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Searching for sunshine on the Sunshine

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Days 1 & 2 – How to get from Canada to New Orleans in 40 easy stepsboston

Step 1: Leave Canada on a Thursday afternoon and drive to Maine ahead of impending snow storm (and by snow storm, I mean flurries… because Maine didn’t get a snow storm and we’re from Canadia). 
Step 2: Kill time in Maine by eating, going to the mall to search for snow shoes, and going to Starbucks because the hotel at the airport is boring. 
Step 3: Check in at airport hotel. Be appreciative when the mister at the desk gives you a deal on the rate for no reason. Share chocolate with him as thanks. 
Step 4: Wonder why you have a couple of missed calls on your cell that was turned off coming from a US number – only to figure it out when you check your email and discover that two of your three flights for the following day are cancelled. 

pralinesStep 5: Call Delta to get the news that they can’t get you out on a flight until Sunday, probably just in time to miss your cruise ship. Book those flights to hold them… for now.
Step 6: Say eff it for the night, watch the Bruins game, crush some candies, and go to bed.
Step 7: Plot how you are getting to New Orleans while trying to fall asleep.
Step 8: Wander over to the airport to see if there’s anyone actually at the Delta counter – there is not.
Step 9: Eat some food.
Step 10: Call Delta again and spend an hour plus on the phone trying to find a way to New Orleans from any airport within a 5 hour drive that can get us there before Sunday. Finally decide on Boston.
Step 11: Rent a car.

beadsStep 12: Have awesome husband retrieve winter gear from own car since it’s blowing and snowing and effing cold.
Step 13: Pack up our crap in record speed and hit the road for Boston in a shiny Dodge Avenger with Rhode Island plates and no winter tires. Stop to spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to open up the truck of the car that is frozen shut, while freezing ourselves in the process. Give up and throw suitcases in back seat.

Step 14: Hit the I95. Stop en route to open the trunk and reshut it an hour into the drive when it finally decides it wants to open and sets off weird warning thinger on the dash.
Step 15: Stop for coffee at a rest stop and take a picture with a metal moose. This is a mandatory step, of course.

gumboStep 16: Stop to beat the wipers against the wind shield so we can actually see out once it starts to get sunny and slushy on the drive.
Step 17: Use our superior intellect to figure out how the eff to get to Logan when the map doesn’t make sense anymore and the signs are intermittent.
Step 18: Proudly figure out where to drop off the rental car by making illegal right turn. Use our mad ability to drive in snow to manoeuvre the rental car up a steep incline totally covered in ice, snow, and slush.
Step 19: Ditch the rental car and head to into Logan.
Step 20: Pack all the winter clothes into our suitcase since they are now unexpectedly coming along for the trip. Thankfully we pack light.poboy

Step 21: Stop for tasty beer and a salad at Harpoon. Find Starbucks. Play on the internet. Sit and wait for flight.
Step 22: Watch flight get delayed, but remain cool because we know we can definitely get to Nola from Boston, unlike Bangor.
Step 23: Fly to Atlanta.
Step 24: Arrive in Atlanta. Sprint from terminal T to B in 5 minutes or less to make connection.
Step 25: Huff and puff and miraculously make connection.
Step 26: Fly to New Orleans.
Step 27: Arrive in New Orleans and watch the luggage spinner not spit out our luggage. Win the Amazing Race, er… be the first East Coast team to arrive.
Step 28: Talk to the Delta lady who advises us our luggage is coming on the next flight in an hour or so, so we sit around and wait.

voodoo_dollsStep 29: Play on the Internet and monitor the progress of friends en route from other cities. Realize the NJ contingent is coming to the same terminal at the same time as our luggage.
Step 30: Make plans to be the welcoming committee.
Step 31: Drink some water.
Step 32: Greet the NJ gang as they arrive.
Step 33: Collect luggage.
Step 34: Realize is it colder than it should be in New Orleans.
Step 35: Wait in line for cab.
Step 36: Share cab with random folks to get to hotel sooner since it is now like 1am and we are tired and hungry.
Step 37: Listen to cab driver babble on about how poor they are paid and his five starving children in an attempt to win our sympathy and rant about homeless people begging for money.

