This ended up being a memorable vacation for many reasons as you can see by the date we sailed. I am posting this almost a year late, so I hope I can remember everything.
My husband and I flew from Atlanta to Puerto Rico on an early flight. We found the Carnival Reps pretty easily and did all the necessary check-in procedures, then boarded the bus to take us to the pier where we boarded our new home for a week. My husband and two children sailed on Paradise in 1999, and Destiny is much bigger than Paradise. We were very excited to get started on our tour. Much to our surprise, we were upgraded to a large cabin on the Spa Deck. Since we booked an Outside Guarantee, we had hoped to get a balcony, but let me tell you - this was second best. We had a huge floor to ceiling window that was as wide at the room. It was wonderful! The room was also a bit bigger than a standard outside cabin. I think these rooms are intended for families, since the sofa made into a bed and it had a pull-down bed. Even though we didn't have our kids with us, it was great! All we had to do was walk out of our room, down a short hall and out the doors and we were by the upper pool, Jacuzzi and ending for the waterslide. We were very pleased!
I remember there was a long line for check, but it moved quickly, and in about an hour we had made our way to our cabin, tossed our carry-on bags, and headed for lunch. The line for sandwiches in The Trattoria was pretty short, so we choose this instead of waiting in line for the buffet. I had a turkey sandwich and it was excellent! After lunch, we walked the ship to learn our way around, and then decided since we didn't sail until 10:00pm we would get off the boat and check out the casino at the Wyndam across the street. We got back on board about 8:30pm and waited around until it was time to sail. It started to rain, but we didn't care, we drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the view leaving San Juan. We were officially on vacation!
Monday morning, my husband was up early and watched us dock in St. Thomas. We had booked a snorkeling excursion to Coki Beach for this day. On our last cruise, we did St. Thomas on our own, which worked out great, but my husband said he'd like to do this excursion and it didn't cost too much - so off we went. It was overcast and sprinkling just a bit, but by the time we got to the beach, the sun was out and we had a great time snorkeling. We met a very nice couple on this excursion, so we had pals to hang out with for the rest of the cruise. While waiting on our drive to take us back to the pier, we sat at an outside cafe/refreshment stand and had a cold beer, looking out over the beautiful Caribbean sea - ahh - this is the life!!
We went back the ship to change and arranged to meet our new friends for lunch. This time, we went to the outside Grill and Pizzeria. We had burgers and pizza's for lunch then headed by taxi to downtown for shopping. My new friend was buying a ring in one of the jewelry stores so they kept us supplied with beer until she made her purchase, and then we headed to Fat Tuesday's for a little frozen refreshment. Although, now it isn't called Fat Tuesday's anymore - and I don't remember the new name, but it is in the same location.
We were having so much fun with our new friends, that we continued our drinking party on the ship and never made it to dinner the first night. We ended up at the Downbeat Lounge for Karaoke - unfortunately for my new friend and I, the girl who sang before us had a beautiful voice, so we sounded even worse than we really were! But the audience gave us a break and didn't boo us - thank goodness!
The next morning will be the day everything changed. September 11, 2001 - we woke up and were planning on meeting our friends for breakfast. While we were getting ready, my husband had the Today Show on with Katie Couric. We watched the horrible events of 9/11 happen right before our eyes. It was very hard to tear ourselves away from the TV - but eventually, we did. We saw they were letting people off the ship, but there was tight security around the entrance to the pier. They wouldn't let the cabs get close and there were armed military men standing guard with their machine guns. It was scary, but we did get off the ship and walk around the town a bit, then hired a cab to take us to a beach. We were all in a bit of a daze, and it was hard to enjoy ourselves knowing what was going on at home. We had left our two teenagers with a sitter, so we were also worried about them. Out of 365 beaches, our driver took us to the absolutely worst one imaginable. The sand was pretty, the water was just ok - and it was supposedly at a resort - but the resort looked as if it were deserted. He told us there would be a restaurant where we could get drinks, but it was closed. Even the bathrooms were closed and he left us here before we realized this. We were the only ones on the beach! Thankfully, he did return to pick us up and we did get a little tour of the island - we were glad to get back on the ship. Boarding the ship, they were scanning every single person with a metal detector and were closely checking packages coming on board. This was a relief to us, even though we had a long line to wait in.
