Saturday, September 24, 2011
Carnival Elation has over 1,000 staterooms, and this past week, I was blessed to occupy one of them. Our cabin was E-171, an ocean view on the Empress deck. It was a wonderful place to be for the week. I think that prior to this cruise, we must have been on newer boats. The layout of this room is different than the other ships that we’ve vacationed on. But, it was a good “different.”
We began our journey from Covington around 7:15 on Monday, September 19th. We stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s somewhere south of Atlanta in the boonies. There was a little girl sitting close to where we were. She was having breakfast with her grandfather. She prayed over her breakfast-it was so cute! She had such a sweet, country accent. Then, someone who knew her grandfather walked over to her table to talk to them. He asked the little girl how old she was. She responded, “Three and three-quarters.” After breakfast, we continued our trip to Mobile, Alabama.
When we made it to the port, we pulled into the parking deck where an attendant took our large bags. The deck was pretty full, so we had to park on the top. When we pulled into a parking space, Lesha said, “Thank God I didn’t give him my small bag-my passport is in it.” To which I replied, “Oh no! My birth certificate is in my big bag!” Lesha stayed with the car while I ran and prayed that I would be able to get to my bag in time to get my birth certificate. Thankfully, Lesha’s suitcase is pretty noticeable. It’s super cute-dark purple with a little swirly flower design. So, it was easy to spot, and my suitcase was right next to hers. So, thankfully, I was able to get my birth certificate. Hallelujah!
So, I went back to tell Lesha the good news and to get the rest of my stuff. As we began walking across the parking lot to check-in with Carnival, Lesha said, “Did you lock the car?” I told her that I had, and even if I hadn’t, there was nothing left in it that anyone would want to steal. Which reminded me-what do thieves like to steal out of cars? Ipods. Oh, crap. Ipods. Yep, they were still in the car. Oops. And, since everyone knows that you can’t lay in the sun for hours without good music, I made another trip back to the car to get the iPods. Finally, we were ready to get on the boat. WooHoo!!!
Getting checked in was pretty ordinary, which was nice. The Carnival employees in Mobile were super friendly, and we were on the boat in a flash. When we got onto the ship, they had lunch ready for us. Lesha always gets a scoop of tuna salad and makes a regular salad with it. I had never tasted tuna salad (I thought it smelled like cat food), but Lesha spoke so highly of it, I decided to give it a try. It was so delicious I ended up having a tuna-salad salad every day for lunch.
The first full day at sea was absolutely wonderful. It was partly cloudy (but mostly sunny) and around 88 degrees. We laid in the sun for a few hours, then walked around to avoid getting burned on the first day. (That has happened before, and it is not fun). Then, we went back to lay in the sun a few more hours. We always opt for the late seating in the formal dining room, so dinner was at 8:15. Our servers were Gusti and Edgardo. Dinner was delicious. I had spinach & artichoke dip, a Greek farmer salad, and prime rib. Oh, and I can’t forget dessert-Bitter and Blanc; it’s white and dark chocolate bread pudding. It was my favorite dessert of the week. We sat at a table with two other girls-Carol and Paige. Carol has the same birthday as Lesha and I…how cool is that?! After dinner we went to the karaoke lounge, and I sang “Before He Cheats.” Carol threatened to post a video of it on You Tube, but I don’t know if she really will. There was a comedy show after karaoke. We went, but it wasn’t very funny. So, we went back to sing another karaoke song. This time I did, “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones.
The next day was as gorgeous and even hotter than the first. We were in Cozumel. So, we did a little shopping around the pier. Then, we got a taxi to Downtown and did a little more walking and shopping. When we were done with retail therapy, we went back to the boat to soak up some more rays. But, it was pretty hot since the boat was still (there wasn’t much of a breeze). After we soaked in the Vitamin D, there were Carnival Legends auditions. So, we got showered and got dressed up for that. Carnival Legends is the show that happens on the last night of the cruise. It is similar to American Idol; you sing, and there are three judges. To audition, you have to choose a karaoke song and sing it, and then audience members vote for the five people whom they want to be in the show. I decided to audition for the show. I sang “I Will Survive.” And, I got voted in for the show. Yippee!
Our ship docked in Calica, Mexico the next day. Lesha and I like to take excursions and do things that we otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience. So, the excursion we chose was the Cavern and Underground Snorkel tour. It was not what I expected, but it was a great experience. We went through some tiny places. At times, I just had to not think about the fact that we were in a cave. Our tour guide was telling us about a species of bats that live in the caves (and shining a flashlight where they were flying). He said something about them having red tails. I was too busy trying to forget that there were bats flying around us to pay attention to that part. Near the end of the tour, we snorkeled down a narrow tunnel in the cave where we say ‘brain coral.’ I had a waterproof camera, so I hope to have evidence of this excursion when I get the film developed. It really was a fantastic experience. On a side note, you know how in every group there has to be a loud-mouth? Well, the one in our group was a dumb loud-mouth. She asked our tour guide if fish can see under water. Then, she continually repeated everything he said. Annoying. Aside from the stupid lady, it was a wonderful day!
Lesha and I make it a habit to use the stairs instead of the elevator while we are on the cruise. To get to the deck where we lay out, we had to climb up five flights of stairs. That, in itself, isn’t so bad. However, almost daily when I got up to my lounge chair, I would realize that I’d forgotten something in the room. It was usually my hat. Sometimes I also forgot to bring my Coke Zero. And, once, I forgot my beach towel. It seemed like it was always something. Toward the end of the cruise, we laughingly referred to it as “cruise brain.” It began to rub off on Lesha too-she just had a lesser version than I did.
On the last evening, it was time for the big show-Carnival Legends. I was super excited to be in it, but I was also pretty nervous to be in front of so many people (around 1,000-1,200). But, I did it and had a blast. Note to anyone who is considering doing this in the future: if you can do a good version of “God Bless the USA” people love it! That’s what the guy who won sang, and it was definitely a hit!
Today, we came home. After going to Mom’s, our first stop was for Mexican food at Pacho’s. Yes, we just got home from Mexico. But, can anything beat the Mexican food in Covington? I think not. I’m so glad that Lesha and I started our vacation tradition, and that we’ve kept it going-this was this fifth time that we’ve had our “sister vacation.” I hope that it is something that continues for years and years to come.
Friday, September 9, 2011
In Honor of September 11, 2001
How great it feels to be free! I’m so thankful for the brave men and women who have fought and are still fighting to preserve the freedoms that we have grown so accustomed to. Just like our American freedom was not free, our freedom in Christ was paid with a great price of the Spotless Lamb.
Not only has God made a way for us to be free from sin; He wants us to be free from the burdens and chains that we impose on ourselves. It is up to us to choose Salvation. It is also up to us to free ourselves from the things that bind us. Isaiah 52:2 NLT says, “Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.“ It is up to each of us to remove those chains. God does not want us to be oppressed. John 8:36 NIV says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“ According to Webster’s online dictionary, free implies “a permanent removal from whatever, binds, confines, entangles, or oppresses.” Once we have chosen Salvation, the Son has set us free indeed-free from sin and oppression. Let’s live in that freedom!