Cruise 11, Vacations

Cruising on the Carnival Sensation

So we spent two days at Disney World a few weeks back, (Epcot and Hollywood Studios) and when it was time to leave, we were all pretty much wiped out.

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Well. Kevin and I were tired, but the boys were zombies.

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I mean, walking around Disney World for two days was more exercise than either of them had had in the previous six months!

And that’s not being snarky, that’s being honest.

After our two days at Disney World were over, we got up Sunday morning, July 24th, packed up our stuff and went out to wait for the Disney Express shuttle bus so we could hitch a ride back to the Orlando airport.

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To catch a non-existent flight.

Confused? Yeah, so were the good folks at Disney. In fact, we spent 30 minutes trying to explain to them that we didn’t have a departing flight number to give them because we weren’t catching a flight, we just wanted a ride back to the airport. No strings attached, nothing more complicated than that. But you would have thought we were asking them to calculate a direct route to the moon.

After we explained to them that we just wanted a ride to the airport, that we intended to catch a shuttle bus at the airport to take us to Port Canaveral so that we could get on our cruise boat (and when the guy found out it wasn’t a Disney cruise, his enthusiastic voice wasn’t quite so enthusiastic after that – it was pretty funny how much his attitude changed after that, though he was still nice), they set it up.

We could have just called a taxi, but the Express was free (well, not FREE, the price of that “free” ride was included in the exorbitant price tag that comes with going to Disney World) and if we could get out of paying $70 bucks for a taxi ride to the airport, we were going to do it.

(I’m telling you guys, if we ever win the lottery, I’m totally becoming a travel writer because I would ROCK on the “travel for dirt cheap” tips).

So, we get on the Disney Express and it takes us 45 minutes to get to the airport. The bus made two stops – Terminal A and B. We had no idea which terminal we needed to go to in order to catch the cruise shuttle bus but we took our chances and got off at Terminal A. Luckily, we saw a big Carnival Sensation sign and we checked in with very little fanfare.

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(See a pattern here? Yep. We have a lot of pictures of Dude sleeping).

We waited around the airport about another 30 minutes before our bus driver arrived and we loaded up. It took us about another 45 minutes to drive from the airport to the pier. Even though the shuttle busses are expensive, they were totally worth the cost because it was a seamless, stress-free way to get to the pier. We didn’t have to worry about taxi drivers, or how much it would cost us, or if he/she would stiff us and ask for more than it really cost to drive us there, or putting up with a bad driver who would make us car sick and it was MUCH more comfortable riding in a spacious, air conditioned bus than having to cram all four of us into a hot, sticky, dirty taxi.

We will definitely pay the transportation cost next time, too.

We’ve never taken a cruise out of Port Canaveral before and there were two other boats waiting to depart, too.

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I believe one of them was a Royal Carribean and the other was Disney.

*Side Note: We’ve never sailed on any other cruise line than Carnival – this will be our fourth cruise with them. Though we’ve been very happy with Carnival, I think next year Kevin and I are going to pick a different cruise line simply for variety, if for no other reason. We would also like to sail on a cruise line that is catered a bit more to adults as well. Not that we have a problem with sailing with children, we don’t, but since it’s going to just be me and Kevin next time, we’d like something a little more … sophisticated, if that’s the right word.

Port Canaveral is not the prettiest port we’ve ever sailed out of. It’s strictly functional, there’s not a lot to see. So we didn’t take as many Bon Voyage pictures like we usually do this go-around.

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However, it WAS cool to be able to see Kennedy Space Center in the distance and it only reaffirmed our desire to visit it someday. (That had actually been our original plan – to visit Kennedy Space Center, spend the night and catch the boat the next day. But somewhere along the planning stage, I mentioned Disney World and it sort of took off from there).

We actually boarded the boat several hours before we sailed, so by the time we went back on deck to leave port, we had a pretty good idea where everything was.

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The only problem was, remembering where everything was. The Sensation is smaller than the boat we sailed last year (Valor) but for some reason, we seemed to be more lost on this boat than we were last year. We kept getting turned around and it wasn’t until the LAST day of the cruise did we really start feeling comfortable getting around. HA!

The boys were relieved to be on the boat and away from Disney World.

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It’s not that they didn’t have a good time, it was just SO HOT and they thought it was pretty kiddie-ish.

(“I TOLD you, mom.” Yeah. Jazz told me that about 5,000 times in those two days).

We were finally able to check out our room. (They block off the cabins while they finish cleaning them so you have to walk around the boat with any luggage that you carry on yourself. The bigger pieces of luggage are checked in when you first arrive and the stewards place them outside your cabin door several hours after departure).

We had portholes!

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We’ve never had portholes before. We were pretty excited about that.


(Sorry about the video quality, or lack thereof – Blech. The settings on the camera screwed up).

