Here is TBB family’s trip report of our Carnival cruise to the West Caribbean back in 2012.

 

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[Note: TBB is traveling, currently in Fortaleza, Brazil for the World Cup! Go Greece and USA!]

 

February 6 – 12, 2012

We decided to go on our first cruise to take advantage of the schools’ Winter Break. After some research we got a great deal on a 7 night on the Carnival Dream ship to Western Caribbean! The cruise cost was $2,262 and was paid by 226,200 Capital One Venture Reward points from the mega promo they ran last year, thank you Capital One! Some details will be given here how Dad makes his hobby of frequent flyer miles and hotel point collection (addiction?) come…alive to create more travel memories and enhance world peace and understanding by bringing us all together…Wow, that just sounded good:-)

We left on a Friday evening. Here is the obligatory pic at the Detroit airport!

After hanging out at the Delta Sky Club Lounge, we rode the terminal train to our gate:

We flew to Atlanta and then Tampa. When we booked the tickets prices to Orlando were over $400 per ticket. Therefore, we flew to Tampa for $300 each, total cost $1,200. Of course we have plenty of miles to use but we like to save them for international flights or domestic tickets costing over $400 (or $500 preferably). Flights were full and crammed. Dad did not get upgrade to First Class as a Delta Platinum Elite flyer! Of course Mom did not get the upgrade as Sliver Elite (and we never expected it anyway!) Boo to Delta! Flying coach after a long time was…fine. We blew a chance at a total $2k bump ($500 times 4) from Atlanta to Tampa as we were slowed down by Mom…who had to have some chinese food…Still can’t get over that, oh well. We did not want to risk it flying into Tampa the next day and somehow miss our ship!

Our Thai friends Tee and Kieng from Ann Arbor with their two boys joined us in the cruise. Dad’s friend Dave and his family from Ann Arbor also decided to join us in this cruise with his wife, three kids and mother.

We got a one way rental car from Budget (Tampa to Port Canaveral) at the Tampa airport (cost $65 plus gas…darn Florida February one ways!) and started driving around 11 pm to Orlando. We checked in after midnight at the same Radisson hotel on International Drive Dad had stayed in earlier this month during his conference. Cost just 9,000 Club Carlson points, whatabargain! Nice comfortable suite for a Radisson!

The princess thanking Club Carlson for the mega 50k promo a few months ago that made a free night stay possible!

Off to Port Canaveral in the morning.

Note: Kostas was starting to get sick early on Friday. We kept him home from school. By the time we got into Tampa he must have had 104 fever and just looked like total crap. Visions of not making it on the cruise were running rampant, thoughts of tracking down pharmacies/doctors were very uncomfortable. Got him some medicine from a Walgreens and some orange juice and we all slept praying he will get better. He was feeling a little better on Saturday morning and kept getting progressively better through the day….phew!!

The ride to Port Canaveral was very nice, here us driving into the port area with cruise ships in the horizon

This was one of the Disney cruise ships

Returning the car to Budget was a …zoo. They were bombarded by other cruise passengers wanting to pick up cars. An employee was heard saying “how can we be 100 cars short?”. Thank God we were dropping off and not picking up a car!

The lines to the shuttle van were long but only waited for about a half hour, not bad.

We dropped of our four carry on bags with our baggage tags and started towards to enter the ship

The Check in process was VERY smooth, many Carnival employees to check in passengers. It was at best a 10 minute thing, quite impressive!

Here we come leaving the land!

First day was a day at sea. Every night we sat at the assigned table in the Crimson Room. Here is one of our lovely servers. She is from Thailand. The other two were from Colombia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Most employees were form the Far East (Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia). Many from Eastern Europe too. I wonder if we willl start seeing Greeks soon:-(

Food was very good, excellent variety and you could order whatever and how many things you wanted….Definitely one of the best cruise features and one you feel at the end as you likely gained some pounds…darn buffets!!!

Yes, give me one of those too please, thank you!

We had an inside cabin as we wanted to not give Carnival a dime…no, the reasoning was, we are first time cruisers, we want to experience the ship and the ports and we don’t plan to spend much time in the room anyway (we did not, only for sleep primarily!). We heard cabins are small….they were not kidding!!!! VERY cozy indeed. Beds very comfortable, we all slept good as we were so tired every night!

Kids got involved with the kid activities Carnival has.

 

First night welcome party for the younger kids. Dad took Sophia

and we danced till the cows, no whales, came home!

