Sunday, May 27, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 9 – Debarkation and the Trip Home

We docked this morning in Galveston at around 8:00am. But we couldn’t leave the ship until our Zone was called. We were Zone 6. So we all decided to meet for breakfast at 7:30am and then find a place to sit until they called our number. We ended up on some couches on Deck 4. We just visited and waited. Finally around 9:20am we were called. We made our way to Deck 3 and the gangway. When we got into the terminal all the bags were laid out in the zones. We made it to zone 6 and found all our bags. Then we had to get into a very long line to get through customs.
Joe's Crab Shack
The line moved really slow and at 11:30am we were through customs and we exited the terminal. We found a shuttle to take us to the cars in the parking areas.

Once we were all loaded in the cars we headed north on I45 toward Houston. We decided to stop at Joe’s Crab Shack for lunch. After a nice lunch my family drove Thomas and I to the airport. We said our goodbyes and they headed home to Louisiana. We entered the airport, checked in and then made our way through security. We spent the next hour at our gate waiting for our flight. We spent the time reading until we boarded. On the plane we both slept a little and luckily the two hour flight seemed shorter and in no time we were landing in Albuquerque. We grabbed our bags, caught the shuttle to our car and eventually made our way to Santa Fe. We were in our home and loving our dogs by 8:20pm. I called my sister to find out if they made it home okay and to let them know we were home. After that we unpacked but that is all we had energy for. We showered and fell into bed – it is always nice to travel but we love it when we are home in our own bed.

We had a great trip and enjoyed our time with my family. All in all the trip was very relaxing and we got to see some great areas that we had never seen before. We are both glad we have this next week off to continue to relax. Thanks to Brent for getting this trip organized and thanks for including us.

Homeward Bound

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 8 – Third Whole Day on the Ship

This morning we slept in since we weren’t docking anywhere and we had the whole day on the ship. When we did get up we headed down to the Southern Lights Restaurant for breakfast. We took our time eating and just relaxing then we returned to the cabin to get our clothes organized. We needed to pack our bags and have them ready for pick up by 11:00pm. So we packed what we didn’t need for the day and tomorrow. Then I headed to the gym for a little work out. After 45 minutes on the elliptical and some leg work on the nautilus machines I went back to the cabin and changed into my swim suit. I decided to spend a little time getting some sun. I spent about an hour in the sun and then I got too hot and changed to a hammock that had some shade. I read on the hammock for about an hour and then I went back to the cabin to get Thomas so we could get some lunch.

Chocolate Extravaganza
We headed to the buffet on the Lido Deck and bumped into my family. They had gone to the Chocolate Extravaganza. We talked for a while and then they went off to do their thing and we found something to eat. We both had a build your own burrito and then some dessert from the Chocolate Extravaganza. After eating we returned to the cabin and took a nap which lasted about two hours.

When we woke up we took showers and got dressed for dinner and then finished packing our bags. As we left the cabin to do a little walking around the ship we put our bags outside the cabin so the porters could pick them up. We walked for a while then found a spot to sit on Deck 4 near the lobby. We listened to some music and then my brother and his wife showed up. So we visited with them until it was time for dinner. We all made our way to the restaurant for our last dinner on the ship. We really lucked up on this cruise because our dinner companions were a great family and we always had a wonderful time visiting with them. For dinner tonight Thomas had a salad and then roasted prime rib and for dessert he had a tropical fruit plate. I had a crab cake and frog legs for an appetizer, then panko crusted shrimp for an entrée and ended with cappuccino pie for dessert. Dinner tonight ended up lasting about two and a half hours. Then we said goodbye to our waiters and dinner companions before returning to the cabin for the night. Tomorrow we dock in Galveston and our trip comes to an end.

Towel Heart

Friday, May 25, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 7 – Cozumel

Thomas and I woke at about 7:00am and got dressed and ready for our day in Cozumel. We decided to have breakfast in the Southern Lights Restaurant first and then head into port. After eating we headed down to Deck 0 to debark.
Cozumel Port
We walked down the dock and to get into Cozumel we had to walk through a shopping area. We were bombarded with sales people trying to get us to buy everything from liquor to jewelry to clothes to purses to candy to cigars. It was a long walk. Then we get into another shopping area with different stores and restaurants. We walked around a bit and ended up bumping into Donna, Mark, Brent and Heather. They were waiting to go for their excursion – a day at the beach. They went to Playa Mia Beach Park for some relaxation in the sun.

