like pudding skin). The waitress lost my sea pass card and had to spend a few minutes retracing her steps, but she was very nice (Loraine). I still tipped her well because I’m not a savage. My meal was covered by OBC, so at least I didn’t feel put out about that. After dinner - big shocker - we did nothing. We chilled in the room and went to bed early. PARTY ALL THE TIME, that's me and Jelly.
  6. HOLY CRAP, people! I missed a day! I was so excited to get to the Bahamas, I missed Day 6. My apologies, it's coming right up.
  7. Day 7 – Nassau, Bahamas Temp – 73-75 but felt warmer (sunny) Excursion – Snorkeling with the Blue Hole group Money Spent - $110/$20 on excursion, $100 on lunch, $34 poolside drinks/tips, souvenir Last day! The great sadness! We arrived in port at 7a, de-embarkation was 7:30a. We grabbed bagels from Park Café for breakfast and were off the ship and through port by 8:20a. Note, the towel guys were always out on the pier at every port to hand out towels both in the morning, and to receive towels upon returning. The last night they were due back by 8p, but on our sailing they billed a LOT of us regardless, so check your folio statement! I got my credit back no problem after calling. We met our guide at Senior Frogs at 9:05a and were split into two groups/boats, and headed out. We did two small reefs, one with a wreck, nice but nothing fancy. Saw a needlenose at one which looked cool. We spent 45 minutes at one location, and only 15 at the other, then had a super boring tour of Atlantis by boat on the way back. I hate how much time is sucked up by boats in Nassau, but I hate the beach there even more, so it was an ok compromise. Bottled water and gear was provided (Jelly and I had our own, I’ve seen more straps fall off things than I ever want to talk about). The guides stayed on the boat. Jelly was super brave and did her very first boat snorkel, which she refused to do last year. This meant that when we got home I went straight to my local dive club and got her signed up for the junior diver class, yesssss! I've been on three of these ships! (well, technically a different Carnival ship) We were done and back by 11:30a, and I was desperate for local chow but didn’t want to go too far, so the guide suggested Kulaka Kari right on the main strip. Holy crap, it was expensive! I got conch fritters and tacos which made me happy, and Jelly had some awesome wings that she loved. My father would’ve had 23,523 heart attacks at the thought of spending money on a meal when there was ‘free’ food on the ship, omg, I’m sure some of you agree. So we were back on the ship at 1p, I went to the pool for a few hours and a few pina coladas with dark rum floats, and Jelly hung in the room and went to the kid’s club. Note, I had to sign her in since we were still in port; it was the only time I had to do so. All aboard was at 3:30p, and we left at 4:20p. I heard buzz on a group page that there was a couple that was left behind, and their young children were on the ship in the kid’s club, but I cannot confirm. That would be so awful! This is why you should always be back early, people, no matter what! Jelly did not want to go to the MDR for dinner, so we went to the Windjammer. There was a totally disgusting looking Caribbean brown stew that was AMAZING, so if you see it and think, ‘no way!’, remember – I said to try it. Don’t be ascared. Jelly had nothing but fruit, shrimp, and chocolate (again). The sun was low on our side of the ship and it was a trillion degrees and blinding, it was the only time we had issues. Did I already say we had no problems getting a table? But yeah, we’re only two people. There was another beautiful dessert bar, but you already know how I feel about their desserts. And be warned – they are sneaking something called ‘Ice Cream Base’ into stuff (like an innocent-seeming Pineapple Spinach smoothie – I was glad I asked!). Next it was time to pack. We had elected to do Express Carry Off since we had to catch an early shuttle to FLL. It was nice not to have to put out our luggage the night before and almost forget shoes. Packing to go home took a LOT less time than packing to leave for the trip. Jelly basically threw everything she had in one ball in her suitcase and ran off for her last night at the kid’s club. She was there 7p-9:30p, and would’ve stayed longer, but hey, early and long day tomorrow, and mean mom made her be back at a reasonable time. While I was hanging out in the room watching the itinerary channel (my favorite), I suddenly realized we hadn’t bought our one souvenir – a ship ornament. So I heavy sighed, put pants back on, and headed to the Royal Gift Shop. Where… there WAS NO SHIP ORNAMENT. Instead, they had drilled a hole in the aft end of what was a perfectly designed ship ornament, and made it into a super-heavy and obnoxious key chain. *****, Royal?! So I bought the stupid key chain, and I’m going to hang the damn thing on my Christmas tree with my other ships. Last sleep!
