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deladane

Detailed Photo Review of Carnival Dream 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise 3/10/19

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Friday, March 8, 2019 ~ Flying to New Orleans and Exploring Bourbon Street

 

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The week leading up to this vacation turned out to be really hectic for both of us.  My schedule at work was packed, and DH had a work trip to North Carolina, leaving very early on Monday morning and not returning home until 10pm on Thursday night.  My heart was racing and I was seriously freaking out that he might have a flight delay and couldn't get home that night, so as soon as I knew his plane took off from the east coast, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that we could officially go on vacation on Friday.  We packed our big checked suitcase last weekend, but DH needed to unpack from North Carolina and repack his carry on rolling bag and backpack.  We did this as fast as possible so we could get to sleep because our alarm clock was set to go off at 5:30am on Friday morning! 

 

Since DH was out of town for 4 days, we made sure to finish off our countdown candies before bedtime…

 

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I don’t think it is possible for Friday morning to have gone any smoother than it went.  Maybe it was the excitement for the trip, or the nervousness about oversleeping, but I woke up at 5:24am, six minutes before my alarm went off.  We ate a quick breakfast, reset all the clocks in the house because daylight savings time would happen while we were away, loaded all our bags in the car, and pulled out of the driveway at exactly 6:30am to drive up to Oakland.  We were super lucky as there was no traffic on our 45 mile drive, despite driving during rush hour.  I prebooked an off-site parking lot near the Oakland airport, and the whole process was seamless when we arrived.  There were lots of spots to pick from, and the shuttle van was ready and waiting for us.  When we got to the airport, there were no lines to check our big suitcase, no lines at security, and we didn’t even need to take off our shoes!  We were sitting at our gate by 7:45am for our 10:20am flight… I’m not sure if I should consider that a win or a fail?  DH grumbled at me for making us wake up so early haha  How could I know that everything would work out that perfectly?! 

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Our flight to New Orleans was uneventful.  We left on time and had a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay as we took off.

 

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Flying over SFO

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To pass the time of the 4 hour flight, we watched movies on our tablets and snacked on Subway sandwiches.  We had clear skies for most of the flight, but as we approached Louisiana, the skies turned cloudy and we hit a bit of turbulence for the last part of the flight.  We couldn’t see much during our final descent into New Orleans until we finally dropped lower than the clouds and saw the vast swamp lands everywhere.  It seemed like the plane was going to land in a swamp!

 

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Of course, that didn’t really happen, and a few seconds later, the plane safely touched down on firm land at MSY.  We got off the plane and quickly got downstairs to baggage claim, and then we waited… and waited… and waited some more.  It took over 30 minutes before the luggage from our flight finally came out, and that seemed like an unnecessarily long time considering MSY is not that big of an airport.  Our good luck from this morning was still with us because once the conveyor belt finally started to turn, our suitcase was the second bag to come out! 

 

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We requested an Uber to pick us up, and after the usual chaotic and frantic search to find our driver, we loaded up our bags and were on our way.  The ride from the airport to our AirBNB took about 35 minutes with a little bit of Friday afternoon rush hour traffic.  When we pulled up to the address of our AirBNB, I was very impressed!  We were staying in a huge, beautiful Victorian house.

 

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The house was located on Magazine Street, which is a hub of cute shops, boutiques, and restaurants.  There were several other vacation rentals in the house, and I think the owner of the house lives there too.  We had our own private entrance at the back of the house, but unfortunately, we had to climb 2 flights of stairs to reach our apartment.  It wasn’t such a big deal for most of our stay, but it was definitely a struggle to get our 48.5 pound suitcase up there.  It’s a good thing my husband is so strong and chivalrous, and he lugged all 3 bags up the stairs like a champ!  Our apartment looked just like the pictures I saw online, with a little kitchen area, a couch, and an ensuite bathroom.  My only complaint was that I thought we booked a room with a queen sized bed, and this was definitely just a full.  Fingers crossed that we will be so tired from the early wake up call this morning that we don’t even notice the small bed!

 

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Once we got settled in our room, it was time to explore a bit of New Orleans!  There was a bus stop just a few steps from our house for Bus #11 which goes down Magazine Street to Canal Street, and from there, we could walk 3 blocks up to Bourbon Street.  The bus costs $1.25 per ride, and you must have the exact amount because the driver can’t give you change.  Instead of having a schedule listed at each bus stop, they have a sign with a code number that you can text to find out how many minutes until the next bus will arrive.  We took the bus several times over the weekend and always found this prediction to be accurate.  The bus was clean, and we appreciated that they announced the name of each upcoming stop in addition to displaying the name of that stop on a digital display at the front of the bus.  It is often confusing and frustrating to know when to get off the bus in a foreign city, especially after dark when you can’t read the street signs, so this bus system made things really easy for us.

