Monthly Archives: January 2020

Our Cruise – January 2020

Friday, January 10th

Our day began by having to take care of a legal matter caused by prior employer. Once that matter was over, we were on our way down interstate 81. The only stop before getting to interstate 77 was breakfast at a Hardee’s. The traffic around Charlotte was rather heavy but flowed all the through. The only other stop for us prior to Charleston S.C. was a quick fuel stop at very sketchy convenience store. Bars on the door and Shell fuel pumps so old the digital numbers were not visible. Stephanie said the first stop in Charleston was to be Tanger Outlet Mall. After finding some shoes on sale, we got wrangled in by this young man that tried very hard to sell us this eye cream, facial scrub, and moisturizer. This package deal supposedly cost several hundred dollars for each product, but today we could have all 3 for $299! Of course we declined. So he removed the eye cream (that really did show results) and made the rest cheaper, but still not affordable. Then he finally got down to just selling the scrub, which was a very nice product that I might pay $20 or $25 for the supposed year supply. This dandy little jar retailed for $150.00 but we could have it for $75.00! That was his cost and he got no commission. We explained that it was still too much, but it if we had any money left after the cruise we might come back and see him with a cookie. (If we bought the full package, we were supposed to promise him 3 things. 1. To use the products as directed, 2. To come see him when we came back to Charleston, and 3. Stephanie was to bring him a pecan pie or a cookie.) He asked us to wait for a business card that turned out to be a receipt paper print with his bosses name on it. But his boss had “just told him we could have that jar for $60.00! Next on our agenda was to find our Air BnB and something to eat. Fortunately the house isn’t too far away and Stephanie is messaging the lady who states that she is about to order pizza! Without even knowing where the pizza would be purchased, we ask to piggyback on her order. She agrees and gets out the menu. Thankfully this is a local establishment. She tells us she has a card on file with them and wants to know how we will be paying. Cash seemed the easiest way for this meal. She places the order and said she was going to watch Fox News and she is very pro second amendment. Fox News was going to have a segment about Virginia trying to ban guns. (She hasn’t realized we are from Virginia and already know this.) While waiting for the pizza, the host has all kind of comments about the stories on Fox News and Stephanie leans over to whisper “she is a female version of granddady”. (Referring to my grandfather.) All the while, the host’s cats are che20200110_190808cking us out, seeking our attention. Two are solid black males, Nike and Mr T. The third is a solid white female cat whose name escapes us. (Possibly Demo) She was beautiful and very docile. All the cats are very sweet, but take care in petting Mr. T, he has sensitive scars from prior abuse. The host had recused him after a vet got him healed up. Our host tried to get us to come back for him after the cruise. The host had very20200110_204445 good WiFi that we had to use decipher our Saturday plans. Just this week, Carnival informed us of a marathon in Charleston and to make travel plans accordingly. Our plans had been to spend some time in Charleston prior to ship embarkment. Due to this race, our day would have to begin a little earlier. Our bed was very comfortable, however rolling over was noisy. This old body has to roll every so often when sleeping. Apparently one of the male cats hid in our room before we shut the door. When he wanted out, he got up on the bed and circled the perimeter twice before going to the door and pawing it. It worked! I let him out.

