The days, weeks, months and years fly by faster than ever now, and as I look back at my calendar and my OneNote “Travel” section, I’m amazed at all the places that I – who once upon a time was a confirmed homebody – have been to and all the fantastic friends I’ve made along the way.
It began with Freedom
My last blog post before I dropped off the WordPress grid was an in-depth review of the 12-day repositioning cruise on the Carnival Freedom that took us from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Galveston, Texas by way of Sint Maarten, St. Lucia, Curacao, Aruba, and of course that old standby, Cozumel. That was the cruise that, in many ways, changed my life.
I wrote all about that in the blog post dedicated to it, so I won’t repeat myself here. Since then, I’ve sailed many more times with various people I met on (or actually before, through our Facebook group) that cruise. While the group that had grown to more than 600 members by embarkation day has fractured – with some folks stomping off in anger, others just drifting away, a few disappearing under strange circumstances – there is a core group that remains.
Even among those, there are schisms. Just as some of the bonds have grown stronger, other friendships have faded. Wildly differing values, betrayals of trust, and good old-fashioned personality conflicts have brought a big dash of reality to what seemed like a magical confluence of circumstances that welded a cadre of compatriots together into one cohesive whole – for just a while.
Magic, by its very nature, is an elusive thing that doesn’t last – except in those rare cases when it does. Human nature shows itself sooner or later, and some of those natures will prove to be less appealing than they might have seemed at first glance. Others, though, will blossom like flowers and reveal depth and beauty beneath the surface that we overlooked in our initial evaluation.
All that to say this: out of the Freedom Repo Cruise has grown an entity that, despite some aggravations and disappointments, occupies a very special place in my and many others’ hearts. Long live Freedom.
These are the voyages …
In the period between 2/15 and 9/16, I’ve been on six cruises. That’s a small number compared to that of many of my friends, who stay on ships more than they stay on land. If home is where the heart is, their shore-side residences are little more than temporary dwellings to sleep in between sailings.
My situation is a little more complicated. Work, spouse, house, pets – I have too many loves and obligations on terra firma to pledge my full allegiance to the sea. So I sail when I can, when it feels right, when the stars all align – and for me, not being able to do it as much as I might want just makes it all the sweeter when it does happen. (And I recognize that some people reading this are far less fortunate than I, who can “only” cruise four or five times a year, and are just as envious of my Platinum loyalty status as I am of that of my Diamond friends. Everything’s relative).
I’ll try (no hard promises) to go back and do fuller reviews of each of those cruises in their own individual posts, since I still have the photos and notes and so many memories. But for here and now, this is a brief synopsis of what I’ve been up to the times I’ve ventured out of the nest in the wake of Freedom:
Carnival Legend (May, 2015). This was the first cruise “reunion” after Repo with a few of my Freedom friends, although several of us had gotten together on land, at a party at my home, a month earlier.
Tom went with me on this one; it was his second and my third time to sail to Alaska, and this one was an eight-day voyage that left from Vancouver and returned to Seattle, visiting the usual southeastern Alaska ports of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and sailing both Glacier Bay and the Tracy Arm Fjord. Troy Linton was the cruise director.
Carnival Freedom (August, 2015). This was my first time to truly cruise solo, staying in a cabin by myself – and I loved it. I picked this cruise because my Freedom friend Lola and her family were on it, and I needed an extra few days to attain Platinum status (75 days sailed on Carnival) before my birthday cruise. It was a seven-day round-trip out of Galveston that went to Montego Bay (Jamaica), Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Our cruise director was Wee Jimmy.
Carnival Freedom (September, 2015). This cruise was with Tom, and the occasion was to celebrate my birthday – one of the Big Ones – and several couples from Freedom Repo joined us. We got the fantastic Grand Scenic Oceanview cabin and did the steak house and Chef’s Table, too. I got that coveted Platinum card and the perks that go with it. It was the same itinerary as my August cruise, and on the same ship. (Yes, I’m a fan of Freedom). CD was Adam Miller, but I can’t say that I ever saw him.
Carnival Miracle (December, 2015). This was my third time to sail on the Miracle, but the first two times were to Alaska. This one was a little six-day pre-Christmas cruise out of Long Beach, on which I was accompanied by my son. We went to Puerta Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. One of my Freedom friends and his sister were on board, and Chloe Loddo proved to be a surprisingly (because I hadn’t heard of her before this) great CD.
