Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cruise - Day One

As I sit down to write, the sounds of calypso music compete with the periodic grunts and groans of mechanical equipment being called back to work after what have must seemed like an all too short respite after a seven day sojourn through the tropic wonderland that is the western Caribbean, a couple of thousand strangers having disembarked this morning and replaced with a new group of passengers, myself included. Myself, I too am feeling the effects of a long day, mine exacerbated by the eighty percent completed Long Island Iced Tea by my side.

While my cruise ship, the Carnival Legend, was still off-loading thousands of tanned and well-rested revelers early this morning, I was rising from a restless night at the La Quinta Inn, just a mile or so from runway 36L at Tampa International. Being a creature of habit, my first inclination was to seek out the nearest source of caffeine, preferably in the form of a hot cuppa. The nearest source to hand was the germ habitat that is the motel room coffee maker and a package of Maxwell House. It's a well known fact that La Quinta is a Spanish euphemism for The Dysentery and that the original Maxwell House was a hospice founded by Sir Maxwell of The Trots, Surrey, England.

Beggars not being considered to be the best of choosers in polite society, I made do.

Having gained sufficient caffeine-enabled sentience to make a conscious decision, it seemed obvious that the best place to break our nocturnal fast would be the IHOP next door to the Quinta. Having arrived at a booth, I decided on the sirloin tips with eggs, hash browns, and hotcakes over the ever more delightful yet far more risky smoked sausage. Caution having been already thrown far enough into the wind for one day with the motel room coffee, right?

As we gain speed through the channel that will lead to the ocean, the mechanical sounds have abated as the ship bows to the bit, and the calypso music now fights, oddly enough, with the ensuing WHOOP-WHOOP of fellow passengers, themselves exhibiting a somewhat different reaction to the sudden onslaught of alcohol than my own. It is to be more than tolerated; it is to be empathetically shared and forgiven. For it is not easy getting aboard, what with a couple of thousand other folks attempting to do so concurrently. Still, it is the WHOOP-WHOOP that I simply cannot tolerate, that being for purely personal reasons having to do with a simply awful vacation in Cancun a few years ago. My empathy and tolerance in the immediate situation will deteriorate as the hour grows later.

Lest I give the wrong impression, allow me to say that it is not by any means horrible getting aboard. We left the motel at 11:00 am and by 1:00 pm we were seated at an outdoor-ish table on the port side of the Legend, partaking of a buffet lunch. I had some kind of Asian seafood dish that I strongly suspect was comprised of the types of seafood favored by island nations like Japan. In other words, scallops (which I’m okay with) and squid/octopus (which I am not thrilled with). It’s a buffet, though, so unpalatable dishes are easily dispensed with and replaced by a different ethnicity. I did so. Italy won.

The two hours between the leaving and the seating were mostly spent in one line or another. There was a line to get into the pier side embarkation place, a line to get through something very similar to airport security, a line to get checked in and receive our room keys and ship credit card, a line to get on the ship, and a line at the buffet. They all moved efficiently, though. The two hours wasn’t horrible, but it did feel a bit like the kind of thing that should be rewarded with a dollop or two of alcohol upon completion. My imbibing of slightly more than a couple of dollops might explain my inability to type and/or spell all that well at this particular point. It might also explain the uncontrollable rage I feel for the idiot that insists on orbiting the ship on his noisily obnoxious jet ski. Get over yourself, dude!


That is really wearing thin!

An airport just slid by. I swore that someday I will land there in my RV-12, once I get it built. I’ll have to figure exactly what airport it was when I get back. Paying $.55 per minute of internet connectivity is bring to fore the old habits developed in the pre-Internet years of CompuServe.

I am downwind of the smokers on the adjoining balcony. I could do without that too, but it’s their right. I can deal with it.

So, having fed at the buffet and feeling somewhat anxious to explore more of the ship I took a quick photo tour. You’ll have to come back next week to see them, though. Internet minutes don’t grow on trees, at least not out here on the almost-ocean.

At 3:15 we found the library which, having no more that a few dozen actual books, has the primary function of providing internet access. Unfortunately, it is also the worst possible place to be when the mandatory muster drill gets called. It was an unfortunate place to be because by the time we got there, I was so twisted around that I didn’t know port from starboard and was increasingly starting to question up versus down. Still, we managed to find our muster station where I ended up being the only person to bring hot dogs. Everyone else, it seems, knew that it was ‘muster’ and not ‘mustard.’ We were all (over a thousand of us) formed into lines running the length of the ship. I figure that when Carnival; does this at their port in Galveston, TX, people spontaneously break out into line dances. No one thought that to be as clever an observation as I did, sadly.

Muster having been accomplished, the entire ship’s population was released all at once to go wherever it is they wanted to go. This naturally flooded (ooh, poor choice of words, that!) the elevators and stairs. I thought a drink in the ten-story atrium would be a great way to kill time until the rush abated. Hence the Long Island Iced Tea, internationally recognized as the quickest way to relieve stress and impair spelling/typing ability in the known world. We made it back to our balcony cabin in time for the 4:00 sailing. Of course, after drinking eighty percent of the “tea,” I had a hard time determining if the movement I was feeling under my feet was due to the movement of the ship or to my rapidly failing equilibrium after downing an amazingly strong drink. Or, possibly, both.

I now think it was the alcohol. The movement of the ship is nearly indiscernible, although that too could simply be the numbness that inevitably follows the initial instability from a strong drink. In any event, we’ve been sailing for nearly an hour and it would appear that we’re soon going to run out of coastline. We will cross under the bridge that officially demarks bay from ocean in another 45 minutes or so, but I will likely be getting dressed for dinner by then. We’re dining in the super fancy steakhouse tonight in honor of our eighteenth anniversary. As I said while bantering with a few co-riders in the shuttle van that took us from the hotel to the pier, our twenty-three year old is so proud! They didn’t bat a eye, of course, what with that kind of banter having become obsolete nearly four decades ago.

I console myself with the fact that I’ve actually been pretty good with my jocularity thus far; it’s nearly as good as alcohol at helping me tolerate this much close proximity to the WHOOP-WHOOP crowd.


  1. You're not blogging on a cruise, are you?

  2. Have a great time you guys! My Alaska cruise didn't come with any WHOOP-WHOOP. I want a refund.

  3. I stayed at the same La Quinta when I was on town for the AOPA Summit last November! Not the nicest place on the block, but it did the job.

    Carry on, now...

  4. By the way, I believe the airport was Albert Whitted.

  5. The airport is Peter O Knight (TPF). We did the same cruise a year ago and I landed at TPF.

    Here is a photo taken while turning final. Cruise dock is under the right wing (not seen).

  6. ^ D'oh - yeah that's what I meant to say!

    It's wherever they had the Airportfest set up during the AOPA Aviation Summit. ;-)