Celebrating Mardi Gras – Second Sea Day Recap

Premier Custom Travel was one of a handful of travel agencies nationwide to be invited to sail on Carnival Cruise Line’s brand new ship Mardi Gras. Now through August 21st, PCT’s Chris Grum is onboard this amazing new ship, sharing photos, videos, and daily updates through our new blog series “Celebrating Mardi Gras.” Today’s post is a look at the second of three sea days on this cruise.

Before I dive into today’s report, let me remind you about our special On Location edition of The Itinerary tomorrow evening. Technically, the show is on its summer hiatus until next month. But we couldn’t pass up the chance to bring you a live show from this amazing ship. Tomorrow night (internet permitting) at 7pm ET, 6pm Houston time, we will be live on the PCT Facebook Page. If all goes well, the live video will appear on our timeline and hopefully the signal will be good enough to share a peek or two at some of the onboard features you’ve been reading about.

YOU CAN BE A CHEF!

Carnival Kitchen debuted on the last of the Vista-class ships, Carnival Panorama. On Mardi Gras, this fun new feature is also available, giving you the chance to become a chef and learn from the actual cooks onboard the ship. In a special classroom with cooking stations for groups of two, you’ll be guided through various cooking techniques and then sit down at the nearby table to enjoy your creations.

Here are the classes being offered on this voyage:

Pasta Master
Great cooking is about more than recipes and techniques — having fun is important! In Carnival Kitchen’s Pasta Master Class, we think outside the boxed-noodles and learn to prepare hand-made fresh pasta with traditional Italian sauces. Join in the fun as we learn to mix, roll and cook some Cucina del Capitano classics. $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Sushi 101
There’s no need to be intimidated, rolling sushi is actually easier than it looks. If you want to head home a Bonsai Sushi master, we’ll show you techniques you can use to make sushi rolls at home… that are as dazzling to look at as they are delicious. $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

It’s an Ice Cream Kinda Day
To make ice cream at home — or anywhere — you don’t even need an ice cream maker. Discover our simple three-ingredient recipe, then mix in your own creativity to make new and unique flavors. Learn an easy way to indulge your ice cream cravings whenever… forever! $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Pizza Master
This two-hour class is a fun, unique and delicious experience — to be honest, it’s really as much about eating pizza as it is cooking! We’ll teach you the classic Italian approach to pizza, using the best ingredients. Learn about various types of mozzarella, sauces and small-batch dough for home use. We think you’re going to master this timeless classic! $30. Lasts 120 minutes.

Morning Hustle
Love the idea of a big weekend brunch but hate the time it takes? What if we said you could sleep in and still get it done? We’re serious! Our strategies for overnight-soaked French toast, huevos rancheros and smoked ham frittatas are just a little of what we’ll share with you. Let’s explore the Sea Day Brunch dishes folks love most! $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Cupcake Academy
Did you know we have an onboard cupcake expert? Meet them and pick up tricks for creating beautiful cupcake designs! You’re going to learn our famous vanilla cupcake and buttercream frosting recipe, and then get your hands deliciously dirty with sprinkles, sparkles and chocolate dip as you explore decorating techniques. $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Cake Workshop
Decorating a cake is sort of like solving a puzzle. All the pieces have to come together perfectly… but perfection is within reach! We’ll look at some of the fundamentals of a gorgeous cake: how to layer it, fill it and — the really fun part — how to decorate it. From frosting and chocolate swirls to homemade fondant flowers, join us and have a blast! $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Pit Grill and Smoke
Grab some tongs and sharpen your BBQ skills. You bring the will… and our experts got the rest! We’re covering core techniques for both gas grilling and smoking, plus we’ll also be sending you home with tips and tricks to help take your BBQ to the next level. $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Tailgate Party
You know why we get excited about tailgating? It’s got all our favorite things: FUN, food, family and friends. Everybody wants to make it unforgettable for their guests, so we’ve gathered some perfect dishes to show you how to make your next one a true game-winner. $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

Bake Shop & Pie Town
Can you guess why this is one of our most popular classes? Because everybody loves pie! We’ll begin by exploring the recipe for our best crust. Then comes fillings, from classics like pecan, to cream or fruit pies. (Spoilers: it’s actually as easy as it is tasty.) That’s why this class fills up fast! $30. Lasts 60 minutes.

There are also some seasonal classes that are added for the holidays. It’s worth noting that there is a minimum number of guests who must attend. I had signed up for three of these classes, but one was canceled due to a lack of interest.

ENTERTAINMENT FOR ALL

One of the great things about cruise vacations is the ability to do as little or as much as you want on any given day. There’s so much to do that sometimes you have to pick between two or more fun options. At night, there’s a wide variety of entertainment options, giving everyone something to look forward to.

Here’s a look at some of today’s highlights from our second day at sea:

Early morning – You could start your day with breakfast in one of several venues including the main dining room for SeaDay Brunch, Shaq’s Big Chicken, the Lido Marketplace (buffet) or maybe the JavaBlue Coffee Shop. Then, maybe an early morning yoga or stretch class, perhaps some bargain shopping at one of the sidewalk sales. You could also be a part of the studio audience for the cruise director’s live morning show, which is broadcast across the ship each day.

Lunchtime – So many options for lunch, including the expanded free pasta options at Cucina del Capitano. Maybe some Guy’s BBQ or a burger, then there’s always the Lido Marketplace or any number of other lunch venues. The casino is open if you want to try your luck, and there’s also bingo and trivia.

