Justina's World | Jersey to Tampa, FL (Carnival Cruise Arrival & Night 1)
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Jersey to Tampa, FL (Carnival Cruise Arrival & Night 1)

So this past winter, I had decided that I wanted to do something BIG for my boyfriend Avi’s birthday since he threw me a surprise party for my 30th in December.  I knew I wanted to surprise him with a trip, as we were both in MUCH NEED of a getaway! I had a rough winter with financial troubles, car troubles, health troubles, so I wanted to do something that would be the most affordable, but would be adventurous and different as well.  Then I remembered that my best friend Kristin Turner, since 8 years old, has been working on Carnival Cruise Line’s ships for the past 5 years.  She had been asking me every year to come out, but the timing was never right, and I never had the money.  Shit, I didn’t even really have the money this year, but I said WHAT THE HELL and decided to slap most of it on a credit card.  Life is too short to not see this beautiful earth of ours, and I wanted to see her as well, and see what her career life was like. Not to mention Avi had NEVER been on a cruise before!  It was the PERFECT vacation and trip birthday surprise adventure!

Turner helped me plan everything, and was extremely helpful in that aspect.  I did everything I could to make sure this trip went on without a hitch.  I drove all the way to PHILADELPHIA from central Jersey to make SURE I had my passport renewed, and all of the necessary documents to travel outside of the US.  So I just want to take this time right now to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who helped me get the things I need to make this trip go smoothly… My Aunt Maria who works for airlines, was able to book me a “trip” so I could put a speed delivery on my passport, My BFF Marie for making the trek to Philadelphia with me just to pick up the thing.  That was fun anyway, we ended up making a day trip out of it, went to New Hope, PA for lunch, as sick as a dog that I was that week.

So I had this surprise element going with Avi for a really long time… probably up until about a week before the trip!!!! AHHH!!! It’s a good thing I decided to go to Carnival’s website and read more into the cruise we would be going on. I didn’t realize that we still had to book all of our SHORE EXCURSIONS!!! So it was then, that I decided to tell my love where we would be venturing to in just a week.  I messaged him while he was at work and told him that when he got home later that night, I would be telling him where we would be going.  He was so EXCITED! So he came over later that night, and over dinner I said, “So where do you THINK we’re going?” He was like, “I dunno, how would I know?” And I kept playing saying “Fine then I’m not telling you since you don’t wanna guess”, ahhahahahaha! So finally, I screamed, “WE’RE GOING ON A CRUISE!!!!” The look on his face was priceless, and he was like, “Seriously!?” Then I told him that we were going to see Kristin, and he started piecing things together saying, “So THAT’S why you said you needed to wait to hear back from her”.

So later that night, we went on Carnival’s website and checked out all of the cool attractions on the ship that we could take advantage of.  We also looked into the shore excursions and weighed all of our options according to the reviews, the prices, and what we both thought we were adventurous enough to try.

The Cruise we booked was a 7 Day West Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Legend, traveling to Cozumel Mexico, Belize City Belize, Roatan Island in Honduras, and Grand Cayman Islands, with 2 full days at sea.  We picked the tour of the ancient Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Cozumel, Ziplining and Cavetubing in Belize, the Pirate/Bird/Monkey Park in Roatan, and Dolphin Encounter n Turtle Park in Grand Cayman. I was SOOOO NERVOUS BOUT THE ZIPLINING!! I remember my friends Joe and Mel doing the zipline over Fremont Street in Vegas and thinking they were crazy.  And that was only going over a street… never mind 200 feet above the Belizian JUNGLE!!  We really want to get a snorkel excursion in there, but all of the good ones seemed to conflict with the other ones we picked.  I figured the snorkel was a good thing to do on its own, on a separate trip.. so that just means we’ll have to go back to the caribbean to do this, and I’m fine with that! 🙂

Anyway, back to the cruise….

We would have to fly to Tampa, Fl where the boat is docked. About a month before the trip, Kristin’s mom had called me to tell me she was going on the same cruise as us, and she was on the same flight as well! She was going with her mother in-law and her girlfriend from work. So before our trip, Avi and I had gone mall shopping for all of the necessary things we need for our trip. Avi and I got so many bathing suits, some water shoes, etc.  Avi also had bought a water camera, since we would be doing some water excursions, and such. He ended up getting a Nikon Coolpix AW120 Compact – 16.0 MP Digi Cam in bright orange.  This camera has some great features and the sample vids we saw online we’re enough to convince.  We also found that you can take photos WHILE you’re taking video without interrupting the video.  That was a happy accident.  There is also a video record button directly on the back panel so you can go into video mode without going into the camera’s settings in the menu, and anytime you’re not recording, it automatically keeps you in photo mode.

So on Saturday, April 26 we started to pack.  Avi started clearing off all of his memory cards, charging camera batteries, etc.  I got a head start on the packing while he was doing all of that.  He left soon after that to start on his own packing.  In the midst of packing, I would chat with my BFF Marie, as she was in Hawaii the same week we were going away as well.  She made me laugh so hard cuz I was telling her how I was getting my buzz on as I was packing (My mom opened a bottle of white), so she was making fun of me saying how I’m going to get there and open my suitcase, and all I’m gonna find is wheel of cheese and chapstick! AHAHAH!  Yea Kids, DON’T PACK TOO DRUNK! But anyway, I had my island reggae and latin jams on the cable music channels to get me in the Caribbean mood!