Step 38: Start conversation with other people in cab so we won’t have to listen to cab driver anymore. Compare stories about how long it took to reach New Orleans from various locations.
Step 39: Arrive at hotel. Walk around corner to actual lobby door. Check in to hotel and chit chat with fun guys at the desk.
Step 40: Meet up with the gang in the lobby. Head out for pizza with Dionne (and then Mel) since we are starving.jackson_square

We were pretty relieved to actually get to New Orleans when we did and to not have to spend the weekend in Maine. Just about every Delta staff member we talked to was ridiculously helpful and friendly, which is fairly amazing considering they had been dealing with the fallout from about 6000 cancelled flights in two days along the eastern seaboard.

We had a group rate at the Embassy Suites in New Orleans. Location was fine, rooms had character, breakfast was included, cocktail hour was included, and it was close to the port. 

Travel tip: Almost undoubtedly, if you call any travel-related organization more than once, you will get a different answer each time. Be nice to the people on the other side of the phone, it always gets you further. While the first person I talked to at Delta was perfectly pleasant, the lady I talked to the second time I called Delta went out of her way to help us find a way to get to New Orleans sooner rather than later. If you don’t like the answer you get, call back – but have realistic expectations. The world doesn’t owe you free things for minor inconveniences and the airlines can’t control the weather.

bourbon_stAlso, travel insurance is your friend. We have it through travel-based credit cards and we’ve researched it quite heavily to make sure it covers the things we need. We were able to get back to the cost of our rental car to Boston under trip interruption.

Day 3 – Sharing a Drink with the Dead and Avoiding the Scary Horses 

We hit the ground running with Dionne in Nola. We pretty much wandered around all day, along the water and up through the artist market at Jackson Square. We stopped at The Corner for some lunch – catfish po boy and gumbo with beer – and then wandered off some more. We tried pralines, which taste like fudge to me and I don’t like them. My only to do things in Nola were to see a cemetery and to eat a beignet… I’m low maintenance 🙂 After lunch, cemetery time – we went to Saint Louis Number One. I love cemeteries – they are always so interesting to me, especially the ones with all the st_louis_cemetary_1monuments above ground and some real history to them. I think we pretty much covered the entire place, including the supposed grave of Marie Laveau (famous voodoo practitioner and/or hairdresser)… we marked our xxx’s and left our offerings. We hit Bourbon St. after the cemetery, where the beers got larger and larger each time they were purchased, and then headed back to the hotel, via Starbucks 🙂 There was also gelato involved… even bought a few trinkets… which we pretty much never do. Dionne even got Binja some Bears beads… nice gesture, since she’s a Packers fan… thanks D!

We chilled at the hotel for a while and then met up with the gang (at least some of them) for the free cocktail reception at the hotel while watching football (well, while listening to football updates from people following on their phones). After that, it was off to hit the town… we grabbed a burger in the Harrah’s Casino because we were effin starving and everywhere was packed because the Saints game was coming on… got a kick out of some crazy Christmas set up
marie_leveauxoutside the casino where they were shooting soap out of it to replicate snow… grabbed some beers en route and headed to Bourbon St. Met up with Tricee and Mikey there (once Tricee scared the crap out of Greg by sneaking up him – nearly getting herself punched in the face in the process) and wandered around. Listened to the street erupt when the Saints won the game, hit up a CVS for chocolate en route back to the hotel, and went to bed.

Day 4 – Are you Ready for Some Football?

