Live (not) From the Horizon – It’s… Groundhog Day

The clock radio clicked over to 6:00AM.

The music started blaring out Sonny & Cher::

Then put your little hand in mine
There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb

Babe...

I got you babe.

Then the Cap-i-tan came on the intercom and said…

Ok campers… rise and shine… and don’t forget your flip-flops and sunscreen… it’s hot out there. Will the palm trees see their shadows? We’ll see because it’s…

GROUNDHOG DAY (* 1 *)

Ok… that wasn’t exactly it. Instead, we woke up to “Donkey” telling us there was no special wait to get to the tenders going to… Half Moon Cay. That’s right… we sailed around the middle of the ocean all night and then we came right back.

Hummmm… “Donkey.” That’s what the “Cruise Director” on this cruise calls himself. (I think the correct title these days is Entertainment director or something like that.) Anyway…, I have to ask you… what self-respecting person would call himself “Donkey”… and say it proudly… unless you are Eddie Murphy in a cartoon movie. I think someone once said he reminds you of Eddie Murphy’s character, Donkey. Still… I can’t understand why he would take on that nickname. Donkey????

But I digress. Today we’re at Half Moon Kay… again. We were supposed to go to Bimini, but that was canceled. In fact, this cruise was originally to be a “Western Caribbean” cruise going to Ocho Rios, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. But COVID restrictions caused those stops to be canceled well before the cruise began. We were never told why Bimini was canceled. So, last night we drove around in the ocean. Then this morning we came back and parked again at Half Moon Cay.

Maribeth again snagged the same Villa we had yesterday… now nicknamed Villa Nuthouse. Today was much easier getting off the boat. I think the crew, both on the Horizon and tender operators, improved from yesterday. Also, they were not charged by the hordes of folks getting off the ship.

We did mostly the same stuff as yesterday… hung out at Villa Nuthouse and spend time in the ocean. This time I spent a lot more time in the water. I got some videos with my GoPro and I’ll post some when I get back.

Unlike yesterday, today was a short day ashore. The last tender back to the ship was at 1:30 PM. We wanted to avoid the rush, so we left about noon. There was no problem getting right on the tender as there were far fewer people ashore.

Once back onboard, it was two Ferengie burgers and a frozen concoction to help me hang on… and then another frozen concoction.

After lunch we headed to the spa. But it was a full house and the waiting room was full too. So, we ended up going to the Pig & Anchor to hang out. They make a specialty Bloody Mary there, so even though it was the afternoon we gave it a try… patooooyyyyyyy. No thanks… I’ll stick to something else.

While I’m on the subject of patoooyyyyy drinks, since I had the booze package, I tried a different specialty drink every evening in the dining room. Patooooyyyyy. After last night I give up. I’ll stay with some concoction made by Senior Parton.

Tonight will be one more evening in the Piano Bar with Eden. I have enjoyed every night in there with him and friends. I just wish the facility was more like the rest of Carnival’s piano bars.

It will be an early night tonight because tomorrow we get back to Miami. I hate having to be out of the cabin by “0h my god it’s too early.” Ok… for some folks having to be out of the cabin by 08:30 may be okay. But for me, that means I can’t spend till the wee hours of the morning with friends and Senior Patron.

That’s all for GROUNDHOG DAY. I’ll post a wrap-up and video in a few days. Now it’s time for me to go find Senior Patron

(* 1 * ) For the three people who have never seen the movie “GROUNDHOG DAY” here’s a couple of trailers and a link to get the video:

This is the original 1993 trailer to Groundhog Day

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For many of us, many of 2020’s days were like Groundhog Day. This is the clip of the making of the 2020 Jeep commercial.

Click Here if you want to rent or buy the movie:

Live (not) from The Carnival Horizon – Day 5

As you know, this is not really a “live from.” It has been a few days since I got back from the cruise. However, this is as I wrote it (mostly) while I was on board. I hope it still tells you about the cruise as I experienced it.

This morning we pulled into Half Moon Cay. This little island is one of Carnival Corporation’s private islands. Going to one of the cruise lines’ private islands means another beach day. For me, living in the Northernmost Caribbean, I’m spoiled by the best beaches in the world. So ordinarily, another beach day becomes another “Fun Day at Sea”. But this was no ordinary cruise and so it was no ordinary beach day.