I think I packed all day up until 2:30 in the morning or so.  Around then I had left to pick up Avi.  His dad helped Avi get his bags in the trunk, and then before leaving, he told us “Have fun, Don’t do anything stupid!” LOL!  Then I took Avi to the bank real quick to take some cash out of the ATM for spending money on the trip. After we got back to my house, I put on the TV and we decided to take a bit of a nap before my parents dropped us off at the airport.  Along Came Polly was on, so we both napped a bit while that was on.  At 3:30 am,  I woke up to Avi tapping me to wake up.  My parents helped us get our bags in the car, I decided to grab another sweatshirt as it was probably something like 45 degrees outside! Pretty brisk.  So on the way to the airport, we all thought, “Hey, maybe Zizi Mari is working now!”… My Aunt always works the middle of the night to morning shifts at Newark Airport.  So we pull up to the drop off terminal, and my dad is helping us get our bags out of my mom’s SUV.  Sure enough he looks in the window at the checkin counters, and my aunt was working, so he makes a B-line for the sliding doors, as my mom’s standing there like “ROY! WE HAVE TO LEAVE, WE CAN STAY PARKED HERE!”, so she’s freaking out and goes to me “Go get your father!” So Avi and I go to the checkin counter, and my aunt is cracking up saying to the other staff “This is my brother!! And This is my niece and her boyfriend!”  So my dad leaves, and my aunt starts checking us in.  So she takes our passports, told me to sign mine (oops)… Then she checked our bags, and took us upstairs to security check.  She stood in line with us for about 10 minutes, until the line started to move.  She asked where we were going, then wished us a safe trip, and headed back to her checkin station downstairs.

Avi and I were pretty much at the start of the line, so we made it through security fairly quickly.  I love flying that early, there’s really no one else around, and it’s nice and quiet, less lines, etc.  So we got to our gate all the way at the end of the airport, and we sat down by the wall right by our zone, which was zone 3 or 4.  There was a woman sitting on that row of chairs as well, and it looked like we were bothering her.  So we sat down, tired from the one hour of sleep that we had gotten that night.  I gave Avi a pair of my sunglasses, and I put mine on, with my hat over my eyes to shield the light and maybe try to take some sort of nap before we boarded.  I had plugged my headphones into my ears and put on Madonna’s “Drowned World” from her Ray of Light album, which is the most relaxing song.  As I’m dozing off, Avi decided he wanted to go see if any of the food stands were open, so I left my comfortableness… I guess I was kinda hungry at that point! So we went to this cafe around the corner from our gate.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but they served these breakfast strombolis.  Avi ended up ordering a breakfast stromboli, and I got a bagel with scallion cream cheese and a hot tea.  We got to the register, and all of the orders kept getting backed up, and the staff kept giving people the wrong things.  Once they finally corrected our order we sat down at a table right in front of the register, so we thoroughly enjoyed continuing to watch the amount of incorrect orders that ensued.  We also spotted a little girl in line who reminded us both of me when I was little.  She sat at a table behind us, and Avi was staring at her laughing the whole time, shaking his head at how much of a brat she was.  He was like, “She’s just like you, always has to have the last word”.  So that was funny.  After we finished our food, we walked to a couple other stands so Avi could try to find a cheap pair of sunglasses, cuz he didn’t wanna bring his real $200 Aviators on the trip.  None of the stands sold sunglasses, oddly enough, so then we figured we’d just get them on the trip.  We made way for our gate, and as we arrived, our zone was called to board, so we got on pretty fast.  Our seats were right in the middle of the plane on the right hand side, I had the window seat, Avi sat right next to me, and there was a guy on the outside aisle seat.  As we are sitting there waiting for the rest of the plane to board, I see 2 middle aged light skinned black women getting situated in the row right in front of us, on the left side of the plane.  I noticed one of them was my friend Kristin’s mom, getting situated in their seats, so I was getting ready to say hi.  The other lady she was with looked at me like I had a staring problem as she was putting her carry ons in the overheard compartment, hahahah!! I guess it did look that way before she realized that I knew Jackie, my friend’s mom.  So to save myself from looking like an idiot with a  staring problem, I shouted across the aisle, “Jackie!” She turned around and looked so surprised to see us right there, out of all the seats on the plane! So we made some small chit chat through everyone else’s boarding process.

When the plane finally took off at 6 am, I was so unbelievably nauseous!! It’s a good thing I stopped at CVS the week prior and stocked up on some ginger gum, dramomine, & sea band wristlets to aid in motion sickness.  I popped some ginger gum at take off, and then closed my eyes with my head against the window.  Avi napped for a considerable amount of time… I couldn’t nap, I was just way too excited… and nauseous.  I sat there with my iPod on, I listened to some Alanis trying to rid myself of the nausea.  When Avi awoke, the drink cart came by and he got me a ginger ale with some ice.  That helped settle my stomach a bit. We flipped through the sky mall catalogue a bit, and I oogled at the map in the back of one of the travel magazines in the backseat pocket of the chair in front me.  Maps intrigue me, they always make me wonder where I will travel to next.  Although the flight was a rough take off, the duration of the flight was a pretty smooth one, and even landing was pretty smooth.  The flight lasted about 3 hours or so, and we landed in Tampa, Florida at about 9 am.

