Cue the Slim Shady – Look Whose Back.
Hey y’all! How did your April go? And your Easter? Lovely! Spring breaks? Great! I am so glad you answered with positive head shakes. If you didn’t then let’s move on.
I know some people love some vacation recaps. Of course I’m not one of those people. So today I’m just going to give you a little blippit of tips, tricks, and little stories about our trip.
First off – I’m not a camera animal. I do not take pictures of every single thing that crosses my path. Hell, half the time I forget I have a camera on my phone. Add in that I didn’t bother to purchase an international coverage package for my iPhone and well you cannot expect too much in the way of photos because life without a phone is LIFE!
Never drive to Tampa
So deciding to be a super hero I drove from Winston-Salem, NC to Tampa, FL. Never ever ever do this. Get a plane ticket, people. Tampa took me 11 hours in the car.
The trip was 667 miles. North Carolina was the worst state to drive through as far as traffic (thanks Charlotte), Georgia was the quickest state, and you should know that on I-95 in South Carolina the cops just stay away.
I drove through Central Florida and that was an eye opening experience. The only parts of Florida I had visited before were the eastern seaboard. I have been to Orlando but never to true central, rural Florida. The amount of horse farms were unbelievable! I only saw one orange grove in Citra, Florida. And to be honest that area of the state really reminds me of driving through South Carolina – sandy, poor, and boring. Don’t hate me for that comment – NC has plenty of sandy, poor, and boring too.
It is always a fresh reminder that not every area is Miami, Disney, or Tim Tebow.
We did not have but roughly 12 hours in Tampa. Also, our fabulous Fairfield Hotel was in a business park so we weren’t really close to the Downtown Tampa area. However, we were extremely close to the Hard Rock Casino. No, we did not gamble. Yes, we did eat.
I would love to go back to adventure around the cute areas of Tampa (not the business/casino district) because our cabby drove us through the adorable area and I think I need to hit that up.
Speaking of our hotel…
My travel agent booked our room for Fairfield Marriott – Tampa Casino & Fairgrounds. When I was driving to this place I was a little terrified at what she had booked us. I mean it didn’t seem like that great of a neighborhood.
Then I turn into a business park and I’m like – what the what?
Then I realize for this area it is probably a safe place to leave your car for five days.
The hotel is a mile from the casino and about six miles from the downtown area. It is extremely clean. The staff were super kind. Oh and the breakfast was nice! I do reccommend this hotel if you are going cruising. For $170 we had a night to sleep and our car stayed there as they shuttled us to the cruise port and picked us up when we returned. (You can leave your car in port parking for $60+ dollars at the actual port vicinity.)
This was my husband’s first cruise. He slept a lot and I will get to that.
Start to finish boarding the Carnival Paradise took us about thirty minutes. I was pleased considering the last cruise I was on took about an hour to board. Of course the staffers were exceptionally nice.
If you follow my Snap then you know I packed LIGHT! Seriously, two carry ons and that was it. Thank goodness we did that because we walked right to our stateroom and dropped our bags and went to get a drink and claim some chairs to bid adieu the USA!
Carnival stated that I would have a hair dryer in my stateroom – no such luck. The one thing I didn’t pack (said hair dryer) because I didn’t think I would need to and it was not in there. Bummer. That is my only qualm and I think that is along the lines of nifty. When I’m on vacation I could care less about being Beach Barbie and am more like the surfer chick with a buzz. (Honesty first, friends.)
The ship we were on, Carnival Paradise, is the smallest ship in the fleet. (I was told this by two staff members.) You really don’t think much about these behemoths being labeled small when you are standing beside them or in between them. But just like other ships it had all the food, entertainment, swimming, and alcohol you could want.
Unfortunately, for those who have a hard time dealing with the rocking of a sea vessel (see: My Husband) this ship was a little tough to experience. This is also part of the reason he slept a lot and I became a high level social butterfly. We went through a small storm on our way to Mexico and that made for even choppier seas so you can imagine how many people I witnessed fall as they were carrying their carbohydrate littered plates to tables in the dining area. I even saw one person just fall while trying to balance themselves.
Dramamine and the little sea sick bracelets are available on the boat for $10 a pop – buy them on dry land.
Now to nestle in these little gems:
- Buy the drink pass.
Here’s the low down on the drink pass – there are actually two of them. One will cover soda and the other will cover alcohol, soda, and your Starbucks-esque coffees. Also, if one person buys them then the whole cabin has to buy them. That part is kind dicey. Of course for the alcohol pass all people in your cabin ages twenty-one and older will be getting one.
On a cruise I find it my job to keep a drink in hand. Since my preferred beverage of the adult sort contains vodka the drink pass was a no brainer. Vodka can get expensive. Grey Goose and club soda will cost you about $7.50 a pop so these add up – especially on days you are cruising the sea with no port to dock at for a while. The drink pass saved me quite a bit of money (around $100.)
Most cruises go to hot locations (a la Mexico) so the kiddos will want to sip as they splash in the hot sun. Instead of chocking up $3 to $4 a soda buy them them the Bubbles pass.
2. Carnival Excursions Are Good
There is nothing like going to a new country and experiencing all it has to offer – safely. Sure, we all like to be ten feet tall and bullet proof but if you are not familiar with the countries you are visiting safety is key. Look at all the excursions offered and make decisions by your own deduction. We knew we wanted to lie on a white sand beach and sip drinks. In Cozumel you have two options – 1. Excursion or 2. Rent a scooter/get a cab and go to the beaches then pay to go on the beaches. For $155 I paid for us to go to Isle de Passion and have endless food and endless drinks (I’m not a lush) and relax on a safe beach. Others on this trip opted to do their own thing sans the safety of the cruise staffed excursions and they went to some sketchy areas on their own. Their experiences were labeled as “OK” since they were watching their backs on the constant and ran into a few questionable folks here and there who equivocate Americans as having money. Let your imaginations run with that one.
