OK, so it took me longer than planned to do a post with cruise highlights, but here they are – better late than never, right?  Yep, I just got back from a cruise and it was GREAT!  I went with my Mom and we had a wonderful time just being away together – the other fun stuff was just icing on the already perfect cake!

Our time together started when Mom arrived here over two weeks ago on April 17th and ended this past Tuesday, May 4th.  She spent a week here visiting, then we cruised for 5 days, and she was here for another 3 days unwinding after the trip!  It was a wonderful two and a half weeks.  I was able to work 1/2 days while she was here, so we got to spend a lot of quality time together just hanging out!  We checked out the new Steele Pig, had a perfect ribeye at Cafe 121, pedicures and hair at Marcello’s, and watched a lot of Netflix movies.  We spent a rather low-key week cause we didn’t want to get all wore out before the cruise!  haha

We left for Jacksonville, Fl on Sunday, the 25th and spent the night in a nice hotel right near the port.  We, then, took the shuttle to the ship and boarded a little after noon-ish on Monday.  Our ship was the Carnival Fascination – a newly refurbished ship that was spacious and beautiful!  The first day was filled with a lot of figuring out where things were, getting our luggage delivered and situated, and lunch on the Lido deck right about the time we set sail.  We spent some time on the Lido open deck at mid ship while we set sail and watched the festivities begin…….music and line dancing was the entertainment!

Then, later on, we found the open deck at the back-end of the ship on the Lido deck, which ended up being our deck of choice for the rest of the cruise.  It was just outside the Coconut Grove restaurant, so we had easy access to drinks and snacks, it was quiet and less crowded, and it didn’t get as much wind as the side open decks did.  It was a perfect area to sit, talk, and relax!  We spent our first evening our there watching the first of several beautiful sunsets!

Our dinner seating assignment was 8:15, which at first sounded awfully late to me!  But ended up being perfect!  We could spend the bulk of the evening out on the deck and catch the sunset and then go in and eat dinner!  It allowed for nice, enjoyable evenings!  The first night we got in to dinner and discovered a surprise!  As we started a conversation with the couple that was also assigned to our table, the woman mentioned she was from North Carolina.  I grinned and asked where in NC and mentioned that I was also from NC.  The conversation went like this:  Woman – “Are you from Sanford?  Is your name…..Karen or Kathy or….”  Me – “YES!  I’m Kim and this is my Mom, Marilyn!  Are you the other couple from Lisa’s group?”  Woman – “I knew it was a ‘K’ name.  Yes, we wondered if we’d get to meet up with you!”  You see, the original arrangements were through a group thing that Lisa Orlando (Painted Petal) organized as a “Cruising to paint in the Bahamas”!  She had something like 12-14 cabins arranged and 1/2 day painting classes on the “at sea” days.  It was going to be fun!  But, all except me, Mom, and this one other couple canceled.  We were able to keep the group rate, but we were sailing solo!  We had a lovely dinner and nice conversation.  The other couple requested the early seating time when they checked in at boarding and after that first night, they were switched, so we didn’t see them again — I did catch a glimpse of them in the crowd a couple of times, but they were not close enough to connect with again.

Day two was an “at sea” day.  We checked out the shore excursion options and the on ship shops, marveled at the amazing center atrium area that spanned multiple decks, and spent some time out on the deck getting some sun and relaxing in the fresh air!  That evening, we caught the 7:00 lounge show and dinner was the special “Captain’s Dinner” night!  The meal we chose was lobster and grilled shrimp with cherries jubilee for dessert – OMG – YUM!  And the waiters all entertained us with a fun performance of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore”!  It was a great day and a wonderful evening!

Day three was in port at Key West!  I’ve always wanted to see the Keys and this was the part of the cruise that caught my attention and that I was most looking forward to…..and it didn’t disappoint me at all!  We took a trolley ride so that we could get a good view of everything without a lot of effort and time.  And, of course, we stopped for lunch and had seafood and an amazing piece of key lime pie!!  What a beautiful place Key West is!  I can’t wait to plan a short trip to explore it further and visit some of the other Keys – like Key Largo!  As I got off the ship, I was immediately curious about a huge RED house that stuck out against the landscape!  I discovered it was a museum with lots of really cool and realistic statues of people doing various routine things – snapping photos, sweeping up debris, dancing, painting, gardening, etc. all around the outside of it!  We didn’t go inside, but that is on the agenda for my next trip!

The fourth day was in port in Nassau, Bahamas!  We decided to stay on ship and enjoy the view from the open decks.  The shore excursions were quite a way’s away and didn’t really interest us much and there was nothing really to do right there near the port.  But, we weren’t disappointed at all – our goal was spending relaxed time together and seeing some amazing scenery and everything we chose to do fit that bill perfectly!  As we sat on the open decks looking out over the beautiful aqua blue Caribbean waters and watching the boats come and go, we were entertained by seagulls and pigeons that were interested in the food another passenger left behind on their table!

The rest of the trip was “at sea” and filled with lounge shows (including a really funny comedian), singing/dancing waiters, breathtaking sunsets, great food, adorable animals made out of towels left on our beds, hours on the open decks feeling the breeze in our hair, and just plain living the good life!!!

And that is that!  No stress, no phones, no problems, no worries…..just calm, quiet days and entertainment/excitement when we wanted it…..the perfect vacation!  I won’t go in to our return trip home – I already did that in a post the night I got back!  Suffice it to say that nothing was able to ruin the wonderful time we had and the memories we made together!  I will cherish this trip forever!  And I’m already wondering what we’ll do and where we’ll go next!  hehehe

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