I texted my mom to let her know that we landed safely, and then we made way to baggage claim.  We even got off the plane relatively fast, and as we exited the plane and through the gate terminal, I could feel the humidity warm my chilled Jersey bones.  This was exactly what I needed!

So we got off of the plane and Avi and I caught up with Jackie, and she introduced us to her friend Cheryl.  We stopped at the restrooms real quick before we made our way downstairs to get the shuttle to baggage claim.  As we walked around the airport on the way to the shuttle we noticed how beautiful this airport was.  It was like a mini shopping mall! There were nice jewelry, & clothing shops everywhere, along with a Wine Bar, Starbucks, and a T.G.I. Friday’s! We were very impressed with Tampa’s airport, it was very clean and felt very open.  So we got the shuttle to baggage claim and our luggage was the first few pieces to come out, it couldn’t have worked out more perfect! Avi and I tied some blue lacy ribbon to our red and black luggages so we could recognize ours at a first glance.  It worked very well!  So we gathered our luggage , and Jackie had asked us if we were taking the shuttle to the dock or a cab with them.  We had already booked our shuttle to the dock, and she told us that we should have taken a cab because then we’ll have to wait around for who knows how long for the bus to pick us up. A girl from the carnival shuttle services spotted us and asked us if we had our shuttle booked, and Avi and I gave her our names so she found us on the list.  The girl told us that we would only have to wait til 10:30 or so til the shuttle gets there, and explained to Jackie that the benefit of taking the shuttle is that they take our bags for us and don’t have to go through the bag check process once we board the ship.  Carnival would take care of getting our bags to our room for us.  So Avi and I were fine with that.  The girl did however explain to us that if we wanted anything from our bags at that moment, then we should take it out now, because we wouldn’t see our bags again til 1:00 pm when they arrive at our room.  Right away, I unlocked my bag and threw my sweat shirt in there since I wouldn’t be needing that in this heat! I also unpacked my flip flops, and took a pair of shorts and my bikini so we could hit the pool as soon as we got on the ship!  So as Avi and I got the stuff we needed out of our bags and got situated, Jackie’s mother in law met up with them as we were standing there, so she introduced Alice.  Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice parted ways with us here so they could go outside and wait for their cab.  We agreed to meet them back on the ship. The girl with the carnival shuttle was making some conversation with us as she walked us to the shuttle pick up, just asking us where we were from, and how she also had some friends from Jersey.  So she brought us outside to the bus terminals, and told us Helga would take it from there.  Helga was a short little stocky foreign woman with a raspy accented voice, and thick clear framed glasses with brownish lenses.  She explained to us, leave our bags with her, we have about an hour before the shuttle gets there, so to go inside and grab some coffee or tea, just be back and wait over on the sidewalk off of the bus terminal in an hour.  Avi and I had some time to kill, so we figured we’d go inside and grab a drink (not a coffee). Yes we are lushes, at 10 am.

As we were walking back toward the building, we saw Jackie, Cheryl, and Alice waiting for their taxi, so we waived over to them.  Jackie yelled, “See you guys on the ship!” We nodded, and headed back into the airport. We walked back, looking for escalators, and to our right found a immobile one.  Avi said, “Let’s go”.. and I hesitated and was like, “Wait this doesn’t work”… He was like, “Uhhhh…. it still works you idiot, we’ll just have to climb stairs”. We got a good laugh out of that and started climbing.  Much to our discontent, when we got to the top, we had discovered that we had come to a dead end, and the elevator on that floor did not work. So we walked back down and grabbed an elevator from that floor instead. We headed up to the 2nd floor and Avi spotted a Ron Jon Surf Shop in hopes of finding some glasses. We went in, and spotted a rack of fake Aviators, where I coined the new term “Fauxviators”. He tried on a few pairs and eventually settled on gold rimmed polarized blue lensed glasses. They were 20 bucks, which was extremely reasonable!  I saw a lot of cute stuff in here that I was tempted to buy, but I knew I had to save my money for the week long trip which hadn’t even started yet! After we left that store, we circled the grounds for a bit to scope out what there was to drink around there.  We spotted the Friday’s and agreed to go in for a drink.  We grabbed a couple large red cushiony stools at the bar and took a seat.  The bartender was a cool guy, maybe his mid 30s, head shaved bald.  He greeted us and asked us what we wanted.  Avi and I both spotted the same drink on the menu that caught both of our eye.  No beer this time, we were going straight for the hard shit while the family at the 4 seated ground table behind us were scarfing down REAL breakfast, and not rum like a bunch of alcoholics.  So the guy winced after we told him the signature drink that we both wanted, fearing they might not have what he needed to make the drink, but we told him and he was like, “OH, never mind, I could definitely do that.”  I don’t even remember what was in it, it might have been pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and some seltzer, and a lime… OH and RUM.. how could I forget that!

