vacation elation: part 3 ~ the cruuuuuise

drum roll please!

and now.. for the part you’ve all been waiting for. the part that tells about the people, the parties and about the pool… the part that details the events, the activities and the food. i present to you… the cruuuuuise.

did ya like that? i tried to present it to you as a gift. this experience that i am about to share with you was a gift to me. uh huh. it’s true. my aunt has been traveling with Blue World Travel and their Festival at Sea for the past five years. she has tried to get me to go with her, for at least four of those five years. each time i denied. sometimes due to finances, sometimes due to childcare, but mostly because i was nervous to cruise. flat out scared.

“… just floating out there in the ocean? i dunno.”

“it’s not like that, you’re so busy doing other things that you won’t even notice.”

“i dunno. it sounds scary.”

“you would have so much fun. i know that once we got on the boat, i wouldn’t see you anymore… except maybe to change your clothes.”

“i doubt that.”

this was the conversation between she and i for years. years. last year i made the decision to join her. knowing that my last vacation was a farce and that i needed to get away for a while, i welcomed the excitement of knowing there was a “vay-kay-shun” on the horizon. during the year that we had to prepare and ponder, a lots of things happened in a lot of different areas. at one point, i was uncertain if i still wanted to go. we went back and forth a bit over whether to take my four-year-old. for a little while, he was included in our plans. then we decided that perhaps he should stay at home. he stayed home.

during that year, my aunt continued to tell me to buy clothing and other vacation stuffs over time so that i wouldn’t be bogged down at the end. somewhere along the way, i lost my job and buying things became the least of my worries. my very generous aunt extended this gift to me, as well. as she shopped for shoes and dresses, i did the same. i was very reluctant. i didn’t want to spend her hard-earned money more than i had to and i felt that she was dramatizing the desire to have so much on hand. i was wrong. for a little while i felt that i had taken too much clothes, shoes and makeup. but now i can see that without having taken what i took, i wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as i felt. i like having options.

there was also a whole discussion on the number of swimsuits needed for a seven-day cruise. she told me i would want five or six or seven. say whaaat? ummm, no. i don’t think that’s necessary. i resisted that idea to the hilt!

“what? seven swimsuits? that’s ridiculous.”

“i’m serious. you’re going to wish you had them when you get there.”

“i haven’t had seven swimsuits in seven years, why would i want seven swimsuits for a week-long vacation?”

“you should trust me on this.”

“i dunno. that just sounds crazy.”

*sigh* again, i was wrong. i think i took five, but i actually used three the most (because they were of the same shape and design and i could stick to the same set of tan lines). however, i wish that i had two for everyday. they were so much fun. i enjoyed the ultimate amount of time in the sun. more than my skin could handle. when i left California, i was a nice even paper sack tan. upon return i was a smooth burnt buttermilk biscuit brown. no lie. my nose peeled twice on the boat and i had to stop wearing foundation because it didn’t match my skin. still doesn’t– at all.

ok. so let’s get on with it. the cruise, the flights, the hotel, the clothes, the haircut and the pedicure were all courtesy of my aunt. she treated me to everything. including pre and post-cruise meals and drinks as well as treats, snacks and keepsakes. she is unlike any other person in my life. she gave me the best gift i could have ever asked for. a cruise vacation after a ten-year vacation hiatus. to that i say:

“thank you, Danise, for your love, your friendship and your gift. you were right about not seeing me other than to change clothes and the number of swimsuits i should have taken. i needed this vacation so much and i don’t know how to thank you enough for asking me to go with you one more time, or for handling all of the arrangements and for keeping me and SuperBoy safe during this time (and all other times). your love knows no limits. i thank God, in the Heavens above, for you and wish you nothing but the best in everything that you do. i am forever indebted and will never forget your care, concern and kindness. I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.”

ok. mushy stuff aside, let’s get on with this cruise! we left on a red-eye flight with two layovers getting us to Miami (push-off point) the next morning. after a couple of slight delays, we made it in about lunch time. there were two days of pre-cruise party fun to be had. we got in, got settled and stared out our window for at least an hour (even the rusted roof was a welcome sight):

looking at Miami from our hotel room. cruise countdown: 48 hours.