View of Half Moon Cay from the top floor of the Villa “Cruise Mom” had for her customers.

The world-famous Maribeth of Cruise Mom Cruises (the absolutely best cruise travel agent in the universe) reserved one of the Villas on the beach. More on this in a minute. First, I have to sing the praises of Maribeth.

I’ve used a lot of travel agents through my adventures and I have to tell you that Maribeth… or just MB… is so far above all the rest, mere words can’t tell you enough. I can only tell you that if you use her for your next cruise, you will never ever go to another travel agent for a cruise.

Cruise Mom Cruises Web site: https://cruisemomcruises.com/

So… rather than another beach day, it was a day with friends munching on the snacks and taking dips in the beautiful water just steps from the villa.

The two story “Villa” is a great place to gather with friends for a day on the beach.

I spent a little time flying my drone around the island… mostly the beach area. I say “little time” because after a few minutes, an “islander” guy wearing a “life guard” floatie thingie around his waist came up to me and said, “no drone.” I don’t know what authority he was acting on, but I complied. Well… after making another pass down the beach and a high altitude look over the island… I compiled… bringing the drone back for a perfect landing at the Villa. I’m sure I got plenty of stuff to make a nice ariel a video once I get back home. Stay tuned

A free lunch is provided on the island. About the only thing I can say about it is the lunch is enough to fill the void until you can bet back on the ship and have a Ferengie burger. There was lots of salad stuff and a couple of mystery meats. The only free drinks were iced tea, lemonade, and dispensed water. If you wanted anything else to drink… sodas, booze, etc. then you have to pay it using your sail & sign card. Note that the “Cheers” package does not work on the island.

I enjoyed the day in the Villa with friends. The water was warm, inviting and crystal clear. While the beach may not be a match for the beaches in the Northernmost Caribbean, it is one of the very best cruise ships go to.

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The Villa

MB invited everyone who booked the cruise through Cruise Mom Cruises to join her at the Villa. No, it wasn’t free, but we all shared the cost. In the end, MB discounted it so that it cost less than if we had gotten the villa ourselves..

The view from the first floor of the Villa.

The villa was a great hang-out. It comes with bottled water, sodas and snacks. The snacks included were finger food sorts of things. We just sorta “chilled” in the villa. It was still hot, even in the shade, so from time to time, we flogged ourselves in the water to cool down. The water was nice and warm warm so I spent a lot of time in there too… with a frozen concoction to help me hang on.

OH… least I forget. The villa has a hot tub. And this one was hot. It was the best hot tub of the cruise. And ummmm… MB really enjoyed it.

It might seem strange to get in a hot tub on a quite warm day, but this was the best hot tub of the cruise… and the jaccuzzi action of the water jets was great!

I should mention that if you don’t get a villa, cabana, or something like that, there is virtually no shade at the beach. There are plenty of beach recliners, but an hour in the sun and you will start to fry. No mater what you do, plenty of sun-block is the order of the day. Also, I was told to take insect repellent… but I didn’t and had no problems with anything,

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The Tender Goat Rope

My earlier fears about a potential “goat rope” getting off and back on the boat would be were borne out today. Half Moon Cay doesn’t have a dock. So… there are “tenders” to take you to and from the island. There is a procedure you have to use if you want to get off the boat before noon.

To get off the boat during “rush hours” between the time we parked (about 7 AM) and noon was you had to go to a designated place and pick up tickets for you and your party. Then you wait somewhere in the ship until your number is called. I didn’t even try to get off early. I knew what that would be like. Besides, I continued to do my duty staying in the Piano Bar until it closed well past midnight and then going for pizza with fellow Piano Bar-barians.

Finally, a Diamond (and I think Platinum) perk came through. Instead of going through the tender ticketing process, Diamond (& Platinum?) folks can go to the mid-ship dining room and wait for the next tender. I didn’t get there until about 10 AM and the hoards had cleared out. It was only a few minutes until we were directed to an elevator to take us to Deck 0.

