I mentioned before how depending on the specific itinerary, cruises out of Galveston will have either one or two sea days before reaching a given port. This cruise, for example, followed this pattern:
Day 1: embarkation in Galveston, set sail at 4 pm
Day 2: Fun Day at Sea
Day 3: Fun Day at Sea
Day 4: Montego Bay, Jamaica
Day 5: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 7: Fun Day at Sea
Debarkation in Galveston the next morning
Of the many times we’ve done this specific itinerary, all but one cruise followed this route. Last year on the Carnival Freedom, though, the ports were reversed, and we had one sea day at the beginning and two sea days at the end. I really like having the two sea days at the end. Does it make that big a difference, you may wonder? Before we started diving, I’d say “no.” After we started diving, though, our perspective changed.
We learned in our PADI open water course (and it should be common sense) that alcohol and diving do not mix. Obviously one shouldn’t dive while under the influence, but also just as importantly, one shouldn’t dive with a significant hangover, either. Being hungover generally means one is also dehydrated to some extent. Dehydration is one major risk factor of developing decompression sickness (“the bends”). Recreational diving, by definition, is supposed to be fun. There’s that “f word” again. My idea of fun is to not “get bent” on a dive.
It’s quite easy to over imbibe on a cruise if you aren’t careful. Sea days are the perfect way to relax, have a drink, take a dip in the pool, have a drink, listen to some Caribbean music, have a drink.... You can see how this will turn out, right? Realistically, we’ll not worry too much about what we drink on the first sea day, if we have another sea day after that. If we are diving the next day, we both curtail our drinking and stick with water, tea or soft drinks.
Cozumel and Grand Cayman are famous for the awesome diving. I’ve heard through multiple sources that Jamaica doesn’t have many good reefs to dive, so we typically find a land based excursion to do. If anyone reading this knows of a good diving spot near Montego Bay, I’d love to hear about it. When our itinerary was reversed from what we normally do, this put Mo Bay as the last port, with two sea days afterwards. We purchased a day pass at a nearby all-inclusive resort and had a blast. We were done diving and a little dehydration wouldn’t hurt anything at this point. No, we didn’t get too wild, but we did have a great time.
Our second “fun day at sea” started at 8 a.m., when our alarm woke us from a sound sleep. This is another benefit of an interior cabin: it’s nice and dark, making for a deep, restful sleep. Instead of room service for breakfast, we decided on brunch in the main dining room. My favorite breakfast in the MDR is eggs benedict and cheddar grits. Not the healthiest breakfast, I’ll grant, but it’s definitely a tasty breakfast. Here’s a tip if you like eggs benedict as well: Order the Hollandaise sauce on the side. The standard way it’s served is to have the sauce already on the eggs. If they sit under a heat lamp, the sauce gets way too thick.
One caveat to having brunch in the MDR is to not expect a rapid in and out meal. This is a more relaxed setting than breakfast on Lido. I recommend doing brunch at least once on a cruise in order to have that leisurely, relaxed meal and not worry about having to rush to eat. The pool and your next Funship Special will still be there when you are finished. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Now that we were sufficiently fueled for another day of fun, fun, fun, we changed into our swimwear and headed up to Lido. Lemme see you raise your hands if you’ve been on a Carnival ship and know what’s coming next. Yes, you there, back row, third from the left. No, your other left. Yes, you. What was that? Yes, you are correct! Time for the “Very Hairy Chest Contest!” Winner winner pizza dinner! The hairy chest contest has long been a favorite activity on Carnival ships, or at least the ship’s we’ve been on. I’ve never seen less than a fully packed Lido (and surrounding) deck for this event. Our friend Barbara even got to be a judge.
From a pool of about a dozen volunteers, six were chosen to compete, and eventually our three judges picked the ultimate winner. The grand prize? Nothing less than the famous “Ship on a Stick” trophy! Highly prized and sought after, this “24 karat piece of ship” shows the world that you are willing to do what it takes to claim this elusive prize.
