Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hazards of Living in the South

First off, my kids are drinkers.  Big time.  You put a cup in front of them or a treat, and they'll pick the cup first.

So...I watch Claire's kids on Friday's.  Lincoln had a Thanksgiving program on this particular Friday so I packed up my 3 kids to go listen to them sing and then eat lunch.  Well, the singing was less than fabulous but that COLD fried chicken lunch looked A-MAZ-ING!  Let me tell ya!

So...I turn around to check on the kids while I dish their collard greens---and WHAT THE CRAP??  All 3 of my kids are downing--and I mean chugging--some sweet tea!  Who gives kids sweet tea?  Especially without asking the parents?  That would be like giving little kids a can of Coke without asking.  At least, it would be like that to me.

I quickly ran over (losing my place in line, mind you) and rescued their tender souls from further breakage of the Word of Wisdom.  I repented for them later that day.:)


Anyhow--I came home and told Claire the story and she was aghast!  She had no idea they served sweet tea there and quickly realized that her kids had probably been drinking it for 2 years now.  She's got some major repenting to do for them! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Raw Hot Dog Fever-Finale!!

This one's long, but it's the end and remember that this is also our journal!

I feel like I need to put a reminder in right here.  This is for my journal purposes so this next section might get a little boring because this is what happened to me, no one else was around me for about 75 % of the day on Tuesday.  So, for those of you who are reading this, and you are the type of person who would rather go and lay down on a lounge chair and read a book by a pool (my wife), I am sorry.  But for those of you who don’t like to do that (me), you may want to pay close attention!

Ok, back to the story: A few minutes later the deck erupted in cheering and shouting.  “What’s going on?” I thought.  Then I saw them…our heroes in blue jumpsuits…the United States Coast Guard.  You would have thought we were at some kind of concert, with the women going crazy to see the stars of the show.  Several of the women were jumping up to get their picture taken with our young “saviors”.  It had been one day!  (I think I figured out who the “hoarders” were!) People were starting to go nuts!  I truly believe that some people thought that we would starve to death, or worse! 
Speaking of worse, I have a confession: I did think that the reason the Coast Guard and U.S. and Mexican Navies were surrounding us was to keep us safe from the pirates.  Becky thought that I was crazy, “Why would pirates want to take over a cruise ship?”  Well, maybe the fact that there are a lot of people on board that had a bunch of vacationing money (that was probably never spent!), plus, there was a jewelry shop on board (Duty Free!) with probably hundreds of thousands in merchandise, plus the power that the pirates would get from their peers for overtaking a very big ship!  Yes, I was a little frightened, a little crazy, but frightened.  Now I do not want anybody to think that I let these thoughts consume me by any means, actually maybe that’s why I hung out on the open deck so much…to make sure that I could see the pirates coming!
The crowds are starting to really gather now by the pool on the Lido Deck, good thing we got the front row seats!  After waiting for a while, the Coast Guard, along with some of our ship’s officers were starting to unravel the “CAUTION” tape so that nobody would encroach on the drop zone.  We sat there for about an hour and then there it was in all of its glory!  The helicopter, making its dry run to make sure that everything was good for the drop. 

John (you guessed it) the Cruise Director got on the intercom and said that he was very sorry, but because they care so much for the safety of their guests, he needed to have us leave the area, because it was just too dangerous.  I think that this announcement made more people mad than the announcement that the cruise was officially over.  I couldn’t believe how irritated people got over this.  Not me.  I needed to find a good place to watch it.  Off I went to “my” deck, the open deck under the life boats on deck 3.  I liked to think of it as my deck because I was literally the only one that was ever out there. 

To my luck, the helicopter’s path of travel was straight at me and then right over the top of me!  I was stoked!  And the most exciting part for me is that I had my camera!  Sorry Emily, but I am taking pictures of this!  (I think I already established that I am a nerd, right?)  Not only was the helicopter with all of the supplies hanging from its underside right there, but the U.S. Coast Guard ship was just off the starboard side of the boat for me to take some good pictures…nerd alert!

So, during our wait on the Lido Deck for the helicopter drops, apparently the tugboat had arrived and hooked up to the bow of the Splendor.  As fun and exciting as it was to wait for the helicopter, I got really frustrated when I got down to “my” deck and saw that the tug was already hooked up.  I missed it!  Another photo opportunity had come and gone, and I missed it!  I love to see things that I have never seen (like the Panama Canal and how it works), and watching a tugboat hook up to a gigantic cruise ship would fit that category.  Yes, I was sad.  Of course I lived, but I was sad nonetheless.

Tuesday was really a day of very interesting things happening.  For me a lot of things that I had never seen before were all right there waiting to be witnessed for the first time: an aircraft carrier, a helicopter drop, a tugboat, a Coast Guard ship and helicopter.  These are iconic things in our nation, and I was now a huge part of it!  As crazy as that sounds, I truly feel that way.  I was in heaven for a lot of that Tuesday afternoon.  I also realize that it doesn’t take a lot to keep me entertained.  This day was so exciting for me, so much so that I still considered this cruise a vacation, unlike everyone else in the family that I was there with.  I felt like a little kid again.  I don’t understand how someone could just sit by a pool or on the beach all the time when there are things to be seen.  To each their own I guess.  Had everything gone according to plan, and the ship never had broken down, it would have been just another cruise—a fun cruise no doubt, but this was a vacation that will never be forgotten!

Well, I never saw any pirates, nor did I ever find my wife that entire day!  I did keep running into Gary and Becky, and Jim and Jennefer, and they would always ask me where Emily was.  I always replied, “I don’t know.  I haven’t really been looking for her.  I’m pretty sure that she is reading somewhere.”  Now, I can be honest.  I had been looking for Emily, pretty much all day, not hard, but I had been looking for her!  I went to every area that I thought she would be in, but never once was she where I thought she would be.  I was about 100 % certain that she was reading somewhere on a comfortable lounge chair, but I also knew that she didn’t want to be disturbed by me and all of my exciting pictures, so, had I found her I would have made sure that she knew I wasn’t seeking her out, but I kind of was.  I know, stalker, right?  So, I would make my rounds looking for my wife, unsuccessful, I would go back to deck 3 and find a little study time, then I would make my rounds again.  I got to see a lot of the ship doing this, and I saw a whole bunch of people.  A lot of these people were in their bath robes (provided by Carnival in every stateroom).  This had become the “official” cruise wear on the Splendor, as it was never much higher than 60 degrees, and there was a constant breeze, and nobody brought anything that would keep them warm.

*You can see the bath robes...and how much our boat was rocking by the pool splash.
While looking for my wife, I came across a couple of people that had just been laying in the hallways.  One was an elderly man, and there were a few people around him, I found out that he had slipped on some water that had fallen onto the tile floors from the ceiling.  Yes, there was water dripping from the ceiling!  I was told that it was condensation from the air conditioning not working, but I don’t know if that was a correct assessment or not.  It was really sad to see all of the elderly people on the ship, because they had to use the stairs.  If you have been on a cruise, you know that there are typically a lot of older folks, in scooters, and walkers, etc. and this cruise was no different (well, it was in the fact that there were no elevators!)  So, most everybody aboard ship got a chance or two to help someone take their walker, or scooter down (or up) the stairs for these folks.

