Cruise Archive · 2001 Review

A Visit to Margaritaville
by Pam Cackler

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On March 4, 2001, my husband Jeff and I set sail with 142 other Parrotheads on the gorgeous Carnival Victory to explore “those little latitudes”. It was the adventure of a lifetime for us, but I will start at the beginning, almost one year prior to that date.

In late March of 2000, I received an e-mail from a Parrothead phriend from Cincinnati suggesting that I check out the Atlanta Parrothead website, which was advertising an upcoming 7-day cruise. I had previously corresponded with this phriend regarding the number of events, clubs and concerts available to Parrotheads throughout the Midwest and east coast, and lamenting the lack of such things available to us in a small town such as Wenatchee, so she thought I might be interested in checking this one out. I am forever in her debt.

We looked at the photos of previous cruises posted on the website, the itinerary and plans for the March 2001 cruise, and within minutes made up our minds that even if we had to take out a second mortgage we would find a way to do this.

During our year of planning, the great folks at the Atlanta Parrothead Club made sure we were kept up to the minute with information on everything-- from what to pack to “smuggling tips” for getting the required “attitude adjustment products” aboard in our luggage (Carnival Cruises has a policy prohibiting guests from bringing liquor aboard).

We left Wenatchee on Friday, March 2 to overnight in Seattle and fly out at 6:00 AM Saturday, March 3. We arrived in Miami at around 5:00 PM local time and were taken to our hotel. Most of the rest of the Parrothead group had an outing planned that evening in Miami, but in the interest of being fully coherent the next day for our departure, we opted to forego that one night.

Sunday morning we were picked up by Carnival and taken to the ship, where the embarkation process went very smoothly. A few details about the ship—The Carnival Victory is the newest ship in Carnival’s fleet, having made her maiden voyage only last October. She is 893 feet long, with a beam of 116 feet and has 14 decks, 4 pools, and 18 bars! We settled into our balcony stateroom on the Panorama deck, next to the top, where we found that the travel agent who booked the cruise had provided us with a complimentary bottle of champagne. Shortly thereafter, we rendezvoused with the rest of the Parrotheads who were holding a very subdued (HA!) “welcome aboard” party on the Lido deck aft, near the pool. We were given our ID tags, and the phun began.

Monday was a day at sea, during which we began to explore the ship (and try to remember our way back to our stateroom), got better acquainted with some of the others, tested various boat drinks, and sunned. My husband participated, along with two other Parrotheads, in the men’s “hairy chest contest”, scoring a 9 out of ten, but alas, only coming in tied for second place.

Monday night was the Captain’s cocktail party and formal dinner. All of the Parrotheads were seated together and we took up the entire center section of the main dining floor. That night I dined on lobster, mushroom risotto, and a great Chardonnay. After dinner, the phun continued, when the Parrotheads assembled for the “pub crawl” which was a progressive trip from one bar to the next throughout the ship. We paused in the main promenade, where the guitar player knew a few Buffett tunes, and we kicked all of our shoes into a pile in front of the stage and entertained the rest of the guests with singing and a conga line through the casino. This was the first of many occasions during the cruise when we were asked “Who are you guys and how do I sign up to join you?!”

Tuesday found us in Cozumel, Mexico. The group had planned a catamaran snorkel trip, which was unfortunately canceled by the operator due to water conditions. Undeterred by this minor setback, our intrepid leader, Brent Jones of the APHC, knew that “plan B was foolproof” and directed us to a beach club about 5 miles out of town. We all loaded up in taxis and spent the better part of the day on the beach, where for $25 we had all we could drink, use of the beach and pool, kayaks, hammocks, and of course music. By this time, most of the Parrothead men had had their toenails painted (including my usually conservative husband) – 5 different colors, one for each toe – by some of the Parrothead women. The big toe even had polka dots. A few eyebrows were raised. That night we all went to Carlos and Charlie’s Bar in town for dinner and more phrolicking.

Wednesday was another day at sea. Most of us again retired to the aft pool area, where we hung the Margaritaville Tequila banner, the Conch Republic Flag, and my very own parrot banner around the bar and pool area just to warn any trespassers what they were in for. There was singing, dumping of ice buckets on each other, and a somewhat laid back beach ball volleyball game (all participants lying in chaise lounges).

Wednesday evening was perhaps the highlight of the trip as far as the parties went. Prior to departure, the cruise organizers had set up Wednesday as “toga night” . We were all e-mailed, requesting us to make togas or bring our most outrageous Parrothead attire, which we would wear to dinner in the formal dining room that evening. And oh, what an entrance we made! There were 144 of us, dressed in everything from coconut bras and grass skirts to incredibly loud tropical print togas, with every variety of head gear. We marched in as a group, entering on the upper level of the dining room and circling down the staircase to the main floor. More than a few mouths dropped! After dinner we joined the dining room waitstaff in a huge conga line and snaked through the room. We were definitely the people their parents warned them about.

Thursday we arrived in Grand Cayman. The group went on various different shore excursions, including a tour of the island with stops in Hell (yes, that is the name of the town) and snorkeling among the sting rays at Sting Ray City. Some of the group also went scuba diving. Upon our return to the ship, we were treated to a “free champagne party put on by our hosts”—Brent Sr. and Stella Jones. Brent Sr. and Stella own a cruise travel agency and are the parents of the aforementioned Brent Jones, our sterling cruise organizer from the APHC. Both Jeff and I are extremely grateful to all of them for all that they did to make this a fabulous trip. They spared no expense to treat us—including this cocktail party with wonderful hors d’oeuvres and boat drinks.

Friday we arrived in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Again the group went on various shore excursions. Jeff and I opted for a relaxing bamboo raft trip down the Martha Brae River. The river runs through a 400 year old Spanish sugar plantation which is now abandoned. Relics of what once was, including old sugar cane processing machinery and a cemetery, are on both sides of the river and are easily visible as you float down the stream. The banks are lined with bamboo, breadfruit, and African tulip trees, some complete with hanging orchids. It was a beautiful trip.

Saturday was our last day at sea, en route back to Miami. Again, most of us opted for the relaxation of the pool area. Toward the end of the afternoon, we availed ourselves of the Jacuzzis next to the pool, stuphing as many Parrotheads as possible into them while consuming the boat drink of the day. Oh, and of course, singing! I learned some new songs this trip, most of which I will not sing to my mother……..

To leave our fellow cruisers with a last fond memory of us, Saturday night at dinner was bathrobe night. Carnival provides big fluffy white terrycloth bathrobes in each cabin for the guests, so we all donned them and wore them to dinner. It was a nice finishing touch.

Sunday, alas, we got up, said a sad farewell to new phriends and headed for home. Would I go again? Can you give me 5 minutes to pack?

Again, Atlanta Parrothead Club, and especially Brent Jones Sr., Stella Jones, and Brent Jr. deserve a huge amount of thanks for making it all come off without a hitch and for being so gracious to us Pacific Northwesterners, even if we do talk funny. We truly had “a lovely cruise”!

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