After our cruise with Donna and her family and David and his family on The Valor, we all wanted to do it again. We looked at West Coast cruises which are pretty limited. Milton and I had taken a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas in 2011 but by this time, Royal Caribbean had pulled out of the West Coast, possibly due to a crime wave of drug cartel related crimes in Mexico. Carnival's Splendor was a new ship and almost as big as the Mariner of the Seas and Donna, David and everyone else had liked Carnival before. Carnival had quit stopping at Mazatlan, though, also apparently due to the crime wave. The ship would leave out of Long Beach with stops at Cabo for two days and Puerto Vallarta for one.
Donna has always been in touch with my dad's side of the family since she was a little girl. Darlene, Roger and I had never had much contact with that side of the family since my mother and dad divorced. They were much more involved with Donna, Davide and Hebert. I think they visited them while they were growing up and I know Donna had made several trips to Arkansas. My uncle Pete and his wife had visited San Francisco after I had meant Milton and I had taken them out to dinner. My cousin, Edward, had also visited once and we spent a day together. I was thrilled when Donna suggested inviting our uncle Pete, in his late 70's at this time, and Edward, who was around my age.
My grand-nephew, Alex, had come to live with Milton and I just a few months previously and so we got him a ticket, too. Alex was 16 when he had come to live with us but had now turned 17. We really didn't know him very well when he had asked to come live with us as we had only been to Washington State, where he lived, only a couple of times during his lifetime. I just don't have much interest in other people's kids so when we did visit, I was always more interested in catching up with my adult sisters, brother or cousins, than getting to know children.
Alex had come down with his mom at one point to pick up my old Nissan which I was giving to his brother Sean since I had bought a new car. My Nissan was over 10 years old but still ran pretty well and Sean needed a car and I really didn't want to deal with selling the Nissan.
When Milton and I had lived on Waller Street in San Francisco, my nephew, Chris, had lived with us from 16-18. My brother David had lived with me in San Francisco in the 70's from when he was 16-18. Alex would be the third teenager in our family that had come to live with me in the Bay Area. Of course, when David had come to live with me, I was much younger and only a few years older than him. When Chris had come to live with Milton and I, we were only in our thirties. It had been many years since we had a teenager in the house and we had never had one post cell phones, computer games and texting. These were all new challenges for us.
When I had seen Alex in Seattle on a trip there and we had meant him when he and his mom came down to pick up the Nissan, we both were under the impression that he was very shy and had difficulties socializing. Darlene, Roger and I are all minimally social so it didn't surprise me to think that Alex wasn't very social either. As it turned out on this trip, we discovered that Alex was actually very social. Once I made him aware of the "teen" club on the ship, he was hard to keep track of for the rest of the cruise.
We spent the first night in Kettleman City, along Interstate 5 as it takes us two days to get to L.A. since none of us like sitting in a car for very long. Then we stayed on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood the next three nights. We met my brother, David and his wife, Leslie and their two kids and my sister, Donna, and her husband, Teddy and their two kids, at Disneyland on Friday. We all went to Santa Monica Pier on Saturday. On Sunday we all got on the Carnival Splendor and met up with my cousin, Edward, and his friend, Neil, and my uncle, Pete, and his girlfriend, Lou. We had a couple days at sea and then were in Cabo for a couple of days. Alex and I went snorkeling there and rode a waverunner and we all enjoyed the beach. Donna and others went and swam with the dolphins.
Then we spent a day in Puerto Vallarta. Donna, Teddy, Nick, Christina and Alex went on a zip line excursion and had a great time.
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!