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About Nicole721

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  1. Thanks again for all the help, all! As to the suggestion that we just get the visa to be sure, it's really not worth it in our situation -- we'll be in Shanghai for less than 12 hours before flying home and we have no immediate plans to return in the foreseeable future, so going through the hassle and cost associated with securing a visa really isn't worth it. Worst case scenario, we skip the city tour and go right to the airport. Hardly seems like not having a visa would put our vacation at risk here -- we're going home that same day regardless 🙂
  2. Thank you so much! This is SUPER helpful 🙂
  3. Hi all! I'm hoping someone here can help, as Royal Caribbean has been unable to provide us any clarification when we reached out: We'll be on the Spectrum of the Seas later this month. Our cruise ends in Shanghai (starts in Singapore, so we won't be in China beforehand), and as we'll be going from Hong Kong to Shanghai back home to the United States, we should qualify for the 144-hour visa exemption (we'll be flying back home the same day we disembark the ship in Shanghai). My question is, we have a late flight (6:30 PM) out of PVG, and we were planning on taking the ship's city tour with airport transfer. What we're unclear on is if using the 144-hour exemption would cause us to miss the tour (we heard lines may be longer and it could take hours?) or if we would need a traditional visa. Does anyone have experience with leaving the ship/Shanghai with the 144-hour exemption? Many thanks!!!!
  4. I'll be on the Spectrum next month! Definitely planning on doing a l-o-n-g review, but will be posting pics/vids on FB and Instagram while we're onboard, too 🙂 If there's any info I can bring back, let me know!
  5. If I have one criticism of the Horizon, it’s that the Liquid Lounge is a little on the small side. From what I’ve gathered, it’s the smallest theater on Carnival’s fleet, and it’s on Carnival’s largest ship. Getting a decent seat was a pain in the butt and involved a masterfully timed shuffle between whatever restaurant we were dining at on any given evening and the forward theater. That aside, Lip Sync Battle was hilarious and so much fun to watch. It was the perfect way to end our cruise. I wish we’d been able to see the new Playlist show, Celestial Strings, but for one reason or another, they weren’t premiering it until the following cruise, so I just had to hope some videos would pop up online. And after the show, after a full day of sea day fun, I couldn’t put off the packing anymore. I commandeered just about the entire room, all three beds, to fold, sort, stuff and pack. I didn’t realize how much I’d packed and how much I’d bought until it was all sitting in front of me. I’d pack, I’d stress, I’d complain and then I’d pack some more. It all got done. Three women in Europe for two and a half weeks, four suitcases, three backpacks and three very large tote bags. We got it all packed. We got it all in. And, spoiler alert, if our bags were overweight, the American Airlines agent checking us in at BCN didn’t mention it. By the time all was said and done, it was nearing midnight. Mom was already asleep and Stephanie and I ended up on the Lido deck with plates of pizza and cookies. The Cubs were coming back from a nine run deficit in the eighth inning, and I was convinced if I moved, something would shift in the universe and kill their rally. So we sat with our pizza and our cookies and our tea, we waited for the little pitch tracker to show In Play – Runs and we reminisced on everything we saw and did Stephanie fell asleep just as soon as she got into bed when we got back to the room. I couldn’t sleep. I was so awake, which was even more remarkable given that I didn’t drink coffee and didn’t nap all day. I wanted to go out and see more of the ship, take in every bit of it I could until I couldn’t anymore, but 13 days was enough of something that could never really be enough, and staying out late to take in more wouldn’t stop the morning sun from coming out, ushering us off the ship and onto an airplane headed back to the states. I shut off all the lights and once the cabin was dark, noticed the lights in the distance. We were pulling into Barcelona, just after 1:30 AM. If I thought on it more, I probably would have headed upstairs to take pictures. It’s probably for the best I didn’t – I had to wake up four hours later and I’d need any and all energy I could muster for debarkation.
  6. Fried Wontons Caramelized Crepes Rose Crème Brulee Rinyami grabbed us on the way out to wish us safe travels, telling us she’d see us on the next new ship (hopefully we will see her on the Mardi Gras now that we're booked!). From dinner, we made a beeline to the Liquid Lounge for the headliner show for the evening: Lip Sync Battle.
