Five years ago, for our fifth wedding anniversary, we did absolutely nothing. I think we might have kissed each other for an extra second to mark the occasion but otherwise, very lack luster. That's when I started saying that for our 10th anniversary, we would take a cruise. So five years later, I was combing through the cruise deals and trying to narrow down my choices. I was campaigning for an Alaskan cruise because - let's be honest, here - I look much better in a parka than I do in a swimming suit. The Man wasn't sold on the idea and the shore excursions (that's cruise-speak for trips you make to land to do something other than bake yourself on the deck of the ship or visit the self-serve ice cream stations) were pretty lame or very expensive. Then I found Carnival Cruises. They were reasonable and had some fantastic choices for port trips. My one stipulation? No Mexico stops. I was utterly paranoid and the whole "drug cartel wars" made me nervous (and don't bother trying to reassure me...I am completely irrational). Turned out to be a very good thing because, thanks to swine flu outbreaks, all Mexico ports of call were canceled. So hooray for anxiety attacks!
Grandma G came to stay with the littles and we were on our way! The Man booked us onto a red-eye flight to NYC, where we would fly all night and then hop on a plane down to Florida. I think both of us kinda glossed over the fact that it is impossible to get decent sleep on an airplane. If it wasn't for the constant excitement about finally getting on the boat, I might have been dead on my feet. Our boat left from Fort Lauderdale. For some insane reason, we had to follow other cruisers around in a line for nearly two hours before they let us on the boat. Ri. Dic. Ulous. But we finally crossed the gangway and were on deck! Before we could jump up and down, squealing with glee, it was time for muster. This is where all passengers must get their life jackets from their cabins and then meet in assigned locations for an emergency drill. It's mandatory, people. They check your rooms and herd you out of all other parts of the ship for this. Afterwards, you are free to behave like self-centered jerks but for now, listen up.
While not quite mandatory, nearly everyone heads to the Lido deck (the main deck) to watch the ship leave port. Once you leave the city behind, there's not much to see. No dolphins frolicking in the surf or whales breaching the surface. There aren't even any strange fish floating around. Just water. And maybe some seaweed.
But here are a couple other things that I learned right away:
1) The ship's photographers like take your picture. Frequently. Even when you're eating.
2) The bar service people are always asking if you'd like something from the bar. "Sir, I see you've just come from the restroom. Perhaps you'd like to work on refilling that bladder with one of our specialty drinks in a nifty souvenir glass?"
Now, the ship tries to sell you the pictures but of course, you don't have to buy them. There's even handy recycling bins for the ones where you look cross-eyed. These photos make cute reminders of your trip. Unless of course you are me and have never been accused of being photogenic. We did get lots of pictures taken because I really wanted one to mark the occasion. Never bought one. I tend to forget that I am rather portly. *sigh*
As for the constant flow of booze, some people declare that this is their favorite part of going on a cruise. We certainly met a few people who seemed bent on drowning themselves in pineapple juice, vodka, and fresh fruit skewers. Our boat offered a bucket of beers. Seriously. A large white bucket filled with ice and bottles of your preferred beer. Since we don't imbibe, we purchased Fountain Cards. These are usually pro-rated (ours was $5.50 per person per day) and are good for your endless fountain drinks or juice during your entire cruise. If you don't want to pay, you can always partake of the self-serve water, tea, coffee and lemonade stations. Those are free (but not always completely stocked). (And by "free," I mean you've already paid for it in the price of your ticket.)
Okay, this post is getting rather long and we've only just left port...so stayed tuned for our first stop: Key West, Florida!
What beverage would you like to have a bucket of?