Carnival Spirit: First Sea Day

(Previous Post in This Cruise Report: The Rest of the First Day.)

On a cruise, you always have something to look forward to before bedtime: what form your towel animal will take, and what the capers for the next day will say.

Carnival recently redesigned its nightly on-ship "newspaper," Carnival Capers, and changed the name to the Fun Times. I approve of half of these decisions.

The new layout is very good. Less typo-prone, cleaner, clearer. The new name seems completely unnecessary. "Carnival Capers" is alliterative, fun, whimsical. "Fun Times" is just... generic. If other products changed their names every time they improved their designs, well, that would be a lot of paperwork. Why not just keep calling it Capers? (Like your passengers do? Which is to say, me.)

The only thing I don't like about Fun Times is that some information is needlessly repeated while other information is not provided at all. Like, somewhere it should say, "Hey, if you miss Trivial Pursuit on the first day, then you won't be in the running let alone know the rules, so don't bother showing up for it the next day."

(Likewise, "If you don't go to scrapbooking on the first day, and buy all the products, then if you show up to a scrapbooking class midway through the cruise, the ACD will give you a wary "Can I help you?" look and tell you that this is just for people to work on stuff they bought during the first class. Then turn away. OH. Also, PFFFFT.)

And some things that need explanation have none at all. Um, I can't think of a specific example at the moment, but one will come to me as I reread all the Capers. (Or, as John Heald might say, "the Capers... sod it... the Fun Times."

The first night, I went to work with my juicy pink highlighter (Tul, love them) and marked all of the possibilities for our first "Fun Day and Elegant Night at Sea." (To quote the C... Fun Times.) Item Number One, 9:30 a.m., "Adult Arts & Crafts."

Now, Carnival may still have its "party ship" reputation, but "Adult Arts & Crafts" doesn't mean anyone is plaster-casting their boobies or knitting penis cozies. "Adult" here just means "for the grownups, so back off you underage sticker-peelers." Everyone probably knows that, but I'll pretend I'm providing a service all the same. No negligee embroidery. No model bordellos made from gingerbread. (With candy cane stripper poles? Or is licorice better for that, more year-round?)

Mike hinted quite broadly that in the "rock, paper, scissors, sleep, arts & crafts" hierarchy, "sleep" beats "arts & crafts." So on this morning I left his snoring form a sweet note, sweet person that I am, and skipped around the corner to the elevator, which took me straight down to the Fountain Cafe, where A&C would be held.

Aside: Whenever those snoring commercials come on, Mike complains that it's always the guy who is shown as keeping his spouse up with nocturnal trumpeting. "Why is it never the wife?" he asks. Well, I tell him, because women are delicate flowers. Just like the way in commercials men are at a loss for making dinner or a cleaning a countertop unless some super-easy product comes along. Again, because women are delicate flowers... except for being masters of grunt work... and women are the ones who watch the commercials... and women often manage the finances.... but then I find Mike has fallen asleep in the middle of my response to his possibly rhetorical question, and sleep trumps unsolicited lectures, so I lose. (Twice, because this is all just a vehicle for pointing out that I snore.)

I was the first one to arrive for A&C, and I was greeted by Krin, an older woman who mentioned that her daughter would be there in a moment. Soon, other ladies began to sit around me, all of looking politely expectant.

Time out for Pam and Krin. We saw them frequently during the cruise. They're lovely. Pam is a retired teacher who in recent years reinvented herself as a professional artist. She continues to sub for art classes in her school district, and now she also does enriching classes for cruise lines, plus participates in art shows, and travels all kinds of places, and probably a hundred other cool things. Per day.

So, Pam arrived and held up our project. Pockets for our Sail and Sign cards! These could be worn around our necks. Or, we could make a little scissors pouch. Either way, "you get the little pair of scissors." Pam and Krin passed out the kits.

Carnival Spirit - Arts and Crafts at the Fountain Cafe

(That's Pam leaning over in the visor, at left.)

I have to admit that I was more excited about the scissors and the fun of the moment than about actual project. Maybe it's because of the 1970s, but plastic-and-yarn-based crafts still make me twitch a little. I don't know why - I remember having a lot of fun with latch-hooking tools. I should stop being such a snob. Here's the kit, photographed at home later:

Carnival Spirit - Arts and Crafts - Lanyard

You can see the coveted scissors, the back of the case (and also where I decided to change stitch direction), and the sweet note that I left for Mike. You may have to enlarge it to see how I wrote XOXOXO, with the last XO underlined for emphasis, but then an arrow drawn to show that, on second thought, the line should go above the final XO, to show that they repeat into infinity.

