Monday, February 10, 2020

Days 7 & 8: Our Final Sea Days on the Carnival Magic

Our final two days at sea, and there's still plenty to do. I'm sure these two days will pass as quickly as every other day on our cruise. Pretty much like any day on any cruise we've taken. With our first activity starting at 9:30, we got up at 8:15 to have time for our standard "first breakfast" and not have to hurry. For us, this is by far the best way to start our cruise day, whether at sea or in port.

First breakfast

Coffee, croissants, and pastries for our enjoyment. At the top right of the photo is a small container of orange marmalade. That and a little butter goes perfectly with a buttery, flaky croissant. What could possibly make this any better? How about a dazzling view?

Breakfast with this view

Accompanying this view was a cool breeze and the sound of the water rushing by the hull. I could easily sit out here for hours just to take it all in. But we didn't have hours this morning, only a few minutes. I'm not complaining, though. We would be having plenty of fun at our Big Sexy Secret Santa Gift Exchange. We bought a gift in Curacao for the gift exchange, since it would be something unique. Come on, let's head down to deck 5 and meet up with everyone else.

Once again, Josh had arranged for the night club to be our meeting place. With all the space and ample seating, this was perfect for our gift exchange. We added our gifts to an already large pile, and drew our picking order number. The organizers set up a pretty standard "steal" rule where a gift could be stolen twice, then it was safe from any more steals. These types of exchanges are always fun, and it's funny watching people's reactions when their prize find is swiped at the last minute.

Josh gets things started
photo by Cindy Newman

Cindy found (and managed to keep) a Mr. and Mrs. Claus salt and pepper shaker. I stole this really colorful, iridescent drink tumbler. Everyone seemed to have a blast at the gift exchange, and even the CD made an appearance, bearing a gift cake for Josh and Susan. 

Well deserved!

Those candy canes scattered about the tray were individually crocheted by another Big Sexy cruiser for each of us to use as an ornament. There were so many that we got two of them for our tree. Yet another story for our tree that will evoke fun memories each Christmas for us.

With this bit of fun completed, we took our treasures back to the cabin and proceeded to the Pig & Anchor BBQ, instead of brunch in the MDR. This venue is only open for lunch on sea days, so we had today and tomorrow to take advantage of it. The Pig & Anchor is another Guy Fieri partnership food venue that Carnival has on many of their ships. For what is essentially a commercial scale preparation, the barbecue is actually quite good.

Ready for lunch?

Take your pick

Can't decide what you want? Take a little of each. Like Guy's Burgers and the Blue Iguana Cantina, this venue is included in your fare so if you enjoy barbecue, don't miss the opportunity to try it out. Make sure to sample the various sauces, too. With all the different combinations of meats and sauces, I'm sure there will be something to suit your fancy. 

Plate #1

Yes, "Plate #1" means there was a second plate. I had the pulled pork, chicken and Andouille sausage (one of them on a bun) with some baked beans. About the time we sat down, Josh, Susan and their daughter showed up, so we invited them to sit at our table. "Risty" showed up a bit later, and we grabbed a chair for him as well. 

A new game?

Not content with just eating, "Risty," Josh and Susan decided to form a human chain of sorts, linked by a water bottle and silverware roll. No, not a drop of alcohol was involved, just a love of fun. While Carnival offers many activities on any given cruise day, be it a port day or sea day, I still enjoy just hanging out with our friends. The trivia contests, name that tune, bingo and everything else is fun, but nothing beats the fellowship of friends and family enjoying each other's company.

Full from lunch, Cindy and I returned to the cabin to hang out on our balcony and even take a seaside nap. Why? Because we could! Later in the afternoon, Cindy needed to work on her Clue case files. Remember that from my earlier blog? Today in the Lobby on deck 3, all of the suspects would be available for two questions from each investigator. Cindy had already ruled out several suspects, locations and weapons, so she had a focused list of questions to ask.