After the guy fixed us our drinks, Avi asked if he could buy some shots.  I just glanced at Avi and was like, “YOU GOIN HARD ALREADY!?” The bartender just laughed.  So I asked, “What’s in a Surfer On Acid?” and as he was thinking about it, without skipping a beat, the waitress behind him, cleaning the other side of the bar spat out “JAEGER, PINEAPPLE JUICE, AND RUM”. Our bartender looked at her in shock, like WHOAAA, Did that really just happen? She apologized for eavesdropping on our conversation, but then proceeded to fix us the shots.  We all got a good laugh about it.  The shots were HUGE… I think I drank half of mine and then I let Avi have the other half, since he was obviously really eager to start getting shit faced already.  During our relaxing drink, we relished at the fact that we don’t have to deal with bratty children like the people sitting behind us, and we cheers’d to the start of a great vacation!

We paid and closed out our tab and checked the time, and it was about time to make it back to the bus terminal.  We headed back downstairs and stopped at the bathroom before heading out the door so Avi could change into his shorts.  After this we went and waited on the benches on the sidewalk off the bus terminal.  Helga was directing people with her clipboard to do the same.  We sat on the bench feeling pretty buzzed and goofy already, so excited to get the week rolling! We waited on this bench for probably another 45 minutes before the bus even got there.  We just did stupid shit like taking pictures of our feet.  We were getting pretty bored and anxious.  We had thought our bus was there, so we had stood up, only to find out that it wasn’t.  So we lost our seat on the bench, and waited while we stood.  A latino couple passed right by us and then reeked of musk and sex.  I was like, “Avi, do you smell that?”  He was like, “Yea, and look at the size of his ring.” I discreetly turned my head and glanced to find the biggest pimp daddy status ring I have ever seen on man.  It was like unnecessarily ginormous, and we both chuckled over it.  Our bus pulled up to the terminal finally!  We made a B-line for the bus before the rest of the crowd realized it was ours.  We found a seat, and it was nice and air conditioned on the bus.  We kept an eye on our bags and made sure they made it onto the bottom of the bus.  The bus was filled with many old, retirees from the deep south and beyond.  We were clearly not in our element here.  Our bus driver was a funny southern black woman who had funny one liners here and there.  She kept us entertained as we drove through Florida’s palm tree lined twisty turny highways.  It was a bright and beautiful sunny day, and it felt SO good to be out of Jersey!

So we finally pull up to the port, and Avi’s expression was just PRICELESS!! His jaw just dropped as he said in disbelief, “Wow… I didn’t realize the ships were THAT big”.  We pull into the terminal as the luggage hands start unloading bags from beneath the bus.  A short cowboy looking guy who worked for the cruise line came onto the bus and started explaining to us not to leave the bus yet.  He also started mouthing some other directions that the angry hum of the bus prevented its passengers from deciphering.  Some angry southerners from the back of the bus started shouting, “WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!”.  He came a bit closer and started yelling the information this time.  There were 2 older southern belle type of woman sitting in the seat right next to Avi and I, one of which raised her hand and exclaimed with a twang “I can hear yewwwww…”.  Avi and I just looked at each other and laughed.  The man was trying to explain to us that when we get off the bus, do not take our luggage upon exiting the bus (although they were all scattered throughout the terminal waiting to be collected), and have our passports and boarding passes ready for the door guards.  We spotted our bags to make sure they were accounted for, then left them as we made our way to the entrance.  Two very dark and tall caribbean looking african men in guard uniform stopped us as we got to the door.  We handed them our passports and boarding passes as they scoped our profiles suspiciously before motioning us to the escalator.  The sign in front of it read “Have one hand available to use escalator” with a female guard sitting there next to it making sure no one does anything stupid. Avi and I hop on and make our way to the top floor where we are motioned to go wait in a queued maze to speak to a check in clerk.  The man working the line organization motioned for us to make our way to the clerk all the way to the left end of the room, closest to the entrance to the boat.  The lady was very nice and asked us if this was our first cruise.  Avi excitedly made sure she knew it was his first.  She wished us much fun and supplied us with our Sign and Sail cards which we would be using as our cash on board throughout our time on the ship.  Once we had those, we exited onto another area which had more Que poles and red ropes with a huge sign painted on the wall in Carnival’s signature red and blue lettering that said “WELCOME ALMOST ABOARD!”. I had Avi stop here for an overly excited photo op before making our way through another set of doors to a bag check, and a couple rounds of security.  The scanner picked up something weird in Avi’s camera bag so he had to have it scanned again.  After the 2nd time it was fine, and we laughed as people were putting their electronics in these containers that looked like dog bowls.  We gathered our belongings and made our way to yet ANOTHER entrance with a photographer and a phony Carnival backdrop.  We posed for one more photo op before grabbing our things again and making our way down a long white gangway corridor. We took some goofy pics in here as we clearly could not contain our excitement!  We finally got to the entrance door to the lobby of the ship and the crew scanned our Sign and Sail cards to check us in onboard.

We made our way into the breathtaking, sky high lobby with elevators running up and down 9 floors.  The room was open and airy, with cathedral meets Vegas like ambience and decor.  The elevators were made of glass, constantly running up and down each floor, overlooking a wood dance floor and bar.  Avi and I spotted Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice at the bar and went over to say hi.  Jackie told us that Kristin would be down in a minute because she is not allowed up on deck unless family is there.  The staff and crew are not allowed to fraternize with guests onboard.  During the time that we were waiting for Kristin, Jackie said they were going to get some drinks.  She seemed very friendly with the bartender, so I asked her, “Do you know the bartender?”… I did not realize that this was Kristin’s boyfriend! Jackie said, “No, that’s Kristin’s boyfriend David!” I said, “Ohhhh! I forgot he was a bartender on the ship”.  So we all got a laugh about this and continued to wait for Kristin.  Jackie proceeded to tell her girlfriends that Kristin and I have known each other for a very long time! We have grown up together basically.

