Where It All Began

Photo of Carnival Glory

March 17, 2023 Update: Check out Instagram where we celebrate this ship!

In February of 2020, I celebrated a milestone with Carnival Cruise Line: My 25th cruise with the line. When I picked up my Sail & Sign card, it was not the standard platinum card; instead, it was white and was stamped with the word *MILESTONE*. It was a proud moment as I embarked on a 7-day cruise to ports I had visited a dozen times.

But let’s rewind for a minute – all the way to back where it began. I wanted to share with you how I got bit by the cruise bug in the first place and what led me to create this website and @thiscruiselife on Twitter.

Unlike the kids I see cruising with their parents, I didn’t take my first cruise until I was an adult (I’m always jealous when I see a child or teenager with a platinum card). I never thought about taking a cruise, in fact, my friends actively spoke out against them because of how claustrophobic and boring they must be. This was, of course, despite them never having taken a cruise themselves. Over time, I’ve learned that some of the biggest naysayers against a cruise vacation are those who have never taken one. Ironic.

So what led to that fateful first voyage? It actually was a result of a very difficult and sad time in my life – but I promise, I won’t spend too much time there. You see, my parents both were sick and ended up passing away of cancer in the same year (2013). After caring for mom and dad for over a year and a half, the guy I was dating at the time insisted that we get away. Now, my vision of getting away was flying from the cold winters in Minnesota to Las Vegas. Or maybe a family trip to Ana Maria Island in Florida. I’d never even considered a cruise. In fact, I tried to convince him otherwise. But, he had already been on a couple himself and somehow knew that was just what I needed.

Since it didn’t appear that I was going to win the argument against a cruise, I at least insisted that we only book a couple day sailing. I mean, what if I hated it? What if I was super claustrophobic and bored like everyone predicted? At least a 3- or 4-day cruise would be fairly quick and painless. But, again, he was unrelenting: “We are going on a week-long cruise and I’ll price out options for us.”

The original spreadsheet breaking down options and costs

And that’s exactly what he did. He listed out ships, embarkation ports, cruise cost “w/Taxes+Fees,” “gratuities,” airfare, and all of that summed up to what it would cost per person. (To this day, I smile when I see all of the asterisks and read things like “Gov’t fuel surcharges may be added…”)

I had no idea what Valor versus Glory versus Freedom meant, so I updated the spreadsheet to include links to the ship’s page on the line’s respective website so that we could do additional research. I began to learn about the Carnival Conquest-class of ships and the ports they sailed from. Concepts like Guys Burgers and Blue Iguana Cantina sounded really interesting to me. And they were included? Wow. That was another new and interesting concept. So I just pay that amount in the Per Person Cost column, and I can eat what I want, when I want, and how much I want? And all of the entertainment on the ship is included as well? And I get to unpack once and just relax for the week? Oh, and I get to say I visited Belize?

The more research I did, the more intrigued I became. We ended up landing on the Carnival Glory – a ship that will forever hold a special spot in my heart. Like the above spreadsheet mapping out each option, my ex created a detailed cruise packing list (he was an internal auditor if that helps explain the attention to detail).

While I appreciated that original list, I’ll create a separate post about what I’ve learned about packing for a cruise after that first trip. Spoiler: we WAY overpacked! We packed our own towels, I packed a travel steamer, and I think we packed enough sunscreen for a family of 6. But again, I’ll save that for another post and share my new cruise packing list (now in Excel with handy checkboxes and a legend).

Eventually, it was time to fly to Miami for the cruise. Knowing that we wouldn’t have internet, I took a screenshot of the ports so I’d know where we were going. Again, little did I know, it really didn’t matter; the cruise lines do a pretty good job of keeping track of that for you! haha

Because we arrived the day of our cruise, we booked Carnival’s Airport Transfer option. So when we picked up our bags at baggage claim, we found the Carnival Kiosk and they ticked our names off the list and handed us our Airport Check-In vouchers. They also handed us each a deck plan map of the Carnival Glory to review while we waited for our journey to the ship. The friendly agent even wrote our stateroom cabin number on my deck plan for me: 7323.

