Tag Archives: Carnival Magic

A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again


So that was it, my cruise journal. I still have a couple of poems yet to publish from on-board, but other than that, this will be my last post relating to this vacation. I learned a lot of things on-board about myself and about how I would like to spend future vacations. I learned that I really enjoyed and benefited from keeping a vacation journal. I shall endeavor to keep one for all future trips and assuming I am still blogging will share those too.

I learned that I prefer smaller cruise ships and that the next cruise we take I would like to be more of a luxury cruise. Something about mega-sizing the ship and going for a younger crowd removes something of what allures me to cruising. I want to feel like I am gatecrashing a lifestyle and a culture that I am normally a not a party to. Yes you can still (I did) have a wonderful vacation on a super-mega-ship, it is just not the experience that I would ideally choose. That is not to say that I won’t vacation on the Magic again, exiting Galveston for a really rather reasonable price has a very big upside. I still got all the rest and relaxation that I wanted, I just would have liked to have felt a little more hoity-toity in the process (if that even makes sense).

I learned that while the flexibility of “any time dining” is wonderful, but, if you have assigned dining, so long as it works out well, that can be even better. We have had this on previous trips and usually you are assigned to a table with other people. This makes for much better dinner conversation opportunities because you are not just reviewing what you have all done together all day, you have the chance to tell stories to people that have not experienced them. However, if you are assigned to a table with people who don’t want to talk, or not with a good wait staff, then anytime dining is the way to go.

The thing that changed this from a really nice vacation but the service was not so much, to this was a great vacation & the people were amazing was relationships. Whether it was that we(I) needed a few days to get to rested enough to where we could enjoy people, or that it took us a few days  to find the people that we could effectively relate to I’m not sure, although I lean towards the latter. Our conversations with our eastern European friends in the dining room, with the English people on the entertainment crew made the vacation vastly more enjoyable. I have to look at this and apply it to life in general, to be fair I have been working on this for a few years now & the change is immense.

Relationships are what can change your life from “is this all there is?” to “life is great”. Sure there are challenges, most of us don’t get to work for fun, we have to work for a living. Yet the time working is not so bad if you build relationships there, just like if you have relationships waiting for you at home & in your recreation time, life is just better. Now these relationships need work, unnourished they will be empty & flounder, but if you work on your relationships. If you chose to build covenant relationships rather than contract relationships, your life will just be better & that makes life much more worth living.

While my vacation gave me much needed & overdue physical & emotional rest & recuperation. There was an unfortunate down side, it had left me feeling spiritually low. I didn’t realize how much until I walked into church the Sunday after we got back, it was a beautifully overwhelming experience. I had happy tears as my spiritual gas tank was immediately filled up. The answer to my life’s purpose is in here somewhere what He will chose to do with that is up to him, I will simply follow (and look forward to more vacations). I need to make sure that on future vacations I make time to stay connected to my source, more than I did on this trip.

Other thoughts? Some people say that I don’t have an accent anymore, however I have come to realize it is because I don’t sound like James Bond, Hugh Grant or Dick van Dyke. I have an accent, faded and slightly Texanized, but I still have my accent (dang it). I have never sounded like any of the aforementioned people, I am from Yorkshire, our accents might not be Hollywood famous, but they are wonderful British accents. I shall decide to ignore people who say I have no accent from now on.

I have no idea why I could not bring myself to dance at the beginning of the week, the terrible music was no excuse, my daughter wanted to dance and I didn’t do it. That could have been a great regret from this week. However it will simply serve as a warning to ensure I don’t get as fried as I was prior to this week. By the end of the week I had danced on stage with my daughter and on the final day (skipped this from the journal) we danced in the atrium several times, slow dancing around the floor shared with some delightful elderly couples, one of which were especially encouraging to my daughter to just keep dancing (her whole life I presume) and gave me that wonderful, knowing look saying that I am not doing too terribly as a Dad. Maybe I should force myself to dance more, before the inhibitions that were removed come back, I guess that’s a thought for a date night in the near future.