I met Kristin when I was 8 years old.  Our mothers both worked full time jobs so we were enrolled in an after school program called Latchkey which allowed us to hang out with each other every day after school up until about 6th grade.  Then in middle school we would choreograph dances together for school talent shows.  We didn’t talk or hang out much upon entering high school, but started hanging out again at the end of junior year when we both started doing school drama club and summer drama workshops.  We also did competition cheering together, our team went to Florida and took home the National Championship trophy for our division in 2001! We graduated together and got even closer after high school, even when she went away to college.  I abandoned dancing altogether, and Turner just flourished in it.  She has been able to make a great career out of it, leaving college to dance for the New York Nicks, and the Boston Patriots.  She has toured all over the world with dance companies, to Thailand, the Philippines, China, and even Iraq. In 2009, things seemed to calm down for her a bit and we both agreed to move out to LA together with my brother, since we were all aspiring entertainers.  We rented a little moving truck and went to pick up her stuff from storage in Seattle where she worked at a radio show for awhile. We drove from Seattle, WA all the way down to LA, California and started to settle into a new place.  About a week into living there, she had gotten offered a contract doing entertainment on a cruise line and she has been doing this line of work ever since.  As envious as I am about her ability to travel all around the world, I don’t really think I have the heart it takes to be able to do that line of work and be so far from home more than 3/4 of the year.

So Turner soon makes her way down in a pretty flowy dress.  We all greet each other and exchange hugs and Kristin puts the first round of welcome drinks on her Sign and Sail card.  We all cheersed to the voyage ahead with some sparkling mimosas and took many pictures.   She had to get back to work, so she let Avi and I go explore the ship.  She led us up to the elevator and pointed us in the general direction of how to get around.  We had all agreed to meet up for dinner in the Truffles dining room later that night.  Avi and I had set off to explore this beautiful gigantic boat that we would be on for the coming week!

Before making our way to our room, we were pretty hungry from the whole journey in just getting to the boat and onto it, so we headed up to the 9th floor Lido Deck and found a buffet commencing.  We grabbed some plates and dining ware and helped ourselves to the first meal of many onboard the Carnival Legend.

We grabbed some fried rice, chicken/mushroom/pepper stir fry, broiled fish, penne pasta with ham, and some broiled seasoned potatoes.  We grabbed a seat at one of the many tables lined in front of the windows looking out onto the harbor in Tampa.  We could spot the Norwegian Dawn, another cruise line from where we were docked.  I pointed to it and showed Avi, since it was the last cruise ship that I was on.  As we were eating our lunch, a girl came by and asked if we would like some drinks.  She had some very tropical looking drinks with umbrellas in red souvenir cups with the Carnival logo on them.  We couldn’t say no! I mean we were on vacation, and we were gonna do it right, damnit! She only had one on her tray, so she dropped that one off, and said she’d be back with the next.  Avi let me have the first one, like the gentlemen that he is.  As we were waiting on the other drink, another woman rolled up a cart with some wine bottle and choices of meats.  She asked if we had made reservations to eat at the Steakhouse on board yet, and if she could get us to make a reservation with her.  She told us about the wine specials, which were a complimentary bottle of their house red or white with a reservation for the first night, all in her russian accent.  We had already talked about dining at the Steakhouse with Kristin, but not until the 4th night in Belize.  So we kindly told her about our plans and that we knew someone who worked on the ship.  She asked who we knew, and we said, “Kristin Turner, she’s a dancer.”  She said, “Ohhh… I think I know her, she’s that short girl with the hair up to here…”, as she pointed to her chin.  Avi and I both laughed at the obvious refrain at the mention of her skin color.  Most people don’t want to make it a race thing these days, or be politically incorrect.  I mean, everyone is guilty of this, even myself!  We just said, “Yup, that’s her”. She insisted we enjoy our stay, and proceeded on to persuade some other passengers into the wine special reservation.  She left, and we were still waiting for the other drink for quite a few minutes.  We had even finished our meals first!  After we finally received our other drink, we headed out to the pool area.  The Legend ship has an area strictly reserved for adult relaxation, called SERENITY.  And I must admit, it was very serene at the first impression.  We walked out onto the deck to find a quaint salt water pool and hot tub as the centerpiece of the area.  There were turquoise cushioned brown wicker chairs lining pool, along with some little turquoise cushioned beds nested in brown wicker canopy huts.  These were prime real estate throughout the trip, it seemed, for the less avid tanners.  Most of the people who hogged these, were book or kindle readers.  They also had a couple hammocks on both sides of the floor plan as well.  Also, the bar rested in the center of the entrances on both sides which was shaded, with some tables and some lounge chairs for eating or relaxing.  We entered from the left and who do we see!?! Kristin having some lunch & cheesecake with her mother, Cheryl, & Alice.  We all laughed and we joined to converse with them for a bit.  During our conversation, Avi & I noticed this strange bug flying around.  It looked like 2 mosquitoes or lighting bugs attached to each other, flying around.  We asked Kristin what they were, and she told us that they were “Lovebugs”, and that they were harmless.  Harmless they were indeed, but quite ANNOYING!  They kept flying into things, and sometimes that thing was your face.  She assured us that they would disappear once we set sail.  Nothing can really hover or land on the ship once it has set sail, and the things that do, don’t survive.  Sad huh? So after everyone had finished their lunch, Kristin had decided to give us a little tour of the ship.  We started by heading up the stairs from the Serenity Lounge, and she showed us the new water slides the ship had added… That’s right… water slides… right above the adult’s “serene” retreat.  And you know what water slides equal? SCREAMING KIDS. Kind of counter productive if you ask me! HAHA! So she showed us that, then she explained to us that the whale tail, which is Carnival’s signature emblem, actually had their own recycling system built into it, which is what the black smoke coming out of the top was.  We made our way down to the front end of the ship, where she led us into the spa area, the gym, and the walking track.  We literally walked A LOT, on this mini tour alone. After she wrapped things up with us, she told us that there would be a safety briefing around fourish or so.

