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Bernie Flies and Katrina Drives

With an 8am plane flight scheduled the next morning to get Bernie home to Idaho, we had to get up pretty early and skip breakfast. Thanks to Bernie, I finally got to see what the Transit icon on my GPS is for. I searched all over the GPS for a listing of the airport but was having no luck. Finally I looked under Transit which I had never looked at before. There I not only found the airport, but I found the exact terminal she needed to go to. The GPS did a great job directing us in and through the airport maze. I dropped her off and said goodbye until the next cruise. We both now know we want to cruise again. Unfortunately, my next two vacations are already planned so my next one will likely be April 2015. I’ll have to be content with my memories until then.

Heading home wasn’t in my plans just yet. I had personal business to take care of in Livingston, TX for one night and then off to New Braunfels (again) for a couple nights to see my doctor (again) and do some shopping. I had planned to do some tent camping but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was too wet and cold to sleep on the ground. I had to motel it. In Livingston I stayed at the Economy Inn just south of town on 59. Nothing fancy but for one night it was OK. I wouldn’t vacation there. Just so you know, the pool they claim to have no longer exists. They filled it in with concrete so they wouldn’t have to bother with it and have never updated their listings. I hear breakfast doesn’t exist either. I wouldn’t know since I had a fridge and microwave in my room to use.

While in Livingston, I finally tried out Church’s Chicken (since I haven’t been able to find KFC down here in Texas). It’s cheaper than Popeye’s and good but not a replacement for KFC. NOBODY does coleslaw right but KFC.

I saw my insurance agent who happened to be at the Escapees park while I was there. I have said it before, if you want really great service and prices from someone who cares, knows their stuff, and isn’t just trying to sell you something, call Chris or Charles Yust with CandCRVInsurance. DON’T tell them I sent you. I’m one of their more “messy” customers but they still do great work for me and I love them!

Once my personal business was finished, I had to leave in a thunderstorm with high winds to get to New Braunfels. If I had my trailer with me, I never would have travelled in that. It was not at all fun. Thank goodness Chris and Charles told me the best way to get around the horrible Houston traffic. It was worth the tolls but I had to reprogram my GPS to get it to use the toll road. I had turned off toll roads long ago when the toll roads all over the East coast ate my bank account and spare change. I drove straight to the Red Roof Inn which I had checked out and programmed into my GPS long ago as a backup for vacations. I got one of their King rooms which I liked very much. It is very large, has an L-shaped desk for business travelers and computer geeks, and had a fridge and microwave oven which I love to get. Their pool does exist though it was too cold to try it out. The location is excellent right in town near the Wal-Mart and HEB. I would stay there again.

I had to get my Texas driver’s license while I was there and I have to say it was the first time I ever enjoyed the experience. Their office is automated using a kiosk you sign into with your cell phone number and text alerts sent to your phone. Whatever you do, don’t reply to the one telling you how long a wait you have with the letter “M”. It adds another 20 minutes wait time. Don’t ask how I know. Oops! The gals working there were very nice and one was especially funny. When the office started to fill up, she turned to us and started telling us “Go ahead and go to lunch if your hungry. We’ll text you when it is your turn. Ladies, go get that new Easter dress or shoes you know you want. You have time. We’ll text you. Guys, you need a new tie for Easter, don’t you? Maybe you have some other shopping to do. Go for it. Oh look there’s a smart one leaving.” She waved at me as I trotted off to lunch. After lunch, I started heading back when I spotted a propane place so I pulled in and filled my empty propane bottle in the back. Geez! The price of propane sure has soared! So glad I figured out how to heat my RV solely with the free electricity I get from my company’s generator. Just as they were finishing, I got a message that I was next in line. They weren’t far but by the time I got there, I missed my turn. No problem. All I had to do was reply to the “we missed you” text message and they put me next in line. What a great way to run a DMV! Love it. Got a temp license. Hope the picture is decent when I get my permanent one in the mail. A girl can dream.

