Cruise Day! What a relief it is when it finally arrives. We set countdowns and watch the days dwindle while trying our best not to wish away the time between trips. But, the feeling you get when you finally open your eyes knowing the day has arrived is fantastic! I remember the last few days of my Air Force enlistment, we called it Short-Timer’s disease, but I definitely took my foot off the pedal and coasted along thinking about the days ahead more than the ones I was leaving behind. The days leading up to vacation are a lot like that for me too, so by the time our heads hit the pillows in Mt. Pleasant, my mind was already on the lido deck.
True to form our eyes snapped open way too early, so we went ahead and got ourselves up and out the door for a last minute stop at WalMart. Lucky to have found it the day before, we knew it was just a couple of minutes down the road and Dawn needed some makeup brushes. No matter how many lists you make, something can always fall between the cracks. Plus a trip out and about helped burn off some nervous energy, and gave the staff at the Wyndham Gardens time to setup the breakfast buffet.
The Shuttle service was set to pick us up at 10:30, so we had plenty of time to get dressed and enjoy our coffee and breakfast before bringing our bags down. We ran into a great group of older ladies that turned out to be a book club that adored author Karen White. Her novels are set in and around Charleston and they were there to take a walking tour of the settings. While we were checking in, Dawn had accidentally walked into their room, and being Dawn, immediately made new friends. We crossed paths just about every time we left the room, so it was easy to strike up a conversation and it felt like we were among old friends. While we were loading our bags into the shuttle, they were of course leaving too. A light rain had started and in their little yellow slickers they looked like a line of cute ducklings waddling off, but that little sprinkling also meant that our embarkation would be taking place in the rain.
A couple of newlyweds shared our shuttle, setting off on their honeymoon and first cruise. They were a little nervous as would be expected, but Dawn opened them up and we got to know a little about them before we hit the port. We told them about the Love and Marriage show and did our best to root them on stage, but the MC picked a couple much closer to the front of the action. We would cross paths often, and as the tans deepened, the smiles widened. You could easily surmise that as the days went on they were getting very into the cruise life. Smart money says they book another cruise very soon.
I would definitely recommend Mt. Pleasant Transportation to anyone that is looking for a shuttle service in the Mt. Pleasant area. The owner was extremely accommodating and professional. He took care of our luggage and delivered us with clear instructions on how to meet him after our trip.
Embarkation at the Port of Charleston
Quite a bit has changed since 2017 when we last cruised out of Charleston. We didn’t go through the parking scenario, but I know they park you outside, instead of in the warehouses. However, our shuttle took us straight to the porters to drop our luggage. From the drop off, you can take a shuttle over, or walk to the next stop. To accommodate the larger ships, the port has added a processing area in building 324, where you will check in and then go to your boarding zone. Then they shuttle you by bus to the terminal, where you go through security and board the ship. With Faster to the Fun, it went by so quickly, that I can hardly remember the sequence. There was a steady drizzle falling, but we did not get wet, so they definitely don’t leave you standing around.
As is now our tradition, we stopped and got our picture taken on the gangway, then headed directly to the lobby bar where we met Romilo. He would serve me my first Pina Colada and my final Moscow Mule of this cruise, and he served every single one of them with a smile. That’s the great thing about cruising – The service is always over the top. He worked the lobby bar daily, from eight until late, and he did a great job. Butch and Colleen can attest to that! I am pretty sure Butch was a fixture at that bar on several nights, but we will get to that later.
Friends old and new
Each trip around the sun brings new opportunities, new friends and new challenges. Some of the chances you take will work out, some of the challenges you meet may wear you down, but the friends you make will lift you above it all and make life worthwhile. I have been blessed with friends throughout my life that come with enough backstory to fill a Carl Hiassen novel – If you haven’t read him you should. Over time I have taken on a little bit of each of the friends I’ve made . However, of all the samplings and traits I picked up, the lessons I learned from Butch allowed me to be a better version of myself than I otherwise could have been and were more valuable than I realized at the time. Butch helped me be comfortable in my own skin, helped me be more confident, and most importantly how to play guitar. He made me cool LOL
Butch brings a giant personality to the table and makes you smile with such ease that you forget he is the size of an NFL lineman. A lot of big guys have little chips on their shoulders, and a lot of little guys have big chips weighing them down, but the instant you meet Butch, any macho bravado is lost. The dude could charm the devil out of an a/c unit. I don’t think Hell will get this one, but if the Devil ever meets him, things will change down there for sure.
Mr. Butcher had married since the last time we got to spend real time together, and though I had not met his awesome bride Colleen, I knew she had to be good people. They have a very talented brood and you can see the love and joy they have for each other. So when I found out that they had actually succumbed to my constant and incessant pressure to join us on a cruise, I knew it would be a time to remember. I was in no way disappointed! From the time we met out on the lido deck on Embarkation day, until the night before we disembarked, they wore smiles on their faces that were contagious to us and everyone else they met. Being from the Charleston area, they had a few other friends on the ship, and made many new friends over course of the week too.
As I mentioned before, my brother and his wife were cruising with us too. They were directly across the ship from us with the exact same Spa Balcony Cabin, but on the Starboard side. So their cruise was like ours, but from a different perspective. Where we would go right, they would turn left, so it was little wonder that we seldom crossed paths. The time we spent together was priceless, but we also spent ample time apart so that we didn’t impinge on their relaxation, and they didn’t have to watch us dance and be dorks.