We hung out in the pool for a while after the contest and had just enough time to head down to the cabin and get cleaned up for our next activity. I applaud Carnival for creating the Military Appreciation Gathering that happens on every ship on every cruise. This event is held in the main theatre and recognizes all veterans, active and reserve, as well as their families from all branches of our armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Each branch’s song is played and those who were in that branch are asked to stand and be recognized while the song is playing. Each branch above is a link to a YouTube video of their song. Note: I prefer the original Army song, versus the new version, so that’s what I linked to.
Some of y’all know that I served in both the US Army Reserve as well as the Army National Guard. I received my reserve commission in 1988, and was ultimately assigned to the Field Artillery branch. I am proud to have worn the uniform and stood ready to deploy if and when my country needed me. My only active duty time was during my Officer Basic Course at Ft. Sill. I never got the chance to deploy like many of my friends. Some saw combat and others served in active duty their whole career. These men and women (and their families) deserve recognition, not just on the ship but every day. Every.single.day! The next time you see someone at the store, or on the street wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” cap, or anything like that, go up to them, shake their hand and thank them for their service. You’d be surprised just how appreciative these people will be. I do this, every time I see someone wearing one of those caps. Every.single.time.
As proud as I am to have served in at least some capacity, I’m often embarrassed when people thank me for “my service.” I honestly don’t feel I earned that recognition, especially compared to those who were active duty, saw combat, or were injured or killed. After several of my friends, some combat veterans, told me I was wrong to feel that way, I reluctantly decided to attend this gathering and be recognized. I have to admit, though, that standing there among WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and current vets, I still felt somewhat like an imposter. Yeah, I know this is my own issue that I need to get over, but I’m just being honest here. Rusty and John, both of you are right. And yes, I did what you asked. I attended the event and felt proud. Thank you for the encouragement.
I promise to attend this gathering, as a veteran, any time I’m on a Carnival ship that hosts it. It’s not about me, it’s about supporting the other veterans. Thanks again, Carnival! You are doing a great thing.
After this event concluded, Cindy decided to donate some money….to Carnival…..in the form of bingo cards. I’m sure she was hoping that Carnival would give some back to her, in the form of jackpot prize money, but alas those pesky little balls didn’t want to match up to her cards. We had fun, though, in the way you can lose money and still enjoy it. (Is that even possible?)
Tonight’s dinner would be at the Cucina del Capitano. This is one of Carnival’s alternative dining venues available for a nominal surcharge. Cucina del Capitano first appeared on the Carnival Magic, and we became instant fans the first time we had dinner there. Cindy and I make it a point to have dinner at Cucina at least once during a cruise on any ship that has it. The portions are huge, and well worth the $15 extra per person.
While everyone at the table orders their own appetizers, entrees and desserts, if more than one person orders the same appetizer, it will be served family style. I like this idea, and sharing food like this makes the meal that much more enjoyable. As you’ll read in tomorrow’s blog, certain appetizers would make the perfect entrée for me. The arancini, or fried risotto balls, are fantastic! I could make a meal just with those.
Appetizer: Arancini, of course
Main: Bistecca Alla Griglia – NY sirloin steak with grilled tomato
Dessert: Sicilian Cannoli
Go ahead and say it. Everyone else does, including me. I say it every time I order this dessert. Don’t know what I’m referring to? Sigh…you have my pity. Click here if you need help figuring it out.
Now that we were well and truly stuffed, we needed to burn off some of this food. A big deck party on Lido was just a little over an hour away, so we hit the RFP for a drink and the comedy club for Mark Sweeney’s adults only show. The lounge was already full, so we stood in the back for his show and headed up to Lido. Unbelievably, two of our group stopped for ice cream! I’m not gonna mention names, KeithandCindy, but didn’t we just stuff ourselves on some awesome Italian food, including dessert? Ummmm, okaayyy…..
Cindy and Barbara definitely burned off dinner with all the dancing they did on Lido, including a huge conga line. OK, so maybe the extra ice cream didn’t hurt, but where did they find room for it? I was still stuffed at midnight when we called it a day.
Coming up tomorrow, I’ll tell about our day touring Montego Bay. Ya mon!