Celebrating Mardi Gras – Amber Cove Port 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 our day at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic.

AMBER COVE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Today, Mardi Gras called on Amber Cove, Carnival’s $85 million cruise port in the Dominican Republic. The port is the gateway to beautiful Puerto Plata and the surrounding areas. Fun fact: Part of the film JURASSIC PARK was filmed here at the local amber museum. The port includes lots of shopping and an Aqua Zone with pools, a zipline, cabanas, and more.

Here are some of the excursions that were available to guests earlier today:

  • La Casa en La Playa – A Select Retreat (SOLD OUT)
  • Over the Ocean Zipline with Beach & Lunch (SOLD OUT)
  • Waterfalls of Damajagua – Adrenaline Adventure
  • Puerto Plata City Sights & Beach Stop
  • Zipline & 27 Waterfalls Combo
  • Mountain Views & City Sights
  • Mega Truck Country Ride & Culture with Lunch
  • Dune Buggy & Beach Experience (SOLD OUT)
  • Triple Adventure: Zip, Buggy, & Power Snorkel (SOLD OUT)
  • Top 10 Best of Puerto Plata
  • All-inclusive Playabachata Resort Pass
  • Ocean Cabana (SOLD OUT)
  • VIP Dolphin Swim Adventure at Ocean World
  • Monkeyland & Puerto Plata City Tour
  • Bubble Tour: All-inclusive Playabachata Resort Pass
  • Dolphin Encounter & Ocean World Day Pass
  • Dolphin Swim & Ocean World Day Pass
  • Adrenaline Zipline & Horseback Riding
  • Beach Horseback Riding (SOLD OUT)
  • Bubble Tour – Monkeyland
  • Lifestyle Resort Experience
  • Lifestyle VIP Resort Getaway
  • Wild Truck Adventure & Beach Break with Lunch
  • Deep Sea Fishing Tour
  • Hands On Chocolate Experience at Chocal
  • Puerto Plata Walking Tour with Lunch
  • Dolphin, Sharks, and Sea Lion Adventure
  • Zip & Dip Damajagua Adventure
  • Coconut Cove Authentic Beach Break
  • Puerto Plata Sightseeing & Shopping
  • Ocean World Day Pass
  • Deluxe Catamaran Sail & Snorkel with lunch & drinks (SOLD OUT)
  • Hillside Cabana (SOLD OUT)
  • Private Van – Your Day, Your Way
  • Monkeyland & Dominican Flavors for Families
  • Eco Adrenaline Zipline Adventure
  • Waterfalls of Damajagua and Off-Road Buggy Combo
  • All-inclusive Coconut Cove Beach Break
  • Poolside Cabana (SOLD OUT)
  • Damajagua Waterfalls & Monkeyland (SOLD OUT)
  • I was pleased to see Chocal still available. The last time I was here in Amber Cove, it was onboard Carnival Corporation’s short-lived “fathom impact+travel” brand. The idea behind that cruise line was to take older ships that were going to be retired and use them to sail to areas where volunteers could help in the local communities. One of those excursions was the chocolate factory at Chocol. Others included making water filters from clay, reforestation, pouring concrete floors, teaching English to local families, and more. I’m sad that the fathom brand didn’t last very long, but I’m happy that it still continues to impact in some way.

    LET’S GET SALTY

    Tonight I had dinner in the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse. I’ve enjoyed plenty of great meals at Carnival steakhouses, but there was something new (or at least something I’ve never seen before) – a salt selection.

    When you order your steak, you are presented with six different salt choices for the chef to use on your beef. Here are the choices:

  • Sriracha Salt Flake – Sriracha fanatics rejoice: we took the well-known and much beloved tang of real sriracha chili sauce and infused it into this salt
  • Cyprus Flake – The gleaming pyramid-shaped flakes of Cyprus flake sea salt look extremely delicate but are surprisingly hearty and firm
  • Hawaiian Black Lava – Reminiscent of Hawaii’s black lava sand beaches, this salt is enriched with activated charcoal
  • Hawaiian Red Alaea – Red sea salt is rich in minerals and iron and gets its stunning color from red alaea clay
  • Fleur de Sel – Fleur de Sel has become iconic in gourmet food and has garnered a devoted following for a reason
  • Himalayan Pink Salt – Harvested from ancient sea salt deposits that lie deep beneath the Himalayas, this is one of the best mineral salts available
  • I chose the Cyprus Flake on my waiter’s recommendation and was not disappointed. I think this is a nice addition to the steakhouse. I’d like to see them also offer a small dish of one or more of the salts when they serve the steak. Princess Cruises, Carnival’s sister brand, does this and I think it’s a nice addition to the meal.

    FOOD ALLERGIES & DIGITAL MENUS

    Cruise lines are typically really good about accommodating food allergies, intolerances, and preferences. I’ve had several customers who were concerned they would not be happy with a cruise vacation because they had specific dietary requirements that they believed a ship could not meet. I’m happy to say that in all cases, the ships were able to work with them to keep them from being hungry and allow them to enjoy a great vacation.

    As some readers may recall, I was onboard the first Carnival Breeze sailing from Galveston earlier this year. In my blog series about that cruise, I mentioned that there were a couple of instances where food was incorrectly labeled or menu descriptions left off key ingredients. In on case, my girlfriend ate something she is typically highly allergic to. Thankfully, we caught it early and she did not have any adverse affects. But that could have been a dangerous, or even deadly mistake.

    In an age of digital menus, it should be easy to mark each and every dish with any warnings necessary. Descriptions should be complete and not leave off any key ingredients. For example, I ordered a sandwich last night that included two ingredients not mentioned in the menu’s description. What if one of those add-ins had been something I cannot eat or even prefer not to ingest? I also saw what were clearly egg rolls labeled as “Salmon cakes” on the buffet yesterday.

    Carnival has a lot to be proud of with Mardi Gras, but based on my past two cruises, this food labeling issue is not just an isolated problem. I will be sending an email to my Carnival rep and to the shoreside services to let them know about this problem and urge them to address it. It SHOULD be something simple to fix, and I’m confident that Carnival will do the right thing and make their culinary offerings more transparent for those who need to know.

    OUR CURRENT LOCATION

    This afternoon we left Amber Cove around 6pm. Tomorrow is our final full day at sea before arriving at our final port, Nassau, on Friday.

    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 at sea tomorrow.

    Until the, I leave you with the photo above – my fifth towel animal, courtesy of my stateroom stewardess Kanokkorn. As you can see, I’ve started my own towel animal zoo. Admission is free.

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