As a business we were pleased and excited when Qantas announced its purchase of the Dreamliner 787 aircrafts, in conjunction with the launch of their Melbourne- Los Angeles in December 2017.
The Dreamliner is the most ethical aircraft currently flown, using 40% less fuel, producing 40% less noise, onboard larger windows and better air quality to reduce jetlag. Qantas feel this aircraft is the step change for the airline, creating operational efficiency and better passenger comfort and I can vouch for all of that based on my recent flight on this lovely aircraft.
Connecting from Sydney on an afternoon flight after a full day of work, the connection in Melbourne was easy as the Domestic and International terminal are together.
After enjoying a neck and shoulder massage in the First-Class Lounge, upon boarding we found our business class beds had been made, full flat bed and direct aisle access, and I was ready to slip into my Qantas pj’s, have supper and sleep.
Prior to dozing off we completed a breakfast request, which was prepared promptly a few hours out from LA. During the flight snacks and meals were available if you were peckish.
Connecting through to Houston on United Airlines and a separate ticket, I made sure to allow enough time for the immigration line (which took at least an hour) picking up our bags, changing terminals and checking in again.
Arriving at 5am, we were out very quickly and on our way to the Hotel Indigo at Galleria. The hotel allowed us to check in at 7am and this gave us the opportunity for a little rest before we hit the Galleria – the 4th largest shopping mall in the whole of the US! They say everything is bigger and Texas and its true!
Top attractions not to be missed!
NASA Space Centre – Houston
ASA Tram Tour- allow 45 minutes for this tour. The tram takes you behind the scenes of NASA. With all of the innovations in this area it’s hard to believe that the buildings are their originals from the 50’s and still working to this day. Astronaut training is still held here and the offices of still manned for those who are currently on the space station. We got to visit ground control where the first man on the moon communicated the world-famous line ‘’that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” or ‘’Houston we have a problem’’’. There is also a stop to see the Saturn V rocket which is the most powerful rocket ever built.
This is a Boeing 747 aircraft created to be a shuttle carrier. The shuttle Independence is mounted on top.
Includes all space missions, deaths and astronaut apparel and space suits.
Next Stop Galveston to board the Carnival Breeze, our home for the next 7 days!
I have been very cynical about cruising for a long time after an average cruise to the South Pacific, but I have to say, I had a fantastic week cruising around the Caribbean and being disconnected from phone service and Wi-Fi!
We boarded at our allotted time, checked in easily, through customs and onboard within 30 minutes, joining our new friends for the week, all 4200 of them!
The ship itself is about 6 years old, its home base for the last couple of years has been Galveston and we were on its last departure from Texas.
Our cabin was a balcony cabin AFT on level 9, this was perfect. The restaurants we dined in were either a couple of levels above or below, the stairs were easy to access, which meant we didn’t need to use the lift too often. Towards the front of the boat were more bars, pool, theatre for the nightly entertainment and Serenity, the adults only area (right next to the waterslides).
We stayed away from the buffet and for dinner we juggled the show times with our 815pm Ala Carte dining.
Extra places to eat – Guys Burger Joint, Guys Pig 7 Anchor Bar-B-Que, Steakhouse, Cucina Del Capitano, Bonsai Sushi, Mongolian Wok, Blue Iguana Cantina (I actually never did find this place!).
The nightly shows were enjoyable and varied every night, the outdoor cinema good. What made our cruising experience was the cruise director Schwartz, he was highly entertaining, witty and involved in everything. How he and the other staff do what they for 6 months straight is beyond me, they are so professional but with charisma.
Montego Bay Jamaica
Having been to Jamaica before, we decided to book a day tour which had has picked up from the Port and taken to Margaritaville for lunch and some beach time on the stunning Negril Beach. After lunch we went to Rick’s Café to watch the cliff diving! After a great day enjoying the very relaxed Jamaican hospitality, beach and rum with a little Bob Marley thrown in, it was time to re-board and head to our next stop.
Grand Cayman Island
Our day trip of choice was a visiting Stingray City. We were picked up again from the Port and taken to our boat with about 25 other people.
