With the current situation it is going to take some persuasion to get people back on the boats and planes. Will you be one of them?
While staring at the same four walls sitting for weeks, stir crazy is an understatement. I have the pictures I took on my last cruise to keep me company.
In November, I sailed with Carnival to Mexio, Grand Caymen, and Jamaica. In all sincerity, I have sailed on other cruise lines, and spent a bit more for ‘nice rooms’ and balcony’s. On one cruise, I even had a butler that came with the room.
I say that to moderate this next sentence; I wasn’t expecting much on the Caribbean cruise. I have never heard anything good about Carnival, so I had low expectations.
It turns out that I never heard anything good because, I was not listening.
A cruise to me is a time when the cell phone does not work; you can have dinner with people who are not looking at their phones and doing things that you would typically not do. In short, it is a reprieve from life, and allowing someone else to do the driving.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by the accommodations. That was not all that impressed me.
For those who have never traveled with Carnival, allow me to talk about the voyage.
Making my way through the embarkation process, I surrendered the luggage and was pointed in the direction of food.
First things first, we all head to the Lido deck and find that there is plenty of food of all kinds for your enjoyment. If you follow my blog, you know I have a day job, and I write novels. I am stressed a good bit of the time. I sat there with my food in front of me, and I could feel the pressure leave, much like pushing that button on those Insta-Pots; the pressure was vanishing.
The time came that the cabin should be ready.
Outside the door is this little mailbox thing that held my door key and badge, that makes all things possible.
Keep in mind that I usually travel a little more upscale, so, again, I was expecting a small room with an unobstructed view.
The TV was on and in front of the bed. I forget what was playing, but I suspect it was information from the ship’s crew, something about ‘muster.’
The bathrooms on ships amuse me as they are very efficient. I am a little bit of a germ-a-phoebe. This room was so clean and pristine; I quickly dismissed my trepidations regarding its cleanliness.
The Balcony was my next stop after testing the bed.
Let me advise you on that balcony door, it is heavy and makes a rather loud noise when you close it. If you are like me and wish to dampen the sound by not allowing it to slam, be on the lookout where your fingers are. My thumb was between the door and the frame. Yep, that smarted, and much like someone with Turrets, I was probably less than polite. Watch where your hands are.
The Balcony would be adequate for those of us with insomnia. The sounds of the ocean ‘swishing’ beside the boat as it glides through the Gulf of Mexico were intoxicating. Sunsets and Sun Rises are a treat on the sea too. Stargazing was also great as this was during a meteor shower. I sat out one night and counted many particles of space dust streaking through our night skies as if to punctuate the otherwise beauty of the night sky.
On to muster.
Just do it. When you are sailing on any cruise ship, it is required by maritime law that you are briefed on where to go, and what to do, in the case of ‘disaster.’ When I say law, I mean, they will not start until they have accounted for every guest. That means if you try to hide in your room or hot tub, they will track you down before they begin. We waited close to an hour before they could account for everyone. Don’t be the ninny that causes tens of hundreds of people to sit and wait, while they hunt you down.
Once everyone is accounted for, the talk is not much longer than what you hear every time your fly.
With that over, your vacation begins.
Once on the cruise, eating, relaxing, and socializing are the main events that you need to think about. As your eating dessert, plan your next meal. It is great!
I was super impressed with the Horizons Restaurant. The staff were terrific, the food was delicious, and the nightly entertainment during your dinner brings happiness to the table and the entirety of the restaurant, as a collective.
Speaking of food, I did have a reservation at Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse. You might be thinking to yourself, Why TW…all the food is free, why pay for it?
I was with a large party, and it was my birthday. They were so lovely that I was not going to say anything when they overcooked my steak. The waiter saw that it was not what he wrote down, and ask me about it after I had eaten some of it. I told him it was ok, don’t worry about it. His response was, “It is not ok with me. That is not what you ordered; you are going to get what you asked for.”
Another at my table had the same issue. This guy bent over backward to make it right. Not only were they super friendly folks and made sure that my dinner was pleasant and of the quality, it should be but, the chef made an appearance at my table and apologized profusely.
If an overcooked steak is the worst thing that happens, life is grand, right?
The night was magical, and in truth, I just made myself hungry reliving that memory.
There are so many things to see and do while onboard; you will not be bored. Seek out the smaller venues, as they change personnel from time to time. From the piano bar to the IMAX Theater, you will notice that the time flies.
As a writer, I am always in need of new experiences. I came up with an idea for a novel regarding cruise ships while on this last trip. The idea was a little dystopian, which we are now living through. Anyways, you will meet many different people, and if you are like me, you will get to know them, and some will remain in your life, as some have for me.
Last night I wrote about Character Arcs, guess what, you need to meet characters to write them. On the island of Jamaica, I met two that will live with me years to come. Miss Lola and her sidekick Dr. Lizard.
They showed me parts of their island and their people that amazed me.
I understand that while in Grand Cayman, there is a place called Hell, and if I had known about it, and gone there, they would have stamped my passport, showing I visited Hell.
This being holey week, one must ask, is there a town called Heaven?
Why am I sharing a small part of my vacation with you?
Folks, we are currently experiencing a speedbump on the road of life. You can either piss and moan about it, or you can make the best of it. As a writer, I am doing my best to keep up with you folks, and learning new techniques for the craft of writing.
As soon as they find a way to mitigate the effects of this pandemic, I will return to my life, and yes, that means Cruises. In the meantime, I will continue to work on novels, my craft, and keeping you folks entertained and, in some cases, informed.
We have one life to live. Each second of every day is an opportunity to experience life through your eyes or, the eyes of someone else. Many live their lives through the TV. I know too many to count who have done this. They save up their coins and buy stuff. Some of us know that there is more out there than trinkets to have around that charm us.
The world is full of people amazingly enough, who are just like you. While their skin color or accent or religious beliefs might differ from yours, if you take the time to get to know them, you will find you have more in common than you would believe.
In my life, I have made it to forty-nine of the fifty states. In that time of travel I have met many and to this day still, count many of them as friends. Unbeknown to them, some are characters in my novels. If you want to write exciting stories your characters must be dynamic. Why not channel those you meet as your characters?
I am not bragging about anything. In my line of work, I traveled a lot. Starting out my life in electronics, due to unforeseen events, my career morphed into forensic computing, with an adjunct in network security and design.
I met Steve Jobs while supporting Next Step computers, simultaneously learning the ins and outs of Microsoft’s products. Twiddling bits, living in the wiring closets of the world, I soon found a home in Metadata.
Interacting with people all over the globe, I learned many things. The most important thing is, we all have a story to tell. The second thing is, we all want the same things. ‘Most of us that is.’
When it came time to get out of Dodge for a bit, I shut off the computer, closed up shop, and left all of my daily trappings in a state of stasis.
Ideas for stories whirled around my brain as I went through the motions of traveling to Galveston, visiting with friends and families and finally negotiating embarkation of a Carnival Cruise.
This is where my story begins.
I want to keep this fair and helpful for the cruise line. I might want to sail with them again, so improving upon what and how they do business is paramount.
As a Writer, Artist, and Employee, we all need a reaction to the service we offer. As a provider, our perception of how things are, might not be correct. We might be looking at things through rose-colored glasses. I think Carnival might be doing this.