(I just want points for this because I know what a surly bag of pebbles I am the rest of the time.)

Post-macrame-era fears aside, it was fun to work on the case... which I guess one might notice that I didn't finish during the cruise. After about 20 minutes of pushing and pulling fibres, I realized that I didn't actually need further instruction, and there was a beautiful, extended balcony upstairs where I might loop my yarn in full sea breeze. Right about that time, the mother and daughter next to me asked if they could be excused to go to bingo. Pam (laughing): "Of course! It's your cruise! We don't make you stay for anything." Still feeling pointlessly guilty for leaving, I said good-bye to Pam and Krin and took the kit back to the room.

I meant to continue the lanyard, but Mike was up, and we decided to look into pressing his shirt for that evening's "elegant" dinner. We'd never used the laundry room on a cruise before. What fun!

We decided to go to one that was down a level to Empress and forward a bit. (Spirit-class ships have several laundry rooms.)

Carnival Spirit - Mike, Super-Jazzed about Ironing

I don't even want to get into the part of the ironing experience that might result in College Board shaking their heads and adjusting my SAT/GRE scores. I just want to say that we don't have a steam iron at home, so any "damn, this iron sucks" was somewhat justified. It wasn't too long (in rock years) before we discovered that the water bottle on the wall with the broken spritzer ("damn, this water bottle sucks") should be unscrewed, with the contents poured into the steam iron, and all would be well.

Now we could have lunch in the dining room. (After checking the menu on the cabin television - a feature that worked 70% of the time.) How about we walk across the Sun deck (not pictured, but imagine just one person after another tanning themselves, the most alien landscape possible to us) and come inside through this door?

"This" door led to the Nouveau Steakhouse, located directly under the distinctive funnel.

Carnival Spirit - Nouveau Steakhouse

(It does put a pink cast on things during the day, which I found pretty - the "rose-coloured glasses" symbolism does work.)

Carnival Spirit - Nouveau Steakhouse Mural and Piano

All meals are included when you're cruising on Carnival (and most other ships), be it buffet, 24/7 pizza, room service, high tea, tapas, sushi, or the dining room. The steakhouse, relatively new to Carnival, is a separate cost. (Some cruise lines have more than one "extra cost" places. Royal Caribbean offers Johnny Rockets fast food for an extra fee, for example.)

Just about everyone who goes to the steakhouse (formerly a "supper club," with dancing, hence the open space?) seems to classify it as divine. On my Behind the Fun tour, I met a couple who made reservations for the first night, and they enjoyed it so much, they'd gone back for dinner almost every night since.

The cost is $30 per person, so expectations are high. We would have tried it, just for a lark, but there was nothing on the menu that appealed to either of us, and Mike didn't bring a jacket to go with his shirt and tie. (You can rent jackets in the Formalities shop, but would they have had a Mike-sized one?) I have seen a vegetarian item (a mushroom strudel) on menus online, but it wasn't on the menu here. (In fact, the menu was much shorter than the mouth-watering example on Carnival's website.)

Nevertheless, I'm sure the steakhouse kitchen would've whipped up something fancy and delicious for me with a little advance notice.... which kind of kills it for me. I want to be able to sit and choose like everyone else, which is why the dining room on Carnival ships gets a little frustrating sometimes. (Plenty of appetizers. Plenty of desserts. Exactly one vegetarian entree.) I also hate the idea of calling ahead and making special arrangements. I don't know why. That's my issue, I guess. (But really, why was the mushroom strudel not actually on the menu? Or, to be exact, the "Mushroom Strudel on Asparagus Fondue, Stuffed Tomato with Green Peas, and Truffled Mac n’ Cheese"? I seem to recall seeing it on Splendor's steakhouse menu.)

Besides, Mike being the bizarre "extra well done" sort of man that he is, with no love of fish or seafood, and this seeming like the sort of place where the chef would cry if he had to do that to a piece of high-quality beef, and Mike being repulsed by any steak more than a half-inch in height, the experience just didn't appeal to us.