Eventually, the Carnival agent loaded us onto a bus with our luggage and we departed the airport and headed to the terminal. While it was a lovely service, this was the only time in 31 cruises I’ve used the transfer service through Carnival as I now insist on flying in the day before any sailing – but that’s another story for another day! Today, we’re on our way to the port.

Because of our early arrival into Miami, we must have been the first people loaded onto the bus. I know that because of this picture where I captured the Port Miami directional signage. To this day, I’m happy that I was able to capture the “<<<< Carnival Glory” messaging, which indicated the left lane for Terminals D and E.

Honestly, the next 30 minutes were all a blur. They ushered us off the bus and we had to hand our luggage to a stranger with a cart. Where was my luggage going? Was it going to be ok? Did I still have my passport on me? So many questions, but my ex just ushered us along through the process. The one thing I do remember distinctly: I was in shock at just how large this ship in front of me seemed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but seeing a cruise ship up close for the first time, I was truly in awe.

We went through the standard queues. Agents reviewed our boarding passes and passports. We got our photos taken. And before I knew it, we were on the ship. All told, from the time we arrived to the port to the time we were in our room and I took my first picture, it was 30 minutes total (thank you photo timestamps!).

There are so many more details I could go into from that first cruise, however, I’ll save those memories for a future post. Suffice it to say, the afternoon of the 3rd day I became emotional and said to my ex, “Just think, if we had booked a 3 day cruise, this would be our final day. As it is, our sailing is almost halfway over!” He smiled at me (I think he may have laughed, actually), and reminded me to enjoy the trip while we were still on it.

By the time we got back to Miami, I was ready to book again. We had visited the future cruise desk while onboard, but decided we wanted to do more research on ship and port options before booking (we landed on another Conquest-class ship, the Carnival Conquest in November of that same year).

2014 would be the longest I would go between two cruises in 6 years (we sailed in February and then again in November). That is, of course, until 2020 when the COVID19 pandemic shut down the industry. I’m thankful that I was able to get in at least one cruise in February before COVID shut everything down.

As mentioned at the start of this post, February 2020 was a very special cruise: My milestone 25th cruise with Carnival Cruise Line.

And what better way to commemorate that sailing than to sail on the ship that started it all… the beautiful Carnival Glory!

February 2, 2020, Milestone Cruise

And on May 31, 2020, I sent my very first tweet from @thiscruiselife. The Carnival Glory seemed like a perfect way to kick things off!

As I conclude this post, I’m not sure who I wrote it for more, you the reader, or me. I can’t help but get a little emotional as I think back on that first sailing and how my life changed since. While I still dearly miss my parents, and wish they could have experienced the joy of cruise travel, time heals the pain of loss. In that time, I’ve discovered some truly amazing places – and have taken part in experiences that I never dreamed of like swimming with stingrays, jumping off waterfalls, ziplining in Guatemala, touching the wall of the Panama Canal… and the list goes on and on. I’ve met some truly amazing crewmembers (some I’ve sailed with multiple times!) and I’ve met fellow cruisers who are part of my cruise family. I always say, “it’s a small cruise world.” Every time I sail, I wonder who I might run into.

After 18 long months, in August of 2021 I took my first cruise since COVID19 shut everything down. That would be my very final cruise as a platinum card holder. My next sailing in September, originally scheduled on – you guessed it – the Carnival Glory, would be my diamondth sailing. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ida had other plans and our cruise was canceled. We rescheduled that cruise to sail on the Carnival Vista out of Galveston and it became official: I was now a Diamond member of Carnival’s VIFP club and my card was a shimmering white.

Once the Carnival Glory was back in service post Hurricane Ida, I sailed on her in October of 2021 and earned my second diamond card. And while she may not have all of the bells and whistles of the new ships, as I mentioned above, she will always hold a special spot in my heart…

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