The last time I went on a cruise was approximately June of 1971 (might have been 1970, but whatever … a long time ago). But it wasn’t a fancy affair for me, since I was on the ship as a musician. And being a “crew member” of sorts, musicians did not have the most lavish accommodations … an interior room at the bottom of the ship, 8 guys in 4 bunk beds housing both musicians and other ship staff. We would get on the boat in June and stay on it until late August or so as the boat went out on a series of 3-day “cruises to nowhere”. Staff was not allowed off during the roughly 6 hour off-loading and re-loading of new passengers.
To sum it up, not a pretty experience, but it paid rather well for the time. It did, however, sour my desire for any future “cruise” vacations.
Fast forward to 2018. The Ledford’s (James, Shauna, Carter, Audrey and Hudson) asked us if we would like to join them for a 5 day Bahamas cruise … an opportunity to spend some time with the grands and get pampered for a few days? Sure! And this time, maybe I can get a chance to sit on one of the recliners?
Ha! 2nd class citizen no more! Things with Sheila just keep getting better and better!
The first stop to crusin’ was to spend a day or two in St Augustine FL before our departure from Jacksonville. St Augustine is purportedly the oldest city in the US and is, today, a heavy tourist attraction. The Old Town area is super crowded, and super expensive … just about any tourist attraction has a pretty hefty price tag attached to it for admission, and truthfully, there just isn’t that much to see that interested us.
Our favorite spot was Flagler College, only established in the 1960’s but housed in the former St Augustine Hotel. It’s a magnificent building with beautiful architecture, and if you opt to pass on the tour, it’s free. The tour itself is only $10 per person, $8 for seniors, so very reasonable (especially for St Augustine attractions). Audrey has decided that THIS is where she wants to go to college …
Monday morning we were ready to head out for JaxPort in time for our 12:00 boarding when we got a text that announced boarding delays due to heavy fog in the Jacksonville Port. Fog? I hadn’t ever considered such a thing, although in retrospect it is somewhat logical that it could happen.
Getting on the ship wasn’t too bad, considering everything was delayed by about 4 hours due to the fog. A bit of a backup for luggage drop and parking, but entry onto the vessel was relatively painless. We were offered an upgrade to a larger suite, and with that came several VIP perks, one of which was expedited boarding times.
Our suite was nice, pretty roomy with a decent sized bathroom and good closet space. The outdoor balcony is small but still nice and private. This ship (Carnival Elation) was recently remodeled and was very nice. It’s on the small size for a cruiser, with a guest capacity of 2100 +/- and a crew of 900, but to my recollection, it’s a giant compared to my musician days performing on these things.
My initial impression after we settled our room and started to walk the ship is that these people are food and drink crazed nuts! There was an immediate dive into excessive alcohol and free food consumption by a significant number of the guests, which I guess is to be expected, but at least a modicum of restraint would have been nice.
Speaking of food, the quality of the meals served in the dining rooms is top notch … everything is fresh, prepared as requested, and nicely presented. The staff are well beyond pleasant; I’m somewhat shocked that, after being confronted with glutinous guests on a continuing 5 day basis, they haven’t grown bitter. Or, maybe they are bitter to the core but have been trained to grin and bear it? In any event, the service was, uniformly, excellent!
Contrary to my previously imagined thoughts about cruises, this was not loaded with senior retirees. In fact, it was quite the collection of all walks of life … old peeps, young kids, many nationalities, a literal melting pot of what you’d expect to see throughout the US. And, in general, all very nice people, although there were a few who drank a bit too much or were just a bit too loud. But overall, a nice bunch of vacationers enjoying themselves.
Our first stop was a place called Half Moon Cay (pronounced “key”, for some reason), a small island owned by Carnival. The beach and water were brilliantly colored and perfect for a days relaxation by the water.