By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/20/2020
Occurred: 5/20/2007
Topics/Keywords: #Cruise #CarnivalLegend #Tampa Page Views: 2837
Our cruise comes to a triumphant conclusion.

The seas were rough in the early morning hours of the 20th, with a 40 mph wind blowing the normally-placid waters of the Gulf into real waves. But the Legend's stabilizers held true and only a gentle rocking was felt in our Deck 1 cabin.

Still up following my stage debacle, Michael and I packed our bags, having been required to place them in the hallway by midnight. That meant we'd have to pack stuff we needed that night and in the morning—like our CPAP machines and toothbrushes—in our overnight bags and carry them off the ship ourselves. The other stuff would be handled by the staff.

We were supposed to know what color our Carnival luggage tags were, because that would signify where our luggage was placed for pickup when we got off the ship. Unfortunately, no one ever actually told us this until we were in that warehouse, looking for the luggage. And the difference between the memory of a brown, tan, gold, orange and yellow you didn't really look at isn't actually as vivid as you'd think.

The good news was that going to sleep in a gently rocking ship was actually very soothing. The bad news was that getting up six hours later, wasn't.

Because of Mary's injuries, she had permission for her and her party to disembark early. We had to be out of our rooms by 9, and off the the ship by 11. That would have allowed us to have a leisurely breakfast and maybe even a brunch on board. After all, we couldn't check into our Tampa hotel until 1 pm or later, so there was no rush. But Mary and Michael were anxious to get it over with; and Joe, Kathy, Dottie, Frank and Cailey would also be among the first-off because of Joe and Kathy's status as frequent cruisers.

So we had the buffet breakfast on the Lido deck—eggs, mounds of bacon, hash browns and Danish, with passion fruit/guava juice, then said our goodbyes to the Virginia half of our party and got in line, with our carry-ons, to leave the Legend. Michael and Mary held a place as I ran back to the purser's with the extension cord and power strip. When I returned, the line was starting to move.

Returning to the United States was much easier than I expected, what with all the "terror alert" nonsense and supposed stepped-up security. We all had passports but the customs guys were just as happy with drivers' licenses as passports for photo ID. We handed over our IDs and declarations forms (mine mentioned the $10 sunglasses I bought in Costa Mucho that were already broken); they were looked at perfunctorily and we were waved on through.

It was at that point we found ourselves in the warehouse with the luggage of over a thousand passengers, trying to remember whether our tags had been brown, tan, gold, orange or yellow. It turned out it didn't matter; the luggage was actually placed by whim rather than color, and was located a piece here, a piece there, throughout the cavernous space.

A porter took our stuff ($10 tip, I thought, which he certainly earned but I was now beginning to worry about spending more than I had in the bank). I'd have given the guy $20 if I had it; but a $10 tip was all I could afford. He piled us into a taxi run by a buddy of his, who drove us the five miles to the Sheraton Riverwalk for $30 including tip.

As I expected, our room at the Sheraton wasn't yet available and wouldn't be for hours. We were allowed to hang out in the spacious lobby while we waited. I plugged in Michael's laptop and began making up for the days we had no Internet access, by using the Sheraton's free Wi-Fi. Zachary played quietly with toys (he has wonderful patience for a young man his age) and Karen and Mary sipped coffee while Michael dozed in a chair.

Presently, my sister, Louise, and her husband Mike came by. Louise and Mike live in St. Augustine, on the other side of Florida; but they'd planned to come by this weekend to see us. They had presents for both Zach and Cailey and were very disappointed to learn that Cailey was already at the airport by now. But I showed them pictures we'd taken on the ship.

We went to lunch in historic Ybor City, a former cigar manufacturing center, then returned to our respective hotels for naps. We met again for dinner at a China Buffet, and stood outside of it talking for an hour and a half before saying good night and good bye and hugging repeatedly.

At the hotel, we repacked our bags for the next day's plane flight home and went to bed. Our cruise vacation was, basically, over.

But I had learned a few things.

  1. If you have a CPAP machine, bring your own extension cord and power strip.

  2. Bring an empty suitcase with you to bring last-minute stuff like sodas and distilled water with you onto the ship—that way a porter will carry it for you.

  3. For God's sake, if you intend to swim, bring a bottle of Swimmer's Ear Solution. Bring two, in case you meet someone else who didn't bring any.

  4. Memorize every obscure song ever written, or stay the hell away from the karaoke bar.

  5. Don't even try to diet while on board. Just bring a spare pancreas and hope for the best.