As we head into Black Friday, I wanted to share with you my readers and friends, a recent experience I had on my vacation. This is over a twelve thousand word novella, which I am going to publish on WordPress, rather than sell it. Consider this a gift from me to you.
Yes, people would buy it, but why not share the love? With well over thirty novels published worldwide, I have found that people love a good story. I hope that you will not only laugh with me but that if you should travel down the same roads that I have traveled, some of what I am sharing might assist you.
I also have an alternate agenda. I plan to tag the cruise director multiple times in tweets to get his attention. After much thought and deliberation, it came to me that I should have probably sought him out for assistance. During the process of dealing with this, I did not make my state of unease known to anyone as I had no clue who to call.
On previous cruises with other companies, it was never an issue to need to have or know who the cruise director was. I had researched the excursions, knew what I was going to do, and frankly, did not have any of the issues I had on this cruise. Was it just Carnival, the ship Vista, or some piss poor management?
Thinking back on the trip, I would wager a bet that dialing 7777 on the phone in my room, I could have made my issues known. DOH! Have you ever been so wrapped up in the problem that you could not see the forest as the trees were in the way? As they were trying to find certain people they would ask them to seek out certain people or dial 7777. A week after the fact, those words now haunt me.
Unlike Norwegian or Princess, this seven-day cruise would give you a few hours on each island. The time spent would be enough to visit one place and shop at the conveniently located ‘malls’ at the point of entry to their country… As a matter of fact, one had to walk the aisles of their ‘shopping mall’ to get to and from the boat.
I would wager money that the locals did not pay those prices for what they were selling.
Here are the sixty-four dollar questions.
Have you ever been on a cruise?
Did you like it?
What did you not care for?
Have you been to Cozumel or Grand Cayman or Jamaica?
Let’s talk about the trip, shall we?
Sit back, let the turkey do its thing, and tell me what you think.
Matt, if you are reading this, take out your number 2 pencil, and your big chief tablet, and make notes.
Since I read that you are leaving Vista and going on to an even larger ship, what I have to say will only be magnified by the sheer volume of more people to manage.
Cruise directors and the crew herd people. They must manage the traffic, activities and of course the feeding and so forth of the masses. That includes making sure they have a good time as Carnival or any cruise line wants them to enjoy themselves so much they will be ready to book another cruise once they leave the boat.
Am I spinning yarns, or spewing truths?
Pearls, casting pearls friends… Here we go.
Having sailed with Princess and Norwegian in the past, cruising on the Carnival Vista seemed like a reasonable risk. Family members talked me into it. I agreed and began to plan our trip.
Scheduling a time when children would still be in school was paramount. Why; I wanted to relax. My children are grown and gone. I no longer tolerate the chaos that emotionally driven children seem to bring to the party. Yes, I love children but, a steady diet of them at this stage of the game is not a vacation. It is, in fact, that chaos that I seek to escape.
Imagine my surprise when the boat is filled with young people of all ages, who should either be in school, college or in some cases, starting their careers.
Purchasing a balcony for my ‘oasis from reality’ I did not even bring a laptop with me. This was a vacation to relax. We writers are tightly wound. I am no different. When I don’t get that time to decompress my characters refuse to come out and play. We call this writer’s block. The only way for me to clear that block is get a fix of mental Drano which means, do something way out of my normal routine and immerse myself in it.
On my Princess cruise to Alaska, I sat on my balcony and watched ice melt for the better part of an afternoon. As the water poured through small crevasses it was only a matter of time before a huge chunk of the glacier toppled into the ocean. When the wave from the crash hit the boat, it was the first time we felt that huge behemoth move.
Back in Galveston, I began enacting my plan of putting block A on top of block B until the end goal was reached.
Arriving at the prescribed time, I chose one of those places which have some land to store cars and guards that watch out for your vehicle, while they whisk you away to the point of embarkation a short five miles away. Eighty Dollars for the week, and the ride, I found myself dropped off within sight of the boat.
The line was long and filled with all types of people, including children of all ages. ‘Why aren’t they in school?”
I found out why, much later at a comedy show. More on that fun fact later.
An hour after landing at the docks in Galveston Texas, I make my final sojourn to a line where my picture is taken, and then I am pointed to another line where I am to wait to surrender my bag, which was unlocked for inspection, and delivery to my cabin. Once there, I am again directed to a man sitting against a wall who examines my two bottles of wine, to make sure they are indeed just wine.
It would seem that Carnival does not allow any type of bottle on their boat as people have smuggled liquor in things like shampoo bottles and so on. If you desire alcohol you must purchase theirs.
This feat is accomplished in a few ways. Purchase a ‘drink plan’ which I think costs $50 a day for each person in your cabin. Check that number it might not be correct, but it was along those lines. From third-party sources who have done this before, you are buying a bracelet that along with your ship card gets you drinks. At their sole discretion, they can choose to cut you off. ‘That is as it should be, by the way.’
With thousands of people behind me in the ‘terminal building’ which is nothing but a large building with cement floors, I finally was ushered onto the entryway to the boat. Breathing a sigh of relief, I try to let all of the anxiety of dealing with technicalities float away. Indeed I tried to leave all of that ‘stuff’ in the terminal building.
Pointed to food and a place to sit, we were now being managed once again by ship personnel.
Some of these people in that terminal building were people leaving that very same cruise. There is one employee for every 2.71 passengers. You can do that math.
Keep in mind I am a writer and a people watcher. It looked like many of these people were thinking this would be their last meal. People, Eating is more than about filling your gut with stuff. It amazes me how Americans, for the most part, eat way too much and way too fast. I once had someone tell me that they don’t get their monies worth at buffets as they don’t eat that much. I feel sorry for people like that.
There are sentient people, and there are knuckle draggers. Too harsh? The good news is, you have the power to choose.
Everything you do is about the experience of doing it, making a memory, and enjoying those that you are doing it with. Unless you are stranded on an island with a blood-stained soccer ball as your closest friend, eating is about enjoying the flavors of the food, the company of who you are with, and of course fueling the body that houses your soul. Eating is not about seeing how much crap you can stuff into your mouth.
When I use the term knuckle draggers I am talking about people who go through the motions and could not tell you in the simplest of terms, why.
If you are one of these and you want to discover who you are, there are ways. In many of my novels, even the naughty ones I write about becoming enlightened. I even walk my characters through the process. Life is about far more than going through the motions.
I am reminded of the Damselfly.
While living a little more than a year, most of its life is spent as a nymph or creature living in the water. It is not until time to reproduce does it turn into the beautiful creature that we see darting among the flowers and weeds of the wetlands.
People as children are motivated by how they feel, not what they think. As a writer, if you want to write a successful children’s book you write about rabbits or other creatures that the child can anthropomorphize and become emotionally attached to much like a teddy bear.
You create emotional situations that the child can identify with and you keep the book to no more than fifteen minutes in length.
Some people never get past the stage of being driven by emotions. The Damselfly gets to the point of reproduction before its life cycle is over and sadly, many adults find that stage of their lives as the zenith. Telling a person that life is not about the destination, but the journey only resonates with a small percentage.
Many feel that he who dies with the most toys wins. You see it with hoarders, and you see it when you end up cleaning up the estate of relatives who might have been introverts.
You can change if you desire but you must want to change. That part is easier than you might think.
First, you must have the desire and then a path to follow.
