Sunday, February 24, 2008

Getting off the Boat

This part was easy. The night before, they had dropped off luggage tags at our cabin with a number. We went to breakfast at the main dining room for the last time then back to our cabin. We decided to carry out our own luggage so we sat in our cabin and at 8:30 they started calling out numbers. When our number was called we headed down to the exit and they scanned our card and we were off. You go into a warehouse next and we grabbed a porter (we got a tip this was the way to go) and the porter took us to a porters only line- much shorter than the rest- and waited to go through customs. We had filled our our paperwork and we got up to the agent and handed everything over. About 5 seconds later he motioned us through. I stood there looking at him like "don't you want to ask me some questions, I could be dangerous!" but he didn't care. I guess he thought that if you were boring enough to only claim "3 t-shirts and 2 bottles of vanilla" than there was nothing to worry about. Well, we took the bus back to our car and we were off for Fort Worth. I think I slept most of the way home dreaming about going on another trip. That's pretty much the only thing we talked about for the next week actually.
Good news, we decided to go on another cruise! This time with as many friends as possible so you are all invited! There is a bigger ship that goes out of Galveston also, the Conquest, and it's a 7 day trip to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We are leaving on Aug. 31st and I have a group number if you are interested. It's going to be totally awesome. I recommend this kind of travel to anyone. You can be as active or laid back as you want to be and spend as much or as little money as you want. I think our total of onboard purchases was under $100 when we were through and that included the spa treatment! It works great for kids too. The childcare is included in the cruise rate so you basically have an adult vacation depending on how much your kids want to go to "Camp Carnival". Email me if you are interested or have questions. I'm not getting any kickbacks for organizing a group- if we get anything it will be a group cocktail party but I'm not getting a bigger cabin or anything. :-) I'm totally addicted- I know you will love cruising!

Fun Day at Sea- Day 5

So sad, our last day on the boat. The boat is still rocking a lot so the morning I don't feel great but that's okay. We started with a late breakfast as usual in the main dining room. Mike had his usual eggs benedict and I had the usual fruit, pancake with bananas, and hot tea. There was another trivia so we went to that, didn't win. Then there was a Debarkation talk that had tips on how to get off the boat the next day. Pretty boring but also necessary.
Today we tried lunch at the main dining room for the first time. It was very nice and there were a few other options than the casual dining place. Lunch took a little longer than we thought so we missed part of the TV theme trivia but caught the end of it. We had a break until our next trivia so I think mike and I went to the casino and played $5 of penny slots. So much fun, I think mike was up $8 at one point but that was as high as it got. Even though there were a lot of smokers in there it wasn't too smoky. I have been to an Oklahoma casino and you couldn't see 2' in front of you because of the smoke so the cruise must have a very good way to get the smoke out, also, they are cleaning it every time it is closed. We played with cash but you could play with your sign and sail card by sticking it in the machine. Very dangerous. I got tickled by the people who had their card in the machine and a stretchy cord that attached to their shirt. I'm guessing they needed this in case their lungs stopped working from the smoking and they fell off the stool and they wanted their card to stop the machine from charging it. If your lungs stop working you got bigger problems than that but to each his own. I think some people spent all day in there.
Well, it was time for another trivia "Who wants to be a Carnivalaire?" We didn't win again, but had fun. Oh, I forgot to say, about 1 the boat stopped rocking and it was completely smooth for the rest of the trip, couldn't even feel the rocking. Apparently this was how it was supposed to be the whole time but we were traveling during a rough season.
Next, Mike and I went to "Q & A with Captain Scala". Audience members asked him questions and it was very interesting to learn so much about the boat. Next they had a Guest variety show where 3 people sang songs. They were all discovered at the karaoke club on previous nights and they were actually quite good. We went back to the cabin to pack (sadly) and then to dinner and the show. The show tonight was a comedian and a country musician who was just okay. We decided to skip the late night comedy and went back to the room and ordered cookies and milk from room service. Yum.
On a side note, Cory had secretly ordered Rachelle flowers and chocolate covered strawberries at one of the ships stores and they had come into the cabin while we were at dinner and had them laid out for her (we were cruising over valentines day). It was really cool that he was able to do that!

