Paradise Followed Us to Florida Day 2

After the pet sitter scare just as we were headed out to sea the night before, we realized we would need the internet package in order to stay in touch with home enough to feel reassured. So we went down to the Internet Cafe the previous night to set up an account. We anticipated how many minutes we might use and chose the corresponding package. This worked out well because then twice a day we could log in from our iPhone and check for the pet sitter’s email. What we did like about this pet sitter is that she would email a photo of the kitties twice a day. That was a first – getting pics of our kitties while away on a trip.

After checking the morning’s email, we ordered a pot of coffee from room service and sat out on our verandah, enjoying the views of the deep blue sea. This is Heavenly and what we love about cruising.

When we got hungry, we dressed for the pool and headed for the Lido deck for breakfast where we had Raisin Bran, a Danish, and more coffee. Then we moved on to the Serenity deck, which was located aft. This is an adults’ only area with 2 hot tubs and several chaise lounges. It’s a small area and in high demand so we weren’t able to get 2 chairs. But we did snag one, set down our stuff, and soaked in the hot tub, with more spectacular views of the sea. We shared the hot tub with a friendly older couple from Zephyr Hills (not too far from where we lived in Tampa Bay before), and another younger couple. We continued to run into the older couple throughout the cruise.

By the time we’d soaked for a while, Rich suggested we go to the main pool area for some music. We found 2 chaise lounges on the upper deck overlooking the pool and the steel drum band – way cool. An older couple (I admired the woman’s dark red pedicure and polka dot swimsuit – could this be Millie? lol!) next to us were sipping tropical drinks, but we weren’t ready for those yet. We soaked up the sun, music, and atmosphere until lunch, and then we went to the poolside grill for hamburgers and fries. Why do they always taste even more delicious by the pool or on the beach? Yum, yum!

After lunch we went back to our cabin and decided to get a couple of beers from the mini-bar, sit out on the verandah, sip and soak up the atmosphere some more. Heavenly, once again! Then it was nap time.

Tonight was “elegant” night, which, on Carnival, can mean anything. Last time Rich wore a tie and jacket, but this time, decided to leave the jacket at home. I wore slacks, my new leopard print top with black lace trim and a black jacket. The jacket was overkill here, so I ended up not wearing it.

We were noticing that the So Cal cruise was dressier and many more people were taking advantage of the photographers, including us last time. There was quite a hubbub of activity around all photographer stations last cruise. This time it was pretty dead. We couldn’t help but compare the different vibe on both cruises – same ship – one from Long Beach on the Pacific side of Mexico – the other from Tampa on the Caribbean side of Mexico.

Maybe this is a good time to talk about the Tampa crowd, which is what the ship was mostly made up of. Before we moved back to Florida, we thought Tampa would be the place we would return – mostly because after living in the desert, we were craving a water-based lifestyle. Plus, we were more familiar with the neighborhoods, compared to Orlando, which is tricky, finding a good neighborhood not on top of the tourists and away from the crime areas. So I was a bit disappointed when we found ourselves moving back to Orlando. But after this cruise, I see the wisdom in God’s plan – Tampa was where we felt like fish out of water before and we felt it over and over again on this cruise. I was definitely missing the vibe and the people on the Long Beach cruise – Tampa made me feel so cut off from the familiar.

By the time we arrived at the dining room, which was around 7:30, we were told there would be a 40-minute wait, so we took the beeper and headed for the nearby piano bar where others were waiting, although it was quite dark in there. We each ordered a dirty vodka martini, shaken; not stirred. The waiter was fabulous. And while sitting there, we chatted with a dairy farmer from Iowa who was there with his daughters. Well, he asked if there was music in the bar and then asked if I was the singer – lol! Was it my leopard top and red glasses? Or maybe it was easy to impress an Iowa dairy farmer. He was probably just teasing, as I was when I answered, “Yes, I’m the singer.” Whatever it was, he started something in my head and I found myself sitting at the piano later, wishing I was the singer. Sitting there felt so right! I’m thinking maybe I seriously need to give up writing for my music so that I can get a job on a cruise ship after retirement. 🙂

After they left, an attractive blonde woman with a distinguished looking older gentleman sat down at the piano and we looked at them and said, “That’s Cyn and Cary” (from Real Women Wear Red). We took pictures but it was too dark to really see anything.

Anyway, after about half an hour of waiting, our beeper went off and we were seated in the flexible dining part of the dining room. Don’t be fooled that you’re dining at your own private table instead of at one of the communal tables They’ve just spaced out 8 tables so that you think you’re dining alone, but the waiter will treat the entire row of single tables as one dining party. This means he/she will take everybody’s order at once and you will be served as if you are one table. And don’t be surprised if other people expect you to chat it up with them – people are far more group and social oriented here than they are in California, generally speaking, where they respect your privacy.

While we waiting for our first course, we noticed “Cyn and Cary” walk by and were seated at the opposite end of the room. Darn! We wanted to sit with them – lol! Anyway, we had fun “stalking” them and writing little scenes throughout the cruise. They were the only interesting people on the cruise (besides us, of course) – lol! The truth is, the 4-day cruise from Tampa seemed to attract either the retired set or the party crowd, and we were neither.

Elegant night or formal night means Lobster but I wasn’t in the mood for that. The Prime Rib called to me so both of us ordered that. For starters, Rich had the Minestrone Soup and I had a Black Pepper Shrimp Cocktail. The Prime Rib was tender, but what a disappointment. The food is definitely hit and miss on Carnival – we couldn’t believe this was their “elegant” night. We skipped dessert and headed for our favorite hangout – the Rotterdam Bar. But talk about another disappointment. It had changed completely. On the Long Beach cruise, we were here every night. The bar service was fabulous – the waiter lit Rich’s cigar and remembered our names, cabin number, and Carnival number – he was amazing. We’d watch officers and guests come and go, have a quick smoke and/or drink, maybe hear a joke or two from the Comedy Show and then come out laughing about how bad it was.

This place was dead this time – no wonder – no smoking at all in this lounge – and definitely no cigars on the menu. We left after our after dinner drink (Scotch for Rich and Amaretto for me), and never went back. What a huge disappointment! Again, I couldn’t help but compare the 2 cruises, and this one, while fun, did not have the same vibe as the one from Long Beach.

What it did have is warmer, balmy weather, and the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean and one of our favorite ports, Cozumel, where we docked the next day.

We took a quick peek into the showroom, listened to one song, did some shopping where I got a fun, fashion ring, and then we headed to our cabin, all cozy and welcoming with turn down service, and we sat out on the verandah before turning in.

About Kathy

Novelist & Music Producer