Bu! If they brought back the dancing and put the vegetarian item on the menu where it didn't require special fussing ahead of time, maybe Mike could pack a jacket and try the broiled supreme of free range chicken (with port wine/blackberry reduction). Could be fun.

(I don't know why I'm going on about the dancing. Just wait until we hit about three o'clock in this post.)

Carnival Spirit - Nouveau Steakhouse, Looking to Sun Deck

Something neat and unexpected about the steakhouse? The glass staircase.

Carnival Spirit - Nouveau Steakhouse Glass Staircase

Carnival Spirit - Steakhouse Staircase

Also unexpected is how those stairs lead straight to the Lido buffet. Reach the bottom, take one step, and you're at the lemonade dispenser. Hrm. Doesn't the din of the soft-serve slurping masses float up? Don't unsupervised little ones who can't read signs go prancy-thumpy up the pretty steps to check things out? (We never found out.)

Once down the steps, I waited in a booth while Mike went to buy his soda card. This trip, we decided to wait until the second day and save a few dollars. (Mike wasn't going to get sick of lemonade in just one afternoon/evening.) If you do buy your card on the first day and still want to save money, wait until the ship is out of port - no tax. Oh, and on Spirit (and others, if not all), they've switched from cards to stickers.

Mike had better luck finding a card than a pee-free public toilet seat. "People are gross."

Now it was time for lunch, and our first experience with the lower level of the Empire dining room. Table for two, please.

(Once we got past this loud party of four that had to yell their two conversations over the captain's announcements, and the only reason we wre standing next to them was because when a few people left the queue to look at the menu, some new people came and formed a queue behind those who left the line, and suddenly more people showed up, and the people in front of the leavers merely stepped to the side to join the new line, whereas we had to re-queue in the back of the new line since our line had evaporated without any proof of prior existence - a crowd dynamic that was almost fascinating... but was mostly irritating. Science H. Logic!)

Carnival Spirit - Empire Room (Lower Level)

Lunch in the dining room starts at noon, which means we missed a few of my pink highlights: Pick the Flick, Get Scrappy (with the consequence of never getting to attend later, as described above), Remote Control Challenge (is this TV trivia?), and the ice carving demonstration. (That's three out of three cruises for missing the ice carving.) I do wish the dining room was open more than 90 minutes for lunch. We missed some fun stuff on each sea day for want of another half-hour to spare.

Carnival Spirit - Caribbean Pepper Pot

"Is the Caribbean Pepper Pot vegetarian?" Luis the waiter didn't seem to understand. "Is there any meat in the pepper pot soup?" "No, only vegetables, no meat." I cocked a wary eyebrow at Mike, but decided to try it all the same.

Quite decent, and Mike's first experience with okra. And, as I discovered when I got home and ordered a used copy of the old Carnival cookbook, almost certainly not vegetarian.

Grrr, Luis. At least I have pleasant memories of the assistant waiter, a Haitian who didn't hold back with the bread.

You might think I started shrieking "OMG! I ATE MEAT! AFTER (pausing to count) 23 YEARS!" when I found out about the soup. Pifflety-pom. Whatevs. I know that I unknowingly eat meat all of the time. I just do my best to avoid it for all of the personal reasons that nobody else need give a squat about. I only even comment on this because it drives me insane when people say, "Oh, you're not a vegetarian; it turns out you ate meat on X day in 1994." Okay, and you're gay because you haven't had sex with your wife since Wednesday.

Now, one thing I have always said is that if I really wanted something with meat in it, I would eat it. After all, I eat eggs/dairy in restaurants all of the time, and I know those products aren't coming from the same organic, free-range, happy-flappy sources that we seek out when buying groceries. Maybe someday I'll be the better person who denies myself shahi paneer (Indian cheese in creamy cashew sauce). So, if I liked this Caribbean Pepper Pot soup (and I did), would I eat it again?

Nah. It wasn't that good. But it was good. (Now ask me the same question about the soup on Sea Day 2 and... well, we're not there yet.)

Carnival Spirit - Mongolian Steak Salad

Mike had the Mongolian Steak Salad. Not bad, but I think he wanted more beef. I had the Vegetable Fajitas.

Carnival Spirit - Vegetable Fajitas

The fajitas were surprisingly good, light and tasty with the right hint of seasoning, and the tortillas were beautifully soft, but Carnival, I need to have a word with you about your menu for the first sea day.