Sailboats on the Caribbean
So we left them in their line and we continued navigating our way through the shopping area so that we could exit the port and walk around Cozumel. So we headed down the main street outside the port and headed toward the downtown area. We walked along the sidewalk where we always had a view of the water. We stopped not too far from the port to find a letterbox and then we continued on our way. Along the way we say lots of flowers, sailboats in the blue water, iguanas and lots of taxi drivers. We were stopped at least 25 times by drivers to ask if we wanted a tour of the island. We said no each time as we just wanted to wander. After a three mile walk we arrived at the downtown area and here we were constantly being asked to come in to the shops – everything from diamonds to cigars. We walked around the area and took pictures and we did go into a few shops. It was a pretty hot day and the humidity was high so at one point we stopped for gelato and some water and sat in a shady spot with a nice breeze to keep us cool.

Seahorse on Fountain
We spent about an hour in the area and then decided to head back. We started walking back again on the sidewalk along the water. We passed a beautiful arched fountain and some other statues along the way. The walk back to the port seemed faster than the walk from the port. Again I took pictures and enjoyed the view of the Caribbean. Since Thomas and I are not really shoppers we made our way back to the ship. After checking back in we headed to the cabin – Thomas decided to take a nap but I headed to the spa. I wanted to spend some time in the Thermal Suites. So I changed into my bathing suit and grabbed some other things and headed up to the spa.

I had the place to myself. Since most people were still out in Cozumel the ship was pretty quiet. I spent about 45 minutes there going from room to room. Then I decided to head to the Serenity Deck to get some sun. I was probably up there around two hours and then I took a walk around the ship before heading back to the cabin. Thomas had showered and dressed for dinner already and so I jumped in the shower and got dressed. We decided to go for a walk and have a drink before dinner. We stopped at the FunShops and I ended up buying a watch that was on sale for 50% off. Then we went to the RedFrog Pub for a drink and snack. I tried the Thirsty Frog beer (which I loved) and some grouper fingers. Thomas had a rum and coke. After our drinks and snack we went to the Play It Again Piano Bar to listen to some music until dinner time. Then we headed to the Northern Lights Restaurant for dinner.  I had chicken tenders marinated in Thai spices, shrimp and fries and chocolate, raspberry & vanilla cream cake. Thomas had a salad, lasagna and old fashion apple pie. By the time we finished dinner we were both really tired and decided to call it a night. Tomorrow is a day on the ship.

Towel Snail

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 6 – Belize

This morning we stopped near Belize. I say ‘near’ because we anchored about 5 miles out from the port.
Belize Map
This meant that we had to Tender into the port. Thomas and I had signed up for a shore excursion with Brent, Heather, Donna and Mark. We were going zip lining and cave tubing. Our tour wasn’t until 9:00am and we ended up being ready by 7:00am. So we headed to the Southern Lights Restaurant for some breakfast. After eating we headed to the Showtime Theater (which was the meeting point for our excursion). It was about 8:15am when we descended the stairs and we encountered some staff members that directed us to join a line. This line went around a corner, through the lobby, into the Northern Lights Restaurant and around the entire perimeter, out the restaurant back into the lobby and then down the hall to some tables at the entrance to the theater. Here we showed our excursion tickets and then we were given small, round tags that were colored and had a number on them. We were then directed into the theater (which was packed with people) where we found seats. After we sat Thomas noticed Brent, Heather, Donna and Mark. We met with them and went to sit upstairs in the theater where there were more seats. Then it was a waiting game. You had to wait until your color tag and number were called and then you could make your way to the Tender. It was around 11:00am before we were called. Talk about a huge waste of time – just sitting in the theater waiting – my idea of a great vacation.Finally we were on the tender and we took the 15 minute boat ride from the ship to the dock. Then we were directed into a building into another line and then onto a bus for our excursion. We were told when we left the ship that the last Tender back to the ship was at 4:15pm and our excursion was suppose to last 6 hours. Luckily we booked the excursion through Carnival because the ship would have to wait for us to return.

