This is about part 2 of our 2015 vacation. Milton was turning 60 in 2015 and wanted to visit Disney World in Orlando again. We had both had such a wonderful time on our first RSVP Vacations gay cruise so we decided to do another one of those too. We would fly to Orlando and spend a few days at Disney World and then drive down to Fort Lauderdale to get on the ship.
This was our seventh cruise. We had previously been on several Carnival ships, a couple Royal Caribbean ships and one MSC ship. This was our first Princess ship and like the MSC ship, it was an RSVP Vacations charter. RSVP Vacations really do a spectacular job of entertaining their passengers and so it makes it a little difficult to sort out who gets accolades for the positive and blame for the negative but I do want to try and sort it out here.
First of all, the positive: Last year was our first RSVP Vacations cruise and they had chartered an Italian line, MSC and that crew was a bit aloof, inattentive and unfriendly. The Regal Princess crew was just the opposite- they were warm, attentive and friendly and seemed to enjoy having us as passengers. They genuinely seemed to be having almost as much fun as we were. We appreciate that. I would give the crew a 10 out of 10. They were great.
The ship was fairly new and beautiful as most of the ships we have been on. It was
As is usual on all cruises, we started out with a "muster" drill. Everyone has to bring their life jackets to a location where you would board the life boats.
We were late to the "Hello, my name is..." party because Princess Cruises had lost Milton's bag which had our "Hello, my name is..." t-shirts we had bought specifically for this occasion. We kept checking with our steward but finally, he told us to check at the purser's desk. After checking there a coupe of times through the evening, Milton's bag finally appeared. This was the first cruise that we have ever had problems with our bags arriving in our cabin.
Later that evening, around 8pm, we went to see "Charo" in the ship's theater. She was only doing two performances and they were both on embarkation/sail away day. She did a wonderful show. I think everybody was impressed by how great she looked. Milton and I talked about seeing her on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. We estimate that she must be close to 70 but then we did read somewhere that she got married at 16 so maybe she just got a very early start? Maybe she was only 18 or so when we say her originally back in the sixties?
At 10:30pm that first night, we attended the RSVP Vacations 30th Anniversary Diamond Party. There were a lot of people wearing silver in their outfits and so it kept feeling more like a "Silver" party than a "Diamond" party but it was great fun regardless. We love to dance and never miss an opportunity to do so if the music is good and the music is great on RSVP Vacations cruises. It is more than good!
The first day had been wonderful. There is such an abundance of activities on a RSVP Vacations Cruise. It is impossible to attend every activity and show.
The next morning, we woke up in Princess Cays.
Princess Cays is a private island owned by Princess Cruises. I rented some snorkeling equipment and saw some lovely fish out among the rocks offshore. Milton doesn't swim and not interested in getting a tan but always sweet to let me have my "beach day." A hamburger and hotdog buffet was served on the beach. Although we had purchased "soda" cards which are supposed to cover all the soda you want to drink during the cruise, our soda cards were not good on this island. Princess seemed to want to nickel and dime us for sodas. They should have been included at this buffet!
Upon return to the ship, after we had rested and had dinner in one of the dining rooms, we attended the Princess Cruises show "Fiera!" In addition to all the incredible activities that RSVP Vacations provide, we still get the standard fare from the cruise line. Fiera! was the typical cruise line show for a midsize ship and had a few singers and a few dancers. There were some interesting visual effects. The Princess Theater was the smallest of any of the cruise line theaters we had seen.
Carnival and MSC offer similar shows. Royal Caribbean exceeds all the others in entertainment, though. Royal Caribbean has full Broadway productions on some of their ships. On the "Allure of the Seas," that we had taken a couple of years previously, RC had a production of "Chicago," an "ice" show as they also have ice rinks on their ships. They also had a Cirque du Soleil type water show as well. In all the "straight" cruises we have been on, Royal Caribbean far surpasses MSC, Princess or Carnival when it comes to entertainment. When it comes to gay cruises, RSVP Vacations does such an incredible job that it really doesn't matter much what the cruise line offers.
At 10:30pm, we went to the "Disco Inferno" party with DJ Robbie Leslie. He had been on the gay cruise we had taken in 2014. He does a great job of playing all the hits from the "disco" era. We heard all of favorites from the 70's, including Sylvester, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Chaka Khan, and many others.
As we were leaving the dance floor, we saw a guy laid out on a couple of tables. He looked like he was unconscious. I asked the guy that was standing over him if he was okay. This guy replied that he was okay. But as we approached the doorway to where the elevators were, we saw a ship medic of some kind coming out and going toward where we had seen this guy.
The next morning, upon awakening, it was announced over the loudspeakers that we were heading at top speed to Miami as there had been a medical emergency. We heard somewhere along the line that there were two people who had overdid it at the Disco Inferno party and were possibly in coma's. We assumed that it was probably due to some bad drugs. Upon arrival in Miami, we were meant by multiple police cars, ambulances and drug sniffing dogs. We were in port in Miami for a couple of hours before we were allowed to go back out to sea. The itinerary had to be changes slightly but really didn't have much effect on the cruise.