During the final sea day tomorrow, the suspect, location and weapon would be revealed. After meeting all the suspects and listening to the other detectives' questions, Cindy was fairly confident she had everything right. She would turn in her form for a drawing. The first correct answer drawn would be the winner.

Tonight is our second of two formal nights so we took our time in the cabin getting ready. I finally managed to capture a few decent sunset shots, since there wasn't much cloud cover today. 

Sunset on Day 7

I avoided snacking throughout the day so I could enjoy dinner. Lunch held me over just fine until dinner, and I was ready to see what would catch my eye.

Appetizer: Wild Rice, Gruyere and Country Chicken Soup
Dijon mustard, Chives, Sage, Soft Butter

Of all the appetizers offered tonight, I selected this one to keep it light and save my appetite for the entree. The combination of Gruyere cheese with the mustard and seasonings made this a rich, silky soup.

Main: Filet Mignon
String Beans, Red Wine Sauce

Typically when I see "filet mignon" on the menu, I anticipate seeing the steak wrapped in bacon. My filet didn't come wrapped in bacon, but this did not diminish the flavor or presentation. Cooked exactly as ordered, this filet was tender and loaded with flavor. The green beans had just the right amount of snap that made them a pleasure to eat.

Dessert: Grand Marnier Souffle
Orange creme anglaise

Hhhmmm, interesting. If you look at the photos of my appetizer and dessert, they almost look the same. I can assure you, though, they didn't taste the same. This is another of Carnival's signature desserts, although not as well known as their chocolate melting cake. Between the fluffiness of the souffle and the punch of citrus, this dessert presents many layers of flavor and texture. It's also a lighter dessert, too. (Gotta save room for those late-night grilled ham and cheese sandwiched from Lido)

Now that we were finished with dinner, we changed back into our more comfortable clothes and hustled down to the comedy club to catch Ronnie Bullard's family show. It was every bit as entertaining as his adult show, and Cindy and I had a lot of good laughs from his jokes. We dropped by the Alchemy Bar for a nightcap and tried to figure out what we wanted to do next. 

Cindy was feeling the effects of all the accumulated fun and wanted to just relax in the cabin and watch a little TV and read. OK, no worries. I'll find something to occupy my time for another few hours. I ran into a couple of other Big Sexy cruisers who said Josh was also going to call it an early night. So, no Cigars Under the Stars tonight. 

Several of us watched Ronnie's adult show and true to form, went up to Lido for our nightly "sammich run." See? Soup and a light dessert helped ensure I still had room for a sandwich...or two.

I returned to the cabin and spent some time on the balcony before retiring for the evening.

Day 8: Our final sea day

What's better than sleeping in with my beautiful wife on a cruise? Very little! We woke up naturally around 9, but I did set my Kindle to wake us up by 9:30 just so we wouldn't sleep our morning away. We wanted to do brunch one more time, so we got dressed and took the elevators down to deck 3 to sign up for a table. We didn't see any other Big Sexy cruisers waiting, so we asked for the first available table. Just a few minutes later we were seated with two other couples and placed our orders.

Eggs benedict with crispy bacon

Properly dressed eggs benedict

Although I've mentioned this before, it bears repeating. When ordering the eggs benedict on the ship, ask for the Hollandaise sauce on the side. Otherwise, it gets very thick and unappealing if it sits under a heat lamp waiting for pickup. I ordered some cheese grits, too, and these arrived on a separate plate.

Cheese grits

These grits were divine! Just the right amount of cheese, the grits had the perfect consistency, not too runny or too thick. Yes, you can order the grits without cheese if you so desire. A nice, hearty breakfast like this would last all day, with only a snack here or there to keep me satisfied until dinner.

Here it is, our last day of the cruise, and we still haven't been on the waterslides. That was about to change, though. We stuffed our towels and sunscreen into our "beach bags" and went up to Lido to find a couple of loungers in the shade near the slides. As expected, Lido was pretty crowded, but what was not expected was to find two seats on Serenity deck, in the shade. Score! And we were that much closer to the stairs leading to the slides. 