Avi & I had decided to finally go back to the room to relax a bit before the safety briefing, and to see if our bags had shown up yet.  We got to our room #4191 on Deck 4.  It was booked as an “interior” cabin, but we still had a window.  It was still classified as interior, because our view was obstructed by one of the life boats.  It was a quaint sized cabin with a king sized bed, a couch (which our luggages used, instead of us), a vanity which I used to do my hair and makeup, and a cozy little bathroom with one of those little slab showers like the ones I mentioned in my Italy blogs.  The only thing keeping the water from flooding was a tiny lip, maybe 5 inches high.  So we got to our cabin, and there were no bags yet.  When we got to the room, the TV was on, set on the cruise information channel.  It kept relaying the same message over and over about how in the even of an emergency, you must report to your Muster Station.  Avi and I were laughing at this, calling it the “Mustard” station.  So while we are in the room, a luggage hand knocks on the door and delivers Avi’s luggage. Of course they deliver the man’s first! What could a man possibly need that he doesn’t already carry on him!! A woman always needs everything, including the kitchen sink. So I am a little annoyed that my bag didn’t arrive yet at this point.  So we’re still listening to this Muster Station information on repeat, and Avi points out a jar of cookies with a cute rainbow ribbon tied around the top.  It had a little note attached, which had a small umbrella logo at the top with the print “YOU’RE ON VACATION” and the handwriting read, “Welcome Aboard Juss & Avi <3 Kristin & David.  It was so cute!  I texted her to thank her as we still had cell service at this point (we hadn’t set sail yet).  As we are waiting for the announcement to report to our Muster Station, there is another knock at the door.  Thinking it was my bag, I excitedly opened the door.  It was not my bag, however, it was our cabin stewardess, I-Wayan.  He was a nice little pacific islander, polynesian man.  He asked if everything was ok in his filipino accent and that he would be waiting on us for the week.  I assured him everything was fine at the moment, that I was just waiting for my bag.  He assured me that it would be at the room soon and that if he sees the bag sitting outside the door, that he would take it into the room for me if we were not there.  I thanked him graciously and he left.  Soon after the announcement came on into our cabins that it was now time to report to our Muster Stations for our safety briefing.  Avi and I made our way to the end of the corridor and down 1 level of stairs, where a crowd of people were already herded up like a bunch of cattle.  We proceeded out onto the deck at their approval and lined up against the wall.  Lovebugs were all about, flying through the air, smacking into people. More people came and filed in line, in front of us.  One extremely tall woman and her large infant, and husband stood right in front of me.  That’s just so typical.  I’m 4’11” and I always get the behemoth people in front of me. I huffed and puffed and Avi just gave me the “STOPPIT” look.  Since I couldn’t see the safety demonstration going on in front of me any longer, I figured the only thing I COULD do, was look at the woman’s feet.  They were extremely huge and her toes looked like little aliens with misshapen heads sticking out in all different directions. Her heel could crush a small rodent with the right amount of impact.  I dazed off into these absurd scenarios about her hideous gargantuan peds and then realized, I would be utterly and completely fucked if this ship were to go down, all because the circus had let their oversized woman take a vacation leave the same week as me.

So after the safety briefing wrapped up, Avi and I had decided to go to the pool with whatever little time we had before we were to meet up for dinner in the Truffles dining room.  We headed to SERENITY and managed to find 2 chairs right smack in front of the pool.  Since Avi had gotten the first round of drinks, I picked up the second round as he held our spots at the chairs. I went to the bar and ordered myself a frozen Pina Colada, and Avi wanted their homemade mexican beer.  I don’t remember what it was called, but he enjoyed it.  I also got myself a bottle of water since I was already starting to feel pretty dehydrated from all the traveling we had been doing.  The bill came to like $17, and I was still not familiar with the idea that gratuity was included, so I had actually tipped $3 which I was not supposed to.  It is fine though, because I later looked on my Sign and Sail charges at the end of the trip, and they refunded that charge to me.  So I brought over the drinks and we lied out a bit in the hot Florida sun, mind you we have STILL NOT SET SAIL!  Lovebugs were still on the rampage smacking into my face as I’m trying to lie out, and Avi is getting pissy with me because he knows how I get pissy when bugs start to annoy me.  I didn’t strip completely down to my bikini bottoms because I had realized that I needed to clean up my bikini area a bit more, oops! So we had maybe an hour out by the pool and one drink, before we went back to the room to clean up for dinner.  We had FINALLY started to set sail!  Upon arriving back to the room, we found my bag at the door! I jumped for joy and then lugged my bag into the room and onto the couch to decide what I was going to wear for the night’s festivities.  As we entered the room, I-Wayan had already been there to do our turn down service for the night, which is when they pull your comforter down half way to make it easier to crawl into bed, and also leave a cute little animal made from the towels, with some chocolates and the itinerary for the next day.  Our animal tonight was a little elephant.  Avi was so surprised, I don’t think he’s ever seen these before! So anyway,  I decided on a cute little blue and white romper with some beaded flip flops to wear to dinner.  I also ran a flat iron through my hair.  Avi cleaned himself up and changed into a nice light tan colored polo shirt with a sunset print across the front and some khaki shorts.

