Cruise Archive · 2004 Review

Parrothead Cruise 2004 - Down to the Banana Republics
By Mark and Sandy Springer
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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain

“Explore. Dream. Discover.” Can anything sum up a Parrothead Cruise better than that? But let’s begin from the beginning. Eons ago, gases formed and molecules were created. Fish began to walk upright and crawl from the sea … well, maybe that’s too far back! Actually, it seems like eons now since March 19 finally crawled across the calendar and Sandy and I boarded a flight from wintry Indianapolis to sunny Ft. Lauderdale and our FIRST CRUISE – Down to the Banana Republics!

I should preface my preface by saying that Sandy has lived the better part of her life on one coast or the other, has spent time sailing with some of America’s Cup finest, and we were married on an eighteenth century style schooner in Key West. But, other than having been deemed seaworthy through matrimony, my main association with the open seas (and sea legs) has been watching “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” as a kid. I hoped that wouldn’t become the theme of this excursion, or that I would be hooked to a Dramamine IV drip the entire week!

All doubts and worries were dispelled very quickly. It was a lovely cruise – from beginning to end.

At the urging of our friends and fellow PHINdy (Parrot Head Club of Indianapolis) members, Joe and Giena Wong, we stayed at the Marina Marriott on Friday and were able to enjoy the pre-cruise party and meet some of the veteran cruisers. That was a great experience, as was finding Internet access in the hotel’s Business Center the following morning and scoring tickets to BOTH of Jimmy’s Indy shows (July 6 and 8) as soon as they went on sale. We felt the PH Gods were with us.

The shuttle bus arrangement from the Marriott to Port Everglades was an excellent “no worries” touch, and despite some unforeseen delays at port, still much better than trying to talk a cab driver into an “around the corner” fare. We heard from fellow cruisers that the Carnival check-in lines were unusually long, but having no real point of reference (translated, naïve), we just enjoyed hanging out with fellow Parrot Heads in the sunshine.

Walking aboard the Carnival Legend (after the first of many “obligatory” photo sessions, of course) was, for us, like boarding the Starship Enterprise. “Sensory overload” best described the effect of the visual stimulation of colored lights from the casino and hallways, experiencing a minor trampling by veteran cruisers who clearly understood the layout of the ship and were proceeding efficiently to their cabins, and the gentle sway of gravity and waves beneath our feet that reminded us we had just stepped off terra firma.

There is very little that could be termed “understated” aboard the Legend. Architecture is artwork on this ship, and all in a grand fashion. We were impressed and overwhelmed almost simultaneously. We navigated enchanted forests and theaters, bars and pools with giant sculptures standing guard, and long inviting decks and lifeboats as we meandered to the place we would call home for the next eight days. However, upon arriving at our cabin and finding a working television, I felt grounded again (as was my NCAA Basketball Pool by then, too, by the way).

We stepped out onto our balcony (which quickly became Sandy’s favorite spot on the ship) and watched the flurry of activity below. At times it looked like someone broke the glass in an ant farm – chaos, but organized chaos, at least! It’s an amazing logistical exercise to move that much “stuff” in such a relatively short amount of time. After studying our ship map for several moments, we decided to visit the Unicorn Café on the Lido Deck and see what this “buffet” thing was all about. We just sampled, knowing it would be a long week!

A walk up, down, and around the Legend followed. I won’t bore readers with the particulars – tonnage, speed, length, width, girth, pounds of potatoes brought on board, etc., as that’s been touched upon in several excellent reviews already (and plus we have so much more to bore you with anyway!!). We made reconnaissance trips to all the restaurants, lounges, and other drinking spots, and made the obligatory run on the jogging track, before heading down to the Firebird Lounge for the welcome-aboard party.

Tropical music, loud shirts, people with exotic-looking drinks in their hands … as Sandy exclaimed, “At last we found something normal!!” The Chinese Auction featured a bevy of great prizes (we didn’t win anyway, but it was fun to try!) and the mood was nicely set for the rest of the day’s activities.

When we returned to our cabin, we found the first of many amenities from Brent and Stella waiting for us (we won’t spoil the surprise here for any future cruisers who might join us) … are we a bunch of spoiled Parrot Heads or what? We passed “muster” at the muster drill (Sandy thought the bright safety colored orange vest was a good look for her and threatened to wear it all week) and then it was time to break out the suitcase full of door decorations for that little project. Sandy is probably the most creative person I’ve ever met, and the time and energy she spent on our door was impressive even to a curmudgeon like me. And it made for great hallway tours throughout the week to see what lengths our fellow cruisers went to in this pursuit. But, was putting those decorations up ever hungry work!?!? Oh, look, time for dinner!

