Once upon a time, with a vision of a fantastic year of experience as an au pair, carrying only one suitcase, I went to the other end of the Earth, called the United States. My main motivation for such a trip was the desire to discover the whole world. My dream was to come true! But let's return to my sweet twenties, where I will tell you, in a series of articles, a story about two poor girls, traveling to the Caribbean.
Fort Lauderdale / Miami, USA Sunday 17.12. 2006
I can't believe it, but it is here! Despite all the obstacles, such as having no one to go with, a lack of money, they sold out my desired trip, and at the last moment, I received a message, we cannot participate if neither of us is 25 years old; the first day of my Caribbean cruise is here. My American host family (the one I work for as a live-in nanny) left on Friday for a holiday to Mexico to celebrate the Jewish Chanukah, therefore, no decoration in the house as opposed to the rest of the US, and it doesn't seem the holidays are coming in one week from now. But for me, Christmas starts today!
Here I am, writing and sending my Christmas cards to Bohemia, locking all the doors in the house, and there are too many of them, trying to close and zip my overloaded suitcase, I am ready to go. As usually packing too many things, I found out that I just need one pair of shorts, a skirt, seven T-shirts plus few other essential items. Everything seems to me important and I cannot decide what to dismiss.
After breakfast, I am going to pick up Brasilian Au Pair Raquel, the only one who responded to my email, which was sent to many girls from the Au Pair agency, about looking for a travel buddy. Although we have seen each other only once, and have not talked much on the phone either since Raquel has recently arrived in the US and is still a beginner to English, I feel we will be good pals.
The way to the harbor
We are standing in front of our chateau-like residence, which I quickly got used to calling my house too, and waiting for Paula, who is taking us to Miami Port. I know her through the agency because she is the only girl from my country, working here in my neighborhood as an au-pair. Silently sitting in the car, Raquel is staring at us, two Czechs, conversing in the native language. Foreigners always find us speaking very fast in Czech. On the other hand, English is supposed to be the slowest spoken language. How excited, we're in Miami, in the harbor. Finding the ship without any problems, embracing Paula and saying our goodbyes, we're heading forward to our Caribbean adventure! At that moment, I have no idea this is my last time to see Paula, but I will tell the story about her later and it has something to do with the grand finale of our vacation. Let´s talk about the place which we are going to call our home for one week!
Giant and luxurious Noah's Ark
One of the largest ships in the Caribbean, the Carnival Victory is a pretty stable vessel and makes no place for our doubts of becoming seasick. A small boat is out of your imagination because even the largest steamboat on the Danube River is in comparison with this one like David and Goliath. Looking at the vessel's parameters and capacity it seems it is rather a small floating 4,000 citizen city than just a big boat.
Almost like ten times smaller Noah's Ark, the ship
- weighs 101.5 tons,
- has a capacity of 2754 guests
- is 273 meters long
- the crew and staff are together 1,100 employees.
As soon as you enter the local foyer, you feel like staying in the smaller version of some Hilton hotel in a large city, ready for a Christmas party. Shining, enlightened surfaces, winding shroud system or glass elevators, the piano bar in the center, around which you can sit down while enjoying a welcome drink, it is breathtaking how they established the lobby. In any five star hotel, they require a certain dress code. If you wear a wet shirt from the bathing suit underneath, shorts and flip-flops, they will not let you in for lunch and you should definitely suit up for dinner. Three times a week, a gala dinner takes place there, requiring a so-called cruise elegant dress code, expecting the ladies to have at least a little black dress, festive clothes or an evening gown, men suits or tuxedoes.
There is a duty-free zone at the sea, therefore you will find many shops on the boat, especially with luxury goods at great prices. Jazz bar, two discotheques, sauna, fitness center with yoga lessons, outdoor activities such as cross-country trail, sunbathing terrace, water slides, pools, whirlpools, they all are here for your leisure time. Try them all in one week´s cruise? Believe me, that´s an impossible mission. Unfortunately, the pools were small and constantly crowded. If you plan to swim daily in an Olympic-size pool, Carnival Victory wouldn't be the right boat for you. Thankfully, many features fully compensate such differences.