The path is closer than you might think as well.
I tell people to go to a museum, find a painting that moves them in some way and then sit. Yes sit right there in front of that painting and don’t get up until you can articulate in thoughtful sentences why that painting moved you emotionally.
Repeat as necessary until you develop a habit analyzing why things get under your skin or why perhaps you like a certain show or book. Don’t let a good emotion go to waste.
Now if you take that exercise and employ it in all things in your life, you will become enlightened, and not some impulse-driven automaton. This simple exercise will make anyone a better person. Once you develop a habit of asking yourself why this or that affected you in some way soon you will be nobody’s fool. CNN and FOX and all the rest will lose their control over you. Once you figure out who you are, then your critical thinking skills can work for you instead of against you.
While sitting there watching people walk by who had obviously never missed a meal, carrying multiple plates, I truly wanted to get away from the masses. I don’t want to think about the zombies walking around me. They are truly asleep. If they, like that other person, think that they must get their monies worth out of eating everything in sight, they are lost. What they are truly doing is shortening their lives. They are in fact not getting their money’s worth out of life, as they will die much sooner than someone who is awake!
While not having anything to take notes I vividly remember this scene as it plays out in my mind. People who were three hundred or more pounds were scarfing up enough calories to feed a small village. I was reminded of the scene in Monty Python where they shoveled in the last thin mint before the man exploded! It is no wonder why the health care system is in such turmoil. People are not awake or informed or just plain stupid.
Since my escape from the masses will not be ready for a couple of hours, I was to ‘kill’ more time eating.
I was introduced to ‘Guys Burgers!’ Folks, I am not a burger person per se but let me tell you, these burgers are great! If you should find yourself on a cruise, and they have these there, avail yourself of this treat. Yes, it is a memory. I know I just spent five minutes berating the glutinous crowds but you see, I am having one burger, a few fries, and some water. I am not eating everything in sight.
Stuck on a floating island, with thousands of people eating, becomes a pastime. Eat small amounts and taste everything. From Escargot to crab cakes. Try those things that you would never eat at home. Most of the time the chefs, cooks are whoever did a good job of preparing the food.
Carnival gets a thumbs up on food.
The variety of the food was more than adequate, and even after hours, there were plenty of places around for those who have big appetites. I am not one of those big appetite people; thus, my BMI is where it needs to be. One tip I will offer at this point is to take the stairs. The elevators or lifts are always full and it takes forever to wait on them. Don’t waste your precious life waiting on them. The stairs will hopefully assist you in burning a few of those calories you ate that you didn’t need.
After the long wait, making my way to my room, I find the ‘card’ by the door in a mailbox of sorts.
Having ninety minutes until ‘muster,’ I decide that a nap is in order. Since my clothes were in the process of making it from where I handed off my bag, to my cabin, slipping between the sheets in minimal attire, seemed like the best plan.
People talking in the hallway to what seemed like an occasional blast on a bass drum, sleep was not easily found. I would highly suggest a white noise maker in each cabin. I use a fan at home, and truthfully a fan of some kind would have been nice.
There were other noises which I will address a little later but, unknown to me, selecting a balcony cabin might have been a waste of money.
The ‘bing bing bing’ of @CruiseRadio Matt who seemed to be herding cats, was not going well.
You must realize that the crews’ challenges are indeed herding people, the flow of people and events must be timed with surgical precision. I did not introduce myself to him, but I am going to make sure this feedback does get to him.
From Latin we get monstrare or Old French we get moustrer and finally Middle English we get muster.
I heard some dingbats calling it mustard, and I know many who did not take this activity seriously.
Muster simply means a gathering or showing of yourself, and it gets its roots from the military as ‘muster your troops for inspection, or for a battle, as the case may be. Why should you take this seriously?
Maritime law dictates that you will be instructed on the proper use of life-saving equipment and will be made aware of procedures, should you encounter an event that might put the ship in harm’s way. No ship is unsinkable. Even in my novel Ghost Signals from Colorado Springs, I talk about how bubbles from far below could be the cause of your doom.
You should read it if you have not already. It is a great read.
As you learn where you are to gather, they know who you are. Since they have an exact place to ‘gather’ should some event occur, each crew member responsible for that station is to inventory you. Once everyone is in attendance, they walk you through a five-minute demonstration on how to put on a lifejacket. Not hard, not rocket science but, after meeting some of my fellow cruisers, I would say that they might want to have paid a little more attention.
Few if anyone listened to her or even watched, but in total truth, if there were such a disaster, your annoyance with the process might not only cost you your life but those of your fellow shipmates.
In an actual disaster, much like when a person is drowning, the last thing you want to do is jump into the water with them. The reason being, they will climb on your dead body to save themselves. In a disaster where that life jacket is necessary, those lackadaisical knuckle draggers will be the ones who do everything wrong and clog up your exit from the ship while trying to gather and bring their belongings from their cabin…
I would not want to be on a boat that was truly in trouble, as god as my witness, there are stupid people that would cause your death, to save their trinkets from some island paradise, which came from China. These would be the same people who did not understand where their muster station was and did not even look at the lifejacket, who now in some panic would stop the flow of people while trying to figure it out. Meeting some of the folks in my ‘station,’ I realized that if there was such an event, some of them were too stupid to dress appropriately, much less retain what they were being told.
I realize that I don’t have a lot of patience with stupid people. Being stupid is a choice. I chose a long time ago, not to be stupid. Some will blow through life depending upon the kindness of others, or government handouts to survive. If the US government were more like the government in Jamaica, Darwinism would work nicely.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not heartless. I am for educating people, and having them give a damn about being an asset to the world, and not a burden. The world owes you nothing, and in an actual emergency I can tell you, it will be every man for themselves. History is replete with example after example of human nature. Depend on that person in the mirror, as that person is the one who cares most for you.
If there were an extreme event, the crew is trained to assist everyone. There is one crew member to every 2.71 customers. Now how many of them would say ‘screw you’ and save themselves first, is debatable. That is why you should take this subject matter to heart, as if your life depends upon it, as it very well might.
The issue I had with this, hence my ‘feedback,’ in this area. We were stuck in there for close to an hour as several of the passengers decided to stay in the hot tub or their beds. It was not until they were looked for and found, did we get the five minutes of instructions and were released to officially begin our vacations. I would bet this happens every cruise, and for that reason, they ought to have a fine assessed to them, as they were stealing from us.
You see, those few selfish knuckle draggers, cost close to four thousand people over thirty minutes of their lives they cannot get back. That does not include the crew that might have been inconvenienced. It gets better, just wait for the section titled ‘Debarkation.’
Kudos to Matt for trying to keep it fun and light-hearted with his sense of humor. I was still pissed with the selfishness and stupidity of some of my ‘shipmates,’ but this is what a vacation is, right?
Back in the room, there was still no luggage, so now a nap was in order before a planned meeting with friends for dinner. I will confess that after the exercise, I took a minute to peek under the bed to make sure that the life jackets were indeed there. In old days you were required to bring them to ‘muster’ with you. That has since changed and I did not look for them before muster. We were supposed to. As I berate my fellow cruisers for not paying attention, I too sit in condemnation, for not looking before. Make sure they are there. Who knows, you might find a lost dollar under the bed, making your time spent on your knees worth something other than peace of mind, knowing that your ability to float for an extended time is at hand.