I got a chance to hit up Red Box to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was very good. I stayed up late to watch it with a Domino’s pizza I had ordered in. Haven’t done either of those in quite awhile. Can’t wait to see the next Hunger Games movie. One of Katniss’ beaus has got to go because her flipping back and forth is making me dizzy. What they did with the dress was terrific as a form of flipping the finger to President Snow. All I’m going to say.

Finished up the shopping and made the doc happy with a visit. It was time to go back home though I had no idea where my home was. We were released from my gate while I was on the cruise and my support folks had to move my trailer off the ranch. I was homeless! I was about to call to get a destination to go to when one of them called to tell me we got called back again so they took my trailer back to the same gate. Criminy! What a waste of time, effort, and gas! I returned back to the gate and work. Traffic is not slow but easily handled. I’m getting some sleep at night. Zzzzzz.

End Of The Cruise – Not The End Of Fun

In the morning our final Sail and Sign card bills were shoved under the door and taken care of. Mine was less than $100 so I was happy I had controlled my spending onboard. I’m sure others who were drinking a lot were not so happy. Oops!

We went up on deck one more time and then to breakfast. As priority FTTF passengers, we were put in the number 2 group to disembark. We were given instructions to be in the Rome Lounge on deck 3 at 8:30 am. It proved to be very confusing because the cruise director, Jen, kept constantly announcing that everyone should stay off deck 3 as they would be turned away. They need to clarify their special instructions about that to tell us to ignore the announcements. We made it down to the lounge a bit late and found quite a few people already there. It took a long time after we docked to get customs to clear the ship and start unloading. They took the self-assist people first (those carrying all their own luggage off). That took a long time too. The big screen in the lounge was showing cartoons to try and keep the kiddies entertained. An hour later when they finally got to us, they called our number then immediately starting calling a bunch of other numbers behind us. That really swelled the line. It moved reasonably fast though. Once again they scanned our cards and we headed down the never ending turns of the gangway. While out on the open part of the gangway, we waived for several minutes to the Galveston cruise cam mounted on the Harbor House while Bernie got her daughter on the phone to grab a pic of us. Score another webcam geocache for us! You can’t really see us but it was good enough.

Galveston Cruise Cam Geocache

Down in the terminal, we found our bags. One of mine was put in the wrong group despite the clearly numbered tag so be sure to look around if one of yours goes missing. With my duffel bag now much fuller than when the cruise started, I whined a bit about the weight and my friend went to get a porter for us. That turned out to be a very fortunate and smart whine. The porters get to bypass the long line that snaked back and forth through the terminal. He grabbed all our bags and whisked us off to the far side and right into a short line at customs. We showed our passports and handed over our customs forms to a very nice smiling fellow who waved us right through. Next came the Texas tax authorities which we were able to bypass since we hadn’t brought any booze or cigarettes back with us. BEWARE: Texas charges big taxes on that stuff so most of it will not be any bargain when you are done paying tax on it. I think they charge $4 per bottle of liquor. Know before you go!

Our porter swept us past the tax authorities and outside where he dropped off our bags with Bernie while I went to get my truck. He offered to take the bags all the way to our parking but the terminal was so busy and I felt he was really needed there to help others get through the long lines. We tipped him well. I got my truck and didn’t have too hard a time getting into the terminal area and finding Bernie. Everyone seemed to be pretty well behaved and there wasn’t any horn honking. We went straight from there to the Inn at the Waterpark nearby in Galveston.

The Inn at The Waterpark was pretty decent. They were nice enough to give us a room on the first floor and I really liked how it was laid out and how spacious it was. We put on our bathing suits and headed over to the Schlitterbahn Waterpark almost next door. The waterpark parking lots are right behind the motel. I had a coupon to get one of us in for free I was itching to use. I got it with my New Braunfels Schlitterbahn yearly pass at the end of last season. Now for any of you that are wondering how we got in during April which is out of season, the Galveston waterpark is part inside and that part stays open. We had a fantastic time! We went round and round on Torrent River, explored the wave pool, hit the hot pool which is very hot and has a bar in it, and hung out on the beach. I introduced Bernie to smoked turkey legs for lunch. YUM! We stayed until closing time.