Greg, D and I decided to check out some more of New Orleans in the morning before we got on the ship, so we went to Café du Monde for some beignets (there was no line at all on Sunday morning) and coffee and walked around a bit before going back to the hotel. The port was pretty close to to the hotel and the ship looked deceptively close, so we walked over. I think we definitely took the wrong way around the incredibly long convention center, but exercise is good for you and we made it just fine. Getting on the ship was pretty painless, but the VIP lounge was pretty silly to me and it seems to have made things slower instead of faster.cemetary

On the ship, we pretty much took over the EA Sports Bar so that people could watch football… since we had Bengals and Packers fans in the group. The signal kept cutting out and the games didn’t turn out quite as people would have hoped. The sports bar was nice though. 

Muster was the same clustereff that is always is. One piece of luggage showed up quick, the other took a while. Greg’s traditional and thoughtful treat plate was nice, and we watched a bit of sailing down the Mississippi River in between everything. Since I’m platinum, we get a random Carnival gift… it was a cooler bag this time I think. I didn’t look at it carefully.We had late dinner and Carnival accommodated our large group at multiple tables together, which is great… but we were at the very front of the dining room, in the heart of the entertainment action that we don’t all care for. If you’re looking for commentary on the food and pictures of it, you’ll have to find it somewhere else. Carnival food bores me stupid and I find it
voodoo_shophard to eat since their vegetarian options aren’t great. I’d be willing to kill someone to get a proper salad every night that isn’t slathered in some kind of terrible sauce. The dining room has yet another unfortunate set of lighting from Carnival – this time it looks like a giant circle of partially blown up condoms.After dinner, there was hanging out…. cause that’s what we do… and Mikey continued to rise in hero level status for Chris. I think we had tried to check out a comedy show, but it was full and we weren’t willing to wait around for another one.

Day 5 – I Thought I Beat the Binja… Then I Puked 

Sea Day… we had brunch in the dining room and were pleasantly surprised to see they changed the menu to a brunch style menu. Nice change. We walked around the ship to get used to the layout changes sincsnowinge it was the Destiny and to check out all the main spots. It’s definitely a lot nicer now as the Sunshine than it was as the Destiny. We were thrilled to have our pub back, but the lounge and theatre are a fail. They made them too small. And the ship was loud. Everywhere. And not just because of the people.

We hit the gym for the first time ever on a ship – decent equipment in there. Met up with some of the gang, learned how to play shuffleboard, and had a kiwi that works on the ship show up and take it over since the ropes course was closed due to the wind and that’s where he normally works. Gel kicked his ass and he didn’t forget it for the rest of the cruise… silly competitive kiwi boys. He did help save Dionne later in the cruise though.The afternoon was also the first of our cocktail parties (thanks Ing)… the “Stranger Danger” one… so most of the gang was there… minus some non-drinkers and/or people with the plague and then a bunch of people I had never met… and didn’t really end up meeting. It was fun. We drank. There may have been a feeble attempt to try and keep track of the number of drinks people had (Herb, this is completely your fault)… and someone may have puked trying to beat the Binja. We kept drinking, joined by Luda, until pretty much supper… and then Sarah ditched him.

street_washingThe rest of the day was spent like most of them are… eating, drinking, hanging with friends, and playing games. We always make our own fun 🙂

Day 6 – Pub Crawling in Key West and Dancing Asses 

First port was Key West. It was windy and cold (well, not Canada cold) and I think we saw the sun for about 20 minutes. We spent the day pub crawling and hit quite a few spots. None of them stood out to me… but lots of them used dollar bills as decorations, which is incredibly strange to me. My only goal for Key West was to have chocolate covered key lime pie, and that mission was a success… and it was yum.