Crashing, banging, and the bass drum from everywhere, had me concerned.
Seven days on this ship put exactly seven pounds on me.
Trust me, I will lose it as quickly as I ‘found’ it.
On Princess, they had something like Carnivals Lido deck where all of the buffet food was, but I don’t remember anything like Carnivals Horizons Restaurant.
They also had something like this on Norwegian but I detest buffets. As a foodie, I want to take some time and talk about this.
Matt, this is feedback for you; take notes.
Carnival has an App, ‘who knew?’ Their ‘hub’ app allows you to ‘chat’ with your people via a crude form of text. When I say crude, I mean it. The messages may or may not make it to your phone in a timely fashion. This ability to chat costs money, but not much.
Booking online (through the app) was excellent in theory, but we always were having to get them to accommodate us, as we were treated as walk-ins anyway.
As I said, I am a foodie. I tried a little bit of most everything as I felt like it might be fun to critique their food for you. On my yelp account, I take time to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. That to me is my way of paying it forward and, it is a way to let management know that they might need to change some things.
I spent the bulk of my eating experience at the Horizon restaurant, as the food was above par.
The choices were great. The staff was almost always excellent.
Ordering the steak on more than one occasion, there was undoubtedly inconsistency in how it was cooked and the quality of the cut. Asking for ‘medium’ will get you anything from rare to well done. The same is true of the eggs, over easy or even medium, was always hard.
The bacon was way too greasy, not a good cut, and frankly below par for what I expected. The Bacon was on par with Denny’s. That is not a compliment.
Coffee was way too strong for me, and it was a significant effort to get Crème.
Ordering the Salmon three times, I had three different versions, and all with the skin facing up, not down as it should be. From overcooked on two occasions, to just about perfect on one.
While the wait staff was friendly, here is what they lacked.
When ordering, they ‘know’ what is going to come on each plate. Asking for a baked potato when ‘new potatoes’ are coming with the fish, it would have been nice for them to suggest something different.
I genuinely want to be fair about this. All in all, I ate there most of the time as I soon learned what to expect and what to stay away from. Waffles are what you should ignore and stay away from. Those were horrible, and I feel like they might have come from a frozen box.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the Lido Deck. Yes, I tried that out just so I could offer feedback.
The hamburger place is the winner of the Lido deck. While the Pizza was not bad, those hamburgers should be five stars. If you go on this boat, get a burger while you are waiting for your room.
No review of their food would be complete without talking about the 555 steak house.
When I cruise, I generally buy the upgraded food package. On this trip, I was celebrating my birthday with friends and was told by previous cruisers of this ship, I didn’t need that. So, paying $28 each for this experience was worth it.
Asking for medium, I got well done. Cutting into the meat, it was tender but too dry as it had been cooked too long. That was the case for others who ordered ‘medium.’ or ‘Pink in the middle’ is what I was going for. I don’t want the steak to ‘eat my salad,’ I just want it hot and juicy. “Make sense?”
The waiter showed up and saw that I was not eating it when he asked me why. I was just going to pass it off, eat the other parts of the meal, and live for dessert. I honestly was not going to say anything until another in my party said something. Besides, there was always Guys Burgers upstairs.
The waiter was having none of that and took them back to the chef.
Here is where the meal turned delightful.
The chef makes an appearance and makes a heartfelt apology. ‘This is why I was not going to say anything, as I did not want to injure his feelings.’
The next steak was perfect. If you ever go on this ship, make sure you try out the 555 Steak House.
I believe that night was my favorite night of the whole cruise. He and the staff turned a negative into a positive.
I cannot say enough good about that night, and I thank you all for helping me to make it special.
First Sea Day
The first night on the boat, noises from overhead continued on through the night. Without a fan to make white noise, I slept damned little. What they call a fun day at sea is really Matt doing his best to entertain those of you onboard.
Not able to sleep from the noise, I dawned that little white robe and headed for the balcony. Two hundred nautical miles from Galveston, the air was much warmer. I thought about napping on my balcony until I soon learned what the bass drums were.
Yes, those balcony doors shut with a ‘Fah-whoomp!’ While I slowly closed mine as not to disturb those around me, sadly, I was one of the few. Many on their balconies smoked, which is clearly a no-no.
Screaming from the other direction alerted me that they had a child. The noise was overwhelming. I was now sleep-deprived, yes, I was losing my pleasant demeanor. They allowed their child to scream at the top of her lungs and did not try to stop her. The mother sat on her balcony with an open door allowing the drama to play out.
I don’t play games, although I sat in on the Clue game. The acting and playfulness of the crew had me chuckling often. This is where I first saw Matt, and I must admit, I was amused.
After trying to enjoy the amenities on the Lido deck and the Serenity deck, I soon learned that 4000 other cruisers had that same idea. While there were no children on the Serenity deck, there were also no open anything. This was a common theme on this boat. Finding a place to enjoy the great outdoors, in the middle of the ocean, just didn’t work out.
With the constant pitter-patter of little feet, it was clear that Carnival ships are geared for families and kids, not for writers who need a change of scenery and ‘serenity.’
Headed back to the cabin, thinking that maybe the kids were up on the Lido Deck, just perhaps, I could sneak in a nap.
I did, I dozed off for about three minutes until this loud noise permeated the room that sounded like an alarm clock on steroids. It is what is known as a chatter or impact drill. You might have heard a mechanic using such a tool on your car while putting on new tires.
I jumped out of bed with the noise. I now knew it was not some crazy cruiser with a fetish for noise. Someone was doing some substantial building or deconstructing right above my head. My heart still beating out of my chest, I tried super hard to go back to sleep. That netted me about five minutes here and there before I went and sat on the balcony again. The noise woke up the neighbor’s baby, who began crying at the top of their lungs, again. Honestly, I felt their pain.
I had signed up for the ‘cloud nine’ spa. Pricey but worth it. In the different sauna’s, one could get some silence. The mineral bath was delightful. Your body will slosh from side to side as the boat makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico.
Back to the restaurant with friends, we sat close to the rear or aft of the ship and watched the sunset.
I ordered steak and found it was, in fact, inedible. Meat flavored bubble gum, without the ability to blow bubbles. I am not unreasonable, I expect Filet Minion to be tender and not the actual part of the animal that jumped over the fence last. Medium turned out to dry and well done, so either I was doing a poor job of communicating to the staff, or the waiters were not having any luck with the chef. They need Gordon Ramsey to assist them. God, there is a thought, what would he find in a kitchen that never shuts down?
The rest of the dinner was good, and the wait staff was friendly.
Tomorrow it would be Cozumel.
After listening to the Riff Rafts, which I think is a name given to entertainers for Carnival, I was taken with their talent.
I didn’t ask their names, but they were impressive.
Spending fifteen dollars on a rum and coke, ‘a double’ I am almost sure that there was only a splash of rum in those drinks, so you can taste it, and not become drunk. I did not purchase any drink package as soda water is terrible for you, and of course, liquor is undoubtedly not good for you. After spending $15 on one poor excuse for a drink, I stayed away from mixed drinks on the boat.
In hopes the ‘drink’ would make me drowsy enough I could sleep, I headed for my cabin.
Once in bed, it seemed silent until a noise that sounded like someone was messing with the door. Nope, they were doing something above me, which sounded like mice in the walls. Yes, this went on way into the wee hours.
