Cruising to Cuba

Journal Entries Carnival Paradise- Cuba/Cozumel

 

Sept. 5, 2018

4:30 am sitting at the airport for my flight to Charlotte than onto Tampa, then onto the Carnival Paradise. I haven’t even had tea yet! And I will have to wait until I arrive in Charlotte as noting is open at this airport in Jacksonville, NC yet. There is also no service on this short flight into Charlotte. So I go without my morning tea to get my day started.

This trip planning has been stressful but all has fallen into place. No matter how many times I do this I am always anxious on the first day of traveling off on some new adventure. I just want to get onto to the ship and then I can settle down and relax!  I wish I could get myself to a point where I can relax even on travel days.

The day has arrived for another Sisters Travel Adventure. It has been a year and a half since our last trip that is a long time! There is a good amount of people here for this early morning flight. The flight crew has just arrived so we should be boarding soon and the first part of my journey will begin. Well we boarded quickly and then sat on the runway for 20 minutes but somehow still arrived early into Charlotte.

I am use to the Charlotte airport so I know my way around. Tea in hand now I wait for my flight to Tampa. Why are airports so cold? I am glad I overdressed because I am freezing cold! Again we sit on the runway for 30 minutes and left 40 minutes late. So once again I will be arriving at my destination at a later time. I may miss the bus my sister will be on to the port and have to meet her at the ship.

Amazingly her plane landed around the same time mine did. So we do actually meet up at the airport. Transfer to the bus and boarding the ship was easy and moved smoothly and quickly.

 

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First things first, lunch! As is procedure, to the lido deck, have lunch and a drink, explore the ship. When the cabins are ready and open we head down to the main deck. We have a porthole cabin. We sometimes choose this as it is an affordable option. Though it is categorized as an inside cabin the porthole allows for some light and a small view of the ocean.

One of my favorite times is dinner time. I love sitting at a big table and meeting new people. Susan can take it or leave it. But this is one of my highlights. On our first night it appears we are alone but later after we have begun dinner two of the other four people assigned to our table arrive.

Turns out they are two brothers, Dave and Bill. Two sisters and two brothers. They are married but their wives didn’t want to come on a cruise to Cuba so they came themselves anyway. They are celebrating one of their birthdays.

For dinner my first night, I order tomato soup for my appetizer, salmon, baked potato and spinach for my main course and tiramisu for dessert.  Susan now that she is not eating meat anymore had the Indian vegetarian dish. It wasn’t one dish but many small dishes.

And now to explore the evening entertainment. Music is another important part of the cruise for me. And the talent found on the ships is as amazing as the talent that walks into our local music pub at home. And if all else fails, I will find myself in the piano bar.

Sept. 6 – Arriving Havana

As I wake up, I hear the activity going on as the ship’s crew prepare for our arrival into Havana around 11:30 this morning. So we are having a leisurely morning, sleeping in before heading to the main dining room for breakfast. I head to the Serenity deck to watch the ship pull into Havana.

Getting off the ship was a slow but steady process. In Cuba we must pass through customs, and have a temperature check. I usually don’t get my passport stamp when we cruise in the Caribbean but now I do have a Cuba stamp in my passport book.

We have booked a Hemmingway’s Hideout and Cuba Culture tour.  Being a writer myself, I couldn’t pass this tour up. Although it was a choice between this one and one out to his home. Rather than sitting on a bus for a great deal of time, I thought it would be more fun to walk around Havana and enjoy an occasional drink along the way!

And walk we did. We walked and walked and walked. We say historic buildings and statues, churches and parks, and forts. It was all very informative. I loved talking and learning about the Cuban history.

But the best part was experiencing pieces of Hemingway’s Cuba. Enjoying his favorite drinks in his favorite bars. I felt a real connection to him, it was as if he had just left the hotel Ambos Mundos where he lived before he bought his home in Cuba. His room is now a museum that you have to pay to visit. We did ride upstairs in the same elevator he rode up and down in when he stayed there. And of course we had a daiquiris at the rooftop bar overlooking Havana.