What else did I learn? I learned that I cannot read an entire David Foster Wallace book in one week if I have more to do than just read the book. I discovered that while I loved his essays, especially “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, I do not agree with his assessment of cruising.  My assessment, and if for some random reason I decided to gather my vacation writing into a book its title, would be “A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again







Vacation Journal: Day 7


Day seven was our last day at sea and our last day of vacation. We have been sailing north / north west since we left Cozumel last night, sailing towards the end of this wonderful week. I had a pleasant sleep-in to 0745 (something is wrong with that being a sleep-in on vacation), followed by a slow breakfast of smoked salmon on bagel, followed by blueberry pancakes. Overeating is so easy on a cruise. The service at breakfast was slow, causing me to consume more of the excellent coffee than normal.

A planned day of pool side leisure was curtailed by mist on the horizon. That mist slowly manifested into rain and occasional thunder. Somehow being in a pool in a metal vessel in the ocean seems remarkably unwise with the very real threat of lighting on the horizon. Instead we decided to review our week’s photographs taken by the cruise photographers. From probably over a hundred photos, we pick out three to keep, I then went back and got another three, because while my wife could live without them, I couldn’t  she is the strong one when it comes to such things.

The humidity on board is so great today that the stairs are slick close to the lido deck. Another downside of humidity is the adjustment period required by your camera to take photos outside after being in the a/c. Prior to the adjustment the lens fogs rapidly and annoyingly.

Stormy weather means choppy seas and high winds, which means the boat is rocking. Not everyone enjoys the physical sensation of the ship listing. Personally, I love it. It is like a perpetually slow roller coaster, strangely similar to being drunk, but only in your legs. Looking over the balcony the waves do not seem to be big enough to cause the movement that the ship is experiencing. They are choppy, but we are not talking deadliest catch and with the size of this ship it should take some serious moving. A quick look on one of the ships tv channels tells me that we are experiencing steady 30mph cross winds with gusts over 40mph, that will do it.

There is not much of our vacation left now, I feel ready to return home, if not to work. I am however not looking forward to debarkation or the 5+ hour drive home. These feelings may be fueled by spending so much time in the cabin today, reading and writing. As much as I enjoy these things I am starting to feel confined, yet there is nothing on the ship that appeals to me to go and do right now. I don’t want a drink and I certainly don’t want to eat. I am pretty much sick of the taste of chocolate & sweets in general. I am tired of eating. I am ready to feel productive. I would estimate that my tank has gone from 10% to 90% in this wonderful, restful and fun week.


Dining shots

He wanders the floor

On the prowl

Between pensioners and families

Poison on a tray

Not just to the body

But more so to the mood


Shots at dinner time,

Monumentally inappropriate

Yet he cries

Shot, shot, shot

Trying to lure a victim


With his evil glare trying to seduce

Money, money, money

He wants, because he is told to

Err no sir, this is formal dining

Thank you & move on




Vacation Journal: Day 6

Cozumel, Mexico


If there was going to be a day to make or break this trip, today was the day. Today was the focal point, the fulcrum of this whole adventure. Today is the day we get to swim with dolphins. As a Dad that wants to reinforce to my child that dreams are both real and attainable, her love for dolphins months played a large part in deciding to take this cruise. The decision to cruise was made knowing full well that swimming with dolphins is always an option at some of the ports.

The day, fortunately, did not disappoint, if anything is surpassed expectations. We took a quick van ride from the port to the Dolphinarium, once we arrived we were given a briefing and then before we knew it out group of about 12 entered our pool with 2 dolphins. Over the next 40 minutes we petted, kissed, held fins and went for a belly to belly ride. The speed of this ride and the astonishing acceleration taking me completely by surprise. It was truly a dream come true occasion for my daughter, for her parents too. I was particularly proud of my daughter who did all the tasks without assistance, the swimming lessons paid off!

CL Dolphin Pull

Moments like today make struggling through work worth it, it is the memories of these truly special occasions that you have to cling to when you are at the end of your rope at work wondering if it is all worth it. It is worth it, I might not get to travel months at a time, or do anything on my trips that they would make a tv show about, but they are so worth every second, just to see the smile & hear the squeals of happiness from my daughter.