we soon met up with Melinda and Makeni, completing our quartet. with sunglasses on and little purses in hand, we were on our way to dinner.

me, Danise (my aunt), Melinda and Makeni ... ready to start our vacation with a meal together.

we caught a taxi to Bayshore Village and ate at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. them’s some good eats! they were served to us by Lenin (he was so nice, but the air conditioning in the kitchen and in our part of the restaurant was busted. so the poor guy sweat just bringing us drinks and napkins. i hated to ask him for anything additional knowing that he had to go into the scorching kitchen to get it):

Melinda, Lenin and Makeni

Danise, Lenin and I

we followed up dinner with a walking tour of the village area. it was crowded. there were lots of people, lots of shopping, eating and entertaining. there was a “concert in the park” type event going on and we stopped for a moment and enjoyed the music:

it's not the best picture but you get the idea. we were seated on concrete amphitheater type seats. people were dancing about and clapping along to the music.

i found a store selling Monster energy. aaaaah. sweet glowing amped-up goodness in a can. melinda and makeni found ten-minute chair massages. when we left, we actually got into a verbal argument with a crappy cab driver who wanted to blatantly over-charge us. he was rude and bordering disrespectful. but we didn’t let him steal our shine. we battled him back with our words and he eventually surrendered to our undeniable logic and walked away. hmph. chump.

upon returning to the hotel, we found a lobby full of fellow cruisin’ party people. it was apparent that my vacation was well under way. two of our four retired for the evening. Makeni and i stayed afloat in the lobby making friends, playing cards and getting to know some of our fellow cruisers. we were kicked out of the lobby at around 4 o’clock in the morning so they could clean and tidy up.

me. sportin' Wild Bill's pterodactyl feet slippers (he actually challenged me on the spelling of pterodactyl and was shocked when i busted out my phone and looked up the spelling right then and there. hmph).

i was up before i ever laid down. up dressed and ready to go. we decided to spend some time out and about and we started with lunch:

lunch on South Beach...where i had my first and my best Mojito. cruise countdown: 24 hours

our lunch was followed by some actual factual time on South Beach, in Miami. what a hot spot. (pssst. i saw some topless sunbathers there. say whaaat? yes. fa real.) the humidity in Florida has got to be somewhere near the same as the Amazon rainforest. i have never been in such a humid environment. ever. i honestly don’t know how people can live in this area. seriously. it was that bad.

after swimming in the beautiful water, in my dress-- i melted.

we left the beach, walked around the area and did a little shopping. i think we spent the most time in the Walgreens because of the outright air-conditioned environment. eventually i stopped going into the stores because it was so nice and there and so miserable outside.. i couldn’t stand the bi-polar-ness of it and just stayed outside awaiting three women shoppers. whew.

we returned to the hotel and naturally we went swimming:

me, Makeni, Danise (my aunt) and Melinda: pre-cruise party poolside fun. this lovely photo is courtesy of Jeffrey Walker.

we agreed to retire to our rooms respectively and get ready for “the Party”. the pre-cruise party. cash bar, finger foods and at least half of the anticipated cruisers. a nice way to meet more people before setting off to sea. this is where the division came in our group. some people get ready and some people just saaay they are getting ready. i was part of the former group. i was done and out the door and didn’t see the other girls for at least thirty minutes.

ready! and touring the scene with Wild Bill. (see there? hardly a noticeable tan.)

and that does it on pre-cruise party photos. hahahah. i made many acquaintances. shared many laughs and several drinks. i danced. i posed. i spent the majority of the wee-morning hours outside by the pool.

the beautiful pool, first thing in the morning, ready and waiting for the day's antics to begin.

