Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Experiences on the 2013 Celtic Thunder Cruise

I have just returned from Miami where I disembarked from the Carnival Victory cruise ship after five days with the first ever Celtic Thunder cruise. What follows is my account of my trip, followed by some general thoughts written after reading comments from fellow cruisers.

Day 1 Highlights


The first time the guys came into view was the moment I started to get really worried.  The lobby of the cruise port was full of fans, waiting for them to let us start loading, when the guys came out and walked across this 2nd story walkway.  The entire place erupted into CRAZY boyband screams.  And I thought, "If the whole week is like this, I am going to throw myself over the side of the ship."

I had paid for Faster to the Fun through Carnival, so I got to get on the ship right away and drop my things off in my already-prepared cabin.  I walked around a bit, trying to get my bearings (I needn't have bothered... I spent five days on that ship and was still lost most of the time), and ate some lunch before wandering back to my cabin to unpack and make my cabin like home.

Then, it was out to the Sail Away Party where the drinks were flowing!  It was quite crowded out here, as EVERYONE showed up to this first pool party.  But, it was great to find my friends, grab a drink, and wander around the deck.  There was a slideshow of pictures with fans going on the big screen, and eventually Sharon and the guys came out to welcome everyone to the cruise.

The first event for me was the Picture Taking Session.  I'm going to say this was weird.  After standing in a long line, you walk into a room where the guys are all sitting in chairs on a ledge behind you, and you stand in front of them to pose for the camera. Just a few minutes before I got in the room, they had told us that they needed to speed things along and basically to stop talking to them.  So I ended up feeling guilty even saying "Hi" to them as I approached.  A few things-- 1, Having all six in one spot, in a fairly rushed moment, is overwhelming.  There are just too many people to focus on at once!  I couldn't even tell you if they were all there, though I'm sure they were. Also... the ledge.  See, they're wearing kilts, and sitting down, with their laps at relative eye-level. You see what I'm saying.  and while this may sound like a complaint over the rushed-ness of it, and perhaps it is, I'm not sure how to fix it.  As it was, the guys were there taking pictures for five hours.

The big show for us that evening was Michael Londra's show, which was quite good.  I'm not a big Irish tenor fan, so it's probably not something I'd go to normally...  But he was very funny and his dancers were amazing.  Most people had reserved seats, but because I booked late, I didn't... Going into the cruise, I was a little worried about this. Would I be stuck in the back row? But, it actually turned out nicely.  The balcony actually had some spectacular seats. The large theater only seats 1000, so unless you're behind a pole, the balcony seats all had really good views and I ended up preferring them to the seats on the floor. 

I found an upper deck that didn't have much traffic late at night and developed a nightly ritual of retreating to it each late evening with a drink to do a little writing, and that was a peaceful part of my cruise that I loved.


Day 2 Highlights


Today was a day at sea, and I started with watching the Celtic Thunder channel on the TV (not kidding!) while getting ready to join a friend for a cup of coffee with Baileys on the pool deck before starting my run. (Though I'm not sure that Baileys before a run is really the BEST idea ever!) Ryan was running around the upper deck, but I didn't feel right about joining him so I waited for him to be done and gone before doing my own and returning to my cabin to get ready for the day.

They had a pool party on the deck (kind of a daily thing!) and I enjoyed some people-watching over lunch before heading off to Colm's pub quiz.  Oh Colm Keegan, how I adore thee...  let me count the ways.  He is such a cutie...  like a puppy! He was delightful and funny, and I had a great time listening to him talk.  I think he and Neil have the best accents to listen to.  He’s a natural flirt, and it was fun to watch his interplay with the audience. I had to leave early to get changed for my next event, but later found out that my team won and we got a Cruise CD.  I think I have most of the songs on it already, but it does have Colm's Harry's Game on it, which I've not heard - so I'm happy.

Next, I went to the high tea in the dining room.  This was a very nice to-do.  We sat at the big tables in the main dining room, with one empty chair at each table.  When we started, a number of CT staff and the like (Seamus, Mark, Sharon, her mom and aunt, etc, etc) all dispersed among the tables and they would sit and chat for awhile before moving on to another table.  It was pretty nice... We had Seamus for awhile and we chatted about some logistical CT things, and then later we had Sharon's aunt and we talked a lot about what tea is like in Ireland.  The food was very good and I felt like it was a $15 well-spent.

