Just Cruising the Caribbean

Last week my wife, Jo Ann, and I had the opportunity to cruise the Caribbean for a week. It was awesome. It was a chance for some much needed down time. We ate, drank, slept and generally just took some time to relax and de-stress. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

We have cruised several times before and have always enjoyed it very much. This time we were not planning on going on a cruise the week before Christmas. It just sort of happened. I was at work one day around the first of November and Jo Ann called me with an interesting proposition: “Do you want to go on a cruise in December?” Well, I am always up for adventure, but I had to ask. “what’s the catch?”. Turns out, there was no catch. Since we are such ‘experienced’ cruisers, she got an email from Carnival making us an offer on a 7 day cruise that was, in reality, too good to pass up. Suffice it to say, we could not have spent a weekend in New Orleans for what we could paid for the cruise. My response was short and to the point” “Book it!”

We had both been burning the candle at both ends for some time. For me it was a very busy work schedule and some other endeavors that kept me running. For Jo Ann, she takes care of her Mom, who lives with us, does a lot of work with out Scout troop and has a very demanding job at the high school these days. She is supposed to work part-time, three days a week. But, her personality does not allow her to just walk away when things still need to be done. Plus, for someone who is not a morning person, she is devout about being up at 5:30 every morning to get to work on time. We both needed some ‘down time’ and this fit the bill.

We were both excited about going but, as always, the stress of trying to get everything done and all the loose ends tied up before we left only made things worse. We had Christmas shopping to do, work projects to finish, things to do. I had a conference in New Orleans Friday and Saturday before we sailed on Sunday. I had to finish a PowerPoint presentation for a session I was teaching. But it seemed like it was going to work out okay, since we were able to book a room on Canal Street for Friday and Saturday. This would allow us to just check out of the hotel Sunday morning and head straight to the cruise terminal. Of course, there was a kink in that plan too. We were going to try to leave Friday around Noon, but I had something come up at work I needed to take care of, so it was closer to 5:00 when we finally got on the road. But as we left Watson and headed to New Orleans, we both breathed a big sigh of relief. We were on our way!

We checked into the hotel around 7:00, dropped our bags and headed across Canal for dinner at Palace Cafe. We decided to turn in early, so it was back to the hotel. The next morning, I did not have to be at the conference until 1:00, so we ordered coffee from room service and then got dressed and walked into the French Quarter for coffee and begients at Cafe’ Du Monde. Afterwards, we went to the French Market, did a little shopping and then strolled through the Quarter, back toward the hotel. After I was done with my conference, we met up with some friends who had come down to New Orleans too. We had dinner at Felix’s Oyster House and then caught the Streetcar to City Park to see the Celebration In The Oaks. We had a wonderful time and it really put us all in the Christmas Spirit.

Sunday morning we were up early and had a wonderful breakfast in the Quarter. On the walk back to the hotel, we ran into a movie crew that was filming that morning. There was a New York City cab sitting on the corner of Common Street and Barrone. There was also piles of melting snow in the streets and around the buildings. Not real snow, but movie snow; cotton batting placed to look like piles of snow. Not every day you see snow outside the old Whitney Bank.

We checked out the the hotel, got the car and headed for the cruise terminal! We parked the car, got ourselves checked in and were aboard the Carnival Dream in less than an hour. Things were looking up! First rule of a cruise is “eat early and often” So we hit the buffet on the Lido Deck and then went off to find our room. We got to Deck 2 and found Stateroom 2306, our home for the next week. That is where I got the first surprise. One of the reasons we got such a good deal on the cruise was we were supposed to have an inside stateroom. No big deal. A room on a cruise is like a hotel room in Las Vegas. All you are really going to do there is sleep and take a shower. But, my sweet wife surprised me by upgrading us to an outside room with a porthole balcony. That balcony is my happy place and she knew it. She loves me a lot.

We got settled, unpacked and then waited for the ship to weigh anchor and and set sail. That came around 4:15. They cranked up the engine, used the side thrusters and before long we were moving. It amazes me how they do it, but it took less than 10 minutes for them to turn a ship, which is bigger than a WWII aircraft carrier, around in the Mississippi River, back up, turn again and get us headed down river. But then we were on our way. Seeing New Orleans from the river as the sun sets behind the City is a real treat.

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As we cruised down the river, I could feel my cares melting away.  Seven days of Caribbean sun awaited us.  You can see some cool sights headed down river from the Big Easy.  At the Governor Nichols Street Wharf, there are two ships, which are actually owned by the U. S. Army transportation corp.

Somewhere around Jackson Barracks, we had a bunch of kids playing on the levee bid us ‘bon voyage’.

Then we got the same from the crew of a Chinese freighter.

As it grew dark, I took advantage of my private veranda to put my feet up and relax before supper. as the Mississippi delta slipped by.

Well, it is late and looks like this is going to be a multiple part blog, so I will stop here, where I have a good stopping point. Next time I will tell you about seeing the sun rise at sea. You don’t want to miss it.

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