Okay, KEVIN AND I were pretty excited about that.

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We always book a separate cabin for the boys. It’s more expensive but SO WORTH THE MONEY. They can do their own thing, go to bed when they want, sleep in as late as they want and we can do our own thing. If you ever cruise with teenagers, seriously, book them their own cabin. You’ll thank me later.

One thing about cruise ships that always amuses me, is the tacky decor. Seriously. Look at the carpet compared to the furniture.

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WTH? But tacky … somehow works on a cruise ship, I think.

One of THE best things about cruising? Is the non-stop food.

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The main dining area is where everyone is instructed to wait when you first board a cruise ship – the Lido deck – where the FOOD is. Because by the time you board a ship, it’s lunch time and you’re hungry. Which works out great, because you can’t really DO anything else until your room is done and before the ship leaves dock. (The casino and shops don’t open until you leave port because if they open up before leaving port, they have to pay taxes on their profits).

One of the things I dislike about first boarding a boat is the sheer number of people in one place at one time.

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Again, you sort of have to endure it because there’s really no where else to go while you wait for your room to be ready. But the crowds thin out considerably after the boat sets sail and getting around the ship is much more manageable.

This cruise was a little different. Usually, the first day we’re at sea while we travel to our first port. But since this was a four-day cruise, we didn’t have that luxury. We set sail Sunday and were at Freeport, Bahamas on Monday. Then we were in Nassau, Bahamas on Tuesday and we had a day at sea on Wednesday.

One of the traditions we’ve started, is playing cards.

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We went onto the entertainment deck (that’s the deck that has all of the clubs, the casino, the shops and the hangouts for the kids) and we listened to a live band while playing cards. We heard a few people, as they passed us, say, “Now that’s a good idea.” So there’s no telling how many families will start up their own card-playing tradition.

What can I say? We’re trend setters! Ha!

Kevin and I LOVE the days at sea because it gives us a chance to find a deck chair in the shade and relax. We usually read or nap and it’s HEAVENLY because it’s just so relaxing breathing in all that fresh air and peaceful to look out at nothing but ocean.

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What can I say? We’re DIE HARD cruisers. If Kevin and I can swing it, we’re going to try and take a cruise every year because it really is the BEST way to travel and see the world – in our humble opinion.

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Next: Freeport, Grand Bahamas

Cruise 11, Vacations

Travel Notes

Before I write about our cruise (and no, I haven’t even started writing about it yet because I’ve been freaking BUSY these past few days. But I’m not complaining, I’ve also been having FUN), there are a few things I’d like to document about our trip that really have nothing to do with our actual trip.

Confused? That makes two of us.

Kevin was surfing around on the ‘net yesterday and happened to spot an article on Yahoo about airline ticket tax refunds. He followed the article over to Kiplinger and here is the gist of it:

Want an Airline Tax Refund? Be Patient
The IRS still is developing guidelines for passengers who paid expired ticket taxes.

Airline passengers who bought tickets on or before July 22 for travel on or after July 23 are probably due a refund of the federal taxes they paid on their tickets. The problem will be actually getting the refund.

Congress adjourned July 22 without passing legislation authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s operating authority, leaving the administration without the ability to collect air transportation excise taxes. So ticket taxes don’t apply to air travel starting July 23.

Yeah. Guess what, that would include US. We bought our airline tickets way back in January and we arrived back home July 28th. We should get a tax refund on our return flight.

SWEET!

The problem is, as the article stated, actually getting it. Kevin figured it up and it should be around $75 bucks.

Hey man, $75 bucks is $75 bucks, am I right?

We flew through Air Trans (which we just found out was bought out by Southwest) and Kevin wasn’t able to get ahold of a live person. But, the article states that the IRS has yet to put guidelines into place on how to get that money back to people and Kevin is figuring it will likely be something to file on our tax returns. So, though we may have some money coming back to us, typical government fashion, it won’t happen for a while.

Still – $75 bucks man.

But here’s the thing – can you believe our stupid government? I mean, they make more work for themselves by dragging their heels on making any sort of decision on anything. If they had just done their freaking jobs to begin with, they wouldn’t have to deal with the headache of sorting out the qualified customers and giving their tax money back.

What idiots.


One day, when we were looking over the “Fun Times” newsletter on the boat (it’s a daily newsletter that Carnival puts out to let everyone know what’s going on throughout the day on the boat), he saw a meet-up time scheduled for the LGBT’s on board.

He didn’t know what LGBT stood for, so when I told him (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender), he was not very happy.

For the record, we don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. We’re Christians. God does not condone gays. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

This is what we believe. Disagree if you must. But here’s the thing – I really don’t care if someone *chooses to live that sort of lifestyle.

No really.