Crystal Cave
Now for the excursion. We were on a bus that was supposed to be air conditioned but was pretty warm and it had a rough ride. We drove for an hour and a half on the Western Highway and reached our destination. We arrived at the Nohoch Cheen Entrance for the park. The bus parked and then we got off that bus and took another bus over a hill and then stopped again. Here we got a key for a locker to store our things during the excursions. First we did the cave tubing. We met our guide and he gave us life vests and hard hats with lights. Then we grabbed our tubes and our guide helped us get settled in the tubes in the water. We were hooked together two people side by side in a line of four. Our guide pulled us through the water around the caves. Here and there we had some sunlight poking in but mostly we used our head lamps. We also got out at one point and walked around the caves and saw some pottery shards from the Mayas. We also had a chance to swim in a part of the river before getting out of the water and turning in our tubes, life vests and head lamps.

Zip Lining
Next we went to get set up for the zip lining. We got our harnesses put on then got a hard hat and gloves. Next we walked up some steps to a demonstration area and got some instructions and safety warnings. Then we climbed more stairs to get to the first zip line. We went in this order Brent, Heather, Donna, Mark, Me and then Thomas. Donna and Heather seemed to be a pretty nervous. And I know Thomas and I were a little nervous but I was ready to give this a try. I couldn’t really see anyone else except for Mark in front of me and Thomas behind me. The first two lines we just sat back and held on to our strap as we traversed the line – we did not brake on the first two lines. I did pretty good on both of these except on the second one I started turning but ended up landing just fine. Well, landing isn’t really the right word. I was going pretty fast and they told us not to brake so I ended up hitting the guy on the platform that was catching us. I felt bad because with my weight and speed I hit him and we rammed into the pole that was in the center of the platform. I felt bad about that but then learned that everyone was doing that to him. I bet he is really sore after a day of this. After the second one I was feeling really good and was really enjoying myself. We had three more lines to go and on these we had to brake at the end. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to brake too soon and end up not making it to the platform. But I worried for nothing I ended up doing just fine and was really wanting to do more. I loved the feeling of flying through the air. This was really one of my favorite things I have ever done and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Now that we were done with the zip line we returned our harnesses, hats and gloves and then picked up our things out of the lockers. We then went to an area where you could buy some food. They had rice and beans with chicken cooked in coconut milk at one station and they also had nachos at another station. It seemed the nachos were more popular than the rice and beans. They also had some wine you could taste. I think there was pineapple and cashew wine and I was told that they tasted horrible – I didn’t try any – I took a break from any alcohol today. There was also Belikan beer that some people were drinking and there were mixed reviews about it. We had about an hour to kill while we waited for some of the other people on our bus to finish their zip lining. There really wasn’t much to do so we sat and ate while waiting. We then loaded the bus and went back over the hill and then got on the bus that would take us back to the dock. It was another hour and a half ride to the dock and then it was straight on to the Tender and back to the ship. We were back on the ship at about 5:30pm. I had a terrific time with the cave tubing and zip lining but was really aggravated with Carnival for the way they handle the debarkation. I would have loved to have that two hours we sat in the theater to explore Belize City a little.

This had been a long day and Thomas and I were really tired. We returned to our cabin and put our things down then decided to go to the buffet for dinner instead of waiting for dinner in the restaurant at 8:15pm. So as we ate and relaxed we realized we were more tired that we thought. So we finished our meal and returned to the cabin and take showers. We watched the movie Hop on tv and then read a little before calling it a night at around 9:00pm. Tomorrow we are in Cozumel and after the fiasco of debarkation today Thomas and I decided to just do our own thing. We don’t dock until 8:00am and we have until 3:30pm to explore Cozumel.

Towel Stingray

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 5 – Mahogany Bay (Coxen Hole), Isla Roatan, Honduras

This morning we met everyone at the Southern Lights Restaurant around 7:00am for some breakfast before heading into Mahogany Bay.
Coxen Hole Port
While we were eating the Captain came on the intercom to inform us due to high winds it wasn’t safe for him to maneuver the ship into the channel to dock. So he made alternative arrangements and we ended up docking at Coxen Hole a few miles away. This put us about a half hour later than the scheduled docking – not too bad. So when we finished breakfast we all headed down to Deck 3 and the Shore Excursion desk to sign up for our Zip Lining and Cave Tubing Excursion for tomorrow in Belize then we made our way to Deck 0 and the gangway to the dock
Cameo on a Shell