Saturday, January 11th 2020

Since our day had to begin early, we start out new by just driving around trying to learn 20200111_071653this little city. We find the sea wall walkway and decide to walk on part of it and catch the sunrise. A foggy, overcast morning made for a less than spectacular sunrise. At this point, one item that had been forgotten was discovered. While driving around earlier, a Harris Teeter store was spotted and would have our item. This is a very unique store, on the outside it appears to be an older style building that would be seen in a older coastline city. Inside was a well stocked modern grocery. We found what we needed and Stephanie found some tea leaves she’d not seen at home in a brand we thought belonged to just Kroger. Once at the self checkout (only registers open), Stephanie asked a worker if she had a loyalty card that could be scanned to get the better pricing. The nice lady saved us about $5.00. We moved the car to the side parking and began exploring on foot. During 20200111_083641this process we ran the marathon… well… we ran through the marathon.😁 We found a little hip place serving some slightly expensive breakfast foods. “Running the marathon got us hungry.” Stephanie got a croissant with preserves that she 20200111_090116loved, even keeping the little glass jar. I got a croissant also, but mine had egg soufflé with cheese and bacon in it! Delicious! It came with a fruit cup. I also ordered a sweet tea that turned out to be a raspberry sweet tea. I found it to be only ok, but Stephanie really liked it. I didn’t care for the paper straw. Following breakfast we went to the Historic Market. If you have plenty of extra money, take it and go see the place. If you don’t have any extra money, go see the vendors anyway. Next up is to make our way to the parking area for the ship. The parking line moves along decently and the porter is very nice. Did see one car stiff their porter.😮 It’s only a slightly long walk to the check in building and this process appears a little chaotic but moved along very smoothly. While in that building, I spot someone that looks very familiar. It’s Candace Monaghan, the lady that runs the Sunflower Festival at Beaver Dam Farm in Botetourt County, and her husband. I have yet to meet him. Unfortunately, the process is too efficient to go speak with them. Before we know it, we’re boarding the ship. Because we are on board prior to our room being ready, we get some ice cream and I get to have my first Guy’s Burger! Excellent food! Stephanie eats the fries. And yes, in that order! We’re adults on vacation and can have desert first if we want to. While checking out the ship prior to our room being ready. I look out a window on the Lido deck and see a major bridge Stephanie had talked about from her first time in Charleston. The picture does no20200111_160645_HDRt do it justice. Once the room is ready, we go take our stuff and rest a bit prior to our muster station meeting. This one is more crowded and less informative than our cruise from Tampa on the original version of Paradise. By now, it is becoming apparent that we are most certainly not on the smooth Tampa Bay or Gulf of Mexico! So we go back to the room to rest some more before supper. After resting, we stagger to the dining room. (We do not drink and thus are completely sober.) Something new for us…a table for two! We are blessed to be on a corner also, giving us even more room! While people are still coming in, I see a elderly lady riding a scooter appear in a server only area. As she attempts to transition into the dining area, she quickly accelerates and makes a hard left, just missing Stephanie in the process. After supper, we attempt to do some shopping, but the main shop we wanted to go in was closed and the rocking ship sends us to the room for the night. I get very little sleep while Stephanie snores away! Her snoring is not my issue of not sleeping, it is this rocking ship!

Sunday, January 12th 2020

We sleep in! This is the longest Stephanie has slept in a very long time! She was looking queasy last night and she deserves this rest. However, she is still not herself this morning. It’s the Lido deck buffet and continental breakfast for us this morning and a quick check on that shop, but it is still closed. So the rocking ship again sends us to the room until lunch. Bothersome to us since we had told the steward that a morning cleaning would be best for us. We try to get out for lunch and I decide I want another burger, but Stephanie is now not eating. While I was eating, Stephanie quips, there’s a duck! She’s looking toward the Guy’s Burgers sign. I look up and sure enough, there is a20200112_113933 little rubber ducky with a tag attached. He most definitely was not there when I went up to get my burger. Stephanie says, “do you think I can get it?” It is quite high but she is able to swat it down with the tips of her fingers. As she hits it, I hear a girl in a group of sixteen year old girls say, “she knocked it down”. We later see these young ladies and ask them about the duck. The tall one was the person that hid it. They tell us there is another one they found and re-hid. We try to stay out of the room long enough to get it cleaned, but have to go back rather early. Thankfully our crew had cleaned up! Unfortunately, someone would have to return and scrub the bathroom. Stephanie was not well for quite some time. After her episode and another long nap, she was back to her chipper self and at dinner she ate the largest piece of chicken she has eaten in her life! At dinner we met a couple that have a lot of cruise experience and said this trip is the worst she has been on in her experience. Both Stephanie and I had the salad as the appetizer. I got the pork chop. She got the vanilla crème brûlée (another first for her) and I got the malted chocolate hazel nut cake with20200112_185536 warm chocolate sauce. Very rich and very tasty. Tonight was elegant night. So there was a photographer at dinner and we did pictures on the staircase. I would have skipped the staircase (and any other) pictures if it had not been for the singer speaking to us and making over the matching colors of my tie and Stephanie’s dress. Our shop is still not open, so we call it an early night before the rocking ship gets us queasy again.

