Another “First” in Terms of Cruising
Our First Back-to-Back-to-Back
Although John is retired now, I’m still teaching and it is extremely difficult to find the best time of year to go on vacation. This year we decided to try January when there are no classes in session. So we began exploring a cruise out of Charleston, SC on the Carnival Fantasy. Some friends who are also cruise lovers suggested Charleston for many reasons among which is the hospitality of the people and the charm of the city. We cruised alone, just the two of us, for the first part of the cruise.
Not Totally Alone On This Trip
Have we introduced you to Chief & Mrs. Bosn (Boats and Caycee). These are our bear mascots that bring out the inner child in us. Actually the idea was started with Caycee who has cruised with us and with friends on other cruises. Long story that goes with this, but I won’t go into it now, I’ll save that for another blog. Chief Bosn is a retired Coast Guard Chief Boatswainsmate and his lovely bride, formerly known as Caycee Cruiser.
So Why A Back-to-Back-to-Back Cruise?
We would love to attain our Platinum status with Carnival but it would require a number of short cruise trips if we can complete them by the end of December 2013. So the obvious answer would be –take a few vacations during the year! Not so easy to find the time, and also when we began to explore the cost of the airline —- WHOAH, that’s more than the cost of the cruise. To catch a flight out of Syracuse in January was over $800 total for both of us. That’s when we decided we could fly down ONCE take a hotel room ONCE and then cruise for the remainder of the time. So the reservations for the cruise were made and we were soon to experience 5 days to Nassau and Freeport, 5 days to Nassau and Freeport, and 7 days to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. I call it my “poor man’s transatlantic” – the only time I’ll ever see 17 days at sea!
Short hint here – I had read where the airlines often will drop prices on a Tuesday afternoon and then bring them back up on Thursday. I kept my eye on the airlines and sure enough, a Tuesday came along where the flight that had once been almost $450 EACH, was now $200 each. Where’s the phone???? Gimme the phone!!!!!!
January 8, 2013
We’re off to the airport. Did you know that the airlines will not let you check-in less than 30 minutes before boarding – not even if it is 28 mins. Did you know that it does not matter if you have printed your boarding pass ahead of time, and printed your luggage tags and paid for them ahead of time – Nope, doesn’t matter. I will not comment on how there were no handicapped parking spots by the end of the building where we were going, nor will I comment on how after parking and schlepping the bags out of the car to the elevator that they elevator was not working. I will not comment on how we had to drag the bags through the parking lot across the street, in the snow, etc. etc. What should have been a quick flight to Charleston was to turn into an all-day affair sitting in airports. Oh well – you have to be grateful that VACATION has begun; there’s sunshine in the future!
Charleston Here We Are
What a fantastic place Charleston is; so historical and people are so gracious. We got in to the airport rather late (early evening) [Yes, John, I know….it’s all my fault….if I hadn’t slept that extra half hour…. Relax we’re on vacation.] We asked about ground transportation when we arrived and the price of a cab and the price of a shuttle were only different by a few dollars. The shuttle was right there so we opted for the shuttle trip. Shared the ride with several college students (female) and I was amazed how very nice they were. Yes I was eavesdropping on them and they were funny, talking of boys they met, dances that were coming up – there was no trashing of other people or four-letter words every 5th word they spoke! Really very nice young people. Apparently their college began classes on Jan. 9th – which I found astounding; my college was scheduled to start on Jan. 28th.
But I digress – you are here to learn if we enjoyed our cruise.
We stayed at the Doubletree Hotel which is right by the Market and just up the road from the cruise terminal. It was the perfect spot for us. Dropped our bags off in the room and headed out for dinner. Before the cruise we read reviews of great restaurants in Charleston and decided ahead of time that we wanted to try Hymans (which was only a block or so up from the hotel). We waited outside for a little while and then we were escorted to our seat inside. Hyman’s has an upstairs, but we can’t do stairs so we had to wait for a table on first floor. Within the first 15-20 mins., they brought four complimentary hors d’oeuvres dishes. Can’t remember all of them, but I do remember shrimp and grits, crab dip, Carolina Delight (I think), and another one! By the time dinner came, I could have put it in a to-go bag and taken it with us – I was stuffed and definitely sleepy.
