I exit my office building, take a right past Radio City Music Hall and continue up to 12th Avenue, dragging my sensible overnight bag behind me. It’s midday and I’m on my way to lunch…in Bermuda.
A four-day cruise doesn’t give a girl much time at its single port of call but it does provide a nice little respite that doesn’t break the bank or require much time off from work.
That’s what convinced me to board Carnival Sunrise.
Carnival Sunrise debuted this year following an extensive refit that added many of Carnival’s signature drinking, dining and entertainment venues like Guy’s Pig & Anchor, Red Frog Pub, Alchemy Bar, Cucina Capitano, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and Liquid Lounge as well as sprucing up everything else. The 101,509 grt, 2,984 passenger ship that started her life as Carnival Triumph in 1999, has 13 decks and carries over 1,000 crew members along for the ride.
It’s September 12th and it’s a poignant moment as we sail past what had, until 18 years ago, been New York’s World Trade Center. The weather seems to reflect the sobering mood, with gray skies hovering above.
Under the Verazano, past Lady Liberty and the mood changes. Very quickly, it becomes obvious that the “Fun Ships” are the fun ships. I stroll through the casino and am lured into a riotous conversation with a couple from Long Island and a woman who’d worked as a parole officer for 20 years. We’re buying drinks for each other and I soon realize that I’ve gulped down four–yes, four–glasses of wine with my new-found friends. My guilt about such liberal imbibing suddenly lifts as I glance across the bar and see two young women, each with a cocktail in a glass the size of a bucket, making my four glasses of wine seem amateurish. Oh yeah, these people like to drink.
The sun has set and I return to my tastefully-furnished balcony cabin. Dressing for dinner–particularly on a four-day Carnival cruise from New York–requires nothing more than a brush through my hair and an application of lipstick. In the wardrobe department, anything goes and when I leave my cabin, I pass shipmates attired in jeans and t-shirts, jogging pants and other athletic gear. Tomorrow, the only “cruise elegant” evening of our sailing might up the fashion statements. But I tend to doubt it. This is a very, very, very casual cruise experience.
My dining choices are vast, both complimentary ones like the Radiance and Sunshine Main Dining Rooms, Pig & Anchor and Lido Buffet and those that offer more exclusive dining at a surcharge.
I opt for Cucina Capitano, an Italian option with a reasonable $15 surcharge, which, unfortunately, is located directly above the Lido buffet, overlooking the considerable crowds who prefer the least formal dining venue aboard. For a moment I reconsidered my decision, but the menu, filled with delectable selections of appetizers, pastas, meats and seafood, convinces me to stay and, as it turns out, not a bit of noise from the busy buffet intrudes into Cucina one deck above.
The meal starts off with an individual loaf of tender, fragrant bread–warm, moist with olive oil and topped with a blizzard of Parmigiano threads. A glass of heady chianti is delivered and, soon after, my appetizer: crispy rings of tender fried calamari, served with a tangy marinara sauce that alone is enough to convince me that Cucina’s red-sauced pastas must be nirvana. Tonight, however, I go the meat route–I’m starving, having consumed nothing but wine since the Slim-Fast bar I scarfed down before leaving the office so many hours before–and choose veal marsala, accompanied by a side dish of roasted cauliflower and broccoli. I’m reminded by my charming waiter that I can order whatever I like as it’s all included in the $15 surcharge.
My main course arrives–a generous portion alongside a pile of dense and delicious gnocchi. Atop the veal is a riot of mushrooms swimming in a rich and addictive sauce pungent with garlic and traces of wine. I briefly wonder if I should have foregone the bread and calamari to save room for this outstanding dish but end up regretting only that a doggy bag isn’t very practical on a ship at sea. I dab my mouth with the silky white napkin on my lap–heck, I’d like a blouse made of this napkin’s fabric–and find my waiter eagerly suggesting dessert. I tried–I really tried–to pass but I was assured that the semolina cake with tart lime sauce was not too sweet or filling and, in fact, would be the perfect ending to the meal. And, yes, that was certainly the case.
A short visit to the casino–the very busy casino, I might add–capped off my night. I returned to my cabin ($40 poorer) to find a charming towel animal greeting me. I gently placed him onto a side table before slipping between the soft sheets. It was an exhausting day, I realized, but I’d met new people, drank too much, and had a superb dinner. And I still have three more days to go.
Story and photos courtesy of Judi Cuervo.