So, ready to take the plunge and ride the slides? Let's go!

How high up are we?

I was happy to see that the short line was moving quickly and we wouldn't be spending too much time just waiting. With two different slides, you have two different rides. The "Twister" is the yellow slide you see in the photo above. It has several loops or spirals that will go in both directions. The orange slide is called the "Drainpipe," although I like to refer to it as the "Toilet bowl," based on the way you swirl around it and exit out of a hole in the bottom.

Here we go!


Photos from the slides are stills I captured from my GoPro. Cindy and I took turns sliding and filming each other, when we didn't take the GoPro with us on the slide. We took about three trips down each slide, and that was enough for us. Besides, the Groove for St. Jude event was taking place shortly and we wanted to be with the Big Sexy group for a photo. Cindy and I are both proud to be part of the Big Sexy cruisers who raised just over half of the entire ship's donations for that cruise. Yes, you read that correctly. Of the entire amount raised on the Carnival Magic for that week, our group donated just over half of that amount. Wow!

Oh, no! We have to go! The Clue reveal is happening soon, down in the main showroom, deck 3 forward. We need to turn in our guess and hope it gets drawn as the winner. We made it with a few minutes to spare, and dropped our guess into the box. Here comes Simon, the CD, to collect all of the entries. Annnnd we have a winner! A correct suspect, location and weapon. But it wasn't ours. Oh well, it was still fun.

From there we went to the final "Big Sexy" group meeting to close out a wonderful cruise. No we weren't done yet, not by a long shot. We still had one more Cigars Under the Stars tonight. Josh revealed the new t-shirt design for Big Sexy Flashback Voyage 4. Each year has gotten better and better, so I can only imagine what BSFV 4 will be like.

My family and friends will be shocked by this next revelation. Sometime between our last cruise and this one, Carnival made the brilliant decision to add gourmet donuts to their selection of treats. To quote Homer: Mmmmmm, donuts! And the shocking revelation? I didn't buy a single donut! No kidding! Each day we'd pass by and I'd think to my self: Self, you need to try some of these before the end of the cruise. I'd put it off thinking I could always get one the next day. And of course the last day just flew by without me taking the opportunity to buy one...or two. 

What would you pick?

Can I have one of each?

I'm going to make it a point to try at least one of these on our next cruise. Maybe I should be more realistic and add "of each" right after the word "one." You know......for "research." Yeah, that's it, I'll do it as a research project! Can any of y'all help me write a grant for this?

One final dinner for this cruise, then we need to pack and have our suitcases outside in the passageway by 10 pm. Since we want to hang out at Cigars Under the Stars and squeeze out every last bit of fun, we'll do this right after dinner and be done with it.

Speaking of dinner....

Appetizer: Caprese Salad
Tomato and fresh mozzarella, balsamico, virgin olive oil, basil

Another favored appetizer, I usually order two of these and share one with the rest of the table. The black discs in the photo are not olives. They are gelled balsamic vinegar pearls. Not pictured are the fresh basil leaves. 

Main: Jerk Pork Loin
Slowly roasted pork loin, marinated in island spices and herbs.

It always amuses me when I order this, and the waiter cautions me that "It is very spicy." My standard reply is to smile and say something like "No problem, I'm from Texas and we love everything spicy." If I've had something spicy earlier in the cruise, most of the waiters will remember and change their "warning" to "Mr. Patrick, would you like this extra spicy?"

Dessert: Chocolate melting cake
photo by Cindy Newman

Why not, right? One last chance to enjoy this before we leave. Warm, rich and chocolatey, it was the perfect ending to a perfect dinner. We said our goodbyes to our wonderful tablemates and bade them safe travels home. 

By now, we are pretty efficient in packing our suitcases. In no time, we had everything packed and placed our suitcases outside. We'd collect these in the terminal the next morning after debarkation. The rest of the evening was ours to do with as we pleased. 

