The Old Man And The Sea
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Friday, February 20, 2015
After nearly a week of sailing the Western Caribbean on the inaugural sailing of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom from her new homeport of Galveston, Texas, we’re nearing the end of our journey. At this time tomorrow, thousands of guests will be heading back to their respective homes, while another 2,980 will embark tomorrow for their very own Fun Ship voyage to the Caribbean.
Since we’re spending a day at sea en-route to Galveston, let’s talk for a moment about how the good state of Texas is going to part you with your hard-earned cash upon your return to port.
As of January 1, 2014, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has decided that, regardless of whether you are a resident of Texas or not, you should pay an importation tax on any and all liquor and tobacco purchased on your cruise, or in one of your ports of call. This applies not only to Texans, but to anyone from any country anywhere in the world passing through a Texan port. Even if you’re in-transit to a foreign country (as I am), they’ll nail you.
Now, I have to admit to having a huge problem with that. For a state that pretty much allows you to carry firearms unfettered to your little heart’s desire, cracking down on alcohol seems hypocritical. It’s not that the fee is exorbitant (a 750ml bottle of wine will cost a whole $3.25), but cruising out of Texas is still on the rebound after having nearly died out completely a few years back. Affixing a tax to alcohol and tobacco just smells like a cash-grab, particularly when the form from the TABC notes that the tax of $3.25 includes an administration fee of $3. Y’all come back now.
Speaking of y’all, my Texan friends have done an excellent job of educating me on this voyage. For example: did you know there are three distinct versions of y’all?
First, there’s y’all. This can be singular or plural. So, if you’re a couple, someone might say, “y’all make a cute couple.” Or something like that.
Then, there’s all y’all. This is usually used for a group. Imagine a family checking in for a cruise. “Are all y’all going on the Carnival Freedom?”
Finally, we come to allyall. This is, I’m told, derogatory, and the faster it’s said, the angrier the person saying it is. For example: “Allyall need to be quiet.”
I actually kind of like that: one phrase, three distinct meanings.
Cruising out of Texas, as you may have guessed, is a real adventure. It’s different from a cruise that targets an American or North American clientele; this is a cruise designed primarily for Texans. Expect lots of country music, ten-gallon-hats, belt buckles, cowboy boots, and folksy southern drawls. They’re nice people, but there’s one thing I can’t figure out – and perhaps some of my American readers can help: Do Texans smoke more than folks from other states?
The reason I ask is this: the Casino, and pretty well the entire Deck 5 corridor, reek of cigarette smoke. In fact, it’s been a decade at least since I’ve seen smoking onboard a cruise ship that is on the same level that I’ve seen here on the Carnival Freedom. The casino is jam-packed, and nearly every person in there is chain smoking. The design of the Carnival Freedom unintentionally ensures that this smoke wafts forward and aft of the casino along the Deck 5 corridor. In the mornings and on port days, it’s not a problem. But the second the casino opens, a cloud forms inside the ship.
Now, cigarette smoke doesn’t bother me. I don’t care for it, but that’s just a personal preference. However, if you are allergic to smoke or have a real sensitivity to it, this may not be the ship for you. Or, the Texas run may not be for you. To be honest, I can’t quite determine where the issue lies.
Smoke notwithstanding, there’s certainly no shortage of activities you can choose to participate in here onboard the Carnival Freedom. In fact, the Carnival Fun Times daily program lists a total of 79 different activities and scheduled events for today, all happening between 8:00 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
A quick look at some of what is happening here on the Carnival Freedom today:
- 8:00 a.m.: Class – Pathway to Yoga. Spa Carnival, 11 Forward.
- 9:00 a.m.: Class – Group Cycling. Spa Carnival, 11 Forward
- 9:45 a.m.: Jen’s Live Morning Show. Victoriana, 3 Forward
- 10:15 a.m.: $2000 Bean Bag Bingo. Victoriana, 3 Forward
- 11:00 a.m.: Thriller Dance Class. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 11:30 a.m.: Texas Hold’Em Tournament. Babylon Casino, 5 Midship
- 11:45 a.m.: Super Trivia. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 12:15 p.m.: DJ Blendz: Fun Deck Music. Lido, 9 Midship
- 1:00 p.m.: Ice Carving Demonstration. Lido, 9 Midship
- 1:30 p.m.: Groove for St. Jude. Lido, 9 Midship
- 2:15 p.m.: Murder Mystery Revealed. International, 5 Aft
- 3:00 p.m.: Ballroom Dance Class. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 3:45 p.m.: Jen’s Disney Trivia. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 4:30 p.m.: Beatles Music Trivia. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 5:30 p.m.: Indi Duo Jams. Atrium Lobby, 3 Forward
- 7:30 p.m.: Ashby – Guitar Sounds in the Pub. RedFrog Pub, 5 Midship
- 8:15 p.m.: Playlist Productions – 88 Keys. Victoriana, 3 Forward
- 8:45 p.m.: Steel City Groove – Woodstock Generation. Casino Bar 5, Mid.
- 9:45 p.m.: Mambo Magic – Live Latin Music. Habana Bar, 4 Aft.
- 10:00 p.m.: Adult Comedy (18+). International, 5 Aft.
- 11:15 p.m.: Win a Cruise Tonight. Babylon Casino, 5 Midship
Tonight, I selfishly get to enjoy one last evening aboard Carnival Freedom. They’ve got double-header adult comedy shows in the Punchliner Comedy Club tonight at 10:00 and 11:15 p.m., plus the usual late-seating dinner in the Posh Restaurant on Deck 3. Dinners have been unusually good here onboard, and it’s an event I’ve found myself really looking forward to each night.
Of course, other staples beg to be tried one last time; perhaps a pint of Carnival’s own RedFrog Ale, or one of the incredible cocktails whipped up by the bartenders in Alchemy on Deck 5.
As go-go-go as a Carnival cruise can be, I did the one thing this afternoon that you can do on any cruise line – even Carnival.
I sat on my balcony, grabbed a glass of champagne, and simply watched the ocean roll past.
Our full journey:
Carnival Freedom, Western Caribbean
|February 14, 2015||Galveston, Texas||Embark Carnival Freedom in Galveston; pre-cruise event for Operation Homefront.||Overnight in Galveston|
|February 15||Galveston, Texas||Overnight||4:00 PM|
|February 16||Fun Day At Sea|
|February 17||Costa Maya, Mexico||1:00 PM||8:00 PM|
|February 18||Cozumel, Mexico||8:00 AM||4:00 PM|
|February 19||Progresso, Yucatan, Mexico||9:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|February 20||Fun Day At Sea|
|February 21||Galveston, Texas||8:00 AM||Disembarkation|