Key West was a fun day with the gang… I managed to get a new pair of Birkenstocks for a great price (thanks for the heads up on that store Frank!)… had some Starbucks (small things please me)… hit a naked bar (thanks for wearing underwear Chris) and a lame strip bar (no thanks!)… World of Beers was pretty awesome, although overpriced… it was crazy windy by the time we headed back to the ship… and everything is five dollas! Five dollas!sailaway

Back on the ship, there was the usual hanging out after dinner (though at dinner we did learn that Chris is solar powered and watching him watch the dancing waiters and Ken made having to sit through the dancing and singing a lot easier)… we had family game night in the Red Frog pub… where we learned that there are some crazy competitive people in our gang. The short version: I don’t completely suck at table top shuffleboard, Angelica never chokes, Kathy is a ringer, and several people became addicted to dominoes. Thanks for the handy use of ipad scoreboard throughout the week Scott! We checked out the club for a bit before calling it a night… that was like a whole other fucking planet. Mostly people just looked stupid to me grinding their asses up against anything they could find… but I’m a dirty hippie, so what do I know. The club (which acts as a theatre until late at night) was packed, and I’ve never seen that on any cruise. Honourable mention goes to Khaki and the Captain for their mad white boy dancing skillz.

pubcrawlDay 7 – Freeport Sucks 

We’ve never been to Freeport in the Bahamas, and I have to say when it’s cold and wet, it’s pretty much terrible. We took a cab to the Port Lucaya area and that was my own personal kind of hell… overpriced stupid souvenirs… we did check out the beach for a second, but this port was general uninteresting despite at least finding some beer. We were back at the ship within a couple of hours. We had some mediocre conch fritters at the port and gave up on Freeport.

Back on the ship, we tried the Mongolian Wok area and that was the best food I had on the ship all week… despite the stupid long line. Yay vegetables!! We went to see a mindreader show after dinner … it was terrible… and we hung out.bras_and_bills

Day 8 – Peeing in the Ocean, Spitting Beer on your Wife, What Does the Fox Say, and SUN SUN GLORIOUS SUN!!!

We finally got some sun in Nassau so we high tailed it out of port as soon as we got off the ship and went to the beach for the day. We took a taxi over to Cabbage Beach (free beach beside the Atlantis Resort)… we snuck into the Atlantis to check it out a bit from the beach side (there was no way we were paying like $50 a person just to walk in the door)… the ocean was rough, so there wasn’t much swimming going on… (red flag, no life guards… but at least we weren’t getting whistled at like they were at the Atlantis beach) but we played in the waves a bit and relaxed and got warm. Someone’s stubborn husband may have gotten a strange stripey sunburn on their back from fighting against sun block like a little kid… and someone’s girlfriend may also have had pretty sunburn stripes.

beerBack at the port we happened across Sarah and Chris, which turned into several additional beers and some more fun while there was sun. Back on the ship, we found some food and then proceeded to try and get the sand off ourselves. Dinner featured a very strange dance to What the Fox Says by the wait staff….the mister dancing behind my head was really getting down… and thankfully Herb was there for moral support. More games in the pub afterward and moonshine may have magically appeared. And beer tubes. For a night before a sea day, the whole ship shut down very early… it was very strange and zombie apocalypse-esque.

Day 9 – Another Rescue at Sea and Death by Pasta

Sea day… and it was a jam packed one. We met up with the entire gang for sea day brunch (translation, to use our free drincocktail_partyk coupon) and then it was off to the ropes course. I stayed as team photographer since I still had jello legs from a lot of walking in sand the day before (and it was stupid windy again the next day so I didn’t get to try it then like I had planned)… there may have been a rescue mission involved, and someone else may have gotten yelled at for jumping. Everyone did great though… and the weather was nice!

Next up was the cabin crawl… and if you asked the organizer nicely, you get your normal gang as your team. We did not win and we saw lots of different cabins. Next after that was the past guest party, in the theatre/disco…. And it’s terrible in there. And it took some doing to get decent drinks, but we managed. And there’s also weird passenger dancing… all the same dance… looking like robots. I don’t get it. Tricee and Ing made it look better at the end, but it’s still weird to me. 

pubPlayed some cards and then it was off to the Italian restaurant to celebrate Melissa’s birthday (as well as Gel, Chris, Miles, Gwyn, Mikey, Herb’s aunt… and maybe more.) We ate way too much food (because the portions there are ridiculous) and used birthday confetti as ninja stars for our own personal entertainment 🙂 Comedy club after that… it was too hot and the guy wasn’t really that funny.