Before going back to the motel, we went after a geocache very close by. It was at an aircraft museum and was hanging in plain sight (if you have good eyesight)  on the fence. Just as I found it, a couple pulled in near us. Considering the odd place we were parked, we knew it had to be more geocachers and it was. We all got to sign the log and they put it back.

We went back to the motel to change and go to dinner in their restaurant. The food was pretty good. We also looked over their miniature golf course which looked very interesting. We didn’t have time to play but will keep it in mind for the next time we stay there. It was that time… Zzzzz.

Sea Day Two

The weather was great. Breakfast in the dining room was great. Alas, it is time for a down day. We’ve had enough sun and just felt like resting that day. After a nice round of golf topside, we decided to veg out in our cabin with some TV and the nice soft beds. Our steward poked his head in a couple times so we told him not to bother with us until evening. We did go up topside for food at lunchtime and to try out the tacos. They certainly had a lot of fixings to put on them.  They were good. I spotted turkey on the menu in the buffet area so we hit that line up too. The turkey was fine but they have no clue what dressing is supposed to be made of. It was some sort of white glop with beans. Yuck! At least they do know how to make cheesecake. Mmmm!

Carnival Triumph Oceanview StateroomCarnival Triumph Oceanview

After lunch we rolled ourselves back down to the cabin for awhile. It’s nice to be able to just rest on a cruise and not be pushed into doing activities if you don’t feel like it. I tried to get a shower but the water was just barely warm. We weren’t entirely sure if that was normal or not with so many people on a ship but we didn’t feel like bothering to report it since we were headed back to Galveston and would be off the ship in the morning. I’m told that isn’t normal.

The show that night was passenger talent night and after seeing their performances at karaoke, we weren’t too excited to go to that. After packing our bags and leaving them outside our door to be picked up for tomorrows return home, we did check out the bingo game which was far less boring than you would imagine. The emcee was very lively and funny. Somebody won $1,000! I would definitely go to that next cruise.

We went to dinner in the dining room and finally got put on the upper tier of the main floor. There, we had a wonderful view of the singing and dancing waiters. They do their own little show for a few minutes at every dinner. We got to twirl our napkins with them and sing along. The second song they did was the Macarena and lots of guests joined in. It was very cool!

London Dining RoomCarnival singing waitersMacarena time!

After dinner, we just moseyed around listening to the live music here and there. We checked out the final sales in the ship stores too. When we got back to our room, we found our room all made up by the steward with beds turned down and our nightly chocolates waiting for us. I wish I could have brought our steward home. I miss that. A little more packing of our carry-on bags and it was time. Zzzzz.

Cozumel, Mexico

Our excursion for the day was going to be more laid back so we had more time for a nice breakfast in the dining room. Yay! We really like the dining room breakfasts. Once our hunger was satisfied, we made our way back down to the mysterious deck 0 again and had our picture taken as we were getting off. This time, we shared our berth with another Carnival cruise ship, the Breeze. We could see it had some different recreation from ours such as a waterslide with a bowl to go round and round until you are flushed down through it and they have a rope climbing course. I for one will be going on that ship someday to check those out!

Carnival Triumph and BreezeCarnival Breeze waterslideCarnival Breeze ropes course

We wandered around the marketplace a bit, took a picture to set the tone of the day, and then made our way to the taxi stand where many folks were lined up to get to the local beaches by sharing a ride and splitting the $16 cost.