3. Go to dinner.
Cruises are known for the fabulous food. Your food costs are tallied into that fee you pay to cruise. Sure you can eat pizza and ice cream on the constant but guys go to your dinner. You can order one of everything on the menu and not get an extra charge. (Unless you order from the menu where it says extra charge!) This trip I finally tried escargot – yeah um oysters better.
4. Pictures are not free.
One thing the cruise line will do is hound you like the paparazzi. For the girls who thought they were the missing Kardashians that’s cool for others well we were saying it in chant form: NO MORE PHOTOS! Some of our dinner friends thought the photos were free and they ended up having over $100 worth of photos charged to their card because they took them all. I suggest you skip the pictures unless you need a prom picture of you and your current lover.
5. Take in a show.
The last night of the cruise we decided to go check out a show on board the ship (80’s Rock Show). Look, it isn’t Vegas and Cirque. It isn’t Broadway. Hell it isn’t even Disney. But if you sit with the right people you can make the most of it. (No one does Queen like the hubs, I, and the two dudes to my left.) The comedy show was pretty good for a cruise ship comedian. I’m really glad we attended that one.
I can be a Mexican
Cozumel is beautiful…in areas. When we ported we had a couple of hours to explore before we headed to Isla de Passion. Naturally, I’m a wanderer. My slight frame sometimes is led by a brain that says – You got this – when clearly I could be drop kicked like a five pound pup.
We left the “safe zone” and started walking around parts of true Cozumel. After being asked for the sixty-seventh time if we needed a scooter or taxi we felt the need to start the walk back closer to the ship.
We met a gringo who relocated to Cozumel in 1981 (not sure who she was running from) who sold excursions (not affiliated with the ship.) Then we met a guy who wanted to sell us Cialis (bahahaha) and then three guys who wanted us to buy some pot, percocet, and Cialis (what is it with Mexicans and Cialis?) If you want some pot then apparently the going rate is $60 American Dollars – no I didn’t buy any but that was the price he was selling it for.
Even though the people are poor and the military is subject (yeah we saw them) I really fell in love with Mexico. I was kicking myself in the tail because I should have paid better attention in Spanish class. Sorry, Mrs. Marion. That’s why on my agenda for the fall is to learn Spanish again – the real language – not the textbook stuff.
Prior to embarking on the catamaran – We decide to get those way-too-big-fruity-drinks that aren’t safe for children. I was on a pina colada mission so I got mine (pricing the same as America $9) and then saw people getting on the catamaran. I then gave myself a brain freeze and slight MI when I decide I needed to ingest this frozen goodness at a Nascar speed.
Guess what? I could have taken that drink on the boat with me.
I spent the boat ride to the island feeling like I needed medical assistance. Frozen brain and frozen heart – sounds like a good 80’s ballad.
All that changed when we pulled up to the beach – holy Lord almighty. The sand, perfection. The water – nice (not as pretty as the Bahamas.) The people – just lovely. Our excursion leaders were Alberto and um Jorge (maybe). I could have taken little Alberto and brought him home with me. He was the happiest guy ever.
The food at the beach was fabulous! Tacos – pollo (meh all the time) and pescada (BRING IT! I love fish.) Basically, I decided no carbs for my endless plate so I ate mine without the tortilla and with mounds of pico on top.
They also had some suspect American cuisine available. I thought that to be sinful.
Our drinks were tequila sunrises and rum. I enjoyed both.
I cannot give you grand details of fabulous experiences because my fabulous experience was that I finally got to lie on a beach in Mexico with tequila and Dos Equis in hand. I swam in the sea and laid in the sun. All was well in my world.
We had three hours on the beach. I did not want to leave.
After returning to the dock we scurried over to Three Amigos and got tacos and margaritas. I will never look at tacos the same here in the States. Most of our authentic Mexican restaurants are ran by those who came from other parts of Mexico (the Western side) and they just do not do justice to what we had in Cozumel.
We did a bit more walking around and then had to get back on our floating home.
No one made it to dinner except me that night. One couple was passed out from tequila. Another couple was passed out. My husband was passed out. I’m like a steel beam friends – a very short one.
My wait staff took pitty on me and sat with me. We talked about the Philippines – where they are all from. I told them my daughter was doing a project on the Philippines and they were interested in that. We discussed working on a cruise ship (interesting.) Such kind gentlemen.
The best part of cruising…
Is not just being waited on hand and foot. No the best part is the people. I met so many new people. A Pennsylvanian couple who shared their son-in-law is a stay at home dad and porn star. A group of Georgia ladies my mom’s age – one is going to the big house when she got home. A pack of fresh outta college brats who were on daddy’s dime. Carlisha and AJ who have three beautiful girls and have lived in Tampa their whole life. Angie and Bryan who just happened to be from close by us in NC but relocated to Tampa (we’re staying in touch.)
I saw the best salsa dancers EVER on board and they were not even 18!
There was the guy who wanted to look like a mafia man but it was clear his “gold” was leaving green marks on his skin.
Then the Russian assassin looking guy who had zero game with the ladies. However, his lack of game did not stop him from standing over random females every moment and watching them politely tell him to piss off.
Back to reality…
The drive home SUCKED. I believe SC grew in size while we were gone or it could have been our diverted drive from 95 to 321. I am jealous at how cheap stuff is in in the other Carolina. We need more Piggly Wiggly’s with their pricing.
It was a great trip and I’m glad we went. Two weeks later and I’m still on vacation mode – I don’t think this is going to change for a while…being that it is May and all.
I missed you guys!