The tenders were large tenders so it did take some time to get everyone on board. That said, it only took about 25 minutes from the time I arrived at the dining room till we had our feet in the sand on Half Moon Cay.

You could tell on the tender ride to the island that the crew of the tenders was out of practice. While there was nothing unsafe, there seemed a bit of confusion among the crew. Then when we began to dock, the driver had a lot of trouble parking. It may have taken him a dozen attempts to get things lined up correctly.

Getting back to the ship was a similar Goat Rope. Mostly, it was the wait in line before boarding the tender. We left early hoping to avoid the rush and it still took about 45 minutes to board a tender. It was hot.. HOT! The waiting area was poorly controlled, so people cut in line… sorta heading us off at the pass. I don’t know what it may have been like when the hoards headed back to the ship. I suspect the wait was even longer.

I’m sure once the tender operation gets their proficiency back up, things will improve. But… since this ship was only at about 70% capacity, I fear how it might be when at or near 100%. Bring on the goats

Hummmm, I wonder why Carnival Corporation wouldn’t pay for a dock. Hummmm… could it be that shareholders are more important than customers? Naw… Carnival Corporation wouldn’t do that… would they?

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Once back on board we headed for a Ferengie burger… enough to tide us over till dinner. Since the Piano Bar is dark tonight, we are only going to have drinks with friends at the Pig & Anchor. And, I intend to start early tonight on checking my eyelids for leaks.

All in all it was a very nice day on the beach at Half Moon Cay. The water was beautiful, warm, and it was a day I would be happy to do again. We sailed away right on time headed for our nest stop.

Live (not) From The Horizon – Day 3 The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Since it’s a sea day, I decided that now is a good time to do as promised and tell you about the good, bad, and ugly of the cruise. So… this is from my take on the initial day(s). Keep in my mind that this is all very subjective and only my opinion. Opinions are like noses… everyone has one.

Before I go on, I have to say the good far outweighs any of the bad or ugly I’m about to tell you about. WAAAAAY OUTWEIGHS IT!!!  So here goes…

THE GOOD ⁠😎⁠

I hardly need to say this, but being on a cruise again after the long Cootie Bug winter has plastered a smile on my face that will surely be there for all six days (And don’t call me Shirley.) If I hadn’t been carrying all my usual stuff… cameras, computer gear, two GoPos, a video drone, and a partridge in a pear tree… I would have knelt down and kissed the ship. Really… I thought about it.

As far as I could tell, social distancing has been virtually eliminated. The crew are all still wearing masks, but that is almost the only reminder of the Cootie Bugs. Hugs and kisses were everywhere as family and friends met up again. And MB was brought to tears with the happiness of this cruise finally being real.

Mustard Drill ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠ – One new thing I hope they keep is the Mustard Station stuff. To keep hordes of people from being gathered together and passing around Cootie Bugs, you now go to your mustard station any time at your convenience. Starting at first boarding, there are crew members at all of the Mustard stations to give the briefings to a few people at a time. Sometime before sail-away, you are supposed to go to the mustard station for the briefing. It only took a few minutes for mine… no muss, no fuss. More importantly, the bars were not closed, and I didn’t have to stop in the middle of downing a “Funship Special” to go to a mass Mustard Drill. (And despite what you may think… it is M U S T A R D. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

The Pig & Anchor ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠- The Pig & Anchor” has replaced the “Red Frog Pub” as the midship Promenade deck indoor place for snacks and drinks… and a good place to meet. It is an improvement over the Red Frog Pubs because it is larger, has more booths, and has a small but proper stage for entertainers to perform on. (Entertainers for the Red Frog Pubs I’ve been to seem to have been an afterthought with only something stuffed into a corner somewhere.)

While I’m talking about the Pig & Anchor entertainment, there was an excellent husband and wife team, the “AURS POP DUO,” playing there often. While they play at other venues around the ship, they play in the Pig & Anchor most often. They are really good and play a little bit of everything. I think the Pig & Anchor is the best place to catch them because… well… because I like the pub atmosphere of the place.