At El Floridita everyone was crammed inside and I couldn’t find him anymore than we could find an empty table. Yet the Daiquiris were flowing freely everywhere, people passing them around the room. One could imagine that he had bought us all a round of drinks.

As we rounded the corner towards Bodeguita del Medio the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk outside. There wasn’t even any standing room inside. So we peered inside through the rails, listen to the music and the buzz of the conversation. Our mojitos were brought out to us and we raised out glasses in the street to celebrate this tiny place where he is said to have written some of his greatest words. But really did he ever write anything while he was drinking in any of these bars or was he just telling his tails that he wrote or might write?

I was impressed with the relationship and reverence the Cuban people have for Hemingway. He was honored and loved. He is also the Cuban people’s connection to the United States. I was surprised at how much that connection was important to them.

Susan willingly came along. She even enjoyed a daiquiri and a mojito!

Tomorrow we even have a longer day.

 

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Sept. 7 – Havana

Up early 6:30 dress-breakfast-off the ship for a full day excursion. The pace was much easier than yesterday. A combination of walking and bus riding today.

We explored areas of Old Havana visiting places and learning the history of Cuba, our cultural interaction was at a colonial home where they have programs for seniors, single moms and others.

Several of the older women did a rap show for us. These women were excited to entertain us and put on a show! Even though I didn’t understand a word of Spanish, I clapped and danced right along with them. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

Though we weren’t sure about this tour it turned out to be entertaining and I learned a lot about Cuban people, their culture, and history.

We had lunch at a dinner club – a Cuban theater show with a Cuban band and dancers while enjoying a meal of chicken, pork, steak, rice and vegetables.

We visited Fortaleza de San Cabos de la Cabana that was Havana’s defense back in the days of pirates and privateers. We visited a local artist shop. In fact, we went so many places through old Havana that I can’t even remember half of what I saw. It was a whirlwind day. I wish I had documented it better but I do have pictures I can’t figure out what they are or where I took them!

We set sail for Cozumel about 5 pm. Diner was formal tonight. The missing couple showed up for dinner but not the brothers. After dinner I went out on deck to warm up. The dining room was freezing. Actually the ships interiors are always cold. I usually have a sweater with me in the evenings.

I headed to the piano bar, Tim is good and it was a lively crowd. I think Tim is one of Karan’s favorite piano bar players. Then I moved into the Casino lounge where a band called the Aquaholics was playing.

I have learned things about Cuba that I wouldn’t have discovered without visiting here. Rundown buildings are surrounded by restored buildings and new modern buildings. The people are friendly and nice. They actually are enjoying having Americans visit their country. They are knowledgeable and prefer to meet people on a people to people basis.

I was a little concerned when Susan planned this trip but now having been I am ready to go back. There is so much more to see and experience that we didn’t do. Mostly because we were told we had to take a culture tour and couldn’t go off exploring or just go to the beach. Though you had to have some proof of a culture tour you could go off by yourself and explore. And we could have gone to the beach!

Sept. 8 Cozumel

Slow leisurely morning sleeping in breakfast in the Elation Dining Room. We docked early in Cozumel.  Susan wanted to get right off the ship. I would have liked to make my slow relaxed morning even a bit and even stayed on the ship for lunch before we headed off.

Our excursion was for 2pm so no hurry. We had plenty of time once we did get off the ship so we wondered around the dock area. The day was overcast with a storm off shore. The town we went to with the little shops was nice. I bought a sundress and shoes. The second shopping stop was a waste of time.

By the time we got to the beach stop, I was starving. So I spent most of our beach time having a very late lunch. It would have been nice if we had skipped the second shopping stop and had come directly to the beach. More time on the beach would have been much better. I know I live at the beach but I always want to go to a beach if I can. Every beach is different and I just love exploring it and swimming in the water!

We arrived back at the ship with just enough time to get ready for dinner. As we were finishing our dinner, the brothers showed up. So we stayed to talk with them while they ate dinner.

I was tired and exhausted today, I was in bed by midnight.

Sept. 9 Sea Day

Our last day. This is why I don’t like short cruises. The idea might sound good to just get a quick trip in but it is over way too soon. It is a hot sunny day on the ocean

At breakfast a couple joined us at the table knew who we were, but we couldn’t figure out if we had meet on this cruise or on some other cruise. Since I can’t remember meeting them I would guess it was on some other cruise!

