PART THREE: First Day at Sea
Day Two of the cruise, which was the first full day at sea, I slept until 9:00 a.m. and felt somewhat better – at least at first. Took a long, leisurely shower, dried my hair, and then set out to get things in order for our more formal Meet & Greet, scheduled for 3:00 p.m.
I had requested a location and door prizes from John Heald, Carnival brand ambassador. He usually provides these for Facebook group M&Gs and I’ve done it many times before, with no problems. This time, he had told us to go to the Red Frog Pub and he asked for my cabin number and said he would have the prizes (usually consisting of a couple of bottles of champagne, a couple of “ships on a stick” and sometimes Carnival medals) delivered.
After we had a bit of late breakfast/early lunch on Lido and met some new people, since I hadn’t received anything for the party in the cabin yet, I figured to be safe I should go check with Guest Services and be sure we had what we needed. That was when my long and unhappy acquaintance with Vlad began.
He was manning the Priority line at the GS desk, and I explained to him that our Facebook group was having a M&G at 3:00 at the RFP and we were supposed to have door prizes from John. He looked at his computer and told me no, the M&G was at 1:00. Umm, no. Yes, he insisted, the Cruise Critic M&G was happening at 1:00 in the RFP and someone already had the door prizes.
Umm, NO. Cruise Critic is a different venue, theirs is a different group, and I don’t have anything to do with them – especially after being chastised by the admin on their site once for daring to mention my Facebook group. I don’t like Cruise Critic and quite a few others in our group feel the same way. No way was I going to their M&G.
And even if I’d wanted to combine our party with theirs, we had already scheduled ours for 3:00 pm, prior to the cruise. That’s the time that everyone in our group had marked down as time to meet. Some of them hadn’t bought an Internet package on board (and it was hit or miss as to when it worked, anyway) so there was no way we could have notified them all that the time had changed to 1:00 pm – especially since at that point it was already noon.
I tried again to patiently explain that these were two different groups. He kept telling me “Just go to the Red Frog at 1:00.” I showed him the post from John that I had copied and saved to my phone. He responded that he “had no record of it.” I said okay, I’ll go buy prizes in the gift shop, but we’re having our meetup at 3:00. He told me that the bingo game was scheduled for the RFP at 3:00.
Whaaaaaat? That’s when I got really annoyed.
I went back to the cabin, posted on the Facebook group that we might not be able to meet in the RFP after all and that we would look for another empty room. I wasn’t going to ask Vlad for one, that’s for sure. I brainstormed with my cabin mate and a few others, and we decided we would scope out the piano bar, and if it was empty, someone would stand at the entry to the RFP and redirect our people down there.
Stressed didn’t begin to describe how I was feeling. I had planned this in advance, thought everything was taken care of, and now dozens of people were going to walk into chaos. I was responsible for organizing and leading this and it was looking as if it was going to be a disaster.
I did, however, have one ace up my sleeve.
Remember the song Some Days are Diamonds? My motto is “some friends are Diamonds” – and that’s true in more ways than one when it comes to my cruise buddies. One in particular proved to be a priceless gem in this case. I try to keep names of fellow cruisers out of these reviews to avoid a) inadvertently offending someone who didn’t want to be named and/or b) inadvertently offending someone who didn’t get named. This time, though, I’m going to break protocol because he deserves the credit: Robert Burgess saved the day for me.
Bob and his wife, Gail, are approaching 500 days of cruising on Carnival and they don’t just sit on their balconies and watch the ocean go by on all those cruises; they are out and about on the ship interacting with crew, staff and other passengers. Bob knows most of those who work on the ship – from captain and officers to cruise director to entertainment and hotel managers, maitre d’s, down to the waiters and bartenders. And they know him. He’s friends with everybody.
If anyone could pull a few strings and bypass Vlad and get this M&G back on track, it was Bob. So even though I really hate asking someone to do something like that, in this case I bit the bullet and contacted him, via Facebook Messenger.
The problem with communications on the ship is that they tend to not be very real-time. Unless you get lucky and catch someone “at home” in his/her cabin, it can be hard to track people down, many don’t purchase the Internet packages and many of those who do won’t have their smart phones with them all the time – or like Bob, don’t even have a smart phone.
So it took a while for my message to get through. In the meantime, my cabin mate and I were scrambling, still counting on the piano bar as “plan B.” I bought a few things to use as prizes and we rummaged through all the things we had brought with us to come up with more. Bob had already generously donated a cruise coin (more on that later) and we had various fancy Mardi Gras beads, some previous Diamond/Platinum gifts and such that we threw into the mix.
As 3:00 drew near, I got more anxious – until I got a message from Gail saying Bob had gotten with Emma (Emma Nixon, the cruise director) and had door prizes. I was relieved, but still unsure about the venue. We went down to the RFP to meet and decide where to go, and Bob showed up and told us the bingo game was only in one area of the pub and we could have the other side for our party. Problems all solved!
It ended up being a great meetup after all. At first it appeared only our core group was going to show up, but then more and more people trickled in and we had a good turnout. And the door prizes for our raffle – wow. Bob had gotten not just a few things like John sends, but four ships on sticks, a couple of bottles of champagne, and a whole huge bag of Carnival medals. Combined with our spur-of-moment donations, we had enough prizes so that every person who attended got something. How cool is that?
The best part? Seeing so many of my old friends from previous cruises, along with the new friends I had met through Facebook as we prepared for this cruise. Here are some photos – but they fall short of conveying the camaraderie present in the RFP that day.
As the group leader, I hung around to clean up after the party, and get a little extra time to visit with some of the friends I was seeing for the first time on this cruise. As an added bonus, Robert distributed the commemorative coins he’d had made for this cruise, as he does for many of the special or “big” cruises he goes on. This is a beautiful one.
By the time we got out of there, it was time to start getting ready for dinner, since tonight was the cruise’s first elegant night.
A diamond-encrusted dinner
Speaking again of diamonds, my cabin mate, a fun and generous lady who is herself a Carnival loyalty program Diamond cruiser, had brought along a whole slew of “diamond” tiaras for the women in our immediate circle of friends. Most of us wore them to dinner that evening and some of us wore them every night when we went to the MDR. It was a fun and frivolous touch that made us feel special – and we got lots of comments from other cruisers who wanted to know who the “celebrities” were. LOL.
We were a bit more organized this time, and made plans to meet at the aft dining room and get a big table together. Although we had eight people (to begin with), we were seated quickly – then added another couple for a total of ten. The waiters were great and brought over extra chairs so we could all squeeze in together.
We were all dressed to the nines and looking good – and the food was tasting good. While most folks go for the lobster on this night, I prefer my root veggie pie – which has become one of my favorite dishes on Carnival’s menus and is one of the few new additions that came with the American Table menu that I do like.
We also had a birthday boy in our group, which means miniature cake and singing waiters.
It had been a long day with more than its share of stress (including more worrying about husband, house, dogs and turtle back home) so after a long, leisurely dinner punctuated by great food and lively conversation,
After dinner, back to the cabin to find an elephant waiting for me on my bed. I love all of the towel animals that the stewards construct and I’ve always especially liked the elephant. I let her wear my tiara, and she also took a liking to my cruise coin and wanted to pose for a picture with it.
By that time, I was ready to call it a night and hope that the next day would be better. Which it was – and wasn’t.
Find out why in Part Four.