We enjoyed some of the night shows on the main Encore stage, here is from opening night

to the beat y’ all

Two pics of the main atrium

 

this is one looking up…14 stories…or something like that

Near sail time we had a meeting with some other fellow cruisers we met online at cruisecritic.com website. Some of them are veteran cruisers and we learned a lot about cruising.

We also did a cabin crawl tour and got a chance to see how the other cabins are. I can see now that our inside cabin was….looked down upon as some of the balconies (you pay for that view!!!) were magnificent!

 

From the honeymoon couple…wow!

Club activities for Sophia and younger kids

This was one of the things I always wanted to do since I was a kid. I remember going on a boat with my parents to a Greek Island when I was very young and just loved the sailing, the sound of the waves, the rocking, everything about it and…for some reason…I wanted to get a chance to shoot some hoops on a ship!!! “Bucket” (hah!) list item accomplished, scratch it off the list! Extremely windy, my shooting percentage probably never entered double digits, yikes!

Noah, David’s son…he can shoot the ball!

This is the room where we spent a lot of evenings…the Comedy Club!

The comics were surprisingly good! And the presenter was “Jeff the Fun Dude”. That dude looked just like Rod Stewart!

Some pics around the ship. Back of the ship

 

Mid section

 

Dad participated in the Hairy Chest competition. The rest of the pics will not be posted to preserve his pristine reputation:-) Made it to the final round by the way!

Kids enjoyed the water slides, nothing spectacular

What we loved about cruising was being cut off from the world (off the grid!) with no cell phones, laptops and internet. It was very weird and we were not going to pay the outrageous rates for wifi!But we got used to it and REALLY enjoyed it just reading a nice book (Dad finally read “The Ascent of Money” by Niall Ferguson, Amazing book!) and just relaxed….that’s the point right?

Cozumel, Mexico was our first stop

Nice parking from our Italian captain

A Royal Caribbean ship docked next to us

Nice architecture

We decided to get a van for a local beach

Iguana

Beach was okay…Nothing like the Greek beaches!!

 

Here is Dave’s wife Candy, her daughters Zoe and Sofia and our daughter Sophia. Zoe and Sophia got along very well and became good friends and hang out together a lot in the cruise!

 

And the three boys stuck together…again. Here is Kostas goofing around

 

 

Family pic

Two families pic

Zoe, Sofia and Sophia

After spending some hours on the beach, got a van back to the port. A third cruise ship came

 

Walking on the pier back to our ship. I LOVE this pic of our kids!

Lee and the Dream

Sophia Diva

Us…Dad is not photogenic…we mentioned that before in another blog post….takes several takes to find the least bad one:-)

 

Next stop was in Belize. We needed to take a small boat to the port as the waters are not deep enough to dock! Love these small boats, you feel the rocking!

George and Dave thanking Capital One Bank for paying for our cruise!

 

 

 

Dave had arranged an excursion for all of us. We went cavetubing. Here is the guy in the yellow shirt who owns the company leading us to our van

Always enjoy some shots of the local scene. Here are a few guys cutting some grass?

Belize has lots of jungles and Mayan Ruins….people come here for outdoor stuff…you will see.

We got to the national park area

we all received our tubes

entering the national park now

Jungles and caves!

Learning about the area

Amazing tree formations!

Sophia, Dave’s mother, Zoe, Sofia, Noah

More on the caves

And this is where we will enter the caves with our tubes and ride them for quite a while back to the area near the park entrance

darn life jacket, makes me look even fatter!!!!

 

 

The tube ride through the dark caves was…fantastic!  This is the end of the ride. Total cost for the four of us (with lunch) was $150, well worth the experience.

After a wonderful lunch provided by the owner’s wife and sister, we got back on the van and drove back to Belize City. Some shots from the city

 

On the small boat back to the ship

 

The ship has several food stations. This is the sushi station, we spent some time here:-)

The room stewards did a fantastic job taking care of our room every day. At night they left a folding towel surprise.

Mardi Gras at the atrium area. There was a lot of dancing that went on!

Stop number 3: Mahogany Bay at Roatan Island, Honduras.

This is designed to stay on the very nice beach here, we can walk to it. There were excursions but we decided to stay on the beach in the horizon

We played several mini golf games on the ship.

Another food station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice beach, the water does not compare to the water you find in Greek beaches…not even close!

Wow, great shot of our little princess

 

Another one

 

Discussing the Middle East situation with Dave:-)

Rough life!

Reminds me the movie Top Gun,the female Tom Cruise?

 

Zoe and Sophia, BFFs?