  8. Yep! They did different varieties of pancakes different days - plain one day, chocolate chip another etc. I perked them up a little bit with a fresh banana I grabbed off the breakfast bar and sliced over top, they were DELICIOUS. And a nice change when you're eating basically the same stuff every day.
  9. Sooooo sweet, right? Moments like that make all the money and planning and stress and travel and... worthwhile. But seriously, as IF girlfriend held a sloth at 10 years old?! I was lucky if I caught a frog in the creek when I was 10, that's about as much exotic wildlife as I got to see. Sheesh.
  10. Day 5 – Cozumel Temp – 81 degrees and windy, overcast Excursion – El Cozumeleno Resort Beach Break Money Spent - $40 taxis, $15 tips, $12 in-room movie rental, $80 excursion ($55 adult, $25 child) We were a little late with de-embarkation this morning; it was closer to 7:50a than 7:30a. We took our time; Jelly had some leftover dessert for breakfast, and I grabbed Park Café (I was still a little woozy and not up to WJ). I had never been to PC for breakfast, and was surprised to find they had oatmeal, bagels, and almond croissants. No fresh juice, alas. We left the ship around 8:30a to discover that the taxi queue was MUCH better than the last time we were in port; there was no wait at all. Hmmm, maybe because we got off the ship a little later? The last time we had to walk up the street a few blocks to a nearby hotel and catch a cab from those waiting there. This was our third time visiting El Cozumeleno Resort, and I was unhappy to find a number of changes in store for us. First of all, the guy working the front desk gave me a really hard time about being there early (9a ship time, 8a local time), and made us wait an hour in the lobby before he would check us in and give us our armbands. I have never had an issue with this before. I had booked through Island Marketing, which I’ve used before and really like; it’s actually a little cheaper than booking directly through the resort, and much easier. Note that the hotel would only give me pesos for change, and the taxi driver wanted US dollar bills and hassled me a bit. Grr! So, we sat and waited an hour, and by the time we got outside all the chairs had been taken. Luckily a nice guy from Pickering saw my Canada t-shirt and gave us one of theirs. Shade, yes! The beach area had changed quite a bit in two years; the shore coral was almost entirely gone, either from weather or tourists. This meant there were nowhere near as many fish to see, or as many varieties. There were still some interesting critters hanging out around the lava rock (there was a little crab, and lots of spiny urchins). The drinks weren’t as good this trip either; they’re using some sort of drink mix with a really artificial-tasting sweetener. Even Jelly noticed it in her kiddie cocktails. Our second breakfast was pretty good, but we got there at the tail end. First lunch was blah. Second lunch was good. Our server, Gabriela, was great. We were back in port around 3p, and I didn’t feel like fighting the crowds for tequila or vanilla, so we were back on the ship by 3:30p. All aboard was 5:30p. We went back to the room and I promptly fell asleep. We went to the MDR at 6:30p instead of our 6p MTD reservation time and it was the only time we had to wait for a table, about 15 minutes. I started with the beet and orange salad, which had sounded good but was lacking dressing (a nice light poppy seed would’ve been perfect). We shared the coconut shrimp, which was delicious. Jelly had chicken fingers and I had the turkey dinner entrée and didn’t like it. There were two desserts that I could eat that sounded good – the banana bread pudding and pavlova. DELICIOUS. I remembered liking their little baby pavlovas on previous ships. We had a reservation for ‘Flight’ but missed it; it was PJ night at the kid’s club, and Jelly was planning to go, but we both decided to stay in the room and rent ‘Crimes of Grindewald’ since we hadn’t seen it yet, and it was Jelly’s turn to be sunburned and sore. I heard later that ‘Hiro’ had to be rescheduled due to wind that night.
  11. One review I read suggested getting a taxi once out of port, and I scoffed at the time - but then later was like, woah, that is TEMPTING. It's really probably only a few city blocks, but it feels like 235 miles, I swear.
  12. Thanks! Oh, god no! I think other people wash their towels a LOT more than I wash my towels. You'd be horrified if I admitted how infrequently I wash the bath towels in my house. Our beach towels actually stay pretty clean; knock on wood I've never spilled a drink or ketchup or anything else I like to usually spill while traveling; at the most they need a good shake if we take them off-ship, to get rid of any lingering sand. They'd take up wayyyyyy too much space in that little laundry bag. To dry them I either illegally clip them to the patio chairs outside (securely clipped!!), or I hang them somewhere in the cabin or bathroom.
  13. Ugh, I took too long to edit in all the pics and comments and stuff, so just pretend I didn't just lose all that.
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