Monday, January 13th 2020

Today we decide to begin with dining room breakfast. One can easily get used to table service for every meal. I had the broken egg sandwich and Stephanie had the vanilla20200113_073423 French toast. She also had the baked grapefruit. Everything was very good. A last minute check of the Carnival Hub reveals we need a pass to get off the ship at Princess Cays. Some new place to find on the ship. At least the ship is still and not rocking. When we pick up the pass, the gentleman says to listen for an announcement, but he gives the instructions at that moment. His instructions matched the announcement over the speakers, but both were incorrect. I would guess those people in level 1 rooms were not real thrilled to have all those people just outside their door. It was a nice attempt to organize the people wanting to tender in, but they were calling people a little too fast. The trip over was fun and those drivers are very skilled at maneuvering the tight docking area. The island is very beautiful. We purchased some gifts for the kids. Stephanie had to wade in the ocean and find shells. I wondered if 20200113_094038_HDRI would regret not at least getting my feet wet. We walked the rest of the visitor portion of the island and looked at the plants and goods for sale. One lady wanted to braid Stephanie’s hair. As we were leaving the island, the lady in front of us had put a large bag of sand in her purse. It was apparent in the x-ray machine. On the tender back, we sat on the front bottom level of the boat. For lunch we had a meatball sandwich and fries, and grilled cheese and fries. We also had dark chocolate cookies with chocolate chips. It was a nice prelude to our afternoon nap prior to supper. On our way to dinner, we finally run into Candace Monaghan and I get to meet her husband Patrick. As I see them, I speak and call Candace by name. (Although I’ve met her 4 times, it was in either brief or large group type settings, meaning she likely would not recognize me.) The look on their faces when I call her by name was priceless Stephanie says. After an explanation of how I know her name and some small talk, we proceed to find our pictures before dinner. Tonight our dinner mates are back and tell us they went to one of the smaller restaurants for their anniversary. The staff know it is their anniversary and bring them a small but very rich cake shaped into a heart with a candle on it. After the staff sings to them, the lady tries the cake and then wants me to take a bite. This couple is a little younger than us and got in the ocean at the island. After hearing a description of this beach from dinner mates and Stephanie, I am very glad I did not attempt it. Apparently island beaches have very rough terrain and footing is an issue. The next couple down from Tennessee were absent this evening. My appetizer was honey roasted ham with pineapple chutney with ginger bread mustard mayo. The main course was beef lasagna and dessert was melting chocolate cake. Stephanie’s appetizer was a mixed greens salad. She did not care for any of the main dishes and ordered a baked potato and macaroni & cheese with bacon. For dessert, she went out on a limb and go the buttered popcorn pot de crème with salted caramel. Our table mates have determined that the staff do everything by routine. She wants her bread left on the table and two different servers try to take it. She said tomorrow, I will confuse them by switching everything up. By the end of dinner, the ship is back to its swaying so for us it was back to the room for the evening.

