Cruise Archive · 2003 Review

Parrothead Cruise 2003 - Travel on the Songlines
A long winded "How I spent my Spring Break" by Pat Semrow
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It all started when the Atlanta Parrothead Club decided to sponsor Parrothead Cruise 1999, "Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise" on Premier Cruise Line's SS IslandBreeze. Forty seven intrepid Parrothead cruisers showed up, partied, had a blast, and made some money for charity.

For 2000 they decided to do an encore. That year 119 Parrotheads boarded the beautiful Costa Victoria for Parrothead Cruise 2000, "I Wanna Go Back, to the Islands." Besides raising money for the March of Dimes, they had an incredibly good time and forged traditions that still go on today.

For Parrothead Cruise 2001, "A Phlocking Odyssey" (my first year) 146 Parrotheads boarded the majestic new Carnival Victory for a fantastic week in the western Caribbean. Again partying, making new phriends, eating, touring, snorkeling, and more partying, and raising money for the March of Dimes.

For Parrothead Cruise 2002, "Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads," 196 Parrotheads embarked on an eastern Caribbean voyage aboard the Carnival Triumph, sister ship to the Victory. On that trip we did some new things, like a party on the beach in front of Parrothead Pam Dolson's house on the island of St. John, and bringing our own Parrothead band aboard the ship. Thanks Pam and thanks Latitude. We also raised $2,500 for breast cancer research.

This finally brings us to Parrothead Cruise 2003, "Travel on the Songlines." Wow. Where do I start? Along with 249 other Parrotheads, Cathi and I sailed on the gorgeous Carnival Spirit to the tropical southern Caribbean islands of St. Maarten, Barbados, and Martinique.

The Spirit is the first of the new Spirit class of ships. She's 963 feet long with a beam of 106 feet and displaces 88,500 tons of water. She has twelve public decks and cruises at 22 knots, with a staff of 930 people to keep things running smoothly. On this ship 80% of the staterooms have an ocean view, and of them, 80% have private balconies, so you can toast the sunset or watch as the ship enters and leaves port from your own private area. She also has a two level promenade for shopping, lounging, gambling, or even bar hopping at some of her thirteen (I think) bars.

As for the bars, they have the best entertainment of the six cruises I've been on. The Shanghai Piano Bar and Club Cool were great, but my favorite was the singer in the Spirit Lobby. How can such a sweet little thing sound so much like Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Nicks; and then turn around and do Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, and Willie Nelson so well? The showroom entertainment on cruise ships keeps getting better all of the time. This year, the shows that we made it to in the lavish, three level Pharaoh's Palace were excellent. Las Vegas style shows every night, with singing, dancing, comedy, magic, and juggling. I especially liked the late night comedians. They're more in sync with my bedroom sense of humor.

As for dining, there's a deli, a 24hr pizzeria, two burger grills, a salad bar, a rotisserie, Taste of Nations international food, an Asian buffet, a coffee bar, and ice cream parlors. Of course there's also the beautiful Empire Restaurant and the reservations-only Nouveau Supper Club. We didn't make the Nouveau Supper Club, but I'll give a top rating to all the rest. Even the chili-dogs were tops, and that's something I'm very picky about.

With all this food and all the bars, it's nice to know that there's a jogging track, gymnasium, weight machines, and a spa. Of course I'd rather relax by the pool and get tan and fat. Hey, it's vacation after all. Too much fun and sun for awhile? Then go back to your cabin and watch a just released movie, or take a nap listening to the exclusive music channel "Parrothead Cruise Radio", which featured the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker, and A1A.

Ok, you've had a short course in Parrothead Cruise history and learned some of the things that you can do on a cruise. Now you may wonder, "What does a person do on a Parrothead Cruise?" I'm glad you asked. I'll tell you how this year's extravaganza went for the two of us. Remember, this is a Parrothead Cruise so some memories might not be too clear.

Saturday: Board the Spirit and get in the spirit. Before we did anything else we sat down, relaxed, and had our traditional first piña colada in Spirit Lobby as we watched people board the ship and watched the glass elevators make their continuous trips up and down the atrium. After our traditional first drink, we checked out our stateroom, caught our first shipboard meal in the La Playa Grille, and then made our way to the Fantail Bar for the "Parrothead Welcome Aboard Rendezvous." Here we met new phriends and got reacquainted with old phriends. Lots of newly weds among the old phriends. I guess these cruises are good for the romantics among us. As we mingled we bought our 50:50 raffle tickets and Chinese Auction tickets. Oh well, I never win but the money goes to a good cause. This year we raised $5,000 for breast cancer research and money for some other causes as well.

