Carnival Ecstasy, Charleston, Cruising, Culinary Cuisine, Uncategorized

All Aboard…The Carnival Ecstasy Cruise


Dearest Readers:

If you are a follower of this blog, you will recognize I haven’t written much since early May of this year. When my husband was so weak and ill, I could not function, nor could I write. Every time I attempted to write, I hit the delete key. Life was too demanding and frightening for me. My husband needed me in ways I never dreamed. Suddenly, I found myself feeling trapped in a dark and lonely abyss. Walking in the familiar shoes of caregiving, my entire life focused on my husband and his recovery. Friends offered to help, although I did not know what they could do. Once, I told a friend on the phone she could listen to me and my tears. She agreed. Fortunately, our life is improving. I give all the credit to God, all the prayers He answered and my faith.

arthur-ravenel-jr-bridge

Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge – Charleston, SC

 

Cruising on the Carnival Ecstasy

On September 3 – September 8, 2016, we cruised on the Carnival Ecstasy, cruising from Charleston, SC to Half Moon Cay, Nassau, Bahamas and back to Charleston. The cruise was booked over a year ago, and it was a non-refundable “free cruise” that cost us $1078.08, to be exact! Trust me, this “free cruise” had nothing to do with free, and from now on, when we receive invitations to attend a time share dinner where we could ‘win a free cruise’ we will not go. I was told by many people on the cruise they did not pay $1000. Lesson learned!

Culinary Skills Disappointing

While on the cruise, I sat around, watching people, making notes. The only idea I had was about the culinary skills on the ship. The food was so disappointing, my mind drifted back to when I worked at a local culinary college. So you see, I’m not a critic about the food, but I am a writer, and I have quite a few culinary skills, so I do know how good food, especially gourmet cuisine is supposed to tantalize the taste buds and taste. My taste buds were not tempted. The food presentations needed better displays. Seasonings. Well, maybe I’ll keep that opinion to myself. On second thought, let’s just say, the food needed seasonings, especially rosemary, garlic, and the fish should have orange marmalade or other sauces that would complement fish.

My first night, I ordered salmon. Big mistake!

salmon

The only taste in my mouth was a harsh fishy taste. No sauce. No seasonings, only bland. Ugh! The second night at dinner, I ordered mahi-mahi. Certainly, with that delicious fish, my taste buds will be fulfilled. Hardly. The mahi-mahi was a bit dry and lacking any seasonings, spices, or sauces. I ate about three bites. Although I am still doing Weight Watchers, I decided to order a dessert. The chocolate molten cake with ice cream was delicious, so I decided maybe this would be ‘dessert cruise!’

untitled

 

Although I jotted notes, I could not find story materials to write about until Rina Patel of New York apparently jumped from the 11th deck of Carnival Ecstasy in the dark of early morning. Why did she jump, leaving the family, a young child and a husband behind? Only Rina and those who were witnesses might possibly know the answer to this question. I’ve written about the experience of that early morning twice, so this post will not be about someone ending her life on a cruise ship. I still have difficulty with this when I find myself drifting away to those events. I’ve never been on a cruise ship where a passenger goes overboard. I have to compliment how the crew on Carnival Ecstasy handled the situation. Totally professional and caring.

“Passenger Overboard”

However, when my friends heard about someone missing from the Carnival Ecstasy, they admitted to me their first reaction was, “Oh no. Did Barbie actually throw Phil overboard? I thought she was joking!”

I have to admit, I did state that comment as a joke when we decided to go on the cruise. I mentioned to Phil that if he didn’t give me a bit of space, he might find himself overboard. Trust me. I would never harm my husband. Domestic violence of any type is not my style. Thank God I did not joke about that on the cruise. Can you imagine? Joking about going overboard? It isn’t a funny situation. Tragic. Shocking. Unbelievable. When I heard the announcement, I prayed the person would be found. When I watched the rescue boat searching for the passenger, I prayed he or she would be found. At that time, none of us knew if the passenger was male or female; nevertheless, when guest services continued paging “Rina Patel,” as a writer, I was able to determine Rina Patel must be the missing, overboard passenger. Truly a horrible way to change the mood on a cruise ship. Everyone was a bit gloomy while we all prayed the passenger would be found.

Sorry, I promised not to write about the missing passenger, didn’t I? I must stop and post this section of my epistle for today. Next topic:

Day One – And We’re Off!

Stay Tuned!

