This past Christmas, my present from my amazing husband was a cruise for two. I love cruises for several reasons. The most predominant reason is - we don't have to get on an airplane. The nearest cruise terminal is conveniently an hour-and-a-half away. As of this writing, I have now been on four cruises, all with the Carnival Cruise lines. Each one to different ports of call and each one with great shore excursions, food, and service. This time was no different, and perhaps even better.
Our cruise ship of choice, was the Carnival Sunshine. Destination: Eight glorious days to the Eastern Caribbean with ports of call to Grand Turk, St. Thomas USVI, San Juan, and St. Maarten, NA. We chose this trip specifically for the San Juan stop. I had never been to Puerto Rico and wanted to see it. Eight days seemed like a long time, however, we were willing to try to be away from home, work, and annoying cats for that period of time.
Now, normally, whenever I'm preparing for a trip I write a packing list and begin organizing weeks in advance. This time, however, I drug my feet. As time drew near, I became anxious. Some of it stemmed around my husband's job (I won't go into details here, not important). The majority of my anxiety revolved around food. If you have read any of my previous blog posts you know I have an allergy to dairy. Plus, I'm training for my 5th marathon. Which, of course, means I have to be doubly mindful of what I eat. On most trips - whether road trips or by airplane - I am able to pack my own and/or purchase locally. The rules on cruise ships are very strict. Any food brought aboard must be 1) storebought. No homemade food allowed. 2) In unopened packages. 3) Not need refrigeration. There is a mini fridge in the cabin but the temperature is only low enough to keep water cool.
The first thing I do once aboard the ship is go to guest services to make sure I won't starve. (This after packing organic whole wheat crackers and about a pound of raw nuts and posting my allergies on the web site.) I was assured my needs would be taken care of. I took a deep, cleansing breath and decided I would survive.
Next, we spent a few hours walking the decks and halls to get the 'Lay of The Land'. First stop, the Spa. The gym was huge. Enough treadmills that I could get my two-hour runs in without feeling like a gym hog. They also had dry and wet saunas for hours of relaxation, which we took advantage of every chance we could.
Our cabin was on deck 3, Lido deck 9, Spa deck 10, and the tippy top adults only deck was deck 14. This meant we were in for a lot of walking! I'm not a fan of elevators and especially so on boats. We would have daily workouts whether my husband liked it or not. I did encourage him to take the elevators from time to time. I'm nice like that. The climbs went like this: 3 to 9 for breakfast; 3 to 10 for the gym; 3 to 0 to exit the ship for excursions; 3 to 14 for relaxation in the sun. I cannot tell you how many steps we ascended and descended, but I'll bet it was in the thousands!
The stateroom: We booked an interior cabin with a king-sized bed. It was plenty big enough for the two of us. Having a window was not important, so not worth the extra money. We had enough closet space for the majority of our clothes (I say majority because I brought about 3 outfits per day. Hey, you never know what the weather or mood may warrant). Our bathroom was small, but not cramped. Never expect a big bathroom on a cruise ship. Need a bigger space to shower? Go to the Spa deck and use the ones in the changing rooms. This ship came equipped with shower gel, shampoo, a round side mirror, one plug in the bathroom for a men's shaver, and a hair drier. It also had a safe and a tiny mini fridge, a TV, and plenty of room under the bed to store your luggage.
Lido deck: This is where all the action is. A small pool for kids; two hot tubs; a giant TV screen for movies, announcements, replays of the nightly events; two bars; Guy's Burger Joint on one side and a taco bar on the other. Inside, more food. If you are one of 'those people' who take elevators you could easily gain a ton of weight on a cruise. Stair-climbers, too, to be fair. Several of the food areas were open 24 hours a day.
Serenity deck: This is for grown-ups. Lounge chairs, wicker cabanas built for two, and hammocks that rocked to and fro lulling you to sleep as the cool Caribbean wind blows gently. Except for windy days when they had to close it down. This was forward, or in the front of the ship just over the Spa.
SkyCourt/SkyCourse: This area was a sports area with basketball, pool tables, ping-pong, a ropes course, water slides, etc. Typically the 'kids' area. It also was home to a hot-dog stand.
