Cruise Archive · 2002 Review

Deja Vu - Lovely Cruise
by Janice Hoyle

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review | photos ]

If you take a group of 196 assorted Parrotheads (and friends and family), toss them on a beautiful, luxury cruise ship during a week in early March (when there is really nasty weather still happening back home), add three beautiful ports-of-call in the Caribbean and mix in their own "private" musical group, what do you think you would get? The answer is FUN, extreme, fantastic fun. Several members of the VPHC got to experience this on the Carnival cruise that the Atlanta PHC sponsored in March. The following are some of the highlights that were experienced that week by myself and a fellow VPHCer Marcia Riley. Of course, everything that was planned wasn't experienced by everyone, but we came pretty close!

After the boring, time-consuming, headache-producing process of embarkation (can you tell I didn't enjoy it?), we were finally on the ship. We sailed on the Carnival Triumph, an absolutely gorgeous ship. As soon as we got on the boat it was time to go to the first Parrothead event, a Welcome Aboard party. We received our lanyards from Brent (member of the Atlanta PHC , son of the travel agents, and great at getting info out on the egroup so that we could all be prepared!) They came with a laminated name tag that also included a schedule of parrothead events. This came in handy during the week on several occasions. (I just wish my room number had been on it a couple of times!)  We also had a couple of auctions and I was lucky enough to win a magnum of Martini and Rossi sparkling wine! My elation was short-lived though, because our party was interrupted by the ship's crew trying to herd us to the safety drill. This was not much fun (too hot with those life jackets on) and was the only time all week that I saw a rude crew member. I guess it is hard to get 2500 people (some that have already started drinking) to the right stations and quiet enough to listen to the safety instructions. With that duty taken care of, everyone was back to their cabins to see if their luggage had arrived yet. We set sail from the port of Miami, with cars on the expressway honking and dolphins playing in our wake. The water was smooth and it looked like all would be well. I spent some time decorating our door and then we went to find the dining room for our first meal together. Everyone enjoyed the experience of dining together that first night and a pub crawl was organized for the group. I had barely slept the night before and decided to turn in early that night so I missed the crawl.

Upon waking the next morning, I knew that my original thought that I wouldn't be seasick was totally, absolutely wrong. I woke up sicker than I ever was when I was pregnant....seems the seas were extremely rough and we were having to travel at top speed in order to reach our first port on time. Sunday was pretty much a waste for me (but definitely not in Margaritaville!) I found that laying by the pool was the only place I didn't experience the awful rolling of the ship, so my roommate and I worked on our tans for a few hours, while listening to the reggae band that played poolside. The pools had been drained (I guess because of the rough seas), but there was a nice breeze and it wasn't too hot. However, by the time we arrived at the Captain's Cocktail party that night, I was ready to give up and jump ship! One of the guys in our little group gave me a Dramamine tablet just as I accepted a glass of champagne. It helped a lot, but I was afraid to drink anything else. This was our first formal night and everyone looked really nice. The whole parrothead group was seated in the main area of the dining room and it was wonderful to see everyone dressed up, many with a tropical flair.