Did I hear someone ask what we ordered for dinner???? Funny you should ask; John and I were just reminiscing about that. Let me first say that both meals were absolutely stupendous; we were not disappointed at all (just over-stuffed). I had a combo platter – Carolina Style Shrimp & Grits, Fred’s BBQ Shrimp, and Calamari. John had combo platter of 2 Crab Cakes and Carolina Style Shrimp & Grits. Somewhere along the line of food, we did have the Fried Green Tomatoes (my ever-most favorite due to my Southern relatives).
A quick trip to the nearby Harris Teeter via cab followed dinner. We had ordered a bottle of vodka from Bon Voyage for the trip and knew that it would be waiting onboard. However, we still needed the mixers for it and had to buy cranberry juice and Sprite.
Good Morning, Charleston – Today It’s Our Turn!
We were up early to have a breakfast and then do a quick last minute shopping trip to the Market. We needed to find a nice Panama type hat for John. I must tell you at this point that all the young employees at the hotel recommended a little place called Toast for breakfast and we had all good intentions on going there. But time was beginning to get away from us and we decided to eat at the hotel and then go shopping.
Back to the hotel where we picked up our luggage and called a cab. This was only about 10:30 or so, but we were very anxious and excited to get to the port area even if we had to wait. When we drove to the port, there was a double-wide (maybe triple-wide) line of cars waiting to pay for parking and go into the parking lot. Our cab passed them by and went directly to the luggage drop off. We paid and tipped our cab driver after unloading our luggage and giving it to the porters. Next we walked about 50 yards or so to the very, very small covered waiting area where we waited for the port shuttle buses to begin picking up passengers and taking them to the ship. So basically by taking a cab, we were so much closer to this “bus stop” than the people parking their cars and walking over. Now this is not a problem for a lot of people, I just have to say it because so many of us are not so young anymore and a lot of walking can prove difficult. We waited for about 15 – 20 minutes and the buses began to arrive. The first bus loaded up, we waited for awhile for the next one, and then after that one was loaded, we waited a very long time to finally get started. They gave a reason but I wasn’t listening (I think it had to do with disembarking the previous cruise passengers). Finally off to the ship we went. Looks like mass pandemonium when you walk in but it’s rather organized in reality. We put our stuff through the x-ray machines and got pulled aside because of the cranberry juice and Sprite. I know it’s a serious business and I didn’t want to laugh, but dear God that woman examined every bottle of cranberry juice, scrutinized the caps, tested the seals, etc. etc. I guess it would have been in poor taste to say to John in a stage-whisper when we walked away….”Boy, it’s a good thing she doesn’t know about the rum runners in our luggage!!!”
We’re ON BOARD;
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler
I may have “appropriated” this photo because mine wasn’t clear, so if it belongs to you—Many thanks, great job.
The reason I like it is because it is taken from the upper deck on the Fantasy and shows the Customs House, the Charleston Market, and our hotel (the Doubletree). It was so close we almost could walk, but that would have been a tremendous hassle.
This is the first of our multiple cruises and we are cruising alone just as a couple. Probably this is best since we know nothing at all about the Carnival Fantasy and would need a bit of time to learn our way around. I absolutely love the feeling of walking on board and having your first Drink of the Day. Here are some of the photos of our first minutes on board. Before the cruise, I went through the drink menu and picked out all the drinks I’ve never had and made a list on my iPhone of all the ones I wanted to try at least one time! My first drink??
1 oz Bicardi light rum
¼ oz. Galliano
¼ oz. Creme de Banana
2 oz. orange juice
1 oz. pineapple juice
VERY TASTY — Won’t forget that one any time soon!!!!!
However it took me two tries to finally get my first DOD; oh, I got the drink all right — and then promptly knocked it across the table onto the deck. Extremely sad moment. But I was brave, I never said anything or demanded a new drink.