I could stop here and make all kinds of commentary about clothing. I'll be polite and just give this brief observation: The older and heavier a person aboard this ship, the less clothing they wore and vice versa. Are older people more confident in their bodies or do they just not care? No judgements here, just an observation.
My dining experience: For breakfast I kept things simple - fruit, boiled eggs, and peanut butter. Lunch was hit or miss, mostly by my own lack of effort. I did speak to the head chef and the Marketplace (Lido deck) manager who was extremely helpful. I could eat anything in the Asian restaurant and the pasta bar cooked to order all dishes and I also met both chefs. Selections got old after a while. Mostly, I was just too busy to stop and eat.
Dinner was amazing! Our waiter made my dining experience exceptional. He was a young man from Russia named Svetislav. I discussed my allergy with him he went to great lengths to make sure I had great food, including desert! In fact, every evening after dinner he gave me the next night's menu and I wrote down what I wanted. He looked it over and gave the approval (meaning it was safe) or suggested something else. On the third night I flipped over the paper and wrote:
coconut milk, strawberries, banana, cocoa powder
and/or peanut butter. Puree. Freeze.
Svetislav looked it over, tilted his head from side to side and said with a wink and heavy Russian accent, "I'll see what I can do." I had my coconut milk shake for four straight nights! Including the night we ate in the steakhouse, which was also amazing.
We met some great people at dinner. A couple from Georgia, a retired couple originally from New York who were celebrating their 50th anniversary, and sweet newlyweds from Virginia who I hope to do the Princess Half marathon with next February.
One morning I got up early to get breakfast and bring it back to the room. I, along with other early risers, were surprised with Lido Deck Towel Zoo! There were towel monkeys, frogs, swans, gators, penguins and other animals on deck chars, hanging from lighting, holding onto poles, sitting at the bar, and frolicking on deck. So much fun!
Sunsets and sunrises were beautiful. So different from the ones seen on land. In the morning, the sky is bright for 30-45 minutes before any trace of the sun is seen. There were usually clouds on the horizon in the morning but I did get a few pictures of cloudless sunrises. In the evening, the sun shines hot and bright and seems to speed up and only take minutes to dip below the pool of water that is the horizon.
Entertainment: This boat had a lot going on. The ship's cruise director, Jaime Dee, was a fireball of energy jumping around in her 3-inch heels. We didn't have kids with us so I'm not able to comment on the kids activities except for the Dr. Suess story time with Cat in the Hat. It was hilarious. Jamie read the story and had parents and kids act out scenes. Even though I'm not a huge fan of stand up comedy we went to two performances which the audience seemed to enjoy. The stage shows comprised of a group of eight performers, four male and four female plus a guitarist. The guitarist was the best part of the entire entertainment line up. I wish I had been able to video him. Alas, it was not allowed. Think of the top four rock guitarists and roll them up together. He picked, he strummed, he wailed. My husband was floored and that's a huge compliment. Unfortunately, the dance routines were more ambitious than the stage could handle. That coupled with the rocking of the boat during the first performance left me a little disappointed. The ship, as with most had a casino. Whenever we passed through I held my breath to prevent smoke inhalation. There was also a smaller stage for a small band and trivia games, an arcade, shopping, EA sports bar with TVs, a library, and photographers to capture your every movement. Hmm, maybe I should apply...
Overall, I give this cruise experience an A-. The minus is mainly for the weather, which was less than ideal (lots of wind), and the underwhelming stage shows. They weren't bad, I was just hoping for more. As in longer, maybe a storyline and not just song and dance. The wait staff were perfection. The cabin crew were all extremely polite and helpful. I never went hungry (the candy store needed more licorice Jelly Belly, my personal preference).
Sit back and enjoy the slide show. Forgive me, I'm an amateur videographer.
This is the song that I quoted in the slide show. http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/l/littlerainmustfalla.shtml
Why the blog?
I write as the Spirit moves me. I have prayed about what I'm supposed to do with my life a lot. A lot. Writing. Writing is what I believe God is leading me to do. Whether or not He wants me to write for anyone to read is His business. Much of my writing has been therapy for me so maybe I'm the only one who is supposed to read it. So, why the Blog? As a sounding board, a note pad, a place to keep my ideas and thoughts. A place to share and promote my books, and photography. Written prayers, a place to vent. Possibly, even a place for the unknown reader to learn about the love of Jesus.