November 18, 2015

Cruise 2015 -- Carnival Sunshine

Beautiful Gold Rock Beach at Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama Island.

I used to love a car trip -- the big, multi-state ones especially -- but these days riding in a car for more than an hour bores the fool out of me. So when James found a short cruise out of Canaveral that stopped in Key West I was totally on board (get it?). The six hour drive home from Key West is a real blah way to end a great weekend. I'll take the boat please.  [As always, please click on each picture to view larger format.]

The Coast Guard and their big guns escort us out of Port Canaveral.

This cruise, on the Carnival Sunshine, spent Day 1 at sea, so basically we traveled about 7 miles an hour down the coast of Florida, possibly even stopping at some point during the night. Day 2 we debarked in Key West at 9:30 a.m. Day 3 was Nassau at 12:30 and Day 4 was Freeport at 8:30. Day 5 we debarked in Port Canaveral at 7:30 a.m., were in the car by 8:00, and arrived at our own homes before 8:30 in the morning. Can you beat that for convenience?

Tired baby slept through muster station and departure.
Slurp!  Wasting no time we hit the pool bar. Frosty rum concoction all gone!
Yarrrr, where has the rum gone?
First day pool scene.  I taught Oliver how to look for and point to the whale tail.
James and Oliver checking out what the ocean looks like from their balcony.

The sea day was fun but a little confusing to me.  It would have made more sense if it wasn't our first day.  We all know you can sail down to Key West overnight.  The sea day would have been more fun as a last day, or somewhere around the Bahamas.

Formal night was that first night (Monday). Everyone looked nice and we had a great staff of servers.

Monday night dinner, Sunrise Dining Room.

Key West

Tuesday we hit the streets of Key West around 9:30 a.m.  James needed sinus meds so our first stop was CVS.  Then we got a street beer at Sloppy Joe's and walked around waiting for stores to open, and after some shopping ended up at our favorite place, The Porch. Friendly staff and patrons always make it a fun stop. Next stop was Grunt's where more beer was drunk and Crystal got her pre-lunch lunch at Garbo's Grill food truck. Finally, we had our traditional mojito at Pepe's along with lunch lunch (Cuban fare, although I ordered a good old American cheeseburger and it was the best I've had in years). I was hot and tired, and wanted to go to the top deck of the ship to get a good view of the island, so when the meal was done I left the kids and Oliver and and walked up Mallory Square to board the ship early.

Looking down Greene St. toward the pier.  See the whale tail above the trees?
Oliver having a giggle on the porch of The Porch.
Old Key West architecture at The Porch.
Garbo's Grill is parked in the courtyard at Grunt's.  
Coming back with her meal. Look at Crystal's smile!
Crystal's Mango Jalapeno Hot Dog looks amazing.
Interior, El Meson de Pepe. 
Oliver doing two-fisted coloring faster than the speed of the camera.

Walking Gulf-side, Mallory Square, Key West.
Local wildlife.
Some things haven't changed in a thousand years..

Next up:  Nassau and Freeport

Since we had a morning to kill we decided that this would be a great opportunity for James and Crystal to do the water slides and ropes course on the top deck of the ship.  Little Oliver and I found a shady spot to sit and watch while they slid, and when they tired of that it was time to put on dry clothes and meet up under the ropes.

The rope course is quite high above the water, very thrilling.
Crystal passing by overhead as Oliver and I watched.
And here comes James as well.

Nassau's not the kind of town you want to explore too far off the beaten track, especially after dark. Most cruise patrons booked one of the excursions which were beach-, dolphin- or snorkel-oriented trips based around Balmoral Island, or a trip to Atlantis, a major resort there. But not the Dotys! We walked past the drunk tourist places (Senor Frogs, Fat Tuesday, and the like) and down the beach road a bit to see what we could see of New Providence Island.

Big ships docked at Nassau on Wednesday.
Naturally we ended up finding some shade and a place to buy local beer.
Sands and Kalik are two decent Bahamian beers.
The public beach was lined with little shacks where the locals sold street food, beer and rum drinks.
Yeah, another selfie.  I match the water though!
See?  Pretty colors.  Notice the storm brewing east of us.
Click on the picture above to view it larger and you can see a break in the distant tree line, a tad left of center, with a blue building.  That was our destination.  It's an area called the Fish Fry, a conglomeration of seafood restaurants, and we weren't leaving Nassau without having a late lunch there.  It's about 1.5 miles from the ship; very walk-able, however I understand the #10 jitney is the insiders' method of getting there. We chose to eat at Oh Andros, one of many restaurants there. I had the conch fritters, and boy were they good. (Cracked conch is their term for fried conch, also popular.) Service is slow which is very typical of the Bahamas and not to be taken personally.

Outside the restaurant there was a cab driver sitting at a picnic table on the porch.  I persuaded James and Crystal that we needed to get a cab to our next stop, John Watling's Distillery. It cost $12 bucks, and they do take American dollars in Nassau.  It was weird to ride without seat belts, with Oliver on Crystal's lap. Luckily it was a short ride and the average speed of our vehicle topped out at about 10 mph.

Typical Bahamian architecture at John Watling's Distillery.
Back of the main building is the actual distillery.
Not sure what they're doing.  Maybe taste testing batches?  ;)
Barrels for aging stuff.
The lift was broken so James and Crystal did the lifting.
Old brass doorknobs in the hall.
And of course, there's a picture of the Queen!
Fun with my camera: James and Crystal sampling flights of five different rums.
More fun with camera: Oliver pointing at things and saying, "Buh."
One of Carnival's competitors painted up real tropical-like.
After walking back from the distillery, Oliver and I left James and Crystal at a pub near the wharf and boarded the Sunshine by ourselves.  Oliver badly needed to crawl around and play with his toys, and I needed to run flat iron though my hair.