The Piano Bar ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠ ⁠😎⁠- I almost don’t need to say this, but the Piano Bar is my favorite place to spend my evenings. I don’t mean just a little bit of time, but from 9 PM until I help close it down well past midnight. For about the next nine months, Eden Parker will be on the ship, and he is one of the best Carnival has to offer. (I should mention here that I’m talking about the quality of entertainment and fun in the piano bar… not the facility. I’ll talk about the facility in a minute,)

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THE BAD ⁠⁠🥺⁠

Remember when you boarded the cruise ship, and they used to tell you to “turn off your phone and enjoy…”? And don’t you think it’s rude when someone takes out their phone at the dinner table? I mean, who hasn’t seen the snot-nosed kids who can’t live without their noses stuck down in their phone. Didn’t you want to tell those kids *#### And shut that **** thing off!!!!

Hold that thought…

On the first night when I went to dinner, I didn’t take my phone with me. When I asked the waiter for a menu, he was like a deer in the headlights. He looked around, and with no one close by, he decided to read it to us from his list. In the end, I ordered a… “constanoble with frackin and mellons” along with crisp bumtutti souip for my appetizers and a Frangalee lasagna & ganglion sprouts-n-mymy fish.

Okay… that’s all I understood. The waiter was trying his best, but he went too fast, and all I understood was about every third word of his broken English. So… I used my Bonita companion’s phone and brought up the Carnival Hub app, and found the menu. I was able to order from that. By the way… the Mahi-Mahi fish was dry and fishy. I only ate one bite. The Vegetarian Lasagna was just okay, but that was what I ate. It’s a good thing I ordered two entrees. Of course, the Chocolate Melting Cake was mmmmmm-mmmmmm good!

The moral to the story is, your smartphone is a necessity… don’t leave home (or go to dinner) without it.

In fact, turning off your phone is now a thing of the past. A smartphone is a necessity. That’s right… don’t get on the cruise ship without it. Now everything from the “Fun Times” to the menus in the restaurant is on the phone. Everywhere you go, there are QR codes instead of menus. I get coffee in the morning at the ocean plaza, and the only way to find out if they had a double wizbang-moco-razamataz with a double shot of Irish Magic Elixir was to scan in the QR Code.

There is a tiny bit of good in the new-nose-in-your- phone normal… now there’s no paper. Of course, I’m sure this is another of the ways Carnival is trying to maximize profit over the coming years. At least now your cabin is not bombarded with paper… and a few trees every day are being spared.

Hot (Luke-warm) tubs⁠⁠🥺⁠⁠🥺⁠- One of the things I was looking forward to most for the sail-away was finding a nice hot tub to jump in and watch the world go by… with a Fun Ship Special in my hand. Well, truly hot tubs don’t exist on this ship. I looked… and dipped my toes into every “hot (NOT) tub” on the ship, and the best I could find was luke-warm.

Platinum & Diamond Perks⁠🥺⁠ -. I know this won’t matter to most of ya’ll reading this. Except… it should because if Carnival wants to earn your loyalty… loyalty has to be rewarded. In this case, the Platinum & Diamond perks have been non-existent. There are no boarding privileges. Only Suite passengers seem to get any different treatment when boarding. Everyone else is lumped in together with the hoards.

The Diamond & Platinum perks that used to be found in the cabin are gone too. Also, the cabins are made available on the same schedule as the general population. We were told our cabins would be ready at 1 PM… the same as everyone else. (I should note that I did sneak down and found our cabin was ready about 12:15, so I dumped all my stuff in there.)

Other Platinum/Diamond perks such as the free bottle of water and free dining room drink (morning Bloody Mary) are missing too. We’ll see if any “lovely parting gifts” show up later in the cruise.

No bars after midnight⁠🥺⁠⁠⁠🥺⁠ ⁠⁠🥺⁠ – A serious deficiency for us night owls is that there are no bars open late night. You can’t even get a soda or bottle of water after midnight, let alone a frozen concoction to help you hang on. The only place you can order anything is in the casino. However, they have removed the bar from the casino and replaced it with more of the super-wiz-bang gambling machines to make more money for the casino. To get a drink there, you have to wait for one of the wait staff to come around, take your order, and then disappear while you wait for them to return. Estimates on the time to get a drink is anywhere from 20 minutes to never. (This one would be classified in the ugly with a poop emoji, but it can easily be fixed and since Carnival never misses a trick to make money, I suspect it will be fixed soon.)