Vegetarian Lunch Option: Fajitas. Buffet Theme of the Day: Mexican. Vegetarian Dinner Option: Chile Relleno.

Do you see the problem here?

Carnival, while I absolutely appreciate your efforts to give vegetarians more than just pasta or just a reworked portobello, it would be really nice if we had a bit more happening in terms of meatless Italian fare. Maybe, on days when for us there is Mexican for lunch and Mexican on the Lido deck and Mexican for dinner... maybe, on those days, a nice pesto-based dish could be a second option. I don't know. Or forget Italy - how about some gourmet pierogies? Quiche? Just not Mexican-Mexican-Mexican.

Ooof.

Carnival Spirit - Chocolate Gateau

I had the (very nice) chocolate gateau for dessert, and Mike had... the same? Some ice cream? (Mike can remind me later.)

Carnival Spirit - Mike's Mexican Buffet

Mike, still feeling peckish, made up a plate from the Lido buffet. (Yes, it's wasteful to get a bunch of stuff just to try different things... your point?) Here he had his first empanada, and he pronounced it capital-Y Yummy. Also pictured are Hoisin beef (Asian section), tortilla-encrusted chicken with cheese, lemons scallopini with capers (from the regular buffet), and some (not pictured, actually), key lime pie.

The starboard side of the Lido buffet area almost always seemed calmer than the port side.

(Because he enjoyed it, I won't complain that they use up a Taste of Nations slot for Mexican when there is a midnight Mexican buffet on each cruise. That is, I won't complain outside of the parentheses.)

Now, having had such fun at trivia the night before, we had to go to Know It and Show It in the Fountain Cafe. (Again, with the non-operational fountain.) This typo asked to have its photo taken:

Carnival Spirit - Free Misspelling

I recognized the woman running the trivia - Jill(ian) - right away. On the last cruise, when we had the bad trivia experience, I had actually tried to go to trivia on another day. But, I was late to where it was being held next to the casino, and it looked like everyone was in the middle of knowing what they were doing, so I just meandered on to some other adventure, being a little bit shy and a lot self-contained like that. (If teaching teenagers has taught me anything, it's to be grateful that I've never bored easily. Become bored myself, that is. Boring others is very easy.)

Anyway, the person running the trivia on Carnival Splendor that day, someone I only glanced at for a matter of seconds, was the same Jill who was running trivia on Spirit today. That's hard to put into words - do I have latent super observational powers? Ones that only work on noticing cruise ship entertainment staff? Because there are food stains and dust bunnies that would argue against this alleged prowess.

Trivia was fun once again, for all of the same laid-back, knowledge-is-interesting and people-who-like-knowledge-are-interesting reasons. Mike started literally rubbing his hands together when the announced theme was "International."

Again, I'm not going to give away any of the questions because it's not really fair, what with the ships not having unlimited banks of questions (as I shall soon have more to say about).

Oh, and we won again.

:)

"Who has five right? Six right? Ten right?" (Three hands still up.) "Fifteen right?" (Just us and another couple.) "Sixteen right?" (They're out.) "How many do you guys have?" Twenty-three.

Mike enjoyed giving a mini-lecture on why X was the capital of X. (See, this is me not giving away answers.) Which makes up for me very, very accidentally saying something out loud that wasn't meant to be a hint, but could be taken as one, during the "What is the currency of X?" question. This shame was quickly overshadowed when some people walked up to the piano during our game, listened to Jill's question, and as we all silently scribbled, one of the walk-ups said, "Oh that's the X, isn't it?" (Groans from all of us.)

(The walk-up just shrugged to her friends, and they all moved on.)

Jill had said beforehand that the winning team could have either a Ship on a Stick or two medallions. Oh, the agony of choice! Both so equally exciting! Um. Um. Um. Medallions! We could hang them on the tree, come Christmas. (Earlier disappointment: the Spirit gift shop was out of Spirit ornaments.)

Later, when we accidentally saw a dozen people get medallions for team-wide effort in "Win, Lose, or Draw," we woke up to the fact that people regard the golden ship trophies as better prize. Aw. And whatever. We like our loot.

Carnival Spirit - More Foreshadowing

Now we had a ship, a bottle of champagne with a medallion, and two other medallions, which meant we could each wear one as we went about our business around the ship. Haha! Just kidding. (We only wore them for the trip back to the room. And sometimes in the room. Different story.)