This is a great time to mention that for the most part, the passengers on the cruise were very cordial about this whole disaster at sea.  Nobody seemed to be struggling, nobody was screaming at anybody else, it was just a unique experience that we were all in together, and everybody seemed okay under the circumstances.  I could only imagine what it would be like to be on a cruise where it was the opposite!

I remember Tuesday night we had a big family meeting, and we did it in the “Gold Pearl” Dining Room.  As we walked into the room, we were overtaken by a smell of rotting food.  It was such a nasty smell, I can’t even describe it.  I kept looking over at our group, and everyone of us either had our shirt up over our noses or hands covering the noses.  Occasionally someone thought they would be tough enough to remove said shirt or hands from their nose, and every time this happened you would hear them say, “Oh! That smells so bad!  Luckily for us this was one of the only rooms large enough to accommodate all of us reasonably comfortably, now I know why it was vacant!  This was the room that the crew was eating in, and it smelled like even they were doing the same thing as us passengers—hoarding and ditching their food!

It was while we were all here in the “Gold Pearl” that John came back on the intercom and told us a few things.  1) How Carnival was going to “take care of us”, this was the most anticipated announcement all day!  He said that they were going to reimburse the cruise, and also the travel to and from Long Beach (this is when cheers were heard from the entire ship), he also said that they were working really hard on getting everybody home safe and quickly.  2) Due to us having drifted 60 miles, the sea conditions being what they were, and they not wanting to have us deal with customs in Mexico, that they would instead be taking us to San Diego, CA in place of “Enchilada” Mexico!  Again, cheers erupted.  3) Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we were going to do things differently with the feeding of the starving millions.  Instead of all of us going to the Lido, they would be opening, in addition to the Lido, the “Gold Pearl” and the “Black Pearl”.  Again, cheers!  Gary was very quick to point out that they actually listened to him, I mean why wouldn’t they listen to one of their Gold Status cruise members?  Gary had gone to the Customer Service desk and talked to them about the lines and that tempers were beginning to flare, and they needed to figure out a way to calm everybody down.  I am going to highly doubt that it was from the efforts of only my father-in-law, but he doesn’t know that, and why would I want to rob him of that sense of pride?  4) He also mentioned that because we were going to San Diego in lieu of Ensenada, we would not be getting in until Thursday evening sometime, but he would keep us posted.  They were still working on all of the logistics of all of this, and that he would keep us updated on what their corporate (“the beards in Miami” as he called them) decided to do with us when we got to San Diego. 
*We hung out outside our rooms a lot!

We were all very pleased by these announcements.  I mean just being able to go to some place other than the Lido to eat, was worth taking an extra day to go the States instead of Mexico at this point.  This is pretty much how Tuesday ended, we went back down to our cabin, grabbed our books, and read.  Emily laid down in the little hall on her tummy on the floor with a pillow at the threshold of our cabin door, and I sat in the chair that we we placed in the hall.  This was done this way so that we could actually see what we were reading.  It was about this time that everyone’s cell phone and ipod’s, and ipad’s batteries were dying, as they were using them as lights in their cabin with no way to charge them.

Day 3
Wednesday Nov 10, 2010

It was so hard to sleep on this ship.  Usually on cruises you sleep like a baby, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there is an engine that is constantly humming, with a little vibration, and for some reason that just knocks you right out, and it is easy to sleep until 10 or so.  This cruise was an exception.  No engine=no humming or vibration!  We slept so bad!  We would wake up at 5 or 6 every morning, it was becoming a nuisance.  I got up and stood under the freezing cold trickle from our shower head to wash my body, then I got dressed and ready for the day.  I grabbed my back pack with Chemistry books, and of course the camera! 

We made our way to the “Gold Pearl” for breakfast.  It was amazing…no lines!  That was the first time since we…well nevermind, this was the first time we didn’t have to wait in line on this entire cruise (check-in included)!  We got to the line and noticed that there were wraps, Pop Tarts, juice (thanks to the US Navy)—it was almost like a normal breakfast—then we sat down and realized the wraps had meat in them.  “I didn’t think they could cook meat because the power was out?!?”  It wasn’t cooked, it was hot dogs! Raw hot dogs! Not only that, but they were mixed in with a little mayo, and cheese.  I must have been starving, because it was actually kind of good, I had 2 or 3 of them!  Once Emily knew it was hot dogs, she quickly set it down and said, “That’s disgusting.  I’m not going to eat that!”…so, I did!  It was so nice to finally have something besides a sandwich for breakfast!
While at breakfast, Jim told us a funny story from that night.  Apparently there were these two Japanese women who were right across the hall from Gary and Becky, they were being very loud and obnoxious at around 1 o’clock am, and this lasted I guess for quite a while.  They were talking very loudly to each other and yelling, and as I mentioned before, cruise ships are not known for their thick, sound-proof walls, so this entire conversation was pretty much heard by everyone in this vicinity.  Jim shouted in Japanese to please be quiet, and Gary shouted in Japanese, “Bakka!” which apparently is a very strong swear word in Japanese.  How Gary knew this word?  I don’t know if anyone actually knows, but my guess is that either Jim or Jason taught it to him (my bet is on Jason).  Anyway, immediately the women were quiet, and apologized through their door.  Jim, being the wonderful son-in-law he is, heard Gary shout this word, and went over to the ladies’ room and told them not to pay any attention to the old man who yelled that, he is a bit senile!  The women told Jim that both of their husbands died, and they were terrified of water (they were in a cabin with a window), and the water kept splashing up and hitting their window, which was freaking them out.  They said that they needed to yell at each other to try and make each other fall asleep.  So, they told Jim how sorry they were, and invited Emma and Madison over to show them how to do origami after breakfast in the morning, which was the highlight of the Japanese ladies’ trip (that’s what they told Jim anyway).

*A funny description of our trip from Emma and Madi plus you can see how dark it was at night time!

Sometime during the wee hours of the night, another little tugboat had met up with us, so we were now being hauled at a whopping 7 knots (~8 mph) towards San Diego!  I think that the passengers today were finally realizing that this trip, “the cruise from hell” as some were calling it, was in fact going to end.  They got some decent food in their bellies (raw hot dogs and Pop Tarts), the cruise’s crew members were finally holding little activities in the smaller lounges.  It actually felt like a normal cruise (well, almost). 