Tuesday, January 14th 2020

We get to sleep a little later this morning because today is another day off the boat and starts later as does breakfast. We return to the dining room for breakfast and I get the short stack of pancakes, but they do not bring the toppings listed nor my apple juice I ordered. I also ordered a sausage link, but got four links. The food was good, but just not what I was expecting. Stephanie got her apple juice as ordered. She ordered a waffle that did not come as she expected also, but she decided it was her fault for not ordering properly. It seems you must have to specify that you want it how it is listed in the menu. We have come to the conclusion that the people serving the breakfast in the dining room are really just in training to work the dinner dining rooms. Someone is watching the people actually taking the orders and bringing the food. As we leave the ship, I notice a empty dock beside our dock and a bigger ship in the next dock over. Nassau seems to have more people hustling than I remember from our first cruise that went to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. As you leave the ship, you are handed a map that has coupons attached for free stuff from the jewelry stores. Stephanie starts the process at Diamonds International. They talk her into trying on a necklace that was $2800.00. On our way out, our friends the Monaghans come in with a tour group from the ship. Stephanie informs them of her experience and I wish Patrick good luck. As we work our way down the street collecting the free trinkets, a person outside of a jewelry store not this map hands Stephanie a flyer offering a free gift and decent deal on a necklace and earrings that match a ring she bought five years ago in Nassau. She has decided that she will buy that deal before he pulls out a matching bracelet. Not a regular bracelet either, a very cool adjusting bracelet that is easily removed by the wearer without any assistance. He then tells her that the bracelet is only $199.00, but that will include the package deal of the necklace and earrings also. She explains that is more than we can afford, but she will take the smaller package. He then counters that he wanted her to have it and if she promised to come back later, she could have the entire package for $150.00. As she is saying that is still too much, I tell her to give him the money. It will be an anniversary present. We later see the Monaghans again. Candace has now tried on a set of earring studs that Patrick did not buy for her. They were only $10,000.00. As we continue on down the street, Stephanie tells me that I have to do the purchases requiring ID to avoid tax as she left hers on the ship. We spend more money on some neat things and gifts for family members. After we turn around to begin working our way back toward the ship, we come across this fellow sitting on the curb doing paintings on little scrap pieces of paneling or fiber board, just whatever. Stephanie recognized him from her trip here five years ago. She asks if he can customize one of his completed ones for her. He agrees and begins to work on it. These essentially 8×10 inch paintings are $10.00. I told her to give him $15.00 since he fulfilled her request. All of his paintings are just beautiful. He has been doing this for over twenty years. He signed this one. His name is Jeff! We now just want to go to the ship and put the stuff in the room before lunch. As we are walking along, this young lady asks if we are going to the straw market. I reply “maybe” and she says “come with me, I’ll show you my shop”. Basically a trinket shop she ran. She starts showing us different things and then pulls out these two wooden couple carvings. She will engrave them with our names and it is only $20.00. Of course I’m not paying that much. So she asks what is my price, so I say $15.00. She counters with $18.00. So I give in and before she leaves to get the engraving done, she introduces her “sister”. Who will take us to her shop once our transaction is complete. We have to disappoint this one. As we start to head out, I tell Stephanie to not make eye contact with anyone else. As we approach the docks, I remember Stephanie’s earlier comment about the purchases with ID. Both the ship card and a government ID are required to leave the port. She only has her ship card. So we approach the young lady checking IDs and I give her mine first. Stephanie explains her situation and I am thinking I may have to go retrieve her ID. The lady then asks if we are husband and wife. She double checks my ID and ship card and then Stephanie’s ship card and lets us proceed. The one empty dock is now occupied by a 20200114_120107_HDRDisney ship. The dude backed that big boat into the dock! By the time we get to our room to unload our purchases, I am not feeling the best. Likely from the heat. After resting a bit, I feel like some fruit might be good. Once on the Lido deck, I think maybe a small salad with my fruit would be tasty. This actually worked so well, by the time Stephanie got back with her pizza, I wanted some of that too. She shares, but has to go back for more. Now I am full again and time for a nap. We rest until it is time to go look for our new pictures and our elegant night that we had not found yet. This time we find all our pictures and make some purchases just before dinner. As we get to our dinner table, I have noticed that she has begun her plan. They have switched seats. She will later move the water flask to the opposite side of the table, which almost backfired. While serving the next couple down, he bumps the water! As we sat down, Stephanie noticed her napkin is not flat on the table. When she picks it up, there is another rubber ducky under it. (Now we have something else to do, good thing the ship is more stable tonight.) 20200114_180604I immediately know who put that there. She again asks for more bread and keeps giving Stephanie the piece she doesn’t like. The waiter notices this bread and offers a paper napkin to put it in. The only problem is all this bread is too big for the little paper napkins. So the girls scheme to wrap the paper napkins around the cloth napkin and bring the cloth back tomorrow. The only problem is the paper won’t stay in place and reveals the cloth underneath while sitting on the table. So now I have to sit the bread on the bench beside me and hide it with our pictures. This works decently well. I hope she remembers to return the napkin tomorrow. We take the bread and pictures back to the room and set out to hide the duck and get a picture Stephanie wants by some windows that our daughter did a picture in five years ago. On our way, we run into the Monaghans again and update each other on our day. We get the picture done and go to get some lemonade. At the beverage station, I see a good spot for the duck. It is an old Chevy truck grill used as a wall decoration near Guy’s Burgers. I squeeze this duck up into the grill, get my lemonade and we go through the sliding doors to the air conditioned seating. As I sit down, I can see a man looking at the duck already. He takes it down, looks at it, but puts it back. We sit and watch for a while, but no one else even glances at it. So we head back to the room for the night. Thankfully the ship is still much smoother than prior days on the open water.