 

 

We all voted that this was THE best pic of the trip!

In the dining room…before we ate too much…again

Every night during dinner there was some type of dancing celebration…and oh so we needed it to get up and walk around a bit!

 

Kieng and Lee dancing

More dancing on Lido deck

Always played movies every night on Lido deck. One night they had a pretty good laser show

 

more dancing…led by the professional dancers crew

4th and final stop: Costa Maya, Mexico. Again, we just walked around the pier. Shortest stop of all four stops.

 

Little port area…very touristy

 

 

 

 

 

Swim with the dolphins…poor dolphins!

 

This is what the cabin hallway looks like

 

Barbecue time at Alani deck

 

 

 

Kids having fun with the Fun Force break dance crew

Staff singing to us in the dining room

Main stage area

Last day was another day at sea. It went really fast. We enjoyed the cruise. We got a good feel about what cruising is all about. We are not signing up for another cruise in the near future but we will definitely cruise again. Loved how we did not have to decide where to eat every day, loved being cut off and relaxing, loved the comedians and some shows, loved cavetubing and relaxing on the beaches.Loved the food….and hated it for being soooo plentiful and available! We missed having that local connection immersion we enjoy….It is just a very different way to travel. Dad is very good in the airlines and hotels…this was a new experience for us and we are glad we did it! Final bill for Gratuities and some drinks we had was $389. Paid by 38,900 Capital One points.

We woke up early and we were one of the first passengers off the ship. We wanted to make it to the Budget rental car office fast to avoid long delays. We got in our car and off we were driving to Tampa at about 8.40 am! Two day rental cost $90 plus gas. We made it straight to the hotel Dad reserved. Sheraton Sands Key Resort in Clearwater, FL for 10,000 Starwood points. The hotel was picked because of its incredible beach but the weather did not cooperate at all as it was too windy and kind of cold to go on the beach! We had a very sub par stay in this hotel. We were given a standard room by the elevators where it got very loud. View was awful, bricks and more bricks! There was a local IT company annual meeting happening, drunk people being loud and stupid. Housekeping staff person gave us a warm wake up call at 8 am the next morning without knocking…Dad emailed the Starwood folks and the hotel General Manager and expressed the issues we had with this stay. Starwood refunded all the 10,000 Starpoints back to our account! Appreciated but we will never stay here again!

 

hotel pool

hotel beach

Lobby

Our car

Planking

Driving out of the Clearwater area to the Tampa airport

Spent some time in the Tampa Skyclub Lounge

Flights were to Memphis and then on to Detroit. Dad got upgraded on MEM-DTW. 1 out of 4 upgrades as Platinum. Sad! Promptly offered the FC seat to the Queen who passed on it. Son expressed interest for it, told to take a hike. Flights were nothing special. And just like that we were back home to reality!

 

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TBB
travelbloggerbuzz@gmail.com

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27 comments on “Trip Report: West Caribbean Cruise paid by Capital One Bank!

  1. So Dan – what percentage of his SPG Amex commissions is TPG giving you for blatantly ripping off your posts on all the ways to get to Israel (even ripping off your point about Air Canada’s lap child policy)?

    I’m guessing about as much as he gave Frequent Miler after he stole his Vanilla Reload “one card to rule them all” post? I’m sorry, I meant “discovered it by pure coincidence right after FM did”

  2. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL…..Congratulations Buzz, What a game! You gotta stay until they are done! You are the reason they won!

    • Looking forward to Rene posting a picture congratulating the 16 teams who advanced to the next round, and trying to photoshop Greece out of the list

      • I tried to stay believe me. But the logistics were just mind boggling, too many moving pieces with changing dates on AA award, flights to Recife and of course the game tickets (which I did not worry much about). Toughest part was the Recife flights, insanely expensive and too late to arrange decent awards (crappy availability of course). Plus June 30 I do quarterly invoicing and putting it off was just too difficult, especially when AA folks were telling me they can see first availability for changing dates…on July 9th!

        I reserve the right to see Greece against Netherlands or Mexico on July 5 in Salvador if I can arrange RT award to that city :-)

        I wish I was there but am okay to hold on to the incredible memories I am taking with me

  3. Great job, but George hasn’t had that much hair in years. That was stock footage from Carnival a few years ago – that guy was definitely wearing a George Mask!

    Did the Messi/Musa thing today remind anyone else of Letterman’s Ooma/Oprah bit? Didn’t think so.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Round Up: New Chime Card, Best Card For Everyday Purchases, June 29th » Doctor Of Credit

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