FL Dolphin Pull

qIMG_4897After our dolphin experience we had lunch (included) at the place before heading back to the ship. They have a long duty free store that you have no choice but to walk through to get onboard. It is almost like friendly piracy, taking your money with a smile, there were some good deals to be had though 🙂



Before we went in to dinner we joined our fellow guests at the frequent cruisers thank youqIMG_4907 reception. We enjoyed some rather potent free drinks and I finally got over myself and danced with my daughter, on stage no less, with about 50 others. Still, that shows how much recuperation has been done during this week. On the way out we struck up a conversation with Katie from the entertainment staff, I correctly guessed (by her accent) that she was from Halifax, not far from Leeds where I grew up. We talked at length about life onboard and her current struggles with deciding how to get a visa to live in the states with her American boyfriend. She was a very pleasant and most engaging person to talk to. Two things struck me after our conversation, one how much better I am at conversations now than I used to be & two, just how far I have come in the last 12 years since I first made the decision to leave my home town in search of a better life. I really don’t give myself enough credit for what has been accomplished, not that any of it could have done without the gentle guiding hand of the Lord, but you know what I mean.

Following the reception we headed to dinner, requesting the same table as the night before as we had finally found a wait crew that not only brought us some food, but had a bit of personality too. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about past cruises is getting to know (somewhat) the wait staff, with not having assigned seats & generally overworked wait staff, until yesterday it has not been as good an experience in that sense as on previous trips. However Iavn the Serbian and Jovana the Croatian were a delight and Alona, our Ukrainian drinks waitress was fantastic and so much fun to talk to. It is when talking to these people that you really start to get a feeling for how fortunate we are. Take Alona, I don’t know her life story or her situation at home, but I do know that she is 35 with a teenage daughter who she doesn’t get to see for 7 months at a time. She does this to be able to provide for her daughter the very best way that she can. I cant imagine being away from my family for 7 month stretches, but if that was the best way for me to provide for them I would do it. I really have a tremendous appreciation, admiration and empathy for these dedicated people.

The evening show on day 6 was a comedy hypnotist who was very entertaining. My favorite part being when people were sent to look for their missing belly buttons. He asked one lady what she needed her belly button for & she replied (in her hypnotized state) “to put my finger in it”. That cracked me up and was a great end to another great day of this vacation that is sadly drawing to a close.


Vacation Journal: Day 5 – Belize

Belize meets Venice

Today was wonderful, simply splendid. A little hurried to start the morning as we gave ourselves only 1 hour and 15 minutes to get ready, have breakfast & get gone. No worries though, we made it, even if we did abandon breakfast halfway through.

Belize has a shallow bay meaning the ship has to anchor quite a way off land. Port Authority tender boats then ferry you to the pier, ours was a 2 story boat holding around 100 people (at a very rough guess).

Belize City going down the coatsOur shore excursion today was a guided tour up the River Wallace and onto the Altun Ha Mayan ruins, which I had told my daughter were alien castles & not really pyramids, she got a kick out of our in-joke. Our tour guide Merlene, was fantastic. Always quick with her infectious smile, she is a proud Belizean Creole and she gave us a great day. Her knowledge was remarkable and she was always ready to answer questions. Although at Altun Ha, given the lack of documented history (the Spanish burned all but 6 history books, she said), she did offer that it was a 50/50 tour; 50% fact and 50% BS (Believable Speculation).  The whole crew were great in truth, you could tell that they wanted you to love their country, they kept asking us to make sure we came back. One the river they took the time to slow down & circle in the places known for seeing wildlife.

The river tour started in the harbor on a speed boat holding approximately 35 passengers sat on rows 5 across, 2 crew and our guide. The strong sun and the humidity were sweltering as we got everyone loaded onboard. The Merlene, after a quick safety briefing, advised that they would be turning on the air conditioning so hold onto your hats. The twin Yamaha V6 engines revved up, the tail of the boat sank, the nose rose and off we went. A wonderful sea breeze cooled us off as we sped down the coast line, stopping briefly for some tour narration Entering the River Wallacein a couple of spots. Before long we entered the river, the water seamlessly transitioned from blue to green. Mangrove walls providing both shelter and viewing interest.