The big show for us on Sunday was Celtic thunder Family Feud.  Truthfully, I expected this to be a little lame... but I ended up really enjoying it. VERY VERY funny...  Though perhaps a little out of hand at the end with questions like "If your underwear could talk, what would it say?" and "What do you put in your mouth but don't swallow?"  Not kidding (but funny!).  The guys were a lot of fun, and the fan team was... interesting. I was mildly amused to watch one older lady definitely take advantage of her promixity to touch the guys as much as humanly possible.

I had a few friends on the cruise that I’ve known since the early days of the CT Pub, and we had requested to be seated together at dinner.  What this ended up meaning was that we were seated together, and at the same table with the same waitstaff, every night. This ended up being delightful and I highly recommend it for anyone going next year. It was lovely to get to know our waiter and his crew, and they made dinner great fun and didn’t blink an eye every time I requested peanut butter for my chocolate melting cake!
Good gravy, I'm not even near done with the night yet.

(C) Perri Becvar
Ok, so AFTER dinner...  I went to the first ABC show.  Ryan and Neil were very good, of course.  Basically a typical ABC show, if you've seen one before. Tunes from the Acoustically Irish CD, a few not on the CD that have been in ABC shows in the past, and Ryan premiered his American Dreams song from his upcoming album and it seemed to go over well. Beautiful harmonies, fantastic music, purty talking. :) Neil is a good friend.  Ryan gets so flustered when people yell out to marry him or whatever, and Neil's a great savior.

(You're going to hear, as people coming home, complaining about lining up for shows.  But, because front row seats weren't important to me, I never stood in line longer than about 10 minutes and was always happy with the sound and my view.... so do take complaining with a grain of salt.  They chose the five hour wait.)

After the show, I had a pass to the private party so I headed down to the lounge I had been told it was in.  This kind of worked like a lowkey M&G.  There were 20 of us, split into two circles of 10.  Everyone sat down and was provided with a drink of their choice from the bar.  When the boys came in, Neil sat in one circle and Ryan went to the other. Then it was kind of a Q&A chat...  eventually, they switched places so everyone had time with each guy in their circle.  It was nice until the end when it was sort of rush, rush to get it done and the boys out.  (Of note... and I kinda tuned out for this part and didn't tune back in till halfway through the conversation so I'm not promising accuracy, but I THINK Ryan said that we're looking at 2-3 months till his album comes out? I'm just saying you might want to pick different Christmas presents.)

A late night drink on my deck and then it was off to bed!

Day 3 Highlights


The moral of today is pretty much just "DO NOT DRINK THE RUM."

So today was our first port stop.  We were scheduled to be in Ocho Rios, Jamaica around 10am, so I got up early and had my morning run, showered, and had just enough time to eat breakfast before I needed to be off the ship for the excursion I had planned.

It seemed that everyone was doing something to do with the Dunn River Falls, and I really didn't want to go somewhere very crowded.  So instead, I had picked the River Tubing Safari.  This ended up being SUPER FUN.  They ushered us into a large van and we took a 30-45 minutes drive through the area up into the mountain, narrated by a lovely girl.  It was pretty interesting, driving through actual communities where people live. Coming from a very white collar area of Seattle, it's always very humbling to me to realize how much we have.

The excursion itself was delightful.  I'm not exactly the biggest daredevil in the world, so a part of me worried it would be too rapid-y and I would die, but it was great.  We all had single-person intertubes and floated down the White River for about three hours.  There were parts that had rapids but they were fairly tame and we were all watched carefully by our guides.  Our guides were AMAZING.  Four young men, all delightful, funny, and sweet...  and HUGE flirts.  Now.. yes.  I know that they were just wanting good tips... but man, I left that place feeling pretty darned good about myself!!  I would SO SO SO recommend the excursion to anyone going back... it was tons of fun, the stories and song from the guides were fantastic, and I loved it. I also met a lady that I really liked a lot, and it's so fun when you make friends that you just genuinely like.