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The Ugly ⁠💩⁠

Elevators⁠💩⁠ ⁠💩⁠ – This is my first time on the Horizon or any of the newest class of ships. You would think that by now, Carnival would have figured out an elevator scheme that works. Although this ship carries more passengers, the first mistake made is it has fewer elevators than Dream or Conquest class ships. If you think getting onboard the Dream or Conquest class ships was a “goat rope * “, imagine a few hundred more passengers on board and all vying for the same elevators.

To complicate matters, these are modern “smart” elevators. Just outside of the elevators, there are touch screens where you select the floor you want to go to. Then the screen tells you which elevator to get on. Then when the doors open, people get in, and most of them expect to push buttons for where they want to go. THERE ARE NO BUTTONS. The elevators only go to the floor(s) selected from the outside touchscreen. Once the elevator starts, you are stuck going wherever it is programmed to go. It will skip any floors that people had not entered before getting in. I’m sure there are a few people still trapped in the elevators.

Note that there are no up or down arrows to indicate which direction the elevator is going. Add to that, if 10 or 12 people are going “up,” the smart elevators know they will hold up to 18 people. The not-so-smart elevator doesn’t know that the person with two suitcases, three carry-ons, a bulging backpack on his back… and a partridge in a pear tree occupies most of the elevator. (Yes, that was me.) Even so, the not-so-smart elevator will direct all 10 or 12 people to the same elevator.

* Goat Rope – Imagine a circular pen with 17 goats all in a frenzy running around in every direction. Now add one person in the middle of the pen trying to catch all the goats and you have a good mental image of what’s going on.

I hope Carnival has figured out something for getting the thousands of ship passengers on and off at each of the ports. When the Breeze first sailed to Cozumel, I remember standing on the dock in the blazing sun for over an hour, waiting in line to board. And the same or even worse horror befell us standing for hours in the hot Grand Cayman sun waiting for a tender back to the ship. I can only imagine what it will be like on this ship when carrying a full load of passengers.

The Piano Bar – ⁠💩⁠ ⁠💩⁠ ⁠💩⁠ – I want to start by saying this is only about the facility… not the entertainer. As I mentioned earlier, Eden Parker is one of the best.

Imagine if you will…

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge…”

Imagine if you will… when three “beards” at Carnival discovered their newest cruise ship didn’t have a piano bar… their most profitable bar on the ship… they must have felt they had entered… The Twilight Zone.

Unfortunately, I think the piano bar on this ship was mostly an after-thought. I can’t believe this could never have been a willful effort on the part of the Beards.  Some engineer thought of a “piano bar” as a quiet place with some elevator music… nothing like what we “Piano Barbarians” have come to love about Carnival cruises. This piano bar is probably the smallest in the fleet and is attached to the steak house.

The “Beards * ”… the wise men and women at the head of Carnival could not have done this on purpose. For Carnival Cruise Lines, the Piano Bar has always been a loud, sing-along drinking bar with folks partying well past midnight. So, imagine the nightmare the Beards found themselves in when their latest “darling” didn’t have a large booze profit center. Surely, they didn’t think people would go somewhere else for their booze and party. If so, they were wrong…. they (including me) will go to other ships. (And don’t call me Shirley).”

* Beards – According to lore attributed to John Heald, the “Beards” include women, and that the women have beards too. I’m here to tell you the lore is wrong. It’s likely that John Heald never said anything like that but such stories always abound. Christine Duffy, the head guizz at CCL, is on this cruise and she certainly has no beard.

That’s it for today… next up, Half Moon Cay.

Live from the Carnival Horizon – Day 2

This is no longer really “Live From.” As I post this, I’m back on Kokomo Island in the Norethernmost Caribbean. But, I wrote I wrote about this and the following day’s, always intending to post them while on board. But the piano bar, tequila, and other stuff took over. So I will continue to post over the next few days stuff as if it is live.. I’ll also put together more pic pages and videos. So come along with me as I relive the cruise.