Carnival Ecstasy, Cruising, Family, Uncategorized

Cruising On The Carnival Ecstasy


Dearest Readers:

Now that we are home from the cruise [Carnival Ecstasy –September 3 – September 8, 2016] departing from Charleston, with stops at Half Moon Cay and Nassau, Bahamas, I realize there are times I still have sea legs. Earlier, while pouring a cup of coffee, my body swayed back and forth, just like the ship rocked while we were aboard. I laughed. Silly legs. Just keep moving!

Our cruise was booked about a year ago, perhaps longer. We reportedly won this cruise after listening to a time share pitch. Believe me, this was NOT a free cruise. After upgrading to an ocean view state room, paying the port fees, additional fees, this ‘free cruise’ cost us more than most people pay for cruises. Lessons Learned. Never attend another time share pitch!

Phil and I really needed this cruise. Quality time spent together after a dreadful, frightening summer where Phil had surgery on his left shoulder. Reverse shoulder replacement. Apparently a new procedure. The first surgery was May 31. While recuperating, he awoke one morning and his shoulder popped. We could feel the ball of the shoulder replacement extended out of place. We rushed to ER. After a long visit at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, the shoulder was popped back into place – a mild surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. The following day Phil returned home to recuperate. Recuperation was difficult. He fainted. And fainted…and FAINTED…so many times I’ve lost count. The man I stared at every morning had a face as white as a sheet. He moved in slow motion while he recuperated. The fainting spells continued, along with the visits to ER.

During the month of June, we visited ER seven times. In late June, still fainting at times, he visited the orthopedic surgeon for a post-op check-up. He complained about his left foot hurting. It was swollen. The doctor ordered an x-ray. The results of the x-ray revealed his left foot was fractured in several places. The news wasn’t encouraging for his shoulder either. X-rays revealed the shoulder replacement needed to be repeated – for the third time. On that occasion, we left the VA hospital with Phil’s foot wearing a boot and he was given a wheelchair. Two days later, Phil was admitted to the VA hospital with a surgery scheduled to re-do the reverse shoulder replacement.

To make a long story a bit short, my weakened husband tolerated a horrible experience during his recuperation. Filled with days of fainting and being told ‘he’s dehydrated.’ On the last occasion of his recurring fainting spells, I looked at the nurse and said: “If you tell me he is dehydrated again, I think I will scream. He’s drinking bottles and bottles of water!” She nodded at me. “He’s dehydrated; however, the doctors want to run some tests to see what is causing his dehydration.”

Because I nag Phil to drink water and I give him bottles of water to drink, he should not be dehydrated. A battery of tests was performed on him. All with good results. No heart issues. No brain issues. Apparently all of the medications he consumed [prescribed meds] were fighting with his body. We met with Pharmacology and other doctors. Suggestions were made to stop taking several medications.

About time!

By now, Phil has been away from work for almost three months. Gone were sick leave and vacation dates. We pinched pennies and tightened the family budget so we could survive financially. I am happy to report, Phil is back to work now and he appears to be getting stronger. Since the cruise was non-refundable, we chose to take the cruise and relax a bit. Neither of us cared to do all of the events a cruise ship offers. We wanted and desired some quality time without doctor’s appointments, visits to ER and other headaches we endured during his recovery.

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Begins

And so – on September 3 – September 8, 2016, we cruised on the Carnival Ecstasy. This was our fourth cruise. Twice on Carnival including the Carnival Fantasy and now the Ecstasy. We’ve enjoyed Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruises too, but this cruise was different for us. All I wanted to do was see my husband relax and get stronger. When he had his first surgery we were told he lost four units of blood during the procedure. No wonder he is still pale in the face and so exhausted.

Before we departed the Charleston Harbor I kissed Phil, telling him to relax and have a good time. Occasionally, we ordered drinks, although neither of us could be described as lushes or alcoholics. One thing I can share about cruise ships, they do believe in sharing and encouraging people to drink alcohol. In the mornings…afternoons…and evenings…there is a crew ready and waiting to take your drink orders. While I am not criticizing drinking cocktails or alcohol, beer, and wine, and I do occasionally enjoy a nice glass of wine or an occasional cocktail, early morning cocktails and hangovers are not something I wish to participate in. I confess. I’ve had one hangover in my adult life. I prayed to God that I would survive it, and If I did, I would never get that intoxicated again. I’ve kept that rule!

Curiosity About the Cruise

Since we are home now, I’ve had friends and acquaintances ask me about the cruise ship and if I met Rina Patel. They wanted to know if she was drunk. I have no clue. I did see her in the hallways and on the decks, but for me, it doesn’t matter if she was drinking. I am heartbroken that she either lost her balance or jumped. I still believe she lost her balance and fell. She was on the 11th deck. I cannot criticize someone I do not know. Earlier today someone posted a message for me on Facebook, asking for my personal opinion. “Did she fall, or did she jump?”

