Forty-eight Chattanooga Ski Club members flew or drove to Tampa, Florida a day or two before our adventure cruise began so they could enjoy the beauty of Florida as well as this wonderful city.On Sunday, October 7, we boarded the beautiful Carnival Miracle and left the port of Tampa. Members used this time to explore our ship and discover the many amenities it had to offer as well as enjoy their favorite beverages.
On this same day, Hurricane Michael decided to form near Cozumel and headed north to meet us on our way there. Our Captain must have thought we didn’t have room for Michael on the ship, so we headed due south from Tampa instead of the usual southwest route across the Gulf. On Monday, our sea day, we took a left just north of Cuba and slowly cruised as we gave Michael time to move out of our way (having fun all the time). By Monday afternoon, Michael had moved north enough to not be a factor in our fun. However, the rerouting around Hurricane Michael caused us to have to forego our visit to Cozumel. Tuesday was another fun sea day and by Wednesday we were back on schedule with beautiful weather and smooth sailing. On these sea days, popular activities were eating, sunning, exercising, reading, listening to one of the many music performances, or participating in the many family games and activities offered on board the ship (not to mention gambling in the casino). We regretted missing our visit to the beautiful port of Cozumel, but we appreciate Carnival Cruise Lines for making our safety their paramount concern. Throughout the cruise, we were never in rough seas or bad weather.
Wednesday was a day for excursions at Belize. Cruisers were tendered (taken by boat) to the mainland. Large ships cannot dock at Belize because Belize has the second longest coral reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef near Australia. Members enjoyed many activities, like scuba diving, jungle river boat rides, visiting Mayan ruins, eating local foods, and swimming in beautiful clear water at exclusive resorts.
On Thursday, we enjoyed the tropical Isle of Roatan, Honduras. Carnival’s own private beach and beautiful shopping area was just a short walk from the dock. We were particularly lucky on this day because we were the ONLY ship docked at the port and had these areas to ourselves. Many enjoyed this great beach area while others were busy exploring with excursions like scuba diving, sightseeing the coral reef in a semi-submersible boat, or flying on the zip lines through the forest.
On Friday, we woke up anchored near the port at Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. Cruisers were tendered to the mainland where they explored the Georgetown port area or met up with the leader of their chosen excursion. Popular excursions on the cruise seemed to be the ones that involved swimming with the dolphins or stingrays.
On most nights, live singing and dancing productions or other shows were enjoyed in the Phantom Theater. In the Mad Hatter’s Lounge, the comedy shows were very popular. The Red Frog Pub, with its Caribbean, laid-back atmosphere and enjoyable music, was a popular “watering hole” for our members. Karaoke in the Red Frog and in the comedy club was also a well-attended event many times during the cruise, especially since our own Bill Hooton performed several times and was a big hit. Soon, everywhere Bill went, strangers would point and say, “Hey Bill!”
Our group consisted of first time cruisers to experienced cruisers and contained a mixture of members from various parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. They all liked the fact that, although this was a group trip, each person or couple individualized the experience and activities on the cruise to their own desires. On Saturday, many members migrated to the Sports Bar to watch the Tennessee-Auburn game with delight. Unfortunately, the channels that carried the Alabama and the Georgia games on that day weren’t available at sea.
Every night of the cruise we were seated together for dinner (six tables of various sizes). This was a special time for sharing of the day’s activities, laughing, and eating too much. Night after night, we were impressed with the great service, wonderful food selections, and appealing presentations, especially the baked Alaska on the last night. Many members knew each other before the cruise, but we all regarded everyone in the group as friends at the end of the cruise. Before the end of the cruise, we had started a random rotation of our seating at dinner so more members would get to know and enjoy each other better.
Everyone had a great time at the private cocktail party that Carnival sponsored for the Chattanooga Ski Club on Saturday afternoon and couldn’t believe the week went by so fast. This was a fun time to share the week’s experiences and laugh.We woke up Sunday at the Tampa dock, disembarked the ship, and flew (or drove) home with many lifetime memories of our fun together on this adventurous cruise.