It was a 30 minutes boat ride out to sea, where we came to the most blue and clear water I had ever seen. We could see a large number of stingrays circling. After the Captain gave us the safety brief, we jumped into the water and the Stingrays swam by our feet and legs as we snorkelled, what magnificent creatures and an amazing experience.
Cozumel – Tulum
This was our third and last shore excursion for the trip. We left the ship by launch transfer to Playa Del Carmen on our way to the Mayan City of Tulum. It was a long day and we were the last tour group back on the boat. It was very hot and at times uncomfortable, so we couldn’t see all the ruins. The famous white sand, blue water beach in all the photos was covered in brown seaweed/algae, so we unfortunately could not cool down with a dip in the ocean.
The City of Tulum was previously known as Zama- meaning City of Dawn, its current name means fence in Mayan. The ruins are set on 12-metre-high cliffs facing the Caribbean Sea. As it was access by sea or land it was a major centre for trading. Tulum Ruins is the third most visited site in Mexico.
We disembarked in Galveston and were off to Houston Airport (approx. 2-hour drive), flying United again our trip culminated in a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
Houston is a fantastic hub with connections into Mexico and why we originally choose the cruise from Galveston.
Arriving on the Mexican Independence Day on the 16th of September, there were lots of celebrations across Puerto Vallarta. Our choice of hotel for our week here was Secrets Vallarta Bay and adults only all-inclusive resort Secrets Resorts http://www.secretsresorts.com/en_us/resorts/mexico/vallarta-bay-puerto-vallarta.html .
We booked into a Junior Suite Swim Out, the room itself was massive! We had pet Iguanas that came to visit most days.
Quick tip: remember to pack mosquito repellent and sunscreen! The Mosquito’s were everywhere and the sun was hot hot hot!
This property is two hotels. Secrets, which is adults only, and next door is Now Vallarta Bay, Now, is a family friendly resort. Between these resorts there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, those on the Secrets side remain adults only, however we could dine at any restaurant across both with an array of different international cuisines. We dined at most and all meals were excellent and all inclusive.
During the day there is a café for a cake and coffee, Barefoot Grill for lunch to make your own tacos or Quesadillas by the pool- YUM!
Secrets has a designated entertainment team, who have activities going all day at the pool and beach area. You can do as little or as much as you like. We loved Aqua Aerobics each morning, along with either Yoga or Stand-up Paddle boarding at sun rise. In the afternoon there were either Dj’s, bands, pool party and foam party in the pool area!
The resort has nightly shows and entertainment (like a cruise ship, but definitely not to the same standard).
Outside of our all-inclusive bubble we ventured down town to the Malecón, which is a beach promenade with sculptures along approx. 2km. Walking along the water, you pass by shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening watching the sunset and enjoying the local music and ambience. In the centre of town, is the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe…you can’t miss it!
Depending on the season there is plenty to do, from island tours, ziplining, ATV tours and their very own Cirque Du Soleil show called Rhythms of the Night- SAVIA. Puerto Vallarta did not disappoint, Mexico ticks so many boxes for a destination that is not only beautiful, the food is sensational, friendly people there is so much history and I can’t wait to visit many more places in this country and learn a bit more Spanish.
I was sad to leave especially when our next stop was Los Angeles. Having not been there for 15 years I thought it was worth another visit. Nothing much has changed, I still find it soulless, hectic and a frustrating airport to transit.
We stayed at Loews Hollywood, the hotel is right in the thick of it next door to TLC’s Chinese Theatre, down the road from universal Studios and depending on traffic a 30-60 minute drive to Santa Monica, Rodeo Drive and all the other Hollywood hot spots. Our room had views all the way to the Hollywood sign.
The highlight in LA was booking last minute tickets to Beyoncé and Jay Z – On the run II at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, one of the best concerts I have ever seen!
In summary, depending on the ports, destinations and the ship, I would definitely consider another Carnival Cruise in the future, however, it may be sometime before I return to Los Angeles again. Overall the two weeks on the cruise and exploring Mexico was very relaxing and a walked away from that part of our trip loving every moment!