We made our way down to the ship’s lobby to meet up with everyone.  We met the ladies seated on the couches and Kristin showed up shortly after with some blue lanyards with the Carnival red and white logos on them.  attached was a CREW FAMILY PASS!  This would allow us to go down to the crew level with her on the bottom of the ship.  From there, we headed to her boyfriend David’s bar where things seemed a little more relaxed and we were able to talk to him more, as opposed to the crazy lobby bar he was stationed at earlier.  Avi ordered himself a martini, slightly dirty and I ordered a Mojito. We sat at the bar for a bit before we headed into the Truffles dining lounge with everyone and our drinks.  We were seated at a table for six.  On one side it was Kristin, Alice, and I, and across from us it was Kristin’s mom Jackie, Cheryl, and Avi.  As we had our appetizers, we all made some awkward small talk.  I ordered the shrimp cocktail which was served in a little sampling dish.  There were about 5 or 6 shrimp in a bed of lettuce and shaved carrots along with a dollop of cocktail sauce.  It was quite refreshing.  Alice and I marveled at how beautiful and elegantly the food had been plated, and both shared in our love of taking the mandatory photo of our food before we eat it.  Jackie had also reminisced about how Kristin and I used to dance together, and I reminded Kristin at how we had named our act “Short and Sweet” in our middle school talent show. We all had a good laugh, and then the main courses had arrived.  This is when things started to get a bit awkward.  All of the sudden, Alice had asked, “Would everyone join me in a grace before we eat our food?” We all kind of just looked at each other, hoping one of us would break the awkward silence.  Avi being the nice guy, said, “Sure”.  We all kind of looked at each other and agreed under a muffled hesitance.  Avi’s nice guy approach had backfired on him, because Alice had then singled him out and asked him, “Would you do the honors or leading us in our Grace?” At this point, a speechless Avi looked to me for help.  I mean, I was raised Catholic and Christian, but I am not religious enough to even know how to lead a grace.  Everyone else was just dead silent.  I tried to relieve some of the awkwardness of Avi looking like an insensitive asshole toward something this woman obviously held very sacred to her heard, and turned to Alice and said, “Oh Alice, he didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that Avi’s family is not Catholic or Christian, they are Hindu so they actually don’t do the grace thing.” She seemed a bit shocked and embarrassed, and apologized and asked, “Oh are you offended?” Avi said no, not at all, of course.  He is a gentlemen. That did not make things any less awkward though.  Dinner moved on, and everyone else finished their meals off with pastries and cakes, while I settled for a fresh fruit plate.  It was only my first day, but I was already feeling pretty bloated.

After dinner, we had agreed to go our separate ways and meet up around 8ish for Kristin’s first show of the trip.  Avi and I had gone back to the room so I could try to go to the bathroom, to which luck, I had none.  I had opted to take a nap instead since we were still running on the 2 hours of sleep prior to the airport the night before.  I literally could not keep my eyes open any longer.  We both passed out for a good 2 hours or so… I remember waking up to Avi in hustle mode, telling us that we were running late and that Kristin’s show was about to start.  I rushed up out of the bed and refreshed myself, brushing my hair and teeth.

We headed down to the theater which was already darkened and almost filled to capacity.  We spotted Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice toward the front and center row in front of the stage, but we settled for lounge seats further back in the house.  The show started with 2 comedians who were both pretty funny.  One was a funny spunky black woman named Jaylyn Bishop.  She was very funny and over the top… I don’t really remember what most of her skit was about. The second comedian was a seemingly laid back guy named Will Marfori.  The whole basis of his skit was about his Cerebral Palsy, which was awkwardly funny.  He was hilarious, and I enjoyed his set a lot more.  He also made fun of Fantasia Barrino being dyslexic but writing a book about, saying, “Who is that gonna help?!?” I thought that was brilliant.  After the comics, it was on with the show! Kristin’s first show of our trip!  It was called Motor City and was based on all of the old Motown music from the 50s and 60s.  The costumes, sets, choreography, performers were ALL amazing! It was a shame we couldn’t take any photos or videos.  I wish I could have captured Kristin all dressed up in costume and stuff.  I just didn’t want to deal with any old people threatening to tattle on me, cuz i’ve been in that situation before… and by the way, on this night, the theater was FILLED with old people. So the show lasted about a half hour, and we waited for most of the theater to file out before going down to the ladies and showing face.  I didn’t want them to think that we skipped out on Kristin’s first show! I just REALLY needed a nap! So we went down and said hi and rant and raved about the show.  Jackie said Kristin would be coming out shortly, so we waited at the back of the theater for her for a bit.  During our time waiting for her, a few of her cast mates walked past us, said hi and asked us how we enjoyed the show.  So we were introduced to them formally, by Jackie. Kristin came down and met up with us in one of the aisles to discuss the plans for the rest of the evening.  She was going to the club on the ship called Medusa’s Lair, to do a promotional dance called The White Knights.  They do these dances to get people into the club.  So Cheryl and Alice said their goodnights here, and Jackie agreed to meet us at the club.  We ended up sticking around the theater for some reason, Kristin said she’s be right back and then disappeared for awhile.  Avi and I just sat there, recapping the whole first day/night on the ship.  I filmed him doing a short vlog here.  We were the only ones in the theater, besides the maids who were vacuuming confetti off of the sun motif’d rugs.  The song “Closing Time” started playing, and I acknowledged it, “Maybe they’re trying to tell us something”.

