The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 5)

We’ve been on nearly a half dozen cruises before, so we know the drill. Typically we get our room keys at check-in, then drop off our carry-ons in our stateroom, and then head for the Lido deck to grab lunch at the buffet. Along with 2,000+ other people.

But we’ve paid $600 extra to get perks like VIP check-in, so we’re on the ship earlier than usual. Along with a bajillion other VIPs. We realize once we’re on board that we weren’t given any room keys. Are we supposed to just go have lunch and keep our carry-ons with us? That doesn’t sound like $600 better treatment. Do we go to our stateroom first, which, in our case, is completely at the back corner of the ship? That doesn’t sound like a good idea if we don’t have key cards to get into the room. (Note: A Carnival ship is approximately 3 or 4 miles long, I think, stem to stern. My statistics could be a tad off, but it certainly feels like it’s that far.)

We ask a few other VIP types who are also meandering around clueless. We’ve all done this before, and none of us can remember getting on without key cards. We’re jamming up the elevators here midship, with everyone else heading up to the Lido deck (deck 9). I decide to be smart and flag down someone in a Carnival polo shirt. She doesn’t seem to understand my question but tells us to go have lunch. Another passenger hears this exchange and pulls me aside to tell me that no, we’re supposed to go straight to our staterooms, where we’ll find our key cards.

We continue to wait by the elevators, in a group about 5 people deep, before we give up and decide to try the stateroom first. As we get to the last corridor, a young family is coming out, shaking their heads. They tell us that they weren’t allowed in, and when the door closes behind them, it does have a sign on it saying that no one is allowed in until 1:30. I check my non-phone phone. It is only about 12:00.

But Wayne is a rebel and opens the door and heads down the hallway anyway.

“We’re VIPs!”

After a few sheepish calls of “Wayne, no!” I follow him. Because he is a rebel (and  a VIP), but I am only a sheep (and a VIP). Baaaaa

focus photo of brown sheep under blue sky

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We find our stateroom door wide open, and I scoop up an envelope in our small mailbox in the hallway just outside the door. Inside are two key cards with our names on them. So the fellow traveler was correct about us VIPs, and the Carnival employee was wrong. Lesson learned.

Dropping our carry-ons in the room and taking a quick gander around at what $600 extra has bought us, we decide that it’s time for lunch. Our suitcases won’t be delivered to our staterooms till around dinnertime, so there’s not much else to do but check out the extra features of our upgraded suite and then eat lunch and explore the ship. I’m excited about the extra space. We even have a separate vanity area.

dscn1850Wow, we have a small dance floor in here!

dscn1849I’ve lived in apartments smaller than this suite stateroom.

dscn1848Sofa AND a chair, along with the coffee table. I might never leave the room. Well, okay, maybe I will…

dscn1843Two sinks! He can leave a splashy mess around his, and I won’t have to get the front of my shirt wet when I use a sink after him.

dscn1881Wayne doesn’t know what a vanity area is, so he claims it as a desk. Whatever. There’s a desk in the main stateroom.

dscn1967The balcony, which only I will end up using. Wayne will come onto the balcony once all week, to stand there and look out at the ocean. Once. 

 

I check out the upgraded bathroom in our suite. The double sinks are amazing. But I notice there is only one bath towel and no other hand towels or washcloths. Even though suite stateroom passengers are allowed to board early, I suspect we have come a little too early. My suspicions seem confirmed when I notice a strange yellow ring around the middle of the tub, but I wave it aside and assume it’s a stain because the ship is old (it isn’t), or because the salt water is harsh on the fixtures (hey, dummy, the water coming out of the faucet isn’t salt water—what are you, a mermaid?).

I try not to overthink it, until I notice a small puddle on the floor in front of the tub. Now I’m hoping we did just catch the room steward in mid-cleaning. I grab the lone bath towel and drop it onto the puddle to soak it up.

But hey, I’m finally on vacation, and lunch is calling! Maybe this upgrade was worth it after all.

On our way down the corridor to the elevator, we meet our room steward, Marvin, and tell him about the lack of towels. He looks aghast and realizes we’ve been in the room already. He assures us all will be made right by the time we get back. We think nothing more about it.

Wayne and I get on the elevator nearest our aft stateroom and zip up two decks to the Lido deck … which is now swarming with the unwashed masses, the regular un-VIP passengers, who are now on the ship but who aren’t allowed into their rooms yet and so have all come up here for lunch. And every single one of them is wheeling a carry-on around in the buffet line. So much for all the early perks of the VIP check-in.

But for now, lunch is yummy. Soon we’ll be leaving the port in Tampa and will be headed out to sea.

dscn1829

Wayne is already doubtful about the wisdom of his expensive upgrade purchase. Within the next 36 hours, I start to agree with him.

Next installment: You get what you pay for … or, you know, maybe you don’t.

The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 4)

I’m famished. We’re having dinner at the hotel. We’re the only ones sitting at a table rather than the bar, so we’ll be eating really soon. We watch two other, large parties arrive, be seated, order, and actually receive their food before ours arrives. Apparently I was mistaken.

waterworks-bar-and-grillThis is how empty the restaurant was when we got there for dinner.