The Carnival Paradise is a Fantasy class ship. I love the older fantasy class ships. There may not be a so many venues as the bigger newer ships but if is cozy and comfortable and easy to get to one venue to another. There are so many hidden places to sit and enjoy the ship and the ocean as you sail across the seas. I also like the old style ornate decoration over the new sleek modern designs but I think I may be the only holdover to the old cruising days.

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As I sit in one of my favorite out of the way places, it has been discovered on this last day of the cruise. I look out at the ocean and try to write some thoughts on this trip. There are two ladies painting. And the others are just enjoying the view and chatting with each other.

No one else right here is writing like I am but I have met a songwriter on this ship. She even has given me a copy of her CD. My concentration has been disruptive as the area is getting very noisy. I think about moving but I am now engrossed in people watching in this out of the way section of the ship.

A lady is on the phone, rather agitated. After she hangs up, the ladies who are painting ask her if she is ok. She says her family is upset that she is on the ship when a hurricane is heading towards them. As she takes about the storm heading towards her home, I lean over and ask her where she lives.

Turns out she lives in Wilmington, NC. I tell her I live near Wilmington on Topsail Island. She tells me that the storm is heading our way and that they expect it to land between Wilmington and Topsail Island. Everyone had jumped into the conversation now. Still I am not overly concerned. The storm is not expected to arrive until later in the week. And I am not sure if she and her family are overreacting too soon.

I decide to head to the pool and do some swimming. In the pool swimming around there is a family standing together talking. I can gather from the bits and pieces I hear that they too live in North Carolina. They are from further inland so though they are concerned about the storm they are just making their plans as to arriving home.

I move from the pool to the hot tub. There I have a conversation with a gentleman about Cuba, this ship and cruising. He asks me where I am from and I tell him. He says, “You know there is a major hurricane heading right for there. You should check it out.”

When I go back to the cabin to shower and change for dinner. I ask Susan if it’s ok if we break a rule and turn the television on. I tell her that all around the ship I have heard talk about a hurricane heading for North Carolina. And then I see it, right there on the screen. A huge massive storm heading directly for my island!

Well I am out here on the ocean on a ship, nothing I can do right now anyway. So I might as well enjoy my last evening. Off to dinner.

 

Sept. 10 Arrived Tampa

Soon we will be off the ship and heading to the airport. There is a storm heading for the Carolina’s so I will see what happens. I am in no hurry to get off the ship as my flight is later this afternoon.

Sitting in the airport, thunderstorms are brewing all around Tampa. Flights are delayed. I am watching the hurricane on the tv screen. Still nothing I can do until I get home. My phone rings. It is my housemates, worried about what I am going to do about the hurricane. I remind them that I am sitting in the Tampa airport with a delay because of thunderstorms here right now.

They tell me that the island is going to be under evacuation orders as of Wednesday morning at 9am. They are concerned about where I will go since they now have only a 2 seater truck. (I do not have a car). I ask them if they have started preparing the house. They seem to only be concerned about where to evacuate to and have not even started preparing the house. They have a lot of outside deck furniture and plants, I have a very small deck area that will take me just a few minutes to do. But the lower deck and yard will take several hours. And then the house too.

I get a text from my daughter Monica who has seen that I am sitting in Tampa airport. “Why don’t you change your plan and come to my house?”

“Thanks, Monica, but it would cost me a fortune to change my flight and I know that I need to go to the house and prepare it for the storm and get some other important papers and items I don’t take on a cruise.”

Finally my flight to Charlotte leaves Tampa. I arrive late and have to make a run for it to the next gate. The flight is boarding as I arrive. My phone is ringing again. It is my housemate again, still freaking out about where I am going to evacuate to. Right now it is late and I just want to get home. I tell her to tell her husband I am on my way and I will see him at the airport. He is picking me up.

I arrive home and tell my housemate that I am going to bed as it’s been a very long day and will deal with everything tomorrow. And so I may be home but the adventure for me is not over. I am walking directly into another unplanned adventure.

Author: cathy33