What can I say? To me, traveling is all about the people. And once again, I was fortunate enough to meet up with a great crowd.
First, a little background. Somewhere in the early part of this decade, I arrived in Orlando to discover my cousin had to cancel the cruise we were about to embark on. Although a little bummed (well, a whole LOT bummed), I figured, what the hell. I've vacationed alone before. Long story short (too late!) I met Marty and Ali one night in the piano bar, and from that day forward, a lifelong friendship blossomed. I've cruised with them three times now, and faithful blog readers will remember (hell, all you have to do is scroll down) that I visited them in Cape Cod a couple months ago.
On our last cruise (2007?), we met Jamie and Jim with whom we've kept in touch via Facebook. Around March this year, the guys proposed a 50th birthday celebration cruise, and I eagerly signed up. Sadly, Ali and Marty weren't able to go, and to tell you the truth, I was a little apprehensive about proceeding with my plans because I hadn't gotten to know Jamie and Jim that well. Plus I couldn't remember having met the other people in the group (even though...yeah...I'd met them three years before--perhaps alcohol was involved...?). Anyway, would I fit in? Would I just be a pain in the ass to people who already knew each other well??
Suffice to say, by about day three of this month's cruise, I was saying things like: "I'd travel anywhere, anytime, with you guys." And they were saying, "we're booked for April, here's our travel agent's phone number." Truly, I can't begin to express how much I fell in love with Jim and Jamie. They made me feel cherished and safe....which ain't that easy when you're hanging over an abyss in the tropical rain forest!!Their friends were special, too. Although we didn't spend as much time with Kim, Kelly, Dennis and John, we DID get to hang (and I mean that LITERALLY) with Bobby and Arlene, one of the nicest couples you'll ever meet. Bobby's eternally sweet disposition, along with Arlene's infectious laugh, left a lasting impression on me! (Hope to see them in April!)
Okay, onto stories...first of all, hello Tampa! Arrived to cold and rain, clad in my normal California attire of leggings and a sleeveless top. Brrr. But I braved the inclement weather, caught a cab from my hotel, and jaunted on over to the Hard Rock Casino. Made a modest deposit there, then headed back to the Hilton. (Kind of an interesting sidenote: As my driver proceeded IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION of my hotel, I started to wonder if I'd been a little hasty in accepting the offer of a non-taxi-type. Alas, it all worked out.)
The next morning, I got all dressed and re-packed, trucked on down to the lobby to wait for the shuttle, and discovered POURING RAIN. I mean, WTF? Isn't Florida supposed to be sunshiny? I froze my BUTT off getting to the ship.
I guess the weather must have cleared for a half second, cuz I scored these photos as we left port.
And here, for your viewing pleasure is a little video I took as we sailed into (through?) Tampa Bay. (Ah...it looked deceptively tranquil at the moment, didn't it??) More about that and the rest of the cruise when I get a moment...