I deleted the message. What does matter is she is lost at sea. Three days ago, in the darkness of early morning, something happened to Ms. Patel. My heart breaks for the family. Someone wrote she had a husband, and other family members present on the cruise. In my honest opinion, I have no right to make an opinion. After all, I wasn’t present when she disappeared. When I heard the news at 3:08 am, my heart sank for a moment, wondering what happened. May God give her family strength and guidance during this dreadful time of the unknown.

People ask me what happened. All I know is this, I was sleeping when I heard the broadcast expressing something like this:

At 3:08am, Wednesday, September 7, 2016 – the intercom announced:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a report of a passenger going overboard.”

Additional information was shared, but no mention of the identification of the passenger overboard. Hearing this sad news, I threw the covers back and stood by the ocean view window. I prayed for the passenger and the family. I did not know if the passenger was male or female, and I prayed the passenger would be rescued. While looking out into the ocean, I felt the ocean waters churning in reverse. The ship was backing up. I’ve never felt or noticed a ship going in reverse. Truly an experience I never want to feel again. The waters rolled in a backward motion while Carnival Ecstasy shook almost brutally.

Standing at the window, I saw search lights lighting up the dark of night. Another announcement was broadcast: “Rina Patel please contact Guest Services.” I was curious why guest services would make such an announcement while many of the passengers were sleeping. Maybe Rina Patel is the passenger overboard. At 3:27 am, a lifeboat was lowered. Four crew members were in the boat. Another announcement repeated the message again. “Rina Patel please contact Guest Services.”

Just WHO is Rina Patel and why must she contact Guest Services at 3:27 in the early morning.

I can still see the rescue boat in the waters, moving around and around the area near our ocean view window. The ship appears to be anchored now. We are not moving, only shaking. This ship is trembling from the reality of a passenger overboard. Dear God, please let them find the passenger.

Search lights continue lighting the ocean waters. Ocean waters bubble in reverse, reminding me of boiling water in a pot. White foam dances around the ship as the ship continues shaking. I hear a telephone ringing, realizing it is the room next to us. I hear someone whispering into the phone, obviously, upset and I wonder – is the family of the missing passenger next door to us?

At 4:06am, Guest Services request Rina Patel to please contact guest services. The wheels of my brain are curious now. Obviously, this Rina Patel is not responding to Guest Services. But – Who is Rina Patel, and why isn’t she contacting guest services?

Although I want to dress and rush upstairs to where the search is ongoing, I chose to remain in our room. Phil is sleeping soundly throughout this ordeal. I did not want him to awaken and discover me gone, only to be frightened that I might be the missing person. I could leave him a note, but what if he doesn’t find it?

Exhausted, I fall back to sleep in bed, praying for the missing passenger and the family, including Rina Patel. Something tells me she is the missing passenger.

At 9:00, Phil and I go poolside to get breakfast. Walking along the deck, I see a Coast Guard helicopter. Looking nearby at a window, Carnival Ecstasy is moving forward now. An announcement is made that the Coast Guard has released the ship to travel to Charleston. We are one hour behind arrival time now. “Further details about our arrival will be announced later.”

I pause while standing in line for food, praying a silent prayer for the passenger and the family. The mood appears somber and gloomy while standing in line. No party…party…PARTY or fun times this morning.

May God be with the family today and the additional days until the passenger is found. Arriving home at 9:07 am, I turn the TV on. I send a text to two friends to let them know I will not make our Weight Watchers meeting today. I share the news about the passenger overboard. One friend says she heard the news about the passenger this morning. My response was: “Did they share the name of the person overboard?”

“Yes.” She responds. “Rina Patel, 32-years-old.”

Rina Patel? We heard her name mentioned over the intercom so much. Something told me she was the passenger who fell overboard. Someone mentioned she was arguing with her mother, and then – she disappeared overboard. What a horrible tragedy.

Now two days after coming home, the news reports say the Coast Guard has ended the search. My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this unexpected time of grief. On Facebook, people post remarks saying “she was married and had beautiful children.”

As for my thoughts, it really doesn’t matter what I think. Did Rina Patel fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump? I do not know. I wasn’t a witness. At 2:45 in the morning, I was sleeping, until the intercom interrupted my sleep. My first reaction was something to the effect of: Oh my God. There must be an emergency. I struggled to remember where we would go IF the ship was in danger. I could not remember. After all, I was still half asleep.

Phil and I have been on four cruises. I suppose I could say, three cruises without any drama. One cruise with too much drama.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Rina Patel. What a tragedy.

