The Countdown Begins!

As you know, a cruise countdown is a perpetual thing for me. I’ve decided to dedicate a good portion of my life to cruising.  I literally work to cruise.  So here’s my latest.

66 Days to go!

We are ready!

We ended up getting flights to Ft. Lauderdale for $377. Still a little higher than I wanted, but not that ridiculous $480. Here’s where we stand:

  • Flights ✔️
  • Hotel ✔️
  • Ground transportation ✔️
  • Excursions ✔️

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Shopping – I need new sneakers and sandals.  I’m trying to graduate from flip flops, but they’re so comfortable and easy!  I could also use a few new maxi dresses and maybe a new bathing suit.  The bathing suit depends on whether or not I can successfully bring sexy back. 😜
  • Packing – I just got the packing cubes I ordered from eBags. We’ll see if it actually works and keeps my suitcase organized.

  • Choose my entertainment – I always take several books and load my iPad up with movies.  It’s only an 8-day cruise, but vacation is when I do most of my reading and watching movies.  I’ll do a separate post to let you know what I picked out.
  • Prepare the house – I always like to come back to a clean house.  Coming home from vacation is depressing enough without having to look at a mess when you get home.
  • Prepare a meal – After 8 days of pampering and having every meal served, I know I don’t want to cook on my first couple of nights back.  So, I prepare and freeze a meal (or two) so that I only have to reheat when I get home.  I’m still gonna be looking for the MDR (Main Dining Room) for a while. 😂

There are other little odds and ends I have to take care of, but those are the major ones.  Now, if I could just fast forward time… ⏱

Until next time,

Your Cruise Girl

About These Flights…

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So, we paid off our cruise and now we’re ready to go! Time to book hotels and airfare, right?  Wrong!  I’m looking for round-trip, non-stop airfare from Charlotte to Miami.  Should be easy right?  Should be relatively affordable one would think.  I mean, Charlotte is a hub for American Airlines and Miami is a major international airport.

But, before I get too deep into my whining, let me come clean. I’m discerning.  Some might call that picky LOL.  I want specific flights on specific dates and times.  Is that wrong?  Call me decisive. I see what I want and I focus on that goal.  That’s a good thing, right? So here’s what I want:

Non-stop Charlotte outbound on Friday morning between 9am – 11am

Non-stop Miami outbound on Sunday afternoon between 12pm – 2pm

These flights exist, but at an exorbitant price. Are you ready? *drumroll please*

$480

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Yeah, you’re probably thinking the same thing I am: WTF? On what planet does it cost $480 to fly anywhere for 2 hours?  What kinda fuel are they using? Sigh…

So, now it’s just the waiting game. But can my nerves take it if the price goes up more?  Will my thrifty self be able to actually purchase a $500 ticket to Miami?  I don’t know.  But I’m gonna stop looking at these prices for a moment so that my head doesn’t explode.

 

Until next time,

Your Cruise Girl

Planning the Family Cruise

After an unplanned hiatus where I didn’t come back and tell you about Christmas in Pigeon Forge, I am excited to tell you about my upcoming cruise this summer with the family.

We will be on Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista this July.  It’ll be me, Mom, my brother, niece, sister and her husband.  It’s my sister’s first cruise and she is a type-a planner like myself, so she wanted to have a meeting to go over everything.  At first, I was hesitant, but as we got closer, I got excited about planning for the meeting.  I’m an administrative professional, so organizing things is what I’m good at.  I pulled together a packet of information for each of us.

Family Cruise Meeting Packet
Family Cruise Meeting Packet

I was very proud of myself.

