My Girl Scout Troop Went on a Caribbean Cruise... and on Day #2, We Made it out to Sea!

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When we were planning our itinerary, one of the things that revved my Girl Scout troop up the MOST was my comment that, "Hey, Guys, it looks like our AirBnb is really close to a Waffle House!"

Our hometown, you may have gathered, does NOT have a Waffle House.

First, though, let's back up a minute: the previous night, as the kids were running around the two storeys of our AirBnb and claiming bedrooms, investigating the TVs, playing with the light-up toilet bowl--you know, typical AirBnb check-in fun!--all the adults received a text from Carnival saying that our embarkation onto the ship would be delayed by several hours. This was actually great news, as it meant a more relaxed morning in which we could do a little more sightseeing in either Montgomery or Mobile, and it's why, when kids started waking up on this morning, we chose not to hustle. I discovered that our AirBnb's TV had Disney+ and put on Encanto. Adults made coffee, kids tried to obtain said coffee but were turned away, leftover pizza was nibbled at, etc. It was a delightfully leisurely morning...

...until Carnival sent us all ANOTHER text saying that good news! The Ecstasy was actually making great time getting into Mobile, not delayed at all, and that means that you can forget about yesterday's announcement of your embarkation being delayed, because now it's on time again! You can start to board in just a couple of hours, if you want!

You guys. I mean.

Let's just start with the fact that at that moment, we were actually 2.5 hours from Mobile, with kids who were not in "GO GO GO!" mode, as they'd have been if we knew we had to hustle, but were instead in their pajamas bopping along to "We Don't Talk about Bruno." 

Fortunately (this was to turn out NOT to be fortunate at all...), Carnival also scrubbed our half-hour check-in window, and was now giving everyone on the ship permission to show up at anytime during the full five-hour check-in process, so we compromised: we watched the last fifteen minutes of Encanto, THEN switched to "GO GO GO" mode. Everyone packed and completed the AirBnb's check-out chores, we loaded our luggage into the cars, then walked over to the Waffle House where the waitress, taking our orders at the adult table last, told us with amusement that every kid in our party had ordered a waffle.

When In Waffle House!

I'm glad that I forcibly marched everyone to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church the previous evening, because we wouldn't have had time to visit it this morning. We did swing our carpool by the Equal Justice Initiative building on the way out of town, just so we could say that we'd seen it.

On the subject of the EJI, I highly recommend these two books:

When you're motivated to get where you're going, 2.5 hours fly by, and soon we were in Mobile, passing the port where, indeed, Carnival Ecstasy sat in its dock:

Because teenagers are always having things like dance recitals and big soccer games and school plays, part of our Girl Scout troop was meant to take an early morning flight into Mobile and meet us at the port. Another part of our troop longed to see the emo-ness and goth-ness that is the historic Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, so that's where we paused for a brief pit stop to catch our breath and check in with our flying troop members before driving the entire five minutes over to the port so we could all embark together:

Alas for our well-crafted plans, however, because you know what planes, like Carnival ships, do? They get delayed. And you know what planes, unlike Carnival ships, don't do? They don't make up their delays. After a flurry of text messages, we were faced with the very real possibility that part of our group simply wouldn't make it on time to board the ship with us, and I didn't really have a great Plan B for that scenario.

Eventually, kids and adults decided we'd hang out at the cemetery for a few more minutes, then drive over to the port and just hang out until the arrival of our hopefully on-time troop members, who, barring traffic or traffic accidents of mechanical issues, would screech up to the port just before the boarding window closed.

Let's take deep breaths and look at a few more old monuments, shall we?

I've forgotten what it's like to live in the midst of monuments and memorials to the Confederacy:

I'd also never heard of this author, who was apparently very prolific and very, VERY devoted to the Confederacy. I found some of her books at my local university's library, and I'm curious to read them:

And now, over to our ship!

Point of information: it takes approximately one billion years to check into your cruise. Or maybe it only takes one billion years if your cruise embarkation was delayed and then un-delayed so now the check-in is a free-for-all for the entire ship, which, it turns out, is sold out.

First, there is the traffic jam, which lasts at least an hour and is police-directed. It consists of forty thousand people all trying to drive to the same point, except for one person trying, instead, as she screamed to Matt through her open window, to get to the jail, and could he move his car in a nonexistent direction--up, perhaps?--so she could get past him?

He let her in literally as soon as he could, which was about half an hour after she screamed at him. The other line of cars, at least, seemed excited to have moved up one space.

We were entertained by our ship creeping ever nearer!

The good news is that by the time we got to the port, where, it turned out, we were only giving our bags to the porters before being sent off to off-site parking, it was VERY clear that there was no freaking way the ship would ever leave on time, so the rest of our troop would definitely have time to join us.

In fact, they texted us as we were waiting in the also 45-minute line to get into the offsite parking facility that they'd arrived, so they actually made it there before us.

Also, the line to the off-site facility was only 45 minutes long because it DID NOT MOVE for 45 minutes, because THE GATE WAS LOCKED. A guy was coming with the key, the poor, lone parking guy came down the line to tell every single car. The ship won't leave without you.

We cheered when a golf cart scooted up the sidewalk with The Guy with the Key, only he turned out not to have the key to the padlocked gate, but a bolt cutter to cut the chain holding the gate closed. Problem solved!

You guys, people who've waited in an hours-long line to reach a port, then waited in a 45-minute line to get into a parking facility, and now must wait in another line for a shuttle back to the port do not behave well. Our group of 12 got woefully separated in line, and when my first group of troop kids, with two more groups of troop kids coming who knows how much further behind me, got to the port, I discovered that the workers outside the terminal had insisted that my group who'd flown in not wait for us but instead get in line. You can meet up with your group inside, she told them.

This was A LIE.

