2016 Cruise to Mexico - New Orleans and Conclusions

In past episodes of the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report, we had enjoyed a great time in the cruise. It was now time to head home, but we had one more stop to make first. And then there are some conclusions at the end to wrap everything up, too.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - New Orleans

Up and at ‘em for one more day of vacation! Gotta make the most of it while we can, you know.

We got up and got dressed at the Motel 6 before packing up our car to head out. Motel 6 only has coffee in the morning, so after checking out we drove to the nearby McDonald’s for a delicious breakfast. Yes, you can get breakfast all day there now, but we prefer breakfast at breakfast time, so that is what we got.

After filling up on breakfast, and then stopping to fill up on gas, we were on the road again, heading toward New Orleans. Even though we hadn’t been able to get on the cruise leaving from New Orleans, we still went pretty close to there to get to Galveston, so we decided to stop in for a little while on our way home. I hadn’t been there in around 30 years, and Laura hadn’t been there in around 25 years, so we thought we would see how it compared to our memories.

As we were driving along, the clouds up ahead started getting darker and darker. “Hopefully all of that rain is going to miss us,” I thought. Or said out loud. Or both. But I wasn’t so sure as I tried to sound.

Our main objective for the day was just to spend some time walking around at the French Quarter. To me, that is what New Orleans is all about. And because we aren’t wild and crazy people, walking around there in the (relatively) early morning hours was good enough. We saw some signs for the French Quarter Visitor Center, and we parked near it in a pay-to-park lot. The Visitor Center looks like an old railroad depot, and we enjoyed looking around in there at the different exhibits for a few minutes before moving along.

Just dropping by the French Quarter Visitor Center on Basin Street. That all sounds really New Orleans, doesn’t it? Just dropping by the French Quarter Visitor Center on Basin Street. That all sounds really New Orleans, doesn’t it?

We didn’t have anything specific in mind besides walking to Jackson Square, so we just made our way up and down the streets, enjoying seeing the old buildings and reading about the history of some of them on the different plaques on the walls. And of course we stopped for a lot of photos, as usual. I can’t help it. I’m a camera kind of guy.

A New Orleans alley. I liked the looks of it. A New Orleans alley. I liked the looks of it.

We passed by a cemetery that looked interesting, but you couldn’t go in without a guide, and of course a guide wouldn’t have been free. So we didn’t go in. As we were walking on down the street, someone yelled out to ask us if we needed a guide, but we just kept on walking. I can see why they do that, but it did manage to keep us out. Oh well, there was plenty else to see.

Antoine’s Restaurant, where apparently all of the orange cones go to hang out. Antoine’s Restaurant, where apparently all of the orange cones go to hang out.

I always like the street signs and lanterns here. I always like the street signs and lanterns here.

The closer we got to Jackson Square, the darker it got. But it still hadn’t rained any yet, besides just a few sprinkles. The local artists were still out around the square, although I am sure they were keeping an eye on the skies just like we were. We walked around in the square, getting some photos of General Jackson on his horse, and saw the really old trees that were there. We took some photos of the St. Louis Cathedral from the outside, although we didn’t go inside because they were having a service of some sort in there. We saw some jazz musicians and their instruments, although they all appeared to be taking a break and not playing anything. We also walked over to the river to say that we saw it, and we enjoyed the view of the cathedral and Jackson Square from there.

Another view down another New Orleans street. Another view down another New Orleans street.

We then decided to check out some of the shops around the square. I found a hat that I had been looking for in one, for a price that I was willing to pay. Always a good combination when something you want is a price that you will pay for it. We also found a Tabasco shop, and I ended up getting some Tabasco steak sauce, just to try it out.

Laura in Jackson Square. We couldn’t find a statue of Michael Jackson anywhere. But we did see one of Andrew someone or other. Laura in Jackson Square. We couldn’t find a statue of Michael Jackson anywhere. But we did see one of Andrew someone or other.

Right after that, the rain started. And not just a sprinkle, either. It was a genuine downpour. We got in the nearest shop that we could find and looked around there for a while. We looked at everything they had. Twice. Or maybe three times. I lost count. We were waiting for the rain to let up some to make our way on down. But the rain took its own sweet time.