Two Cozumel fools

We caught a cab to Nachi Cocom beach resort for an all-inclusive excursion we had booked through a private company (not the cruise line). For $55, we got our own lounge chairs and umbrella, access to their pool and hot tub, access to their beach, and all the drinks (alcohol or otherwise) as well as food we wanted. This beach club limits the number of people allowed in to 100 so it is quieter and less raucous than others. The pool is a little cold but we still enjoyed it. We especially liked the wading area on the end. The large hot tub was fine and filled to capacity with happy people. The beach was white loose sand, not at all like our beaches. Whether you walked on the dry part or the wet, you sank right in since it doesn’t pack down like American beaches. That made making sand castles pretty hard to do. The water is warm and gorgeous though. I have never seen such colors! It was shades from a light green, to cerulean, to true navy blue. I tried out my snorkeling equipment I had brought with me and snapped some underwater pictures to test out the waterproof pouches we had bought on Amazon. The pouches didn’t leak and while a little odd to use when taking pictures, they did work as advertised. Next time we’ll have to try snorkeling a reef. Sorry, you don’t get to see any goofy pictures of me in my snorkeling gear and fins. Too bad! Do think I got a pretty good pinup picture of Bernie by the pool for her husband though. He he!

Lounging on the Nachi Cocum beachNachi Cocum pool and barThe wonderful Cozumel beach and water

After awhile, hunger set in so we sat ourselves at a table on the patio and ordered lunch from the menu. The service wasn’t particularly great but the food was good. We took our time enjoying every morsel. I forgot to try the non-alcohol pina colada I had heard they had but enjoyed the soda.

At 1pm, we went out on the dock to await a boat that would take us parasailing, an extra add-on we purchased for $90 for both of us. It was on my bucket list and I figured if I was going to do something foolish, it would be nice to do it with another fool. Hence, the tone setting picture above. LOL The boat was a little late but did show up before we chickened out. They hooked us up in tandem so we could share the moment and were kind enough to agree to take pictures of us and boy did they ever! Here it is folks! Despite those who doubted we would really do it, we went flying like kites on the wind! Yeehaw!

Bernie and Katrina fooling around in CozumelBernie and Katrina parasailingFlying high parasailing

We got back in time to do a little more swimming then joined a group in a cab ride back to the dock. We got a little bit of time to do some shopping. Gotta have those postcards ya know! Living in an RV as I do, I don’t have room for bunches of bric brac souvenirs and it seemed like the prices were higher in Cozumel than in Progresso. I know a flute that sold for $1 in Progresso cost $4 in Cozumel. T-shirts were higher too. Don’t ask me about the cost of booze there or bringing it back since I don’t drink.

Getting back on ship took longer. Everyone seemed to come back at the same time, the last few minutes before we were supposed to sail. Once we were onboard, we went to our room to change and then up to the sail away party on the Lido deck. The music was loud and good, the ice cream was flowing throughout, and everyone was having a good time. Our DJ teased the Breeze passengers who were hanging over their rails watching us.

There was another wonderful show later. This time it was a magic show. After the show we had dinner in the dining room again though it wasn’t as nice an experience as all the other times. The service was not as good. My water glass was empty too much. I ordered the chicken breast and mushroom fettuccine but while I got a large portion of the very delicious fettuccine, the chicken breast was nowhere to be found despite much searching and stabbing the plate. By the time the waiter came around to check, I was already angry and getting full. I didn’t appreciate him laughing at my loss.

Oh well, there was plenty more music to be had that evening. We took some quick naps then got up to catch the raunchy adults only show in the Del Rio Lounge. It was standing room only by the time we got there. I liked the dancing and singing very much but was very glad none of the scantily clad girls was my daughter. Once again I am very grateful to God for only giving me sons. Time to retire for the night after checking the news on that plane again and hoping for the best. Zzzzz.