After breakfast, Emily went off to go and read or work out or both, and I did my thing of studying and then trying to find her.  Again, I found the rest of the family, but never did I find my wife!  When she wants to, she can disappear…actually, even when she doesn’t want to, it’s amazing!  Again, the Coast Guard, and the Navy were encircling us, making sure the pirates didn’t get us (at least that’s my story)!  There were also a few other visitors as we were getting closer to San Diego, container ships, more Coast Guard escorts, etc.
You could tell that this day of the cruise was definitely the most energetic, and entertaining.  The passengers were all a little happier, the crew was happier (I think that is because they had their structure, and organization back a little, plus they had to get back in their uniforms!)  It had been very chaotic up until Wednesday.  The crew really didn’t know what to do the first couple of days; I don’t think that they prepare very well for this type of emergency! 

The rest of the day was actually quite boring, not much happened, just walking around the boat, and watching people do their thing.  Most everybody was laying down on the lounge chairs reading or just trying to get a little sun, braving the cold weather.  Later that night we heard the beep preceding the announcements, it was John again, it went something like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.  As you know, Carnival is doing all they can to make you happy, and to make sure that you get home safe.  I want to let you know that the ‘beards in Miami’ are working very hard to get your travel plans so every one of you can get back home.  While you are sleeping, we are going to slide under your door your new travel arrangements.  Please do not go to the Customer Service desk to try and find out what your plans are, they do not know.  If you need to change your plans for any reason, we will have three or four telephone lines available on the ship in the morning, or if you can wait until we disembark you can do it at the pier.  Please be patient, but until then, have a good time!” 

That night we (Gary, Becky, Jim and Jenn, Emma and Madi, and Emily and I) were all standing out in the hall just mingling, wondering how in the world we were going to pack in the pitch black.  As we were discussing what a nightmare it would be to do that task, one of the staff members (activities staff, dressed in full Carnival warm-up gear) walked by us.  Gary was very quick to get her attention and have a little chat with her on the ignorance and the horrible way we had been treated.  He also asked her if she could provide a flashlight for all of us so we could pack in the morning.  She said that she would be happy to, but she could only come in and shine the light to make sure we had everything because she had to share her light with everyone else too.  She was very polite, and then she added that if we needed anything else to go and talk to the Service desk.  Who would have thought that this nice comment would have brought my father-in-law into a rage of how incompetent the service desk people had been, and how he had been treated.  “I think that German that works in the office is a Nazi!”  That is pretty dang close to the exact words used by Gary to the nice activities lady.  Needless to say, she was pretty speechless, and the rest of us were trying to tell her that Gary didn’t mean that.  That was one of the more awkward times on the cruise!

I don’t know if it was the Nazi comment or what, but not too much time had passed and we had a lady from the service desk walk by, and we asked her for a few things to see if they would be able to get for us, like staying in San Diego for a couple of days, and to fly out of San Diego if possible.  She said she would try, she just wanted us to write down our info, so we did and she was off to save the next upset customers. 
I need to say, that given the circumstances, we were treated amazingly by the staff of the Splendor.  Can you imagine what it would be like to try and make 3500 people happy during the worst possible vacation ever?  They did a tremendous job!  Of course there were things that we asked for that didn’t happen, but in the end it all turned out just fine!  That being said, it was time to go to bed.  So, we got into our reading positions on the floor and in the hall.  Read a while, then went to sleep.

Day 4
Thursday Nov 11, 2010

For some reason, during this entire trip that cursed internal alarm clock of mine was set to go off right at 5 am, and no matter how many times I would hit the “snooze”, I could never get back to sleep.  Our final morning on the ship was no different, except that during the night we received our flight plans to back home.  So, I turned on the camera (this is what we used for light), and grabbed the paper that was on the floor and read it.  The light I was getting from the camera wasn’t too good so I went out in the hall to make sure that what I read was correct.  That is when I saw Jim.  He was all dressed, and was coming from the direction of the stairs to his room.  He said that he had been on the phone with Carnival to try and get things all worked out.
My plans showed that Emily and I were to leave from San Diego airport on Friday and 1:40 pm, non-stop flight to Atlanta, and Carnival was going to put us up in the Hyatt.  Not too bad, except that Jim said that when he checked his info (on the phone) he said that mine was not what was printed on my paper, but Em and I were going to stay in the Embassy or something like that, but Jim changed that for us to be with them in the Hyatt.  Just then Gary came out of his room to join in the conversation.  He had the same info that I had on my paper.  He was not satisfied.  He wanted to leave on Saturday, which was actually a good idea, why not drag this trip out another day?  Since I was going to be on the same flight with Gary and Becky, and to make it easier on those who were to pick us up, we needed to get on the same flight as him.

We walked through this door that was marked “Employees Only”, that was right next to the Customer Service desk.  I was thinking to myself the whole time, “I hope that the German is not working!  I don’t think Gary could deal with a “Nazi” at 5 in the morning!”  Luckily for Gary the German was not in, and we went right to the phones and called the number.  However, the phone that I picked up was not working, so I just sat there next to Gary while he made the arrangements for us.  He did get us on a flight on Saturday, for 1:40 non stop for San Diego, and we were staying in the Hyatt for 2 nights!  I was actually very excited about this arrangement.

While Gary was on the phone, there was another couple in there trying to do the same thing we were doing.  One difference though, they were supposed to be travelling on the Carnival Splendor the following week as well!  That’s right, 2 weeks on the same boat, to the exact same places!  I couldn’t do it.  Anyway, needless to say, they were not happy campers.  They told me that they were going to go after Carnival.  I honestly can’t fathom why people would do such a thing.  If there is some mechanical issues on a plane, it gets fixed and people don’t sue.  There was a mechanical issue on a boat, and people are already talking suing!  Granted the problem was a little bit bigger on the ship, and it happened while we were in the middle of the ocean, with pirates all around us!  Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to sue!

After all of the arrangements were finally set in stone (it was now about 6 am), I went outside to see what was happening.  To my surprise there was a tugboat that looked like it was tied up to us.  The captain of the tugboat was out on his deck (which was about 10 feet lower than my deck #3 location, where he was talking to some of the passengers.  I remember them asking the captain of this tugboat if we were on the news, his reply—“Oh yeah!”  “Just the local news?” they asked him.  “No, this is pretty much world news!”  Wow, it wasn’t until just then that I realized I was famous!!!  I thought to myself that I would be getting interviewed left and right when I got off the ship.  News choppers would be flying around us, and I would make sure that I was outside so that I would be seen!  I had to get Emily so she could come be famous with me!

I went back down to my stateroom, where Emily was actually awake (well, she was not sleeping in a pitch black room) and told her the great news that we were going to be famous because of what the tugboat captain said.  “Why would this be a huge story?”  she asked.  “I don’t know, maybe because pirates could have attacked us!” I replied.  To this she put me in my place by saying, “You’re so dumb!”