Our first stop? You guessed it...the Alchemy Bar. We listened to one of the bands while our drinks were prepared and told Jovana how much we appreciated her superior service. With time now in fast forward, we took our drinks outside to join our friends for the final Cigars Under the Stars. And what an epic event it was! I'm honestly surprised we didn't have security come by as much as we were laughing and enjoying ourselves. 

Good times

It was wayyyy past midnight when we broke up the party. Several of us would have a long travel day ahead, which would probably start early. Hey, I'll sleep on the plane if I have to.

And just like that, our cruise was essentially over. We'd get up the next morning, eat breakfast on Lido (no room service on debarkation day) and depart the ship.

Heading home and final thoughts...

We were up early, at least for us. Being so close to Lido, we easily found a table by the window. Since our flight was for later in the afternoon, we were in no hurry to get off the ship, just to have to wait in the airport terminal to drop our bags off. 

As we snaked our way through the lines in the terminal, I heard this voice behind me: "Hey Patrick!" I turned around and Josh was waving to Cindy and me. Susan was right behind him with their daughter in the stroller. I waved back and wished them a safe trip home (all 45 minutes of it). 

Customs quickly and efficiently processed us and in short order we boarded a van to the airport. The terminal is close to the airport and less than 10 minutes later our driver dropped us off at the Southwest terminal. We were still more than four hours away from our flight, so we couldn't check our bags just yet. We saw Randy and his wife standing by their suitcases so we had the unexpected pleasure of visiting with them a little more before we truly parted ways. 

Once we checked our bags, we found the same restaurant we ate in last time we flew out of FLL. In fact, when we booked this cruise, my first thought was to see if this restaurant was still there. It was! Yay!

La Familia

And just like last time, I had the pork belly tacos. They were every bit as good as I remembered. "Airport food" has come a long way since I first started flying. Heathrow Airport in London (LHR) even has a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Would it be weird if I wanted to connect through LHR on a future flight just so we could try it out?

Pork belly tacos

Black beans and rice

The tacos came with a side of black beans and rice, which were flavorful and seasoned nicely. And one of the nicest things about this whole lunch? The prices were quite reasonable.

We took our time with lunch and even swung by a shop to grab a few snacks for the flight. It's not like we really needed these snacks, but why not? It's all part of the adventure.

Having the airport so close to the cruise terminal is convenient, but one "downside" is the view. We got seated near our gate and I happened to look out the window to see...

Our home for the past week

You'll have to click on the photo to see a larger format. The whale tail in the background belongs to the Magic. If we needed any more confirmation that our cruise was truly over, this was it. Cindy and talked about how much fun we had during this cruise and how amazed we were to be accepted into the Big Sexy cruiser family as quickly and completely as we were. For having met as strangers just a week before, we departed as family.

With a couple of hours yet to go, we were getting caught up on Facebook, e-mail and that sort of thing when we got another pleasant surprise. I had just read an update on Facebook from a scuba club friend of ours and remarked to Cindy that Dave was kinda sorta in the neighborhood.

Well, not exactly. He was in the neighborhood, like walking up to us. "Hey guys, I was wondering if y'all would be on this flight. I just switched to this one from a later flight."

Oh, cool, the "Pichelator" would be joining us on our flight home! Excellent!

Dave joins the party

Dave told us all about his diving adventures while we told him about our cruise. From his description of the diving he did, I could tell he had a blast. Then again, I've never heard any of his trips being anything less than an adventure.

Our ride home pulled up to the gate and we knew we'd soon be boarding and heading home. Today we'd be on N750SA, a 737-7H4. As we were getting seated, our captain informed us we'd be battling a headwind most of the way home, but we would still arrive very close to our planned time.

We departed on runway 10L and banked our way back west. With mostly blue skies, we'd have a great view for most of the flight.

Departing FLL

People often ask me why I insist on carrying my GPS receiver on every trip I take. Besides keeping a tracklog of our trip, it helps me identify where we are, and allows me to mark certain points to research later. 