As Monday dawned, I noticed that I wasn't quite as sick. There were others that still had problems for several more days, as the seas remained rough. The day was spent lounging around the pool (still empty), sampling the frozen drinks at the bar and then preparing to go into San Juan, Puerto Rico, our first port. I had noticed on our "Parrothead Bulletin Board" that a tour of the "new Margaritaville" in San Juan was being organized. This puzzled me, since I had heard nothing about Jimmy opening a M'ville there. My little group was more interested in gambling in the casinos, so I didn't think much more about it. However, about 75 of our group were interested and signed up for the tour. The VPHC was represented by at least three members in the "Puerto Rico Mistaica" and Marcia was one of them! In the beginning, a tour of the local rum distillery had been planned, but the ship was to arrive in port too late. So, someone organized a trip to the " new Margaritaville that just opened two weeks ago". Everyone paid $10 and boarded one of the three buses that had been acquired for the trip. The trip turned out to be harrowing, as the drivers in Puerto Rico seem to always go 25-30 miles over the posted speed limits.  Finally, everyone arrived at the spanking new mall and went in to find the new M'ville. Getting directions of course wasn't easy, due to the language barrier, but they did all manage to arrive at the new Margarita Restaurante together. When everyone realized that this wasn't what they believed it was going to be, they started to scatter. Some parrotheads stayed at the mall and did some shopping, while others took the bus back to the ship. Another group went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which was within walking distance of the ship. In all, the whole experience was over in less than two hours. There was a pot of gold at the end, because Latitude was playing a private concert on the ship for the parrotheads and the "Mistaica" crowd was back on the ship in time to hear them. Latitude is a musical group that hails from Myrtle Beach, SC. Everyone that saw Latitude loved them and really enjoyed playing the maracas! My group barely made it back on the ship after our foray to the other side of San Juan to the Ritz Carlton Casino. We had the wild experience of a cab ride and enjoyed an excellent meal at a local restaurant (Metropol). This was truly one of the most memorable meals I had, partly because I love Spanish/Cuban style food. The margaritas and beer were cheap (and strong!). Sometimes it pays to get the cab driver to take you to his favorite place to eat! 

On Tuesday I awoke to the most beautiful view I've ever experienced. We had docked in St Thomas earlier that morning. There were sailboats and small yachts in the harbor and the water was gorgeous. The hills of St Thomas rose behind the town of Charlotte Amalie, with houses clinging to their sides. Three members of my little group went on the Champagne Snorkel Cruise and had the time of their lives! The rest of us went into town to do some shopping and then go on to Pam Dolson's party on St John that afternoon. Well, we never made to Pam's party. By the time we realized that we were in a different time zone, we had missed the ferry to St John. We ended up taking a cab over to Magen's Bay Beach. It was gorgeous and the water felt wonderful. There had a bar/restaurant and they definitely served a "Burger in Paradise" and drinks on the beach. Our cab driver never showed up when it was time to go back to the ship, so we rode back in an open air cab. An interesting thing about cabs in the islands, the majority of them are either vans (mini, full size and 15 passenger) or pickup trucks that have canopied bench seats mounted on the bed. The cab we took back to the ship was rather sluggish on some of the steep mountain roads (it wasn't a heavy duty truck like was really needed for those roads), but once again, we had a memorable ride! Our driver also slowed down so that we could take pictures of our ship down in the harbor. 

Many of the parrotheads did find their way over to St John to Pam's party. She is a fellow parrothead that has managed to find her "One Particular Harbor" and now lives in the Caribbean. The whole group was invited to her beach for a party. Marcia managed to get there and described Pam's place (Maho Bay by the goat trail) as "Gilligan's Island" with the aqua, blue and green water, the sparkling white sand and palm trees (sounds like a Sunny Jim song to me). It was a hot day, but there was a breeze. Pam was serving Painkillers, rum punch, Coronas, chips and salsa and other munchies. There was no music, except for the Coast of Carolina PHC's "Hey Baby" every few minutes. There was a constant flow of people arriving and departing. Pam was a wonderful hostess and everyone really enjoyed her hospitality. 

That same night there were two more opportunities to party and drink free booze! There was a Past Passengers Party (which we didn't make because it was too close to arriving back on the ship after St Thomas) and a Champagne Si, Agua No Party put on by Brent and Stella Jones, the wonderful travel agents that booked the cruise. There were excellent hors deuvres and an open bar. I met Marcia that night and we talked about her previous escapades in San Juan and St John. We managed to make it over to the end of a Buffett Trivia contest, where I won (I think illegally) a Buffett bookmark and pool coozie. 