Progresso, Mexico

The night before we docked in Progresso, we found tickets in our cabin for the excursion we had booked. With an all day excursion to the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins ahead including a 2 hour drive each way, we had little time for breakfast so we hit the continental breakfast being served in the buffet area. It wasn’t much but adequate to start the day. After breakfast, we joined the other first time cruisers in trying to find the right elevator to get to deck 0 which we didn’t even know existed prior to the docking announcement. We did find it though and managed to help a couple of other lost souls along the way. Getting off the ship was fairly easy. They scanned our Sign and Sail cards then ran us through a photo op on the gangplank. We stepped off onto the world’s longest pier (5 miles long!) and walked a short distance to where buses and tour guides awaited us with signs. Once we were lined up, the guide took off through the marketplace and we scrambled to keep up while ogling all the exotic goods around us.

Carnival Triumph, Me, and George at Progresso

The buses appeared very well kept and modern. They were thankfully very well air conditioned. My one gripe about them would be the seats. They are soooo small and close together. There is no leg room, the seat belt dug into my hips, and there was nowhere for my elbows to go but into my seat mate. I truly felt like a sardine. It’s a good thing I was traveling with a very good and close friend. At least they had pockets in front of us to hold our water, etc. We brought our own filtered water bottles, hats, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, wallets, Sail and Sign cards, driver licenses for ID, and camera with us.  I fell asleep in the tight quarters and slept half the way there. Bernie fell asleep on the second half.

We stopped at a little tourist trap just before arriving at Chichen Itza. There we were able to use the restroom, buy drinks and munchies, and gawk at souvenirs. Getting back on the bus, we were handed our sack lunches for the day and ice cold bottles of water. They were actually very tasty and hit the spot right then. I saved my bottle of water for the trip back to the ship later.

We quickly arrived at our destination and as soon as we were all off the bus we were chasing after the tour guide and his sign again. It was sunny and in the 80s. The tour was pretty interesting and standing in front of the pyramid was awesome. I had written a school report on the Mayans in 6th grade but actually being there was somehow much more complete for me. We clapped our hands and listened to the reverberation which sounded like the howl of a wild animal like a jaguar. Bernie and I both got our pictures taken in front of it to claim the virtual geocache there. How cool is that to claim a geocache in a foreign country?!

Chichen Itza Pyramid Virtual Geocache

The tour guide showed us the ball court which always reminded me of the Harry Potter game Quidditch with the rings mounted vertical instead of horizontal like basketball. The ball court is much larger than I imagined and the rings are much higher than I could ever throw. There was some talk about the leader of the losing team being sacrificed after the game. Tough fans!

Chichen Itza Ball RingChichen Itza Ball Court

After showing us the warriors pyramid where human sacrifices were done, the wall of skulls (with a live iguana on it), and a few other buildings, we had about an hour to walk around on our own to explore, snap pictures, and shop the many vendors setup around the grounds. Flutes, jaguar calls, and T-shirts seem to be big business there. When the hour was up, everyone headed back to the bus. A local came up to us and escorted us straight back to our bus for a tip. Tips are very popular both on cruise ships and in Mexico. Even the lady in the bathroom that hands you a paper towel gets tipped!

Chichen Itza Warriors TempleChichen Itza Wall of SkullsChichen Itza Vendors

Another 2 hour ride and we were back at the marketplace out on the pier near the ship. Looking around had to be quick so we could get back on the ship in time before it sailed. There was an ambulance next to the gangway taking a passenger off the ship who was too ill to continue the cruise. There were a couple of gangways to get back onboard. Be sure to look for the shortest line when you get there. To get back on the ship, you have to show your Sail and Sign card and ID. Then you put everything you are carrying through a scanner like the airports use and step through a people scanner. Take your hat and sunglasses off.

Once onboard, we went to our cabin to drop our things off then went out to go check the photo gallery for our formal dinner pics and Progresso debarking pics. We checked out the ship’s store where I scored a “Cruising the Caribbean” T-shirt on sale and postcards for my family. I’m very big on sending postcards to share my experiences with those I love. Since Bernie was there with me, I saved some money by not having to buy her a postcard for a change. LOL. We then went for the oh so necessary ice cream cones before getting ready for the show that night and dinner after. Others were out on deck at the sail away party up on Lido. It must have been quite a party. The ship was bouncing all over as we sailed on. We got a taste of rough seas all that night. Walking down the halls became an adventure in itself and sitting down did not escape the rolling waves. We took our ginger capsules and wore our Sea-Bands to keep from getting sick. They worked!