Stepping on to the balcony, the stars were brilliant, as were the shooting stars that fell on occasion. As I sat there in the wee hours, I heard a loud thump, men talking, and metal hitting the floor. This just pissed me off, which did not bode well for becoming sleepy.
The rhythm of the boat and the pulse of the waves against the hull, made for a kind of bedtime story as it were, as I began to doze in the chair on the deck. The warm winds of the Caribbean encircled me as I began to feel at peace with the world around me once again.
Under the boat, we were on top of over 12,000 feet of water. The stars danced above as if to put me under their spell when a tremendous crash above me jolted me back into this reality. A subsequent spoken language, not English, sounded like an admonishment as I heard more metal clang together.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I said to myself while fighting the urge to get dressed and go yell at them. In my town, if that were happening, a quick call to the local police would soon extinguish the source of the disturbance. Who the hell do you call to make it stop?
The Fa-Whoomp sound of a door jolted me back to my senses as I looked at my phone, attempting to discern if it was 6 or 7.
Ship time, local time, or your own time had me always wondering what time it was.
Packed for an excursion, the snorkel gear, towels, and money, accompanied me to the island.
“Due to the choppy weather, the government has closed the water.” You can still go there for $30 and look but, you cannot get in. They do have a swimming pool for your use, as well as two-for-one drinks and free internet!
I want to say this was a thirty dollar excursion before buying drinks and so forth. The water was choppy but, you could still see fish under the water.
Soon enough, the lounges were taken, but they never brought out promised cushions. The sun, well it was intense and hot. Staying in the shade, drinking a rather mild beer named ‘Indigo,’ while allowing the cool breezes from the ocean to blow your hair around was about the extent of the excursion.
The local taxi drivers were somewhat unusual in that they tried their level best to pack their well-worn out vans to the brim with passengers, before taking the five-mile trek back to the ‘shopping area.’
Staying there for a few hours, I headed back to the boat. I cannot snorkel, and their internet was horrible; it was time to fall back and re-group.
Things seemed eerily quiet, dare I try and nap?
No sooner was I back in the bed than the pneumatic drill gun resonated through most of the superstructure scaring the devil out of me.
Heading back topside, I found an empty chair and dozed off with people all around talking, playing card games, and yelling at their children on the deck below them. ‘It was great!’
If you want to support the Mexican economy, go there and pay four times the amount you might find the item for on eBay, or Amazon.
Watching the stragglers running for the boat as they were ‘very late,’ we finally shoved off, headed for Grand Cayman Island.
A word of caution, having been under the Queen’s rule for many years, they still drive on the ‘other side’ of the road. This means that if and when you are crossing the road, make damned sure you look both ways.
Same stuff as the day before but, this time, we rode in a very bouncy boat with steel seats. Any bumping into any part of the inside of the boat with your body was met by unforgiving steel.
Not able to leave the ship until noon, we all got bruises from trying to walk up and down the stairs while their little boats were tossed about like a fishing bobber in the ocean. Had I known what I was getting into, I would have stayed on board.
By now, I was becoming even more sleep-deprived because of the demolition crew over my head, and of course, the neighbors who allowed their doors to slam with their kids continually entering and leaving their rooms.
Another word of caution for you who plan to use these services. Those doors are heavy and meant to be watertight in case water should be an issue. If a young person should get a finger between the frame of the door and the door itself, I dare say it might take it off. In just trying to close my balcony door quietly, I managed to get my thumb between the door and the frame.
Once again we head to the beach to learn it is not only not suitable for scuba diving but, the beach we went to charges rent for the lounge chairs, and rent for a tattered old umbrella.
As close to the equator as we were, you want to use plenty of sunscreens and then just stay the heck out of the sun.
This was a young person’s hang out, and when I say hang out, yes many of them were hanging out.
Ladies wearing bottoms, which expose much of them, is one thing. Men…old men…Speedos are not for you. There comes a time when one needs to actually look into the mirror before dressing. Find a friend with an honest opinion. I think one of the casualties of our lifestyle today is a lack of personal contact. People have lost the ability to wear clothes that are not appropriate in public. A true friend would have stopped you. Put down the phone and see a friend and ask them what they think. If they make a face and say EWWW…don’t wear it.
Just in case you don’t have any friends that will tell you straight up, I will. Dress and act your age. No woman thinks your saggy tattoos or saggy butt are sexy. In fact, I think I threw up in my mouth a little when I saw them.
Guys, wearing anything like a speedo is passé. Leave something to the imagination, please!
Grand Cayman was a bust. The beach was limited, expensive, and hot. The water was opaque and not suitable for snorkeling. I will be damned if there were not more kids there than in Cozumel. Is this some kind of elaborate field trip?
The problem with a cruise and shore excursions are, they ‘the cruise line’ bring four thousand people at a time to some port which translates into dollars for the economies of those ports. This time we had three cruise ships at the same damned time. The economy should be happy with Carnival but as a tourist, I can assure you I was not.
When the shop cashier has to ask some manager what the cost of an item is, that is a dead giveaway that you are paying much more than the locals would have to pay for the same thing.
When the guide tells you that you are going bargain shopping, what they are really saying is ‘gird your loins.’
How do you do that? If it is not marked with a price, don’t buy it. If you have to ask what it cost, you should at least demand a kiss when they are finished. Too crude…? If you think so, my novels are probably not for you.
In one shop, the owner put a sticker on each one in our party. While he told us it was a sign to the cashier to give us half off, I genuinely fear it was an indicator to double the price.
Seven dollars American to ‘rent’ a lounge chair on a small crowded beach while baking in the sun was only a tiny part of the process. The umbrella was twelve dollars US. This umbrella appeared to have been extracted from the rubbish pile and put back into use.
The bottom line on excursions is, have a backup plan. After we were ashore, we learned that snorkeling was out of the picture. Just going to the beach with hundreds of other guests, and many locals were a waste of money and time. Again, had my balcony not been under assault from the construction crew above me, I might have ordered a tall drink, picked up a good book, and just chilled while listening to the water and seabirds.
Research your destination before you get there. Don’t allow some ‘cruise director,’ typically your spouse, to make all the plans. If you are going to be there, take an active part in the planning process, or just don’t complain when you are shelling out lots of money to rent some battered chair and broken down umbrella.
Grand Cayman has things to offer. That day, the beach was not one of them. If, and this is a big if; I were to go back to Georgetown, I would fly in when there were no cruise ships, rent some out of the way room at a resort-like the Ritz, and just chill on the beach. I would make damned sure that there was no construction going on at the resort when booking. I would also make sure there were no active hurricanes in the area. I have heard nightmare scenarios where couples had gone to such a place and been stuck at the resort while a storm blew through. The meter on their stay does not stop when there is a storm. It cost the same whether you are having a good time, or trying to stay alive from a hurricane.
As a cruise destination, I give this one a thumbs down.
A note on my door to the balcony was interesting. It alerted me that they would be cleaning the balcony. Ok, it looks pretty clean but fine.
Folks, when I returned that night after my fun day with the local pirates, the rail was covered in some white solution, the glass which had been perfectly clean appeared as if something had been drizzled over it and there was standing water between the deck and the edge of the balcony. I have no idea what they thought they were doing, but it was the opposite of clean.