Well there was no point in trying to fall back to sleep now, with my dreams being crushed! So, we grabbed the camera and went out to see what we could see on the deck for a few minutes before going to grab a bite to eat in the “Gold Pearl”.  It was such a beautiful morning!  Happy Birthday Becky!  What a way to celebrate your special day, Pop Tarts for breakfast!  We could finally see land too, that was a plus!  Our tugboats had done their job—though the hard part was coming up in a couple of hours for them.  We made it to the “Gold Pearl” and got our serving of some kind of raw hot dog something or other mixed with some kind of bread and cheese, and our Pop-Tarts and juice.  We sat down and noticed that there was a tugboat directly behind us, right below where we were eating.  It appeared as if this tugboat was “ramming” us!  It would hit us, back off a few yards and then hit us again and again.

The remainder of the morning was spent between the starboard and port side of the Splendor on deck #3 (the majority of the time on starboard side since that is where the boats carrying the news people were!)  The Naval Complex of Coronado was on the starboard side.  There were hundreds of fighter jets, and three or four aircraft carriers here, it was awesome!  This is the base that the USS Ronald Reagan is stationed, and also the submarines that were apparently around us too!  I didn’t find out about submarines surrounding us until we got to shore.  It was just an amazing scene, US Coast Guard choppers flying around us, news choppers, lots of US Coast Guard boats and ships, the personal boats being used as platforms for camera crews—I guess we were pretty big news!

It was such an amazing feeling to be pulling up next to the pier!  Watching the tugboats get in position to gently nudge us in to our final stopping place was incredible!  You could see the tugboat captains (all four of them) ready at all times to make the slightest adjustment in speed, or direction.  The people that were on the dock that were at the ready to help tie the monster cruise ship off were teasing us with the flashlights that they had attached to their fluorescent vests, making everybody aboard the Splendor chuckle a little (under our breath, we were cussing them out for teasing us!)  When we looked to the front of the pier, at the road, there were all of the cameras!  Hundreds of them!  It was like a scene from a movie.
We were finally in our resting place, and the pier crew was getting the gangplanks hooked up to the ship, right below where we were standing.  Standing next to these gangplanks anxiously waiting to hop on board was the CEO of Carnival, Gerald R. Cahill.  He boarded the moment the gangplank was touching the ship, I don’t think it was even attached at this point.  While he was boarding, our buddy John was saying that we should be disembarking in about an hour.  The pier workers needed to get ready and so did the Splendor crew for trying to get the 3500 passengers off in an orderly fashion.  The previous night we were given disembarking numbers, we were given #7 (of 32, I think).  So, we were to be among the first ones off the ship.  John told us that as soon as we got off, we were to head over to the buses that were going to take us to our hotels. 
As John was talking, Emily and I decided that it was probably a good time to go and start packing so that we didn’t miss our disembarkment number.  John then handed the intercom over to Mr. Gerry Cahill.  “I want to first of all apologize that this happened on your vacation, and I want to apologize for the fire…”  I didn’t hear much after that, “Fire?  What is he talking about?”  Apparently our gut instincts on Monday were right!  There was a fire, one with flames!  We later found out that said fire took three hours to put out! Three hours!  No wonder we were such big news!  It crushed my heart, but apparently pirates weren’t even that big of a deal!  Whatever, I still think it was because of pirates that we got the US Coast Guard and Navy, and the Mexican Navy!

Well, there really isn’t much left to tell, other than disembarkment number 7 was called, we pulled all of our luggage, plus a few extra Diet Coke’s that we hoarded, went down the flight of stairs to Deck 1, walked the gangplank, boarded the bus headed to the Grand Hyatt of San Diego where we would spend the rest of our trip.  We got to the Hyatt and lo and behold…another line!  “Oh great…here we go again!!!”
**This next video's really long but it was really quite neat to take part in the docking procedure and see people excited to see us!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Raw Hot Dog Fever-Part 3

...And it still continues???  (don't worry, we're nearing the end, sort of)

Sometime in the evening, our buddy John came on the intercom (nothing new by this time), and I remember he had a somewhat serious tone to his voice (this was new), and said something like this:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this cruise has officially been terminated!  We are unable to locate the problem, and more importantly fix the problem.  We have called for tugboats, which are on their way to get us if we can in fact not get our going under our own power.  These tugboats are going to take us to Ensenada, Mexico where we will provide transportation for you back to Long Beach.  The tugboats will be arriving between 1 and 4 o’clock am, so hopefully when you wake up in the morning we will be on our way to Enchilada, I mean Ensenada, and we should arrive late on Wednesday.”

As soon as these words came from the speakers, I looked over at Emily who was getting tears in her eyes (which is very much unheard of), so instantly my heart began to melt.  She was SO looking forward to getting a break, she had had a very difficult last couple of months and just needed a break, and this was the absolute worst thing that could have happened to her.  Even though this announcement was pretty much inevitable, it was really hard to hear that the cruise was over, yet it was only beginning.

John did come back on a few minutes later and told us that Carnival would take care of us, he wasn’t sure how yet, but he knew they would, and he would let us know as soon as he found out how they would make right.  He also said that they were still trying everything they could to get at a minimum the toilets up and running again.  This is quoted from his blog:
“Our engineers are as I said working hard, especially with the toilet system as we know how important this basic need is……………… and let me tell you our engineers are number one………. in the number two business.”

One positive thing about this cruise was honestly the cruise director and the announcements that he gave.  It was such a huge relief to be updated, and to have a little bit of comedy throughout the trip.  He was always adding stupid little remarks and jokes, yes some of it was a little unnecessary, but I need to put in my plug for John Heald, I would definitely go on a cruise with him again.  In addition, I will put in my plug for the captain; he did a great job in keeping us safe.  The only thing I wish they would have done different (but I understand why they did it how they did it) was to tell us that there was an actual fire. We didn’t know that there was a fire onboard until we got off the boat. Emily disagrees with me, but oh well.  

Now that that is out of the way…after this announcement we decided to go back down to the room and get ready for a family meeting.  I have to put this because it is so funny, so here it goes.  I will say that one of us, I won’t say which one of us, really had to go number 2.  Our toilet was full (but whose wasn’t at this point?), and we had already been using the shower and the sink to do our #1 business.  Believe me it sounds disgusting and gross, but it was all we could do other than go in the toilet and have it slosh onto our bathroom floor and have it smell up the whole room.  So, the aforementioned one of us went into the bathroom with an ipod as a light, and did their business into one of the supplied “feminine product” bags.  This bag was then put into another bag which was put into a plastic Target bag, wrapped up, and taken with us on our way to the family meeting, where we were certain we would find a garbage can so we could dispose of said plastic Target bag which contained unmentionables.  About ¾ of the way to the meeting, we decided that there were no garbage cans, and an executive decision was made to leave the Target bag on one of the evacuated bar countertops next to some other piled up garbage!  I know…GROSS!!!
**Like my bath robe?  New fashion statement!  Someone had to carry the "bag" around because someone else was too embarrassed!  Desperate measures!

