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 groups.yahoo.com/group/phcruise-interested/
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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