Down to the Sea Aboard the Conquest

When best behaved, the Mississippi River is credited with great and wonderful things, including provision of a meandering route for cruise ships from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico.

As we left the port there recently on Carnival’s Conquest, we thought of songs, stories, plays and books inspired by the old river that “just keeps rolling along.”

The list grew long.

Left, Mhayleen Palacio, Philippines, and Vasanthamala “Vasie” Naidoo, South Africa, Youth Directors on Carnival Conquest.

One cruising veteran, whose “bucket list” expanded to a “barrel list” a couple of decades ago, enumerated a dozen cruise ports where trips had begun, and now he was adding New Orleans.

“The wife and I always head to an upper deck as soon as we’re underway,” he said as we set sail on schedule at four in the afternoon. “We like to make pictures and enjoy the panorama of entering open water.”

A Louisiana native nudged his wife. They chuckled, aware that the meandering route requires close to eight hours of river cruising before reaching the gulf. (Good luck on photos and panoramas at midnight.) Carnival brochures could rightly describe a “three-in-one cruise”–river/gulf/sea–from the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean Sea.

On cruises – as in life – choices abound. One can seek quiet places if solitude is sought, but for folks who want to expand horizons, meet new friends and learn new things, few vacations provide such an array of opportunities.

We always choose the latter, particularly in the “new friends” category. Early on, we met the Navid Sharafatian family from California.

Their bright-eyed children, Cameron, eleven, and Kayla, eight, were as polite as any we’ve ever seen. Cordial and courteous, they were easily engaged in conversation, their comments laced with “ma’ams” and “sirs.”

With a half-dozen cruises already logged, the youngsters chose to spend most of each day at Camp Carnival, where activities are directed by trained counselors for guests from ages two to seventeen.

Vasie Naidoo, youth director on the Conquest, said that participants sometimes number as many as 850 during summer months.

Many parents rarely see their children on cruises, so popular is the camp.

For Kayla, already a “chocoholic,” she couldn’t wish for more. Food of all kinds set well with Cameron, who already has dined on alligator tail, escargot, frog legs and sushi.

The youngsters have visited sixteen foreign countries, half of them on cruises.

Cameron got a “tip” from a new Louisiana friend met on the Conquest about a New Orleans eatery that serves “deep fried crickets.” He said a stop there was a “must” before their flight back to Los Angeles.

As to learning, we should strive to emulate green tomatoes.  As long as we’re green, we grow. It’s when we think we’re ripe that the rotting starts.

At mid-cruise, a nameless teen, maybe fourteen, was alongside us in the elevator bay.

“Do you know what the ‘dings’ mean?” he asked, pointing to the elevators.

“They indicate the arrival of a car,” I quickly answered, confident of my answer.

“The ‘dings’ mean more than that,” he countered. “If it’s one ‘ding,’ the elevator is going up; two ‘dings,’ it’s going down.”

I thought of the frequent times I’d raced from one elevator to another, first to determine which direction it was heading. By hokies, the lad was right!

I quizzed the guy awaiting a panorama upon entering the gulf, as well as the Sharafatians. Dozens more were questioned; not ONE knew anything about the “dings” beyond the indication of elevator arrival.

Surprised that this “ding data” seemed unknown to all, I asked several Conquest officers, who spend months at a time on vessels.

Again, zilch.

At this writing, it is believed that all Carnival vessels have elevators with this “ding” setting–one for up; two for down.

Further, it is believed this is the case throughout the cruise industry. It is probable this is a general truth for most elevators in public buildings, perhaps both in the U.S. and throughout the world. I know this little-known nugget doesn’t have “one if by land, two if by sea” import, but it’s still worth remembering.

I hope you learned something from our cruise on the Conquest. And if you are interested in diving into some of those deep-fried crickets in New Orleans, I’ve got the address, but for my taste, I’d choose Arnaud’s.

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Inquiries/comments: Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter @donnewbury. Web site:

Humorist Don Newbury is author of When The Porch Light’s On. 



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