After the Chinese Auction we grabbed our life jackets for the mandatory muster drill, after which we headed back to our private balcony, popped open our champagne and toasted "Bon Voyage" as the Spirit left Miami and sailed off into the sunset. After watching the beautiful sunset we finally took time to unpack and to decorate our stateroom door. You can always tell a Parrothead's cabin by the colorful door (kind of like his clothing).

Now it's time to relax. No, it's time to head down to the Empire Restaurant to meet our tablemates and make new good phriends. After dinner it's off to the Spirit Lobby to have a drink and start the "Pub Crawl". Here we toured about half of the bars and lounges on the Spirit. It was kind of interesting that "Margaritaville" was playing as we approached each pub. Good job Brent! We finally settled in the Shanghai Piano Bar and sang along until we retired in the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday: Our first relaxing day at sea. We started out by having breakfast on our private balcony so we could watch the ocean and flying fish as we dined. Now that is relaxing in style. After breakfast, we lounged in the sun, explored the ship, had a couple boat drinks, and then did a little shipboard shopping. Such a strenuous morning sure works up an appetite so Cathi and I wandered though a couple buffets, decided where we wanted to sit, and again dined as we watched the ocean go by. After lunch it was Parrothead PHingo at the Fantail Bar. Then time to relax before getting dressed for our first formal dinner.

Formal dinner is a little different with a bunch of Parrotheads. You might see a beautiful gown with palm tree earrings or a dress suit with a parrot tie. At dinner, no one at our table could seem to decide upon an entrée, so quite a few of us ordered two. Before the prime rib and lobster even had time to think about settling, it was time to meet in The Champion's Bar and start, "Pub Crawl II - The Sequel." Like last night, Jimmy Buffett music was playing as we entered every pub. Once we finished all the stops of the night we again picked our favorite and partied 'til the wee hours. Another option for this night was to catch a show in the Pharaoh's Palace and catch up with the Pub Crawl later on.

Monday: Another relaxing, take-it-easy kind of day, with a few games of cribbage thrown in while we lounged by the pool and watched the ship's version of "Survivor." The day was just so laid back until after dinner when, "BAM!", A1A performed their first concert for us. Jeff and Koney put on a great show and promised to try to out do it at the next one.

Tuesday: We made it to our first port of call, picturesque St. Maarten. At 8:00, four of us were supposed to meet up with some friends on the island so they could show us the sights, the scenic beaches, and take us shopping. Not! Our friends weren't on the island that day, but that's alright because there were seven other ships in port and it took until almost 11:00 to get ashore. Once ashore, we made the best of our short time there. We headed straight to the nearest beer stand, which happened to be right on the edge or the pier. With beer in hand, we went shopping. First stop: Cuban cigars. Second Stop: a lighter.(duh) Third stop: t-shirts, souvenirs, and hot sauce (my food staple) Fourth stop: more beer. Do you see a pattern starting? After a couple hours of this torrid pace we decided to relax at one of the many beach bars. There we met other Parrotheads, took pictures, and helped a young local lad chase a famous TV personality. (Well, it did look like the gecko from the insurance commercial.)

When it was finally time to return to the ship, we strolled along the beach back to the pier. This is when we became aware of the "St. Maarten Tender Fiasco of 2003." There were only three tenders to take over 2000 people back to the ship. The line seemed to have no end, so a few of us more intelligent Parrotheads decided to sit at one of the balcony bars, drink piña coladas, wait for the line to get shorter, and get even more intelligent. Once we got in line we still ended up making a few trips back to the pier-side beer stand. (Hey, beer was cheaper than water.) Some people complained about the line but our group of Parrotheads found it to be another excuse to party in the sun.

Once we were back on the ship we freshened up and headed to the private Parrothead "¡Champagne Si, Aqua No!" party before dinner. After dinner we caught part of a show and headed back to our cabins for a fairly early night.

Wednesday: Our second port of call was Barbados, one of my favorite vacation destinations. Cathi and I did a little shopping. I had to buy Bajan hot sauce. Then we took some lighthouse pictures before heading to the Boatyard beach bar for the Parrothead beach party. At the Boatyard we met up with the rest of the Parrotheads, listened to A1A, and partied like Parrotheads do. Wow. What a band and what a party. I wish I had the whole thing on film. Jeff was right; A1A did top Monday night's show. They played from 3:00 until 9:00, and believe me, at 9:00 it was really time to head back to the ship. Once back on the Spirit we caught a snack, and from our balcony we watched as the ship left beautiful Barbados behind. After a strenuous day of partying it seemed to be a good night to crash early, so we did.