Carnival Freedom (February 2016). This was my first Blogger Cruise with Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald, his ninth year to do it, and the biggest reunion so far of friends from Freedom Repo. It was a seven day out of Galveston that went to Roatan (Honduras), Belize, and Cozumel. I was solo again, and had the same Grand Scenic Oceanview all to myself. We participated in most of the special BC 9 activities and enjoyed being together again. John’s sidekick, Calvyn, was there, and Malcolm Burns was our cruise director.
Carnival Legend (May/June 2016). It’s probably obvious that I’m hooked on Alaska, so I booked it again, this time with a larger group of Freedom Repo friends. Same ship as the year before, but a slightly different itinerary. This one was only seven days, and sailed round-trip from Seattle, skipping Glacier Bay but hitting all the other same Alaskan ports and adding Victoria, Canada. Jen Baxter did a super job as CD.
The above doesn’t even touch on the several non-cruise trips that I took during this time, but I’ll talk about those in a subsequent post.
As you can see from the list above, I have my favorite ships, but I’m hoping to branch out a bit more in that department in the coming year. I currently have five cruises booked for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017. Two of those are “secret cruises” with Tom; I promised not to reveal the dates/ships until we’re on board so we can have that time alone without my “entourage.” He’s not quite as social as I am, and doesn’t enjoy the attention of being married to a “celebrity” (in this small circle) who gets stopped every ten yards on the ship by someone saying “Hi, Deb.” 🙂 I love my friends, but I also love time alone with my hubby.
The bookings are always subject to change (as my poor, long-suffering Personal Vacation Planner knows well, I do have a habit of switching from one cruise to another when something better comes along or an unexpected schedule conflict comes up), but at the moment, here are the places and ships I’m looking forward to in the not-too-distant future:
- Carnival Vista – a ten day cruise of the Mediterranean with my daughter, beginning in Athens and wrapping up in Barcelona, where the shiny brand new ship will finish her European inaugural season before heading across the Atlantic to her new home state-side. Along the way, we’ll visit Rhodes, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Messina, Sicily; three Italian ports (Naples, Civitavecchia/Rome and Livorno/Florence/Pisa) as well as Marseilles, France. We were originally scheduled to port in Izmir, Turkey, but the port was changed to Kusadasi and then cancelled altogether due to unrest in the region. A number of Freedom Repo friends will be along for the ride.
- Secret Cruise #1
- Carnival Glory – This is another Blogger cruise, BC 10 “Hot” (there is also a BC 10 “Cool” to Alaska on the Legend in May, on which I was also booked, but I switched it for the Sunshine cruise described below). The Glory is sailing round-trip out of Miami, to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grand Turk; St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands (one of my very favorite Caribbean ports); and Amber Cove, Dominican Republic (the only one I haven’t been to before). A few Freedom Repo friends will be there, as will some of the BC “regulars” I met and became friends with on this year’s Blogger cruise. I’m solo again on this one, with a nice aft extended balcony.
- Carnival Sunshine – I traded in BC 10 Cool for this one, and it was a tough decision. I love Alaska, but I’ve cruised there four times and it was the same itinerary. I love sailing with John Heald, but I’ve done that four times, too. The Facebook group for the Alaska group had only a few of my Freedom friends, and after one of the couples I was looking forward to meeting had to cancel due to health issues, that group just didn’t “click” the way most of them do. Meanwhile, some of my very best friends from Freedom had booked this Sunshine Journeys cruise from Charleston during the same time frame. The ship was almost full, and they were all urging me to switch, so with a little trepidation, I jumped on board. It has a couple of ports I haven’t been to before (Martinique and Antigua) as well as my beloved St. Thomas and San Juan, but most importantly, it has a large number of my BCFFs – Best Cruise Friends Forever, including my Diamond who is a girl’s best friend, Lola, who helped me reduce the cost by agreeing to share the cabin (a regular balcony) with me.
- Secret cruise #2
Cruisaholic? Who, me?
And just over the horizon is the Horizon, Carnival’s newest ship-in-progress, under construction now at Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy. We’re all keeping a close eye on that, and anxiously awaiting the announcement of itineraries when she launches in 2018. Personally, I’m hoping for a Baltic cruise; I’d love to visit St. Petersburg and indulge my love of the Romanov period of Russian history. A northern transatlantic crossing that visits Iceland would be tempting, too.
We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings, but for now, we can dream.