I. Don’t. Care.

It’s really none of my business how a person lives his/her life. I figure the LGBT community will be judged at some point and that at some point they will have to look God in the eye and explain their behavior. I have enough to worry about without personally taking on one group of people’s problems.

I say, “good luck with that.” *SALUTE*

So when I see notices about LGBT meetings, I honestly don’t care. Whatever, man. Knock yourself out. But Kevin, he does care. And he was disappointed in Carnival for allowing meetings like that happening on a cruise line that caters to families.

In fact, he was so upset, he intended to complain to Carnival about it. And would have, if he had remembered when he filled out the survey they sent us. His biggest argument is though, reverse discrimination.

“Why does the LGBT community have to have a special meeting set aside just for them? Where are the ‘heterosexual’ meetings? Why aren’t they getting special treatment?”

I explained to him that though I agreed with him in principal, I could see WHY they would need a special meeting because you can’t really tell, by looking at a person, whether that person is homosexual or not. Homosexuals don’t walk around with a big label tattooed to their foreheads anymore than heterosexuals. So they need meetings like these in order to single each other out, to find like-minded people.

I understand that, I get that. I don’t agree with that, but like I said, who cares if I agree or not.

But he’s right. If we’re going to be tolerant of one group and set up special meetings for select groups, then to be fair to everyone, we should set up meetings for ALL groups of people. He would have had less of a problem with the LGBT meeting if they had also had meetings set up for heterosexuals, car lovers, ice cream lovers, dog lovers, cat lovers, etc. Why should they stop at just one group? Why not set some time aside for all groups?

It’s reverse discrimination.

I’m bringing this all up because this is what we discussed after our cruise was over. And coincidentally, it was also mentioned in the news.

Heterosexual Pride Day Measure Passes in São Paulo

The city council of São Paulo, South America’s biggest city, has adopted legislation calling for a Heterosexual Pride Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of each December.

São Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab must sign the legislation for it to become law and has said only that he is studying it. His office declined Wednesday to say whether he supports the proposal.

The legislation’s author, Carlos Apolinario, said the idea for a Heterosexual Pride Day is “not anti-gay but a protest against the privileges the gay community enjoys.”

As an example, he mentioned how São Paulo’s huge gay pride day parade is held every year on Paulista Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in this city of 20 million people, while the March for Jesus organized by evangelical groups is not allowed on the same avenue.

That’s Kevin’s point. Instead of singling out ONE group of people, let’s be fair to ALL groups of people and allow those groups to have their own parades, or whatnots. After all, it’s all about equality FOR ALL, right?

*Yes. I believe homosexuality is inherently a choice – though I also believe it’s possible that people can be born with homosexual tendencies – tendencies he/she will have to fight off a little harder later in life than say someone who doesn’t have those tendencies.

Wow. If this wasn’t a potentially loaded post, I don’t what is. But these are my thoughts, and this is my journal, and contrary to what some people think (or wish), I don’t think about rainbows and unicorns ALL the time – just MOST of the time. *snort*

Cruise 11, Vacations

Obligatory Vacation Summation Post

Disney World Souvenirs. We only went to two parks. Two was enough, trust me.
Ugh.

I’m sitting here, trying to organize my thoughts enough to list some bullet points and I’m swaying. Not literally, though at times I might be, but rather because I haven’t gotten my land legs back yet. This is an actual “condition,” or a by-product of spending several days aboard a boat.

Finding one’s “land legs” refers to a condition where a person has an imbalance or rocking sensation after spending time on a boat. In its extreme form it is known as “mal de debarquement,” which is French for disembarkation sickness. There is really no proven way to find one’s land legs, other than to give it some time.

It’s quite disorienting, especially when you’re prone to motion sickness, like I am. But it’s a side effect of cruising that I’m willing to endure because I enjoy cruising so much. I’ll just deal with my body feeling like a living jello mold.

With unexplained lumps. In the jello.

Never mind.

I’m going to have to squeeze these post-vacation posts in between my work. I am neck deep in emails and all require immediate attention. The school websites that I maintain are gearing up for school and their websites require a lot of attention, but I really need to document our time now or I’ll forget more and more with each passing day.

I’d like to say it’s because I’m getting older and my memory isn’t as good as it used to be, but to be honest, my memory has always been crappy, hence the biggest reason for this blog.

At any rate, I don’t have time to really go in-depth right now, plus, I haven’t had a chance to go through pictures/videos yet, but I’ll list some key points I want to talk about to remind me what to write later.