We talked about how the 6 of us planned to get to port.  My sister, being the type-a planner that she is, had already purchased her airline tickets.  My brother doesn’t like to fly, so he was hoping we could “rent a van and sing songs.” Well, not the sing songs part, but he was disappointed that she was flying.  Mom and I were already leaning toward flying since it would be about a 12 hour drive.  I don’t want to spend all day trying to get to my destination (unless of course I’m cruising there.  That’s different 😜). I want to get there and be able to enjoy the beginning part of my vacation. My pre-vacation vacation, if you will.  Under peer pressure, my brother decided to fly.  He’s a little thrifty, so he immediately started hawking airfare prices.  They’re a little high now, even for my blood.  But, we’ll probably book soon just to get it out of the way.

We talked about transportation to and from the port, choices in hotel (I’m a Hilton girl) and even looked at excursions (we’ll have a BBQ at my sister’s house after final payment to choose excursions).

I walked away with homework:

  1. Look for some adventure-type excursions (my niece insists)
  2. Look for possible 2018 cruises (I already have some ideas)
  3. Look for cruises to Hawaii for 2019

And now, not only am I excited for the cruise, I’m excited for these pre-cruise planning meetings.  Planning the details of the cruise is almost as exciting as the cruise itself!

Does planning get you excited for your trip? Do you have any cruise planning rituals? 

Until next time,

Your Cruise Girl

Christmas in Tennessee 

As always, I’m hit or miss with writing.  But, if you’ve been following me at all, you already know this.  I’m gonna try and write this weekend since Mom and I decided to go to Pigeon Forge for Christmas.

What had happened was…

She got a call from our timeshare for an owner update.  We wanted to go somewhere for the holiday, but Myrtle Beach and Charleston didn’t have the availability.  But, then they called with Pigeon Forge.  We had never been, so we thought, “Why not?”  Well, the why might be the fires they recently had in Gatlinburg which is not that far away.  But I went online and their visitors bureau encouraged folks to come – “We’re open!” the site said. 

So, here we are, safely ensconced in our hotel room, with a full belly from our time spent at Bubba Gumps.  Hopefully, I’ll write tomorrow.  But for now, I’ll leave you with a photo of the sunrise from my ride to work this morning.

Sunrise on the way to work
Until next time,

Your Cruise Girl

I Need A Fix…

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A cruise fix that is.

The number of days left until my next cruise is unacceptable.  And on top of that, I have 2 co-workers going on cruises in the next 60 days.  It’s really hard not to hate them right now, but I also want to live through them vicariously.

I keep looking for a great cruise sale, but the reality is, I just started a new job and I really can’t take the time off.

But the devil on my shoulder says: You have a 25% discount from Carnival that you have to use by January 2017 and you have enough airline miles for a free flight…

This is the real Decision 2016 LOL!

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I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

 

Your Cruise Girl

 

Planning Excursions

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My brother told me a funny yesterday, but let me give you some background.

My mom and I have always cruised together.  I believe our first cruise was in 2001?  We go with or without those who SAY they want to go.  Anywho,  my sister had been saying for a few years that the family should cruise together.  I really didn’t do anything about it for a while because my family is one of those families that has a lot of excitement when you present the idea, but has absolutely no follow-through.  I saw myself going through the trouble of getting all this information together and it still end up being just me & Mom.

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And that’s exactly what happened.  In 2010, I planned a family trip based on the dates my sister could go.  She did not go.  But, my brother and his son did.  And we had a great time!  My brother had never cruised before and that trip made him an addict.  For the next 6 years, we would go on family cruises and my sister would never go.  But this year, she finally put a deposit down.  So, we are super excited to add to our cruising family circle!

Now back to the funny.  Apparently, my sister was out on the web looking at excursions.  If you’ve ever planned a cruise, you know that there are PAGES and PAGES of excursions for each port.  But my sister only stopped on page one of port one.  So she thought there wouldn’t be anything to do on the cruise.  She was ready to cancel everything!  My brother started laughing, but he went out to the site with her and showed her the plethora of excursions available.  They’ve got something for everyone.  My sister relaxed a little, but to help her even more, we plan to go grab a meal and sit down and go through what’s available.

My advice:  Know what kind of tourist you are. 