Evening – Choosing a spot for dinner won’t be easy with literally dozens of options. After a great meal, maybe it’s time for a show with one of the variety acts (tonight is juggler extraordinaire Jeff Taveggia (pictured above) on the Center Stage, while comics “Just June” and Sean Kent will keep you laughing at the Punchliner Comedy Club. Want to listen to some great music? Check out the Backyard Band in Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse in the Summer Landing, or perhaps the electric violins of the trio New Age in the Brass Magnolia Bar in the French Quarter. And of course, there’s always the signature Piano Bar 88 with Patrick Duffy (no, not THAT Patrick Duffy) tickling the keys while you sing along. Oh, and don’t forget the Mega Deck Party late night on the lido.

That’s just a glimpse of what was available today. I’m posting the entire Fun Times for each day on our Facebook page if you’d like to see the entire schedule of events.

LET’S GO FOR A RIDE AROUND THE FUNNEL

Today is National Roller Coaster Day and to celebrate, here’s a sneak preview of BOLT! – The Ultimate Sea Coaster onboard Mardi Gras. The winds have kept this fun attraction closed for most of our first two sea days, but hopefully we will be able to capture it live during one of our port stops or the third sea day. Until then, enjoy the above video and let me know when you’d like to try it out for yourself.

A BIT OF A BREEZE – AND WHY SAILING DURING HURRICANE SEASON ISN’T SO BAD

The photo above is a shot of the “map channel” earlier today. Around 2pm, we were sailing through a bit of rough weather. It happens from time to time and I must say that overall, this ship handled the weather extremely well. 113 km/h translates to 70 mph, which is just 4 mph under hurricane strength. But it’s important to understand this number and how the ship adapted to it.

Apparent wind isn’t the actual wind speed. It’s a combination of the ship’s movement and the actual wind. So we’re not truly sailing into hurricane-strength weather. The actual wind still is a bit stronger than normal and has again today forced the closure of the roller coaster BOLT. Sadly, today was National Roller Coaster Day and despite having the first one at sea, we were unable to celebrate properly.

Modern cruise ships have many ways to combat wind and bad weather to keep the ride relatively smooth. First, there are underwater stabilizers. These look like giant wings and are deployed when necessary. They adjust to offset the side to side motion of the ship, minimizing the sway you might feel on older ships. These stabilizers are especially helpful in rougher weather or seas. It also helps that this is an extremely large ship with a giant footprint. The vessel having a wide body helps it ride a bit smoother in the water. There was a bit of movement today, but honestly I’ve felt much more forward to backward and side to side motion in calmer waters on older ships. Mardi Gras fared this weather very well in my opinion.

There are those who try to plan their cruises around Hurricane Season, which is certainly a personal preference. However, I’ve sailed virtually every year between June and November and rarely have I had a storm impact my sailing at all. Right now, there are two systems causing a disturbance in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully, neither is directly in our path. But what happens when a voyage’s itinerary is impacted by a storm?

In rare cases, cruises have to be canceled or delayed. Those who live in Houston will no doubt remember Hurricane Harvey and how it closed the Port of Galveston for several days. Those ships simply sailed to safer waters and those onboard enjoyed some extra time onboard. In most cases, however, the storm affects a port the voyage is scheduled to visit and not the home port. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, in these instances, the ship will simply either skip that port (maintaining a safe distance from the storm) or if possible, they will find an alternative destination to visit.

The bottom line is that these modern cruise ships are very well capable of sailing through inclement weather and rarely will the passengers experience a major difference in comfort. I’ve sailed almost 40 cruises and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve sailed what could be termed “rough” seas. Interestingly enough, one of the roughest cruises I ever sailed was actually seven days of mostly nice weather. For whatever reason, however, the seas were rougher than normal for that time of year and it was the most motion I’ve experienced. Even on that sailing, it was never anything that I would consider dangerous or concerning.

SURVEY SAYS…

Carnival has always been known for fun game shows, from their partnership with Hasbro to the iconic Love & Marriage Show on each voyage. Mardi Gras takes this to a whole new level with Family Feud. During this voyage, eight families were selected out of those who auditioned to be a part of the live, authentic experience like you see on TV. There was a “classic” version and also a more “adult” version late-night.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Many of the Carnival ships have the Italian restaurant Cucina del Capitano onboard. It might be easy to dismiss the “Captain’s Kitchen” as simply a clever name or a marketing gimmick, but it truly is accurately named.

On Mardi Gras, one of the dishes is quite literally a recipe handed down through the generations of the inaugural Captain Giuseppe Giusa’s family. “Farfalle al Pistachio” features pasta with a pesto of pistachios and herbs laced with bacon, extra virgin olive oil, and white wine, topped with toasted pistachios. It was very good and while enjoying it, I was gazing at a picture directly in front of me of the original Mardi Gras ship, circa 1972.

OUR CURRENT LOCATION

As I hit publish on tonight’s recap blog, we are approaching Puerto Rico. We should dock around 6:45 or so tomorrow morning and guests will be heading ashore around 7:30am.

In Puerto Rico, the protocols will be as follows:

  • All guests will be required to wear a mask indoors, at the cruise terminal, and on public transportation and tour buses
  • All guests are strongly recommended to wear masks outdoors
  • All guests will be required to practice physical distancing
  • Based on Carnival’s port agreement with San Juan, unvaccinated guests must remain onboard during our call to the island.
  • Health protocols are under the control of local government and are subject to change without prior notice.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE?

    Is there a feature of the ship you’d like me to spotlight? Have a question about this ship or cruises in general? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to feature your question or request in a future blog post.

    My next update will be at the end of our day in San Juan, Puerto Rico tomorrow. I don’t have a shore excursion scheduled but I may visit the old town area of the city and do a bit of shopping and browsing. And don’t forget about The Itinerary – tomorrow night at 7pm ET, 6pm Central.

    Until the, I leave you with the photo above – my third towel animal, courtesy of my stateroom stewardess Kanokkorn.

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