We arrived at Tampa pier at two o’clock, after finding out they started boarding by one.After notifying one of the porters that we are traveling with special needs persons, they called their supervisor immediately, and we received VIP treatment.
Aldona, a Carnival superior took us to an air conditioned lounge and took care of our embarkation paperwork in less than five minutes.
A unique port security person accompanied us, carrying our luggage on a trolley up to the autistic friendly Carnival Legend ‘s entrance.
The muster drill was a breeze too-Carnival provided a special enough air conditioned lounge for the special needs persons.
Moreover, the crew members handed out a printed page with instructions on what to do in case of a real emergency.
In the main dining room, our excellent Maitre D’, Ken made sure we had a separate table for four.He came every night to make sure Jeffrey got his blue cheese dressing for his salad!Our servers were excellent and remembered everyone’s likes and dislikes, especially our son’s.
On the very last night, they even surprised him with two portions of bread pudding that were not on the menu.Everyone in the main dining room was extremely helpful during breakfast and lunch times too, catering patiently to our every need.We enjoyed both formal nights, especially since the boys were not required to wear a jacket, tie, or even a long sleeve shirt.
Instead, I brought short sleeve, button down, pure silk Hawaiian shirts [twenty dollars at our local costco], and soft cotton long pants from Nordstrom’s, that magically make even huge lobster butter stains disappear, in contact with soap detergent and water, for them to wear.
Our room steward was equally helpful, supplying our room with extra towels, pillows, and sheets on a daily basis. After complaining about the warm temperature in our room, and the technician’s failure to correct the issue, the chief engineer came to our cabin in person to oversee what could be done.
Moreover, the hotel manager came to our table, in person, to ask us if everything had been corrected.
On the third day, the boys each got a bag of goodies from Club O2, accompanied by a personal invitation.They politely declined, but enjoyed the gift bag nonetheless.
The truth is we were all pretty tired from the daily trips we took and chose to bond as a family over the great option the cruise line offers of pay-per-view movies in the room.Room service, a favorite with most kids, was unusually fast with orders, even at peak hours.
The captain was gracious to sign Jeff’s ceramic ship model, while Wee Jimmy, the Legend’s cruise director gave him a ship on a stick.Needless to say, Jeff’s was floating in souvenir heaven.
Luckily, we managed to visit all our intended ports of Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel but did get some windy days from the end tail of tropical storm turned hurricane, Alex.
The important lesson to learn is that during hurricane season you should book your shore tours through the cruise ship, especially in ports that require tendering, as you never know when the high winds will pick up and change your plans!
In the Grand Cayman, we visited the sandbar with stingrays and a turtle farm, both great sensory, and educational tools. Skip the little town of Hell which is a store selling funny t-shirts with an owner dressed as the devil, unless you want to sample a different sensory perspective of surprise hugging and kissing.
Snorkeling in Roatan and Belize was amazing, and I do have to commend the tiny local sand flies that are ever so polite, you don’t even notice when they come, bite and leave.Even better is the fact the bite sites do not itch and disappear overnight.
In Cozumel, we opted to explore the Eco park of Xcaret, with its caves, lazy river, zoos and turquoise lagoon.If you ever decide to go, make sure you pay a visit to the magnificent butterfly garden and the rainbow colored macaws that use discarded feathers to clean out their beaks!
Disembarkation was an easy affair too, and we reached Tampa airport in plenty of time to spare, after using Alamo’s free shuttle.Completing the memorable experience, United Airlines decided to upgrade the four of us to first class on the Tampa-Dulles segment and to Business class on the Dulles-Los Angeles flight, by itself a memorable event on a historic day.
Happy July 4th everyone!