Finally! Cruise season is back and this next year will find the Traveling Bradburys at sea more than ever. February on the Dream was our last cruise, so we had not been on a ship in way too long. Last year we had spent Halloween on the Triumph and it was so much fun that we had to do it again as soon as possible, and so that is where we were in October. We booked the Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston for a seven day Eastern Caribbean, Halloween Themed Cruise.
Unique in the Carnival Fleet, the Carnival Sunshine was the first ship with all of the Funship 2.0 upgrades, including Guy’s Burgers, Blue Iguana Cantina, Cucina del Capitano, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and Bonsai Sushi. Ocean Plaza is bordered by the Red Frog Pub with the Alchemy Bar around the corner, and the lido deck boasts Blue’s Tequila Bar and Red’s Rum Bar. What really drew me to her was the three level serenity area with an adults only pool fed by a two-story waterfall. Backlit at night, this is one of the most beautiful spots on the ship. Dawn says it feels like being at the beach at night with the wind blowing your hair on the pool deck. This ship had become number one on our bucket list and it would be our first Eastern Caribbean itinerary, so we had a lot to look forward to, starting of course with another road trip to Charleston, SC.
We Got Friends in Low Country
Life has blessed us with friends all over the country and after this trip we have many more. One of my best friends from my days in the Air Force relocated to the Charleston area, so when we mentioned the dates, he secured a kitchen pass from the kids for him and his wife, and they booked a cabin to join us. My brother and his lovely wife were along for the trip as well, but since we spend a lot of time at home together, we planned different vacations in the same spot. We also made quite a few new friends by joining an active Facebook Group and hosting a meet and greet on board. John Heald, the Carnival Cruise Lines Brand Ambassador even sent some gifts for us to give away. From our group emerged The King of Patron who certainly lived up to his pre-cruise hype. We definitely look forward to sailing with him and that crew again! But let’s back up to the pre-cruise fun.
As we usually do, we left overnight and caught the sunrise in the Smoky Mountains. The drive from Bourbon Country to South Carolina meanders through some majestic landscapes that at times can leave you speechless. I can’t count the times that ‘Wow’ was all I could say. With plenty of rest stops and convenience stations along the way, it is a lot easier than a trip through Mississippi and Alabama, or maybe we just got lucky and stopped at the right spots this time. Either way, the drive was easy and we arrived in Mount Pleasant right on time per the GPS. In my younger days, I would have been disappointed by not having bested that challenge, but as I get older my need for speed has pretty much gone out the window.
Wyndham Gardens – Mount Pleasant SC
To save a little money we always try and book a hotel with a Snooze and Cruise Package. Basically you pay for your night’s stay and then to park your car there during your trip. These deals usually provide a shuttle service to and from the port, so you can rest assured your car is safe while saving money versus port parking. At $20 per day, parking can add up. A package deal will usually save you around $100. And as you know a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks!
The Wyndham Gardens also lays out a complimentary hot breakfast that includes eggs, sausage, bagels, biscuits and gravy and many other staples for a good start to the day. The coffee is Seattle’s Best, so we felt almost at home. Served just off of the lobby bar and lounge area, the buffet is well kept and served warm. The space is open and has plenty of seating options both at breakfast, and late night for cocktails. During our stay the bar was actually full, while not overly crowded, and the service was still on point.
The desk staff was friendly and efficient and our check-in was smooth and easy. They gave us clear instructions on how to utilize the shuttle service they have under contract, and it could not have gone better. They allowed us to check in early and our room was perfectly clean and very comfortable. They use a professional shuttle service, so there was plenty of room for luggage while being a comfortable ride.
Very easy to find, the hotel is located just minutes away from a plethora of dining and shopping options. A WalMart was literally 3 minutes down the road, so when my wife realized she had forgotten makeup brushes, we were able to pick some up at 5 a.m. when we were up and ready for cruise day. Driving over broke the monotony of waiting in the hotel and helped burn off some nervous energy that was building in anticipation of the fun ahead. But, again, I am ahead of myself.
Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
After checking in we were ready to get some lunch. We had arrived in Charleston at around 1pm, so after getting squared away in our room, we asked the Google machine where we could get some grub. If you look at my pictures it is probably obvious that the words Bar-B-Q are going to stand out to me like a Pimp in a Baptist Choir, so when I saw Jim ‘N Nick’s was just down the street, our path was set. Pulling up is when we noticed the Wally World that would come into play later, as it was already mentioned earlier, so now you know the restaurant is right by WalMart, but I digress…
Since it was just after the lunch rush, I figured our best service would come from the bartender and we were not disappointed. Friendly, prompt and professional would cover the service. Our server was not over the top, but made sure we didn’t want for anything and our drinks stayed full and that’s how we like it.
Brisket is good. Good brisket is great. And even bad brisket is still pretty good. Reminds me of pizza and something else, but again I am getting off track. After Dawn and I picked out the Spinach and Artichoke dip for our starter, I ordered the Brisket Sandwich with fries and coleslaw. Dawn opted for the Smoked Mushroom and Swiss Burger that came topped with bacon, caramelized onions and a horseradish mayo. Let me tell you, they nailed it! The food was fantastic and there was plenty of it. They also had a good local lager that I thoroughly enjoyed, though the name escapes me. I limited myself to two, or three big ones and all in all we had a great time here before heading back to the room for some rest before dinner.
The Wreck of Richard and Charlene
In 1989, I made friendships that would last a lifetime. Another transplant from my Dover Air Force days now resides in Charleston now and we were set to meet for dinner after far too long apart. Christine and her husband Mike are fantastic people that have a love for life, fun and friends, so I knew when I told them to pick the spot and keep it local, that they would know the right spot. They could not have picked a better place to take us.
Tucked away in the Old Village there is an unmarked parking lot. The back of the restaurant is non-descript to say the least. In fact, our Uber driver thought he was lost even though we were sitting a mere twenty feet from the door. A simple red door with a paper plate announced they had opened at 5:00p, so we were in the right place. Once again, thank you Uncle Google, because had I not seen the images online, I would have never known we had arrived.
Stepping inside is like knocking a few decades off the clock. Throwback, kitzche, old-school, dive or seafood shack doesn’t quite catch the atmosphere. Just use the words relaxed, comfortable, homey or wonderful if you want to get close. Imagine eating on the back porch of your buddy’s lake or beach house, with a lazy fan pushing the breeze and only the screened windows between you and Mother Nature.
Now, fresh seafood is one thing, but the food at the Wreck is straight from dock, to kitchen, to table. It does not get any fresher unless you take it out of the net and drop it on your plate and that isn’t exactly how sushi works. Menu options include shrimp, scallops, fried oysters, deviled crab and a selection of fish. Most items come fried, grilled or boiled as would be expected at a seafood shanty such as this. No steaks, pastas or chicken fingers grace the menu board and that is exactly how it should be. The focus was on seafood and they got it exactly right. The hushpuppies are hands down the absolute best I have ever tasted and would be worth the trip on their own.
Drink options are limited to beer and wine, but they have some great local offerings for you to choose from. Also, you can have them on the dock, and at sunset, there may not be a more beautiful spot around to watch the night devour the day (with respects to Jim Morrison). Shem Creek at night is absolutely beautiful and the perfect place to catch up with friends, old and new.
Some plans no matter how well laid, never mature into reality. But this night was one of the rare times when everything went exactly as we expected. Christine and I slipped back into a comfortable chat like we had been talking throughout all those decades we had missed. Dawn and Mike, fit in like perfect new partners in crime and we reminisced the night away. I can’t thank them enough for coming across town to hang with us and I hope we do it again sooner than later!
We will wrap this post with the gallery and video below. After dinner an Uber delivered us safely back to the hotel and we got ready for cruise day. Ahhhhh cruise day….but that’s another blog soon to come. Check back later!