This story was quickly spread to the entire family at the family meeting.  I guess that this is as good of a time as any to say that this was a Henninger Family Reunion cruise (Emily’s Great-Grandparents), there were 46 cousins on the ship if I remember correctly.  Not one of them didn’t cringe in disgust as they were told the story of the bag of unmentionables, however, it did get a lot of laughs.  Now being able to look back, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to hold it a little longer as the toilets (well, ours anyway) started to work again!  The majority of the family reunion-ers were without toilets until Wednesday night, because they were on deck #1 and in the back of the ship.  I guess it is a good thing that we were all family!
**You see us but we couldn't see anything in that room.  Literally, could not even see the hand in front of your face.  Jim's using the strobe lights for vision. (I know I've already put this picture but this seemed like a better place for it!)

I also need to mention that because there were no lights whatsoever in our staterooms, we had to open the door to allow any light in, and even that little bit of light was from the emergency lighting from the hallway, that barely made it in to the room, but it is all we had.  We became accustomed to leaving the door open for everything—changing clothes, going to the restroom, etc.  We became very non-chalant about life on deck #2.  Everybody that was interested in reading in their rooms had to put their chair outside the room in the hallway just to be able to read.  It would have been great to use a cell phone or something to use to light things up, but the problem is that the batteries would go dead a lot quicker and there was no way to charge them with no power onboard.  Jim even used his life jacket strobe light to provide light (I don’t know about you, but strobe lights just remind me of Chuck E. Cheese’s, and this was no Chuck E. Cheese’s!)  I became very grateful for the little things in our normal lives that we take for granted—electricity and running water to name a couple.  
**We wore grooves in the carpet outside our room.  It was much less outhouse stinky down by our rooms than upstairs.
That pretty much brought Monday to a close for us passengers on the Carnival Splendor, it ended pretty much the same way it started—eating sandwiches, no lights and more importantly, no toilets (for the majority of the passengers)!  We finally went off to bed in our pitch black room, anxiously anticipating the tugs to arrive so that we could get this puppy back to functioning facilities!
Day 2  (Only Day 2??  I know, but from here out it's rather monotonous so not as much to talk about)
Tuesday Nov 9, 2010

After a horrible night sleep, we awoke at around 6 am again.  You see, we live in the Eastern Time zone, and on the cruise we were in the Pacific Time zone, and plus Saturday night (the 6th) we moved the clocks back an hour, so this was now a 4 hour time difference, so my body was telling me it was 10!  Way past my normal “sleeping in” time of 8.  I don’t know where I was going with this, so…

Like Monday, we heard the annoying British voice of our buddy John, say something like, “Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry for waking you up again, but I need to let you know that the tugboats did not make it last night, there were two coming to tug us back, and one of their engine’s failed on the way out to us.  So we should be seeing a tug in here sometime around 10-12 o’clock this morning.”  I remember thinking, “Why does this not surprise me?”  I don’t think I was the only unsurprised guest either.  We were now just kind of taking everything in stride, “whatever”.  He also informed us that breakfast would be on the Lido yet again, big surprise there, “whatever”.
**Jake took about a hundred pics of all this stuff!
Breakfast in the Lido, this was becoming way too familiar…walk up seven flights of stairs, stand in line for an hour and a half, grab my sandwich, eat my sandwich, leave all of my garbage on the table, and go and walk around the ship for a couple of hours until it was time to stand in another line for yet another sandwich at the Lido, blah, blah, blah. Emily and I made our way up the stairs, wondering if we should just jump ship now and maybe wait for the tugboat to come and rescue us, or take our chances in the Lido.  Well, we took our chances with the Lido, and believe when I say that the meal was the exact same as yesterday’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner…fruit, sandwiches, cereal and milk (chocolate milk if you got really lucky!)  So we stood in the line, but there was something different today, everybody seemed to be looking outside at something…
I twisted, ducked, tried to get a glimpse, and finally I saw it.  Off of the port side of our stranded luxurious hotel (that was not quite so luxurious anymore) was a helicopter!  “What was a helicopter doing way out here?”  It was just there hovering around us and probably laughing at all of the stranded, vacationing cruisers (I know I would have been laughing).  It looked like a military chopper, the dull gray color, with the star with the three stripes on either side of the star gave it away.  It continued to circle us and pass over the top of the ship.  I pulled out my camera and took a couple of photos (OK, I took a lot of pictures, I was bored, and what else was there to do on a stranded ship?)  Emily always makes fun of me for taking a lot of pictures, “What are you ever going to need 10 pictures of the same thing for?”  I always respond that it doesn’t matter because it is digital and it doesn’t matter, but the real reason is that I am a nerd, and when there is something that I see that I think is cool, I take way too many pictures of it.  Just picture me around the Panama Canal (Emily saw that first hand, and she fell asleep!)
**We are so cool.  Period.

Sometime while we were feasting, John came back on the intercom system, this is one of those systems that stayed on the back-up generator power for these exact type of situations (yet for some reason they didn’t think to put a flashlight in every stateroom for these exact situations…idiots!).  Anyway, he told us that the U.S. Coast Guard had arrived sometime during the night, and they will be circling us and escorting us back to Enchilada.  He also mentioned that the Mexican Navy was out there and that the USS Ronald Reagan was on its way and would be here shortly.  The USS Ronald Reagan is the newest and greatest aircraft carrier that the U.S. Navy has.  He told us that they were bringing us some supplies, like fruit, toilet paper, you know the essentials. 
After we finished our sandwiches we went down to our room to try and get ready for the day.  When we had successfully put all of our clothes on backwards (I’m just kidding of course) we went to what would become my favorite place for the remainder of the cruise—deck #3, starboard side open deck, directly below the life boats.  It was the only place on the ship where there weren’t 1000+ people.  It became my little paradise on the ship.  Anyway, there we could see the USS Ronald Reagan approaching us, and as it got closer we could see all of the jets and helicopters on the deck—Awesome!  Yes, I took a few pictures.
This was the last time that I saw Emily all day!  She decided to try and make this a vacation anyway, she literally disappeared (I very unsuccessfully tried to find her several times!).  So, I was now all alone, and her mistake was leaving me with the camera.  I know that I take a lot of pictures, but believe me that if I didn’t hear my wife’s voice in my head before I took any picture, “Jake, why are you going to take a picture of that?  I will just delete it when we get home!” I would have had a ton more pictures, and now looking back on it, I wish that I would have gotten a lot more pictures, especially from the beginning of the trip (the check-in lines, and picture lines, oh that would have been great!)

**The aircraft carrier got to close to us.  It was really a neat sight to see.  They were taking pictures of us as we were taking pictures of them.  I wonder if the air force guys are writing as cool of a blog as us??