Rain in New Orleans Rain in New Orleans. Read more about it in Waiting Out the Rain in the French Quarter of New Orleans

When the rain did finally let up just a little, we made a run for it. Not really a run, actually, but more of a brisk walk. Safety first on wet streets, after all. We ducked under awnings and balconies as much as we could, because the rain was still coming down. But we were able to make some progress.

Instead of stopping completely, though, the heavy rain started up again, forcing us into another shop. We replayed our procedure from the previous shop, looking at everything for as long as we could. The rain kept on going, and we were starting to feel guilty for taking up space in the shop since we weren’t planning on buying anything in there. So we went outside and stood under the balcony above to stay as dry as we could. When some lighter rain came, we made our way on down the street a little longer before stopping underneath another balcony to wait a while longer. We were making a little progress back toward where we had left the car, but it was slow.

I also kept checking the radar on my phone, looking to see if the rain was about to end. But the radar wasn’t on our side, either, because it showed that the rain was going to keep on coming. After waiting a while longer, we finally decided the end was near. For us staying dry, that is, and not the end of the rain.

When it looked like the rain had let up a little, we took off running as safely as possible, still getting under awnings and balconies as much as we could. But we weren’t dry any more. Fortunately, our purchases were in a plastic back that would protect them from the rain. My camera bag usually does a good job of keeping things inside dry, so I wasn’t too worried about it, either. But the rest of us was getting good and wet.

We finally made it back to the French Quarter Visitor Center, and as you might guess we were drenched. But inside they were nice enough to be handing out towels for everyone to dry off with. Of course we took advantage of that, because we would have been foolish not to. And we also went inside the restrooms and tried to dry off a little more. There were several others in there taking a break from the rain as well, so we weren’t the only ones.

Once we were somewhat dry, we went back across the parking lot to our car. It wasn’t raining that hard at the moment, so we didn’t get that wet again. I had a dry shirt in the car, and I put it on to keep from being quite so wet, but Laura decided to just stay with what she had on. It was still raining some, so we felt good about our decision to leave and not try to see any more. Besides, we had seen enough for us. I could always have taken a few more photos, but I got enough to get a good feel of the place, so I was okay.

We got back on the road, heading north toward home. It was actually well past lunch time, but we decided to try to get out of town some before we stopped. After all, we had eaten a pretty good breakfast at McDonald’s earlier, and we weren’t anywhere near the point of starving yet. While walking sometimes builds up an appetite, walking in the rain seemed to have taken ours away some. We eventually settled for a Taco Bell in Hammond, Louisiana, for our late lunch, just because we hadn’t had that in a few days and it was available. It was pretty good, too, so we didn’t complain at all. We were a good bit dryer by that point, too, so that helped.

After lunch, we kept on driving toward home, and it was a pretty uneventful drive. I had checked the map on my phone earlier, and it had showed some heavy traffic around Sardis, Mississippi, probably due to a wreck of some sort, but it was all clear by the time we got there. The rain had finally let up, too, which made for some better driving conditions.

We sailed on up through Mississippi to Tennessee, stopping for supper at McDonald’s in Collierville, Tennessee. It wasn’t too far from there to our house, but we didn’t have anything to eat at home, and it was going to be late by the time we got there, anyway. The rain started up again while we were eating, so I guess it had been following us around for the whole day. Sorry for those who were around where we were who weren’t wanting rain. So after eating and a little more rainy driving, we got home by around 10:00 PM.

As always, it was good to be home, although it had been a very good trip. One of our favorites from recent years, actually. Unpacking the car when we get home is never all that much fun, but we got it done and got on to bed. Our bed felt good, and there wasn’t a crying baby anywhere around, so we slept very soundly that night, thankful for all that we had been able to do.


I’m sure some of you are just dying to ask the question, “So how was it? And how did it compare to your other cruises?” So if you can’t tell from the previous 30,000+ words, then I will sum it all up here at the end.

