The better part of life is a Carnival.

The Carnival Cruise Line Splendor at sea in the Caribbean
The Carnival Cruise Line Splendor at sea in the Caribbean

THE DOTS COULD HAVE BEEN connected quickly by a two-year-old, during the few weeks or months between pacifier-sucking and iPhone text-messaging. Predictably, my mental connection of the dots stretched over a few hours.

We came out at the same place, however—that the upcoming cruise would include an inordinately large number of children. Never mind we arrived at this conclusion slowly—as we say in Texas—by “blind hog luck.”

My first clue that there would be at least a thousand kids should have been a muttering by the New York City cab driver delayed at an intersection. “Just my luck,” he fumed. “Here we sit, waiting on a convoy of 18-wheelers delivering macaroni to cruise ships!” (My wife and I smiled, realizing his remarks were aimed at Carnival Cruise Lines’ Splendor, the ship we’d soon board for warm days in the Caribbean.)


   My corrective nature—in a bit-chomping state—yearned to advise him that “the diaper and pre-teen crowd call it simply mac n’ cheese.” (However, we’ve learned, over the years, to allow cab drivers to bask in the warmth of their own opinions. Let others argue with ‘em.)

The ship in sight, we dreamily anticipated the indescribable blue/green waters, grand food and lavish entertainment. We thought, too, of gracious, accommodating staff who’d respond to virtually all whims of some 3,000 vacationers.

Much would be left behind in the workaday world. Destined for deletion from vacation thoughts were frustrations associated with the crazy weather, income tax deadlines and heightening issues around the world. Aren’t issues, local or otherwise, always heightening?


   Upon boarding, we heard squeals of children, most of ‘em on spring break. Some decorated cabin doors with themes of Easter, the holiday we’d observe three days later.

Realizing that dozens and dozens—if not hundreds—of entire families were on board, we took the “high road” for speculation.

The cruise was to be a “family thing”–no one texting and no one on iPhones.


   What we didn’t see was the panic on the youngsters’ faces.  I mean the ones who were “sheet white” upon realization that their iPhones for eight days would be at room—not body—temperature. Some were as slow on the uptake about idle phones as I was in understanding why so much mac n’ cheese was delivered to the Splendor.

It should be noted, however, that kids ordering mac n’ cheese–most twice daily–by mid-week were requesting additional dishes like lobster, filets and other fine dining options.

It was the kids, though, who readily took on exercise regimens, if only for their thumbs.


   We had noticed how quickly youngsters insisted on pressing elevator buttons, asking all car occupants, “Which level?”

It seemed odd, however, that no matter which elevator and no matter which kid, the buttons were thumb-pressed.

Later, we learned that one of the children in Camp Carnival—where many of them spent most waking moments outside of mealtime—rendered what the rest thought to be a valid warning. “If we don’t keep our thumbs flexible on the cruise, they won’t be much use to us when we get home.”


   We observed many tables of twelve for families whose members dined together each evening. For some, there were four generations present, all enjoying pleasant conversations about valued memories. It was if we were in a time warp, before phones and other distractions. Norman Rockwell could have painted a beautiful picture.

One group included more than 30 family members anchored by a silver-haired patriarch and widower, perhaps nearer 100 than 90. He smiled constantly, despite footing the entire bill. “Best money I’ve spent,” he said, with one proviso: “All would have been perfect if my girlfriend had come along.”

The explanation: “She won’t fly and she won’t float.”


   Eight days later, we docked in NYC. The sun shone brightly; spring was in the air. Carnival Splendor personnel had just a few hours to “release and re-load.”

It was back to Texas for us. First night back, Brenda asked, “Cereal tonight? We’ve had a lot of rich food.”

“Why not some mac n’ cheese?” I countered, remembering the 10-year-old who couldn’t come up with a new friend’s name. Said he was having a “junior moment.”


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury.


Please click the book cover images to read more about the humorous and inspirational stories found in Don Newbury’s book, When The Porch Light’s On.

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