After trying the security line up by Southwest, and finding it infreakingcredible—I mean out of the main area, into baggage claim, twisting all throughout the baggage belts, and back into the terminal, we went back to the line at the other end of Terminal A, which was probably just as long, but seemed to move much faster.
Walking toward our gate, we passed Ross waiting at the gate next to ours.
The flight to DC was on a very short plane, and it was very, very rough, in terms of turbulence.
After an hour layover in DC, we boarded our US Airways flight to Tampa, on which we had a window and aisle seat, and proceeded to name the people sitting around us:
Didn't name this woman.
The Invisible Man
Mr. Green Jeans
Rear of Plane
Other than that, our flight was uneventful, and we actually arrived a few minutes early.
There were Carnival Cruise personnel to direct us when we got down to baggage claim, and one of them asked us for our "blue transfer voucher." I told him that we hadn't signed up for the transfer from the airport to the pier, and then asked, "Well, can we just sign up now?"
"Actually, if you haven't signed up, the cheapest way to get there is by taxi. With us, it'll be $36. A taxi'll cost you about $22.00." We appreciated his honesty, and heeded his advice.
After collecting our luggage, we proceeded to take the most harrowing taxi ride I've probably ever been on—including one in Rome, where the driving is just nuts. The guy was an absolute maniac of a driver, going way too fast and zipping in and out of traffic at an unbelievable rate. In other words, my kind of driver.
If we had to to do it over gain, the only thing I probably would've done would've been to heed the big yellow warning stuck on the rear seat driver-side window: "For Your Own Safety, Buckle Up."
Much to our delight, though it was only about 1:15, we were able to board the ship—The Carnival Inspiration.
After the security check, standing in line and getting our "Sail & Sign" card, being strong-armed into taking two photos by ship photographers—one in front of a big dropback of the ship, and the other on either side of some goofy ship character, we made our way to the Lido deck for lunch.
We had a "Rum Punch Welcome Drink" with a $6.95 welcome charge to our new Sail and Sign card. Off and running. We had a hamburger and hot dog kind of lunch, and then made our way to our cabin.
Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when we opened the door to our cabin—which I had paid $85 for a "Birthday Package" for Joe, which included full cabin decorations, a cake, a bottle of champagne, and two keepsake champagne glasses etched with the ship's name on it and "Happy Birthday"—and all there was was the cake sitting on the desk.
After eating half of the cake, I got on the phone to bitch. I had to SHIFT INTO UPPER CASE a couple of times with Guest Relations, when after relating what my package was supposed to include, the woman answered, "Well, it just says, 'The Birthday Bash' on the record."
She just says that and stops, saying nothing else. "AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO ME? What did you charge me $83 for then?"
"I'm sorry, sir I can't see what we charged you." Again, she just said that, followed by dead air into the phone.
Again, my attitude shifted, "WELL, I CAN TELL YOU THAT I'M NOT GOING TO BE PAYING $83 FOR THIS CAKE. AND NOW, IT'S PRETTY MUCH SPOILED, AS THE PERSON THAT THIS WHOLE 'SURPRISE' IS FOR IS RIGHT HERE HEARING ALL OF THIS."
"Sir, let me check on this for you, and I'll call you back."
The phone call didn't come within 10 or 15 minutes, and it was time for us to leave for Muster Call, so we did that. Ours was Muster Station E, and it was in the Candlelight Lounge on the Promenade Deck (Level 9).
We donned our life jackets and arrived in the lounge close to the start of the drill, and standing over in a corner were made to sit down. We took a seat next to this older lady, whose mouth was obviously waiting to pounce on some ears. Sitting next to her, she caught Joe's.
"I don't know where my family is. I'm here with my daughter and son-in-law and ... and they're in the next cabin from me, so I'm sure this is the muster station for all of us. But, I don't see any of them." Of course, Joe's and my immediate thought was, "Perhaps that's no accident."
She proceeded to make snide comments throughout the drill, which were actually cracking Joe up. At one point, they were talking about how the life boats are made such that even if they fill up with water they won't sink, and she leaned toward Joe and said out of the corner of her mouth, "Oh come on. We've all seen the rescue movies."
After passing muster, we stopped back by our cabin to put our life jackets back above our closets where they're stored. Joe was walking in front of me, and after he passed our cabin steward, he (his name was Johnson), mouthed to me, "There's a surprise in your cabin." Joe opened the door to find:
Oh well. Better late than never, and I was pleased that the champagne was Korbel (Brut), which is exactly what I usually buy whenever I buy champagne.
We changed into our bathing suits, grabbed our towels, and went in search of the "Serenity Adult Only Retreat," which is a sunning section of the boat reserved for those 21 years of age and older—that is, no kids.
We decided to forgo dinner in the dining room tonight, and just nibbled throughout the night, really. We ate in the "casual area," and I had a salad, some bread, and tried an orange cake, which ended up tasting a little like a creamsicle. Unfortunately, it tasted even more like a creamsicle later on in the evening.
We meandered over toward the Paris Lounge, which is the main stage area for the shows on this boat, complete with a downstairs, as well as a balcony section. The show started at 10:30, and tonight's was called the "Welcome Aboard Show."
Since we were early, "Game Show Mania" was going on, which consisted of three contestants behind Jeopardy-like podiums "ringing in" to answer trivia about game shows. A good majority of the questions were of the nature, "Name the show from which this song comes."
The winners got their "very own solid gold plastic ship on a stick statue" and the runners up got medallions.
The show was okay, but not great—in terms of the quality of the singing and dancing. After that, a stand-up comedian came out, and I squirmed through the first 15 minutes or so of it. I hate live comedy. He did have a few funny ones, though.
Leaving there, we stopped by the Piano Bar, where we figured, "If there are any queers on this ship, this is probably where we'll find them." Well, we found one—the only one in the place: the piano player, who was a plus-size guy named Brady from San Francisco.
We had three or four drinks in there. He played us several songs including: Carolina on My Mind and Sweet Baby James (both my requests), Michael Buble's Home (Joe's choice), and At This Moment (my choice).
From there, we went to the Candlelight Lounge, which we had last visited as our Muster Station, where karaoke was going in full force.
I really liked the atmosphere in there. It had a Rodney King-Martin Luther King-dream-come-true feel to it. Everyone was just getting along—from black guys doing rap to black girls doing Whitney to Sorority-type white girls doing Like a Virgin to a Lesbian doing country to two guys who were either country or twice-blessed (country and gay) doing Sweet Home Alabama—everyone clapped along for encouragement and was just, overall, very supportive.
It was a fun way to end the evening.
Exhausted from a long, long day, we hit the sack at around 1:00AM.</em>