I used their towels and cleaned up the mess myself, as this was ‘my oasis.’
“Hey Maan, how you doing? I got some smoke, right here!”
Every stereotype that you ever heard about Jamaica is correct. Truthfully, I figured this would be the bust excursion. Had the construction crew above me, and the screaming children beside me not been there, I would have enjoyed the amenities on the ship along with the gentle breezes and rested.
For me, the idea of a cruise is to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I don’t want to hear sirens, loud cars, people fighting or arguing, and, least of all, construction sounds.
While deciding if I were going to leave the boat, a loud sound that resembled a drill, the dentist might use only much louder made that choice for me. Something known as an impact drill, or what I call a chatter drill was in use over my head, resonating throughout the cabin.
The choice made, I was going to see what Jamaica had to offer.
Firstly, I have never even tried pot much less owned any. Cannabis is legal in Jamaica. If you get the impression that I am wound pretty tight, you are right. I have managed dozens of people and projects during my life, and have been responsible for million-plus dollar budget projects. The reasons are apparent, I have a track record of not making bad choices in life. Not only do I make good choices, but I know what the hell I am doing. I value intelligence and competence. Truthfully I don’t understand why anyone would take a chance on screwing up their brains, with mind-altering anything.
With me, it is an occasional beer or a margarita, with the operative words being ‘Occasional, and A.”
Crime in Jamaica is relegated to rival gangs. Drug exportation is a business, and since Pot is legal, that makes it harder to fight drug exportation. From the Cartels in Mexico to the gangs in Jamaica, money, and drugs are the problems. Since so much money is involved, officials have price tags, and their loyalty or turning a blind eye to the problem is most assuredly up for sale to the highest bidder. This is just common sense. Think not, then tell me why someone would use 19 million dollars of their own money to try and get a job that makes $154K a year. Go ahead, I am waiting.
Solving the criminal activity in both countries would be as simple as legalizing drug use in the countries they export to. Much like prohibition of the 1920s, once legalized, the booze running criminals of yesteryear went into a different business. Drugs, sex trafficking, and any other activity made illegal due to social norms. Where there is a demand, there is a criminal element that will fill it.
Legalizing drugs would damage the economy of those countries who export them. Money from the US, Canada and surely Australia and Europe find their way into these countries who manufacture, grow or sell them.
Those that traffic in such things needs for them to be illegal so they can charge exorbitant rates for their products. Jamaica is no different. Not all that far from the US, getting drugs into the states would be pretty straightforward. This, however, is small potatoes. In 2017 there were well over 70,000 deaths in the US due to drug overdose. Those deaths were not from pot; from Jamaica.
Once again, the water in Jamaica was not conducive to snorkeling. That is a three for three busts on shore excursions. Deciding to learn more about the local culture, I hired a tour guide, which was not part of the Carnival controlled industry. That could be a bad idea or not. Throwing caution to the wind off we went.
Taking us to places no Carnival sponsored cruise would take us, we quickly learned that Jamaica is much like California is turning in to. The super-rich and the very poor. Our guide represented their middle class. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment without air, and her teenage son.
Prices for goods and services are very high. Street vending is a livelihood of the locals, which is illegal in places that the government wants to keep ‘clean’ for the tourists. They must keep moving, which means you will be accosted by them no matter where you are.
I use the word ‘accosted,’, but I can assure you that they do take no for an answer. Had I been a rich person, I would have purchased much of their wares just to assist them in some way.
In this country, if accosted by a street person, you never know how it will play out. In Jamaica, you tell them no thanks, and they just go on to the next.
Jamaica has one of the highest populations of churches, which I found interesting. The idealist in me wants to believe that they are all super Christian or dedicated to the faith of their choice. In reality, I fear much like the street vendors, they are selling god or the promise of heaven at the donation box.
Not allowed onto the premises, street vendors still approached us on the church grounds wanting us to purchase their trinkets.
Walking through a cemetery, I was taken aback by a street person sleeping on one of the tombs.
Tourism is a significant industry in all of these three places, and the government knows it. With each visit by a cruise ship, which is often, US dollars flow into their economy.
Exporting Bauxite, limestone, and of course, drugs is a large part of their economy. With the super-wealthy living close to the very poor, the juxtaposition of the two is staggering. In my humble opinion, what we see in Jamaica and countries like this today, we will see in California in the near future unless Americans stop watching the MSM and pay attention to what is really happening. As government officials try to get your votes it is not you that they have in mind. It is power and money they seek and being a politician is the way to get it. They don’t care about you in the slightest. Importing votes and cheap labor will only go so far. From then on there will only be the super-rich and the very poor. If they did they would protect the borders, and protect your jobs. They won’t and don’t.
Heading to what was supposed to be the ‘beach,’ we could see that it would have been yet another bust. Seven US dollars to get past the gates to walk on the beach was not an option I was willing to pay.
Eating at the most austere version of a Margaretville ever was the extent of my travels on Jamaica. Being asked by no less than five people in one short block if I wanted smoke left me reeling. Then there was the offer of coke. I don’t think it was the bubbly kind. Taking refuge in the local Starbucks until it was time to go back to the ship, was my indoctrination to Jamaica.
Oddly enough, I did not feel uncomfortable walking in and among those who were most probably associated with gangs. Again, once told no thanks, they left me be.
Would I go back?
Not on a cruise ship. Again, with four thousand people dumped onto the island at one time, I would instead fly in, have a plan that included a personal guide, and play it that way.
Ironically, I felt that the people of Jamaica were the friendliest of the three islands, and most certainly the most laid back. Possibly they were all stoned. Who knows.
I do think that having multiple options for excursions in almost any port of call is imperative.
Not having the excursion booked well in advance left you on your own. Lesson learned.
Once past the three island countries, there was just about immediate boredom. The Vista is like a small town with many different things to entertain you. The fact that you are traveling in a perpetual 2000 mile school zone, if you think about the speed of 17 knots, which is very close to 20 mph, you can quickly see why they need distractions.
I fell in love with the Riff Rafts. They were just about too good for a cruise ship. They could easily be a Vegas act or even a warm-up group for a major celebrity.
The karaoke bar or group was terrible entertainment. Karaoke draws a crowd of people who sing in the shower or don’t hear themselves as you and I might. Still, it was worth visiting for a one or two-hour stint. The lady that ran it was entertaining as she was ‘in control,’ and allowed everyone to have fun.
Truth told, there were some reasonably good singers that, with proper audio set up, might be worth listening to. That, sadly, not the case. A loud singer might captivate the audience or might run them off while a soft singer requiring the power of the amplifier to do his or her bidding, like many artists today, was not conducive for them; thusly they were not heard.
Note to the lady running the setup, do a mic check and adjust the volume accordingly for each singer. The experience will be much more enjoyable for the customers.
Those who had already sung talked and laughed over those who were singing, which was just bad manners. As a people watcher, it tells you something about this generation. ‘It is all about me and my satisfaction.’ They could also all have been drunk. If they were, they probably purchased the bottle and administered their own amounts of booze per drink.
The folks at the red frog or whatever that guitar bar was were entertaining. Drinking a craft beer while listening to them was worth the two hours spent. The craft beer was also remarkably good for being created on the ship.
What about the piano bar?
Ok, I was dragged into the piano bar after one of my friends pointed out that Elizabeth was talented.