As my GPSr indicated we were approaching St. Petersburg, I glanced out the window and saw the Skyway Bridge. I only learned its name after getting home and Googling "large bridge near St. Petersburg." Did I tell you how much I love technology?

Skyway Bridge

Even with our flight being slower heading west, it seemed to pass by more quickly with me alternating between visiting with Dave, and glancing between my GPSr and the world outside.

Slower than last time

But still making progress

By the time we got to Houston, cloud cover increased dramatically and it was almost sunset. We made a smooth landing on runway 22 and taxied to the gate. Baggage claim was a bit slower than usual, but with the amount of arriving flights, I could understand why. Cindy and I collected our bags and said our goodbyes to Dave. "See ya soon, Dave."

Luckily, our shuttle bus to the parking lot was just a few minutes away and we got to the car in short order. Very little traffic made our drive home just a short dash down the highway.

Home at last.

Well, there it is, my faithful readers. The end of my series on our Carnival Magic cruise. I truly hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

If you are a latecomer to this series, no worries. Just click here to go directly to the first blog in this series.

Do you want more? I can help. Below are links to three other series I wrote on our cruises.

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Vista

Carnival Freedom

Coming up next, my views of Tasty Humans.

Until next time...

carpe cerevisi

Friday, January 31, 2020

Day 6: Curacao on the Carnival Magic

And here we are, in our final of four ports for this cruise. After a nice, long slumber, Cindy and I had no difficulty getting up and starting our day. The ship was still a few minutes from docking, so we sat on the balcony to watch the process. First breakfast arrived within our requested time and we enjoyed our coffee as the Magic gracefully slipped into her mooring.

Hello, Curacao!

With the whole day ahead of us, we took our time sipping coffee, savoring our breakfast and watching all of the activity on the pier. Being in no hurry to get off the ship, I grabbed our small pair of binoculars to look at some of the more distant parts of Willemstad that we could see from our balcony. I happened to glance at one of the nearby piers and saw.....divers?

Yep, two divers, plus a "shore tender" (my words) were walking to the edge of the pier and studying the water. They discussed something amongst themselves, although I was too far away to hear what they were saying. In short order, the two divers jumped in with a classic giant stride entry. It was a lonnng way down, though, and I can only imagine how it felt hitting the water. 

Can we join y'all?

Let's zoom in a bit

That orange thing the diver in the foreground has is called a surface marker buoy ("SMB") or "safety sausage" in slang. A diver will tow this with him/her while diving, and lets people on the surface know that a diver is just under it. Cindy and I watched them swim towards the shore, then come back to the pier and swim around under it. It looked like they were doing some sort of inspection, based on their actions. We joked about this being a "dive excursion" where only two divers showed up, but also discussed our curiosity at what exactly they were doing. From the equipment trailer that was attached to their truck, it was obvious they were some sort of commercial diving operation.

At one point, they were under the pier and we could no longer even see their bubbles. We decided to start our day in Curacao so we headed out to see what we could see. I always take my GPSr with us any time we are in a port if for no other reason than to keep a tracklog of where we've been, or recording dive locations (with the dive operator's permission). With no luck finding any geocaches yesterday, we hoped to find at least one today.

By now we didn't even need to wait for an elevator to deck 0. One was immediately available and we were off the ship in a flash. I selected the nearest geocache to our position and we began the walk down the pier into town. It's December and feels like July at home. Definitely warm and humid today. 

Welcome to Curacao

Our first cache was located in the historic fort just a short walk from the cruise terminal. As I mentioned in my Aruba blog, all we had was the coordinates, no notes, hints or descriptions. Had I thought about it, I would've done it "old school" and printed out a select few cache pages so we'd have something to go on. No worries, we'll just do what we can and hope for the best. 

We walked through the Renaissance Mall to the Rif Fort. For being just 12 degrees north of the equator, it still felt like Christmas, heat and humidity notwithstanding. The area was decorated quite nicely and lent itself to a festive atmosphere.