Well, this gives us time to catch up on the Keystone Cops version of our vacation so far. (And we’re not even on the ship yet.) I ask if my phone’s going to be reactivated soon, since it’s still not working. Wayne’s not sure, because,  when he’d been on hold with Xfinity for an hour at the airport while waiting for the shuttle, he accidentally bumped his phone and cut off the call. There wasn’t time to start over in the lengthy phone queue. So, still no phone for me. But we’re now together, and we have his phone, and there’s not usually phone service out in the middle of the ocean anyway. I’m not concerned. Yet.

We discuss our stateroom upgrade to a suite. We’ll have more closet space (which we never need). We’ll also have a larger balcony (which only I use), with three deck chairs (there are only two of us), plus a full whirlpool tub (which neither of us is going to use), and VIP check-in so we don’t have to snake through the line with 2,000+ other people. Okay, now you’re speaking my language!

The only negative I can see (for now), besides the added cost (which is on his credit card, not mine), is that all those travel documents and luggage tags I’d printed for our original stateroom are no good. I check the hotel’s website on my phone (which is still a tiny internet device, at least) and see that they do have a business center. No problem. I’ll simply get the PDF from Wayne onto my laptop and head down there in the morning to print out new documents. I’ve brought a small roll of tape to tape the tags to our suitcases. I’m proud of myself that I’ve thought of everything.

Only I haven’t really thought of everything. Why have I chosen now to stop running worst-case scenarios? They’re everywhere.

With the VIP check-in, we’re allowed to board the ship earlier than the unwashed masses, so we get up early and repack the few things we’ve taken out of our suitcases. I haven’t taken anything out of mine since I cleverly packed the carry-on with things I’d need before getting on the ship. I’m proud of myself that I really have thought of everything. Yeah. Right.

As Wayne’s stuffing things back into his oversized duffel bag, including his massive winter coat since we’re in Florida now, I grab my small laptop and head downstairs to the business center. We’re hoping to make the 11 a.m. shuttle to the port, but it won’t take long to print out two luggage tags and then tape them to the suitcase handles. In theory.

Wayne takes an earlier shuttle an hour and a half before we have to leave, going to a Walgreen’s nearby where he buys two sleeves of Diet Coke to take onto the ship with us, plus an Ace bandage for my wrist. I’ve slept on it wrong and can barely move it. This is going to make dealing with luggage so much more pleasant. (/sarcasm)

I carefully wheel my luggage onto the elevator and head down to the lobby. I find the business center and see there is no one there. What luck! Then I understand why no one is there. A sheet of paper taped to the printer reads: “Printer Out of Order. We hope to have it working soon.” The ironic thing is that the sign was clearly printed with a printer.

Unsure what they mean by “soon,” I dash to the front desk to ask about the printer. No problem, they say. They can print it for me in the office. But they can only do it if I email it to them. They tell me the email address and I scoot off to a chair in the lobby and email it.

Wayne shows up with the soda and the Ace bandage and heads back upstairs for his luggage. I wrap my wrist and then check with the front desk. They haven’t received my email. I’m suddenly glad I have a half million email addresses, and I re-send the attachment from a different email address. Wayne shows up in the lobby with all his luggage just as the front desk tells me they still have not gotten the email. I sit back down and try a third email address, as Wayne is telling me the shuttle has arrived. No pressure, Linda!

img_6930_c171ff6d-2f14-43ba-bbf18c23f593a547_d21b571a-8bd7-4753-9367a9b8fd34c6a7Imagine a bajillion people scurrying around, hoping to get on the shuttle, and me off in the corner with my laptop re-sending the same attachment a bajillion times.

As I’m sending the attachment from a fourth email address—and wondering if my old AOL email address from the 1990s might still work—Wayne tells me he’s called Carnival and that they say it’s no problem to have no luggage tags. We can simply tell the porter at the, uh, port (Where else would a porter be? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t start commenting with other places a porter might be) what our ship name and new stateroom number are and he can make up tags for us right there.

All this time, Wayne has been begging the shuttle driver to hang on, we’ll be right there.

No pressure, Linda! I’m now shutting down my laptop and trying to stuff it back into the carry-on so the irritated folks already on the shuttle will not lynch us on the way to the port.

I sit on the overcrowded shuttle (about ten or twelve passengers in a short bus, each with a week’s worth of luggage—you do the math, I’m feeling too claustrophobic at the moment), trying to remember my Lamaze breathing techniques to slow my heart rate and lower my blood pressure. I’m pretty sure it’s not working.

The shuttle arrives safely at the port and we all stand up to get off … only to find out the driver has parked in the wrong spot. We all sit back down and watch patiently as she maneuvers the shuttle around and then backs it into a different spot a little farther away from the port. Everything is unloaded and we track down a porter, bribe him—I mean, tip him—heavily, and he makes up two luggage tags for us on the spot.

Now we can relax and enjoy our vacation. We bypass the lengthening line of regular cruise-goers and head for the VIP check-in … along with a million other people. Clearly they have redefined “VIP check-in” since the last time we were blessed with it. We just keep rolling our carry-ons wherever people are pointing, hoping that we’ll eventually see a really big boat and get on it.

brill-day1-2This is what we’d hoped the terminal would look like for VIP check-in…

I keep reminding myself we’re on vacation. The worst is behind us.

Right?

Next installment: Rub-a-dub dub, three rings ’round the tub…