So, what do I do, now that I am all alone?  Background story: I am currently in the process of taking some pre-requisite science classes so that I can apply to dental school.  I am at this moment taking Chemistry II, it is not the most fun I ever had in college, but it is okay.  During this trip I missed a full week of class (3 classes and 1 lab), so I knew that I was going to have to try and teach myself a full chapter from the book as I had a test the day after I was to get back.  OK, enough of that.  I had every intention before the whole melt-down to study for a couple of hours every day in the stateroom at the desk they provide, but the events of early Monday morning changed that!  I constantly found myself asking myself, “Should I go study now?”  The answer to this question right now was, “Yeah I probably should, but then I might miss the helicopter dropping supplies.”  My mind was made up…forget Chemistry!  I had to take pictures of the helicopter!  Off I went to Lido Deck, this time in excitement!

I made it in plenty of time, thank goodness!  I actually ran into Gary and Becky, they had illegally taken the lounge chairs that the crew had stowed away 5 minutes prior to clear the area for the drop, and they were lounging.  One minute hadn’t passed by before one of the crew members politely asked them to put the chairs back because they needed the space for the drop.  They complied.  We found a couple of chairs that were around a table that nobody was using, and snagged those and got front row seats for the main event scheduled for the day!

 ...To be continued...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Raw Hot Dog Fever-Part Deux

The Saga Continues....
As John is in the middle of this, the first of several hundred announcements that day, the lights all turned out—utter darkness.  A couple of seconds went by, then they came back on, and by the time John was done blabbing about the smoke, the lights went out for good.  I kid you not at the exact moment the lights disappeared, I was kicking my legs over the bed to go and take a shower—I never actually stood up, just got the legs over the edge.  So, needless to say, everybody on the boat at this time now has a big brown spot on their pants, with no way to clean it up!  This cruise couldn’t have been scripted better by the best Hollywood writer!  What a cruise! 

John got back on the intercom a few minutes later to tell people to get out of their cabins and go to the open air, of course that is if you were smelling smoke.  We didn’t smell smoke (we were in the front of the ship, and the fire was in the back), but with no lights, and our adrenaline pumping at full speed, what else were we going to do?  Try to go back to sleep?  I don’t think so!  So I grabbed my camera, and Emily and I were going to the open decks.  Emma and Madison were awake and standing in the hallway trying to get Jim and Jenn to come out with them, but they were on vacation, and you don’t mess with Mrs. Tasker’s sleep while she is on vacation let me tell you!  As I walked past their door I could hear Jenn saying “Aagghh, just leave me alone, I am trying to sleep!”
*All the crew in life jackets...but not the passengers??!! 

Emma and Madi decided to tag along with the cool adults to go and scope out the situation.  We went all over the upstairs area, deck #9, 10, 11.  The closer we got to the rear of the ship, the worse it smelled (I guess that makes sense with just about anything).  The two girls even followed us to the “Adult Only” area, and they were very hesitant to do so, we told them that this was a little different situation than normal, that nobody there really cared how old they were, and they were welcome to sit on the comfortable lounge chairs.  Of course they did get some dirty looks from some of the really old people who have never seen a kid before, because all they do is hang out in the exclusive “Adults Only” area.  We were as loud and obnoxious as we could be, just to make their stay a little more fun! 
**Our "evacuated" sign.  One thing you hope to never see on a cruise! 

 After about an hour Em and I decided to go back down and see what the rest of the family was doing.  To our amazement Jenn was out of bed and out in the main lounge area of the ship on deck #3, “Our cabin boy made us get out!  They said that we had to evacuate all of the rooms!  Aagghh!”  This was true.  Cruise Director John came over the intercom and told all of us to get out of the staterooms, we didn’t need to grab our life vest, but we needed to get out due to smoke.  It wasn’t very comforting though when we saw the entire crew in their life preservers and not one of the passengers!  Now I wish they at least would have made us try to put on our life jacket that previous day during the practice evacuation, that way I at least would have known where to find my life jacket!

**Sitting in the pitch black.  We had to use the strobe lights on the life jackets to see anything in our rooms.

While we were semi-comfortably sitting on the couch next to the piano in the main lounge, John kept saying things on the PA system like, “We still don’t know what the problem is, but nothing works, no water, no toilets, no lights, no…” you get the picture.  Nothing worked!  He also kept telling us that they were getting closer and closer to finding out what the problem was.  He would say over and over, “I repeat, there were no flames, it was a flameless fire, a ‘smoke’ fire.”  Right, that makes sense because smoke would completely knock out an entire ship’s electricity and engines!  “Whatever, John!  You ever heard the phrase, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!’” (That quote makes perfect sense now!).

**The Hoarders gone wild!

Have you ever seen that TV show called “Hoarders”?  That is what happened during meal times, starting with breakfast on Monday morning.  Cruise Director John told us that the crew was working on making some sandwiches for everybody (3500 passengers), and that the crew (1000+ more people to feed) was going to be passing them out.  He also said that for the time-being the sodas were free, at the bars.  Now, back to “Hoarders”, the sandwiches finally came, and people were grabbing as many as they could, “this might be the last time we get food on this boat!”  Yes, sandwiches were disappearing off of the trays as fast as they were brought down the stairs from the Lido Deck.  Then something funny happened, we got the sandwiches in hand—two pieces of white bread, with a piece of lettuce, and anything else that would fit between two pieces of bread: ham, or a tomato, or cheese, or corned beef, or my favorite, beets!  Yummy!

When Gary and Becky realized that this was the meal for the morning, they said, “No way!”  They were taking their chances at the Lido Deck!  They were going to try and steal something else, what else?—anything else!  45 minutes later, we are chowing down on a scrumptious sandwich, and here comes Gary with a tray full of fruits, cereal, and milk…wow, it actually worked!  “Where is Mom?” The answer to this question is generally, “I don’t know, she was right behind me.”  This time was not much different, but Gary replied in addition, “she went to find some cream cheese for her bagel.”  Reasonable I thought—who wants to eat a cream cheese-less bagel?  So, another 30 minutes pass, here comes Becky, and you can tell something is wrong by the look on her face.  10 paces from us, toting a tray practically overflowing with fruit, cereal, and a bagel, she says “How can they not have any cream cheese on this whole ship?”  She had gone on a mission, and she does not give up easily when she is determined, and she was determined!  Unfortunately, she was not successful locating the spread for her bagel.

**You have to watch this video!  It's so funny!

“They are going to have to do something for us.  This is not right!  They can’t keep us on this boat for much longer under these conditions!”  This was stated by the patriarch of the family at around 9:30am while we are still semi-“relaxing” by the piano.  Keep in mind, we had about 12 cans of Diet Coke and another 4 cans of Sprite Zero, amongst fruit out the wazoo, and 6 individual boxes of Cheerios and Froot Loops—Yeah we were struggling!

Seriously though, what do you do when not a single toilet on a cruise ship works?  The answer is easy: Just go, but don’t flush!  Boy did it get nasty!  We would be hanging out watching the pool—because the pumps weren’t working to get the water into the pool, which would have enabled us to get into the pool—and one of us would have to go.  We would then leave the comfort of the lounge chair to the public restroom right by the Lido Restaurant.  It probably would be best for me not to get too descriptive right here because the other 3499 passengers on the ship had the same idea, doing all of their business in the public restroom, and not their cabin—need I say more?  Just imagine…nasty! (Ask Emily if you want the REAL nasty, true details!)