that’s where i met my girl Nikki. it was her birthday and she treated herself to this lovely vacation. she was dancing to her own beat and i just jumped right in. we met r’here but we hung TIGHT throughout the trip. here we are days later, closer in friendship, sharing drinks and livin’ it up at the fantastic swim-up bar at the phenomenal Margaritaville on Grand Turk Island:

aka: SugarPie and BabyCakes (and a whole buncha other folk), kickin' it hard at the 'Ville

we’ll talk more about Margaritaville later. after the pre-cruise party, there was no time to sleep. i had stayed out until dawn. Nikki retired for the evening to get a little rest and get her luggage cruise ready. my luggage was ready, my “get on the boat” clothes were ready and i was anxious. i used my nervous energy to take a run. huh? yes, i’m serious. an “i’ve been out all night, but still can’t go to sleep, might not ever be back in Miami at dawn” cleansing morning run. here is the picture i stopped and took:

Miami at dawn... my cruise awaits, i better turn around...

upon returning, i walked a mile in the hotel gym (yup, i did that too), swam some laps in that lovely pool (i know, right? where am i getting the energy?) and eventually got ready to go. i laid down for maybe an hour and for some strange reason my eyes closed up tight. hmmm.. go figure. before we actually left the hotel, i called home to talk to my son and the sitter. they were both doing well. my little man told me “love you mommy”. *sniff*

the next two hours went something like this: out of hotel, on the shuttle, off the shuttle, through customs, through cruise check-in, through cruise doors, photoed and then photoed, onto the boat, into the room, to Makeni’s room, to Melinda’s room, up and out to the lido deck for food, and then a break to have an emergency meeting at our “unlikely” but potential emergency meeting stations. then back out for some much required, highly anticipated fooooooooood.

lido deck, push off, time to get this party started... and the countdown is OVER! cruise INITIATED.

the horn blew, the boat pushed off and we were well on our way. that’s the electric slide contest above. the first of many dance contests, line dances and group dances. it was fun. there was a “Freeze” factor added in and that made it all the better. the three girls below (from left to right: striped dress, yellow strapless and denim shorts) were like mannequins! mannequins i tell you!:

the freeze champions! if you ask me.

and that my friend, set the tone for the next six days on this wonderful boat. i met so many great people, made new friends, added at least a dozen or so folks to my facebook and got tagged in tooooo many pictures. but most of all, i had a great time. honestly– one of the best times ever. there was music, dancing, eating, laughing, drinking, swimming, and lots of smiling. and not necessarily in that order.

now, i’ve set the scene for you because i wanted you to feel the excitement and know that fun was around every single corner. i can’t walk you through every hour of every day, so i will hit you with the big stuff.

me. poolside. if you're looking for me, you haven't been in, near or around the pool.

i spent the first three days, right here. everything else i did, excluding the formal dinner, the scheduled entertainment or hanging out at the “club” was done very near here.

the Festival at Sea is planned. there are activities planned for the majority of everyday. and that’s just on the boat. there are plenty of things to do when you go ashore, if you go ashore. they had exercise classes, prayer meetings, speed dating, dance contests, line dancing, dance classes, bingo, crafts and more. each night had a theme and the appropriate dress was requested for dinner. it was a lot of fun. the first night was relaxed and then! the next night! Sunday night was the Cool White Night Party as well as Mardi Gras.

Harold, Danise, Makeni, Melinda and Ron... i'm not in it, 'cause i took it.

Harold and I on Cool White Night

the Girls: Makeni, my aunt Danise and Melinda

and here’s everyone else (please forgive the blurry photos. i had not taken many “night” shots prior to the cruise. as well, up on deck and in the area above the deck it can be windy. just as one hits the “snap” button a gust of wind will help you “snap” a different shot completely):

Cool White Night Deck Party

... and the line dancing begins...

probably fifteen hundred people, dressed in white from head-to-toe

the next day i was poolside (see the poolside photo above) and that night, Monday night, we were entertained by the one and only Patti La Belle:

Hank Sr. screamed out from the crowd: "Patti! I love youuu!"

Patti was so gracious. she wasn’t feeling well and apologized throughout the show. she said that seasickness gave her indigestion.

