Posts tagged: Caribbean
Slogging through a cold, dark, winter in the Northwest, it’s easy to find yourself starved for a little fun in the sun. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to join the U. S. inaugural sailing of the Carnival Sunshine out of the Port of New Orleans in November.
The Carnival Sunshine was first launched in 1996 as the Carnival Destiny. At that the time it was the world’s largest cruise liner. After a massive and complete makeover in 2013, with a price tag of $155 million, the reborn liner spent a summer in Europe before moving to its new home port in The Crescent City.
After a day exploring New Orleans, with most of that time spent at the WWII Museum, we boarded the ship and headed down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico. For the next 7 days we cruised the Caribbean sea, stopping at Grand Cayman Island and Cozumel before returning back to New Orleans.
These days, with a teenager and a 2-year-old grandchild around, I’m thinking more and more about multigenerational travel. I made sure I got a good look at all the new options for families. The Waterworks water park is the largest in the fleet and it’s the place to be when the sun is hot and shining. The top-deck SportSquare with ropes course, ball courts, mini golf and a jogging track is a great place for families to spend some quality time together and there are Informal activities like poolside “Dive in Movies” under the gigantic LED screen TV. Children’s programs include Camp Carnival children’s program for ages 2-11, Circle C for ages 12-14 and Club O2 for teens 15-17.
As expected there were plenty of grownup entertainment options, including well-produced musical extravaganzas, family-friendly and interactive “Hasbro: The Game Show” and the “Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez,” but to be honest we spent most of our free time on one of the three levels of the adults-only “Serenity Deck” with paperback books and the occasional paper umbrella drink. Located away from the noisy and popular party deck, the Serenity Deck offers plenty of padded lounge chairs, private clamshell cabana chairs and even queen-size hammocks for snoozing. (There is no charge to access the Serenity Deck, but drinks are extra. )
On the whole, the cruise from New Orleans was a great way to escape the dreary weather in Spokane and get another shot of Vitamin D before spring returns. And, of course, it’s always fun to visit New Orleans.
Here’s a breakdown of pros and cont:
Pros: You can’t beat Carnival’s value. It’s possible to fly to New Orleans and then spend a week cruising in the sun for less than you might spend on a week shivering at the Oregon Coast or even a long weekend in Seattle for a show or concert. The variety of food on board is impressive and Carnival continues to expand options from premium dining at the “Fahrenheit 555” steak house, to specialty dining at “Cucina del Capitano” and “JiJi’s Asian Kitchen” to free burgers and fries at Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Burger Joint”. Carnival Sunshine staterooms are attractive, comfortable and offer plenty of storage.
Cons: My only real complaint about any Carnival Cruise is the number of smokers on board. Smoking is limited to the casino and certain decks but is allowed on private balconies. Once or twice we abandoned our balcony chairs because a neighbor’s smoke was drifting our way.
For more information about the Carnival Sunshine cruises out of New Orleans, contact your travel agent or go to www.carnival.com You can find Cheryl-Anne’s Instagram photos of the cruise at instagram.com/camillsap
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Crossing the deck of the busy cruise ship, on my way to get something for lunch, I noticed a little boy crouched quietly, oblivious to the crowd around him as he bent over his shoe. He’d dropped to fasten the buckle and his mother stood patiently by, parting the sea of passengers that streamed around them. That, as every mother eventually learns, is what you do when you have a preschooler. You stand and wait while they master each new, seemingly monumental task. To do anything else is to invite tears and tantrums.
I watched the boy’s fingers, small and deliberate, as they worked at his task and I remembered my son doing the same thing at that age. I remembered the way my breath caught at the tender vulnerability of his neck, his thin back curved over knobby knees, his concentration evident by his frown and the tip of his tongue peeking out of the corner of his mouth.
I was on board the big ship to cover the launch of the brand new Carnival Breeze but the ceremonies were over and we were underway, already out to sea. I had nothing but time so I stayed where I was, watching the boy while fragments of other conversations drifted around me.
“We’re on our honeymoon,” I heard a man’s voice say, and I turned to see two couples, one young, the other old, on lounge chairs by the pool.
The old man replied that he and the old woman beside him had been married more than 50 years.
“Wow, that’s impressive,” the young man replied, his voice lacquered with a gloss of interest and respect. “So, what kind of advice would you give us?”
I knew, and the old man knew, it was a superficial question. Still, the old man seemed to take it seriously and was silent for a long moment and I waited to hear what he would say. The little boy worked on his shoe. The young woman smoothed sunscreen over her flat belly and along her arms. The old woman, her skin browned and leathery from years in the sun, rummaged through the basket on the deck beside her chair until she found her sunglasses. The young man sipped his beer.
Finally, the old man, his voice rough and graveled by years, spoke.
“You got it pretty good right now, son,” he said, nodding his head toward the young woman. “But one day, when the sun ain’t shining on you, and you’re mad at your pretty little bride over there and you hate your boss and the kid needs braces, you might think about doing something stupid. You might think about walking away.”
The young man looked a little shocked at the old man’s plain words.
“My advice is to remember how you feel right now because one day you might need it.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said. “I sure will.”
The old man, having said his piece, closed his eyes and the young man went back to his beer.
I looked back at the little boy just as he finally slipped the strap through the metal buckle. Dusting his hands on the back of his swimsuit, he stood up and said “Okay,” in a satisfied tone. With his mother beside him, he walked on and disappeared in the crowd.
I moved on too, got my food and walked back to where my husband was reading. He looked up from his book. “What took you so long?” he asked, and I realized I’d lost track of time. Again.
“Oh, you know me,” I teased, sitting down beside him. “I was just watching all the boys.”
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' and can be reached at email@example.com
We weren’t even on the ship when the party started. I was still making my way through the embarkation process, listening to piped-in dance music and having a welcome photo made when the 70s dance anthem, I Will Survive filled the air.
Almost immediately, one of the Carnival Cruise Line employees joined in (Is it even possible to listen to Gloria Gaynor sing that song and not sing along?) In the next moment a group of women, all traveling together on the 8-day Caribbean Cruise, turned the corner and someone in the group started singing with the attendant.
Another woman, then another, joined and soon they were all standing side by side, arms linked, belting out
“Oh no, not I
I will survive
As long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive…”
The song ended. In minutes we were crossing the gangplank and stepping on board the brand new Carnival Breeze and I realized I was still smiling.
It was an excellent way to start the trip.
Even on a ship as big and busy as the Breeze, with more than 4,000 passengers of all ages and another 1,300 crew, I saw the girlfriend group once or twice— all dressed up on “elegant” nights or gathered in a circle of deck chairs, chattering and laughing—and each time they looked like they were having the time of their lives. I asked and they told me they were from Chicago and like those of us who live in the Northwest, they were already tired of slogging through wintery gray skies and cold winds. They’d been counting the days until they could turn their back on winter and spend a week sailing to the Caribbean with nothing to do but sit in the sun, a glass of something tall and cool in hand.
Winter has its pleasures, of course—skiing, sledding, hot chocolate and marshmallows—but for the most part it is a season that requires us to bow and surrender or, once in a while, escape. That’s what I was looking for. While the Windy City ladies were partying, I planted myself on a deck chair, my husband beside me, and simply soaked up the Vitamin D, hoping to store enough sunshine to see me through until spring.
I figured out pretty quickly that the Carnival approach is to pack up the party and hit the waves. All you have to do is relax.
And always, right overhead, shining down on the ship, there is the star of the party and the secret to surviving the greyest days of winter in this part of the world: that big hot Caribbean sun.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org