We started out driving down to Galveston a few days ahead of time to semi-relax before boarding the ship. We divided our time between two bed and breakfasts there, The Lion's Paw Inn and the Stacia-Leigh . . . the latter being an older, 1940's sailboat-type inn that was right on the water next to the pier terminal that we were leaving from. We were able to watch our ship cruising into Galveston Bay the morning of our departure (about 5:30am) which was really pretty neat, even though the day was gray and gloomy. And too, we had been able to watch two ships cruise out of the bay both nights that we were in town -- one Carnival and one Royal Caribbean. Spectacular.
The morning we left, we had a great (protein) breakfast at the Stacia-Leigh where their dogs (Megan and Tugboat) helped all of us finish our breakfast. They have their subtle begging tactics down perfectly and filled the void for me personally, as we had left our own dog and cat at home. We were able to board the ship around noon.
We immediately found out that we were assigned to a table for six in the dining room. Aghhh! We wanted a table for two, and immediately put in a request for a change. They told us it was nearly impossible, but by 6:05pm, we had our 2-seater table, with what we thought was the best waiter in the entire dining room, Marcelo Affonso. He was quite possibly the best waiter we have ever had. Both he and assistant waiter Marvin, made our dining experience the best ever.
Our stateroom was wonderful. Roomier than rumors you hear, but smaller than what you see on "The Love Boat."
Anyway, after checking our seating assignment and our room, we went (where else?) up to the Windjammer Café to eat lunch. Afterwards, we really did a lot of exploring while we were still in port. And then, finally, dinner and Marcelo. He has a great dry sense of humor, and is precise in the caliber of service that he gives. From Brazil, he is focused on owning his own "salad restaurant" in the near future. There is no doubt in our minds that he will be a huge success.
Food was terrific that first night, and Marcelo got used to our ongoing request for extra vegetables every night. I'm sure he laughed when he saw us remove our croutons from the Caesar salad and never once touch our potatoes or rice. However, in total contrast to our "higher protein lifestyle," we had dessert every single night, sometimes two and ahhhh, I think three on one occasion.
Daily Routine & Entertainment
We started every day out with a 1-mile walk on deck. I'm sure it came in handy, even though we both put on about five pounds. (It will be gone within the week.) Thankfully I had pre-tanned at a tanning salon before we left so our daily sunbathing caused no problem, except for the day I laid out with my arms up over my head. Yeeeee-ouch ... in the armpits ... for a few days. Paul?? A natural cocoa bean -- he went from ivory soap to an espresso bean in 3.27 days. Pathetic.
The casino was wonderful. I think in the long run we came out ahead. Paul took the plunge and played a few games of craps. The first night was very good, and after a few more trials on that table, we stuck to blackjack, where he did quite well. Of course, those of you who know us know that we are big-time gamblers (about $20 a day). This way, it is still fun with no real loss, even if you lose. But it is much more fun when you are playing with the casino's money.
Entertainment was good. We personally enjoyed the Billy Joel/Elton John impersonator. Marty Allen was the prime comedian, and although we thought it was going to be a dud when we heard he was to appear, he (and his wife) were very good, and F-U-N-N-Y. Clean humor and all around very good show. I'm so glad we went, as we almost didn't.
Ports and Sea Days
The ports were hit and miss. Cozumel was rainy. We came back early after getting soaked! We decided to try our hand at the daily trivia contest, where we met a very nice Canadian couple with whom we spent a good portion of our time for the remainder of the cruise. English was most definitely their second language and we all had great fun at times trying to translate French to English and vice versa -- many good laughs.
The Panama Canal is not to be missed. We invited our new friends up to our cabin so we could see the locks close up off the balcony. They are really spectacular; we would never do it any other way. And the weather was picture perfect. We went through two or three sets of locks and then headed into Gatun Lake for the day. This is the day that Paul took about 320 million pictures, a few of which I might actually be in.
We also spent a little time at the Internet café aboard, to the tune of fifty cents per minute. Another first was taking a book of crossword puzzles long with us. Surprisingly, we both enjoyed them immensely. It makes a very good pool deck activity, unless you want to watch the 438-lb, large-breasted lady in the bikini bending over to pick up the hot dog and hamburger plate she dropped.
We educated ourselves in the game of shuffleboard. I'm sure this was the night that I beat the pants off of Paul.
Jamaica and Grand Cayman were gorgeous. We saw many different ships this day, from Disney, Celebrity, Carnival, Festival and Norwegian. So the port was busy, but quite fun. Paul got his signature shot glass at Hard Rock Café, Grand Cayman.
We never took any excursions this time, which is how we planned it. We just enjoyed the cruise and especially the sea days. We slept like babies; the lull of the ship always knocks us out. Our cabin was about as mid-ship as you can get -- we took the stairs everywhere we went. The first few days are always the hardest, and then it gets easier.
The End Has Come
Finally the end of the cruise came. It is such a sad day every single time we go through it. But then we remind ourselves that we will do it again, and then it seems to get better, thinking of all the new places we can explore the next time.
Paul Sparks is a pilot working for an overnight freight company and Cathy is a homemaker. See their earlier
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please