We first cruised the Carnival Paradise out of Long Beach for the 3-night Angels’ Fan Cruise to Ensenada in January, 2011. (To read that report, click here.) It took an Angels’ Fan Cruise to get Rich onboard a Carnival ship – my first cruise had been with Carnival on the old Mardi Gras back in 1982 (combined with the opening of Epcot and my first trip to WDW). But Rich had refused to even consider cruising with Carnival – until the Angels’ Fan Cruise. And that cruise surprised both of us. It was so good, we were willing to give Carnival another chance. But we wondered if it was so good because it was out of SoCal and we were with “our people” (Angels Fans) or Carnival was better than we’d thought.
So when we knew we’d be moving back to Florida, we also noticed that the Paradise would be based out of Tampa and thought how fun it would be to sail the same ship from Florida. Looks like we’re not the only “Califloridians” – lol!
The itinerary was perfect – embark in Tampa, a day at sea, Cozumel (our favorite port), another day at sea, and return to Tampa. It was close to Valentine’s Day, our half anniversary on the 17th, Rich’s 90-day probation would be up on his new job, and he had to take 3 days off before March 1.
Who: Rich and Kathy
When: February 16-20, 2012
Where: Tampa to Cozumel and back
Why: Celebrating Life in Florida
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Because Buddy (our cat) was still recovering from treatment for his newly-diagnosed Diabetes, we decided we’d feel better if he stayed at the vet’s boarding facility. We can’t say enough about Orlando Cat Hospital – they treat cats only, and the staff is so caring. They’ve grown to love Buddy, and he is our most well-behaved cat when it comes to trips to the vet. In fact, when we brought Buddy in, we registered him and then was given a tour of the boarding facilities. Roy, one of the technicians got so excited and said, “Where’s my Buddy?” and then he walked down the hall to move Buddy’s carrier to be close to him. They also gave us an email address so we could check on him whenever we could log in at sea.
We interviewed a new pet sitter for the other 2 cats where they would be staying at home. We were so nervous about this – we always are with a new pet sitter – and we were missing our fabulous pet sitter in Las Vegas. She was the best we’d ever had. Thankfully, we found her after that terrible first pet sitter in Las Vegas – the one who’d set off our alarm and the alarm company called us while we were at Disneyland. That was only the first thing that had gone wrong with that sitter. So, not knowing who we were really entrusting our cats and home to, we were a bit nervous.
We called the pet sitter that morning before we left and she reassured us the kitties would be fine. We dropped off Buddy, and then drove the back way to 4 to Tampa on 429, passing the west entrance to WDW. We were excited, and were feeling some of the pressures leaving our shoulders. It felt good to be setting sail for the Caribbean.
The Port of Tampa at Channelside was familiar to us because when we lived in Tampa, we used to frequent some of the restaurants, shops, margarita bars to toast ships sailing away, and just hang out or visit the aquarium. But we had never cruised from there. Ironically, we never cruised from Florida while living in Florida – we always flew in from out-of-state. This would be a first for us – to actually cruise from Florida while living in Florida.
The pleasant surprise was discovering valet parking at the port – Rich is all over any opportunity to valet park. And because we’d booked a suite, we also had special VIP check-in – what a way to go! The next thing we knew we were on the ship (around noon) and told our cabin would be ready at 1:30 p.m.
The first thing we did was head for the pool for the first FAB (frosty adult beverage) of the day
And when the band began playing, we were in Heaven
Rich’s Valentine Gifts Awaited me in Our Suite:
Flowers, Champagne, and Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Once we got the lifeboat drill out of the way (thankfully, no drunken guests looking as if they’d pass out any minute during the drill this time), we made our way back to our large balcony for the sailaway – one of our favorite moments on a cruise. Finally, we were getting to sail out of Tampa Bay under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Sailing under the bridge is a big thing and everybody’s on deck or on their balcony waiting to snap pictures of it.
We still had internet service on our cell phone, and about an hour after sailing Rich noticed an 800 number come across his phone. He ignored it, but then it rang again and so he answered it. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that something was wrong. By the look on his face, I knew something terrible must be happening. I felt sick inside, and by what he was saying on the phone, I knew my fear had come true – the pet sitter couldn’t figure out how to turn off the alarm (even though we’d included directions on the pet sitter form and again above the alarm itself). Anyway, when she couldn’t figure it out, the alarm company called us and turned off the alarm remotely. Once we informed them it was our pet sitter, they said they’d call off the police.
Okay, in retrospect, this may not seem like such an emergency. The pets were okay except for being scared of the alarm and this stranger in the house (and why did Buddy go with the parents?). The house was okay, and we knew, for sure, that the alarm worked. But I began to feel quite panicky over being out to sea with a new pet sitter who seemed incapable of taking care of things. I’d felt uneasy with her, anyway, during the interview, but I’d hoped the main pet sitter would be taking care of our pets. Not true – her assistant was assigned our pets – she seemed good enough with the cats, but, frankly, I didn’t think she was the sharpest knife in the drawer. And that worried me. She seemed too much like the “bad” pet sitter in Vegas before we found the amazing pet sitter. Too bad Valerie couldn’t move with us to Florida. But was was also from California and wanted to move back home.
The downside of being at sea is the feeling of being totally disconnected from home. And only living in Florida for 3 months made things worse. We really felt cut off. We wish we’d known somebody in the area we could call and have stop by to make sure everything was okay. We were getting closer and closer to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge but having a terrible time enjoying ourselves. I wanted to get off the ship right then. I was sure it was impossible to enjoy the cruise at this point.
But we soldiered on, trying to calm ourselves down with more champagne, swearing we’d never cruise again, and insisting we were going to find a better rental house once we got home (this house was adding to our discomfort). I think the turning point was when I called Skipper and Lovey (the 2 cats at home) “Mitch & Lori” by mistake (my half siblings I’d been far too responsible for). I knew I’d made a Freudian slip and it was time to let go of control. We’d taken care of our responsibilities the best we could, and it was time for us now.
Approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (the timing of the sunset and the bridge was perfect)
By the time we’d sailed under the bridge, it was getting dark. Today had been a long day, even though the port had been relatively close by. So we decided to stay in our first night (like we did on the Long Beach to Ensenada cruise), and order room service. We each had a sandwich and went to bed early, looking forward to being rocked to sleep. But the ship was still puttering along and we could barely tell we were moving.