Day 10 – Calling it a Cruise

The last day on the ship was a slightly less jam packed sea day. A few of us met for brunch and then made plans to check out the ropes course (which was closed due to wind) and then water slides (I want no part of being trapped in a tube where water is splashing into my face)… there was trivia (terrible 90s shagging tunes trivia) and cards… there was also a very feeble attempt to possibly book another Carnival cruise while on board to get the credit but they are out of itineraries I am willing to pay for… another cocktail party that was much tamer than the first one, football, more beer, goodbyes at dinner, more hanging in the pub, watching Mississippi River traffic out the window (we passed a couple of other cruise ships), and more goodbyes. In the wee hours, we called it a cruise and went back to our cabin to pack and get a few hours of sleep.sunshine

Day 11 – Fucking Roller Boards, Broken Hearted Over Smoothies, and Our Luggage Takes Its Own Vacation

We were apparently delayed getting through Mississippi River traffic or something so it felt like we were sitting around forever waiting to get off the ship… though I suspect that as always this was more because people are assholes and can’t just wait their turn to get off. We always lug our own luggage off so we were off fairly quickly once it started. Customs took 5 seconds and the person before us was causing a scene calling her daughter a dink while actually talking with the customs officer. Cab to the airport, ate some breakfast, got a smoothie (I desperately wanted juice *white russian*) and waited for it to be time for flight number one. Yay for free internet!

waterslidesWe had a 3 hour wait in Atlanta this time instead of 5 minutes (though apparently 3 hours is not long enough for them to route our luggage to our next plane… stupid Atlanta airport misplaced our luggage both ways and I am going back to avoiding it like the plague)… sat around watching football, had another smoothie (I still wanted juice and was very excited to see Jamba Juice until they didn’t have JUICE!!)… flew to another city.

Had another 3 hour wait in NY… ate some supper, watched some more football… GOT SOME JUICE! Hung out in the swanky terminal with the free internet… had a gate change to the ghetto part (more what we are used to) with no internet… flew to another city.


Got to Bangor around 11:30… waited for our luggage to appear and it didn’t… checked to see where it was (which was Detroit… which makes perfect sense since it’s not on the way home and we didn’t even fly through there)… did the paperwork and drove home without it. Fortunately we had our winter clothes in our backpack… though it wasn’t that cold… there was a lot of rain while we were gone and there was much less snow around when we got back)… Woke up the border guy around 2:30 am to cross back into our own country, stopped at Terrible Tims for a hot drink to keep us awake for the last hour, finished the drive home… couldn’t get the car up the driveway since it was a luge track… could barely get us up the driveway for the same reason… went to bed around 4am… and that’s a wrap. 

The weather wasn’t great on this one, the ports were boring and only fun because we made them fun, and the ship was interesting. They tried to jam on every single new feature they have as a brand, and while they succeeded on some, they definitely failed on others. It’s definitely better than it was as the Destiny though. Greg thinks that our dryer breaking as we were trying to wash clothes to go on vacation was an omen… and he tried to cancel the cruise repeatedly when the Bears didn’t make the playoffs… I would happily return to New Orleans since we didn’t have nearly enough time there… and I’m thankful for more fun times spent with great friends. Every vacation is a good vacation! All our cruising family that couldn’t join us this time, you were missed.

Hopefully this didn’t come across too negative or dull… in the grand scheme of things, most everything was fine… and I’m pretty sure I’m just getting bored of cruising and want to get back to land travel and places that I personally find more interesting… and a lot of time spend chatting with friends (which is awesome) doesn’t always necessarily make good blog fodder… but it does make good memories 🙂

Until next time (which we’ve already started to plan)… 

Ange out.

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