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Dark Skies, Lighter Attitude

As I am trying to go to sleep at the end of the long embarkation day, I’m struck with the thought that this whole vacation might have been a huge mistake. That thought is hardly uncommon for me. I’m hit with it at the end of the first day of every cruise and many other vacations too.  

Fortunately, I’ve learned in most circumstances that my snap judgments are not very reliable, and this proves the case once again. On our first day at sea, I’m always looking forward to the opportunities the day will hold.  

Today, Tuesday, we wake up early. Becky is up by 5:30. Shortly after that I snap out of the stuporous fog that occupies the shadowland between sleep and consciousness. I start to get out of bed, but settle for sitting up, a pillow propped behind my back.  

Morning routine phase one, complete.  

Becky asks me if I remember the idiots who came down the hall and had a loud conversation near our door at 3:00 in the morning, and oddly enough I did. I’m not easily woken from a deep sleep, whereas Becky wakes up when a flea clears its throat. The Mom gene is strong in her, so she did not rest well overnight.  

Shaking the cobwebs from our eyes, we throw on the clothes we wore yesterday and take the elevator to the Lido restaurant on Deck 10. 

There are many things to like about Carnival cruises, but the 24-hour access to fresh coffee, ice and a few other drinks in multiple locations is a major plus. (Do you hear that, Royal Caribbean?) 

Whereas the bilge that all cruise lines pass off as iced tea, made from a concentrated liquid “tea flavored beverage base” (doesn’t that make your mouth water?) is dreadful, the coffee on all three of the major cruise lines is actually pretty good. It’s not the upscale French roast we drink at home, but it’s also a huge improvement over the pedestrian brews like Folgers.  

Caffeine in hand, we make our way up to Deck 11, which offers an unobstructed perch from which to watch the sunrise. We arrived about 20 minutes before sunrise and see little swatches of pink, purple and orange color the horizon, but most of what we see are enormous dark cloud formations.  

The early morning is a magical time on a ship. Only a handful of people are out on deck and any conversations are subdued. Nobody wants to ruin this ancient ritual, well almost nobody. On past cruises we have encountered the odd collection of young, chain smoking adults who carouse until the appearing sun signals their bedtimes.

On a ship with almost 4600 passengers plus another 1400 crew members, time away from noise and crowds can be tough to come by, but that is our ongoing goal. I don’t think anyone who knows us would say we are unfriendly or anti-social people, but the primary reason we travel is to spend quality time together.  

After the sun has been up for a while the crowds slowly build which means it’s time for us to relocate and snag a little bacon. At 6:30 in the morning, the bacon is but a snack, to hold until the Crimson dining room opens for Carnival’s well-loved Sea Day Brunch at 8:30. 

Royal Caribbean has some nice qualities, but overall, it’s our third favorite cruise line behind Carnival and Norwegian. One area where Royal Caribbean shines is in bacon distribution. Their breakfast buffets allow unfettered access to bacon, whereas on Carnival and Norwegian, the thin strips of porcine glory are dispensed by a would-be chef dressed all in white.  

In the cruise forums, these people, charged with rationing bacon like it’s humility in a presidential campaign, are often referred to as “Bacon Nazis”.  After showing my passport and undergoing a retinal scan, my empty plate is blessed with 3 thin strips.  I should feel grateful, but deep down I suspect Al Qaeda could get their hands on 50 cases of Sudafed easier than I could get 6 strips of bacon. 

Next up: A Brunch of Fun