Our good buddy John came back on the intercom to announce that lunch was to be in the Lido, and not to have everybody go at the same time, but try to spread it out.  “Spread it out?  Not when this might be my last meal ever!”  Again, everyone had this same thought process.  I kid you not that we waited a good 1 ½ -2 hours in line to get our beet sandwiches!  I will also like remind you to think of “Hoarders”.  Again, the closer you got to the front of the line,  the slower it would move, also like the lines at the very beginning of this non-vacation vacation, everyone was allowing anybody that was semi-related to them to just jump into line and get their food—“no problem, sure, why not?”

I need to mention at this point something else about feeding time—it seemed as if none of the crew was there to pick up the trays.  It was quite sad to see that on some of the trays, those “hoarders” who thought they were never going to see food again that grabbed 10 sandwiches each, decided half-way through their meal that they probably would see food again and decided to leave their sandwiches sitting on the tray.  Not having anyone there to clean them up, and no garbage cans to throw them away in, yes, these sandwiches began to rot, and soon the aroma of those lovely rotting sandwiches began to permeate the air.  So, in addition to the toilet overflow smell, we now had rotten sandwich thrown into the mix.  “Ugh, will this never end?”

Keep in mind that all of our meals were on the Lido Deck (deck #9) and we resided on deck #2, remember that there were no elevators, so the stairs were now dedicated for the use of everyone!  Old people in wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, etc included.  That also meant that the crew needed to use stairs to transport the food, dishes, and garbage.  It was great, the left side stair case was now permanently the crew’s “passing” chain (this literally became their “home” for the trip, they had little piles of food and trash next to them on every single stair!), and the other side was for us “spoiled” guests, thankfully we were not part of the crew.  These stair cases also became the natural line formation for all of us waiting to get our sandwiches from the Lido.  Are you getting the picture?  Stairs and sandwiches became our life, and if one person on that cruise gained weight, they had some secret stash of jelly beans, or Blow Pops! 
To be continued....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Raw Hot Dog Fever-Part 1

To answer all of your questions--
Yes, it's true!  We were on that boat! 
Stinks for us, huh?  Was it my dream vacation?  No!  Was it a memorable vacation?  Yes!

More important--
Will I ever eat raw hot dog again??

A resounding NO!!
**But the cooked ones are still at the top of my list.

Since this blog is also a quasi-journal I am going to use Jake's (YES--this is Jake's) journal entries and just add pictures.  I am going to do this is 2 part because: 1.  It is long  2.  He hasn't written the second part yet:)

I realize most of you will probably just look at the pictures, but try and read it because Jake did a really good job on it--it's really funny and totally true!

**before we lost power and our vacation
Carnival Splendor
Sunday Nov 7, 2010

Location: Long Beach, CA.  The time: Noon.  Registration Line: Hundreds of people.  Frustration level: Maximum.

“What is going on?”  “Why are we outside?”  “Why are there so many people already? We are like an hour earlier than the early check-in time.”  Just a couple of the questions we asked each other.  We have been on cruises before, and this is nothing like the check-in process at the other ones we’ve done.  Maybe this is just the way that Carnival runs their operations—pure chaos.  The poor lady behind us was carrying a big white vinyl bag we correctly guessed contained her wedding dress.  We would later find out that she was on her way to have a destination wedding, bad way to start your wedding vacation, in the cold November Long Beach cloudy weather, in a line with what seemed like a thousand people in front of you.

We heard through the “grapevine” that the reason we were outside was because the US Coast Guard was performing a routine yearly inspection of the boat.  Was this true?  No idea! We never heard from anyone wearing a Carnival name tag the reasoning behind the madness.

The closer we got to the registration desk, the slower we seemed to be moving due to everyone and their dog allowing their family, friends, and strangers in front of them.  This only added to the stress levels.  Keep in mind that Gary is with us, getting more and more anxious with every passing second, increasing the tension levels of everyone travelling with him.  After what my legs told me was 2 days of standing (actual time-2 hours), we finally made it to the cordoned area of the registration desks.  At this exact moment, here comes Jim and Jennefer strolling up to make their way with us.  Why not, everyone else let their families in line, right?  It just makes me wish that it was me who just strolled up and didn’t have to endure “shopper’s leg”!

Finally, we get checked in, we got blue Sail Cards.  Gary was quick to point out that he and Becky got the gold Sail Cards, probably for his golden status with Carnival Cruises.  It is actually because he has cruised with them before, and we hadn’t.  I just thought that was kind of funny.  So after check-in, we got boarding “paddle” number 12.  What? Another line?  More waiting?  What in the world is going on here?  Just get us on the boat already!  Luckily the wait for #12 was only like 3 minutes.

Once our boarding number was called, they finally decided to take us in to the building where we should have been checking in since the first minute we got out of our vehicle to check-in.  So inside we find…you guessed it, another line!  What kind of disorganized company is this?  Nobody is answering any of our questions as to why all the lines, so I guess we are stuck with the Coast Guard explanation.  The line that we were a part of this time was the line to go through the security screening/metal detectors.  Wait time in this line, maybe 20-30 minutes.

Luckily for us, we made it through the security no problem.  Once the conveyor belt spit out our items from the x-ray machine, we gathered our belongings, put the shoes back on and head towards…another line!  I am about ready to swear just thinking back to the insanity of just getting on a stupid boat!  What in the world is this line for?  Actually there were about 5 lines of about 75 people each, with each group standing behind a sign with a number on it.  We were group number 14, I don’t know why I remembered that number.  Again, we had no idea what we were in line waiting for.  Let me tell you that the communication thus far by Carnival was horrendous!  We didn’t know if we were going to ever get on the ship.

“Group 14! This way please.” On we went behind a door that led to who knows where.  Well, we found out to where it led…Pictures!  What?  Are you serious?  What a splendid idea to have the picture taking area after the people have been waiting in line for three hours!  Needless to say we didn’t want to smile—we wanted to flip the bird!  Well, we didn’t give the “California Howdy”; we did what we were supposed to do…we smiled.  With pictures out of the way, it was on to the ship!  No, wait…another line!!!  What is this line for?  We were standing right at the escalator that would take us up to the gangplank to get on the Splendor, but for some reason they had us wait right there at the bottom of the moving stairs.  I don’t know that I will ever know why they did this—only a guess as to why…nope, I can’t even guess as to why!

Well, after a few more minutes of patiently waiting to stand on those moving stairs, we made it, to the top of the escalators, finally home free…nope, another line!  “You gotta be kidding me?!?”  Wow!  Who would’ve thought?  The line this time actually was the final line before getting on to the ship, this line was the line to take your picture for your Sail Cards, and they had to swipe the card to make sure they worked.  Our cards worked, it was finally on to Cabin #2-229; for the Hutchings, this cruise was finally under way!  Time: 3:30pm.