  7. Kung Pao Chicken Peppered Beef Singapore Chili Shrimp Hakka-Style Noodles Wide Noodles Blistered Beans
  8. For our final dinner, we made one last reservation at Ji Ji, which is still my favorite onboard restaurant. The steakhouse is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about Ji Ji that I just can’t get enough of. And we weren’t the only ones who seemingly thought so – it was booked solid the last night and we only got in because the hostess, Rinyami, remembered us from our Vista cruise and made a special ressie for us when Mom went into to visit the evening before. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Rinyami (who personally attended to us and made sure we had everything we could ever want throughout our meal), the servers and chefs at Ji Ji. Everything from the amuse bouche to our desserts and every bite in between were so flavorful and masterfully executed. I’m still drooling thinking about that pork belly! Amuse Bouche -- Fried Cheese Chicken & Cilantro Root Soup Chicken Spring Rolls Slow-Braised Pork Belly
  9. There were so many returning Platinum and Diamond guests on this inaugural voyage that they had to break the party into two, and we were invited to the second one: 4:00 PM on the final sea day. I believe the first one was held the afternoon prior when we were leaving Cagliari, and to be honest, I would have preferred that one so I could feel a little less rushed. Because even though I refused to pack, I wanted the free time to procrastinate packing. But you know, beggars can’t be choosers and if you’re going to give me free drinks, I can’t complain. Even though the party was split into two, it was packed. Mom and Stephanie went early and if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had seats. Many didn’t and had to stand for the entire party. There weren’t enough servers, so even though they were super amenable and basically opened up the bar to everyone, it was difficult to get drinks. We made it two rounds, waited for the video and then bounced. Oh, and speaking of that video? It’s my favorite part. And I have a bone to pick with Cruise Director Mike, who didn’t announce the ships as they showed up on the screen. Clapping and wildly gesticulating for the ships I’ve been on is, legitimately, my second favorite part of that party. Thankfully, I was too happy on the Aperol to be legitimately disappointed. After the video, we took our Spritz’s al fresco to the Lanai for one last walk around. It was too windy and cold to spend too much time outside, but we didn’t know when our next cruise would be, so we wanted to take in as much of it as possible, even if the conditions were a little less than ideal.
  10. But we only had one dessert in mind: the ice cream sundaes at Cherry On Top, the onboard candy and ice cream shop. Could we have had free ice cream up on Lido deck? Sure. But I think (and this is just my opinion) the ice cream is a little better up at Cherry On Top, and at $2.50 for a sundae that I don’t have to wait in line for, I didn’t need much convincing. Stephanie and I contemplated the merits of a made-to-order ice cream creation versus one of their set creations and we both opted for the latter because they came with more toppings. We took ours outside to get in more water watching time because even Cherry On Top has dedicated outdoor seating on the Lanai. Storms were starting to settle in, darkening the sky and churning the water into white-capped waves. Mom and Stephanie continued to pack and I continued to…not pack. If my luggage isn’t due out into the hallway, I’m not packing. So they finished their packing and I got ready for the Platinum and Diamond Reunion.
  11. Stephanie ultimately pulled me away when it was time for lunch. I could have stayed up there all day, if I’m being honest. We debated whether to have lunch in the dining room or up on the Lido deck, where the big feature of the day was the Chocolate Extravaganza, but another big tick in Carnival’s pro column is that they have so many made-to-order options up on the Lido deck and they’re good. After three sea day brunches onboard, we decided we didn’t need a fourth, and that our final sea day wouldn’t be complete without one last visit to the Blue Iguana Cantina for some taco salads (and, of course, some of those cakes from the Sweet Spot!). The Chocolate Extravaganza isn’t as grand as it used to be. There weren’t any ice cream swans or any grand displays of chocolate confections, but there was a towering chocolate fountain, featuring both milk and white chocolate. The line was almost as long for the chocolate fountain as it was for the freshly churned ice cream, which drew some crazy long lines every day.