“makes me feel like i have to burp, but i don’t.”

when she first came out on stage she was wearing some grey patent leather Christian Louboutins. nice. she talked to us like we were her friends. she sang a song and then she kicked those shoes off in Patti LaBelle style! (and naturally, she asked for her RedBottoms back).

out of nowhere (i didn’t know him then) Hank Sr. yells out that he loves her.

Hank: I love you Patti.

Patti: huh? say what, babe? what’d you say?

Hank: I love you!

Patti: oh, you love me? i love you too boo. are you married?

Hank: NO!

Patti: no? uh oh. c’mere, lemme see you.

Hank came out into the light and after direct instruction from Patti to “let the man go”, security let him up on stage. he was beaming and i was almost blinded. she asked him whom he was on the cruise with and he explained that it was a graduation gift to his son, Hank Jr. sweet, right? she called Hank Jr. onto the stage. she hugged them both and posed for a photo opportunity. before they left the stage Hank Sr. kicked his shoes off. a little less gracefully, but with just as much drama. good times.

it was a great concert. she sang my favorite Patti songs. sadly, though, she really wasn’t feeling well and had to excuse herself from the stage more than once. if she wouldn’t have told me, i wouldn’t have known. she almost brought me to tears when she sang “Somebody Loves You”. such memories attached to that song.

i apologize for the month long hiatus between part two and part three. my world at home has taken a turn for the better and left me with less time to share my thoughts. i came home to a job offer, followed by pre-employment testing, physicals and examinations. then i woke up to a toothache! total bummer. shortly thereafter i actually started working without any particular mode of transportation (i carpooled, borrowed and prayed for a ride) and just recently signed my name on the dotted line to call a little car: my own. with that said, i have to pick up where i left off and that has all become a little fuzzy over time.  it’s a good thing we kept every scrap of paper and took so many photos to help me replace my shoddy memories with real ones. SO! let’s move forward, shall we?

next on the list! “Charlie, last name: Wilson.” do you know who that is? i hope so, but if not, i’ll tell you: he was the lead singer of the Gap Band (and i know you know who the Gap Band is). we were up in the rafters for Patti, but we were ground level for Charlie. and boooooy was that a show!! he really really put it on. and! and! he wasn’t feeling well either. he confessed that he had food poisoning and that he wasn’t up to par, but if you ask me, even his not-up-to-par was phenomenal.

Charlie! sharing stories of his personal battles including: drug and alcohol abuse and prostate cancer. he was happier to share that he has been sober for seventeen years.

after the show, i wandered about looking for nikki. i perused the crowds this way and that and made my way up to the lido deck to check out what the midnight buffet had in store. nothing interesting… to me anyway. as i continued on my way, i was verbally accosted by a group of men (just kidding, they asked me if i was lost because i was wandering). i sat down and low and behold it was a fair share of the gentlemen that i had just seen on stage:

Aubrey on the left, Bruce on the right

 Aubrey made me laugh out loud, really loud, with his editorial commenting. he bought me a mojito and told me i was hilarious.

Bruce seems extremely serious, but he’s actually very sweet. i wouldn’t wanna cross that line though, i’m sure his serious side is his well paid side. 😀

(pssst~ i can't remember his name) playin' the bass

mr. man on the bass was busy. maybe he wasn’t busy, but his eyes sure were.  like a kid in a candy store.

me on the left, and the sweetest dancin' girl on the right

and that sweetheart of a backup dancer was just so pleasant. she complimented my famous foam flower, shared her workout routine, told me not to keep the boys up too late and then flashed her pearly whites for my mojito-driven photo session. 😀

good times.

thus far i haven’t mentioned Jon Saxx & Endless Possibilities. they were onboard entertainment also. Jon Saxx is a phenomenal saxophone player and his band is B-A-D! they were on deck, in the Atrium and they also entertained at the Gospel Breakfast.  i enjoyed watching him make connections with his audience as he serenaded everyone in the crowd —  personally. this is a photo of him on the last day we were on the ship, but he was there the whole time and i enjoyed his sound and the passion that he instilled in every note he played.