Amazed that we did well at the trivia twice and had all of these neato prizes, and we'd barely been on board 24 hours, it was like we'd already made so many good memories that now we could just sit on the balcony for the next seven days and still feel like we'd done enough.

As we left the Cafe, the afternoon session of Adults Arts & Crafts was starting. Lots more dudes this time. The afternoon drag-along can be hard for a man to avoid, as Mike was about to find out.

Carnival Spirit - Pharoah's Palace Seats

This is the upholstery of the Pharoah's Palace. Of the three cruises and the three show lounges, we both like this decor best so far. Egypt - it's just so fun! (Do you hear me, Luxor? Cast out Criss Angel and restore your Tutankhamun's tomb!)

Carnival Spirit - Mike Ready to Bolt

That's Mike, wishing he was almost anywhere but in the Palace. The Palace... where the ABBA dancing lessons were about to begin!

(At right, notice the women working on their arts and crafts.)

The stage filled up quickly, so people were encouraged to dance in the aisles. After trying to just do hand motions in my seat, the cheerful "Dancing Queen" beats swept me up into a side aisle with two other people. (I also joined them in kicking off my shoes. It's hard to twirl on carpet otherwise.)

Carnival Spirit - ABBA Dance Class

The dance class was led by Stephanie Meads, cruise director while Stuart Dunn was on vacation. We'd had Stu on Elation, actually, and felt like we didn't really get to see his work on that short cruise. (Especially since we were oblivious to almost everything except the ports and the balcony.) But, he seemed very funny. Still, it's nice to notch new experiences, so we were glad to get to try someone new.

That's almost all I'm going to say about that. Why? Because John Heald did a really nice thing for us, and John Heald is, from all accounts, a fan of Stephanie Meads, his former personal assistant who now fills in for CDs when they're on vacation. Also, we had a very good time on this cruise, in part because of an excellent entertainment staff (Jill, Sam, Joey), so perhaps we held Stephanie to an unfair standard. Also, she's not offensive, she's just... she... she seems reluctant to let her own personality shine through.

So, where other entertainment staff members brought a lot of believable, unique banter and individualism to their jobs, Stephanie could have been any corporate suit with a microphone. Anecdotes she claimed as her own clearly weren't (and I think this would be obvious even if hadn't read the same "cruising funnies" online several times), and her body language was always that of the overcompensating newbie drill sergeant who is ready for someone to break rank or something to go wrong, not that of a person who is engaged with the passengers or having fun. (But she did amuse us in an unexpected way: sometimes she's such a ringer for Schapelle Corby! I wonder if any other Aussies on board noticed.)

Okay, so I ended up saying more than I meant to, and not quite as much as I want to, but hopefully I've said it in a kind enough and constructive enough way that John Heald wouldn't see this and think, "What a hard-to-please bitch! And after I helped her with her table and everything! I'd like to see her do this job!" But that's the thing - I do a version of that job every day. I wish teaching public high school in the sadder part of town was about helping young people become better at XYZ, but a lot of the job is playing classroom manager and lead entertainer. I am all too familiar of when my tension is obvious, when I don't have confidence that my audience believes in me, and when the information I give is passed-along prattle and everyone knows it.

Oh, I could never do Stephanie's job as well as she does. Imaginary John Heald is right, there. But... Mike could. At least the on-stage part. (And isn't that the part that the passenger notices, no matter how many heroic things happen backstage?)

But if you arrive on this page because you're Googling Stephanie to see what she'll be like on your cruise, don't fret or anything. Some people really enjoy her, and some of the criticisms I've seen sent her way were totally unfair. (Her morning show puppets weren't annoying at all. This is because there was no morning show, but let's not quibble.) Like I said, she's not really offensive or bad, she's just not really there, in terms of charismatic presence.

Anyway. Dance class. Here's the photo again.

Carnival Spirit - ABBA Dance Class

I was in the aisles, learning the steps, having a good ole time and once in awhile beckoning Mike to join me, because, who knows? Could've happened. Here's the routine:

Walk backwards right, left, right - CLAP!
Walk up left, right, left - CLAP!
Four-point turn right, ending with CLAP!
Repeat to the left - CLAP!
Right foot kick-ball-change... TWICE
Thumbs up right and hips left, reverse, reverse, reverse!
Four John Travoltas with booty shake of choice
Two counts of Proud Mary-style rolling arms
Two Funky Chickens
Right toe front, toe back, toe side, and knee up to turn CCW.
Begin again!