As we had done previously, we stopped in the Capitol Lounge to get drinks and listen to the musician there until show time. The show was excellent again. It is different every night. Dinner in the dining room was also excellent. We checked out the karaoke in the Del Rio Lounge. Yuck! One girl was OK but the rest stunk. We left after a very short time. Back in the casino we got to hear the good country band again. It’s fun just sitting there watching the drunken partiers dancing as the other casino guests plunked coin after coin into the machines.

Back in our cabin for the night, we watched a bit of news on TV. I don’t know why the news comes from Florida for a Texas ship. No luck finding the Malaysia plane yet, eh? We continued to wear our Sea-Bands to bed that night. I yelled at Bernie to stop rocking my bed all over. She yelled at me for the same thing. Finally Zzzzz…

Day at Sea

We slept very well and awakened to calm seas and lovely sunshine. Rather than hit the buffet for breakfast, we went to the Paris dining room. There, we were seated at a table with other guests for some entertaining conversation. Breakfast is the most “normal” meal they serve. They have cereal, eggs, pancakes, waffles, omelets, juice, sausage, bacon, hash browns, etc. I had steak and eggs which were delicious. Bernie had the Eggs Benedict. One thing the ship definitely does right is the portions of meals. They aren’t large which helps to keep you from over-eating. You can order more than one side or entrée but even those are kept small to let your stomach catch up with your eyes and avoid as much waste as possible. Be sure to order orange juice, hot cocoa, milk, or chocolate milk if you want it. They aren’t provided by default like coffee is.

Good news was announced. The trip back to Galveston last night would not delay us or change our schedule. They made up the time during the night so we would still arrive in Progresso, Mexico on time. We later heard that the passenger in distress was either a baby that had a seizure or a child that fell from one deck to another. Best wishes go out to him and his family.

After breakfast, we played a round of miniature golf. The course is very nice and laid out well so it isn’t too difficult for anyone but still fun. Clubs and balls are sitting right there for your use and don’t need to be checked out or in.

Miniature Golf With Bernie

We did some more ship exploration then donned bathing suits and headed up to Lido deck 9 and the 3 hot tubs there. As expected, the hot tubs tend to stay pretty full. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the all kids in them violating the rules. They are not supposed to be in there without a parent per the rules posted at each one and they play in them like they are swimming pools which is also forbidden. Expect to have to point out the rules to them and even kick them out if necessary. Other than the kids, the hot tubs really are wonderful with great views and they help a lot after walking the length of the ship back and forth all day.

Triumph Hot Tub

We did the slide for fun. It is worn but fun. Laying down on it works better than sitting.

I checked out the pool. It is well designed with benches all around, a wide wading edge, showers, and good depth. The pools aren’t large but do seem to be adequate. There are 2 on Lido and one aft which has a cover that opens and closes above it like some ball parks. The pools, unlike the hot tubs, are also filled with salt water and unheated. The showers next to them are warm and plain water to wash off when you are done swimming.

The most popular things to do on Lido around the pools is lay in one of the many lounge chairs, drink, play games, listen to a DJ playing very loud party music, and dance. There is lots of sunbathing, partying, and dancing going on there, especially during sail away parties. There is plenty of food available right there or in the buffet area inside.

Carnival Triumph SlideLido DeckMusic performer

Speaking of food, we tried a Guy’s burger for lunch. It is every bit as large, greasy, and delicious as they say online in cruise forums. Once you have your burger and fries, there is a condiment station where you can add the usual ketchup, mayo, pickles, and onions but they also have tomatoes, shredded lettuce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, etc. You can make it any way you like! The fries are also very good with a little seasoning on them but not too much. I wouldn’t suggest eating one of these every day. Later in the day and possibly all night long you will know why.