It's that dude from Frozen
photo by Cindy Newman

Pretty tree!
photo by Cindy Newman

We didn't see any of this the last time we were here, as we went to the dive shop immediately after getting off the ship. I can only imagine what it would look like after dark, with all the lights glowing. In contrast to the Christmas decorations, the nearby fort with displays of different cannons lent an entirely different feel. 

Heavy metal

Big bore!

I tried to find a plaque or sign describing these particular pieces but didn't see any. I'm wondering if these are actually carronades.  Given their relatively short length and large bores, that's my best guess. Are there any historians reading this that could lend their expertise?

As we got closer to the actual fort, both Cindy and I noticed some of the stones the fort was built of weren't stones at all, but coral. This definitely gave us a new perspective on coral, as now we've seen it both live and as a building material. Just how old is this coral, anyway? If the fort was built in 1828, how old was the coral then? Most curious...

Fort wall

Closeup of some coral

The GPSr indicated the cache location was nearby, but after a thorough search, we couldn't find it. Having a description or hint definitely would've helped us, I think, but alas we gave up and continued on our way. 

View from near the cache site

We descended the narrow stairs back to ground level and I called up the next closest cache. Not only was it a quick walk, but we'd be passing by another landmark that Cindy wanted to see. Both of us forgot one important thing to bring with us to this landmark: a padlock. Even before we left home, we talked about getting a small lock and neither of us remembered to do so.

"Punda Love Heart"

This will just give us an excuse to come back, right? I honestly don't recall where we first heard about this sculpture, maybe on The Amazing Race or a travel show. Regardless of where we heard about it, I'm glad that we actually got to see it up close. Please remember that you can click on any photo to see a larger format of it without losing your place here. The same holds true with any links you see in blue. Clicking on them will just open another window and keep your place where you were.

I had to stop and photograph a few more cannons on the way to our next cache. Luckily, Cindy was still busy admiring the heart sculpture while I dashed over to the pair of cannons and snapped a few photos. 

24-Pounder Cannons

Descriptive plaque

Unlike yesterday in Aruba, we actually found two caches today while exploring the local area. I normally don't take pictures of the cache or where it's hidden unless the cache page specifically requires a photo to claim credit for a find. If the cache container is something unique, I'll take a picture but won't post it if it will be a spoiler. The two we found were standard containers for the size they were and didn't really warrant a photo. Which ones did we find? We found GC2M1VJ and GC7MPBG. Those links will take you to their respective pages on

Besides the obvious fun of finding a cache in new places, geocaching in places like this will invariably take you somewhere you never knew existed and would pass by without ever knowing it. From the No Name Beach Club in Cozumel to a SAR Base in Sitka, we've found some really cool places to visit. I encourage you to give geocaching a try, especially if you love to travel. You never know what's out there, like the Curacao Maritime Museum

This hidden gem was a fascinating look at the maritime history of Curacao from its earliest days until modern times. Both Cindy and I were impressed with the amount and variety of displays in this museum. There were many models of sailboats, tugboats, and ships of various sizes.

Smit Rotterdam

Tugboat & Tanker

Taras Amsterdam

Naturally, an old diving helmet caught my attention, and I had to take several photos of it as well. It was a US Navy Mark 5 diving helmet from around 1948.

Front view

Left side view

Right side/back view

We spent about an hour looking at all the exhibits then moved on. It rained while we were in the museum so the air outside felt almost like a sauna with the increased humidity. We had to cross this pedestrian bridge to get to the museum, but the unusual thing about this particular bridge was that it happened to be a drawbridge. The only other time I've ever seen anything even remotely like this was when I took a canal boat trip in the UK many years ago.

Pedestrian drawbridge

View along the bridge

With no specific plan, Cindy and I just explored the local area, stopping in several shops to see if something just jumped out and begged us to buy it. She found a pretty Christmas placemat and napkin set that we could use for the upcoming holiday. Scattered throughout this whole area were interesting sculptures and wall murals. 