  • I am pretty sure this was the last beach vacation we take in mid-summer.
  • I’m also pretty sure we will never go back to Disney World.
  • It’s quite possible this was the last vacation the boys will accompany us.
  • Jazz was patted down at the airport.
  • We toured Disney World with LARGE groups of Brazilian teenage girls.
  • These girls didn’t speak a word of English.
  • They also broke out in spontaneous song at the worst times.
  • And they also thought Dude and Jazz were quite interesting to look at.
  • I didn’t eat a full meal for two whole days.
  • It rained on us when we were at Epcot.
  • I couldn’t wait to leave Hollywood Studios.
  • We had pretty awesome rooms on the cruise ship.
  • I seriously wanted to throttle our cruise ship neighbors.
  • Our dinner table mates on the ship were ….. interesting characters.
  • Even though we were on a beach vacation, we didn’t wear our swimsuits once.
  • This was the smallest cruise ship we’ve been on, but we were turned around and lost the entire time we were on it.
  • I say “beach”, you think “green and lush.” The Bahamas were anything but green and lush.
  • We drove a jeep around Freeport, Bahamas.
  • We were driven around Nassau, Bahamas by “Sexy” Mary.
  • We also toured Nassau, Bahamas without the boys.
  • Atlantis, on Paradise Island, Bahamas, is pretty spectacular.
  • It was hotter in Missouri than in the Bahamas.
Cruise 11, Vacations, Walt Disney World

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We’re home!!!

And we’re pooped.

We all feel like this right now.

Tuckered Out

Actually, Dude pretty much stayed in this position the entire cruise.

But more on that later.

We got home about an hour ago. It was a LOOOONG travel day. We left the boat and Port Canaveral at 9:30 this morning, arrived at the Orlando airport about 10:30, and killed time at the airport until 3:00 this afternoon to catch our flight.

We got into St. Louis about 4:00, stopped to eat at Taco Bell and we got home at 8:30 pm. After going through the STACK of mail (mostly junk – yuck), and putting away a few essentials (I’m not unpacking or doing laundry until tomorrow), we all jumped onto our computers and greedily gobbled up some Internet time. We didn’t have Internet the entire week and I think all of us were feeling the withdrawals.

I have so much to talk about, and some pictures to show you (after I go through them – and just for the record, I didn’t take as many as I liked because it was SO FREAKING HOT that I just couldn’t drum up the necessary energy to CARE, quite frankly), but for now, I must sleep. I’m wiped out.

Also? I came home to a TON of emails. It’s time to update all of the school websites and work on some projects that MUST get done in the next few weeks, so I’m going to be up to my neck in work for several weeks. In fact, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, if you want the truth. Please be patient with me as I prioritize work stuff and sort through vacation stuff.

But just know, we’re home, safe and sound and I can’t type any more or my head will explode.

P.S. I’m having trouble finding my land legs again. This is quite normal and I go through this every time we get back from a cruise. It’s like my body still thinks it’s on a boat and I have this really funky swaying feeling … it’s disorienting and quite annoying, actually. No worries, it’ll go away in a few days. In the meantime, WHOA.

Cruise 11

Tropical Storm Bret Needs to Move Off – NOW

I have never once thought about what would happen if we happened to be on a cruise and a hurricane, or a tropical storm, blew our way.

I guess I should start thinking about that possibility.

Because as of now, right now, July 18th at 7:54 a.m. – tropical storm Bret is making his presence known in Nassau Bahamas.

And we’re going to be there very soon.

Weather in the Bahamas

(Actually, Kevin’s sister’s family went there this week. I don’t know if they’re still there or not, but it’ll be interesting to hear their story).

We’ve been very lucky so far, we haven’t encountered any bad weather while being on a cruise. Of course, the cruise lines make very sure that they steer clear of bad weather and though we’ve never been caught in bad weather, we have had to go around a storm or two. (Resulting in choppy waters and a dose of Dramamine).

But we’ve been lucky at the ports of call and have had pretty decent weather while we were there. (A few years back, when we went to Belize, the military staged a coupe a few days after we were there and the whole country sort of erupted. Which would explain the guards walking around the pier with guns. Talk about scary stuff … and we have people who are unhappy with America. This ain’t NOTHING compared to other countries, folks.)

After researching a bit, it looks like if a tropical storm crosses our sailing path, we would sail around it and possibly either miss a port, or dock at a different port of call altogether. If the storm hits the pier at the time we’re supposed to take off, it looks like the cruise line would cancel the cruise entirely and refund us.

So. Considering there is more unsettling weather off the coast of Africa (which is where tropical storms typically begin and impact our part of the world weeks later), there is a possibility that we might be affected at some point.

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We need to remain flexible. If our cruise is cancelled, then we’ll just use that refund money and stick around Orlando for a few more days before coming home. Not ideal, but we’re not having a show down with Mother Nature.

We’d likely lose.

And I don’t like to lose.

At any rate, don’t worry (mom), it’s pretty unlikely anything will develop and/or impact us directly so we’ll be fine … whatever happens. 🙂