And there I was, all into it, and we're about to do a really proper full run of it, when a woman starts leading her guy (a literal drag-along for him) up our aisle to the stage, literally pushing past me as I'm in mid-boogie (Mike saw! I have a witness!), which causes me to falter and never, ever catch up and have my SUPERSTAR! moment of satisfactory completion, and then she pushes people aside on the very crowded stage to join them to learn the dance that we were all just triumphantly finishing.

Grrr! PEOPLE.

I wish I'd come up with a name for her right then, because she kept appearing through the rest of the cruise, tall and thin and blonde, doing things we were just about to do and doing them better. Getting the seats we'd spied. Taking formal photos in front of each backdrop - which had totally been my plan a minute earlier. I don't know - stuff! Worse, they were from Las Vegas, and when I won (a certain contest) later in the week and had to say where I was from, she cheered really loudly. The nerve of that bitch.

Okay, so maybe she'd just had too much to drink before ABBA dance class and only meant to join the fun. I suppose I'm over it. After all, I had the big extended balcony, and rest assured, I practiced all of the ABBA routine plus several original moves out there later. No panic at my disco, baby! (She probably had a suite. And a glitter ball.)

Mike and I left early for Tea Time, which we enjoyed so much on Splendor, we were sure we would never miss a single day of it on Spirit. (Tea is served every sea day, so we were looking forward to four days of scones and cream. Nummmers!)

On the way, I snapped another typo:

Carnival Spirit - You're Entertainment Department

Oh Carnival, do you need a full-time your/you're specialist? How about two? Talk to me, Carnival. I'll throw in there/they're/their for free. My teacher's salary is frozen now - no bump now for having put in another year of experience with the district - so I'm open to interesting offers. Mike's right there with me. Did you know that we've been talking about moving to Florida in a few years, Carnival? No, of course you didn't - we've never mentioned it before, have we? It's a fairly recent notion. Just a thought. A thought for you to think on, Carnival.

Carnival Spirit - Tea Setup

Tea takes place in the Artists' Lobby (That's not where the apostrophe showed up in the Fun Times, Carnival), not in the dining room, as on Splendor. I could argue for either location. The dining room, with the live strings, is more elegant. The quiet aft of the Artists' Lobby involves less queueing then madly plotting for a table for two instead of ending up with most people at the big Arthurian ten-seater. Both rooms have their merits.

Spirit had several more carts going around, and I learned from last time and got exactly what I wanted. It may be tea time, but it's still a cruise. Don't daintily demur against that second scone - nobody else is.

Carnival Spirit - Tea Treats

Mmm! Thin sandwiches with cucumber. Mmm!

Carnival Spirit - Mike and Scone

Once again, I chose the orange spice tea. I don't know why. It wasn't that great last time, but it just seems like something I'll like. No big deal - the tea was purely for a sense of ritual. If no one is pouring milk into the bottom of the cup first, then bah. (Points to Splendor for having milk and cream on the tables. Spirit suffers for lack of room for a proper place setting. New info gained: Mike thinks it's uncouth to put sugar in tea. What? One lump or two? I think I won that one.)

Carnival Spirit - Sloppy Teacup

We went upstairs to listen in on the end of Trivia Rumble, sports - icky!, and wait for Trivia Pursuit, but that was tiresome, so we went back to the room. (Somewhere along the way we looked at last nights photos for dinner. Not bad, but $12 per headshot for "not bad" is too bad. I really think Carnival should lower the rates, and perhaps sell more than 20% of the photos. Source: Behind the Fun tour.)

We suited up and peeked in on the "always empty" hot tub in the gym. Ten people. Back to the room. The room is nice. Ah, balcony. Always plenty to do there.

Carnival Spirit - Mike, Before Fixing Tie

Hours passed... we decided to skip British Pub Quiz tonight. We'd had our win, plus we'd have to wear our dress-up clothes, which would've made me feel strange, as if I was somehow endorsing not being scruffy. I preferred to think of our togs as "dinner passports." (And yes, Mike did adjust his tie before we left the room. Honestly, it's like I notice nothing until I see it in a JPG. Except for entertainment staff.)

