Trip log, day seven. St. Patrick’s Day At Sea.
7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida
March 17, 2023
FUN TIMES – Day 7
Our final day onboard the Mardi Gras started with a walk to the gym with Emily to pick up today’s puzzles from JavaBlue Café. On the way, I took a peek inside Piano Bar 88 where the drink menu features musically named cocktails. This was one of many venues we just didn’t get around to experiencing during the week which is just fine as it is something to do next time.
Towel animals are a guest favorite pretty much across the industry, but Carnival has taken this to the next level with a cruise line branded publication which was sold out onboard. When I returned homed, I discovered the cruise line has published previous editions of Carnival Towel Creations over the years with used copies occasionally available a few bucks plus shipping. Today, one of the top actives listed was Towel-folding fun held at Center Stage which was quite popular among guest onboard.
As for today’s puzzles, they were St. Patrick’s Day themed.
Our big event for the day was a breakfast, but not any old sit-down breakfast experience. This morning, we were taking a journey to the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends was held in the smaller main dinning room, the Flamingo Restaurant. Just outside there were a few photo ops, and an impressive ice sculpture of The Cat in the Hat.
The menu is themed like a Dr. Seuss book with signature Seussian offerings with fun names and descriptions. This was an event we booked and paid for prior to the cruise and was $10/pp. Reservations are suggested, but according to the onboard information walk-ins are welcome if the event is fully booked. This was also held on multiple mornings.
In addition to the fun items, classic breakfast offerings are available as well. The Horton’s Cereal-Crusted French Toast was topped with Fruit Loops and it left me in a sugar coma.
During the course of the breakfast, characters arrived and met with guests for photos and autographs.
Autographs are collection of stamps from Sam I Am, Thing 1, Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat which are collected on the back of the paper menu keepsake menu.
This was such a fun experience. However, we almost missed out on some of the fun as the host was not initially including our table for the meet and greet, nor did we receive the fun keepsake autograph menu. Come to find out that she figured 3 adults and 2 teenage girls were not interested in this part of the experience. If you are familiar with Carnival’s market, we responded with “we Choose Fun Together.” Granted, by this time, I was peak sugar high from the French toast.
Back in Summer Landing….who would have guessed. We noticed a sign for green specialty drinks at the Pig & Anchor bar. When in Rome, right? We were actually here for trivia starting with sports. The next one was really fun, ‘Explain a movie badly.’ If this isn’t already a party card game, it should be.
After trivia and some relaxing, the girls headed out to The Punchliner Comedy Club for the Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea experience, which they asked to do after seeing so many other kids with the stuffed animals around the ship. It was offered once before, and yes, our 15-almost-16 year olds were super excited to build an animal, even if they were the oldest kids there.
They had a blast and as you can see, both chose frogs. The 50th birthday t-shirts were free. Isabelle chose swim trunks, and there were plenty of offerings.
For our last group lunch, we met back up at ChiBang, a sit-down experience where lunch is included in the cost of the cruise. We used the Carnival Hub app to book at table at 1PM, and were assigned at table in just a few minutes.
ChiBang brings Chinese and Mexican cuisine to the table. Again, by not doing any research beforehand, I was expecting a fusion dining experience, but in reality this restaurant (which means ‘wing’ in Mandarin) is just a venue serving two different cuisines.
The experience was ok and the food was lackluster and surprisingly bland for a restaurant that describes itself as serving authentic and perfectly balanced flavor. We all ordered Asian fusion, and the one member in our party that ordered Mexican immediately regretted not ordering Asian or going up to Blue Iguana. Emily and another member in our party asked for extra spicy, and for that, they brought over chili oil, which was odd and not spicy. However, the service was fantastic. We spent a lot of time chatting with our server, and even made napkin creations together. This was the highlight of the meal. As always, crew members make the experience and this was no exception.
The desserts were enjoyable portion of this experience. It was nice dining with the group, but I think we all would have been happier if we foraged for lunch across the ship and met back at a table somewhere and ate together. In fact, I cannot say enough about how good Blue Iguana is over and over again.
Our last big activity for the cruise was the ParchedPig Brewery Tour. We spotted this offering the schedule the first day, but by the time we got around to booking it was at capacity for the first day at sea. Yet, plenty of availability for the other sea day! Kinda nice having a beverage seminar available for casual booking onboard and not instantly sold out ahead of time. We were seated outside the brewery near the outdoor walkup Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que. The brewmaster talked about making beer on a moving cruise ship and the efforts to provision ingredients. The tasting consisted of four standard beers in the rotation as well as two extras including some of the last Christmas Ale.
The actual brewery tour was not much to write home about. We were taken to the refrigerated storage room where the tanks are located, which a handful are connected directly to the taps at Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse.
To supplement the production onboard, beer is also produced in Lakeland and Miami such as the canned beer (and hard seltzers) offerings which are available all over the ship and are 16oz. (seltzers 12oz.) cans.
The beer brewed onboard is also served around the ship by transferring beer from the tanks to kegs. The ParchedPig tap handles are all a variation of the parched pig in different outfits.
Not really part of the brewery tour, but this seems like a great place to mention that up in the Lido Marketplace, there is self service, PYOB (Pour Your Own Beer) station! Only thing missing was a stack of pitchers.
At the end of the event, the brewmaster handed out certificates of recognition from Carnival Bar University. I’ll be sure to frame this and place it next my certificate of authenticity for my quality Seyko Timepiece on the wall in my office.
All jokes aside, the real take home gift is a pilsner glass with the Parched Pig logo on one side and the Carnival logo on the other.