Wednesday was to be an extremely strange day for me. I experienced highs, lows, laughter and tears all in one day. Seventy-seven of us were booked to go on Big Beard's Snorkel Cruise early that morning. We were supposed to meet at 7 a.m. (which 9 of us managed).   Around 8, we were all assembled (finally) and got off the ship to get our cabs to go over to Christiansted for the snorkel cruise. My cab was driven by a woman who tried to sell us CD's she had recorded. After we had been out of Fredriksted (the port city) for a few minutes, she pulled out and passed all the other cabs. She wasn't very talkative (I guess 'cause none of us bought a CD), but seemed intent on driving as fast as she possibly could. When we arrived at a small resort, she dropped us off and left before any of the other cabs arrived. No wonder, she had left us at the wrong place! The thirteen of us were stranded until a cab that had arrived to take a vacationing couple at the resort to Christiansted was offered. We all gladly paid the $5 (each) to climb in and go back about 5 miles to Big Beards! The boats were waiting on us and cast off as soon as we were onboard. The seas were rough (where did I experience that before?), but didn't bother me since we were out in the fresh air. We rode out close to Buck Island to snorkel, and for the experienced snorkelers I don't think it was too bad. However, I am not a strong swimmer and just felt overcome out in that water. It was just too hard for me to fight the waves and the current, so I gave up after about 10 or 15 minutes. (Later I found out that the snorkel cruises that were offered as shore tours were cancelled that day because of the rough water.) Back on the boat, I started talking to a couple that had decided not to get in the water. To our amazement, we discovered that we live within 50 miles of each other! We had several shared Buffett experiences and really enjoyed getting to know each other.  After everyone was back on the boat, the rum punch (heavy on the rum) started flowing. Of course, we drank it as fast as they could make it and ended up running out. Note to tour captains: If you are taking out a group of parrotheads on your boat, double the usual supply of rum punch. As we came into Big Beard's dock, we witnessed a seaplane taking off from the water. A true parrothead moment! My new NC friends, another couple and I were interested in touring the Cruzan Rum distillery before we headed back to the ship. Their original cab driver was willing to take us, so we set out for a new adventure. He was extremely entertaining and knowledgeable about the island of St Croix and kept us laughing all the way to the distillery. Once there, he waited on us while we enjoyed the tour (very interesting) and the free drinks. Pina Coladas were the drink of the day and they were outstanding! I had two of those (at least I was still drinking rum) and then a shot of banana rum (good) and rum cream (Yum! Better than Bailey's). After purchasing Cruzan rum shirts for my kids and two bottles of the banana rum, it was time to head back to the ship. Our cab driver continued to entertain us until we arrived back at the dock. Our little group disbanded and I started searching for a pay phone to call home, as promised before I left. My AT&T phone card had worked great in San Juan, but not in St Croix. After going through three phones that my family couldn't hear me on, I decided to go on back to the ship. As I dug in my daypack to get my cruise card (ID), the wind caught my liquor box (that I had placed mistakenly on the seawall) and knocked it over. One of my bottles of banana rum exploded. By this time, I was almost in tears. After I boarded the ship and got back to my room I turned on my cell phone just to see if I had a signal. Unbelievably, I did! This is a cell phone that I can't use inside my house, I have to go outside to use it! I called home from St Croix (still haven't seen the bill for that one) and talked to my husband and three kids briefly. By then, the tears did come.  Fortunately (now, not then), my battery died after I talked to them for ten minutes. There was no time to worry about that though, because it was almost time to get ready for the Toga party. The majority of our group dressed in togas, in varying degrees of sophistication. Tropical prints were prevalent, as were Mardi Gras beads and leis. After our little gathering at the Oxford Bar, we entered the dining room as a group and paraded before the whole dining area before taking our assigned seats. After the nightly show put on by our servers, we all got up and did "Fins" to the cut from Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. For the finale, we had a group photo made. 