I can't remember what we had for dinner this night, but it was good - as all our meals in the dining room were. We were seated at a table for 4 (a booth), which overlooked the main floor, but we were the only two at the table. Last time we were at a table for 12 and it was fun, but this was also nice. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very nice and did an excellent job. The mood in the dining room was a bit somber and I believe the Captain came in on this night to offer his condolences for the tragedy in NYC and to let us know that we were safe and as soon as he had information on the flights home, he would let us know. At this point all airspace over the United States was closed, so we didn't know when we'd get to go home.
Wednesday morning we woke up in Guadalupe. Our friends had an excursion booked to go to the rain forest, but my husband didn't want to go. We did get off the ship and tour the shops and I bought a few things, but no one spoke much English and I didn't know French, so this little outing didn't last long. We got back on the ship and had lunch, then my husband went to the room to catch up on the news and I sat by the pool with a book, trying to take my mind off of things.
Thursday was a day at Sea, and I spent the morning by the pool, then we went and did things with our friends. Can't remember much except I know we played some Bingo and went to the Casino. Of course, we contributed to the Casino every night! We even learned how to play blackjack! The dealer would help us out, even giving advice when we should hold or take another card. The dealers were all friendly, and they didn't take too much of our money. We actually won a couple of nights - of course, we aren't big gamblers. We'd sit down with $20 and when it was gone, so were we! We all went back to our room before dinner and booked our excursion for Aruba. Aruba is the reason we booked this tour. I've always wanted to go there. We all decided that night that we would get up the next morning and not turn on the TV. We were going to have one day without worry, just fun!
We got up early and met our friends for breakfast. We ate breakfast everyday out on the Lido deck. The food wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. On Paradise we ate breakfast in the dining room one day, and it wasn't much different than the buffet, so we decided on this cruise to just eat outside everyday. My husband and I are easy to please, and we always seemed to find something to our liking! After breakfast we all headed to our meeting spot for our excursion, which was a Catamaran cruise around Aruba to a spot for snorkeling. The guide was informative as we passed the various resorts, telling us things about each one. The snorkeling was great; we saw many colorful fish and some beautiful coral. The catamaran was nice; it had an area at the front that was heavy roped netting, which you could sit on. We all sat up there for the ride out to the snorkeling site. This gave us great views of both the water and the shoreline - it was also very relaxing. After our snorkeling adventure, we boarded the boat to change and have a little lunch. Then we headed out to do some sightseeing on our own. We decided we'd do the Pub Crawl on our own and hit all the famous spots, ending up at Carlos and Charlies! This place is a riot! We had a fantastic time and enjoyed a couple of yard long drinks! Just watch the tab, our waiter was great and we planned to tip him well above the 15% expected. When we got the bill there was an additional charge by "tax". We asked about this and he seemed not to know what we were talking about. We figured it was tax. Wrong, they don't charge you tax in Aruba, or at least they didn't in the other bars, so he got a hefty tip from us - but we learned our lesson. We managed to get back to the boat before it sailed and sat out on the Lido Deck and watched as we pulled out of Aruba.
We woke up to what would be our last day on Destiny. We didn't know it at the time, as we still didn't know anything other than they were now allowing flights into the US. That afternoon, there was a meeting held in the Theater regarding this situation. It seemed Carnival had a ship leaving port that same day, and most of the passengers made it with no problems. We were going to assume that nothing had changed and we would be on our regularly scheduled flight home. Carnival did offer at this time a chance to stay on board for the next week for a mere $300 per person (I think, or something very close to this)! If it hadn't been for the fact that we had kids at home, we would have considered this. Carnival also provided a list of local hotels just in case our flights were cancelled. We did enjoy our last day at sea by swimming and relaxing at the pool. Then giving a little more money back to the casino. I actually won this last night and everyone else lost! After dinner, we went back to the room to pack and get to bed early since we didn't know what the next day would bring.
Debarkation was a bit hectic since everyone had to go through immigrations. At this point, I was worried because my husband and I didn't have passports, only our birth certificates and driver's licenses. (We are going on a cruise June 8 and we have ordered our Passports for this cruise!) We passed through immigrations pretty quickly and were sent to wait. This is where it got crazy - everyone was pushing to get off the boat. When they called our color tags, the stairways were jammed with people trying to get off! It was crazy and made us very mad! Can't people follow directions!! We finally made it to our bus and made it to the airport with plenty of time to go through security. I am glad to say our plane took off on time, and except for a nervous ride home and a bumpy landing, we were back home safe and sound!
We found Destiny to be a very pretty ship, with lots of courteous staff and even with the events of 9/11 causing us sadness and worry; we had a very nice vacation! Plus we made two new friends that I still keep in touch with and we hope to vacation with them again one day! Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.