Coxen Hole has some shops and a visitors center inside the dock and in the parking area there are taxis available as well as any tour operators for shore excursions. We didn’t have any excursions planned so we visited a few shops and Thomas bought a couple of gifts and then we all decided to go for a walk and look for a letterbox. We exited the dock and headed west down the main road. We walked quite a ways down the road looking for the landmark – a stone castle. We eventually found it (it was Stone Castle Cameo Factory) and continued just a short distance and found the letterbox. After stamping in we returned to the stone castle which is a place where they make cameos. So we went inside and found some beautiful pieces of jewelry. Thomas bought another gift and Donna also bought something. Then we made our way back to the dock. But this wasn’t the end of our visit. We got a taxi from within the gates of the dock and we went to the Mahogany Bay area.
Mahogany Bay Beach
There was an excursion that you could take which got you a ride on a ski lift type chair from the shopping area over to the beach (you could also walk but why do that when you can fly). We didn’t do the excursion but we decided to do the chair. But first we stopped by Fat Tuesdays and got drinks and then we got out tickets for the chair and took the short ride to the beach. It was a pretty nice beach and there were chairs all over that you could lay out on. We were also ready for lunch at this time so we stopped at a little restaurant on the beach and had a nice relaxing lunch. After eating and refilling our drinks we found some chairs and then hit the water. The water was a little cool but really nice and it was a little blue but not as blue as I had pictured. We did enjoy ourselves in the water but our time didn’t last long. We needed to get the taxi back to the other dock and we wanted to do a little more shopping. So our taxi driver took us to a little Mercado and we all found a few little souvenirs before heading back to Coxen Hole.

We walked around the shops here for a little while before heading back on to the ship. We had to be back on board by 5:30pm and we made it by 5:15pm. Once back on the ship we all headed to our cabins to clean up. Thomas and I showered and got dressed and decided to take in a show before dinner. We saw a show called Destination: Unknown. Here was how the show was billed . . .
Destination: Unknown! A Night of Extraordinary Illusions: starring Jason Byrne and the Carnival Magic Singers and Dancers.
Destination: Unknown!
The show was fantastic! The effects were great and it was high energy. All the illusions were pretty impressive and the hour went by so fast. I wanted to see more and was sorry that it was over. But I guess it was good because it was time for dinner.

Thomas and I headed for the restaurant and got there a few minutes before it opened. Once the doors were open we were the first at our table. Then the other family at our table showed up then Brent and Heather. Donna and Mark didn’t make it to dinner (we found out later that they fell asleep and slept right through dinner). We had a nice time and a great meal - . The other family had seen the show as well and enjoyed it as much as we did. So we talked Brent and Heather into eating dinner quickly and leaving so they could catch the 9:00pm show.

The day was really nice, we had a great time on the island even though it rained just a little. We saw a beautiful beach and some incredible flowers. I am so tired now and tomorrow will be another busy day.

Towel Thingy

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 4 – Second Whole Day on the Ship

This morning I was up at 6:00am and headed out to the gym while Thomas slept in. I did the elliptical again for 45 minutes and then worked on the nautilus machines for arms and chest and then I did some abdominal exercises on the floor. At around 7:30am I returned to the room and showered and woke Thomas up. We had to be at the Spa at 7:50am for a treatment. Yesterday we signed up for a special they were having and it was first thing this morning. The treatment consisted of a full body massage, full body brush exfoliation, pressure point foot massage, soothing scalp massage and espress facial. I ended up adding hot stones to the treatment as well. These 75 minutes were a great way to start the day. I also decided to head into the Thermal Suites before leaving the Spa.

Clouds and Sea
Once back in the room Thomas and I got dressed and headed to the Southern Lights Restaurant for some breakfast. Thomas had eggs benedict and Belgian waffle. And I had French toast and a cheese and ham omelet. After breakfast we met up with Heather and Brent and visited for a little while and then Thomas headed up to the room while I returned to the Serenity Deck and found one of the oversized chairs. I sun bathed and read for about two hours. During this time Thomas came and visited me twice – once he brought me a vanilla milk shake and the next he brought me a drink in a carved coconut (not sure what it was – rum and some kind of fruit punch). I was getting too hot outside so I headed to the Spa for the Thermal Suites again for about a half hour. I then returned to the room and took a shower and changed – worked a little on this blog and read.

After relaxing in the room I decided to take a walk around the ship and ended up covering Decks 12, 11, 10, 5 & 4. While on Deck 5 I checked out the Fun Shops but didn’t buy anything. I was also looking for the family while I was out walking but unfortunately this is a huge ship and I didn’t see anyone. I spent a little time on the Lido Deck (10) and listened to some music while hoping to bump into my brother or sister. Then Thomas met me and we decided to grab a burger at the grill and just relax for a while. Thomas then returned to the cabin and I went back up to the Serenity Deck to catch a few more rays.

