Carnival Spirit: Embarkation and the Night Before and Whatnot
Okay, so I'm over the post-cruise flu-thing, the return to work and all that means, and other things that take too long to type about and that I may not technically be over, but... look, already saying too much!

This is going to take bloody ages, this trip report. I'm excited by the prospect of rambling, but MEH if I don't have a sudden and staggering amount of "Could you pretty-please do this yesterday?" coming from every corner.

But let's go ahead and start nudging the door open, and never mind the parents who don't understand why I won't take an assignment a month late (despite giving an extension, two extra credit opportunities out of pity, and lessening the overall work load), or... well, anything else better suited to other posts.

We began the drive to San Diego as soon as could I zip home from school - vroom, vroom, vroom. That Nevada-California light rail project can't happen fast enough, and of course I mean the one proposed to be between Las Vegas and Anaheim, not the other one, the one between Las Vegas and Victorville. The other one being the some very special project that certain politicians with certain friends with certain interests are trying to push. Victorville. Proof that they aren't planning to ride it.

But it wasn't really a bad drive, despite my ever-present fear of having car trouble with an hour of Mojave Desert on either side of a flat tire. We curved around the Kona Kai Resort fountain around nine-something, having gone 15 straight down to 56, once again skipping San Bernadino, then 56 to 5 for a short drive before turning right at the Rosecranz exit. (It's so hard not adding an /n/ and a /t/.)

I really like this little hotel at the end of Shelter Island. One thing I particularly like is how much cheaper it is than the other Shelter Island properties, yet it's completely clean, fresh, well-maintained, comfortable, scenic. etc. (In fact, I dare say it has the most scenic spot of all, being right next to the friendship bell monument and, as I said, at the end of the tiny isle.)

This time there would be no cumin-scented exploration of the Gaslamp Quarter. The hotel restaurant was open, but the menu was short, uninspired, and starting in the late $20 range. (My only criticism.) Knowing we'd be uber-peckish (despite some one-handed Pringle driving) but weary of car seats, we'd kept an eye out for likely joints along Rosecranz.

My friend Tillie says that no one ever plans to go to Denny's: it's the place where you end up. No less true on this night, but luckily our mouths were set for some eggs and familiarity.

Dinner was mostly decent. The new(?) berry drinks at Denny's were an unexpected pleasure. (At least the first time. Our refills were less well-mixed, but hey, unlimited.) I tried Four Berry Fizz, and Mike had Cherry, Cherry Limeade. (Which soon looked like Cherry, Cherry Lipstick.) My "Build Your Own Grand Slam" was a delicious steal (scrambled eggs, English muffin, hash browns, biscuit), while Mike less wisely chose to have wings and a burger. Still, good enough. Denny's: sometimes it's just right. (But I still wouldn't push my luck and go twice in one year.)

Back in the room (on the ground floor this time, but with the same lovely bay view), we flipped channels and rolled around, so happy to be here, with no demands beyond waking up whenever we wanted and moseying over to OUR CRUISE SHIP sometime the next day. Cruise! Cruise! Cruise! Cruise! Cruise! Cruise! Cruise!

Except, of course, I wanted to be there the earliest second possible so we could beg the maitre d' for a table for two. Sure, we'd asked John Heald if he could help (hey, the man says he sincerely likes to help), but asking is no guarantee, and maybe he hadn't even seen my message yet. And sure, the maitre d' hours wouldn't start until 1:30, but on Splendor Miguel was available earlier, therefore you never know.

So, it would be nice to just take our time and head to the ship whenever we felt like it, but nice is for suckers who don't need a table for two. Nobody wants to eat with us. I promise. We coo. It's gross.

(You may wonder why we didn't stay at the very popular and very, very well-positioned Holiday Inn right across from the cruise ship terminal. The Holiday Inn where they will let you leave your car for a week for about the same price as the parking lot next door. Well, we'd gotten a bit of a financial "surprise" not long before we set sail. I don't mean the kind of surprise where you are able to buy Park Place and Boardwalk in your first lap around the board. More like the kind of surprise Edward Woodward faced at the end of the Wicker Man, except at that point we hadn't found the bunny in the coffin yet. I exaggerate a bit. We're fine. We were just surprised. Anyway, as nice as the Holiday Inn seems to be, I'd rather keep the extra fifty bucks it costs to stay there when the alternative is also entirely pleasant. Come to think of it, we made our hotel reservation before being surprised, so maybe this is just one of my frugal zones.)

It's just as well that I didn't want to sleep in, because guess who was up before first light? Guess who looked groggily at the clock - 5:30 a.m. - and thought, "hey, I ought to sit on the porch with the Kindle for a spell and see if I can see our ship come in."