Thursday: Our final port of call, the lush tropical paradise of Martinique. For some reason everyone seemed to want a slow relaxing day on Martinique. Four of us rented a taxi and went sight seeing. We went through the rain forest on our way to the DaPaz Rum Distillery. This time it wasn't hot sauce that I bought. After the distillery we saw the ruins from the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee, which destroyed the city of St. Pierre and killed all but one of St. Pierre's 29,000 inhabitants. It was interesting to see how St. Pierre is rebuilt, right on top of the old ruins. After St. Pierre it was back to the ship and goodbye to Martinique.

Well, it was goodbye for most of the people on the Spirit. Two young men whose names should remain anonymous were a little late for the ship's departure. The Captain waited for a while but finally had to depart. As we watched from the Fantail deck, who shows up but Paul and Austin (so much for anonymity) begging for the ship to come back while people waved goodbye from the ship. We left them behind, but Carnival Cruise Lines lined up a hotel in Martinique, flights to Miami, and two nights lodging in Miami Beach. Not that bad of a deal for two guys their age. I'm glad I don't have to pay their dad's credit card bill.

On board the Spirit we all dressed up in our best formal togas for the toga party and parade to dinner. Boy, every year the togas get more lavish and colorful. I still smile just thinking about the colors and prints, not to mention shark hats, crab hats, leis, beads, and other paraphernalia. After dinner it was more partying in our togas. We sure got a lot of stares, smiles, and thumbs up. I think by the end of the night, absolutely everyone on board the Spirit had finally noticed the Parrotheads.

Friday: This was the first totally relaxing day we'd had in a while so we did our best. Again it was breakfast on our balcony, relaxing in the sun, a crossword puzzle (way too much thinking), a few games of cribbage, a few boat drinks, a nap, etc, etc, all day long.

After dinner though, it was A1A trying to out do themselves again. Was it the band or was it the Parrotheads? I'm not sure, but if you question how the evening went, you can check out the pictures and decide how lead singer Jeff Pike looks on stage in his underwear. After the concert it was up to the Fantail deck for a musical jam and to party until sunrise, and maybe, accidentally, drop a bottle of wine and stain the teak wood deck.

Saturday: The last day of a cruise always has a sad note in the background. It's the day that you want to do everything that you haven't done yet, because you know that tomorrow you have to leave that wonderful ship. So what did we do? We did what we learned we were good at. We relaxed on the sun deck with our new phriends. We discussed what we'd done and what we wanted to do yet. We discussed what we liked and didn't like about the cruise. (Liked = Everything, Didn't like = Nothing) Then we got to see something I'd never seen before up close as the ship passed within twenty five yards of a water spout. Of course after a water spout you get a doozy of a rain storm, so we all ran for cover. When the rain slowed down, we decided to play shuffleboard on the wet deck. The game sure changed as the deck slowly dried. By the time we finished our game it was time to head back to our cabin to take down our decorations and start packing to leave.

At our final dinner it was time to say goodbye to and take pictures of our waiter and busboy. After dinner we shared a boat drink or two with some of our new found phriends, but skipped the "Lovely Cruise Bon Voyage" in the Shanghai Piano Bar. Then we sadly went back to our cabin to catch a movie and a good night's sleep before Sunday's disembarkation.

Sunday: "Hey Norman Paperman, It's Time to Go Home." This was the day that we didn't want to arrive. After breakfast we exchanged addresses and phone numbers with our new phriends, said good bye to everyone and said that unfortunately we would have to miss the 2004 cruise. Then, because we had late flights, we signed up for a Miami shore excursion. Of course, we missed our excursion, so four of us got our money back and took a cab to the airport, where we broke out a bottle of DaPaz rum and sat around drinking rum and cokes and playing cribbage until, sadly, it was time to take off to the Great White North.

This was the first year that we had winter coats when we arrived in Wisconsin after a Parrothead Cruise, so of course this was the first year that we didn't have a winter storm when we arrived in Wisconsin after a Parrothead Cruise. We had coats, but no luggage, but that's another story.

It doesn't need to be said again, but it really was a "Lovely Cruise." Thank you Brent and Stella, Brent Jr., Andy, Patty, Tim, Trish, Steve, Teresa, George, Barbara and everyone that made this vacation so much fun.

By the way, on Sunday, March 16 we told everyone that we would not see them next year on the cruise. On Tuesday, March 18 we decided that on March 20, 2004 we will be on the Carnival Legend sailing to Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama and "spending our renegade pesos on a bottle of rum and a lime" as Parrothead Cruise 2004 goes "Down to the Banana Republics"!

See ya next year,

Pat



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