We left St Croix before dinner that night and started back on the long trip to Miami. Thursday was a day at sea and things were really laidback by then. I finally got to swim in the pool, which soothed the sunburn I picked up on the snorkel cruise in St. Croix. We were also entertained by two women (I believe they were part of the parrothead group) doing a drunken version of synchronized swimming. They were a riot! Dinner that night was formal and the Parrotheads were scheduled to have another group photo done, but the photographer never showed up. A couple at the table next to ours got engaged at dinner that night! "Parrothead plans" were to have an all night party in the New World Bar, but of course my little group had to hit the casino. I don't gamble (not very lucky and extremely tight with my money), but everyone else did. So, I watched and drank rum or BBC's (Baileys Banana Colada - to die for!). I went to see the midnight buffet, had some dessert, talked to a few parrotheads and then headed back to the casino. Anyway, my roommate once again played until they closed the blackjack table and then we headed for the room. I didn't sleep a lot on the cruise; I guess I had lots of adrenaline keeping me up. One of the guys in our group (Tom) and I went to see if the all-night party was still going on. We arrived around 3:30 a.m. and there were less than ten people still there. After getting another drink, I joined into the sing-a-long and made some new friends from the San Antonio PHC. Around 5 a.m., Tom and I got some pizza from the 24 hour pizza place. Well, by 5:30 he couldn't hold his eyes open and headed on to his cabin. Around 5:45, everyone headed up to the Panorama Deck to watch the sunrise. We posed for a group photo (thanks to the blonde woman that volunteered to handle all those cameras!) and talked until the sun rose. Somehow, I can still remember all the names of the eight people I met that night. The adrenaline must have had something to do with it! There were too many clouds on the horizon to see the actual sunrise, but a little after 6 a.m. the sun broke through and I got some pretty pictures.

Friday was a strange day for me. I went to bed at 6:30 a.m. and got up at 9:00 a.m. That's right, two and a half hours sleep. My roommate had ordered coffee from room service the night before and she didn't hear the knock on the door, but I did. I couldn't go back to sleep, so...The whole day was spent enjoying the sun, drinking frosty drinks from the bar, packing suitcases, saying goodbye to new friends made on the cruise and (of course) spending time in the casino. Friday was an especially good day for my roommate at the blackjack table, so she was very happy. Eating that last dinner was kind of sad because we knew the trip was almost over. I had made some new friends and hated to think about leaving. I didn't make it to see Latitude (again), but from what I understand, they gave another entertaining concert.

Saturday morning was very rushed and before we knew it, we were back in Fort Lauderdale waiting for our plane to take us back to Charlotte. Of course, the adventure was still continuing. I got busted at the security checkpoint because I forgot to pack my pirate sword (seemed like the logical thing to take on a parrothead cruise) in my checked luggage. Marcia made it all the way to Detroit before she was detained for having too many matchbooks. They didn't care that she'd spent eight days collecting them and made her choose one to keep. We decided that there is a big airport security club that gets together and plays with all the things they take away from us, so I hope they enjoyed swashbuckling with my sword and lighting her matches!

All in all, I have to say this was some of the most fun I have ever had. A cruise by itself is a fun thing to do, but when you add the parrothead element, you just can't go wrong. And now for the latest news, next year's cruise has been announced. "We'll be spending 9 days and 8 nights exploring those little latitudes down island way. We set sail on Saturday, March 8, 2003 aboard the new Carnival Spirit. We'll depart Miami, Florida headed to St. Maarten, Barbados and Martinique! We'll return to Miami on Sunday, March 16th. There will be lots of parrothead activities and entertainment, and you can count on a few surprises too!" If you are interested, go to and sign up so you'll know all the particulars as they are released.
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To make a PainKiller mix the following: Pusser's Rum to taste, 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part cream of coconut and 1 part orange juice. Serve over ice and add freshly grated nutmeg on top.

To make 5 gallons (about 128 drinks with ice) use this recipe:
  eight 42-oz cans of Pineapple juice
  three quarts of fresh or frozen Orange Juice
  two 42-oz cans of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut
  five 750ml bottles of Pusser's Rum
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