I wish I had either taken notes, filmed the whole thing, or had a photographic memory to recall all the detailed information on the wildlife & Belizean history. The River Wallace, is actually called the Belize River, however the River Wallace legend from a Looking back to the bay from the riverScottish buccaneer, Peter Wallace, who may or may not have actually been there. On the river we saw all manner of wildlife and beautiful foliage. We saw manatees, a dolphin, iguana, a crocodile, howler monkeys, insect bats & a plethora of birds, including tiger herons (the only one I remember the name of).



foliageIguanaTiger heronCroc



The river tour lasted around 2 hours, the perfect length as we were ready to get off the boat River Wallaceby that point. We alighted at the Black Orchid Resort. There we ate a traditional local dish of stewed recardo rojo chicken with red beans & rice and the most delicious fried plantain you will ever eat in your life. I washed it all down with the local beer of choice Belikin, I can’t give a review because almost any beer would have tasted good in that heat, but it was good.

Following lunch we embarked on a 45 minute bus ride to Altun Ha. Cherise, a tour assistant joined our party and gave the bus narration for a while until Merlene took back over. Cherise did a good job of giving info on Belize, she was nice and she tried hard, but her lack of experience was clear to see & her lack of natural confidence (understandably talking to a bud of tourists) made her a clear 2nd to Merlene. She has a good future in her profession though if she sticks to it, especially if she sticks with & learns from the masterful Merlene.

At Altun Ha we were given a guided walking tour by Merlene. The place was fascinating, all spice treewhen I have time I intend to read some more about it. How the Mayans migrated through Russia & Alaska. How they thought buildings were good only for 52 years (I think I got the number right) , before they had to add on or knock it down. It is such a different part of history that that which I am familiar with.

2nd pyramid we climbedThere were several pyramid ruins in various states of excavation and repair. The biggest and most significant, the sun god temple, was quite spectacular. The age of the site, first occupied in 900 BC, was impressive. However to met, I was most taken with being somewhere so old in such a different environment & culture from Europe. Growing up, the Mayans etc were largely overlooked in our education system for any significance.

After climbing 2 of the pyramids and taking all kinds of photos, we got back on the bus for a 1 hour ride to the port. Lots of well earned tips were distributed & we made our way back to the tender boats to return to the Magic.

sun god templeme taking a picture of a faceAltun Ha from top of 2SGT from the opt of the other one we climbedAltun Ha from the top of sgtIMG_4855

It was formal dinner night, so I got suited up. For dinner I had some award winning Basa dish. I eat things here that I would never normally eat, it is good for expanding my culinary palate, without risking paying big bucks for a meal you don’t like. If you don’t like your dinner on the cruise ship, they will bring you something different. Can’t make up your mind what to order? They will bring you the whole menu, dining is fun on a cruise!

We had lots of photos taken after dinner, my professional smile now well practiced and feeling decidedly fake. However I am sure we will have a few good photos by the end of the week, if not it will not have been for  a lack of trying.


All in all, today was an unBelizeable day

(that saying is the copyright of Merlene the awesome tour guide:) )


Carnival Magic - beyond huge

Vacation Journal: Day 4

Vacation Journal: Day 4 – Honduras


After 3 days at sea we have arrived at our first of 3 ports of call. Mahogany Bay, Roatan,Six Flags Honduras. A tropical paradise, so perfect it is impossible not to see how artificial it is. We woke up in port, our port side room providing the perfect vantage point for the port village. I know nothing of the island, its population or history. I do know that the port area looks more like a six flags set than an indigenous location.