If you love the beach, be sure to check out the beach escapes.  If your ship stops at a private island, get a cabana so that you can maximize your enjoyment.

If you love adventure, be sure to look for excursions like zip lining, kayaking, or an ATV adventure.

And of course there’s always historical tours and shopping trips!  If you don’t want to do anything organized, most ports have a nice area right off the ship that have a few shops and maybe even a little entertainment.

So never worry that there won’t be anything for you to do.  Even if you decide not to get off the ship, the cruise line has some activities planned just for someone like you!  And there’s always those wonderful in-port spa specials…

Until next time,

Your Cruise Girl

 

 

 

The Struggle is Real!!

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So, I embarked on a journey to share my travels with you and I haven’t been doing a really good job of that.  I’m normally such an organized and productive person, but the reality is I just haven’t made writing a priority.  😦

My last post was about embarkation day on a cruise I took in December of 2014.  Here we are almost two years later! Since my December cruise of 2014, I’ve cruised the following:

  • Carnival Fantasy – March 2015
  • Carnival Valor – July 2015
  • Carnival Sunshine – April 2016

And my next cruise is already booked for July 2017 on the new Carnival Vista!  As you can see, I’ve got a lot to share.  I just have to make it a priority to share it.  I have a little more free time now, so maybe I can do better.  I will definitely try! 🙂

 

Your Cruise Girl

Carnival Miracle: Embarkation!!!

So, I had to tell you a little something about Cruise Critic before I got to this point simply because I got so much information about this home port from there.

Anywho, if you are joining us for the first time, here’s Part I, Part II and Part III.

We woke up at the crack of dawn. Remember, we passed out early because we were still on eastern time. So, early to bed meant too early to rise. It was pitch black. I dozed, but I couldn’t really get any good sleep. When the sun finally came up, we got up and dressed and headed down to breakfast at the Promenade Cafe. I had the steak & eggs. The food was only okay. It wasn’t terrible, but a little overpriced for what I got.

Normally, I like to arrive at port around 10 or 10:30, but I had read on cruise critic that debarkation was a little later than I’m used to on the east coast, so we planned to do the free self-guided tour of the Queen Mary. Plus, we only had to walk through the parking lot to get to the ship, so travel time was not a factor.

We went down to the basement level to get the headsets to start the tour, but we saw the ship in port and all the people lined up and we immediately got impatient to get on the ship. So, we did a 180 and headed back to the room to get our bags and check out.

The Carnival Miracle from the deck of the Queen Mary
The Carnival Miracle from the deck of the Queen Mary

Remember that loooooooong walk down the hallaway? Welp, we had to drag our bags back. LOL! We got to the elevators only to find EVERYBODY checking out. We waited by those two tiny little elevators (no way was I dragging 4 bags up the stairs after that long walk). We waited. And waited. And waited. Then the doors magically opened! But an elderly couple was in the elevator looking to get to the Sun Deck. We told them which floor it was on and sadly watched the doors close on us. Sigh.

So, we waited. And waited. And waited. Then magically, the other elevator door opened! Guess what? That same elderly couple was in that elevator looking for the Sun Deck! Deja Vu! This time, I stepped in to press the button for them and then got out to sadly watch the doors close on us.

Miracle of all miracles, the other doors opened and no one was inside! Yay! We squeezed in there with our luggage like a can of sardines! By the time we got downstairs to the parking lot, my Mom said she wanted to take a cab through the parking lot to the terminal! And she was serious! I asked her how long was she willing to wait for a cab? She thought about that for a moment. I told her I refused to pay for a cab to drive me to the other side of the parking lot. I mean really! She caved and off we went! We had to take the scenic route since they were having a winter festival, but we made it through in a bout 5 minutes.

The crowd at the terminal was hectic and no one was boarding yet. It looked to be a long line even for the platinum and diamond cruisers. As much as I hear them fussing about lack of perks on the cruise critic boards, I have to say that the long line they were standing in would be one I would complain about.

