Cruising with My Homies
I work hard, and although I work in education I don’t get summers off. Thus the need for adventures every chance I get! This time it was a Norwegian Sun girls’ trip that my sister stumbled upon.
The first day of school is a milestone because I get to meet my new 7th graders, but for me it’s just the end of one type of “administrating¨ and the beginning of another. School started this past year in August. Like, what?? This was the third year that this unthinkable tragedy happened. I think I’m beginning to wrap my head around it. Usually, the first day of school also marks the day that I send the email which would set that year’s Spring Break adventure into motion. Not this year, though. Here’s why.
Where to Go?
We went to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic for Spring Break 2018. At the end of that trip, we decided we should go to Costa Rica for this year’s Spring Break. In July, when I priced that trip, it was clear that the airlines had determined that we would NOT be going to Costa Rica.
Thus began a long email chain between the members of the crew, in which we tried to decide what the heck to do. A cruise? An all-inclusive? And if so, to where? There were about 10 people on the email thread, most of whom were saying “I’m down for anything, just let me know.” Well, duh – I KNOW you’re down for anything, that’s why I rock with you.
Let me back up. I’m an introvert, but I have some friends. Well, I have some friends and then some other friends, and then some additional other friends as well. Sometimes the circles intersect, and thankfully everyone gets along.
But when it comes to travel, they are pretty discrete groups of friends. Anyway, this is about the travel crew, which also includes my little sister. What I love about this group of humans is that if they say they’re going on a trip, they’re going on a trip. Once the destination and dates are decided, people are booking. My friends do not mess around, and that’s why I rock with them.
Making an actual decision about where to go is usually a bit of an issue, though. That’s where we were in this email chain… from July to October, back and forth and back and forth about where to go; how long to stay; what the ocean temperature is in Bermuda in April; what cruise line to take; RIU or Iberostar; yadda yadda, so on and so forth, for MONTHS.
Finally, my sister, one of the big heroes in my life, found a sailing on the Norwegian Sun from Port Canaveral, Florida to Key West and Havana Cuba. It would leave on April 22nd, and it was an open bar cruise. One more time – it was an open bar cruise. She definitely had our attention, and within 2 days we were all booked on that boozy cruise ship, and our 11 fabulous selves (all girls this time) were ret’ ta go on our Norwegian Sun girls’ trip.
So, cruise stuff for colored girls who are cruising with other colored girls who don´t know when they´ve packed enuff:
Some of us took carry-ons only. I need slightly more options, plus I buy my hubby and parents like a million tees everywhere I go, so that would never work for me. For this cruise, I traveled with my 25-inch, bubble gum pink, American Tourister.
Here she is. Isn´t she lovely?
I own some 29-inchers and could have definitely used one of them for this 6-day trip, but I like to challenge myself to pack reasonably well and not just throw stuff in the suitcase all willy-nilly.
Spinners are cool. They definitely make for easier navigation with your suitcase; but they’re also more prone to breaking. This, thankfully, has never happened to me, but I have seen some spinner suitcases in airports and cruise ports with wheels missing. They’re simply not as sturdy as the in-line style wheels.
Whatever you decide to take, just be sure to pack smart. Don’t overdo it with shoes, or heavy, bulky clothing and stuff like that. It’s a cruise, you (well, I) hardly ever wear ¨real¨ clothes!
If you’re flying to the port, like we did this time, don’t forget that you’ll have to comply with your airline’s weight restrictions, and possibly pay for checked luggage – or even carry-on luggage, if you’re flying with one of those evil airlines that charges a fee for everything and gives you so little legroom that your knee has an indentation from the broken seat pocket in front of you. I’m looking at you, Spirit Airlines. Once, and never again. I’ll stay home first.
You also don’t need a beach towel, although some of the travel crew bring one along. There will be plenty on board, including in your stateroom.
Check out our list of cruise must-haves soon.
You might be lucky enough to be within driving distance of a cruise port, or you must may not mind driving hours upon hours to get to a port. If you are going to fly, surely you want the best deal possible on your flight. So, just watch, price, and pray.
There were three or four of us keeping an eye on flights to MCO, Orlando International Airport. We used expedia.com, kayak.com, Google Flights, and airfarewatchdog.com, Skiplagged, and threw a little holy water on our keyboards before we started each search. The prices started out disrespectful, and became even moreso as the months went on.
Clearly the airlines know when cruises are departing and arriving down there in Florida and are seeking to maximize their profits. I´m not mad at them, but dang was it difficult to find flights that fit our time frames and wouldn’t make us spend all of our little vacation coins on getting to the port for this Norwegian Sun girls’ trip.
Finally, in February, I became aware of MLB, the airport code for Melbourne, to which we could fly from PHL for less than $300. Okay, now we´re talking. A flurry of texts and phone calls, and mostly everyone got themselves a round-trip ticket on Delta Airlines.
We were flying in the day before the cruise, so we had to find hotel rooms. I found a FANTASTIC deal at the Radisson Resort at the Port, and booked a suite for the three of us who were on the same flights.
So, that was done.
A word of caution, with a harrowing tale to go with it: DO NOT TRY TO FLY IN ON THE DAY OF YOUR CRUISE.
Two of our travel companions decided to book their flights on Spirit Airlines out of Atlantic City airport, to save money. The flight was supposed to leave at around 6:00 am and arrive in Orlando at around 9:00. That would give them plenty of time to get to Port Canaveral, if all went well.
All did not go well. Things went decidedly unwell, quickly. They got to the airport in the middle of the night and were told that the flight was canceled because there was no crew or equipment. Moreover, there would be NO flights going out that day to MCO.
I’m sure you can probably imagine the panic they felt, as well as the shock we experienced as we were finishing up breakfast at the hotel and got a phone call with all of this drama. Somehow they had gotten the airline to pay for a Lyft to Newark Airport for a 10:15 flight, which was scheduled to land in Orlando at 1:08 in the afternoon.
One of the ladies was checking a ginormous bag. So, we knew that even if the flight was on time, after taxiing, deplaning, waiting for the luggage, and finding an Uber or Lyft, they would be cutting it very close to the 3:30 all-aboard time. In other words, our Norwegian Sun girls’ trip was in danger!
Long story short, they made it onto the sailing at literally the very last minute. Like, banging-on-the-door-and-begging-to-be-let-onto-the-ship last minute. It turned out that the flight landed on time, but the luggage took forever ever, and then the Lyft driver did exactly the speed limit all the way to the port.
We were at the atrium bar drinking mojitos and praying HARD with Jerome, our favorite bartender, that they would make it on time. And they did. Prayer works, people. But, so does booking your flight a day or two before your cruise is scheduled to depart.
Stay tuned for my posts on the Norwegian Sun, embarking in Port Canaveral, and my comparison of the Carnival Pride (posts here) and the Norwegian Sun. Thanks for reading, see you soon!