Once I had enough sun I headed down to the cabin and Thomas and I took showers and got ready for dinner. Around 7:00pm we headed downstairs to Deck 5 and wandered around and we ended up bumping into Brent and Heather playing the slots in the casino. We talked for a few minutes then we kept on wandering. We eventually stopped at the Plat It Again Piano Bar. We each had a drink and listened to a gentleman play the piano and sing. At 8:15pm we headed to the Northern Lights Restaurant for dinner. We had a nice dinner – I had smoked chicken quesadillas and chilled cucumber soup for an appetizer and jerked pork loin for an entrée and ending with coffee and molten chocolate cake for dessert. Thomas had a salad and flat iron steak with cheesecake for dessert.

After dinner Brent, Heather, Donna, Mark, Thomas and I went to the Main Lobby on Deck 3 and talked about what we were going to do tomorrow Mahogany Bay. We decided to just play it by ear and we would walk around and explore the area. We also made a decision for the day after tomorrow. We planned an excursion while in Belize to do zip lining and cave tubing. So we ended the evening and decided to meet for breakfast in the Southern Lights Restaurant in the morning and then we would stop at the excursion desk and sign up and then head out for our day on Isla Roatan. Thomas and I then returned to our cabin and got things ready for tomorrow and then called it a night. For not getting off the ship for two days we have been very busy. We will see what our Ports have to offer the next three days.

Towel Monkey

Monday, May 21, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 3 – First Whole Day on the Ship

Both Thomas and I slept pretty good last night and that probably caused us to wake up early this morning. It was around 5:45am when we decided to stop tossing and turning and get out of bed. We dressed and headed out side. We first did about five laps around the outside track and then we played a game of miniature golf.

By that time the buffet was open and we decided to have some breakfast.
Blue Waters
So we ate and talked and watched the water – because that is all we can see at this point. Then we returned to our room and I decided to go to the gym (which is right across the hall from our room) and get a little work out in. I did the elliptical for 45 minutes and then did some of the nautilus machines working my back and legs.

I returned to the room and changed into my swim suit, gathered my Kindle and a few other things and headed out to get some sun. I finally found a spot on Deck 15, the Serenity Deck. I got a big, round, rattan seat with a cushion and some pillows and put on some suntan lotion and just laid there. It was wonderful to relax and enjoy the sun. I did a little reading but mostly just relaxed.

I am not sure exactly how much time I was out there but Thomas showed up at about 12:30pm and we went to the grill for a burger and some fries. Then we walked around the ship took some pictures of the different areas on Deck 4 (Mezzanine) and Deck 5 (Promenade). We stopped in at the Showtime Theater, The Fun Shops, Hat Trick Casino & Bar, Ocean Plaza, Plaza Bar & Café, RedFrog Pub, Vibe Dance Club, Play It Again Piano Bar, Prime Steakhouse, Spotlight Lounge, Photo Gallery, Northern Lights Restaurant and the Southern Lights Restaurant.
Spotlight Lounge Entrance
At some point in there we bumped into Brent and Heather.

Thomas and I went back to our room and did a little reading until around 2:00pm and then we met Brent, Heather, Donna and Mark at the Cloud 9 Spa. Since we have rooms on the Spa Deck we have some perks and usage of some of the areas of the Spa that other people have to pay extra for. So we took advantage of them this afternoon. We spent time in the Thermal Suite. Here is a description from the Cloud 9 Spa brochure . . .
“Like a passage toward ultimate relaxation, the Thermal Suite is based on the traditional Turkish Baths, where friends and family would spend the day relaxing together. Here , we have different herbal steam and sauna grottos that cleanse the body with gentle heat. Heated chaise lounges and tropical shower features make this both a cleansing and relaxing experience.”
 Let me tell you, it was heavenly. This was so relaxing I didn’t want to leave and vowed to spend a little time there each day. But eventually we did leave and went up on Deck 11 and sat outside and enjoyed some music and the sun. We visited and relaxed and laughed until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Dress Night

Around 6:00pm we all returned to our rooms to get cleaned up and changed for dinner. Tonight was a dress up night for dinner so all us guys had suits and ties and Donna and Heather had really beautiful dresses. We met up about a half hour before dinner to get some pictures taken. We found a spot on one of the staircases and a nice passenger agreed to take the picture. Once that was done it was down to the restaurant for dinner. We sat with the same family from last night and had another great evening visiting with them. Tonight’s menu was pretty good – Thomas had a salad and a flat iron steak with baked potato and for dessert he had an apple tart. I ended up having a shrimp cocktail and alligator fritters for an appetizer and then had lobster and shrimp for an entrée and ending with dessert I had molten chocolate cake.