At Long Beach, you drop your luggage over by the parking deck and then go check-in. So, we did that and then got in line. We filled out our health screening questionnaire and eagerly awaited our turn to get our sail & sign card. The line moved pretty quickly and the agent we got was super friendly. By the time we finished with everything, they were calling our zone! We lined up to board. There was an extra pep in our step. We skipped the embarkation photo and hallelujah we stepped onto the ship!

The first stop we had to make was at guest services to arrange the burial at sea for Gramma. Guest services was super nice. They offered their condolences and explained the process. The service can only be done on a sea day and you have to have a biodegradable urn. We purchased ours directly from the crematorium, but there are a plethora of online stores you can get one from. They said that the environmental officer would contact us to let us know what day we could have the ceremony. I had also contacted John Heald, Carnival’s Ambassador on his Facebook page to request this be arranged.

After leaving guest services, we headed up to the Lido deck for food. It wasn’t quite 1pm. We’re not platinum (yet!) and had not purchased Faster to the Fun, so our room wasn’t ready. We both had burgers and fries. By the time we finished eating, it was 1:30pm and figured the room would be ready.

After we dropped our bags off, we walked around a little to get the lay of the land (or boat lol). Here’s a view of the Queen Mary from the deck of the Carnival Miracle.

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We went back to the room to see if our bags had come, but they hadn’t. We had ordered two cases of water from Bon Voyage to be delivered to the room, but only one was there. We decided that we’d stop by guest services after muster to ask about it. In the meantime, I took a couple of photos of Long Beach from our balcony.

We went to muster and met a Pastor from Las Vegas. He said that he and his wife and recently done an Alaska cruise with an excursion on the Alaska train. This is on my bucket list!

Our muster buddy from Vegas!
Our muster buddy from Vegas!

Shortly after muster, you kinda expect to sail away, but um err uh, we didn’t sail away. There was no explanation. We kinda just sat there. It was dark when we left.

Late Long Beach departure.
Late Long Beach departure.

We’re still on eastern standard time, so we were too sleepy to make it to a show after dinner. Another night where we went to bed waaaaay to early. But, as you’ll soon see, there was at least one benefit…

Up next: Sea Days 1 – 4

Until next time.

Your Cruise Girl

That Little Forum Called Cruise Critic…

Before I get too deep into the cruise, let me tell you about a little site I happened upon one day while I was researching cruise information. I don’t wanna say that you are not an avid cruiser if you’ve never visited this site, but any cruiser worth their salt has been there at least once.

I found the site right after Carnival so graciously blessed me with a free cabin. I was in shock and disbelief for quite a few days. Any who, We chose the Carnival Breeze 8 day to the Southern Caribbean. Excited was an understatement.

So, I’m an avid reader. I like to read everything I can find on a subject that I am newly interested in and for this time period, it was the Carnival Breeze. A quick Google search brought up the site. Luckily (or really unluckily) I had a lot of free time on my hands since I was home with Pneumonia. And you really need a lot of time to take full advantage of everything that’s available. Whatever you want to know about cruises of any kind on any line is available there from people who have been on the ships. They have roll calls for future sailings where they set up meet & greets, cabin crawls and slot pulls.

Find out which cabins are noisy, where the best bartenders are and what lounge singers put on the best shows. Did they change the menu in the main dining room? Go to cruise critic. Which cruise director will you have? Go to cruise critic. First time cruiser and need tips for packing? Go to cruise critic. It’s like the library of congress for cruising.

Now, having said all that, these are human beings sharing their thoughts and opinions. As you can imagine, some people have bad days and can be not-so-nice sometimes. My philosophy is take what you need and leave the rest.

The link is below. If you are planning to cruise in the next 2 years, I would highly recommend visiting the site for information on the cruise line, ship and ports of call. It’s all there.

Have fun!

Cruise Critic Community
Cruise Critic Community

Until next time…

Your Cruise Girl