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Yeah… that’s right. it’s day 2. I skipped right over Day 1 because… well… the tequila made me do it. But that’s ok because day 1 was a sea day and there’s not much to say about a sea day except… tequila-tequila-tequila.

I do want to mention a couple of things I think the Cootie Bugs have changed. There was no master-mixologist nor hairy chest contest on the Lido deck. As a past master mixologist, I was disappointed. I have a new frozen concoction to help you hang on and wanted to try it out here. Oh well… maybe I’ll get to do it on my next cruise.

I was most disappointed that there was no hairy chest contest. Friends on board here and Senior Patron encouraged me to enter. I was ready to go for it. So in this case… thank goodness it was canceled.

So… here we are on day 2 docked at Amber Cove. I don’t have a lot to say about this place. I know a lot of people like it, but then a lot of people like rocky mountain oysters too. When my Bonita companion and I got off the ship and and started walking the looooong dock. we were only going to the free pool in the port area. As we walked along I realized… the last time I was here I vowed I would never come back.

Well here I was. And true to my previous thoughts about Amber Cove… it seemed like another “FUN DAY AT SEA” would be a good idea. So my Bonita companion and I turned around and went right back to the ship.

In fact, with the pools and hot (semi-hot) tubs empty, it was a great way to spend the day. We also went up to the spa. For less than the price of a Carnival tour we were able to get a pass (wristband) for the spa for the rest of the cruise. Now we can go lay down on one of those heated, hard marble recliners and catch up on some sleep missed due to the late night in the piano bar.

I should mention that, as of now, to go ashore in Amber Cove (The Dominican Republic) you must wear a face mask at all times.

One “neat” event at Amber Cove I want to tell you about happened in the dock area compound. We were the first cruise ship to the Dominican Republic since the Cootie Bug breakout. and the DR’s “First Lady” paid a visit to welcome us to her country.

(This is second hand information, so take this as a general description and don’t blame me if it isn’t exactly correct.)

The people of the region are overjoyed to have cruise ships returning. The DR’s First Lady and her entourage formally welcomed cruisers back to her country. Amid all the commotion of her visit, there were TV crews capturing it all. Some of the passengers from the ship got to meet her and were interviewed. By all reports, the DR’s First Lady was gracious and expressed her thanks for our return.

Back on the ship, we had a nice lazy day. I spent considerable time checking my eyelids for leaks. It was all in preparation for another night in the piano bar with my friend Senior Patron. So far my eyelids are just fine.

We wanted to get “prime” seats at the piano bar so we got there early. We went there thinking the entertainer there would be just a filler until Eden Parker began at 9PM. WOW! It turned out that the guy at the piano, Jeffery Munk, was an amazing talent. Although it’s not music I would listen to for hours, it was a an unexpected surprise listening to the magic of his music.. We will spend time with him each night for the rest of the cruise. I recommend that if anyone gets a chance to see him, do it. He will be on this ship for the next 9 months. (I took some video and will be putting up a post after I get home from this cruise… stay tuned.)

(To receive updates by email, go to the top right of this page, enter your email and click on the subscribe button. I promise I won’t blast you with any unsolicited emails… I SWEAR IT and PROMISE HOLDING MY HAND SOLEMLY OVER A SHOT OF PATRON.)

Jeffery gave an amazing performance playing two of his original compositions. Then at 9PM Eden Parker took over. It wasn’t long before he had the place rockin’. I’m sure the folks in the Steak House didn’t mind a bit when… the whole ship shook as everyone in the joint was singing at the top of their lungs and pounding on the tables:

Sweeeeet Car-o-line… BLAM… BLAM… BLAM.

Note to DIVETRASH – Even though he is not the typical Carnival PB entertainer, you should add Jeffery to the PB list so fellow Barbarians can find him.

I was joined at my table by Senior Patron. After that, the night becomes a little fuzzy. All I remember for sure is Senior Patron convinced that I should join in with the singing too.. and he assured me that no one would be bleeding from their ears if I did. Now in the light of day, I’m not so sure he was right.

Tomorrow is another sea day, so I’m going to skip posting unless something really weird happens.

Bye For now,

Kokomo Man

In case you missed them… check out a few pics from early in the cruise.