Now, the rum.  Back at the visitor center for the excursion, they had a bar and a place you could order jerk chicken.  I'm not the biggest drinker, really, so when I do drink, it hits me pretty hard.  Rum Punch sounded like it would taste good.  And it didn't look like much either...  Mostly punch, and just a wee bit of rum.  In fact, I was thinking as I was watching the guy make the drink, "There's hardly any alcohol in that at all. This is going to the weakest drink ever."

Oh, Jo... Looks can be deceiving.  I drank the drink.... tipped the guides... and got back on the bus.  The ride seemed so much more... woozy... on the way down than it had seemed on the way up.  I began to realize that maybe there was more alcohol in that drink than I had originally anticipated.  By the time we got back to the ship, I was definitely not in the most soberest of conditions.  But, chatting with friends on the pool deck seemed like a good idea while the effects wore off.  Until Emmet and Colm walked by.  Guys, don't drink the rum!  There was much cheering.  Just from me.

Just. From. Me.

Long story short....  Or... embarrassing story not told... I ended up with the hug from Colm that I hadn't gotten when my team won the pub quiz the day before.  And a promise to myself to never ever ever drink Jamaican rum again. Sorry, Colm!

That evening's show was a shortened version of Mythology.  The big shows on the boat were about an hour and a half, so they were slightly shorter than a tour version.  I'm sure there are people somewhere who kept setlists and would do a better job of telling you what people sang... but I didn't and there was SO MUCH MUSIC throughout the week that I'm sure I would do a bad job of conveying it all.  Most of the guys had two solos each, and if there's something you want to know specifically, feel free to ask me and I'll try to answer but I can't promise I'm right.

The rest of the evening was mostly just relaxing.  Dinner... drinks with a friend... and then I spent a good portion of the rest of the night out on the deck, listening to Goitse play.  They were out many times throughout the week, both on the pool deck and in their own shows inside at a couple of the lounges.  They were definitely a lot of fun to listen to and I enjoyed them immensely.  Eventually, it was off to bed for Grand Cayman in the morning!

Day 4 Highlights


Today was another shore day, this time in the Cayman Islands.  I loved today!!

I got up and ran, took a shower, and then it was off with Perri and Meagan to the tender boats. We had a lowkey adventure planned.  We set out to the find the buses to go up to 7 Mile Beach... and got slightly lost.  I mean, not LOST. I knew where I was. I just didn't know how to find the bus.  I stopped to ask this guy.... who, of course, ended up being King of the Taxi Drivers.  But he ended up finding us a taxi and it all worked beautifully.

Our taximan took us to Royal Palms, a small beachclub up the road a bit, and it was a perfect few hours.  Beautiful day, sunshine, a light wind, warm water, and great sand.  It was just a day of pure relaxation. A few hours later, our taximan came back for us and drove us back to the cruise ship. Perfect and easy.   Before getting back on the boat, we did a little shopping and found a local to take pictures with.

After taking my stuff back to the cabin, I picked up some lunch and sat out on the deck for awhile, listening to the band play.  (This was an activity I tended to engage in a lot!  Mommas don't ever get to do nothing... I enjoyed doing nothing!)  After a bit, I wandered down to the lounge and sat on the floor to wait for Ryan's Pub Quiz to start. Mostly, I just wanted to see how he compared with young Mr Keegan.  I don't know his name, but the guy who warmed up the crowd here was HILARIOUS.  I'd seen him a few times before during the cruise and he was always funny... his giggle alone was worth hanging around for.

Ryan's quiz seemed to go great... charming as expected.  I left his quiz halfway through too so I don't know if he actually got through them all, but he said he had 50 questions to go through.  So, when I was there at least, he was moving pretty quickly through the list.

After a quick shower, I headed out to the pool deck for the first of three shows I planned to attend that night. George was doing an impromptu show outside, and as I hadn't seen him yet, that was my first stop.  He was wonderful, charming and delightful, as you would expect.  For this show, he was performing on the upper deck under the cover, while the rest of us sat out in the open.  During the last song, it started to rain so everyone got up and made for the covered areas... only George couldn't see that it was raining, just that everyone was leaving in mass exodus right in the middle of his song.  Poor guy!!  He stopped for a hug and a wee chat before heading off to get ready for the second night of Family Feud.