After dinner we all went to the Showtime Theater to see a show. This is a Carnival musical production of a game show called Win! in which they pick someone from the audience as a contestant and they have singing and dancing. It was pretty entertaining and we enjoyed it. By the time the show was done we were all tired and made our way back to our rooms. It was another good day and we enjoyed our relaxing time on the ship.

Towel Bunny

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 2 – Embarkation Day

Well today we board the ship for our cruise to the Caribbean. We were awake by 6:30am and then we had breakfast at the hotel in The Tremont Café. Thomas had Eggs Benedict and I had a Croissant Sandwich. We ate and had coffee and just relaxed for a while. Then we returned to our room to get everything packed and organized and get our luggage tags for the ship placed on our bags.
Galveston Pier
Then we loaded the car and decided to take a drive along the sea wall. We parked near the new Galveston Pier and walked to get a closer look. Unfortunately it isn’t open yet and we could only see it from a distance (maybe it will be open when we return from the cruise and we can stop for a visit). Then I called my brother to see where they were. My brother and sister and their spouses were in Lafayette and were driving into Galveston this morning. They were meeting us at the car rental place near Hobby Airport and then we were all driving to the Port together. They were getting close enough that Thomas and I needed to make our way back north to meet them. We took the exit that we needed and filled the car with gas and waited about 15 minutes for them to get there. We placed our bags in their car and then they followed us to return the car. Now we could head back to Galveston.

I rode with Donna and Mark and Thomas rode with Brent and Heather. It didn’t take long to reach the Port but then we had to wait a little while in traffic to get to the drop off area. Mark dropped Donna and I off with the luggage and then went to park the car and take the shuttle back. Brent and Heather dropped Thomas off with their luggage and then went to park their car. Donna, Thomas and I waited at the terminal for them to return on the shuttle. Fortunately our wait time for things really wasn’t all that bad.

Once we all together we entered the terminal to start our boarding process. The first line was to show passports and boarding passes, the second line was to go to security and have our carry on bags x-rayed, the third line was to get our Sail & Sign Card (room key and charge card while on board the ship), the fourth line was to have our picture taken that so that they can match us with our card, the fifth line was to check into the ship using our card, and the sixth line was for a photo of our group right before we boarded. Then it was a pretty good walk up a switchbacked ramp to the ship. All this probably took less that 30 minutes – a pretty efficient operation. Once on board we had to find something to do because we still had a little more than an hour before we could get to our cabins. So we all grabbed a little fruity drink with an umbrella and a fruit garnish and then headed to the Lido Marketplace for the buffet lunch. We ate and visited and relaxed.

Donna, Heather, Brent, Mark T
After lunch we all headed to our cabins to get settled and relax some more. We are all on Deck 12 – Spa Deck. While we were in our cabin we received some gifts that Brent and Heather sent to us – a Fruit and Wine Basket and some Soda Drink Vouchers. We also received three of our four pieces of luggage. After about an hour in the cabin Thomas and I headed out to walk around the outside of the Spa Deck. On this deck there is a water slide called WaterWorks and a rope obstacle called SportsSquare. They also have a minature golf course, walking track and basketball court here. We walked around a little and then we checked out a couple of other decks just below us. Deck 11 has some cabins and they have Camp Carnival (this is the kids area with arcades and day care areas. On Deck 10, the Lido deck there is the pools and a large open area with deck chairs. They also have the Lido Marketplace buffet, a grill and a pizza area. After exploring a bit we returned to Deck 12 and ended up meeting everyone else. So we found some chairs and talked foa a very long time. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and the nice easy movement of the ship. It was great to catch up with the family and we had some good laughs. It was good to see everyone relaxed and having a good time. We had some drinks and pizza for a snack to tide us over until our dinner time at 8:15pm. Thomas, Brent and I tried our hand at the SportsSquare and did pretty well. Then Thomas, Mark and Brent each took a turn on WaterWorks. It was a great afternoon and we even saw part of Taladega Nights that they played on a big outdoor movie screen.

