The Idle American

Countdown to greatness

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Folks given to dreaming some 500 years ago could never have imagined the many dozens of major historical occurrences linked to Galveston Island from then until now. Keep in mind that many historians believe the island was discovered in 1519, so it’s time to begin planning celebrations for the coastal playground with the 500th anniversary at hand.

A major milestone in September, 2018, will be a welcome prelude to the celebration. That’s when Carnival Cruise Lines assigns its newest and largest vessel, Carnival Vista, to Galveston.

This announcement underscores the corporation’s ongoing confidence in the Port of Galveston, which in just 17 years has become Carnival’s second-busiest cruise port, and now is number four for all lines in the USA.

In the fading years of the last century, only incurable optimists went public with positive thoughts about the viability of cruising from Galveston. In 2000, Carnival launched Galveston’s first year-round cruise program with a smaller ship that served slightly more than 100,000 guests that year. Now, the island is home to three CCL vessels carrying well over half a million guests annually.

We boarded the Vista recently in Miami, where it began US cruises several months ago. It was a spring break week, so bunks were used to accommodate the 1,700 children included among the some 4,700 guests. (Add the 1,450 staff, and the total count exceeded 6,200.)

The cruise dazzled in every way. With expanded dining specialties, new activities and additional attractions, the Vista owns many “firsts.” Its 187-seat IMAX Theatre is the only one afloat, and the new SkyRide is favored by guests of all ages. (SkyRide is something akin to bike-riding since pedaling is required.) It is atop the Vista, high above the top deck and even higher above the deep blue sea. With two go-mobiles on suspended tracks, riders may compete for racing victories, fastest laps or perhaps set “gazing records” of spectacular views.

Much about the Vista is subtle. The centerpiece is a colorful, pattern-changing pedestal extending skyward from the ship’s center. Truly “gaze-worthy.”

There’s nothing new about deck numbers imprinted on carpet near elevators. A “first,” though, is the “dot” placed at the end of deck numbers “6” and “9.” (Who knows? Maybe this is helpful if, perchance, guests walk on their hands, or are otherwise contorted.)

Captain Stefano Battinelli has more than 30 years with Carnival, and obviously is aware that many guests are first-time cruisers. Early on, he heard guests discussing unfamiliar nautical terms, like “forward and aft,” etc. Captain Battinelli made a PA announcement: “Forward is the ‘pointy’ end of the ship.” Such explanations should be helpful in Texas, where inordinate numbers are cruising for the first time. (I still have a hard time accepting a widely-held opinion that more than 75 percent of Americans have never cruised.)

Each cruise provides accounts of new experiences. Jim and Trish Demers of Annapolis, MD, provided one of the best, or maybe credit should go to their son. The couple was scheduled to fly to Miami on Friday prior to Saturday cruise departure.

Weather in the northeast cancelled hundreds of flights, including theirs. They were forlorn until their son INSISTED on driving them to Miami. Making only gas, rest and food stops, they arrived 20 minutes before the ship left, covering 1,083 miles in about 15 hours.

Let’s applaud a remarkable son.

While in applause mode, let’s hear it for Galveston leaders who held out for the city’s becoming a cruise port.

They are true visionaries.

We cruise lovers are the beneficiaries of their dogged determination that made it happen.

Contact Don by email: newbury@speakerdoc.com or phone: 817-447-3872.

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