Of course, a day at sea or a dip in the hot tub is not complete without ice cream! There are soft ice cream and yoghurt machines on both port and starboard as well as fore and aft in the buffet area. They provide both dishes and cones. You can have chocolate, vanilla, or both twisted in some machines. Others have chocolate and strawberry. Eat all you want at any time, day or night. Go ahead, no one will tell on you. What happens on the ship stays on the ship.

That afternoon, we met up with a group of folks I met on Facebook. They were having a cabin crawl and poker run. Best $5 we could have spent! We all went to several different types of cabins they arranged so we could see what the various types had and looked like for future bookings. That was sooo informational! In the cabins, we found goodie bags with candy and alcohol drinks. We also picked up a playing card at each one for the poker run. Best hand at the end won the pot. I got a lousy pair of fives. :-(

Later that evening we went to another show in the Rome Lounge. It was spectacular! I think the professional shows are the best or almost the best reason to cruise. We like the 7pm show every evening. It is always different.

This night was formal night in the dining room. There were photographers set up on several floors with different backgrounds to shoot pictures of us all in our best duds. Take as many pictures as you want. Bernie and I dressed up before going to the show then we got our picture taken and went to a late dinner. Bernie got the lobster and I ordered the prime rib. Yum! It was fun being dressed up for one night and seeing everyone else in their best. For fun, we also painted our nails and wore dress sandals to show them off.

After dinner, we went to the casino to listen to a great live country band before heading off to bed. If you have the stamina, there is music and other activities going on most of the night. When you return to your room for the night, you will find your bed turned down, a different towel animal, and chocolates. Who knew going to bed could be so exciting!

Cruising As My Next Frontier

Now that I have finished RVing almost all of the USA, it is time to start my cruising years. My parents were avid RVers and cruisers. Many RVers make room in their lives for both. Being in Texas currently, I decided to book a Carnival cruise out of Galveston with a good friend of mine, Bernie. We started our vacation yesterday. Bernie flew in to Houston and went to the Ramada Inn. I got a relief person to move into my trailer to handle the gate I was on and drove over to Houston to meet Bernie and spend the night before heading down to the cruise terminal in Galveston. I must say the beds were incredibly comfortable. We really enjoyed them. The room had a fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. The pool looked nice with a fountain flowing into it at one end though it was too cold outside to swim. They provided us with a free breakfast that was excellent! The scrambled eggs were true perfection. We could make our own waffles. They had very tasty sausages, pastry, orange juice, and coffee. Yum! I can recommend a stay at the Ramada definitely.

After breakfast, we drove the 54 miles down to Galveston. With the help of GPS, we had no problem locating the Park n’ Cruise near the terminal. Their staff were excellent in checking for my reservation and helping me to back in to an indoor secure spot between two posts. I was a little skeptical but he really knew what he was doing. As we scrambled out of my truck, a golf cart showed up to take us and our luggage down to the corner to cross to the terminal. We handed off our checked luggage to a very nice baggage handler then took off to see a bit of the area and do some geocaching. We scored 5 geocaches including a webcam cache (a first for us). We tried to do the second webcam cache but, unfortunately, the camera was pointed to a location we were unable to access. For a webcam geocache, you have to be caught on an internet linked camera to claim it. We’ll try that one again when we get back. Another cache we only got because Bernie was tall enough. Us short people are out of luck with that one without some tall help.

Galvestons Strand Cam geocache

Wore out and feet hurting, we went back to the truck to get my carryon bag and walk back to the terminal to check in. It was 11:30AM and the lines going in were very long. Thankfully, I spent quite a bit of time online waiting for a chance to grab a “Faster To The Fun” spot and got one for $49. With FTTF, we were able to breeze past the long lines as VIP travelers. We walked right past all the serpentine lines on the bottom level and began to get the feeling that we had done something right. Going through security was fairly fast again in our own FTTF line. When we arrived upstairs to get our Sail and Sign cards to board, again we bypassed the long lines snaking back and forth. Yay! The only wait we had was for them to print our cards. We were both smiling like Cheshire cats by that time and highly recommend the FTTF program where you get many of the benefits of Diamond and Platinum cruisers who have sailed many times with the company. It’s worth every penny to us. You also get a special shorter line onboard at the guest services desk, a special phone number to them, priority boarding on tenders at ports of call that use tenders, and priority disembarkation when you return home.