 I went back to my cabin and changed clothes into my formal dress for dinner, where we had a lovely evening playing dress-up.  My original plan for after-dinner had been to take in Colm/Emmet/Rebecca in the main theater.  But I had enjoyed George SO much on the pool deck that I decided I needed to see him again.  So I ended up not seeing the younger boys in exchange for George twice.  I was sorry to miss them, but George is wonderful and I honestly was glad to see him again.  Sorry boys!

 After George's show, I headed back to the other end of the ship and slipped into the main theater for the end of Ryan and Neil's 2nd ABC show.  I have tickets to both of their Seattle shows next month, so it occurred to me that this might be overkill.  But I had nothing better to do! 

 And the rest of the evening was just a lot of chatting!  I ended up sitting with a couple friends on the Promenade and we talked until nearly 5am!! A late night, but good times spent with good people.

Day 5 Highlights


This was very much a lazy day.  There really wasn't much going on until later in the evening.  On the one hand, this could have been a good time to schedule some music appearances.  But, on the other, I think the whole boat was worn out, cast and fans alike, and we all needed a rest!

I headed up to the very tippy top of the ship with Perri and Meagan, and our good friend Vedat (the water slide attendant boy) stole some of the super comfy chairs from the Cast Only area for us.  It was a great place to sit and look out over the ship and ocean.  This was one of my very favorite things we did all cruise! 

They had some sort of deck party that afternoon where the dancers from Gaelic Rhythm were teaching people how to dance.  This got pretty funny when Colm and Ryan were coerced into going on the stage to help demonstrate. Such good sports!! I was a little concerned when the boys came OFF the stage... quite a bit of swarming.  But they seem to have survived.

Really, I just sat up there for a really long time that day...  Vedat is the man.  I know it doesn't sound like much, activity-wise, but I needed the relaxation.

The big event on this, our last night, was the Best Of show.  I REALLY enjoyed this show, you guys. (Well, except for the tone-deaf girl sitting next to me who insisted on singing along to everything.) The lads were in perfect form -- so talented, funny, and playful. Keith threw Colm's shoe into the audience. They had the worst time staying upright (thanks to some rocky seas) and it was all fantastic.  Well done, boys.

And the rest of the night, after dinner, was really just play time.  I had a few last drinks with folks.  I saw Goitse in the Irish Pub. Emmet and Neil both came out for a long time to do autographs and pictures, and it was really nice to get to chat with them.  I'm getting better... I actually wasn't shaking when I told Emmet I loved him singing This Is The Moment this time!  You'd think after six years!!

One more daiquiri with Perri at the bar and then we couldn't put off going to bed any longer... Goodnight Cruise!  Thanks for everything!

Some Final Thoughts




Sightings


I would not say that this was a "Become Best Friends with the Guys" kind of trip, and if that's the reason you went, you might have been disappointed.  But if you went to be completely immersed in the opportunities to see the boys perform, I think you would be happy. 

George, Emmet, and Colm seemed to be out and visible quite often, and I have to give them props for that. It can't have been easy to be them and GET anywhere on the ship publicly, but they seemed to make a frequent effort, and that was pretty cool for the people who got to see them. I didn't see Keith much myself, but I heard of lots of people seeing him around Rebecca's frequent shows. I only saw Neil that one night, but he could have been out more that I didn't see.

I thought Ryan and Colm were both really classy by going throughout the hallways on our last day and signing the papers on anyone's door that they could.  It was a nice surprise for people to come "home" to.  Had I known they were going to do so, I might have taken my poem about Ryan's leather pants off my door... but at least it's signed now! :) 

The Lines


I cannot stress this enough.  In large part, standing in line was unnecessary. I have seen the complaints about this, and in part, they are valid.  The lines for the smaller shows did exist.  The first few days, it made it look like getting into the smaller shows would be impossible. In fact, I passed by Emmet and Colm’s first show because, by the time I was finished with dinner (more on that in a minute), the line seemed oppressively long and I figured I’d just try again on another day. (As a note, this got better as the cruise progressed.  They moved to a ticket system that seemed to help with this, and I commend the Powers that Be for experimenting with possible solutions.)