Around 7:00pm we headed back to our cabins to shower and change for dinner. The six of us are sharing a table with a family of six. The parents live in Knoxville, TN and their son lives in Georgia with his girlfriend and they just graduated from Georgia. The daughter and her boyfriend live in Dallas and just graduated from SMU. They are a very nice family and we had a great time visiting with them. The menu for tonight’s dinner was wonderful. Thomas had heart of iceberg lettuce and brisket with some molten chocolate cake for dessert. I had a mixed fruit platter and pan seared tilapia. And my dessert was crème brulee. After dinner Thomas and I called it a day – we were both very tired and need a little sleep. A great first day on the ship and we are looking forward to all the rest of them as well.

Towel Seal

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Carnival Caribbean Cruise: Day 1 – Santa Fe to Galveston

Well today we left Santa Fe to go on our 7 Day Exotic Western Caribbean Cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines. We are going on this cruise with my brother, Brent and his wife, Heather and my sister, Donna and her husband, Mark. Our flight was at 7:25am so we left Santa Fe in the dark while the temperature was hovering around 54°F. And since this was a Saturday morning and pretty early we didn’t encounter any traffic and getting to the parking area at the airport was a breeze. We parked, grabbed the shuttle and checked in with Southwest Airlines. We then went through security without any glitches and it actually went really fast. Once at the gate we read for only about 20 minutes before they started boarding the plane. It was a pretty full flight and we had ‘B’ boarding passes which meant we ended up in the back of the plane – but I am not complaining because we ended up having an empty seat between us which gave us some room to relax. Both Thomas and I read throughout the entire flight and after two hours and some snacks (peanuts and vanilla wafers and orange juice) we landed at Houston at Hobby Airport.

Here we gathered our bags and checked in for our rental car. I had originally tried getting a shuttle to Galveston but they were ridiculously expensive and time consuming and it also meant we wouldn’t have a way to get around the town. After some research I decided to get a rental car and that would give us some freedom to do what we wanted. From the airport we took a shuttle to the car rental place and picked up the car. The weather here wasn’t too bad – temperature around 84°F, a cool breeze and clear skies. And I have to say that the humidity wasn’t too bad. We made our way to I45 south and only a few short miles later we exited. We had both decided we were hungry since all we had eaten that morning were the snacks on the plane. We saw a sign for Joe’sCrab Shack and made a beeline there. Thomas had a Chicken Fried Salad and I opted for a Crab Cake Sandwich. The lunch was perfect and just what we needed and now we could make our way towards Galveston and our hotel.

Lost Oak Mermaid
I had planned to do some letterboxing in the area and had my clues ready. We exited I45 again at Hitchcock and FM2004 and made our way to Jack Brooks Park. We probably hiked the trails in the park looking for letterboxes for about 3 hours. We enjoyed ourselves and the weather but the mosquitoes were horrible. There were tons of them and we had deet on but they still found spots that were deet free and we finally decided to call it quits on the trail and make the short drive into Galveston.

Once we crossed the causeway we headed straight for the hotel. We had reservations at The Tremont House in the Strand District of the Island. We got checked in and went up to the room to clean up and relax before we headed out to explore Galveston. The hotel was beautiful with lots of history. The lobby was open and bright and the staff was very friendly. Our room was huge, with two queen beds and a sitting area with a couch and chair. There was also a large armoire which housed the tv. The bathroom was large and decorated really nice and there were heated towel holders. Overall a very comfortable room. Now that we were settled in it was time to head out again.

We made a stop at the Galveston Visitors Center and got a map and some information. We then drove over to see Bishop’s Palace. A beautiful old building that we walked around on the outside and took some pictures but decided we didn’t quite feel up to taking a tour of the inside. From here we headed to the sea wall and drove along there until we found a place for dinner. We ended up at Gaido’s. It was a great restaurant and we had a terrific dinner. Thomas had a sirloin and shrimp with potato wedges and I had pecan encrusted catfish with a sweet corn relish and parmesan tomatoes. Everything was really good and we were stuffed by the time we left the restaurant. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Old City Cemetery, the old Triple XXXRoot Beer Plant and a small neighborhood park (Darragh Park). By this time we were getting tired since the day started early. So we made our way back to the hotel and called it a day. We had a great time and it would have been even better if the mosquitoes hadn’t been so aggressive but still a great start to our vacation.