So now we had four different groups of people from our troop in different parts of the line, all mixed up between who would eventually be in which stateroom, various boarding passes and IDs in various incorrect hands. It was a HUGE mess, and there was no real way to fix it, considering that we'd all been told to stay in our places in line, and would keep being told that whenever somebody ventured to ask a harried employee. And to be fair, the terminal was absolute chaos, and I don't really blame the employees outside the terminal for their single-minded mission of just getting all these damn idiots in the damn line and keeping them there.

In order to get the correct documents into the correct kids' hands, we resorted to sneaking a kid backward or forward in line to pass a document to the correct group, and then we resigned ourselves to this future promise of all getting to meet up inside.

Here's the inside, where we were still in line, not permitted to get out of line or connect with our group:

Me, too, Terrifying Mardi Gras Clown. Me, too.

Our line snaked through the ground floor of a building, up an escalator, and around and around a waiting area that I bet anything in a less chaotic embarkation would be, say, an EXCELLENT place for a group to all meet up together!

Instead, the line was at theme park levels, perhaps even "First Day of That New Roller Coaster" theme park levels. It was chaos. I was so stressed out.

The front of this first line was a series of stations for getting one's Covid documents verified--every passenger needed their original proof of vaccination and a proof of a negative Covid test taken within the last three days. The person at the head of this line directing people to the various check-in stations was PISSED that our group was so separated, and did not seem to find us blameless for simply doing what her co-workers had told us to do. She also insisted that we simply couldn't get our Covid documents verified unless we were in groups by stateroom--three kids in one room, five kids in another room, and three pairs of adults in two-person rooms. AND she insisted that she had no way to help us get our group together, no way to let us wait until the people farther back could catch up, no way to let us go back to be with them, etc., etc., etc.

I could just see the very last part of our separated group just in front of the escalator, with another group ahead of them (don't tell Carnival, but the group of airplane flyers and my group had sneakily sneaked ourselves together while snaking through the line during the previous hundred hours). So I got frustrated--well, I'd *been* frustrated, so maybe fed up, I guess? Over it? Through with this crappity crap?--and shouted as loudly as I could, "GIRL SCOUTS! GIRL SCOUTS AND GIRL SCOUT CHAPERONES! RIGHT HERE!"

In all the hours we'd spent in Carnival check-in chaos, nobody had gone so far as to SHOUT at anyone before. It was horrifying. But you know what, everyone in that long cattle line let everyone in my troop right past them and right up to the front, and when I turned back to the check-in director person and said, "Okay, we're all here!", she just went on with her business and pointed us to the next open check-in stations.

Where, I swear to god, NOBODY GAVE A FLIP WHAT STATEROOM WE WERE IN FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. The Covid check person was literally just checking Covid documents. For crying out loud I cannot even think about it without feeling my blood pressure go up, and I was just at the walk-in clinic yesterday for an earache and my blood pressure puts me in the range for pre-hypertension although I was also super nervous at the time so that might be why it was high but regardless, I do not need to keep thinking about that freaking check-in person making me yell across an entire terminal in front of every human being on the planet for no freaking reason.

Anyway, now we were at least in our stateroom groups! Which we did not need to be in for the Covid check, nor did we need to be in for the next station, the metal detectors and security belt, but we DID need to be in for the station after that, which was actually checking into our staterooms, so there you go.

I'm pretty sure we could have dithered and waited for each other between the security line and the stateroom check-in line, but whatever.

And guess what happened after the stateroom check-in line?

Finally, we got to get on the ship! It only took... oh, let's say five hours from the moment we left Magnolia Cemetery. 

We waited for each other until our entire group was standing in the entryway of Deck 7, then we had the great amusement of watching the entire troop attempt to figure out how to lead us to our staterooms. Guess my Girl Scouts should have studied their ship map handouts better! They led us upstairs and down, finally found that there's a rough ship map by each elevator, misread that map, led us upstairs and down some more, found the correct deck, misread which way was Odd staterooms and which way was Evens, figured it out, and got us to our rooms.

Here's Will totally bailing on unpacking in her own stateroom so she can come veg out in mine:

We did that relaxing and vegging out thing for approximately ten minutes before I was all, "Oh, crap! It's almost dinnertime!", and went to bang on some Girl Scout doors.

Carnival did an awesome job with their seating arrangement, putting all eight Girl Scouts at one table and all six adult chaperones at the next table over. It was so great to have that relaxing time with other adults every evening--I haven't gone on a vacation with friends since college, and I had completely forgotten how fun it is!

The Girl Scouts and adults spread out to explore the ship after dinner (melting chocolate cake OMG!). Kids needed to be with a buddy or a chaperone until 11:00 pm, and then a chaperone needed to know exactly where they were or be with them at all times. On this night, I was the late-night chaperone, and look who I found when trying to scope out a place I could sit and read while some of the troop was in the teen room, Club O2:

And here I'd almost thought I was joking when I kept saying that Will would spend the entire cruise in the ship's library...

Not gonna lie--on this first night, I found a lot of the ship to be overstimulating. At one point, Matt and I were walking through one of the pathways, an acoustic trio behind us a few decks below singing one song, a cover band ahead of us singing a different song, the casino area where people were apparently allowed to smoke on one side, tables of chit-chatting people drinking and laughing on the other side, and I just kept thinking, "Oh, no. Oh, NO!!!"

Spoiler alert: it got MUCH better.

However, being the late-night chaperone has its privileges. After the teen club, then ice cream, some kids and I walked around the ship a bit more. The on-deck nightlife hadn't really ramped up on this first night, so it was calm, peaceful, and beautiful outside:

I figured I could handle this for five days. 

Here's the first day of our trip, when we drove to Alabama!

And here's my Craft Knife Facebook page, where I sometimes write about our travels as we're traveling them!