Apart from two giant restaurants, a large casino, looking like those in Las Vegas, a great theater for thousands of guests, where a Broadway show takes place every night, they are here to entertain you. To become a participant of the show, you can contest at a local karaoke bar, where the best singers are selected to join the last night show. Would you rather sing along the piano? Go to the Irish bar with a piano-man sitting in the middle, surrounded by guests, all of them revolving together on a special auditorium. Call out the name of your favorite song and tip the musician into a mason jar to play it for you. Since the payouts are low, the employees welcome and work hard to get tips, because for them it is the main earning. Of course, I participated in those programs. Every night! And singing on a giant stage for so many people? That was a challenge, which I accepted! Well, in the twenties, one still has the courage.
Carnival Cruises motto states: "The fun boat", which fills up to the last detail. You hardly get a chance to get bored for a minute! After dinner, an unconventional surprise will play smile on your face. All of a sudden, the music starts playing and the waiters, who were giving you a distinctive advice on what to choose from the menu and serving the chef's local specialties a while ago, jump to a few smaller bar tables on the ground floor of the restaurant and begin to dance synchronously sexy reggaeton choreography. If anything surprised you till now, this will definitely break the ice.
An experience for all your senses
Even the best Middle East hotel with an all-inclusive program will not satisfy your sweet teeth, such as their delicious breakfast and a buffet-style lunch in the two-floor restaurant and a fancy three-course dinner served, which you can choose from the menu. For the last two days, we have had to include more salads in our diet and limit our portions because these rich feasts affected our shapes already. Imagine that you often find compatriots from Europe amongst the staff. Even our waiter Boris was from Slovakia! He confirmed my thoughts, that I was the only Czech on the ship. This is probably not the case in Croatian summer destinations, where you hear the Czech language all over. Our cruise began a week before Christmas Eve and ended exactly 24th December. Last night´s Christmas show was another amusing feature and a great end of our vacation with Raquel.
A week of luxury for a buck
After embarking, we all had to undergo a brief safety training, they were teaching us how to deploy and inflate the life jacket and showing us the escape exits with lifeboats. Then we could already go to our rooms. I have watched cruise prices for nearly a year on the Internet and found out that the lowest ones were available right before leaving. I bought the trip 2 weeks before. By waiting until the last second, the price dropped by another hundred dollars. It was nerve-wracking because they could sell out my dream vacation, which already happened to me before with another one, but I was lucky because people seemed not to be interested in the pre-Christmas voyage.
Reserving the inner cabin without windows, we paid 500 dollars for a week on a Caribbean boat with an all-inclusive program. Only alcohol was not included, but we did not find it a problem at all. We always bought beer or wine in the harbor. You can easily make many friends on board. Two poor girls always find a friend who invites them for drinks. I am not talking about men who would like to take advantage of us, but about friendly young people and the families with children, we became friends with. Even the crew of the boat often invited us for free cocktails and paid for them! (And if you guys read this article and remember me, let me know when you are in Prague and the drinks are on me! )
But what was the best? Surprisingly, the ship was not fully occupied,
and in this case, the clients are often getting an upgrade and are moved to the
higher floors. Not only did we get a cab with a window that we have not
originally paid for, but they had moved us into a room with a private balcony
on the penultimate floor of the ship! Moreover, the view was amazing! The price
of such a cabin has double value. Well, that was another Christmas present for
But let's move on to the story of the voyage itself and what adventures are to come! Several dream destinations were on my bucket list and the selected itinerary matched perfectly with my plans. Sometimes they move your cheese if you know what I mean... Not everything went exactly according to our plan, but when one door closes, another opens. Our journey had small ups and downs as well. As to our itinerary, I chose the West Caribbean, it is a destination that included everything I expected from the dream cruise. We were looking forward to experiencing an excursion to the remains of the ancient civilization, snorkeling on the coral islands, but also wanted to visit the homeland of a musician Bob Marley, featuring fairy-tale nature with several waterfalls.
- Cozumel, Mexico - Mayan pyramids
- Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands - Stingray City, snorkeling and shellfish fishing
- Ochos Rios, Jamaica - Waterfalls on the Dunn River
The opinions, pictures, and grammatical errors are mine and mine only, although you are very welcome to correct them, share them or add yours. This isn´t a commercial article. I didn´t get paid for any of the service or goods stated and recommended in the post, except for those drinks ...