serenading the scene with his saxxophone..

there were also two comedians. aj jamal and jay lamont. both guys are truly hilarious. i met aj jamal poolside and jay lamont mingled with me and the CW boys (that’s, uhhh, Charlie Wilson band fellas). i would be a liar if i said that i hadn’t seen them both a million times on the television, but being side by side and actually having conversation was far more entertaining. i got a photo-op with aj jamal:

me and aj jamal

but my opportunity to showcase a photo with jay lamont was sabotaged by a dead cell battery. boooo. anyway! i had a great time mingling with the entertainment, and i think they had a good time hangin’ out with me. i hope they did anyway.

well, my faithful darlings, i’m going to end this extremely long post here. i will return much sooner than before and i promise to tell you more about the food and the people i met. until then… stay sweet!

vacation elation: part 2 ~ the ship, the staff, the service

have you ever had service so wonderful and surprising that instantly all previous service failed in comparison? the kind that makes you struggle hard to believe that anything before this exact moment was service at all? i had that experience just a few weeks ago while on my very first cruise on the Carnival Liberty. believe me, it was service unparalleled. the ship itself was impressive.  the staff was equally impressive and they delivered this phenomenal service that has me grinning from ear to ear. i stayed at two very nice Hilton properties during this vacation, and the service was also very exceptional, but it was still unlike the service delivered on the boat. i was in awe and very grateful.

the Carnival Liberty on the left... floating boating fun (docked at modified stop No. 2 ~ Grand Turk Island. home of Margaritaville. <-----this is where you should look FIRST, if a group of us Cruisers come up missing).

first, let me get you some actual factual information about the ship itself:

  • 13 passenger decks (several more that are not passenger friendly)
  • Specialty restaurant (Harry’s), 2 dining rooms, buffet (prepared fresh for breakfast (including omelet station), lunch (including stir fry station, burger stand, burrito bar and deli) and midnight buffet), ice cream parlor, pizzeria
  • Wi-Fi, in-room safe, refrigerator (pssst! there was no refrigerator available in our room, perhaps in one of those bigger rooms with room to spare…?)
  • 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool, (don’t forget the water SLIDE!)
  • Fitness classes, gym, hair salon, 7 hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
  • 9 bars (i think i visited each one, at least once), casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
  • Children’s programs (ages 2-17)
  • Laundry facilities, laundry service
  • Internet terminal

deck nine, the lido deck, (where the party was at), and the home of the water sliiiiiiiiiiiiiide

here is some information that was provided by ship staff:

  • 2,929 passengers (on this cruise)
  • almost 1,200 staff (including doctors, nurses, security, bar servers, food servers, bartenders, housekeeping, maintenance, chefs, fire department, sales and management)
  • the boat extends approximately twenty-seven feet underwater.
  • this is the funnel burning exhaust and paper waste:
  • the funnel... extending high into the sky, above every other accessible part of this humongous floating party

  • approximately eight tons of food waste per day (i made sure to clean my plate after i heard that news)
  • there are at least fifty-five nationalities of employees on this cruise ship, all born and raised in their native countries and fluent in their native languages, as well as English.

we had a quaint little room. it wasn’t “little” per se, but it was “to the point”. we had a total of three closets, four drawers and two cabinets in which to live from during our seven-day stay. as well, there were two drawers under the couch that made for excellent and adequate shoe storage. the bathroom was also “to the point” but seemed to handle two women in it’s midst without much complaint. we also had a window. a nice sized window, not the round porthole that we most associate with boats, but a window big enough for me to sit in. to sit in and gaze out into the endless world. where the ocean goes for miles and the sky goes for miles and they come together somewhere in the distance.

