Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cruise 2012: Welcome Aboard

All good stories start from the beginning, so let me back up to where my journey began.  After a frustrating day (or more like days, or better yet, frustrating weeks) I gladly dashed out of the hospital and hit the road for the airport.  Despite a brief delay on the runway, a super short flight had me arriving in the ATL by 8pm. Aside from being greeted by my parents at the airport, the most exciting part of the evening was being reunited with Bailey.  Let's just say her reaction included lots of tail wagging, leaping out of the car in the middle of the airport parking lot, and clobbering me with kisses!

Friday evening, after Royce was able to leave work, we packed the whole family in the car and hit the road. We arrived in Gainesville a little after midnight and promptly passed out.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early to make the 3 hour drive to Port Canaveral.  As we pulled off the interstate, this beauty came into sight.  The Carnival Dream - our home for the next week.  Check in and boarding were remarkably simply, and by 11:30am, we were on board.

Our rooms were still being cleaned, so we took a stroll up to the Lido deck and set our sights on a buffet lunch.  I'll give you all of the food details in another post, but suffice it to say, it took little effort to build plate full of delicious eats.

With full bellies, we set out to explore the ship.  The Lido deck on the tenth floor featured the buffets, two pools, TONS of lounge chairs and tables, and a projection screen for showing movies.

I was anxious to check out the Serenity deck, an adults only area that promised cushioned lounge chairs and a peaceful retreat from the party atmosphere on Lido.  I quickly spotted a lounge chair perfectly placed in the sunshine and planted myself there.  The warmth from the sunshine felt incredible and I could tell right then that the trip was going to be wonderful.

I considered anchoring myself in that chair and not moving a muscle for the next week, but after a short nap, pried myself up to explore the rest of the ship.

After the mandatory safety briefing, we set sail.  From the Serenity deck, we watched as the ship gradually pulled out of port and made a path towards the Atlantic Ocean.  

Here we are at the mouth of Port Canaveral, pulling away into the ocean.  Good-bye North America, see you again in seven days!

Our room was a cove balcony located on the second floor (main deck) near the rear third of the ship.  The low position on the ship placed us just twenty feet or so off the water and made for a spectacular view.  I'd definitely recommend spending the extra money and splurging on the balcony!

Having grown up in Florida, owning a boat, and spending many an early morning on the water fishing, Dad has a great appreciation and love for the water.  The balcony was a great addition that allowed us to spend mornings and evenings watching the ocean waves as well as our arrivals and departures from port. 

After an awkward first night dinner at a table of 10, including two drunk obnoxious brothers, a crying girl, and angry parents, Dad managed to negotiate a water side table just for the five of us.  The picture shows the waterfront dining we enjoyed for the week.  We couldn't have asked for a better view!

Here's a view of the dining room.  Like the rest of the ship, the dining room was artfully decorated and appeared brand new.  Our waitress and wait staff were the same throughout the week and provided excellent service as well as nightly entertainment.

The Encore! Lounge was the site of nightly entertainment.  I was really impressed with the entertainment each night, which featured singing, dancing, live music, and comedy.

A HUGE thanks to Mom and Dad for planning and executing a fantastic vacation for the entire family!  Although we seem to take at least one big vacation each year, we were discussing on our drive to Florida that our last trip including all four of us was to the lake in 2009.  We've taken lots of great vacations and each seems to raise the expectations even further.  Fortunately, the cruise was even better than we all expected and provided the perfect balance of rest, relaxation, excursions, and activity.

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