Once we left Miami, it was back to lounging around the pools and wandering around the ship.
On the third day of the cruise, February 10th, we spent a relaxing day out at sea. In the afternoon we attended "The Love Boat T-Dance." Princess Cruise line was the one used in the seventies television show. The actress that played the daughter of Captain Stubbing was on the ship and we kept running into her. She was no longer a chubby kid. Of course, Charo had also been a guest star on The Love Boat, too. A special message from the actor that played Captain Stubbing was played on the big screen.
After resting for a while, having dinner in one of the dining rooms and wandering the ship and checking out various shows, including Bob the Drag Queen, we attended the "Code" party. This was a bit risqué with many of the men in leather or minimal clothing.
On Wednesday, the 11th, we had another day out to sea. We attended various shows and lounged around the ship. That night, we attended "The Pajama Party."
On the 12th, we got off the ship for a few minutes in Cozumel. I wasn't feeling very well and when we got back to the ship, I had to rest in the cabin. My stomach was churning and turning and finally I ended up on the bathroom floor next to the toilet. Finally, I vomited. This was the first time I had been sick on a cruise. I am convinced that it was something I had eaten the night before- the awful shrimp cocktail, or the disgusting chicken breast with a slice of ham on it. The only other possibility was the "made to order omelette." I was too sick to attend the "Diva's" T-Dance.
Later that evening, I was feeling better and we did go to the "Time Machine Party."
On Friday, the 13th, we were anchored off Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Milton and I had been there a couple of times on other cruises but we did get off the ship and took a walk. When we returned to the ship. the "Ranch" T-Dance was underway.
That night, they had the "Anything Goes Costume Contest" party. First there was a fun costume party and then more dancing.
On Valentine's Day, February 14th, we attended the "Blush and Bashful" T-Dance.
It was a wonderful cruise. Disembarkation is always the worst day of any cruise. The ships always want you up and out of the cabin early in the morning. Some ships are better than others in getting everybody off the ship. Since our plane didn't leave Fort Lauderdale until the afternoon, we decided to take the Everglades- Flamingo Gardens excursion that would kill some time and get us to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. We boarded an airboat and zipped through this part of the Everglades. We did see an alligator.
From the Everglades tour, we went to the Flamingo Gardens before heading to the airport. It was a lovely gardens and we did see some flamingos.
This article is just being written. Please come back in a week when it is finished.
After Milton and I returned from our first cruise on the Carnival Destiny, we were excited to tell others about our experiences. One of the things I loved about cruising was that there was no dragging suitcases around. Once you are on the ship, you unpack once at the beginning and don't have to deal with the suitcases for the week. I much prefer living out of drawers and closets than a suitcase!
We were visiting my brother, David, and his wife, Leslie, about our trip to Las Vegas and then our cruise trip on The Destiny. Leslie commented that when they had gone to Vegas, they were not able to do much because they had their kids with them. I told them about Club Carnival for kids on the ship and how that frees up the parents to have a vacation for themselves as well as the kids.
I told everybody about our cruise and Donna was particularly interested. Over a year or so, we decided that Donna and her husband, Teddy, and their two kids, Nick and Christina, and David and his family would all meet in Florida and take the Carnival Valor cruise.
This is some footage from the first couple of days on the cruise out of Miami on the Carnival Valor. David had insisted that he didn't need to take any dramamine or wear a scopolamine patch but that first night was a bit bumpy as we passed Cuba. By morning, David was asking for a patch.
On day three, we are in Grand Cayman. We tender in from the ship. Milton and I go on the Atlantis submarine excursion. Apparently the water is rough on the usual side of the island where people usually do the submarine and so we are doing it at an alternative site. Many excursions were cancelled because of the rough waters on the other side of the island. After we do the submarine, we took a "taxi" which is actually a minivan, over to 7 Mile beach and then another one to downtown Georgetown before returning to the ship.
This is footage of our beach day at Tabayana Beach on Isle Roatan in Honduras. The water was warm and beautiful and the snorkeling was great. We paid for the Carnival exursion which took us there in a crammed minivan and brought us back in a more comfortable school bus. The beach chairs were included in the price. No problem with "no see-ums" as others had reported.
In Belize, Milton and I had signed up for the Belize City- Altun Ha Mayan excursion. We had a great tour guide for the day, Simone.
On day six we docked in Cozumel. Donna, Teddy, Christina, Nick, and Milton and I all took a very bumpy ride on a ferry over to Playa del Carmen and then a bus ride to Tulum. It was a fun day. It was a great cruise. It was a great vacation.
I think that RSVP Vacations and Atlantis had been around for a while but we had never looked into their cruises but for some reason, in 2007, we became interested in taking a gay cruise. The problem we found was that both RSVP Vacations and Atlantis release information about their cruises about 12 months before the actual cruise and at Kaiser, where I was working at the time, they required us to put in vacation requests about 15 months in advance. Once the annual vacation bids had been done at Kaiser, it was next to impossible to get any other time off without a lot of scrambling and finding your own coverage. We finally gave up on the idea of a gay cruise in 2007 but were still interested in trying a "cruise" vacation, even if it were a "straight" cruise.