A different kind of songbird

One wall mural, just down from the singing birds, definitely got my attention. It wasn't so much the exquisite painting of this raptor, but the text beside it. Calling upon all of my Lord of the Rings nerddom, I still couldn't decipher what it had to say. Maybe it wasn't Dwarvish...

What does it say?

If anyone reading this has any insight about this mural, I'd love to read all about it. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

About this time both of us started getting hungry, so we decided to return to the ship. If we happened to come across a unique shop, we stop and go in, but generally make our way towards the cruise terminal. 

Lunch is just over there

Hey, where's the bridge?

While we were having fun, exploring the area, the swinging bridge lived up to its name. There was already a growing crowd of people waiting for the bridge to swing back. Most took advantage of the time and found a shady spot to sit and relax. I overheard a couple of people talking and from what I gathered the bridge could swing back very soon or half an hour from now. Another passerby just shrugged and said he'd take the free ferry across. 

Free ferry? Oh, maybe that sign that says "Free Ferry" with the white arrow pointing to a loading area should've been my clue. We decided not to wait for the bridge and took the ferry across. As we got to the other side, about 10 minutes later, we got to watch the bridge swinging back into place. 

Our "all aboard" time was 3:30, and we boarded right around 2. Plenty of time! We dropped off our bags in the room and grabbed a light snack on Lido. Even this close to "all aboard," the Lido was still relatively empty so we were able to get our lunch in no time at all. For a change of pace, we took our sandwiches and drinks back to the cabin so we could eat our lunch on the balcony.

What goes great with lunch on the balcony? A short nap! I managed to dose a little, but our next-door neighbors apparently didn't know just how loud their door was every time it slammed closed. Every few minutes I'd hear a SLAM as they went back and forth between their balcony and cabin. 

An entertainer or DJ or whatever you want to call him was on the pier by the ship with a loudspeaker and was giving us a good send-off. Our sailaway time came.....and went. We were still tied up and there weren't even any line handlers on the pier waiting. After about half an hour passed, the CD made an announcement that the ship was waiting for two ambulances to transport some passengers who needed medical attention. Ahhh, so that explained the delay.

We got underway around 5:25 or so. I got dressed for dinner, then spent the rest of the time on the balcony, watching as we departed Curacao. I was able to watch until there was really nothing more to see before we had to go to dinner. Following are some shots I took as we left.

What a fantastic day in Curacao! I was ready for dinner by now and looked over the menu carefully. Hhhhmmmm, what looks good?

Appetizer: Honey Roasted Ham
Pineapple chutney, ginger bread, mustard mayo

This was......different. I liked the combination of ham and pineapple together, but overall I think I'll choose something else next time. It was a smaller appetizer compared to others, so for those with smaller appetites, this might be perfect. 

Main: Chicken Milanese
Charred lemon, sauteed green beans

One word best describes my entree: crunch! The breading on the outside had the perfect crunchiness to it, while the chicken was still tender and juicy on the inside. I'll add this to my "keeper" list as well. Put this on a toasted garlic bun and it would make a fantastic sandwich.

Dessert: Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake

Finally! Here we are, only a couple of days left on the cruise, and I'm just now ordering Carnival's signature dessert. Maybe that says something about how good the rest of the desserts have been. The dessert comes with only one dish of ice cream, but seasoned cruisers know to order it "Mickey Mouse style" like above. If you like rich chocolate desserts, this is absolutely for you. 

During dinner, we asked our tablemates how the Big Sexy private tour went. They agreed it went much more smoothly than the one in Aruba, and all seemed to have a good time. Excellent! I'm glad it worked out better this time. We'll have to hear all about it at Cigars Under the Stars tonight.