Our tablemates, Karl and Margie Ott and Karl’s mother, Irene (although she’s “Mom” to us and most of the other PH cruisers) were the best and it made us really look forward to 8:15 each evening. We exchanged greetings on the first night, anecdotes from the Day at Sea during the next dinner, and then shared stories of life’s adventures, loves, and losses on every night after that. Essentially, the Ott family as well as many other Parrot Head families moved from being strangers to becoming family at lightning speed that week, and we treasure the time we spent with them.

I think most would agree that Carnival provides menus varied and eclectic enough for any taste throughout cruise week. (Just ask Sandy about the snails!?!?) And on most evenings after dinner, or following that night’s pub crawl, you could usually find a group of Parrot Heads on the fantail for an after-dinner drink (or two). What a way to end the day!

Now, before this begins to rival “War and Peace” in length, let me just touch upon a FEW of the highlights of Cruise Week, rather than my Dear Diary entries of “Ate Breakfast. Lounged in the Sun. Boat drinks! More sun, oh, wait, more lounging, too. Time for Lunch! Sun Screen!! Nap-time. Which photo do we buy today? Look at that sunset! Dinner-time already! Does this toga make my ass look big?? What’s a good after-dinner drink …”

• Music! Music! Music! Does it get any better than to have Jim Morris play at the Marriott Marina, in the shadow of the Cosmic Muffin (aka “Desdemona’s Rocket Ship”), and then know that cruisers have Sunny Jim and A1A to look forward to for the rest of the week at our own private PH concerts? If that’s not enough, we had our OWN music channel on the ship. Did I mention that we were spoiled?
• Parrot Head Friendly! For those not on this year’s cruise, look at this list of activities that Parrot Heads could partake in throughout the week (and this is in addition to the full program of activities offered by Carnival each day, as well as the wonderful excursions in Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama):

•Friday-Bon Voyage Party-Marina Marriott
•Saturday-Welcome Aboard Rendezvous-Firebird Lounge
•Saturday-Pub Crawl-Meet at Legend Lobby Bar
•Sunday-Meet, Mingle, and Get Lei’d-Unicorn Bar
•Sunday-Pub Crawl II -The Sequel-Dream Team Bar
•Monday-Champagne Si, Agua No!-Firebird Lounge
•Monday-Sunny Jim and A1A Concert-Firebird Lounge
•Tuesday-Silent Auction-The Round Table
•Tuesday-Parrot Head Pool Invasion-Unicorn Pool
•Wednesday-Dance With Me, Nautical Wheelers-Medusa’s Lair
•Thursday-Parrotheads in Panama-Party in Panama!
•Thursday-Toga Party-Firebird Lounge
•Thursday-Junkanoo Parade-Start in Firebird Lounge
•Friday-Parrothead Derby Horseracing-Follies Theater
•Friday-Group Photo on Formal Night-Follies Theater
•Friday-Sunny Jim and A1A Concert-Firebird Lounge
•Friday/Saturday-Sunrise Party and Musical Jam-Unicorn Pool
•Saturday-Wonder Why You Ever Go Home-Billie’s Piano Bar
•Sunday-It’s Been a Lovely Cruise Farewell!

• Sunsets on the water. Our state room balcony was well-used throughout the week, whether to watch the sun melt into the horizon (where’s that green flash?); spy distant shores and watch the world go by (is that Cuba?); or just watch the flying fish and dolphins try to keep up with us.
• Party with a Purpose! It makes us proud to know that – in the midst of all the phun and revelry – we were part of an effort that generated thousands of dollars for such as a good cause as breast cancer research. I’m sure that anyone who has lost a loved one to this insidious disease feels the same. The number of folks who gave so much of their time -- whether it was through the Chinese Raffle, the 50/50, Silent Auction and, most importantly, the generosity of Brent and Stella and Brent, Jr. – is a true blessing. And it’s just another reason we are proud to be Parrot Heads! You guys rule!
• Explore. Dream. Discover. As much phun as the days at sea were, it was such a treat to visit places that we’ve read about over the years. The Mayan Ruins and manatees in Belize, the banana plantations and monkeys in Costa Rica, the Panama Canal and, of course, the pirate paradises of Captain Morgan in Portobello were all extraordinary sites.
• Family! Joe and Giena Wong have told us that the PH Cruise is like a family reunion for them, and we now know what they meant. It doesn’t matter where we sail, or where we go, we’re looking forward to seeing our new family next year – and hopefully at events throughout the year. What a great way to celebrate a family reunion!

I guess it’s pretty obvious, but consider us “booked” for 2005! So let’s throw off the bowlines and we’ll see you on the open seas as we head “South of Margaritaville”!

Do you need any more reasons? I believe Mr. Twain has again summed it up best:

“At sea the world is far, far away; it has ceased to exist for you—seemed a fading dream, along in the first days; has dissolved to an unreality now; it is gone from your mind with all businesses and ambitions, its prosperities and disasters, its exultations and despairs, its joys and griefs and cares and worries. They are no concern of yours any more; they have gone out of your life; they are a storm which has passed and left a deep calm behind.


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