Progresso- Day 4

Morning of day 4. We were really getting the hang of this cruise thing. We got up and went to breakfast at the main dining room and watched the boat dock in Progresso. Unfortunately, this was not a pretty view, the pier is 8 miles long or something and we were at the end across from what looked like a gypsum manufacturing company. (I know that's a random analogy but if you had sat through as many gypsum lectures as I have, you would know gypsum is made from ground up limestone and that's what it looked like- I'm quite sure it wasn't actually that). Basically the only reason the ship goes to Progresso is because of the Mayan ruins that are here. They are supposed to be quite amazing and are one of the wonders of the world but for budgetary reasons, we did not have an excursion scheduled. So, we took our time getting ready and then got off the boat, took a free bus into town, and walked around a bit. We were dropped off at a marketplace much like what you would find if you walked across the border in Texas. It was hot and the people where pushing their cheap product big time so we probably spent less than an hour and headed back to the ship. The taste of the nations food buffet was Caribbean food so I tried that. I should have stuck with the hamburger because those are great but trying new things is important too.
After lunch, we walked up to the spa to see the specials. They had a great one so we booked an appointment for the afternoon and headed back to our cabins. I knew I couldn't go back to work after a cruise as pale as I left so I went up and sat by the pool and read a book, then napped for a bit. I met Rachelle at the spa not really knowing what to expect. As I said before, the boat is decked out in neon so what would the spa be like? Well, it was beautiful. Lots of glass mosaic tiles, nice scents and sounds and the staff was very nice. We filled out our paperwork in the "relaxation room" and we met our therapists. We got to pick 3 treatments from a list and I picked a facial, food massage, and head massage. I have to say, it was wonderful. The full treatment only lasted an hour and was $60. A great deal for that kind of pampering. At the end, they sit down with you and tell you about the products they use and want you to buy them (if I had bought everything on my list it would have been over $200- no thank you).
Back to the cabin for shower and change then another trivia challenge. This was the Love & Romance trivia and we would all start out in the middle and then after she read the question we would walk to the left side of the room for "A" and the right for "B". If you were wrong, you were out for that round. I didn't win anything but Mike won a metal. Yea for Mike. Then we headed to dinner and it was wonderful as usual. The late night show was "X-treme Country" and was very good. I liked this one better than the last one. I think we went up to the Lido deck to see what was on the late night buffet but I'm certain we didn't eat anything. I'm not used to eating at 8:30 at night so I was still not hungry at midnight.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cozumel- Day 3

When we woke up Monday morning we still had not pulled in to Cozumel yet but by 8:30 we were there. We ate breakfast in the main dining room then got ready to get off the ship. Getting off was no problem, no line and no rush. There were people holding signs with all of our shore excursions at the end of the pier and right across the street was lots of shopping. The guys were going on and ATV Beach Adventure and we were going to a cooking class. We forgot to give them a camera so we have no pictures but from what we hear it was lots of fun, they got really muddy, and the loved it.
We were driven to a private beach club and escorted in to a glass room so we could see the beach but we were not cooking outside. There were stations set up with 4 people at each station. First they took drink orders then we started on the food. We prepared Mexican Sopes (a flour tortialla topped with spanish sausage, potatoes, lettuce, cheese, and beans), Grouper Fillet with mango sauce and stuffed banana pepper, and rice pudding tower with layers of rice pudding and cookies. I have lots of pictures above with our plates and how we got to decorate them so we had lots of fun. When we were done cooking- we went to the top floor and ate our lunch overlooking the beach with spanish wines that were coordinated with each dish. Then we went down to the beach and sat by the water and took a nap. Unfortunatly we failed to listen to the driver very well when he told us what time to be back at the bus and when we asked someone she said 3:30 but it was 2:30... she was on the other ship that was in port that day. So we jumped in the cab and headed back to the city.
We had agreed to meet the guys at a restaurant called Senior Frogs. Big mistake. When we got there they were almost done eating, thank goodness, and they said "if one of those girls asks you if you want a shot- say no". That wouldn't have been a question for me because I don't do shots but I realized why when we watched the girl next to us take a shot. The waitresses have whistles which they blow during the whole "shot" routine and then they continue to molest you. I won't describe it here, you will have to call if you want to know but it was not cool. We ran out of there as soon as possible and headed back to the ship to relax.
After showers and dressing for dinner- i decided we should go to something on our schedule called "The Ultimate Mind Game". We didn't really know what to expect so we headed to the location of the game and sat in the back. There were quiz games going on all week but we had never participated before. Well, you get a piece of paper to write down your answer and the entertainment director reads out about 20 questions. Luckily for us, 3 of the questions were the same logic questions that I had used during our CMA party a few weeks before. A few more we figured out and we ended up winning the game. When you win, they give you carnival metals. I was so excited I decided we had to go to every quiz game from then on to try and win metals, and I was very sad we had missed the first 3 days of trivia!
We went to our dinner then the show that was rescheduled from last night. It was called a "vegas style review show" and that means they wore flashy costumes and sang and danced to songs you know. It was pretty good, not Broadway, but good. After that I went to bed and the guys went upstairs to the midnight Mexican buffet. The rocking of the ship really came in handy when it was time to go to sleep, it rocked you to sleep so quickly, it took me days after we got back to get used to sleeping in a still bed.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fun Day at Sea- Day 2