We rode the cable car to the beach, got set Does it get betterup with 2 sun loungers under a low palm tree with a clam shell shade, a very nice situation. Despite the numbers on the beach it was eminently relaxing and peaceful. The weather was perfect, hot enough to sit shirtless, but not stifling. The water was cool, but not frigid. Floating on the provided mats, endlessly enjoyable.

My desire to people watch is waning. Either folks are boring, or disgusting and loud, in the way (it seems) Americans specialize in. Take the guy today searching for a mate, presumable a casual mate as he didn’t appear to be looking for a soul mate. So full of his own worth, trying to determine which lucky maiden would be today’s winner of his arrogant, over weight egotistical company. More of a booby prize if you ask me. Generally speaking, while I have not seen or observed all there is to see, I have seen & especially heard enough. How I long to overhear a conversation of depth & meaning. How I miss my daily poetry delivered by friends I will never meet. Never mind, I am relaxing, I am recharging & I am starting to appreciate how really quite good my lie at home is!



Relaxing in the sun, floating on the ocean, utter bliss. Ecstatic squeals of joy permeate the air, overpowering any annoyance or distraction. The happiness of one’s child really does transcend general existence.


Carnival Magic - its a big boat

Back on board, my thoughts once again drift to the size of the ship, I am still overwhelmed by it. The size of the ship, the quantity of passengers, it gives everything on board a more hurried and crowded feel. The staff have less time to talk and as a result they seem less friendly. Initially I thought this could be a cultural thing as there are significantly less Europeans working onboard than previous cruises. However I am convinced now that it is much more to do with capitalism gone wild overwork, the kind that I am so very familiar with. More work less people makes more profit, yet leaves the workers burned out and needing a cruise to recharge.

The set from Six Flags also reminds me of a user made multi player map from Far cry 2, for you gamers out there. I could torch this place with a flame thrower, destroy the van on the hill with my grenade launcher & run amuck with my A/R, ahh the good old days, TGIFC2F.  I think I am having PS3 withdrawals, planning how I would approach the port if it were an FPS video game.

The ridiculously plastic man made beauty of this place masks some true beauty. Out of or Workers going homeopulence and self indulgence, we help to provide a sustainable existence to others.  You could argue that we are gate crashing & ruining their once peaceful way of life. You would of course be right, however the 21st century & all of its seductive technology & toys has already beaten us to it. So I will choose to embrace by role as British / American tourist secure in the comfort that my reward it not only the vacation, but in a small way helping others, which as you know, is very important to me.

After another overly decadent dinner of smoked duck, some rich (too rich) creamy turkey pasta and chocolate melting cake. Accompanied by a Mai Tie (first & last time) which was too sweet for my tastes & a Jamaican Hot Coffee (rum & liquor) which was almost too perfect for words. We ventured into the evening show.

It was an illusionist show, not a magic show. Magic apparently has been retired as it implies what is happening is real. As we all know it is not real, magic must now be called illusion, for the sake of accuracy, or maybe just to irritate me. Despite being fully aware of being actively duped & concentrating fully on how they are doing it. Magic remains a wonderfully excellent form of entertainment. This show, magic mixed with show tunes & Vegasesque sickly sweet cover songs, was excellent, enthralling and compelling viewing. If only I could figure out how they do it. At times I thought I was close (probably was), then something would blow that though. Very impressive stuff, a very impressive day, the kind of day that you cling to the memory of when you are sat at work wondering why you do it.




I do not like the casino

Something deep inside me is repulsed by it

I don’t know if it is the stale smoke

The desperate souls blindly giving their money

In the hope that today is their lucky day


It could be that I can do math & understand odds.

Maybe it is the putrid décor

That looks like Christmas and voodoo had a baby that threw up everywhere

Possibly it is the supposedly stimulating noises

That make me want to run wild with a sledge hammer


I imagine it is a combination of all these things

Yet through all that

I bet I wind up in there by the end of the week

You know, just to see if is MY lucky day

Lord help me



Written on day 2, other than passing through to get to the other side I stayed out of it all week. Note that I have no moral objection to gambling, if that is your thing and you’re not an addict, have fun, it’s just not my thing, I’d rather but a video game or some new music.