Looking Back on 2021, Looking Forward to 2022

With Covid continually in the news, cruise ships being denied port access, and tightening of protocols, it’s easy to forget how much better this time this year is compared to this time last year.

This time last year, we’d been able to do another Knott’s Berry Farm food tasting event – this time it was “Knott’s Merry Farm” with a Christmas theme, but Disneyland was still closed with no opening in sight.

Looking back on 2021, we can see the progress we’ve made. We went to the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival in March, Disneyland finally opened with a “Touch of Disney” (we were there in April), and Disneyland finally opened the end of April (to California resident only at first.

We were able to finally dine at Napa Rose in June without masks even, stayed at the Grand Californian with masks for our 25th wedding anniversary in August with 2 days in the parks, and by the end of September, we had our very own Magic Key, wining and dining at the Magic Key Terrace for Magic Keyholders only. How we bristled back when it was open only for “Legacy Passholders,” which we were not because we’d just moved back from Florida and hadn’t gotten around to “turn in” our WDW AP or a DL AP.

By this time we’d eaten at Napa Rose 3 times since it opened. We also had tickets to WDW we’d hoped to use in October, but that trip was postponed until spring. In the meantime, we finally got back on a cruise (the inaugural year of the Carnival Panorama) and were allowed entry to all 3 Mexico ports. However, we did cancel an upcoming cruise. And Princess was not gracious at all about it as they withheld our $500 deposit, even during these times. No special allowances for special circumstances.

The theme for 2021 has been “mask on, mask off” or as they described it at the Piano Bar on Carnival, “Sip and Cover.” Oh boy!

But, overall, we can say we had a pretty awesome 2021, as it comes to an end. We got to do a lot of our favorite things!

As for 2022, we are invested in a few Disney trips. Now we wait to see how it all unfolds. I would say we are cautiously optimistic. Covid taught us that anything can happen, whether you want it to or not. It also taught us to be a bit more self-sufficient in our lives, at least as much as we can. Enjoy our home. Enjoy our backyard. Enjoy each other. And try to be flexible with plans.

Wishing you the best in 2022! May it surprise us all (in a good way)!

Top 10 Things We Liked/Didn’t Like About the New Carnival Panorama

I say new because the Panorama was christened in Long Beach in December 2019 and only cruised with passengers for 3 months until the whole cruising industry shut down. She began cruising again in August of 2021 and we set sail on her in November, still in her inaugural year.

We were excited to try a new Carnival ship with serene, more elegant decor after mostly experiencing the tacky Joe Farcus ships. Our favorite Carnival ship class is the Spirit Class (a fan favorite), so we were hoping the Panorama would just be a bigger version of that. Here’s what we liked/didn’t like after sailing the Panorama.

What We Liked

  1. Embarkation – was pretty speedy (but not as fast as “Faster to the Fun” [FTTF], which is how we embarked pre-Covid.) It took us app. 40 minutes from car to cabin, which isn’t bad at all).
  2. Tides Bar – this is the aft pool bar that makes a stunning impression as soon as you get off the elevators on deck 10. Views of the aft pool and the wake of the ship.
  3. Ocean Plaza Bar – awesome rock band when we were there, great seating both inside and outside.
  4. Our cabin location in the aft – up 3 to the Marketplace (buffet – love the salad bar) and Tides Bar, aft pool and down 2 to the Ocean Plaza Bar, restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc.
  5. Guy’s Burgers – still awesome and the fries haven’t changed (unlike rumors we’ve heard about the Mardi Gras).
  6. Muster drill – I think this is true on every ship on every cruise line now. A huge improvement over the old way. Still, hundreds of people has to be nagged at to check in before we could sail away.
  7. The elevators – there’s been a lot of talk about how terrible they are because nobody knows to enter the number of passengers when you punch in your desk. Truth is, the number of passenger doesn’t matter at all, and once you punch in your deck, you know exactly which elevator is coming for you.
  8. The main dining room – quite lovely and one night we had incredible service, complete with staff entertainment. That’s what Carnival is all about and what we love about them.
  9. Carnival App – handy to check in to the dining room, see menus (like the dining room menu), but would be nice to be able to pick up the old “Fun Times” to see activities at a glance. More cost-saving measures resulting in not having enough servers, stewards, etc. Not fun!
  10. Disembarkation – incredible! The best ever! We were called first and all we did at Customs was have our passport scanned as we walked through.

What We Didn’t Like

  1. Ship Layout – just didn’t have a nice flow like the Spirit Class.
  2. Service – one really prominent reason we’ve sailed Carnival is that their service has been pretty awesome. Maybe it’s just the Covid restart, but we think some things are just how Carnival is doing business now. Cabin steward comes only once a day so that ice you requested has melted by evening when you really need it. No wine sommeliers or any kind of bar service in the dining room other than what you request from your waiter. Seaday brunch (a longtime favorite of ours) has changed the menu and removed my favorite cappuccino muffin and the service is hurried, unfriendly, and full of mistakes. The “fun” is gone so it’s impossible to “Choose Fun.”
  3. Midship pool – only one tiny pool with lounge chairs taking up where the second pool used to be, making the pool area quite removed from the bar area.
  4. Pig & Anchor – absolutely horrible. Simply couldn’t eat the food. And some items listed on the menu were not available, such as cole slaw, collard greens, and some beer selections.
  5. Alchemy Bar – location felt like a hallway so we didn’t ever stop in for a drink and it’s one of our favorite bars on other Carnival ships.
  6. Cabin – seemed narrow. People have complained about the cabin size on the new Mardi Gras but we think it’s the same size as the Panorama (which is smaller than older ships), just the bed is in the middle of the cabin, making the room seem smaller. We think we might prefer the cabin layout of the Mardi Gras. Bathroom is smaller in both classes of ship.
  7. Main showroom – the chairs down in front of the stage make it look like a conference room, not a showroom.
  8. Promenade deck – closed off. One of our favorite places to get some fresh air is the promenade deck. And being able to walk it is a great way to get some exercise, talk, and think. These are rare today so we study the deck plans carefully. So to have it blocked off was totally unacceptable.
  9. The two small atriums – neither had an inviting vibe and the shops were tiny with very little merchandise.
  10. Passengers – how you connect with other passengers can be hit/miss (we met some lovely people on our PV excursion, for example). We’ve even had a lot of fun with the drunks we’ve run into – lol! – but we didn’t seem to connect with as many as usual (could it be these Covid times?)