From strange Kangaroo remarks to potty remarks, I soon was rather taken with this young lady who should keep her activism to herself. She is an actress, singer, and buys all of the nonsense the liberal media is pushing. My guess is, she would vote for socialism.
When you, as an entertainer, espouse your views on political things, you stand a good chance of alienating many in your audience. Since the boat loaded in Galveston, Texas, and Texas is a red state, your odds of pissing people off with your uninformed liberal propaganda espoused by the elite class who are hell-bent on destroying the country as we know it, are higher than if you were leaving from say the east or west coast, where people have all drank the Kool-Aid.
Since the liberal establishment has gone entirely nuts, I have stopped watching movies and television and I will go out of my way to not buy things from companies who support such nonsense. I also noticed that Carnival only has CNN on its television service and not a balanced news source. CNN pays airports to only show their station. Isn’t it sad that anyone at an airport only hears their perverted take on the news? That is propaganda much like Pravda.
If you have to pay an airport to only put your brand of Pravda on the TV, it should raise a red flag to the traveling public. Wait, you mean to tell me that CNN does not tell the public that they actually pay the airports to only show their channel?
Your political leanings should not be evident to me as a person in your audience. I am intelligent enough to look at the actions, and the evidence, instead of some bald twit lying with his hate-filled rants dictated by the likes of Jeff Zucker, president of CNN.
On a positive note, when she was not bragging about supporting kids walking out of school, her talents were laudable, as were her quirky ways of working her audience. It is my hope that somewhere along the way she learns the truth about life, and what she thought she knew was told to her by people with an agenda. I wish her well and success, and awakening to reality.
What about the funny folks?
Comedians fill a role in society, which allows us to laugh at ourselves. We all do things that when in hindsight were stupid or at the very least laughable. In truth, we are all so much alike if we would sit and talk with one another honestly, we would be shocked.
From how we look naked in a mirror to how we act and think, on a Venn diagram, there would be much more overlap than not.
Carole, who was the first of the comedians I watched, spent about 30 minutes putting a laughable spin on life. From farts to bugs, she had most of us laughing.
Of the three comedians I watched, Carole gets a thumbs up, the other two, not so much.
Spike went way over the line in the ‘clean show.’ When you talk about poop and bring corn into the conversation, yes that is way too far for a show with kids in it.
The other gentleman who tried to be comedic with the kids in the audience bombed. I did not go back for his adult show as I feel like if you cannot make me laugh in a show geared for ‘polite society,’ I don’t need to hear vulgarities. In fairness to him, I want to think of something I liked about his show, other than the ending.
This is tough as, for the most part, it was just lame. So, part of his stick was, he made some funny faces, and you could tell he was intelligent. To be a comedian and be successful, you have to have a sharp brain, think on your feet, and know when the act is going south and change gears.
I don’t remember his name, which is bad. I remember Carol and Spike, why not him?
Like good advertisements are not only memorable but, you also remember the brand. My brand ‘TWSCOTT’ I want to be associated with novels that either entertain in an adventurous way or a slightly naughty way.
This novella is just that, an informative quick read on what not to do, or what to do. This is also a peek into three different countries, and a behind the scenes look at cruising. Finally, it is feedback for the Carnival folks who need to fire whoever thought it was ok to have a construction crew working above my cabin at all hours of the day and night, just saying!
I feel that comedians might want to hire some new writers who can craft jokes that are funny.
It seems that farts, other bodily functions, and of course sex are the mainstay of the comedic routine. Is that it? Is that all that is funny? God, I hope not.
During his show, I did discover that most of the kids on the boat are homeschooled or their parents just pulled them out of school to vacation before the other kids got out.
What about the ‘really big show?’
If you are my age, you recognize the comment ‘really big show.’
I must admit, I was surprised to see and hear the amount of talent on that stage. I made a point to shake hands and tell them as much. Indeed they could and should be a Vegas act.
I read that Matt, the cruise director is leaving and going to a bigger boat. Why? Tell me why I would want to be on a more massive ship, where the lines will be longer? Tell me how that does anything for me, other than inconvenience me more? Truth told; if they are traded publically, the only good thing might be to purchase their stock. Think about it. With over 4000 people to manage, they already have their hands full. Getting on and off the boat was not fun. If your idea of fun is standing in lines than by all means get on a bigger ship. My next cruise will be something smaller like a riverboat cruise or possibly cruise in the Mediterranean on a smaller boat.
Matt, what are you thinking? Do you like banging your head into the wall? Why take on more of a headache? Was that you over my cabin making all that noise, torturing yourself?
Returning to my room each night, I was greeted with a towel animal of some kind. The person who keeps the place tidy and the shampoo and soap, filled, also spends his time creating towel creatures.
Now he has no way of knowing, but I made a game out of ‘guess the creature’ on Facebook. Each day I put the creature on there and had them all guess. This is marketing for Carnival, and yes, I know that I was advertising for them. I spent extra for Wi-Fi so I could keep in contact with my people, and of course, I ended up advertising for the cruise line to my over 400 plus friends on social media. I actually know these people, unlike many who will friend anyone.
I took many pictures and some videos and posted them for my peeps. I did not bemoan the fact that a construction crew was working day and night right over my cabin. I also did not complain about the smoking on the balcony or that same family with the screaming kids, playing music on their balcony.
Further, I did not speak of the loud doors slamming at all hours of the day and night.
The construction continued for the entire time I was on vacation, and I must tell you, that would stop me from ever taking another cruise.
While talking about the negative aspects, let me also whine about being charged $18 to uncork my own bottle of wine.
I did not carry on about it, as I did not want to ruin my vacation over excessive charges.
Receiving a $50 discount on a service in the spa area, I decided to take advantage of that with a massage. When I mention that to friends they tell me they stay away from the spa as they are notorious about upselling you. Yes, they are but you can always say no. Besides, have you looked at the cost of the cruise? Folks, it is expensive. There are no bargains on such things. It goes from expensive to ridiculous.
Making my appointment, I went up there early to steam, shower, and soak in the mineral bath and then get a massage.
I was handed paperwork to fill out, which I did not expect. Sitting in the waiting area for over fifteen moments, my pre-relaxation idea was slowly fading away until I took matters into my own hands at the front desk once again.
I was told to leave the paperwork in the room, they would come to find me.
Leaving the clipboard of information for just anyone to read was not something I was comfortable with, but, I did not want to waste all that time waiting.
Cloud Nine was devoid of kids, noise, and chaos. While the management of the spa could use a little organization, I digress. While I was massaged, I fell asleep on many occasions, as I was sleep deprived!
I was asked by a friend why I did not complain.
Who would I complain to? I guess I could have headed to the bridge and when I was stopped I could have asked who to complain to. Does Carnival have a plank? I kid…kind of.
Why was it just not common sense that making all that racket would be unacceptable?
Who in their right mind would authorize that kind of activity during the day, much less allowing it to go into the wee hours of the morning?
On my previous cruises, there were issues, but nothing like this.
I actually think that Norwegian had the fewest issues of all of them.
Disembarking the boat, I did learn a thing or two. Do not try to mess with your own bags. Allow the crew to do it. When they issue bag tags, be there early.
When your number is called, and you make your way off the ship through the long snake-like lines of people, find a porter and hire one.
This person does this for a living and will get you past customs and to your rendezvous point faster than if you try to manage this yourself.