... where the water meets the sky...

i truly intended on taking a photograph with each staff member that i made a connection with. but as i went through my days and nights, i came in contact with so many that i fell short on photos from day one. either way, i made connections and i would like to share some of the wonderful people that i met.

myself and Tatiana, the spoiled and the spoiler... respectively

Tatiana from Estonia: Tatiana was my formal food server for the Captain’s dinner every night. she was a delight from day one. she spoiled me rotten and i would be a complete liar if i said i didn’t miss her. she knew right away what i liked and didn’t like (because my food tastes are elementary and simple) and she made special requests for me. i have never been so privileged. i enjoy a simple salad with a chunk of bleu cheese and every night, when i arrived to the table, my cheese plate awaited me. when there was no simple salad option on the menu, she still managed to get me one. i tried to leave early on two different occasions but she kept me in my seat by presenting me with the dessert menu and saying “sweet time?” flashing that little twinkle in her eye. we oooh’d and aaaah’d over creme brulee together and each night we gave the dessert menu our own personal review. the last night on the ship, i debated all day over whether or not to go to dinner. i was having fun and getting in my g’byes as i passed fellow cruisers. after some debate, i decided that Tatiana deserved a proper goodbye. she had been so wonderful to me and i didn’t want to leave her that last night without thanking her for her service, advising her supervisor of her wonderful service and ensuring them both that as soon as i had a chance, i would write to Carnival Cruises and tell them about the magnificent service i had received.  she was amazing and i will always remember her.

Luis from Mexico & Dokphikun from Thailand: after boarding the ship and attending the mandatory emergency meeting at our assigned location i was completely lost. i could not find my way back to the food so i decided to go to the room and see if our luggage had arrived. after entering the room i was soon greeted by Luis. he wanted to know if there was anything i needed. he was so wonderful and he called me by name. he didn’t attend to me anymore during our trip, but he did work down the hall. he always said good morning, good afternoon and good evening and his response to my asking him “¿como estas?” was always, always “todo bien”. it’s all goooooood.

towels. folded like a frog.

towels. folded like a dog (i think).

just a few moments later i met Dokphikun. she tended to our room and kept us in tip-top shape the rest of the way. she also used my name from the first time through the last time i saw her. i don’t know if this is standard practice, if it was special for our cruise group, if it was because it was on our door (i don’t think that mattered at all) or if it’s just something that she does… either way, it was wonderful. i would often see her in the hall during the morning or evening and she always said “hello Tanisha”. it was music to my ears. and to think, when i was younger, i would cringe at people using my name. i made it my mission to talk to all of those that came to my service, to ask them about them and find out as much as i could. Dokphikun and Luis set the tone and it was delightful.

towels. folded like an elephant. all the handiwork of Dokphikun.

Orlando from India and Ketut from Indonesia: two of the best bar servers ever! these guys were on a mission to keep me well hydrated and very spirited while i spent my days poolside. they ensured that my cup raneth over and over and over. always serving with a smile and calling me “Neesha” (say whaaaat? seriously? seriously. like we’d known each other for years) when they requested my signature. i know that we shared several hi-fives, a few knuckle bumps and at least one hug each. i know that at one occasion i waved my hand in the air, blindly, and within a few minutes Orlando came to my rescue asking me “you needing something ma’am?” hell-to-the-yeah!! that’s what i call service, sir. great guys, both of them.

Joseph from Thailand: the bartender that i had the most one-on-one contact with. when i approached the bar, i greeted Joseph by name and asked him how his day was going. he served me next and always asked me to try my drink and make sure it was to my liking. he’s my kinda bartender. 😀 he cared that i was satisfied and wanted to make sure that he had met my expectations. that’s certainly a way to ensure repeat business if you ask me.

Eliana from Romania(?): how rude, right? i don’t remember exactly where Eliana was from but she was my bar server at dinner. she was tall and elegant. her accent was gorgeous and made “may i bringck you sumzing from zee bahr?” sound like “how many carats do you want in your diamond ring?” i’m not sure if i ordered from her because i wanted a drink (bahahaha) or if i just wanted to hear her repeat everything (moh-heet-toe or jhin-jher hale or nuh-sing?). she was equally as personable and pleasant as the rest of her service team.