 

 

 

 

Cruising, Family, Uncategorized

Sad Experience on the Carnival Ecstasy Cruise


We are HOME now from the cruise. Phil and I had a great time, relaxing and enjoying life. We were on the Ecstasy. If you’ve heard about the Carnival Ecstasy — yes, it is true. In the early morning hours of yesterday morning, a passenger fell overboard. The ship had to stop, backing up to search. Search lights were lighting up the oceans like early morning sunrise, only it was 3:08am. From our ocean view window I watched the crew members lowered into an orange rescue boat. Four members were on board, rushing along the waters — searching…searching and searching for the 32-year-old woman. The captain informed us about the passenger falling at 3:08am. He continued keeping us informed until the U S Coast Guard released the ship to head to Charleston. The rescue boat returned to the ship at about 4:27. Four crew members onboard.

Yesterday, after breakfast, we saw the U S Coast Guard searching the waters. My heart breaks for the family. I have a name although I am not certain she was the guest who fell overboard. Guest services broadcast a ladies name requesting her to call guest services. They broadcast her name three times. I will have more material after I research a bit. I could not get the name confirmed, so when I have more news, I’ll share it.

Just confirmed the passenger’s name. Rina Patel, 32-years-old, from New York. So young. So full of life. So sad. While I still pray for a miracle, the reality is to the best of my knowledge at 2:31pm today, she hasn’t been located. Yes, I believe in miracles, and I pray God will grant one for her and her family.

Yesterday was a gloomy day on the ship. People were sharing stories about the incident. Since I am not a gossip and only share after reputable agencies confirm, I will keep her name private. Reportedly, she and her mother were arguing on the 11th deck. Can you imagine? Arguing with your mother, only to fall over board? One can only imagine how her family must feel. Please say prayers that the family will find closure, or perhaps a miracle. Those were deep, dark seas.

After I recuperate a bit, get laundry caught up and review my notes, I will have another story about our experience on the Carnival Cruise Ecstasy. A great journey began with such a sad, tragic ending.

More later!

Cruising, Culinary Cuisine

Carnival Fantasy — Cruising Along On A Rocking Ship!


Hello Readers, and Carnival Fantasy:

Yesterday, I reported briefly about the first bitterly cold day of our cruise. Although it was cold, Phil and I could not check into our room for a bit, so we dragged laptops, cameras and other items around with us. We chose to eat at the Mongolian Wok and Off the Grill where food was plenty along the buffet lines. I was impressed with how clean the buffet area was, choosing to do my best to eat healthy via the Mongolian Wok. After lunch we continued our journey to find our friends and tour the ship. Climbing onto the next level, I found the jogging and walking track and mini-golf.

Carnival Fantasy would not depart until 4pm, so we walked around in hopes to stay warm. Of course my husband is always hot natured so he wasn’t cold. We chose to locate our cabin so we could drop off the personal items we were carrying. Trust me, next time we will not pack laptops. Never did we use them, along with cell phones! This was a nice way to ‘unplug’ for a bit.

I changed from boots to my ShapeUps, deciding to find the walking and jogging track. Believe me, it was cold there. The wind rushed thru my hair, freezing my ears, but I was determined to get a few laps in. Meanwhile, Phil is still trying to find our friends — on a cruise ship loaded with guests, staff and a few children.

After my brutally cold walk, Phil continued leaving voice mails to locate our friends. I heard someone whistling in the distance, looked up and finally — our friends approached!

We were scheduled for early dinner at the Jubilee Dining Room. Jubilee Dining Room resembled an upscale restaurant, with the wait staff dressed in black and white, intimate lighting and soft music. While the ship rocked back and forth, ever so relaxing, I ordered chicken breast — the driest chicken breast I have ever eaten. If memory is correct, Phil ordered a steak or maybe it was prime rib. Nevertheless, it was small. When I saw the prime rib, I could not believe my eyes…. The prime rib was the thinnest prime rib I have ever seen – reminding me of a package of thin deli meat.

On the menu, there was a box with several tempting entrees that I do not recall now. Lesson and note to myself – carry your journal everywhere, even when on a vacation. What I do recall is the entrees listed within the box were an additional $20.00!

As a food and travel writer, I know quite a bit about culinary cuisine. The baked potato our friends ordered was overcooked and dry. Carnival Fantasy could do a much better job with their dinner presentations along with serving sizes and culinary skills! The wait staff was amazing. Never did I have to request a refill of water or decaf coffee. I splurged on the chocolate molten cake, served in a small ramekin dish with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious!