When planning your trip, find and reserve a place that stores your car in their lot and busses you to the drop of spot. Those same people will be there at the same spot to take you back to your vehicle. Use Yelp or other social media to see who does it the best. This is important when all is finished, get on Yelp and tell your story. Pay it back!
Don’t look for cheap when planning any of this. Nothing is cheap. A cruise is expensive, and it should damned well be worth the money.
I was asked what neat things I bought.
“Um, nothing. I got pictures and memories.”
Use yelp or other social media to see what they say about your cruise line, your places of interests, and of course, your excursions.
Familiarize yourself with the rules of the boat. Do try and be courteous to your fellow passengers. There are some people, who just don’t think. Then there are others who do and just don’t care. In all things, lead by example. Don’t be part of the problem.
The bottom line, if I wanted to be around kiddoes, I would take a Disney Cruise. On my next cruise, I will make damned sure it is geared for fun-loving adults. I will also make sure that it is not under construction. Maybe I will find a clothing-optional cruise than for sure there will be no mini-monsters underfoot. Too harsh? Maybe…I love kids. In the oven, about 450 ought to do it… Just kidding. There is a time and a place. When I am spending this kind of money to relax, construction over my head and screaming out of control kids is not my idea of a vacation. Rude knuckle draggers who smoke and play music on their balcony is not my idea of fun. Slamming doors at all hours of the day and night is not my idea of relaxing good times.
What time is it?
I think one of the most pertinent tidbits of information I can offer is this. Leave your smartwatch at home, and get an inexpensive watch. Set that watch to ‘ship time’ and live by it, while on your cruise.
Many, too many to mention, had no idea what time it was. On a cruise such as this, you will travel to different time zones. One of the most important things for you to do is be on that boat before it leaves port.
Never fear, there is an app for that.
Yes, indeed, Carnival has an app that will keep you in the loop for the correct time and what is happening, and when. You can also use the app to check-in for a reservation for dinner.
What about drinks and soda water?
You can bring cans, not bottles to your cabin. Cans of soda or health drink, but not alcoholic.
You can also bring a bottle of wine, one per person onboard.
A drink on the boat with tip was $15. That was a rum and coke. For three dollars extra, they double it.
Folks, I bought one. If there was rum in it, I could not tell it.
If you need alcohol to have a good time, perhaps you should spend your money on sobriety instead. You damned sure won’t get drunk on their drinks. Now, they do offer a bottle of Crown and a few Cokes for $90.
Living without soft drinks and booze for a few days might seem frightening, especially if you are under a cabin under construction but, trust me; if the weather is beautiful you can find a place topside to take a nap. I did and woke up with stars overhead. Did I mention I was sleep-deprived?
Leaving the boat or Debarkation, you have two options.
As mentioned before, you can choose to handle your own luggage, or you can set it in the hallway between 9pm and 11pm ship time, and they will collect it. Once they have it they take it down elevators and set it aside. It will be waiting for you in a specific place in the terminal building.
Opt for the latter as there are few elevators, to begin with, and even less when the crew is using them to move people or bags. After you wait several minutes for a lift to see it has two families with strollers and some person on a scooter, the frustration kicks in. With few lifts, it took a short time for people to just get in no matter which way it was going, knowing eventually it would end up on their floor. This leaves the elevators full.
Why not the stairs?
Gravity works. Going down the stairs is easy enough, but let’s face it, even that gets old. Then you have the munchkins that I mentioned earlier running up and down those same stairs zipping past or around you, making it somewhat dangerous as they could easily cause a person to trip or fall. Munchkins do not understand the issues with running in those narrow halls, or on those stairs, but most people realize why their parents might have told them not to run in the house or in this case, narrow hallways.
Once you make it to the terminal, it is nothing more than a large building with cement floors and no place to sit. There are lines upon lines of people all waiting to be seen by US customs. It is there your ship ID card will not satisfy them. A driver’s license or preferably passport will get you through the line much faster. I believe that a birth certificate works too.
Looking at your picture and then who you are, they asked me if I was this person.
Now, I have got to tell you I wanted to say ‘JA’ or ‘Dah’ or ‘Ci’ but, these people I am sure had their sense of humor surgically removed. I did say ‘All day and twice on Sunday.’ Which still got a cockeyed look from this government drone.
“No laughing, you cannot smile. What are you thinking?”
Pffft, I think my patience has been tested well past my limits of civility. I absolutely don’t like bullies, and I sure as hell don’t like government drones looking all superior to us the ‘common folks.’
Off the boat, we headed to a place designated by our taxi service. The taxi is already full but, if we don’t mind standing, he can squeeze some more people in. ‘No, just tie me to the roof, maybe I can catch some bugs in my teeth!’
“Please tell me why I spent this much money on a taxi to only have one there when the ship is kicking us off?”
I know that those of you who are used to public transportation think nothing of standing but here in the south, not so much. You get in the small van and see young people sitting with their headphones in, trying to ignore you standing, while they make the five-plus miles to the final stop.
Parents, did you not raise your children to respect their elders? I know; you taught them first to the seat wins.
Galveston, if you are not familiar with it, is an island all of itself. There are two ways on to and off of the island. One way is highway 45, and the other is by the Bolivar Ferry, which takes you in the opposite way of heading to Houston.
You must go up 45 if you want to get to Houston or the airport.
As you leave Galveston heading north, you get to this little town of La Marque where traffic grinds to a halt. An hour later you get to a place where one person is operating a crane and several are standing around watching him or her.
The good news is there is a ‘Buc-ees’ just off the Holland street exit right past the Tanger Outlet Mall. This is where you can stop, use the super clean bathrooms (and you will need to), and meet up with your 4000 closest friends for one last time.
This was my first time to sail out of Galveston, and I doubt that I will do that again. This road construction has been going on since I was a child. 45 has been under construction for my entire lifetime. Never have I been from Dallas to Galveston, without being inconvenienced by road construction.
I am almost sure that this is a brother in law work for life project. Even I who knows damned little about road construction can stand around, hold a shovel and complain about all the drivers looking at them wondering WTF? Where can I sign up to be a shovel holder?
If someone can explain to me how a toll-road-project can be completed in a few months, and it takes decades for a government project to be completed, I am all ears. Can’t you just imagine what it will be like when the government controls health-care? We already see it with the post office and yes the department of motor vehicles, and of course infrastructure projects. Think real hard before you vote for more government control of anything. To quote President Reagan, ‘Government is the problem!’
If you have never been to a Buc-ees, you need to go. Make it a day trip and go find one. I swear you could eat off the bathroom floor, not that you would want to.
You are greeted when you enter, and they actually act as if you are important to them. While customer service is slowly dying, giving way to the automated ‘Thank You’ at the kiosk, at Buc-ees, they still acknowledge you and act as if you are important to them.
As a side note. Most of the crew of the Vista were very polite and acted as if you were important to them too. I have only stayed in one other place where customer service was remarkable. That was at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun. A man changing a bulb, stood up as we walked by and greeted us by name.
No that was not all but that was impressive. How did this man know who we were? However he did it, I was impressed.
May your travels bring you great memories and be filled with laughter. Remember, if you are a writer you must live your life, before you can write about it.
Check out my website to see some of my novels. From sci-fi to stories that will keep you warm on those long winter nights, I have you covered.