Getting on board the ship was an adventure in itself. Once we had our boarding cards, we went up a ramp that then turned and took us back the other way. As we neared the end of that one, it turned again and took us back the other way. Sheesh! I think it had us running back and forth 3-4 times before we actually got on board. Our feet were hurting so bad and our bags got heavier by the minute but we were laughing all the way. When we finally arrived, we went straight to our room, 2351, an outside cabin with a window view. It was already ready for us thanks to our FTTF priority. We dropped off our carry-ons and headed to the Lido deck for lunch at the buffet. I wouldn’t call it the best I have ever had but I did enjoy it. Couple things to note:

1. If you want milk or chocolate milk, ask for it. They don’t put it out in the beverage area. They may have cartons in the buffet line.

2. If you leave your seat, when you get back, your dishes may be gone as they are very good  about keeping the tables cleaned up. I still had some chocolate milk left and was smart enough to take it with me when I got up to look for dessert.

Next we explored the ship. We had fun using the glass view elevators aft to explore each floor. The elevators at the center of the ship were unavailable because they were being used to bring all the luggage to the cabins (They set the luggage outside the doors in the hallway btw). We found our muster station to prepare for the safety drill later. We checked out the stores that were still closed. We found all 3 pools and the hot tubs, the waterslide, miniature golf, basketball court,the picture gallery, the theater, the jogging track, the library, our dining room assignment, and other areas.

Carnival TriumphMiniature GolfLondon Dining Room

Just before the ship sailed, we attended the muster drill to learn what lifeboat to go to in case of an accident and how to put on our life preservers. The talk wasn’t long but it took a bit of time to get everyone out there. When the drill finished and we were dismissed, the party began as the ship pulled away from the dock. Up on the Lido deck, a DJ was blaring some excellent tunes as folks danced by the pool, stretched out on lounges, or hit the hot tubs. Everyone was ready to party hearty! Many were dressed in matching specially designed T-shirts for their group which made the party and people watching more fun. We stayed out there enjoying it until the sun started to set and the wind chilled things down.

Family group ready to partySweethearts dancing

We browsed one of the stores and the Rome theater on the way back to our cabin to get coats. With a quick stop in the Capitol atrium for some soda, we then headed to the Rome theater for our first show. It was a little dampened by an announcement that the ship had stopped and was turning around to go back to Galveston due to a passenger who suddenly became very ill and had to get off the ship. We didn’t know if that would cause us to have to miss our first stop in Progresso and our planned excursion there. The show went on anyway and it was wonderful! There was a live band, singers, and dancers. It was an all out performance. Then our Cruise director, Jen, came out to have some fun with us and play some games. Two of the passengers have already won a “Ship on a Stick”.


After the show, we went to a late dinner in the London dining room. We had the shrimp cocktail starter and southern fried chicken dinners. They were tasty and hit the spot. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and very good. For dessert, we tried the chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream previous cruisers rave about. It was good but not something I want every night.

Despite all the other entertainment going on all night, it was time for us to head for bed. In our cabin, we found our beds turned down, chocolates, a towel animal on one bed, and tomorrow’s schedule of events. After a little relaxing it was lights out. Until tomorrow…

Towel Elephant

World’s Largest Peanut

One of the fun things I like to do in my travels is see those quirky attractions like the World’s Largest Paul Bunyan Statue and the World’s Largest Frying Pan. This week I saw the World’s Largest Peanut in Pearsall, TX. I know you folks are just dying to see it too so here it is!

World's Largest Peanut