So we waited around for Kristin a little longer, and then when she finally came out we agreed to meet her at Medusa’s Lair Club for her White Knight’s Performance.  We headed to the club, which you probably wouldn’t have recognized as a club from just walking past if it weren’t for the 2 feet of red carpet and the velvet ropes on stanchions leading up to a revolving door which the music would bump from every time somebody entered or exited.  There were some leather couches outside the club, because it was also right by a bar area and lounge. So we waited outside of the club and met Jackie there as she was all ready to capture Kristin with her camera.  Kristin showed up with her dance team, 3 other members beside her: Christopher, Josh, and Fran (her dance captain). They were all dressed in white denim from head to toe, with little wings encrusted on the back of their vest jackets in white rhinestoned diamonds.  Now I figured out why they were called the White Knights hahaha! So Kristin was getting ready with her crew, and told us to go wait inside the club cuz they were going to be down in a bit.  The club was 2 floors.  As soon as you walked in, the bar was to your left taking up the whole length of the wall.  To the right there was a spiraling staircase that led to the lower level of the club. To the right of the staircase there was a ledge with a row of bar stools where the smokers congregated to creep on the dancers shaking their thangs on the light up discoesque floor below.  I must admit, Avi, Kristin, & I were totally guilty of this (not the smoking, but the creeping), but I’ll get to that later. So we head down the lit up spiral staircase to the level below and to the left of the dance floor there was a little cove with a bunch of tables and chairs.  Avi, Jackie, & I sat down at the closest table to the ramp to the dance floor to wait for Kristin’s dance to start.  In the meantime, there was a plump middle aged white man on the dance floor, just tearing it up, by himself.  He was the ONLY one on the dance floor.  So I couldn’t NOT video record him.  He went on for a good 20 minutes, just getting it on by himself.  Soon after, Willie, the cruise director kicked him off the stage, which was a good laugh.  He told him he was gonna buy him a Spring and then told him to SHOVE OFF in his British accent, which made me piss my pants.  He then announced Kristin’s dance troupe.  They ran down the spiral staircase dancing to a medley of “Without You” by Usher,  “So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over” (I’m not sure what the exact name of that song is) and “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba which was a cool mixup. They did a huge block of dancing, then headed out to the audience to try to get them up on the floor.  They even ran up the spiral staircase to engage some people at the bar.  The really lit up that already lit up floor that was backed by a large head of Medusa covering the entire wall.  It was such a cool club, and a cool vibe. After the first medley, it went into a medley of “Blurred Lines” & “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”.  The whole dance was so much fun and I taped the whole thing as I was screaming “GET IT GIRL” from the sidelines.  Soon most of the audience was up on the dance floor getting their groove on with the dancers.  After Kristin’s dance thing, we hung out for a bit, and then exited the club and took some photos outside. We walked back to the theater with Kristin so she could get changed, and then we planned to go down to crew bar with her, which is where the crew actually lives.  The crew is actually not allowed to hang out at the bars on the ship unless they’re working, so there is a specific hangout for them on the bottom of the ship where they also sleep and live.  They also get things for A LOT cheaper down there.  Drinks are about a dollar or 2 each.  She got us 2 cranberry vodkas each and a HUGE bottle of water for our room, which she put on her sign and sail card. We then hung out for a bit in the bar below, which looked like a typical basement rec room.  There were couches, tables n chairs, a tv playing the game, with faux portal windows which were actually mirrors lined with blue rope lighting. We plopped down on some couches right in front of the tv area and just caught up, and she told us about some behind the scenes things on the ship.  Soon after David came down and hung out with us for a bit.  We got to know him a little more, but he was still a bit quiet with us at first.  He and Turner were teaching us a bit of how the Hungarian alphabet is set up and how certain things are pronounced, since David is Hungarian.  We eventually wrapped up the night around 2 am.  It was a LONNNNGGGGG day, and I could barely keep my eyes open any longer.  I needed some toothpicks to hold them open just to carry on these conversations.  So Kristin walked us back upstairs and we all said our goodnights.

I hit the pillow that night looking forward to the whole next relaxing day we would get to spend on board, and I was OUT like a light!

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