I looked into various cruise lines. What I liked about Carnival at the time was that they had a guarantee that said you could get your money back if you went on a cruise and decided you didn't like it. We just didn't know how we would feel on a cruise and whether we would want off at the very first stop or not so this guarantee they had going at the time seemed like a pretty good idea. Carnival also seemed to have a huge selection of itineraries.
One of the things I looked at for our first cruise was how many days the ship would be out to sea. I figured that if we got sick, we would not want to be out to sea and so I wanted a cruise that docked every day. The Carnival Destiny, which was going out of San Juan, Puerto Rico seemed to come closest to meeting that criteria, only having two days out to sea. We would have stops in St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua.
It was also important to me that the ship be as large as possible and that we have a balcony for fresh air. For me, vomiting is one of the worst possible experiences! I would rather have pain than vomit! I would bring a lot of hand sanitizer for our hands and disinfectant for the room just in case of norwalk virus. I would also bring ginger candy, ginger capsules, dramamine and wear a scopolamine patch!
It was great to be able to put down a deposit on the cabin we wanted to guarantee that cabin. You could get a cabin cheaper if you let Carnival assign the cabin but I knew I wanted something in the middle of the ship to minimize movement to minimize the possibility of getting seasick. We loved being able to pay for the cruise over a period of several months and having it be refundable up to about 90 days out from our sail date.
We had to book a flight to San Juan and this was one of the last flights we ever took with stop-overs. We were supposed to fly out of Oakland to JFK but about 30 minutes before the flight, we heard our names called and we went up to the desk. We were told the flight had been overbooked and were asked if we would take a different flight that went through Newark, New Jersey. I don't remember now why we were so agreeable- I can't remember if we were given the option or were just told this was what we had to do. Maybe the flight got there earlier. I just don't remember.
Coming back was the bigger problem. We were booked through JFK and there was a huge snowstorm grounding many flights. We had no problem getting out of San Juan but JFK was dicey. We were on the tarmac for a while. Some passengers were in their planes, on the tarmac, for hours and many didn't take off at all. We felt very lucky when the pilot announced we had been cleared for takeoff. We just barely got out of there!!
When we first arrived in San Juan, it was fairly early in the day and we were just exhausted from the long flight and layover in Newark. We went to our hotel but they would not allow us to check in that early so we had to kill time until check in. I think we just wandered about and went and got something to eat. Compared to the Bay Area, the weather in San Juan felt like summer in the middle of winter! I loved that!!
The cruise went well. We both wore our scopolamine patches behind our ears and neither of us got sick. There were moments of nausea through the week but usually brief. I believe one of those times was actually on dry land, on one of the excursions, on one of the islands where there were a lot of curves in the road. In St. Thomas, we visited "Coral World." It was really not very impressive but the beach next to it was great. On Dominica, we visited the rain forrest and "The Emerald Pool." We visited another natural spring pool on one of the other islands as well. Milton let me have a beach day on Barbados. Milton doesn't swim and African-American so not looking to get a tan. I always appreciate his willingness to let me swim, snorkel and lay on the beach!
Our cabin was great. Carnival does a wonderful job of entertaining their guests. Our room steward did the obligatory towel animals every night. He made up our room twice a day which is typical on cruises. The food was mediocre but okay. Since I had taken microbiology as a student nurse, the buffet felt a little risky. On that cruise, we had our own hand sanitizer but that didn't do any good for cleaning everybody else's hands! I would see people coughing or sneezing into their hands and then serving themselves from the buffet. Unsupervised children were the worst, though. When at the buffet, I would always try to reach toward the back of the serving dish which had not been touched yet or had serving spoons laid across them. Eating in the dining room felt safer but Milton and i are not very social and on that ship, on that cruise, we were seated with two women through the cruise. I don't know if the ship does this intentionally- seat two men with two women? Regardless, we only ate in the dining room a couple of times because of this. It is just too awkward making conversation with strangers!
One of my favorite things about The Destiny was it's gym. There was a large whirlpool there that was not filled with screaming kids! Adults could actually use this whirlpool and relax! They also had a steam room and a sauna on this ship. I thought other ships would have these amenities as well but in future cruises, we would find out that is not the case.
We were in cabin 7-244. It seemed small at first but on future cruises, we would discover that Carnival and Royal Caribbean have the largest cabins for our budget. Princess and MSC were the worst. After we had been on several cruises, I would never go on a Princess or MSC ship again. Their balcony cabins are so much smaller than Carnival and Royal Caribbean and their food is much worse!! On the Destiny, we also appreciated some of the free toothpaste and other samples left in our room. Out of all the cruises we have taken, Carnival has the best bedding!! Passengers on the Destiny could purchase Carnival pillows and bedding while on the cruise and I was tempted. The worst bedding we have had on a cruise was MSC, which had lumpy pillows as if someone just stuffed old rags in a pillow case!!
Here is some video of our first cruise. It is not very high quality because of the camera I used but also because of youtube limitations on size of video at that time. That has changed since then and I might go back to the original footage and re-edite some day.... maybe... enjoy!