  12. Later on, when we’d seen everything the shops had to offer and as much of the ship we could, Mom and Stephanie went to the room to shower and start to pack, and I went to the Lanai to sit with the water. Watching the water move, the infinite gyrations of the waves as they lap endlessly towards the horizon, is by far and away my favorite part of cruising. I’m a water sign. For as long as I’ve lived on my own, I’ve never lived more than two blocks from the Chicago lakefront. Water calms me, mesmerizes me and brings me so much peace. The Mediterranean itineraries aren’t the most conducive to water watching, but the sea days are prime for it (when it’s not raining or windy!). One of the things I enjoy most about Carnival is the sheer number of public areas available with water views. Tables that face the windows on the Lido deck. The Lanai that wraps around the ship on deck 5. The secret decks at the bow of decks 5-9. There are so many places to just sit and admire the water. And on the Horizon, the Lanai was my favorite.
  13. After a funny anecdote from Mike’s dad about just how clean (or…not) he keeps his living quarters, we snuck out of the Liquid Lounge as people were starting to fill in for the debarkation talk. Should we have stayed? Maybe. We’ve done debarkation in Barcelona twice before, though I’m sure something could have changed. But I also wasn’t in the mood to hear about leaving the ship when I could be exploring more of it, so that’s exactly what we did.
  14. Our Fun Times were filled to the brim with sea day fun, and we kicked our day off with one of our favorite activities, the Q&Awesome. I want to say that Jaime Dee started this one, a Q&A with the cruise director where you can ask just about any questions as long as they don’t involve matters of security or salary. Instead of just Cruise Director Mike, though, we had a Q&Awesome panel, with Hugo (Entertainment Director), Ronan (Music Manager) and Boris (Entertainment Technical Manager). Most of the questions yielded answers we already knew, but one thing I found particularly interesting was how they selected the staff for the first Horizon contracts. Throughout the cruise, Stephanie and I would mention how some staff member looked familiar, or how we were convinced every staff member onboard was Dream Team worthy (except for, apparently, the cook who made Stephanie’s eggs that morning, but that’s another story for another day). And that wasn’t a coincidence – the crew for the Horizon was selected based on a number of factors, amongst them feedback from the guest post-cruise surveys (another reminder of how important they are to fill out after your cruise!), as well as how well the crew represents Carnival values, meaning that they aren’t just good at what they do, but that they’re good people, too. And that went for everyone, not just people in guest-facing roles. The Playlist dancers, for instance, weren’t just selected for their talent – they also had to have high ratings and scores.
  15. Day 17: Sea Day The tone of our sea days are set before we even step foot out of bed. We have this unspoken thing – the first person up always looks out the window. If it’s sunny, they wake up the next person. We stagger our wake ups so that we don’t argue over who gets to use the vanity to do their makeup. Mom almost always wakes up first. Then Stephanie. Then me. But if it’s not sunny – if it’s overcast or storming, they go back to sleep and we all sleep a little while longer. Before I went to bed the night before, part of me was hoping I’d wake up to stormy skies. I needed the rest and I needed a day where I didn’t waste more than half of it drinking Skinny Fizz’s by the pitcher up on the Serenity deck. The other part of me, most of me, wanted that strong Mediterranean sun to bronze my skin and leave me glowing for my return home. But that small part of me wanted an excuse to laze around for the day. The small part of me got what it wanted. When I woke up, after Mom reset our alarms for another hour of sleep, the skies were gray and the seas were churning. It was a meteorological manifestation of how I felt about our cruise drawing to a close (and the fact that I had to pack). But if you know me, if you’ve read these before, you know that I don’t pack until I have to pack. So we got out of bed, we contemplated the merits of Sea Day Brunch (Mom still had a free drink voucher) versus the Lido Marketplace (…arepas). The Lido Marketplace won, and we had a nice, quiet breakfast upstairs. And, side note, wanna hear something crazy? Even though the sun was hidden away under multiple layers of dark clouds, there were still a number of loungers saved at the Resort Pool. Those chair hogs are some optimists, y’all. I certainly didn’t share their optimism, but I was also already decently bronzed from my accidental sunburn earlier in the cruise.
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