The tasting experience was enjoyable and overall not bad for a ~$35/person beverage seminar.
Our seminar was set up at the outside seating area of Pig & Anchor where the wall featured some specs of the ship.
Our final night onboard culminated with dinner back in the Palm Restaurant. During the evening dinner in the MDR, members of the wait staff would sing a song – the music was familiar, but the lyrics were different. On this final night, a good amount of folks stood up and danced. I guess it could be considered corny, but we are cruising Carnival and we choose fun – may as well enjoy the moment and have fun!
The final menu had some interesting offerings that I never expected to see on a main dining room menu such as fried chicken and enchiladas. I suspect most of the dining room was keyed in on the baked Alaska dessert based on the reaction when they were presented in the restaurant. However, if I see a cheese plate on the dessert menu, I will order it without hesitation.
We didn’t really do much after dinner, but enjoy some final time on the balcony just hanging out and relaxing. It was time to pack up and put our suitcases in the hallway in the same manner as Disney Cruise Line. The main difference is guests are assigned luggage tags based on debarkation numbers, not characters.
Mardi Gras Trip Log Day 8: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise – Port Canaveral
Trip log, day eight. Debarkation.
7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida
March 18, 2023
A little bonus trip log here to finish up the trip. The following debarkation information was provided in our stateroom the previous night.
We had to go to the Palm Restaurant to pick up our duty free alcohol purchases. It was a well organized process from my previous experiences. I presented the claim forms and the crew member walked over to one of the tables, grabbed our bag and that was it.
There were a number of breakfast options from sit-down to quick service. We opted to go see Shaq for one visit to Big Chicken.
We were not in a hurry to disembark so we did not need to use the Express Debark option where guests were told to meet with all of their luggage in The Brass Magnolia at 7:30AM to be escorted off. We often do express walk-off when sailing Disney when we have early flights or we return to Port Canaveral on a weekday and book it home to avoid missing part of a work and/or school day. We were however given zone 1 for disembarkation since we were suite guests.
The debarkation experience was a bit different than we’ve experienced with Disney Cruise Line. Once you have your luggage in the terminal, guests are instructed to enter one of two lines. One line is for passports and the other is for groups with birth certificates. The birth certificate line was LONG. Our friends left the ship before us, and were still in birth certificate line in the terminal when we were in the car heading away from the port. As for the passport line, they used optical scanners which kept the line moving. It would have been great if this was part of the Cruise Terminal 8 renovations to expedite the debarkation process for groups with all passports. A lot of time is saved by not stopping at a customs desk and presenting passports to an officer.
Reflecting on the Mardi Gras cruise experience, I am left with positive thoughts and a willingness to return. From our experience, the booze cruise stereotype was busted on the Mardi Gras – we did not encounter any related issues or unruly viral video events. Branching out expanded my views on the cruise industry, albeit briefly, I now have some level of comparison to another cruise line to better share my thoughts when sharing my Disney Cruise experiences going forward. This will not be the only non-Disney Cruise trip report, I have other cruises planned to expand my ability to contrast and compare. The goal is to bring forward honest comparisons and insights. Before, I would come to an opinion following a change, or a new onboard experience based solely on my experience with 1 cruise line. Expanding the knowledge base allows me to at least say this is common/standard with other cruise lines. Sure, we all hold Disney to a higher standard given they position themselves as a premium product in the marketplace, but like it or not there are things that are not premium when compared to other industry offerings.
There is a glaring omission in the coverage of the Mardi Gras, there are youth spaces onboard, but the teenagers in the group did not check those out. Obviously this is a major attraction to the Disney Cruise ships, however, in our case the teens are close to aging out of the Disney youth spaces, and are looking for something different. This is something that is an important factor to consider over the next few years when considering family vacations. Isabelle has been on 30 Disney cruises and started at age 3, and she remarked how much more there was for her to do. The loved the ropes course on the top deck and returned to it over and over again.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel any regret or FOMO while passing the Disney Fantasy on our drive home from Port Canaveral. At the end of the week it did not matter if we sailed to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, onboard the Mardi Gras or Disney Fantasy. We sailed with an awesome group of close family friends and we had an amazing time together. The old Irish proverb, timely given our final day at sea was March 17th, is spot on.
There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, and may they always be.
Thanks for following along with our Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras trip report. I promise we will be back to our normal Disney Cruise trip reports this summer when we embark on our next adventure!
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I surprise you didn’t go to any of the playlist prouductions, on marid gras Broadway Beats and The World Works Here is the a highlight of any cruise. Carnival does allow photography during the playlist productions shows compared to Disney Broadway shows on their ship. Carnival has a debarkation presentation and shor excursion presentation live during the cruise. Disney debarkation presentation is only on the TV in your stateroom. Carnival the Cruise Director is visable to the guest. Trent on the Disney Fantasy, only heard him, didn’t see him once
The irish proverb very nicely sums it up. I also like the comments about the branching out of DCL and what other vacations might be instore, especially as your family dynamic changes as kids grow up and want to experience other things. I look forward to the adventures.
Thank you for this! We just booked our first Carnival cruise (also Mardi Gras) following only cruising Disney and lately Royal Caribbean. I think you’d enjoy the newer Oasis class ships on that like.
Just did the same cruise on 4/15 and was pleasantly surprised as the experience was much better than previous Carnival cruises. Our 14 year old had a blast in the teen areas and made several friends. Also cruise director Kyndall Fire is awesome!
You may want to change the name of the blog.
Truth in advertising…
I’d love to see a comparison post- what you like better about each cruise line.