Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our 5 day Western Carribbean Cruise PART I

This cruise pretty much fell into my lap--my ex husband had planned and booked this cruise for the boys but then due to personal reasons--was not able to go, so he offered for me to take his place since Jayson and Tyler were excited about going on their first cruise ever. This would be my 4th cruise. No matter what Iwas grateful and could never pass up an opportunity to travel!

So on Saturday Aug 23rd, we flew outta Philly and landed in Tampa about 9:30pm. Picked up our rental call from Dollar and stayed at the Marriott Courtyard a few short miles away. On Sunday, we got up and went to Busch Garden's waterpark Adventure Island. Nothing to brag about, it was a very basic waterpark, nothing fancy--even the wave pool was pretty small. It was, however, a very hot and humid day--and we were getting wet. One plus about this waterpark---at least it wasnt very crowded for most of the time we were there. A thunderstorm rolled in about 3pm, so we decided we milked the park for all its worth and left after about 4 1/2 hours. We went back to the hotel and swam in the pool for a little while.

At about 5pm we decided to take a drive and head on over to the Clearwater Beach area. Spent only about 1/2 or so walking around the beach, looking for shells and such. We were getting hungry and were also going to play some mini-golf that was on the main drag. Despite another glorious sunset--another round of T'Storms rolled in and nixed the golf. We sat in car for at least 15minutes before the rain let up enuf that we could bolt to the resturant.

Tyler admiring the sunset

Beautiful sunset on the beach--then the heavens opened up on us--

We ate at a place called Crabby Bills--which had a covered second level deck overlooking the beach. Nice little resturant. We headed back to the hotel after making a pitstop to Walmart to pick up a few last minute items.

Monday Aug 25th-----Checked out of Courtyard and dropped off the rental car and got the Dollar shuttle to the Cruise terminal. Because Carnival upgraded us to a Verandah Suite--we were afforded the VIP check-in which expedited standing in the long lines and got personally escorted directly on our ship Carnvial Inspiration.

Our Welcome Aboard Photo

The Atrium--first place we got to see of the ship

Jayson holding his mom's Bon Voyage drink while getting his picture taken while still in port

This was taken right after we set sail--you can still see Tampa in the background

The mandatory MUSTER DRILL---Jayson found fun playing with the light.

All ships leaving from Tampa get to pass under the Sunshine Skyway before entering the Gulf of Mexico

We were in Verandah suite #23 on the 11th deck forward starboard side

This was bigger than the normal cabins--however my regular oceanview room on Holland America was about the same size. However--this "suite"had a few extras--like huge floor to ceiling window, marble/granite table and countertops, a couch (which doubled as a twin bed)personal minifridge, wood and glass cabinets with a wine glasses, and of course a small balcony.

The Balcony as seen from inside our room

On the stern of the ship, you will find Waterworks--which consists of this 4 story waterslide and 2 racing speedslides

Tyler made himself right at home on the slide.

The speedslides and the infamous "Carnival" smokestack

Our first night in the Mardi Gras dining room. We had 2 families at our table. A Lebanese family from Connecticut. They had a beautiful and friendly 20 year old daughter whom Jayson seemed to take a liking to immediately---in fact--he had no interest in eating at the buffet for dinner the whole trip--he always wanted to eat in the dining room. The other couple and their young daughter were from New York.

The Lido deck pool---the ONLY pool on the Inspiration

The boys enjoying a game of ping pong

As you can see--the ONLY pool was very crowded. Tyler preferred the Waterworks

Brothers being brothers---sitting in a window seat in the Violins bar--awaiting the Extreme Bean Bag Toss

The Atrium at night

Right above our room on the next deck was a mini-golf course. A 9 hole game. We had to go to the Lido deck to check out our clubs and golf balls.

Having fun with one of the "statues" on the golf course. There was also a jogging track at this level. You had to run around it 20 times I think to equal one mile

Boys got all dressed up for Formal night the 2nd evening of the cruise

Its not easy to convince Jayson to smile in ANY photo. I had to bribe him---"C'mon Jayson--this picture is for your grandmother"

On the same night as formal night was the Midnight Grand Gala Buffet. By this time we were already bloated from dinner. We did however take advantage of getting pictures before anyone was allowed to eat.

I'm a sucker for anything with chocolate

Wednesday Aug. 27th--Cayman Islands

Our ship as seen from the Cayman Island tender to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We had an extra cruise ship in port that was diverted from Jamaica because of Gustav, who was about a 24-36 hours behind us.

Jayson getting poked in the head by the Turtle-----TURTLES RULE!! (Are U a Turtle??)

This must be Captain Morgan's brother

Parrotheads rule! Cheeseburger in Paradise anyone?

The highlight of the Cayman Islands for us was this excursion. My ex paid for it--but I was the one who found it on a website. I try to avoid booking any excursion from the cruise ship because they are usually overpriced and overcrowded. This was an awesome Jet Ski tour to Stingray City and Snorkeling at a coral reef. Technically its listed as a 2 1/2 tour--but they picked us up at Hard Rock cafe at 8:30 am and dropped us back off at 1:30pm.

They are Fat Fish Adventures owned by Peter Jervis. Both Pete and his assistant Craig made this excursion a whole lot of fun for the boys.

Jayson was thrilled he got to ride his own jet ski on the turquoise waters of the Caymans--truly an adventure by itself! Tyler and I rode on a double---we took turns driving.

Tons of people from the cruise ship cattledrive

Pete anchored the jets ski's and we got out and got to pet, hold and feed the friendly stingrays.

We are out on a sandbar in the middle of nowhere. The cruise ship tours were there with their overcrowded double deck boats smashed full of people. We kept getting asked how we found out about this tour

Tyler thought the water looked the same color as Havasu Creek in the Grand Canyon

One of the few smiles I caught on camera that wasn't coerced!! Guess this tour gets the teenager seal of approval

A view of the Carnival ships anchored offshore back in Georgetown. The Inspiration is on the left. The water trampoline was calling my name.

Cruises are known for towel animals---here are a few we found in the room over the course of the trip. A Puppy.

Either a lobster or a scorpion

A frog

I believe this is an Elephant--altho it looks a dogaphant

Read my next blog entry for Part II of the cruise when we get to Cozumel Mexico and another one of my shore excursion "finds"

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