 

It was now around 7pm on Friday night, so Bourbon Street was fairly crowded.  If you ask me, we were very lucky in the timing of our trip as Mardi Gras was 3 days prior to our arrival, and by now, most of the people who visited NOLA for the festivities had come and gone and things were much calmer here this weekend.  Had we taken our cruise one week earlier, it would have been packed with people everywhere, making it very hard to walk around the French Quarter.  As it was, tonight was a bit more crowded than I would prefer, but I understand that is just part of the “charm” of Bourbon Street!

 

We were very hungry as the last thing we ate was a Subway sandwich on the airplane at noon, so we wanted to find something quick and easy for dinner.  We didn’t want to go to a sit down restaurant as it would take a long time to get our food, and we wanted to maximize the time we spent out on the streets.  I had read some good reviews on Yelp about Crescent City Pizza Works, which served huge slices of specialty pizzas that you could order at the counter.

 

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DH ordered the Buffalo Blues with buffalo chicken, blue cheese, green onions, mozzarella, and buffalo ranch sauce, and he said it was pretty good.  I ordered the BBQ Pork pizza, which came with pulled pork, cinnamon apples, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. 

 

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It is hard to tell from this photo, but the slice was HUGE!!!  The pies are extra large, and they cut them into 6 slices (instead of the usual 8 slices), so it was like a double slice.  If you look closely at this photo, you can see the white paper plate showing from behind the slice to give a little perspective… the slice overhangs the plate on both the front and the back, and is so wide that only a small portion of the plate shows from the sides.  Not only was it huge, it was also delicious!

 

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After we finished eating, we walked around Bourbon Street in search of something to drink.  Everywhere we looked, we saw people carrying these green cups, and we figured out that they came from a place called Tropical Isle, where their specialty drink is the Hand Grenade.  They won’t tell you exactly what is in the drink, but it is sweet and tastes like melon, and it’s really strong!  They make it both on the rocks and blended, and they offer a regular or a skinny version with fewer calories.  The bar had lots of funky décor and a cover band playing live music.

 

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We listened to the band for a few minutes, then took our drinks to go.  Part of the fun of New Orleans is that you can take your drinks out onto the street to walk around while you are drinking, so we wanted to take advantage of that!

 

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Notice how you can see 3 people in the background of that photo who are also drinking Hand Grenades? Hehe

 

Nearly every bar had some kind of live music.  We were not allowed to enter with a drink from another bar, but we joined the other people standing just outside the open windows/doors to enjoy the music from the street.  There is a lot to see out on the streets too, with street performers and all sorts of crazy things.  Looks like Homer Simpson had a bit too much to drink…

 

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This was from the back of one of the churches in the French Quarter.  I loved the spooky effect of how the light created a shadow of the statue on the wall.

 

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After an hour or so, we were getting tired from a long day of travel.  At around 9pm, we left Bourbon Street, crossed Canal Street, and went to CVS to buy 2 bottles of wine for the cruise.  We then took the bus back to our AirBNB to call it a night.  By the way, I checked the cost of taking an Uber back to our hotel and it was over $20, so riding the bus for $1.25 per person was a real bargain!

 

Step Tracker Daily Total:  12,756 steps; 4.9 miles; 6 flights of stairs

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2 hours ago, Jerseygirl1416 said:

Loving your review! Thanks for taking the time.

 

My pleasure! Thanks for reading 🙂

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2 hours ago, TravelE said:

Wonderful review!  We will be sailing the dream in 7 days.

 

Oh wow! You must be so excited!!  Hope you have a wonderful cruise 🙂

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2 hours ago, Tjcalley said:

Love it 

 

thanks for reading!

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On 3/22/2019 at 4:50 PM, deladane said:

 

Oh no!! I’ll reply to the rest of the comments after work, but is anyone else unable to see the photos?? They show up fine for me, so I’m not sure why it’s not working for you.  Can everyone else see them?

I see them. 

 

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Just booked Dream out of Galveston for Feb 2020! Following along...(we also will be boarding Vista in 34 days, so I may be obsessing a bit right now)

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28 minutes ago, Marvy Mare said:

I love the wall calendar! Is there an app for that?🤓

 

Nope!  I make it manually.  On my prior cruises, I used to use Microsoft Publisher, but I am still using the version I had in college from over 15 years ago so when I started adding all the images, it crashed every few minutes.  This time around, I used Google Drawing and it has worked perfectly except that I can't make the text in different shapes... it has to be straight across horizontally.  Not a huge deal though, and it's way easier to use without all the crashing!