There are two new comedians aboard, Ronnie Bullard and Diane Ford. The first show, Ronnie's wouldn't start until 10:30 pm so we had plenty of time to hang out at the piano bar until then. We made a detour to the Alchemy Bar before finding seats at the piano bar. I'm going to try something different tonight based on Jovana's recommendation. Cindy agreed that something a little different was in order, too. I picked "The Deal Closer" to try, as Jovana had suggested it the other day.

The Deal Closer
Absolut Vanilia Vodka, Disaronno Amaretto, Irish Cream
and chocolate liqueur. The best advice this side of Dr. Whoever.

Bam! That's the sound of this huge chocolate flavor hitting me full in the face. Just a few paragraphs ago I mentioned how Carnival's chocolate melting cake is perfect for those who love chocolate. This drink would be the liquid-equivalent of that. A thick, rich, chocolatey taste hides any hint of that alcohol bite, so be careful with it. 

"Lemon Drop"

Wayyyyy back in 2008, Cindy ordered a Lemon Drop Martini while we were on an Alaskan cruise with Holland America Line and totally loved it. She's had several other versions since then but none have compared to what she had on the Westerdam. Until today. She described the flavor profile to Jovana and asked what she could come up with. And what, exactly, did Jovana produce? A winner! Cindy proclaimed this every bit as good as what she had on the Westerdam, and would most assuredly order this again. Yay!

Even though I've mentioned this a couple of times, in previous blogs, I'd like to remind y'all once more that Carnival has switched to environmentally friendly straws. These sugar-based straws eventually melt, so a thick drink like the Deal Closer really needs a "regular" straw. I'm going to order a set of stainless steel straws that we'll keep with our cruise gear to use with drinks like this. These are reusable and are available in many places.

We hung out at the piano bar, having fun until it was time for Ronnie's show. On the Magic, the entrance to the comedy club is literally just a few steps from the piano bar, so we didn't have far to go. As soon as the doors were open, Cindy and I went in and got great seats close to the stage. I've never really found anything spectacular on the comedy club's drink menu, so I try to grab something from the Red Frog Pub or Alchemy Bar if I have time. 

Ronnie put on a hilarious show, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Some people say I have a pronounced Texan accent, but Ronnie definitely has that Southern twang as well. And it works for him. As we filed out of the comedy club, he was there at the entrance, thanking people for coming to his show. I shook his hand and complimented his performance. Little did I know we'd be seeing him again shortly.

Other than Lido, our favorite public deck has to be deck 5, the Promenade Deck. Everything seems to be just a few steps away in any direction. From the comedy club, we swung by the Alchemy Bar on our way to Cigars Under the Stars. All of the bars were really hopping, and it took a bit longer for us to get our drinks than normal. No worries, though, as soon as our drinks arrived it took us less than a minute to join our friends on the Lanai outside the Red Frog Pub.

Our usual crowd was here, and I enjoyed hearing their stories of how the day went. It sounded like the private tour in Curacao was a blast, and everyone had a great time. With just two sea days left and then home, we didn't want to think about the end coming up. Since we were in a public area, there was always constant traffic of people walking back and forth. Some would give us strange looks as someone in our group said something funny and we all roared with laughter. We hadn't been there more than about 20 minutes when who should happen to walk by but Ronnie Bullard! 

Josh has known Ronnie for several years from his time as a CD. He got Ronnie's attention and invited him to join us. He didn't have another show tonight so he was happy to sit in with us and share the good times. One of our unofficial rules was that any new person joining our group had to say who they were, how they knew Josh and one interesting fact about them. It's a great ice breaker and oftentimes leads to some rather humorous conversations. Ronnie was no exception, and we made him go through the introduction as well. 

He hung out with us for about half an hour before calling it quits, and we all bade him good night. The rest of us continued to sit under the stars and keep the fun going for another hour or two. Yes, we made our obligatory stop on Lido for ham and cheese sandwiches or pizza before retiring for the night. How could we not?

And that wraps up our day in Curacao.

Next up, our two sea days and going home. Still lots of activities to cover, including our Secret Santa gift exchange. 

Until next time...

carpe cerevisi