Wednesday, January 15th 2020

We sleep in even later today as Day at Sea Brunch does not start until 8:30 this morning. The ship is back to swaying, but not nearly as bad as the initial Day at Sea. I am still confused by breakfast ordering as I read the menu exactly as I wanted, but still got things I did not expect. Especially the sausage. The menu appeared that we could choose either pork or chicken sausage links. I specified the pork sausage, but received one of each. I did not care for the chicken sausage. I had the heuvos rancheros and also a side honey butter biscuit. Stephanie ordered the featured item. I forget the name, but it looked like a real thick pancake with whipped ricotta and some caramel crunchy toppings. When we were about half way through, she offers me a bite of hers. I offered her to trade what we had left. Even though we had about equal servings, she refused. (Though she did thoughtfully save me a couple of bites of hers. She would not like mine.) As we were about to leave, a gentleman approaches us wearing a white uniform like those operating the ship would wear. He asks if we had dessert yet. We both respond that we are too full for dessert. He has a strong accent and asks about some specific dessert. Then says can I bring you one? So, without even knowing what I was getting, I say ok. After he leaves, I ask Stephanie what he said. She said she wasn’t sure, but thought he said something “crème”. Sure enough, he returns with a slice of banana crème pie on a dish with these three dollops of semi-solid crème surrounding a raspberry compote. The pie is delicious, but Stephanie does not care for it. The raspberry stuff was real good too. She does like that. The restaurant is filling up more than the previous days of the open seating breakfast. As we exit, there is a great deal more people trying to enter also. Cruise tip, Day at Sea Brunch is worth it, but go early, like right at opening. After breakfast, we went to the debarkation information meeting, catching the last few minutes of The Morning Show with cruise director Christian, aka Mr. Chicago. His side kick Houston is just plain crazy. Our dinner mates show up to the meeting and sit just behind us. After the meeting they are going on to lunch. I’m not really feeling like eating as the ship is swaying again some, but some fruit sounds good again. I get some fruit and melon in a bowl as does Stephanie. Bud is not happy when Amanda brings back a half a wrap. After finishing that, he decides to go get the other half and Stephanie goes for a wrap and pizza. I do drink some lemonade. Our friends finish their lunch prior to Stephanie finishing hers and head on to start preparing for debarkation. Once Stephanie is done eating, we head on also. I am needing some rest and Stephanie is hoping to get information on deals for future cruises. When she gets back to the room, she has papers on future cruises, but missed the information session. She does however have a story to tell. When she gets in line at the guest services desk, she is behind a lady who is behind a guy. The lady asks the man if he is there with a question about debarkation. The guy turns to the lady and states “they had a meeting about that this morning.” She replies “I was in no shape to be out of my room.” He returns with “they said if you miss the meeting, you’ll become an indentured servant for the next cruise to earn your way off the ship.” She completely does not understand. So he repeats himself. This poor lady still does not get it. Our menu is not showing correctly on the Carnival Hub app, so we make our way to the dining room entrance early to look at the missing portions. (I threatened to carry me a Guy’s burger into the dining room if I did not care for any of the main courses.) There were a couple of options that I figure I can choose from once we are seated. We have about 45 minutes to kill prior to dinner. Our dining room is just off the atrium main floor which means we are forced through the photographers when we exit the dining room, but one side is already set up prior to our early dinner time. Just behind their backdrop is a couple of empty chairs. The stairs on this side is also the staircase 20200115_173031photo and thus the top is blocked. This is not a elegant night, so action for the photographers is slow. The entertainment for Stephanie and I sitting in these chairs is not slow. In the twenty or so minutes we sat there, there were several people who left the bar and started up the stairs. The photographer would call out to them that the staircase is closed. Younger people in a hurry did not listen and would make it nearly to the top. Older people likely could not hear them would make about midway. And occasionally, some would start up and look to the top and realize the barrier is blocking the top. (If memory serves me correctly, Stephanie and I may or may not have done this on our first cruise.) A few minutes prior to the doors opening to the dining room, I spot the couple that sit on the other side of our new friends next to us. We have spoken some and I know that they are from Tennessee, but that is it. So we go over to speak with them until the doors open. As it turns out, these folks are from Knoxville. So now on this cruise, we have made friends from home that live approximately a half hour from our house. We have made friends with folks who live about a half hour from the beach we like to vacation. And now we have gotten to know a little about another nice couple who live about a half hour from our other vacation spot in the Smokey Mountains. She had overheard a conversation about this blog and wanted to know where to read it. After dinner I am able to give her our contact information. Stephanie’s appetizer was the heart of iceberg salad and again she ordered sides instead of a main dish. She got Mac and cheese with bacon, baked potato, and ratatouille. She did not eat much of the ratatouille except the squash. Her dessert was a cheese plate. My appetizer 20200115_191604was peach soup. Delicious! I ordered the spare ribs and a side of mac and cheese, but Stephanie got most of that because those delicious ribs filed me up. But I did still eat my melting chocolate cake. After dinner, we decide to finalize our packing and be ready to go when our floor is called for the early debarkation. It appears we have everything in or on our two rolling suitcases. We may or may not eat on the ship in the morning, that will be determined in the morning.