Atrium: On Veteran's Day we appreciated Carnival's moment of silence for our military.
Me again!  Atrium bar.

Our last day aboard ship, Thursday, was spent in and around Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Though we had all day to explore we chose to rent a car and drive west to Lucayan National Park where there were trails through the scrub leading down to several entrances to a six-mile cave system. In these caves they had found Lucayan remains which indicated ancient burial grounds. Across the street from the cave trails were two different trails leading through a mangrove swamp.  Upon completing them you walked straight out onto a deserted stretch of beachy Bahamian paradise!  We had so much fun enjoying Gold Rock Beach with Oliver, who "swam" and splashed in the shallow, gentle water.

The Sunshine looms over the touristy port area.

The view from where we stood at the car rental place.
This is what it's all about!
Gorgeous, solitary Gold Rock Beach.
Birds on the beach.
The driftwood skeleton of a mangrove tree provided perfect shelter for the baby.
Peek-a-boo Oliver!
Baby's own private beach.
We decided to have lunch back on board the ship and spend our last afternoon having our own little sea day.  We had envisioned finding a shady spot on deck and drinking fancy drinks, watching tourists stumble out of Senor Frogs, and just generally relaxing.  I had thought I'd even go for a swim or a soak in the hot tub. Our plans were thwarted though, due to a nasty, thousand-strong swarm of bees and wasps.  You couldn't even breathe, it was that bad.  They were all over the place, searching for the remains of food or drink, and at the pool bars they were buzzing around the syrup decanters trying to climb in through the spouts to their sugary death.  It was horrible.  James got stung twice before we realized there were no safe spots on any of the outdoor decks, so we spent the afternoon watching a beer pong competition at the RedFrog pub, which was actually quite entertaining.

All in all it was a fun time. I really enjoyed getting the chance to spend so much time with my grandson, who can now say, "Guh."  You know what that means, right?  GRANDMA!

September 18, 2015

Orlando Airport Outing

That Disney Magic
Today I had some business at the Orlando International Airport.  It being a one hour drive from my home in Melbourne Beach, and a destination I'd never driven to alone, I asked my parents if they wanted to ride along with me.  Mom declined but Dad said, "Sure!"

My son James travels constantly so he knows that airport and its parking options very well.  He texted me brief instructions for how to get to a specific parking garage with a specific elevator that would take me directly down to the Global Entry office where my interview at 11:30 was to take place.

Dad and I finally, after spiraling upwards, and circling around and around, and crossing a bridge, and spiraling upwards again, finally found our stealth entrance to the Orlando airport terminals and the Global Entry office. We had about 45 minutes to kill (what?  I like to be early!) so we had fun walking around the mall-like building, popping into stores like Ron Jon's, Disney, and Hudson's Books.

The Orlando airport is like any other big, busy airport in many ways.  Lots of people, lots of hustle, lots of bustle. Orlando airport people are well and happy travelers, and I notice that because I spend most of my airport time in Atlanta.  The Atlanta airport is where the entire east coast of the United States of America goes to change planes. Travelers there are always running, grim faced, toward another hellish gate in another terminal in another county, riding the subway silently, ferociously checking cell phones, changing plans, fist punching the ATMs, tapping feet while drinking Starbucks, busy gotta go see ya.

The travelers passing through the Orlando airport are smiling!  They're sunburned! They're wearing Mickey Mouse ears and sporting Disney backpacks; or they're rocking Frozen earrings while dashing about in Harry Potter scarves and Thing 1 and Thing 2 t-shirts! These people are carrying baby whale stuffed toys and Ron Jon's key-chains.

Or they're on their way to being those blissed out tourists. They know it's coming and they're just so grateful to explode out of their plane from London, or Albuquerque, or Toronto, and be in the sub-tropical city of Orlando, home to Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, International Drive, and lo! so many wonders!

My dad and I, once I completed my interview, decided to eat at McCoy's restaurant in the Hyatt hotel, located around, above and maybe below, Terminal B.  Riding the glass elevator up one floor to the Hyatt's lobby, bar and restaurant level was as dizzying to me as a theme park ride.  I do not like going up or down.

McCoy's is so named because of this story about a man. Colonel Michael McCoy was the commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing at Pinecastle Air Force Base in Orlando, and he was killed in 1957 when he crashed his B-47 due to wing failure. In 1958 Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base in his memory.

In 1962 an agreement was worked out between the Air Force and the City of Orlando for the joint-use of one of the runways at Pinecastle for airline operations, and the purchase of two missile storage barns by the City for conversion into a passenger air terminal for use by Delta, Eastern, and National Airlines. The Orlando-McCoy Jetport opened in 1964, with Delta Air Lines being the first airline to offer jet passenger service to the new Orlando-McCoy Jetport. With the opening of Walt Disney World in 1972, the amount of air traffic increased substantially, and the agreement with the Air Force was amended to allow for an expansion of the civil airport facilities. Additional acreage was provided to Orlando east of the airfield and two modern airport terminals were constructed along with improved parking and other infrastructure.*

Orlando International Airport continues to carry the base's original airport code of MCO (i.e., McCoy) and ICAO airport code of KMCO. For some reason I like knowing why Orlando is MCO.

Dad and I had a tapas feast for lunch at McCoy's.  He had a dry, triple olive Beefeater's martini while we reminisced about our many father-daughter adventures in New York City, back when he was working for Celanese Chemical Corporation in Manhattan. Not much has changed since then.  Dad still admires a pretty girl, and he found one, unattended and apparently delighted to see him, at MCO.

Snow white and The Man.

*from online sources