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14 minutes ago, AggieGirl05 said:

Just booked Dream out of Galveston for Feb 2020! Following along...(we also will be boarding Vista in 34 days, so I may be obsessing a bit right now)

 

Obsessing is all part of the fun!  I can't believe that 2020 is next year already... my first thought when reading that was that your Dream cruise is far down the road, but it's really just less than a year away!  Crazy!!  

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We love the Hand Grenade Jello shots or the Hand Grenade Martini down the street at the Orleans Grapevine that is owned by the same people as the Tropical Ise.  

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I recognize so many places and names you've mentioned from Bourbon Street!  We were checking out the webcam on Bourbon Street (it's at a place called "Cat's Meow") the day AFTER Mardi Gras...you should have seen the streets, OMG!!!  Those plastic cups that the Grenades from "Tropical Isle" come in where everywhere!  I got a few screen shots to send to our friends whom we were down there with.  Also saw them going though with bulldozers cleaning everything up.  They hosed the street after that, but I think they hose it down every night.  They sure need to.  Lol!!!  I also loved seeing your pictures from the plane too.  I sure hope you had better weather on your flight out of NOLA on your return home.  So much more to see than just the swamp/marshland and I'm guessing what was I-10.  🙂  I am really enjoying this one! 

 

Edited by pghsteelerfan

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I'm really enjoying your review like everyone else. My wife and I are cruising Alaska next year and then flying

to NOLA for 4 days after that, so nice to see up close Bourbon St photo's.

 

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9 hours ago, TXBBQDUDE said:

We love the Hand Grenade Jello shots or the Hand Grenade Martini down the street at the Orleans Grapevine that is owned by the same people as the Tropical Ise.  

 

No way!  DH would have loved the martini!  I'm so bummed we didn't know about that, but I guess I'll just add it to the to-do list for the next time we're in NOLA 🙂

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5 hours ago, pghsteelerfan said:

I recognize so many places and names you've mentioned from Bourbon Street!  We were checking out the webcam on Bourbon Street (it's at a place called "Cat's Meow") the day AFTER Mardi Gras...you should have seen the streets, OMG!!!  Those plastic cups that the Grenades from "Tropical Isle" come in where everywhere!  I got a few screen shots to send to our friends whom we were down there with.  Also saw them going though with bulldozers cleaning everything up.  They hosed the street after that, but I think they hose it down every night.  They sure need to.  Lol!!!  I also loved seeing your pictures from the plane too.  I sure hope you had better weather on your flight out of NOLA on your return home.  So much more to see than just the swamp/marshland and I'm guessing what was I-10.  🙂  I am really enjoying this one! 

 

 

Hey Holly,

Oh yea, the trash left behind on Bourbon Street the next morning is no joke!  I actually have photos of that, but I'll hold off on sharing them until Sunday morning when I get to that part of the review.  What a mess!!

 

As for getting photos on the flight home, I let DH take the window seat for that flight (we keep it fair bc neither of us enjoys the middle seat, so since I had the window on the outbound flight, he got it for the flight home).  That meant I couldn't really take photos on the flight home, but TBH, I was so tired by that point that I probably wouldn't have bothered even if I could haha  I'm terrible at taking photos on the last day of vacation.

Edited by deladane

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34 minutes ago, Cairns Cruisers said:

I'm really enjoying your review like everyone else. My wife and I are cruising Alaska next year and then flying

to NOLA for 4 days after that, so nice to see up close Bourbon St photo's.

 

 

Oh wow, that's two very different places in the US! haha  Should be interesting when you try to pack for those weather changes, but that will make for an incredible vacation.  Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

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Saturday, March 10, 2019 ~ New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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With less than 48 hours to spend exploring New Orleans before the cruise, we had to maximize our time to see as much as possible.  We had talked about maybe taking a swamp tour in the Everglades when we cruised out of Florida in 2016 and 2018.  Since we never managed to fit it in to those trips, I really wanted to do it here in New Orleans.  We did not have a rental car, and we needed to find a company that included transportation, so that helped to narrow down our options.  While several companies provide transportation, most of them require you to meet at their office somewhere in the French Quarter.  For people staying at hotels in the French Quarter, this is a great option, but for us, we didn’t want to deal with getting over there very early in the morning and preferred to find a company who picks us up at our hotel.  Cajun Pride Swamp Tours provides that service, so we decided to book with them.  They offer 2 versions of the swamp tour, with the regular tour in a bigger boat that holds up to 40 passengers versus the VIP tour boat which only holds up to 16 passengers.  Either way, the tour is an hour and a half long, and travels along the river in their private swamp that protects the wildlife, with no fishing and no hunting allowed so the animals are not afraid of humans and are more likely to approach the boats.  We decided to book the VIP tour because the reviews said we would have more opportunities to interact with the animals and the guide, and it seemed worth it for the $18 additional cost.  It was easy to book the tour online through their website, and they offered free cancellation with at least three days notice.  The one quirk was that when you tell them where you need to be picked up, they use a drop down list of all the hotels in New Orleans.  We were staying in an AirBNB, so that was obviously not listed as one of the options.  Luckily, the Garden District Bed and Breakfast hotel was located just two short blocks from our AirBNB, so I just picked that as our pick up spot.  The directions said we needed to be outside “our hotel” by 8am and the shuttle would pick us up between 8 and 8:30am.  Of course it would have been better to be able to sit in the lobby to wait for the shuttle, but I figured we’d just quietly loiter outside the bed and breakfast and hopefully no one minded.