Me! So I tucked Madeleine Wickham under my arm and the camera around my neck and sank into a patio chair. I didn't bring the tiny tripod because that would have been too sensible for so early in the morning, but about ten minutes later I did listen to the groundskeeper in the golf cart when he suggested that I close my jaw and cross the drive to go right up to the waterline for some better photos of this:

Holland America Oosterdam Passing Shelter Island

(We'll consider "better" photo a relative term here.) I hadn't been reading very long when I glanced up and, whoa, gigantic cruise ship gliding past. These are quiet creatures when they want to be.

After taking the passing groundsman's advice and hopping barefoot across the wet lawn to the water's edge, I took many, many terrible but terribly excited photos of Holland America's Oosterdam going past. The above was one of the last pics - it was really something to have this silent, glowing beast of a ship right there, moving past me.

(I'm not going to italicize ship names in any of the trip report segments. Too fiddly. Just know that I know better. I also know that Carnival and the amazing John Heald prefer that all Carnival ships be called by their full names, but I'm hoping they will forgive my affectionate shortened versions.)

In the distance were only the usual pinpricks of light. Where was Carnival Spirit? Was she already in? Wait, was one of those dots getting bigger?

Nah. Back to the porch.

Or wait. Was that one light a little brighter now?

Nah. Keep reading.

Spirit didn't catch me as unaware as Oosterdam; it's noticeably louder. And... scamper, scamper, scamper back across the road. Wow, my ship!

Carnival Spirit - Night Blur

Carnival Spirit Passing Shelter Island

Good-bye Spirit! See you in a bit!

Being not long past six, I went back to our room (sixthish arch from the right) for the rest of my sleep.

Kona Kai around Sunrise

We woke. We checked out. We talked over each other with "Do you think...?"s. We drove. We parked. We rolled our luggage (why did we wait so long to get rolling luggage?) across the street, but not until talking the obligatory {Mike + Ship} in Parking Lot photo.

Carnival Spirit - Mike

We didn't quite beat two blondes with monochromatic animal print bags the size of bathtubs to the queue, which is a shame since it was after I volunteered to help pull the luggage of the blonde who'd stepped out of line to ask a question that the rest of their party showed up. Not that there's anything wrong with that, despite them having come over on the tiny open taxis and now needing to organize everyone's luggage or panties or whatever. A few minutes later, the rest of their party showed up, same dance, which was bordering on ridiculous, and it was only until the third installment of their relations appeared, now with even more bags to sort out while the rest of the queue waited, that we crossed that border and I could only laugh and laugh, and thank goodness we were waived past them and into a shorter line before the insane hiccups could begin.

All of this took place out front, passing the Oosterdam's prow.

Oosterdam - Prow

Once inside, we were pointed to the right. The right? We were almost at the luggage counter before we realized that the men standing in the doorway mistook our small rolling bags for real luggage. Wouldn't we have left our bags with the porters outside if we had luggage to check? Is there a difference between doing it outside and inside? (I aim to never find out. Fatties like us can't wear souvenir shirts from the gift shop if the luggage goes missing.)

Defiantly we crossed the empty waiting room to the other passage - the empty benches a contrast to when we waited to be processed for Carnival Elation. This truly is an easy port, as everyone says. Yes, here are our documents. Now we fill out health cards. Now we're at the window presenting our documents again. Look, nobody is here! Okay, now we have our Sail and Sign cards and a "Zone 2" boarding card (not VIP like last time, but not bad), and now we just round the corner and wait a bit to board. Nice!

So, we were not expecting to see two waiting areas full of people around the corner. Oh. Last time we just breezed past all that.

Zone 2 Not as Good, but Not So Bad

The wait wasn't long. Thirty minutes, including a few false starts? There's much that could be ranted about pushy-shovy people, especially the ones that will become separated from their small children in order to be first!, just as there are entire lectures in my head on how to force instruction upon those souls who do not know how to zipper two lines together. But, a few stinkers aside, we skirted the pose-against-the-backdrop photographers (credit where due: these were the least aggressive embarkation photographers yet), paused for our ID pics, and walked away from all those pushy-shovy people who were still clustered in the photo zone, where we had the entire ramp up to the ship, our ship, all to ourselves.

(Well, ourselves and a couple dealing with a wheelchair situation, who stayed with a crew member at the base of the ramp. There was some problem there with the chair and the ramp; I don't know what. We were given the official task of letting the crew onboard know that assistance was required, so I didn't pause at an L-bend to twirl around between ship and shore, savouring not having to moo my way up an impatient cattle drive. But it was still good.)

And once we were inside, we were inside, embarked, and so this first installment must close. It was too early for our stateroom to be ready, and neither of us wanted to get anywhere near the Lido this time (always a madhouse), and oughtn't we to check to see if the maitre d' was home? We walked along Deck Three to the back of the ship...

29 April 2010 |


 We built a house. 

 Rabbits tolerate us. 

  We play modern board games.  

 I hunt the dead.