After dinner, we relaxed a bit and went to the Cat’s Lounge. Some critics have reported the Cat Lounge is a smoking lounge. Trust me, no one ever smoked in the lounge while we were there. Nor did I smell the dreadful tobacco aroma in the lounge! As the ship continued to rock back and forth, like a slow-moving swing or rocking chair, we relaxed, enjoying the music of most of the karaoke singers. Of course, I sang although on this night we had a new karaoke DJ who catered to one particular singer I reported about yesterday in my blog post. This singer sang four songs before I was able to sing a second song. And in case you were wondering what I drink before finding the courage to sing??? ‘Water with lots of lemon!’ I am one of the rare animals who loves to hop on a stage and take it over!

What songs did I sing? My signature songs — of course:

At Last, Etta James version
Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles version
Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers

After three songs, I was ready to call it a night, while the ship continued rocking and relaxing me. I do believe this is the most I have relaxed in a long — LONG TIME!

Carnival Fantasy — I hope you change a few things on my next cruise — I am more than certain we will cruise on the Carnival Fantasy again. When? That’s my little secret!

Bon Voyage!

Carnival Fantasy, Cruising

Cruising On The Carnival Fantasy…


Dearest Readers, and Carnival Fantasy:

Yes, it is true. During January 8 – January 13, 2015, my husband and I cruised from Charleston, SC to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas on a bitterly cold day in Charleston. Just picture it, if you will. Packing for the cruise, I listened to the weather forecast in Charleston and the Bahamas. The forecast for Charleston on the morning we boarded the ship was a whopping — 19 degrees! Yes, you read correctly — 19 degrees with a bitterly cold wind! The forecast for the Bahamas was 72 degrees.

Dressed in a turtle neck with long sleeves, a tunic, a scarf, sweater and leggings, I slipped my gorgeous fake fur coat on, along with mittens. I was certain once I boarded the ship I would change into appropriate resort clothing for the cruise. I did not!

Walking on the ship, I shivered. The ship was so cold. I asked an employee of the cruise line why it was so cold on the ship. He smiled. “Carnival Fantasy does not have heat on board.”

Br-r-r-r! I remained dressed for Alaska, or New England!

Did we enjoy the cruise? Well…let’s just say, Carnival Fantasy chose to change a few things during the cruise.

WHAT CHANGED?

Mainly, the singing competition. Since Carnival Fantasy departs from Charleston, I have several friends who cruise on this ship on a yearly basis. I was told to make certain that I sign up for the singing competition. When I inquired about it at guest services, I was told the singing competition had been cancelled — due to — the FOOTBALL game!

“You mean to tell me that I’ve paid for a cruise where I planned to enter the competition only to watch a football game?”

I should’ve stayed at home! Perhaps that set the mood for me at Carnival Fantasy; however, since this ship departs from Charleston on a regular basis, my husband and I will probably cruise on it again in the future — that is — when it is warm enough to cruise on a ship without heat!

CARNIVAL FANTASY NEEDS TO IMPROVE, OR REMODEL A FEW THINGS…

Such as Cats Lounge where karaoke was held. Cats Lounge is decorated with gigantic Campbell’s Soup Can memorabilia, and the stage consists of a gigantic Goodyear tire — with only a slight step where the performer (excuse me, karaoke singer) must EVER SO CAREFULLY step onto the thin tire edge of the stage. I wore boots, making it a big difficult to step on to the stage. My recommendation for Carnival Fantasy is to modify this stage – considering those who wear high heels and boots. Otherwise, someone will fall – and perhaps get a free cruise — due to injuries!

The sound system on the first night of the cruise was a bit off. Fortunately, an engineer climbed on to the stage to adjust the sound and all was better. Of course, I sang — several songs on the first night. The DJ, Adien, gave me a small Carnival Fantasy trophy. How nice! On the next evening, we had a new DJ. Although he tried to please the entire audience, he appeared to favor one singer – over and over again. Yes, his voice was a good voice, reminding me of Lou Rawls, and I listened with delight while wondering just WHEN I would sing again. This large, a bit disabled guy who entered Cats Lounge on a mobilized scooter, amazed me how he could get on stage! Remember, the stage is not exactly safe, nor is it meeting any ADA [American Disability Act] guidelines. Maybe they are exempt from these guidelines since they are a cruise ship. I confess, each time this man got on the stage I held my breath, and each time I stumbled wearing boots on the stage, I held my breath — since I am a bit clumsy!

I will have more details later about our cruise — along with photographs to share, but for now, I must complete my work out and get busy with this day.

Will I go back to Carnival Fantasy? Probably yes — only this time, I will inquire about the events, along with the cancelled events. PLEASE CARNIVAL FANTASY – don’t cancel an event due to football again. Guests can watch football at home!