Rainy Day Sail Away
The sprinkles that the little ol’ ladies had marched into turned to a steady drizzle that fell all morning. That drizzle turned into a steady rain, and it was all the result of Tropical Storm Nestor. The bulk of the storm had passed North of us and left our trip’s itinerary undisturbed, but it had churned up the Atlantic and would turn the first night of our sailing into quite an adventure.
After settling into our cabin, we went out to see if we could find our friends and grab a bite to eat. The lido was nearby and we managed to find a short line at the Blue Iguana Cantina. Burritos would be the first meal on board the ship for me, while Dawn went with a taco salad. She loves that golden crispy taco shell full of goodness, and with practice has learned exactly how to build hers. We secured a table under cover, between the two Iguanas by the windows and were lucky to do it! Lunch Express on the Lido Deck is a hard push by Carnival in an effort to move the crowds out of the lobby and out into the other common areas. As evidenced by the number of folks dragging their carry-ons across the pool deck, it seems to work. With a steady rain forcing everyone under cover, the Lido Marketplace and main pool area gets pretty crowded pretty quick.
Over at the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, I met Octavius. The bars were pretty slow to start, so I was able to walk over and chat him up a little bit. He was about midway thru his current contract which was his third. He remembered my name from day one, but called me Johnny because my first name John is on my card. He never failed to come straight over and take care of me the rest of the trip. It wasn’t just a large tip – though he did get one in the end – but I think I got a little hookup because I asked about him and his life. He was great throughout the trip and I hope I see him again soon!
Incidentally, I am shocked by the number of people that get hit with roaming at sea charges. Similar to long distance charges back in the day, those add up quickly. To avoid any shocking bills, my phone is in airplane mode from the time I board until we get back to port. Since we hadn’t left port, I could safely check my texts and not run up a huge phone bill. So when I got around to it, I found out Butch and Colleen had found a table too – located directly across from ours. So I went over to find them and get another cocktail. As luck would have it, while I was away, my brother showed up and grabbed a bigger table for us. So when I got back, I had to immediately slosh back across, and have Colleen and Butch join us. I say slosh because the pool deck was collecting rain and the Carnival crew was battling hard to hold it at bay. They did a great job of keeping the water out of the spots we were taking shelter.
The Beginning of the End and the King of Patron
About this time the deluge began. I am not talking about the storm Nestor, though I did meet a server by that name. I am talking about the CHEERS package getting put to work. For the first time in decades, I got to spend quality time with Butch. We sat and shared stories for a while and I did some damage that would bite into the cost of my package. The $$$ we spend for CHEERS plays on my mind heavily at the beginning of the trip, and until I feel like I get my dollars worth, I am going to have a drink in my hand. I am pretty sure I got a days worth of drinking in, and we hadn’t even left the harbor.
Cabins were finally available, and by now Octavius’ bartending skills had gotten a workout. Butch and Colleen wanted to put away their carry on stuff, and we were ready to rest a little before our Steakhouse reservations.
Heading back to our cabin we ran into a couple of our FB Group friends, Brittany and Dustin. They had been partying with the King of Patron since 10 am. Apparently, the KoP started his day with shots of tequila while they opted for muffins and bagels. For months I had wondered if Allan would live up to his hype. Well he did, and he blew my expectations out of the water! 72 years old and hustling like a 30 year old. By the end of the trip he would call “who let the dogs out?” and 20-30 people on 3 levels of the lobby would respond “who – who – who – who – who!”. He reminded me of shorty140 – one of my old DJs that will probably never grow up. I hope Allan doesn’t either.
Self professing yourself the KoP is setting yourself up, but when you can back it up you become the Wolf. When you carry small bottles of Patron around in a Crown Royal bag and hand them out like candy, you can call yourself whatever you want – just hand me one or two of those bottles. My man Allan lived up to the billing and more. If you are on a Cruise, and you spot an older fellow with his visor on upside down and backward, doing shots of Patron and acting a little crazy, introduce yourself and hang on for dear life! I truly hope to sail with Allan again soon, but Dustin and Brittany are going to need to come along as well, to keep that wild man distracted. I am not sure we could bear the full Wolf experience alone.
Reservations at the Steakhouse
As we cleaned up for dinner, the Sunshine started hitting the larger swells that Nestor was pushing to shore. She is a big ship, but the Atlantic was still tossing her around a bit. Heading to dinner we noticed a lot of people walking left to right, but can’t be sure if that was the waves or the 1/2 price fish bowls at the Red Frog Pub. Either way, people were walking funny and looking a little pukey. Lucky for me, we made it all the way to our table before I started sweating profusely.
Scanning over the incredible offerings, my wife peeked above her menu and looked a little worried. Unfortunately, it was not the menu that was concerning her, but me. I guess I looked more than a little green. She looked a whole lot concerned. We decided to skip dinner and arranged reservations later in the week. The free bottle of wine for dining on the first night would not have been worth making a public spectacle of what came later.
Matter of fact, I will leave what came later out and just say the night ended and the next day was our first Sea Day. I couldn’t wait for breakfast in the Habana bar area, before heading out to the Serenity Area. I had been waiting to hang out on that deck for more than 500 days! Way too long! But I will tell you about that in part 2. Adios for now. Check back for more to come. Check out our videos on youtube if you enjoy our memories, or join our Facebook Group. Just look for Kentucky Fried Travel and we will be looking for you on the lido!