Here come the photos (in this post)
Saturday morning was early. The night before, Carnival Splendor departed St. Maarten earlier than I had thought it would. I kept track of it on occasion and assumed it would have a 5am arrival the next morning. I set my alarm for 4:30am so I could catch the ship as it sailed into the bay. I then fell asleep, confident in the ETA I had given it.
I should have set my alarm much earlier.
I woke up at 4:30am, immediately grabbed my phone, and opened the ship tracker app. To my surprise, Splendor was not only in the bay already, but was almost done pulling along-side the terminal. CRAP. So much for that. Before falling back asleep in my disappointment, I posted a message to the Facebook group who planned to have mimosas as the ship sailed in. Yea, they mis-calculated it’s arrival too, haha. I feel back asleep for a couple of hours.
7am rolled around and I woke up again. I grabbed my camera and set out to get some photos of the ship. I exited the hotel and made my way up the street, excited to see the ship for the first time. I could see the bow and bridge of Splendor as I made my way near it. Celebrity Infinity was pulling into port that moment and blocked some of the view. I paused there as the ship maneuvered slowly right in front of me. It’s bow right in front of and almost over me. It was eerie the way it slowly crept closer to me, but cool at the same time. Before the bow seemed right over me, it stopped moving and the mooring lines were tossed to the shore-men, then secured one by one.
Moving on, Carnival Splendor was right there next to the Infinity and the cruise terminal. There was the ship I had waited eleven months for and had seen numerous times on the port webcams. It didn’t look much different from the Conquest Class type ships I had been on before aside from a few differences. Looking to the other side of the bay, I could see Celebrity Summit and Royal Caribbean, Jewel of the Seas. The sun was coming up and some more people were starting to arrive to look at the ships. Janet had come from the Sheraton to take some photos as well. We talked shortly and then I headed back inside. I went back to my room, ordered some more of the really good oatmeal, then packed all my stuff together. I had some time until check out and my desired time to be at port (10), So I watched TV for a while.
10am didn’t take too long to come around. I ran around the hotel room several times making sure I had everything because I ALWAYS seem to forget something. Fortunately, I was good, so I check-out of the hotel. Along the way, I ran into Pam and Kevin and we wandered towards the cruise terminal with our luggage in tow. It wasn’t too crowded yet. Many were there with their luggage as the porters were still taking off that of those on the previous cruise. We stood out there for a little while and eventually they started corralling everyone behind some barriers. A short while later, the opened the gates and we all started our way into the terminal.
Along the way there was a brief pause as we filled out an Ebola questionnaire. As good a public relations thing as it was, it was also silly and pointless. People who look forward to cruise vacations (particularly those with a rare itinerary) probably will lie, and say they’re healthy to get on the ship. Ebola, cold, flu, etc… Once on board, they’d probably deal with it (and hopefully wash their hands). I was only a little different as I had been getting over a sinus infection and although I was still on my medication, I felt great. No issues for me. Full steam ahead!
I had purchased Faster to the Fun (FTTF) so I could cut the lines be among the first on the ship. This came in really handy once in the terminal. I was the first to be checked-in via FTTF so it went off without a hitch. Two minutes later, the computers went down for a while. Thank god I got there when I did, otherwise they’d be doing my check-in with paperwork, like others were reporting. After standing for a while. They made the boarding announcement at 11:30. Last time I had FTTF out of San Juan, they let me on with the Platinum and Diamond customers. This time I was stopped. No big deal really, they paid for it over the course of all the cruises they had. Not even 30 seconds later though, I was waved to go ahead by another one of the staff managing the line. Sweet! Gear in tow, I made my way onto the ship with a few others from the Facebook group!
I set foot on the ship and immediately was overcome by the “pink zebra donut” livery inside. A ship that entered service in 2008 had the most 80’s styling I had ever seen. It didn’t matter too much to me though as I was on the boat! Fresh in the relief that I was on the ship, I stopped by the Shore Excursions desk to inquire about reserving a specific cabana in Grand Turk. The man working there told me it was “first come, first serve” basis. No biggie, I would just have to be one of the first people there when we made port.
As I had FTTF, I made my way into the closed hallways that were only open to those who had purchased it or were Platinum/Diamond status. Many of the stewards were still cleaning the cabins, but mine was ready. I opened it, dropped my stuff and went right to the balcony. I walked out and got the view I had been hoping for. I chose cabin 8216 for a couple of reasons. One, because I like port side and port side has usually been the side with the best views. I also booked it forward because I like looking into the bridge-wing when the ship is active. I can see the officers maneuvering the ship and the controls lit up at night. I was not disappointed with this one.