Day 2 began with waking up with rough seas. It didn't bother me at first but by the end of the day I was pretty tired of it. So, we got up and went for a walk on the top deck to try and work off some of the food we planned on eating. Then we headed to the formal dining room for breakfast. They served breakfast in the dining room and as a buffet on the lido deck. We typically chose to eat at the dining room because it was nicer and they had eggs benedict that the buffet did not have. Also, they had baked apples for a starter and stewed bananas and whipped cream for your pancakes and waffles so I liked that. Everything was presented nicely, they would even cut up your banana for you.
After breakfast Rachelle and I went to a Travel and Adventure talk by our cruise director. He reviewed all our excursion options at our stops and gave us some facts about them as well as shopping tips.
After that we met up with the guys and headed to lunch on the lido deck. Along with hamburgers and hot dogs, and 2 other buffet lines, they also have a new theme for lunch every day. Today it was Indian so I didn't try that but I'm sure it was good.
After lunch Rachelle and I went to a Champagne Art Workshop in one of the lounges. The cruise has many different works of art on board from Rembrandt to Picasso to Peter Max. They had all different pieces on display and the art expert on board talked about the different eras and medias that the artists used. It was like a mini art history class with free champagne.
Next came a nap then I met Rachelle for tea time. Now this was probably my least favorite experience. As stated in previous blogs, I love having tea so I was very excited they had a tea time. First of all, tea was held in the Neon Bar. All I have to really say is "bar". Whatever queen started tea over in England probably just rolled over in her grave when they put the tea ritual in a bar, but that aside, this bar was covered in neon signs- they were everywhere and they were all ON. Then, we sat at a table in the middle of the room. We were served tea rather quickly and then they started to bring out the tea snacks. We got a smoked salmon sandwich first. i'm not a big fan of smoked salmon but i thought i should eat it because it was part of the experience. Next we watched as the servers served every other table but ours the rest of the snacks. It was like they started with the table next to us, walked all the way around the room and ended with the table on the other side of us. I finally got fed up and walked to the cart where they had placed the trays before they took them around and picked up some cucumber sandwiches and a muffin thing. Later a server finally stopped by the table and we asked for the beautiful scones and cream they were passing around earlier and they were out. Not happy about that but that's okay.
We met up with the guys so they could have a pre-dinner snack then started getting ready for formal night. On a 5 night cruise there is one "formal" night. Our guys were in sports coats and we were in cocktail dresses. There was a captains welcome party where we were introduced to the captain and the only time where the drinks were free. It was crazy really, if you had a 1/2 full drink on your table they would walk by and give you another one. Plus there were appetizers. None of us were feeling great at that point, the ship had been rocking all day and I think it had finally caught up with us. We had about 30 minutes before our dinner seating so we found one of the 30 something photo stops and had formal pictures made. They were super cheezy next to a piano with a rose and champaign glasses but it was fun. They actually turned out really good but the ship was quite proud of them so we didn't purchase any. Really, all the photos the ship photographers turned out good, I was really impressed with them.
We headed to dinner but at that time we really didn't feel well so I just got soup and fruit and tried to feel better. Our waitress said it was the first time she had someone not order a main dish.
We went back to the room and got into bed hoping to feel better by the show (it was supposed to the a musical review show but it was canceled due to rough seas so it was a comedy show instead). We didn't make that which was okay but I was really upset that we missed the midnight buffet. This was Grand Gala night where the buffet is a work of art and it was supposed to be really amazing but we missed it. oh well, a little seasick medicine and off to sleep.

Here is our sign and sail card and the deck plans of the boat.
Here is a view of the main corridor leading to bars, casino, internet cafe, and lounges.

Mike and Cory had a soft drink card that gave them unlimited soft drinks throughout the trip. The only place to get the soft drinks is at one of the bars every 10 feet so here we are at the atrium bar.

Here is the main Lido deck at dusk. I'm sure we were enjoying a pre dinner snack here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our First Cruise- Day 1

The adventure started at 7:00am on Saturday Feb. 9th. We have been planning to go on this cruise for 9 months with some friends from church and it's finally time to go! So, we loaded up the car and headed for the long drive to Galveston.
We arrived in Galveston around 11:30 or 12 and found our parking lot. As we were pulling in we wondered what the age demographic of the other people on board would be. Since school was in there probably wouldn't be a lot of children our youth so it might be a lot of seniors... which was fine. Well, we pulled in to the parking lot and got out of our car about the time 5 other carloads did. Immediately I started laughing because there were 2 wheelchairs, 1 walker, 1 cane and an oxygen tank. We were by far 30 years younger than everyone else on the bus to the boat. *As a side note, once we got on the boat with everyone else, there was a wide variety of ages. We were cruising on the Carnival Ecstasy- 5 day cruise to Mexico.
We got to the terminal and the porters quickly took our luggage and we headed up to check in. I had filled everything out online so we passed through security and check in very quickly. You walk through all kinds of steps- bag scan, get your key and sign and sail card, get your photo taken for security, get your photo taken to buy later on board for way too much money, and finally, you walk on the ship.