An even better reason for skipping the quiz was to see the Captain's Introductions. We stood at the rail on Deck 3, over the atrium, as Stephanie introduced Captain Lubrano, and he introduced his chiefs of staff (and eventually Stephanie, who wedged in at the top of the stairs near the captain, instead of taking the empty place on the steps that would've balanced the poses out).

It was a very nice little presentation, but I was sad/horrified because there was the captain, our fearless leader, spiffy in his regalia, with the microphone in his hand. amiably introducing himself and his top squad... and a handful of steps below him, on the atrium floor, are a bunch of people with their backs to him, more into their chat than his speech. It wasn't just one group, and it made it hard to hear him at times, even. How do you do that? How do you just loudly yuk it up with your pals, back to the speaker, as he gives a presentation (that is listed as a proper event in the Fun Times). The captain faltered once or twice, as if waiting for the loudest to finish, but in the end he simply carried on. I actually felt bad for him. The noise really diminished the grand effect of the introductions.

We queued about 15 minutes early for dinner, which was a wise move. The line became far more impossible tonight. In front of us were two young women in cocktail (I guess) dresses that failed the fingertip-test by about a handspan. Maybe two.

Once inside, we saw Kevin and Garrett across the way. Earlier we'd bumped into them, and apparently their first night of early dining hadn't gone well. Apparently a political discussion at their table of eight broke out early on. By the time the soup came, the table was silent. And remained so for the rest of the meal. They went to the maitre d' afterward and begged to be moved anywhere else. Now they had late dining at a table for two, across the other side of the oval from us. It became a pleasant ritual to wave across the way every night - see, we can enjoy the company of others in the dining room just fine.

The problem with elegant gear is that it can leave more pocket-less than usual. No camera came with us tonight, but my baked and stuffed white mushrooms (with herbs, Romano cheese, and spinach) were delicious (followed by the meh of the chile relleno), and Mike had a flat iron steak. (That was fine.) Lobster, duck, and prime rib are all wasted on us. Mike asked after his beloved, beloved pork loin - would it be on this cruise's menu? Oh yes. This is also one of Zoltan's favourites. "The sauce!" He and Mike sighed together.

Zoltan also chased down bar staff so Mike could have a Mr. Pibb, courtesy of his new soda sticker. Maria was our bar server's name, and for the rest of the cruise she was quick to take Mike's order (which switched to Coke after the Pibb supply ran out) and provide him with refills. Such a different experience than on Splendor. You know I love Splendor, it's my, ship, but bar service for soft drinks was a hard-to-come-by treat in the dining room, and refills were pretty non-existent. We also never had any waiters ignore us, like on Splendor, once they found out that Mike wasn't drinking booze.

For dessert, I tried the caramelized apples on puff pastry, served with vanilla cream and caramel sauce. Whoa! "It is really something quite special," Zoltan agreed. Warm apples are not usually my preferred dessert fruit, but this was an expert balance of hearth-scented warmth and slightly stiff pastry.

The elegant night dinner took longer than others, but we didn't really notice. "C'mon," said the person who never appears in any photos, "let's get our photo taken." "Don't balk," she continued, speaking to the man who cheerfully posed for photos all of the time.

I may have been the one pushing for us to finally have a proper, professional photo, but that doesn't mean I'm going to share it. At least, not all of it.

Mike - Elegant Night

Back to the room. Hooray! A puppy!

Carnival Spirit - Towel Animal - Puppy

In the room, we relaxed, sometimes watching trailers for Pay-Per-View. (Every fifth movie: "We should download that when we get home." Later, at home: "I'm glad we didn't pay to see that.")

At midnight we went to the showroom to see Liar's Club, which was okay, but a little lowbrow (for us tired folk, perhaps) after awhile, plus Mike was cold and had boogers. (Literal boogers, that I got to see for myself, but let's keep some mystique here and leave that story alone.) I had a hankering for pizza that came from who-knows-where, so I waited at the pizza counter, making the dullest small talk I could imagine with a very drunk and very inquisitive couple.

To the room, to the balcony, to the stars and the night. Hey, are those lights?

Silver Spirit in the Night

On the LCD screen of the camera, we magnified the ship until we could make out a word on the side.

Silversea? Never heard of it.

(Next Post in This Cruise Report: The Second Sea Day.)

09 May 2010 |



Hamsters

 WE BUILT A HOUSE 

 RABBITS TOLERATE US 

 RECENTLY PLAYED 
 BOARD GAMES: 



 CRUISE REPORTS: 

Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)