For starters, it was great! We had a fantastic time on the cruise, on the shore excursions, and just being together. It definitely was fun. In one of the follow-up surveys, several of the questions asked about fun, since Carnival is known for the Fun Ships. Yes, we did have fun. Definitely.

Was it more fun than our previous Disney cruises? Well no, not really. But it wasn’t any less fun, either. It was equal fun, but different fun. If that makes any sense.

For us, being the Disney fans that we are, the Disney cruises are all about the Disney experiences, such as seeing the characters, seeing the Disney touches designed into the ships, the Disney stage shows at night, the overall Disney atmosphere, that feeling of being in a Disney theme park for 24 hours a day. We love all of that, and it is fun.

Of course, Carnival isn’t Disney, so they don’t have Disney characters roaming around and Disney characters designed into the walls and railings. But still, the atmosphere was good, and we were still on a ship out in the water, and that has always been another thing that we have enjoyed about the Disney cruises.

Another thing we have enjoyed about the Disney cruises is the high level of service from the crew members on the ship. I was wondering how Carnival crew members might compare, and I would say that the service level was just about equal to the Disney crew members. Everyone was friendly, everyone was helpful, everyone smiled. The room host and our waiters at night spoke to us by name and were happy to tell us whatever they knew about what was going on. The room was clean, the bed was turned down every night, and we even had those cool towel animals on the bed each night. Great service! Enough to spoil us and make home feel very ordinary by the time we got back.

This cruise didn’t stop at a cool private island like Castaway Cay for the Disney cruises, but we very much enjoyed the shore excursions that we chose, and we enjoyed the days at sea, too. If we were ever just sitting around not doing anything, it was just because we were choosing not to do anything, and not because there wasn’t anything to do.

As you might expect, there were some things on the Carnival cruise that we didn’t like quite as much as the Disney cruise. We didn’t feel the need to visit the casino on the ship, for example. There are areas that we haven’t visited on the Disney ships, too, but we can avoid them if we don’t want to go. We just about had to go past the casino to get to our restaurant (unless we took a really long way around), and the smoke from the casino wasn’t all that pleasant. Actually, the more prominent smoking on the Carnival ship was a bit of a drawback. They didn’t have unlimited Coca-Cola on the Carnival ship, either, but we were able to do without that with no problem, since we could bring our own (even if we couldn’t take it on the escalator at the cruise terminal). And the alcohol sales were pushed much more on the Carnival cruise, which really doesn’t appeal to us at all, although we were definitely in the minority there.

Some of the things in the above paragraph made for a bit less of a family atmosphere than on the Disney ships, so we felt good about not bringing Jaylin. Not that there was much worse there than what he could see at a shopping mall, or even on a Disney cruise if you go to the right places on the ship, but it was somewhat more prevalent on this cruise. But then you know Disney’s reputation for family things, so you would probably expect them to have the more family-oriented atmosphere, wouldn’t you? Still, we did see lots of children on this cruise, and they seemed to be having a good time, too.

So yes, there were some drawbacks. But one of the main advantages was the price. Both of us went on a 5-night Carnival cruise for what one of us would have spent on a 4-night Disney cruise. That lower cost also helped us to feel even better about going on some shore excursions, by the way. It really did seem to be a good value for the money that we spent.

From our experiences, the Disney cruises have been all about the Disney experience during the whole cruise. But for us the Carnival cruise was more about going to a neat location and seeing some neat things. It was more about transportation to Mexico, although it was really fun transportation to Mexico.

Of course, what really made it fun was not where we went or how we got there, but who we went with. In other words, each other. You can go to some nice places with the wrong people and not have a good time. Or you can go to some less-than-nice places with the right people and have a great time. If you go nice places with nice people, it is a double-win!

That’s how this trip was for us. The places were nice. The ship was nice. But spending a week with each other was out of this world. I hope you have someone in your life like that, too. If you don’t, I suggest you find someone. And don’t start by looking at dating websites. But that’s another lesson for another time.

So yes, we had fun being together, and doing some fun things, too. You can’t ask for more than that.

That does it for the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report! Thanks for reading! Be sure to check to see if you have missed any parts!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.