But, for the shows in the main lounge?  No, no, and no. I just do not understand why people DID it. There was plenty of room! The thing is, I went into this cruise wanting to see the shows. But, it wasn’t important to me to be in the front row.  Instead, I went into this cruise wanting to see as many of the offered shows as I could fit in.  Because of that, I chose to sacrifice the front row of a show for more viewings. I’m so pleased with that.

As an example… I know of someone who stood in line for literally hours for the second ABC show – and they probably had a seat up in front.  But, during the time they were waiting in line, I saw George perform on the Lido deck, I spent two hours at dinner with my friends, I saw George AGAIN in the smaller lounge, and then I went to the same ABC show they were standing in line in to sit in a balcony seat with a FANTASTIC view.

So what I want to say is…  the people who stood in line for five hours chose that wait.  It was to get something they wanted – up close seats – but, FOR ME, standing in line for hours and hours was completely unnecessary.  And it wasn’t something that people had to do in order to see shows.

I have also seen people complain that it was unfair that the Blue Seating people had time to queue in line when the Red Seating people were still in their main show.  I can’t really speak to that…  I was in the Blue Seating… but honestly, I spent so long at dinner every night that we were usually one of the last tables out of the dining room and the Red Seating people were long out of their shows by then and queuing in line ahead of me. 

The Swag


This has been the most baffling of all complaints to me.  Almost every night, we came home to our turned down beds, our towel animals, our chocolates… and a CT present.  One night, we got a signed CT Cruise poster – which was way bigger than I had expected! We got a picture frame to put our group shot into, and on the last night we received a Cruise coffee mug.  I love my mug and, as it was totally unexpected for me to get anything but the poster, I was delighted!

I have been totally baffled by the COMPLAINTS that we got presents. Apparently, not everyone who attended the cruise were big enough fans to actually want the gifts.  The complaints honestly have made me giggle.  If you don’t want Celtic Thunder swag, a Celtic Thunder cruise might not be your best choice for a vacation!

What I Would Do Differently


I’d have tried to get into Colm and Emmet’s show earlier in the cruise. I’d have probably ditched Ryan’s pub quiz to go to Keith’s solo show. I had to choose which of those two to go to, and picked Ryan (unsurprisingly).  But because I had gone to Ryan and Neil’s afterparty during Keith’s first show, I ended up missing both of his solo shows by attending the pub quiz… and while it’s always nice to see the boys talk, I was really there to listen to the music – and I’m sorry that I missed that.

I would have had Baileys in my coffee more than the first morning.

I would have spent a little longer on the beach at Grand Cayman.

I would have let fewer little things bother me.

I’d have had a decadent breakfast on one day instead of eating healthy every day.

I wouldn’t have drank that free blue margarita!

6 comments:

  1. So no piranha, or cayman, or bitey fish in the river? Swimming snakes?

    It sounds like the cruise was a lot of fun for those who chose to have a good time! Phooey on the complainers.

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  2. LOL No piranhas in the river! Actually, I can't recall seeing any fish at all. It's their drinking water river... it was very nice!

    :) It's all about your attitude, I think. Same thing we tell our kids! Momma has to practice what she preaches.

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  3. Hey JoJo, not wanting to be nosey but were you in a cabin by yourself and when you sat and relaxed in your secret place were you alone? My reason for asking is you sound as though you were enjoying doing your own thing. That seems it would be so much fun rather than having to go thru the "what do you want to do's". There are enough CT friends on the ship you can always find someone to have fun with. I think if I were to go I would want to do my own thing............and I know I would want some alone time. Glad you enjoyed the trip and than you so much for sharing all of this with us. .Annette Tolbert

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    Replies
    1. Annette -- I was. (lol and you're not being nosy) I really liked it, actually. I was in a cabin by myself, but I also had friends there. So sometimes i could do my own thing and have alone time when I needed it, but I also had people I could hang out with, too. So it was sort of the best of both worlds.

      I was kind of nervous in some ways about going by myself, as I've never done that before. I thought I might end up feeling "on the outside" or that I wouldn't be able to find anyone to hang out with, but it wasn't a problem at all. And I actually liked being able to plan my own thing if I wanted... like the excursion I went on was just me, but I went to the beach at Grand Cayman with friends.

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  4. I'm still glad you drank the rum. It was great getting to spend some time with you (even when you were embarassingly drunk)! <3

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