Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

Nice to get away for a while . . .

I just returned from a mini trip to Florida where we stayed at Cocoa Beach for a few days and also took a mini cruise through Carnival to the Bahamas and Carnival’s private island.  I mentioned a cruise to some people at work and immediately they said how nice it must be to have the money to be able to go on a cruise.  The fact of the matter is cruises aren’t that expensive and, in fact, they are sometimes cheaper than other options for vacations in and around Florida.

Here are a few notes about the trip that I thought might be interesting to our readers:

•  Talk about a lesson on diversity.  At least 95 percent of the staff were non-Caucasian and only about a third of the guests were Caucasian.  No complaints, but it sure made you think how minorities might feel in every day life around the world.

It was nice to develop a casual relationship with some of the staff on board, especially the room service person and dining room staff; I always enjoy learning more about the staff on board.

And, talking about the staff onboard the cruise ship, there were 1,100 employees working for Carnival on the cruise and they came from 60 countries.  That number is in addition to the almost 3,000 guests that can take part in a cruise.  Our ship, the Carnival Freedom, was built in 2007 and was about 1,000 feet long.  I eventually talked with one of the staff members who was from the Philippines (for some reason, most come from that country).  The staff live on 0 deck and most will work 10-11 hour days at various jobs on the ship, 7 days a week.

This particular worker said they normally work 8 months before getting 2 months off.  As we were leaving the ship Monday morning, the staff was preparing for the arrival of another set of cruisers later that morning to begin the routine all over again.  These cruise ships don’t take any days off.

The staff members are able to correspond with their family back home every day and it’s great money they’re able to send back home to their family.

•  We do a lot of walking on the ship.  We happened to be on the first deck for this cruise and so, we’d start our day with a 200-step walk up the stairs to the ninth deck for food and relaxing around the pool.  My wife doesn’t like to take elevator and so, we do our best to avoid the elevators whenever we’re on vacation.  Besides, if you do take elevators on a cruise ship, you’ll be wasting a lot of time waiting with other people because no one else seems to take the stairs.

•  Speaking of other people; if you don’t like being around people, you won’t like cruises.  Wherever you go on a cruise ship, you’ll run into people.  However, they’re in the same boat (literally) as you and so, most are very friendly and just want to have a good time.

•  When we left Cocoa Beach about 3 p.m., it was about 80-85 degrees and very humid.  About 7 hours later, we were starting our car at the Park n’ Fly near the Minneapolis airport and the temperature was about negative-15 degrees — a difference of 100 degrees in 7 hours.  Wow!

Our car had been sitting at Park n’ Fly for six days and the only thing I could think about on our return flight was hoping the car would start.  Thankfully, it did; otherwise, it would have been an even longer day for us after starting our day at 6 a.m. to see our final sunrise at Cocoa Beach.

•  We’ve taken a cruise out of Miami, but our favorite place to cruise out of is Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach, FL, located about 45 minutes east of Orlando.  Cocoa Beach is one of my favorite places in the world; I just love being near the ocean.  Although it seems to never change the layout of its store, we always love to visit Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and the Cocoa Beach Surf Company, located right across the street.  They’re touted as two of the largest surf shops in the world.

I will admit we didn’t hear about the SpaceX launch at 4:32 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 26, until after the fact.  If we had heard about it, we could have walked a block to the beach and had one of the best spots for watching it.  I guess I should have planned better.  My wife had fun giving me a hard time about my goof.

•  You have to treat yourself and those close to you every once in a while, and cruises don’t have to cost a lot.  In fact, cruises can be very cheap as long as you don’t take part in all the extras that are available.  Most of the expenses on board are free, including food, beverages, shows, entertainment, ports of call, etc., but a lot of people pay extra for alcohol and beverage packages, shore excursions, gambling, more food, more beverages, room upgrades, etc.  In fact, you can end up paying a lot of extra money on a cruise if you’re not careful, but for me, I’m happy with eating the free food, laying around the pool deck and enjoying all the free entertainment.  We also like to stay in one of the non-balcony rooms, which are much cheaper.  We don’t spend much time in our rooms so we figure why pay more? 

We had two shore excursions during our cruise; one to Nassau, Bahamas and another to Carnival’s private island, Princess Cays.  Shore excursions are my favorite and it’s nice to go to a place that I normally couldn’t afford to visit.  I will say cruises are starting to do a better job in reducing the amount of waste that takes place on ships, because believe me, there is still a lot of waste onboard a cruise ship.

•  I’m not sure what the deal is, but I’m beginning to get a little self conscious.  We normally try to guess who might get an extra search when going through airport security, but recently, it’s been me and only me.  In fact, on our latest trip, I had a full pat search on the way from Minneapolis to Orlando and on the way back, I had a half-pat search while my carry-on bag also had a detailed search at the Orlando airport. The next time through an airport, I’m sure I’ll really be looking suspicious so I kind of be expect to be singled out again.  It’s no big deal, but it is kind of scary.

•  When it comes down to it, I owe it all to my wife that I’m able to go on cruises.  While other spouses don’t work, or retire as early as they can, she continues to work and help provide the kind of lifestyle we both love.  She also puts up with me while on vacation (and believe me, it’s not easy), and keeps me going when I’m about to run out of energy many times during the day.

Life is about enjoying every single day, exploring new places, trying new things and enjoying being together.  A cruise helps us do all those things and more.  It also helps me get through these Minnesota winters.  Just talking about it gets me excited thinking about where our next adventure might be.  I guess it’s time to start planning another cruise for next winter.