When the waiter came by, he asked if I wanted another one. I said “He won’t let me” and pointed to the big puddle on the deck. He smiled and said “I’ll get you another one.”
Time to “Scope-out” Our Cabin
We’re alone on this cruise, so we enjoyed our drinks, went for a bite to eat at the buffet and then down to check out our cabin. Here’s another “first” – our first porthole cabin. We had read all the comments people posted in Cruise Critic, loud noises on entering port; we’d seen photos of a big pole right outside the door in the passageway – but we just had to try it for ourselves (even our PVP kept asking if that’s what we really, really wanted).
We were in Cabin M11 and we were very pleased with how big it was, even the porthole area was huge. There was no pole outside our door. Yes, when we were entering ports we heard the sounds of what we believed were the thrusters, but we’re early-risers and it just meant that we were soon to be at a new port.
There was still time before we needed to be anywhere, specifically the Muster Drill; so while John unpacked his stuff, I tried take a snooze on the bed. I remember hearing him say that it seemed hot in the cabin. Next thing I know, he brings in a Carnival employee to work with the fan in the ceiling. I didn’t bother to open my eyes, I could hear them talking in whispers “I don’t want to wake your wife.” Finally, I decided to open my eyes – heart failure time!!!!! There’s a very tall man standing over me in the bed…and it is NOT an employee. It was our neighbor in the cabin next door – John asked him to help because he was so tall. Quite a shock, but thank you Ricky for helping out.
The Muster Drill was held in the forward showroom for us. Young man on stage with microphone demanding silence….glaring at people, demanding silence again. Now he did this in a very polite manner, but there was no question that he wanted silence. You could have heard a pin drop for the longest time; it was almost scarey. We listened to the Cruise Director Risa go through the safety briefing for several minutes and then everyone was led out of the showroom to where the lifeboats were. John was using a cane so we didn’t have to go up the steps, we just stayed in the lounge. They keep track of your name and cabin number as being handicapped and in case of emergency, they have ship’s personnel that go to your cabin and help you get up to the lifeboats.
Sail-away was wonderful. We went to the Lido deck, grabbed some coffee (by then my DOD’s were beginning to affect my view of the world), and secured a nice table at the very aft deck.
Rather cloudy and nasty looking, but we were having fun so it didn’t make any difference. The real action spot during sail-away is the Lido deck by the pool where it is full of young people, families, and a variety of other ages, loud music, dancing, etc.!! For this trip we prefer the quiet right above the Serenity Deck. Too cold and nasty to be sunbathing on Serenity, but there were people walking around looking at the sights.
Early dinner for us tonight; we were in the Jubilee Dining Room at a table for 10. Only 6 of us there, we did our introductions. Very nice people and conversation was good, but I was so uncomfortable (I mean physically uncomfortable). Obviously as we came in, we took the next available seats thinking the others wold be joining us. With 10 chairs and table settings around the table, my knees were smooshed together for over an hour. If you turned to talk to someone on your left, you had your back to the people on the right. It was just very awkward. Our waiter was a nice young man, Sinjin, who told us to just call him “John from Kentucky.” Despite the fact that we were a table of 10 alongside several other large tables, I noticed that “John from Kentucky” was for the most part the only one waiting on our table (you know how there is normally an asst. waiter and a third person who does water).
No shows or anything for this first night – we were exhausted and headed back to the cabin. I love finding the gifts on the table from Players Club. We also had some gifts from our kids and from friends. This photo shows the cooler that our kids bought us — it was tall and circular and as the Bon Voyage Department describes it – The Cooler Package includes: Carnival logo blue cooler, 4 white 16oz Carnival logo stadium cups, 1 blue Carnival logo bottle opener, 2 black long neck Carnival logo koozies and a 6 pack of Coca-Cola.
This cooler is definitely going to be an item that we pack for future cruises. It was bigger than the ice bucket that they give you.
Join us on the Page 2 for our Sea Day, Nassau and Freeport.