Another fun day. We woke up pretty late, which is basically the norm on the sea days. Had some more amazing fish and chips and took a bunch of pictures from the balcony over the Lido deck buffet for a series I call “what’s on your tray.” (I was challenging myself to shoot out my memory card and/or battery. Neither happened before I ran out of things to shoot.)

We played around on poker a bit, watched the Suns take their first game and enjoyed the piano bar as always. We also made contact with the Canadians; the only other people our age we’ve found thus far, who we first spotted in the embarkation line, one with a Canadian flag on their backpack. We spent a good amount of time chatting. They’re far more chagrined that they’re on the Voyage of the Damned between normal waking hours. On the plus side, everyone is in bed promptly at 8 with a warm glass of milk, so there’s that. I knew it was bad when I passed a group playing Mah-Jong. And when I got chastized in the dessert line for taking a piece of strawberry mousse cake by an old man: “It’s all fat! Don’t eat it!!!!” Thanks, dude. Ass.

It’s seriously pretty bad, so buddying up with other like-aged folks is a worthwhile venture. Tomorrow is more of the same. We’ll be waking up likely no earlier than 2pm. Because we have an interior stateroom, it is exceptionally dark in here and very difficult to wake up at *any* time. We’ll definitely make sure we’re up on time for the shore excursion in St. Maarten, though.

Also, it sounds like we won’t have TV at all once we start the cross. Which makes sense, since satellites can only service a certain circle’s worth of space, and there’s no point in covering ocean. We’ve got plenty of stuff to watch that we already downloaded so that’s a backup.

I’d like to be playing more poker, but the appeal is only so-so for me. I don’t know if playing the stock market has just killed my desire to put money in a riskier venture or if the crowd or small player counts at the table are doing it, but my interest is decidedly dulled. I keep bouncing up and down, but I’m down about $80. We’ll see what happens.

I’m getting excited for the excursions. It’s clear they’ll be the real meat of the voyage. We need suggestions for what to do in Livorno/Florence, Italy and in Rome proper. Leave ’em as comments, hm?

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We’re here on the boat. On the left side, click the webcam or location links to see where we’re at and what it looks like here. The internet is ROUGH and VERY expensive (40 cents a minute, it turns out; though they’re giving away a free 500 minute block tomorrow, fingers crossed) and so we’re talking barely dial-up speeds. What’s that mean? No pictures. Sad day. We’ll see what happens with Rome. We have all-day excursions in St. Maarten, Portugal and Spain, and we’re looking to fill up Italy pretty full, but I’ll do what I can.

After a nice night chilling in the hot tub and pool at the hotel and some far-too-expensive room service, coupled with a 2-hour-or-so embarkation line, we’re here, we’re moving

and we played a badass game of giant chess on the lido (pool) deck, which was way fun. (Evan made a misstep that let me capture his queen and resigned.)

The demographic skew on this boat is seriously rough. We’ve seen exactly 2 girls who appear to be our age, minus a few couples who are honeymooning. (No more than 10

individuals under 30, though.) It’s about what we expected—it’s a bit of a stretch for most people our age to get the time off and be able to pay for a trip like this. Definitely not a

surprise, but we’re just hoping the ship doesn’t start to smell like Ben-Gay.

The Carnival Freedom is very attractive. It’s this ship’s inaugural season (or about the end of it) and you can tell. It’s also their largest boat; about the size of the Valor, or a little

bigger. Not as big as the Splendor which is still to come. On this boat, there are a ton of great places to eat. There’s an Asian deli, a NY deli, a grill, a fish and chips place, a pool-

deck buffet, a supper club, 24-hour free room service, a pizzeria, a sushi place… You get the idea. It’s pretty serious.

We had delicious fish and chips today. I was surprised that they were fresh battered, instead of like, “trust the Gorton’s fisherman.” It’s very very tasty, and since all the food is

free here, we’re looking to resolve to always use the stairs. (A bit of a bitch, since we’re on deck 1, and all the food is on deck 4-5/deck 9-10.)

We have two days at sea before we land in St. Maarten. We’re going on a pirate/longship (duelling boats, actually, sailing side-by-side) trip around the island, complete with

snorkling and BBQ. Then it’s FIVE DAYS ACROSS the Atlantic. Craziness ensues. Tonight is $1/$2 no-limit; the only no-limit poker night of the cruise, so we’re going to partake in

that shortly as we’re about to hit international waters.

Still to come: who our dinner guests are (if any) and all that jazz. The stateroom is just the right size; the same as the other Carnival cruises I’ve been on. I’ve taken about 100 pictures already, with Tony taking a bunch as well. I’m going to keep shooting out my battery and card, since I have my portable hard drive, so the sky’s the limit there.

If you want to get in touch with me, you can leave a comment here or email me directly, chris.cardinal [at] gmail. I’m getting email, but thankfully, Outlook lets me grab just the headers; even 2 MB of email took about 6 minutes. Ugh.

I’m off and packing. (If you happen to be up, click the link and see my progress. If you’re that. bored.)

Evan’s mother has graciously offered to drive myself and Tony (her own son heading to the airport via Nate @ 7am, since his flight is far earlier than ours) and she’s picking me up at 9:20a.

I’ve checked in to our flights for both Tony and myself and I’m printing the last of the documentation.

I’m also telling everyone about this here blog.

I’m hoping to be able to post once a day if I can. I’ll be using a lot of burst time on the internet, which is to say, jumping on, retrieving email and jumping off. Then composing my replies, if any, jumping back on, blasting out a post and jumping back off.

I don’t think I’ll be able to get photos up, but if it’s speedy enough, I might try a few. Definitely nothing to Flickr though.

It’s been an absolutely crazy week. I’ve been trying to get all my ducks in a row at work and things there have been, well, busier than ever before. Thursday is my last day at the office and we fly out at around 11am on Friday, first to Ft. Worth and then into Miami. We’re staying there for the night before being driven to our ship for boarding at the gracious time of “about noon.”

I’ve got my packing list, but absolutely nothing packed. I’ll do a massive load of laundry Thursday night and then get packing. The list is a bit ridiculous, but I’m trying to make sure I’m covered entirely. (It’s available for perusal/mockery here: Transatlantic Cruise Packing List.)

I’m definitely excited. For those unawares, the itinerary of the trip on the Carnival Freedom is as follows:

4/25 Phoenix, AZ -> Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX -> Miami, FL
1 Miami, FL 4:00pm
2 Fun Day At Sea
3 Fun Day At Sea
4 (4/29) St. Maarten, NA 7:00am 4:00pm
5 Fun Day At Sea
6 Fun Day At Sea
7 Fun Day At Sea
8 Fun Day At Sea
9 Fun Day At Sea
10 (5/5) Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 11:00am 7:00pm
11 Fun Day At Sea
12 (5/7) Malaga, Spain 7:00am 4:00pm
13 Fun Day At Sea
14 (5/9) Livorno, Italy 9:00am 7:00pm
15 (5/10) Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, 8:00am Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/11) Rome, Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/12) Rome, Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/13) Rome -> Atlanta, GA -> Phoenix, AZ (2:00pm)

(“Fun Day At Sea” is Carnival’s parlance, not mine, though the 5 days crossing the Atlantic should prove to be an interesting time.)

I’m not sure how often I’ll get to post updates to this. I think I can write them offline and do a burst while I download my email, but that may be putting an awful lot of faith into the ship’s internet. Not to mention that it costs about 65 cents a minute (45 cents with a package of 250 minutes).

More to come tomorrow, and I’ll see if Tony or Evan want accounts here.