 

This morning, we woke up at 7am, got dressed and packed up our day bags, and left the AirBNB in search of somewhere to eat breakfast.  Most of the restaurants on Magazine Street don’t open for breakfast until 8am or later, but that would not work for us as we needed to be outside the bed and breakfast by then.  A few blocks from our hotel, we found District Donuts which was perfect for our needs.  They offer all sorts of funky flavors for their donuts, and DH was able to get some good coffee so he was happy.

 

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I ordered the Samoa donut (coconut caramel glaze, vanilla pastry cream, toasted coconut, hot fudge drizzle) and DH got the Blueberry Cheesecake donut (blueberry glaze, cheesecake filling, blueberry, crushed graham cracker).  Both were really good, and they were filling because they were both stuffed with cream so we were held full for a good 3 hours after eating.

 

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These donuts were super messy, so we made sure to finish eating at the restaurant and got back over to the bed and breakfast by 7:55am.  At exactly 8am, we saw the shuttle driving down the street, and the driver, Byron, greeted us with a smile.  It turned out that we were the first pick up of the group, which is not all that surprising because we were probably staying the furthest from the French Quarter of all the pick up locations.  We spent the next 30 minutes driving around to the other hotels in the French Quarter to pick up the rest of the people in our group.  At 2 of the hotels, there was no one waiting outside to be picked up so our driver had to call those groups, and both of them said they were told they would be picked up at 9:30am.  Something tells me that they just misunderstood the instructions because all of the paperwork said we would be picked up between 8-8:30am for a swamp tour that starts at 9:30am.  I guess they just heard the 9:30am part and didn’t realize that is when the swamp boat leaves the dock, not the pick up time from the French Quarter.  Anyway, both of those groups were instructed to call the office to reschedule their tour.  Hopefully there was space on some of the tours later this afternoon and they could be picked up on the next round of the shuttle.

 

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When we were done with all the pick ups by 8:30am, the driver headed for the highway to drive out to the swamp in La Place.  It was very foggy this morning, so we didn’t have the most exciting view from the bus.  Fingers crossed that the fog would lift before the swamp tour started!

 

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We arrived at the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours office by 9am, so we had 30 minutes to check in for our tour, browse the gift shop, and use the rest rooms.  This was the bus they used for the shuttle…

 

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While we were waiting for our tour to start, we took some time to check out their grounds.  They had 4 or 5 big swamp boats tied up to the dock and I was immediately happy we booked the VIP boat.  Here is the boat for the general tour…

 

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Notice how there are 4 long metal benches?  Once the boat was fully loaded with all the passengers, it didn’t seem like anyone had a good view!  The people sitting on the two benches on the outside of the boat had their back to the river so they had to turn around to look at the animals behind them.  The people who sat on the two middle benches would be looking directly at the people on the outside benches, so they would have to look between those people to try to see the animals.  It just didn’t seem well thought out and I can imagine everyone on this boat had a back ache after 90 minutes of twisting and turning to see the animals.

 

This is our boat for the VIP tour…

 

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The bench is along the middle of the boat, and has a back rest and thick foam padding on the seats, which the bigger boat did not have.  We sat with our backs to the middle of the boat, facing out towards the water with no one blocking our view.  We ended up only having 9 people on our tour, plus 1 tour guide, so there was space to stand up and walk around, or we could kneel on the bench if the animals were on the opposite side of the boat from where we were sitting.  Considering this was a tour I only planned to take once in my lifetime, it was well worth the extra $18 to have this VIP experience!

 

Just to point out one more thing about both of these boats… These are flat bottom boats with a canopy overhead to provide protection from the sun (or rain).  Some of the other companies I researched had the stadium seating style air boats, but those do not have any cover overhead and I didn’t want to worry about weather issues on the day of our tour, so this was another perk for using Cajun Pride.

 

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