Kristian from Hungary: Kristian came to deliver a wheelchair. unfortunately while on vacation, my aunt suffered an injury. when exiting onto the Lido deck  she fell into a unmarked drainage hole and severely sprained her ankle. she had to get x-rays and e’rythang. sad. the next day we docked in Key West Florida. we didn’t get off the boat until late, but we still went ashore and tried to find the ultimate Key Lime Pie and a little something to bring home. in order to do so, we needed a wheelchair. Kristian was the gentleman that delivered the chair to our room. he was very happy, very helpful and very handsome (hubba hubba). he was upset to learn the nature of the accident and expressed his concern.  we used the chair to eventually make it off the boat and onto land. it was probably eighty-something degrees but it was also eighty percent humidity. i don’t know the actual numbers but it was horrible sticky madness. i was elated to find a mini-mall with air conditioning, a liquor store with Monster and even more elated to get back onto the air conditioned boat.

sadly, i do not know the names of two of my regulars: the gentlemen who served me daily an egg-white omelet with peppers and cheese and my staple “veggie burger with cheese ma’am?”. they were both at a distance and reading their name tags sufficed to be a challenge. they worked two of the busiest stations and trying to converse with them just held up the line and got us both dirty looks. both men were polite, helpful and happy. it was a common thread throughout the entire staff. it was simply beautiful to see and made my vacation a little more vacation-y.

and last, but definitely not least on my list is Jayash and Lany, both from India: both worked in security. i came upon Jayash quietly surveying the happy dancing crowd on the night of the Mardi Gras Cool White Night Party. such a large crowd in close quarters makes me a little uneasy. i chose to cruise around up top where i could see everyone, but also enjoy the ocean breeze and gaze at the stars.

up top, near the dj booth... and away from the body heat

 i started here, on the dj side, and made my way around to the forward side. people were filling up each level as they arrived from dinner and it got more and more crowded. it was my first white party also, so it was quite interesting to see an entire boat full of people ~ all dressed in white. and dancing. once i made my round around the top i came down i landed next to Jayash. he was quietly examining the crowd.

the party from Jayash's point of view...

i asked him a few questions that led to so many answers. it was great. he took me on a tour and i felt so much more comfortable… at sea. we had good conversation. i shared my fear of cruising and plans to become a big-name published writer and he shared his daily at-sea routine and his plans for a future together with his girlfriend. after our introduction, i would see him throughout the days and nights. i introduced him to the other ladies in my party and anyone i happened to be loitering around with when i saw him. he was very attentive and kind.

Lany was also very kind. he would often wave and say “good evening ma’am” as i usually saw him around dinnertime. he wore a very genuine smile and was chivalrous, opening doors and bowing slightly as he saw me in and out. on our last day, we had checked our luggage and were supposed to meet in an early group. due to cane return and wheelchair complications, we were singled out and blasted over the intercom as we were late. when i finally made it to the right area, Lany was there and he said “you! we’re waiting on you?” he shuffled me this way and that and shook my hand as he said “goodbye ma’am, it was a pleasure to meet you”. i told him that i would write about him, made him write down the blog address and told him to say goodbye to Jayash for me as i had not seen him since early in the day before. he nodded and said “my pleasure ma’am”.

the ship sufficed as more than a home away from home. and the outstanding staff and exceptional service definitely made my vacation experience something to write about. i was thoroughly impressed from start to finish. my only hope is that the other passengers and guests recognized it in the same way i did. i found this to be one of the most memorable and touching vacations i have thus experienced. i will hold all levels of service next to this one and hold my expectations high. i have been spoiled by the Carnival Liberty crew and i don’t think i’ll ever settle for less. i am writing that letter, i am singling each and every one out for their good deeds and outstanding service as a whole. they have made a friend, a fan and a sailor out of me.

share your exceptional service experiences with me. did you tell that person that they had provided you with outstanding service? did you tell their superior or write a commendation to their management? tell me what you think great service is. until next time, when we return for part three ~ the cruuuuiiise… stay sweet, darlings!

