Cruise Archive · 2004 Review
Parrothead Cruise 2004 - Down to the Banana Republics
By Mark and Sandy Springer
"Twenty years from now you will be
more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the
ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the
safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain
“Explore. Dream. Discover.” Can anything
sum up a Parrothead Cruise better than that? But let’s begin
from the beginning. Eons ago, gases formed and molecules were
created. Fish began to walk upright and crawl from the sea …
well, maybe that’s too far back! Actually, it seems like
eons now since March 19 finally crawled across the calendar and
Sandy and I boarded a flight from wintry Indianapolis to sunny
Ft. Lauderdale and our FIRST CRUISE – Down to the Banana
I should preface my preface by saying that Sandy
has lived the better part of her life on one coast or the other,
has spent time sailing with some of America’s Cup finest,
and we were married on an eighteenth century style schooner in
Key West. But, other than having been deemed seaworthy through
matrimony, my main association with the open seas (and sea legs)
has been watching “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”
as a kid. I hoped that wouldn’t become the theme of this
excursion, or that I would be hooked to a Dramamine IV drip the
All doubts and worries were dispelled very quickly.
It was a lovely cruise – from beginning to end.
At the urging of our friends and fellow PHINdy (Parrot
Head Club of Indianapolis) members, Joe and Giena Wong, we stayed
at the Marina Marriott on Friday and were able to enjoy the pre-cruise
party and meet some of the veteran cruisers. That was a great
experience, as was finding Internet access in the hotel’s
Business Center the following morning and scoring tickets to BOTH
of Jimmy’s Indy shows (July 6 and 8) as soon as they went
on sale. We felt the PH Gods were with us.
The shuttle bus arrangement from the Marriott to
Port Everglades was an excellent “no worries” touch,
and despite some unforeseen delays at port, still much better
than trying to talk a cab driver into an “around the corner”
fare. We heard from fellow cruisers that the Carnival check-in
lines were unusually long, but having no real point of reference
(translated, naïve), we just enjoyed hanging out with fellow
Parrot Heads in the sunshine.
Walking aboard the Carnival Legend (after the first
of many “obligatory” photo sessions, of course) was,
for us, like boarding the Starship Enterprise. “Sensory
overload” best described the effect of the visual stimulation
of colored lights from the casino and hallways, experiencing a
minor trampling by veteran cruisers who clearly understood the
layout of the ship and were proceeding efficiently to their cabins,
and the gentle sway of gravity and waves beneath our feet that
reminded us we had just stepped off terra firma.
There is very little that could be termed “understated”
aboard the Legend. Architecture is artwork on this ship, and all
in a grand fashion. We were impressed and overwhelmed almost simultaneously.
We navigated enchanted forests and theaters, bars and pools with
giant sculptures standing guard, and long inviting decks and lifeboats
as we meandered to the place we would call home for the next eight
days. However, upon arriving at our cabin and finding a working
television, I felt grounded again (as was my NCAA Basketball Pool
by then, too, by the way).
We stepped out onto our balcony (which quickly became
Sandy’s favorite spot on the ship) and watched the flurry
of activity below. At times it looked like someone broke the glass
in an ant farm – chaos, but organized chaos, at least! It’s
an amazing logistical exercise to move that much “stuff”
in such a relatively short amount of time. After studying our
ship map for several moments, we decided to visit the Unicorn
Café on the Lido Deck and see what this “buffet”
thing was all about. We just sampled, knowing it would be a long
A walk up, down, and around the Legend followed.
I won’t bore readers with the particulars – tonnage,
speed, length, width, girth, pounds of potatoes brought on board,
etc., as that’s been touched upon in several excellent reviews
already (and plus we have so much more to bore you with anyway!!).
We made reconnaissance trips to all the restaurants, lounges,
and other drinking spots, and made the obligatory run on the jogging
track, before heading down to the Firebird Lounge for the welcome-aboard
Tropical music, loud shirts, people with exotic-looking
drinks in their hands … as Sandy exclaimed, “At last
we found something normal!!” The Chinese Auction featured
a bevy of great prizes (we didn’t win anyway, but it was
fun to try!) and the mood was nicely set for the rest of the day’s
When we returned to our cabin, we found the first
of many amenities from Brent and Stella waiting for us (we won’t
spoil the surprise here for any future cruisers who might join
us) … are we a bunch of spoiled Parrot Heads or what? We
passed “muster” at the muster drill (Sandy thought
the bright safety colored orange vest was a good look for her
and threatened to wear it all week) and then it was time to break
out the suitcase full of door decorations for that little project.
Sandy is probably the most creative person I’ve ever met,
and the time and energy she spent on our door was impressive even
to a curmudgeon like me. And it made for great hallway tours throughout
the week to see what lengths our fellow cruisers went to in this
pursuit. But, was putting those decorations up ever hungry work!?!?
Oh, look, time for dinner!
Our tablemates, Karl and Margie Ott and Karl’s
mother, Irene (although she’s “Mom” to us and
most of the other PH cruisers) were the best and it made us really
look forward to 8:15 each evening. We exchanged greetings on the
first night, anecdotes from the Day at Sea during the next dinner,
and then shared stories of life’s adventures, loves, and
losses on every night after that. Essentially, the Ott family
as well as many other Parrot Head families moved from being strangers
to becoming family at lightning speed that week, and we treasure
the time we spent with them.
I think most would agree that Carnival provides menus varied and
eclectic enough for any taste throughout cruise week. (Just ask
Sandy about the snails!?!?) And on most evenings after dinner,
or following that night’s pub crawl, you could usually find
a group of Parrot Heads on the fantail for an after-dinner drink
(or two). What a way to end the day!
Now, before this begins to rival “War and
Peace” in length, let me just touch upon a FEW of the highlights
of Cruise Week, rather than my Dear Diary entries of “Ate
Breakfast. Lounged in the Sun. Boat drinks! More sun, oh, wait,
more lounging, too. Time for Lunch! Sun Screen!! Nap-time. Which
photo do we buy today? Look at that sunset! Dinner-time already!
Does this toga make my ass look big?? What’s a good after-dinner
• Sunsets on the water. Our state room balcony
was well-used throughout the week, whether to watch the sun melt
into the horizon (where’s that green flash?); spy distant
shores and watch the world go by (is that Cuba?); or just watch
the flying fish and dolphins try to keep up with us.
• Party with a Purpose! It makes us proud to know that –
in the midst of all the phun and revelry – we were part of
an effort that generated thousands of dollars for such as a good
cause as breast cancer research. I’m sure that anyone who
has lost a loved one to this insidious disease feels the same. The
number of folks who gave so much of their time -- whether it was
through the Chinese Raffle, the 50/50, Silent Auction and, most
importantly, the generosity of Brent and Stella and Brent, Jr. –
is a true blessing. And it’s just another reason we are proud
to be Parrot Heads! You guys rule!
• Explore. Dream. Discover. As much phun as the days at sea
were, it was such a treat to visit places that we’ve read
about over the years. The Mayan Ruins and manatees in Belize, the
banana plantations and monkeys in Costa Rica, the Panama Canal and,
of course, the pirate paradises of Captain Morgan in Portobello
were all extraordinary sites.
• Family! Joe and Giena Wong have told us that the PH Cruise
is like a family reunion for them, and we now know what they meant.
It doesn’t matter where we sail, or where we go, we’re
looking forward to seeing our new family next year – and hopefully
at events throughout the year. What a great way to celebrate a family