#1: Cruisin’ With Carol

cruise-logo-orange.jpgTo celebrate my birthday, my sister Carol invited me to tag along on the fourth annual KFDI “Cruise With Carol” — yes, she’s that Carol! That was a “first” offer I couldn’t refuse! Plus, it led to First #2 (more on that later!). I joined about 250 of her diehard listeners and special guest Trent Tomlinson and his new band aboard Carnival’s Ecstasy in Galveston on January 26 for the five-day Western Caribbean cruise, with stops in Cozumel and Progreso. Carol had her own private posse along for the fun: friends Lynn, James, Chris, Angie, Joe, and Mark and, of course, big sister! We boarded around 1 p.m. (that’s Carol and me in our first Carnival photo, below!) and tracked down Lynn for lunch before Muster Drill, which was basically an exercise in cramming cruisers and their life jackets into small rooms (think inadvertent sumo wrestling) and then seeing how well we can maneuver our way as a group to our designated lifeboat area. Not being terribly fond of water, I wasn’t all that crazy about staring at the lifeboats and the running tape of “women and children’ first!” Once we were all released from looking at the lifeboats, we shipped out and went to the Adults Only Life Vest and Bon Voyage Party in the James/Chris/Angie suite, the first of several visits. They even had a soaking tub, granite countertops, and a balcony — we had bunk beds, a shohappy-cruisers.jpgwer stall that tended to overflow, and an ocean-view window.

At dinner, we met our KFDI table mates. Because all of the KFDI cruisers were dining in the first shift, Carol made the rounds each night. What a kick it was to trail along in Carol’s wake! She’s so great at her job, and her fans just adore her. Lynn and I stayed behind to chat up our table mates and whoever else came by looking for Carol.

Overall, the food was quite good, although we all had to wonder about the eggplant parmesan, which was more like sautéed eggplant and zucchini doused in béarnaise sauce and slathered with greasy cheese (and poor Carol and Lynn did more than wonder about it!). I was disappointed that the Suite Bunch was dining in the later shift, because Joe apparently made a habit of ordering at least two entrees at every meal, and I would have paid to see that! Everyone was about the chocolate melting pot, which was waaaay to choco-latte for me. But I DID manage to down dessert at every meal (it’s a cruise, so dessert

doesn’t count, right? Besides we adhered to Rule #1: “No Elevators” throughout the cruise). Each night our maitre d’ Francis and our wait staff did a little dog and pony show. The strobe-light show announcing each evening’s presentation, along with the worn-out crackling sound system, was rather headache-inducing. By our third night, Lynn learned to bug out to the ladies’ room right the second the lights started, and I just closed my eyes and pretended not to notice. Francis, however, gave us a new name for the ship’s Blue Sapphire Theatre: “the Saffer Tater”!

Later that first night, we met up with Trent and his band, who were along to perform two private sets for the KFDIers. Those guys were great fun to hang out with. We caught Trent in between visits to the Casino (that boy is serious about the casino –– rumor had it he was up big time by the end of the cruise!). Somehow, we all conspired to have them sit in for the band performing at the Chinatown Bar. I’d always heard that cruise entertainment could be somewhat hokey, and all it took was listening to the cruise band’s version of “La Grange” sung by a middle-aged guy with a neatly trimmed goatee in that Chinese-themed bar to drive that notion home (maybe he needed a longer beard?!)! After some fast talking, Trent and the guys (minus Dave the bass player, since the house band didn’t have a bass) did a rockin’ four-song set. Drummer Trey even managed to cope with a left-handed drumkit, and Joel pounded out the bassline on the keyboard. Several of the –– ahem –– older folks in the crowd didn’t quite know what to make of those country boys taking over. But we all loved it –– especially that smoking version of “Folsom Prison Blues.” It was an excellent preview of the Monday and Wednesday shows!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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