The Ship

“I don’t care, we can find them later! I am hungry, we have fasted all day!”  These are the loving words of a child referring to her parents as we crossed the gangplank.  So, off we went, not to the stateroom, not to the pools, straight to deck #9—The Lido Deck.  This is the place that we would get to know pretty intimately over the course of our cruise.  Food!  We were starving!  We got in another line, believe it or not, to partake in the “world renowned” Carnival food experience.  This line was the only line that was worth the wait all day, the food was absolutely divine!  Some of the best lasagna I have ever partaken of.  Yummy!

Upon completing the scrumptiousness of the warm food in our bellies, we left our trays on the table in the Lido Restaurant, and off we were to begin the exploration of the Carnival Splendor, but first to our cabin.  Two of our three pieces of luggage were waiting for us outside our door.  The blue and orange “old faithful” Mustang Soccer bag that I have had since high school that has been on 90% of the trips I have made since high school, and also we had the nice red “Docker’s” carry-on that I got for Emily a couple of years ago—which she has never used.  Emily’s bag of clothes was not there yet.  We took the bags into the room, laid them on the bed, and off we went to explore.

This was such a long anticipated trip, a much needed break from the little ones, and from the stresses of the unemployment market.  We began to walk around the Lido Deck, the pools, up the stairs to the “Adults Only” areas where there were some very comfortable lounge chairs, we checked out the waterslide where a brave little boy was besting the 60 degree weather frantically climbing the ladder over and over again (he was the only one near the pools).  After some time exploring, we decided that maybe it was time to head to the cabin to start unpacking our stuff before they called us to the Muster Stations.
**look closely that kid is sliding down

To get to the cabin, we had to go back through the Lido Restaurant, where a lady asked if we had heard about the luggage.  “Oh, great; now what in the world is going on? Do we need to go stand in another line to receive our luggage or something?” These were the thoughts rushing through my head. The lady said, “You didn’t see it? There were like 25 pieces of luggage in the ocean!  They had to lower a life boat to pick them up!”  Those first thoughts through my head were something like “Oh, CRAP!” we were freaking out!  Emily is going to have a wet bag, wouldn’t that just be par for the course on this cruise!  Apparently one of the forklifts taking luggage from the pier to the ship had the luggage crate on the forks incorrectly (the crate opening towards the ocean) and he hit a bump, and if you have never driven one of those things, little bumps get accentuated by about 100 times.  So, he hit a bump, bounced, and then splash!  In went the luggage to go swim with the fishies in the sea!  I was seriously second guessing our decision to come on this cruise.

Practically running to the room at this point to see if Emily’s black bag of clothes was wet or dry, we could see it down the hallway, next to the door—all was well.  Whew!  I wiped the sweat of my brow!  We started the unpacking process, and were pretty well finished when we got the mandatory call to go to our muster stations.  Something was different about this announcement from the other cruises that I have been on—he said that we did not have to have our life jackets.  Hallelujah!  Standing in those muster stations packed in like sardines wearing a life jacket gets very claustrophobic and warm.  I for one was very grateful for the “no lifejacket” life-saving practice run.

It was about the time we returned to our stateroom that I started to wonder what time it was and what time we were supposed to be leaving Long Beach.  Turns out we were about an hour and a half late leaving port.  No big deal, we had a full two days of travel before we were supposed to get to Puerto Vallarta anyway, we could make it up.  Well, we were finally on our way and our cruise was just beginning.  “What was that sound?  Was that a baby?  That sounded like it was right next door.” Now that noise reminded me of a previous lesson learned on a cruise—the walls on cruise ships are very thin (thanks for teaching us that lesson Grant and Shalie!).  Sure enough it was just what we thought it was…a BABY, 3 months old none-the-less!  We just travelled 2500 miles to get away from our own kids, now this

I was lying on our bed, channel surfing, while my beautiful wife was readying herself for our first official dinner of the trip.  “Shall we go?”  I stood up, maybe a little too quickly, got a little light-headed, and BAM—Blind Spots!  For me, blind spots=migraine.  I guess I was hoping that it would all just go away.  I tried to go to dinner, made it to the elevator, said nope, and went back to the room and waited for some medicine that housekeeping was going to bring to me.  I couldn’t even see the little receipt paper where he wanted me to sign!  So, that was it for me for the evening, 6:30pm, pitch black, sleeping off a migraine, see you in the morning—what a cruise!  Emily continued on in the evening, she even won a cool trophy that had the boat mounted on it, with the words “Carnival Splendor”.  Who in their right mind would want to keep a silly trophy to remind them of such a wonderful vacation?

*I will sell this trophy to the highest bidder!:)

**You can see the smoke coming out of the left fin
(This was actually from the diesel generator but we didn't
know that then)
It Happens

“Alpha Team.  Alpha Team.  Alpha Team.  Deck 0, Engine Room.”  Those are the cursed words that woke us up Monday morning.  “What time is it?”  In a very exhausted voice she said that it was 6:00.  That can’t be good, calling for the Alpha Team.  I kept thinking, “I wonder if Alpha Team to these guys means like the alpha dogs, the big dogs, the awesomest of the awesomest.”  If so, why in the world would they be calling for them this early in the morning on the inside cabin announcement system?  “This can’t be good!”  I remember not being able to go back to sleep, I thought that I would just go take a shower.  As I was about to sit up we heard the little beep that precedes the PA system, and John, our Cruise Director begins to talk (this is taken from his blog

Ladies and Gentlemen. My sincere apologies for waking you up but as you may have heard we have just used an Alpha Team call which is the alert for our fire teams to attend. At this moment the captain has informed me that there is lots of smoke in part of the aft engine room on deck 0. (A side note: I told the guests this in case they thought the engine room may be close to guests’ cabins which of course it isn’t.). Please would all guests remain in their cabins while we investigate and regardless of if there is any more information I will return in 5 minutes with an update. Please don’t worry and I promise I will keep you informed.

 Coming up---

The part you really all want to hear about instead of our personal adventures!!


This is my teaser!!  Sorry--I know you are all anxiously awaiting our Carnival Splendor adventure, but in an effort to keep this chronological Halloween comes first.  I plan on updating later tonight on our instant fame!


How great are they?  Yes, my husband is an artist.  Too bad they rotted the very next day---dangers of living in humidity!

Okay--because they're cute we'll show you our kids first: 
This is the only real picture we got of Luke's costume because he took it off pretty much right after this.
Where's Waldo?
Check out that dragon!  Easiest costume ever!

Now.......drum roll please........

Here's the mama and the daddy:
No, that's not Gene Simmons, that's us!  We are so cool.

 An incredibly fun couple in our ward put on a scavenger hunt halloween party!  It was such a blast--thank you so much!  We placed 3rd in the hunt but creamed the competition in the costume contest!  That's right--1st place baby!

Here's some of our scavenger adventures:

 And to leave you with another parting shot of our awesomeness!:)