Thursday, January 16th 2020

Debarkation Day. The saddest day of any cruise. Thankfully things have changed since our last cruise. Unless you purchase and disembark with more than 1 liter of alcohol or 1 carton of cigarettes or spend more than $800.00, you do not have to declare anything for customs. We do not drink or smoke, and did not have $800.00 to take with us, so customs was quick for us once we reached the interview point. For the debarkation of the Carnival Sunshine ship, it was a rainy drizzly day. Rain was coming down even while on the gangway. However, by the time we are through customs and off the shuttle bus, the rain had stopped for the walk to the car. We only had a little drizzle for the first hour or so on the road. After that it was dry and we watched the temperature drop as we drove north. Again, the traffic around Charlotte was heavy, but flowed all the way trough. I am impressed with North Carolina’s innovativeness in where they build their interstate rest stops. One of them is in the interstate median area and is accessible by north and southbound traffic. Another is sort of back up in a hollow and the buildings are not really visible until you are well off the highway. This one had a picnic area in a grove of crepe Myrtle trees. The trees form a canopy over the tables and in warmer seasons will provide a great shade for the tables. For lunch, we found an Arby’s in North Carolina. While we are eating, there are other travelers coming in. One family with a daughter that I believe is deaf came in the store. I am fairly certain they were on the ship with us. I regret not asking them. By this time the wind is really whipping, bringing in cold temperatures. (Family has told us of the warm nice temperatures at home while we were gone.) Stephanie has informed me we cannot go home before stopping in Christiansburg to go to the Hobby Lobby. Christiansburg is quite cold and windy. We find a product that works for our purpose. On the way home, Stephanie uses the dominoes app to order pizza for supper so the most we have to do once home is to unload the car and dig out our necessities like device chargers and medicines. We are now home and our cruise vacation is officially over. It was a wonderful time, but it is also good to be home.