vexed over vacation

tomorrow i will be going on vacation. this will be my first notable vacation in many years. i’ve had some weekend getaways and a few sleepovers with the bestie and the babies, but that’s nothing in comparison to what is planned for my very near future. and while i am very excited, anxious and extremely “ready” for this vacation, i am saddened, as well as heartbroken to be leaving my main man, my sidekick, my number one buddy, my son at home. he will be well taken care of and perfectly comfortable at our home with his toys and his bed. however, i am not so certain that i will be the same.

so, enough with the suspense already, huh? ok. i’ll tell you. due to the overwhelming generosity of my aunt, she and i are going on a cruise. yup, a cruise. we are going to the bahamas, st. thomas, puerto rico and grand turk. i’ve never been on one, have you? i hear they are the bees knees and not to be underestimated. from what i understand it’s a floating party with numerous types of parties and options aboard. sounds exciting right? oh! and the food. i heard that cruise food is food to die for. that it’s just never-ending and mostly delicious (i say mostly, because someone somewhere doesn’t like something– usually). if it’s all so good, why do i feel so bad?

is it because we wanted and planned to take my son? and then later after much deliberation we decided that perhaps we should not? or is it because i’m leaving him for the first time for more than two nights since the day he was born? that seems more like it to me. my son often spends the night with his dad but calls for me rather crankily when he gets hungry or tired. we all love mom’s cooking, don’t we? i know i do. and of course, mamas bathe us and comfort us just before it’s time to sleep. no matter how much complaining he does, his time with his dad is always a great time.

so, again, why do i feel so bad? i have the normal traveling woes of not getting where i need to be on time, lost luggage and forgotten reservations. i have the normal concerns of anyone who is traveling with toiletry items (because of TSA), shoes that require tying and untying (because of TSA) as well as having to purchase my own in-flight food (because of TSA). i’ll remember to remove my eyebrow grooming utensils including tweezers and tiny sharp scissors, so that i don’t get held up and questioned (because of TSA). i’ll also be certain to remove that handcuff key from the bottom of my purse (because of TSA).

everything is taken care of. it’s all been paid for and reserved. our reservations for flights, hotels and cruise ships have been acknowledged and confirmed. the bills are taken care of, the refrigerator is taken care of and the house is taken care of. even my son, is taken care of, for twenty-four hours for all of the days that we will be gone. but… something keeps nagging at me. something is keeping me unexcited when i should be over-excited. i need to shake that feeling. i need it to be gone. if i’m bummed, i will undoubtedly bum someone else out and that’s just a bummer. boooooooo!

ok! so, with that said, i will do as i have been instructed by close friends to do a few things to remedy the homesickness that will fervently consume my son and i. first, i will leave a picture of me with him, that he can hold and keep close. you should know that i’ve already done the same, i think i packed pictures of him FIRST. second, i will make a calendar for him showing the days that we are gone with a photo of the person who will be caring for him that day. next, i will leave my favorite t-shirt behind so that he can sleep in it and feel juuuuuuuuuust a little bit closer to me. i will try to call him every night around bed time to let him know that i am thinking of him and wishing him sweet dreams. and last on my list is to take one of his blankets with me (and i plan on hijacking one of his small trains too) so that i can feel close to him when i want to.

*sigh* ok. i think these things will help. i think. i hope so because i really need to shake this before i get on a plane to the other side of the country and then on a boat for a whole week. i’m sure that tomorrow will bring a renewed feeling of excitement and joy as i finish packing, check items off my checklist and get the show on the road. in the meantime, i’m going to sit and watch him play and smile and drink in as much as i can. drunk on my preschooler’s love is how i wanna be so that the “i left him” hangover doesn’t set in until the plane has taxied off the runway and is into the air where my only options to protest are to jump or jump.

have you ever left your kid(s) for more than a couple of nights? how did you handle that? how did he/she/they handle it? was it bearable? did you have a hard time sleeping? were you too worried to have a good time? talk to me, darlings, i’m about to crumble and i’ve run out of things to blame on the TSA.

aww. back when he was six months old and teething.

just last weekend, he's a little over four years old and having fun at the Orange County Fair.