I’ve been off the grid for the last week, but for a good reason. Mrs. Poolman and I joined a bunch of family members on a cruise vacation.
The whole idea originated last winter with our son, Poolboy, who wanted to organize a family vacation. He picked the cruise, the destinations, the dates, etc. and then called us to see if we wanted to go along. We had a good group, including daughter (Writer Princess), Son-in-Law (SIL), SIL’s brother and wife, Mrs. P’s sister, her son and daughter and their significant others, and a couple more friends of theirs. All told we had 16 people in our group, all adults. Since booked last winter, we had a great price.
We drove to Tampa last Sunday and spent the night at the Candlewood Suites in Clearwater. Once again, were very satisfied with our stay at this relatively little-known chain. Primarily designed as an extended-stay hotel, they offer great facilities for a ridiculously low price. We had what was essentially a one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom, two TVs, etc for $66/night including all taxes. We upgraded to the suite because Mrs. P’s sister stayed with us and it advertised a sofa-bed. We didn’t realize it was actually a small apartment until we got there, and were very pleasantly surprised.
On Monday, we boarded the Carnival Inspiration bound for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico and two days at sea.
We are not exactly novices when it comes to cruising. This was my tenth cruise and Mrs. P’s twelfth. (She took two cruises with her father and sisters in the 90s.) Of my ten cruises, seven of them have been on Carnival. I guess we like it because we do keep coming back. Our biggest adventure came when Writer Princess graduated from high school. We and two other families organized a “graduation cruise,” essentially the same cruise we originally planned for our trip last week. The group grew and grew to eventually reach 10 adults and 18 teenagers. We had an absolute blast. Ten years later, the kids are still talking about the afternoon at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel.
We had only one disappointment on this cruise. Our first stop was to be Grand Cayman where we had plans for “Stingray City.” Unfortunately, one of our fellow passengers burst an appendix the first night of the cruise, so we diverted to Key West for a medical evacuation. Key West became our replacement port. It was OK, but we would have much preferred Grand Cayman. Oh well, no point crying over what you can’t control.
The rest of the cruise went just great. In retrospect, once our shore excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled, we should have gone ahead and booked something in Cozumel. If you don’t book some sort of organized activity, there isn’t much else to do there. We got off and took a cab into town and wandered around some. But after awhile, one gift shop looks pretty much like the last one. And we’re not big shoppers.
The non-stop attention from the Mexican “barkers” trying to get you into their store gets to be annoying.
One thing that is never a disappointment is the food. Supposedly, Carnival is not known for gourmet cuisine, but you’ll get no complaints from our crowd. At times it seemed like everything else on the cruise was just there to fill the time between meals. We found we actually had to pace ourselves, by not eating too much early and filling up too soon.
Early on in our cruising days, our family established the custom of meeting each night for dinner in the dining room. (A casual buffet is the alternative.) When we started this, it was Poolboy and Writer Princess who objected. These days, it was the two of them who were telling the cruising neophytes of the benefits of this custom. And since the dining room is where you find the prime rib, rack of lamb, lobster tails, etc, it’s not a real hardship.
Now, we are back to dry land and life-as-normal — no one to make the bed and serve us great food every night. Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?