This is our ship at night- we didn't take this picture, it came for free when we purchased the photo below and the leather double photo holder. Thank you Carnival.

Here is our photo we took right before stepping on board. I actually took a picture of the picture so it doesn't look that great here but it turned out pretty cute. Especially since we had just gotten done with a 5 hr. car ride.

We were directed straight up to the Lido deck for lunch since our rooms would not be ready until 1:30. Like amateurs, we stopped at the first buffet line we saw and got burgers and hot dogs. Minutes later, we discovered that there were 4 buffet lines each with different food plus a salad bar and fruit station and 2 additional dessert stations. well, you live and learn. The hamburgers were great and we were just loving that we were eating it on a cruise.

We went exploring a bit. This is a photo of the main lobby that is about 6 stories tall. There was a grand piano and player next to a bar at the lowest level of the atrium. This boat was built in 1991 and is is full of glitz and neon. At first, it bothered me a bit but after a day, you grow to like it.

This is a view from one of the upper outside decks. The main Lido deck is behind me with the pool and casual dining room.

So Happy.
Thought we would take a moment to relax in the sun before continuing to explore.

Mini putt putt course on the very top deck. Mike and Cory played before we left port. Rachelle and I went to a Spa tour- when we looked up from the tour of the gym, we could see the guys playing through the skylight (in the background of the photo).

We booked an interior room for the cost savings but were upgraded to a room with 2 portholes. I'm glad we had a window because it was fun to see the waves and sky. it was bigger than we thought and the bed was super comfortable. I love getting rocked to sleep by the moving boat.

This is a photo from the other direction looking back to the door.

After we got settled in the room and explored, we had a mandatory lifeboat drill. Everyone had to take their life jacket and head to their designated station then move in an orderly fashion to the deck where we would board out lifeboat in the case of an emergency. About the time we were done, we were heading out of Galveston so we stood on the deck and waved goodbye.
At 7:00 we had a "Welcome Aboard Show" where we were introduced to our Cruise Director Goose, the Captain, and heard from one of the comedians on board, Marvin Bell. At 8:30 we had dinner. I can't remember what i ate but i know it was very good. Every night is a 4 course meal, but you can have as much or as little as you want. I usually started with the fruit plate, then soup, then main dish and dessert.

When we got back to our cabin for the evening, the bed was turned down and this was waiting for us as well as chocolates on the pillow and a newsletter with tomorrows activities. I think I'm going to like it here :-)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Won, I Won!

One of the few perks of being in the design industry is that we often get invited to hear great lectures and see the latest releases. Tonight, I attended a lecture hosted by Herman Miller on the architect and art director George Nelson. It was incredibly interesting what he allowed this company to accomplish and become the top name in design that it is today. So, at the end of the lecture, they had a drawing for a Nelson Platform Bench and I won... much to my co-workers dismay. Problem is, this isn't the first time I have won something. I got a large custom rug, a gameboy, dinner and comedy show tickets, and now an iconic bench. I have not always been this lucky... actually, I don't think I have ever won anything in my life before I started winning those things. I hope this isn't the end of my streak because I would not have purchased these things on my own.

Linda's LOST Theory

I can't take credit for this myself, I'm not smart enough to come up with a theory but I think my mom came up with a good one. The more I think about it the more she could be on to something.
Theory: This entire "thing" is a carefully constructed experiment by Oceanic Airlines to see how people would survive in the event of a catastrophic occurrence such as a plane going down. Some of the people have been given hallucinogenic drugs and some have not. all of the strange circumstances have been set up to test them - polar bears, smoke, etc. There was not a mass grave really, it was all fake, to test the reactions. Sort of like that movie that was filmed in Seaside , FL...Truman Show.

It does seem like a lot of trouble for an airlines to go to for experiment but I think that's part of the mystery.
A coworker said that there was no way that could be true- all the survivors have something major they are overcoming on the island. But if you think about it, if you were stranded on an island and someone started looking at flashbacks of your past, who wouldn't have major issues they would have to get past. I think you would learn a lot about yourself in that situation and there would be some serious soul searching going on no matter who you are.

Did you see the ad that Oceanic Air made? Well, it might add something to the above theory. Take a look and then search "Oceanic Air Commercial" on youtube to get more good stuff. Also try the web site

Friday, February 1, 2008

CMA Holiday Party

Here are the photos from our Holiday party. I will have to add more detail later but I wanted to go ahead and get these posted. The theme was "Magical Mystery Tour" and we had a magician, riddles on the tables to answer for prizes and a tree reader who would interpret the tree you would draw - lots of fun!

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