After becoming familiar with my cabin, I immediately grabbed my camera and walked around the ship, taking photos. I also took some of the Celebrity Infinity docked next to us.
After being a tourist, I headed to what would become my favorite lunchtime buffet. Indian Tandoor. I love me some Indian food and this was great to have it on the ship. While it wasn’t great, it was still good and I loved having it as an option.
Kim texted me shortly after to tell me she was getting on the ship and hadn’t eaten yet. So with a belly full of Indian food, I told her I would meet her in the lido buffet. She had been in a 5k that morning and was later boarding and hungry as a result. Even though was full, I grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich from the Deli so it wouldn’t seem like I was just there watching her eat. We invited a couple of friends, Amberly, Stacy, and Steve to join us and we all enjoyed each others company. After eating, I headed to get a drink, Kim went to organize her stuff, and the others did as well. I rejoined Kim a short while later and we made our way off the ship to grab some stuff from the CVS. Before doing so, there were some photos taken with the ship, a brief stop at an ATM, and a restaurant to look for a friend of hers (wasn’t there). After that it was on to CVS. I needed some stuff I don’t remember now, and she wanted to grab some wine since one of the bottles she tried to bring on earlier broke. She purchased 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of rum and we stuck it in my backpack. The wine we knew we could carry onto the ship without issue, but the rum we didn’t know if they would catch. On the way back to the ship, We bumped into Jenna and her family/friends. They were going to see the forts before getting back on the ship. After meeting everyone, we made our way into the terminal and I was a little nervous as we entered security to get back on the ship. Well, it was no issue though as my backpack literally went right through the machine and security. No “wait, sir” no “I need to check this”, nothing. Surprised, I walked back onto the ship with her slightly less surprised than me. “I can’t believe I just went through like that!” I told her. Apparently, it happens quite a bit at that port. I wanted to bring some more on, but didn’t feel like pressing my luck. After all, I had $80 in bar credit anyways. After our walk around San Juan, I wanted to nap. I took advantage of my love for Carnival’s great bed linens and passed out for a while.
After sleeping a bit, Kim and I went and wandered the ship for a while until dinner. It was open seating that night and we grabbed a table with a few others. We all had pretty good conversation while waiting for our food. There were two from New York City, two from Aruba, and two from what I think was the mid-west. We enjoyed each others company until desert, when I enjoyed the warm chocolate melting cake more, although it seemed a little more “melted” this night than usual. While rapping-up dinner, there was a group of people trying to make a last dash for dinner before muster drill, but they were a little too late.
Muster drill was mostly normal. I never like to be among the first ones there so arrival was a few minutes after the call. This paid off as the door was nearby, yet I was against the wall in one of the more narrow passages on deck 4. Once muster was begun, it took a little longer than normal because of issues with some guests. Who and what, I have no idea. A short while later, our deck was the first released. My first thought was deck 9, over the bridge wing to see the mooring lines released and watch as the ship slipped away from the pier. Roughly 10 minutes later, we were off. though without the usual sounding of the horn that I look forward to. I called my mom to tell her the ship was moving as I usually do. She was remembering the last time I did that same departure with her and I did kind-of wish she was there.
After the ship initially backed-out, I headed to the aft pool where many of the Facebook group was meeting. A member dressed like a pirate and fitted a troublerific banner to the side of one of the aft hot tubs. I bought Randy a drink because he bought me a beer earlier. I drank some more with a few of the others. Kim was there being asked about her previous trips. It was awesome to meet all these great people and I really enjoyed it so much, that by the time I noticed, San Juan was just a blur in the distance. It after 11, so that meant the shops were open. I briefly jetted down to the shop to grab my souvenir ship magnet and postcard to send to a friend’s young daughter who had recently had her birthday. To my dismay, they were out of the style of magnet I always bought. They had some others that I settled for. Afterwards, I rejoined the others briefly before some of us decided to go to the comedy club.
Donnell Grey was the performer that night, and while funny, he was a little on the weak side as he went right for the easy jokes and didn’t work the audience too much. Sitting right out in front I never really got called out, but a couple of others did.
After the comedy was a short visit to the nightclub which wasn’t really too busy. Some of the people from Facebook were there and we all danced together for a short while before heading off to bed for the night. St. Croix was 8am the next morning and I wanted to be up to take photos of the arrival.